Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sugar Snow

The dog whines, circles, taps S.O.S. with her too-long nails against the hardwoods in the hall. She doesn't understand Saturday. (What you mean "sleep in?" I no have dis word in my language.) Neither does my six year old, the one who's been flailing and kicking me since 5 a.m. She claimed her room was too scary to sleep in, but I'm no fool. And neither is she. She knows the odds of getting carried back to her own bed are low when Daddy's still at work. She knows I'm a softy on Saturdays.

I rise, creaking, wincing. The dog, the girl, they spring. Yes, as in spring out of bed. That metaphor? Written just for these two.

I find the wall with my left hand, brace my hip with my right, pad gingerly down the stairs. You'd think I was the one aging in dog years.

I slide the door open to white-sleeved trees, flakes still falling. I want to pinch the sky for dressing the lawn in white on St. Patrick's weekend. Really, Winter, don't be that guy....


Sugar Snow: A late snow, falling after the ground has thawed and the crocuses have gotten their hopes up. Called such because the late snow gets the sap going in the maple trees.

Sugar Snow: A boon to the syrup harvest. An excuse to eat more pancakes.

Sugar Snow: A great big pain in the glute for the middle-aged mother who can shake neither the lake-effect blahs nor the bursitis from yesterday's 15 miler.


I'm prone to heavy-heartedness, to blink and find I'm buried under a weighty white snow on its way to slush. The melancholy stalks me, waiting for a run-less day when the endorphins aren't there to defend me. I wake up to snow when I was expecting a thaw. I struggle with a strong-willed screamer before my first sip of coffee. I look longingly (yes, I said longingly) at my running shoes. I want nothing more than to run away for an hour or two, to come back sweaty instead of shivering, to return energetic and hungry and smiling and like I accomplished one damn thing today.


My son, the eight year old, he gets me. He drew me a picture this afternoon. He said, "It's raining and snowing, and she's dreaming about a sunny day."

Sugar Snow: When even the heaviness and chill, the hope deferred, the three steps back from spring show themselves to have a sweet edge, a sweet ending.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Fast Friends: How I stalked my way into a running tribe

I live in a world where it's perfectly acceptable both to stalk people and to wolf down your breakfast like a smelly, ravenous dog in front of the previously stalked people that you now call friends.

'Tis the world of lady distance running, my friends.

I met up with such a crowd yesterday morning for a group run. And I'll be honest--the introvert in me seriously considered ditching and running the 14 miles solo, just me, myself and iTunes. But I'm so glad I went.

I should probably explain the stalking reference. See, I was invited to this group run by a friend I met through stalking. She beat me in a 5k last May, like, by a lot, and did I mention she was pregnant at the time? I didn't get a chance to track her down right after the race, but when the results came out, I looked up her name, googled her running times, and discovered she had a fantastic running blog. I commented on one of her posts. She graciously responded. And then, a week or so later, she emailed to ask if I'd be interested in joining her for a long run.

My first thought was to say no. My second thought was a more articulate hayells no. I was completely intimidated. I had always done my long runs alone, and she was much, much faster than I was. But she claimed she was about to slow down considerably given her pregnancy, and I couldn't come up with any decent excuses that didn't make me sound like a total fraidy cat. So I took the leap.

One minute I'm shaking her hand to officially introduce myself. The next we're off and running 10 miles. We were fast friends. (ahem. bad pun alert.) We ran almost weekly for the remainder of her pregnancy, and it's hard for me to believe I've known her less than a year.

Anyway, as it turns out, now that her precious little girl is 3 months old, my friend has returned to her speedy ways. It took me about a mile into the 14 to realize that I wasn't going to be able to maintain her postpartum pace. So I slipped back into the next pack of runners. Never mind that I hadn't met any of them yet. We did a quick round of moving introductions, and settled into an hour and half long conversation. The whole thing was just way too easy. The miles flew by. The conversation was delightful. At the end of two hours, I had a handful of new friends and a voracious appetite.

So we all went out to breakfast, where I (as previously mentioned) ate like a smelly, ravenous animal and didn't feel even slightly self conscious.
Here we are, pre-run, pre-hungry and pre-smelly
So, just to review, if you're looking for a running community, stalking is a perfectly acceptable way to find it. Second, like so many other facets of life, running in community is far more enriching than training in a vacuum. Third, if you live in Alaska and you're a lady runner training for a BQ and you aren't prone to judging people for eating tremendous amounts of cheese, then we need to meet.

p.s. If you're looking for a practical running stalker tool, check out dailymile. It's a fun way to track your training and connect with other runners. I found another wonderful running partner/ fast friend this way (it was mutual stalking, right, Katie?), and my only regret is that I didn't connect with her sooner!

Friday, March 8, 2013

So, where's home?

I'm participating in Lisa Jo's 5 Minute Friday today. We're commanded (ok, encouraged) to write for five minutes and hit publish without worrying about whether it makes any sense. The prompt is "Home." So here goes:
Five Minute Friday When I was 19, I transferred from a small liberal arts college in southern California to a big university in Ohio. I was hiking boots and flannel shirts and earthy beaded necklaces and no make up. And even though my parents and dog and little brother still lived in Podunk, Ohio, I was known as the "girl from California." A misnomer I never had any desire to correct.

When when moved to Maine, I shoved my fancy DC suits into the back of the closet and frequented the LL Bean and Patagonia outlets until I had fleece for every day of the week. I didn't want to be the girl from anywhere else. I wanted to feel as if I'd always lived a mile from the ocean, as if I'd always been a mom to the toddler boy and baby girl, and never that joyless workaholic lady from corporate HR.

When we moved to Ohio, I already had the outfits. I could dress the part for the PTO, the library, the preschool drop-off. I added running clothes to the mix, and when I ran out of closet space, I sold the suits. It's here I've struggled most with identity. I'm no longer working--not even part time. My kids are now elementary aged. (What!?) My life is now more easily defined by the ages of my children and by what my husband does, as opposed to what I used to do, back before we needed at least one of us to have a sane and predictable schedule for the sake of the kids and our marriage.

In a few months, we'll move to Alaska. I think about the move and wonder how I'll answer the questions about where I'm from, about what I do.
So where's home? Um, here, hopefully...
So what do you do? Laundry, mostly. But I'm looking to branch out and maybe grow some broccoli and killer tomatoes. I like to run for hours at a time, and I eat a tremendous amount of cheese.


I don't usually like to end a post with "I eat a tremendous amount of cheese." But five minutes have passed, and rules are rules. As you can see, home and identity are intertwined for me. I let go of my big bad career several years ago to be a stay-at-home mom, and I've moved just often enough to feel like an outsider but not so often that I can pull off the hip and adventurous persona.
Between you and me, whenever we move somewhere new, I'm reminded that I still have frighteningly high levels of junior high insecurity coursing through my veins. I'm hoping that when it comes time to make some new friends, I'll at least have the wisdom not to lead with the part about the massive cheese consumption.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

So here's the thing.

So, here's the thing. I'm a Christian. I believe in all that crazy stuff Jesus said. But I don't like to broadcast that I'm a Christian because I don't want to be associated with those Christians. The ones who make everything political, who read the Bible literally, who seem to enjoy fighting the culture wars more than loving their neighbor.

I'm not one of those Christians, but I struggle to define what kind of Christian I am. A broken one, for starters. A give-me-all-the-grace-you-can kind, because Lord knows how much I need it. I'm embarrassed by my selfishness, my pride, how easily I climb onto that high-horse and how quickly I get tossed off onto my ass.

The college I went to had it's fair share of what my roommate and I called "bible boys". They liked to argue about theology and hermeneutics while they ate cereal, while they walked to class, while they waited for their girlfriends in the dorm lounge. Some of them didn't have girlfriends, because that would be a distraction. There weren't any bible girls. Only girls who might marry the bible boys. I'm not sure how I escaped it all, but I happened to marry one of the biology boys instead. He liked to ask questions and wasn't afraid of not knowing the answer.  He liked to eat his cereal in peace. Thank God, thank God, I didn't marry a bible boy.

These days, when I pray, it's usually just to say "thanks" or to say "help".  I don't think God actively intervenes when my son has pneumonia and we need to decide whether to hospitalize or keep him home. I don't think prayer changes whether his fever lingers at 104.4 or dips to 101. Tylenol does. But prayer? Not so much. I don't get it when Christians say, "pray that God gives the doctors wisdom." You know what gives the doctors wisdom? Med school.

I pray because I need to connect with the God that I've grown to love, because he first loved me. But I don't expect him to heal my son or my friends' marriage or change my other friend's employment situation or make sure my move goes smoothly. I expect him to draw near to me (even though sometimes he doesn't and I feel totally ignored and forgotten). I expect him to help me endure whatever loss and grief this world allows. And I expect Him to make everything new and better and perfect in the end....kingdom come.

I grew up in a bit of a bubble, a Christian one. And though I've been out for almost 20 years, I still look at that bubble, that place where I had more answers than questions, and I think it sounds like a nice way to spend my spring break. This tension of living in this fallen world with less than perfect answers and overwhelming (at times) cynicism and doubt, it stretches me thin, lets me go and snaps me like a rubber band. I fly through the air and fall to the floor, and I ache.

I ache when I pay even the slightest attention to the world. Sure, I see the ocean and I feel that calm and glory and peace. But all the other times, like when I read the news or talk to a grieving, hopeless-feeling friend, all the other times, it makes me ache. And when I get the chills and the shakes, when the ugliness is too high, God is my Tylenol. I believe in that ever after where everything is new and beautiful and the way it is supposed to be. The thought of this rescue, this loving God, it brings my temperature down.

And maybe the disease isn't totally gone, but it's enough that I can sit up straight, take a sip of water.
And I can pray for healing, the eternal kind. Because that's the kind of healing I believe in.

*This is the scariest thing I've ever published, even scarier than my melodramatic poetry, because guess what, it's not just a happy clappy story about my kids. People might actually disagree and judge and think I'm an idiot or an infidel. But I want to be brave, and today seemed like a decent time to give it a try.