Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Running Path-os

Summer, it makes me forget how running fixes everything. The heavy air, a wet blanket wrapped around my head, the lead in my legs and the insufferable sun-- all weighing me down; sucking the joy out of my routes like a drought does water out of a reservoir.

But then here, a few days before the Autumnal equinox, I feel the air break. Suddenly, I am lighter. Unburdened, I can almost taste fall--dry leaves, brisk air, and wind. Unexpectedly, like a summer storm, it embraces me--the magic run; the endorphin fix I've been waiting for. 

For sure, it is a temporary band aid for this forever healing wound. Only to be ripped off each day from the stress and the toil of the work day. It is a bandage  that I willing reapply at the end of the day-- and sometimes in the morning too. A prophy-lactic acid fix. 

 It is the best part of the day. 

After that double book-ended crawl on Johnson's Ferry, peeling off my work clothes and replacing my heels with light weight trainers I bolt out the door the same way I use to when I was 9:  just off the school bus and running down the road to meet my friends and roam the neighborhood. 

Now, I chase the sun. Catching the last bit of daylight before all the colors turn to dark and stars and glowy moon. The temperature and the humidity drop and I feel like finally, I can breathe. So I drop the pace and go for breathless, rushing home to my family, a better person. 

9 miles. It fixed the day.

And I just wanted to say that I am still here.

Putting one foot in front of the other with relentless, forward motion.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

On the Route Less Taken I Find a Tisket, a Tasket

A-tisket a-tasket
A green and yellow basket
I wrote a letter to my love
And on the way I dropped it,
I dropped it,
I dropped it,
And on the way I dropped it.

A little girl  picked it up and put it in her pocket . . .

After the dreary rain of Saturday, Sunday morning came bright and clear. My bedroom window framed a glorious spring day: blossomed pear and cherry trees with their fluffy blooms pinned against a cerulean sky, brilliant green lawns, and daffodils. My lord, they are all the sudden everywhere, they are the flower equivalent of Canadian geese.

Ignoring my hangover, I pulled on a skirt, a tank and tied my hair back in braid. Optimistically without a hat and only my sunglasses, I bolted out the door ready to embrace the beautiful morning.

The scene belied me. I was instantly chilled, and on the almost last day of March I wondered where was the lamb as I dearly regretted my lack of  clothing. I pushed on accepting temporary discomfort; assuming I would warm up as I pressed my body relentlessly into the wind.

In the sun, with the wind at my back, I did feel comfortable but an easy turn of the road and the wind would again roar at my face and my arms were numbed, my body stung from the bitter chill. I tried to find enjoyment but five miles in  the negotiations began. After a few not so quick turns on the track I headed home and cut the course short from 12 miles to 9 miles .

 I took my less traveled route home.

And, in this instance, it made all the difference of my mood.

So funny how the tiniest of things can turn you.

 With the wind so vicious I ran head tucked and eyes cast down. I guess I was trying to fold myself into myself--a barrier against winter's spring angst. I found brief reprieve behind a bank of Leland's and as I slowed on the uphill my eyes caught a piece of notebook paper flung in the Juniper bushes. I am not Stephanie, so I typically ignore trash but I saw my name and stopped to pick it up.

A letter!
Addressed to me!

How serendipitous!

How, novel . . .

A quick scan told me this was some sort of love letter. The mention of Mr. Morrison's class and how boring it was, also told me it was not written to me but to a differently Natalie. Who knew there were others? Apparently younger and in high school too. Huh.

 I folded it carefully and tucked it in my pocket. I was so excited. I couldn't wait to get home to read it. Even though I knew it wasn't meant for me, a letter-- a note! --is so antiquated in today's world of email and texting. And well,frankly, it took me back. I can't remember the last time someone wrote me a letter, a love letter none the less.

Again, I know this was not for me but I have, in the past, received such a letter. In fact, somewhere, I still have them. Unlike this Natalie, I kept my letters and did not toss them to the Juniper bushes! (To be precise they are piled with other various papers and photographs in a steam trunk my sister painted in my garage.)

 With the letter burning against my thigh, I found new energy and raced home, eager to read it and share it will my brood. I bounded into my house. My house, with 2 10 year old boys--Beau and his buddy Boo, and Ryan lounging about. Carmella was out; I would tell her about it later.

 A letter! I exclaimed. I found a letter on my run! 
I pulled it out of my pocket and showed them.
And it says my name! 

Unimpressed. They did not so much care even a tiny bit, but I read it to them anyway.

Oh, it is so typical!

She is not so into him any more.

There is an age that boys stop writing letters to girls.
And I know that in this letter--what is happening-- is why boys stop writing letters to girls.
And I know, he is correct: she really is not into him anymore.
Honestly? She's been done for awhile.
She just doesn't know how to tell him. Or rather, is too chicken to tell him.
Ugh, girls
Girls. They are all about feelings when it is their own. But someone else's?
 It is a bit evil.
Ah, but boys?
Not so quick to pity.
Boys will pay the girls back in their 20's.
Tit for tat.
A tisket for a tasket.

He wrote it in pencil!

 I want to erase it for him because I can imagine this boy who penned this note-- not as a boyfriend as I once might have-- but now, as my son; heartbroken, writing a note to a girl he loves.

Funny how being a parent can shroud you with empathy you might never have had.

Time. It changes your perspective.  Shifting like the wind on running route.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Stopping by the Track on a Snowy Morning

 For Steph  and nods to Robert Frost, of course.

Stopping by the Track on a Snowy Morning

Whose track is this I think I know.
They are home, asleep in beds though;
They will not see me stopping here
To run the track in starlit snow.

I must seem strange to have no fear
Here alone, without sun’s bright seer.
‘Round the turf without end, I break
Sweat this coldest dawn of the year.

Breathless I go, ignoring ache,
Counting each lap; there is no mistake.
The only sound, my feet’s quick sweep
Over rubber and wafting flake.

The track is dark and the pace steep,
But I have intervals to reap,
And miles to run while they sleep,
And miles to run while they sleep.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crushing Hills Hidden Tiger: The 2012 Atlanta Marathon Recap

--No growth without assistance. No action without reaction. No desire without restraint. Now give yourself up and find yourself again.

Li Mu Bai, Crashing Tiger Hidden Dragon

--The wonderful thing about tiggers is tiggers are wonderful things! Their tops are made out of rubber.  Their bottoms are made out of springs. They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun! 

Oh but the most wonderful thing about tiggers is I'm the only one!  

-Tigger, Winnie the Pooh

A few Sundays ago I ran the 2012 Atlanta Marathon. It was my 18th marathon and I crossed another Georgia marathon off my quest to run all the marathons in Georgia. I have actually run the Atlanta Marathon twice before--as my first and as my 7th-- but the Atlanta Track Club two years ago moved the date of the race from Thanksgiving and completely changed the course. So in my mind it was a new marathon with an old name which meant I had to run it.

Originally, before I damaged the nerve in my foot and back when I was in what I viewed, "the shape of my life," I had ideals on nabbing a money spot for this race. I never had ideals on setting a personal best in Atlanta since it is touted as one of the hilliest road marathons on the East Coast. However, this race pays out 8 spots in the Open division and 3 deep in the Master's division for both men and women equally. Even better, and finally a real life instance where with age comes privilege,  there is "double dipping" for the "mature" runners: meaning you can take a top 8 payout as well as the Master's payout. In stalking last year's results a top 3 female masters spot was well within my capabilities. But then, if you've been keeping up, I dropped my foot and I didn't even know if I would ever be able to run a marathon again-- or run at all for that matter.

My training  though, as it happened, wasn't all that bad. I've definitely had worse and given that my anterior tiblias was completely paralyzed for the entire month of June it was way better than I had expected. Once enough nerve function came back I was able to ramp up my miles fairly quickly to be back to the mileage I had been logging in May. By the end of August I was logging 70+ miles a week. Which, honestly, is probably where I would have been even if I hadn't had to sit out of running all of June. I peaked at 81 in mid September and managed to get in 5 runs over 21 miles in the 2 and half months prior to race day. My last long run was 25.75 miles, 3 weeks out from race day. The problem, at least from my perspective, was that all my miles were slow, some even what I would call slog. I couldn't tell you the single average pace of any run. I knew, without a doubt that I could complete the distance but I just didn't feel like I was as sharply trained as I had been last year at this same time. I felt like I was the same pencil but with a rounded, dull tip. Not to mention, I still have some goofy nerve sensations in my right ankle and foot from the damage.

To further complicate matters it turned out that I had not one but two interviews with two different companies scheduled for Monday. As in the day after the race.  One was scheduled in the morning and the other, a second interview with a company I was extremely interested in working for, was scheduled for in the afternoon.So understandably, the marathon fell low on my priority list. I knew I could still run it, based on that I had done training runs of a close length and managed fine but I didn't want to risk a leave it all on the course type of effort and go for broken. Maybe there are some people who can bring their A game two days in a row but I was not willing to gamble that I might be one of them. However, I figured I could bring my B+ game Sunday and still pull an A+ effort on Monday.

So what does one do to squelch their competitive side and make a race a non race and just a fun run?

They wear a costume!

The marathon was, after all, three days before Halloween. It seemed the obvious thing to do. In fact, so obvious I assumed that the majority of the racers would also be in costume too.

And, I really couldn't have been more wrong about that. 
Volunteers in costume? 
Other runners? 
Not that I saw.
Good thing that I neither embarrass easily or care that people laugh at me. Though in Sunday's case, I chose to think they were laughing with me. I don't think I have ever smiled the entire 26.2 miles of any of the marathons I have done. I was seriously giggling running to the finish line.

The weather was perfect race morning --50's, little drizzly at points. Ryan, still a bit with a fun over from his evening out with the super friends Batgirl and Aquaman (aka Wes and Pookie), kindly drove me to Atlantic Station where the start was and dropped me off. 
While walking to the start he kept commenting that I was the only one in a costume. I had told him, when he had questioned me on the amount of time I was putting into making my costume earlier in the week, that there would be lots of other runners in costumes. I had explained, there would probably be more runners in costume than not. So he was pretty quick to point out, many times, that there was not anyone else in costume but me.

 Yes, I know my costume doesn't look like much but I spent a lot of time sewing tiger patches on that shirt and making my tail and tiger mittens and tiger head wear.  After all that time I spent putting into making my costume there was no way I wasn't going to wear it and I wasn't going to regret wearing it either for that matter.

Staying at Pookie and Wes's house--who live in town-- made getting to the start easy and seamless. Parking was plentiful and Ryan walked me up right up to the start. I was in corral A, which it felt like everyone else was too. It was packed! I squeezed my way in and lined up near a guy holding a 3:40 pacer sign. I asked a guy standing next to me with a 3:40 pace group sign on what that pace was. "8:24" he said. Hmm, I thought, that sounds doable. He asked me if that was my goal. I told him no, I had no goal other than to have fun. I had even left my watch at home. 

No one commented on my costume. Maybe they couldn't tell it was a costume. But I didn't feel silly or ridiculous. I just felt like me. Which right, is a bit silly and ridiculous.

Okay, so I really tried to pay attention to how this one started and I am pretty sure it was just "Runner's take your mark, Go!" No gun, cannon or horn. And we were off. I pretended to hit my watch that I wasn't wearing since that was what everyone else did when they crossed the start line.

 It was still a week until we would "fall back" into Daylight's saving time. So with a 7 am start we were running through the city in darkness for almost an hour. 

I love that! 

There were clocks on the course. So I noted that my first mile came in at 8:2x. I felt comfy and easy so I felt like this was a good pace. I had heard that this course was tougher than the old Atlanta course and the Publix course in the spring so I was fine with whatever. I had told my sister, Wes and Ryan that I would probably be in the 3:35-3:45 range. And if nothing else I didn't want to have to run longer than 4 hours so I was going to do my best to pace evenly and comfortably. I had marked the course map for them with potential times so when they sobered up enough to go for their ride they could find me easily. 

Sometime in the first few miles I would see a guy up ahead of me that looked way too fit to be running in the 3:40 group. I don't mean this as an insult to any 3:40 runner but I just happened to notice that this particular guy had muscles on muscles. There was also something vaguely familiar about him but I didn't know what. It didn't matter because he pulled on ahead and somewhere before the 3rd mile I found an open porto potty. I guess maybe I was too over hydrated. 

I passed the 3 mile clock in around 25 minutes. I'm not sure what that pace is but I had gotten behind the 3:40 group. But having relieved my bladder I felt instantly lighter and faster and quickly caught back up to them and passed them easily and effortlessly. 
Somewhere in mile 5 we run up past the Capital building. This use to be the middle of mile 25 (or 12 for the half) of the old Thanksgiving course. I always hated that hill. But at mile 5ish it was nothing! Then we turned and rolled down hill towards the Ted, running under the Olympic rings and past the old finish line area of the old course. I saw a clock, which I assumed was the 6 mile and it was around 48 or 49 minutes. I asked a runner near me if we were on 3:30 pace and he said, no just over. I was pretty happy about that. I figured if I could maintain that I would finish in around 3:35, at the faster end of my goal. I knew I would be out of the money spot but I also figured word had probably gotten out and all the fast girls had showed up anyway and it would be a faster field than the previous year.
Shortly after that I saw up ahead a runner in a bright yellow shirt that I was almost certain was my friend Anthony who always see at the Georgia marathons. I started dropping the pace a little to try and catch up to him. I was happy to find my effort was well worth the while because it was him! The next few miles flew by as I caught up with all that was going on with Anthony. 

Around mile 8 or 9 I met this guy at an aid station (Same guy I had spotted early in the race and thought that dude looks too fast to be running with us pokey puppies!):
For those non runner readers that is Dean Karnazes. He graciously posed for a picture with me at the finish at the Volkswagon tent. Actually he graciously posed for pictures with lots of people so I wasn't really all that special--but I was the only one in a costume! Anyway, Anthony and I ran about a mile or so with Dean and chatted with him about running stuff and his concern that the New York marathon would be canceled the following weekend. And as most people know, it was. After a bit he dropped Anthony and I and pulled ahead and I didn't see him until after I finished.

Around mile 11 Anthony decided to pull back and dial the pace down. We said our well wishes to each other and I pushed on ahead. I had thought I had crossed the half mat in 1:45xx but according the results it was 1:44:55. I must have sped up a lot after the 6 mile point. Didn't ever feel like it though. I never realized I had been on or even under the 3:30 pace. I was just having fun and avoiding the hurt locker.

I would occasionally walk through an aid station and at times-- on the absolutely relentless hills-- thought I might walk but inevitably I would have the thought of a walk break and there would be a group of spectators who would see me and start screaming "Go Tiger Girl!" or "Tigger is Great!" So I would feel too guilty to take a walk break after all the special attention. Which, by the way, was awesome. I might have to wear a costume for every race I do. I can't say if this was just my particular costume or running a marathon in any costume will illicit such response but it was hilarious to see people--not even out to spectate the race but walking their dog or driving to the coffee shop--watch the expressions on their face change from bland normalcy to first a mix of shock or confusion and then break into a smile and start to laugh and cheer. Making people laugh and smile for 26 miles is awesome!

Shortly after I passed through Virginia Highlands, mile 14 or 15 I saw my friend Shannon out for a ride. She kindly took a few pictures of me running over the next few miles.

I almost had a low moment when we ran down into the park. Only because in the Georgia marathon I always have a valley of darkness moment running through the park. And also, I swear the park sits at the bottom of a hole. It is downhill in and then always an awful uphill climb out. But the tour of the park ended up being so fun because of all the spectators and cheering and shout outs.

Around mile 17-18 Ryan, my sister, Shannon and Wes caught up to me. I had to laugh because their original plan had been to all wear their costumes for their hangover bike ride but only Ryan was wearing his! He wasn't too bothered about being the only one in costume either. 

Pookie kept saying that I "was ahead" of my prediction but I was certain that I was not and told her that was on 3:35 pace! She told me that they had been "chasing me for miles" and that it was a good thing I wore a costume because people remembered me. Pookie would ask "Excuse me but did you see a woman in tiger costume go by?" And the response was, "you just missed her by 2 minutes!"

Wes pulled up along side me while I swear I am running up the longest hill ever and tells me that Phil is beating me and wants to know how can I let this happen? He seems really disappointed and I wonder if there had been wagers placed. 

Wes and Pookie had made much of a  (non existent) competition between me and Phil--who I have only met a few times. When I was shopping at Hobby Lobby the week prior for my costume fabric Pookie had told me about Phil's training. His plan was to run as little as possible prior to the race so he wouldn't injure himself training. While Phil is obviously a top athlete, an amazing cyclist and definitely has youth on his side, the less is more ethic has never really proven a good training strategy for a marathon. I told her, in jest, that my goal would be to beat Phil since I had no other goal. But then Wes told me Phil's plan was to run 3:20 and he had some of his team pacing him. So my plan to "beat Phil" was no longer in effect since I had no designs on 3:20 or even 3:30 for that matter.

Nevertheless Wes rode up ahead and then returned a few minutes later. Phil is about 1-2 minutes ahead of you, he reports. Phil said this is the furthest he has ever ran in his life. I can't believe he is beating you, Wes says while I struggle up the infinity hill. 

We still have 8 miles left, I tell him. Anything can happen and we aren't even to the hard part yet. 

After a bit they pedal on and I am alone again. I am still having a blast and feel really good. Yes, my legs are tired but for being 19 miles in I know I am doing just fine and can certainly hang in there for another hour.

My only real trouble was the excessively cambered Atlanta streets. They are domed. So not only is the Atlanta course hilly as hell, it is on heaped up in the middle cambered and potholed roads. It is a little awful. I couldn't find a comfortable spot to run on and it put  lot of stress on my good ankle. I decided middle of the road was my best bet even if it put me right next to unforgiving Atlanta traffic. At least in my tiger costume I was hard to miss.

Around this time a woman runs up beside me. This is first woman I've seen that wasn't a relay runner all day. She grunts something at me as she comes along side me. I don't hear her clearly but think she called me a bitch. I say, I'm sorry, I didn't hear you? She says again, this course is a BITCH! I laugh. Oh yeah that. She pulls ahead and I wonder if I should try to keep up with her. I decide against it since that would mean possibly calf cramps and a hurt locker experience that I was definitely trying to avoid. But yeah, right she was, the course was an absolute bitch. But you know, like a lot of bitches, a really pretty one. I have to say of all the marathon courses I've run in Atlanta this new course is by far the toughest but it also offers the best views and highlights of the city. You start in Atlantic Station, run out south through downtown to the stadium  and then snakes you through all the cute old neighborhoods, all the way out almost to Buckhead and then wind back to Atlantic Station through midtown. No hill was left un-run. Of this I can assure you.

Around mile 20 I see a guy on a bike pulling a kid in a trailer. I realize it is Wes's friend Jon. We say hello and chat for a minute and then he tells me Phil is right up ahead of me. Again with the Phil competition. And sure enough, I see him with a group of runners around him. After another minute I am right up next to them and pass them shortly after. I wish Phil the best and advise him, "the faster you run, the sooner you are done!"

At mile 24 I am running up (of course it is up) the Peachtree Road race's famed "Heart Attack Hill" and I see my friend Jason  and we swap high 5's. I tell him this course is kicking my ass! Heart attack hill  isn't ever so awful for me, you have to run up in the old Atlanta marathon at mile 20, but I start to worry that I am going to have to run up the one that comes after you cross over 85 and takes you back up into midtown. I start to think about my walking strategy but the next thing I know the course hangs a right and we run DOWN a hill. I have never been on this road, still have no idea what that area was that we ran through those final miles because they all blurred by. 

One minute I am running up some awful short hill thinking my hamstring is contemplating a cramp and the next I can hear the roar of the finish line and see the mile 26 sign. Wow! And I feel good! I can't believe it is almost over.

I run the last .2 fast, with a huge smile and with out stretched airplane arms around the fenced in corners and nail a round off over the finish line. Ta da!!

I spot the clock and see 3:32!  What a pleasant surprise. I was really expecting 3:35xx. 

What a fun, bouncy, pouncy, happy and self restrained race I had!

And they gave me a pint glass! 

According to the unofficial results my time was 3:32:22 and, get this, I am listed as 8th female (4th place master's). I still have to wait until they finalize the results but if the current posted results end up being correct, I still made it to a money spot ($150.00) after all!

What a bonus that would be to an already spectacular race day!

Celebratory beers, burgers and Falcon football after the race:

My mantra of the last year or so has been to give 100% of what I have every time I toe the line. But I fully admit not giving a 100% to the Atlanta marathon. I was saving a bit of myself, banking on that a little self restraint would pay off in other more important areas. I had a great race and definitely one of the funnest times I've ever had a marathon. As an athlete though, it is hard to not say if only I had done this or that and my result would have been superior. But the race result was not my current focus so I can't allow myself to speculate a such. As it turned out, I had the exact race I planned and to ask for any more would be greedy.  More importantly, I had 2 great interviews the Monday after the race. The second of which, while driving home from the interview, I got a call from my recruiter that they wanted to hire me! So I am happy to report that I am now fully employed and have joined the ranks of the darkthirty runner.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Dress is a Sort of Homecoming

A rose may be a rose is a rose and by any other name it might still smell as sweet. I concur that may always be a truism for most objects but I take exception with a dress. Any girl will tell you most times a dress is a dress but there are definite times when a dress is not a dress. They will even tell you that on those occasions, that a dress that is a dress by any other label, color or design; the fit might not be so sweet.

I hate to make broad sweeping generalizations about gender but I think if you asked 10 women at least 9 of them could find at least one occasion in their life when a dress was not just a dress. For most, my guess is, that the occasion when the dress was not just a dress was for some dance or their wedding. And for a small number of  us, there are too many occasions for when a dress is never just a dress.  For some of us, a dress is not just a dress ever. It is tied to our identity of who we want to be in particular moment in time.

I don't mean to toss women from the feminism bus nor is this meant to be a treatise on the virtue of a dress but if nothing else I do love a dress. Always have. Ask my mother. We have had many not so fun nor logical but nonetheless extremely passionate arguments over dresses. When I was very little, it was often about flying in the face of good sense of what dress not to wear. Like for example, a sundress in sub freezing February weather. Or when I was a teenager, the inappropriateness of cut--too short for a school function  . . . always the poster child for prosti-tot fashions!  And later, over the cost, I am NOT spending that on a dress you will wear for 7 hours  . .  if I could have worn it longer I would have!

And then there is my sister. . .

 Make no mistake. She loves dresses too. She had to have not one but two dresses for her wedding. (By the way, Mom, I can't believe I got flack for my dress when Pookie only wore hers for an hour. At least I got 7 hours of wear out of mine! )

My sister, though a dress lover, has always been of the mindset of, "how can I change this and make it my own?" I am more of the mindset of why mess with perfection, but to each their own.  .  .

So I will admit that a few years ago when she cut up my 9th grade homecoming dress and redesigned it into a witch costume I was a bit upset. Not that I had plans to wear it for some upcoming formal occasion, but, you never know . . . And since she is my sister she rolled her eyes and said,  "I only made it better."

If you can get pass  the piece de resistance eau du Clariol Mist that is my hair, please see the dress in all its glory in my pre  homecoming dance pictures.

I clearly remember shopping with my mother  and picking this dress out at Rich's. I couldn't believe she let me have it.

I mean it was black, strapless with a corset style bodice and it had iridescent green polka dots all over and layers upon layers of fluffy black tulle.  

My high school colors were green, black and white. (Go Hornets!)

It was school spirit in a dress!!! 


 In retrospect,  knowing my mother, she probably only agreed to buy it and let me wear it because she thought it was so ridiculous and ugly.

 Okay, I don't know who colored on my face (since photos in my parents house are so pristinely preserved and stored in drawers and boxes) but here I am with my date  posing in front of our pet goats  That black and white one was mine and her name was Stella.  She was the cutest goat ever! Our malamute Bandit killed her though. The other goats were victims of the Great Goat Massacre of 1998 when two wild dogs took out ours and our neighbors' goats. Yes, on the street where I grew up, everyone use to have pet goats. I think is was some sort status symbol. Either that or  it was a cheap labor option because everyone was too lazy or too cheap pay someone to cut their large grassy lots. 

At any rate, we were not the weird people who had goats. We were the weird people but for different reasons than having goats as pets. I can't get into all those reasons right now--too long for one little blog post. And this post is about a dress.

I wish I had a picture but I do not. Maybe she has one and will send it to me and I can post it but my cousin Kathy borrowed this dress  and wore it when her band Black Francis  (Pixies cover band) played at the 40 Watt on Halloween one year in the 90's. I think that was probably the first time it occurred to me that this dress would also make a great Halloween costume.

Of course, for many years I didn't visit that because really, with that tea length-- it just wasn't slutty enough to be a proper woman's Halloween costume. That is until I decided I needed an "appropriate" costume to actually walk around the neighborhood and trick or treat with my kids. It is just weird to dress slutty in front of your kids. I am not saying I haven't done it but I admit, it is a little off.

So here I am, revisiting the dress in 2007 on Halloween with Carmella and Livi. See that look Carmella is giving me? I think my mom  was making that same look in 1986 when I picked this dress out, only I didn't notice it--so blinded by the awesomeness of the most perfect Homecoming dress ever.

And here is Pookie, I think in 2009, after she re-designed it into the most perfect witch costume ever! 

Okay. She was right. It is much cuter now. If nothing else because it isn't that awful "tea length" anymore.

And now, in  October of 2012,  almost exactly to the day or at least the week some 26 years later, Carmella was invited to a party that we realized last minute she was suppose to wear a costume. So after some of my awesome seamstress alterations (call me!) I had the dress yet again redesigned to fit my tiny 11 year old daughter.
 She won most fashionable costume at the party. I knew what I was doing when I picked this dress out! I just had it picked out for the wrong occasion.

She of course, (as I do)  has her own ideas about fashion. Personally, I would have made some other choices (sweater?! converse?!)- but in good form, she is making the dress her own. 

 She did let me free hand draw a spider web and spider on her face. Carmella is pretty conservative (unlike her mother) so that was a big risk for her. 

Maybe it is true that a rose is a rose is a rose and therefore a dress is a dress is a dress. But sometimes, sometimes it is something so much more than just a dress. So Daddies and Mommies, when your daughter begs you to let her have that special dress and you balk at the price, at the ridiculousness of it, don't. You never know. You could be making a real investment here. An investment that is more than just fabric and her immediate happiness. That dress could be a great source of joy (and laughter) for many years to come that you revisit time after time.  

You just never know what something is until it becomes something else entirely.

PS. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Future Business Leaders of America: No Need to Suit Up

I've decided to let my political angst go.

My job search angst too.

(Okay, I am totally lying on that part. Still so angst ridden.)

But in the past few days, I have realized that it really isn't going to matter who wins the presidential election in November.

It isn't going to fix the economy.
Or the unemployment.
Or, more specifically,  my unemployment.

(Etymological aside: does anyone else think it is suspicious that the word "ploy" in employment is sandwiched in between em and ment? )

Why you ask, has my vitriol angst suddenly dissipated? What is the root of such a radical epiphany?

Well, because I know our Future Business Leaders of America right now are smelly 9 year old boys (or girls but I don't think they are as smelly)-- like my son Beau.


The economy is forever screwed. . .

On Friday I took the kids to get free candy, I mean, to the local high school homecoming parade.Woo hoo! School spirit!
My kids are now of the age that I am just their personal chauffeur. They neither want to hang out with me or with each other. Truthfully, I am barely tolerated most days but they will happily tolerate me if I am taking them to make their social connections. Beau wanted to watch the parade with his friends near the baseball fields. Carmella, did NOT want to hang out with a bunch of 9 and 10 years, you know now that she is 11.

 Lucky for me, Beau's friend's mom agreed to keep an eye on him while I took Carmella to her friends rendezvous spot--by the movie theaters. They were a bit smarter, picking their spot at the start of the parade where the candy bags would still be filled to the brim. Plus, we were hanging out with the band waiting for the parade to start.
But I guess Beau's spot was superior because Beau scored the most fabulous shirt he is wearing in the above picture.
Here are the facts as I have come to understand regarding the most awesome t shirt ever.
Beau was tossed the shirt from some  obviously very cool high school kid  because said kid was:
1. On a float in the High School Homecoming parade
2. A member of the Future Business Leaders of America club
Futher, the shirt posses some sort of magical powers because:
3. Beau was the only one amongst his throng of friends at the parade that scored a shirt.
4. Beau was told by several parents that "that shirt is SO you Beau!"
5. He wants to wear it No matter how dirty or grubby the shirt is.
 In the 6 days Beau has been in possession of the most awesome t-shirt ever he has worn it no less than 5 times and already twice to school.
And yes, today is only Wednesday.
He wore it all night Friday. He slept in it too. Saturday he wore it to Carmella's lacrosse game. He had to change out of it for his game but immediately following his game's completion he superman like changed from lacrosse jersey back  into the most awesome t-shirt ever. I managed to get it away from him and wash it Saturday night. But he had it back on Sunday, pulling it straight from the dryer before it even made it to the folding basket.
 I washed it again Sunday night so he could wear it to school on Monday.
On Monday, at recess, apparently he got dragged through the mud because he and the most awesome t-shirt came home covered in Georgia red clay. So I washed it again but noted Tuesday afternoon while folding clothes that the mud stains didn't come out. So I set it aside to wash again, stain treat.
Yes. I really do that much laundry.
Somehow though Beau found the shirt because this morning Beau came down to breakfast again in the shirt.
Absolutely not, I told him. Go change.
So he did, surprisingly without much argument, and I thought that was the end of it. I sent him to school in an acid green shirt with a blue hoody sweatshirt. So imagine my surprise, when I spotted him from my place in the carpool lane standing on the school porch not in an acid green shirt and blue hoody but in the now stained most awesome t-shirt ever.
My blood boiled but I did chuckle at him and then, promptly punished him when we got home. Which, he really didn't seem to care about. He was like, yeah yeah, time out in my room but when that is over I need to go to Gio's to work on our skit we are filming for music class-- so how long is this "punishment" gonna take? We gotta get started on the skit I wrote. It is called Scary Pig 1. There is going to be a 2 and a 3 too. Maybe a 4. We are filming it today at Gio's and Tobias's houses. We might need to use our house next week.
Either way, I  guess he had made his peace knowing that there would be consequences and he just didn't care and would deal with them because he sat in his room. He even cleaned up, read and got all his stuff ready for tomorrow.
Besides, I totally needed him to go to Gio's so I didn't have to take him with my on an appointment I had to take Carmella to. Sometimes the tolerating each other is a 2 way street.
 I know, I know. Mom of the year award coming my way yet again!
So anyway,  Future Business Leaders of America,  Beau has claimed himself as one of yours. And he is bringing it in business super casual.
Stains! Okay!
 Fit? Not important!  
And you should know he has zero respect for authority.
And he definitely doesn't care if his clothes are clean, or himself for that matter . (Dear Lord, or his hands, ew)
But most of all: He doesn't even like to do work.
Last week I had a conference with his teacher who told me he wasn't doing his "morning work." At first she was worried he couldn't do it. But when she figured out that he could  and could without much effort or time, she asked him why he wasn't doing it and he flatly told her: " I don't want to."
I asked him what he was doing instead of his morning work and he said "talking to my friends"
And what are they doing? I wanted to know.
"Their morning work."
Okay. In seriousness, I do think the future of America and Business will be okay. I mean, provided that Beau and his peers outgrow these little boy and child like habits, unlike some of the people currently in power positions...  
And last comment.
When I picked Beau up from "working" at Gio's on the script he had written I could tell he was mad about something. Finally, as I parked the car in the garage, I heard him mutter to himself, "Now I just need to go relax after my difficult time at Gio's where no one would do what I told them!"
What?! I said. You mean to say your friends wouldn't "work" like you wanted them to?
No! He said, disbelieving and irritated. They just wanted to play and goof off. They were NOT taking it seriously at all!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Checking in at the Track

I've been running a lot lately. No specific workouts. No watch.No predetermined distance. Just me and the sidewalk until I decide, yeah, that's enough for today.

It is pretty awesome.

I don't know how I am ever going to convince myself to go back to doing speed work or tempos or adhering to any sort of  "plan"--not that I really ever was that sort of runner. But I did use to wear a watch and try to stick to paces and some sort of loosely formed plan. There was method to my madness.

 I keep thinking, each week, that this is going to be  the week I am going to reinstate some structure and starting doing some regimented speed work. I said that at the end of August about September and here it is the last day of September and the closest I've come to speed work or a regimented run was a few times on the treadmill last month when I did a mid length progression run.

Instead of specific workouts and paces I've just been running and tacking on extra miles to most runs. Sometimes I even run twice a day and most days of the week I run at least an hour and a half but sometimes more than 3 hours. I've needed my time with the miles. I've been a bit stressed out lately.  And running is such a great activity for stress--at least for me-- because it keeps my body physically busy but my brain can be better occupied working stuff out.

 Like what?

Well, for example, I am currently in the process of looking for a full time job after spending the last 12 years helping Ryan's landscaping business and caring for our children.  I just can't imagine that there is anyone who ever found the job search process particularly fun--especially if you are in the situation where you really need a job--not just want one or want to change careers. I will concede that interviews are fun and I have enjoyed that aspect of the job search experience. It is fun meeting new people but the rest of it? Well, okay mostly the rejection part,  is quite humbling. Everyday I get to find out that no one else thinks I am as awesome as I do. And I am really trying to impress people here and 100% failing at it. At times, I feel a bit like a circus monkey doing tricks. In all instances I am never certain if am doing the correct trick, or if I am doing the correct trick if I am doing it in the correct way; and then when it is over I don't know if I am being applauded or heckled for my talents.

One thing is for sure though; no one is tossing any coins in my top hat.

On the very worst of days it  feels like I am being punished for the choices I made because I had children. I recognize these are choices *I* made. Most certainly they were choices I thought were best for my family and at the time I was happy to make them. But now, with the current state of our country, our personal  business and this economy definitely makes me feels like I may have made the wrong choices. To be clear, not the having children part--no regrets there-- but the part about not pursuing a career outside of our landscaping business. Sigh. It just really stinks to learn that after 12 years of doing something that you thought was the best choice was in fact not the right choice.

But nevertheless . . . choices I made.

So running is definitely keeping me from completely folding under the stress I feel. I need the extra miles, the time on my feet more than I do a quick pace. A quicker pace or regimented workout would mean having to actually think about running. (That would probably be even more boring than having to read about running.) But in running lots of easy miles I am keeping my body busy and my mind has time to contemplate the state of my shrinking universe.

And it is quite fortuitous that there is a fancy new sidewalk outside my neighborhood where I can find all these miles I am seeking. After 2 years of construction the DOT (I guess that is who to credit) finally has completed it.This has opened up brand new routes for me that after over 11 years of living here I am grateful to explore. I can now run all the way to Roswell  or to Woodstock on the sidewalk without having to worry about twisting an ankle on the soft shoulder of a busy road.

However, I've sort of grown attached to a particular route that is just over 9 miles.

It leads me out of my neighborhood up what I call a "stealth hill"  for the better part of 3 miles. I live in what is known as the "Piedmont region" of Georgia.The Piedmont is known as "the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains." These "foot"hills are definitely taller than a foot but I concur that from the eye they don't look like much. However, a 2-3% "foot"hill that spans several miles makes it feel like gravity hates you, only you don't know why. Your calves though, they have an inkling.

 After I turn the corner, the stealth hill ends and my route will roll for a bit and my calves will be happy.  Then I turn another corner and my route starts to slope down, my calves are even jollier. Then the route will roll up and down until I get home.

That is unless I "check-in" at the track to see what's going on.

And most times, I do "check-in."

I found out last year that the local high school track--previously just 3 miles from my house but now, because of the new sidewalk additions, can be as far as just over 5 miles. The track is open to the public 24 hours, 7 days a week. I've been there on Christmas. Open. As early as 5:30 am in the summer? Open. The track is definitely spooky at dark-thirty but nevertheless open and surprisingly, not underpopulated. Only problem with dark-thirty and I would guess the night time hours too, is that there are no lights.

But that is what headlamps are for, right?

This is such an awesome resource! This track is so nice: two sets of concrete stadium bleachers-- if you are the type to do "stadiums" (so far I am not), a synthetic turf football field, and, best of all, a wide rubber track. I can literally feel the bounce when I run on it. I liken the experience to when I was on the high school gymnastic team and we would visit the rich private schools (Pace and Westminster) and turned out our floor routines on their spring assisted floor. Our routines were awesome after having trained on the very non springy inch thick wrestling mats in our home gym. It was like going from doing flips in quicksand to doing flips on a trampoline.

Pricey and privileged education in this case was never triumphant.

Anyway, that is what it is like running on the track after hammering out miles on the concrete sidewalk-- it is trampoline like. Because of this I often check-in when looping back home. The track is a nice break from the hills and an easy way to add miles. Most times I just tack on 2 or 3 miles but sometimes it is more. The problem, of course, is my pace. At first I will be all reigned in and controlled, possibly even still plodding along. But then, I don't know. After a couple of 400 meter laps my legs recover. They get all tingly from the rubber reverberations. I will try to hold back but then the next thing I know; I am all out sprinting.

Dear lord it is awesome.

I love how the wind will be at my face and then halfway around it is at my back. People on the track become Monet like blurs and I feel like I am flying. I swear, my body makes a swishing sound as pass them.

I am the Nike swoosh!

But once I start that sprint  it will be game over. There will be dues to pay for my lack of self control. My legs and lungs will burn, my skin will itch. My heart rate will take forever to recover and I will still have to run those rolling 4 miles home (3 if I go the short way). Most times, by the time I even get to the track, before I have even put in my bonus miles with an all out sprint, it is hot--blazing full sun on the black rubber track. Or worse, hot and humid. And, of course, I never have water. So those final  miles can be punishing. A complete buzz kill. Or, rather, endorphin kill.

But that's okay. My choice and really, complaining aside, I do love it.

Getting to check-in at the track is totally worth eating the paste and paying for it. It is non verbal social interaction on my solitary runs. It makes me feel less alone because  the best thing about checking in at the track are the people. Not just the high school athletes but all the other people that are always there.  The "pedestrians" like me. The non high school athletic stars.

There are usual suspects, depending on time and what day.

On Sundays, and occasionally during the week in the mornings, there is an older gentleman with an impressive thick shock of white hair. I guess he is in his 70's but he could be significantly older. He doesn't acknowledge me even though I always wave at him and smile. (I don't take this personally because I have never seen him talk to anyone.) His legs are so muscular. They belie the old man socks he wears. He will show up and run 1-2 laps slowly. Then he will switch his shoes to spikes and do 100 meter repeats or maybe it is 200's. He never takes the curve. He stays on the straight a way. My guess is he is a competitive grand master racer. I like him. I want to be running sprint repeats when I am his age and be serious about it.

See, I still have plenty of time to be serious.

There are also, of course, "the moms" that walk in pairs, emphatically gesturing with their hands as they chat. Okay,  I do not know for a fact that they are "mom's," but they are of that age. There are other runners--men and women of various ages and stages of fitness,  running loops like I do and are either  "in the zone" or  zoned out to their ear-buds. There are also boot camp participants who do sprints and stadiums and push-ups and squats. They look simultaneously like they are having the time of their life and that they have never been more miserable. An attractive young black man, who is the boot camp sergeant, and stands like a sentry on the field and yells orders out to them  as they run up and down the concrete stadium steps. He smiles at me when I pass by him, as if he and I are in on some joke together. I pretend like I know what that joke is, but I really don't know. There is also the young ground's keeper who I am fairly certain is a smoker and drives a Gator vehicle around the field; moving things and cleaning up trash and debris from the track and the field. I can tell he has an opinion about the boot campers because I caught him smirking at them one day and then he winked at me when I passed him on one of my loops. I think we also must have an inside joke but again, I am not certain what it might be.

On weekends, when there isn't a school sanctioned event, there are always young men or teenage boys playing a pick up game of football, rugby or soccer. Sometimes I have to dodge the occasional rogue ball. Most times, except during school hours, there are dads coaching their kids-- utilizing the turf, rarely the track, and, even rarer, the stadium steps. I love it though when the dad's have a stopwatch. Sometimes the really little kids, who are there with their parents, will race me  for a few hundred meters  before they are distracted by a butterfly or run out of steam or just decide to lay themselves flat out in the middle of their track lane.

 Sometimes I will see runners with evidence of being in the injury clink--an ankle or knee brace, a slight limp--walking loops with starts of trying to run only to be defeated within a few strides, frustration coloring their face.

I identify with them the most.

During the week, when school is in, what I assume is the special needs class comes out to walk loops.I don't know if this a PE class or part of therapy but I would guess not recess since there is no recess in the high school. They do  not seem to be chaperoned by a teacher--at least not that I have seen but someone must be watching them. None of them actually run but most do walk loops. A couple of them do not walk around the track at all. Instead they stand on the field, near the fence or in a fixed spot on the track near the gate from which they entered. They will just stare up at the sky and occasionally flap their hands. They look  lost and confused. But I will admit, they could be neither lost nor confused and their standing and staring might just be an act of defiance against forced exercise. There is one boy who always walks very quickly as if he is really angry. He even looks like he is having an argument though I can never figure out what he is saying. From my perspective it is like he was given an assignment to walk x number of  laps and he is going to get that done as fast as he can but he is not one bit happy about it and he is not afraid to show it! He makes me a little nervous. A few of the girls do seem to interact with each other, socializing as they walk. One girl, with Down's Syndrome and a short blond pony tail, always smiles at me and I always return a hello to her. I have tried to say hello to a few others but for the most part they act like they don't see me.
But to be certain.

I see them.

And I am reminded  that they are not afforded the same luxury of choices that the rest of us at the track are.