About Boston

Over the last week I have thought long and hard, contemplating the right words to describe my experience with this year's Boston Marathon and the only two words I have come up with that seem the least bit adequate are: Holy. Shit.

My apologies up front for this kind of language but really, I don't know how else to tell the story without starting there because my story was certainly filled with an experience of the holy. And yet it ended like the story of so many others, with a knee jerk reaction: Holy Shit!

There were over 27,000 people running this year in the Boston Marathon which means there are over 27,000 personal stories and experiences out there which will, for all intents and purposes, be completely overshadowed by the weight of what took place. No one was asking you, "How did you do?" followed by mutual rejoicing or wallowing, depending on your answer. The questions everyone asked were, "Did you finish?" and/or "Where were you when it happened?"

But as one of my good running friends out in CA said recently: Screw it. By which I believe she meant: Screw you, terror! We won't let you defeat us by going silent about our marathon experience and accomplishments. There are so many stories out there and many, if not most of them, mine included, were quite frankly very, very positive ..... at least until the bombs.

All this is to say, I will be posting my experience as it unfolded. In order to do my part of the story justice, I need to break it up into two sections: BB (Before Bombs) and AB (After Bombs).  I will do my best to be respectful of the few who died, the hundreds who were injured and the thousands of disappointed and traumatized individuals affected by this. I will try not to sound callous or insensitive, but, I also think it is right to celebrate the exhilarating moments and joy that were laid before me. And quite honestly, some of it was pretty darn funny in retrospect. Why shouldn't we embrace those moments, too? They are every bit a part of the story. And it is a story worth telling, no matter where you were, or whether or not you crossed the finish line.

Ok, fasten your seat belt because the ride's about to begin!


How You Know When Your Kid is Obsessed....

I don't know about you, but with everything that has happened this week, I could use a little levity right  about now. But before I do that, I want to let you know that I am still processing our Boston experience and will try to get to writing about it this coming week. Thanks for your patience.

So,  in attempt to lighten our mood and hearts, I thought I would share with you some recent conversations with Liam that have made me fully understand just how obsessed with hockey he has become:

Liam (coming down the stairs one morning): Mom, can I have eggs and toast for breakfast?
Me: Yes.
Liam: Will you make me the egg right now?
Me: Yes.
Liam: Is the toast cooking?
Me: Yes.
Liam: Will you butter the toast?
Me: Yes.
Liam: Can I watch hockey?
Me: Ye....what? No!

He almost had me....almost.


Then there was this one, as we were walking to our car in the gym parking lot.

Me: Liam, don't stand behind that car. They can't see you and if they back over you, you will die.
Liam: Oh.
Me: Do you know what that means?
Liam: No, what?
Me: It means you wouldn't be alive anymore. No more eating or breathing or talking. No more Mommy and Daddy or sisters and brothers. No more school and friends.
Liam: Well, could I watch hockey?

Hey, priorities folks....he obviously knows his!


Liam (speaking to Kurt): Daddy, is hockey on tonight?
Kurt: Yes.
Liam: Do we win?
Kurt: I don't know. We'll have to watch it and see.
Liam: Is there a fight?

(Apparently he still hasn't gotten the concept of watching something in real time.)


And then there is the story that Kurt told me that I have to retell here. (While I don't like to retell someone else's story, this one is worth sharing!)

Liam recently asked Kurt, "Daddy, do you want to watch me play hockey?"
Kurt replied, "Sure!"

So, Liam grabbed the hockey stick, got into face-off position and then immediately threw the stick down, pretended to shake off his gloves and started punching at the air.

I have to admit, I am beginning to wonder if it is the hockey he likes or the fighting.....I kind of have to question the parenting here too, I mean, who lets their five year old watch a bunch of grown men hit and push each other? (Apparently we do, thank you very much!)


Killing the Inner-Pack-Rat: Step 5

In Which We Admitted to God, to Ourselves, and to Another Human Being the Exact Nature of Our Wrongs

Ha. Ha ha ha. Seriously? Y'all got about a year? You might want to sit yourself right down for this. Actually, I am pretty sure that my last few Pack-Rat posts cover this one. (Thank God!) It' a good thing too because I'm about 36 hours out from Marathon Monday and there's only one thing I can think about right now: "What am I going to eat next?" 

No, I am just kidding (kind of). The real question is: Why the heck am I doing this again?

Seriously. Before we left for Boston, I spent 30 days clearing out our house. I doubled up on days so that in 30 days I finished 40 days worth of purging 21 items a day, if that makes sense. And I am not done. Actually, I don't think one should ever be done clearing out the excess. The truth is, most of us here in the U.S. have excess. Most of us can readily admit to that. And in order to prevent it from taking over our space, our time, our energy, our very lives, we have to be vigilant. We have to constantly scrutinize every thing we bring into our home. We have to ask ourselves what actually adds value and get rid of the rest. (Anyone want a fish?) And along those lines, we have to be honest about the things we do too and decide if those things add value or if it is just more.

Kurt and I went to the Boston Marathon convention yesterday and about mid way through there was a poster hanging on the wall which asked: Why do you run?

I laughed and said, "Shoot! That's a good question! Why the heck DO I run?"

And after thinking about it I could only come up with this: because that is what I do. I run. And unlike many of the other runners I see out there, ear buds securely in place as they cruise along to their tunes, I run in silence. You see, while I do enjoy a good race, running is not just an exercise or sport for me. I run to process life. Have a worry or concern? Go out on a run. Have questions to mull over? Go run. Been in an argument? Frazzled with kids, spouse, people, life? Not sure what's even bothering you? Run. Ate too many french fries, again? Run.

Running clears my mind. It offers me a safe place to think fresh thoughts, feel new feelings, notice subtleties of life I may have overlooked. Running dares me to push myself, to be vulnerable, to be brave, to seek out my limits, to try harder, to move beyond. Running gently nudges me to pay attention. To let things go. To allow my thoughts and opinions to drift away so that there is room for filling up again. And often, it reminds me to slow down. To watch for others along the path and extend a simple hello.

But running does not offer all the answers. Running only offers a safe place to process, a place to be fully free: free to roam through the tougher questions and free to cohabitate with the unknown. And when I am done, I am rejuvenated. I may not have everything figured out or every problem solved but I do have a great sense of peace and purpose and a fresh spirit to take with me on the journey.

It's a little like church actually. Only, without the hot coffee. And boy do I love that coffee. (So much so that I actually tried drinking it on a run a few weeks back....as it turns out, coffee is much better when sitting!)

So, while I think I am a crazy lunatic for partaking in this marathoning business, and this is never as apparent as when I am at the end of my taper and feeling like I need to check myself into some mental facility where I believe they should also run a complete heart, lung and brain workup to make sure everything is working correctly because good golly I am quite sure it is not (please, someone take away the caffeine!), running (usually) adds value. Granted, I could tweak some of my mileage so that it makes more sense in my already busy life and I would do well to cut out the marathons COMPLETELY but running, in and of itself, is good for both me and my family because it keeps me healthy and makes me better able to do my job. You know, the really important one that requires me to raise five kids. 

And isn't that what this is all about? Becoming the best 'us' so that we can do our jobs to the best of our ability? If admitting to you that I have made idols of my stuff and held onto things well past their value-expiration date and then doing something about it doesn't help free me to be the best me, then why bother? 

I am not sure what the value is in running a marathon. I can only hope that God can use even the marathon for good so that all of this craziness is not in vain. See you at the finish line!


Letter to Boston

Dear Boston,

It has been a little over a year since you first caught my eye. In those secret, wishful moments, life was filled with excitement and energy. You were good to me then, beckoning me, encouraging me to push forward and stretch my wings while continually keeping you in my sight. You were tender and nurturing as you embraced my yearnings, held my hand and led me closer to you, enticing me with your prestige and stature. The promise was full of hope and sweet dreams....

And then.....And then the secret was out. I had been lured in, captivated by your reputation and innocently seduced into qualifying myself for minion-hood. I became your slave, one of your thousands. After the cheers and hollers and the congratulations went silent, after I came down off that adrenaline geyser, only then did I realize what had happened. But it was too late; I was trapped.

Your true nature had come out and the real work began. For ten long months of pain, torture, anxiety and fear, I became a guinea pig; all the poking and prodding, and the bruises....oh, the bruises! I was like a trendsetter, if abuse is trendy, with those dark stripes continually dotting the sides of my legs. When the physical therapist's plunger stopped working, they bought a new cupping set. When that failed, they began the ancient eastern folk medicine of Gua Sha. My IT bands purred, like rubbing a scalpel down corrugated cardboard, over and over and over again. Still, my knees ached and stabbed and shot nervous searing energy through me. And for what?

A week from finally meeting you in person, I now know the truth: you take no prisoners. You gather your lackeys and vassals and lead us into your lair where God only knows what might take place. We can only hope to come out the other side unscathed. And I can hardly stand the excitement! Because apparently I am a crazy lunatic. Just. Like. You.

So dear, dear Boston, I beg of you: go easy on this here gal. I have done everything you asked. And so much more. And I would really like to come back well enough to walk into the PT's office again unaided. Because what am I without their pleasant torture? And who am I without running freakish distances for no apparent reason at all? I beg you not to leave me forever bound to the pool, because it might just do me in, if you haven't already done so yourself.

Please be kind.

Humbly yours (because you made me so),
The Graceful Chicken


Killing the Inner-Pack Rat: Step 4

In Which We Made a Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory of Ourselves
Kurt made an incredibly humbling point the other day. He asked: "So, after 20 days of getting rid of 21 things a day, do you notice a difference?"

Um, no (jerk). Not unless you count the difference in my thought patterns when I am at the store and I now assume that anything I buy will be tossed in the near future and so I simply do not bring it home to begin with....unless of course we can eat it, then all bets are off!

I had thought my last few Pack-Rat posts were somewhat inventorial but if I am to be fearless in my searching, then I must admit I have only begun to scratch the surface. What started out as a little humor, poking fun at an un-self-diagnosed issue that I thought needed a little addressing in order to soothe my naturally-minimalist husband's angst, has opened up into an entirely new dimension of self that clearly needs some major pruning. Funny how that works. 

Recently I read that if your household income is just 50 thousand a year, you are in the top 1% of global earners. (If you make just 34k, you are in the top 4% of global earners and those barely making it at the U.S. poverty line? They are in the top 13% of the world's earners, give or take a little depending on where you get your data.) Chew on that for a second. We spent months watching people on the news yell and spout off about the top 1% of our country's earners, often in ways that vilified and condemned them, yet if we broaden the picture just a little to include, say, the rest of the world, well then the majority of Americans contribute to the inequalities that exist among humankind. And when I start to glance inward and really search what is in my own heart and life, it's like the first time a scuba diver swims over the reef and is witness to the incredible colors, rich beauty and abundant life of the world deep down under.....except instead of awe and wonder it's: "Ah hell! Sharks!" Mine happen to be sharks of excess. Which, when you get down to it, means greed has played far too big of a role for far too long. Greed, and um, idolatry.....ouch.

Please take note, I have never thought myself greedy. Very much the opposite actually. I came from an incredibly generous home and I have embraced that heart for giving to others. I don't covet the stuff my friends and acquaintances have, don't try to keep up with neighbors, don't typically care about the latest trends or technological developments, have no need to accessorize or replace things that aren't clearly broken. With the exception of jeans, which I wear everyday until they become Godly jeans (holey-er than thou), I buy clothes maybe once every 3 years or when I can no longer fix the holes. And even then, only when I can get them at rock bottom prices. And I would much rather give than receive. So, how am I claiming greed here? Well, just look at the stuff:

 This is only the first week's worth of donations. It doesn't even include the stuff I threw out because it was worthy of the trashcan alone. The second week was just as bad and included three computers I gave to my friend's genius kids (and there is more where those came from) and my guess is, we will go on like this for much, much longer than 40 days. After all, who needs three crib mattresses when no babies are sleeping in cribs!

So, maybe it isn't greed as much as idolatry. I have unknowingly made idols out of unnecessary junk. I have given worth to worthless objects, held on to things as if they significantly add value to my life when in fact they do just the opposite. Maybe that is why this joke is on me. This 12-step program (that you are welcome to tune out at any time, or better yet, participate in...Woo hoo! Open Meeting!) is actually the very thing that I need in order to drastically change my living to reflect my values. These baby-steps are bound to be life changing, for the entire family. Already I have kids complaining that they have nothing to wear (because we gave it all away.....oh, and because I haven't done the laundry, but who's counting) and I have made mistakes, like getting rid of my one pair of rain tolerant shoes that I rarely wear only to find that I actually needed them today...but then, did I really? I survived (and so have the kids). And slowly, we are letting go of the stuff so that we are no longer being possessed by our possessions.

There's a quote from the movie Fight Club that comes to mind:
"You buy your furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple of years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you."

I am tired of being owned by things (and certain fast-approaching marathons, but I'll save that for another post). And I am the only one who can change that. And in doing so, by jumping off the consumption bandwagon and creating a more minimalist life, my little family takes the first tiny step towards ending our contribution to the world's great inequities, regardless of what percentage we land on. And maybe, just maybe, it will help Lily let go of the rock collection....that she SLEEPS WITH!