Saturday, July 4, 2015

A week away from California is...

Missing California.
Missing my roommate. 
Missing my cat. 
Missing, most of all, my boy.

Dad's eulogy that made people laugh and cry. 
Dad being part Dad and part Pastor Tom, but mostly Dad. 
A week away from California is my nephew asleep in my brother's arms,
being carried out of the church. 

A week away from California is playing with my brothers
Scaring each other in a creepy, bizarre "museum."
Laughing each time we got scared,
Looking for more ways to make the others scream. 

A week away is two days in the car with my biggest bro, 
impatiently counting the miles to Denver as I stitch. 
Catching up on each other's lives. Catching up on much needed
Laughing.

A week away is meeting my nephew, 
almost one,
crooked smile,
six teeth.

A week away is a kiss on the cheek from Patrick,
hugs from aunts and uncles.
An ecstatic mom, and a contented dad,
so happy to see their daughter, and me them. 

Nintendo with Riley on the couch, 
Giggling as we remember all of the game's musical jingles. 
Coffee reheated in the microwave, cookies for breakfast.
Sleeping for 12 hours and then taking a nap. 

A week away is being tearful on the phone with Alex, 
caught off guard by the sadness I feel in the Midwest. 
My sweet beau suggests maybe I am grieving for the life I used to live,
when I was out of place and sad. 

A week away is red wine in a paper cup,
on a hotel bed, having girl talk with Mom.
Waking up Dad in his blue pajamas
to show him my half marathon medal. 

A week away is catching a niece who jumps in the pool. 
Watching my brothers belly flop and yell,
Smiling that they've never grown up. 
A week away is sore arms, from all the catching of the jumping niece. 

A week away is a cranky brother,
who needs coffee and hates traffic. 
A week away is sleeping in four beds in six nights, 
One that creaks, one with a slow air leak. 

Breakfast dates span the week, 
Early alarms, ignoring the option to snooze. 
Toast with cousins, coffee with Corie, 
Hot cakes and sausage with the niece, the nephew, Mom and Dad. 

A week away is my cousin's pregnant belly,
new life in the midst of life lost. 
A week away is weeping aunts, 
comforted by a brother, and a son. 

A week away is hiking in the heat. 
Sweating through my shirt, 
realizing we left Gatorade behind in the car. 
The baby asleep, riding on his daddy's back. 

A week away is aches in my legs,
balancing in heels on a hilly graveside.
Roses for Grandma,
lying once again beside Gramps, her love.

A week away is being ready to return,
Eager to see boy, and roommate, and cat.
I am promised fireworks,
viewed from a rooftop.

A week away is worth every moment.
The lack of sleep,
the miles in the car.
Time with family, blood and otherwise. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Grams

I thought it would burn when she put vinegar on my sunburn, but it only stung my nose.

She called me a hornet when I was mad. I hated that.

She loved tomato soup, like me. During a meal a few years ago she said she could eat it several times a day. She said this several times. I didn't mind her repeating; it was a good point to be made.

When my brother convinced (a very young) me that a Milkbone was an ice cream treat for humans, I asked her for one.

"Oh, honey, you don't want one of those."

I can still hear her voice.

There were blocks at her home in Iowa, but they were hard to play with on the textured carpet. We always wanted to build towers, but they toppled.

The best playground was across the street.

She made soft, sweet molasses cookies.

My brother still uses her recipe for cut-out Christmas cookies. I wonder if he's been able to get the dough rolled as thinly as she could.

She was always quick to laugh, and shared a smile with my dad.

She was the most pleasant gal to be around.

She got confused about who we were, but she was never scared of us, and I'm grateful for that.

I used to sneak peaks at her collection of elephant figurines, tucked away in the curious front stairwell by the door through which we never entered. It was just me and the elephants, quiet and hidden.

She put pennies in plastic Easter eggs that we found during our morning hunt.

Our parents always told us not to jump on the beds in her home. We always jumped on the beds. She always scolded us.

She kept Tiddlywinks in the back bedroom, the bedroom with the closet with the magical light that went off when you closed the door, like a fridge.

I don't remember why (maybe I was sick?), but once she set me up in her bedroom, just me, to watch the video of Peter Pan, starring Mary Martin. I was always perplexed that Peter was played by a girl.

She gave me my first copy of a Babysitters' Club book. I unwrapped it in a Chinese restaurant, and went on to become a devoted reader of the series.

She squealed with glee when we rolled into her driveway, running out the back door to squeeze me and my brothers, making "umph" noises of happiness as our little bodies hugged hers.

She handwrote notes, in cursive.

When she was very old, we spied on her and her sister singing hymns together at their assisted living home. Mom cried in the hallway.

A picture of her late husband stayed by her bedside after he was gone.

I learned to eat pickled herring at her home, and discovered it's pretty tasty, for vinegared fish.

She never got on the email train, but loved to read.

Her home was always cozy and well-kept, with crisp bed sheets and rolls with butter on the table at dinnertime.

I have to write this in the past tense, and we all hate that.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The struggle for/with/against mobility

My we are a restless generation.

Three days ago I did a half marathon, and you would think I've come back from Everest with the amount of physical -- and mental -- recovery.

OK that's perhaps a bit of an exaggeration.

Pikes Peak?

Sure, we'll go with that.

Let's start with the step progression. (Hardy har. But seriously. Climbing stairs is a struggle.)

Day one after the race: one step at a time, sideways going downward. Big "yikes!" running through my head with each step up. I bravely tackled some laundry, which involved a total of maybe 15 steps from bedroom to laundry room, and it was a slowly accomplished task.

Day two: less sideways stepping, a little tiny bit quicker moving.

Day three: almost using stairs like a normal person! Yay!

So there's that. There's also sitting on the toilet, regarding which we won't get into specifics.

But what I really want to talk about are the mental ramifications.

I met someone last night who was opening up about a recent injury she's suffered. She mentioned having bouts of depression as a result and here's me, the Mental Health Advice Train coming at her full force:

"Can you swim? So you can at least get that cardio but not hurt your joints, to make yourself feel happy? Or bike?"

She was very sweet and gracious in listening to me, and I felt for her, with my recent -- albeit very short -- restriction to little physical movement.

I took the day after my race off from work so I could chill in bed instead of hobble around the office. And my extra endorphin supply depleted quickly.

At first I was happy as a clam, up at 8, cross stitching with the best of 'em. "Haven't done this in ages! I've missed it so much! La la la music on my Pandora, la la la stitch stitch la."

I didn't even miss my legs. In fact I forgot about them (not that I'm usually actively thinking about my legs as I stitch) until I got up to get scissors, go to the bathroom, or when my foot fell asleep and I moved to readjust, said "Ow," and moved on.

But then the day continued.

Let me pause here and tell you about my get out of the house rule. Unless one is deathly ill or kept indoors due to extreme weather, one must leave the house once per day. Even if it is for five minutes to the store, to have 10 seconds of interaction with a cashier, that is fine.

Because it is better than pure isolation.

You'll also notice I'm somewhat into sports. I value exercise because I hold a similar rule and that is to do what it takes to keep my spirits up in life. And for me -- and for all of us, I believe, whether we want to admit it or not -- the activity to keep my spirits up is to keep my heart rate up.

This past Monday, the day after my race, I hit 2 p.m. and all I could think was "I'm blue" and "When is my roommate coming home?"

And I started to miss my legs. The use of them.

Several times throughout the day I thought of going to Starbucks, or Target, just to walk around and maybe spend some gift card money.

But what stopped me was the fact that my legs hurt so much, I didn't even want to trek down to my car or around any sort of retail establishment.

And it got me down. Quickly.

And it's the quickly element that has me wanting to write this.

I'm one who takes pretty stellar care of her mental health, if I say so myself, which I am saying, right here right now. I have all kinds of pieces in place to keep myself truckin', happy, and honest.

So when all it took was one day off from work to get me completely out of sorts, I -- even I, who is something of a depression veteran -- was rather surprised.

I couldn't wait to get back to work. Tuesday morning I felt so good being back among my peeps. Monday night, when Abby came home from work, I was like, "She's heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere!!!"

But even after we had chatted for a while and my main happy reserves were replenished, Abby caught me staring into space and asked, "How are your depression levels...?"

So while I continually am healing physically and thus able to literally get back on my feet at work to recover mentally, my one brief day off (in more ways than one) got me thinking about stuff.

Like how hard it is to sit still.

To do nothing.

To breathe.

To do something not involving fast technology, or instantly gratifying humor (do you ever think about this? How much we expect the world to keep us entertained?). To do something boring, but which might be rewarding, like sitting quietly and reading the Bible.

Even my cross stitch kept my hands and mind busy. But that and every-5-minute Facebook checks weren't enough. I needed more. Movement. People. Constant.

I don't have too much to say about this except for the fact that it disheartens and frightens me a bit to think how far we've traveled in one direction as a society and whether we will ever be able to recover.

I'm not sure where I read this (though I'm inclined to say it was Donald Miller) recently, but it was something along the lines of: Our children will rebel by reading longform writing and using landline telephones.

God, I hope that's the case.

I'm not a complete Luddite. I see the benefits of technological advancements, and I am hopelessly addicted to social media. I enjoy the pocket size element of my 1.0 versions of gadgets.

But I legitimately worry about being a parent, because me and my generation are already addicted enough to constant lights, camera, action.

Do I give my kids cell phones? Is there room for being moral about that, when landlines are just disappearing, not to mention expensive to keep in addition to cell phones? Do I keep tablets from them, making them freaks among their peers? Will there be enough activity for them to engage in if I restrict their TV intake? (Overthinking moment: I watched a lot of TV and still came out the other end loving to read, so I'm not too messed up, right?)

I'll figure it out, I'm sure. But this whole being unable to sit still unnerves me. I wonder sometimes if the real life I should or could be living lies in the fallout of the technology buzz. If it lies -- gasp! -- even outside the land of quiet Grandma stitching.

Should I be sitting more? Should I be concerned that I can't meditate?

That's all. I'll leave you with this: keep your health, and get out of the house. It will go a long way, and I want y'all to be happy. Hence the Mental Health Advice Train when you tell me you're depressed.

Loves to you all. -- Bails

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The noncompetitive guide to half marathoning

Don't live in a home that includes stairs. 

Because when you're done with the race it will feel like this to go up them:

Ow ow ow ow ow.

And this to go down them:

Ow ow ow ow ow.

Text your support network before you start. 

Remind your friends and fam that you're doing something awesome!! and ask them to send you silly texts while you're on the course.

Keep the runners in your life close to you on race day.

If you have a certain special runner in your life who can't be there with you on race day, consider calling him or her just before you finish and "running in with them" via phone. It will mean a lot to them. You could even Face Time with them, but, uh, don't trip.

Today I wore my bestie Michelle's old tank top, and it felt good to have her and her running spirit (chick is a QUICK! marathoner!) near.

When training, try not to skip your long workouts. 

You don't have to be an Olympian, but the more you "put the miles on your legs," the more enjoyable race day will be for you. You'll have more confidence and will be able to relax better.

Consider doing a Mom & Pop race.

Races that only have several hundreds -- as opposed to several thousands -- of registered participants have their advantages (this said, if I ever do a full marathon, I'm signing up for a BIG race, to feed off the adrenaline of all the spectators cheering me on. Yes, me specifically. When I run the Chicago, all the spectators will be cheering me on.).

Small organizational runs tend to be cheap, not crowded, and more chill. Several times today I found myself alone on the course, and it was kind of nice not to be mentally influenced by the pace of someone around me. And I paid, I believe, less than $35 for this race. And if you're into supporting local business, just view this as another opportunity to do so.

If you're running solo, plant someone at the finish line. 

It just makes you feel good. So if someone can't be there during the whole race, just ask them to snap a pic of you at the end (and then take you to lunch).

Remember that you will race like you train. 

When I did my first half marathon, I did all my training at a jogging pace, no walking. Come race day, I did the same. This time around, I did a lot of elliptical work and treadmill jogging/walking. During the race I jogged, walked, jogged, walked for the duration.

So however you want to perform on race day, mimic that goal in your training.

Make your goal to finish.

This one speaks for itself. You really are a winner just for finishing. Especially if you're following the Daily Bailey's noncompetitive guide to half marathoning. ;)


Take the time to make a killer playlist.

Might I recommend "swell songs." This means two things:

Songs that are swell. Songs that put a smile on your face, period. Put those on the list.

Songs that swell. Anything that builds. Pumps you up. Tugs at your (happy) emotions. Get it. Put that energy on the list.

Invest in a FuelBelt

Or have your friend Michelle mail you hers. But get one. Carry your phone, water, GU, energy chews, motivational Bible verses, a tampon. Whatever you can fit. But don't carry that stuff. Belt it.

Pre-hydrate. 

By this I mean: Buy beer the day before. Your legs will thank you that you don't have to walk through the grocery store post-race. And believe me, the rest of you will thank you for stocking the fridge with a 6-pack.

Make friends with your pacers.

Who are your pacers? Oh you'll find out.

Of course there are official pacers, who either lead a pack to meet a certain finishing time, or a running pal who jumps in the race with you to keep time and encourage you.

But if you're like me, and you run alone, your unofficial pacers are the people in your race who you keep catching up with. Today there was a father-daughter team who approached me to chat once we had all realized we kept ending up near each other on the track. We had a nice little get to know you session, encouraged each other throughout the morning, and then actually ran across the finish together.

Accept high fives, and encourage your fellow racers. 

Because the world needs all the good juju it can get. So spread the running love.

Unless you're gasping for air, throw out the occasional "great job" to those going after the same goal you are. Because you, of all people, know how valuable it is to be encouraged when you're pounding the pavement for 13 miles.

13.1. Excuse me.

And finally, remember not to pants your poop!


Saturday, June 20, 2015

(Not) sleepyhead

3 a.m. blogging, yay!

Oh wait. 3:27. 

Pre-race jitters? Maybe. 

Allergies? A little bit (was the cat snuggle worth it? Yep).

3:43. Got distracted. 

I don't feel the least bit tired. 

Maybe this lack of sleep tonight will help me crash out on Saturday night, so I'm not up worrying about the race the night before I melt in the heat and in my despair of being the slowest "runner" on the course? 

Anyway. 

I finally met some very special bloggers last night!!!, who were not put off by my gross public seeking them out, thank goodness.

We had ice cream and Mexican food, we wandered Barnes & Noble. I bought a book they suggested, after a somewhat comical moment in which we were all oohing and ahhing about two books with the same title but by different authors, so we thought we were all oohing about the same book but then it turned out we were not.*

*I might have otherwise pressured them to buy the book I was ahhing about, but to my knowledge it is sadly out of print.  

We talked about life and books and writing just like I hoped we would. 

They are lovely ladies, and I will plug their blogs here for you: 

World, meet Hilary and Jill

YOU'RE WELCOME. 

So what have I been doing since 2, when I stopped sleeping, you (didn't) ask?

Well I watched some "Bunheads." Finished episode 10, which had a pretty smart/wrenching ending, that in a weird (but romantic) way made me think and feel all swoony about my Alex. 


It doesn't generally take much to make me feel swoony about my Alex. I just have to see a romantic couple on TV or, you know, think about Alex. 

I want my new blogging buddies to watch "Bunheads." FYI, Girls. 

Is my sweet roommate awake yet so we can have coffee together and gush about our Friday nights out? 

I love my roomie, and having a roomie. Grateful for that feeling, as I dug my heels in about living alone for quite a while prior. 

Oooh, there is a bottle of untapped wine in the fridge...

Hmm.

If I decide to drink this wine, and to imbibe outside in the cool night air, do I need to put pants on? 

OK FINE. I'll either put pants on or imbibe inside or not at all. 

Watching the sunrise while drinking wine miiiiight make me feel like I have a problem, so maybe I will resist. 

Maybe. 

OK, well I'll let y'all go. Hope you're sleeping. Or if you're on the East coast maybe enjoying your first swig of java. Here's to the weekend. Now go watch "Bunheads."