Sunday, June 18, 2017

My Dad

Sometimes I think I could write a book about how great my dad is. Truth be told, I knew he was a great dad while I was growing up but it wasn't until I became an adult that I realized how truly blessed I am to have him as my father.
From the time I was little I knew my dad to be quick to listen, slow to speak. He disciplined more by talking in a calm, logical voice than by yelling or using his hand. He guided with encouragement and support, helping me make decisions as I went. When I was young, we were only allowed to watch 1/2 hour of TV a day and whenever we watched our show my favorite place to lay was on my dad's leg. It was a place of comfort and relaxation. When we weren't watching our show, he was playing games with us. Monopoly was a favorite and he patiently played for hours, while teaching me about money and investments (Ironically, I still need to be taught those lessons).
As I got older we butted heads sometimes but, now that I'm an adult, I realize that I didn't know everything and that I should've heeded my dad's (and mom's) advice more. Even now, although I'm a parent myself, my dad will graciously call me out when I'm being a brat. He's still quick to listen and slow to speak but our roles have changed to more of friends and confidants than as parent/child. Some of my favorites times as an adult is when we go on Father/Daughter dates. He used to take me to Olive Garden since that used to be one of my favorite restaurants (even though he didn't like it in the least). Now we mull over life while enjoying hamburgers at one of our favorite burger joints. As always, he listens and gives advice (even when I don't always ask for it). He guides me with that same gentle guidance he's used all my life. I don't take it for granted.
Looking back on my life, some of the things I appreciate most about my dad now were things I either didn't know at the time or have grown to love. I remember spending countless hours at the church because my dad was the church treasurer. I wasn't always a fan of staying late every Sunday night while my dad counted the tithe checks, but now, looking back, I'm thankful that he was faithful in his ministry. He taught by example how important it is to be the spiritual leader of the household, even if that doesn't mean you're front and center in the church. I appreciate how he's dated my mom for more than 40 years of marriage. He used to throw her elaborate surprise birthday parties and sacrifice his wants to buy her nice gifts. He still takes her out on dates and watches chick flicks. He still buys her fresh flowers every week and writes her love notes. He taught me the importance of dating your spouse and loving even when marriage gets difficult. When I was a senior in high school I went through a I'm-smarter-than-my-parents phase and hung out with a less than stellar group of peers. A few years ago I learned that my dad, out of concern for me, rigged the doors of the house and slept on the couch for several nights because he was afraid I was going to run away from home during that time. He feared for my life- both spiritually and physically, so he gave up the comfort of sleeping in his own bed to ensure that I was safe. The older my boys get, the more I appreciate this selfless act that may or may not have changed my life. Another fun high school experience was math. Around jr high it became obvious that I had reached my limit in my mathematical ability. Yet my dad patiently tutored me in math despite my tantrums, mean words and tears.
He has loved me through the bad and ugly. He has comforted me during the lonely and the sad. He has laughed with me through the happy and joyful. And through it ALL he has loved me unconditionally. I honestly wish everyone could be blessed with a dad like mine. Because if they could, I have no doubt that this world would be a better place.
I love you, Dad! Thanks for everything you have done and given me throughout life. But, thanks most of all for being YOU, a man of God!!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Fun in the Summer Sun

We always look forward to our trips out West to visit my parents. Not only do we love our time with them, laughing and creating special memories, but we also love to eat at our favorite restaurants, visit friends, go to various parks and have fun adventures. This trip was one of my best ones to date! I got to spend special time with my parents and I got to watch one of my closest friends get married. Although I didn't get to see all of my friends this trip or take a day trip to NV, it was one of our most fun trips to date. Instead of running around like a crazy person, trying to fit everything in, we just made the most of each day and rested when we'd had enough fun. We went to the local carnival and parade. The boys loved backyard camping with their BobBob. My mom and I got to enjoy a special Mother/Daughter lunch and shopping trip. We visited my aunt and her family so the boys could tire her puppy out. One of the most fun things we did, in my opinion, was the water park that we'd never been to. E was a little nervous about swimming and P was a little scared of the huge water slide but it only took both of them a few minutes before overcoming their anxiety and fear. Yesterday the boys ran a lemonade stand and will be donating $20 for St. Jude, an organization that means a lot to P. To top it off we did our family favorite- the local fish hatchery, a place where we can feed the trout and explore. The boys LOVE going there! All in all, it's been a very fun trip and we made memories to last a long time to come.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Lessons From a Run

This morning I went for a short run, not long enough to really get deep into thought. But a few things  ran through my head (get it??) while my feet pounded the pavement. I don't know if or how many more half marathons I'll be able to do. I'd love to be like that 92 year old women who just made the record for being the oldest person to run a half. But the arthritis in my hip really bothers me, whether I run 1 mile or 13. A few things that make any run easier for me, though, is music, my boys and the weather. For some reason my Pandora wasn't working today so I was stuck listening to Rob's Bone Collector CD (How did that end up on every iPhone we own??). I noticed that the music really slowed down my time, like 45 per mile slower, because of the slower rhythm. Another thing I noticed is that I no longer like running hills. I used to love them because they provided a challenge. Now I loathe them, mainly because I'm out of shape and because of my hip. I noticed that my optimal running weather is sunny and about 65 degrees. Oh, and includes NO humidity! The last thing I noticed is that "bad" music (no offense, Hun) slows me down, but my boys help my time. I picked them up to accompany me on my last half mile. They rode their scooters so running next to them really helped me better my time. I hope I can keep running for many years to come, whether it's 1 mile or 13 miles. I've come to love running and love the stress relief it provides. I also love that it gives me a chance to ponder life, to make life applications, learn lessons and spend time outside with my boys!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Cancer Sucks

I toyed with writing this blog because I don't want to sound insensitive or offend anyone. That is not my intent. My intent is to inform you that cancer sucks. Big time. A week ago today we got word that our 34 year old friend passed away due to cancer. This morning I woke up to find out, on social media, that a lady I had taught with passed away due to cancer. I can't say that I was good friends with either of the gals. I didn't have a phone full of selfies with them or their phone numbers programmed into my phone. I didn't have long talks with them on a regular basis, knowing all the minute details of their lives. But I was friends with them and struggle with the fact that, in a world full of nut jobs, two strong, intelligent, sweet, beautiful women died.
Our friend, Jessica, had a large 34th birthday party a month ago. We were honored to be invited and cherished the time with her friends and family. We knew the end of her life was near, which made it bittersweet. I cried when we sang "Happy Birthday" to her and laughed when I watched her (mightily) blow out the candles on all three of her cakes. And then she hung on and fought for more days than her oncologist said she'd have. She taught me how to die with dignity and grace, how to laugh and find the good in the midst of the bad and ugly. Although we didn't talk often and never talked about anything "deep", her presence at my inlaws' neighborhood functions will be missed.
My former co-worker was one that I strived to be more like. She had such an infectious laugh that carried across campus. The last time I saw Carla she informed me that she was going to leave education because her dream was to work in a nursing home, taking care of the older generation. I have no doubt that she excelled at her job because she brought joy and laughter to everyone who knew her. Even on her bad days, she still wore a smile on her face. She found the joy in life. She was one who truly lived each day to its fullest.
A good friend made a comment last week that I thought was fitting. She said that Jessica had won her battle against cancer because she was no longer in its grips, no longer suffering. For us, here on Earth, who have a friend or loved one who has passed on due to cancer are the ones who suffer. But the person who fought the good fight against it has won. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many, Jessica and Carla!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day

Everyone has different ideas of what Mother's Day is to them. For some, it's visiting a grave to remember your Mom. For others, it means getting pampered. For some, it's reminiscing on memories with your kids (or Mom). And yet others spend time taking their 4-legged fur babies for an extra special walk. For some, it's mourning the loss of not being able to be a mom to their own child. For every woman it means something different.
For me, I've learned that there's Mother's Day in theory and then there's the realistic Mother's Day. Every year Rob tells me that this day is about whatever I want to do. My mind immediately takes me to a day spa where I'm pampered all day without a care in the world. But the reality of Mother's Day is that I'm still a very busy mom with a lot of responsibilities. There is no magic cleaning fairy to come in and make my house spotless or do the laundry from beginning to end (Although Rob did help with that a little today). There is no one to take care of my photography business, helping clients as needed. And there is absolutely no way I'm going to be able to lay in bed all day, reading my latest novel and forgetting about all that needs to be done. That's not realistic. That's not what being a mom is all about.
Being a mom, in my opinion, is about selflessly giving (Sometimes to the point of not having anything left to give), about enjoying the little things with your kids, about making memories and about appreciating the tokens of love shown throughout the day, even on the most imperfect day. So, to me, today was imperfectly perfect. E was so excited to give me a bag of "coffee" (ie a tea bag) and a paper teapot that he had colored (Or at least I think he did because he gave me his classmate's teapot). Then he promptly informed me that he thought he'd like my "coffee" so I graciously made him a cup of it. P brought me a big bowl of Captain Crunch in bed and then asked if I'd make him waffles (Thankfully it was just Eggo waffles so there's little effort put into those). Then he gave me a book he had made that made me cry. Rob gave me a beautiful card and took me to lunch at my favorite hamburger joint. Then we came home and spent most of the afternoon in the pool, making memories as a family. This evening reality set in and I did laundry and dishes and cleaned.
At church a friend and I were talking about Mother's Day and how it just sounds better in theory because, in reality, there are so many little things that only a Mom can do. And I agree. Although my mom and I have been known to butt heads before, I would've given just about anything to spend the day with her today. I missed her terribly and wanted to just spend even an hour with her, catching up about Motherhood. But, although that wasn't possible, I was still thankful for my special day with my boys (That includes Rob). A friend of ours is near the end of her life (She's already lived a few days past what the doctors told her she'd live) and I can't imagine how Mother's Day will go for her mom next year. I can't imagine the grief her mom felt today, knowing this was their last Mother's Day together. So I hugged my boys a little closer and was thankful for the work I had to do today, knowing that my boys are alive and healthy, that Mother's Day a good day together.
So, no matter how you view Mother's Day or how you celebrate it, I hope it's a day full of love and memories. To all the mamas reading this, thanks for ALL you do! You rock!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What 13.1 Miles Taught Me

Well, I did it. It wasn't pretty but it was rewarding. I completed another half marathon, my 3rd one in the books. I wish I could say it wasn't pretty all because I didn't train properly. But that's not it. It was a brutal run. People with WAY more marathon experience than me even said that. Let me start at the beginning and fill you in on what happened for 13.1 miles.
The night before any big race you want to fill up on carbs, pasta being the best. So my friend who was running the half with me (She came from non-humid California for the race!) and I went out for dinner at a pasta place. While we were waiting to be seated, a veteran Nashville Rock n Rock marathon runner was talking to a newbie, telling her what to expect. She said, "I got an email saying that they took the last hill out of the race because so many people complained about it." I thought "I wish they wouldn't have done that because a big hill at the end gives me just the boost I need to finish strong. I listened as the veteran runner told the newbie more information and they talked about the heat advisory that was predicted for the run. Since I have now lived in the South for a few years the humidity and heat didn't worry me. I knew it wouldn't be fun but I wasn't going to lose sleep over it, especially because I thought they were over-hyping it.
Fast forward to race day. We woke up at 4:20am, ready to catch the shuttle to the race. We got there with plenty of time to spare and took in the sights. There was a heavy cloud cover and I told Amber that the clouds were moving fast, meaning it was going to warm up fast. Unfortunately, the race organizers were anything but organized. The start of the race was done in waves so by the time it got to my "corral" number I was starting 30 minutes past the official start time, meaning I was already starting in the heat. You wouldn't think it'd be hot at 7:15am but you'd be wrong if you lived in the South. As soon as the race started we descended a large hill....only to run up another one. Pretty soon I figured out the pattern...down one hill, up another one, down one hill, up another one. I ran the first 4 hills, determined to run as long as I could physically manage. But by Hill 5 I was tired of running up the hills. I decided that, since I hadn't trained properly, I'd use the hills as my walk time and would make up my pace time on the descents or the flat part of the course. However, soon the heat took over. I was watching people collapse on the race course. I was having to move over to the side of the course while stretchers were brought in to aid runners who were dehydrated or suffering from heat exhaustion. I decided to play it safe and walk from Mile 8 on because I wanted to finish the half marathon on my own two feet, not being taken to the medical tent. At some point, the event staff ran out of water so they used hoses from residents' front yards to fill up water cups and spray runners down, in hopes of cooling us off. Some good Samaritans held out orange slices and ice cubes to runners to help. By the 12th mile I was ready to be done. The heat was starting to get to me and I wasn't enjoying the run. But, like I said in a previous blog, I wasn't going to give up. So I pushed through and RAN across the finish line. Going into the race, I had wanted to finish in 2 hours, 45 mins since I hadn't trained. By the time I got to the 10 mile mark I didn't care what my time was as long as I finished on my own two feet. I was shocked when I got the race results and found out my finishing time was 2 hours, 47 minutes! I was thrilled to finish in such a "good" time given the circumstances.
I sat at the finish line, waiting for my friend, watching DOZENS of people being attended to by medics. Some barely stumbled across the finish line before needing assistance. Some didn't even finish. Some passed out while walking to the post race food/water tents. I worried that my friend wasn't going to make it because she was complaining about the humidity before the race had even started. Thankfully she finished. Like me, it wasn't a PR race for her but we both finished on our own two feet! The race officials ended up calling the race because of the heat. Some people, who had trained, were disappointed that they weren't given the chance to complete their half (or full) marathon. I personally was thankful they called it after seeing so many people suffer from heat exhaustion or dehydration.
The Nashville Rock n Roll Half Marathon was beautiful but not a race I'll do again. While I was running I thought back to what the veteran runner had told the newbie at the restaurant the night before. They had taken the hill out at the end of the race but they hadn't taken the 500 other hills out. I have no desire to run 13.1 miles on hills again. I also have no desire to drink from a hose water while running 13.1 miles. Don't get me wrong. I'm not above it and I used to love drinking hose water as a kid. But when you're running that far, in that kind of heat, hose water isn't refreshing. I wanted the water to be cool and to taste good. A small thing to ask for but maybe I'm being too picky.
Here are other things running 13.1 miles taught me that day:
* Porta potties at a race are important. Having a multitude of them on the race course is even more important.
* Post race snacks are important to refuel the body. I get why beer is important post race but some people don't like beer so give more option than just water and Gatorade. We had enough of that during the race. Also, plenty of fruit and less cookies is probably a good ideas as well (Who knew I'd ever promote fresh fruit over cookies??).
* Breathe, an essential oil, is essential for me. I remembered when I was already on my way to TN that I had left mine at home. I tried to buy a bottle of it at the Expo but they had sold out. Breathe helps me, well, breathe. I was so congested during the course because I didn't have it.
* If you're going to make a big deal about the temps being close to record high then make sure there are enough provisions to aid runners. They said there would be salt packets along the way but I only saw Mile 12.5. Water stations ran out of water and didn't even turn on the hose at those stations.
* Spectators are awesome...until they're not. People were holding up great signs, encouraging us from Mile 1. My favorite was "Run like Summer break is at the finish line!". If I hadn't been pacing myself at that point I would've stopped to take a picture. Some spectators set up buffet tables and were eating what looked to be good food as we ran by. Yes, they cheered for us but that meant nothing while I watched them stuff their face (I had eaten a banana and bagel at 4:15am so by 9am and 10 miles into the race I was a tad hungry).
*Walkers need to stay to the right side of the course. At the start of the race, when I cared about my finish time, I felt like I was playing human Pinball because I was having to weave around walkers less than a mile into the course. It wasn't fun.
* The running community rocks. People were yelling out words of encouragement along the way when most people stopped to walk, to catch their breath. They kept me going and I am thankful since this was the first race I ran without my boys cheering me on.

It wasn't all bad. The course was beautiful (At the top of the hills there was a lot to look at). It was fun running down Music Row, knowing famous musicians often strolled the streets while taking a break from recording their album. There was a Baptist church that opened its doors to runners before the race, offering clean bathrooms and a place to stretch (or relax) beforehand. And overall, the weekend rocked. I had so much fun with my friend! From starting out sightseeing in Memphis to The Band Perry concert to walking Broadway to watching Amber get excited about Cracker Barrel breakfasts to riding a river boat through Opryland to touring the Country Music Hall of Fame we had a blast. I can't wait to go back to Nashville....just not for another half marathon.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Spring Break

Working makes a person appreciate the breaks. As a teacher, I look forward to all of them because it means spending special time with my boys, making memories. This Spring break was no exception. The week was filled with flip flops, yoga pants, sloppy ponytails, no make-up, pool time, lots of time with friends and family, the beach, the movies, snowballs, walks to the river, egg hunts, sleeping in (Ha, yeah right!), leisurely housework, sleepovers, errands, bike rides, sidewalk chalk, relaxing afternoons. All in all it was the perfect week off and I can't say I'm quite ready to go back to dresses/skirts and close-toed shoes. But, the end of the school year is in sight and then I'll have two months of everything we did this week plus so much more!