Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Birthday 5K? OK!

Remember when I said I hated running? No? Well, let me refresh your memory:

Running: Just (Don't) Do It

I wrote that a year ago, and I'm not really sure what's changed since then to alter my opinion, but nevertheless, I have decided that I have a new goal.

Five weeks from today, I will turn 46.
Five weeks from today, I will run my first 5K.

Now if you're a runner, this is probably no big deal to you. 3.1 miles. Cake, right? Right. But this is the girl who has tried running SO many times, who can walk five miles like it's nothing but can't jog to the corner and back. The girl whose knees swell and ache and who sometimes breaks out in hives during strenuous exercise.

I'm not exactly the 5K poster child.

Here's kind of how this all played out in my head. My friends run. Sometimes they run together. When I walk my dog in the morning and at night, runners pass me and I wish I was them. I'd like to find that nice, easy pace and make it look effortless. I'd like to have thighs that don't rub together and a butt that looks good in those cute little Spandex capri pants. But most of all, I am at a very low point in my personal life where I need a goal - something to work for. Something to occupy my mind and body. Something to be proud of. A competition... with myself.

So I checked the calendar.
My birthday is on a Saturday this year. (November 3). Holla! That's 5 WEEKS from now.
Google "5 WEEKS TO A 5K". Plenty of training programs. Excellent.
IM two friends: "Be honest: Can I do this?" Their responses: "HELL YES."
Even better: "We'll do it with you!"


Next step: Find a race on November 3. THIS IS CRITICAL TO MY PLAN. Unfortunately, there were no races here in town, but I did find one in Bloomington. SCORE.

Here's where the Godwink comes in. The race is for an organization I've never heard of: The LUNGevity Foundation.

In reading about them, I saw that they were founded by seven, Chicago-area lung cancer survivors with a goal to have a meaningful and immediate impact on improving lung cancer survival rates, ensure a higher quality of life for lung cancer patients, and provide a community for those impacted by lung cancer. More importantly, they are champions for helping survivors live longer and better. That's when I knew this had all come together and I WOULD run this race. For Norma.

I WILL run this race. I will run it for Norma, my friend who was diagnosed two years ago with lung cancer. She never smoked, and is one of the most God-loving, wonderful and heartfelt people I know, with family members who I have come to call sisters and friends. Norma is also a fellow writer, so check out her blog at 75 and Holding... On.

I will be blogging about my progress, if nothing else as a means of keeping my eyes on the prize (aka The Finish Line). In honor of Norma, I am going to try to raise $500 for the LUNGevity Foundation prior to the race on November 3. If you feel so inclined to donate and give me a virtual "push" toward my goal, here's the link:

My Birthday 5K: LUNGevity Foundation

If not, a shoutout will suffice. Or a recommended running playlist. Or just honk if you pass me on the road. I'll be the one in the cheap tennis shoes, old t-shirt and baseball cap, huffing and puffing with a look of determination on my face that says, "Just DO it."

For Norma, and for myself.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Busy Trap

As you would expect, I have much to say on this topic. But for now, just read this article that appeared in the NY Times last June from Tim Kreider, author of “We Learn Nothing,” a collection of essays and cartoons. There are, of course, a million reasons you can give as to why you can't do what he does (and granted, he does take the art of "unbusyness" to an extreme), but the few reasons you should are the ones that really matter.

Click below to read the article. Really. Trust me. You have time.
The Busy Trap

Some noteable quotes:

"I recently wrote a friend to ask if he wanted to do something this week, and he answered that he didn’t have a lot of time but if something was going on to let him know and maybe he could ditch work for a few hours. I wanted to clarify that my question had not been a preliminary heads-up to some future invitation; this was the invitation. But his busyness was like some vast churning noise through which he was shouting out at me, and I gave up trying to shout back over it."

"It’s not as if any of us wants to live like this, any more than any one person wants to be part of a traffic jam or stadium trampling or the hierarchy of cruelty in high school — it’s something we collectively force one another to do."

"Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day."

"Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done."

Just food for thought. And a reminder that you'll never lie on your deathbed wishing you had had more to do; only perhaps that you had done more.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tolerance: I just can't take it anymore!

"Tolerance", to me, historically meant trying to live with my little brother without killing him.

Over the years, I've learned it's so much more (and the tables have turned;  my little brother now tolerates ME.)

This observation was heightened this past Sunday as I heard a pastor deliver a message about tolerance during a church service. I have to confess, he talks really fast and he talks for a long time, so I maybe caught 75 percent of what he said, and was in and out of attention for the last 15 minutes or so, watching my children fidget and trying not to do the same. But as most inspirations work, the effects of his talk fermented in my head hours later.

The tolerance he was speaking of, of course, was in relation to "a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry." What I think he was saying was that we should be allowed to speak our minds and beliefs without the threat of prosecution, and should not decry another person for differing beliefs. And of course, he cited freedom of speech, which I discussed in my convoluted way in my blog a few weeks ago.

Which makes sense if you're talking about the obvious superiority of the Green Bay Packers versus the Chicago Bears. See, you have to respect my patriotism of my cheesehead team, just as I have to respect your admiration of Jay Cutler's ability to throw interceptions.

I'm kidding.

But on a basic level, how far do we go? The pastor cited lack of tolerance when a student was prohibited from distributing water bottles at a public school with the verse John 4:14 ("But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.")

OK, so let's change that up. What if that same student distributed water bottles with an anti-Christian message? Do the same policies apply? I think not. Should they? Depends on how you twist and turn and convolute the whole tolerance angle, I suppose.

And don't get me started on the political campaign. I won't even pretend to tell you I'm politically savvy; in fact I'm quite the opposite, and have no business getting into any sort of political debate. But if you wanted to sway me one way or the other, wouldn't you want to tell me how GREAT your candidate is rather than how much the other one SUCKS? Think of it this way. I'm not going to automatically buy the Honda over the Toyota just because you tell me the Toyota once blew a tire on the freeway. I need to know that the Honda is superior to the Toyota, not that the Toyota might be inferior to the Honda. But yet we have to "tolerate" the muckraking and negative campaigning (aka "free speech") that is escalated by individuals' own opinions on the radio, TV and in social media to the point where it is just outright nasty. And as you know, it's getting more and more out of control.

Tolerance. Free speech. They go hand in hand.

Though I agree that we have to be tolerant, I think once again, we're taking that word for granted. Because there is tolerance, we push it to its limits. We say things we shouldn't say, and, in the name of tolerance, demand to be heard. We test the boundaries of what I feel we know in our hearts to be "going too far". Just like playing that free speech card one too many times.

Once again, I doubt our forefathers had any inkling that we would take tolerance and twist and pull it like a Stretch Armstrong doll. And please note that I'm not necessarily talking about tolerance on a global scale, such as what's going on right now in the Middle East. I will not profess to be a political or religious expert and commentator. My point is what I think I neglected to make in the last blog that touched on this subject, and that is that we are using tolerance as an excuse to do whatever the hell we want, then screaming injustice when we're "disrespected".

I understand everyone has convictions and "deserves" to be able to express them. But sometimes, it's all in the presentation, and you can't DEMAND tolerance any more than you can DEMAND respect. It has to be earned. Should we all have it? Sure. Should we shove the fact that we should have it down people's throats by seeing if we can be the loudest and most obnoxious guest at the party? Perhaps not.

Being tolerant means being understanding. Not necessarily understanding, but being understanding. Voltaire said, "What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly - that is the first law of nature. " But by that same token, we should not push the value of tolerance to the brink of disaster without expecting backlash of epic proportions, which to me, negates the basic foundation of the word itself.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tetherball Tales

We used to have a tetherball pole in the middle of our driveway.

It was a big, circular driveway with a large tree smack-dab in the middle of it. The tetherball pole was just to the left between the tree and the detatched garage. I don't recall why we had a tetherball pole, but I remember playing on occasion. After awhile, I think my dad took it down. Perhaps our interest waned, someone backed into it with the car, or we kids just all grew up.

They just installed three tetherball poles at my son's new school and they're a hot ticket. He has officially proclaimed himself "the best tetherball player in the school... well, next to that kid Noah", and it's a mad dash to be the first one out on the playground at recess to get to the "best" one (the one that hasn't been stretched so the ball now lies on the ground).

Because, I assume, that I mentioned having a tetherball pole IN MY DRIVEWAY growing up (how cool am I), my son now challenges me to play him every evening. Though my skills are far from stellar and my tendonitis in my wrists screams obscenities at me with every hit, I gladly oblige every single time. Why?

Because my kid wants to be with me.

Interesting how, when they were littler, I would pray that they would just learn to play by themselves. So I could throw in a load of laundry. Or watch a TV program that wasn't animated. Or go to the bathroom. As much as I loved to look on as they amused themselves, my imagination had long since taken a hike and instead of building some incredibly creative fortress or starcraft out of Legos, I was separating them by color and shape and wondering what to make for dinner.

I remember killing time at the park waiting for Daddy to get home, or spending a Sunday evening at Bicycle Safety Town with just the two kids and me. I recall bundling them up until they were unrecognizable and trudging out in the snow in an attempt to combat cabin fever, and signing up for every story time, craft class and Mom and Me outing in the summer to keep them "engaged" and me sane.

I look back and cherish those times, as I beg my kids to join me on a walk with the dog or a trip to the grocery store. I remember when they were little I'd wait until they were in bed to go to the supermarket just to have some precious time alone. Now there's too many other places they'd rather be than with me. I don't blame them; I was the same way at their ages. But I miss them, and though I'm busier than I have ever been, I somehow have a hole where that time used to be spent that can't be filled with anything else.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why I will always say "yes" to tetherball.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pity, party of one, your table is ready.

I'll warn you right now before you read any further. I'm having a pity party and you're invited, but only if you bring a gift.

Like a tube of silver lining. Or perhaps a small jar of optimism. Or maybe a side of bright to look upon. Whatever ya got - I'll take it.

Before you go all "shut the hell up and suck it up" on me, lemme just go through the motions of letting everyone know that I am well aware of how lucky I am. My kids and I are healthy. I have a job and a home. I have a great family and wonderful friends. And these are the things that honestly keep me from going postal with a sledgehammer - they really do. But really - unless you live on a white fluffy cloud with your healthy kids, house, family and friends, you know there's other shit that goes on in everyone's lives. Not the big shit like a horrible disease or tragic accident or job loss or some kind of abuse. That happens; but that's not this blog. This blog is for the mindless, insignificant shit that makes me cry in the car when no one is around, like I did tonight.

Why it gets to me only sometimes is a mystery to me. Hormones? Maybe. I hate playing that "hormonal chick" card but there's probably something to it. I think (I KNOW) I am inherently a pessimist, so for me to buck up and take life on like a champ is bound to be only a tentative game plan. I give my best attempt at being that big strong oak, but sometimes a gust of wind hits me at just the right angle and my branches break.

It's just that sometimes, life is just exhausting (don't picture me saying that in a whiny voice - I'm really not!) Single parenting is exhausting, when your ex seems to disappear for weeks on end when even though you're divorced you need that co-pilot in parenting. Single parenting means you never do anything - including parenting - at 100%. You just don't have the freaking time. Single parenting means that you are ALWAYS, ALWAYS thinking of parenting in some capacity no matter what you're doing - like trying to work a full-time job and freelance and have relationships and  make sure you touch base with family members on a regular basis all while trying to make sure you don't let on that you do NOT have it all together. Because at the end of every day, there's no one to fall back on. There's no one to pick up the slack. To tag and say "you're it". And in conjunction with that, I'm usually beating myself up over some misstep in my parenting prowess (or lack thereof) that has resulted in my child doing something inappropriate, illegal or otherwise insidious. Which happened times two this past weekend. Ugh.

Sometimes (freakin' all the time, now), life is effing expensive. At 45 years old, I somehow still feel like I am a college student, piecing together enough change to put gas in my car to last me until payday and praying the check I just put in the mail doesn't clear just quite yet. My bad for picking a career path as a writer; it will never be a lucrative one, though it still blows me away that there are non-college degreed people out there who are making four times what I'm making after I slothed through four years of it because I was convinced that was the ONLY way I would EVER make any money. HA!!!!

I'm still paying off my "wedding that didn't quite take" from a year ago that I thought I could afford to front at the time, while trying to be disciplined enough to put a chunk into savings every pay period to cover my non-escrowed property taxes, not to mention dealing with a teenage bottomless pit of a twig who grew so much in the past year that I now have to special-order his pants. To top it off, even though I downsized my house a year ago, my utilities are somehow MORE than they were before, in addition to the the astronomical prices of cable (thank you shitty cable representative who hiked my rate up after promising me a two-year special) and a cell phone (screw smart phones), to which if I weren't under contract I'd throw both right out the window.

Gas is expensive. Groceries have gone through the roof. Every time I turn around there's another expense I didn't plan for - school pictures was today's blindside, as I still try to recover from the myriad of school supplies from just a few weeks ago. And Christmas is less that four months away. Shoot me now, will ya?

I remember sitting in my OB's office shortly after the birth of my second child, feeling overwhelmed and sleep deprived and very post-partum (gee, very similar to how I feel now...). I asked him "HOW DO I DO THIS?" and his response has stuck with me to this very day. He said simply, "You do it one day at a time."

I thought of that again when I was lamenting to my good friend and the cheapest therapist money can buy. I said, "I just can't help but think, 'Where will I be five years from now? I will never be rich. I will never retire. I will never travel the world.'" Her response was, "Hey, me neither. What I want five years from now is to still have my house, still have my job, and have my healthy kids be on their way to starting their own lives."

Doesn't seem like a lofty goal - in fact, it could be considered quite meager as far as goals go. But I've been told by a few influential people that my expectations overall are "too high". I still can't come to grips with the fact that they are. I don't want to be rich, but I'm tired of living paycheck to paycheck. Though I think that my kids will hopefully learn some budgeting tactics of their own through my example, it sucks when your kid comes home from school and says, "My class is going to Space Camp in Alabama in April and it's $600, but I don't want to go because I know you can't afford it." Did I say shoot me now? Shoot me again, please. (And who the HELL takes a 5th grade to Space Camp  in Alabama for $600?????)

I don't want to keep up with the Joneses. I could give a rat's ass about the Joneses. Because every time I sit here and cry in frustration at my single parent loneliness and "brokeness" I try to remember that the Joneses have shit behind their closed doors too. Just because you're married doesn't mean you're blissfully happy - or financially stable. As much as I'd love to have a partner in crime,  it's not likely I'm going to get candidates to step-parent a tween and teenage boy anytime soon. At this point I'd be happy to have someone I can rock on my front porch with in my 80's.

So that's my tale of woe, and I tell it because I know there are those of you out there who take the same hits as I do - either on the single parent side, the financial side, or both. And again, don't think that I don't thank God for giving me two healthy kids and a roof over our heads. It's just that sometimes I wish he could make it a little teeny tiny bit easier.

So there you have it. Party's over. But if I have another one, you'll be invited. Just bring a box of coping mechanisms and maybe a bottle of wine. That might just see us through until the next bash.