A Good Day

June 24, 2012 § 3 Comments

Saturday morning began with my running group the WannaBeasts (10.5 minutes per mile) and eight sweaty miles through the greenway around Shelly Lake, behind Crabtree Valley Mall. There was ninety-eight percent humidity and while it felt like running through soup, it was fast and easy (even downright pleasant) thanks to the conversation with my partner Nancy (whom I’d just met) and the energy of the team.

Afterward, instead of heading home to shower, I drove to Peachie’s for one last visit to her empty house and to drop off the baby clothes that the girls had gathered from their closet the day before (during their own packing session for Maine).

“It’s too small, it goes in the baby pile!”

I sat in Peachie’s back yard drenched in sweat and snot (my poor skirt had served as kleenex on the trail) and watched squirrels in pine trees pull branches from limbs and scurry away. I wondered if this is how they collected their nuts. I reminded myself that I loathe squirrels, especially after they had taken refuge in my attic a few years ago.

I called my sister and we talked.

I called my Peach and we talked even more.

When I couldn’t stand the dried sweat a second longer I left for home, driving and listening to the radio stations that are playing the same songs on rotation this Summer. I know all of the words.

I showered and threw on a typically scary post run outfit; a comfy bra, white and purple stretchy shorts that say, “I heart Saints,” a washed blue KBIA t-shirt that I intentionally cut down the front and unintentionally ripped under the arm, and bright pink CEP compression calf sleeves I’d received in the mail the day before.

I don’t like to match my clothes post run. The more mismatched I look the better I feel. I’m pretty sure that most runners feel the same way about their recovery outfits. It’s not mentioned much, but take a look at most running blogger’s post run photos and it becomes obvious. It might even be an unsaid qualification for calling oneself a runner.

As happens after a good medium to long run I was tired. I shuffled around the house until I couldn’t bring myself to shuffle anymore and by 3:00 curled up on the sofa with the girls for an episode of Sponge Bob.

I promptly fell asleep.

Grace soon nudged me and said that she was tired, too, and surprisingly both girls followed me upstairs where we crawled into their beds. Unexpected as neither girl has taken a nap since 2010. When I woke and realized that it was 7:00 p.m., I knew there’d be a long night ahead.

We came downstairs where Brian had made dinner and had it waiting on the kitchen bar; cheeseburgers, french fries and onion rings.

I cut up some lettuce and tomato and made plates of food that we took outside to eat by tiki lamps.

The girls were happy. Their dad and I were civil. We talked about a friend of a friend who at thirty-eight had just died from Frontal Lobe Dementia. There was a silent acceptance that this life is too short and that happiness is imperative. The girls laughed as their stuffed puppies “tried” to eat from the plates of food. The family unit was working as it should all the time.

With renewed energy I decided to tackle the packing that waited for me; my empty suitcases left for last.

I tucked my iPhone into my bra after pressing play on my audiobook version of Wild. As I gathered my running clothes and bathing suits I listened to the chapter about Cheryl’s mother’s horse named Lady and how she had become old. With her mother gone, she knew that she needed to tend to the horse.

The heartbreaking account of what came next made the placement of items into my luggage slow and deliberate. I listened while folding my piles and piles of must haves, acting out my work while my heart swelled and pounded from the depth of the pain I was hearing.

For two hours I continued; Cheryl’s journey on the Pacific Coast Trail and my journey through my stuff.

I have much too much. As I looked around at the things I knew I’d need and then back to the closet for the things that I might need and into the extra closets for things I never wear but probably need, I felt overwhelmed and a little disgusted.

I listened to Cheryl talk about Monster, the name for the pack she carried on her back, and wished that I could lessen my reliance on consumerism, so that all I needed was a pack and my kids. If only that could be enough.

When it became too overwhelming I decided to leave the mess to which I will return to today.

I sat on the master bed and continued with the story while gazing at the mound of fabrics and colors, pants and tunics, hats and necklaces, bathing suits and skirts. Underpants will go in last.

I connected to Cheryl’s feelings about her writing. How she’d always written, but the unattained dream of writing her own novel had left her disappointed and embarrassed. She wrote about making the decision to make it happen.

Remembering how I felt when reading the Hunger Games, how I liked the author and appreciated her words seemingly written for me, I added Cheryl Strayed to my list of imaginary friends. I might not understand a lot of what she went through on the PCT, but I certainly relate to her life as a writer and a woman.

By 10:30 the house was dark and bedtime was near. The girls brushed their teeth and chose their bedtime books. I imagined that I’d get them to sleep and then sneak away for some alone time, to ponder my day and plan the next. But instead, I just lay between my daughters thinking.

In two days we’ll be back at the beach that has been home for thirty five years. I will see my friends who have known me my entire life. I’ll see the newest babies and write by the sound of the sea.

Instead of sneaking away I closed my eyes and listened to the breathing of my girls, while hoping for a future that looked a lot like this day.

A day of sweat and books. Of food and fun. Introspection and civility. A life with purpose, happiness, respect, restful naps, laughs, and possibly less in the way of stuff.

All things are possible.

With that I fell to sleep. The best sleep I’ve had in ages.

The WannaBeasts at the start. Forty runners at the same pace is an unbelievable experience!

CEP calf sleeves in pink. I think I had them on backward and so I turned them around later in the day. I realize I haven’t written a “gear post” in ages. On my feet, Ipanema flip flops, my choice for this Summer. Under my feet a Dash and Albert exterior washable rug. Geez. Look at that! My consumerism in full effect!

The girls stack of traveling books. I like that they put A Good Day by Kevin Henkes on the top. I promise this wasn’t staged. I named the post after seeing the book tower and realizing it was exactly what I was writing about. 

My packing mess. Brian is going to take the girls out later today so that I can focus. Underneath that pile are neatly folded running clothes and beach things. I can thank Cheryl Strayed for that.

I downloaded Wild to listen to when I ran. I liked it so much I pinned it on my Pinterest page, which resulted in a signed copy of the book at my front door. Pretty neat if you ask me!

Good Day, Good Day

A Good Day found on Pinterest (uploaded by Brianna Hope). Fitting, wouldn’t you say?

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Nothing Gold Can Stay

March 25, 2012 § 8 Comments

In September of 1983 I turned eleven. I was in the seventh grade. For my birthday party I wanted to take my friends to see the movie The Outsiders, which we’d probably already seen eleven or twelve times. The film directed by Francis Ford Coppola spoke to the stuff which we had not yet been exposed; serious themes of love and hatred, socio-economic distrust, death and murder to name a few. Being cast with cute teenage boys was (I think) its initial appeal.

Afterward, my parents took the dozen or so of us to Ernesto’s on Clement Street (in San Francisco) for pizza. The memory of that night has not faded with time.

When we entered the restaurant a gaggle of girls with bright red eyes and puffy faces there was no doubt that what we’d experienced was powerful. We’d cried and sighed and reached for each others hands. Despite the difficult themes, we loved every minute of the entire movie; the evidence not totally clear by the sight of our tear smudged faces.

Yesterday, my grown up girlfriends and I watched as a row of fifth grade girls filled the seats in front of us in a darkened theater, all of us eagerly waiting the start of The Hunger Games. 

Their arrival prompted a discussion between my friends and me regarding whether or not the movie was appropriate for their age.

I had to think about it, but my answer was a resounding, “Yes!”

Even so, today I’m still thinking about my response, which has prompted this post.

My kids are little and everyday I’m faced with the challenge about what I choose for them to see or do, to eat or say. What is allowed?  What is okay?

How did my mom make her decisions? How did the parents of those kids in the movie come to the conclusion that their kids were ready?

The girls in front of us at the movie yesterday demonstrated all of the appropriate behaviors of children being faced with some pretty serious subjects like the end of our civilization, death, murder, love, power and redemption.  They giggled when Katniss kissed Peeta in the cave and sighed when they watched Gayle’s breaking heart.

For me, the movie didn’t pack the powerful punch that the book did because it lacked Katnisses beautiful internal thoughts, which made the reading so special.

I wished I could have had a round table discussion with those fifth graders to see how they felt when it ended and I watched them carefully as my friends and I left to say our own farewells.

The kids were smiling and laughing, texting and hugging; not a puffy face in the bunch.

Children today may be more mature than they were when we were young. They may be less or more connected due to technology. Their bodies might be growing faster because of the gunk in the food they eat and they might watch more t.v. All of this might be true.

But when you are ten or eleven or twelve you are still a kid who not so long ago came into this world as gold.

The Outsiders quotes the famous Robert Frost poem entitled, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

The girls in front of us yesterday may be a few years younger than my friends and I were the night of my eleventh birthday. They probably are more mature, but are still little girls based on the short amount of time they’ve spent on our Earth.

They may not have cried at the end of The Games, but I’d venture to say if they watched The Outsiders today they’d be just like my friends and I were twenty-nine years ago; wet faced from filled up hearts with day dreams of life and love to come.

Because that’s what little girls are made of.

Down to Days

February 18, 2012 § 5 Comments

The past few weeks of running, including my nineteen miler, were done without audio books. I finished the last chapter of Dead Until Dark a few weeks back, while sitting in my car at Whole Foods, eating kale salad before going to pick up the kids. I knew how it was going to end, since I’d watched it play out on t.v., but even so I was sad to say, “Goodbye,” to the book version of Sookie.

Yesterday I downloaded the second book in the Hunger Games series; Catching Fire. It started little ahead of where the last book finished, but I was pulled right back in and excited to see where we would go. I feel a sort of kinship with Katniss, Girl on Fire. It isn’t logical, but she did get me through some of my very first long runs, while at the same time running for her own life in the games. As I’ve mentioned, I’ll be channeling her with flaming fingernails on March 18th, so it was appropriate that she would be my choice for heroine du jour during these final weeks of training.

Those few weeks without stories made me realize that I’ve got to have one (or two) going at all times. I had checked out When Margaret was Young, by my favorite author Jane Hamilton, but could never figure out how to get it to import to my phone. In a way I was glad, though, because what if I didn’t like it? Could Jane Hamilton be my favorite author anymore if I couldn’t connect with her book? I returned it without listening, but will try to go back to it later, when I have less on my plate. I would hate to be disappointed by my book of choice at this juncture.

After my lunch date with Sookie, which turned out to be a surprisingly calm and enjoyable addition to my schedule, I decided that I needed a car read. While at the library, waiting for the girls to fill their “library purses,” I hunted down the audio book for Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.

I’ve often wondered what it was about that book that kept me so entranced as a young girl in the sixth grade, reading it for the very first time. I figured that it would be good research as I ponder the kind of books I myself want to write, and at the same time, be my companion as I eat my lunch. It probably sounds like a pretty nerdy and isolationist thing to do, but it is very hard to get quiet these days, and it’s less sad than eating alone absolute silence.

As a side note, I have returned to the land of exhaustion. After writing about Sweet Sleep, where I felt recovered from the overwhelming tiredness that had been plaguing me, it took one night of a past eight p.m. bedtime to fall back into the realm of six p.m. crashing and burning.

I wonder if it’s this point of marathon training and part of recovery? Maybe I’m coming down with something?

With only twenty-nine days until the race, my most important goal is to stay healthy. Peach called me yesterday with another cold and cough, my girls have been blowing their own little noses, and I watched a coughing boy at pre-school wipe his hand down the entire banister as he descended the stairs, surely on his way to the doctor. Germs are everywhere!

It is my biggest fear that I’ll get sick within days of the race and be unable to compete. That scenario has occurred two other times in my racing history. There’s nothing worse than being ill with a deep lung cough and cold at the same time that hundreds of people are running your race.

Fear aside, books in place, continued rest, one more big run, and quiet car lunches are on the menu until tapering begins.

Tapering. The final stage of this journey. I can barely believe it’s almost here.

Deliciousness!

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret. By Judy Blume.

Library Purses from Port Canvas in Maine. Notice the quality reading in Sophie's bag! She couldn't resist SpongeBob LovePants. Can you blame her?

Girl On Fire Nails

February 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

I was talking to Sophie about painting my nails bright pink with red flames for the race, as an homage to Katniss (Girl on Fire) from the Hunger Games; both as inspiration to keep me going and as a “thank you” for helping me through so many long runs.

These are much prettier than what I imagined…. love them!

polishyoupretty

Our Valentine edition continues – today we wanted to try a nail art design that wasn’t all about flowers and heart, but something that can be done in any colour and still look great all year around. The gobstopper nail, or the layered ruffian is our latest favourite. This design looks great ombred so we used a v-day palette to go with our theme.

Step 1: After applying a base coat, paint nail with Sally Hansen – Presto Pink. This colour is a perfect pop of pink to begin our look that won’t get lost with the addition of different shades.

Step 2: Using American Apparel – Angeline, a deeper hot pink, paint a ruffian design over your base colour. Start at the far side of the nail and try to drag the polish in one swift motion to the opposite side  – this helps create a perfectly curved line. We used the…

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Two Plus Ten Plus Three

January 14, 2012 § 11 Comments

I’ve just returned from my first fifteen miler. It was a beautifully cold morning, the temperature only reaching thirty-five (even an hour later), as I sit here to type.

I bundled properly with my thick Target base layer, my trusty black Define Jacket, with a Lululemon wind breaking vest over top. My LLL Dash Tights have become my long run pant of choice, but due to the cold, I layered them with a pair of Speed Shorts and Running Skirts knee-high compression socks. Not a fan of running commando, I tested out my new hot pink Under Armour boy short underpants. The only part of me that was not layered was the space between my thighs and my knees.

Yesterday I signed up for audible.com, which is a site that charges a monthly fee for audiobooks. How happy I was to download The Hunger Games for a mere seven dollars. How happy I was that this book, like my last choice, is the story of a heroine. Girl power. My favorite kind.

I was tempted to name this post The Pee Pee Games, since my effort to hydrate this morning left me with a bladder that was full and uncomfortable after a mile. As I saw it, I had three options; find a bush, pee in my pants, or run back home. It was too cold to drop trou and if I peed my pants it would probably feel warm and nice for a second, but surely freeze within minutes making for an unhappy remaining thirteen miles. As I circled home, clearly the best option, I was lucky that the monsters were upstairs. I snuck in quiet as a mouse.

I literally had to peel off my pants to pee and my skin was both frozen and burning. The sting only lasted for a minute before I stopped worrying about it and focused on the warmth of the heat being pushed through the vent in the bathroom floor.

Pants pulled up, I was back on the road in one minute.

The next ten miles I spent transfixed by The Hunger Games and was reminded me what I love about books; story telling, picture painting, suspense, character development, all conjured through words. I love words. I love stringing them together and seeing what results. I think I’d like to meet the author of this adventure. I think I’d like her in real life.

My goal to run negative splits was like a dark cloud over my shoulder. I started slowly enough, but as happens around seven miles, I started feeling really strong and so I sped up more than I should. I told myself, “I can keep up the 12 point something pace,” but as I’d hit hills or a stomach cramp, would realize that I should have held back until a little later in the game.

The stomach cramps. I had three. They were more like bubbles that appeared out of nowhere and only subsided when I’d stop short, bend forward, watch my shoes for a few seconds and breathe. Maybe chinese noodles for dinner don’t really count as good carb loading before a big run?

My last three miles were happy ones. I was almost finished and my route home was familiar. I wanted to finish strong and I pushed so hard on my last half mile that my heart was beating out of my chest.

“Come on Martha! You can do this Martha! Negative splits! Negative splits! Finish strong Martha!” I was chanting to myself under my breath. Somehow repeating my name pushed me on. Miraculously, I finished my last mile a block away from home where I took a picture of the Garmin.

I can’t even imagine what I’ll be saying to myself as I near 26.2.

There may be no words, but there will certainly be tears.

Fifteen miles, 3 1/2 hours, average pace @ 14

Husband in Training

January 13, 2012 § 5 Comments

Grace shuffled in at 1 a.m. with her footsie pajamas trailing behind her and her underpants around her ankles.

“Mom,” she said, “the pee won’t come out.”

I followed her into the bathroom where I watched her scoot atop the potty. She was so far forward that her little tush wasn’t over the hole, making it impossible to go. I pushed her farther back, but there was still no sound.

I whispered, “Listen,” as I turned on the faucet.  Voila’, she peed!

As I snuggled her back into bed I thought about potty training. Her first night out of diapers she wet the bed, but immediately realized she’d had enough of that funny business. Every night  after that she would wake me to tell me she had to go. Only recently has she started the night-time ritual on her own. Her sister took a bit longer to get trained and the plastic sheet stayed on her bed a few more weeks, but overall, potty training my kids was easy.

From potty training to marathon training, I began to think about my upcoming fifteen mile run on Saturday and how it won’t be bearable without an audiobook. I’ve visited iTunes a hundred times and have settled on The Hunger Games, but it’s $26.00 price tag has made it difficult for my finger to press download.

The younger Martha would have had no problem pushing that button, listening to it once and then sending it to the trash to save room in my iPod. The younger and very single Martha used to go grocery shopping with no qualms about the price of milk or yogurt or ice cream or chicken. The married Martha has gotten used to questioning the cost of the little things.

I have been wife trained without even knowing it!

After almost seven years of marriage, Brian’s frugality and deep held belief that we have much more than we need, was not something that I accepted had rubbed off onto me at all.

As Grace began to doze, her breathing soft and deep, I pondered what influence I’ve had on my dear husband. As I sit here and write, I still remain uncertain. What deep held beliefs of mine has he adopted? If I can’t think of any, does it mean that he doesn’t really love me? Does it mean that I picked wrong?

Maybe it’s not that complicated.

Maybe husband training is simply like potty training in boys; they take a lot longer, but eventually get it, which makes mommy’s life much easier. You just have to trust it will happen and try not to give up.

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