Monthly Archives: April 2012

Friendly Competition

Our neighborhood YMCA held a Family 5K at 8 o’clock Saturday morning. It was my friend’s first running event and she was doing it with her son. I was doing it solo. My motivation for the day was quite simple: a shower. I wanted to be back to my house by nine because friends were picking me up at 9:45 for a trip downtown. I didn’t want to be sweaty and stinky when they arrived.

The 5K had the charm and feel of a neighborhood run: lots of parents and kids showed up together to run along the sidewalks in the sunshine. Families milled around, chatting and stretching. The atmosphere was low-key and festive. No chip timers, no starting gun and no boom box blaring “Chariots of Fire.” I checked my watch and started to get a little antsy. At 8:10 we were off.

I couldn’t shake the thought of the shower, so I started off at a pretty good clip and kept it up, around garbage cans and parked cars. About 12 minutes in, I saw a boy ahead of me in a brown polar fleece jacket with striped sweatpants who looked to be about my son’s age. I picked up the pace just a little to catch him. He nonchalantly glanced over his left shoulder – maybe he saw my shadow. He did not let up. There was one man between us.

“Is that your son?” I asked.

“Yep.”

“How old is he?”

“Eight,” he answered, confirming my thought. “He’s got a bit of a competitive streak.”

“I can tell,” I smiled. “And he’s bringing out mine.”

Finally, I was able to maneuver around the boy. There was no way I was going to let an eight-year-old beat me.

I continued through the neighborhoods, following the left and right arrow signs, thanking the volunteers in orange vests. A young boy in his pajamas cheered us on from his porch: “Go faster,” he yelled. His enthusiasm was inspiring.

Soon I spotted an athletic-looking guy with a buzz cut, just ahead. We were making our way toward a hill, a steep one that Mo and I used to run years ago. I passed him before we started going up. We got to the hill. It was grueling. I even grunted “Oh, yuck” out loud as I slowed way down. He passed me. At the top I concentrated on picking up speed. Sure enough, I got around him again. I knew I wouldn’t have been that determined if I’d simply been running around the neighborhood by myself.

I made it to the finish line a few minutes later and grabbed a bottled water. Athletic guy walked by me and we high-fived and started visiting. He’s celebrating a milestone this year: turning 50. We talked about running and goals and how events like neighborhood 5Ks help keep you accountable and focused. We did a half handshake/half fist bump as I told him I needed to get on my way.

After being challenged and spurred on by a grade schooler and a grown man, I headed home with a sense of satisfaction, a little ahead of schedule for my shower.

If I Can Make It There…

Accepted.

Total shock. Complete disbelief. I spell the word out in my head as I stare, dumbfounded, at the computer screen: A-C-C-E-P-T-E-D. An affirmative word. The opposite of “rejected,” “declined” or “sorry.” I blink my eyes a few times. Am I really seeing this? I feel like someone’s about to jump out of the closet and tell me I’ve been punk’d. I’m sure there’s some kind of mistake, so I log out of the website. Maybe there was a system-wide failure. Maybe I’ve inadvertently logged into someone else’s account. Am I hacking? I immediately log back in, carefully entering my user name and password. The word is still there.

Accepted.

Right below is my entrant number.

It’s official.

I’ve been accepted into the 2012 New York City Marathon, November 4, 2012.

Quite honestly, I have no desire to run 26.2 miles. I did it once. Twenty years ago. The New York City Marathon. I’ve said before that the only way I would run a marathon again is if I got into New York again, knowing that the chances were slim. I entered my name into the lottery-style drawing this year to commemorate this two-decade anniversary, thinking it would be cool to experience New York again. Running through all five boroughs. The finish line in Central Park. To see what training would be like for this forty-five-year-old body vs. the twenty-five-year-old one. I knew it was a long shot: there were 140,000 applicants in 2011.

The guidelines for entry include detailed application information, using words and lingo that remind me of high-school math (which made little sense then, and make even less sense now.) They speak of percentages of non-guaranteed entries (including NY-metro area, international and domestic applicants), random number selection and algorithms, including a link to random.org.

I submitted my entry a month or so ago and learned the news last night right before my 8-year-old’s first Little League Game. I confirmed the pending entry fee on my credit card. I’m in.

As I drove to the game, I rambled to my mother-in-law. The news was surreal, already changing the shape of our year. Ideas were swirling. The reality that we would be going to New York in the Fall and that my boys would get to meet and hang out with my cousins’ kids. The incredible family reunion that would take place.

I felt on top of the world, like I was walking on air – you name the happy sentiment, I was feeling it.

I excitedly told the news to the first friend I saw. She shared my joy, grinning from ear to ear. She clapped and hugged me twice. I expressed my disbelief.

“God wants you in New York,” she said.

I called my Aunt in New Jersey, my sister, my mom. We were all giddy.

When I got home I checked the website one more time. Just in case.

Accepted.

I thought of my friend’s words and a smile spread across my face again.

And He’s bigger than an algorithm.

A Perfect Game

When we headed South to Safeco Field yesterday afternoon, we thought the big excitement of the day was going to be seeing the name of my 8-year-old son’s elementary school emblazoned on the jumbotron. We couldn’t have imagined that we’d be part of history.

It was Boeing Field’s Salute to Armed Forces Day, the Chicago White Sox vs. the Seattle Mariners. Philip Humber was pitching for the Sox. It was a sunny, gorgeous day, about 65 degrees. The PTA had pre-ordered 100 group tickets, so we made the climb to the upper, upper decks to find our seats. Section 318 on the right field side. More than nose bleeds, the view made my knees wobbly looking down. We settled in and immediately the boys started talking about what treats they wanted. The three-year-old wanted cotton candy. Big brother wanted red licorice. Dad came back with both and a Pepsi for the family to share. I chatted with my friend about upcoming runs and training while nibbling Sweetarts jelly beans. The first part of the game was all about food, socializing and waiting for the jumbotron message. Time seemed to pass quickly. It was 3-0 White Sox.

Finally, at the top of the fifth, the “Mariners Welcome” went up on the big screen and we watched in eager anticipation, on the edge of our seats. I told Rassy to watch and got my camera primed. The names passed slowly, alphabetically. Then, there it was: the name of his school. We cheered wildly and loudly. We thought it would be the highlight of the day.

Around the sixth inning, my husband Mo casually mentioned that the M’s didn’t have any hits. Nor had anyone made it to base. From our birds’ eye view, it was hard to focus in on the action, especially with a three-year-old on my lap trying to cuddle and wondering what other junk food we were going to consume. But I started to watch the game and the scoreboard more closely then. More Mariners batters. No hits. No walks. No errors. No nothing.

The 7th inning stretch came and Musician 3rd Class Alena Dashiell of the U. S. Navy sang “God Bless America.” Huckster crossed my mind. We danced and sang to “Louie, Louie.” The end was in sight.

By the 8th inning everyone was talking about it—not just a no-hitter but the idea of a perfect game. Most of the crowd stayed. Very few left. Three more outs down. Three more to go. We’d gone from cheering for our team to cheering for a guy who was on track to have a huge, rare, hard-to-fathom accomplishment.

Bottom of the ninth, everyone was on their feet. As the first batter got to a 3-2 count, there was a silent wish in my head “Don’t throw a ball. Not a ball, not a ball…” Whew. Strike out. The next batter was a pop up, easy out. A pinch hitter stepped up to the plate. The count again went to 3-2. I looked at the scoreboard, taking it in. Two outs. Full count. Bottom of the ninth. A perfect game on the line. It couldn’t get much better than that. Humber threw the ball and I looked for a strike, but saw a bit of commotion. The ball had gotten away from the catcher and he was throwing to first base for the out. (it turned out that it’d been a strike out but the batter thought he’d checked his swing). Game over. I immediately looked to Philip Humber and saw him collapse to the ground, in what I imagined must have been relief, awe and disbelief. His teammates ran from every direction to dog pile on him. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe what we’d just witnessed. I couldn’t believe I was there. A sunny, glorious Saturday afternoon game in Seattle. The 21st perfect game in Major League history.

We clapped and cheered and stood in amazement, finally making our way to the exit. There was a definite buzz in the air. At the gate, a young man handed us a keepsake coin to commemorate Salute to Armed Forces Day on April 21, 2012 at Safeco Field. We’ll remember it along with the elementary school’s name on the jumbotron. And the 21st perfect game in Major League history.

The Mo Patrol

While I check out occasional de-cluttering or organizing tips in Real Simple magazine or at oprah.com, I don’t find them nearly as valuable or useful as what I already have: I have a Mo.
My husband Eric, fondly known as Mo, is the assault weapon we use to combat the build up of junk at our house. That’s not to say that our garage, countertops and closets are totally neat and organized. Far from it. We do have two rambunctious young boys. But Mo stays on top of things, and without him, I’ll admit, we’d be up to our ears in stuff.

But here’s the problem. His definition of junk can differ from mine. And when he finds something that he deems garbage, into the can it goes. He moves like a phantom, slipping it in, in silence. Sometimes I’ll come across it a few hours or days later and remove it, not quite ready to part with it. There are many times the item almost goes unnoticed. This week, it was a floor mat. Other times it’s been the shell of a remote control car that I just know can be put back together. Or a holiday Santa that might simply need one new bulb.

One time, he found what he must’ve seen as faded, cracked pink flip-flops and tossed them in the garbage can in the garage.

I moved quickly, grabbing them off the top.

“Um, those are the Flojos I wore in college. Flojos aren’t garbage.”

All I could see was the bright pink neon sandals that had looked so great with a toga. Never mind that they were now too small and uncomfortable. It was the sentimental value: Flojos weren’t garbage.

His stealth-like moves aren’t limited to garbage. He’s the same way monitoring DVR recordings. When the “full” percentage starts to creep up into the double digits—hence cluttering up the hard drive—he gets anxious and takes action.

“What happened to ‘The Tourist’?” I asked one night when I was ready to settle in for a movie and discovered that the one with Angelina Jolie was gone.

“I deleted it.”

“But we didn’t even watch it,” I protested.

A shrug and a smile.

Nothing was safe.

Thankfully, I managed to hold on to the series finales of “Friday Night Lights” and “24” for a couple of months, but that’s only because I issued several terse reminders (and warnings).

And so it goes.

He cleans and de-clutters. I get nostalgic and retrieve.

Back and forth, like a dance.

And while he is learning to ask before he dumps (or deletes), I am also learning to let go of stuff.

I even give a shrug and a smile, and leave things in the garbage.

After all, sometimes it really is just junk.

What a Ride!

While this Spring Break has included a host of some of our favorite activities, like the bouncy house, feeding the ducks and Chuck E. Cheese’s, there are a couple of new ones that have made it into the rotation. One of them is definitely going to be on my highlight reel for years to come.

I’d like to think of the first one as a stroke of genius by mom. With an errand to run at the mall, I suggested to my three-year-old and eight-year-old boys that we pop into the Apple store to check out the new iPad. As I chatted with the sales associate—enjoying a focused, adult, somewhat intelligent conversation about wireless keyboards, Apps and AppleCare—the boys stood still, each with an iPad in hand, playing Angry Birds. Not a peep. Not a complaint. Not a “Can we please go now?” In fact, after all my questions were answered —and then some—and I started to feel that we were on the verge of wearing out our welcome, they didn’t want to leave. Perfectly behaved. Engaged. Polite. All it took was two resolutionary new iPads.

I can take absolutely no credit for the next activity, and it has dominated most of our days. The boys pulled the red Step 2 push-around buggy out of the garage. Still often used to push our three-year-old on walks to Starbucks, the thing has definitely seen better days. The yellow hood is dented and pushed in, hiding dried up, spilled lattes. The steering wheel is gone. The dashboard stickers are peeled off. The blue eyes stare straight ahead, into oblivion.

Each day this week, the boys have pushed, pulled, dragged, thrown and heaved it by its blue handle to the top of the driveway of the vacant house across the street and taken turns whizzing and zooming down the 30 degree decline, coasting 75 feet across the street to our yard, as I stood guard. There were many variations. Hands up, like riding a rollercoaster. Off the edge of the curb, for an extra crash and thud. Hitting the curb head-on, diving onto the grass, then rolling and doing victory dances. Shirtless. Backwards. Countless times. Hours of entertainment. It has reminded me of when my sister and I used to play restaurant outside, making hamburgers out of dog food. The creative, fun-filled times of just being together. Imaginative and silly.

As I’ve watched them simply enjoying each other this week, going up and down that driveway over and over again, I know that this Spring Break—even bundled in a parka with gloves— there’s absolutely nowhere else I’d rather be.