What I've Learned, 2011 Edition

Last year, Dave and I did our own "What I Learned," just like in Esquire magazine.  Again, the magazine did not find us interesting enough to ask us about the life lessons we've learned, so I'll have to publish here.  I enjoyed taking stock in the year, and it's a tradition I choose to continue.  Life experience without a lesson is worthless.  Lessons unshared are equally useless.

Someday, maybe Esquire will ask us and we'll be famous or whatever.  Until then, here are some valuable lessons learned in an incredible year.
  • ADD is a gift.  I'm a hunter in a world of farmers.  Instead of continuing to fight it, I rebuilt my life to adapt to it.
  • I love writing.
  • My burdens are my blessings.
  • I don't "play" well with my kids.  I like doing projects with them, but I get bored playing house.
  • I like waking up really early.
  • I'm a good parent.  I'm not perfect, but I'm good at parenting.
  • I have cheerleaders in my life.  I propose wild and insane ideas that sometimes never come to fruition, but they cheer me on regardless.  (I'm talking to you, Erin and Amy)
  • I forget birthdays and it's not on purpose.
  • Take chances.  Amazing things happen.  The worst that happens is nothing.
  • Preschool and kindergarten classrooms are filled with magic.
  • Sometimes you really need to start a project.
  • Have faith in the final product.  A simple beginning may not resemble the extravagant end.
  • Err on the side of really early when you're leaving to see your best friend take the lead in the school play.
  • Every conversation is an opportunity to change someone's life.
  • When trying to blame somebody for the woes in my life, I should take a look in the mirror.
  • I love an annual garage sale.  Semi-annual is even better.
  • I don't need a lot of the stuff I have.
  • God hasn't failed me yet.  I live so that hopefully He might say the same for me.
  • Money isn't the root of all evil, and neither are people who have a lot of it.  They can do a lot of good with it, and many of them do.
  • Apathy and laziness are the roots of all evil.
  • Accepting what we've been given is much different than taking what we feel we're entitled to having.
  • I fear nothing and nobody.
  • Never park the car for the night with less than 1/4 tank of gas.
This was one of the best years of my life, and it began with The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  Our financial situation didn't change much for the better and life didn't magically get easier.  The most significant change is that I landed my dream job, but the pay isn't great yet.  We still experience the same burdens as last year, perhaps even with a few more.  My perspective changed, though.  I realized that my life is extraordinarily good.  My quality of life improved the second I realized how much good surrounds me.  My life continues to get better.

This year I expected good things to happen, and they did.  I tried my hardest to let the bad roll off me.  I was frivolously creative.  I played more.  I enjoyed more.  I took life less seriously and remembered how to have fun.  So really, not much changed in 2012 except my attitude, and honestly, that changed everything.

Happy New Year, and Happy Next Year


My Take On Occupy

This is raw.  I'm going to get some facts wrong.  I don't care.  I'm goin' for broke.

Early last month, Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, responded to President Obama's assertion that banks don't have an "inherent right" to "a certain amount of profit."  Moynihan said, "We have the right to make a profit."

He's right.

Moynihan made the comment at a meeting with shareholders while defending the (now scrapped) $5 usage fee on debit cards.  He explained that the new fee was necessary because new regulations have limited the bank's ability to earn a proft.  He's held accountable by his shareholders, after all, and is required to deliver ever-more-valuable stock.  He believed shareholders, employees, and customers would understand the need for the new fee. 

Americans would understand. Americans would simply understand his bank's need for profit and moneymaking and the insatiable hunger to get my money into your pocket by any means necessary. We'd understand.

This is a clear example of a guy who's completely the fuck out of touch with America.

Well, let me tell you what we understand.  You, Mr. Moynihan, and all of your banking CEO friends might disagree.  The problem between your bank and your customers might simply be one of perception.  But I'll give you a snapshot of what we've watched for the past 3 15 years.

('cause I couldn't have said it better myself)
I see this situation as one similar to a parent and a 2 year old.  In this case, let's imagine that that the American public is the parent and Wall Street is the 2 year old.  Here's a script of a parent and child.

Sample Scenario:
Parent: Please pick up the blocks.
Child: I throw the block. throws the block at parent
Parent: Please don't throw the blocks at me.  Please pick up the blocks.  If you throw the blocks at me one more time, I will take your blocks away.
Child: throws the block
Parent: OK!  I'm taking your blocks away!
Child: crying No take blocks!  Mommy mean!  No take blocks!  I want play with blocks!

Actual Scenario:
America: We're trusting you with our life savings.  Please treat us with respect and keep our assets safe.
Wall Street:  I'm going to invest this and make you a lot of money.  Membership fees, usage fees, statement fees, high interest rates, rate changes, ATM fees, and account fees diminish customer's money.  Leftover money is put in risky investments.
America:  If you don't start being more honest with us, we're going to have to regulate your activity.
Wall Street: To make even more money, banks create a culture that encourages lying to investors, decieving borrowers, making shitty bets, and undercapitalizing, and thus collapses the American economy.
America: OK! That's it!  I'm taking away your ability to get rich by cheating.
Wall Street:  crying We can't make any money now!  Obama's mean!  American's don't understand!

We understand perfectly.  We get it.  You basked in the afterglow of Reagan's deregulation orgy and then seduced the American wallet. for. years.  You sent out notices on tissue paper with tiny print to inform us that our credit card rates were going up another 5%.  If we read it (which you knew we wouldn't), we'd know we could opt out.  You claim you support small businesses but you charged them every time a customer swiped a credit card.  You made abysmal lending choices because you knew you could make money on a foreclosure.  You charged a fee to the unemployed to access their unemployment checks.  You lied, cheated, stole, raped, and pillaged the American economy for nearly two decades and created a practically third-world wealth gap, and you have the audacity, the fucking audacity, to expect customers to understand a $5 debit card usage fee? (Now that it's scrapped, I wonder what's next?)  Are you guys a bunch of fucking idiots?

In case you forgot, the American taxpayer IS the reason your bank is still in business.  It's not because you're brilliant.  It's not because you're Ivy League educated.  Remember when your banks were stupid and gambled with money that wasn't yours and lost?  You cried to the US taxpayer!  And now you idiots have the audacity to cry to the US Government and complain that, after you blew apart the US economy, the profit-making environment isn't quite as hospitable?  Geez, you just can't make money like you used to, can you?

You never should have been able to make money like that.  It should have been illegal the whole time.  You should have been making money the old fashioned way - great customer service and great products.  Great products and great service sell themselves.  Purveyors of shitty products and bad service need to scrounge.  You were the latter.  You resolved to unethical means in order to boost your bottom line.  The profits you make now are probably more realistic based on the products and services you peddle rather than the bloated numbers from the good ol' days of deregulation (a.k.a. legalized lying and stealing).

I second the sentiments of Mr. Taibbi.  I'm not jealous of anybody with money and I don't want something for nothing.  I want a fair shake.  I want a level playing field.  I don't want to be viewed as an endless suppy of income for people like Mr. Moynihan, $3 here, $5 there.  I am a human.  I want to be treated like a human.

To every Wall Street banker, I am your equal.  Under the Constitution of our shared country, you and I are equal.  In front of the statue of Justice, with her eyes covered, we are equals. 

But in real life, we are not.  You have the right to steal, lie, cheat, borrow, and decieve without reprimand.  You have the right to be corrupt without consequence because the system is skewed in your favor.  You bought that right and contribute to candidates who ensure you retain that right.

Occupy Wall Street, and the 100 other Occupy movements around the world, are trying to expose that right.  They want bankers to lose those rights.  It's not about envy or wanting to get rich quick.  It's not about not wanting to work hard.  It's about wanting to work and get a fair shake.  It's about everybody getting an equal shot.  It's also about reclaiming our dignity and self-worth.  It's anger about being dehumanized and disregarded for so long by a greedy, corrupt system and finally finding the courage to say, "I'm alive.  I'm a real person.  I'm holding you accountable."

At least that's what I think it's all about.


Good Lord (or Good Grief): Part 2

As I drove home from my interview, I made a promise to God.  I said, "I promise not to be surprised anymore.  I won't take it for granted.  I'll just be grateful."

A week earlier, a friend encouraged me to check out a Craigslist post for a local business that was for sale.  She thought I might be interested because I was doing something similar on my own.  This is the same friend who suggested I become a  personal trainer.  So I checked out the ad and replied.  However, the ad right below it caught my eye.  "Personal Trainer needed at local gym".  They asked for both a resume and a paragraph explaining my personal philosophy on training.  I didn't know where I was applying, but I opened myself to all possibilities, so I sent it in.

When I received an email reply requesting an interview, I shuddered.  The email address revealed that I'd applied to a gym I'd adamantly refused to consider upon earning my certification.  My former boss, the one who fired me, was a member there.  His partner was a personal trainer there!  I was really scared of the possibilities.  When the owner of the gym emailed me requesting an interview before my scheduled interview, I broke out into a cold sweat.  I imagined a conversation where the owner and my boss's partner had an intimate conversation about me, and I'd be described as crazy, irrational, or rude.  I'd walk into this interview and get grilled about what I'd done to get fired.  I just KNEW this was going to happen.  However, I was determined to leave the past in the past.  Bad people don't have the right to haunt me.

So here I found myself still standing at the edge of the cliff.  I had two choices.  I could give in to the fear of my past.  By blowing off these invitations, I could avoid the possibility of confrontation with explaining my termination and everything that came after it.  I would prevent any stumbling and bumbling words that might escape my lips that might falsely reveal a bitter old bartender who's got a problem with authority.  Or, I could accept and trust that I'd nail the interview.  I could trust that my personality, my talents, and my passion for health and fitness would radiate from every pore.  I could just trust.

So I replied, saying that I'd "love" to meet him.  Gulp.  I jumped off the cliff.

Here's a few clips from my interview.
  • Owner: "I love that you've been running your own business.  I'm sure you've learned a lot."
  • Owner: "We actually want our members to come in.  We want them to use the gym.  We're here to change lives."
  • Me: "Giving a client the tools they need to succeed, and then watching them reach their goals, is the greatest feeling in the world."
  • Owner: "We want all of our members to reach their potential."
  • Owner: "I have a budget for continuing education.  I'll pay for certification classes and ongoing education, but you've got to commit to me."
  • Me: "I'm committed to a lifetime of learning."
  • Owner: "I think this is going to work out.  We'll see you at 6 am on Monday."
  • Me: "I think this is going to work out well.  It sounds like we're all working for the same things."
I answered exactly ZERO questions about my past employment history.

I'd avoided this opportunity out of fear.  My fear thrived on an unsubstantiated belief that some fairly crappy people still sought to make my life hell.  Nurturing that fear limited my options and gave power to people who are powerless to affect my life.  Taking the leap of faith proved, once again, that I am in good hands.  My faith expanded my life again, and continues to open up all possiblities.  My belief empowers me to say, "YES!  I will face this challenge because fear is a mirage.  Fear is nothing to me."

Two weeks after I was hired, my past confronted me in the most extraordinary way.  After an amazing "test" training session with my boss, I saw a former co-worker.  She is a terribly bitter, negative person who acted, in part, as the fly in my boss's ear in an effort to eliminate me.  I was smiling, thrilling at the experience of having nailed this challenge.  My kids were at my side.  I look better and feel better than I have in years.  I saw her.  She saw me.  My stomach dropped a little, but I neither smiled nor acknowledged her presence.  I simply carried on my conversation with my kids.  Happily.

Two days ago, I saw my boss's partner.  I was working with a member, helping her pefect her squat.  I was smiling.  I was confident in every movement.  I looked up and my brain registered, "Oh, that's him."  And that was it.  I experienced no physical sensations associated with fight or flight - no panic, stomach drop, increased heartbeat, adrenaline rush...nothing.  Nothing but pure nothing.

And that's exactly what fear is - nothing.  It's an image, a monster, a wall we create in our minds based on what we think might happen.  Fear prevents progress.  Fear inhibits growth.  Fear destroys imagination and confidence and  possibility.  It causes us to live our lives as fractions, because we cannot simultaneously entertain the wall of fear and rush forward to take risks.  It prevents the us from contributing our greatest good to the world.  It denies us the possibility of accepting and sharing God's gifts and appreciating the boundless love in our lives.

So here I am.  Accepting this job has presented some new childcare issues and forced a me to strike a new balance with family, friends, and personal time.  However, these challenges are relatively easy considering where I came from!  On some days, even as I've panicked and stressed about exactly how it's all going to work, I've come back to THE central theme in my life: I have faith in God, and that's wildly empowering.  But in the past four years, He's presented me with some life-changing challenges, and now some almost unimaginable opportunities, because, quite simply, He has faith in me.



This is a sad state of affairs tonight, y'all.  I've come to grips with the fact that I'm an addict.  I'm a complete computer junkie.

Now, I'm not overly blog-happy, for sure.  That comment last week about "vomiting" my thoughts was hyperbole.  Believe it or not, I actually do have a filter.  And it's on most of the time.  So I don't simultaneously post status updates on The Facebook, Tweet, update the Tumblr (I don't even have an account.  Should I sign up?  Please advise.), and write a post in one night.  However, when it comes out, it really feels like my heart and brain upchuck my feelings and thoughts.

So imagine my frustration, nay horror, when I decided, in a momentary lapse of reason, that I would take a hiatus from the computer.  I headed down to mom and dad's for the weekend to celebrate my sweet niece's birthday and left the computer behind.  ON PURPOSE.  Yet, here I am.

Here's the fault in my plan: I left the phone charger at home.  Ridiculous, right?  I know.  So insane.  I can picture it lying peacefully amongst the toast crumbs on my counter.  So if I am to communicate with anybody, I need a computer.  Additionally, I traditionally concieve of brilliant ideas when I'm without a pen and paper (computer).  So there you have it.

And finally, in my defense, I'm at my parents house and there's a huge boxing match on tonight.  One of the boxers works out at the gym where I was recently hired (more on this.  It's AWESOME!), so I've found myself sucked it.  I want him to win because the other guy just sucks.  His character, I mean.  He's a great boxer, but he sucks at being a human being.  My guy is awesome.  Cinderella story and everything like that.  So I've got myself tapped into a live blog covering the match because my 'rents aren't going to toss out $60 for my viewing pleasure.  They love me and thrill at my enthusiasm, but not that much.

So the moral of the story is that I couldn't handle 48 hours with a computer.  I'm on the teeniest tiniest wee-est little loaner computer that my dad lent me out of pity.  Perhaps it was the tears.  Maybe the whining.  But I'm here and I'm happy.  However, I'm aware that I AM the problem with my age group.  Looking down instead of looking in the eye and everything else I bitch about regularly.  I'm going to be a great cranky old person.

That's all.  I threw out the filter earlier today.  Have a nice night.  Go Victor!



I read them.

I read them all.

I love responses to my words, I love what you have to say. 

I love thinking and sometimes knowing that what I've written might nail it, might make you feel less alone in the world, or even make you smile.

Sometimes, in the midst of vomiting my thoughts, I miss the fact that I'm attempting to feel connected, as well.

Sometimes, a comment stops me in my tracks because they nailed it, they made me feel less alone in the world, and they made me smile.

That happened today, and this is the comment.

Years ago, when she was going through the shit of it all, my sister came home with the biggest smile on her face. I asked her, "Why are you so happy?" She responded, "I was crying, you know, thinking about everything? Then I pulled up at a red light next to a hearse. I looked over and I just realized, That guy is dead. I am alive."

That's it.
Blog closed.


Thank you for reading and writing and reading again.


It's Broken. Let's Fix It.

We'll never forget, so there's really no need to keep reminding us of what we'll never forget.  Ever.

As long as I live, I'll never forget the morning phone call from my mom telling me to be careful, that there might be riots or something because two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York.  Then my alarm went off at the crack of 10.  I heard Rick Dees (awful memory of his voice) confirm my mom's report, and that one of the planes took off from Boston, that it was supposed to land in LA.  My friend flew that flight frequently.  I called him, and he answered to my great relief.

The rest of the day seems surreal.  I came downstairs and talked with the Sikh family across the street.  They wore turbans and were quick to assure me that Sikhs were a peaceful people.  They already knew that anybody in a turban would be implicated.  I called my ex-boyfriend (now husband) and we spent the day together.

In the days and weeks that followed, I recall hoping that the feeling of unity and collective sadness would bring a divided nation together.  We were still reeling from an election determined not by the number of votes, but by an irrational decision by the Supreme Court.  And then George Bush uttered those fateful words as he addressed Congress, "If you're not with us, you're against us."

It's been us versus them since.

In every way possible, our nation is split.  The gap between those with monetary wealth and those without continues to widen.  Snakes run for office and spit venom at each other, hoping to capitalize on the hate we feel for each other.  We have been deliberately cheated, lied to, and misinformed by those in power in an effort to keep us placated.  I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but the things I see are decidedly different from what I hear.

We are a nation obsessed with reality, but a completely false reality.  Somehow, the Kardashians, the Real Housewives, and dipshits in New Jersey have captured our collective imagination and transport us away from real life.  We watch obscene displays of wasteful wealth on flat screen TVs, sitting comfortably on overstuffed couches in foreclosed homes as we wait for the phone to ring with a job opportunity.

Instead of dwelling on the 10 year anniversary of that awful day, which none of us with the capability of long-term memory will ever forget (even without the articles and documentaries and photo essays and interactive maps) by crying (which I've done this week), do something productive and peaceful. 

We have clear evidence from the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan that evil doesn't wipe out evil.  Like Donnie Deutsch shouts, "THERE HAS GOT TO BE A BETTER WAY!"  That great evil conceived by one man and carried out by more evil men on September 11, 2001, can only be negated by an act of love as extravagantly magnificent. 

If each of us took it upon ourselves to turn off the TV, wake up to our potential, and take action, we might actually get that change we so passively hoped for in 2008.

Turn off your TV.  Turn off the mind-numbing blabber and look outside.  There's a world that needs you.  Desperately.  People need  your contributions, your time, your talents, and your passion (whatever it is!).    But do something, anything, to make it better for everybody.

Spend the day in the garden with your kids. Share a glass of wine with a neighbor. Bake cookies and take them to your local fire house. Attend a religious service at a different church, or at a house of worship from a religion different from your own. Simply shake your neighbor's hand. Call someone and tell them you are thankful for their presence in the world. Plant a tree. If you're looking for a job, volunteer. Your time is priceless (and it might lead to a paying job!).  Take one hour a week and commit to a local school, a shelter, a tutoring center, or a local charity. Walk for breast cancer. Run a canned food drive in your neighborhood this month. Find a park and pick up trash. Call your friends or do it alone.  Commit to being good, fighting for good, promoting good and peace and love.

Over a decade ago, a group of evil people conceived of a way to make our country worse.  It worked.  I suspect few of us are better off today than we were 10 years ago.  But we have within us that which makes it better.  We have the capacity to commit acts of goodness both small and grand, all of which are extraordinary.  We have the power to make it better.  We can.  We should.  We're out of options.

We must.


Good Lord (or Good Grief)

I’ve got no good reason to be happy, and a million reasons to be bitter.  If you haven’t been following for the past 2 years, then you can believe the next sentence.  It’s been really tough.

The culmination of all those events led us to an eventuality that millions like us have faced: we could lose our home to foreclosure or willingly give it up in a short sell.  For a few months, we have faced the horrid option of paying our utilities or paying the mortgage on a house whose value sank.  Our kids are getting bigger and the house is getting smaller.  We can’t pay our property tax.  Our dishwasher doesn’t work.  We raised the white flag.
While we were on vacation last week, our realtor listed the house.  The surprise realtor and client visit yesterday afternoon was enough to drive home the reality of leaving, but when we received an email that someone made an offer, I got really scared.  I worried and considered our lives for the next six months.  I wondered how we were going to pay rent if we couldn’t afford a mortgage.  I wondered how I was going to make more money.  I wondered how we would avoid more ballooning debt when we’re on our way to eliminating it.  Then Marcus walked downstairs holding both ears asking for a Band-Aid.  See?  No time for worry.  Within minutes, I was in the midst of post-three o’clock mom stress that included a doctor’s visit for a double ear infection, swimming lessons, and prescription drop-off and pick-up all on a near-empty tank of gas.  I got the email while I was at swimming lessons.  I called Dave.  I told him I was stressed, but then followed it up with, “I don’t really have time to think about the long-term like this because I’ve got to put out all the day’s fires.”  It’s true.
I tried to avoid turning into Drill Sergeant Harpie Mom.  I’m doing my best to shield my sensitive kids from this chaos.  However, somewhere between prescription drop-off and tank fill-up, I started to smile.  I might have even chuckled.  “Holy shit,” I probably said aloud.  “We’re at the end.”
Four years of Bible-style events beginning with a flood and ending with losing our home has been one long teachable moment.
Five years ago, I was pretty arrogant.  I owned my home, held a cush job as a bartender, rode horses, ran, cycled, hiked, kept my house clean, bought stuff, and generally aimed for all the material stuff that pointed to success and achievement in life.  I was in the midst of getting it all.  When I got pregnant, all that stuff that seemed so important slowly dropped away, one after another.  I could no longer ride horses or run.  I couldn’t buy as much stuff because we were saving for a baby.  Yet I still felt the pull of those things, like somehow letting go of those external desires meant that I was losing parts of myself.  I was missing the lesson. 
If I continued to miss the lesson, I’d simply look back at my life and see ruins.  I’d turn into a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife and live a life of anger and bitterness.  I’d be filled with envy and jealously and fury for what I never got, yet was somehow entitled to.  But through the trials of losing my job, death of my friend, near loss of Marcus (twice), quitting another job, and working with my family to redefine boundaries, I learned quickly that material things failed to hold me up.  I felt no support when I leaned on stuff.  However, when Dave walked through the door every night at 7 o’clock, I learned how heavily I could lean on him.  He simply didn’t move.  I’d never needed anyone in this life as much as I needed Dave.  He didn’t drift away or become obsolete.  He just stayed and held our family together.
The larger lesson came from God.  My faith is strong, and it grows stronger daily.  I believe that this series of events has been a larger effort to strip me of my drive to fill material needs.  I am no longer filled by things.  No longer do I care about the best sheets or fancy shoes.  I care about people.  Events of the past 5 years taught me that empathy, passion, and love are my strengths.  I’m not going to love life if I’m trying to achieve someone else’s standard of success.  I’m successful at life when I make it better for everybody, and that’s how I live out God’s purpose for me.  My job was to learn to stop taking what wasn’t mine.  I needed to learn to give without expectation of reward.  I shouldn’t be surprised to find that I now feel overwhelmed by my riches.  I have a beautiful marriage, loving, happy, grateful children, deep satisfying relationships with my family and friends, and best of all, I love myself again.  No longer driven by what I don’t have, I find that I have all I could ever want!
So between dropping off a prescription and filling up my tank, I realized that I don’t need anything.  As long as I have my family, I’m fine.  We’re fine.  I’m scared but fine.  I don’t know where I’ll be living in 6 months.  I don’t know how we’ll be able to afford skyrocketing rents in town.  I literally feel like I’m on the edge of a cliff and God’s asking me, “How much do you trust me?”  And Good Lord!  I am scared and I don’t know, but I’ve got a million reasons to trust Him!
I want to know before I jump, but I think that’s the last lesson.  I’m either growing wings or He’s gonna catch me, but either way, I have faith.  We’ll be fine.


The Weight of Raising A Man

We learn so much about a person at their funeral.  It's kind of unfortunate because we spend much time in our lives knowing only one color of their spectrum.  My grandpa was like that.  I knew him as one of the most honest, honorable men in the whole wide world.  His moral compass never waivered from the direction of good.  He told a cop story once from when he was on the LAPD.  One of his guys came to him terribly upset.  His pregnant wife discovered that he'd been having an affair, and was leaving him.  I'm sure my grandpa had little sympathy when he said, "You screwed up.  You deserve it."

And that was how he lived his life.  He didn't screw up (at least that I know of).  If it was wrong or bad, he didn't do it.  If something needed to be done, he'd do it because it was the right thing to do.  He spent his life doing right by his family and his community.

He remained involved in the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  The most comical role he played in the VFW was "treasurer" at the annual garage sale.  He stored the cash right behind his .32.  In plain sight.  Nobody would steal from him because he was big and in his 80s and packing heat.  He played golf and bowled with his VFW buddies, and they all called him Charlie.

Growing up, my dad often spoke of Boy Scout and Eagle Scout trips he took with my grandpa, who was the Scout Master (again, it was the right thing to do).  Stories of powdered eggs and short sheeting grandpa's bed on cold nights were my favorites.  At the memorial, I saw a photo of my young grandfather amid a group of young men.  Taken in 1959, the boys look like they're auditioning for parts in "Stand By Me" with their tidy hair, tight white shirts, and dark jeans.  I think it was a campout.  Anyway, my grandfather is beaming, obviously bursting with pride in these young men.  My dad is in the group, smiling a nearly identical smile.  What I, and many others, didn't know was that my grandfather remained active in Scouting from the time my dad was 7 up until a few years ago, volunteering to mentor young men in the hobby of stamp and coin collecting and, likely, living a life rich in sound moral decisions.  Sadly, he noticed a decline in interest in Scouting, or collecting, or both.  He feared Boy Scouts of America, an organization so dedicated to molding upstanding, proud, articulate, academic, and honest men was in the decline.  He didn't know whether it was where he lived or his specialty, but my dad recalled conversations where grandpa confessed it weighed heavy on his heart.

And so I looked at my boy tonight, this toddler who smiled sweetly as he overturned the cat's water dish.  I wonder what his future holds.  I worry about the state of the world as he grows up.  I can't help but wonder how he'll learn patience amidst world full of people hell-bent on getting their needs met now!  I'm compelled to compare the difference in the times of my grandfather and my son.  Did the times mold my grandfather, or would he have been a man of great character in any time?  Was he drawn to an organization like Boy Scouts of America because of when he lived or how he lived?
Even as I write this, I'm beginning to answer my own question.  My grandfather was the man he was regardless of the time.  His character is timeless.  His moral compass doesn't have an expiration date.  My father holds it.  I pray that I hold it.  Dave holds on to the moral compass handed to him by his father and his Uncle Ron.  Our kids will have it.  I'm sure of it. 

But I want some insurance.

I've requested a copy of the photo so that my son will have something physical, a touchstone, with which he can connect with his grandfather and great-grandfather.  I've already begun investigating Boy Scouts for him.  He'll start when he's in first grade.  I need my son to be surrounded by many people like my grandfather, my father, my husband - good, honest, humble, faithful, selfless men dedicated to improving the lives of others.  I want to ensure that my son grows up and defies a selfish, needy, consuming world in favor of a life of giving, helping, and trust.  It's the only way I know to make it better.  I can't control what he does as an adult.  However, with a little luck, he'll find an old stamp collector like Chuck who'll teach him about the 1986 commemorative stamp from Nigeria, and why he should always stand up when a lady walks in the room.


High School

High school sucks, and don't let anybody tell you different. Teenagers are complete social degenerates. They lack social graces. They're mean, insensitive, arrogant, sneaky, argumentative, a-holes with too much energy.

Maybe I'm generalizing, but you get the point. I can look back on my life and see that those years were definitely not my best. Personally and socially, they were tough. I felt awkward and insecure. I didn't have a great sense of style and I talked a lot. Still do. I was smart but couldn't concentrate on homework. I had great friends, amazing people, but never really felt terribly close to any of them. My family didn't have a lot of money. The perpetual reassortment of the social heierarchy drove me mad. I liked everybody but felt close to nobody. Where was I?

Add to that, a bully.

In my freshman year, the popular boys decided that I'd done them wrong (it's a long story...) and one day at break, the gang of them approached me and threatened to "kick my ass out to the field." So high school, right? Well, it didn't end there. I endured taunts and insults all four years each time I passed one of them in the halls or (God-forbid) shared a class. The two names I remember best and least-fondly are "bitch" and "feminazi". The "feminazi" started when I took a stand against rising for and saying the Pledge of Allegiance in Civics with Mr. Poston. I've always been political. Mr. Poston supported my stance!  Leave me alone!!!
Moving on.

Yesterday, one of the Mean Boys sent me a Friend Request on the Facebook. Twenty year old insults and pain and fear and intimidation rose from the ashes and attacked. I panicked. I accepted? I immediately imagined the whole group of them sitting at a big, rich-guy executive desk rifling through the online photos of my life, laughing at what I am or what I am not. I hated myself a little for feeling obliged to please. God forbid I insult him, right?

I rifled through all of his photos. He had a huge wedding at his parent's estate, I think. He's been to basketball finals and the Super Bowl and his wife is a trophy and he's got two kids and an infinity pool on the beach. Then I defriended him. I couldn't handle it.

I decided to write a note. I told him that he'd hurt me. He'd bullied me. He and his friends were mean and caused me trauma and I wished him a nice life, and it was the truth.

The most beautiful thing happened 24 hours later. He apologized. He said he was sorry for hurting me, that it was a long time ago, and he didn't remember much. But he was sorry and wished my family and me well.

High school can be pretty dehumanizing. It's easy to dismiss your peers for academic, socioeconomic, aesthetic, or other completely arbitrary, ridiculous reasons when you've been together every day for seven years (as much as I try, I can't forget junior high) and you're perpetually rearranging the pecking order.

I sent the note, and he responded, and I think we both became humans again. He's got a family, kids, a spouse. So do I. We were forced to face each other's humanity. I don't see him as a mean, spoiled, jerky kid anymore. He's got more in his life. I liked the photo of him holding his new baby. He had that dopey, proud father grin. My note forced him to see me as more than a name from the past. If only for the moments it took for him to bravely write, "I'm sorry", he had to recognize me as a real human being. He didn't have to. He could have dismissed me and the note as the ramblings of a crazy woman stuck in the past. But he didn't. That simple acknowledgement fills the tiny hole he and his friends carved out of me, the piece of my happiness, my experience, my joy, they robbed me of. But that painful experience is over. Finally. Somehow, after reading a note 20 years in the making, that part of high school really doesn't matter anymore.



I work.  I write about work.  I love it more than I ever thought I could.

But something is missing again.  Not anything major like the fiasco of my life two years ago, but a void exists and I can feel it.

Physically, I'm great.  Active, happy, high energy, motivated.  Good stuff.
Emotionally, completely supported.  Dave is amazing.  Friends and family are amazing.  I lack for nothing.
Intellectually, space is not limited, but it's filling up fast.  I feel like a sponge.  No topic is off limits.

Spiritually, well, there's something missing.

I lean on the rock of my faith every day.  I feel guided and loved and confident that I'm doing what God put me on this Earth to do.  I contribute good and love into the world.  So how is that not enough?

Good question.  Let me answer it.

A couple of weeks ago Alexandria and I took a trip to a U-pick farm.  It was amazing and delicious, and I felt in-touch with the homesteader lurking in the shadows of my soul.  She liked coming out.  We picked pounds of blackberries.  I mean pounds.  I got it in my head that we were going to make blackberry jam.

The next day I lit the stove and didn't stop until I'd preserved, jammed, and packed 6 jars of blackberry vanilla jam, 6 jars of strawberry jam, and 3 jars of carrots (why not?).  It felt so good!  I loved working within a method, quietly working through a clear set of directions in order to accomplish a tangible goal.  And I looked at my beautiful finished products and thought, "Man, that was a lot of work for 12 jars of jam."  And it was.  I spent hours in the kitchen working methodically to cook, clean, sterilize, and process these beautiful jars. 

But I wasn't satisified.  I wanted to do it more.  I wanted people.  I wanted women in the same room with me chatting and laughing and telling stories as they pitted, pulled, snapped, and peeled.  I realized that I wanted to be in a different place in a different time. 

Mostly, I wanted it to be necessary.

Time with my friends fills my soul.  I feel alive and less alone.  I see reminders that I'm not the only one struggling, or thriving.  In this age of computers and grocery stores and store-bought blankets, where do women go to fill that void?  How can we have those long, necessary, fruitful conversations more than randomly if we're not forced by necessity or even desire?  I love the idea that the community would come together to preserve the harvest or sew a quilt. 

How do we do that again?  How do we fill this void in a way that is relevant to the 21st century?  I know other women feel this.  We talk about it.  We need it.  But somehow the pressures or social norms or whatever with daily life seem to bind us to a clock or calendar.  How satisfied are we?  How happy are our kids?  How filled are our lives?  What are we doing?

Or maybe it is just me.  Sigh.  Maybe it's just that I'm reading My Antonia and am nostalgic for another era.  Maybe I was supposed to be born in 1850...


Happiness - An Exercise

Sometimes life doesn't work out quite the way I expect.  In short, we were late to Alexandria's graduation.  I was mad.  Really mad.  As I read in The Artist's Way earlier this year, anger can consume you or drive you.  I used to let it consume me.  It's no good.  Living becomes miserable.  Now, sometimes anger acts to supercharge my engine.  Sometimes, fury gets me up a hill.  As I woke this morning, the sting of yesterday still stung.  I wrote.  It was still there.  Then I then remembered an exerise from The Artist's Way that I enjoyed - making lists.  Compiling a list of "things" can serve as a great reminder of what we have, what we can do, what we need, or how we can get somewhere.  This morning, I decided to create a visual reminder of things that make me happy, and why perpetual anger doesn't hold a candle to the bounty in my life.  In no particular order, here are some of the things that bring joy to my life.

family road trips  vacuumed carpeting  quiet  hot sun on my skin  a good swim  Alexandria's laugh  running effortlessly  new running shoes  Marcus's smile new workout clothes  early bedtimes  dancing  writing  compost piles  chicken coops  old dogs  rabbits  hanging flower baskets  paying bills on time  lots of moms at Stroller Fitness  holding babies  babies  a good, long sermon  church  warm cookies  my garden at dusk  good books  new books  fog  haircuts  generations  traditions  competition  races  sore muscles  jacuzzis  driving through farmland  road trips with Dave  Idaho  big puffy clouds over grassland  improv comedy  sketch comedy  being ridiculous with friends  S'mores  marshmallows  hot chocolate  fresh oatmeal  Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"  God  Jesus Christ  French  France  tights skirts  making kids laugh  friendships  Buddha  sewing  gardening  baking  singing  praying  breathing  the underdog winning  cheese,wine, and apples  snack  music  ice cream  peanut butter  hot showers  vacation  the night before vacation  sunrise  sunset  trees  deserts  dessert carts  Pixar  claymation  Broadway  health  marriage  parenthood  my bed  car games with Dave  afternoon walks  school  clean sheets  cats 

And there is more.  Thinking of things begets thinking of more things.  The bounty overflows my brain.  There is too much right in the world to focus on what went wrong.  So what's on your list?


Preschool Graduation


Today is Alexandria's last day of preschool.  Well, she had her last day on Thursday, but today's the graduation.  I'm mixed up with my emotions.  Today is one of those days that embodies the essence of my experience in parenthood.

She's growing.  And fast.  She began reading about a week and a half ago.  She's aware of her shoe sizes and her clothing sizes and has strong opinions about her unique sense of fashion.  Her generosity and sensitivity humble me daily.  The concept of right vs. wrong is beginning to make sense, and she needs less explanation for why some choices are better than others.  She's grown an inch and a half and a shoe size.

She says things like, "That's adorable" and "Oh my gosh!  I can't believe it!"

She pours her own water, rinses her own plate, makes her own snacks, packs her own overnight bag, and (usually) says "Thank you" for her meal.

Two days ago, she willingly participated in cleaning up her toys.  I daresay, she executed the task enthusiastically!  After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I lavished praise and joined in the Wonderpets "Teamwork" song.

She just woke up (without waking her brother) and wrangled Dave into some cozy morning time.  They're discussing the meaning of her preschool graduation.

I know I'm going to lose my mind and cry tears and make the ugly face.  As much joy as I take in my growing children, I mourn the real loss of the quirkiness, silliness, and sheer smallness of their little beings.  Watching their mental, physical, and spiritual development satisfies my soul, and I work hard to stay in the moment of their lives.  However, these acute moments in their lives punctuate the passage of time in my own.  They remind me that I'm growing older too, and that all these good things reach their inevitable end.  I see my own mortality in their developing muscles and growing bones.  My children's growing list of accomplishments prevent me from living in a bubble of denial.  I can't remain forever youthful and stagnant when I am inundated daily with reminders of our collective growth and maturity.  This moment is one to celebrate!  I feel washed in both loss and gratitude for bearing witness to these lives, including my own.


So today Dave and I, along with our parents, will watch Alexandria graduate from preschool.  We're a decade older than when we first met, dazed by silliness and irresponsibility.  Here we are together, enmeshed in the daily responsibilities of adulthood and parenthood.  We're celebrating these lives we've brought forth, reflecting simple graces we encounter daily.

I'm going to cry.  But I can't say I'm sad for the passage of time.  What is, is.  I accept that.  I think I'm moved less by the loss of an age, and more by the privilege of being alive to see it pass.



The Only Thing Better Would Have Been A Glass Of Wine While Walking

Tonight I watched the BFFs kids at dinnertime.  My house was in total pandamonium.  Two four year-olds and two two year-olds yelling, screaming, playing the piano, telling stories, asking questions, and refusing dinner.  I loved it.

After they left, I got my kids in their jammies, brushed their teeth, read stories, sang two songs, said a prayer, and kissed them goodnight.  When I closed the door to their room, I looked out the window.  Light.  At 8:10 pm, the sun was down but the sky was blue.  I looked at Dave and said, "I'm heading out for a walk.  Just a quick one."

For the next 20 minutes, I processed work and home and packaged those problems into neat bundles.  They're stored away in tidy boxes on the shelves of my brain until tomorrow, or the next time I have to deal with them.

As I turned on the loop and began heading for home, I realized that when I was done putting the kids down, I'd been faced with a choice.  I could have sat down and enjoyed a glass of wine, which would have likely turned into two.  I would have awoken tomorrow retaining water and feeling generally sluggish.  Since Alexandria's been born, that's the usual pick.  But I opted instead for a walk in fresh air, under blue skies and green trees.

While walking, I recalled an interview for Big Brothers Big Sisters.  I was asked, "What do you do to relieve stress?"
"I go for a run."
"What do you do if you have a really bad day at work?"
"I go for a run."
"What do you do if you are experiencing tension with your partner?"
"I go for a run."

I was like a robot in that conversation, but it was the truth.  The way I stayed sane was by running.  It put the world back in order for me.  I could think quietly for about 45 minutes and by the time I got home, all my problems were scattered behind me on the pavement.

Tonight marked the first time since having kids that I revisited the habit of exercising to relieve stress, anxiety, tension, or just get some quiet.

Twenty minutes later I walked through my door.  I'd worked out work problems, decided my legs are looking good, marvelled at the bright red streaks of cloud across the sky, and contemplated the end of Alexandria's preschool.

Slowly but surely, old parts of me are emerging like grass blades popping through the snow.  The kids are a little older, and perhaps I'm less winded by the responsibilities of the day.  I don't have as much clean up or prep work to do at night.  I guess tonight was the first night in a long time where when the kids went down, I was done.  I didn't have to be drill sargeant general harpee mom.  She sucks.  I could be Natalie again.  I like her.

No real moral to the story.  Just a little sharing time.



I'm not going to mince words here.  I'm beat.  And it's the Big Tired.
There are two kinds of tired in my world.  There's the Little Tired, where you haven't gotten enough sleep for a few nights, or you had two really rough days at work but heck, the weekend's coming and you'll get a little down time.

Then there's the Big Tired.  This means that you haven't gotten enough rest and sleep in longer than you can remember.  You haven't a day where somebody hasn't demanded every need from you.  You've gone to bed thinking of all the things that still need to be done, yet when you wake up fresh the next day, you have no energy to do them.  A weekend won't cure it.  An afternoon away from home won't make it better.  The only solution is solitude and a cook.

That's where I am.  I wake up between 5:30 and 6:30 every morning.  I get my cup of coffee and I write.  I write until small people begin needing me, about an hour later.  Then, I don't write anymore.  I don't think anymore.  I don't really get to complete thoughts until they go to bed, but by then, my brain is fried from the day and I'm lucky if I can construct a sentence.

I still have all of my Cinderella duties between their bedtime and mine, too.  There's the dishes and the laundry and the picking up and the sweeping.  It's mind numbing and hateful work.  That's very un-Jesus-like, I know, but it's where I am and I comfortable with my feelings.  I just can't muster the energy to do all of it when it's going to get undone 3 1/2 seconds after they wake up in the morning.

My house doesn't look like a house on Hoarders or anything.  I'm quite tidy.  But the small bothersome things are small enough that I don't feel a pressing need to confront them.  Yet I see them and they bother me.  But if I started one, I'd keep going and wouldn't stop until it was all done and I'd never get any sleep and I'd be worse off than I am now oh lord run on sentence.

The obvious solution is to use my time in the morning.  Forget writing for a while and do the things that will help regain my sanity.  Well, here's the deal.  I feel really anxious when I don't write.  More anxious than the small things make me.  Writing is like draining a bucket set beneath a leaky roof.  Every morning, rain has filled it, and in order for the bucket to catch more rain, it must be emptied.  That's how my brain is.  I want the ideas to flow through me because they keep me alive!  They keep my mind young and fresh and energetic.  It's the only time in my day where I'm not serving others, and to dismiss that time as ill-used is not correct.  That time is pure and unviolated.

So, the moral of the story is this: mountains of laundry, unvacuumed carpet, a handprint on the window, and a drink ring on the bathroom counter are too much for me right now.  I don't have the energy to care.  Two demanding kids fill every time and thought slot.

And, summer's coming.

Maybe I can check in at one of those resorts where everybody takes a vow of silence...silence...silence.


The Luxury of Goodbye

I've been saying for years that I want to live to 100.  I want to get there.  In case you didn't know already, I'm really competitve.

A few weeks ago, my mom told me that my grandpa was sick and would be going into hospice.  He'd reached 90 and his body was failing him.  His giant heart was trying to call it quits, but his difibrillator wouldn't let him.

My sister and I each went out independently to see him, to offer love, to say, "Goodbye Grandpa.  I love you."  We all went out to breakfast.  All the waitresses joked with him.  While I was there, I helped my mom change sheets, do laundry, clean the house, and keep my grandmother, who suffers from dementia, occupied.  We played Rumikub, a family favorite.

Grandpa's legs swelled with edema.  I joked that they looked like tree trunks, and that made him laugh.  I noted the blurry blue tatoos, scars of his service in the Pacific Theater during World War II.  He said simply, "I'm in bad shape."  We all knew it.  I gave him a foot bath and rubbed lotion on his chapped, fluid filled limbs.  He winced if I pressed too hard.  He was miserable.

When we left, I gave him a hug and kiss and said, "I love you Grandpa."  He smiled and continued eating his lunch.  I felt so lucky.

I cried on the way back.  I knew that was my last time seeing him.  It's not quite how I wanted to remember him.  I wanted the energetic, feisty, political guy I've known for 34 years.  I decided that getting to 100 isn't nearly as glamorous as I'd envisioned.  But this is what the end of it is like sometimes.  Slowly, one by one, the organs slow down.  Time and love won't heal them again.

Today, they stopped.  My grandfather passed away this afternoon in his home, and he'd been surrounded by his children only a week before.  Living life was painful, and it's not anymore.  My grandpa, my funny, charming, smart, witty, war-hero, patriotic, loving grandpa, is not of this earth anymore.

He lived a life full of love.


Oh, Wildflower.

You know, even as I sit looking at the blinking cursor I don’t really know what to write. My feelings about last weekend are conflicted and confusing. I’ve asked deep, uncomfortable questions like, “What is success?” “Am I too hard on myself?” and “Do I see myself the way others see me?”

The "transition" area, where triathletes change from swimming
to cycling, or from cycling to running.
Triathlon is incredible. On any given Sunday, you can watch pros and waitresses suffer equally and accomplish an incredible feat. Nobody would deny that completing a triathlon is something amazing.

I just finished a triathlon. So why don’t I feel amazing?

The weekend began with a tickle in the back of my throat that I chose to disregard in the hopes it would disappear. I felt calm and confident. I’d trained really hard. I was stronger than I’d ever been. My singular goal was to beat my time from 2005, hopefully by a lot. In my mind, it was a foregone conclusion. I’d trained right and my mind was tougher. I’d worked through more distractions with more focus. The race was mine.

We arrived at Lake San Antonio and set up our camp, which I lovingly dubbed Camp Rock ‘n’ Thorn. Very rocky. Very thorny. After setting up and getting settled, we realized that our air mattress had a hole and we didn’t have a patch. Dave made a valiant attempt to shore it up with a bike patch, but it just didn’t hold. That night would be spent on the ground. The highlight of the day was finding my short story of returning to Wildflower published in the official program. It had to be a good omen.

That night, as the evening turned into early morning, the temperature dropped into the mid-30s. I lay awake in our tent with a freezing face unable to drift back into slumber. I woke up exhausted but confident we’d have a mattress solution the next night. Of course we would. The weekend was preordained to go perfectly.

On Saturday morning, Alexandria and I headed up the little dirt road to cheer for the Half-Ironman triathletes as they embarked on their 56 mile bike ride. We helped riders who lost water bottles and food, and cheered loudly! We spent all day at the Wildflower Festival talking with athletes, watching the long race, eating lunch, and enjoying the day.

Pro Triathlete Jesse Thomas was so
excited to get a picture with me!  Actually,
it was the other way around.
We met Jesse Thomas, the “mystery man” pro who won the Long Course! Turns out, he and Dave worked together over a summer! He gave me advice, “Race within yourself. You’re not racing anyone else. Just race within yourself.”

I ate a great dinner. I felt relaxed. But we couldn’t fix the mattress, and the low temp that night was supposed to be 33. Yikes!

Race morning. I’d woken up in the middle of the night with a freezing face and a stuffy nose. I didn’t get more than 4 hours of continuous sleep. My body would pull through, though. I just knew it.

Sparing the details of pre-race eating and the girls all talking about that girl who was going to *gasp* swim without a wetsuit and “I just don’t know how she expects that she’s going to have a good swim because it’s cold” and “HELLO! I’m standing right here and can hear you!”, I walked down to the start line and felt good. I felt good. I caught sight of Dave and Alexandria standing high on the wall of the boat ramp and felt more proud and excited than I thought I could. Seeing my child, my real inspiration for doing this, cheering for me was like a tonic. It was short-lived.

We lined up. The buzzer went. We plunged into the cold water.

I started out getting kicked in the face a few times and sucking down some water. I suddenly didn’t feel right. My stomach felt queasy and I thought I was going to throw up. The water was cold, but I’ve been in colder water and felt fine. I didn’t feel fine. Mere minutes into my race, I could feel my brain failing, refusing to let my body be as tough as I’d trained it to be.

I rolled over and did a few back strokes. I took deep breaths. I prayed. I marveled that the rays of bright sun didn’t make the water any warmer! I turned back over. I tried again. I couldn’t find a rhythm. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe. And that would be it. I couldn’t do any more without taking in big mouthfuls of lake water. Heinous. I know.

I thought about swimming over to one of the race attendants and giving up. My chest felt tight with phlegm and my throat constricted with a possible onslaught of tears. “Jesus, please help me I just want to give up!” I thought. “This wasn’t the race I was supposed to have!” I watched the pack of 30-34 year olds get further and further away from me. I began to suspect that my race goals were finished. The race attendant was tantalizingly close.

Then I thought of Alexandria. I thought about her needing to see her mom finish a hard-won challenge. I pressed on.

About ¾ of the way through, still struggling, I rolled over on my back again. I felt completely alone in the water. Nobody was really around me. I let the sun warm my body and I prayed again. “Please help me through this. Just please help me finish this.” I took a few deep breaths, and turned over. I found a rhythm for a few strokes, and again had stop and catch my breath. Then I bore down and found that rhythm again. Again, I stopped and took a breath.

When I finally touched the boat ramp, my swim was 8 minutes longer than I’d expected. I walked a few steps, and then jogged up the ramp to get ready for my 25 mile bike ride through rolling hills.

Leaving camp for the starting line.
I never fully recovered. I pushed my exhausted body for the next three hours and 27 minutes. The brutality of the rolling hills of Wildflower further broke me. I got off my bike three times to walk up the hills, and once to retrieve a dropped water bottle. Halfway through my ride, I began to think, “I don’t care anymore. I’m not going to win or even beat my old time. But I must finish. I just really don’t care anymore.” The only hill I felt good on was the last one, the steepest one. A fellow rider explained as she rode by, “This one’s the hardest.” In pure fury at myself, and her for telling me that as I obviously struggled with my machine, I pushed up hard and ignored the lactic acid sizzling through my legs. I channeled the chant my kids scream at me during the tough parts of my rides, “Go Mommy Go!” I reached the top and felt scant satisfaction.

During my run, I walked up every hill. I’ve never done that. I thought I was going to have an asthma attack. When I could, I ran with a group of ladies and at one point explained, “I’m struggling.” A woman replied, “We all are.”

In the end, I finished my race half an hour slower than I did in 2005. I crossed the line terribly unhappy. I felt no pride in what I’d just done. In the hours that followed, I questioned whether the sacrifices of time and money to which I’d subjected myself and my family were worth my valiant-but-fruitless effort. Dave told me I was crazy. I couldn’t help it. My body failed me. My mind failed me. I wasn’t tough enough to pull through my struggle.

Though my friends congratulated me and used the words “rocked” and “proud to know you,” I couldn’t help but think, “They just don’t know what a good time is.” I knew what I could do, and I didn’t do it. Nobody seemed to acknowledge that. I began to feel like my frustration and disappointment were wholly unjustified.

The past week has provided insight that I’ve never before needed. I realized that I’ve never had a bad race. Sure, I’ve had races where I probably missed my goal by a minute or something, but when I told that group of ladies “I’m struggling,” it was out of pure confusion. “Struggling” had never happened to me before. I didn’t know what “struggling” in sports really was.

I’ve thought of the great athletes who famously struggled and finished. Greta Waitz ran the 1984 Olympic marathon with the flu, and crossed the line crooked, limping, and delirious. There was that Ironman guy on the Gatorade commercial who limped across the finish line. Floyd Landis practically collapsed on Stage 15 of the Tour in 2006 (just forget the scandal that followed). Eric Harr, champion Ironman triathlete (and author of my training book), tells of a personal account of a race that boiled down to the following words, “At this point, it’s not about winning. It’s about finishing.”

Well, as a reluctant middle-of-the-packer, I take comfort in knowing I stand in the company of greats. My brain knows I didn’t fail. I actually succeeded. I finished. And for what it took to get to the finish line, I should be, and am, proud. I trained with two little kids and a husband who travels. I didn’t get to run very much because I have a hard time focusing when two small people perpetually need snacks, waters, throw things out of the stroller, and are generally antsy. I learned to enjoy riding my bike in the company of children. I learned to go faster when the kids chanted, “Go Mommy Go!” I learned not to dilly-dally at the gym, and that I can get a 45 minute swim workout in when the Kidz Club is only open for another 50 minutes. I learned to change my clothes fast.

Oddly, emotional closure came after talking with my sister. I explained all that I’d felt through the week. She understood. My brother in law, an incredible athlete, had a similar experience a few years ago. She told me that on race day, he’d looked up my time and upon seeing my finish, he said to her, “Your sister had a rough day today. But she finished.”

Somehow, the simple acknowledgement that someone knew my body didn’t do what it could have done, and didn’t try to sugar coat it as some sort of amazing accomplishment, felt good. He legitimized my disappointment.

I did not rock the course, although I loved reading that. I didn’t glide or fly. I was in a lot of pain. I suffered, and I get that now. I know what that is.

The amazing accomplishment of Sunday’s race was not that I did it. The amazing thing is that, through that race, I finished it. I didn’t give up.
A fuel more powerful than carbohydrates - my kids!


Week 9: Feeling Better, Sort Of

I felt really strong this week!  My muscles worked really well, I had more energy, and I felt more "in the game" mentally.  However, I'm having lingering stomach issues that I'm convinced is not the flu.  It's more irritating than anything!  I think it's probably sapping my energy, so for that reason alone, I need to get better.  To the doctor I go!

The kids left on Thursday so I had some time alone.  I headed out during a break in the rain to do some hill repeats and, happily, I felt pretty good.  Stomach issues nonwithstanding, I had a great run.  My legs felt strong and I maintained controlled breathing.  I really loved running alone, too.  It's always been a challenge for me to have a satisfying run while pushing the running stroller.  I've always been a solitary runner, and accomodating for "company" always feels like a mighty sacrifice.  I enjoyed being on my own again.

I opted out of my long Saturday workout.  I had great workouts with the ladies at Stroller Fitness.  I've especially enjoyed leading the plyometrics portion of the class.  I can feel my abdominals, back, and arms getting stronger.

So that's it.  I did more of the same and built up more of my base.  I'm going to try to get in the pool twice a week for the rest of my training.  I'm also finding that getting time on the bike is a challenge.  But, I'll figure it out.

What Sapped My Motivation:
  • My stupid stomach issues
  • Having a tough week parenting
What Kept Me Going:
  • Having great workouts despite my lame stomach
  • Working out alone
  • Seeing subtle changes in my upper back, arms, and core muscles
  • Feeling strong despite occasional stomach pain


Week 10: The Lingering Flu

Well, my whole family got the flu and it was awful.  Everybody was sick and just needed rest.  So, we did, and now we're back on the mend.

I woke up feeling perfectly normal on Tuesday.  With the rain, I cancelled Stroller Fitness and headed to the gym where I had a great workout on the bike.  It was a little tough to start because my body was still a little fatigued from all that non-movement, but I took Eric Harr's advice and made assessments every 5 minutes.  I said, "I'm going to continue for another 5 minutes to see how I feel then."  By about the 3rd time I did that, I felt much better.  In fact, I felt strong enough to do a good upper body workout, as well.  I felt normal again.

I had decent workouts throughout the week, in part because I took advantage of going to the gym with the rain.  However, I felt fatigued earlier in the evening than normal and fought stomach cramps most of the week.

I headed to my chiropractor on Friday and while getting my adjustment, I confessed that I was having a difficult time getting rid of the flu.  He recommended drinking a LOT of water.  I started drinking and realized that I was slightly dehydrated.  Fighting sickness uses a lot of resources, and water aids in transporting nutrients to different areas of your body.  Dehydration impedes your body's ability to effectively heal.

After my adjustment, I was pretty amped for my long Saturday workout, but instead, I still felt really lethargic when I woke up.  I motivated, ate a really good breakfast, and made it about 1/3 of the way through my swim before I was kaputt.  I had a small snack and a lot of water in the locker room and tried out the treadmill.  I walked briskly for about 20 minutes and felt good, not great.  The flu just seemed to be lingering.

I drank no other beverages except water on Sunday.  The second my water bottle was empty, I refilled it.  No surprise, I woke up on Monday morning feeling great, and as of this writing, I'm still feeling great.  I think it's gone.
What Sapped My Motivation:
  • Rainy and cold and no time to play outside
  • Residual tummy and fatigue issues from my lingering flu
What Kept Me Going:
  • Dana at my gym.  I saw her getting on the treadmill with wet hair and post-goggle eyes.  Generally, triathletes are the only ones nutty enough to finish a swim and only be halfway done with the workout.  I asked if she did triathlons.  She did.  We had an amazing conversation and she's doing Wildflower (1/2 Ironman) too!  She does one Ironman a year!  It was great to talk to somebody else working for similar goals and not be all gushy about it.  It felt good.
  • Dr. Ito's quiet confidence that water and rest were the answer.  I love when following doctor's orders works.
  • I worked through fatigue and sapped motivation to keep blood flowing and muscles moving.  I fought the flu with a lot of water and a heavy dose of positive thinking.  Each time I come across a potential setback, I know that my brain makes or breaks my success.
Well, it's 9 weeks away!


The Perils of Parenting

This week started out great!  I felt strong and motivated, and was prepared for a busy schedule.  I'd even resolved to going easy on training mid-week so that I could have an awesome workout on Saturday.

Well, the schedule started to fall apart on Tuesday afternoon when Marcus woke up sick.  Later that night, Alexandria woke up feeling nauseous.  She woke up every hour between 11:45 pm and 3:45 am, then again at 5:45 when she decided she wanted to get up (she was tired of being sick at night).  I took it easy and kind of went into survival mode.  I did the bare minimum to keep her on the mend and me from getting sick.

I headed out to Stroller Fitness on Thursday morning and had an amazing workout.  Two laps of power walking around the track plus plyometrics left my body feeling strong!  However, by one o'clock, I was running a fever and conked out for almost two hours.  My fever broke around 2 am, and I felt great on Friday morning.  I met a nice group of ladies on the Promenade for SF, and really enjoyed myself.  I planned a big, fun day for Saturday.

Until... I woke up today completely wasted.  My body is beat.  Clearly, I went through the ringer this week, and my body is telling me what to do.  REST!

So, today I skipped my workout and like Eric Harr recommends, I did it with gusto and without guilt.  I spent the morning clipping pictures from magazines, helping Alexandria decorate her new jewelry box from Grandma, and relaxing.

I don't have any major inspiring workouts.  Nor did I have any great accomplishments that will make me a stronger triathlete.  This week served to remind me of my first task, which is that of a mother.  My kids take precedence over all.  I do not apologize.  The world stops for them.

What Sapped My Motivation:
  • Not practicing any of the skills I'll need in competition
  • Sick kids
  • Sick me
  • Busy week
What Kept Me Going:
  • "One week makes not a season"
  • I ate well, slept well (when I slept), and stretched
  • I had a great week at work


Shameless Plug

No, I'm not peddling products.  I'm offering you the chance to do something amazing this second.  My friend Anastasia has walked over 420 miles in the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day walks to support her mom.  She's incredible and motivated.  She's heading out to Atlanta to walk miles 421-480, and she needs some love.  Please consider donating!  If you or anyone you know has ever suffered from this terrible disease, please join in the fight.  Anything and everything helps.

Did I mention she's awesome?  Because if I didn't, I'll say it right now. 

Thank you!

Week 12: Getting To Know You (Again)

Monday:  I started out the week on my bike.  Not my road bike, but my transportation bike.  I haven't been on my bike for a long time, and it felt really good to ride again.  I forgot the pleasure of air pulsing in my ears and the road rushing beneath me.  I smiled wide the first time I rang my bike bell ("On your left!" Rrrrrring!).

I hooked the trailer up and hauled the kids down to the beach for a 9 mile ride.  Our bike trail is awesome because you're either going uphill with the wind or downhill against the wind.  While the ride proved a little challenging for me, the kids had a blast!  I suspect most of my bike training will come by pulling the kids behind me (collective weight: 80 lbs.).  When I finally hit my road bike, with any luck, I'll fly!

Friday:  Midweek was pretty mellow, so I lit the fire today.  I did a 45 minute tempo ride on the stationary bike at the gym and followed it with a challenging abs workout.  I even did a set of  explosive push-ups where I clapped when I came up!  I felt great throughout the whole workout.  I'm going to have a great dinner tonight to prep for my long workout tomorrow. 

Saturday:  Wrestled with stomach cramps last night.  Not so fun.  Woke up early today and felt good, but the tummy pains came and went.  I was going to work out in the morning, but by the time we got ready to leave, I realized I would only have about 10 minutes in the pool before the AquaRobics ladies took over.  Not worth it.  I opted for the afternoon (which is a gamble because I might talk myself into being tired).  I followed through on my committment and had an amazing swim!  I practiced my open water swimming stroke after an encouraging chat with Lexi.  I felt really strong.  I swam about 3/4 mile.  Then, I went out and ran for an hour.  Now, the cramps were en force, but I was messaged by God to persevere.  First, this lady in the locker room had a dope tatoo that read "Discipline Through Pain," and then, when I was running and contemplating whether to turn around and go home or keep at it, I saw a guy wearing a shirt that said, "Pain is temporary.  Pride is forever."  Hell yeah!  I ticked it up a notch, found my rhythm, and had a great run!

Each time I work out now, I imagine I'm racing.  If I'm swimming, I imagine I'm in the lake, swimming as strong as I feel.  If I'm on the bike, I imagine climbing one of the 5 hills of the ride.  If I'm running, I imagine that every step takes me closer to the finish line.  While training, I imagine myself undaunted, indeed strengthened, by the psychological challenges presented on the course.

One of the most important challenges of my training is that I want to include the kids, especially Alexandria. I want them on this adventure as much as possible.  I think it's important for kids to watch their parents achieve goals.  I especially want my girl to see her mom do this.  I want my kids to not just believe, but know, everything is possible with hard work.

What Sapped My Motivation:
  • Tummy ache on Friday night from aforementioned huge dinner.  Totally worth it, but still, I didn't feel so great when running on Saturday.
  • No chance to have good workouts on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
  • Spending a lot of energy cleaning the house on Saturday before re-motivating to leave for the gym.  I could have easily ditched.
What Kept Me Going:
  • Lady in the locker room with the bad-A tatoo that read "Discipline Through Pain."  Seriously.
  • While trying to stay motivated through my crampy tummy on Saturday's run, the guy wearing a shirt that said, "Pain is temporary.  Pride is forever."  With that, I decided I'd continue.
  • When discussing the challenges of training within the confines of our schedules, Dave asked, "What do you need from me?"  Amazing support.  He's so proud!
  • My awesome friend Lexi giving me encouragement and great advice for open-water swimming.
  • People I've never met in person cheering me on!
  • Talking with Alexandria about camping on race weekend.
  • The excitement of doing this.
So concludes Week 12.  Eleven weeks left.