Tuesday, December 20, 2016

buoyancy

I am good at piling on, but not at unpacking. I give myself things to do: chores, school, work, parenting. It accumulates on top of me, the pack mule who is never unpacked.

But last week I read the word, "buoyancy" and I thought, that's what I'm missing. I am always treading water, never lying on my back and floating. So I decided to unpack a little. I started with a bath bomb and a book. Then I scheduled a massage.

The masseuse said, "you sure are tight" when working my shoulders and I thought, work it out. All of 2016. All of the work I did and the stress I had. All of the worry and the anxiety. Knead it out of me. 

In 2017, I will not begin to sink. I can not do that again: gasp for air and struggle to breathe. I can not feel the heavy darkness washing over me, into me, through me again. I will swim toward the light and when I find it, I will stay there.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

pain and cookies

When I dropped Brandon off at preschool, he clung to my leg, tears in his eyes like it was his first day again. He loves preschool and always says, "bye mom!" with something like enthusiasm. But today was different.

"Sit here, next to Ryan," I said. But then a redheaded boy sat next to Brandon's friend Ryan instead. "Sit by him," I said, as if one person was as good as another.
"But he's mean to me!" Brandon wailed.
I wanted to demand to know what this redhead did to my sensitive boy. I wanted to track down the mother and have a word or two. But I acted calm and Brandon's teacher helped wrench Brandon off of me.

"I'll be back soon," I promised. Then I came home with Holden, to stew over what could have happened to my boy. Because when something happens to your child, you feel it just as intensely, maybe more so.

Once preschool ended, I picked up Brandon and got the story. On Friday, the redhead and Brandon were in the bathroom and the redhead punched Brandon in the belly and didn't say he was sorry. Brandon said this boy isn't mean to anyone else, only to Brandon.

And I felt a pang like pain in knowing that Brandon has learned that the world is not always kind. That he will have to fight, even though he doesn't want to. That right and wrong are always at war. That people punch each other and say awful things and purposefully hurt one another.

But I brought him home, where he is sheltered from all of that and we made Christmas cookies and despite what he went through this morning, he said, "this is the best day of the year!"

Although I can't keep them from the evil, I can remind them of the good.

Friday, December 9, 2016

small efforts

So much in the habit of sewing something I stitch up a bunch of scraps, try to see what I can make. 
~from "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker

I don't watch a lot of TV, but one of the few shows I do watch is Project Runway. I watch it while I run on the treadmill, constantly marveling at the parallels between designing clothes and writing. We are each being creative, using our imaginations to create something for someone else to enjoy.

I am getting in the habit now of writing, thanks to grad school forcing it upon me. When I'm about to fall asleep, I think about what I am going to write next and when I wake up, I plan when I will sit down to write. It is becoming the habit that running was before. It could be a journal entry or a blog or revising something I wrote this semester or working on my novel, but I am writing and I am feeling good.

My sister sent me a "writer's box" last month which was full of writing inspiration: blank books to be filled and pencils and books. I cried while I marveled at each object she had included, knowing me and what I would like; spending so much time and effort to make it personal. She hand lettered on every page of a journal a quote to inspire me.

One is: "Success is the sum of small efforts - repeated day in and day out" (Robert Collier). Right now, Steve and I are cleansing again and I am shedding weight quickly because day in and day out I am disciplined. Small efforts, whether walking for ten minutes or not eating a cookie or writing until I'm proud of something or avoiding my phone at bed time are accumulating to make me feel purposeful.

Monday, November 28, 2016

gerunds

That time of motherhood is almost behind me when the ear is not one's own but must always be racked and listening for the child cry, the child call. ~from "I Stand Here Ironing" by Tillie Olsen

I know this sounds terrible, but it's honest: I'm looking forward to what comes next: the part of parenting when my kids clean up after themselves and help with chores and put themselves to bed and can put toothpaste on their toothbrushes and pull on their own pants and pour a bowl of cereal and even use the remote. I am looking forward to being needed less. I think what a lot of women love about motherhood is constantly being needed, but honestly it's what I like least. I love being loved, but not being needed.

The startling part of motherhood was that I was the one being depended on all of a sudden. I was no longer being doted on or looked out for. Now it was my responsibility to do that for other helpless people. Me, helpless myself, helping others! People depending on me! It was a lot--still is: today I forced medicine down Holden's throat and gave him a haircut as he screamed and cried and kicked and punched. Adjustment is not the word because it's so opposite of what I was used to that it wasn't like adjusting at all. It was like starting over, reinventing myself to be what someone else needed.

Some days, I can not believe that I'm not a child, but that I have children. I still remember many scenes of childhood with such clarity it's like I'm there. I remember the emotions with the same intensity. Sometimes I will smell strawberries and cream and remember a dollhouse of this girl I used to play with or I will walk into someone's house and the layout will be the exact same as a girl on my street. When I see one of those battery-operated cars for toddlers I think of this time when I rode on one, trying to outrace these dogs I was vehemently afraid of. Cozy coupes still make me think of Sarah Beth next door, even though my son has had one for years, that is not what I think of. I am a child still: just a grown, but not grown-up one.

I am the one now who acts, rather than the one the acts are done for. I am no longer the receiver, but now am the giver. I am cooking, cleaning, wiping, bathing, reading, organizing, gifting, driving, rocking, holding, nagging. I am all the gerunds, the ones people need. Today I am needing a warm bath and a hot bowl of soup and some apple cider and some ice cream and someone to tell me to "take a load off, go lay down"  or even, "you look terrible, do you feel okay?" but that isn't the way it is for parents. We do and we do and we do and if we ever don't we feel guilty and beat ourselves up and make ourselves even more haggard and run-down.

So I will clean the kitchen now and finish my Cyber Monday shopping and be what is expected of me because I am a parent now, not a kid. But it smells like strawberries and cream and I am thinking of a dollhouse or maybe it's Avon bubble bath, the kind I would use if I was a kid and I was sick and I needed a warm bath. This time of motherhood is almost behind me, and that gives me hope of a time where I'm not needed so much, but still loved with intensity. A time of baths and clean kitchens and not listening for someone to call out and need me.  I will slip back into who I was like a coat I just misplaced for a spell and I will take a long whiff of mothballs and smile.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

morning after

A few weeks ago at the pumpkin patch, we went on the big slide. We had just bought pumpkin cups and could not take them with us so Brandon said, "what will we do with these?" and I told him we would put them in the corner by the fence while we slid. "But what if someone takes them?" he asked, because although he's half my DNA, he's also half Steve's.

"Sometimes you have to believe in the good in people," I replied.
Reluctantly he left his new cup in the corner by the fence and then we slid down the slide over and over again. And when it was time to leave he said, "my new cup!" and he went to retrieve it, and there it was, exactly where we had left it.
"See?" I said. "People are good. You have to remember to trust in that."

That's what I thought of this morning when I woke up and Brandon was in my bed and I explained with tears in my eyes that Clinton didn't win. Although some people are bad, many, many people are good. We have to remember to trust in that.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

making history

We woke up early today, dressed, and hit the polls. Steve and I with our two little boys in tow: the boys whose America we were shaping with our votes. I was not a voter until this election, but I recently registered, to be a part of history, to one day tell my children that I voted for our first woman president.

I turned on MSNBC tonight to watch the election results. We watched together as Brian Williams co-anchored with Rachel Maddow, not because she's the token blond reporter but because she is informed and intelligent and deserved the spot. "Clinton! Clinton!" The boys chanted while dancing and spinning. I held Brandon by the shoulders and explained to him why this was so important: how this is the first time in America's history that a woman could become our leader. And I couldn't help the tears that formed in my eyes because women are emotional, it's true, and because politics, like business, are personal, despite what we say.

Although Brandon doesn't understand glass ceilings or that there are people treated as if they're less significant than others, he will one day and when that day comes, I will tell him about how when I was pregnant with him, my employer picked my successor without my help: a male without the relevant experience I had who was hired in at $15K more than I was, a male who on the first day told me he was my new boss and made me feel like nothing.

And I'll tell him about when I got pregnant the next time, with his little brother: how I was working for a different employer and when this chauvinist man who once told me not to hire women because they were emotional or fat people because they were undisciplined heard that I was pregnant, his response was, "post your job."

I'll tell him that I worked in HR and saw all sorts of decisions made that were sexist or racist or bigotted and I would lie in bed at night, unable to sleep or sleeping fitfully, thinking of how unjust it was, even in my dreams.

I will tell him that this election wasn't just about equality between men and women, but also between immigrants and residents and blacks and whites and gays and straights and all sorts of dividing labels we have assigned that shouldn't be important. I will tell my son that one November night in 2016, him and his little brother and I rooted for Clinton and I knew he meant it because he is like me, despite his gender. He is an emotional boy who loves people most of all, and doesn't care that they're different  or if they're similar, either way we are people who deserve to be treated as such: with fairness and without prejudice.

I knew it because never once did he say, "but she's a girl!"

Friday, November 4, 2016

that thirty-something waitress

I am waitressing again, like I did during my undergrad. School means waitressing. It's part-time and I can work nights instead of early mornings like I did at the coffee shop. I am not a morning person. I am not a night person either really. I like 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The rest of the hours I am pretty useless.

A decade has passed since I waited tables and times have changed and I have changed and it is harder now. I have kids at home now that I am missing reading to. People are more skeptical and write Yelp reviews now. You can Google the price of a bottle of wine from your table now. I have run a marathon and put my body through the paces now. I am a hardened mother. I don't get out and talk to the public often so my dialogue is forced, trite.

I am polite because of my raise, but snarky because of my personality. I try to be customer-servicey, but my bite comes in any way. I hate pop now and don't want to refill it more than twice. Don't you know how much sugar that is? In the back of the house, the other servers have cliques that I'm not a part of, inside jokes, complaints about us new people taking their hours or doing our side work wrong or asking questions or not asking questions.

But a job like this--a little one that does not take all my hours from me--allows me to keep writing. It keeps me out of the corporate world, keeps me in the artistic one. My kids don't go to daycare and Brandon is awake to say, "bye!" a hundred times from the driveway when I leave. It's OK. It's a season in my life. I will manage.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

11.3.2016

Brandon Jude, I want to save this day, remember it one day later on.
Not because today is special, but because it's like every other. These will be the days you forget, the blank spots in your memory because they felt mundane. But I want to remember these ordinary days when I was proud of you and loved you not because of an achievement or something you did, but because of who you are: A boy who loves and trusts everyone, who makes me smile, makes me laugh and offers to find my missing keys for me. The boy who thinks flies are called freaking flies because that's what dad says. My boy who calls "All About That Bass" his song and sings every word. My boy who sings and dances and draws. My boy who has the very best traits of me and his father: our artistic, caring, emotional ones. My boy who protects and teaches his little brother, despite the abuse he takes from him. My boy who I overheard telling Asher yesterday, "my mom is my best friend, but you're my very best friend." You want to make us all happy and so far you're doing a hell of a job.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

pause

Today is deadline day and I need to finish this short story and my cover letter and send off this packet to be critiqued. But I read something that made me pause. And I thought, I should put this on my blog. Because once upon a time I planned on this blog being a place to pause: a place for me to put the things that made me think, a place to write out what I was thinking about. Life goes on and on and on, but what I write about stays, like a program from a play that never gets tossed out. I need to pause more because if I don't, I won't be so changed as I could have been.

So today, here is what made me pause and nod and smile:

I ONCE DATED A WRITER AND
Writers are forgetful,
but they remember everything. 
They forget appointments and anniversaries, 
but remember what you wore,
how you smelled, 
on your first date...
They remember every story you've ever told them
like ever,
but forget what you've just said.
They don't remember to water the plants
or take out the trash,
but they don't forget how
to make you laugh. 

Writers are forgetful
because 
they're busy
remembering
the important things.

So maybe some of what I wrote about being anxious is just a part of being a writer. And the rest of it is because I'm neurotic, no doubt.

And also, while I'm writing about pauses and writing as a pause, a preservation, I'm going to add something I read from Kelly Corrigan, one of my favorite writers:

I heard once that the average person barely knows ten stories from childhood and those are based more on photographs and retellings than memory. So even with all the videos we take, the two boxes of snapshots under my desk, and the 1,276 photos in folders on the computer, you'll be lucky to end up with a dozen stories. You won't remember how it started with us, the things that I know about you that you don't even know about yourselves. We won't come back here. 

You'll remember middle school and high school, but you'll have changed by then. You changing will make me change. That means you won't ever know me as I am right now--the mother I am tonight and tomorrow, the mother I've been for the last eight years, every bath and book and birthday party, gone. It won't hit you that you're missing this chapter of our story until you see me push your child on a swing or untangle his jump rope or wave a bee away from his head and think, is this what she was like with me? (from her book, "Lift")

So pause. That's what I'll do. And then, like now, I'll resume what I was doing, where I was going, my to do list, my reading list, my chores. I will gather and gather and then I will sit down and pause again, to write about what I've picked up along my way.

Friday, October 14, 2016

distance

One day, I hope to write a memoir about being a birth mother. One day, when I have enough narrative distance and perspective, if that day ever comes for me. In the mean time though, I blog occasionally about it, when I can find a way to shape words into something like what I feel.

I heard once that an artist is a person who can translate what is in her brain into something tangible. A person who can take what she feels or imagines and share it for other people to feel and see too. That is the hard part: the creating. That is the part that differentiates the artist: the ability to do thatthe very hard work of getting thoughts onto a canvas or paper. The artist who sketches and the writer who writes are determined, dedicated people. It takes so much practice and work to get it right, or close enough to right that people will understand it. So for now, I am practicing.

Five years ago, I wrote about Mother's DayA few weeks ago, I went to a baby shower for my college roommate. I hadn't seen her in quite some time and she was one of the few people who didn't make the situation awkward; she asked me how I felt. It was the first time I said the words out loud, because it was the first time anyone had honestly asked; I said, "each year it hurts a little less." And once I said it, I knew that's how I had been feeling. 

Then today, I read this by Tobias Wolff: ...how do you forgive yourself? You don't, really. Yet one day the weight is lighter, and the next lighter still, and then you barely know it's there, if it's there at all (from his short story "Deep Kiss"). I thought, damn, that's good. Here is an artist. Here is a man who can write what other people feel. Because he wrote about something completely unrelated to being a birth mother, but I felt what he meant from my own experience.

I'm aiming for narrative distance and perspective. But in the meantime, I'll write, even without it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

anxiety

A lot of people talk about "anxiety" now - it seems like everyone has it and/or takes pills for it. It means nothing now, or close to it. But to me, it means something. Because everyone talking about it gives me a word for something I feel all.the.time.

I joke that Steve is my "Office Manager" because he takes care of the mundane but necessary details of getting through adult life. He pays bills, calls customer service, schedules repairmen, fills out forms. The thought of doing just one of these things makes me freeze in my tracks. I have had "schedule DDS appointments" on my to do list for two weeks. Getting three of us appointments next to each other between two dentists overwhelms me, even though it's the receptionist who does most of the work.

I have weekly "to do" lists not because I'm organized, but because I'm disorganized. Deadlines come and go without a thought from me if it isn't on my list. I was weeks late submitting my workshop materials for grad school, though thankfully, no one pointed it out or shamed me for it. We missed Brandon's preschool orientation. I am good at sending apology emails, but bad at preventing them. I don't think I would have entered grad school without Steve. Not because I didn't want to, but because logistically, I didn't know how. I could probably figure it out, but even the thought of figuring it out makes me sweat. Little details scare the shit out of me. Managing myself is hard.

It is getting harder now, with Brandon in preschool. There are early out days and no school days and permission slips and snack days and order forms and god knows what else. It boggles my mind. And this is just two and a half hours, three days a week. I guess this is to prepare me for real school one day, when it gets worse. I can't imagine baseball practice or swimming lessons on top of everything else. I would always be freaking out about being late or forgetting essentials.

I am a good worker but a bad employee. I mean, I have good work ethic and try my best, but all of it overwhelms me and I quit easily. I started a new job two weeks ago. This required filling out an application and going to an interview and then buying a uniform and now showing up per a schedule on time. On nights I work now, I don't take the boys anywhere. I focus on making dinner, taking a shower, and ironing my shirt. That is enough.

When I drop off Brandon at preschool, I see the other moms. I wonder how they are having normal conversations with each other and are wearing different clothes than yesterday and how their hair is washed and combed. I wonder how no one else seems to forget forms or coats or homework. Does everyone else have it figured out, or are they just better actors than I am?

There are very few people in my life who have made me feel comfortable. Most of them make me feel uncomfortable. I am shifty and nervous and even carrying on a polite conversation feels like an exhausting chore. My kids have made me feel better, because I am comfortable with them as I am. I love to be around them and do things with them. In that way motherhood has made me happier, calmer. But the rest of my life doesn't come so easy. It's harder for some of us, that's what anxiety means.

Monday, October 3, 2016

10 picture books we love

It's become something of an annual tradition for me to blog the children's books we've been into. It reminds me of this book I had as a kid, called "School Days" where I was supposed to log my best friends and favorite books and shows and all that in every different grade. I wish I would have, because being home schooled, all the grades really run together and memories have no dates. But instead, it had an entry in fifth grade (best friend: Sarah Gilbert) and the rest of it was blank. So I'm doing for them what I didn't for me. I guess that is parenting, in a nutshell: improving the future off what you know from the past.
 
The first is a new book. Most of the books we read are older, because I am nostalgic and I pick. But this one we got for a present and it is great. Fun for kids and adults alike. Bruce the Bear likes to eat eggs and he was cooking up these gosling eggs when they hatched and he became their mother. He tries to get rid of them. Adults identify with grouchy Bruce and his sarcasm. Kids root for the goslings.
Finally we are reaching an age where Brandon can sit through a Bill Peet book. They are classics and they are fantastic. But they are loooooong. But if you're going to pack a lunch and read a kids' book, you might pick this one. Eli is an old lion who has lost his mojo. Again, adults identify.
For Holden, my train lover. I remember as a kid this book being really long so we must have an abridged version because we have a board book that is short and to the point. The theme of little creatures/things/people doing big things runs pretty rampant in picture books, but this one does it among the best. You feel the struggle and the triumph. And for days afterward you'll be chanting, "I think I can, I think I can..."
Again, a throwback from my own childhood. I love love love this book. It was confusing as a kid, this Arthur (monkey) and the more popular Arthur (aardvark) each having a book series. I would vacillate between them, but found this Arthur more mature, and thus I liked him better. In this book, he is saving up money and creates his own business. It is a fantastic book to teach the young about money: spending and saving. And about entrepreneurship. I think some college-level business courses could teach this book.
I stayed away from this cult classic because it also is long. Well, it has a lot of pages, but it's really not that long. Once I finally read it, I agreed that yes, it is worth the hype. Every child should own it.
William Steig has so many children's books. We own a few, but this one Brandon likes the best. It's playful and silly. And I like Steig's illustrations. I'm not sure why, exactly, as they're not traditionally pleasing, but I do.
A newish book Brandon stumbled upon at the library. He loves it and Steve and I always agree to read it because it is just the right length (length is very important in life). I do get tripped up each time I read the ice cream flavor, however. Also, after reading this many times, Steve saw on Kourtney Kardashian's Instagram that she reads this book to Penelope. So there's that, whatever that is.
The illustrations in this book! Oh I love them so much. No wonder it won the Caldecott award. Very deserved. The story is also good. Amos McGee goes to the zoo each day and completes his routines with animals. Then one day, he is sick so the animals board the bus and do for him what he usually does for them. It's sweet. And there should be more children's books with elderly people in them.
Holden loves this one. It's OK. I actually like the story just fine. But I have a real problem with the illustrations. It certainly didn't win any Caldecott award, let's just say. Whenever I read it, I picture better illustrations turning this into one hell of a book. But alas, the publisher missed the boat on that one.
I love books that have new ideas. This one is just that. Animals live in civilized towns full of apartments and cars. They walk upright and wear clothes. Then one day Mr. Tiger decides to change shit up. He walks on all fours, takes off his clothes. He finds himself ostracized from civilization so he goes to live in the wild. One day, civilization and him meet in the middle and they all learn to live among each other. It's poetic and political all at once.


Previous children's books blog posts:
2014
2015

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

puzzling

Each of my siblings and I have something we like to do together the most. For my oldest brother and I, it's video games. Old school video games from the Sega Genesis or N64, I mean.

For my youngest brother and I, it's board games. We have board game marathons the way other people have Netflix marathons. It's the same game, over and over: either Sequence or Marbles.

And for Amber and I, it's puzzles. We have puzzle races. Jigsaw puzzle races.

She always wins, but I never give up. She has the advantage, I always told myself, because her puzzle is easier. I got close a few times, maybe even won once or twice, but consistently, she wins. So what I did was I hunted down her exact puzzle on eBay. There was only one and it happened to be in Fremont, NE: the town next to mine. The seller dropped it off on my doorstep without charging me shipping. This puzzle was brand new, in a sealed box, even though it's over twenty years old. I hit the jackpot.

So I started practicing. I am intense. I clear my schedule: the boys must be asleep so there are no distractions. Bring in some feel good music to pump me up. Turn on the fan, cause it's gonna get hot. Maybe wine, if I'm feeling cocky. Definitely water, because this is equivalent to athletics. And then, I start the timer and go. I separate pieces into piles and once the piles are large enough, I start piecing together each section. Soon, I can connect them. Then, I do the boring outside areas. Lastly, I fill in the holes as I turn over the pieces that were ignored before. And then, it is finished. 500 pieces.

I keep record of my times, watch myself improve or backslide. If you don't keep at it, you lose it, just like anything else.
I got the puzzle in December of 2014, planning to win against Amber at Christmastime when I saw her next. But for some reason, we never raced. I guess Christmas festivities got in the way. It's fine though, because seeing my times, I never would have beat her.

So then, I started practicing for when I would see her next: in May, in Hawaii. I got pretty damn good, too. I even got sub-forty twice, which is our lingo for "fucking awesome." 45 minutes or less is pretty good. Under forty minutes is phenomenal. But then, in Hawaii, one of us forgot our puzzle. It was a real shame, because I think I might have won.

So then I didn't practice again until right before I would see her again, at Thanksgiving. And for some reason, there, we didn't race either. We just did other, irrelevant puzzles.

So finally, this August, we raced. I was unprepared. I hadn't practiced in nearly six months. I was rusty. When she pulled out her puzzle and brought it to the table, I smiled and retrieved my own identical one. She looked at it, then looked at me. "I got it on eBay," I said, proud. An oh shit look crossed her face, or maybe I just imagined it. We started the timer and we were off, all adrenaline.

She won, but not by an insurmountable amount. So what we did, was that same night, after re-hydrating, we raced again. And the second time, I won. I fucking won. Sub-forty, even. I was on top of the world, on cloud nine.

We raced a few more times, but I never beat her again. Then, she had to go about her other responsibilities, life and family and all of that while here in town. Right before she left, she texted me:
And now I have under three months to get my times down. Amber claims she will be sub-35 at Christmas, which is unheard of. I must beat her. I have a taste of victory, but now I want the puzzle belt.

Monday, September 26, 2016

hands up

Two writer friends and I went to a psychic for a palm and tarot card reading. It was in a home, a small house with neon sign that advertised "Palm Reader."
 
When we walked inside, we found ourselves in a screened-in porch decorated in Jesus tchotchkes.
Is Jesus on board with their business? Seems like something that might be opposed in the Bible. Maybe not.
A sign next to the doorbell instructed us to ring.
"But if they're psychics, shouldn't they know we're here?"
We were each given a different psychic.

Jen's: old,
mine: middle-aged,
Suzanne's: young.

We were then sequestered into separate rooms, although one room led to both others. I was in the living room which connected doorlessly to the dining room, where Jen sat at the table. Suzanne was led onto the front porch, among the Jesus tchotchkes.

They started off asking us each to make two wishes: one to keep and one to share. Then, we held out our palms. They read our life lines, each was long.

Jen will live to 81,
me to 88 or 89,
Suzanne to the ripe old age of 93.

I was told that I have a smile on the outside, but not always on the inside. That what I want most of all is peace of mind.

And then the tarot cards came out and I learned that I will move, somewhere near water and that the move will be good for me. I worry about my children, one more than the other. I am concerned about their safety, but it is alright: they will be safe.

I was born under great luck, but the luck hasn't come yet. But it will: in the 5-7 years. I will be successful in business. I won't have to worry about money.

At the end, my psychic asked if I was satisfied with my reading, then rose to take a phone call. In the background, "The Flying Nun" had played on the television in the corner of the living room the entire time. No one had bothered to turn it off.
"Tell your friends about us," my psychic suggested in parting. And then, we exited this surreal little house and entered the futures they had predicted for us, to see what will come true.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

don'ts

Don't have children if you are overly anxious. Don't have children if blood makes you squeamish. Don't have children if you can't stand screaming and shrieking. Don't have children if you like to go out to eat at restaurants. Don't have children if you like to read uninterrupted. Don't have children if you enjoy alone time and freedom and calm. Don't have children if you like your body the way it is. Don't have children if you want to travel. Don't have children if you want to be rich. Don't have children if you already have a heavy load beat, beat, beating you down. Children will amplify it.

But do have children if you need to burst into spontaneous laughter again. If you've forgotten about singing aloud and dancing in the living room. Have children if you like colors and light and joy. Have children so you can be Santa Claus, because I'm telling you there is nothing better. Have children so you can hold one on your lap and wrap your arm protectively around him as you push your foot off the ground and you swing: higher, higher, higher. Have children so you can read Little Critter and Curious George and The Watermelon Seed. Have children to remember you before the "dont's" and the overthinking and the cynicism. Have children to remind you of what you've forgotten.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

shoulders

While looking over my last post, I noticed Brandon's shoulders. They are almost non-existent: his neck flowing into his torso like the slats of an "A." And maybe this is because I am a writer and always looking for symbolism, but I thought about how shoulders show us how much we can carry, like an ox with a yoke. I thought about Brandon's emotional fragility and then, as all parents with more than one child do, I compared him to his brother.

I began this frantic quest to look at shoulders. I scrolled through my Instagram photos, zeroing in on shoulders. I found Holden's to be more like the curves of an "m." And I thought about how Holden doesn't cry for much and isn't as sensitive and doesn't feel so passionately and urgently. Shoulders, I thought. It's all about the shoulders. 

I thought back to my post about prana and how we are given loads we can carry and I thought maybe Brandon won't have too much of a load, then. Maybe he will zip through life without many troubles or woes. And that was a good thought, until I thought about Holden with his ox-like shoulders. Then I thought that would mean Holden will have a heavy load, and that wasn't such a good thought. But he will be strong enough for it.

And then I hoped that it really is true, that we are only given loads we are strong enough to carry. I hope my A-shouldered boy lets his troubles slip right down those slopes and I hope that Holden can heave his troubles over the m-shaped humps. That was five days ago and I'm still noticing shoulders.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

budding independence

Today, Brandon started preschool. I didn't cry so much as when he was a baby and we dropped him off at daycare, but I did tear up. I mean, I'm still me.

Last month my female family stayed with us: first my mom, then my sister. Seeing my child through someone else's eyes made me realize he is still a baby in so many ways. But at preschool, he will learn to share and to obey someone other than mom. He will make friends and his independence will bud. He will enunciate his letters and boss kids around and be bossed around. He will shed his babyness.
Holden took it the hardest. Driving out of the parking lot today he shouted, "forgot Brandon!" to me. I explained that Brandon goes to school now and Holden cried. That is, until we got home and he got to swing without anyone grabbing on him and play playdoh without a fight. His tears are dried and he is happy and hopefully it is the same for Brandon at preschool, away from me, becoming who he is.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

state fair

Yesterday, after finishing my blog post, I decided, yes, we're going to the fair. 
Who cares that it is 135 miles away? Who cares that it's hot hot hot? Who cares that Steve isn't here to help me? My kids will love it.


So we got dressed and I packed lunches and away we went. I forgot to bring the iPad and some other road trip games and toys to entertain the kids, but it was just fine. They were angelic. We sang animal songs and talked about our favorite fair things and stopped for gas and stopped at a rest stop.
And then, two and a half hours later, we pulled into the fair parking lot. I come from a town that is famous for its fair. It is a giant ordeal, the whole fair thing. Parking alone can cost as much as twenty dollars. If you're cheap, you will find yourself walking a mile or more from your car to the fair entrance. When I pulled into this Nebraska fair parking lot, I thought, oh shit, I don't have any cash. But it was fine. Parking is free.

We walked to the entrance where there was some pleasant Nebraska woman giving each person individualized instructions. Personal instructions! And there was another woman offering me a free ticket. I went to buy a ticket for Brandon, but he was free. Kids five and under are free. This fair is amazing!  
 
We walked into the fair and I could instantly see the way it was set up. The kiddie rides were together with the petting zoo. The older rides were with the carnival games. The food booths were together, the barns on the outskirts. If I ever were to design a fair, this is how I would do it.

We started with the rides. Get this: it was only $15 for a bracelet to ride any ride. This is by far the best fair experience of my life. Both boys got bracelets. They spent a good half hour in the bouncy castles. No parents were allowed inside, so I watched them from the gate, choking up at the thought that my boys are alone in there, fending for themselves. Finally they came out: sweaty and thirsty.
We bought water and took a break from the sun to see the 4-H animals. Holden loved sticking his stubby little fingers into each of the bunny cages and proclaiming, "I touched a bunny!" The people at this fair aren't the coastal type I'm used to. Some stranger just took a bunny out of a cage and let my boys pet it. She wasn't annoyed or rolling her eyes or anything. She saw an opportunity for happiness and allowed it.
Then we went on the electronic rides. This was a first for both of them. I was so nervous to let Holden ride alone in something that went up in the air. I figured he'd find a way to wriggle out of the seat belt and jump out of the car. So the carnie (not sure if there's a more politically correct term) just told me to hop in with him. Without a ride bracelet! Is everything free at this unnaturally generous fair?
Sitting in the dumbo car with Holden huddled under my arm was my favorite moment.  We rode a ride just like one I had ridden as a kid. Up and down we went together in our car, with Brandon in the car in front of us shouting back to us that he could see the whole fair.
 
We didn't have to wait at any rides, we just hopped on and the carnies let the rides go long when no one was waiting. The boys tried out everything, some rides twice. When we went to get more water, the boys saw the carnival games on the way. This seems like something I would deny usually, but what the hell? I had cash in my pocket from the withdrawal for the water. So I paid for three darts and began showing Brandon how to hold one. While I was attending to him, Holden picked up a dart and just let it fly. I have no idea how he knew how to throw it. Holden popped a balloon and Brandon popped two. They each got a stuffed animal. They hugged them close all evening, so proud of this first thing they earned themselves.
We checked out the petting zoo, which was so much more than I expected. They had animals I don't ever remember seeing before: a kangaroo and a zebra. Then we left, having done everything we wanted to except the Ferris wheel (I didn't tell the boys that it is the only ride I am scared of - they think we just ran out of time).
  
I stopped at a gas station on the way out of town to get the boys orange juice and chocolate milk. I was parked in front of a gas pump for quite some time, pouring liquids from one container into something with a straw like I was a scientist with beakers. A gas station employee came out and tapped on my window and told me to move. Usually, something like this would make me grumble, but not yesterday. She was just doing her job. Nothing could pull me off our high. Yesterday I lived what I wrote and found it again to be true: the world is either an awful or a beautiful place to live in, depending how you look at it.

Monday, September 5, 2016

pocket baseball

Most of the time, I am alone with the kids. At home, this is doable. There is no public shaming or expectations of my parenting. I don't have to worry about being too tough or lenient for watching eyes. The kids are caged in so I don't have to worry about them escaping or being grabbed. I can change diapers and Brandon can go potty at anytime without frantically searching for a bathroom. They can eat food out of the pantry and drink milk out of the fridge. It's a parent's paradise: home.

But a lot of times, I take them on adventures. I am bringing this pain upon myself, I know, but I want my kids to remember something other than the color of our carpet. I want them to see the world around them. I encourage wanderlust and trying new things. But one of my children is sensitive, the other restless. I think these must be the two best or worst traits, depending on how they're used.


Yesterday, I took them to a baseball game. When we left, Brandon (the sensitive one) sobbed these big tears and needed me to hold him despite the fact that I had blankets and jackets and Holden in my arm. I corralled them as best I could to the exit where an employee saw Brandon's big ugly tears and retrieved a baseball from his pocket. The world doesn't owe us anything, but even so, this kind man gave the ball to Brandon. Then two drunk guys walked by us in the parking lot and one said, "You got a baseball? You're so lucky!" And I hoped Brandon would realize that one day.

Then we came home and Brandon turned sweet again and watched "Big Brother" with me then we read books together in my bed. Then, as he was about to fall asleep, he rolled towards me and looked at me with his giant brown eyes and said, "Sweet Dreams, mom." And I fell asleep, exhausted, but dreaming of a world where people are kind and pleasant and give out baseballs to crying kids. When I woke up, I realized that is really why I take them places, despite the hassle: because the world is a beautiful place, if you choose to look at it that way. You would never know that without leaving home.

Monday, August 22, 2016

write on

Before starting school, I wasn't sure what I was in for. I am in a low-residency MFA program, which means that we meet for a 10-day conference once a semester. The rest of my work is done independently from home, with no classroom time. I have never so much as taken an online course and only know of academics in the way I have experienced it, so perhaps I was a bit skeptical.

I left residency with a reading list of ten books. I had an epiphany at residency that I write when I read, but only when I read books which inspire something in me. What I had been reading hadn't inspired anything, and I hadn't been writing. So this list of books was exciting: fresh fodder. I was about to read books suggested by another writer specifically for me and my craft. And not just another writer: an accomplished, intelligent one who just happens to have founded this entire MFA program. Kind of a big deal.

At residency, I met friends: fellow writers who share my passion. We had long talks about books and authors and punctuation. It was my heaven. We work shopped each other: we each submitted about twenty pages of work and got feedback from fresh eyes. This feedback is not friends or family who want to protect my feelings. This feedback is from other writers who want to see me produce my best work. It has been so valuable. I immediately noticed patterns and tendencies I wanted to change. I have never liked the tedious act of revision, but I left residency excited for a fresh start on this same old novel I've been writing for over two years.

Yesterday, I submitted my first packet. Each month I submit a packet before a deadline. These packets are a collection of novel revision, new work, and critical essays over the what I have read. I hadn't anticipated writing anything except my novel during this process. But the new writing I wrote I found the most exciting. I dabbled in short stories and was invigorated by writing new characters, exploring characters, themes and epiphanies that would never fit within my novel.

I did all of this in the same month that I completed editing a large manuscript, worked a part-time job, and traveled to NYC for a week. I have a feeling of great accomplishment today. This low-residency MFA program is teaching me much more than I had anticipated. I have friends I met at workshop who look over my work before I submit it now and offer suggestions to improve it. I am progressing toward something now. But as my mentor replied in his email, just because my first packet is complete doesn't mean I stop. I have another deadline next month with the same requirements. Really, it's the momentum that I need more than anything: this force driving me to write on, no matter what.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lessons from New Yorkers

It was only a week, but I feel it was sufficient time to learn a few lessons from the big city. New Yorkers are a different breed: resilient, tougher, with sharper edges. After my initial first day, when I was scared to death in a cab and made eye contact with a street vendor, I learned what the streets had to teach me. I even passed for a local after a couple days, giving directions to a pesky tourist.

1. Adapt quickly.
You are not in Kansas anymore. There is no grass, barely any trees and constant noise. But on the plus side, there are no squirrels, barely any bugs and bagel shops on every block. Rather than mourn what you've lost, take pride in what you've gained. Learn the streets and the subway. Find your way around. Even the pets there learn to shit on pavement, so you have no excuse.

2. Appreciate beauty when you see it
Because nature is sparse, what little there is is enjoyed. If you see a park, stop at it and enjoy lunch. If there is a place that isn't bustling with pedestrians, break out into a jog because you can. There is so much sameness (buildings, buildings, buildings), differences are magnified. We need sameness, but we crave difference.

3. Find calm amongst the chaos
The first few days in NYC, I kept thinking, "how do these people ever have time alone?"  But then I started to notice it: a delivery driver leaning against his truck taking a drag of his cigarette, a girl talking to her sister on her cell phone while she walked. People with earbuds on their commute. Books, newspapers. You don't have to be where you are all the time. You can transport yourself somewhere else when you need it. Find time to do what you love, to transport yourself.

4. Lose patience
It's a bad habit, any way. Faster is better. Decide on your coffee order and bark it out quickly, without hesitation. New Yorkers wait for nothing. Walk quickly. You will have time to stop and smell the roses that way.

5. Be adventurous
There are plenty of things to do right around you. Enjoy your options! Take in a show, or go to a museum or blow some money shopping. Whatever your flavor. Try a new flavor, too. You don't know yet what you've been missing.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

New York, New York

The trip to NYC started off with cramming, because my first packet is due Monday. This deadline is going to be my hardest one. The day before the trip, I finished editing a 526-page book. So now I am in full-on school mode. Well, ahem, now that vacation has ended, that is.
When the pilot announced our descent, my face was glued to my little porthole window. I didn't know then what these buildings were. I didn't know where downtown was, the upper east side from the upper west side. Looking at this picture now, it all means so much more to me, knowing.
We stayed right between Grand Central Station and the Chrysler building, which I highly recommend in case you ever travel to NYC. This is midtown and walking distance to just about everything (Central Park, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, United Nations). You will need to lace up your walking shoes to get to Wall Street or the Brooklyn Bridge though. Or you can figure out the Subway.  Or there is always the option of risking your life in a cab, but no thanks. One scary cab ride is all it takes for me to shy away from them.
 On Wednesday, we did a tour of Central Park. Central Park is eighty acres, so walking it all would be insane, especially in the heat of August. We paid for one of those bike tours where a guy pedals us around and tells us about landmarks. It was a highlight of the trip. I recommend that also.
 The bike pedaler took this picture, putting me to shame with his panoramic abilities. I didn't ask him to, but I was glad he offered, because hello, SATC. 
While in NYC, we had to go to some of our movie and TV spots. I mean, c'mon, it's New York. We went to the Seinfeld diner, but we were disappointed to learn that none of Seinfeld was actually filmed in New York. They send staff out to take "establishing shots" of buildings or have doubles of the actors when needed in the streets. But all of the actual scenes take place on sets in LA. So the inside of this Seinfeld diner looked nothing like the set on the show. Also, the restaurant owner shooed us out, clearly annoyed by fans of the show who peer in his place without buying anything.
 Have you met me? I love "You've Got Mail." I geeked out, sending pictures to the other movie superfan, my sister, while at these spots. I sent her a blurry picture of "The Shop Around the Corner" (now an organic dry cleaners), of the Starbucks with her favorite line, "tall decaf cappuccino," of Joe Fox's apartment. At Cafe Lalo, she texted me madly quotes from Tom Hanks, undoubtedly picturing him shaking this very same cast iron fence.
Steve is an avid soup lover. So he had to try soup from the soup man (also from Seinfeld for those of you living under a rock). It ain't cheap. People have got to capitalize on their celebrity, I suppose. The soup was good. I had the clam chowder, Steve had the lobster bisque.
Yet another scene of me geeking out to "You've Got Mail." Riverside Park is a gem. Parks in NYC are tiny usually, save for this one and Central Park. It was gorgeous and sprawling and impossibly serene.
 We took a booze cruise on Saturday and I got sun burnt. Shit don't change.
The Statue of Liberty was beautiful from the water. The couple next to me were very obnoxious though, talking about how it was a gift from France and they wondered if it was gift wrapped. I can't even with these kinds of people.
On Monday, we went to the Brooklyn Bridge. See those sweat stains on my shirt? That's six stops in a Subway train without air conditioning. It's no joke.

NYC was great. We ate tons of good food and I drank probably a dozen iced caramel macchiatos from Caffe Bene. We slept in. We day drank.

It was fun to be in a new place, but I have never been so glad to see my boys as when I returned. I could travel the world, but in the end, I would always choose home.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

tips for raising two boys

Raising kids is no joke. It's fucking brutal. Raising two rambunctious boys is doing me in. One is extremely emotional, the other is extremely violent. Neither of them sleep much. You know that phrase, "I have one nerve left and you're on it"? That's how I've felt for four years and four months. Now, I am editing and writing with any moment I get, while the two of them fight it out in the next room. I am trying to build more structure and discipline to cope.

Here's some tips I've learned the hard way:

1. Always bring two of everything. Don't bring one cup of water to the park. The other one will want his own. Don't bring one hat. Don't bring one sand toy. If there's a reason to fight, they will find it. Best to squash that by being prepared. If you have two in the same style and color, all the better. You never know when they're both going to want "the orange one."

2. Trim their fingernails, religiously. Boys are going to get black eyes and bruises and scrapes. They're going to look like they get beat (and they do, but not by us, at least). You can prevent the scratches though. So trim those talons down to nubs.

3. No tool sets with wooden hammers, for Chrissakes! Anything that could be a weapon will be a weapon.

4. Turn on the water. It always works to cool them off, figuratively too.

5. iPads are great to buy you a few minutes of solitude. 

6. Let the jump on the furniture. They're going to anyway.

7. There's no such thing as "wearing them out." Just wearing me out.

8. Expect your grocery bill to be sky high. And expect to buy a whole lot of hot dogs.

9. Have a hobby away from the kids. If your husband doesn't let you, divorce him.

10. When hobbies aren't enough, there's always booze.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

moving the plot forward

I am back.
I just spent the last eight days sequestered away in a lodge, attending lectures and writing workshops. It was my dream.

Except for the missing of the kids and the husband, of course.
In some regards, it would have been better if I had done this right after my undergrad: before all these responsibilities piled on.

But on the other hand, I am more determined now.
I've done enough things that I didn't like to know for sure this is what I do.
I am less apt to give up when it gets hard.

So maybe it wouldn't have been better, it just would have been easier. 

Sometimes, I think that the last ten years of my life has been wasted, because I never moved forward toward my goal. I think that, because I think in terms of stories and plots.

But this past week, I realized none of it was a waste. We have built a home and a family. I worked jobs necessary because of life's demands. I have acquired interview skills and empathy. I have made mistakes worth writing about. And I have been writing this whole time.

Now, I will work on writing more, and for publication. But that doesn't mean the writing that preceded it was for naught. It wasn't.

And I'm glad that old writing wasn't workshoppped, because this whole time-word by word, line by line-I have been molding my craft.

My mentor compared writing to molding clay in a potter's wheel. That's what I've been doing. And now, after figuring out on my own what does and doesn't become me, I'm doing it with direction.





Monday, July 11, 2016

the moment

I have been focusing on finding balance in my life. I am a person of extremes. I keep myself so busy with a handful of things that I neglect the rest of my responsibilities. Like running, for example. That consumed my life for six months. Or with the boys: I am great at taking them places and giving them field trips. But then, we don't spend enough time reading books or painting or playing games. And my house is never as clean as it should be.

So now, I am making a conscious effort to spend some time reading, some time doing yoga, some time walking, some time cleaning and playing with the boys. I am editing a book, but haven't spent enough time on that. And on Friday, my ten-day residency for grad school starts. So I have put in my notice at the coffee shop. Shortly after residency comes our 10-year-anniversery vacation in NYC. And then, I am going to spend a month without a job, editing this book and writing. And Brandon will start preschool. I need a few weeks off for that. 

I am going to re-calibrate. I am going to find what I can do and what pushes me too far. I am going to rediscover what I love and stop losing myself in what I don't. I am going to be myself again, but without any extremes. I am not going to obsess about exercising or going places or documenting our lives as it is happening. I am going to be. Not be still, because that is impossible for me, but just work on being. I am good at obsessing over becoming, but I'd like to find myself in the moment instead.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

enduring

It's been over a decade that Steve and I have been together. And I'm not one of those types to post a bunch of mushy stuff on social media about us, because that's not really who we are a lot of times. Much of our time is spent independently - him working and me taking care of our family and home.

We are still in love, but not in the daily-kissing-pictures kind of way. We have a commitment to each other and are still passionate about each other, but we also have roles we play now beyond "boyfriend" and "girlfriend." Our lives have become more complicated and bigger, with more responsibilities and decisions.

I watch "The Bachelorette" and I'm not even going to say as a guilty pleasure. I don't feel guilty about it at all. I watch it for the drama and maybe a little bit to watch the beginning stages of love, or something that is a lot like love. Last week, the bachelorette went on a date with a guy that is much like my husband. He is a realist. She is not. So she decided they were not compatible, because he didn't believe in the fairy-tale type of love. But I knew what that guy was saying. And then I finished this book which explained in words what I couldn't:

I closed my eyes, and it was Hugh I saw. His hands, the hair on his fingers, the Band-Aids on his thumbs. How real all of that was. How ordinary. How achingly beautiful. I wanted what came after the passion had blown through: flawed, married love...What I want is the enduring. The beautiful enduring. ~ an excerpt from The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

I love the way she puts it. In marriage, it is not all passion all the time. There are fights about chores and money and parenting. There is matching up socks and mowing the lawn and endless loads of dishes. There are budgets and spreadsheets and texts about dinner. It is not the stuff that movies are made of. But it is the stuff that life is made of.

Steve and I chose each other one day a decade ago, and each day, we choose each other again. We choose to endure through our arguments and come out the other side, hopefully a more compromising person. The hardest part of love is the "unconditional" part, but isn't that what makes it love, after all? Loving for flaws and all. The beautiful enduring. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

head in the clouds, dreaming

Brandon wants to be a pilot. So far, he has wanted to be a daddy and a scuba diver. There could've been more. I'm not the best at recording his ever-changing ambitions. I saw an idea once to write what they aspire to be on their growth charts, next to their height. I should do that, I thought. But clearly I didn't. But I want to remember this pilot one.

It was two weeks ago that I was in an airplane, in a blessed window seat. The sun was setting as we neared Minneapolis. I laid my head against the window pane, my eyes glued to the view. It was a sea of clouds - perfectly puffy, white clouds. I felt at that moment that I could jump on them and they would never drop me. At first glance, it looked like a vast ocean at sunset. But instead, it was this beautiful sky.

I thought of how on earth, everything can be explored by everyone. But up there in the clouds, only a few people get to fly around and see the world from a distance. I thought at that moment that Brandon's ambition to become a pilot was the best choice in the world. For I could think of nothing better than flying in the clouds each day, my head and body in the same place for once.

When I was a little girl, my dad obtained his pilot license. He flew me in this little four-seater plane. I had on headphones and a mouthpiece. I remember speaking into the mouthpiece, marveling at how the cars looked like Micro Machines. I was seeing the same world, but from a different perspective.

And the writer in me -- that person who loves to see ideas wrapped up nicely with a little bow, ending with a nostalgic nod to the way they started -- would love to have my son one day fly me in a little four-seater. I would love to tell him through the mouthpiece that he used to sit in the cockpit for hours at the Air and Space Museum and I bought a much-too-expensive pass to that place because I was hoping this dream would stick. Selfishly, because I want to belong in the clouds, too. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

life after running

I am learning to live like a normal person again, not a person training for a marathon.

I went to yoga class a few weeks ago, on a day that I had completed a long run. One of my classmates was impressed at my long distance feat.
"Runners are usually in the worst shape," my yoga instructor told him.
He was flabbergasted, of course. But I knew what she was saying.
Running uses the same muscles, forgetting the others.
I can no longer touch my toes. I was eating like Michael Phelps. This was not a normal life.

I knew that if I continued to act like a runner without running, I would get fat, immediately. I have a voracious appetite, which was fine when I was burning an extra thousand calories a day. But now, I must make better choices.

I have started juicing again, because truthfully I do feel better when I eat better. I am trying to think of nutrition. I read a quote once that I can't remember precisely, but it was something like, "taste is temporary, nutrition is forever."

I have stopped drinking coffee milkshakes at the coffee shop. I work a shift and just drink coffee now, or an almond milk latte. It's very dull, sure, but I don't feel terrible after finishing it. Sometimes my heart races, and I've noticed that it's always after eating sugar. So I can still have donuts, but only once a week. Moderation. A hard word for a person of excess, like me. I was excessively exercising, excessively eating. Now I must tame myself, live like the reasonable person I am becoming, rather than the savage beast I once was.

I am reteaching myself to touch my toes. I tried to do a chin up at the park the other day and couldn't even get close. I am going to start lifting weights again. It's time to diversify and try new things. It's time to rebrand.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

hop in my step

This is so unlike me -- in fact, I even made fun of Chad for buying the marathon photos from his first marathon -- but here we are. I purchased the photos. I am usually a frugal person, but I told myself this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I will never do it again. "Buy souvenir photos or run a marathon?" You ask. Either. But I'm glad I did both. 
  
Here we are, before the race, happy as can be.  
 
 I like this girl next to me with the thumbs up. This is clearly near the beginning of the race.  No one's thumbs were up after mile 16.
Here's the guy in the orange shirt we were keeping pace with. He knew it, too. We were constantly talking about it. I don't know if he was flattered or creeped out, but he was pleasant all the same. 
This one was also from before the race. The photographer thought Chad was some random photo bomber so she took the top picture once she found out he really was with us.
 
I like this picture because I look like a serious runner. You can't hear me singing along to Meghan Trainor, so that helps me keep up my image. 
 
The fact that everyone in this picture is clearly running is proof we were nearing the finish line.  
And here is where Chad and I locked hands, proud of finishing together. 
You can see from the hop in my step that I had energy left. Like I just ran a marathon for the hell of it. Like this was nothing to a bad ass like me. 
I assure you, it wasn't nothing.