Monday, August 31, 2009

Today is Not That Day

Yesterday, I participated in the 5K portion of "Miller's Landing Madness," an annual Gulf Winds cross-country race characterized by trails in lieu of pavement and middle school/high school runners all "shiny new" with ambition for the new season. Wayne Kevin participated in the 3K. It was a beautiful morning for running (something no one could say on the original date of last year's race, when Tropical Storm Fay forced the organizers to cancel, a true rarity in the Gulf Winds world). In case anyone is keeping track, I didn't break 40, but ran 41:16, not bad for a trail run.

The tshirts this year for Miller's Landing Madness had a statement in Latin on them. Tom Perkins explained the saying right before the start of the race:

Someday I may not be able to do this ........ today is not that day.

I love that saying, and I loved sharing a running morning with my son.

The beginning of this week looks to have me tethered to the treadmill at the Opryland Courtyard Marriott. (I am in Nashville for a conference.) This area doesn't look that suitable for running around the outside vicinity.

At the end of the week, the family will convene in Riverview (south of Tampa) to bury Chuck's ashes. My mind has been occupied a good part of the week with working with Kris to pick the elements of the memorial service. As I said to her, some of the choices I have considered, that are popular right now at memorial services just are not Chuck. My friend Katherine suggested the song "Walk on the Moon" by John Stewart. This song includes the following stanza:

Friends, who were here, now are gone.
Oh, why does it happen so soon.
And, as they were closing their eyes,
Did they dream they would walk on the moon?
So the past week has been filled with thoughts of the music to play and the passages to recite to celebrate a life and to encourage those of us at the memorial to be more mindful of each other's dreams. I'll never be sure I understood Chuck's dreams, because I never asked. I wish I had.
Getting back to Tom's Miller Landing motto, I hope that each and every one of us touched by Chuck's life is able to say, when making the plan to pursue his or her dream:
Someday I may not be able to [name dream here] ...... today is not that day.
I'll "run" into you next week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dolphin, Untagged

I have known what this week's blog post would be for almost exactly a week now, since shortly after posting last week's entry.

For last week's blog, I had used pictures that my friends Jeff and Ann took of Wayne participating in the Central Florida TriKidz triathlon. I was writing my blog as Jeff was putting the pictures on Facebook, which worked out perfectly for me, since I needed the pictures for my blog.

While I was perusing Jeff's Facebook album, I "tagged" Wayne (my son) whenever I saw him. When I saw the following picture of Wayne and his friend Alex tuckered out from swimming, biking, running, and theme parking, I tagged not only Wayne but "Dolphin" (he's the gray blue-eyed guy in the bottom right corner):

I thought tagging Dolphin was "cute." He is the latest in a succession of gray fuzzy security objects who have grown up with Wayne. At first there was an elephant (he "retired" in Marco Island prematurely); there was an earlier dolphin (who miraculously survived a year stranded in a Leon County Civic Center box only to be found by us a year after he was left); there were several Spikes (Spike is the beanie baby rhinoceros and I loved Spike because he was so easily replaceable -- replaceability is good in your child's security objects); and this Dolphin, who has been with us for quite a while now.

There is an inverse relationship between Wayne's chronological age (increasing) and the public appearances that these gray fuzzy animals make (decreasing). They have pretty much been relegated to lives inside cars while Wayne is out living his life or hastily stuffed under couch pillows when guy friends come to the house.

If I had been paying attention to the reclusive tendencies Dolphin has had recently, I probably could have predicted Wayne's reaction to the "tagging incident" more accurately. I just happened to mention, "Hey, Mr. Jeff posted the pictures from the triathlon and I tagged Dolphin" and instead of, "gee Mom that's hysterical," I was met with immediate tears. Turns out Wayne was a lot less interested in sharing Dolphin with my 572 Facebook friends than I was.

So I scrambled -- since I was not the original owner of the picture, what was done was done -- I could not "untag" Dolphin. I sent Jeff a message describing the damage my overzealous tagging had done and he (blessedly) untagged "D" first thing the next morning, no questions asked.

All week I have had this picture in my head of Dolphin with one of those fuzzy things over his face like they have on those cop shows when they are protecting the identities of the innocent. Something like this:

In the long run (pun intended), I decided there is only one fair way to deal with the issue of "D". Before I unveil the final edited picture, though, here's the takeaway:

If I had not offhandedly mentioned to Wayne the "tagging," he never would have known. However, it was something I did for me and not at all for him. I learned a lesson that a certain set of parents of 8 children is completely missing right now (in my opinion): our children have to be able to trust that we as parents will think before taking liberties with their images, identities, and hearts. I may have 572 friends on Facebook who would get a chuckle out of something like this, but I only have two children counting on me to give them an emotional safe haven.

So there's one mammal who you won't be "running" into on Facebook again .....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Travails of a Two-Armed Part-Time Job Applicant

This week's blog is only peripherally about running. To write about running this week would in some ways be a repeat of last week. Wayne Kevin did a Kids Triathlon without me present (again). I did a running event Saturday morning (again). There were no bananas at my event (the annual Breakfast on the Track Mile); however there was watermelon and there were pancakes. The only last banana-ish moment was when I (as one of the last runners to finish) had to eke out some syrup from the nearly empty syrup bottles. Aunt Jemima was pretty depleted by then.

Running has been a key resource in coping with the challenge of finding additional part-time work to perform in our family effort to slay the debt monster. We have read Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover and I have decided to muster up the energy and willingness to do without some mom/kid time (at least short term) to earn extra income to take baby step #1 (building a modest emergency fund). Sounds easy, right?

I have learned that one of the main things you do when searching for things you can do from home is to download odd little pieces of software. I now have an "ExpressScribe" icon on one computer and Skype on another. The ExpressScribe was for home transcription of focus group sessions; Skype was to talk with people learning to speak English (imagine the potential for fun conversations there!). It was enough of a blow to my self-esteem for the transcription people to decline my application (saying it wasn't "verbatim enough"); but when my application to be an online phone generic phone rep was declined, I wondered just how much more they needed than someone certified by the Call Center Industry Accreditation Council as a Call Center Strategic Leader. (The people who required me to have a Skype id in order to apply replied with a cryptic, "We will get back to you if we see a fit for your background.")

My favorite telecommuting job ad of the week stated that applicants must be able to:
· Demonstrate an aptitude for interpersonal communication
· Possess a basic knowledge of operating a personal computer
· Speak and think clearly, normal hearing is required
· Be self-motivated
· Have the use of at least one arm and hand
· Read at sixth grade comprehension level or higher
· Have a professional, pleasant phone presence
· Maintain a calm, courteous demeanor
· Have a high school diploma or GED

If these folks turn me down it may take a very long, relaxing run to shake off the rejection blues.

What are the takeaways of the week of rejections? It is possible that all applicants are getting turned down because the organizations no longer need candidates. It is possible that I am perceived as overqualified. It is possible that the organizations are testing applicants to see who wants the position enough to respond back with why they deserve a second look. It is possible that I need to do something local at a brick and mortar place. (It's disconcerting working for (or applying to) people who you wouldn't know if they were standing a foot away. It's a part of our new world, but it's still foreign to be unable to look your supervisor (or potential supervisor) in the eye and have their nonverbals to go by in figuring out where you stand with them.)

I read something recently that said your running will speed up if you "increase the number of steps you take." It suggested that within a ten second period you count how many times your right foot hits the ground -- that if your foot hits more frequently in that period of time you'll increase your speed. I tried that on the track and it did seem to prove true.

With the hunt for sources of additional income, maybe it's not about how many times your feet hit the ground, or how many correct keystrokes per minute your (two) arms can achieve. I get the feeling this particular finish line isn't about speed but technique.

I left this week feeling like this picture of Wayne after his kids tri:

In the coming week, it's time to regroup, lace up, make sure both arms are still with me, and forge ahead!

So, readers, if you know of anyone who needs a dependable two-armed part-timer with good hearing and a high school diploma, let me know!!

Otherwise I'll "run" into you soon!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sometimes It Is Easy to Let Go

I worked a race Saturday (Coach Mike's Run for the Kids 5K), so I didn't do any personal banana counting. (I did run the course afterwards, and after the uphill grade of Mitchell Drive, I understood those stressed looks on finishers' faces at the end.)

Throughout my run of the course, I was brainstorming what to blog about this weekend. There wouldn't be any pictures of me to post (not that those are likely to bring on new followers!). I wasn't with Wayne Kevin as he competed in the Stone Creek Kids' Triathlon in Valdosta, GA, so I wouldn't be able to count on pictures of that.

Well, Jeff Bowman took care of the picture end, and my brain took care of the "topic" end. So here are the pictures (photo credits to Jeff Bowman):

And here is the takeaway:
Back when Tenley did competitive gymnastics, one of the other moms had to miss half of the meets because her son played football on the same days. I could not imagine how she could bear missing her daughter's meets. This was around the same time that I was talking to Tenley's former third grade teacher about helping her with anxiety about moving schools, and I said, "we will work on the anxiety." She rightly pointed out that resolving the anxiety was not really a "we" thing. The issues Tenley was facing would be most readily resolved with her in the driver's seat. It was time for me to release my grip -- although I could provide parental support in abundance, I couldn't fix this problem for her.

Yesterday, however, I had virtually no qualms about not being in Valdosta with Wayne. I certainly can't help him swim, bike, or run faster. I knew he would have fun being with his friend Alex, going to Wild Adventures afterwards (possibly the prime draw of the day), and being outside participating in the triathlon. If he had a bike accident? That's what first aid is for. If that nagging big toe nail that is partially ripped off made it hard or impossible to run? Wayne would have to decide how badly he wanted to finish the race. I also know from plenty of observation that he's a different boy when he's with a "dad" coach than when he's with mom.

So when I left to run the Schneider 5K course, knowing that he would probably call while I was out, I felt very relaxed about the outcome of his morning. I did have a "missed call" message when I returned. When I reached Wayne he was a) happy to be on his way to Wild Adventures, b) reasonably happy with his triathlon morning, and c) telling me he loved me. Nothing about nagging hanging toenails.
Wayne was number 32 yesterday (I guess he will be for most of the week because it's written in sharpie on both arms and legs!!).
Just like the numbers that won't wash off easily, this new phase in our parent/child evolution won't easily fade for me either.

I'll "run" into you next week, readers!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I Broke 40! (But I Didn't)

The first good news is that I found the PERFECT picture for my "Last Banana Club" blogs, thanks to the Fallen Heroes Race at Tom Brown Park here in Tallahassee today. You'll see it heading up my "Last Banana Club" blogs.

So, I decided to run the "Fallen Heroes" 5K today. This race supports Operation One Voice, which supports the families of wounded and fallen Special Operations Officers. Here is their website:

I was hoping this would be the race where I would break 40, a milestone on the road to eventually breaking 30. I think I technically did, since it took about 30 seconds to reach the "start" line from the back of the pack and the race was actually 3.27 miles. Fred Deckert guesses I could count it a "39:11" 5K but since the official time is 41:20 that's the one I have to go with.

A couple observations:

1) When you do a race organized by law enforcement and military types, a lot of things get done right. For example, we all received a detailed "pre race" email last night with parking instructions, the timing plan (including color guard at 7:40), and status of tshirt quantities, etc. The email did warn us that the course was going to be longer than 3.1 miles -- it was helpful to have a heads up.
2) This course was marked every quarter mile. What a godsend for pacing. Two thumbs up to whoever took the time to do that!
3) The color guard pre-race was a very appropriate touch. When the singer started singing the Star Spangled Banner, I was so far back I couldn't tell if it was a solo or if she was trying to lead us all in the song. One of my fellow runners belted it out along with her. I still don't know if it was supposed to be a solo or a sing-a-long but I admire the pride my fellow runner showed in proudly singing our nation's song.
4) It is no fun to be one of the "older and/or heavier" people that fellow runners use to motivate their young child to go faster (i.e., surely you can beat that lady). And, true confession, this is a tactic I admit to having used with Wayne Kevin in the past. He's on his own now; it's not nice form to trash talk your fellow back-of-the-packers and I am hopefully past that as a parent.

All in all, it was a lovely day out at Tom Brown (especially the downhill, shady parts). Since my afternoon was spent at Camp Gordon Johnston, where our troops trained in the 40's, my day seems to have been spent contemplating the luxury of running for fun rather than evading enemies.

One more thing before I close out this blog. I realize it is running a little long (pun intended!), but the organizers of today's race shared the following with us in explaining what it is they do:

"The request [for assistance with rental car expenses] was for the family of a female Air Force Special Operations Airman; you'd think as a parent, that your daughter is in the AFSOC, ok, but she's not going to be out with a high-speed shooting teams, instead she'll be in a support role. She's deployed overseas, and after a while she comes down with an illness. The illness moves into her circulatory system (blood), the doctors can't identify illness or how to control it. (kind of sounds like an episode of House). The illness continues to spread and she's medically evacuated home, but doctors are still unable to stop the spread. So a decision is made to amputate your daughters legs (both legs). Decision made, surgery done....... and now no improvement, the disease / illness reappears and continues to spread... finally after some time your daughter loses her battle and life.

Losing a child is not easy and I can't really imagine how one copes, but losing a daughter to an illness not directly related to combat seems especially difficult.

The next time I have what I think is a bad day, I hope to recall what some of our families are really living through."

So, a shortage of bananas at the end of a race is now in clear perspective for me.

I'll "run into" you soon, readers!