Wednesday, September 17, 2008

in the home stretch

>study in time flying: Audrey 6 mos vs. Audrey 3 yrs.

I realized mid-email tonight that 3/4 of this year is over. Gone, done, past, bye-bye. I took my daughter out tonight on a girl-date with a few of our girlfriends, and watched Audrey acting like a little girl. She's just not a baby anymore. She insisted on sitting in a highchair at the ice cream parlor for some reason, and spilled some of her lime-green ice cream on the floor, but she's not a baby any more. At least I could still read her stories tonight and tuck her in bed and know she'd be asleep in a few minutes. My son Jude is getting so big he insists on reading stories to me or worse, just to himself, and climbs into his bunkbed and tries not to sleep for the next hour in case we watch TV.

Today I also visited my grandma on our weekly trek to her care home. My grandfather passed away when Jude was a month old, and I don't think any of us thought she'd survive this long. She turns 94 this December, and has Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and slowly advancing kidney failure. She had a bandage on from trying to punch one of the caregivers last weekend - my kind, sweet-tempered, wouldn't-say-boo-to-anyone Grandma! - and I just listened to her try to remember the right sequence of words for saying grace before lunch, and watched her doze off while we worked a puzzle, and couldn't help laughing with her when she shook with laughter at Audrey making silly kissy faces during lunch. She is not the Grandma I used to know - the one that created a thriving vegetable garden from the sandy Yuma soil in their backyard, and used to fry up cornmeal-battered catfish like nobody's business. But I also never know when she may be gone forever, so for the memories, and the hope that she is comforted even on days she doesn't seem to remember us, and for my kids to know what it's like to love someone just because, and a hope that someone will visit me if ever I am in such a position, we keep going. And the weeks go by.

Yesterday I noticed my friend Sylvia has been secretly expanding with her unborn baby - number three, due next February. I forget she is pregnant sometimes, with this baby. I think she forgets she is pregnant, sometimes. Poor third babies, I think. At least Sylvia is one of those intentional moms that saves cute artwork and takes pictures and writes down the mile-markers of baby's first year.

Another marker of time passing. Victor turns 41 this weekend. No birthday bash this year (sorry, sweetie, last year was the big one!), but maybe a new gas grill for the backyard if he's lucky.

Lastly, I have two weeks left to my marathon in St. George, UT. October 4, the big day, draws nigh. The website (, of course) lists 16 days, 8hours, 33min and counting. Yikes! Actually, I feel very physically ready for the marathon - long runs, speedwork, weights, and the half marathon 2 weeks ago all indicate a good race. (And now I finally get to taper!) But I feel not at all ready for the camping trip in Zion National Park to follow, which requires more logisticial preparation of grocery shopping, gear-checking, vehicle tuning, and packing. I hope we can fit everything in the truck. Nissan Pathfinders are not the roomiest of SUV's, especially with 2 kids and their bulky carseats taking up the back seat. And all their books, and their latest favorite toys, and Blankie and "Robey" and Bear (of course!), and you get the picture, I guess. Then there's Victor's fishing gear. I'm hoping he's not planning to bring his flyfishing float tube, for instance.

All of these updates simply to observe that time sure flies, whether you have fun or not. I just want to be present enough in the moment to notice the little things - like my daughter's shy smile when she whispers which dress she wants to wear "so everyone will know I am a princess;" and my Grandma shaking with laughter till the tears run down from her reddened eyes onto lined cheeks; and my husband's attempt to be nonchalant when he tells me what he wants for his birthday "if anyone asks;" and the seconds ticking away on the marathon website, inviting me to watch the moments pass. Please, God, let me not miss these things in my anxiety over the past I can't change and my hopes for the uncertain future.

Friday, September 5, 2008

doing the South Carolina boogie (and a run, of course!)

So I went to a wedding in South Carolina last weekend. Anyone who knows me well understands that flying cross-country for the weekend is not something I do often. In fact, I realized as my heart rate raced to match the plane engine whining as we left the ground, the last time I flew in an airplane was to San Francisco for my first marathon when Jude was 10 months old. He's five now. My heart was racing with excitement. I actually like flying. Not the waiting around in the airport lugging my luggage, but the part where I watch the ground drop away to neat brown and green squares, and mountains recede to tiny bumps, and cars and roads to miniscule dots and lines. I like flying into clouds, and I don't get motion sickness even in the worst turbulence. I always ask for a window seat. I like the sensation that I'm on an adventure, and all normal routines, pressures, and duties are suspended just like we are in the sky. I suspect flying is a novelty that wears off with time, but I loved it the first time when I was ten and flew from Phoenix to San Jose by myself to visit my Grammy and Grampy's house, and I still enjoy it today.

I also like weddings. This one was the last of my three first cousins. My mom's brother had 3 sons. My parents had 4 daughters. They lived in Virginia, we in San Diego and then Phoenix. Needless to say, we didn't get to visit much. We always had fun when we did, though, so when Aunt Lynn called me in the spring to ask that me and/or one of my sisters make the wedding, I took her seriously. The cost felt prohibitive, besides the time away from my kids, but thankfully my parents bestowed the gift of the flight and car rental cost, and my sister Linda footed the cheap hotel we found on the web (thanks, guys). [She might not even have to pay that bill, since we found stains on the sheets, ticks in the bed, and a shower that screamed at us when we tried to get clean! We switched rooms, but Aaauggghhhh!!!]

The trip got better. Because Linda and I were relatives from waaayyy out of town, Aunt Lynn invited us to be part of all the wedding party fun, like the rehearsal dinner, the wedding breakfast the morning of, the gala reception, etc, with none of the wedding party un-fun, like standing around for endless wedding pics and holding flowers and fetching something blue and taking things to the tailor for adjustments.

Not only that, I got to run in another state! I love finding new places to run. That's one of the reasons I like to pick out of state races once in a while, as an excuse to vacation and to run new trails. I cracked Pin (Linda) up all weekend by complaining about being hungry every two hours thanks to my overdrive metabolism, and by seeking daily exercise options. In fact, we got to the hotel at 8pm Thursday night, and I told her at 9 that I was going to go check out the hotel exercise room. Hey, it was only 6pm by Arizona time! She came along and got to laugh at the tiny four-machine room, and we watched "Flubber" on TV while biking for 30 minutes or so. On Friday I drove to nearby Peak Fitness (sounded like "Pete's" off the drawl of the hotel clerk, and I laughed when I saw the sign), and did my weight workout. On Saturday Pin and I got up at 6am and drove out to nearby "Paris Mountain" State Park so I could run for an hour while she walked around the lake. It wasn't open until 8am, so we parked down the road and sneaked over the fence. We were still late for the wedding breakfast, but it was worth it. And sweet Aunt Lynn saved us a box with fruit, eggs, sweet rolls, and grits. You gotta love the South!

Saturday afternoon marked the big event, and we got shuttled up winding hills to the small, exclusive chapel on Glassy Hill, overlooking a panoramic view of South Carolina's misty green Greenville County below. Half an hour later, vows and rings and kisses exchanged, we shuttled back downhill to the reception and most everybody ate and laughed and danced the night away. You know my position on dancing, so you won't be surprised that I waited until the whole room joined in before I ventured on the floor. Getting lost in a bunch of people that don't know one foot from another is easier than being the center of attention in one's dressiest dress and high heels. Oh, those heels hurt by the time we limped back to our car at almost 2am!

On Sunday, I got to breakfast with the family and friends at their hotel (I shudder to think what our hotel would have served, had they ventured into foodservice), while Linda went to church with a friend she discovered in nearby Erskine College. Breakfast over, friends and family hugged and waved off, I got to wander down the street to partake in the excitement and expo freebies offered by the 115-mile USA Cycling Road Race Championship scheduled that same day. I missed the photo finish that occurred hours later, won by a two-thousandths of a second, but I enjoyed witnessing the first and second laps that brought them to the halfway point, with cowbells ringing and hollering all along the thickly lined, barricaded roads, while the lean and sweating cyclists whirred by in an airy blur of wheels, helmets, and brightly logo'ed shirts.

I was having so much fun that I entered that sensation of complete relaxation that a good vacation brings. I didn't actually twig on to it until I caught a couple's eye while passing and they excused a second glance saying, "You just look so relaxed!"

Wow, I really am, I thought. How novel. And I bought myself a coffee (decaf, so not to get un-relaxed with the jitters), and ran into fellow wedding-goer Mark Horowitz. Mark hails from Los Angeles, and with his unruly mop of blonde curls and eclectic clothing choices, is frequently compared to Napoleon Dynamite. He introduced me to a fantastic digital version of Boggle on his iPhone on the way back from the wedding, which passed the drive time marvelously. On this occasion, he collected a hug and his double espresso, and bolted for a shuttle sending him back to L.A.

To top off our fantastic holiday, Pin and I went on a driving exploration of Greenville's "Upcountry" north and east of our hotel, and enjoyed a murky, misty sunset view of Greenville County from "Caesar's Head." Not often do you get to enjoy a fantastic veiw from the head of a deceased Roman dictator, I might add. We made hilarious observations on South Carolina countryside from the town of "Pickins" (fodder for many puns) to the looming kudzu vine overtaking the state.

So that was my trip. I ran, boogied, partied, drove, and relaxed marvelously in South Carolina. Now back to reality!!