Rally the Troops

Sometimes a seemingly random occurrence is actually preparing us for something further down the road. Maybe much further.

This dawned on  me tonight as a large bat was swooping around my workplace. Said workplace is a house but, still, bats = Not Cool! Not cool at all. But luckily I was prepared because I’ve dealt with bats in the house before (my own house that time and it really was not fun). While my coworker was legitimately freaking out I knew exactly what to do. (Open one door, turn off all the lights except by that door, and try to gently direct the bat out if it isn’t finding the exit on its own. In case you were wondering.) And, although it was a terrifying ten to fifteen minutes, we had the bat out in ten to fifteen minutes. Had I not had previous bat encounters this night could have been a lot worse. I’m not sure I could handle a lot worse right now; just being at work is bad enough.

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The giant bat: An interaction with him is NOT my ideal night at work.

This week is one of those off the charts crazy weeks. Really it’s been the last two weeks. Last Wednesday, after furiously studying for way less time than I should have, I took the DAT to complete my dental school application. It went decently well and I was extremely relieved to have that out of the way but I had to hit the ground running with graduation open house planning as soon as the test was over.

My oldest son graduated from high school this spring (on my birthday). At the time he was adamant that he did not want an open house. I told him too bad; the open house isn’t for him, it’s for his family and all the people who have supported and encouraged him over the years to celebrate our  his achievements. He reluctantly conceded to a party. I think he realized that I wasn’t backing down on this and he really didn’t have much choice. After being invited to a few of his friends’ & classmates’ open houses he warmed to the idea…especially after he heard how much his one buddy got at his open house. (Apparently he didn’t believe me when I told him people give you money at these things.)

Because of the aforementioned test and my daughter’s horse shows there weren’t any feasible open house dates in June but my son’s 18th birthday fell on a Friday AND it was not one leading up to a work weekend for me. I pitched the idea of a graduation open house/18th birthday celebration to my son and he actually seemed to like it. Well, that weekend is this weekend. The open house is Saturday (technically tomorrow as it’s 3 a.m. right now) and my son’s birthday is…well, now. Unfortunately this not being a work weekend means I’ve worked the seven, maybe eight, days leading up to the weekend (including tonight, obvs). Not short shifts either, ten to twelve hour night shifts. This schedule is really not conducive to preparing for an open house.

Way back at the launch of the open house planning process I emailed my ex husband asking if we could collaborate on this. Not only would that make it more affordable but we could divide and conquer the work. Plus planning an open house together provided an opportunity for a much needed exercise in cooperation for us. Even though we’ve been divorced for three and a half years and separated for over five, there is only bare minimum communication between us and even that is tense and unpleasant. At some point we’ve got to get past that. Our kids can’t have two of everything. I mean, are they going to have two weddings: once for their dad’s family, once for mine??? NO! Sadly though my ex  did not see things the same way and declared that I could do what I wanted and he’d “Celebrate separately”. This, of course, left me running the graduation party show all on my own.

And once again lessons learned in prior life experiences came back around in a real and useful way.

Implementing a graduation party at my house (which is not typically visitor ready) in ten days or less seemed like No Big Deal…until I was staring down the barrel of those ten days. I got a little overwhelmed, paralyzed by how much work there was to get done in a short week that was already full with work. Holy, holy crap!

Just as I was on the brink of sheer panic my instincts kicked in and I did what I do more and more when I need help. I called my mom.

To be fair, a couple people had already asked what I needed help with but I wasn’t even ready to think about that until the DAT was out of the way. But now, roughly a week before Open House day, I needed the help! I’m insanely lucky (blessed?) to have a large, supportive family. Throughout the stressful, somewhat traumatic process of the dissolution of my almost twelve year marriage and the subsequent divorce and custody hearings I learned just how helpful and supportive my family is. We aren’t touchy-feely people, my family; we don’t verbally express our love and appreciation for each other. Not very often and when it does happen it’s a sign of deep concern. But that doesn’t mean those feelings (or whatever you want to call them…talking about feelings so much is starting to make me a little uncomfortable) don’t exist. It’s just that we’re Do-ers, not say-ers. The things we don’t say we show by doing, by being there when needed.

My mom offered to pick up meat and taco seasoning from me and cook all the taco meat (I’m having a taco bar at the party); my youngest sister spent a day and a half cleaning up my house and hacking away at brush in my yard; one of my brothers-in-law is coming over tomorrow to help set up the yard stuff; other people offered to bring something, to contribute. And suddenly I was not alone in this crazy endeavor.

And that is a thing worth remembering. Sometimes all you have to do is reach out and accept the help you need.

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Awkward graduation selfie because, much like the open house, my son was not entirely on board with this.

 

 

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New year, New running goals

It’s the first day of 2017 and I’m already mentally shirking on my running goals. To be fair, I just decided on this goal yesterday so I haven’t exactly worked out a plan of attack.

But first 2016, what a year! There was, at least, some good running around here in 2016. My main goal had been to run two half marathons in the year. I accomplished it, though that last one wasn’t pretty. I may have also done more 10k’s than previous years as well but it’s hard to say as I don’t keep track of those in the same way. On the other hand I think I did fewer 5K races than most years, again, difficult to say though. There was the Super 5K back at the end of January 2016 (or whenever the Superbowl is) and the Gobble Jog 5K on Thanksgiving day (in Atlanta…bonus points for an out of state race). It feels like I’m forgetting one but that’s all I can recall right now. (New goal for 2017: Find a more efficient way to keep track of races.)

Oh wait, I remember now, there was one in October. A “Glory Days” 5K in the early morning before one of the high school cross country meets. My middle school team didn’t run that day so a couple of the kids and I ran the open 5K race. Okay, maybe I didn’t do fewer 5k’s. And now that I think of it, I only participated in two 10k races, one in August that was not so great (but won me a cool growler with a second in my age division) and the trail race a couple weeks after the Detroit half where I got my new 10K PR of 57:03….

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That brings the 2016 race total to 3 5K’s, 2 10’s, and 2 half marathons (with age group placings in both 10k’s) with a new 10K PR AND a new half marathon PR (2:07:29 in Cleveland back in May). Not too shabby!

On top of all that (and probably around 800 total miles logged), I got to coach cross country for the first time. I can’t remember if I’ve really talked about that here but it was a truly awesome experience. I had the largest middle school cross country team the small charter school my kids attend has seen in its 20 years with 13 boys (yes, 13 middle school boys…it’s as crazy as it sounds) and 4 girls. That’s 17 middle school runners at my disposal  in my charge. I was lucky enough to work with a high school coach who has a few years coaching under his belt, knew all the returning runners on my team, and was willing to mentor me as a coach. Did I mention how much I loved coaching and how cool it was to lead my team of rowdy teens (and a few preteens)? Because it is a small school community and the athletics program is pretty young (and partially because of my crazy fall schedule with late classes twice a week) the middle and high school teams practiced together quite a bit. So in addition to coaching my middle school group, I was also a support person for the high school team so I got to be a part of the great running experience for even more people. If I didn’t have other life advancement goals (I’m looking at you, dental school.) I’d be putting a lot of my time and energies into learning how to be a better coach and strategies for developing young runners….if I don’t get into dental school this year I still might spend a good amount of time in 2017 doing just that. Hell, I may even do that anyhow.

But enough reminiscing of runs past and gushing about coaching and onto this year’s running goals…

Because I am unsure of what my life will look like this year, (yes, I know, no one really knows what their life will be like any given year but I have an exceptional amount of uncertainty right now that will have an effect on what the next twelve months looks like on a fundamental level.) I didn’t want to set race related goals that I might not be able to reach due to non-running related factors. Instead I settled on a mileage based goal: 1,000 miles in 2017. Or maybe for the sake of symmetry and an affection for prime numbers 1,017. Either way, at least 1,000 miles. That’s roughly 84 miles a month on average.

(As an added bonus my 17 year old answered a not unenthusiastic “maybe” when I offhandedly asked him if he wanted to run a half marathon with me in 2017…It wasn’t the usual flat toned “merphmg” response so that’s actually quite promising.)

By the time this is published I will be 3.2 miles into my 1000  1,017… Because writing about running makes me want to run ! So here’s to a new year and to new running goals. I’m looking forward to the challenge of it. Because life is only as good as we make it…so make it better by making yourself better. Everyday.

(Agh, sorry  for the overly cheesy motivational crap. It’s ten AM on the Monday after a work weekend and I have not slept yet.)

I Went to Beer City and All I Got was a Michelob Ultra

Twice actually. In one week.
Grand Rapids Michigan is (self proclaimed?) Beer City in a state that excels in the craft beer/microbrewery market. It’s close to Michigan’s beautiful west coast and happens to be an easy two hour drive from my hometown. One of my sisters goes to college in Grand Rapids, I have a brother who lives not too far from there, and a friend in the area as well. Lots of non-beer related reasons to visit the area….but I do love my craft beers.
It started shortly after my divorce was finalized. During the messy ordeal there were some wildly ridiculous accusations flying around. One was that I’m a reckless alcoholic (if you knew me you’d be laughing about that); to avoid giving credence to this suggestion my house became a dry establishment. It wasn’t a big change for me but having to modify my behaviour because of blatant lies was beyond annoying. I felt like I always had to be looking over my shoulder and toeing the line. The thought that something totally normal I might say or do had the potential to jeopardize my parenting time was terrible. It was paranoai inducing, rightfully so. Once the papers were signed and the dust settled it felt good to go out and buy a freakin beer. I’ve always liked beer and now that fancy beer was such a popular cultural phenomenon educating myself about said fancy beer seemed a fun way to stay current. Not only would I enjoy drinking new and different types of beer, I would also have something interesting to talk to people about. Social drinking at its finest.

Anyhow, Grand Rapids Michigan, aka Beer City USA, is home to some of the best breweries in Michigan. Founder’s! Bell’s (technically not in Grand Rapids but not too far from it). And many more. There’s a beer walk and a variety of brewery tours. (I SO want to do one of these!) I went there twice last week. Twice! And all I got was one sad Michelob Ultra. Not just a light beer an ultra light beer. The atrocity of it!

So how does a beer enthusiast get so close to the source of that many sources of tasty, quality craft beers and not indulge? Kids.
I took my kids to the Grand Rapids Public Museum on the Saturday. We met up with my friend who lives in the area (and his girlfriend and kids) and made a day of it.

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That is the official gap-toothed grin of approval.

Because I travel with a pack it was almost cheaper to buy the year long family pass to the museum. It also gets us into museums across the country for free for the year. Hopefully that means I’ll be telling you about more museum trips in the near future. Maybe even a trip to Chicago Gotta get my money’s worth, right?

Getting out the door with my five, even though they’re older now, is always such a task and my oldest ended up staying home to sleep eat all the snack food in the house “work on homework”. Even if we were missing one it was good to go out in public together and have some family time.
We ended our day out at IHOP. The 11 year old thought they had an all you can eat pancakes special going on. They did not but he insisted he needed a full stack of pancakes, scrambled eggs, and a side order of sausage. Yah, there were some leftovers.

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My daughter is apparently of those people now. You know the ones, they take pictures of their food to share with their friends. To be fair, she’s basically in love with Nutella so banana Nutella crepes were kind of a big deal.

In the weeks leading up to our first outing to Beer City Grand Rapids my quiet, extremely introverted fifteen year old mentioned a concert. Fallout Boy and Awolnation were coming to Grand Rapids on a Tuesday night and it was a Tuesday night that the kids would be with me. At first mention I acknowledged that that was pretty cool but didn’t think anything of it. When he casually brought it up again a few days later it dawned on me that he wanted to go.

So we went.

 

I had worked Sunday night and only slept a few hours on Monday in order to get a run in and study for a test in my Tuesday morning class. Because I procrastinated and wasted a possible study day the week before I was feeling woefully under prepared for this test. I stayed up late Monday to study and got up early Tuesday to try and cram more information into my brain. Tuesday afternoon was hectic. I went from class (fit in another rushed run) to get the kids, had a quick shower, and hurried out the door to get to the show in a timely manner. I didn’t want to miss Awolnation! The plan was to eat something light before we left and get dinner on the way home because of time constraints. Except I didn’t have a chance to get food. I thought the granola bar stash in my car would hold me over but it did not. Once we got to Grand Rapids, found parking, and got to our seats I realized I was starving and starting to develop a bad headache because of it. Something resembling real food was necessary.  I broke down and bought an over priced, slightly dry cheeseburger between bands…and a cold Michelob Ultra to go with it.

Honestly, I was so hungry and parched by then that in the moment I felt like that was the best burger and beer I had ever had. I ate like I hadn’t seen food in a week, fast and enthusiastically.

While I am not a Fallout Boy fan my children are. In their defense they also like good music like Queen, Nirvana, and Billy Joel so I must be doing something right. It makes occasionally listening to bands like Fallout Boy tolerable. And really a concert is a concert.

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This is the third time I’ve seen Awolnation. They’re one of my favorite bands and pretty great live. Apparently many Fallout Boy fans do not appreciate them like I do. The very large crowd was lame and quiet while Awol was performing.

When these guys came on they livened up though.

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At one point one of the Fallout boys began talking about believing in your dreams, anything is possible and all that…which is fine and dandy if a bit trite. His delivery  left something to be desired though. It reminded me of conversations my oldest son and his friends have where they’re all agreeing enthusiastically and Yeah-ing but none what they’re saying actually make much sense. There was something about cars being totally normal but before they existed everyone said it wasn’t possible until they were invented and then something about being told he’d never be able to dunk a basketball but he practiced every day and he still can’t dunk because he’s short but he’s “dunking the fucking basketball right fucking now!” And it dissolved into a cloud of fucks and loose metaphors delivered to the sound of screaming fans of all ages (but mostly female). Umm, yeah.imageSo there you have it…me in Beer City twice in one week and only a Michelob Ultra to show for it.