Saturday, December 31, 2011
Back when I was a child I clearly remember wanting to give my parents so much, none of which was easily obtained or of which I could afford of course -- like a new 32' cabin cruiser for my dad or a brand new Cadillac for my mom. I would find pictures in magazines, clip them and paste them on to pretty colored paper, wrap them up and say, "If I could, I would give you...."
Not that I acknowledged this when I was young, but in retrospect I believe that I was trying to say that they deserved the best of everything, perhaps realizing that it was a little out of reach, or maybe more than what life would ever give them. I hope I didn't create a negative, making them realize all they didn't have -- maybe because of adopting me, or maybe because they sacrificed so much to be able to give ME what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday. It wasn't an effort to highlight lack -- in my heart I wanted to give my parents all that they ever desired, because I loved them *that* much.
That's what happens when you genuinely love someone. You want the best for him. No matter the fortune or blessings he has already received, there are dreams he holds dear, "what-ifs" he ponders, that once you know his heart you just want to give him because you believe that he is so extraordinary. Even if that means letting him go, to find those gifts alone.
So on that day I exposed my heart and made a list, of all I wished to ever be able to give him. When I originally wrote this letter, I wanted the world for him.
Since most of what you dream has to do with physical activities -- sports you love -- and you must have the physical ability to achieve those goals, the number one thing I would grant you if I had the power, is a pain-free body and easy breathing.
If I had the physical ability, I would pace you to a sub-22 hour 100-mile race, and to another 16 minute 5k race. I would make sure you qualified for the National Tri Championships, or the Boston Marathon again, whatever finish you desired.
If I had the fortune, I would pre-pay and guarantee every race registration you desired, all travel expenses paid, so that any monkey perched on your back would be knocked off vengefully.
If I had the influence, I would grant you a spot on a national race team, sponsored by the brand of your choice. You'd be the one answering the questions of newbies and in-awe trail girls.
If I had the resources, I would pay off your mortgage, so you'd never be tied to a structure financially again.
If I had the fortune, I would buy you out to an early retirement. The pilot I hired would be available at-will to fly you to any of your dream escapes.
If I were a builder, I would construct a walk-in closet in your home just for running shoes and gear, a super-sized rack to hold all of your bicycles -- most prominently the uniquely designed bikes of your choice, fit for impromptu adventure races or cross-country tours.
I would find you a large plot of land, hidden deep in the woods of a beautiful pacific northwest forest, and have built your vacation getaway. Few trees would be sacrificed in the process. The wood shop there would have ample space for building kayaks or canoes, ships of your dreams. I would conjure for you endless energy, so that your living hours would outnumber your sleeping hours 10-to-1. I would increase the number of hours in your day.
If I were the editor of your life history, I would lighten the hard times and sweeten even more the good.
If I could harness all the love and peace possible, I would gather it and pour it into your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, so they all would meet you with Calm and Understanding, ridding your world of Loud, Nasty or Mean.
If I had a time machine I would magically dedicate one woman to you for the best 40 years of your life. Actually, make that 50. Together in one household you would raise your beautiful children.
If I had my way, you would never doubt love again.
I would pray that you have Happy Birthdays from now on, a gift in every day, somehow, some way.
If I had just one wish, I would wish this all -- and more -- for you.
I doubt you will ever understand what all this could have meant for you, had you held on to the greatest gift freely given to you. I loved you THAT much.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Today, I am truly embarrassed to say that I am from Ohio.
Not a whole lot happens in the city of Zanesville, so I hear. I have driven through it on my way to Ohio University a couple of times, and a college friend of mine took me there once to visit her mother. For the most part it isn’t an overly thriving, educated, or wealthy area – and I can say that because I am from Cleveland and know what near-poverty can look like. Judgments are made about us across the country based on how the outside perceives us, and truth be told, perception is that laziness and ignorance abounds in sheltered impoverished Ohio towns.
The mass slaughter of some 48-49 exotic animals in Zanesville this week only strengthens the theory that (white trash redneck) laziness is alive and thriving here in Ohio. What makes it worse is the local media attempting to show support of the rash, single-minded “shoot first ask questions later” decisions of law enforcement officials. The welfare of the community was at stake -- they couldn’t have “threatening” wild animals roaming the “neighborhoods.”
Officers were ordered, before even getting to the property, to shoot at will if they perceived any possible danger. “These aren’t house cats, ya know.” Rare Bengal tigers they were, and no, they were not house cats. But most of those animals were raised in captivity. They did not break loose from their gates, the gates were left open for them to roam. The sheriff himself reported that none of the animals that were killed got past 500 yards of the property lines.
Shoot at will.
This morning on my commute to work a highway alert sign flashed that an adult male was missing. I wonder, are we ordered to kill him without hesitation then if we see him? He may be harmful.
Human life is obviously more valued than animal life, and justifiably so, I guess.
But really, were guns the only way to go? Did anyone at all think of possible options? What about calling in educated professionals from The Wilds, or the Department of Natural Resources? What about accessing tranquilizers? One vet tried one tranquilizer on one animal and the animal panicked. What about the other 48? Nope, no time or motivation to do a more difficult thing like gathering resources or asking questions… or pausing before blind action.
The sheriff was a self-described animal lover. He was doing what he "had" to do. No choice, it was getting dark, there were too many of them, too large, potentially dangerous, no access to tranquilizers, and besides, academy training didn’t include handling large animal escapes. Hoards of neighboring folks could have been attacked in their beds if not for the strong protection of that local sheriff.
Justify what COULD have happened all you want. This is really about rural, embarrassingly -Ohio small town law enforcement officials with a grudge. The Thompson property, though licensed and currently legal, had been a “problem” for years. Law enforcement was tired of dealing with the phone calls in the middle of the night, “Uh, yes, officer, I heard the lion roar again over at the Thompsons… don’t we have official quiet time in this town or something? Can’t you just make them go away?”
Thompson’s wife is now without a husband and without her “family.” One news report featured her crying, “Please don’t take away my family!”
I guess Zanesville has less trouble to deal with, now that their menacing neighbor is defenseless. Moreover, Ohio politicians now have ammunition to pass more stringent exotic pet laws. Apparently this tragedy is a “wake up call.”
What I know is that for the last three weeks my daughters and I have taken in a stray pregnant cat, and gone to great lengths to save her life and the lives of her kittens. Many sleepless nights and heartbreaks later, one kitten has survived. We are treasuring that kitten and his mommy. We feel it is a victory to have saved those little lives. And then we hear a story of such tragedy, such careless wasting of innocent animal lives, and we just cannot make sense of it. No, we weren’t there. We didn’t have to make on-the-spot life or death decisions in the moment of supposed panic. We can barely sit here and judge those people without knowing the whole situation. Judgments are made by outsiders’ limited perception. And I have made a judgment.
Exotic animals are potentially dangerous.
Obviously, so are humans.
Friday, September 30, 2011
For all the times I have bemoaned the fact that I earned a Masters Degree and a State Counseling License and do not currently practice in the field, I was shown a reason today for my education.
I do believe that an unwritten job responsibility in my role as department coordinator and human resources liaison is to assist in mediating differences, and even more importantly to recognize (and support) those who do so much for so little. State employees like the staff I work with at CSU are being asked to take on two, three, and even four other jobs as retirements or vacancies are not filled due to budget constraints. So many of those additional responsibilities are not even incorporated into existing job descriptions, so no monetary compensation for the extra work is gained. This is not a random problem, it is a common widespread problem, in the academic world, public sector and even the private sector.
I do think, though, that by acknowledging appreciation for one's work not only recognizes that person professionally to colleagues, but works to bolster self esteem and motivation to continue doing the job. Lately I have been shown the opportunities to do just that for my team mates. No, I am not the "boss," we are equals -- but saying "thank you" and "good job" does matter, and can positively turn a negative day into a more positive one... I have watched it happen.
Thank God I am blessed with emotional intelligence and though not in a managerial role can affect the production of others so we move forward as a unit. We benefit, and that in turn benefits the students we are working to serve.
I am where I should be... today is a good day.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Some quick thoughts on the North Coast 24, held this past weekend on the shores of Lake Erie.
First and foremost, thank you to Dan Horvath for all of his work as race director, and to Shannon Fisher for her work getting together and keeping together the volunteers and tremendous array of food. And to Frank Dwyer for his work, and Roy Heger for loading up and driving the truck (and unloading it) while knowing they were both going to put in their own efforts running the race (and both did tremendously well, let me add!!). Thanks to Howard Nippert for being the official USATF rep and for his support. I thank all the happy and responsive volunteers, like Dan Bellinger who made sure I had water every lap, anything I needed to keep going, and Jan Roe for being beautiful and spunky. And for Mike Keller who gave me coffee, and all those other people for which I am so appreciative.
I don’t intend to write a race report per se, personally it was a little disappointing to go in to that race knowing I was ill-prepared and taking a spot away from some other “deserving” runner who might have been actually able to place in the National Championships. But I still love the event and thought maybe the Plantar Fasciitis in my left foot would behave enough for me to not embarrass myself at least. I was able to squeak out 100k, 62.2 miles, but the majority of those miles did take place in the first 14 hours of the race. Thankfully my daughter Alicia was able to wake me up and get me out from under the warm covers to do another 10 laps or so before I went back to bed until dawn. I hobbled around a couple more times before the clock ran down to 0, but only because Jay did. In all honesty, my main motivation for even showing up was because Jay wanted to do the event with me. He believed in me, and knew that no matter how many miles we “ran,” we did it together.The race proved to be another excellent memory made, and this time for more reasons than just how I felt and how I finished. This time I observed more, and appreciated more the effort of those runners who accompanied me. Perhaps in the past I had minimized the effort it takes to compete – really compete – at a national level. I know that I downplayed the effort it takes to get 100 miles in, under 24 hours – it was simple math after all, at least 5 laps an hour. Doable, right? Well this year I realized that to even get 100 miles in takes a consistent effort from a runner. The folks I know who got 100+ miles were up at it mostly all 24 hours. They were still moving when I was not.
I know for sure that those runners who were shooting for records and/or a spot on the national team are absolutely made of something different than me. For the most part they were not out there laughing, pausing for lots of hug breaks, or messing around with cute skirts… they were determined. They had a plan. Most had a crew – a supportive parental unit, or dear friend, spouse or fellow elite ultrarunner handing out prepared bottles, responding to “pb&j” requests, and yelling encouraging (sometimes mean) words to get them moving faster. I heard discussion of mathematical calculations written up to stay on track. Some runners were tracking food intake by the calorie. A lot of them didn’t even change clothes. The top runners who had those really high miles did not stop to sit. No sock changes or complaining to the tent-dwellers next to them. They were driven. They were something else to watch. I wonder if the whole of Cleveland understood what these athletes were accomplishing. The overall winner, Phil McCarthy, ran 153 miles – 170 LAPS -- around that circle. The top 10 overall each had totals of 125 miles or more. I wonder if anyone outside of our community understood the amount of talent pooling around that .9 mile loop at Edgewater Park was actually newsworthy.
I like to think that I am one of them. And sometimes just by participating in these events, showing up and doing okay relative to “recreational runners,” I am one of them. Like Jay said to me yesterday, it was cool to be there, so close to the action to watch it – front row seat -- to be an observer but also a participant. How awesome was that, how fortunate.
I suppose on a good day (in another life), if I really made the honest effort, I could be close to being one of them. But for now I am happy to have had the experience, and to call those amazing runners my friends -- some just for being one with me in the community of understanding.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
There is a lot of content in my brain, and brainwaves get interrupted (like right now, my daughter is instant-messaging me on Facebook while I am trying to write this blog and still focus on my work to-do list).
Thus, another blog post goes into the "draft" folder.
Someday soon I will make a point.
Monday, June 6, 2011
Well, truth be told, I am not strong enough for the 100. For the last two years I have had hideous DNFs from this race. And frankly, this year I cannot handle another. So I am not going to even try. I can't get my mind around going up Hickory Ridge four times. I can't face the blatant truth of my inconsistent training all fall/winter/spring because at the time it felt like all I could do, all I could manage.
I have settled for so little out of myself for a year now I ashamed. And not only in regard to running, but regarding my job, my family responsibilities, and house/car maintenance. The only energy I have had I put into loving my daughters, caring for them, and suffering through day after day just showing up enough to get by in life.
Perspective. I have to gain perspective.
To most of the US, running a 50 mile trail race is pretty impressive. Working a full time job in Cleveland while I live in Medina, a single mom with a grass to mow, doing all that and running, seems like I extend myself. I have motivation, right? If it appears that way, it is only your perspective.
My father is going on his 25th straight week of hospitalization. He is 100% ventilated with a feeding tube, and doesn't sit up, cannot eat or speak. And my mother tells him every day (when he is awake) that he could have it worse. He could be -- I don't know -- trapped under a building in Joplin or in a coma or what, I don't know. Someone has it worse for sure, she says. It is all in your perspective. I personally think my father is in a living hell.
So that's why I registered. I finally committed myself to something. Because I have been rolling around my little house, belly-aching to anyone who will listen, for more than 8 months now, all about my poor sad life. But here is a gift: I can run. Despite the loneliness, or the knee pain, or the lack of motivation, or the time pressure, I am physically able to run. I have no business complaining about my life when I could have it like Dad.
I will run the 50 and finish the 50, and maybe, just maybe, if I can get over myself and my poor attitude I will be able to register and run another 100 still this year. Best of all, I will be part of a race that is a tradition for me and my family, for my kids and bff Sharon crewing me every year, where so many folks I love will be, all in one place. Thinking of them might just save me.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
May 21, 2011 -- Judgment Day...
...And I am sitting on my couch, ready to cut my grass? Why bother. In fact, the litterbox really doesn't have to be clean, nor do the dishes in the sink. Whomever is left behind in this hellish world can do them for five months. In fact, I am certainly sure that dealing with this cat Cairo, as I have since October, is some sort of hell on earth which I pre-paid. So good luck, whomever is left to deal with it -- cuz the cat is not going to heaven today for sure!
Granted, this post is more tongue-in-cheek than my other posts. And I hesitate writing it, thinking it even, because it feels blasphemous. Bear with me here, though, because I feel this needs to be said.
I was raised in what I thought was a religious household. I was taught to fear God and that I was sinning if I broke any of the Ten Commandments. Not ever in my young life was I told to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior, so I guess no matter how "religious" I was, I wasn't prepared to be saved anyhow. Even now, with all the new Christian beliefs I have begun to consider and even to live, it may not be the exact right amount that today I will be chosen to leave for Heaven.
I have a lot of questions. I just learned about this Second Coming coming today, recently. I thought it was going to be 2012 because of the Mayan calendar end or something.
Why is it today exactly, May 21st? I have tried to do a little internet research on how this date was calculated, and after all the formulas blurred my vision I gave up and said, okay, whatever. I was never good at math anyhow. Somehow this is 7000 years after the flood and it is the second biblical month and you add a year, or something, and come up with today, May 21st. Then five months later is the actual end of the world. Or wait, maybe today will be MY end of the world. But I won't know that until 6 p.m. I guess. Please don't even ASK me how they figured 6 p.m.!
But seriously, one thing I think I have learned over my lifetime is that God is NOT a punishing God. In fact, He promised not to punish us again, after the flood. This was His big apology, right? "I won't ever do that again, it was a terrible, bad mistake." So why does anyone believe that there will be such a devastating earthquake at 6 p.m. today, so "massive" and beyond our wildest nightmares that those not chosen will be left to riot and pilfer and ache for five months, taunted by the grace of Jesus -- but not ever be able, after today, to accept that grace? I thought that God would always accept my plea for forgiveness? Suddenly, after today, He won't?
Then again, how do I know, maybe I have done enough to be saved? Jesus will save those who truly believe in God, while "shunning" those who have ignored his love. These "saved" people will be brought to Heaven from Earth in an instant by Jesus himself. Those left behind will suffer the torment of the Apocalypse for 5 long months until the End of the World on October 21, 2011. (It figures that the world is ending on MY 45th BIRTHDAY. I will never qualify for Boston now, I was banking on those extra 10 minutes!) But anyhow, so maybe I will be saved? I have been good ... enough. Relatively speaking anyhow. Look at all the bad people of the world, I am nothing compared to THEM. Surely THEY will be left behind in torment while I will be carried away by Jesus today.
So, I have decided that the grass can wait to be cut. (I can't start the mower anyhow.) I will clean the litterbox and the bathroom, just because it is the right thing to do no matter who is left behind to tend my home. I have a lot of questions still, and there is no one to ask. I am looking at my dog Baylee, playing with the damned cat, listening to the loud traffic of the four-way stop outside my window thinking this might be some kind of small torment already. Alone in my box-of-a-house with the muddy basement, I should put it in to perspective, right? I used to think that torment was living in a neighborhood that housed fake smiles! THAT compared to a neighborhood where no one uses the sidewalks, but walks down the middle of the street in a pack of guys wearing hoodies. Are we sure that the rapture didn't happen last October? I'm not convinced.
Thankfully, at noon I am leaving to go to one of my favorite places on earth, to do one of my favorite things, with some of my favorite people. I am going to Mohican State Park to run trails with some crazy friends, people I love. I may as well be doing something I love, that makes me happy, at the moment of the great earthquake. I do feel bad that I won't be with my daughters, but I am positive they are the Chosen and will be judged correctly for the innocent loving souls they are, and have been, all their lives. I know for sure they are the only things I did right in my life... and maybe, just maybe, that alone will earn my place in Heaven. Just in case it isn't, and all my life I had a chance to say "I accept Jesus as my Savior" and didn't say it exactly right, I want you to know, girls, that I love you. With the totality of my heart, I love you, unconditionally and forever.
God be with us all.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Did you know that ice does not melt as quickly on gravel as it does on cement? Neither did I until recently. And did you know that in Cleveland you can see mostly all grass, and in Medina, still loads of thick whitish gray snow?
This is perhaps the time of year when patience levels dwindle for many things, most especially in northern Ohio. Tired of being inside but so tired of the bone aching cold and shivering out in the weather? This "I've had it" feeling bubbles over, in to general living, I have found. Seriously, how many folks do you know are living a joyful life right now? Okay, so there are exceptions, those who have decided that no matter what the world is doing, what the new governor is stirring up, no matter if our union's existence is threatened or if layoffs will dampen our livelihood, they are going to be HAPPY. I admire those folks, in all honesty... they are the ones who find a way to get through the 75-85 mile hardships and complete a 100 mile race. I wonder a lot if I will ever be able to endure again like that.
One of my "things" -- my probably annoying-to-most "personality things" -- is to read self-help books. I don't necessarily abide by the general advice of each book, how is that possible anyway. I just do a sort of mega-analysis and file results away in my brain and recall blurry concepts when the need arises. I found a really good point, though, the other day, one I would like to share with you. The book credits Thomas Leonard, founder of "Coach U" for the saying, "While pain isn't optional, suffering is." I liked this because I have found myself saying to myself and others that life happens -- and we all have issues these days to deal with -- it is not what happens necessarily, but how we react to it. What might be hard for me might be easy for another. If I react poorly to a "simple" hardship, that hardship becomes even harder.
In other words, in life you can't necessarily avoid pain -- but you can choose whether or not you suffer from it.
For example, Rose Armbruster was most certainly one of God's angels put on this earth to bring happiness to everyone she touched. I am serious, this woman, if there was a woman alive who could be a saint-- well, she was it. Rose was stricken with an aggressive cancer that killed her within two seasons after diagnosis. Her children loved her so much they begged her to battle with the most aggressive chemo out there, which she did willingly. Harsh was not the word for how this chemo wrecked her body. When the doctor would ask her, "Rose, what is your pain level on the scale of 1 to 10," even in the midst of what was obviously the worst pain she had ever experienced, she would smile and say, "oh, about a 6 or 7." Even on her last dwindling days of life, she made an effort to smile, be happy, love her kids and grandkids, find the good in the day, and not "suffer" because of the pain laid upon her.
I cannot think of a better example than Rose. But I can think of some who are close. One of my closest friends has been given the most difficult challenges because those challenges are laid upon his children. He has had to see them in pain and suffer with them. I have seen his strength. I have seen him thank God for the blessings he and his children are given, even the smallest of blessings like an "easy" surgery. I have seen him appreciate a relaxing day in the sun despite knowing another day of stress was coming tomorrow. If he can make this life worth living, why can't we?
And then there are those like Bob Pokorny who ride the waves of challenge as if it were all just nothing. I may have in the past almost mocked him for minimizing all hardships, even significant ones, still I truly appreciate that even in the midst of my total over-reactions to non-monumental things I can call Bob and hear his calming voice that puts my panic into perspective, calibrating me.
Besides, think about it. Does even your best friend want to be around you if you are on a constant downer? A continuous binge of sadness? Of ruminating over all the lousy breaks and poor cards you've been dealt recently? No. We all go through rough times, through rough seasons. But they are just seasons. And seasons end.
Even Winter ends.
It is a blessing from God that we have this near-week of a thaw, before we go back into the 30's for another few weeks of snow. I plan to take the gift, and notice the smiles that emerge when the temperature hits 50 in February. Maybe that positivity will get me through the cold until Spring.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
On a sadder note, as normal in late December/early January, it seems I get more bad news messages than any other time of year. It is enough to depress the most optimistic of souls. My heart is hurting for several of my family members and friends, and for them I wish to say an extra prayer for God's blessings. Will you help me?
- First, for my 83-year-old dad (Fred) who has been in the hospital for two weeks now. He put off seeing a doctor for what we now know was pneumonia. It has gotten worse, not better, in the hospital. Moreover, even though he was on a blood thinner for the last two years, he had a stroke while in the hospital! So now he can still move around, thank GOD, but his memory and cognition is affected. He is not doing well, although my brother is quite sure he will recover. My father does not give up easily, so pray that he keeps fighting, and inherently knows that he needs to fight and mend the illness in his lungs.
- Second, please mention my mom Evelyn and brother Kevin in your prayers for strength. Mom faithfully visits Dad at the hospital, and Kevin is the administrator of every logistic.
- Third, for Greg in Cleveland and his family, who lost their daughter Danielle suddenly on December 29th. She leaves behind a 2-year-old daughter.
- Fourth, for Scott in Oregon, who has had more heartbreak than any man should have in a lifetime, and he is younger than I am... pray that his daughter Rebekah remains cancer-free, and that they all are able to handle losing wife/mommy Frances in the very near future to a terrible disease. For a faith-filled family this tragedy is unimaginable. I can barely form the words enough to specifically ask God but for His mercy.
- Fifth, for Nikki, that her mom remains strong during her chemo treatments.
- Sixth, for Mark and his children, that they remain blessed with good health, and protected by the Lord.
- Seventh, for Scott, Shannon, Joy, and Bob, please heal their broken hearts, Lord. Show them all hope for a better tomorrow.
- And for all who are suffering in silence, Lord, please extend your grace.
We also have to remain vigilant about our health and about our habits, that they lead us to positive outcomes. If you have a nagging ache in your body or heart, call a doctor or health professional. Please don't delay.
And with this new year, decide on a healthy goal -- like running more, or eating less fast food. Make a small change. Really do it this time. Pray! Be healthy! Count blessings! Be thankful.
To a better year than 2010 ~ Happy 2011!