Ragnarian Runner Recollections

This weekend, I took part in my first running relay, the Ragnar Relay/Northwest Passage to be specific. A total of 539 teams participated. Here’s how it works: each 12-person team has two vans with six runners each. (Except Ultra teams, which have only six people to share the running duties, making for more individual miles—hence the word “Ultra”). Van 1 (which I was in) kicks things off. Each runner in the van runs one leg (ranging from about three to nine miles), and then Van 2 takes over and those six runners do their legs. After that, it’s Van 1’s turn again. And so on. Over the course of 24+ hours, each runner does a total of three legs, for a team grand total of 200ish miles, all the way to Langley, Washington on picturesque Whidbey Island.

We met at 4 a.m. Friday and headed North to Peace Arch Park right next to the Canadian border in Blaine, Washington. Our first runner was to take off at 6:30. As a newbie, I got my first taste of the fun, personality and creativity that were in store for the weekend. Colorful vans, mini-vans and SUVs were decorated and painted with team names and phrases, like “Sole Mates,” “Van Haulin’ – Running from the devil,” “I think I just PR’ed a little,” the Marshawn Lynch-inspired “I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” “Running better than Congress,” “There’s No ‘I’ in ‘Beer,'” “In Pain Since Blaine” and the “Honey Bucketeers.” People were also dolled up in various costumes —everything from Alice in Wonderland to Elvis to beavers—and flashy (think leather, and sparkles) running attire. Everything had a lighthearted, festive feel to it, including the safety video we were required to watch. Runners left in half-hour waves, and soon my friend was on her way. We hopped in the van when she left so that we could meet up with her at our first “exchange” approximately five miles away. This is where she would hand over the bracelet “baton” to our next runner. I was the third runner in our van and thankful to witness a couple exchanges so I knew what to expect. At about 8 a.m. my 8.2-mile uphill run began. A light breeze accompanied me and I was happy to be on the road. Another good-natured yet competitive part of Ragnar is keeping track of “kills” – when you pass another runner. Kills are then tallied on van windows for all to see. I started mentally noting my kills, although they weren’t astronomical.

Our van finished up at Bellingham High School, where Van 2 took over. We hit the road for some lunch and rest time before our early-evening running would begin. I was most concerned about my second leg. I have never run twice in one day. I do not run at night. And I wasn’t sure how my chicken ciabatta sandwich, fries and pint of beer would feel when I did so. It was a warm 76 degrees when I finally set out for my 6.7-mile run. I had one simple goal for this leg: to make it to the exchange by 7:45 so that our next runner —a speedy Ironman athlete — could take off before 8 p.m. so he wouldn’t have to wear safety gear (head lamp, tail lamp, vest). I had roughly 70 minutes, give or take.

As I hit a quiet country road, I settled in and found my groove. I was feeling pretty good. Thankfully, my lunch wasn’t coming back to haunt me. I looked out across the fields, cleared my head, and decided I was just going to think about my dad, since the day marked the anniversary of his departure from earth. A couple miles in, my legs started feeling tired. I was hot. I didn’t feel like I had much left in the tank. “That’s OK,” I told myself. Even if I slowed way, way down, I would make it back in time for our Ironman to go safety gear-free.

Out of nowhere, with about three miles to go, a runner appeared over my right shoulder. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “Someone’s going in for the kill.” I glanced over. It was a woman. Surprisingly, she didn’t pass me. In fact, we fell in step together. We struck up a conversation. She asked if the pace was OK and I said yes. She agreed, and said she felt like she’d started out a little fast.

She was 64-years-old, doing her sixth Ragnar. She’d been running for 38 years. “What team are you on?” I asked. “The Matriarchs,” she replied, a team of women in their late forties through sixties. Her name was Francie. “My mom’s Fran,” I said. We chatted about running, where we lived, and our families. She said she used to run with her husband but his knee started giving him trouble so he biked. Her GPS watch beeped in the background. I felt myself slow down a little. “You can go on if you need to,” I assured her. “I’m afraid I’ll get discouraged if I don’t stay with you,” she answered. I smiled, thankful and relieved—I felt the same. We continued on, the watch beeping, more time passing. True to her team name, she was a comforting presence. Maybe there was something about the peaceful setting that prompted me to share.

“My dad passed away four years ago today,” I said, my voice catching. She expressed sorrow and understanding. I could hear the strength, wisdom and compassion in her voice: “It’s so hard to lose a parent.” She talked about losing her dad; we talked about loss for a little awhile. Another beep. A few minutes later she announced “We’re gonna finish this thing together, holding hands.” I was moved by the thought. Actually, I could think of nothing better.

We turned right on Fir Island Road and ran single file across the South Fork of the Skagit River. She looked back to see if I was still behind her. As the sunshine blazed in the distance, behind the small white building of Fir Conway Lutheran Church — with its cross set beautifully against the golden sky — the Matriarch took my hand in hers and we raised them together triumphantly, in celebration.

Of running.

Of accomplishment.

Of dads.

I suppose as I went into Ragnar weekend I expected things like painted vans, goofy team names, new friends, camaraderie, kills, lots of laughs and questionable digestion.

But I could not have imagined that in the midst of all of that, along a quiet country road, a Matriarch would find — and run alongside — a girl remembering her dad, and take hold of her hand.

Impressions From A Fifth Grade Camp Chaperone

IMG_sunset

119 students.
34 chaperones.
10 groups.
6 school buses + 6 YMCA buses.
2 ferry rides.

One amazing experience.

Last week I had the pleasure of serving as a chaperone for my son’s Fifth Grade camp. While Fifth Grade camp was not something I did as a youngster in California, it seems to be a tradition that many have experienced here in Washington. As the time drew near, I was excited for mainly two things: to bunk with twelve other females for girl talk and giggling, and to have a break from cooking as I enjoyed five meals prepared in the camp kitchen.

We set out early Wednesday morning via school bus and headed northwest approximately fifty-two miles to the Anacortes ferry. The buses dropped us off and soon the ferry cruised through the breathtaking San Juan Islands. The ferry ride alone is one that’s often sought out by tourists. As we made our way through, the overcast sky turned blue and sunshine warmed us, and, thankfully, decided to stick around for the rest of the trip. After quick stops at Lopez and Shaw Islands, we arrived at our final destination, Orcas Island. YMCA buses took us to what was to be our home for two nights, Camp Orkila. The 280-acre camp is on the northwest side of the island facing Canada. In fact, it’s so close, some of us got “Welcome abroad” text messages from our cell phone carriers as we arrived. We were greeted by a lively young director named Tim, who, with his deep DJ-like voice, welcomed us and rounded up kids for their orientation and ushered chaperones off for a separate one. We unloaded gear in our cabins and began one of the many activities that would pack our schedule for the rest of the week.

We started with team-building, getting-to-know-you-type games and then moved into engaging and entertaining educational activities, like beach walks (to discover sea creatures and marine life), habitat hikes through the forest (where students learned through a team game about the life cycles of salmon berries, bunnies and hawks), practiced outdoor living skills (building a fire, not leaving a trail), climbed a high ropes course, and built a geodesic dome with logs and ropes. Enthusiastic, knowledgeable, college-age Y leaders – who’ve studied marine biology and other environmental subjects – guided the students through these activities. The late afternoon Open Rec time included an array of activities, like row boats, gaga ball, an art studio and archery.

I found myself in awe much of the week. In large part, at the time and effort of the five-person Fifth Grade teaching team and the preparation and organization required to make the trip possible: the fundraising opportunities, the parent chaperones, the handcrafted name tag medallions for each child, the tie-dyed t-shirts that each camper made for the trip, the transportation logistics, the cabin assignments, the freshly-brewed hot coffee each morning. To think of the dedication and commitment of these teachers – to make this memorable trip happen for students whose Elementary school days are drawing to a close – simply bowled me over. As a parent, my heart was bursting with gratitude for the experience that they created for my son – and for so many others, some of whom had never been on a ferry or in a row boat.

And then there were the behind-the-scenes happenings that moved me. The girl who declared with self-assured pride and a sense of accomplishment – after walking several miles throughout the day to the various activities at upper and lower camp, along the beach and in the forest: “It’s the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.” The boy whose challenge for himself was simply to climb up the tree at the high ropes course. Yet once he did that, he got a boost of confidence and traversed the whole way across between two trees, about 25 feet in the air, beaming. The girl who was so homesick that she shed tears both nights, but worked through it with the support of her teacher and cabin mates. The boys who ran around at dusk with flashlights that glowed like fireflies, goofing off in an open meadow. The girls who threw rocks in the ocean, singing the brand-new camp song “boom, chicka boom….”

The boys’ 9 p.m. “shower party.”

The girls braiding lanyards.

I simply soaked it all in and – with great appreciation – watched as they made lasting memories.

Skits, games, songs, KP duty.

Friendship.

And two of the most magnificent sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Fifth Grade camp was more than I could’ve imagined.

The time came for our final meal Friday morning. The YMCA staff passed out postcards for the kids to fill out and gave them a before-and-after writing prompt. With permission, another chaperone and I perused some of the thoughts shared. One of the girls in our cabin penned:

Before camp, I thought it would be scary without my family.
After camp, I know that friends are family, too.

With a lump in my throat, I realized that one sentiment probably summed up the feelings of many of the kids in that dining hall.

In approximately 105 days these 119 students will step foot into Middle School.

Before camp, I thought it would be scary without my family.
After camp, I know that friends are family, too.

Is there a better way to send them off?

Thank you, teachers.
Thank you, Camp Orkila.

The Case Of The Iron Gut & A Runner’s Perspective

For the second time since I’ve been the lone female amongst three males in the house, the stomach flu has bypassed me. While my boys and husband have retched, heaved and bolted to the bathroom, I’ve been left relatively unscathed. Sure, I’ve been a bit headachy, had an appetite for crackers, etc, but overall I’ve felt good. However, it has not left me totally unaffected – in fact, the effect of this particular bug has shown up in my running routine.

In 2013, my sister and I did our first running streak. We ran every day – a minimum of one mile – from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. We both continued on after that, too. At the time she told me of an instance or two when she ran her daily mile in jeans. What? Jeans? “That’s just weird,” I thought. How busy can you be that you don’t have time to put on running clothes? Who, besides someone in an airport, would run in jeans? Running down the street in denim? No thanks. Note to self: never run in jeans. After enjoying the commitment and accountability that the running streak provided, we decided to do it again this holiday season.

Round one of the flu hit last Sunday, as the Seahawks played their home field advantage-clinching game against the Rams. My pale, pasty, puking 11-year-old sprawled out on the couch, covered in a blanket, noticeably quiet. Not the usual officiating that echoes his dad’s, “Whaaaat? That’s not pass interference!!!” Silence. The air was flat. Germs seemed to hang there. Watching him “watch” a game with his eyes closed was torture. I needed to get out for my mile but didn’t feel like changing clothes. Just to the bend and back, I told myself. Who cares? Who would see me? I headed out in jeans and my Hawks long-sleeved shirt. Close to home I saw our neighbor. I explained that I was on a running streak and just needed to do a quick run, hence the attire. “I thought you looked a little less prepared than usual,” he observed.

One mile. Done.

Round two of the bug hit two mornings later at 3 a.m. My six-year-old stumbled into our room with a warning that he felt like he was going to puke. He did. And kept going. Although, impressively, he went ten-for-ten, making it into the toilet or a bowl each time. My mom escaped back to California with only a cold.

Feeling like we were in the clear and contagious no longer, we headed over to my in-laws in Port Townsend on New Year’s Day. I woke up January 2nd cold, achey, and ugh— I was certain it was my time. I rested, refrained from eating and even belted out some “You Give Love a Bad Name” karaoke. I also contemplated the idea of abandoning the streak. I reminded myself that technically it was over anyway, that my sister and I were just the ones who wanted to keep it going. There’s something about ending on your own terms.

As we hopped out of the car at my in-laws that afternoon, I said “I’m just gonna go run.” “What? Now?” my 11-year-old asked. “Yes. I’m just gonna get it over with.” I hurried off, not wanting any time to change my mind. As I clomped down the driveway in my green cords, bright pink LL Bean winter boots and white parka, Rassy yelled after me “You look ridiculous.” “I know,” I hollered back. “I don’t care.”

One mile. Done.

We returned home Saturday morning, after Grandma had unfortunately been making her own visits to the bathroom.

I awoke Sunday at 3 a.m. to find the downstairs bathroom light on — and Mo on the floor. “Oh no,” I cried. False alarm. He returned to bed. “Maybe I just have an iron gut,” he theorized.

Maybe not.

Three hours later, male #3 was officially hit.

That day, all six-foot-four of Mo stretched out on the couch, dozing. Reminiscent of the previous Sunday, the germs seemed to hang in the air. Stale. Sleepy. Sickly. A downer. I sent my sister a text: “Thinking I may not run.?!?”

She replied: “What about a brisk walk? Fresh air will feel good” and then reminded me “It’s a mile.”

Ah, perspective. Already a breath of fresh air.

I put on my running shoes and called out to Rassy, “You thought the other day was embarrassing? Check this out,” and headed out the door in my purple snowman flannel pants, a hoodie, down vest and earrings.

One mile. Done.

Over the past week, while all the males in my house have been overtaken with the flu, thanks to my sister, I’ve been out running —just one mile— in jeans, cords, flannel pants, boots and hoodies. With no embarrassment in the least.

The streak is alive.

As I begin the year in which I will return to New York City for the marathon – my guaranteed-entry for the cancellation of the one in 2012 –  I am hoping beyond hope that my sister will win the lottery to get in – or we’ll figure out another way for her to do it.

Because just when I needed it, she’s the one who…

… made me see that, sometimes, running in jeans isn’t so bad.

… reminded me that fresh air feels good.

And that “it’s a mile.”

One more mile.

Done.

 

 

Say Mohawk: Creativity In The Coifs

The Sunday after school started, I returned home to find my five-year-old and eleven-year-old boys with Mohawks. Not faux-hawks, as I’m accustomed to, but full-on, shaved on the side Mohawk haircuts. I stared disbelievingly and curiously for awhile, somewhat bemused at the hardened blue-and-green Hawks-inspired gel that made strips of their hair – from the napes of their necks to their foreheads – stand up like porcupine quills. My brand-new Kindergartner, who had just three days of elementary school under his belt, sat on the couch with a hairstyle that seemed so grown-up, so Billy Idol or Brian Bosworth, so punk rocker, that I could hardly take him seriously. And then four words flew into my brain:

School pictures. Two weeks. 

I hit the roof.

Then shot right through it and continued into orbit.

I was angry. Mad. Furious.

“I’m livid,” I fumed.

“What’s that mean?” asked my Fifth Grader Rassy, thus turning it into a vocabulary lesson.

Fearing a call from the Principal about the Monica boys being classroom distractions, I came up with two choices: don’t use styling products during the week or return immediately to the hair place and get the rest of it buzzed off. They opted for the former. I solidified my overreaction by continuing to make my opinion loud and clear: nope, I didn’t like it. Not one bit. Didn’t care for it in the least. And I would take them to get it shaved off again before school pictures or they would do retakes at a later date. Period.

The next morning, I stifled a smile as Rassy woke up with second thoughts. “I don’t want to go to school. Why did I get my hair cut like this?” he asked. We talked about having an eye-catching, severe haircut and how people were bound to have an opinion. He set off that morning with his baseball cap on, ready to tackle whatever was in store. When both boys got off the bus that afternoon, they shared how they’d gotten mixed reactions. Big brother’s teacher loved it. Little brother’s teacher didn’t recognize him (I could relate). But by the next day, Rassy had come to a new conclusion: “Mom, you know what I like about my hair? It’s unique. Not everybody has it.” And with a twinge of guilt, I agreed. He then set off for the bus with no baseball cap on.

And so I’ve spent the past couple of weeks looking at moles and divots on their heads that I didn’t know existed, watching beads of sweat literally form on their noggins, observing the temple muscles moving as they ate dinner, listening to them delight in the fact that they look like Seattle rapper Macklemore (which I’ve come to learn is technically incorrect—his style is a Pompadour) and tenderly reminiscing at the faded stork bites on the back of my five-year-old’s head.

I’ve listened to—and watched— lots of reactions. Nearly all positive. Coaches: “Sweet hair,” “I love your haircut – what’d your mom think?” Moms: “It’s awesome!” “I love it.” “It looks great” and “It takes a certain kind of confidence to wear that kind of style.” And with a touch of pride that my somewhat reserved guy would step out with such a bold look, I agreed.

It seems that creative expression has found a new form in our household—not just in the ways I’m used to like, words, birthday poems or the colors of our walls—but through hairstyles.

So this morning they headed off with their picture day order forms and checks in hand. The Mohawk brothers—with their strips of glistening, California-blond hair spiked up atop growing-out, not-quite-bald heads—will be preserved for all posterity, in the only yearbook they’ll appear in together during their school years. And should there come a day when they look back and wonder why, I’ll say—although it eluded me sixteen days ago—with a big, fond grin “That was all you. I had nothing to do with it.”

I’ll also remember what those Mohawks really stood for: brotherhood, uniqueness, creativity and confidence.

No, they still aren’t my favorite ‘dos.

But they brought with them mom’s first big lesson of the school year:
creative expression comes in many forms.

Sometimes in double doses.

 

 

This Is Dedicated To The One I Love

My dad entered the world eighty years ago yesterday. It was a bit of an unusual feeling milestone, the idea of “My dad would be eighty today” or “Today’s my dad’s birthday – he’s just not around to celebrate it.” But celebrate I did, in a somewhat surprising way.

Saturday afternoon, as I unloaded beauty bark from the bed of my mother-in-law’s truck and spread it around our yard, I was compelled, almost inexplicably, to dig out my Mama’s & the Papa’s Greatest Hits CD. I turned it on in the house, opening doors and windows so I could hear it while I worked outside. “Huckster music,” I declared to my husband and his mom. I sang along as I shoveled, heaved, dumped and spread. “Young girls are coming to the canyon….” I talked to my five-year-old about my dad, telling him how daddad blew out his knee stepping down from the bed of a truck like the one we were in. “Was he alive then?” he asked curiously. “Yep, he was alive.” I continued singing yesterday, too. As I drove east to our church’s new campus, with the orange sunrise burning through the fog. “Look through my window, to the street below, see the people hurrying by…” In the afternoon, I took the boys to a nearby lake to swim. Without complaining, they listened to daddad’s music as it played loudly. We discussed “whenever Monday comes you can find me crying all of the time” and how those lyrics are still fitting today, especially when you have to go to school. My 11-year-old even hit repeat on “I Call Your Name” a few times.

I did wear my dad’s favorite button (If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going), handed out some of his favorite candy bars (Milky Ways) and carried one of my favorite pictures of him in my pocket. But mostly, I sang. And thanks to the Mamas & the Papas, I spent his 80th birthday with him, back in the living room of our quiet country home — his joyful presence so strong and close in the familiar songs and lyrics.

So whether you knew Huckster or simply know of him, consider grabbing yourself a Milky Way, doing some Dancing in the Street or California Dreamin’ – and he’ll be right there with you this Monday, Monday.

Training Camp Of The Champs

Summer 2014 recently brought our family a brand-new experience: NFL training camp. Since this year’s attempt to get tickets to a regular season game was fruitless, we were especially excited to participate in this activity to support the Super Bowl Champions. After successfully registering on June 26, we were among the 2,500 or so fortunate fans who were able to head down to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Washington on Friday to witness Practice #7 of the 2014 Seahawks Training Camp (presented by Bing). Decked out in our Seahawks gear, we drove south at 8 a.m. and, per instructions, parked at The Landing shopping center nearby. We soon learned that the whole process was exceptionally organized, smooth and streamlined. We made our way to check-in, where we got wristbands and then wound our way around a building to wait for school buses that would shuttle us to the practice facility. Staff members in neon green t-shirts took charge, as we were quickly herded onto buses and politely yet firmly guided, appropriately enough, with teacher-like directions, including “I need two to a seat” and “continue to the back of the bus unless you’re instructed to do otherwise.”

A few minutes later we arrived at the mammoth VMAC facility which sits on the edge of Lake Washington. With camping chairs in tow, we meandered by tents of gear, merchandise and kettle corn, and food from the Metropolitan Grill. We bypassed the SeaGals photo line, enjoyed an entertaining four-piece marching band and started up a hill to the practice area, which consists of three playing fields in a T-shape. We picked an empty spot on the hillside by a barricade, along the sidelines of one of the fields closest to the building. Before we settled in, my boys went through a bouncy house obstacle course and we picked up an ear of corn and beef brisket sandwiches.

At ten a.m, players started wandering out to the far field (at the top of the “T”), so we watched them walk by in the distance. I soon spotted Richard Sherman. He seemed to be surveying the crowd. Convinced that he’d see the #25 blazing across my chest, I started waving my arms eagerly, like someone flagging down roadside assistance. I was sure he’d see me, and in a flash of recognition, wave fondly and appreciatively at my show of support. Nope. Nothing. He simply moseyed by with his teammates. Feeling slightly dejected, I just stood there watching until Blitz, the mascot, came by and enthusiastically high-fived me, lifting my spirits.

Upbeat music blared from the surrounding speakers, old favorites like TNT, Welcome to the Jungle, Whip It, Working Day and Night. Some Usher, too. In the distance, Pete Carroll hustled and scurried about in his cream-colored pants and white long-sleeved shirt. The sidelines were also streaming with people: men in long-sleeved button downs with clipboards and notebooks in hand. Well-coiffed ladies in flowing dresses and high heels. Local sports broadcasters who said hello to people.

As most of the team ran drills and scrimmaged on the far field, we watched long snapper Clint Gresham (who recently came to speak at our church) run up and down the field in front of us with punter Jon Ryan, who astonishingly and impressively seemed to be able to hold a plank for five minutes at a time. Steven Hauschka, the field goal kicker, also worked out with them.

At 10:29, a bit of action ensued in the distance. Marshawn Lynch, fresh from his hold out, emerged from the far side of the building, escaping the throng of reporters who had been staking him out by the glass doors. He sauntered across the field, greeted by some cheers and some boos, as the reporters, duped, literally ran by with video cameras to catch up with him and the rest of the team at the end of the field.

A horn sounded at 11, signifying the end of outdoor practice (we’d learned on the bus that it was weight lifting day). My boys and I hung over the barricade as players walked by, on their way to the weight room. Mo soon alerted me to the hoopla on my left: “Russell Wilson.” There, with three Sharpies in hand, the Super Bowl quarterback was graciously signing autographs in his red practice jersey. Soon, he was right in front of us and signed my 5-year-old’s #3 jersey and my 11-year-old’s Super Bowl program. Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Max Unger and Heath Farwell stopped, too, taking time to sign hats, balls and various gear for those who had pens (training camp note: bring your own pen).

We then headed back to the bus line for our return trip to the shopping center, where the driver strictly informed us that he could “have no body parts touching the window.” As Mo and I bumped along on the bus with our hot, sweaty boys we felt happily surprised and exhilarated—after being far away from most of the on-field action, we ended the morning in a memorable way: face-to-face with the Super Bowl Champions.

 

The River & The Great Divide

This one I was going to hide. Ignore. Sweep under the rug. In fact, I was so intent on not sharing (admitting?) it, I didn’t even tell my mom or sister. Unheard of. That should’ve been my first clue.

I’m doing my first online Bible Study of the book Am I Messing Up My Kids? by Lysa TerKeurst. I have my morning quiet time, read a chapter, and study things like working on turning my emotions over to the Lord, praising God and making choices that honor Him. It sets a wonderful tone for my day and fills me with hope and affirmation for the mom I am now, and the one I hope to become.

So this time, I figured I’d just keep the incident to myself. You know, pray about it, journal about it, work through it myself.

Just keep it between me and God.

Monday we returned from our family vacation to Whistler. It’s a place we’ve all come to love, majestic in its beauty, a place where I powerfully—and without a doubt— feel the closeness of God. In the shimmering of the trembling aspens. The heights of the snow-capped mountains. The crisp clearness of the lakes. One of our favorite things to do is stand on the wooden bridge over the Fitzsimmons Creek, admiring the water below us. The strength of the current. The booming of the water. It’s more than a meandering creek, it’s a rushing river. My boys also love to throw rocks from the river beds. We wonder about how strong it is. What would happen if we fell in? Could we walk across? Would we even be able to stand? Would it carry us away to the ocean?

Yesterday started out pleasantly enough. My 11-year-old wanted to use a gift card and some of his birthday money to buy some more storage space for his Xbox 360. He was thinking about forty bucks. We drove to the video game store and, to our dismay, learned that a 250 mb refurbished hard drive was $99. We decided to contemplate our options and left. He started to weigh if it was worth that kind of money. Would he just wait til Christmas? How could he download the game he wanted to play with his friends? What to do? Over and over he pondered the questions, and then decided to delete everything on his hard drive to make room for this one game. He sat in the Xbox room, deleting games, as I googled Xbox storage.

And this is where I got swept up in the current of his crisis.

I am determined to find an answer. Solve. Fix. Figure out. Is there another way besides spending $99?

I call the store to find out about using a flash drive as storage. Yes, it can be done! We simply need to format it. It’s brilliant! We have one! Problem solved! I’ve done it.

It’s like I am being pulled along, unable to stop, flailing. I’ve lost my balance. I am swirling in this fierce river.

I reach down to look for the USB drive on the Xbox. I thought my son was still deleting games. No. He’s playing one. His favorite. I jar the box. The disc starts making a terrible sound. Spinning. Crunching almost.

My son ejects the disc, which is covered with scratch after scratch. Rings of them.

“You ruined my favorite game,” he cries. To make matters worse, his friend is there.

I am under water now. I can’t get my footing. I rush away downstream. Help….

I ask him to come into our bedroom.

I quietly try to explain that I was just trying to help. I am seething with anger.

It’s ruined. It’s ruined.

I grab the disc and, like a child throwing a temper tantrum who seems to say, “You want to see ruined?” I bend it in half and throw it across the room.

He collapses against the wall, crumples really, whimpering with tears.

He is on one side of the bed, I am on the other.

Opposite banks.

I am now on one side of the raging river, and he’s on the other.

The water is too deep. Too strong. Too powerful.

I can’t reach him.

I literally feel sick. What have I done?

He returns to his friend. I soon hear them laughing and having fun.

Not me. I’m still sickened.

I look in the mirror and finally—finally—I do pray.

It was one of my lowest-feeling points as a mom.

Which, I realize, is exactly the reason I can’t hide it, just letting it wash away downstream.

As I’m learning through this study, it is through the sharing and talking about—through community—that the ugly loses its hold.

Because just like that river that can pull you under and whisk you away, that’s not what I remember it for.

I remember it for it’s awe-inspiring beauty as we admire and enjoy it as a family.