I know you rider, gonna miss me when I’m gone.

If cars could talk...

If cars could talk…

This afternoon, I’ll say goodbye to my Volkswagen Golf.  This ending is not exactly how I thought it would be (are they really ever?) but it’s a pretty good one, and I have no complaints.  13 years is a pretty good run, and, it’s time– people I don’t even talk to anymore last knew there were problems with it years ago. But like many problems, the car’s issues seemed to fade in and out of focus in my life– an electrical problem from 2006 where my radio stopped working for a few days seemed to resolve itself, as did issues with the oxygen sensor, whatever the hell that is, as well as a plethora of other issues that surfaced and recessed again when other things in my life took more of a center stage priority. Still, not all the car’s problems disappeared just by me ignoring them– some things seemed to really go away on their own. I did take care of the car as close to how any normal person would have over the years, but now that the front and rear brakes have “went,” (that’s oldcarspeak for gone) the cost of repairing them exceeds what’s worth it, even to me, and I’m bad at math. I have dealt with the smoke pouring out of the back of the car for years (it doesn’t always happen if you know how to start it right).  I have managed well with a broken mirror case on the driver’s side (you just have to get really low in the seat to kind of see who’s behind you– it’s fine) for the past year, I removed most of the mold that set in when the car developed a leak and I didn’t realize it, and I know all the tricks, like how to get the headlights and the cupholders to cooperate. I know how fast I have to drive to now allow the fumes to stay too long in the car, and I’ve adapted to the lack of AC. People went for many years without it, so why should I complain?

As mentioned above, there were times when I didn’t drive the car. Circumstances beyond what I can explain in the scope of this blog allowed me to drive three other cars during last 13 years. knew those other cars were temporary, although to what extent I was never sure, but I always figured I’d have the VW as backup. This “backup” concept went well with other ideas I’d had over the years: by securing backups in all areas of my life, I’d be safe, protected, ready for anything.  You could have a backup outfit, a backup major (or two), a backup job, how about a backup career? a backup boyfriend, a backup pair of shoes in the backseat of the car, backup weekend plans, backup friends in case you got separated from yours, backup dinner in case the recipe failed, backup conversation topics… so why not have a backup car in the driveway?  Makes total sense to me. Yet, my trusted advisors tell me this is not something that normal people have.  And having a backup vehicle collecting mold in the driveway puts me closer on the spectrum of reaching that “yard full of cars” look that is not a life goal.

I said goodbye to my first car, a 1990 Subaru Legacy, in one of those really sad ways you don’t want: I watched it go down Lee Mac Avenue in Danbury on the back of a tow truck, front smushed, headed to the junkyard.  An accident had cut short my secret dream of reaching 200,000 miles in that car.  I think I was around 180k at the time, so I was pretty bummed. But I wasn’t immune to the “new toy” feeling of getting in my brand new VW, driving the 40 minutes home from the dealership. Fascinated with the blue and red lights of the interior, I sat in a car that was a year we weren’t even in yet, enjoying the “MONSOON” sound system, feeling like things were going to be okay again.

Sure, “it’s just a thing” — I’m living in reality enough to know that. But I think more people can relate to the sadness than not. At the heart of the matter it’s symbolic of another major change in my life.  I was laying in bed awake at 4:30AM, thinking about this, wondering how I could get from the bed to the computer without forgetting everything that has mostly lost its brilliance in transit: so many things are changing in my life at once, my head is often spinning in a way I can’t explain. Lots of people tell me I don’t need to explain, because they understand, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to explain.  I guess I’m at the point where it’s finally okay for many things to change.  Like I arrived at a tipping point of some magnitude, and things that have been waiting to fall into places I didn’t even know they belonged are falling into their places. And I’m watching like: whoa.

I will miss my VW.  It went with me to the tip top of Maine, where you start to question if you’re very far north, or very far south. It went to North Carolina, to Tennessee, and all the states in between (almost all of which have a town called Manchester).  It went to Cape Cod and upstate New York so many times I imagined it knew how to get there on its own. It heard many conversations never to be spoken of again, and held many people who have come in and out of my life. It’s been stuck in three feet of mud, many more feet of snow, and managed to get out of every jam. It’s resided at five different addresses. It’s been to more concerts than some people. It’s carried dogs, construction materials, Christmas trees, and all my worldly possessions. It has bumper stickers that make no sense to anyone but me, and people stopped asking me about them long ago. I love how it drives, even now, at the end. It is the last car built in the 2000s I know of with a tape deck. I loved this fact, but didn’t really listen to tapes too much. It most often held the same cassette, a “Leaving Connecticut Mix” made by someone I loved in 1996.  I love old cars, and even though our definition of “old” is ever-changing, getting maximum use of out something makes me happy.

But it has to go. A driveway, like a mind, can get cluttered. The past is meant to be referenced occasionally, not lived in. In order to begin the next phase, this summer and fall, I need the right tools for the the job. So my husband-to-be-in-17-days, my dad, and I are going to pick up my new car in a few hours. Not a VW, but still a stick shift. I’m one of those holdouts. We are going put the AC on HIGH, enjoy a smokeless ride home, and not listen to a tape.

Posted in Cars, memory, secret car mechanic inside my head | 6 Comments

how I remember it

I committed to last month’s 100words.com challenge, where I wrote 100 words a day for the month, and the site posts your entries upon completion. You can write about anything. I decided to finally start putting down some specific memories from when I was little that I’ve always wanted to write about. Pretty broad topic, huh. I have to start somewhere.  So here are my posts for April 2015. I feel better about having them here on my blog anyway. Maybe you’ll pick up on some themes.  Thank you for reading. (BTW I’m “Jenny” on 100words.com. Crazy right? Still, I can be unfindable.) 

4/1

25 years ago, I stared at USA Today in Mrs. C’s language arts class. We “got to” read the newspaper every Friday. For an hour. In 5th grade, I had been kicked into the hallway (twice) for questioning Mrs. M’s use of sarcasm and passive-aggressive nature, so I kept my opinions to myself. I would not read USA Today after that year, lest I return to my 6th grade intellect.

Our desks formed tables. Windows open. Myself, always freezing. But I had a clear view of Tom, huddled over his Sports section. He didn’t seem to mind.

4/2

“Eye!” I announced. Blank stares of my classmates complemented the sickening silence.

“Eye!” I tried again. What’s wrong with me?  Say the word.

“EYE!” My brain won’t work.

“EAR-ICK-COY” my friend and project partner hissed.

“IROQUOIS!” I yelped.

I don’t remember anything else about the Iroquois. 5th grade wasn’t bad, but unimagined fears had begun to creep in. For my social studies presentation, it was like trying to scream in a dream.

I once witnessed this at a wedding; the bride could not speak.

114 days til my vows.

4/3

The first day of kindergarten I walked to the bus stop with my mom, who stood with two other moms. Five kids sized each other up. Then we got to work: parading in a circle, stepping on five large rocks that edged a yard.

I can feel the repetitive march: two smaller rocks, the long “boat,” one more small, then a big jump to the largest.

There were the twins, the girl who would become my best friend, and her brother.

I later learned not every bus stop had rocks for stepping. I wondered what those kids did. Boring.

4/4

In Saving Private Ryan, tanks approach at a snail’s pace in the town of Ramelle, France. But the earth shakes long before the soldiers hear. When the sound shook me in the theatre, it wasn’t in fear of Panzerkampfwagens.

If I heard the growl of the school bus while putting on my coat, it meant running. It meant I was late before I started. It meant waking mom up.  If the driver saw no kids, she’d accelerate downhill. My window was narrow, but open.

The temptation to stand still grew stronger than the reward for succeeding.

4/5

I rode the school bus from 1983 to 1992. The seats went from dark green to tan puke, and seatbelts appeared. But it’s hard to wear a seatbelt when you’re standing, so they were weapons or tools with which to bury candy wrappers into the seats. The made for TV movie Long Journey Back had proven that 1970s school buses were in need of additional exits, not seatbelts. However, train tracks weren’t my concern. Wheels too close together, the sides stuck over cliffs as we crawled up narrow hills. They’d close the school if we tipped over. Right?

4/6

In kindergarten, I had Mrs. Richards until she got sick. My friends and I searched for her every morning: “Investigate for Mrs. Richards,” we’d declare as we hunted around the room, holding invisible magnifying glasses.

I remember Letter People. I remember the boy who was…problematic. He sat grinning in the teacher’s chair at reading time, wetting his pants. I thought, “I shouldn’t be seeing this.” He moved soon after I attended his birthday party. His house smelled like boiled hot dogs.

The lights are off in those memories. School-dark is a specific kind of dark.

4/7

We had a beach party in 3rd grade. February. We were told to wear “beachy” clothing. We also had to bring “white food.*” Naturally, I wore: white stirrup pants, white turtleneck, and a sleveless pink sweater. A sleeveless pink sweater.

Bring an umbrella, they said. Mine was blue with white hearts. We put our umbrellas up on the classroom floor, sat on beach towels, ate our white food. I had a cheese sandwich.

The teachers played “Beach Blanket Bingo” on a tape deck.

Not the first or last time I thought, “This is it?”

(*?)

4/8

In 6th grade, I wrote a poem that won an award: a group came to my school to perform it.

I have a lot of socks

Not two of them the same

and when I find them ‘neath the bed

I think they are a pain

True story. Don’t remember the rest. Should have copy written it. Who knows what publication it illegally made it into? Probably stolen by one of the performers. They knew poetry gold when they saw it.

Who WERE those people? Who else wonders what happened to the ReReReReReRecycle man?

I still can’t match my socks.

4/9 [on 100words.com, 4/8 is duplicated. My fault, but the site owners don’t respond to emails. so there is will stay, wrong.]

Mr. D. was known for giving. Pieces of rock, bark, goldfish, plant cuttings. Sometimes he let students “borrow” a reptile for a week, like an exchange student. I’m sure Moms were thrilled.

I received a small potted plant. My mom had so many, she didn’t mind. But I took care of it. Ledebouria socialis. Silver Squill. Patient and tolerant and pretty.

26 years later: Not only do I still have the plant, but many of his descendents. I brought him with me to college, and everywhere I’ve lived. For years I’ve given parts of him away. Just like Mr. D.

4/10

In fifth grade, we studied myths, so we ate pomegranates. I didn’t understand how or why anyone would eat them but I liked how they burst in my mouth. I don’t remember why we ate fruits one day in Mr. D’s class. He taught science and social studies. We all had to bring in a fruit and share it with the class. I was assigned mango.

Everyone sliced up their fruits and distributed them. My mango was like pumpkin guts, and it slopped onto each classmate’s plate, stringy and orange. It wasn’t my fault.

4/11

I grew up before they invented playdates, but I did get “put” with other kids sometimes. Friends of my mom’s kids. I don’t remember the conversations that came before these encounters. What did they think we would “play” in fourth grade?

I decided around then that I wanted to kiss Peter. I never got the chance though. For a while, he was on The List.

One day when we were “put together,” he said, “lick the palm of your hand, then smell it. Gross.”  Boys are disgusting.

But he was right.

4/12

For a while, gym was fun. They don’t call it gym anymore. Oh and don’t call a gym teacher a gym teacher– they don’t like that.

We used to do this parachute thing. It lay in the middle of the circle and we each picked up a handle on the edge and probably there was some music or the lady was talking, and we had to lift the parachute up and down. Point?

Dodgeball in second grade was played with semi-inflated pink balls. I thought I was pretty good.

This, before I became very bad at sports.

4/13

Then we had to run “The Mile.” As an eleven-year-old, I questioned the use of that article. Why just that one? Not that I could run another. As would be true in later in life, I felt a sense of behind. It seemed some kids already ran. Like on purpose. Some even ran quickly. I looked around me for others who were baffled. Didn’t anyone else think that this was nuts?

When I ran my first 10k two years ago, I heard it was a flat course. At mile 3 I saw the hill. Same bafflement.

4/14

Why wasn’t The Mile hard for all the kids? Had they practiced in their free time? Had I missed a homework assignment? A letter home? I found myself with the heavier slow kids. I wasn’t heavy, and I had never been accused of being slow.

We would be bussed to the middle school, to the track, to be timed on The Mile. This, when the white-sneakered, khaki-panted contingent deemed us ready.

We practiced by running circles in the gymnasium. They played a boombox. And the same song every day: “Pump up the volume. Dance. Dance.”

4/15

I’m fairly sure I hadn’t deemed myself “ready” to run The Mile when the day came. I wonder what I ate for breakfast that morning. Whatever it was, I’m sure I ate half of it. I never could eat in the morning.

So there we went. Probably 25 kids, running around a track for a total of 8-14 minutes. One stupid mile. The chunky kids did a lot of walking, or spoke of medical problems like hypothermia. Oh wait, that was the whale watch, not The Mile.

The first mile’s still the hardest.

4/16

Breakfast wasn’t the only meal I had trouble finishing when I was little. I wasn’t a picky eater, I just wasn’t hungry a lot. I ate when I was told to, usually. Only a couple times did I try to bury evidence of not being able to finish a meal. Once was in the bathroom garbage. That did not end well.

Once I left something in my backpack. I don’t know what it was, but I found it in the summer. I was horrified and fascinated and scared.

The backpack had to go.  Not as easy as it sounds.

4/17

Some rituals will never make any sense.

I think they invented those mini cheese wheels covered in wax in the 1980s. My friend had one each day at lunch. She would peel the cheese, eat it, then keep the wax balled up in her hand when we went out to recess. Then we’d walk over to the wall, near where kids in trouble stood, and she would stick the wax on a brick. One piece per day, neatly lined in a row. Up high where you couldn’t notice.

Her family had food mine did not. Like bagels.

4/18

In preschool I barfed on my teacher while she was holding me.

I had been sick, I guess, like regular kid throwing up sick. But we had a field trip coming up. My mom said I could only go if I was better. I think it was to a farm.  Or probably some field where they were tapping maple trees. Either way it was not to be missed.

I wonder how I convinced my mom I was fine. I was so afraid, at four years old, of missing out on something.

Sometimes it’s not all mental.

4/19

My mom left me with my preschool class. We congregated in front of school. I felt the queasiness returning.

I tugged on Mrs. VanHorsen’s coat. I couldn’t keep up the charade. “I don’t feel well.”

There was talking, crowds, buses.  I’m sure I repeated myself. She picked me up.

I remember when I threw up, it was down her back. I don’t think I had control over where it went or time to aim.

Mom arrived home to the phone ringing.  I was always so sorry when I threw up. Sorrowful and sorry.

4/20

Downstairs we had a single step: up to the kitchen, down to the family room. Everyone passed up and down throughout the day. What better place to sit and color?

Daily I sat with my art supplies. All the way over to the right, near the shelves where keys and library books were kept.  The shelves had each family member’s birth year painted decoratively. Mine is last: 1977 sits atop the shellack in a different color. There is some lesson there.

I sat beside the step to color and to watch my family. I saw everything.

4/21

I tried not to be in the way, but sometimes my crayons would roll sideways. Then I’d endure huffing and exaggerated “let-me-just-work-around-you” looks as people passed by my artwork.

The kitchen floor was green linoleum when I was born, a square and fancy X pattern. When the kitchen was remodeled in 1987, it became modern beige, resembling stones, and cleverly masking dirt.

Sometimes I’d lean against the heat register, sometimes the couch. I was perfectly hidden, but with nothing behind me, able to see all the action. An unlikely place of great perspective.

4/22

The step only accommodated one artist, though. When I had a friend over, we needed to NOT sit there, lest my siblings begin to vocalize their annoyance.

But we couldn’t just bring our coloring to any surface.  My mom spent a lot of time “putting something down” in my childhood.  You want to color?  Let’s Put Something Down on the table first. Paint your nails? For God’s sake, Put Something Down. Play-Doh? That could leave a mark. Sometimes, when we Put Something Down, we even taped it. You can’t be too careful around nail polish.

4/23

I finally spilled nail polish, as an adult. I say finally because my mother had warned me for years that I was bound to spill it, if I didn’t Have Something Down. And would you know it, she was right? It was 2012, and I was alone, ruthless, with no wax paper taped to a countertop. It happened on an inherited chair, which has since endured additional dog-blamable offenses. Luckily, it hasn’t detracted from the overall decor of my home.

I went many years without spilling nail polish. A good long run of living on the edge.

4/24

My family has certain phrases, which, over time grew to some level of fame. One of those is my mother’s assertion that “Nothing splatters like milk.” Legend has it she first uttered those words in the late 1960s. My family was living in Cleveland, and by the end of said decade, had three small children under the age of six, who were causing chaos, and apparently, spilling milk. It’s the kind of phrase that has been repeated for decades since, and whenever anyone spills anything.  Because, whatever the substance, you’re lucky it isn’t milk. At least there’s that.

4/25

Besides helpful phrases, my family developed recommendations in times of crisis. Like: “if you’re falling down, drop everything you’re holding.” Who knows how this commenced, but it was practiced by my brother Tom, who once went down basement stairs: first carrying, then falling, so dropping, then spilling, dog food.

Since we know from President Ford’s legacy via Chevy Chase, it only takes one false move to brand someone a klutz, I consider myself lucky I’m not known for what I consider high-caliber falls.

Rewards of survival are often cloaked in life lessons I did not seek.

4/26

I fell once, dramatically, down my cousins’ front lawn at Christmastime. I suppose it was icy. I was fine, but profoundly embarrassed, so I spent the evening hiding in my grandparents’ guest room. I have no idea why it was that problematic for me, but I was quite upset and would not be seen.

The guest room was the largest front bedroom of the house. I remember the curtains.

Several family members tried to coax me downstairs that night. I finally succumbed to the promise of a Fudgsicle.  It seemed they had gone on fine without me.

4/27

I fell the night I was dressed as a birthday present for Halloween.

I wore my grey dress shoes to coordinate perfectly with my rainbow-crayoned-me-sized box. But my shoes, coupled with the physics of the box, were no match for the steep, smooth asphalt driveways of our neighborhood.

See, the box allowed for walking just fine, but there was to be no bending: so when I went horizontal, there was no returning to vertical.

I remember my friend’s father lunging after me as I began the descent into the darkness, on my back.

4/28

One fall was not “down” but “off.”

It was a normal summer day in 1989, and after arriving home from shopping, I excitedly called Jennifer. Did she want to ride bikes?  Of course she did: it’s what we did.

Decisions quickly. Her house or mine?

Slam phone, slam screen door.  Garage, bike, driveway, hurry, look both ways, gravel, pavement, down the slope, onto Indian Hill.

Pedal pedal pedal. I couldn’t wait to see her. I don’t remember what I had to say but I was bursting.

Pedal pedal pedal. Standing. Pedal faster.

4/29

Pedaling fervently on my purple “Miami Miss” bike, I couldn’t get to Jennifer’s fast enough. A perfect July day, early enough for hours of whatever we could agree on: badminton, riding bikes, walking in the creek, tracking neighborhood mysteries, seeing if the girl with the pool was home, making up words, sneaking thinly-sliced American cheese from the fridge, or making s’mores in the microwave.

Pedal pedal BAM.

Like a rubber band snapping, I was down. In one lightening movement, my left foot slipped off the pedal, dropping my knee to the pavement as the bike continued forward.

4/30

Crystal clear thought: “My knee is dragging.”

Time slowed. I became the subject of one of those science documentaries they show in school that explodes the moment in disgusting detail using a magical mix of animation and real organs to illustrate what’s going on in your brain, your tastebuds, or your large intestines.

I felt the pavement mixing with my knee, and I saw it before I saw it. Then, I was down and the bike was down. I threw the bike, and wailing, looked around.

I was exactly halfway between our houses. I had to run.

Posted in childhood, memory, running, student | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Spring running for a recovering magical thinker

anything to start a distracting conversation

anything to start a distracting conversation

Boyfriend* and I ran on Sunday, our first outdoors one since New Year’s Day. Feeling a little crickedy, but sort of good and okay with being a little unprepared despite working out indoors, we went to the business park where we have a lesser chance of being hit by cars. When we rounded the corner at the first road, I looked up to see the signs pictured. NO….NO….  I laughed out loud and of course had to stop and take a photo.

I used to look for signs…near-subliminal messages telling me what choice to make, or that the road I was heading down was correct or incorrect.  I didn’t know it was called “magical thinking” until years after I became accustomed to it. Anywhere on the spectrum from noticeable (wearing the same “lucky” article of clothing to take a test or participate in a contest) to recently, thinking that each time I make plans in ink on my calendar they get cancelled, so I need to put everything in pencil.  What?  It’s 2015? Oh, thanks. I will look into the electronica of which you speak.

I’ve learned that if something starts to take a front seat in my head, I could be in trouble. If I drove this way to work, and had a bad day, then I should drive the other way to work the next day. Perfect sense. Until those thoughts take away from other and functional uses of mind and time.  It’s taken a lot of work to undo these knee-jerk types of thoughts, but I generally don’t fret as much these days.  If I bring an umbrella, I don’t really think it will affect the weather.  If I talk about how much I’m looking forward to something, I don’t really think that’s going to make it less fun (although it will affect my expectations, which is another subject I’m not covering today). And if I’m feeling hesitant about running, and I see two big NO’s, it doesn’t mean I should stop. My mind is often my friend, but is equally given to trying to take me down at a moment’s notice.  Part of this includes looking for a way out of anything that is good for me and more challenging than sitting on the couch.

Right before we left the house on Sunday, it started raining.  It had been sunny and beautiful the whole morning, a balmy 38 degrees and the air had that smell of an upcoming season.

“Why is that puddle moving!?” I yelled, looking out the front window. “Is that #$%* rain!?”

Boyfriend had no clear answer for me, as he sometimes does not have all the answers I demand. I thought about bailing. What else could I convince him to do?  Scrap the whole idea and go out to lunch? He likes lunch almost as much as me, I thought. But he had that serious look in his eyes as he put his iPhone in his armband, and his running hat was already on his head.  He wasn’t smiling.  Although he doesn’t do that all that often, so it can be misleading. The rain wasn’t going to work for an excuse.

And the “NO” signs just gave us something to laugh about and discuss as we slowly made our way around the sandy roads. I can’t say “recovered” magical thinker, because that would imply I’m all set; that I’m no longer dogged by what Natalie Goldberg calls Monkey Mind. But I can choose often to ignore that noise, which is what I did this weekend, and stick to the plan. Anyone who knows me knows my plan has to be pretty loose in order to work, and that it’s not really mine in the first place. But for now it includes running.

 

*Yeah, he’s actually my fiancé, but I don’t like that word as much. Because it looks too much like finance. And I have to go looking for the accent.

Posted in half marathon, running, Uncategorized, unspoken | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Running. If you stand still long enough, I’ll tell you about it.

Tomorrow, I’ll run my second half marathon. I’m looking forward to the event, differently than last year for many reasons. It has again dawned on me that this is why I take notes on my runs, and why I (sort of) wish I had started a running blog this past spring. (Because when you don’t keep up with one blog, it’s a fine idea to start one or two more.  Wait for it…)

The reason is I could talk about running all day long, really to anyone who will listen.  This is in no way to undervalue those who DO listen, it’s just a case of something I find so interesting and fascinating, I want to make you (vous) see it too.  This, of course, is something I have begun to accept as futile– this whole idea of making another person see/understand/accept/believe something. I digress.

Among the many things that have changed since last year, I’ve managed to surround myself with more runners.  People who run. People who run and then talk about running. I love it. With the encouragement and recommendation of my sister-in-law Jessica, I decided to do Team in Training, and not only train for a marathon, but raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

http://pages.teamintraining.org/ctwhv/hartford14/jpetersufi

Notice I said marathon in the third paragraph; half marathon in the first.

One of the hardest things about running for me has been to not compare myself to other people.  Sort of like that whole “don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides” thing– you never know what’s going on inside someone else, and you also don’t know how much “secret athlete” someone possesses. Meaning this– taking on something like training for a marathon is quite a big undertaking, and naturally most people agree that it’s difficult.  The degree of “difficult” or “challenging” becomes a personal thing, and going through the training, many people experience setbacks, small or bigger.  I had my fair share this year.

I suppose I have had shin splints in the past.  But any pain or injury due to running prior to 2012 I consider part and parcel with being generally out of shape, inconsistent with health efforts in general, and I’m sure I used minor aches and pains to fuel whatever excuses I kept alive like smoldering embers. My foundation was lacking, to say the least, so any efforts at improving physical exercise were truly in vain. 2012 was sort of a clean slate as far as running was concerned– it was the first time I followed a program, at first an amalgamation of various “couch to 5k” plans, modified by my work schedule that, at the time was three jobs, all with the goal in mind to run a 5k with my head held high.  Sometimes, something is just so awful that improvement of any sort looks glorious.*

I wouldn’t say that training for my first half marathon in 2013 was pain free, but it was sort of injury free.  Nothing really happened that set me back.  I was training (loosely) with a group of people, running in memory of the prior year’s Sandy Hook families, but I sort of eased into the longer distances without strife. In fact, as it had been true when training for my first 4-mile race, and then my first 10k, I rejoiced at each milestone– the fist time I ran 4 miles, the first time I ran 5.3 miles, the first time I ran 5.8 miles…on and on. (If you were the recipient of one of my first time distance achievement announcements, you probably even got to hear about the hills, the dogs, the droplet of something that fell on my head, and the interesting thought I had as the sun set.)   But I plodded forward, literally, completing almost all my long runs alone, finding for the first time in my life, the capacity to stay the course, running sometimes at night, patiently, logging mile after mile, sticking to the plan**.   This year, more of my running was done with people: my boyfriend patiently slowing his pace to keep with mine, (it IS possible, you fast runners who claim you “can’t slow down”) or the big team runs, where my Team in Training peers would meet early in the morning to tackle big distance milestones.

Running with people made a big difference to me. But it also provided the backdrop to me coming to face some of my own limitations. I mentioned shin splints earlier.  I thought, after putting in the time I’d done with, what, a year and a half of running, that I was somehow “beyond” those.   I probably even said it out loud. Sometimes I can feel my ignorance gaining a stronger foothold over any wisdom. But there’s nothing like a humbling experience to bring my ignorance to the forefront, and put things back into perspective.

Some of what I learned this summer:

  • Shin splints, left untreated, will get worse and worse. I even learned that sometimes they can lead to or be mixed up with a stress fracture. Primary cure for this is rest, something I was not interested in, but forced to do. 15 days no running.
  • Take exhaustion, lack of water, 80 degree temps, high humidity, and add some bad attitude: this could cause a person to trip on an uneven sidewalk.

I demonstrated this on “Boulevard” in Hartford. Not a big fan of that street now.

  • The worst way to fall is face first. While I was flying through the air, I had the good sense to throw something out in front of my face, but that SOMETHING was both my palms, which skidded forward to a jarring halt. But I was also able to throw a hip into the mix, sort of also landing on my right one, “jamming” my leg up a bit higher than it should have been…which is why…
  • …sometimes when you fall, you will cause your back to give out the next day in an excruciating cry of “Uncle!” Thank you Physical Therapist, ice and boyfriend. 5 days no running.
  • I mentioned not staying in the moment earlier. Why is this a problem? Exhaustion, distraction, rushing around, things that we all do but don’t always result in falling down stairs, sometimes does result in falling down stairs. Number of stairs: three. Number of days before the race: six.
  • Bruises on your butt really hurt to run with. In fact, it’s like getting punched (albeit gently) on the bruise each time you land on that leg.

But seriously, I think these injuries have helped me more than hurt me. Why? I am not sure yet, give me a little time. I always wanted to be tough. When I thought I had a stress fracture in July, I cried for two days because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to continue training this year. I had a plan in my head: run a full marathon in 2014, then not ever do that again. Simple.

And life had other plans.  :) All part of the adventure.  Anyway, I began writing this days ago, and it now looks like rain for tomorrow, race day. Should be interesting! Ahhh!

*In 2010 I ran my first 5k in 35:53 (11:35min/mile).  2011, reflecting that year in every way, I ran my second 5k in 42.43 (13:45min/mile).   Pause for gasps.   It was so bad that I had to earmark it.  And I did.  I worked on what was behind those almost 14 min. miles, then, in 2012, returned to running. Differently.

**http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51131/Half-Marathon-Novice-1-Training-Program

Posted in half marathon, running | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

surfacing, mapping, thank you

I’ve been under a rock for a few months. No no, it was a good thing.  I’ve emerged with a couple accomplishments as well as something I never expected to receive.  But, I’m back with an arsenal of things I’ve written,  and a few follow-ups too. Hello! 

Since last October I’ve been in school on weekends getting my teaching certification.  It is many things to me, including both an accomplishment and a beginning. Given how long it took me to get to the point where I could be in school again, it’s huge. Considering I told a then-potential employer in 2001 that I “saw myself teaching high school” in my future (wrong thing to tell publishing executive, who still hired me, by the way) and proceeded to go down a long maze of a Choose Your Own Adventure-inspired story of my own misguided self-will, it’s a miracle I made it back out. But really that’s another blog entry.  Or not.

Considering the certificate itself is only a “way in”– a piece of paper that says I am knowledgeable and prepared to teach your child, but to “stay in,” more education will be needed on my end, it’s only the beginning. I’m ok with that. While I occasionally climb up on top of something and gasp at the Big Picture, I have grown more accustomed to existing happily on the path of what’s just before me.

The thing about mazes is that you can really think you’re on the right path– for a while– before you realize you have only (at best) paralleled the life you wanted.  You know that it’s nearby– maybe just over that tall hedge– but you realize you’re headed towards a dead end.  Some people approach their dead ends with the speed of an oncoming train. Luckily for me, I more or less sauntered up to it, sadly, and realized the walls wouldn’t be budged, so it was no use fighting (anymore).

Mazes can also be fun though, especially with the right group of people surrounding you. It’s more of an adventure when you’re learning what’s behind every corner with enthusiastic people who are slowly becoming friends. I was so concerned with getting into school, making arrangements in my life, taking tests, paperwork… where will I stay? What will I drive? Who will take out the team? Have I forgotten how to be a student? I wasn’t even thinking about the people I’d meet. Or the person.

That said, I’m so grateful to have been with the group I got put with, my English teaching cohort.  People who know me know there’s a letter on my refrigerator I keep there to remind me why I got put with this group of classmates, and not one before it.  What I learned in high school is still true: things happen for a reason.  As overstated as that is, it’s simply true. I learned something from all 17 of them: a big enough group to generate lively debate about such matters as agreeing to disagree on the back story of “My Papa’s Waltz,” and a small enough group to really get to know each other in some memorable and positive way, through our quirks, our discussion, or our ability to connect grammar with wrestling, or differentiation to a bobcat.  It was exhausting and eye opening– you find out what you’re made up when you stand up in front of a group of strangers and realize that teaching is not explaining, and the difference between mood and tone is not inherently understood by all former English majors. In fact, returning to school after years of work  provides an invaluable perspective that no fancy pants school can sell you.

I recommend it.

The “mapping” part of this post is that I feel like a person who has a truckload of tools and resources and ideas and stuff that I need to sort out. I’m excited as hell, but man, do I have a lot to do.  Part of it will involve breaking off from this blog into other areas. I tell students to narrow their focus to be most effective, that they won’t accomplish everything in one paper.  And so, I cannot keep doing so in one blog.  I’ve decided there is a place for a brain dump, a catch-all, a rambling mess of ideas…and then there will be areas of more specific focus.

And the thank you is to my family, who supported me and housed me on weekends and gave me food to eat and cars to borrow and said yes in encouragement over and over.

So here I go, and here I’ll stay. Stay tuned for more.

views from class

views from class

snacks at the ready

snacks at the ready

am I sleeping or am I awake?

am I sleeping or am I awake?

Posted in gratitude, I willingly got myself into this, student, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

To Ryan

To Ryan.

You were driving us to the city, with Carol. As we approached our destination, the traffic increased, as it always seems to. We chatted about three, four things at once, on and on. We looked at the time. We were cutting it close. You were annoyed at the traffic. As we merged and slowed down more, sped up, changed lanes and discussed alternate exits, you announced that the reason the traffic was heavy was because you had decided to take that route.

In the midst of chattering conversation, I said quietly, from the backseat, “You’re not that powerful.”

The conversation continued: traffic, doctors, parking, exits, coffee, time, lunch, exits, waiting room, naps…

Five minutes later, you answered my comment, tossing a smile my way:  “Yes I am.”

And you were.  Not necessarily the kind of power that causes traffic. But the kind of powerful that I could feel in a room. A presence that was at once comforting, reassuring, and made me feel stronger too.  Not only did you make me feel like I had a witness to life, but that I wasn’t crazy. Everyone knows what an observer you were. You noticed things I thought no one else saw, and you told me things I’d never have picked up on. Details, patterns, connections.

And you surprised me. You waited an entire year before you became my friend. A decision that changed my life, and wasn’t mine. You wanted to see what I was all about. How seriously I was going to take things. What I would have to say.  Almost exactly after a year, you approached me.  I remember what you said.    And I thought, “Where the hell have you been?” but I knew where you’d been. You’d just been on the other side of the room. A purposeful distance away.

I’m working on accepting that you’re not here anymore…in the way you were. I am not ok with it some days.  But you were all about action, and there’s no progress in pouting.

Things keep coming to mind that I want to tell you, and I’d rather not find someone else to tell.  I want to hear what you’d say. Some nights on the phone you didn’t let me get a word in edgewise.  You had a lot to tell me in a short amount of time.

I feel like you were an amazing book someone loaned me, and I wasn’t done reading it, and now the book is gone. I’m lucky to have had the privilege to read what I could in the time I had. But books don’t listen. And you did. You got me. In living my life I’ll remember how well you lived yours. I’ll keep writing, and looking for things you would notice. Thank you being part of my life.  Nothing’s a mistake.

you'll know it when you see it.

you’ll know it when you see it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The End of Terminal Uniqueness

where I go when my brain starts to freak out

where I go when my brain starts to freak out

Tomorrow morning, I’ll run my first half marathon. Something that thousands and thousands of other people have done.  I will be a part of a team, running for several reasons, all combined into one event.  I will be a part “of,” yet running is also one of the most solitary and personal things I’ve ever done.  Not personal as in private– it’s very public actually– as I plod down the streets in my town night after night. But personal as in learning things about myself I never would have allowed before.

When I was trying to “be a runner” years ago, I had many obstacles I had created myself, that prevented me from becoming so.   I would sign up for 5k’s, full of good intentions,  then not prepare for them… and not run them. I stopped telling people I was even trying, because I no longer wanted to admit I hadn’t actually followed through. So when I began something different that included a new way of running, about a year ago, I hesitated to share that I was running in a Thanksgiving Day race.  I figured I’d rather tell people after; that if I told people before, it might not happen.

At a school orientation I was at recently, we were asked to go around and introduce ourselves, say what had led us to be sitting there that night, and one interesting or unexpected thing about ourselves. Quickly realizing I was to go third from the end of the group, I knew I had some time to think.

I sat quietly, smiling, listening to everyone talk about their chosen “thing” they deemed “fun” or  “interesting” about themselves, yet appropriate enough to mention with a cohort of adult students that they’d be spending the next nine months with.  Really, the key was not to scare my classmates off– I knew group work was inevitable, and certain “fun facts” would have a self-pariahing effect, I was sure.  I raced through the filing cabinets of my mind. I thought of old information, outdated trivia about myself, or overused. And a lot of things that I wouldn’t (shouldn’t) mention.  I usually have an 80’s sitcom theme running through my head. I once caught a thief  with my bare hands.  Sometimes  it looks like I’m concentrating but I’m really deciding  whether or not I’d kiss you. I once went a really long time without showering. My dogs sleep on my bed with me. I talk to my plants.  I love photographs of abandoned places. I have been known to stockpile products that are expired.

So yeah. I decided that my best option was the mention the ½ marathon.

Some people mentioned former jobs they’d had, planes they had flown, artistic forms they had mastered, such as calligraphy or scrapbooking.  Others mentioned socially acceptable topics such as children, former careers, or sports-related interests.

But it was the man sitting two down from me, the only one, in fact, who’d made small talk with me before the start of the evening, who boldly announced that, this past year, just before his 50th birthday, that he’d run his first marathon.  As in, FULL marathon.  All 26.2 miles.

Everyone gasped. They ooh and ahhed appropriately: a marathon? How long is that? 26 miles right? Running?  Wow, that’s amazing.  

I felt the Kermit-face come over me, I felt like my big unique story, that thing that was gonna make me “me” had just been reduced by…exactly half…before I could even tell it! DAMMIT.

So there I had it– everyone’s first impression of me would be “the girl at the end of the table who only was training– not even completed, a HALF marathon!” Mine was still in the future; his was accomplished.  His glory HAD existed already.  He had bragging rights.  All I had was my claim to my plan.

And so I claimed my plan.  I got some laughs and all smiles when I told my Interesting Thing, in light  of the other guy’s story.  In fact, many were kind, even approaching me afterwards, offering words of encouragement, as did the marathoner.  So many things can bring people together, total strangers, who sit in a room for an hour and learn about their possibilities and connections.

As for today and tomorrow, it’s much like the race.  No matter what crazy thoughts are bursting from my brain, I will and can only do one thing at a time, moving forward with the next step and part of the trip. I’m neither greater than or less than anyone else; neither more special or more plain, I’m just another runner. I need to remember I am only a participant in something that is much bigger than me.  And that is really amazing.

feet go here

feet go here

Posted in gratitude, I willingly got myself into this, running, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 8 Comments