100 miles

Lately, I have been trying to do one thing at a time.

Sort of. Well at least less of 20 things at a time. Less texting while driving. Less playing while working. And less trying to improve everything in my life all at once. So, I took a little advice ala Gretchen Rubin and focused on one area or thing a month.

This month’s goal was specific.
Run 100 miles.

And I’ve been a runner for years. Even though that doesn’t roll off the tongue too easily…the “I am a runner” part. Because someone who wears double digit pant sizes and runs double digit minute miles hardly seems to qualify as a runner. But, I have lost count of the number of races I have finished, I’ve taken ice baths and lost a few toe nails…even before this month’s undertaking. So, I’ll say it again. I am a runner.

 However, I doubt I have ever logged that many miles in thirty days.  Partly because it isn’t just me -there are little kids and afterschool pick up lines and getting to work before the sun and soccer practices and dance classes and knees that don’t belong on a treadmill and a husband who needs to log his own miles to try and balance.  I also chose the busiest month of my professional year to try and cram all this in….making for one tired girl.

Today is the 30th.  And this morning at 5:15 am, I crawled out of bed on a weekend when I usually get to leave the alarm unset. Made a cup of coffee. Ate a muffin. Filled up my water bottle. And drove downtown.
I pinned on my bib and finished a 10 mile race. In the rain. That easily put me over the top.
100+ miles.

 Most those miles have been alone. Just me and some good songs and my thoughts, which was probably just as good for me as the exercise. Last week, I got to run a few with my husband while my kids were at church. Shockingly,  I kept up. Today, a little past mile six of my race, the distance started to get to me. My pace slowed and I was ready to jog it out for the last four or so miles. Instead, I looked up and saw an old friend from high school (that I have seen maybe twice in the last decade).  Dressed in jeans, sipping his venti coffee cheering on his racing buddies. I shouted his name and he immediately fell in beside. Running. Pushing me to go faster. Telling me how to pass the crowds in front of me. And he ran just like that in his button down and denim for almost a mile, never even spilling his coffee. Eventually he stepped off the trail at the turn around and told me it was all downhill from there. To finish strong.  And I did. 10 miles in 96 minutes which is flying for this girl who has run a steady 11-12 minute mile for the last decade. 

Over the last 30 days, I have been chased by dogs, gotten drenched, ended up smack dab in the middle of a huge bicycle race, overheated, had a run in with a horse, gotten lost, dropped at least a pant size and worn the soles off my Nikes. Because 100 miles is a lot of concrete. You notice things that you don't normally notice. Like when someone paints a mailbox, good sidewalks, roads I have never been down before. Big dogs and that distnaces between the places I usually drive seemed to get shorter. Feel closer. If I could cover them on foot. Most of all, I have gotten stronger. And not just my legs. As my muscles carried me further and further each day, the rest of me seemed to get stronger too.

Endurance isn’t just for jogging.

 On the mornings after long runs, my muscles would ache. But the good kind of ache. The kind after a good workout. The kind that reminds you that you pushed yourself the day before. That you are getting stronger. And faster. (And probably skinnier).

100 miles didn’t happen all at once. They happened one mile at a time. And sometimes I wanted to quit. To walk. To sit on my couch and cry through another episode of Parenthood. But I kept running. Hoping that when I woke up in the morning my legs would burn a little.

 The heart is also a muscle.
And I am all too familiar with a different kind of ache there.
But what if I saw it a little differently. As proof of working it hard.
Pushing it.
Loving much. Loving well. With endurance.
That my legs and my heart were made for distance.
One mile and one person at a time.

one last important piece of advice. don't wear brand spankin new shoes on a long race. unless you think blood stains are cool. and don't like the skin on the back of your ankles.

My drawers

if you thought I was going to be talking about my underwear, shame on you!
Her son brushed his teeth, and then went to close the drawer. His mom had slipped out of the room to tuck his younger sister into bed. I looked down to see a tiny plastic container with just a few toiletry items inside. I tried teasing him and asking if the makeup inside was his. He giggled and said that it was his mom's drawer. Then pointing to the one on the opposite side was his dad's. And I thought to myself,  no way does this family of four share a single bathroom. I don't even like sharing toothpaste with my husband.

And it had been a good night. An evening spent with an old friend, but to be honest it wasn't quite the night that I had envisioned. I was in town for a conference and she had picked me up from my posh hotel for dinner. And instead of taking me to local eatery and laughing over a bottle of wine, she pulled into her inner city neighborhood. Like my house, there was chalk all over her driveway and multiple scooters strewn in the front lawn. Unlike mine, her car stereo had been stolen 4 times in the last year and now there was just an empty place in the middle of her dash.

I like eating out with friends but I love hanging out on couches and kitchen stools even more. My defining level of a quality friendship has always been, Do you know where their silverware drawer is?? (second only to not having a panic attack if they see the inside of my car.). And that might seem like an odd quantifying characteristic, but if you know where someone's silverware drawer is.... It means you have eaten there enough to get your own spoon.
It had been a long day for the both of us. She greeted her family. And started to cook dinner while her three year old and I did puzzles on the floor. I poured myself a slightly flat soda as we caught up over the last few years.

Dinner was nice. Conversation was easy and I suddenly ached for my own family that I haven't seen enough of lately. Maybe I haven't mentioned this part yet, but she lives in a pretty rough neighborhood in the middle of Atlanta. In a nice neat 2 story home with hardwood floors with plenty of Legos and dolls and a TV my husband would approve of.

In contrast, I live in a home about the same size, far less neat, on a cul de sac in the suburbs where my neighbors look a lot more like me.  We have the same Legos and dolls on my kids floors. With lots of soccer and cartoons on our TV as well.

As far as I know my car has never been broken into. Although, my car is so messy it would be hard to tell. She mentioned sharing with her neighbors. I do too I thought to myself. Although, I meant the occasional cup of sugar. She probably means like a lawn mower. My kids think it is a special treat reserved for the weekends to sleep on the couch. Hers share a bedroom every night.

But these subtle differences didn't speak as much to me as her bathroom drawer did.
Her bathroom drawer made me realize that she was living the life that I mostly just read about. I have about 5 bathroom drawers full of stuff, I rarely use. Sometimes I can hardly even shut them, and worse I often can't even find the one item I need in all that stuff. Old hotel shampoos. Lotions. Bright eyeshadows I will never wear. Contacts from about 2 prescriptions ago and ponytail holders and enough bobby pins to get an entire high school ready for the prom.

She just had one drawer, and I could replace everything in and still have few enough items to stay in the express line at Target.
Less instead of more.
Less stuff. Less make up. Less spending. Less to pick up. Less to keep up with. Less to maintain. Less to lose.

More space. More time. More money for other things. More time playing Legos and chatting in the kitchen.

Less is not a new concept for me. Sometimes I get these kicks where I clean out my closets, I give things away and I stop buying for awhile.  But a month or so later, I catch myself back at Target filling back up my cart. Filling up all that empty space that I created. And I'm so glad I made room.  Which was not exactly the point.

And I'm still not sure how to move my attempts at living a little more simply from a short stint or phase and into a more permanent way of life. But I think it might start with my bathroom drawers.


I have what I like to call an inherited fear of heights. Which means I close my eyes on roller coasters and stay away from the edge of balconies.

I love plane tickets and getting my passport stamped and new places.
"Going on a 'venture" as Tess would say.
But that usually means finding myself at 18000 feet in the air.

I like airports for people watching. And the trapped feeling. That you really can't be doing much productive...so you might as well plug in your headphones and read a book. Or five. Or take a nap on those ushaped pillows that aren't really comfortable anyways.

I do most of my flying alone so there is the topic of seatmates.....
But on this particular flight...my kids are on board and fascinated by everything. The tray tables. The sky mall magazine. The teeny tiny bathrooms. The beverage carts that keep running over my feet. And my son is staring out the window at the wings asking how it works. How it gets in the air and doesn't fall back down. ( did I mention my fear of heights. I wish he hadn't asked that last question!)

The physics behind flight is essentially this.
A difference in pressure. The top of the wing is shaped so that air moves faster over it than the bottom. A greater speed causes a change in pressure. The slower air under the wing has a higher pressure than then air on top. So it pushes up.

Try it. Blow over the top of a strip of paper. Even though you are blowing on the top, the paper will rise.
And you can thank Bernoulli.

Lately I've felt my share of pressure. Of pushing.
And I've let it have the exact wrong effect.
Just the slightest alteration in how I let it hit me, can make the difference in pushing me up. Or pulling me down.

And I think I'd rather fly.

(P.S. these guys were awesome the other night, ben folds five not the fraggles. P.P.S. ben folds five is really just three)

pick up lines

All day I feel rushed.

Hurried. Behind.
Even after the bell. I rush to get copies. To set out supplies. To put my objectives on the board.
And out the door. To pick up my own student.

And I hurry up to wait. In a ridiculously long line that wraps around the block.
The crossing guard taps on my window to let me know that I have crossed the line.
I check my phone. my facebook. my email.
I wonder if I can grade papers. but last time I tried they just ended up all over my floorboard.

I've always felt lost on my elementary son's campuses. Like I just don't know all the rules that all these other moms have been given. PTA. carnivals. Field trips. I show up. but. I don't know many people and mostly I dont even see the point. and honestly they dont even want me. So i stop going, except when he asks.
And then I move mountains to be there.

But the pick up line I have mostly avoided on a regular basis until this year.
My husband drops off. And in the past I have picked up late. Relied on after school care at his school to give me an extra half hour every day to get things done. Shop for groceries alone. Use the restroom by myself.
But. I didn't use it enough. I could save that money.

So now I have my sign to place on my dash. And I wait.
and I watch the bumper of the car in front of me.
And I wait some more.

I hate the pick up line. It feels like such a waste. 20 minutes of my life I can't get back every day. But I figure I can't be alone. Other moms have to be stuck in these same lines. Swearing under their breath too.

So. A few ways to mix it up.
a) chineese fire drill.
b) make up stories about the crossing guard. I have named mine Carl and I have given him a very interesting home life and a criminal record.
c) have a pizza delivered. to yourself in line. Kid picked up. check. dinner. check. two birds with one stone.
d) make a sign with a made up kids name on it. This will really throw the teachers. The gig is up when they issue an Amber alert.
e) turn on your flashers and start honking. this will make you friends fast.
f) fit in your workout. Just get out and start your workout routine. Who knows, there might be an entire class going by the end of the year.
g) play solitaire. And i don't mean on the phone. Have cards lined up and down your dashboard. see if you can get a game of poker going with people around you.
h) dance like no one is watching. except everyone is totally watching.
i) see if you can make a few bucks by washing other people's winshields or selling flowers. Most of these stay at home moms don't make it to the interstate nearly enough.
j) motion for the car next to you to roll down their window and then ask them if they have any grey poupon
k) make it a day in the pick up line no one will ever forget. Call the police to report a stolen car and give them the lisence plate directly in front of you.
l) ask the person in the lane next to you if they want to race. and rev your engine.
m) on the back of your pick up tag, write honk if you have to pee too, or are about to fall asleep, or think Carl the crossing guard is hot and display prominantly.
n)if the harvard baseball team can get over 16 million hits on you tube for their car dance to call me maybe.....you can get atleast 16. choreograph your own seat dance of the day. even better start a flash mob.
o) or be like me and write this silly blog post.

oh. ok. fine. it is catchy. and i'll do the hand motions if you do....

room to grow

My son has been working on it for weeks. Wiggling, pushing his tooth back and forth with his tongue sometimes even until it bled. And I couldn’t have been more ready for it to fall out. His first top tooth fell out about a week ago, and the lone one left was hanging on by a thread. Pointing the complete wrong direction. I sent him to school day after day with this crooked snaggletooth praying it would be gone by the time I picked him up. Until finally, yesterday he pried it out and came running triumphantly to my room before 7 am, tiny tooth in hand. On a Saturday. It is hard to fake excitement before I have had coffee and he has lost enough teeth by now that the tooth fairy is ready to take on a second job just to keep up. And even without my contacts in, I could see the Grand Canyon of gaps across the top of his mouth and I suddenly couldn’t  get enough of his gummy grin. It reminds me of his guy:

And I know that soon, this big empty space will be filled with 2 giant grown up teeth that he will have forever, (hopefully, assuming, he doesn’t take up hockey any time soon). Little kids with grown up teeth look different. Always a little bit funny until they grow into them.

The last few days I keep asking him to smile for me, and occasionally snapping photos. I am in love with these gaps. His grin is for sure the cutest, but when it comes to my kids there are plenty of places that I leave room. I buy their shoes just a tad too big, and their pants a little too long. I know that eventually they will fill them.

 At some point I stopped giving myself this luxury. I’ve bought shoes in the exact same size since about the 8th grade and if anything I buy my pants too small, hoping to shrink rather than grow. And my heart isn’t quite as stagnant as my shoe size or as fickle as my waistline, but I’m not quite sure that I have given myself enough room to grow.

 Those things we all need more of....
Time. Space. Margin. Rest.

 Days on my calendar without dots on them.  Time spent on my couch rather than to do lists or running around. Money left over at the end of the month rather than the other way around. This season has seemed especially busy. I seem to have more work than ever and less time to do it in.  God, who is always a bit wiser than I, left a few gaps. Pried a few things from me because He knew that I would never pull them on my own.

I was not like my son, triumphant over each loss. Instead I grieved them. Whined about them. And quickly tried to fill them with anything or anyone I could find.

But I am starting to see that maybe this space isn’t so bad. That they are in fact gifts. That growth happens in the gaps. In the spaces where we leave room for it. Not in plates that are too full or calendars that are doublebooked or even in pants that are too tight.  And although I’d like to keep all my teeth, I will try to welcome gaps and space as they show up. Understanding, that things will have to pulled and tugged loose to make room. Space created from loss for something bigger and better and more permanent to fill.

 Now, if I could just get the tooth fairy to leave me a few bucks under my pillow….