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The days are long…

7811_10151515238697149_1930052226_nMy Facebook and Instagram feeds are overflowing with proud faces, all basking in the glow of cap and gown, pomp and circumstance, diploma and accolade that come with graduation. Pre-K graduation. Yes, those little 4 and 5 year olds are about to embark on the real world and take the place by storm.

It won’t be long before those little ones are smelling up the house with their pre-pubescent funk – of the physical and emotional variety. And then the next thing you know, they are asking for the keys to the car and negotiating curfew. Then in a blink of an eye you are on a college tour and wondering how on earth the adult giving the tour hasn’t graduated from college yet since he seems closer to your own age than that of your child, who just graduated from Pre-K, didn’t she?

Yes, the days are long and the years are short. I would say cherish every moment of them.

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Two of my favorite little Pre-K grads.

But, I would also say don’t let anyone make you feel anything but justified for those moments when you wish your fairy godmother would sweep in and work some magic  to-just-get-through-one-more-day. Let’s be real. Even one more minute would be helpful.

 

Hang in there, mommas. You got this.

 

Mourning the loss

Our community has been shaken this week by the tragic and sudden loss of one of our young people in a car crash that took the lives of three others and has left another in critical condition.  Along with our loss, there are three other communities like ours grieving and another praying like their own life depended on it. And we all fall under an umbrella that binds us together – a university community of which these girls were a part. The circle of grief seems to be ever growing, welcoming us all in. 

Knowing that each of these young women is someone’s baby girl, someone’s childhood friend, someone’s sister, someone’s confidant and late night fast food companion, only widens the circumference to an incomprehensible proportion. Losing someone at such a young age and in such a sudden way feels almost surreal. Multiplying that by 4 only complicates our ability to grasp what is happening.  

I’m no expert on grief, but I do find myself in the middle of it on a regular basis. Part of what I do for a living is walk with people in and through their grief. I offer words of comfort and hope. I provide a shoulder to cry on and sometimes a target to rail at. And one thing I do know is that we grieve not only over the loss of a person, but we grieve over all the intangibles. Without warning that circle of grief turns into an monstrous Venn diagram. 

When I suffered a miscarriage early in a pregnancy, I mourned not only the loss of a child. I mourned the plans that we had begun to make. I mourned the idea of having two children. And even mourned the thought that pregnancy was easy for me. You understand. Anyone who has gone through loss – whether it be loss of life, loss of a job, loss of something else – you know that loss is greater than what others may see. The loss permeates the very air you breathe. 

And so today, we mourn. We mourn a young woman who was kind, funny, faithful. We grieve the loss of her gregarious smile and we mourn the way her eyes squinted so adorably when she did it. There is a loss of who she was in the circle of life and we mourn what that means for her family.

And as we struggle with the acute loss of that precious life, we begrudgingly recognize that we have more mourning to do. The loss of security, control, protection, invincibility. The loss of innocence and independence. The loss of the future looking the way we planned. The list could go on. 

I guess what I’m saying is let’s be gentle with one another in these days, recognizing that we – all of us – mourn the loss in some way. The beauty and tragedy of our humanity is that somewhere our circles intersect. May God give us the strength and courage to hold the pieces of each other’s hearts together even as our own may be breaking. 

Blame it on the rain? I wish.

Life in the fast lane.

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Blame it on the rain? I wish.

 

I don’t race you. I race me.

Oh, wait. Let’s be honest. If you come up out of nowhere and try to pass me at the finish line – the race is on. Just ask my best running buddy. She will tell you that its all fun and games until that moment. A character flaw on my part? Perhaps. But 99% of the miles, it is just between me and whatever crazy goal I have gotten into my head about how fast (or slow, as the case may be) I would like to finish any given race.

Sometime last summer, I was coaxed into running the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon by my buddy, Julie of Run. Walk. REPEAT. Julie is an ambassador for the race and she assured me that there it was a flat and fun course and the race wasn’t until April so I had plenty of time to prepare. She had me at flat. You see, that’s when the “PR POSSIBLE” (that’s personal record, not public relations) fireworks went off in my head! I registered immediately.

Now, here’s the thing. When one decides that they would like to run a race for a personal record, one should train with that PR in mind. Am I right? Or let me rephrase that. One should train. Period.

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For half the race, these were my people, but alas…

It’s not like I didn’t train. I just didn’t train enough – far enough, fast enough, enough enough. Something about it being our busiest season at work. Something about taking a 10 day european vacation with my daughter. Something about it being cold. Or rainy. Or the barometric pressure was too high or too low or something. Or something about something. You get the picture.

Long story short. I ran the race. It was indeed a flat and fun course. But all those “somethings” came back to taunt and haunt me while I was out there on that flat and fun course. I would love to blame my virtual collapse at mile 8.5 on the humidity that day (in my defense, it was brutal), but I have no something to blame but myself when I crossed that finish line almost 3 minutes behind my PR rather than 3 minutes ahead of it.

finish

This picture tells it all.                    It was rough.

Yet, like every good little runner does, I’ve gotten up. Brushed off my Mizuno Wave’s. Put on my favorite “fast” shorts.  And asked Jeff Galloway for some advice on how to run a little faster next time I decide that a PR is in my future…which, let’s be honest, is probably the next race I register for because I am, after all, my own best competitor.

Here’s what Jeff has to say about running faster!

FAST AND FUN—It’s a state of mind

Why is running faster a good thing?  Short and fast segments not only help you run faster in races.  If you run a few faster segments each week you can improve your running efficiency while receiving a better attitude boost.

How long should you be running before you add some faster running in?  After 2-3 months of regular running some short accelerations can be added with minimal risk of aches and pains.

Is it possible that running fast can actually be fun?  Yes.  The secret is be creative and limit the length of the fast segment at first.

How often should you run fast? Playful speed can be done once or twice a week.

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One of the bright spots on the course! She was an awesome chEARleader!

Four Faster, Fun Workouts
1. Speed play that you can do on your own. ACCELERATE AND GLIDE.  After an easy 10 minute warmup of slow running, pick up the pace for 10 steps, then coast off the momentum for 10-20 steps.  Don’t be obsessed about the number of steps as this is just a guideline.  Don’t sprint–be playful.  Gradually pick up the pace, and then glide back down to a jog.  Repeat 2-3 times on your first attempt, and take a one minute walk break.  Each week you could increase the number of accelerations as you wish, with a recommended walk break of 1-2 minutes between each.

1. Speed play you can do with one friend—CHASE game.  After an easy 5 minute jog together, one person takes the lead.  As the leader changes the pace (speeding up, then slowing down, speeding up) the follower tries to stay close but not pass.  After 3-5 minutes, take a 1-2 minute walk break and repeat with the other runner leading.  Repeat as many times as desired.

2. Speed play you can do with two friends—SURPRISE game. Following the same format as game 1, the follower tries to surprise the leader by passing gently but quickly.  While there should be no sprinting, it is OK to run fast for 10-30 steps to pass.

3. A speed play workout you can do with three or more friends— FOLLOW the LEADER RUNNING.  The group is running single file for a minute or two at an easy pace.  Then, the last runner, passes all of the other runners and takes the lead for a minute or two.  The current leader sets the pace, and takes a walk break.  When the running resumes, the last runner starts to move to the front.  Each runner gets to take the lead at least once in this game.

*I’m honored to be a part of the Galloway Blogger program. They provide tips for bloggers like me to share. Go check out the Jeff Galloway Official Website and find out more about the man and program that got me running and keeps me going!

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When did this happen?

There are people who know you better than you know yourself. You know those people, right? A best friend, a longtime co-worker, a spouse or other family member. You know who your people are.

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These nuts are a few of “my people.”

I have just begun to realize that my daughters have become two of “my people.” I knew it was bound to happen. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. And I didn’t think they would realize it was happening before I did.

I’m one of those people to my mom. Or at least I think I am. I remember riding in the car with her on the way to drivers ed. It was before school, early enough for her to drive me on her way to work which was a rarity. Maybe that’s why it sticks in my memory or maybe it was the conversation. My mom is a saint and she never gives herself enough credit for being the amazingly strong person that she is.

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Me & my Mom at Disneyland. My love of Disney comes honestly.

So, in this conversation that dark morning, my mom said something like, “I should have done…” It was an expression of regret about something. I don’t remember what that something was, I just remember that she thought she “should have” done something else. And, in the wisdom of a snotty nosed 14 year-old, I remember almost yelling at her, “Shoulda, woulda, coulda, whatever! Just do it!” Seriously, I was so smart wasn’t I? But somehow I knew that my mom was capable of much more than she thought she was.

Though I was a complete jerk at the time, it is that conversation that has helped me as an adult to understand my mom better than she understands herself. It took me a long time to realize that I had insight to her that she didn’t even have of herself – that she should be more forgiving of herself, for one thing. I wish I’d realized this before I hit adulthood because I’m pretty sure that would have made me a better person – at least a better daughter.

Fast forward to my own girls. There is nothing like traveling together to help you get to know someone better. My oldest and I have had the privilege of doing that a lot lately. And I realize that she knows a lot about me – the good, bad and ugly. And she usually smiles about it when she points it out. For instance, she knows what will set off my tactile defensiveness and she seems to be completely intrigued by this crazy part of me. She knows that I have a bizarre fascination with how things work and why people do what they do.

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One of my favorites. Warms a momma’s heart.

And my younger daughter, well she shows serious signs of getting me, too. Just yesterday, she turned to someone and said she “needed a Dr. Pepper” and that she realizes why I “need” one when I do and she said it in such a way that it warmed my heart.  She understands why I go nuts when someone does a bad parking job. And this girl understands exactly how to make me run faster at the end of a race.

And yes, they both know what makes me use curse words – which is probably not the reasons you may be thinking. They know that I could easily cry at the drop of a hat and I’m pretty sure they know why I usually don’t succumb to the urge to do so. They are beginning to get me better than I get myself – and most days I need that kind of understanding from people in my life. Who doesn’t? 

When did this happen? I’ll admit it is a bit sobering because it means that they are growing up. And I guess that it also means that we will figure out this whole “adulting” thing together.  I thought they would have to drag me kicking and screaming to this season of life, yet I think I’m ok with it. So, let’s do this…but let’s take our time, shall we?

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Deciding who wins.

Our family has always held travel – everywhere from other parts of our state, to developing countries, to the “great sites” of the world – as one of our core values. Travel may seem like an elitist thing to value. And maybe it is. We don’t take for granted that we have the resources and opportunity to travel that11885325_10153195094177149_4024024933767817571_n not everyone has. Yet, seeing how the rest of the world lives, meeting people from around the globe, and debunking the “ugly American” stereotype (or at least we try our best to do so!) are ways that we can make a difference in the world.  Again, I hear it. There is some sense of pretentiousness to it.

Our hope is that through travel, our daughters will grow to have a different view of the world than they would otherwise. Though the world seems small the moment a pop up on our cell phones notifies us of explosions in Brussels just minutes after they happen, the reality is we inhabit a world full of variety, disparity and vastness. It may sound trite, but it’s a big world and it is difficult to understand this big world and its people if we stay in our cocoon and never spread our wings to explore it.

Over the last 24 hours, I’ve read and listened to conversations about the risk of international travel. I’ve had friends who have asked if we want our daughter who is studying abroad to hurry up and come home or if our younger daughter is still making her trip to Europe next week. I’ve been asked if I am worried. Yes, I am. But not so much for my daughters’ safety. I’m worried about us. All of us. I’m worried that we will give in to fear and in so doing, we decide who and what wins. And it isn’t us.

Here’s the deal. Yesterday morning, just as news of the second explosion in Brussels came in, I was boarding a flight to Paris on my way back to the US after visiting our daughter who is studying abroad. At the same time I was boarding my flight, I learned that my husband was involved in a road rage incident that involved a man waving a gun at him and at someone in another car –  less than a mile from our home in our little suburban neighborhood. Terror can strike anywhere and in many forms.

Both of these incidents are incongruent with our view of how the world should be. These events fly in the face of all that we hope to teach our girls through travel.  It seems we have been confronted with the need to make an unwelcomed choice.  And so, though we are not risk takers, we have made the decision to do our best to not live in fear and to not let terror – at home or abroad – have the final say. I don’t know. Maybe we are foolish, but something tells me this is about more than our personal safety.

Of course, we all have to make our own decisions about where we have to draw our own boundaries and we must respect and encourage one another in the process. But make no mistake about it – we get to decide who wins. My hope is that we can all be bold enough to help each other be brave in the midst of all that world might hurl at us. I feel like we owe it to our children and to the world.

I’ll have cows with lunch.

I'll have cows with my wine.

I’ll have cows with my wine.

Have you had one of those moments, I don’t know what they call it, but I know it must have a technical name. That moment when something or someone reminds you so distinctly of something or someone else that you can almost feel it – like deep inside your bones, straight to your core, mind-blowing FEEL IT?

It is more than this “gift” that my youngest born and I share. I think that thing is called “olfactory memory.” When you smell something and it reminds you of something else. My daughter smells a certain smell and immediately thinks of specific places in Walt Disney World. I smell bacon and I’m a 3 year-old transported to my grandmothers black and white kitchen, standing behind my mom, hugging her legs and tracing the yellow patterns in the red carpet with my eyes. Yes, my grandmother was an avant-garde decorator in her day.

But this feeling is more than that. And it happened to me one day in the middle of buying a lunch of cheap sushi in The Fresh Market store.  It was a pretty tumultuous time at work – which also means in my life, because the two are inextricably bound together in this crazy incestuous (not the illegal kind) by the grace of God kind of way. You can understand more about it here. I was feeling overwhelmed at that moment, angry, hurt – and maybe add a little more anger in there for good measure.

And somewhere between the deli cheese and the gourmet chocolates it happened. I wheeled my mini-shopping cart (you know the kind, that is designed to pick up a couple of items, but usually gets so overcome by all the pretty items that are just clamoring to go home with you that things start spilling over the sides and into someone else’s space?) so, yes, that kind of shopping cart. I wheeled it straight into the shins of an elderly woman who was minding her own business nonchalantly passing through the wine section. Of course this led to the explosion of my cart and my overpriced box of crackers ($6.99 for crackers??) flew onto the floor.  I thought I was going to lose my cool right there next to the gruyere.  Just as my eyes went from the floor to this woman’s face I did, in fact, lose my cool. Something about her was my grandmother. Something about her. Something about her made my eyes immediately fill with tears. She smiled at me and then she moved on. Something about her.

Don't hate me because I had a pony.

Don’t hate me because I had a pony.

Trying to collect myself, I jerked my cart to the right and then ran straight into them. The cows. The most beautiful cows on the label of a wine bottle. Would you believe me if I told you that something about them, those cows on a wine bottle, reminded me of my grandfather. You see, he was a cattle rancher. So many of my days growing up were spent at the feet of my grandfather, rustling through fields feeding cows, delivering calves, counting them over and over to make sure not one was lost. Loving these big bovines like they were puppy dogs – calling them by name, rubbing their ears, feeling their lick on my face (that part is a little different than the feeling of a puppy tongue, I’ll admit). And  when I see cows like the ones on that bottle, I’m pretty sure that my grandfather isn’t far away.

It was at that point, that more than loosing my cool, I was overwhelmed by this strange sense – this incredible feeling of embrace. That kind of feeling you have when you are a small child and you’ve been riding for hours trapped in a car with your older brothers poking and prodding and wrestling for the valuable backseat real estate until you consider the merits of opening the window and hurling yourself out, but just in the nick of time you pull up into the driveway of the place that is, without a doubt – even though you don’t live there – the place that is home. And you jump out of the car, your box of Lemon Heads spilling out on the concrete, and you run to the front door but before you get there it is already flung wide open and waiting there are the four most best, biggest, fabulousest arms reaching to scoop you up before you can even leap off your feet to get into them and those arms embrace you.

That kind of feeling.  Just from an old woman who sacrificed her shins and some cows on a wine bottle at The Fresh Market. And let me tell you. That is exactly what I needed to feel.

 

 

 

 

A lovely view from Stazione Centrale Ovest. Disclaimer: I took this on my way in, which was a good thing since I had no time for such things on my way out!
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The best ever Italian adventure…Italian trains & the people who ride them

Italy: Day Two
Italian trains & the people who ride them

as of 9:47 a.m.

A lovely view from Stazione Centrale Ovest. Disclaimer: I took this on my way in, which was a good thing since I had no time for such things on my way out!

A lovely view from Stazione Centrale Ovest. Disclaimer: I took this on my way in, which was a good thing since I had no time for such things on my way out!

After a harrowing thought-we-would-miss-the-train kind of morning, we are on the train headed to our next Italian locale.

One of the biggest pre-trip debates we have in our house is whether or not to get the currency of the country we are traveling to prior to departing. I always say yes, especially when you are talking euros. Our local bank has plenty. It’s not like they are Bhutanese Ngultrum (just go ahead and click the link). Someone please tell me when I will start listening to my own advice? I  knew I should have gotten euros because my daughter was out of them (thinking I would bring more!) and we needed them.

I’m not exaggerating when I say not even the pan handlers in the train station will take US dollars. Not kidding. If you want to feel completely awkward, ask someone to exchange a USD. They won’t and they won’t even pretend to not laugh at you when you ask.  And now, none of our credit cards will work in the metro kiosks even though they worked like a charm yesterday. At this point, I don’t know if the cards work at all. But that question will have to wait for another day. Why worry about that now?
So, we ran back to the hotel and asked the front desk lady for the nearest ATM. She said it was a 5 minute walk to the bank. Well, that chick needs to be a professional speed walker because we had to run to an ATM at a bank that was over a 1/2 mile from the hotel. It wasn’t 5 minutes. And, thank goodness I turned my head at the exact moment we passed it and saw it because it was completely unmarked.

You can't miss this. Just pray you have euros when you get there.

You can’t miss this. Just pray you have euros when you get there.

Seriously we would have never seen it. Can someone tell me why every pharmacy in Europe can be spotted a mile away due to the huge, neon, green, flashing cross signs while banks are hidden away like some 1920’s speakeasy?

We resorted to using my daughter’s debit card, which I’m certain will deplete her college funds with the fees the bank is going to charge for that transaction. Fortunately the bank was across the street from a metro station even though the stupid kiosk there wouldn’t take a 20€! Seriously, how do people function around here? Luckily the newspaper stands sell tickets, but only take cash (of the coveted Euro variety, of course). I’m starting to think that the proprietors of those little shops jack with the kiosks to make them not work. I’m considering calling Anderson Cooper to do an exposé on it.

After navigating the metro during rush hour, we got to the Milan Central train station and the kiosk there would not print our train tickets to our next destination. There is a theme at work here.

Milan Central Station. My on the run photo skills at work.

Milan Central Station. My on-the-run photo skills at work.

Thank God (and I’m not saying that lightly) that the Trentalia employees took pity on us and moved us to the front of the long line (much to the dismay of others) and printed our tickets and our tickets for tomorrow. We ran up the escalator and to the platform where our train was waiting, but the train would only open from one side and we, as the day would have it, were on the wrong one. If that train were to pull away before we got on it, I would have thrown myself in front of it.

Once on board, a kind man helped us find the right seats on the train, thankfully just moments before my daughter had a nervous breakdown and just before I began cursing Italy with a string of explicatives that even Scarface would have been impressed by. All with 30 pound packs on our backs.

And now we are sitting in a train car with a couple who are freakishly rubbing each other’s feet. Take that nonsense and your bizarre tattoos (truly, you know, the kind you might get if you lost a bet?) to the next cabin, people. But do leave your flip flops that have a beer bottle opener on the bottom of them – with which he did just open a beer at 9:46 IN THE MORNING. And I just threw up in my mouth a little thinking that the bottom of those nasty flip flops just touched his hands and the top of that beer. Never mind, take those foul things with you, too. And, lady, you do realize that you can silence the sound your cell phone makes when taking a picture of your hubby opening that beer as if it is the first time he has ever done so, don’t you? It would let you be ever so discreet so that we, and the lovely Italian ladies seated next to you, don’t look at you with discontent and perhaps a little horror.

Tortona, Italy. Really a picture of nothing. This is what one does on Italian trains when you want to avoid looking at fellow passengers.

Tortona, Italy. Really a picture of nothing. This is what one does on Italian trains when you want to avoid looking at fellow passengers.

Let’s be honest, the Italian ladies are about to toss their proverbial biscotti into their fabulous Gucci handbags over this whole exchange. But, I digress.

So after an episode of our version of the Amazing Race, we are on our way to Cinque Terre. No signs of jet lag for me yet. Oh wait, unless that is the reason this morning went so far off the rails. I’ll have to contemplate that. The weather is lovely. Wish you were here. 😉