Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Once a Runner

I started running in the 7th grade when I was 12 years old. That was 24 years ago.

I went out for the track team because one of my best friends said it was fun. Her cool older sister ran track. My BFF quit after a week and I was left on the team shy and alone, unable to run even one lap around the track without walking.

At less than 5 feet tall and somewhere in the 70 pound range, I was nearly blown off the track by the Oklahoma winds.

I ran the entire season in navy blue Keds and bobby socks. I finished last place every race. My parents, loyal and impervious to shame, came to each meet, enduring the comments from nearby spectators:

Look at that poor girl. She's so slow. And her legs are like twigs. Oh look, she's waving at people in the stands. And smiling...while racing. How old is she?

I honestly can't tell you why I stayed with it. As a puny and awkward non-athlete, running was hard for me. But quitting was even harder...and so I stayed on the track.

I'm glad I did. I became part of a team. I was "a runner." And when you're in 7th grade, identity is everything.

My track coach encouraged me to run the next fall. Thankfully cross-country proved to be better than track. With a field of 50-150 participants, I was no longer dead last in every race.

As the seasons rolled by, I kept running. By my sophomore year I was actually decent, though hardly a standout on my 5A state championship team. I proudly wore a letter jacket with track and cross-country badges. My parents sacrificed so I could get a team state championship ring...which now fits my pinky. And at 36, I still wear my silver necklace with the runner pendant I got when I was 16.

Because once a runner, always a runner...if only in spirit.

I owe a lot to running. Running taught me discipline, exemplified by thrice-weekly 5 a.m. runs as a high-schooler. Endurance as I ran barefoot with my teammates for over an hour in the sand bars of the Arkansas River. Dedication. Determination. Focus. Perseverance. I could use a little more of those virtues now. As a mom of young kids, every day feels like a marathon.

Running gave me life-long friendships {reconnected through the magic of Facebook} and opportunities for leadership. It gave me a place to belong during those tenuous teenage and college years. It was and still is part of who I am.

Best of all, running gave me my husband of 14 years. I met him when we were 18 on our college cross-country team. That was 18 years ago and he is still handsome and fast.

Since then I've endured injuries, pregnancies, surgery, physical therapy, and apathy. I've run mini-marathons and not run for years at a time.

Today I'm a runner, thanks once again to a friend's invitation. Months ago she said to me, Let's run. You've been saying you want to get back out there. Let's do it together. After a 5-year hiatus, I felt much like I did in 7th grade: insecure, puny, and awkward.

Three to four mornings a week I'm out the door before the sun comes up. It's not much but it feels good to lace up my sneakers, sweat, watch the sun come up, and chat through labored breathing with my faithful running partner. In the midst of this crazy season of my life, running is the calm, the thing I do that's just for me.

Seemingly random events can set our course. I owe a lot to that 7th-grade invitation, inconsequential though it seemed...a gift granted 24 years ago that keeps on giving.


{Title of this post is also the title of a book by John Parker . Wanted to give credit where credit is due.}

Saturday, June 20, 2009

God in Everything

I'm visiting Michigan for a month. It's beautiful here. This is where my husband grew up, swimming and splashing in the same lake where his own children now swim and splash every summer. Our kids are the 5th generation to call this "home," even though it's only a few weeks out of the year for us.

I love that sort of tradition and rootedness to a place. 

While being here is glorious, getting ready to be here was not. Laundry, cleaning, squeezing everything that 4 people need for a month into 2 suitcases, Cupcake unpacking what was already packed, the mile-long to-do lists before we left. I was Momzilla incarnate during those final days before takeoff.

Driving around town on one of those chaotic days before leaving, just me and my ever-present entourage of three, Brownie said something which gave me pause:

Mommy, I see God in everything.

I nearly spit out the thrice-reheated Starbucks as my eyes filled with tears and my heart swelled with conviction.

I fail to see God in everything. I want to. I need to. I'm learning to. Slowly. But typically my grown-up self is too preoccupied with the business of busy-ness, the service of domesticity, and the selfishness of my own agenda. 

The conversation did not remain lofty for long. I'm always amused by children's ability to go from the profound to the absurd in one fell swoop: 

Mommy, is God in my ice cube? If He is, then am I eating Him? 

Does God have a pinky? I think he does have a pinky.

Nonetheless, I long for the eyes and heart and faith of a child. I think I outgrew it about 28 years ago. And now, at 36, I am desperately trying to squeeze back into my kid suit. 

Being here, surrounded by the unmistakable beauty of creation, makes it easier. 

Yesterday Blondie spotted this butterfly as we walked down to the beach. It put on a show just for us, gracefully flapping its wings and squirming its fat red body. 

Later she rescued this baby dragonfly from certain death-by-arachnid, carefully untangling it from a web on the dock and tearfully exclaiming:

Mommy, I just can't bear the thought of this being its last day alive!

Much to her horror, one of its wings was broken.

This is a rehabilitation center for the baby dragonfly. (See how comfy it is on that big purple flower.)


Though unsuccessful in mending its broken wing, she was successful in creating the most beautiful deathbed a baby dragonfly has ever known. I assured her that no dragonfly has enjoyed such comfort and beauty during its final hours. 

She placed the box on her nightstand, fretting over her winged patient until she finally fell asleep. When we awoke this morning, it had passed. Blondie cried and gave it a proper burial in the front yard.

Her tender affection for living things inspires and humbles me. This is her Father's world. 

I love the quote that inspires my photographer friend, Sarah:

Earth's crammed with Heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.        

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

It's easy to see Earth crammed with Heaven in the splendor of this place. To take off my shoes in reverent wonder. 

Beneath a canopy of towering firs and decades-old maples, we have gazed upon deer and sand hill cranes, geese and orioles, groundhogs and snapping turtles, fish and clams. 

And all of this has nourished my dry and desperate grown-up soul, reviving my childlike gift of seeing God in everything.

The real test will be grasping it in the everyday life I'll return to in July.

At least I'll have helpers.

While these children of mine have much to be taught, I sometimes wonder if their teacher has just as much to learn from them.

*This post is part of "Tuesdays Unwrapped" at Chatting at the Sky.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ocean View

Summer's here and I'm in the mood for all things beachy...except frizzy hair. Beachy reminds me that I've never given you folks a tour of the beachiest room in my house: the kids' room.

Sometimes I forget that I can blog about old home projects like this room, which we did 3 summers ago. While it's fun to take readers on a scenic tour of a new rehab or room makeover, the space people seem to love most in my little house is the ocean-themed bedroom where Blondie & Brownie reside. 

She is 8. He is 5. They'll continue to share this room until Cupcake is out of the nursery. Then the boys will bunk together here and Blondie will get a long-awaited room of her own.

It's hard to create a gender-neutral room that's fun...but IKEA worked it out. Blondie and I traveled to our nearest store and she chose this colorful ocean theme. You can't beat the prices: duvet covers & matching shams for $9.99. Seashell lights for $6. We got most everything we needed there. The rest we picked up at Target and Wal-Mart as our budget allowed.

Brownie's side:

{That clutter-covered behemoth is the Lego table. We don't have a play room or basement so all the toys are relegated to their bedroom.}

Blondie's side:

Those storage cubbies are their dressers. We purchased them at Target a while back. The rugs and chairs were purchased from Wal-Mart at the same time, gifts from my generous and loving-to-accessorize sister-in-law.

I must admit, it's a super fun kids' room, colorful and inspiring. One that invites kids to play and create and curl up under a giant leaf with a good book.

Ladybugs seem to love it too. About 200 of them flew to the sun and proceeded to die there. I have yet to give them a proper burial. {Notice the buggy shadow in the center of the sun.}

Of course it's not always this tidy. We cleaned it up for you because it looks much cuter when it's clean.

The closet, however, is another story.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pretty Ice-Cream

I went to a lovely wedding Saturday afternoon. Don't even get me started on how much I love weddings. Or how I cry at every single one. I love Love. 

This particular wedding had an ice-cream reception. Is that the best idea or what? And they still had cake. I know. Paradise.

Anyway, I got permission from the bride (and faithful reader, Kindel) to share her fab reception ideas. Not only did she come up with the idea to serve ice-cream as a MEAL (genius!), she mistreated the boxes in which she housed the ice-cream!

Instead of just lining up a bunch of bulk ice-cream tubs, she gingerly placed the tubs inside these lovely chocolate brown boxes...that she made.

She simply put together plywood boxes, wrapped them in fabric (which she hot-glued into place), stuffed a bit of light blue tulle in between the box and tub, tied satin ribbon around each box, and finished it off with an elegant label. 

How beautiful and classy is this?

And look...the boxes match her bridesmaids' dresses!

{I see a new wedding trend: Bridesmaids carrying ice-cream down the aisle in lieu of flowers. It's cheap, delicious, and what sentimental girl hasn't wept into a container of chocolate-chip-cookie-dough at one time or another?}

We feasted on Mackinack Island Fudge, Strawberry, Peanut Butter Cup and a wonderful array of sure-to-please flavors. You could use this idea for graduation parties, showers, birthdays...

Blondie thought an ice-cream reception was the best idea ever. 

So there you have it. Mistreated ice-cream boxes. It just goes to show that there's more to mistreat than windows.

Honestly, I never thought fabric and hot-glue needed any help. You can practically save the world with those two. But then I met fabric, hot-glue and ice-cream. 

A beautifully delicious trifecta.


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