#Sub60 10k: 18 of 61 – Stepmoms Run

Personal Narrative, Running Buddha, Sub 60 10k
Memorial Day Race
Blue & Lil Blue post 5k

Thursday morning, I ran with the youngest. He’s 11 and likes a good adventure as much as the next kid.

After a strong finish during a recent 5k race, he agreed with his father and I that running would be good summertime pursuit. He’s athletic, with a determined heart, and was undaunted by my description of Thursday’s running plan.

Eleven (almost 12) is that interesting age where some are still open to public kisses from parents, but are pretty sure they’ve got this thing (life) all figured out. Or at least they want you to think so.

As a veteran classroom  teacher turned new stepmom, it’s an interesting tug-of-war watching this play out, even as you know what’s going on. I know how kids generally work. I know where mine is on this or that developmental scale. But I (and every other parent) constantly wonder – am I doing the right thing? Stepmomming while running is no different.

He jogged the warm-up mile with no problem, and then it was high-low intervals on the track. He ran out of steam early (11-year-olds don’t sleep during the summer), so I left him to walk/run at his own pace while I continued mine. I knew from our earlier talk he was fine with this, and yet seeing him on the other side of the track, small and alone in the distance tugged at my heart. Should I sprint over to him to catch up and check in? Should I slow down on the next lap so we can run together?

Laughing while warming up today.
Laughing while warming up today.

Ultimately I stuck to my plan, checking on him and slowing a wee bit when we passed naturally. Each time he assured me he was fine, and on the way home, when I asked once more, he gave me a “knock it off” look. A polite one, a few steps below tween exasperation and eye rolling, but hinting at it all the same.

He didn’t join Blue and I on today’s 3 miler, opting for Saturday sleeping instead. Just as well. Starting this afternoon he has a big weekend-long sleepover with this friends. I’m sure he needed all extra rest he could gather.

5 things a day

Zaimu Challenge
My Aunt Keet
My Aunt Keet

My aunt is pretty awesome.

I can say that about all of my family members really, but today’s praise is for my maternal aunt, Keety. The youngest of three, she celebrates her 71st birthday later this year.

I visited Orlando a few months ago and the two of us had lunch. She told me that once she got home, she was “off work” for the day.

She’s retired, but, she explained, she does five things every day to keep active. They’re not necessarily five individual things, but you could think of it more as tasks worth points.

For example, running a simple errand is one point. But a challenging errand, (traffic, or multiple stops) , is worth two. Attending exercise class with her neighbors or going for a walk is one point. Watching television is half a point. Calling a friend? One. Reading, because she reads slowly and it’s not exactly her favorite thing, two points. And so on.

I love that she makes such a commitment to stay active. She’s a Master Gardener and volunteers in that capacity from time to time. She makes jewelry, and signs up for continuing education/community courses on a regular basis. She emailed me a few days ago to share her latest adventure:

Thought you might enjoy seeing my graduation picture as I received my certificate from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Civilian Police Academy, a 13 week course for citizens to learn  all about how the sheriffs office operates. Don’t know what I will do now on Tuesday nights.  Probably more tv.

Keeping busy and keeping her sense of humor, too.

New Moon, New Start

Personal Narrative

It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you…

Keep going if you know the words. Meanwhile, I’ll just bob my head and smile. It has been a while. And since I’ve last appeared in this space, I’ve been out and about in the world collecting experiences. My most recent one was a glorious trip to Sesimbra, Portugal with my cousins. I may write more about that later.

brown beauties in portugal
Brown beauties in Portugal.

Today I’m dusting off the blog to say hello. It’s fall in the western hemisphere and it’s a new moon. And y’all know I love a good reason any reason for a fresh start. After this hiatus, I’ve got a lot on my mind. Some of it I’ll share here, but other things I may share in two new spaces currently under development. Every few years I reimagine my online identities and now feels like a good time to allow some things to stand on their own.

We’ll see.

In the short term, I just wanted to tap the mic, say hello, and welcome you back to the studio. coco’s brewing…

Goodbye 40. Hello 41.

Personal Narrative

On Mother’s Day I cried.

I felt anxious most of the day. Irritable. Off-kilter. But I wasn’t sure why. Late afternoon I sat with Blue and he held my hands until I could say. I truly didn’t know until the words flew out: “I’m not a mother.” I buried my face, hiding tears.

It felt strange to say. And really it was more that I felt in between. Displaced? Out of place? I dunno. I was coming to love his children, but who was I, really? Despite the growing relationship we all shared, there was no neat space for me. Not stepmom. Not stepmom-to-be. But there they were. And here I was. A lovely conundrum in the grand scheme of things, but one that confused my heart. Normally, I don’t look to commercial calendars for commentary on my life circumstances, but for once that Hallmark holiday hurt. The silence stung.

Blue reassured me with his warm brown eyes and a tight squeeze, but there wasn’t much he could say then. We were little more than two weeks away from his proposal and he didn’t give away his secret.

Harp Family  Unity CeremonyI learned a lot in that moment, and in many moments of my 40th year. The lessons I signed up to master this lifetime have seemed to spiral each decade, although teachers and learning environments change as I do. One of the ways I move forward is by looking back and noting the wisdom I’ve gathered thus far. What follows is an admittedly incomplete accounting of my most recent trip around the sun.

  • Life’s victories and joys ebb and flow, not unlike the ocean.
  • You can be happy and content without being giddy.
  • You never step in the same river twice. You may get another chance at {insert thing here} but everything about it is different the next time. Including you.
  • Sometimes you expect what never comes, and get what you weren’t expecting.
  • Titles really do mean something. Act accordingly.
  • Watching and listening are active tasks and are best done with your whole heart.
  • Those who truly know you, understand.
  • Praise and encouragement are loving and effective motivators.
  • You can’t force change, although with clarity and warm persistence, you can influence your environment.
  • Human relationships are complicated. The best ones teach you something about yourself.

Here’s to another trip around the sun…

Who presents this bride?

Personal Narrative

Today makes eight.

For years I went to bed early. As an elementary school teacher, I had an extensive morning routine involving exercise, prayer, and a 30-minute commute. I arrived at work by 7 a.m. – well before the kiddos who often wanted to share household news as soon as they said good morning.
Because I require 7-8 hours of sleep to function well, I observed a strict bedtime of 9 p.m. My friends knew this and generally avoided calling past 8 or 8:30. From time to time an acquaintance would call too late, so I turned off my ringer at night just to play it safe.

That is, until Daddy admitted his health was fading.

It was shortly after Mama died. His prostate cancer wasn’t a secret, yet he seemed to be doing well. But y’all know how (some) men like to hide shit. Reality didn’t exactly align with appearances. I told him in no uncertain terms, he wasn’t allowed to die any time soon. His reaction, some mixture of exasperation and acquiescence, was disconcerting. He said okay because that’s what I wanted, but he hinted there were no guarantees.

I began leaving my ringer on at night.

Daddy and me. Wasn't he sharp?
Daddy and me. Wasn’t he sharp?

My parents eloped when they were 23. As a little girl my mother offered me several thousand dollars if I eloped, too. I can’t remember what prompted her to mention it at that moment. The only possibility that comes to mind is Princess Diana’s wedding, grand affair that it was. I was too young to have heard about the bride’s family footing the bill for weddings or other such traditions. I’m serious, she said. I shrugged. I tucked it away for later.

As a teenager I thought I’d get married shortly after college. My 20s came and went and I remained single throughout. I was grateful, honestly. I hadn’t met “Mr. Right,” and by the time I hit 30, I’d evolved into a completely different woman.

My dad did his best, as much as one can wield control over such things. He held on another three years. My phone rang just before dawn. I sighed awake, already shaking my head. No good news comes at this time of day. The voice on the other end was Daddy’s but softer in tenor. I instantly recognized my uncle, Daddy’s identical twin. Did I call at a bad time? he asked. I pressed him to spill the news. Daddy was en route to the hospital. He wasn’t breathing on his own.

Daddy reading aloud The Night Before Christmas circa 1976.
Daddy reading aloud The Night Before Christmas circa 1976.

I arrived at Grady Hospital eight years ago today. I didn’t see Daddy that morning. Nor any other since. Following my uncle’s lead, we both left without seeing his lifeless body.
 I wanted to say goodbye, but I did not want the image of death burned into my memory. I had made that mistake with Mama.

Toward the end of my 30s, I met my future husband. When we spoke of marriage, I told him I didn’t favor a big wedding, and, in fact, eloping was fine with me. I was down for a courthouse ceremony, or a small gathering on the beach. I don’t think he believed me the first few times we discussed it, but the seed Mama planted nearly three decades earlier bore fruit. I had never planned or even considered a “fairy tale” wedding.

A few months after my 40th birthday, Blue proposed.

I remembered the brides who cried in the days leading up to their weddings. I vowed not to be one of them. As spring melted into summer, we played around with wedding dates, sizes and locations. Nearly every Friday from June through August, we considered jumping in the car and heading to the courthouse. In September we settled on an intimate October affair.

first lookIf we had eloped, we would’ve escorted each other during the ceremony. But the venue we selected encouraged something a little more traditional. I decided Daddy’s twin, my “DNA Daddy,” might be the perfect choice.

He later told me it was one of his greatest joys.

During our ceremony, we invoked ancestors and loved ones who were not present, and that, of course, included my parents. Although neither were present in body, it was a loving comfort to hear Daddy’s voice and witness his smile through his brother.

Said our officiant, Who presents this bride?

My uncle replied, I do. 

Who presents this bride? I do!
Who presents this bride? I do!

Sunshine, fog and love

Personal Narrative

I’m still waiting for the latest to sink in. Awareness comes in flashes, but it hasn’t quite settled in.

Maybe in a month? A season? I dunno. But seven days hasn’t been enough.

A week ago today Blue and I were married! I told him every day of our honeymoon it feels so surreal. I’m a wife now. And a stepmom. Wow.

Perhaps I’ll spend a few posts digging into these as I try these labels and responsibilities on for size.

The ceremony was short, sweet and intimate, and remains quite hazy in my memory. I was in a fog most of the proceedings, despite the clear, sunshiny day. Dina, our photographer, offered suggestions for poses and she had to repeat them all. I could hear her, but somehow she was talking to… someone else.

I didn’t feel nervous beforehand, despite the group of teenagers who walked by just before the bridesmaids went down the aisle. “Are you going to trip?” one asked. I’m sure I gave her my infamous side eye, but I responded with a shrug and something like, “who knows? I don’t plan to.”

When my uncle escorted me out the double doors, I found Blue and gave him the biggest smile. He matched it with his, waiting. I’d never experienced tunnel vision before that moment, but aside from the blur of guests standing, I didn’t see anything else. I wanted to get down the stairs safely and stand next to him, so I concentrated on that. Even the music – an upbeat tune from Earth, Wind and Fire – is hard to hear in my memories.

Friends and family posted a few snaps of us on social media, or emailed and texted us their faves. I’m floored to see them. That was US! We’re THEM! Each picture helps me recapture the moments I lost to the fog.

 

Tunnel vision.
Tunnel vision. Photo credit: Ray Gilstrap

 

On living, aging and growing old.

Personal Narrative, Spirituality

It is important to remember that aging and growing old are not necessarily the same. ~Daisaku Ikeda 

I cringe whenever my peers claim they’re getting old. Of course years pass and we physically age, but a lot of what they are claiming is more about mindset than time.

A friend argued that maybe those people are beaten down by life – they’re getting weary, not getting old. Perhaps.

My favorite models in life are my aunts and uncles. Three of them are active on social media and in real life. Here’s a picture:

Uncle Grisby, Auntie Jessie, Cousin Big Sis, Me, Uncle Arnsel. 2011.
Uncle Grisby, Auntie Jessie, Cousin Big Sis, Me, Uncle Arnsel. 2011.

Auntie Jessie, who will be 85 this year, called to wish me a happy birthday Wednesday. When we spoke around 9:30 p.m., she was just getting home after a full day, that started, of course, with yoga in the morning.

I’ve actually never heard her say I’m getting old. Years ago, she told me she knew she’d be around because longevity runs in our family. This was despite the fact that some of her siblings died at or near retirement age. She simply keeps living life to the fullest each day.

I logged into Facebook recently and noticed a conversation between two of my uncles. Live the life of your dreams starting now, wrote Uncle Grisby, age 78. Let the past be the past. Uncle Arnsel, 71, agreed, writing: I wouldn’t tamper with my life. I don’t want to miss out on what I have NOW! 

I agree. There are many past choices I would not make today, but I chose them based on everything I knew about myself and life at that moment. Those choices were also my teachers, and the decisions I make today incorporate the learning of the past. To erase the lessons may erase the past hurts, but doing so would also erase the wisdom that comes in healing.

But what if you’re still suffering from past choices? What if getting old really just means your dreams are slipping away?

If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present. ~Nichiren

Nichiren implies here that not only are the lessons from the past contained in the present moment, but the power to change the present and create a new future are here as well. Youth does not spend its time looking backward, constantly lamenting what if? Youth looks forward, on to the next dream, a new goal, a different adventure.

What is youth? It is the inner strength not to stagnate or grow resistant to change but to stay open to new possibilities. It is the power of the spirit that refuses to succumb to complacency and strives ever forward. ~Daisaku Ikeda

Uncle Grisby was born on leap day, and yesterday he celebrated his 78th birthday. He shared this advice along with the following photo:

Start every day with a smile!!!

laugh every day

Here’s to growing older, while maintaining the spirit of youth.

xoxo

Who wears the pants?

Personal Narrative

For most of my adult life, I felt my best wearing jeans. Baggy jeans, fitted jeans, funky jeans. I loved them all. Once I entered the working world and jeans were only okay on Fridays, I still wore pants the majority of the time. From khakis to pants suits, I looked and felt great in pants.

Even when I dressed up, I often wore pants.
Even when I dressed up, I often wore pants.

But one summer, I went to Paris. In preparation, I bought lots of clothes I felt would be comfortable for traveling to and fro and walking the city streets. There wasn’t a dress in the bunch.

It was a family trip – the girl cousins on my dad’s side went. We each brought a large suitcase for the week-long affair. Well, six of us did. The seventh managed to pack everything for the trip in a single carry-on!

We eyed the bag suspiciously, wondering what she brought or what kind of magic rolling she did with her gear. But as the days wore on, it was apparent she brought plenty of clothes, including multiple changes per day.

What was her secret, we wondered.

Dresses!

I took note, and filed it away. Unbeknownst to anyone else, I returned to Georgia and promptly went shopping. Two months later when we gathered again – this time for a family reunion – I traveled a lot lighter. I had dresses! Cousin Big Sister had come to the same revelation, and she also dressed and packed accordingly. Cool, comfortable, flattering, dresses. I loved them, and I loved me in them. I felt free. Sexy.

How did I waste so much time in pants?

Me and one of my newly discovered cousins at the family reunion.
Me at the family reunion wearing a dress! (Hi cousin Shaunda!)

That was 2009. Fast forward to 2014. I’m experiencing my first real winter in years and I don’t have the dresses to match! As the temperatures began to drop, I returned to my trousers. I’ve been wearing jeans and pants the past few weeks and they feel foreign on my body.

Just yesterday I wore slacks – formerly my favorite pair – and the whole day I felt a little off.

I think it’s time to do a little shopping. My birthday is just around the corner…

On family narratives. #NaBloPoMo

30 Day Blog Challenge

The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.

This line comes from a recent New York Times piece about the importance of understanding from whence you came.  The more you know about the characters, settings, and other elements that contribute to your life story, the better prepared you are to make intentional choices about your own life.

You can be a more sophisticated author of your life if you have a strong sense of your biography:

Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.

Both of my parents are deceased, but as child and young adult, I did have a lot of access to family history. We had dinner table conversations as I was growing up, and I spent quite a bit of time around relatives in various cities. I had a good sense of who we were as a family on both sides. But I didn’t find out everything. There are gaps in my knowledge, some of which may never be closed.

Gaps aside, Drs. Duke and Fivush speak about the importance of a more global understanding of the family’s development over time. Specifically they mention three types of narratives:

  • the ascending narrative – think rags to riches, or nothing to something;
  • the descending narrative – we had it all and lost it; and
  • the oscillating narrative – we’ve had good times and bad times, but here we are.

Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

What about you? Do you know your family narrative? Do you have a sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself?

Excerpts from The Stories That Bind Us.