Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Mustard Seed School.

Our family has been looking to adopt. An organization, that is. One we can really give our hearts, time and what itty bitty extra cash we have. And we found it: The Mustard Seed School, an emergency school for homeless children here in Sacramento.

Last week, as a family, we took a tour of the school and brought the swimsuits, towels and sunblock we'd collected from the community for the school's summer program. These kids are going swimming, thanks to the generosity of so many of our friends and family; we brought enough sunblock to protect the entire epidermis of California, I think.

Our tour guide was one of the coordinators of the school, Lianna. She was wonderful, full of information about the school, including the part about how she had once been a parent of a student at the school, back when she was homeless with a seven-year old. She had been an addict, had been raised by addicts and had her first child at 14. And now, here she was, employed, with housing, her children in school and doing fine. Here she was, helping other families get back on their feet, giving them the second chance she got right here. Karma in motion.

Tonight, we made tomorrow's lunches for the kids. We signed up for one day this month and next to provide lunches for the twenty-five or so children that usually fill the school on any given day, kids that are brought to the school from living in their cars, from living on the street, from living in whatever hell or happenstance has led them there. Tonight we made lunches, the four of us, to deliver to the school tomorrow, because as Finn, my three year old said to me: we make lunches because we have food and they don't and if we don't make lunch, the kids will have no lunch.

Sometimes it's just so simple. Three-year old kind of simple.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Finish line.

I am a perpetual starter of things. So many of which have been cast aside when I get distracted or bored, or just plain give up. I am the two-year old in love with a shiny new toy, my chubby little fist wrapped around it hard, my heart aflutter. Until something else flashier, sparklier with brighter lights comes along. And then I'm off.

The list of unfinished business is long:

Learning to ice skate
Learning to play the flute
Learning to read music
Writing a novel
Writing a novel
Writing a novel
Learning to REALLY cook
Working out
Eating right
Working out
Eating right
Learning to REALLY swim
Learning to dance
Learning to REALLY speak Spanish

Heavens sake, I'm a dabbler. A dabbler who can't skate across the ice, do a cartwheel or the cha-cha.

And I'm tired of giving up. And I'm tired of having a skimming ability at life. I want to be deeper, better, more proficient forty-year old person. I want to be able to swim, damn it.

That's why I'm putting on my attractive compression socks this morning at 5:23am, slipping into my orthodic inserted running shoes and heading to the gym. 142 miles to go. 10 and a half weeks left. I have a head cold and have lost my voice and I don't care. I am finishing this and that is that.

I am saying my mantra for today: 3.3 miles and that is that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

You could play with me more.

I asked for it: what could I do to be a better mother, Reese?

You are perfect, Mom. You are an EXCELLENT mother, she replied.

I know, I know, but if there was something, anything I could do to improve, a teeny tiny thing -

Well, you could play with your kids more.


What do you mean, I ask calmly. What I mean is NEVER MIND, SORRY I ASKED.

Well, during the week we rush home and you're making dinner and then you're the last one to sit down at the table and then you're the last to sit for books because you're doing dishes -



But you are so sweet, Mama. I love you sooooooooo much. You are an execellent mother.

My good friend and I are at lunch today and I confess this. My glaring deficiency.

Can you believe it, I say, what a horrible mother.

I don't play with my kids enough either she says, and I stay home with them.

YOU ARE AN EXCELLENT MOTHER, I say to my good friend, and mean it.

We are all trying. Our legs are spinning and running like we are on unicycles. And we are doing well, mostly. As mothers, we are doing pretty well. Maybe we should play more. Maybe we should.

We also should say GO PLAY WITH YOUR BROTHER. And go take a bath with a magazine and a glass of wine. But we don't. So there's that.

My good friend and I decide that we will start by leaving the dishes in the sink longer. We will pretend they are not there. Perhaps we will do them in the morning.

Tonight, we will play Candyland.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bodies in motion.

My body keeps getting in the way of itself - and of my mileage goals - with it's inadequacies. Skin issues, stomach viruses and now, shin splints and a head cold.

It's dawning on me: I have spent 39 years not noticing my body. Certainly, not appreciating how well it works, how little it fails me.

These legs and arms and stomach muscles, while not Olympian or particularly photogenic, have been moving my brain and heart around all this time, a vehicle. I've had a perfectly reliable Volkswagen of a body and I've ignored it, treating as though it were an Edsel.

This soul casing of mine has survived chicken pox and pneumonia, acne, two big falls during childhood, breathing way too much hairspray, second hand cigarette smoke and smoggy L.A. air. It's been in a couple of car accidents, one so long ago that it involved flying forward in the passenger seat at full speed, cracking my head on the dashboard. It's survived falling in love, and all the emotions, hormones, and late nights that go with that. Plus, two babies have made their way into the world through me. Two entire people have lived in me. And come out the better for it.

My body has survived all of that, without my asking really.

And now, I am asking it to run just a few miles. Just 145 more miles. By July 18th.

But I've had to resort to walking now; my body just can't run at the moment. And so I'm doing what I've got to do: keep going. Today I walked my 3.3 miles and it took 48 minutes. I noticed a lot more that I do when I'm running. Families splayed out loving on one another. Little kids running from one pool of shade to the next. A big man lying in the lap of his wife. I am in awe of humanity, really. And today, I was going slow enough to see it.

This weekend we went to my sister in law's ranch house and the kids ran wild. This is them, their bodies not failing them, their spirits free. I get high just looking at them.

When I can run again, I will appreciate every step.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Treasure found.

We got a fancy new camera for the holidays and it's like having a house guest, it seems. I just can't get comfortable around it. Just now, I downloaded the pictures we'd snapped over the first part of this year. And so many are of Reese and Finn, together.

I know how close they are, these two. But seeing it here, all anew, it's going to my head.

I want to say this to you, my sweet Reese and my darling Finn: Stay like this forever. Lean into one another. Have each other's back. Get mad and then get un-mad. Practice being your best for each other. Practice being dragons together. Share your blocks and your crayons and your time. Laugh until you can't stand up. Know you have the best father in the world. Be nice. Be nicer. Keep having sleepovers. Eat too much candy. Brush your teeth. Listen to your sister. Listen to your brother. Listen to your mother.

Know that you are exactly enough. That you are way too much. That you and your Dad are my reason for being; you are the light and the sun and the stars and the moon. You are everything and you deserve everything. And I am your mama and it's because I said so.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

One for four this week. Done. Snap.

6AM. 3.3 miles to be done today; four days this week. This is Day 1 and my eyelids are stuck down tight. I shove my body in clothes; they don't like it. We stumble our way to the gym.

Ipod in. Fergie saves me.

Oh snap!
Oh snap!
Oh snap!
(Are you ready for this?)
Oh snap!

Oh! It's me, Fergie
The pimp, Polow!
Fergie Ferg, what's up baby?
Come on!

When I come to the club, step aside
(Oh snap!)
Part the seas, don't be havin? me in the line
(Oh snap!)
V.I.P. ?cause you know I gotta shine
(Oh snap!)
I'm Fergie Ferg and me love you long time
(Oh snap!)

I am running. Fergie, half my age, the wench is yelling in my ear about her girls getting down on the floor and it is my only hope. She is my only hope this pop queen at 6 am. My ass is dragging on the end of the treadmill, the dreadmill, the deadmill I am thinking darkly already and Fergie is lecturing me the whole time:

And I'm like, ?Get up out my face!
(Oh snap!)
?Fore I turn around and spray your *** with mace!?
(Oh snap!)
My lips make you want to have a taste
(Oh snap!)
You got that? I got the bass

Fergie is just getting going but I am roadkill. I am treadmill kill. My shirt stuck to me like saran wrap, my face puffy and red. There is nothing good about this today, except the possibility that it will end.

I stop to get paper to take notes on my pain for later, just in case I forget. I am gone 32 seconds and the treadmill reboots and I lose my precious mileage and I have to start again.


And then, thirty-six minutes later, a million minutes later, lead drained down into my legs,pooling at my feet, I am done and am stretching in the front exercise room, the one with the spin bikes where everyone rides but no one goes anywhere. There is the guy who races his stationary bike in full gear. He is like the wind this guy, even though he is standing still. I am afraid to stare but I can't help it: the sweat is flying, his tires are churning so fast; it's the sound of a bee hive on his tail. Whir. Whir. Whiiiiiiiirrrrrr. Then, his breath, gasping and collapsing. Whirrrrrrr.

The energy he's generating with his bee wheels, this guy. The wind energy. I start thinking of ways to light the neighborhood with the power of his rear tire. Me, the sudden environmentalist, ideas bubbling over.

Mickey, the sixty-year old speed walker over on the elliptical, asks how I’m doing. I tell her a half marathon every week, Mickey, I need a half marathon every week to make it to my goal. She asks if I take credit for walking. Not really I say , though soon I’ll be taking credit for middle of the night trips to the bathroom. Strolls to the kitchen.

I push open the door. Rain on my face. Warm outside. Tropical even. A spring storm, the weatherman says. There is a picture of a snow skier on the front page of the Sac Bee. He is in a speedo. And I think of what Fergie would say.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

The New Math.

I haven't run for two weeks. Not until yesterday that is.

I'd been derailed by a double whammy: a minor skin procedure requiring stitches (no running with stitches, apparently) and then the nightmare of all stomach flus, one that sidelined three out of four of us here at the homestead.



I've got 12 weeks.

12 weeks from today is my birthday. My 40th birthday and I've got a measly 82 miles run to my credit and 158 to go, in order to get to 240, if you're one of my three followers and are thus, following this.

That means running 13.16 miles per week to get there. That's 3.29 miles, four times a week.

Oh lord, help me.

The good news? I am able, physically able to lose weight, as proven by dropping four pounds from above referenced horrific stomach flu.

Yesterday, I kicked off my last twelve weeks of this effort with a few laps at McKinley Park, my favorite park in the world I decided yesterday on my second lap. Even better than Tuilerie Gardens in Paris. Maybe it's because, McKinley is in Sacramento, not Paris and therefore doesn't come by it's beauty by pedigree alone. It has to work it a little. I like that in a park. The roses are all in bloom and they have names like Playboy and My Sweet Clementine and are showing off like crazy right now, smelling up the whole park.

And the trees are heavenly, did I mention the trees?

Stinky duck pond.

Couples hand in hand, walking. A mom's group lifting weights, hands lightly on their strollers. An old lady walking an even older dog.

What gets me about running is the other runners. There is pure, naked effort. And no attempt to hide it. The audacity of it, the bravery stuns me every time. We are all out there huffing and puffing, fighting last night's ill-chosen potstickers and genetics and time management. We don't have the perfect shoes or knees; our sports bra isn't what it should be.

And yet. We are there.

I am listening to Stevie Wonder and Black Eyed Peas and Be Good Tanyas and Bruce Springsteen and Salt N Pepa and Marvin Gaye and Joss Stone and their voices are carrying me along and so are the steps of the runners in front and behind me. I am floating just on top of the trail and I only have 158 miles to go.

158 miles to go.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Twenty-five cents each.

Woke up Saturday morning with a patio set on my mind.

Momentarily money conscious, I garage sale it, my mind focused down like a clamp: four black iron chairs, one tiny table.

Four black iron chairs, one tiny table. Four black iron chairs, one tiny table.

Do not be distracted by pretty sparkly things, I tell myself. By chandeliers and picture frames, linens and old wood.

Four garage sales later I have a single black iron chair, no tiny table and four perfect books.

Close Range, by Annie Proulx
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
The Maytrees, by Annie Dillard

The chair was five bucks; the books were twenty-five cents a piece, sitting in a cardboard box with so many others, like puppies. I had to limit myself to four, an even number, a dollar.

I can't believe my luck. I open randomly to a page and gems fall out everywhere. Pretty, sparkly things.

From Close Range:

"He used to be a pretty good rancher, but his wife died and he's a dirty old boar in a boar's nest now," their father had said. "Stay away from there." Men had that flaw in them, Inez thought, to go over the cliff of events and fall precipitously into moral ruin.

From The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, page 117:

She tried to keep him out of her mouth but it was hopeless. Her forearm ached at the oddest of moments and she could feel his hangdog eyes on her everywhere.

From The House on Mango Street, page 57:

My Papa, his thick hands and thick shoes, who wakes up tired in the dark, who combs his hair with water, drinks his coffee, and is gone before we wake, today is sitting on my bed.

And I think of my own Papa died what would I do. I hold my Papa in my arms. I hold and hold and hold him.

From The Maytrees, page 122

Jane came back blinking. -Why is it always a big black snake? Have you ever seen a small one? Imagine their eggs. She looked at Lou, who had not budged. -Oh, you and your marble calm! Lou laughed and knocked down her water.

While I am doing this, Finn, my three year old just getting over the flu comes and crawls in next to me, his head on his blanket, his blanket on my keyboard. I try to explain all the books, the computer. I love words, I tell him.

Me too, he says. I love words. My favorite word is pumpkin, he says. But it comes out like "punkin."

My second favorite word, he says, is balloon. But it comes out like "bayooon."

My third favorite word, he says, is kitty cat. And it comes out exactly like that.

I have never thought of words so preciously. Even as I have loved them all these years, fussed over them, seen them in print. I have Sandra, Annie P., Junot and Annie D. to thank for that today.

And Finn.

Today, I am rich.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

It just is.

As of yesterday, I had completed 79.7 miles out of my 240 mile goal and I was all on track: 11 miles a week until my birthday and whamo, done.

Then, I had this little goofy cyst taken off my shoulder yesterday and stitches were required. Of course they were. When they cut something the size of a small golf ball out of your shoulder (totally benign and harmless) it is going to require some stitching to pull that sucker together, right?

Anyway. I'm a bit slow on the uptake.

Bottom line: I can't run until the stitches come out. No running until April 20th, that's right. That means I lose ten days off my training time. Which means I need to tack on more mileage onto my already taxed running schedule once I can actually run again. And onto my taxed, still flabby body.

Did I mention I haven't lost any weight? Unless maybe that cyst weighed a few ounces.

I'm feeling sorry for myself, acting like I just missed my chance at the Olympics or something. And I'm dreading the idea of running MORE. Farther. And then I have delusional moments where I think of running a half marathon.

When I was at the doctor yesterday, I asked the nurse if she was grossed out by this surgery business. Is it gross, I asked.

"It's not gross. It just is," she answered.

There it is. Sage like words, I think. Not gross. Not lame. Not disappointing.

It just is.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Happy Birthday Dad. Lucky 66.

I am reading Bonfire of the Vanities and thinking of you. I just bought way too many books and thought of you. I ate way too much chocolate today and thought of you. I listened to your grandson sing You are My Sunshine and thought of you. I think of you. I think of you.

We had an Easter egg hunt today, but it was pouring rain, so the Easter Bunny only hid eggs in covered areas - thoughtful chap - and your grandchildren darted around the patio with their cousins like little squirrels in hoods yelling out "Found one!" and "Over here!" to one another, carrying their overflowing baskets of plastic eggs filled with stickers and chocolate and gum.

We made it inside finally and they opened every egg, sorting their treasures into piles of coins and chocolates and toys. It was like Halloween and Christmas and a yard sale all in one. They loved it. The big hit was a chicken that pooped bubble gum. A riot, really. Oh and a whoopie cushion. Anyway.

Hey, the other day I got an email from an old friend of yours. He was sad to hear you'd passed away and shared with me this recollection, which felt dead on:

"Your Dad could be quite positive, and also quite crazy! I remember the night
he threw a TV in the pool at a hotel in Florida. I guess he didn't like what
was on."

You never were the most subtle guy. I like that about you. I liked that about you. And it scared me, too. When I think about how different we are, how I would never do what you did, I also think about how glad I am about the ways we are the same. How your appreciation for art and music and literature and children and kindness and animals lives on, in me and my children. How I see so much of your gentleness in my daughter's touch. And your determination and fire in my son's. And your humor and intelligence in them both. And there's hope: I keep aging and growing and understanding more, but you are always stopped where you were and now maybe I can catch up to your wisdom. To your vast heart. To your craziness.

I miss you. I love you. I wish you were here. Obla-dee, Obla-da.

Happy Birthday, Dad.


Friday, April 2, 2010

And so it begins.

My daughter's first blow dry.

My sweet six-year old, the owner of ringlets so gorgeous you could cry, got her semi-annual trim yesterday and wanted the stylist to "make it straight" just so she could see what it would look like.

I let them flat iron my girl's hair. And, of course, she loved it. She is now bargaining for how long she can go until she has to wash it and return it to it's natural state. Like Cinderella at the ball, she doesn't want to go back now.

And I feel I failed her somehow. Never mind that I told her how beautiful it looked, that I still think her "real" hair is ever so much more beautiful. Never mind that I blow my own hair straight several days a week, but let it go curly too. Never mind that I finally reached my own peace with having hair that's different, just maybe a year or two ago.

Never mind to all that.

I want more for my girl.

I want her to want what she has. To love who she is. To see her natural beauty and not want to alter it one whit. I want for her not to struggle. Not to spend thousands on hair product. Not to process or sit with chemicals on her head for the next thirty years.

I want, as we always do, more for her.

And yet, I meant it when I said, she looks beautiful. Sitting in the chair yesterday, I watched her looking in the mirror at her reflection, loving it, smile beaming, head cocked. Her hair smoothed, I could really focus on her changing face, her skin translucent and clear, tiny dots of freckles on her nose and cheeks, just a sprinkling really, her eyes brown rimmed in blue and teeth in transition, some loose, one gone, one coming in.

Beautiful, like I said.

She has always been so lovely, but getting to see her step in and out of it like this, it's the first time really. She will try on things and I will be there to watch and witness. I will be there and I will want more and I will be quiet too. I will be there to say, Reese you look so beautiful, inside and out. And to mean it. To mean it with all of my heart.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

And then, when you kiss, your cheeks explode.

This is what it is to have a son, I think. A three-year old son. Or maybe even a forty-year old son.

When I put Finn down for bed tonight, we were kissing good night and he instructs me to fill my mouth with air, cheeks puffed out, and we crash our inflated cheeks into one another crazily. We both fall over laughing on the bed and I wonder where the heck that one came from. So I ask Chris.

"Oh yeah," he tells me laughing a little bit, folding laundry, not in the least bit surprised, "that's the kiss where when you hit, your cheeks explode."

Oh, that one.

This is me in the Country for New Men. I am a visitor here, me a woman raised by women, the mother of a daughter, the sister of one sister, the friend of a hundred women, a girl's girl. I am traveling in a foreign country and I had no idea this place would be so, well, foreign. And so beautiful. As well as fart filled.

Boys are all about farts. There is no conversation with a small boy that does not involve some sort of potty talk.

And when we are not talking about farts, things are exploding. Things are flying. Things are running. Things are being stopped up and stopped down. There is water in places there is not supposed to be water. There is hugging that is really, really tight and looks sweet but might not be. There are a lot of corndogs. There are eight million balls, never ever enough of them though. We need more balls. Many many more are needed.

There is also so much sweetness. Infinite sweetness, but to catch it and hold on to it is impossible; it's in and out like light. Try holding onto light. You can't. You must just watch and remember.

There is also singing. He is standing in his bed, on his stage, lit only by his nightlight, his mouth and heart wide open.

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of mine. I'm gonna let it shine. This little light of miiiiiiinnnneee. I'm gonnnnnnnnaaaa let it shiiiiiiiiine. Let it shiiiiiiiiiiinnnne. Let it shiiiiiiiiiinne. Let it shiiiiiiiiiinne. "

It's a shooting star across my sky in my new country. My Country of New Men. Where both men and mothers are being made daily.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Three is the new two.

My son got married today and I wasn't even invited to the wedding.

Granted, it was at pre-school. Finn married Stella, a brown-haired sweetheart of a three-year old with a older brother named Gene who is five. The whole thing happened this afternoon and somehow, Finn ended up with the ring. I know this much because when I showed up today to pick him up, there was this little copper circle on his middle finger. He was holding it tightly, his hand a fist.

He didn't really want to talk about it, his wife that is. He wanted to do a "job" - that's Montessori speak for a special learning activity - but we couldn't because he'd already lost the priviledge to do a job way back last night when he kept slugging his older sister, my six-year old daughter. He'd lost the priviledge to do jobs, or pick out a book at bedtime, or pick out a special toy in the morning; I had been at a work event and by the time I got home, my husband informed me that he'd had to strip the kid of pretty much everything but his underwear after the night he'd had.

This boy, a love of my life, he is giving us a run for our money.

He is smart and charming and handsome. He's got a smile that would melt your heart at 100 yards. He can whistle. He can write words. And do simple math. He loves animals. He's funny. He's sociable with everyone. Loves parties and dancing. He'll sit for hours with his 87-year old great grandmother and dance and sing for her, or just do a puzzle over and over. He loves tiny things and builds elaborate art installations, ones with real thought and structure and imagination. He skips. He pretends he's a frog. When his sister was crying tonite, he sidled over to her sweetly with a little square chip from the Scrabble game, an "E" and handed it to her: "For you, Reese. An 'E' for you."

Because he knew it would make her feel better and it did.

He is also the boy who argues with every single thing we say. His heart is NOT beating. He is NOT hungry. He does NOT like pizza. He does NOT want to get dressed. Or comb his hair. Or get in the bath. Or get out of the bath. He doesn't want to share. Or be shared with. It's his turn. It's not his turn. There is so very much angry crying. Lots of stomping of feet and breathing loudly out through his nostrils; a tiny, mad dragon in Converse, stomping on my hardwood floors. Then a moment later, he skips by:

"Look at what I made, Mama! It's a tower! It's an interesting house! Look at my tiny things!"

"I love you, Mama."

Looking up at me, all curly blond hair and long eyelashes. And I am disarmed, not ready for the next meltdown over who got their teeth brushed first, who got to pick out which book. And I try to remember: when did all this start? Sure, he's always been spirited, my boy, always an entertainer, a show man, a fiery love child. But this? A cantankerous grump, I don't know when he moved in.

Of course I blame myself. I went back to work six months ago. He probably is acting out, I think. He needs more love, more time, more vegetables. Maybe it's his diet: too many carbohydrates. Maybe we're giving him too many Cheerios. Or too little sunshine.

I know that my husband and I give our children every drop of love in our hearts; Chris is the best father a kid could have. I know that we send them to loving schools. Surround them in a modest but warm house filled with books and good toys. Play all kinds of music. Don't watch too much TV. Eat dinner as a family every night. Have dance parties in the living room, just us. We sing to them. We rock them. We hold them. They are the reason we exist. The whole point is the four of us and they know it. They also know that the world outside the four of us exists and that's it our responsibility to help, as much as we can. To care beyond our four walls. We give them the world and ask them to love it well.

I can only hope it is enough. I can only hope my sweet angel, my little boy finds his sunshine again. That if what he needs is to test the boundaries to know they are there, that we can be strong enough to hold them up, even as our hearts are breaking just a little. We wait for some light to shine through.

Chris says that I just don't remember: Reese was like this at three also. Intense. Feisty. Argumentative. What?, I say, I can't believe it. Don't remember it. But then again, what I had for lunch today is foggy. So there. Maybe there's hope.

I know this:

Tonight, Finn wanted Chris to do bedtime, not me. But then he asked if I would just lay with him until Dad got there and I did; he buried his face and his favorite blanket into my shoulder, his breath hot on my cheek. I felt his arm slide over across my chest, hugging me, both of us breathing, together. And I didn't question a thing.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Did you win, Mom?"

Yes, I did, baby. Here's what I won during the half-a-half marathon (my first race ever) I did today with my beloved:

A more tender attitude toward humanity.
On the course today, everyone was trying so incredibly hard, the runners and the supporters and the water giver outers and the lady who cleaned up all the cups thrown out by the runners. And especially this one little old guy, who of course passed me, and was trucking along like nobody's business, one foot in front of the other.

A belief in the next generation.
A girl all of six was planted on the side of the course, her hand out for high fives for every passing runner. Her mom was standing behind her proudly, looking on and even though I was too far left to get a five from her, I felt a burst of energy just from her being there.

A reminder to go at home.
Really, really long lines for the restrooms. Longer than the line to park, or leave the parking lot, I may have spent more time in line than actually running. But I met this really neat lady who had kids the same age as mine, so it was all OK and reinforced #1 yet again.

A rekindled love for the beauty of my adopted hometown.
There is nothing more beautiful than the early morning light on the river here. And the gorgeous trees. And this morning, with every step, I remembered the first time I ever saw this place, how I couldn't believe my luck, it was so much more lovely than I ever expected. And today, Sacramento snuck right up on me again, pinching me with it's sweetness.

A respect for my body.
It felt great today. Never once did I think I couldn't make it the six miles - further than I'd ever run. My breathing, my legs, my chest, my knees, they were all there for me, I was so incredibly grateful for the lot of them. And, I surprised myself with running a minute faster each mile than I'd dreamed of. Listening to Stevie Wonder helped too. Thank goodness for Stevie.

And thank goodness for Chris. And thank goodness for Finn.
And thank goodness for you Reese, my sweet: I can't wait to win again, next time.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Toothless wonder.

"Can you believe it, Mom," my six year old asks me, rhetorically, "can you believe your little baby is losing her teeth already?"

No, I can't believe it, Reese. Really, I can't.

This tooth thing came up unexpectedly. OK, it had been loose for weeks but then the actual coming out part happened in a millisecond, on our way through the school yard. Reese had her mouth open, showing her former preschool teacher the tooth in question, and before I knew it, that sucker was out and what do you know, a large, raggedy big kid tooth was right there, already popped through and waiting to take it's rightful place.

It seemed like an inappropriate amount of grieving time.

Since then, the Tooth Fairy's come and gone and I find myself thinking about this little tooth of hers, now in a plastic bag (whatever do you do with the things?) and it's just a microscopic tiny bit, just a seed really. However did she eat with that speck? How was her first chewing gum chewed? Her strained sweet potatoes strained?

Then I realize that lower left tooth was probably what kept me awake months three through six of Reese's life, while she teethed and fussed, drooling like a French bulldog. That tooth was probably the one Reese used to gum her first Cheerio, gnaw on her beloved bunny, Bubba - maybe it was the one she used to bite me once on the changing table, making me yelp and raise my voice and scaring us both. And I'm sad for that. I'm sad that tooth is gone, even though I don't wish go back to those days because I love where we're at now: field trips and birthday parties and reading and making up stories and having sleepovers and talking about important things like why can't whoever wants to get married get married. I love my girl with the world view and a perspective that comes so pure of heart.

But still, I'm sad for that tooth. Because when one phase is done, it's done. And it's bittersweet. The doneness of it all.

By the time braces hit, I'm going to be a pro at this, right? Maybe.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The longest sixty-eight minutes of my life.

And 27 seconds.

That's how long it took me to run five miles today. I say run, but I mean: run, walk, crawl, creep, hobble, drag, limp, jog, wander and hop along. It was HARD. I'm not sure if my body is meant to go that far in one stretch, unless by car or other motorized vehicle.

Nonetheless, I did it. Mainly because I couldn't face going home and telling my adorable husband I didn't do it. He was so excited for me, unlike my six year old who said: "I thought you were supposed to run six miles, Mommy?"

Like running six miles is something easily switched up, instead of running five miles. Like, oh, you know what, I'll have the beef, not the fish. Six miles, not five, thanks but no thanks.

Anyway, I did it. After trying to get that five done on Saturday and pooping out after two, my legs hurting, not injured hurting, just like miserable, tired, out of shape hurting. I gave them a rest and then went back at it today with a modest improvement. I would categorize survival as improvement. The worst is I'm not even out of breath or anything; my heart is OK, it's just these damn legs of mine - they keep screaming out at me, " you think this is easy? you try carrying around six years of spinach dip and Noah's bagels and see how you feel!"

At least that's what I imagine they're saying.

So next weekend is the 1/2 marathon relay Chris and I are doing. I am doing six miles, he is taking seven. Right now, I cannot imagine walking one more step, let alone hundreds more. But at least when it's over, it will be over, so there's that.

The good side? Due to my lameness Saturday, I got over my 10.9 mile goal for the week, hitting a crazy 13 after today.

This pic is of my sweet Reese, the taskmaster after me about my six miles. This is her at the doctor this week. The pediatric group is moving to a new building and I just felt so sad about it. Reese and I were leaving and we saw a tiny newborn on her way in to the office, all in pink, and I looked down at my beautiful, big six year old and all of a sudden I realized how fast the time has flown. The two of us kept looking at the baby's little pink hands and impossibly tiny feet and neither of us could believe anything could ever be so small.

Next Sunday, I will be able to say to my girl, yes, Reese, six miles, yes Reese, I did it. And she will not be surprised. She knew I could do it.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Nothing to do with running. This is about how it's Penis Morning around here.

Finn, my three year old, is on the potty and launches the question:

"Why is my pee pee different than other boys' pee pees?"

Seeing as it's 5:25am, I figure I can get away with fudging.

"Everbody's different," I say, wishing Chris wasn't at the gym. After all, he is the VP of Pee Pee Convesations.

But he's not buying it.

"But it's MY pee pee. It's different than Clifford and Tyler's pee pee's."

The boy's got case studies.

I explain the difference between a circumcised penis and a non-circumcised penis, in terms a three year old can hopefully understand. I mostly use terms like "big circle" and "little circle". And how everybody's different; I throw that one in again for good measure.

Then Chris walks in and answers for himself: You have a Murray penis, that's why, he says with no small amount of pride.

Finn seems happy with that one. A Murray penis, that's why. Like eye color or curly hair, we hand out a particular brand of penis around here, apparently. The boys smile at each other knowingly: the Murray penis, that's right. You can practically smell the testosterone in the air.

Then Reese, my six year old, decides to throw in a curveball when no one's looking:

"I want a sister and don't tell me you're not planning on it."

We're not planning on it, we say. We're not having any more kids, we tell her. We love the two we have and we're very happy, thank you very much.

We try to sell her on a cat, to no avail. According to her, cats might scratch whereas babies are harmless.

Considering the topics we've covered so far, all before 7 am, I decide to leave that one alone.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Keeping me level headed.

OK, the second week of 10.9 miles is complete.

I survived.

But just in case you're worried I'm getting a big head over here, all impressed with my mileage, there's this:

I get home yesterday after my longest run ever, four and a half miles, and I am in the house, feeling pretty good about myself, assessing my Olympic chances and probably goofing off with something or another - the kids are playing outside with my husband - when I hear major commotion outside. Our barky, but friendly, dogs had escaped out the back gate and are going nuts out front, jumping all over our neighbor's new dog and generally making a nuisance of themselves. The kids, not to be outdone in the noise department, are screaming wildly, running around trying to "catch" the dogs. I run out the front to door to save the day, still wearing my running socks, and promptly slide off the top step and come down hard on my left quad.

See, I can say things like that now: quad. Prior to eight weeks ago, I didn't even know I had such a thing. Or, if I did, I certainly didn't talk about it.

Anyway, don't worry: my Olympic hopes haven't been dashed. And, I recovered in time to go to the Kings game last night. Nothing a Chicken Tender Basket with Fries couldn't fix.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

OK, so this running thing is hard.

And on top of it, apparently I need new shoes.

I thought running was the only free sport. But I digress.

2.4 miles today and they were slogged out, grumpily, in and around my training time. Painful 1 mile to start. Then running bits crammed around reps of side plank, lifts and pendulum lunges, which, by the way, suck. Suck, suck, suck. I truly hate the pendulum lunge and I don't even feel bad telling you about it. Take that pendulum lunge.

Anyway, needed 1.4 miles still at the end of it all and I just didn't have it. My one banana was long since burned and I still just can't bring myself to eat more than that at five in the morning.

Plus, what if the kids wake up while I'm cooking up a couple of pre-dawn eggs and toast? Not good, not good at all.

So, worse than the fact I need new running shoes, is that I HAVE TO GO BACK TO THE GYM TOMORROW and RUN ONE MORE MILE. Then this weekend, the big 4.5 long run looms ahead of me like a dentist appointment.

Oy. I'm not sure about this.

Did I mention I have not lost any real weight?

I am thinking perseverance may be overrated. But in the interest of the 240, I am going to abandon all thinking now and just run.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No running today. Thinking.

Yesterday was a terrible day. I was late to work, and worse I was late to work at Reese's school and I walked into her class, oblivious of my offense, to see her dissolved in tears in her teacher's lap.

"She thought you forgot," Miss Di told me, looking for all the world like she thought so too.

It was only 11:05. Oh-five. Five minutes and I had undone all that had gone before that morning. That six years. Failure descended on me as I comforted my sweet girl. It only took three hugs and a promise of chocolate after dinner to delight her and before long we were working on handwriting with the other kindergartners, me cracking them up only to see Reese looking stern, letting me know in no uncertain terms that we were supposed to be concentrating.

I screw up so often at this. And I try so unbelievably hard. Which makes my sucking so much worse, I think. If I weren't trying, maybe the sting would be less.

That's why, when I read this excerpt today, from one of my very favorite writers, Kelly Corrigan, I was bowled over. And comforted, too. From "Lift":

"This tug-of-war often obscures what’s also happening between us. I am your mother, the first mile of your road. Me and all my obvious and hidden limitations. That means that in addition to possibly wrecking you, I have the chance to give to you what was given to me: a decent childhood, more good memories than bad, some values, a sense of a tribe, a run at happiness. You can’t imagine how seriously I take that—even as I fail you. Mothering you is the first thing of consequence that I have ever done."

Absolutely, positively could not have said it better myself. Thanks Kelly.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2 miles for Reese.

Interesting side note of getting in shape: having more confidence that your body can do things they've never done before.

Case in point: sledding.

I'm a city child. I have seen snow fall maybe twice in my life and the second time was this past weekend in Lake Tahoe. We were up for the weekend with good friends in a cabin nicer than our house having a wonderful time. I didn't ski, as lessons for growups didn't really figure into our timing, but I did sled and inner tube with both my kidlets. And embarrassingly, I admit that there was a time, oh, maybe six or seven weeks ago where I would have handed off "outside" activities, activities that required movement and climbing up hills and then flying down them, to Dad, the VP of outdoor fun at our house.

But this past weekend, I didn't hand off the joy of flying down the hill, with Finn in my lap, my generous bottom wedged into what amounted to a giant donut, as we sailed down the hill. It was so quiet, I could hear us both breathing, cheek to cheek, and then maybe holding our breath over a bump and then letting out a scream at the end as we hit the bottom and careened smoothly off the side.

"Again! Again!" Finn would say. And so we would.

With Reese, it was sledding and we went down side by side. She wanted to hold hands the whole way. This is us climbing up together on the way to a second time down.

I had no idea my fixation on my thighs would end up bringing me so much closer to my children.

Today's two miles was for my girl. Thanks baby.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What I really wanted was fish and chips.

But I decided to run a mile first and right when I was finishing, here's what I saw: my very favorite Sacramento sight - the cherry trees in bloom.

Spring is here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

10.9 done: here's what's left of me.

OK, first week accomplished. Barely, sweatingly, tiredly accomplished.

Today I had 3.11 left of my 10.9 mileage needed for the week (I need to knock out 10.9 each week to make it to 240 miles before my 40th birthday) and I had my trainer today as well. So we did this punishment:

1 mile run to warm up.

Dips, push-ups, squats, then run .25 miles. Repeat three times.

1.61 miles to finish.

Wow. I am so out of shape. The kind of out of shape where my butt is finishing the run about 12 minutes behind the rest of me.

But I did it.

10.9 miles completed. 229.1 to go. Or a million, depending on your outlook.

But, when I came back home this morning, gym clothes stuck to me, I checked my email and found an old friend from college had written to say she is also turning 40 this year and IS GOING TO MATCH MY 240.

How cool is that?

So not only am I now running toward the milestone, instead of away from it, I'm running with someone. Granted, someone who lives thousands of miles away. But still, we're running together. And it feels great.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2 miles for Frank.

Today was for Frank, our much loved friend, adopted Grandpa and neighbor who has been ill and confined at home for the past few weeks. When I was running today, after a mile or so, I was losing steam and realized I had forgotten to eat before I left the house. I wanted to stop so badly, but instead I just thought of Frank and all the times I've watched him with my son Finn, out in the dirt, looking for bugs side by side, both of them laughing their heads off in the summer light.

Today, I ran for you, Frank. And I thought of you every step of the way.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A slip up, already?

So, I've got my plan: 2.5 miles for the next three days and workout with my trainer today at 5:45am. But, oh no, she's sick, the gym owner informs me as I begin my workout.

Quick evaluation while I'm on the treadmill - the options temptingly unfold before me:

1 - Leave and grab some hotcakes at 33rd Street Bistro. Yum, syrup.

2 - Go back to warm bed.

3 - Continue with workout on my own. Pain ensues.

Barely, just barely chose 3. Got three miles done, plus some strength training of my own devising, which included sit-ups, step-ups and this exercise they call mountain climbing but really is just me on all fours, my feet pumping on these little purple disks, looking for all the world like a cat on ice skates. A highly uncoordinated cat.

So, with zero grace, three miles: check.

Counter: 6.29 miles/240.

Oy vey.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The math.

So running 10.9 miles per week, for me, the math dis-inclined, took awhile to figure. Here's the word problem:

If 39.6 year-old Geri needs to run 10.9 miles per week and has already run 2.39 miles but is going to be out of town this weekend and only has two scheduled work out times available, how messed up is she already and it's only the first week?

Answer: Very.

So, either I run up in the snow in Tahoe (chances decidedly unlikely) or I get an extra workout in this week sometime. Options are after work on Wednesday or Wednesday morning, which means runing 2.5 miles Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning, two days of which I will also be doing an hour of strength training, previously purchased.

Whose idea was this anyway?

The good news? My little sister got engaged last night. And she asked me to be her Matron of Honor. Oh my goodness. So thrilled for her. And honored to be honored.

Next thought: the dress. I have not been in a wedding since before I had kids and I recall getting into bridal wear, even back then, was no picnic. More inspiration, I suppose. More need to make the numbers work: I am going to rock that taffeta, baby.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A little history.

I am worse than a couch potato, really.

That's because I don't even watch TV. Or needlepoint. Or even just lay around. I have no good excuse for my complete dislike of movement. Other than being uncoordinated, easily distracted, the mother of two small children, the employee of one busy job, the owner of two untrained dogs, the wife of one loving husband. Not that you'd asked or anything.

Truth is, I've ridden my Metabolism Train for a good thirty-something years now; I can still hear the voice of my mother as I stuffed my teenage mouth and my string bean body with every kind of chocolate I could purchase with my meager allowance - "it's going to catch up with you", she'd said, my mother, the soothsayer.

Well, catch up to me it did. In fact, once it caught me, it attached itself to me like a bad first date; to my butt, my thighs and most recently, my belly. Yowza. Nothing like looking postpartum with a three year old in tow.

I can blame my metabolism and my big 4-0 coming up fast and furious in a few months; I can blame my love of cheese and chocolate and bread and my childhood addiction to my Bubbie's potato salad. And then there's the fact that the only role exercise has ever played in my life has been that of an unfortunate chore, like cleaning out the attic or dusting the house fans: incidental, a nuisance, infrequent at best.

But, some things can only be ignored for so long. Around the end of 2009, I pushed aside the Tootsie Roll wrappers long enough to take a good look at my figure. A pear shape that once was kind of juicy is now all the wrong texture and just entirely too pear-y. The thighs are getting a bit too acquainted. I keep losing pants that decide they are just not up for the zipper fight. And the belly, well, we already covered that.

So I called Nikki, a personal trainer who'd punished me, I mean trained me, in times of need before, and immediately wired her a big fat check before I could change my mind. I told her the time had come, I was serious. Let's go at this Rocky style, I told her, I can just carry you around on my back or something and you can yell insults at me.

That's how it works, right?

Anyway, on January 4th, I showed up at our appointed meeting and sweet Nikki had the nerve to be pregnant so I couldn't even really resent her as she put me through the running, sweating, dips, planks, sit ups, weights and other assorted torture she must lay awake at night inventing. We've been meeting twice a week since then, six weeks completed now and somewhere along the way I committed to running a relay half marathon with my naturally in shape and healthy and can eat anything husband, on March 14th.

The good news: I can now run 3.5 miles (in 5 minute running, 1 minute walking increments). The race is in four weeks and I'll need to run 6 miles so I'm ramping up for that each week, tacking on mileage painfully; the fact that I am covering 3.5 miles while not behind the wheel of an automobile is mind blowing and I have to say it feels pretty good. Especially when it's over.

The bad news: I have not lost a single pound.

That's right, folks, not a single pound. My jeans are a bit friendlier though. Underwear too.

So, I decided to do what I always do when I'm struggling, write. Trying to start this blog, I couldn't get the Running To 40 blog title, so I took Running 240. That's when the brainstorm occured: why don't I run 240 miles between now and my birthday? Some quick math indicated this would be 10.9 miles a week for five months. I could do that, right?

Somehow, it made me feel as though I am running toward the milestone that feels much bigger than it should. And I'm hoping it'll help me take my eyes off my thighs and onto the pavement. And around to the rest of the world.

Today was my first outside run. Up until now, it's just been me and the treadmill. It was beautiful out and when I was finishing, my husband, my three year old son and my six year old daughter were outside playing. When they saw me running toward them, they started clapping and cheering, like it was the last leg of the Olympic torch. My son ran toward me and grabbed my hand in his, pulling me the rest of the way home.

The first 3.29 miles of 240: check.