The Lasts

My enthusiasm for summer break has been slowly worn down over the last 9 weeks. From soccer and tennis camps, to swim team 4 days a week, to a 2 year old who’s decided sleep is for suckers, I’ve been broken like a caged wild animal. My visions of frolicking on the beach with my appreciative children have been replaced with visions of me sending the kids to the first day of school by shoving them out of the minivan and zooming off for a massage, followed by brunch and mimosas with friends.

Following the theme of a previous post, these feelings happen every year. It’s not reality, though. The reality is I want to walk my kids to class that first day.   I’ll come home and do housework, and the house will be too quiet.  Like the true masochist I am, I’ll miss the bickering, and if I don’t miss the older kids picking on each other, I’ll have my 2 year old home with me most days keeping me busy with his very important toddler wishes (read: demands).

This year, something new brews: thoughts of “the lasts.” This will be my oldest daughter’s last year in the elementary school we all love. I remember the anxiety I felt leading up to her first day of kindergarten. She walked in the class without even looking back. I remember making sure my phone was near me that first day because I was sure she would need me and her highly trained teacher wouldn’t be able to handle it. Of course, she was fine. No one called, and she has loved school since the moment she set foot in her kindergarten class.

Yesterday, I asked my oldest daughter if she was going to let me walk her to class on the first day of school. That conversation went like this:

 

Me: Tay, are you going to let me walk you to class on the first day this year?
Taylor: *sigh* Why????
Me: Because it’s your last year in elementary school and I’ll never get to walk you to class again.
Taylor: *SIGH*
Me: I don’t have to. I don’t want you to be uncomfortable.
Taylor: It’s fiiine. You can do it.

 

Clearly, she’s just appeasing her ridiculous mother because I’m raising her with a heaping helping of mom-guilt. That said, it was brought to my attention I won’t actually be able to walk her to class because she’s on safety patrol, so she won’t go to class until after the bell rings. I’ve decided the only rational solution is to follow her around while she’s fulfilling her safety patrol duties while sobbing, and singing, “Let It Go.”

This is just the first of the lasts for her this year. There will be the last curriculum night, last parent/student lunches shared in the cafeteria, last talent show, last running club meet, last grade school field trips, last conferences, and then, the worst of all the lasts, the last day of elementary school.  I understand there will be many more lasts in all of our lives. Hopefully, as my kids get older and we encounter more lasts, I’ll get used to these feelings and be less of a psycho about them.

Please don’t misunderstand…I know amazing things are in store for all of us, and the only way to encounter these new things is to embrace the changes and grow from our experiences.  I am very much looking forward to the new adventures waiting for all of us, but that doesn’t mean I have to love the fact that my kids are growing up way faster than I’d prefer.

My hope for the first day of school is that I don’t completely embarrass my 5th grader, or my 3rd grader who, for the record, also has no interest in me “helping” her to class on the first day. Please send positive thoughts to my poor two year old who, as the youngest of our children, will have to endure the full wrath of a ridiculous mom dreading all the lasts.

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This happens every year

I feel sad.

Except for last year when I pulled the kids out of school early on the last day of school because I was so fed up.  It wasn’t my finest mommy moment.  I was so glad to be leaving that school behind, but didn’t consider the friendships my kids had made and their desire to spend the last few hours of the school year with their friends.  I’ve added that incident to the thousands of other mom guilt incidents I’m collecting in my infinitely large Mom Guilt Jar.

I digress…

This happens every year (*especially* last year).

The anticipation of summer is so intense I can almost touch it.  Every day, I feel great joy in counting the days until I can turn off my alarm clock (there are 8 more alarm clock days, by the way).  There’s tremendous anticipation of no more homework for the 10 summer weeks.  I can’t wait to feel the relief of no longer sleep walking through making lunches every morning.  This morning, I started to make lunch, but gave up and told the kids to buy after I put a Gogurt and then a Chobani yogurt in their lunches.  First, start with yogurt, and then have a little yogurt to wash down your yogurt .  Uhhhh…

Then there’s the other side:  the sadness.  This happens every year (except last year).

The sadness I feel over leaving teachers who have loved my kids as if they were their own is so strong that on the right day, with the right set of hormones mixed together, I could cry.  It is sadness in its purest form…horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach sadness. It reminds me of how I felt when our dog died.  I’m not comparing my kids’ teachers to dogs.  I’m just saying it’s strong. Thankfully, no one is dying.  My kids are just moving up to the next grade, which is a really good thing, but it feels like I’m losing a little part of me, and of my kids’ lives…we’re closing a chapter in our book.  Emily has already asked if she can sit outside her 2nd grade teacher’s classroom every morning next year to say “hi.”  She’s so serious about doing this that she asked what classroom her 2nd grade teacher would have next year.  I anticipate some calls from her 3rd grade teacher about Emily being tardy on a regular basis.  Apologies in advance to her third grade teacher next year.

The teachers my kids have had this year have made my children better people.  They have loved my children.  Their teachers have respected them and their individual needs.  Their teachers have reinforced how to be kind to others, and provided the discipline they’ve needed to grow and learn from their mistakes.  They have given my kids confidence they didn’t have on the first day of school.  Of course, it goes without saying, they’ve made my children smarter.  I have felt this way every year they’ve been at their current school.  It’s heart breaking…or maybe I just need some good drugs.  But I don’t think so.  I think it’s just sad to walk away from something that is so good and right.  No “thank you” is adequate.

Because of last year, I know this doesn’t always happen.  I know not everyone experiences what we have experienced on a regular basis at this school.  We are lucky.  Sometimes, kids don’t respond to teachers, for whatever reason.  Sometimes, the school year drags on because it’s just so painful to watch the disconnect.  Sometimes, the guilt you feel for switching your kids from a school you know is amazing to a different school that ended up being the worst thing ever (there were reasons…not good ones in retrospect…but we didn’t know that at the time) makes you ugly cry in Publix to one of your mommy friends in front of their kids.  Sometimes, you spend a day every week at the county office in charge of school transfers begging them to switch your kids back to their old school.  Ahem…or so I’ve heard.  I know what happens when kids don’t respond and aren’t developed.  It’s heart breaking and, as a parent witnessing it day in and day out, it’s infuriating.

Maybe it’s because of last year that I feel so strongly, and am so appreciative of what we’ve had this year and in the years prior to our one year school switch.  Maybe…and maybe that’s what I get to learn from last year.  I get to learn to feel immense (and maybe uncomfortable) appreciation for people who invest in my children.

This happens every year (except last year).

To my kids’ teachers and their school:  I’m sad, thankful for the gifts you’ve shared, and forever grateful for all you’ve given my kids this year.  Thank you.

 

(On a related note, I think I may really need some drugs when my oldest kid graduates from 5th grade next year and has to leave her amazing school to move on to middle school.  My poor husband.)

A Year Ago

A year ago today, we watched and listened as news came in about elementary school kids who were taken out by a mentally ill man with weapons he had no business carrying.  We saw kids running from their school.  We watched parents bawling, and running to find their kids.   We learned parents were waiting for their kids at a fire station.  We heard kindergarten children were the victims.  We saw a woman losing it when she learned her sister was one of the fallen teachers.

As time moved along, we learned 20 kids and 6 school staff lost their lives.  We heard stories of teachers and kids trying to protect each other.

Then, we learned the names, and we found out the children were first graders…practically babies.  The names of the children lost were released, and we found out there was a little girl named Emilie who died…a first grader…just like my own Emily.  Via social media, I learned one of the victims, Daniel Barden, was the child of a teacher who taught a friend’s daughter a few years ago.

It was hard for me not to think of my own elementary school-aged children, and thank God they were safe and pray they are never faced with such atrocities.   I found it hard to remove myself, emotionally, from the little first grader with the same name as my daughter, and probably cried hardest for her.   It was impossible not to shed tears for all of the lives senselessly taken.  It was impossible not to think of how scared the kids must have been, and hope they didn’t experience pain for long.  It was hard not to wonder who those bright kids could have become.  The world lost so much.  Aside from the loss of life, there was a loss of innocence.  A place children looked to as a safe haven became a place of the worst kind of violence.

I thought of the teachers who died trying to protect their students, and of the teachers who were left behind to pick up the pieces of a shattered school.

I thought of the parents who would have quiet houses, or have to console grieving siblings while being completely broken themselves.

Out of all of this came a need to make the lives lost not be in vain.  Something good had to come from this.  Something had to be done to protect our children.

A year later, nothing has been done.

It’s terrifying and infuriating to me that nothing has been done.

A few days ago, I got a call from the local police department while my kids were in school, and my very first thought was that something horrible had happened at school.  I know my children are in the best hands in a fantastic school, but Sandy Hook was a good school, too.  What happened at Sandy Hook could happen anywhere.  No parent should have to worry about sending their child to school.

How many rounds should be permitted in a magazine?  How many loopholes should be permitted for those buying guns?  How many mentally unstable people should be able to obtain weapons of this sort?  Giving definitive answers to these questions won’t necessarily prevent another massacre like what happened in Connecticut, but complete inaction doesn’t make sense.  A year later, I think of the faces of those lost at Sandy Hook, and I wonder what rights are worth the loss of a child.

Battle of the Birthday Cakes

A few years ago, we started a tradition of making our family birthday cakes.  There was no weird, militant boycott against store bought cakes.  It just kind of evolved because we enjoyed the process.  Marc, who has way too much faith in my baking abilities, usually picks some amazing cake for me to make for his birthdays.  I screw it up, and we have a good laugh about it…or they laugh about it behind my back while they quietly chew/gag down whatever I made.  Marc, who has a realistic idea of his own abilities, usually picks something relatively simple, but makes it delicious and sometimes, hilarious.

It started with this gem a few years ago.  A simple box of brownie mix baked, iced, and decorated by Marc and the girls.  It’s probably my favorite cake creation Marc has made.   Yummy, and freaking funny.  How could anyone not love that crazy business?!

browniecake

Several years ago, I made this rainbow layered cake with store bought cake mix and food coloring.  It was for a few people who were celebrating birthdays close together.  It had five layers, took forever, was really pretty when you cut into it, and leaned like the Leaning Tower of Pisa before it was restored.  In other words, in serious danger of toppling over.  I was teased, relentlessly for this cake because of it’s signature lean (which I may, or may not have planned), and I vowed not to make another cake for anyone but Marc or the kids.

Then there were these things for Emily’s 5th birthday.  The idea for these flower cupcakes came straight from a page in a magazine.  Cute idea.  My execution is questionable.  I’m pretty sure these could have been served at an adult party of some sort because these were booby cupcakes.  I didn’t have time to re-do them (or dump them in the trash and go buy a cake at the store), so I served 5 year olds booby cupcakes.  Mom of the year.

booby

I did these for Taylor’s 9th birthday party at the skating rink.  There was no anatomy lesson this time.  These cupcakes were just cute, and they went over well.  Occasionally, I get things right.

cone

Marc’s 40th birthday cake was this crazy monstrosity of a cake.  15 layers, two different types of icing, and since I accidentally used sweetened condensed milk in the recipe instead of the regular milk the cake called for, sickeningly sweet.  Also, I can’t ice to save my life.  That cake kind of reminded me of Stone Mountain in GA, but without the carving on the side:  not all that high and strangely rounded on the way up.   If I ever find a picture of that beauty, I’ll post it here.

I made this one for Michael’s 1st mustache-themed birthday.  Store-bought mix and icing, and some edible paper stuff I cut out for the mustache.  Easy-peasy.

IMG_4261

This year, for Marc’s birthday, he picked out a cake featured on one of our favorite chef’s Facebook page.  Okay…that was the first mistake:  agreeing to make a cake featured by a chef.  I am not a chef…or a baker.  Clearly.  The cake is called Tina’s Crackle Cake and the recipe and pictures of what it SHOULD look like are here:  http://thekitchykitchen.blogspot.com/2013/01/vintage-inspired-for-food-for-thought.html .

Mine didn’t look like that.  At all.   And, I’m pretty sure mine didn’t taste the way that one tasted, either.  The cake was a lemon cake with real whipped cream icing that had this candy business (the “crackle”) mixed into it.  It looked delicious, and I should have stayed far away from any attempt at making it.  That said, I consider(ed) myself somewhat intelligent—at least to the point that I know how to read and measure crap in the kitchen–so, I went for it.  Poorly.  I bought all the ingredients.  I even bought a thermometer for the candy stuff I needed to make, and felt pretty fancy-schmancy because I was going to be making candy.  Ohhh….ahhh.

This is when Marc’s cake went from a 3-layer cake to a 2-layer cake.

2layers

This is when I realized what happens when you buy the wrong type of thermometer (one that isn’t able to measure to the right temperature) and you guess on how hot your candy is, and think, “What could possibly happen?”  This picture is supposed to be of a brittle candy.  As you can see, it’s a picture of some kind of clear, bubbly, taffy-looking crap.  Marc described this as “candy poison.”  No longer feeling “fancy schmancy” at this point.

poison

This is when I gave up and bought Heath crunch to put on top.  Like the icing job?  That’s known as the “Andrea touch,” which in other circles might be called, “terrible.”

done

Finally, this is when we ate this cake (for some reason), and decided that I shouldn’t have used all the whipped cream icing that was meant for a 3-layer cake for this monstrous 2-layer cake.  Do you like how the cake layers sink in the middle?  I’m not an expert or anything, but I’m pretty certain that’s not supposed to happen.  Everyone said it tasted good.  My husband and children are big, fat liars.

cut

Fail.  Just, fail.

I think the whole, “it’s the thought that counts” thing is questionable in this situation.  I mean, I served my husband a homemade candy-poison cake…”Happy birthday, babe!  I love you thiiiis [pointing to the cake] much.”

For my birthday this past weekend, Marc, who doesn’t have an inflated ego regarding his baking abilities (like some people), made me an awesome lemon cake (store-bought mix) with vanilla whipped icing and sprinkles on top.  The kids helped, and it was adorable and delicious.  He said he had to call my mom to ask about preparing the cake pans, and he commented that it was more work than he’d envisioned.  That said, there was no poison involved.  No uncooked layers.  The correct proportion of cake to icing.  No need for reassuring comments, “It’s good, babe…really.”  It was a win.

He definitely won the battle of the birthday cakes this year (and most years).

Bloom

I’m a firm believer people, experiences, and things are placed in front of you when you need them. These things may not always be favorable, but we’re supposed to process and learn from them, regardless of whether we enjoy them or not. I believe how we choose to deal with our experiences will determine the direction of our growth.

I’ve been dealing with some heavy stuff for a long time, but I’ve leaned on good friends and focused on my kids and training and was managing to continue trucking along pretty well. Despite having an incredible first few months of the year, the months after April delivered blow after blow, and what happened in July put me over the edge.

On July 11th, I was on a training ride, riding a route I know like the back of my hand and at a time and in an area that wasn’t very busy. I was riding safely: hugging close to the white line, wearing a helmet, aware of my surroundings, and in an area where I know friends would be available if needed. I was riding 20 mph and a man in a minivan came out of a business and into the road immediately in front of me. I saw him, tried to move out of the way, but couldn’t avoid the collision. My bike and I flew to the other side of his vehicle. At some point, my feet came unclipped from my pedals. I landed on the right side of my head and the top of my shoulder and braced the impact with my left hand. I felt immediate pain and panic. While I had been riding very close to the white line, I had been tossed into the middle of the road and was sitting there not sure if I could move and not sure what to do. I remember pain, panic, and wondering why no one was helping me.

The man who was responsible for this incident stayed in his vehicle. He didn’t come out to ask if I was okay, help me out of the road, or apologize. He just sat in his minivan. Eventually, 2 people came over to me. One was a woman, a nurse who told me she’d called 911 and asked if I could move or needed help getting out of the road. She helped drag me out of the road and into the grass on the side of the road. The other person was a man who had seen the entire thing. He didn’t stay for long stating he had to get to work but gave me his phone number and a business card telling me to contact him if I needed a witness. Someone else was directing traffic around the accident, and at some point, during this time, the man who caused this got out of his vehicle and just stood there. Never made eye contact or spoke to me at all.

I called my husband telling him to go home to the kids and my coach because I didn’t know how I would get my bike back and knew I was going to the hospital, despite telling the nurse who was there that I didn’t want to go to the hospital. Later, I was told I was making no sense on those phone calls…slurring my words, and sounded confused. I probably had a concussion from the impact. A police officer asked me what happened and after I gave my side, I was put on a back board, and in a neck brace. At some point, my coach showed up and told me he was there and was taking care of my bike. While this was not my fault, I felt guilty. He always tells me to be careful when I go ride, and this day, while I don’t know what I could have done differently, I felt like I’d let him down. I still feel this way. I was sad and embarrassed…and in pain.

The ride in the ambulance and the hospital were routine, I’m assuming. They talked to me during the entire ride. I was taken for multiple x-rays, and a CT scan. I was eventually released. An attorney was called…something I didn’t really care to do, but my mom said it was smart and probably necessary.

My cycling jersey was torn, my helmet cracked, my cycling jersey torn, sunglasses scratched up, and I had pain in my neck, back, shoulder, and hand, but I was alive, didn’t have a broken neck, wasn’t paralyzed, and was able to hobble out of the hospital that day. I suppose I should be nothing but grateful. However, what’s followed since that time has been nothing short of crazy.

The man who caused this accident was cited and found at fault, however he disputed what happened with his insurance company saying I had been trying to get on the sidewalk (meaning, I ran into him and was at fault) and that I hit his bumper and fell off my bike. I won’t go into all the reasons that story is asinine and why physics doesn’t support his story at all. Thankfully, my witness corroborated my story.  I can’t tell you how shocking and offensive I find this. I can’t imagine living a life in which I’m responsible for throwing someone off their bike causing them injury, ignoring them as they lay on the ground beside me (after I begrudgingly get out of my van), and then lie about what happened, blaming the victim. I’m not sure I have the vocabulary to adequately describe how incredibly disgusting I find this. There’s a special place in hell for people like that, and as someone who just doesn’t understand that thinking, it hurts me deeply. There’s no closure. There’s no acceptance of blame. And in their mind, I’m the problem. I suppose that shouldn’t bother me like it does, but it eats at me.

My attorney and the some of the doctors in charge of my care have been nothing short of challenging. I’ve been misled, followed advice that didn’t feel right (which I now feel guilty about), and never felt good about the process. I’ve finally been released from all care but am still dealing with my attorney.

I’ve been told I’m not allowed to talk about this on social media at all. This may not make sense, but between not being allowed to talk about this and having the at fault party denying his part in this situation, I feel completely invalidated. I’ve had people tell me to get over what happened. I’ve had people act like it’s no big deal that I’ve been stuck not training. I’ve had people I thought were friends blow this off like it didn’t happen. I had to cancel a race I had on my schedule. I’ve had people tell me my problem is that I’m not in control and I should just choose to be okay with not exercising and training. While I agree, my lack of control in in this situation bothers me, telling me to just decide to be okay with not being able to work out is just dumb. Training is who I am. Racing and training is what I love. I can’t pretend it doesn’t bother me.

I found myself slowly edging close to a deep pit, and at some point, I just decided to jump in and have a full on pity party. I have slept a lot, eaten terribly, cried, and worked my hardest to try to alienate myself from people who genuinely understand me and care deeply about me. When I’ve felt my work is done, pushing people away and getting comfortable in my pit, I’ve panicked and wanted to take it back, but like toothpaste squeezed from a tube, you can’t put it back. All I can do is apologize, try to dig myself out of the pit, and hope the people who love me are still waiting for me when I emerge. I don’t know that I deserve it, but I know that some of my deepest fears involve losing people I’ve hurt during this time.

I don’t ever remember a time in my life when I’ve experienced anything like this darkness. Today, I saw something that woke me up, and I plan to stay awake. It said, “When you’re in a dark place, you sometimes tend to think you’ve been buried. Perhaps you’ve been planted. Bloom.”

There’s a reason I’m going through this now. There’s stuff to learn. I’ve allowed that man take too much from me already. I haven’t been buried. I’m strong. I’m going to bloom.

Get A Coach

IMG_0746-0(That is not my butt and those are not my shoes.)

Did you wake today with Thanksgiving feast regrets? Are you thinking you’re only drinking water and eating green things today? Do you feel like you should go for a run? If so, read on. If not, read on anyway just to be polite…besides, you can eat green things and drink water while you’re reading.

First, let me say this is not a post about me. I’m going to mention some stuff I’ve done, but it’s not about me. I don’t even post about this stuff on Facebook much (miracles…I know…you’re welcome). However, for the sake of this post, it won’t make sense without some background. If you’ve made it this far, congrats! Keep drinking water and reading.

As a kid, I played lots of sports and because of this, I’ve had a lot of coaches. My favorite coach was my tennis coach. Maybe it was because that was the sport that “stuck,” or maybe he was just a good coach. It was probably a combination of the two. I played tennis in college and had a coach I didn’t love as much, so I tend to think I had a great tennis coach as a kid.

I didn’t start running until I was in my 20’s. I had a job and an occasional boyfriend (not Marc) that stressed me out, and running helped me get rid of some of the anxiety I constantly felt. I ran twice a day, which I now know was too much, but I loved it. It became something I enjoyed for the sport, and the physical and mental benefits were just nice byproducts. There was no coach. It was just me running–I usually ran the same route at the same pace every day. I didn’t know better, and I wasn’t running to sign up for a race…I was just running (said in my best Forrest Gump voice).

Three kids, school, jobs, etc. have marked my running “career” with a lot of starts and stops. Stuff happens, and it’s tough to start when you’ve been absent for a while. This summer, out of a desire to get in shape, and knowing running was something I really enjoyed, I bit the bullet and signed up for a 5k, forcing myself to get started again. I was a hot mess, but with a running app and help from a friend, I ran the race. The training process was plagued with confidence issues and even though I finished the race, the word “struggle” comes to mind when I think of training for that 5k.

Still with me? Good…more water…more green things…more reading.

As I was training for my 5k, a friend (you can call him “Billy,”mostly because that’s his name) was completing his coaching certification through Ironman U. Ironman–as in swim, bike, run…a lot…in the same day…right after each other. Crazy, right?! Anyway…friend finished the certification and is officially an Ironman coach (as well as a pretty bad ass triathlete and the head of Seminole County Triathletes…Google it). I’ll now refer to said friend as “Coach,” because that’s what he is.

After I finished my little 5k in September, Coach said I should sign up for a 15k on a really hilly, clay road in November, and he could help me get there. Honestly, my first thought was he had seriously lost it…he had to be insane. The most I’d ever run in a race was 3.1 miles and this was a 9.3 mile race…on a clay road…with a lot of really big hills. Strangely, he seemed pretty confident in my ability to handle this. If you saw me, I’m not sure you’d have the same confidence as I’m lacking the stereotypical runner look, but he didn’t seem phased by that. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t encourage me to do something I couldn’t handle, so I decided to trust him and signed up for the race.

Can I just tell you—OMG…there is a HUGE difference between training for a race by yourself and training for a race when a coach has your back and gives you a plan with the end in mind. I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start, but each week, I got a training plan telling me exactly what I needed to do. I ran 4 days a week, with 2 easy short runs, 1 interval run, and 1 long, slow run. The runs slowly increased in intensity and distance. Coach checked in with me regularly and listened to me ramble about whatever running-inspired dribble I needed to spout…maybe because he’s a friend, but most likely, because he’s a good coach. He made me take rest days when I got all psycho with the “I-want-to-do-all-the-running-everyday,” business.  He also went on a few runs with me, and he helped me set goals for my race.

I’m not going to tell you there weren’t ups and downs in training for that race. There’s one aspect of training with which I consistently struggle.  I think it’s something that will come eventually and is, partially, a function of being in shape. It was a constant thorn in my side because I really wanted to follow the plan to a tee. I always ran when I was supposed to, but this particular instruction (staying in zone 2…I’ll spare you the explanation) was really frustrating because it was a part of the plan that I couldn’t control as well as I would have liked. I felt obligated to follow the plan Coach gave me, and when I couldn’t get everything right, it really bugged me. I know, for sure, my un-coached self would have thrown in the towel, scathed with self-doubt because of this, but he didn’t let it happen. He was nothing but encouraging and patient with me, despite my tendency to embrace self-doubt and let it take over. He was always confident in my ability to handle the plan and the race in front of me. Honestly, it was the best coaching experience I’ve had, and this comes from someone who has had a LOT of coaches.

So, to end my long-winded message—get a coach. Actually, get my coach. It makes ALL the difference in the world. I’m currently signed up to run a half-marathon in January and a marathon next November, and I’m sure I’ll run races and maybe (*maybe*) a triathlon in between. I would NEVER even consider attempting those without a coach. He says I’m a runner now (which I think may just be an issue with early onset dementia, or something), so my plans are harder now, but I follow them with confidence, knowing the training is preparing me for my next goal.

Let me clarify…he didn’t ask me to write this, nor would he ever. In fact, I have no idea what his reaction will be to this blog…he may think I’m insane…or be shocked…or whatever. Since he’s my friend, I’m sure he’ll forgive me for embarrassing him with these ramblings. He will probably dismiss this and tell me it’s because I worked hard and followed the plan. I’ll accept that because I didn’t make excuses and I worked hard, BUT without the plan and support, I’m not sure I would have finished the 15k on that muddy clay road (so much mud…and omg…the hills) and met my race goal. With the plan and support he provided, I did. Soooo, again, here’s my plug: get a coach. Get my coach. He’s awesome. He coaches all the weird people–runners (like me, I suppose)…and the even weirder people who do (or want to do) all the things…swimming, biking, and running…a lot…on the same day…right after each other. I’m looking at you, triathletes.

See…not about me. Did I mention you should get a coach? You should.

Back to your water drinking and green things eating.

**And, btw, Billy…I don’t feel bad about embarrassing you, at all. Suck it up, Buttercup!

 

 

 

 

At Twenty Years

dad2

It’s been twenty years since I heard my father’s voice. I don’t remember the sound of his voice. I don’t remember his laugh. I don’t remember his smell. I don’t remember what it, physically, felt like to hug him. These things suck. A lot.

I took some of his clothing from his closet after he died and put it them in sealed plastic bags, hoping I could lock up his smell. It worked for a while, but time takes these things, and his shirts are just a reminder of someone who has passed on to the next big adventure.

He was a firefighter and died of cancer, as many firefighters do. By the time cancer was discovered, it had already metastisized. Initially, it was found in his lungs and his brain after he couldn’t shake pneumonia. He was diagnosed with lung cancer. After a craniotomy to remove the tumor in his brain, he was sent home to recover, but couldn’t keep down any liquid or medicine. He was readmitted to the hospital and more scans were done. He was rediagnosed with gastric cancer and we were told it was terminal. That was Wednesday. He died that Saturday. He died 3 weeks from the day I found out he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and days after he was rediagnosed with gastric cancer. That sucked. A lot.

It was a really pretty, sunny day and I remember thinking the day didn’t fit with what had just happened. I remember (don’t laugh) that Garth Brooks’, “The River” was on the radio when I left the hospital. The weather was more appropriate for his funeral–grey and gloomy, or at least that’s what I remember. He was remembered by firefighters from all over town. My stepmother was given a folded flag due to his service in the Marines. I think she was given his badge and his helmet. He left in a little box, under the canopy swords drawn (I think…these memories are fuzzy) by firefighters flanking the sidewalk. There was a last call across the airwaves from his fire engine. I had a goal to keep it together during the funeral and not ugly cry in front of hundreds, but it was too much and the ugly cry definitely happened.

He was 47 when he died. Even though 18 year olds are seen as adults in the eyes of the law, I don’t know any 18 year olds who are truly adults in the way they act and the way they view the world. Most 18 year olds are ridiculous, with the bodies of adults and the minds of 2 year olds. I was much the same, with all the stupid decisions that come along with that age. This is normal, though, and I get that. My dad and I had been fighting about something I did. I was selfish and stupid. He called me on it, and we stopped talking for a long time before he died. We made amends shortly before I found out he was sick, but I never really felt connected to him anymore. I’m not sure if that was on him or on me. Maybe both. I found out later, that he’d completely written me off at one point. Finding out about that sucked, too. A lot. But, I think I really hurt him. A lot. That’s not to say his reaction (or mine) was good or just, but we’re human and humans screw up.

I really wish I’d gotten to know him as an adult. While I know I was his physical clone, I think our personalities would have been polar opposites. I’m sarcastic and quirky, and he always seemed very serious. People who talked about him at the funeral talked about him being sweet, funny, and caring. I’d like to have known him as more than just my “dumb dad” (as I’m just a “dumb mom,” now). I wish I’d seen more of his sense of humor. I wish I’d been more mature, and I’d appreciated what I had when he was here, rather than having to learn the tough lesson that, “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” At 18, I was invincible. Life was never-ending, and my “dumb dad” would always be around–until he wasn’t. I don’t think 18 year olds are supposed to learn that lesson, but I did.

The pain I feel today isn’t the sharp, stabbing, breath-stealing pain I felt at 18, but it’s still there. It reminds me to appreciate the time I have here and to make my life count, and to make memories with my kids they will remember. I don’t want my kids to have the experience I had, but I know, one day, they will watch me leave the earth. I want them to remember the good stuff. I want them to remember that sometimes I’m ridiculous, I work hard, I’m funny, quirky, and caring. The pain I feel at 20 years no longer takes my breath away, but it reminds me of the memories I want to leave behind, and knowing the importance of making those memories doesn’t suck, at all.

dad