Sunday, October 31, 2010

Costumes and Candy

I'm not a fan of anything "scary" or "gory." I literally had to change the channel the other night watching the Shrek Halloween special because the ginger bread brides were creeping me out and I get nightmares. I once got dragged to a "Saw" movie with my friend and her new boyfriend but then made it very awkward when I got up and walked out after 5 minutes.

However, despite my hatred for guts and gore and anything frightening, I used to LOVE Halloween as a kid. It doesn't seem very Christian of me but I did. I went to public school and my family never did the church "Festival" alternatives- we were all about costumes and candy. And we were serious about our candy. From a young age we ditched the cute candy baskets and adopted the pillow cases for maximum candy-holding capacity. We mapped out our routes and then we filled those cases. Perhaps my favorite part of the evening was late that night, after all the goods had been acquired, we'd set up shop in the living room and the massive trading began. Here we learned first hand about economics and politics. We learned what others valued, how to get what we wanted, and how to get rid of those plain hershey bars by adding a pack of Skittles to the trade. You couldn't get me to let go of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups but I was eager to get rid of those nasty flavored tootsie rolls. We were set for weeks and sometimes, if our rationing was strict, months. Our mom and dad gave us limits to how much candy we could consume each day so I spent most of November confessing to God my lies to my parents about how much candy I had eaten. (perhaps this is why both Trent and I have had at least 5 root canals each). One year our stupid dog Duke ate my entire stash. It was devastating. It's why I secretly wasn't too sad when he had to be put down. Ten year old me held grudges and was very serious about her candy.

It wasn't just the candy that I loved. I loved the costumes. If you had a good one, you were the talk of the town at the school parade. I can remember all my costumes and most of my siblings' as well. I'll never forget when my mom helped Trent and Travis dress as cheerleaders. She got a call from the principal because of their inappropriate use of balloons.
My LEAST favorite costume happened during my LEAST favorite year in elementary school: fourth grade. I don't remember much from that year except I got my first D on a test, cried buckets about it and that year I had a lame Halloween costume. I had been planning on being a Hawaiian girl but the morning of the parade I put on the "grass skirt" and realized there was very little grass left on it. I panicked. "Mom!!! There's no grass on my grass skirt! What can I be for the parade?" Ever resourceful and with only 5 minutes to create a costume, she suggested that I be a rich person. I hesitated, knowing it wasn't going to get any second looks, but I was desperate. Going to school without a costume was never an option. This "rich woman" costume consisted of me wearing one of my mom's dresses, hair in a bun, mom's pearls and lots of red blush and red lipstick. (My mom's life goal has always been to get me to wear lipstick so I'm thinking this was the beginning stage of her plan to make it so I don't "look as pale as death.") It was a costume but basically, I was my mom for Halloween. Not cool by kid standards.

My FAVORITE costume came not surprisingly, during my FAVORITE year: fifth grade. Mr. A was our incredibly cool teacher who called me "Katie Hardly-a-Man" and dressed as a "Jamaican" that year, painting his arms and face black and wearing a wig with dreds. This was the year of "the train." I think Megan's mom thought of the costume but I got to be part of what I deemed "the most original costume" of the year. Megan, Lauren, Jenny and myself were four parts of a train. I can still smell the fumes as we spray painted our cardboard boxes and decorated them on my driveway. We walked everywhere that day with a proud swagger and in a single-file line, occasionally making train sounds. We had a cool costume and we knew it. I loved being part of a group costume and felt the envious stares of others in less original costumes. It was awesome.
Yes, I sported some fashionable stirrups- though not quite as cool as Heidi's birkenstocks with socks.

Heidi and I were reminiscing about our trick-or-treating escapades and candy obsession and realized that somewhere along the path between adolescence and adulthood, our passion for such sugary sweetness dwindled. Snickers, Skittles, Starburst, and Sugar Babies don't make our eyes light up like they used to. Milk Duds and Milky Ways aren't quite as delectable as I remember. Like many holidays, the magic and thrill of Halloween has dissipated over the years. However, though our trick-or-treating days are long over, we now get to experience the magic through Heidi's boys. We got to witness their excitement as they donned their pirate costumes and said, "Arrr, me matey." We got to experience their wonder and joy as they watched their baskets fill with sugary goodness. We got to see their eyes light up when they received a handfull of candy and we saw them quake in genuine fear when their dad chased them in a disturbing mask. Indeed, Halloween is much more fun and even magical when experienced as a child.
Now I'm going to try something new on this blog. I'm asking for reader participation. I haven't done this before because I fear no one will respond and I'll feel like a total tool with no friends. (It's Saturday night and I'm blogging at Panera in my pajamas so I'm already dancing dangerously close to the "loser" line.) However, I've been blog stalking for awhile and this guy and this guy always put questions at the end of their posts for people to comment. The comment section is hilarious. They have some uber funny friends/blog readers and I know I do too. That being said, don't feel the pressure to be "uber funny." Just be honest. Consider this a birthday present to me because comments make me feel good about myself. Yeah, my birthday was in May- you missed it. So, without further ado or groveling, here are your questions:

1. What was your favorite candy as a kid?

2. What was your favorite Halloween costume?

Mom, Heidi- you'd better comment- I know I have at least two readers in you guys:) I'll start us off in the comment section.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Line between laughter and sobs

I've always found it odd what a fine line exists between laughing hysterically and sobbing uncontrollably. When I'm doubled over in a wheezing belly laugh, tears are typically streaming down my cheeks. Likewise, when painful, salty, fat tears are flowing, I find myself oddly close to collapsing into hysterical laughter. Perhaps this stems back to my childhood when I would get hurt and go to my dad for comfort who would, without exception, make a joke that would have me giggling against my will. He showed little sympathy when we got hurt- when I got hit by a car, he scolded me for ruining my mom's bike.

Whatever the reason, I've also found this line between laughing and crying to be a very fine one when I'm with my Iron Well girls. Yes, we named ourselves. And yes, we have matching t-shirts. Don't hate.
These six girls were hand-picked for me. Truthfully, I might not have picked them on my own to be my "life-long friends." I might have picked girls who were more like me. However, I think that's one of the beautiful aspects of our friendship- God brought us together with all our unique quirks and perspectives to form a pretty incredible group. We're all a bit goofy, we all love the Lord, and we all care about our friendship. Care so much that we won't let it dwindle despite living in different states and cities and experiencing different walks of life. We met at Westmont; were randomly selected to live in 3 dorm rooms in the same section of Page; were the last girls in the cafeteria one Friday night and decided then and there to be friends. Only God knew what type of bond would be formed as 7 freshmen girls decided to meet and pray together. We met all over campus but often times ended up on one girls' bed. (One night we were on my top bunk and Jenny kindly pointed out that I had been wiping my boogers on the ceiling. I knew they'd be life-long friends when they just laughed and didn't judge me. In my defense, who wants to climb off the top bunk to get a tissue? Not me. At least I wasn't eating them.) Here we are at age 18 and the following year as sophomores at age 19.
Now, ten years after that first meeting, 5 marriages later, 3 babies later, several moves and new jobs later, we still meet and pray together. Once a year. For one weekend we get together and remember what a glorious gift we've been given: each other. This year we met in Palm Springs and though we swam, hiked, picnicked, got pedicures, saw a movie, played games, and ate, what I will remember most is the laughter and the tears. There was an abundance of both.

You can't do this with just anybody. You can't laugh so hard you roll on the ground watching someone drool during chubby bunny if you're just acquaintances. You can't cry so hard that when you try to speak, it sounds like you've been sucking helium if you hardly know the person. Laughter and tears require trust. You have to let go of inhibitions and not care what your face looks like or how you sound because you trust that the others won't care either. I love this. I love how I can laugh and cry with these girls without inhibitions. I love watching them laugh and cry- even if it is in the middle of a restaurant.

We tend to cause a bit of a scene whenever we're in public- maybe it's because there's 7 of us or because we're usually laughing and loud; maybe it's because 3 are currently pregnant or because of the matching attire; or maybe it's because we're a little weird and take pictures like this:
and like to come up with creative poses like these:
The first scene we caused was in a bathroom at a public elementary school in LA. Jenny, Amy and I were waiting for the rest of the girls to fly into LAX and took a walk in a nearby neighborhood. Both girls are preggers so with heavy bladders, we searched for a bathroom and found a school. A heavily locked school. Giant locks were at each entrance save for one which I convinced the girls to slip through. We cautiously searched for the bathrooms while attempting to walk with confidence so we wouldn't be stopped for trespassing. When we finally found the little girls' room, we slipped in only to find three very surprised 5 year old girls with huge eyes gaping up at us, jaws dropped, exclaiming, "Whoa!" simultaneously. I'm not sure if it was our height, skin color, or matching shirts that made them gasp but in true kid fashion they blurted out, "What are YOU doing here?" The preggos darted for the miniature toilets while I explained that we are kids too and it was totally normal for us to be there. Their logic was comical.

girl: "You're not a kid."

me: "Am too."

girl: "No you're not. Look in the mirror."

me: turn to face the mirror and see only my stomach. "Okay, you make a good point."

girl: comes behind me and grabs both my wrists pretending to cuff them, "You're under arrest. You're coming with me."

All three girls proceeded to grab my wrists, yelling "you're busted!" and pulling me towards the door. I was getting worried about the adults outside seeing me dragged out so I tried to divert their attention by tickling them. In hindsight, that would have looked pretty sketchy too. Luckily, at this moment Jenny emerged and dropped her bracelet which the girls found hilarious.

Next scene: LAX. Jenny, Amy and I snuck up on unsuspecting Lesley at baggage claim. Lesley tells the story here. Scaring people is one of my favorite past times and scaring in public is only better. We got quite a few stares and got more a few moments later when we battled against the obnoxious LAX security. You're not allowed to park when picking up people on the curb- even if they are your closest friends and you haven't seen them in a long time. This little rule and this little man with a badge didn't stop us from piling out of cars to hug our dear friends. He flashed his light at us and yelled but that only made me more irritated and more passive aggressive. I dragged my feet and slowly trudged to the car, took forever to put on my seat belt, eventually turned on my blinker and toyed with this poor man, pretending to leave and then driving so slowly he actually stopped traffic so I could change lanes and leave his sacred curb. Not my most Christ-like moment but geesh, can't a girl hug her friends?

Next scene: tiny, quiet Thai restaurant suddenly invaded by 7 tall, loud, hungry girls.
Next scene: on the tram climbing thousands of feet to the top of the mountain. It's not called "360 degrees of WOW" for nothin. We laughed and squealed the whole way to the top.
Next scene: Tears of laughter and joy mingled as we scarfed down delicious Mexican food. Don't believe we scarfed? When the waiter saw how quickly our chips were gone he said, "Aye yie yie" and quickly refilled our baskets.
Next scene: Chinese fire drill. Hadn't done one of these in years but when Jenny suggested it, who could turn that down?

Last scene: goodbye hugs at LAX. Luckily we get to reconvene in the spring for Lori's wedding where there inevitably will be lots more laughter and tears of joy. Can't wait!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Awkward Hugging

My beautiful and strange friend Lesley recently had us all in tears as she told us possibly my favorite hugging story. She had just gotten her eyebrows waxed and the lady who did the waxing opened the door for her to exit but left her arms wide open. Never one to deny a hug, Lesley shrugged her shoulders and went in for the hug. Right as she made contact, she noticed the lady's surprised expression and realized that the poor lady had simply been opening the door for her to go out. Lesley found a new waxing place. This had me rolling and thinking about how awkward hugs can be.

Recently my sister has been hugging me a lot. Not because I need one or because I want one. Rather, she comes at me with open arms precisely because I don't need a hug nor do I want one and she loves to watch me squirm. Hugging makes me squirm because hugging makes me awkward. I really have never been a fan of bumping bodies, even with the people I love. (only exception is giving "squeezers" to my nephews) I've been mocked and ridiculed for my lack of affection but I wouldn't be so opposed to the hug if everyone followed the following guidelines:

* Hug only in appropriate situations. Not every goodbye warrants a hug. Nor does every greeting. I had a friend who would hug every person he hung out with, even if he had just met them. He hugged his parents every single time he saw them which was multiple times a month. I LOVE my parents but this is simply too much hugging. There is a time and place. Here are three simple rules of thumb to follow when deciding if a situation warrants a hug or not:

1) If you don't know their last name, don't hug them. You may press your body against theirs once you pass this intimacy litmus test.

2) If you've seen them recently, they don't need ANOTHER hug when you greet.

3) If you will see them again soon, no hug is needed upon departure. A head nod, a wave, and a "see ya later" will do just fine.

* Make it clear that you are initiating a hug. Don't leave your hugging partner guessing if you are coming in for the handshake or the high five. My friend Amy just told us about her hugging experience with her husband's boss. He raised one arm for an apparent high five. She went to slap him some skin and then realized a moment too late that his raised arm was actually preparing for a hug. This terribly awkward moment could be avoided if everyone made it clear nice and early that they are planning a hug.

When I first met the guy my friend Christy had just started dating, we had a classic awkward goodbye. I will very rarely initiate a hug. However, I knew how much Christy liked Andrew (she later married him) and I was so excited about him possibly being "the one" that I went in for the hug. But I went a little too late. He went for the handshake. In hindsight, that was the socially appropriate goodbye. To make matters worse, I then quickly switched hand positions to accommodate his handshake while he simultaneously switched for the hug. This awkward maneuver could have easily been avoided if I had raised my arms a bit earlier.

* Make it clear what TYPE of hug you're initiating and make sure it's appropriate. I don't need a bear hug from a new acquaintance. Nor do I expect a side hug from a long time friend. However, sometimes it is unclear what type of hug is appropriate. In these grey areas, eliminate awkwardness by positioning your body in a manner which clearly communicates to your hugging partner what you expect. Example: young girl (me) hugging her pastor. I know the family quite well but I never know what is appropriate and always let him dictate the contact. We currently alternate between firm handshakes, awkward side hugs, and occasional full frontal hugs where a wide gulf separates us and the only contact is our arms patting each others backs. It's awesome. And although it's always somewhat awkward, it could be much worse if he didn't always clarify what type of contact he was initiating.

I'm awkward enough as it is. Can we please just agree to follow these guidelines and save everyone the confusion associated with body bumping?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10 Years From Now

At the Homecoming football game last Friday, I had a rude awakening. I learned what one former student remembers about me. She was thrilled to tell me this story of how I influenced her. I was a tiny bit appalled. Here was the conversation:

student: "Hey Miss Hardeman! I was literally just talking about you in my English class today."

me: flattered "Oh yeah? Why is that?"

student: "My professor returned our essays and said they were okay but we must learn how to spell "lose" and "loose."

me: "Yeah, that bothers the heck out of me."

student: "I know. And I remembered how you taught me the difference."

my thought process: "Oh no. What did I say? I know what I am thinking but PLEASE tell me I didn't tell that to my class."

student: "I turned around and told all the kids around me how you taught me the difference."

me: growing more frightful "Um....what did I teach you?"

student: "You know- how loose has two "O's" because loose girls have two big boobs.

others in group: laughing incredulously.

me: red in the face "That's what I was afraid of. I seriously told you that? That is so inappropriate. I am so sorry."

I left that conversation shaking my head at myself. "Really Katie? What were you thinking? That is how that poor girl remembers you." And this got me thinking about what my kids will remember about me in ten years. My ten year reunion was this past summer and I realize now that I only have fuzzy memories of my high school teachers. Here's what I remember:

* Mr. Roach was a grumpy old man who told cheesy jokes that I laughed at really loudly because I love cheesy jokes. I think it helped my grade. He also squirted people with a water gun when they slept in class.

* Mrs. Gregenski was a cute young Chemistry teacher who had bangs and once said, "Here are your testes," when she passed out our tests and then covered her mouth and was super embarrassed. I had to ask my friend what "testes" were.

* My freshman English teacher- I don't remember her name but I will never forget how she ended her sentences with "and, and, and." It drove me bonkers. I kept a tally of how many times she did it every day.

* Mrs. Burgard was my elderly Spanish teacher who terrified me and waddled like a penguin.

* My Biology teacher wore a frog necklace, dissected a frog and rumor was that she didn't wash her hands after dissections. I have an image of her eating a sandwich in class while I was aghast and gagging.

* Mrs. Lewis was an English teacher who was brilliant and beautiful and funny. I wanted to be like her. She once bobbed her head like a chicken and I made a smart remark about it from the peanut gallery. However, she heard me making fun of her and called me out on it. I felt terrible.

* Mrs. Chu was a math teacher with an awful red perm who played Abba's "Dancing Queen" often when we came into class. I became a fan. Not of perms.

* Mr. Saint Claire was the Econ teacher who girls swooned over. He once caught me ditching his class when I came back to school for practice. He asked where I had been and I lied and told him I had diarrhea. I saw him years later and almost confessed. The guilt has been eating at me.

* Mr. Zoeweta was my Senior English teacher who I was pretty sure was a genius because he listened to jazz music and used really big words. He wore fedoras and spoke really slowly and once gave me a C on an essay and I never forgave him for it.

These random snapshots are so clear but I saw these people on a daily basis for a year and don't remember much else. This forces me to wonder how my own students will remember me. What snapshot will stick with them? Here are some snapshots I fear they will remember:

* How I got irritated with them and threw whiteboard markers at them. I nailed one boy in the chest this week.

* How I made silly faces and was friends with other silly teachers. The following two pictures are from Spirit week.

* How I wore tall wedges and often rolled my ankles in class. Or how my legs often fell asleep when I crossed my legs too long and would stumble trying to walk to the podium.

* How I cried in class. Cried while I was reading aloud and just kept going. Or cried while watching The Crucible or Dead Poet's Society.

* How I had weird friends and awesome nephews who were the subjects of many of my stories. Much to Heidi's chagrin. I recently told them this one about Vander: He was in the bathroom and let loose a fire of toots. Heidi commented to him that it sounded like a machine gun. As a weapons fanatic, this thrilled him and a huge grin spread across his face. "I'm fighting a battle with my butt!" This soon-to-be 4 year old is too clever for his own good. Heidi and Dan are trying to curb the bathroom humor but are fighting a losing battle when the boys have an aunt like me and uncles like Trent and Travis.

* How I said "shit" in class. Just once. Okay twice. But the first time I was quoting a priest. A fellow bridesmaid and myself were talking with said priest before the ceremony. He had just signed the marriage certificate and was standing over a table with a candle. You know what's coming next. He set the paper down next to the open flame and in the next moment, it caught fire. "Oh shit! G D it!" And then he madly attacked the blazing document and soon had quenched the flames but not before looking at us in shame and embarrassment. It is one of my all-time favorite wedding moments. I told this story to my class the next week because it was too classic not to share and totally applied to what we were talking about. That last part was a lie. But I owed them a good story since we were having a snooze-fest grammar lesson. The second time I said "sugar honey ice tea" was yesterday. I was having a terrible, horrible, very bad, no-good day and felt like screaming, crying, and strangling anyone in my path. At the pinnacle of this awful day, sweet little freshman Jerry snuck into my classroom. Buried in papers and stress and worries, I didn't notice. I thought I was alone in my room and I realized yet another mistake I had made that day and out slipped shit. Three of them. Bam, bam, bam. Quietly but loud enough to reach innocent Jerry's ears who had magically appeared by my side. When I looked up at him, his eyes were wider than .... I can't think of an adequate simile so let's just say that his eyes were very wide. I'm pretty sure that in 10 years, this is the memory Jerry is going to remember about me. Splendid.

* How I was blonde and had many blonde moments. The topic of "shakes" was brought up in class the other day so I had to tell them about a recent mishap which I blamed on my hair. My friend's husband told a story about how someone brought him an In-N-Out shake. Most might think, "Oh, like a chocolate or strawberry shake from In-N-Out. Those are delicious." Not me. I cringed and said, "Nasty. He brought you a hamburger shake?" The look he gave me is one that I sadly, often receive. Utter disbelief and mild confusion. "Is she serious? Surely she is not." I was.

* How I let a boy keep a kitten in class. This happened today, the day after my terrible, horrible, very bad, no-good day. I felt awful that I had been so impatient with my classes so I was determined to do better. In my morning devotions of the terrible day, I had read 2nd Peter 1:3-4 which says: 3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

Clearly, God knew I was going to face opposition and needed to be reminded that I had the power to overcome the irritations and stresses and still glorify Him that day. I failed. I re-read those verses today and realized what God had been trying to prepare me for. Sometimes I can be pretty dense. I have the power and ability to "participate in the divine nature" but I have to be a willing party. I have his "very great and precious promises" but I have to remember these and meditate on them when I just want to scream and when my small, molehill-sized problems seem like mountains.

That being said, I came to school today with a renewed sense of purpose, intent on being loving and gracious towards my students. So when a boy brought in a tiny meowing kitten and asked if I had a box he could put it in, I said sure. He had rescued the abandoned stray from behind a vending machine. I taught an entire poetry lesson with the background sounds of a surprisingly loud meowing kitten.

In reflecting on these snapshots that students might remember, I am trying to make it a daily discipline to realize that I am in a position of influence. I have a unique opportunity every year to point 100 plus teenagers to Jesus. What a sweet job! Every day I must remember this; remember why I'm on earth and why I'm in room A1. So yeah, they'll probably remember some random fact, some embarrassing moment, some inappropriate comment, some odd quirk about me. But I am making it a goal that they also will remember that I loved the LORD deeply and had an intimate relationship with Him that I couldn't help but talk about. I want to model for them what it looks like to walk with Christ and live the abundant life. I cannot grow stagnant and complacent if, for no other reason, because I can't let down my kids.

I hope that my students remember that I loved them and cared about how they grew as students but more importantly, as followers of Christ. I hope they don't just remember the days I was cranky; but rather, they are left with the impression that I was usually filled with His joy and peace and hope. I hope that they don't just remember how I gave them a detention for copying homework but how I set high expectations for them and held them accountable- that I was strict but offered grace. I hope that they don't just remember that I loved Africa and movies but also that I loved my God and my school and my job and them.

Maybe they'll remember all this. More likely they'll remember when I dressed like this:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Life Lessons from a Marathon PART 3

* The final miles will always be brutal but kind of wonderful. Brutal because it was the hardest I have ever pushed my body and most fatigued I've ever felt. Brutal because the first 20 miles felt great when I trained but the last six turned out to be harder than I ever imagined. Brutal because my legs felt so weak and feet felt so heavy that I could barely lift them and thought I might collapse at any moment. (I think the fear of embarrassment kept me on my feet.) Brutal because my brain was screaming at my legs to stop and then my feet and butt joined in the cacophony of screams.

But those miles are wonderful precisely because they are so challenging. Wonderful because they force you to play a mental game and you simply must endure pain and exhaustion. Wonderful because they reveal what you are made of and what drives you. The last three miles were the longest of my life. I ran them as fast as I could which was probably a power walking pace. I searched my playlist for the perfect song that would pump me up and energize me but none worked. Not even Eminem or "Testify" by Avalon. For two miles I said two words every step. "Help.....Lord....Help....Lord." It may have even been out loud. I was too weak to notice. And as my feet continued to pound and I continued to whisper these two words, I remembered one of the reasons I wanted to run this race. I wanted a challenge. My life is pretty easy and I wanted to have to sacrifice and work hard for something. I wanted to force myself to rely more on God and less on myself. So those last miles were wonderful because I was brought back to the place I love to be, the place I need to be- a posture of total submission and relying solely on the power of my mighty God to get me through. Those last miles made me painfully aware that I am weak and powerless and cannot finish on my own. So those last miles were painful, excruciatingly painful, but also marvelous, unbelievably marvelous.

* You can never have too much cowbell. When I first heard the crowds ringing them, I instantly pictured Will Ferrell's skit and laughed aloud. I then wondered if the people felt silly ringing them. Then I started to like them. I liked that strangers were ringing cowbells for me. They don't know me but they cheered and clapped and gave me thumbs up and rang their cowbells. Who knew some friendly encouragement could make one run faster? It certainly helped me. It also helped when I walked to the starting line and was greeted by these two:
They got up at the bcod to drive to Camarillo and cheer me on from the beginning. They wanted to be sure I saw them- hence the wonderfully loud shirts. I felt so blessed and so encouraged to see friendly faces to see me off. (Did you catch my acronym? "butt crack of dawn" I'm determined to make one of these stick.)

At about mile 18, I was alone on a country road and pretty spent. Then I saw the Swansons. Cute preggo Jenny was standing beside Chris who had the ever adorable one-year old Asher on his hip. Jenny gave me a glass of water and some encouraging words while her husband ran along side me in his flip-flops while making Asher fly next to me. This not only made me laugh but also energized me. A few miles later Jenny ran along side me for a bit and then took this picture when I was telling her that I was ready to collapse.

My parents also found me on the course and seeing their faces made me go faster- and not because I was trying to impress them- parents are automatically number one fans so there is no need for false pretenses. But I saw them and wanted to do better.
Such is the power of encouragement. They spurred me on. So did my friends who were there in spirit and sent encouraging pre-race words and even a video. (note: my friend Lesley is beautiful and brilliant and write this incredibly insightful blog but she also can be wonderfully weird which is why I love her so much.

I've said it once and I'll say it again- I was never alone in this race. I ran faster because I was supported and encouraged and heard plenty of cowbell.

* Crossing finish lines on earth can be anti-climatic. I'm a crier. I cry during home security commercials, during instructional CPR videos, during episodes of Community, and during many other moments that should never warrant tears. I don't think I'm emotional though, just have overactive tear ducts. That being said, I assumed I'd cry when I finished this race. Heck, I ran a half marathon today and for no reason at all tears streamed down my cheeks from mile 11 to mile 12. People probably thought I was in pain or super sad. I wasn't either. I just had no control over them. (Maybe this is what happened with the girl who I saw today with poo running down her legs. She must have simply lost control but instead of streaming tears, she had streaming poo. The bizarre part was that she just kept trekking on like it was no big deal that rivers of liquidy brown poo streamed down from her too-tiny spandex shorts all the way to her calves. But I digress.)

My point is, I thought I would cry. For three months, every day was dedicated to this moment. Yet, when the moment arrived, there were no tears. No deep thoughts. No epiphanies. Just sore legs and a need to empty my bladder. I guess I was expecting some magical, enlightening moment to occur when I crossed the finish line. I guess I was expecting a wave of euphoria to wash over me. I guess I was expecting to feel satisfied and fulfilled. Instead, I was just tired and thirsty. Sure, I felt accomplished and proud but not nearly to the degree I thought I would. I remembered the last three miles and couldn't even think about training for another marathon again- why volunteer for that pain again? However, two weeks later, I've signed up for another race. Not because I'm still searching for some enlightenment, but rather because I miss the training and I love being forced to rely on God's strength. I miss having something to work towards every day, having something to motivate me to lace up when I want to lay down, having a goal to journey towards. I miss the journey.

When I consider how this race is an analogy for life, this is where the analogy fails. Because crossing the finish line on earth and being ushered into the throne room will be anything but anti-climatic. I don't know what I'll see, but I know it will be a bit more thrilling than bottles of water and energy bars. I don't know how I'll respond, but I know I won't simply collapse in exhaustion. I don't know how I'll feel, but I know I'll be worshiping and completely satisfied. Completely fulfilled. Complete. And I imagine I'll be crying.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Life Lessons from a Marathon PART 2

* Running groups might look odd but they are effective. I never considered joining a group. I love my time alone and didn't want to have to make small talk with strangers. During the race there were several stretches where it was just me, my I-pod, my thoughts and my Jesus. I prayed, I rapped aloud to Eminem, I pondered who it was that had pooed on the side of the road and I enjoyed my alone time.
However, two times, a running group surrounded me. Literally. Surrounded. A group of 7 men in their 40's came on both sides of me, and ran directly in front of and behind me so I was completely engulfed by bearded men in neon attire. I was forced to run at their pace and I think it must have been a joke on their part. Who knew old guys could have such a sense of humor? They said something to me but I think it was Steven Curtis Chapman who drowned them out and I just flashed the courtesy smile. I laughed and thought about how funny it would be if my cheering squad saw me at that moment- surrounded by middle-aged men, running on the heels of a strangers and acting like it was totally normal.

These men helped me run faster. I moved with the tide and it was suddenly much easier to move my legs while I was surrounded. These men reminded me of the need for community and fellowship. Alone time is necessary and beneficial, but if I want to keep running this race in a manner that glorifies the Lord, at a pace that pleases Him, I need a "running group." I need people to surround me to push me forward when I want to stop. I need community. I need fellowship. I need people who keep me running hard and fast and give me no choice to stop. This is the power of the church. This is why we aren't called to live out our lives in isolation. There will be moments when I want to slow down but if I surround myself with a community of like-minded believers, I won't be able to.

* Be careful when you braid your hair. Not just because you might look as homely as Sarah Plain and Tall, but because you might end up with dreadlocks. I often wear a braid when I run but I had never run this far before and somewhere around mile 20, my braid mutated. It started as a long, thin braid. By mile 23, this is what it had become. And it got even worse. Even shorter and even more gnatted.
I sat in the bathroom for a good 40 minutes while my mom put conditioner in my hair and combed out this mess of a rats nest which was my hair. Lesson learned.

* It is never wise to compare myself to others. Lots of people finished the race ahead of me. Not just the Kenyans and running freaks. Girls my age. Girls with my abilities. Girls I could have beaten if I had trained harder. This would have bothered me in the past but I've been learning about the dangers of comparison. This race wasn't about beating other people. It was about accomplishing a goal, sacrificing and striving to finish strong and run well.

And yet, I was admittedly a bit peeved when she passed me. Stocky and adorned in tacky tie-dye, at mile 15 she passed me and I never caught her. For about a mile I was bothered. "How is she running faster than me? I can't lose to her." But she was faster and I did lose to her. However, I quickly realized I couldn't catch her but I didn't need to either.

I've often fallen prey to this strategy of the Enemy and until recently, I didn't even realize I was under attack. "You're not nearly as talented as she is. You are way less stylish. Her life is way more meaningful and adventurous. Her hair is fuller, her teeth are straighter, her body is leaner. You aren't nearly as interesting or funny. She's more spiritual and loving, more patient and kind. She's a way better teacher than you'll ever be. " And so the arrows fly. Flaming arrows that have been bombarding me and burning me for years. Until now.

I just read about the armor of God and though I've read and recited these verses plenty, I literally just realized that I've been failing to use my shield. Verse 16 says, " ... take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."

When Satan tempts me into playing the comparison game, he is shooting some deadly arrows and it is crucial that I bust out my shield, extinguish those fiery arrows and fight back. I have to first realize that those self-deprecating thoughts are from the enemy and then refuse to be lured into his sinister game of comparison. When he sends his flaming arrows, I will block them with my "shield of faith" and not get burned. But what does this mean? It means I will counter the negative, comparative thoughts with FAITH. Faith in Him and His word and His promises. I will trust that God is who He says He is. I will trust that His promises are true. I will trust that I gain my worth and identity in simply being His daughter. Knowing this and believing this makes comparison to others silly and nonsensical. But to truly believe this requires faith.

So yeah, a short, unathletic-looking woman in tie-dye beat me. So what? I am His daughter and accomplished what I set out to accomplish. So good work tie-dye, way to finish strong. And Satan, don't try to steal my victory by making me compare myself to others. Arrow extinguished.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Life Lessons from a Marathon PART 1

* Toilet seats are way too short. This week there were times I felt as if I was doing a trust fall to get all the way down to the seat. I never realized how low they are until I had to put both hands down on the seat and slowly lower myself. To get up, I had to put both hands on the floor and push myself up like a gorilla.... if gorillas used toilets. This went on for the two days after the race. Two of the longest days of my life.

* Life is going to suck when I get old. I have always taken walking for granted...until now. Without being able to bend my knees or use my quads at all, I discovered what I imagine it must be like to be really old. I am not looking forward to it. Sure, you get the early bird specials and can say inappropriate comments and let loose flatulence without getting called out, but I had to sit on my butt to slide down stairs and it was not fun. Plus, I was mocked by teenagers who pointed out that I was walking like I had a stick up my butt. Never before have I pushed my body as hard as I did during the marathon and my legs let me know that they were not happy about it. They still occasionally gripe about it but I tell them to shut up.

* Sometimes you don't need what you think you do. I thought I needed porta-potties. I KNEW I was going to need them. When I ran 20 miles, I stopped 4 times. Perhaps this is too much information but that was 4 times of dropping the kids off at the pool. So I was relieved to learn that there would be porta-potties every 3 miles. I could hold it for 3 miles. Even if that meant I would have to do the squeeze, clench, and awkwardly walk for a few minutes. However, when I got to about mile 15, I realized something; there were no porta-potties. I didn't realize it sooner because I luckily hadn't needed one. I realized it at mile 15 because I'm 80% sure I jumped over two piles of human poo in the street. For the next 4 miles, my mind was spinning: "Was that seriously human poo? What other beast could have left that? Did they squat? Did others see? Where else could they have gone? Was that used toilet paper or just trash by it?" We were on remote dirt roads winding through farm land with zero bushes to hide behind. What's weird is, I never had to go once. Perhaps it's a stretch to turn my bowel movements into a life lesson but I was so sure I needed bathrooms, but I didn't. I am often so sure I know what is best for my life, but I don't. Luckily, He does. I've had to remind myself of that several times in recent years as my life unfolds in ways I hadn't imagined. When I start to worry and subconsciously doubt God's provision and think He doesn't really know what I need, I hope I remember that I didn't need the porta-potties.

(That being said, I did head for them straight after the race and experienced the following: First, I walked in on a man peeing who didn't lock his door. Next, I knocked on a door since I didn't want to relive the previous experience and heard, "Occupied." Then I rushed into another one trying to avoid running into the person I just interrupted and in my haste, I failed to check the roll and was left with a tiny scrap of scratchy paper used to cover the rolls. In just one pee break I managed to have 3 of the awkward moments in public restrooms previously mentioned.)

* Birdies are tough when you're tired. At some of the stations there were no people or cups, just jugs of water. I watched one man execute a birdie with such precision that I didn't think twice as I lifted the jug...but unbeknownst to me, my hands were shaking and apparently my depth perception was malfunctioning. I was soaked. I managed to completely miss my face and completely drenched myself. A few miles later, body still weaker than it has ever been, this thought passed through my foggy mind: "am I peeing right now?" To this day I honestly don't know if I peed my pants or not. If I did, it was completely unintentional and it did not drip down to my socks like it did when I peed my pants freshman year of college due to a stress-induced laughing session.

* People will "run" with you in different seasons of life. I'm used to running by myself. Solo was how I trained and solo was how I planned to run the race. But that didn't happen. From about mile 3 to mile 8 I ran right next to a giant. I didn't mean to. At first I ran right behind him but he got such a terribly distracting wedgie that I had to try to pass him but we were running exactly the same pace. So I just stayed next to him for five miles. We eventually parted ways and I found my next running partner: a character from Lord of the Rings. Harrier than heck, he also was too distracting to run behind so I ran next to him. Next, the sweaty Hawaiian man. Finally, I found my Christ-figure. I've already explained how Jesus has been my true running partner throughout this whole process. So when a man with flowing brown locks ran up next to me, I naturally thought, "Jesus?" Sure, he was wearing a bandana, no shirt, and had some interesting tattoos but I saw Jesus- probably because I was looking so hard for him. These four men came in and out of my life for the next few hours; sometimes running miles next to me, other times directly behind or ahead. We never spoke but this motley crew pushed me and spurred me on. At one point I stopped to walk since I thought I was completely alone and had a terrible side-ache. Then sweaty Hawaiian ran up next to me and said something- I know not what since Kelly Clarkson was screaming her angry girl song so loudly in my ear but I couldn't be passed so I labored on next to him. At about mile 21, I was dying. I had probably peed on myself, my legs were numb and my whole body hurt. Then Jesus ran up next to me and resumed my pace. We had run mile 16-18 together which, now that I think back, was kinda weird. It was just two strangers on a deserted road running right next to each other without ever speaking. I was too tired to consider the potential awkwardness of this or notice his too short shorts. We were just running. Our similar pace made us partners.

So it is in life. We find friends with similar "paces" and run next to them. I certainly didn't choose these running mates and at times it feels as if I don't choose my friends- they are simply provided. God knows exactly WHAT I will need and He knows WHO I will need. And He provides. Sometimes these "running partners" stay for very long stretches and other times it is only for a few miles. Regardless of the time spent running side by side, it is necessary to have these partners. They are necessary because it makes the race more enjoyable. They remind you that you're not alone in this often challenging and exhausting "race" called life. They won't let you slow down and will call you out when you try to walk. They push you simply by staying close by and running a similar pace. They are gifts and they are appreciated. So Mr. Wedgie Giant, Mr. Bilbo Baggins, Mr. Sweaty Hawaiian, and Mr. tattooed Jesus, thank you. Thank you for pushing me to finish. Thank you for your presence. And God, thank you for providing them. But more importantly, thank you for providing my real "running partners" throughout my life. I have been richly blessed by them and propelled towards the finish line because of them.
I love this picture because although it appears as if I'm walking (which is the case in all of the pictures towards the end) I am next to tattooed Jesus.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Our Time

Tomorrow I will run my first marathon. I hesitate to write about it.

I hesitate for the same reason I hesitate telling about the funniest fight I've ever been in. It took place while hiking in the Swiss Alps with my brother. But I figure that anyone who starts their stories with, "while I was hiking in the Swiss Alps..." is most likely a total tool and a major "me monster" in need of a hard slap on the calf. (Try it; it kills. And watch the Brian Regan clip of the me monster. Hilarious.)

I hesitate because I suppose I should be getting "mentally prepared" and ready for bed rather than eating a churro and updating my blog.

I hesitate because there's a tiny fear in the back of my brain that's been growing for the last 14 weeks: "what if you hit that infamous wall and have to walk? Or worse, what if your foot injury flares up and you can't finish or have to limp your way to the end? Better not tell people you're running this so fewer will know about your shameful defeat." So basically, I hesitate because of fear and pride.

I hesitate for fear of appearing to be or actually being a toolish braggart simply soliciting praise. On that note- don't praise me for this. No false humility here just the truth- the truth that I think just about anyone can run a marathon if they have three things: time, desire, and health. God has blessed me with all three so if you want to say "good job," tell Him- not me- He's the one who has wired me this way.

I hesitate because now people might ask about my time and that is added pressure. Added pressure that I don't need- I already anticipate a mean bout of the "nervous poops" to come tomorrow and I'm not looking forward to adventures in the porta-potties.

But now I'm done hesitating. This blog is supposed to be about what I'm learning and experiencing on my "crusade for Christ" and the last 3 and 1/2 months of pounding my feet on the pavement have certainly been enlightening and transformational.

So why am I running a marathon?

When I started training I didn't realize I'd get asked the "why" question so often. I wish I had a cool reason. And I wish I had thought about my answer before I made one teacher incredibly awkward. My short, filtered, socially-appropriate answer is: "I've always loved to run and I had time to train during the summer." The answer I gave an older male teacher who I don't know that well was: "Well, I got dumped at the beginning of the summer and had a lot of free time on my hands."

Cue the awkwardness.

"Uh...I'm sorry. I didn't mean to ask a personal question."

"You didn't. I just made it personal. And quite awkward. I'm sorry."

That was our actual conversation. And yes, long/annoyingly complicated and boring story but I did have some unexpected free time on my hands this summer and I figured I had two options: dive into a bowl of raw cookie dough and eat my way into oblivion or dive into a bowl of raw cookie dough and then run off the calories. Luckily I went with option two or I'd have to hire someone to roll me around everywhere.

This summer was one of my favorites because of my time spent training for this race. Jesus met me every time I laced up my shoes. I hate those shirts that say, "Jesus is my homeboy"so I risk annoying myself by this next phrase but this summer Jesus was my running partner. My typical running partner was pregnant so I signed up planning on training solo but never once did I feel alone.

Maybe it was running along breath-taking coastlines.

Maybe it was keeping pace with schools of dolphins.

Maybe it was witnessing the power and beauty of crashing waves.

Maybe it was watching the sun sink into the horizon.

Maybe it was seeing the clouds light up in pink, orange and purple hues.

Maybe it was all the endorphins.

Whatever it was, Jesus was there, speaking louder and more clearly than ever before. Speaking words of comfort and healing and hope. He matched me step for step and training became "our time." I didn't say much. I just ran. And listened. And never before felt so loved. The following are lyrics from the song "Our Time" which made it onto all of my "running playlists."

Our time- To get away
Your time- To be alone with me
My time- where I can hear you say
Everything I need to get me through the day
Our time- To bring it back to one
Your time- To show me your love
My time- To learn how to trust
Cause I know that I need it so much
Our time

In the middle of my doubt and fear
In the middle of my pain and tears
I know you want to meet me here
So we can have our time
I can share anything with you
And I’ll always be the same to you
Everyday you want to make me new
We gotta have our time

Indeed, I needed "our time." I longed for "our time." And "our time" is why I am running tomorrow. It may have started because I got dumped but I will forever be grateful for this new habit, for this new venue where I can meet with my Creator and hear from Him and be reminded why I live.