Best Laid Plans

Just on the off chance that you are tone deaf to emotion and didn’t pick up on it in the last two posts, I’ve been kinda down of late. Monday was particularly bad. Tuesday wasn’t shaping up to be much better until I decided to throw caution (and responsibility) to the wind and leave work early to go run.

I was giddy with excitement as I walked to my car. I had great plans. I’d run outdoors for the first time in weeks. It was a beautiful day! And then I’d take a nice long shower before picking up the boys. Hal, from his friend’s house and Daryl, from basketball practice.

But plans – especially happy plans – almost never work out. Especially if you have kids. You never get to do what you want when you have kids.

Jane had left school early for a doctor’s appointment, which was not likely to interfere, I thought. How naive…

I finished my run to find Jane baking a cake (from scratch). The darling had decided to make a cake for the Angel Mom picking up Hal from school as a thank you. There was just one problem. She had forgotten to preheat the oven and now needed to leave before it was done.

“It’s just another 12 minutes, mom. Can you finish it? You just need to add cocoa and melt it all for the icing,” she said, gesturing to a saucepan already holding milk and butter. “Then once it’s all liquid, add the vanilla and half that bag of sugar.”

I was standing there bathed in sweat, looking forward to my shower, and was now, instead, going to stand in a hot kitchen.

“Ok,” I said.

“Thanks, Mommy!”

While I waited for the butter to melt, I checked my voicemail. Someone had called during my run. Turns out it was Daryl, who had had to borrow someone’s phone since his was sitting in a bag of rice at home.

“Mom. There’s no basketball practice.”

That was the entire message. And no way to call him back.

Now what?

I tried to hurry outside and wave Jane down but she didn’t see me. I called a friend but she had already picked up her son and was home.

Now what?

The cake still had 10 minutes to go. His message was a solid 15 minutes earlier. Nothing to it. He’d just have to wait until I was done icing the cake.

And I’d just have to wait on that shower too.

The best laid plans of mice and men, folks. Best laid plans.

The Six Week Draught

My husband and I had a glorious running day six weeks ago. We left the house early Saturday morning and took off running. We went our usual way but added some on before turning back. We kept pushing and pushing – never stopped, never walked. As Forrest Gump would say, we just ran.

When we returned to a walk as we passed the threshold of our driveway, we gave each other a high five. We had logged over 8 miles in under an hour and a half. My legs were like jelly and kept propelling me forward as if I should keep running. I was fired up. It was glorious.

We fell off the exercise bandwagon the very next day. We didn’t realize it at the time, of course. We skipped running Sunday morning, not that uncommon the day after a big run. But then Monday morning, we didn’t get up early enough to exercise before my husband had to take our daughter to band. I still got on the elliptical – for a paltry 20 minutes.

I skipped the next day, but that didn’t set off any warning bells. Wednesday, I put in 25 minutes on the treadmill. Skipped Thursday too but that’s ok. We’re doing fine, I told myself. Friday morning didn’t work out either but we packed all of our stuff with us to run at my mom’s house the next day.

Of course, we didn’t get to her house until very late. And my husband forgot his C-PAP, which means I didn’t sleep well. And then we realized he’d forgotten his running shoes. That’s ok, I told myself – and him. It’s not like we have to run outside every Saturday.

It would be 8 days after my last short treadmill effort before I’d put in a simple 15 minutes on the elliptical. And then another 6 before getting on the treadmill. I had about a week of working out almost every other day but they were all short. The two Saturdays after the botched attempt at my mom’s house fell by the wayside too. One, we weren’t sure when the sun would come up. I can’t even remember now the excuse for the next one.

Four weeks after the great and mighty eight mile run, my husband had training to go to at 9 am. We decided there wasn’t time to run before, but that’s ok – we’d go Sunday morning. I took the boys to the park and ran around the sidewalk there – about 30 minutes. I could already tell I wasn’t the same person that had run the 8 miles. We cuddled Sunday morning instead of running.

The weekend after that was birthday weekend – we had family in town and lots to do. No running then. By then, the week days had been lost completely to early morning band and our general fatigue and disinterest. The Monday after birthday weekend, I forced myself to dress out for exercise. I got on the treadmill and felt a strong distaste. I did not want to be there. I pulled off a whopping 10 minutes on the elliptical instead before deciding I needed to get ready for work.

“I’m working on presence and motivation,” I told my husband. “I just have to be there. Today was 10 minutes. I’ll try to make tomorrow 15 and then I’ll build from there.”

Well… I got 15 minutes the next day, but by Wednesday, other priorities took over and I was lost to exercise again.

By that Saturday, the six week anniversary of the now legendary mammoth run, I felt that something had been lost. Maybe for good. How would I get my groove back? My husband left early for a meeting out of town. I dragged out of bed about 11:15. The kids were equally lethargic.Surely the laundry was more important than exercise? Surely?

The music I played while doing the laundry gave me some energy. I decided to work out after lunch. I changed into my running clothes and got on the treadmill. I was miserable. I felt like the blank monitor in front of me was mocking me and way, way too close. It felt hot and muggy. I couldn’t imagine running for half an hour like I planned. I urged myself to make 5 minutes.

But then something strange started happening. My mind kept wandering outdoors. I wanted to turn and run out the front door and run down the street on our usual route. But… but… he wasn’t with me. Was it safe? We’d never run outside without the other. I tried to stay put. But when I hit that 5 minute mark, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I stepped off the treadmill and trotted to the door. I called out, “I’ll be back in a bit!” to my daughter and then I was off!

It had been raining for days. It was cold and misty outside. The wind was blowing. It was incredible. Raindrops hit my glasses but I didn’t care. I wondered if my phone, providing the driving electronic cardio music to my ear, would survive if a deluge started before I got back home. I decided it was a risk worth taking. I ran and ran and ran. Not long – not far. Maybe two miles – at the most. But I felt alive.

It’s so easy to fall off bandwagons. It’s quite frankly kind of scary how easy it is to adjust to life without something that had previously been so important to you – kind of like my frequent blogging breaks. But I learned that cool Saturday morning that I truly am a runner. Not just someone who exercises via jogging. I actually enjoy running. Outside. I’m fired up to run again. We shall see if I’m truly and securely seated in the wagon or if I’m just running along beside it, trying to hang on.

Why do I?

“How cold is it going to be today?”

“Cold.”

“Colder than the last time I ran in a race?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure? It was pretty cold that day.”

“It’s 36 degrees right now.”

“How cold will it be when the race starts?”

“Maybe 40.” He checks the weather, “No, only 36 still. Oh, and it’ll feel like 28. It’s windy.”

“Why do I do this?”

“Do you want me to be honest? Because you are dumb. ‘Here, let me give you money to go run on a street when I could just run on the treadmill at home and watch TV.'”

“I’m supporting the fight against racism.”

“You could send them a check and stay home.”

“I’m showing my support publicly.”

“You could take out an ad in the newspaper.”

I glare at him.

“I’m doing something with my friend Rachel.”

“You could invite her over for a glass of wine.”

“Why do I talk to you?”

“Because you love me.”

It’s a good thing he has all the answers. *grin*

Flat Tea

This was my Facebook status this morning:

It’s maybe a sign of a rough start to my day when I pour tea into the iron instead of water.

You see, I have a bad habit of assuming that any random cup of liquid I come across is 1) full of water and 2) available for my use. The first time this assumption bit me, we were visiting my mom. The kids were in bed (thankfully) and the adults were sitting in the living room. I was in the kitchen, in sight of the other adults, when I saw a cup of water on the counter and decided to drink it.

They all looked up to see me spitting rapidly and frantically into the sink, then desperately washing my mouth out.

“Did you just drink that?!” asked my husband, sounding shocked.

“Yes! I didn’t know it was bleach!”

“Really?!” he laughed. “I could smell it from here!”

This second and most recent event, I played to a smaller audience. As Daryl sat quietly eating his breakfast, I prepared to iron a shirt for Jane. Since it was cotton, I decided to add water to the steamer. There was a cup with a small amount of water on the table.

But as I poured the water into the iron, I noticed it was a very light brown. Oh, no I thought. So I sipped it. Yep. Jane drank tea for dinner last night, not water.

I quickly unplugged the iron, poured the tea into the sink, and rinsed it out a few times. When I plugged it back in, it let off a bit of smoke.

“Keep an eye on that thing and holler at me if it does anything dangerous,” I told Daryl, who looked up at the iron, stared for a minute, and then nodded. I wondered what he thought of the request.

I left the room to verify with Jane that this shirt still fit her. She insisted it did. But when she came in a few minutes later to see me clearly fulfilling her request to iron it, she said, “Oh! I don’t need you to iron that. I decided to wear a different shirt.” Really. And my question about the shirt didn’t clue you in? No.

As the rest of the family left for school, Hal settled in to eat his breakfast while I prepared to take my shower. I was feeling a bit hyper. I had run on the treadmill while watching a hilarious episode of Firefly, and then had the great tea-in-the-iron drama. I was up for a bit of silliness.

So as I locked the door, I looked at him and said dramatically, “Ok, look. I’m going to take a shower. Don’t touch that,” I pointed to the iron. “Don’t unlock the door. Don’t go outside. Don’t do anything that will get you hurt, maimed, or killed. Got it?”

I had spread my arms out wide in a grand expression as I finished my little monologue. He slowly swallowed the cereal in his mouth and said, “Ok. How about I just play with my train table?” That’s what I love about that kid. Sometimes he can be so dry.

New Frontiers

So what does the insecure and reserved goody-two-shoes do when she hits her mid-life crisis? If she’s anything like me, she throws caution to the wind and signs up to do something totally radical and unheard of. Cutting edge, daring, spontaneous, illogical. Playing in a badminton tournament so her company will keep their participation points. Talk about walking on the wild side.

Thanks to our strong turn-out in the 5K portion of this inter-company competition, our company was leading the way in participation points. That 5K race, by the way, was another notable example of my new daring approach to life. I began running a few months ago and finished my first race at 32:49. I kept an even maintainable pace and then, following my nine year old son’s sage advice, sprinted to the finish line as if I were in competition for something more than kudos from my kids.

This may not sound like much to those readers more adventurous than I, but for me, running in that race was terrifying. I barely slept the night before. I had no expectation of winning. That’s not what scared me. What scared me was the thought of trying and failing. Perfectionism is the antithesis of adventure.

However, the sky didn’t fall. I didn’t fail. My kids were proud of me. I succeeded. I felt good about myself.

So… when the email arrived from the 5K coach that the badminton team needed another female participant in order to retain all the participation points, I called my husband and asked if he thought I was crazy. Amazingly, the calendar was open the night of the tournament.

I reminded him that I hadn’t actually played badminton since ninth grade PE. He said he didn’t think recreational badminton would be all that tough and I should go for it if I wanted to. So I did. Completely out of character.

We had a practice a few days before the big event. Four of the six team members showed up. We attempted to play outside with a strong wind. It was quickly apparent that we were unlikely to earn anything more than those precious participation points. But at least I learned how to do the more sophisticated backhand serve – thanks to the teammate who had watched some YouTube videos of Olympic competitors.

When we arrived at the venue and began to walk from our car, I saw a man carrying a bag with racquets and shuttlecocks. Wow. I thought. He must be serious. Our coach had purchased a kit. Between him and the YouTube lady, we had enough racquets to go around.

I signed in and led my family into the gym. Our jaws dropped. Those birdies were flying hard from racquet to racquet. Rapid fire between the players warming up. People darting back and forth. It was intense. Even the competitors’ children were impressive, batting back and forth between the courts during warm-up.

“Dude,” my husband said. “You are totally going to get creamed.”

And he was right. A teammate would later comment that this was nothing like he was used to playing at barbeques. That teammate, and another one, actually took a birdie in the face because they were hit too fast to get out of the way.

My husband chuckled through a good portion of my first game. I was playing mixed with an overweight, middle-aged man who was fortunately pretty good. He somehow dove for a birdie and got it over the net in our first game. Neither one of us were rocking but we had a good time playing with each other. We were even leading during much of both matches in our loser’s bracket game. We might have won if we had been playing to 15 instead of 21.

The handful of coworkers that knew what I was doing had teased me about playing badminton. You could tell by their tone that they considered it a joke, a non-sport. Never mind that my muscles were still sore from the practice session. Never mind that I was sweaty and exhausted by the time the night was over. Never mind that they were likely sitting on the couch watching TV while I put my lack of talent on display. They still found it laughable.

That night taught me many things. First, what is a joke to some people is serious business to others. My team comprised most, if not all, of the white people in the room. The other competitors were overwhelmingly of Asian or Eastern Indian descent. And they were good. Really good. This sport was a big deal to them and, watching them play, it was unquestionably a sport. My coworkers had no room to laugh.

Second, I didn’t have to be the best, or even necessarily good, at something to have fun. We knew why we were there. We improved. We pulled off some good volleys and saves. We learned. We laughed. We had fun. It was a night well spent.

Third, it was rewarding to move out of my comfort zone. There was no risk. No downside. Why should I care what my non-adventurous coworkers thought? They were laughing but that was all they were doing. I was experiencing. I was living. I was learning. I was growing.

So maybe running races and competing in a sport you’ve never really played before doesn’t count as a mid-life crisis. Maybe it’d be more accurate to call it growing up. Finally.

A Husband Worth Having

Let me tell you how a husband is supposed to be. Wait, let me qualify that just a little bit. Let me tell you how a husband of twenty-plus years is supposed to be. Maybe the young and/or newlyweds can be let off the hook. For awhile.

You are walking along beside him when you realize that he has stopped. You turn to look at him and he has this magnificent smile on his face. Before you have the chance to ask what he is smiling about, he tells you.

“I love your gray hairs.”

“That’s good because I am getting more and more of them all the time.”

“I know. I love that you are getting gray hairs and that you have so many of them.”

“Why?”

“Because I like seeing you change. I’ve known you for so long. I can remember when you didn’t have any gray hairs. I love that you have them now and I am with you. I love that you have started running. That you blog. I love being here and watching you change as time goes on.”

That right there is a husband worth having. When he says something like that without a hint of sarcasm, with nothing but love and sincerity behind it, that’s when he proves he’s worth traveling through this life alongside. I took his hand and we walked on together, both feeling warm and content inside.

Forgetfulness on the Last Day of School

Last night, Daryl wanted us to let him stay up late to finish reading a book he had borrowed from his teacher. Since today was the last day of school, he needed to return it to her today. I didn’t let him stay up because, well, he had spent plenty of time playing a game on the computer instead of reading the book, which he had likely forgotten all about when he sat down at the computer.

This morning, my husband noticed that Daryl was reading a different book. “What about the one you have to return today?”

Daryl smiled a sheepish grin. “It’s on my pillow.” He confessed that he had read it by flashlight after going to bed and finished it. He then promptly forgot it was on his pillow and didn’t take it to school.

This was not the only case of forgetfulness this morning. Not by a long shot!

I was finishing my morning run on the treadmill when I saw the kids filing out the door to the car. “Hey!” I called out, “Aren’t you going to say goodbye?!”

Daryl and Hal kept walking. Jane, who was running back into the house yelled defensively, “I haven’t left yet! I will!”

But when I got off the treadmill, she was nowhere to be found. My husband came in to get a hug and I asked where she was. “Out in the truck,” he replied.

So off I went to say goodbye. As I opened her door, I asked, “Did you forget something?”

“Oh! Mommy! I’m sorry! I forgot!”

About the same time, Daddy looked at the boys in the backseat. “Did either one of you brush your hair?” Guilty expressions answered the question. “What about your teeth?” Heads hung in shame. “Get out. Get out of the truck now.”

“Daryl,” I chided. “You have to brush your teeth!”

“People forget things, Mo-om!”

“Not brushing your teeth, you don’t!” Ah… the irony those words would prove to be…

Soon enough, they were off to school and I entered the house to get ready for work. I noticed that my husband had left his cell phone on the arm of the couch. My first instinct was to call him and let him know.

Since that wasn’t possible, I thought it’d be fun to surprise Jane by calling her on his phone. But she didn’t answer. Frustrated, I called again. She sent me straight to voicemail. As I began to type out a text, she called me. Turned out, she thought her daddy was “butt calling” her (her words) so wasn’t answering!

I was now running late for work and was still a little overheated from the run after my shower. I decided to skip drying my hair as the heat seemed too much to bear. Skipping any part of my routine almost always has regretful consequences. Sure enough, I was halfway to work when I suddenly realized. Yes. I had forgotten to brush my teeth. Ok, kid. You win. But really, you “forget” every day. And unlike you, I have toothpaste and a toothbrush at my destination.

All I can say is that five brains had already checked out for the summer. It’s amazing we made it through the day.