Friday, December 20, 2013

My Santa List

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My Santa List

            Dear Santa, I know I am a little late with my list this year, but really, does that surprise you? This time of the year I am lucky if I remember to put on pants, so I’ m happy to find a moment in the chaos to get this off to you.  In no particular order, here is my wish list for this year:

1. Could I get 8 more hours per day?  I think that would be helpful. Ok, I would even be grateful for 6 if you could manage that. 
2.  Socks. I don’t mean running socks because I have oodles of those. I mean socks that adult women are supposed to have, and somehow I have managed to get to almost 40 with about 3 pairs. What is up with that? Preferably in colors that don’t stain when I step in the surprises my cats leaves me. 
3.  I would love a clean car. I don’t mean the outside; that is rather pointless this time of year. I’m talking about the inside. Currently the floor is covered with 3 shoes, 13 mittens (none of which match) wooden blocks, countless matchbox cars, half eaten suckers, quite a bit of white dog hair, several art masterpieces by my daughter, and only heaven knows what the 3rd row seat contains, because no one over the age of 9 has laid eyes on that territory in many months. 
4.  I would really really appreciate if the dog would stop using her feet, legs, hips and back as her personal chew toys, despite the half dozen rawhides and chewy toys laying around the house. Not only would I appreciate it, I do believe in the long run she would also appreciate it. 
5. Laundry prophylactics.  If this doesn’t exist I think your elves can invent it.  It really needs to stop reproducing.  It is getting a bit out of hands these days.  If it came with a bonus laundry elf that would be wonderful!
6.  For my 3 year old to show ANY interest in using the potty like a big boy.  If that isn’t feasible I would settle for him not removing his socks and shoes the moment we walk through Leever’s doors to grocery shop.
7.  Maybe once a month, that my children would approach me about 7:30pm and say, “Parents, we are exhausted. We are going to turn in for the evening. Good night. Love you!”  Now I know that may be crazy talk, but a girl can dream right? You are Santa after all!!
8.  While I appreciate her attempts to serenade me, I would really like if the kitten would not choose 4am as her time to play piano.  She also could use help with her chords, and her timing is a bit off. 
9.  In true Christmas spirit, I want for others too. Specifically I would like young women to realize leggings are not pants. Let me clarify: Leggings with a long tunic or sweater? Perfectly acceptable and stylish.  Leggings with a short sweatshirt or shirt? Nope. They are not pants. The only exceptions are if you are going to or from the gym, or are out running miles.  Jeans are pants, slacks are pants, corduroys are pants. Leggings are not pants. 
10.  What I want mostly though is that my friends and family know how much I love them and how grateful I feel for them.  In my mind there is time enough to create something special for each one of them, to show them how much they have meant to me this past year.  In reality, some may be end up getting a Groundhog Day gift…. That is why #1 would be greatly appreciated!

Friday, December 13, 2013

My Public Break Up

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My Public Break-Up

            As I sit here by the fire, gazing out my window to the vast blanket of frozen white that covers every recognizable surface, sipping on my third cup of coffee, I find myself thinking of you.  Fantasizing about you to be exact.  My mind returns to you and our times together despite the half decorated Christmas tree, the Christmas card that has yet to be created and the “to do” list that stretches to Pingree.  But I realize this behavior isn’t healthy, this longing and wishing is not productive, so as this year winds down to an end, it is probably time to end the farce that our relationship has become, and so here it goes:
            Dear Sleep,
I am sorry to tell you this, but it just isn't working. We have tried for over 9 years, really we have, but its just not working. Please, don't be sad or take it personally, it isn't you, it is me. I have met someone else, well, really three people.  These relationships are just too demanding and necessary for me to continue a relationship with you. Don't feel bad, you are beautiful, satisfying and so many people are blessed to know you. It just can't be with you and me. But believe me, I wish it could be. I will confess to you, that although I am in these other relationships, I daydream about getting in the car and driving to a hotel to meet you... to close the blinds and just be with you for hours and hours. But, it just can't be. I will never forget those Saturday mornings, just you and me.  The lazy afternoons on the couch, under a blanket when you embraced me and all was right with the world.  And how could I ever forget on the floating island, at the lake under the sun. Sleep, you did things to my body I haven't felt in so long... we were so good for each other. But recently, you have become as elusive as Sasquatch or good lutefisk… I hear of these things, but have yet to witness them. 
            And yet, there are times, I think maybe we can make it work. Maybe if I try hard enough, I can find a place for you in my life.  But then the stark reality of vomit, or the dog deciding to eat greasy paper-towels or “I need 2 dozen treats by tomorrow” spoken at 9pm hits me. Then like a ghostly apparition, you dissipate in front of me. 
But go, go and share your beauty with others.  Knowing you well, I suggest maybe you could be happy with a single person, or one without children… or a teenager.   My hope is maybe someday we will meet again. But until that day, I will catch glimpses of you around me, like your romanticized versions in mattress commercials.   I will remember all the wonderful times we shared and will be glad that I once knew you and called you mine.


Friday, November 29, 2013

A Reflection of Thanks

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A Reflection of Thanks

            In this week of Thanksgiving, I’ve taken the time to reflect on some experiences that I am hugely grateful for, and that have helped shaped the person I have become.  At first you may think I’m referring to the glamorous life as a stay at home mom, with my days filled with taping and texturing sheetrock, finding the dog and the toddler splitting a box of Lucky Charms in the middle of the living room floor or investigating if there are teeth on the eldest’s toes, since no one should humanly burn through socks that quickly.  No, while grateful for all of that chaos, there are certain things I’ve experienced that forever changed me.
            The Good Doctor and I waited for 5 years to have children.  It was a conscious choice.  There really is never the perfect time to have a baby, but we were aiming for the least worst time, which hopefully would entail some financial stability that would allow us to care for another human being.  For this I will always, bitter sweetly, be grateful.  The bitter part being losing my mother two weeks after finding out I was expecting our first child, the sweet part was how it solidified our marriage. You see, I really like my husband.  I like being with and around him.  I’ve always had fun being his wife. We got to be a couple for 5 years. We got to be spontaneous and head out the door in an instant to a destination decided on 3 seconds before. Very unlike the strategic planning, act of Congress, 2 stuffed bears, one blanket and an iPod it takes to get out the door these days.  When we moved to a 5 square mile island in the middle of the Caribbean ocean for almost 2 years, we had only each other… and when you have only 5 square miles of terrain with only two ways off the island, you had no choice but to work things out.  I am so grateful we had this time to be a couple, before being thrust into the great upheaval that is parenthood.  Parenting isn’t for sissies, and I am forever grateful we had that base to build upon. I love being a mother, but I’ve tried to not sacrifice the role of wife in the process.  I have always tried to keep in mind that someday the three kids with be gone (and hopefully not move back in) and I want to be able to look at him and say “Hey… you!” and not “Who are you?”
            In our time together, my hubby and I have participated in a couple mission trips.  There is no way to participate in a mission trip and not come back home unchanged.  Early on in our marriage we spent two weeks in India, and witnessed life and health care in that amazing, overwhelming, sensory- overloading country and during our time living in Iowa, the church we attended participated in a project called Mission Jamaica.  Mission Jamaica had several different projects, but the one we participated in was helping at a children’s’ orphanage in the hills of Jamaica.  My visions of these sweet children at this isolated place still linger in my mind.  These were not just orphaned children; they were all disabled orphaned children.  Many had Multiple Sclerosis, and if in the US, these kids would function, with help, along side their classmates, as MS strikes the body, not the mind.  In this orphanage, these crumpled bodies had been discarded with their minds intact.  The one cabin shared one toothbrush amongst 9 kids.  This is mainly because poverty is so rampant and the large quantity of supplies given by missionaries are either pilfered by employees or hoarded for fear the donations may cease to continue.
            The joy on the children’s faces at our presence was beyond words.  They knew what the missionaries did, and that was touch them, hold them, talk to them… They knew that, if only for a few days, we would be present to their alert mind trapped in a tangled mess of limbs.  There was no way to not let my experiences there affect they way I interacted with my own children. 
            I definitely have moments that I wonder if that day was the day that would require a dozen counseling sessions for one of my kids.  We all have those days.  But what I am so grateful for, in regards to my mission trips, is learning what kids crave, and what they want is not so much stuff, but presence, and time and touch.  And I am as guilty as anyone to be caught up with “Just a minute!” and cave at the $1 bins at Target, but then the memory of child without a toothbrush to call his own will slip in from the edges of my mind and we will have a “Staff meeting” with the kids.  We will talk about stuff, and how we have a lot of stuff, and how some kids have no stuff, and how picking up the stuff is making Mommy crazy.  Yet the crazy thing is, the kids get it. They understand. And given a choice between Legos or going to a museum together, they want the togetherness.  One of them may prefer togetherness at the mall, but the understanding is there.  I am so thankful for some of the things I have had the chance to see and do.  One can’t know, what they don’t know.  I would not have known how fortunate I am without seeing first hand the poverty and destitution I have seen.  It is my goal that in gentle ways, I can pass on to my children what I have learned and they will embrace gratitude.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The weight of things

            Earlier last week, I discovered the equation to making a grown man cry.  “Lice and nits?” You may ask? Heavens no! The Great Lice and Nit invasion of 2013 conveniently coincided with North Dakota Deer opener, and those sporting orange barely noticed the constant washing, drying, cleaning and literal nit picking. 
A couple days before the start of the nit invasion, I came to learn that if you take numerous vintage old toy tractors, (most still in the box), a craft scissors, and a 3 year old with an considerable amount of determination, the end result is a grown man in (almost) tears.  As we stood surveying the damage, looking down at our son with disappointment painted on our faces, he slowly turned his eyes upward to us, and said, “…What?”
After I stopped laughing, I started to help my dear husband literally pick up the pieces of his childhood.  As we were putting them back in their newly redesigned boxes, I was amazed at how heavy they were. These were real toys. Toys that lasted for years. In fact, some of them had been his dad’s toys.  They were metal and not the plastic junk made today.  These tractors had survived almost 40 years. Our son’s John Deere tractor lasted exactly 2 days after last Christmas before the axle broke.  They don’t make stuff like they used to, and I think I’ve stumbled upon an unexplored reason of childhood obesity!
If I take the dog out to do her business at night and were to walk into a modern day pedal tractor, it would skitter across the garage floor and stop.  Now if I were to run my foot into my husband’s John Deere pedal tractor, after my tears and expletives stopped flowing, the next stop would probably be X-Rays and/or stitches.  Stuff was HEAVY when we were kids! It takes a lot of energy for my three year old to pedal that beast around. Think of all the calories we burned if we wanted to move our field of tractors from the living room to the dining room! You could only carry one at a time.  Girls were not immune from the weight of things.  Whatever latex/probably-now-carcinogenic/rubber that our baby dolls were made of gave them weight! If you were one of the lucky girls to get a Baby Alive, with her strange squishy vinyl limbs, you really burned your calories.  Feed her a bottle of water, and she even became heavier, and then you really amped your calorie burn when she filled her diaper.  We didn’t have to watch what we ate because we had toys!
Everything now is made for speed and aerodynamics.  Bikes are made of space age materials and are light enough to lift with one hand.  My pink Huffy bike, with its flowered basket (that no animal would EVER stay in, despite my attempts) had two speeds: slow and standing up.  There were no gears to ease up the hills.  There were playing cards in the spokes however that mimicked the sound of gears.  I’m pretty sure our softball bats were lined with lead, and concrete shoes would have been lighter than wet moon boots.  Though the roller racers we used in gym class didn’t take much energy to operate, the sheer anxiety we put ourselves in, anticipating running over our fingers at any moment, surely amped up our metabolism. 
My theory doesn’t just end in childhood however.  Once we got our drivers license, I can guarantee it took many more friends to push a 1979 Pontiac Grand Safari Station Wagon out of the snow than it does a Kia.  And when your older brother is bequeathed that vehicle, it took even more friends to budge a 1964 Cadillac Sedan Deville.  As teens, just wearing our clothes took more energy. I have no research that backs up the weight of material now versus then, but there was more volume to our clothes.  Pirate shirts, high waisted jeans, brocade vests, and any prom dress from 1970-1990 are perfect examples of heftier clothing.  And then there was our hair….. it took a lot of neck muscles to carry around the coifs of the 1980’s and 90’s… a lot of muscle and a lot of Aqua Net.  My own personal experience that backs this notion is that I cut my hair into a very short style in 9th grade. I subsequently gained 20 pounds before 10th grade.  It wasn’t puberty. It was the hair.
As I watch my 3 year old grunt and pedal the vintage pedal tractor, I think, besides his 85 pound brother sitting in the tractor trailer, there has to be something to this theory of mine.  Maybe I’m way off, but I don’t think so.  Things then had mass.  Steal was our unknown diet aide.   Toys were made to last for years… that is until a three year old comes along. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A little less motion, a lot more chaos

A little less motion, a lot more chaos.

So many of my columns are about motion, but some of them will be about chaos. This one epitomizes the latter.  I was all set to write about something else, but then life happened. You know life, the unpredictable beast that t-bones you out of the blue?  Yup, hit me like a freight train.
            This afternoon we, the parents of kids at Jefferson Elementary, got a phone call from the principal advising us that lice had been found at the school, and we should check our kids when they got home.  “Lice?!” I thought… “I know a funny blog about lice!” So I promptly posted a link to this funny blog about lice on my Facebook page, enjoying reading it once again. This, my friends, is called foreshadowing. 
            I get my little angels home and tell them we are checking for bugs. My oldest, thanks to the haircut I had given him last night, was easy peasy to check and was clear. I then had my daughter sit down.  As I went through her hair practically strand by strand, I noticed that she sure had a lot of glitter left from Halloween and maybe we need to work on washing her hair better. Then I saw it. Or did I? No, I didn’t see anything. Did I? Tiny. Microscopic. Smaller than a grain of rice, and brown. Can they be brown? No! They are white, right?? The bargaining ensues, “Please God, no! Please! I’ll tithe more! I’ll be more patient with the kids! Please don’t let that be a nit!” But there it was… and a friend a couple strands over.  I tried to pull them off. “Please pull off! Then you aren’t a nit.” They stayed fastened like they were crazy glued on.  As my gut sank, I may have internally expressed a few unpleasant words in my head. 
I pinned down the youngest momentarily. Three year olds aren’t too keen on sitting still and they are even less fond of having their hair looked at, strand by strand.  As I pinned him down between my legs, in an almost half Nelson, I managed to get a glimpse of a few hairs on his neck. That was enough to make me about cry. Yup, more critters. 
I promptly bagged them, like they were critical CSI evidence and texted my City County public health nurse friend.  “Can you come identify something for me?”  She obliged my request and unfortunately confirmed my fear.  Ugh.
            The Good Doctor happened to be in Fargo this night so I emailed him to bring Nix or Rid, and wine.  Sadly he didn’t even think I was joking and said, “So we have lice?”  I typed up a shopping list a mile long of things we may need and hit send.  I look around the house and wonder where do I start my combat against things I can’t even see.  The bedroom. I’ll start there… or collapse in tears there… and scratch my head. When did my head start itching so much?
            The kids all sleep in a pile every night. They each have their own bedrooms, but the littlest wants to be like his big brother, his big brother doesn’t like to be alone, and my daughter cleans her room immaculately, and then hermetically seals the door on the room, only to break the seal to change her clothes.  I’ll let you guess who is the mastermind in our household.  They all pile into the eldest’s room each night, and he has bunk beds.  As I look around at all the bedding, and all the clothes strewn around (guess who is our artistic and Type B child?), I’m sure I can hear faint snickering from the lice and their unborn babies.  As I scratch my head, I’m pretty convinced torching the whole joint will be easier at this point. 
            I relinquish to the fact it would be too much work to answer questions about a mysterious house fire and start stripping the bedding.  Into the wash it goes, and I consider cranking the water heater to fry the little beasts, but with my luck I’ll make the water heater explode, so I just choose the hottest setting.  In hindsight, I should tell Maytag they should add a “fry like bacon” setting to their washers strictly for lice infestations. I bag up the pillows and anything else I can’t wash. The North Dakota cold is good for one thing I guess: freezing nits and their egg-laying mothers.
            I convinced the youngest to come with me to the basement where I promised him chocolate if he could sit still for a couple minutes.  5 minutes, a pile of blonde curls, and a shattered heart in my chest later, he shimmied off the chair with his buzz cut.  He looked like a new resident of Leith, ND.  I love his curls. I mean I really love his curls. He is the only one of the children who has them, and because of that, I will grow his hair much longer than I know is acceptable.  But he is my baby, and they are his curls.  At this moment, I really really hated lice and nits.  He ran upstairs oblivious to the infestation that was partying like it was 1999 on his scalp.
            My daughter has been most upset about a birthday party she will miss tomorrow. “I PROMISE I WON’T TOUCH ANYONE!!” she keeps exclaiming. What she doesn’t realize is she may as well have leprosy at this point, because that is how welcome she will be for a few days.  I foresee the next couple days to be craft-project filled sprinkled with some nail polishing and a lot of hair washing and combing with her.  Any jerks living on the youngest boy’s head should now be amply visible, due to his new ‘do, and it should only require a couple Hulk Hogan moves to pin him down to wash his hair.
            I sit here, and write this and wait for my Knight with shining Nix to arrive.  And this is life.  And it is chaotic, and crazy and oh, did I mention we ripped out our bathtub earlier this week, and the youngest hates his hair washed? Soon my Hubby will walk through the door and say something funny, because really, what else is there to do besides laugh? We will sip some wine and spend a romantic evening of him running his fingers through my hair…  as he inspects my locks for nits.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Superman's first race

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Super Man’s first Race

            This past Saturday I had the pleasure of joining my 9 year old in his first 5k race.  When the Sheyenne Shuffle was announced I asked my son if he would like to run a 5k with me. “How far is that?” I told him it was 3.1 miles and he was excited to do so.  A friend asked me if he was training for the 5k, which caused me to pause for a moment and think, “Should he be?” but I just responded using the only rationale that seemed logical to me, “No. He’s 9.”
            The second children can ambulate, they move. They run. I watch my 3 year old run to his room to get a tractor, run back to the living room to get it’s trailer. He runs to the car. He runs in the opposite direction from me down the church aisle. He runs and he runs. Children know no better than to move.  As they age, they slow a bit, and I wonder why that is.  But, they still move, always, and especially at the least opportune times… like when you’re paying a photographer.  I knew given my son’s activity level, and enthusiasm, he would be able to handle 3 miles.
            I have been know to run in a Wonder Woman getup for races, and since it was Halloween season, I asked him if he would like to be Super Man. He was more than willing to don his cape and Super Man tank to run. He was instructed that flying was not permitted on the route, and using only his feet not super powers were allowed.  We all gathered at Lokken field at VCSU, huddling under the stands to stay warm. The United Way did a wonderful job of taking over this event and the turn out was great for such a chilly morning.  It was still dark out when we arrived and as we lined up at the start in the street the sun was just starting to peek out to warm us.
            The air horn blared to announce our start and my son blazed out ahead of me, like I suspected he would.  He ran a great half-mile at a full sprint and then started to walk. I caught up to him and we talked.  “Easy does it honey” I told him as he caught his breath and we more slowly started to run again.  At times I thought I was running with a T-Rex… the child already has a size 9 (men’s ) shoe and sometimes the coordination as a black lab puppy. But my pride in his determination overwhelmed me.  “Can we take a short cut Mom?” “No Bud, it’s a race, we need to stay on the route.” “Oh, OK!” and he would break into a few skips before running again.  We walked when we needed to and then I’d give him a point in the not to far distance we needed to get to and he would do it every time.  I worried the cold air and wind that morning may irritate his asthma, but he did great.  Eventually, in true mother fashion, I was running as his personal Sherpa, carrying the hat, gloves and jacket he had shed along the way.
            In the last half mile, I noticed he was struggling a little bit. I had a light bulb moment and said, “How many pickaxes are there in Minecraft?” This lead to the next 5 minutes of being told how many, which were the best, what they were used for and which ones he liked the best. He forgot he was running and when he was done telling me about the pickaxes were in front of Lokken field.  We just had to round the field from the west and come in on the track, finishing in front of the stands. I’ve done this enough to know that physiologically, we were at the point it was going to start to feel easy for him. That’s the funny thing about running. The first two miles stink… FOR EVERYONE. That was the best piece of advice I got from a couple experienced runners years ago.  It physiologically takes about that long for your body to figure out what it is doing. Unfortunately, it is in this first time period that it is the easiest to quit.
            As we entered the track, amongst the smashed pumpkins, my son kicked ‘er down, so to speak.  I said, “Just like on track nights, it’s just like at track,” referring to the rec track he had participated in this past summer.  I watched with pride as he inched away from me, giving it more and more as he rounded the last corner.  He crossed the finish line with his arms up in joy, to collapse in relief on the turf.  I finished behind him, overwhelmed with pride and happiness. 
            Part of why I run is so my kids grow up thinking being active is a normal part of everyone’s life, not just something done in youth.  I look forward to being active with them, and not being able to keep up with them.  The simple fact is that children model their parent’s behavior. So, it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise when I asked him to do something that afternoon, and his reply was, “Uh Mom, I already ran a 3.1 marathon this morning. “

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Voices in my head

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The Voices in my Head.

            While at the Twin Cities Marathon Expo, the night before the race, I wandered by the Fargo Marathon booth and registered for a free Mini (half) marathon registration.  The following Tuesday, I learned I had won the free registration! It was probably rigged, since while chit chatting with them I hid my true colors and feigned excitement of the Bison’s win earlier that day… Nonetheless, I had to decide whether or not I would run a half marathon (that’s 13.1 miles) 13 days after running 26.51.
            I thought, “What the heck, this should be half as hard, and mentally way easier than the full!”  I opted for going in on “rested legs” (I didn’t run in 13 days) and “well nourished” (I ate everything in sight for 13 days) for this run.  By the 12th day post marathon, this idea of running a half seemed better in theory, especially since my belly was sore from laughing non-stop for 2 hours at the VCSU Rendezvous the night before the run.
            Saturday morning my fabulous hubby got up before the sun to drive me over to Fargo for the run.  If the Twin Cities Marathon is the most beautiful urban course, the Fargo Mini would be the most boring urban course. 13.1 miles of cul-de-sacs, big homes, bigger home, homes being built, concrete trucks in the middle of the street, homes that were just down right ridiculously big, and mud.  Hoping against hope that my memory of this route previously run was somehow mistaken, I was mentally prepared to rock this race.  I brought along my running partner, Wonder Woman who is only audible to me, inside my head.  She had been telling me all week that this will be a no- brainer. That I had this. That a new Personal Record was just waiting for me to take it.  She had me built up! The weather was cool, but would be fine, if the wind didn’t blow (like it always does in Fargo. Always.) I toed the line with my brother, wished him luck, and set my sights on a new PR.
            Miles 1-8 were awesome, right on pace. Previous nights rain mixed with the dirty roads made for what felt like running on slime, but I was managing.  I was focused, trying to pick off runners in front of me.  I kept busy looking for my spectators who were freezing but willing to stand out in the cold to cheer on my brother and me.  Wonder Woman just kept encouraging me. “You got this! You go girl! Easy, Smooth, Light!”  I felt great!
            Then mile 9 hit.  I had crossed paths with my brother who was a half hour ahead of me, and I’d have sworn I had already done that cul-de-sac 3 times already. Wonder Woman took a left turn and headed for Starbucks, not to be heard from again.    And then SHE showed up.  Negative Nelly appeared and perched comfortably in my head for the remainder of the race.  “This stinks. Just quit. You’re out of reach of your PR. WHY didn’t you stay in bed this morning? It is freezing out here!! Oh great, the next 3 miles into a headwind?  Where ARE we? Now really, does someone need THAT big of a house?”  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t silence her.  I was getting so frustrated with myself because I have done this long enough to know that at this point, I needed to get out of my head and think about ANYTHING else than what was rolling around in my brain.  At this point, it is almost entirely a mental fight, not a physical one.    And for the life of me I couldn’t shush her.   I had feeble moments of success when Alicia told me I was a Girl on Fire, and Eminem told me to Lose Myself. But even with Florence and her Machine telling me to Shake It Out, I couldn’t string together more than a couple minutes of quieting her nagging. 
            In the end, I finished with my 3rd fastest time, and got my hockey puck.  Not a finisher’s medal, but a puck.  Negative Nelly had a lot to say about that too…  And now after a few days I’ve given myself a break; I was still in recovery from the full marathon and I didn’t just run this race, but raced it. It wasn’t the time, wind or cold that was most annoying, it was the negative voice I couldn’t silence. What does your voice nag you about? The one thing you need to know is Nelly is a compulsive liar.  What she says is not true, and don’t believe her.  Sometimes it is really hard to ignore her.  But usually with the help of some good friends by your side, like I had at the Marathon, and even more so in life, she usually isn’t allowed to say much.   If all else fails, look in the mirror and tell Wonder Woman to finish her coffee already and that you need her.   She’s there. Trust me.
            *Disclaimer: The voices are metaphorical. I do not really hear voices. Yet.  If I should start to hear voices, don’t worry, I know a good doctor who will get me the help I need.   

Parenting and Training

Over the last couple months, between watching friends finish their IronMan race, and doing my own marathon, I have been amazed at the number of people who are “older” who are completing these races.  I’m talking in their 50”s, 60’s, and 70’s.  Maybe it is because it isn’t until your kids have moved away to college and you’ve changed the locks that only then do you have time to concentrate on yourself.  Whatever the reason, I have a theory that with age and especially parenthood comes the toughness required to be an athlete.
Pain may deter some from running.  The reality is you are already prepared.  Plantar fasciitis of the heel pales to stepping on a Lego, in the dark. IT band syndrome is nothing compared to a little person deciding to grow sideways inside your belly for the greater part of a year, using your bladder as her personal trampoline.  Knee pain would feel like Swedish massage compared to the inevitable tantrum head butt by a 3 year old that always connects with cross hair accuracy with the bridge of your nose.  Parenting can hurt. Running hurts less.
Some may be deterred by their lack of stamina.  If you have survived a snowday with subzero temperature in February, at home with several kids and have heard “Mommy” no less than 3,534 times, you’ve got stamina.  If you have at least one sick child and your only goal of the day is keeping the toddler from playing with “The bucket” and you succeed, you’ve nailed stamina.  You need no more stamina than what is required to endure a 35 minute trip from Jamestown to Valley City, with a 3 year old screaming at the top of her lungs, because she doesn’t like the Johnny Cash CD you are playing, and not crack to her tantrum.  Parenting IS stamina. 
Being afraid of being too tired from running may be a fear.  Tired is having a baby who eats every 2 hours…for 8 months. Tired is having a dog with diarrhea every hour through the night… for two nights.  Running 3 miles is not tired. In fact the irony is it is pretty energizing.  Tired is burning the candle at both ends to just allow yourself an hour of “me time” which usually only coincides with the clock striking past 11pm. 
Plain old fear can prevent some from starting to be active.  Fear is sending your child down the hallway to a surgical suite, hoping and praying the hands you just gave him to are skillful and competent.  Fear is a 5 minute shower, knowing the 2 year old and dog are unattended in the house.  Fear is looking around the yard and only counting 2 heads instead of 3; your gut clenches and your heart drops to your feet and after screaming relentlessly you find the youngest inside the car blissfully flipping every switch and knob, saying “I dwive!” 
Some may claim they don’t have the patience to train and they may get bored.  You have all the patience you need if you have stood over an 8 year old trying to paint his pinewood derby car, with paint dripping and pooling, and resisted the urge to just do it yourself.  You are ready to train if you have painfully sat through your child reading the longest children’s book known to man, “One fish Two fish” and didn’t say “Let’s finish it another time.” 
I know that I could never have completed a marathon in my twenties.  Parenting in itself should be its own endurance sport.  It is through parenting that I have really come to know strength, because parenting sure ain’t for sissies.  The reality is once you become a parent, you don’t have the luxury of quitting.  Your home becomes command central for an army of little people, who will try to test you to your breaking point.  General McArthur had nothing on my 6 year old the days the wrong skirt is dirty. She could break the best Delta Force or Seal Team member. They’d give up information to just make the screaming STOP.  But I’m thankful to God for them. They gave me the greatest gift, which is parenthood, and all that comes along with it. And the opportunity to discover strengths I never knew I possessed. 

her skirt was dirty=flailing back-bending tantrum

Thursday, October 10, 2013

What the Twin Cities Marathon Taught me

ChAoS in MOtiOn
What the Twin Cities Marathon taught me.

            This past weekend, I DID IT!!! My running partners, Rebecca and Tracy, and I completed the 26.51miles (who says a marathon has to be 26.2 miles??) in 5 hours, 22 minutes and 13 seconds! I can honestly say that it was the fifth best day of my life, after my marriage and birth of my children.  The weather was perfect, the scenery was absolutely gorgeous, the crowds were energizing, and the experience was amazing.  I will share what I learned in doing this race, in no particular order.
            I will never, ever take for granted the free parking that exists in most of North Dakota. Ever. 
A gigantic American flag draped between two fire trucks does not indicate a finish line.  A “Finish” sign does.
“The wall” cannot go on forever. Eventually it will end, or you will find a way around it, over it, under it or a door will appear.  
When you start to doubt yourself, you just usually have to look to your sides. Your friends will be there. And will sing you a verse or two.
If you don’t know why they are handing out spoonfuls of Vaseline on the course, you don’t need it.
It is possible for a human to run a full marathon in a Chewbacca suit.  Or was it a suit???
This race is absolutely deserving of the title of “Most beautiful urban course in America.”
There will come a point that you may wish for your feet to just go numb, because then you will no longer feel the pain.
By focusing on someone else, purposefully and prayerfully for a mile, the mile whips by quickly, as does another and another.
If all you consume after a marathon is a Dixie cup of broth and a couple bags of chips, a pot of king crab will sadly leave you looking for another pot of crab, and a Big Mac, and maybe a Whopper.
A 9 year old boy waking up out of a dead sleep before 7am to say “Good Luck Mommy” goes a long long way.
Age means diddly-squat.  It is just a number. The oldest male runner was 85 and the oldest female was 71.  There were numerous runners in their sixties and seventies participating, and running sub-4 hour times! (That is good!)
Minnehaha Falls could use an aerial spraying of Febreeze, or a gigantic tree air freshener.
Adversity can inspire.  I started to tear up as I came up along side a man with an unusual running gait.  Unusual until I read his shirt that read “Stroke-0, Me-1.”           
Forward IS a pace.  It makes sense in a race or in life.
Just because a hotel shows a picture of a hot tub on its website, a hot tub you are salivating to get into after running 26.51 miles, doesn’t mean there will actually be a hot tub in the hotel. Or a bathtub.  
Trust the process.  It works.
It is important to prepare yourself that things will get mentally hard.  However, when you think it may get tough may not actually be when it happens. It may happen sooner.
Enjoy the moment and breathe in “the now.” You are doing this. YOU.
Embrace the pain.  Once you embrace it, and realize it can’t get any worse, you can let it go and you can focus on something else.
Your angels are watching over you. Thanks for the sprinkles when I was overheating Mom.
You may be someone’s inspiration or hero without even realizing it.
Take it bit by bit going uphill and enjoy the downhill.
A shuttle bus of marathoners smells as good as a 14 year old boys hockey bag.
Upon waking the next morning, the way you feel horizontally may not be the way you feel vertically.
Finishing a marathon is pretty much like having a baby. You start to forget about the pain, your friends start asking you about “another,” you think about how fun it would be to do again, and your husband will give you a deer in the headlight look and then sigh and roll his eyes.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Women of ChAos

ChAoS in MOtiOn

The Women of ChAoS

            About a year ago, while running with my friend Jamie, I said out of the blue, “That’s it! I’m going to do it!!” She looked at me a little confused and asked “Do what?” I explained that during my last few runs I had this growing idea of starting an “online support group” for women runners I knew. From that point, Chaos in Motion, a Facebook support group for the running inflicted was created. 
            The women of Chaos are a very diverse group. Some of us are mothers, but not all.  There exists brand new runners, runners in training, runners that used to run in high school or college and are now just getting back into it and we even have our token IronWoman.  They are friends, and friends of friends.  My goal of this group was to share ideas, support, advice, knowledge and encouragement.  A year ago I never realized how important these women would be in this marathon journey!
            A while back, a friend posted a picture to the site that read, “Girls compete with each other, Women empower one another.” Our group completely embodies this statement.  We all bring different reasons and different stories to why we each run. However, no matter the reason, the unconditional love and support that these women bring is endless. Many have struggled this year with injuries with some severe enough to require them to give up running for many weeks.  Through the MRIs , X-rays, diagnoses and prognoses, we were there for each other. We celebrated the “Clear to runs” and grieved the “6 more weeks of no running.”  We piled on the well wishes and “Go get ems!!” to each of the women who prepared for their 5ks or halves or IronMan races.  We celebrated the finishes, and the accomplishments along the way, whether it was finally running nonstop for 30 minutes, or exercising for 15 hours straight.
            One of these women, Rebecca, probably doesn’t realize I would not be running a marathon without her in my life.  I met Rebecca in June of ’06 at a function welcoming the incoming Medical Residents.  She looked tired, a bit irritated, and I decided that night we would be friends.  Her exhaustion was completely understandable since she had given birth about 6 days before her husband was to start residency, where he would be working no less than 80 hours a week.   Probably one of those plans that looked better in theory… In our first year of residency she ran Dam to Dam, a 20k in Des Moines and I thought that was a pretty amazing feat.  She was a runner, one of those people who mystified and intrigued me.
            She was my lifeline during these 3 years.  Both of our husbands were spending more time at the hospital than at home, and thankfully we had each other, just a couple blocks away.  Many mornings started with a text: “Coffee and bagel?” and then we would decide who would run for bagels and who would watch the children. The children that started in the beginning as 2, and would climb to 4 by the time we left residency.   Our friendship was the kind that we could sit in silence, watching our kids destroy the living room, and feel safe and understood.  She is the kind of friend that tells you what you need to hear, though sometimes you may not want to hear it.  She is the Type A, all-about- the- process of training personality to my Type B, can’t find the process, lets just race personality.    
The end of residency would take her to southern Minnesota, and me to North Dakota.  In the years since residency the four kids have grown to six and our husbands are still busy, and there are still mornings we virtually have coffee and a bagel, via picture text.  She has gone on to do Dam to Dam several more times and I became one of those mystifying runners as well.
In the last year we had thrown around the marathon idea. “Some day we’ll have to do that.” Someday when the kids are older, someday when our hubby’s schedules slow down… Then Boston happened.  Instead of being scared off by the Boston Marathon bombings, Rebecca let the ridiculous act of bombing people who run 26 miles for fun empower her to sign up for her first marathon.  I shortly followed her lead.  We have trained for this race together. She marking off each run on her training calendar, me asking her what we needed to run because I can’t find my training calendar. 
The week of our 18 mile long run, Rebecca had done her miles on Friday. Saturday morning I set out to do mine. Things were fine until mile 6. I had run 3 away from my house and 3 back. About the time I hit my driveway something went horribly screwy in my right knee. It HURT. I mean worse than Pitocin induced contractions hurt.  I hobbled to my house and tried to stretch while I bawled. There was something about this run, because my training had been so hit and miss and shoddy, it was crucial in my mind to complete. I reasoned if I completed this run, I would be able to do the marathon, if I didn’t I would withdraw.  All I kept thinking was Rebecca did it. Rebecca did it yesterday. She had never raced more than 12.4 miles and she did it, I can do it.  She had no idea that her run the previous day allowed me to muscle through the pain, though it wasn’t pretty or fast, and complete the 18 miles. 
Sunday I will gather at the start line with Rebecca and Tracy, another Chaos Woman, who has kept me laughing throughout this process.  I am positive we will not be the fastest group, but we will probably be the one laughing and dancing the most.  We each bring our individual reasons for doing this marathon with the common goal to just cross the finish line. So to all you Women of Chaos, and you know who you are, my most heartfelt thanks for your love, wisdom and encouragement through this journey! Mile 26 is for you all!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Take Care of Yourself

ChAoS in MOtiOn
Take Care of Yourself

            I really didn’t think I was ready to write this piece yet, but all week, the words keep rolling around in my head and won’t leave; I will accept that it is just time to write this piece. 
            In one of my earlier pieces I mentioned that I run with a hanky.  Technically they are handkerchiefs, and there is not just one, but several of them and they all were my Mother’s.  My mom came from a softer generation that carried these pretty pieces of cloth in their purses for those tears or sniffle needs.  Very unlike me rummaging for a McDonalds napkin in my overflowing purse filled with tiny tractors, a sippee cup, rocks, half-melted tootsie rolls stuck to pennies and play keys that make noises at inopportune times, like during a sermon.  It didn’t occur to me until writing this that maybe I should just put these handkerchiefs in my purse like she did, but I’ve never needed them like I need them when I run.
            This December will mark ten years since Mom’s death.  She died far too young at 67 years old, and two weeks after I learned I was pregnant with our oldest child.  She had spent most of the last 5 years of her life coupled to an oxygen tank, the result of a lifetime of “not smoking.” See, she “didn’t smoke.” I mean she did, but only as much as one can smoke in the bathroom, in a house with seven people and only one bathroom. One. So she did, but never in front of hardly anyone, especially her family.  So to see her succumb so severely and quickly to emphysema was especially difficult.  I would not wish what Mom had to endure in those last years on anyone. She would struggle to breathe, become anxious because she couldn’t breath, thus increasing her need to breath and the cycle was horrible to watch.  We talked frankly in the end about her beginning days of smoking and I remember her saying, “We didn’t know.  It was just the thing to do. We just didn’t know…” her voice trailing off. 
            There may have been other things she said to me in the end, but what I remember as her last spoken words to me were, “Take care of yourself.” And I told her I would. She said again, “Take care of yourself” with a look I will never forget. If you can imagine a look that combined love, regret, hope, wisdom and more love, that was what I saw in her eyes.  I understood her wishes for me: health.
            Like a lost relationship, we don’t really grasp the desire for good health until it starts to slip away from us.  Sometimes it is a permanent slip, but other times if we are lucky, that which slips is just a wakeup call to us, reminding us that all relationships, even that one with our body, needs nurturing.             
            After Mom died I ended up with all of her pretty delicate handkerchiefs.  I also started running a few years after she died. She was my Mom, and she told me to take care of myself, so I listened.  The delicacy of the hankies and the harsh physicality of running is quite contrasting.  But she is with me when I run, usually tucked in by my heart. And it is not lost on me that I am remembering my Mom by using something I wipe snot and sweat upon. But if you had known my Mom, she would have found the humor in that fact.  When I run, I sometimes hear her, usually when I really need it, when the negative voice in my head is telling me to just bag it and quit.  I hear her when I’m asking myself questions about life or parenting.   I feel her in that mile when an eagle has flown in front of me 3 times while I’m lost in my thoughts of missing her.  And I always hear her in that last push to the finish line, the biggest fan screaming “GO DIANI GO DIANI GO!”
            In less than two weeks I will toe the line of my first marathon and I can only hope I’ve made her proud with her wish for me to take care of myself.            She will be with me for the entire 26.2 miles that day, tucked by my heart.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What to Expect when you are expecting a marathon.

ChAoS in MOtiOn
What to expect when you are expecting a marathon.

            Recently I had plenty of time to think during my long run.  Four hours and 34 minutes, to be exact.  This run was the pinnacle of this entire training debacle, and the mileage needed was 20.  The process will be a taper from this point.  As I began the run, I began to realize that this journey paralleled another I have been blessed to have in my life: pregnancy and birth.
            It starts very similarly: “Honey, I think I should run a marathon.” It is reminiscent to “Honey, I think we should start a family. Everyone is doing it, and everyone is talking about what an awesome experience is, that I won’t regret it.”  The response is almost identical, a drawn out “Uh…” combined with a deer in the headlights look.   “No, Honey, I realize it will never be a good time for this, but maybe now is the least worst time. But I can’t do this alone. We both have to be willing to give to make this work.  I can’t do this by myself.”  In the end, his response was similar, “I love you, and I want to give this to you.”
            My excitement is overwhelming! I blast my marathon registration all over Facebook like an alien ultrasound picture. “Look what is happening in October!” Everyone responds joyously and congratulates me! “So happy for you!!” “Hooray!”  “How exciting!” I wallow in the glow of this pending journey.  I start envisioning the finish and how I’m sure there will be butterflies, rainbows and unicorns…and joy!
I have so much to do to prepare!  Week by week I need to know what is going on, and what to expect.  I need to revaluate my clothing, and my gear. There is the playlist to be made for that day. Whose vocals do I want to carry me through this experience?  This is uncharted territory, so I’m reading and gleaning all the advice from those who have gone before me.  It all starts slowly, and there are some aches and pains and nausea.  And then I hear the horror stories of the broken hips, the puking, and the stress fractures.  I learn Pheidippides, the Greek dude who ran the original 26.2 miles DIED!! I consider backing out, but that is ridiculous. The wheel is in motion and I must forge onward.
            “Honey!!! I’m gaining weight!!!” I blubber to my husband. “No one told me about the weight gain!!”  I realize those thighs of mine, the ones that have been “thick” since I was 5 years old are not going to get any smaller. My arms become bigger, more defined, but bigger, and we all know that muscle is heavy.  And I am hungry.  I’m really hungry.  And then there is the irritation… “Why is he eating all the ice cream? He isn’t going through what I’m going through?”
            Oh, and the joy of exhaustion sets in.  Why does no one warn me about the exhaustion?  And the stiffness, and the inability to get off the floor from a sitting position because it hurts.  I learn to elevate limbs and use compression socks and take warm baths to soothe my aching body that is performing great demands.
            Eventually I start to see the positive in the changes my body is going through.  The process is working.  I am seeing results.  I begin to get excited.  “This is really going to happen!! I’m going to do this!”  That crucial week arrives. The one that marks the point when, even though things may not roll out as exactly as planned, everything should work out.  The end is within sight.
            Game day will arrive. Bags will be packed, clothing laid out, sustenance gathered and the plan established with all participating.  Who will be where, and what words I will need cheered to me are clarified.  It’s the day we’ve been waiting for to arrive.  I think it is safe to say at some point, probably around mile 23, I will see my Honey and scream “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!! YOU AGREED TO THIS!!!!” 
And here is where the journey diverges.  In the end, no one can knock me out and finish the marathon for me.  In the end, it will be entirely up to me.  It will be entirely my will to push through the pain and the doubt and silence the little voice that is telling me, “You can’t do this.”   However, that doesn’t mean I won’t possibly be wishing for someone to just knock me out…