Thursday, September 29, 2016

Running with my husband

For the entire span of our marriage, I've held at hope.  I knew if I just waited/prayed/begged/cajoled long enough, I would wear my husband down.  For 15 plus years, he was not the least.  He had absolutely no desire to lace up running shoes and pound the pavement along side his wife.  Furthermore, he had no interest in lacing up running shoes and pounding the pavement by himself.  He unequivocally was not a runner, he declared over and over.  He even mocked my endless need to rack up miles and secure quick racing times.

A few months ago, things changed.  Chris, preparing for an upcoming trip to the Grand Canyon, started to heavily train.  Most days, he visited the gym.  He at meals that would make the strictest of dietitians swoon.  He dropped weight.  He built up endurance.  He became lean and buff.

And in the midst of all his training, he began to run.  He started off with a mile or two.  He'd emerge from the treadmill with a scowl. It was clearly not love at first sight between Chris and running.  But over time, he added miles and built up speed.  Today, he can run five miles like a champ.

Last week, he asked me, out of the blue, if I would like to run with him.  He popped the question without one ounce of fanfare while I was reacting as if he proposed all over again.

Did I want to run with him?

Yes, I've wanted to run with him for the 6,000 days of our marriage.   I think my response was a bit convoluted between all the squeals and jumping.

Last Wednesday, we showed up at the running path in the blanket of darkness.  We agreed on five miles, and we fell into stride together.  Chris thought of the run as a joint exercise experience; I thought it was social time.  So, we both treated it as such.  I chattered through the miles, while he patiently listened and stayed the course.

At the end of five miles, I couldn't stop smiling.  

He did it.  

We did it.  

And, I couldn't wait to do it again....together.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Destroying the play set

For over a year, I've gazed out my kitchen window and stared down an eyesore.  Our wooden Costco play set, once the centerpiece and highlight of the backyard, had fallen into disrepair.  It was in need of a good facelift in the form of a power wash and re-staining.  When we evaluated the time and money it would take to revive the play set with the fact our children have outgrown the swings and slides, we decided to give away the play set.

I put a listing on a local sellers' Facebook page offering the play set for free.  The catch:  the lucky recipient had to disassemble and haul away the play set.  Within minutes, numerous people responded to my post.  I notified the first person.  She came out once to look over the play set.  Then, her and her husband returned with tools to slowly take the play set apart for transport.

About an hour into the process, they had second thoughts.  As they pried nails from boards, alarming things were discovered.  Poison Oak wound itself around lower planks.  Carpenter bees had feasted on the play set rafters.  And, many of the wood planks collapsed due to rot during transport.  The would-be owner turned down the play set.  Her response, "It's not worth it, even if it is free."

Can't blame her.

What was left in our yard was a wood pile and a half-disassembled play set.  It looked like a lumber autopsy gone wrong.  I sat in my kitchen and glanced at the disarray in the backyard with dismay.

But, my boys looked at the backyard differently.  They saw it as an opportunity to be helpful and to flex their manly muscles.  They requested to be helpers in the demolition.  And in a moment of questionable parenting, I agreed.

Within seconds, four boys rushed out of the house and charged the play set.  They clutched all sorts of "tools" for demolition, things like snow shovels, gardening shovels, and baseball bats.

Within minutes of my boys engaging in their "project," the news of the demolition swirled throughout the neighborhood and every adolescent boy within a five mile radius descending on our backyard carrying his own tool of choice.

I supervised and ensured a modicum of safety was enforced.

I watched my boys and the neighbor kids have a ball.  This was their chance to destroy, and they relished every single moment.  

If you want to know how to make a boy happy, give him a baseball bat (or snow shovel or gardening tool) and a piece of wood to destroy.  Smiles are guaranteed to follow.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Smoky Mountain National Park Half Marathon

Mid-commute from Indiana to Tennessee, we stopped for a hike in Berea, Kentucky.

Followed by a dinner stop in Powell, Tennessee at the Front Porch Restaurant.

Simply charming.

Highlight of the trip was when this fella crossed our path.  Mr. Brown Bear seemed not the least bit rattled about holding up traffic or creating quite a stir among park guests.

The bear didn't stop us from enjoying our first hike in the Smoky Mountains.

We dove right into celebrating the national parks and a race close to its borders.

Love this sign!

First day hike with falls as a beautiful backdrop.

Smiles.  Pre-run.  With sunshine about to peak over the mountains.

Smiles still there with post-run glow.

Claudia earned a 3rd place overall finisher's award. Woo hoo!

Her prize:  a national park pass!

I claimed the 3rd master's winner award.

And scored a national park pass too!

Basking in our 3rd place awards!

And because running is just not enough exercise (sarcasm), we hiked later that day.

On the first hike, we attempted to reach the Appalachian Trail.  But when the trail seemingly disappeared and daylight was dwindling, we nixed those plans.

The beauty about the Smoky Mountain National Park is that the trails are everywhere!

My dear friend Claudia decided it wasn't enough to run a race in every state.  She also needed to compete in all the national park runs.  When she spotted the Smoky Mountain National Park race and suggested we attend the race, I could think of not one single good reason to say no.

On Thursday, Claudia, Sarah and I hopped into our rented sedan.  We took the six hour trek down to Townsend, Tennessee (the self-proclaimed quieter side of the Smoky Mountain National Park).

Townsend is a sleepy Appalachian town who is happy to host the onslaught of park tourists, but in a more understated way than its flasher counterpart: Gatlinburg.  In Townsend, one bypasses the go-carts in favor of a comfy rocking chair with a clear view of the mountains.  Dining in Townsend is down-home fare with prices that even the stingiest of patrons will relish.  Those who work and live in Townsend dip their words in southern charm and hospitality.

If I would use one word to describe this weekend it would be active.  My backside only made contact with a seat while in the car to and from Indiana.  The rest of the time, we were hiking or running.  (And as the cruelest injustice, I did not shed one single pound!)  

The day before the race, we took the Cade's Cove loop; an 11-mile course that lapped Smoky Mountain Meadows and historic structures from original park settlers.  During this loop, we stumbled upon a bear.  He shot out of the bushes and wandered onto the road directly in front of our car.  The park is plastered with signs warning about the dangers of bears, and I've seen enough "Animal Attack" commercials to have a healthy fear of the damages inflicted by menacing bears.  But this bear seemed more domesticated and playful than the nasty images in my mind.  This bear sighting was the highlight of our trip.

The next day, we awoke before daylight and jumped onto the crowded shuttle that carried runners to the start.  In a typical Claudia/Becky/Sarah race fashion, we arrived at the start with minutes to spare.  When the race started, we joined 2,000 other runners along a course that ascended 500 feet for 13.1 miles.

What the course lacked in dramatic inclines, it made up for in rolling hills.  We raced along Tennessee country roads where charming cabins, bubbling rivers, and friendly locals formed our backdrop.  I had a hard time concentrating on important racing things, like pacing and breathing, because the beautiful scenery demanded all my attention.

The last mile, the sun broke through the trees and the course grew steeper.  The beating sun and hills made the finishing line look more appealing.  When I crossed the finishing line, a relief washed over my body and a gratefulness for experiencing something both so beautiful and wonderful simultaneously.

Our legs had little time to rest from the race before we were working them again. This time, we were exploring the numerous Smoky Mountain trails and gazing across gorgeous mountain vistas.  As much as I wanted to go back and sit on a rocking chair, these views and this park drew me deeper into the woods and along the mountains.

This weekend in the Smoky Mountains was active.  But really, that's the best way to experience something that begs to be explored.

Monday, September 5, 2016

50th Anniversary Toast

Spent the weekend in Brown County celebrating my parents' 50th wedding anniversary with family.

First two pictures are snapped from an early (hilly) morning run.

They renewed their vows at Indiana University.  To commemorate the occasion, we made a donation in their names to IU and secured a personalized brick outside the stadium. 

 Before the vows, we took a few family pictures on campus.  This is proof the boys actually can wear ties and smile at the same time!

No easy task to get ten grandchildren dressed, smiling, and posed.  But, it was a fairly successful photo shoot!

I pushed my luck and requested one more photo.  Can you guess which son was not pleased?

My parents renewed their vows on Beck Chapel on the IU campus.  At the conclusion of the ceremony, the organist played the IU anthem as our entire family joined in the singing.  It was one of those moments that won't easily drift from my memory.

After vows, the family traveled to the University Club in the Union.  Dinner was served with this yummy cake as the highlight.

Only complaint of the whole day is that the cake portion size was the size of my pinkie.  I wanted to cry:)

My favorite photo of the weekend.  After all these years, still laughing and hugging siblings and parents alike.

My nephew Parker exhibits a zest for life without an ounce of fear (Cooper's match).  He was always the life of the party.

But the star of the show was baby Amelia.  She didn't lack for companionship with a handful of eager relatives happy to pull her into a snuggle.

The entire weekend we spent celebrating my parents' 50th wedding anniversary.  We commemorated the occasion with special festivities and a lot of time spent with family in southern Indiana.

This afternoon, we packed up the cars to head back home.  Caleb noticed my mom carrying a package to her car.  He asked if the box contained a gift for him.

"No," I replied.  "It's an anniversary gift for her and Papa."

He paused and began, "I don't see why they get gifts for being married for 50 years.  Really, they just endured another person for that long."

I burst out laughing.

For some, staying together may be enduring a spouse.  But as one who has insider observations of my parents' marriage, their union has been more than an endurance race.  It's been five decades of two people truly loving and investing each other.

And so, I gave the following toast at their anniversary dinner (on behalf of my siblings too).

When we reflect on our childhood and our parents, we're filled with lots of little memories.  We think about homemade red velvet cakes that made appearances at every special occasion.  We recall photographs, pens, books, and glasses that adorned our house and come from every state and country around the globe.  We remember IU soccer games, Indiana small town foot races, Perry Meridian sporting events, Southport Presbyterian Church services, holidays at the farm, and trips down to Florida.

We're left with a collection of little such memories that have gelled together in our minds and left us with the following conclusions from our childhood, our family, and specifically our parents.

We've concluded that our parents loved us deeply.  They loved us enough to sacrifice things like time and money on our behalf.  They loved us enough to ensure many of the moments in our lives have been filled with joy, love, meaning, and companionship.  They’ve loved us enough to ensure they always modeled a life well lived.  And a life well lived included staying together, loving each other, and being intentionally invested in each other for five decades.  And when we think about all the gifts they’ve offered to us, those are perhaps the greatest and most lasting.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!  We’ve grateful for the years we’ve witnessed your marriage and proud of you for 50 year together.

And we look forward to seeing them together for many more.