It seems A LOT of stuff happens in this world without me having any knowledge. As I've said before in this space, I'm OK with that - though it can be embarrassing when someone mentions a recent event and I stare blankly, quickly trying to figure out what they are talking about. Sometimes, I get lucky, and discover they're talking about a TV show - and then I can just give my standard line about saving TV for when I'm older. But other times? I'm not so lucky.
As a little test of my knowledge of what happened in 2013, I checked out the PLAY-DOH recreations of last year's events - "A year in PLAY-DOH Moments".
Not good, people. But there's one that Helen and I both nailed.
I already miss our trip to London last summer. But for the record - if Will and Kate ever need a babysitter - Helen and I are available! We don't mind the inconvenience of traveling at all.
After posting about my very sad non-chocolate treat purchase, a friend walked down the hallway and handed me a snack size Snickers bar. It was so amazing. I even ate the whole thing since it was already half-sized. It was particularly nice of my friend to bring me the Snickers bar because it was outside of her office that I had left the offensive Twizzlers. She could've come and told me she got sick from eating Twizzlers, much like I had done the day earlier, and asked me to keep my stinky treats to myself. But instead, she gifted me some chocolate.
Then, my friend Karen, who writes a brilliant blog - The Yellow Ladybird, emailed to commiserate with me, and thought I ought to right the wrong by making myself a decadent hot chocolate drink.
There are two kinds of treats. Those that are chocolate - and those that are not chocolate. The ones in the former category are always superior to the ones in the latter category. I know this for a few reasons.
First, some days, I decide to eat a candy bar while I'm sitting at my desk at work. When I do this, I eat half of the candy bar, and save the other half for later.* Then, for the next several days, when I open my desk drawer (which is a somewhat rare event, as the stuff I actually need is piled all over my desk, rather than tucked away in the drawers) I get all excited that I have half a candy bar in there. Most of the time, I don't even eat it, because I think about how excited I will be the next time I find the candy bar, and I want to feel that thrill again.**
Second, whenever I eat something that is chocolate, I am happy. It doesn't even matter how much I eat. I am always happy. I do not feel this way when I eat other treats.
I tell you this all as background, and I'm writing it here as a reminder to myself, lest the events of yesterday not be repeated by me again.
Here's what happened.
I had a coupon for $5 of free stuff at CVS. Woohoo! I decided to go get myself 5 candy bars, because having 5 candy bars in my desk would be almost more awesome than I can imagine. Right? I mean, opening the desk drawer with half a candy bar is good, so FIVE must be amazing.
Unfortunately, I cannot report if it is amazing, because when I got to CVS, I saw an ad for Twizzlers. Two giant packages for $5.00. Coincidence? I don't think so. The fates were clearly telling me something. And I listened!
I was initially very excited about the thought of all that high fructose corn syrup pulsing through my veins, and reminded myself of the 3.5 miles I had run the night before, so I convinced myself I really, really should eat the Twizzlers.
I ate one. Meh. It was OK, but not that good.
So I ate another. That one also was not very good.
So I ate a third. And then I realized I felt horribly ill.
So here I am, with my two GIANT packages of Twizzlers and NO candy bar, and all I could think about was how awesome it would be to have a candy bar instead of the Twizzlers.
I foisted the Twizzlers off on my coworkers (who apparently love them because the entire bag was gone when I got to work this morning).
And then I resolved to write this little reminder to myself to never be tricked again into buying any treats that fall into the not chocolate category. They are terrible. They will bring you no happiness. They are definitely inferior to chocolate.
I won't even bother to open my desk drawer today because all I will think about is how I COULD still have 4.5 candy bars in there if I had done what I set out to do yesterday and purchased the candy bars. But instead? My drawer is void of chocolate.
*I should note here, that it was not until I was an adult that I realized eating half a candy bar is a ridiculously weird behavior. My sister does it, too, and because we spent a lot of time around each other during the formative years of our lives, we reinforced this weird behavior in each other and came to think of it as normal. I was sharing a beach house with friends one weekend about 10 years ago when someone noticed my half candy bar sitting around. They inquired whose it was, and Ed told them it had to be mine. How did he know? Because apparently I am the only person who eats only half the candy bar. The other people at the beach house then alerted me to the fact that this is an extremely weird behavior.
**This is probably also weird, but it produces a lot of happiness for me -
way more than just eating the other half upon discovery.
On December 1, we performed the traditional tree decorating ritual. Only this year, I decided to parse out a few ornaments and leave the rest in the box. It was both fun - and will be easy to clean up when the season passes! Grinch - I know.
Helen is finally tall enough to hang the stocking on the mantle with no stool. She was extremely proud of this feat. And yes - Aunt Linda - the kids ADORE the two stockings you made them. Simply gorgeous.
On Saturday, this kid ran 11:53 minute miles and completed his first 5K. Ed paced him, which is good for two reasons. First, absent Ed, Connor likely would've tore across the start line in such a fashion that he would've been burned out completely in 50 yards. Second, I signed Connor up incorrectly, so he was officially signed up for the 1 mile run, not the 5K. This is only important because it means Connor gets a start time for the 5K, but not an end time. As far as the record book knows, that kid is still running.
Because I am trying to run faster and longer, I ran the race in front of Ed and Connor. It was an out and back course, and I missed Connor and Ed when I passed them, so I really had no idea where they were. After I finished, I grabbed a bagel (for Ed) and a banana (for me) and went in search of my men.
As soon as I saw Connor get close to the home stretch, I ran with him cheering, and he turned the jets on! That kid sprinted hard, had a look that he might die when he was only halfway through the home stretch, and then kicked it in gear and crossed the line running.
I was thrilled and proud of Connor - because I knew it was hard for him.
I want that kid to know his body can be strong and fast. So that some day? When he has the option of running through a forest or driving through it, he gets out of the car and runs.
After the race, Connor said he planned on training more for the next run, and even volunteered to join me at my 6AM workouts that I've been doing the last three weeks. I'm not sure he's ready to join the moms in the neighborhood yet, but I'm already looking forward to when he is.
A few weeks ago, a representative from Allied Shirts.com asked me if I was interested in creating a shirt and then reviewing it over here. I was very excited - and then I just couldn't find inspiration for what to do.
Your job? Upload text or photos to Allied, and then they'll make you a shirt. Easy, right?
Well...apparently you need to be more creative than me. Because I am newly in love with my new running group "Moms on the Run", I decided to upload their logo to Allied and voila - I got a shirt - which I wore in the Jingle Bell 5K.
The shirt is quite nice. I ordered a small, and it appears to be true to size. I've washed the shirt twice at this point, and the logo I had printed still looks good. There's several quality levels, sizes, and fits. Mine is the short sleeve budget Gildan tee with front printing. I'm considering making it my official race shirt - and I'm also considering writing the races I complete in permanent marker on the back.
I'm thinking I need to spend some time on a project and make some sort of family shirt - for our trip to the Dude Ranch next summer! (more to come on that)
It seems we hit the ground running with Christmas this year. Connor and Helen (especially Helen) were eager to get the tree up and even more eager to pry their Advent calendars open. We've abandoned the cheap chocolate calendars in favor of the Star Wars Lego Advent Calendar (Connor) and a homemade calendar (Helen). Connor loved his Lego calendar last year (that he purchased himself with birthday money) and Helen doesn't like the cheap chocolates that come in the calendars I used to purchase, so she ended up giving it all away to Connor.
True to form, Connor loves the Lego Star Wars calendar. And, I hate to admit it, but it does provide him with a lot of fun. And really, how much worse is a tiny cheap plastic toy than a piece of chocolate?
Helen's calendar is still incomplete. I purchase a wooden frame that needed to be put together that has 25 cardboard boxes that get pulled out. I had dreams of how this calendar would look. Yes, I had dreams. But, in typical fashion, the dreams were a bit beyond both my capabilities and the time available for the project. So instead of a really awesome and beautiful calendar, Helen got this.
No matter. She's pleased as can be. She even knows several of the items in the calendar, but it doesn't seem to damper her excitement much at all about finding them on their appropriate day. In fact, she even made a couple of the items in the calendar! Several of the items in the calendar are little notes that say "Have a cup of hot cocoa with mom" or "Go on a trailer bike ride with Dad". Connor threw in a few of his own, which I thought was pretty sweet of him. He also had a few little things that would fit in the boxes sitting around, so he gifted them to Helen. Two days ago, she received a shark's tooth that Connor had cast in plaster. The first thing Helen did after opening it was run upstairs and thank Connor. At this age at least, a little something can go a long way.
The first day, Helen opened the supplies to make this tree. I stole the idea from here. I fell in love with it last year, when I first saw it posted, but didn't have the time to execute. Our version has a sample of nearly every color of wool I've dyed over the years. I did the cutting of the wool, and then Connor helped Helen sew it all together. It was the first ornament on our tree.
Importantly, I haven't put numbers on any of the drawers. I wait to do that until the night before when I have a better sense of what I can accomplish the next day. For example, I don't want to give her a ticket to have cocoa with me if I'm going to be gone at bedtime. And likewise, I'm not going to ask Connor to make good on his promise to jump on the neighbor's trampoline with Helen if it's cold and rainy.
So far, so good. Though tonight I'm scheduled to make a popcorn garland for our tree - and I'm a little bit nervous about the mess that's going to follow.
Now...I just need to think of things for the last 8 days of Advent so that Helen doesn't get surprised by the empty boxes!
Love. It's everywhere you look. You can choose to embrace it, ignore it, or call it something else. But for me, it's the energy that makes the world keep turning around. It's the thing that calls me out of bed each day, and the thing that I think about when I fall asleep.
I'm surrounded by love. I hope we're all surrounded by love. Sometimes, I think we do a pretty crappy job of communicating that love, and that's why things like Newtown, the Boston Marathon bombing, and all the other horrible things are allowed to happen. Could someone really take their own life or someone else's if they realized the true value of each of them? If they really felt loved?
I also think the sunrise and sunset each day are an amazing show of love from the universe. Every. Single. Day - those two things happen. And I'm forever grateful.
My sister's children are in their teens. They could easily choose to graph their iGadgets and ignore Helen and Connor. But they don't. Instead, they always seem to find some way to make Helen and Connor feel special and loved. It's a lot of years to bridge!
Yesterday, we went bowling and today we headed to the park. All of the kids ran around the park and most played a raucous game of hide-and-go-seek. Connor and Emily are clearly the stealthiest of the bunch.
My parents have played bridge (the card game) longer than I've been alive. I remember watching them play with curiosity. Several years ago, Ed and I decided to learn the game. We've had loads of fun, and only wish we knew more people who played. A huge bonus to the game is that now, when we get together with my parents, all 4 of us share a common interest - and we've played many a game well into the night. Thankfully, my parents follow up the late night game these days with an early morning for Connor and Helen so Ed and I can sleep.
Posting late on this one, but hat tip to my dear friend Martin, who drove out to visit me at my sister's home last night. It's always a joy to see him. I have never been near him without laughing. And last night, his step-daughter was able to join us and the laughter that came from the basement between her and my nieces was so much fun to hear. Can't wait to visit again!
My dad has put a ridiculous number of miles on his car to move me from dwelling to dwelling or ferrying me from one place to another. It's nothing snort of ridiculous. But tonight, because his car is the only one in the family large enough to fit everyone in my family, he'll drive from Topeka to the airport in KC, then to my sister's house in the Southern suburbs of KC where he'll drop my crew off, and then back to Topeka. He insisted I not rent a car for this task. What can I say, but thanks.
Connor and Helen dream about decidedly different things. Helen likes families, happy endings, musical instruments, and her brother. Connor likes assassins, punching, legos, Star Wars, and his sister. Despite this, they can spend a lot of time with each other being completely happy. Just yesterday, Helen brought out the tinker toys and a doll house that looks like a tree stump. She was making useful things for the family of gnomes that lives in the doll house. Connor got involved and I heard stories of death and destruction and various Star Wars references. Then I heard Helen "maybe everything could just end happily" and "look, Connor, I built an instrument" and "fine, Connor, everyone can die, but then let's pretend everyone is fine". Connor put up with all of Helen's thematic diversions because he really does love it when someone will play with him for a long time.
My fitness goal for next year is to run a half marathon, and I'm hoping to do it in 8 minute miles. This is a ridiculously crazy goal for me, because not only have I never run this far, I have never run even close to this fast. My longest timed run, to date, was back in 2004 when I ran 7 miles in the Topeka Tinman Triathlon. My fastest run that was officially timed was a 5K back in May when I ran 8:43 minute miles.
After deciding my first attempt at a half marathon would be the Rock and Roll half in March, I spent a while trying to figure out how I was going to meet my goal. A friend of mine who is an ultramarathoner volunteered to pace me which has been extremely motivating. I DO NOT want him to give up a morning for me if I am not prepared. I think I owe him that much.
I decided I needed to do two things to get faster and be able to run farther. First, I needed better motivation to run regularly. I will not be able to run 13.1 miles without a significant amount of training. Sadly, I am finding it very difficult to motivate myself.
Second, I decided I needed to figure out what stride I will use. I recently read Born to Run, which makes me fearful of my classic heel-toe stride. However, I have ultimately decided that I'm going to stick with the shoes I bought last Spring and hope that I don't injure myself. I will be devastated if I train and get hurt and can't run in March.
I think I have also solved my motivation problem. Last March when Ed and I completed the St. Pat's Day 8K, I saw several women wearing "Moms Run This Town" shirts, which I thought was an incredibly clever name for a running group. As it turns out, there are chapters of this group all over the area, including one in Alexandria / Arlington which has several members within a few blocks of me. Last Friday, I joined 7 members at the high school track a few blocks away at 5:45 and ran 4 miles. On Saturday, another member of the group met me at 6:00 AM, took me on a 4.5 mile run, running 8 minute miles the whole way. Both times, the women I have been with have been an amazing source of support.
I'm starting to believe I'm going to meet my goal. And I already love these women who pass me on the track with their words of encouragement, and give me that extra bit of motivation to get out there and train.
I know this is on the wrong day, but time got away from me last night and I did want to post an act of love for November 23.
Before Ed and I had children, we enjoyed cooking. We regularly would spend a fair amount of time just to prepare a nice dinner.
We don't cook elaborate meals very often these days. Mostly, it's because our schedules have shifted so much. Dinner happens at 5:30 and if we miss it then - the next best time is around 8:30 when the kids are asleep. I can't eat that late without consequence. And, even if I am rocking it and able to throw something nice together for the 5:30 dinner bell, at least one - possibly two eaters are likely to have negative feedback for me. It doesn't make cooking that pleasant.
A few months ago, a friend came over with her boyfriend and he literally kicked Ed and me out of the kitchen and set to work making an amazing meal as we wound down the evening with the kids. Then we had a lovely evening on the deck, which provided the inspiration to reignite supper club.
And so it is, that we now gather regularly with friends and share stories, food, and much laughter. It's a reminder that cooking can be a great show of love.
Thank you, friends. I think these dinners mean more to me than anyone else.
Helen loves playing the role of mom. She told me a few weeks ago that when they play family at school she always wants to be the mom. Why? Because the mom is the one who gets to boss everyone else around. My response? That's why I love it, too.
Out of class, Helen also likes to be a little mom. Today we met friends from school at the playground and one of her classmate's little brothers was there. Helen and her friend G. could not mother that kid enough. According to Helen, it was crazy on the tennis court, so she and G. made sure S. was safe. They told the other kids to give him some space.
They also practiced picking him up, and when G. did what Helen thought was a particularly dangerous move, Helen ushered S. away from her so that he didn't try and do it, too.
She really does love little kids.
She also loves bossing people around.
P.S. It's not that no acts of love happened yesterday. It's just that I failed to record any of them early in the day and I was at Stephen Kellogg's "All Love, Future's Bright" tour. Not only did Ed and I arrive early enough that we were standing on the rail at the 9:30 Club, we stayed until the very end of the show. I was considering trying to snag the set list off the stage, but lucky for me, a drunk next to me decided to do this first. It's rather impressive how quickly 9:30 Club security can descend on an area, get the set list out of a drunk person's hand, and prevent any further ruckus. I would not have had the explanation of being drunk, so I'm very thankful for whatever voice in my head prevented me from pulling the move first.
I have grown to understand that there are "pet people" and there are "not pet people". My feet are firmly planted in the second group, though I think I understand at least a little bit about people in the former group. It seems everyone around me (outside my immediate family) is a "pet person". They all have dogs, cats, or sometimes even both. I'm afraid of cats and I'm confident they would ruin the sheer curtains in my home, so I have never even seriously considered acquiring one. Occasionally, I think I should get the kids a dog, because admittedly, they bring a lot of joy into the house.
But along with that joy? It absolutely overwhelms me to think of remembering to buy food, take a walk, feed the dog, get the dog clean water, hire someone to take care of the dog when I'm out of town, etc. And as I was reading "Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Man", I think I finally realized that dog people don't think at all about what I see as major inconveniences.
Instead, dog people think about the unconditional love from a pet, the satisfaction of fulfilling a need, the getting out int he neighborhood and finding new purpose. This still astounds me. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about how I view a lot of things through a lens of "how inconvenient is this?". And it strikes me that although time pressure is probably the thing that haunts me most, it's probably not the healthiest lens to view things through.
And so, in honor of McGrory and all the dog lovers out there, I'm going to try changing how I prioritize considerations of new things. I'm going to move up the value of possible adventure and love in my decision tree. Or at least I'm going to try! But no, I will not be running out to purchase a dog, or a rooster, or a cat, or...