In which I didn't run a half marathon

When the gun went off on Capitol street, I curled knees to chest on someone else's sofa. I stared sideways at the screen as thousands poured out onto DC streets to run the race for which I'd trained three months and traveled three hundred miles.

All week long I'd worried, ever since Caed spent the night next to the toilet. But I'd begun to believe in the power of Purell after the days added up and the meals stayed down.

I had hurried my family into the car and out of town, so we could pick up my bib in plenty of time. I'd put the finishing touches on my two-hour playlist and packed my favorite dry-wick tee.

I had dismissed the queasiness as nerves and the fatigue as stress.
And then, hours before the race, that ugly virus threw a sucker punch. I laid awake the rest of the night wearing disappointment like a black eye.

But it was just a race.

And it was just a virus.

I started counting the ways it could be worse and stopped counting somewhere around a dozen.

I didn't write down any new reasons to give thanks, but I thought them (and then forgot them), and then thought them again. I'm sure there were plenty of duplicates in that batch. It's all a bit of a fog.

But let me tell you, it's a charmed life I lead if March's biggest disappointment was that I didn't get to run 13.1 miles through the chilly streets of DC.

Every day, every mile, every breath, every minute, every step--these are gifts, not guarantees. As tempting as it is to don a sense of entitlement every morning, to wake up expecting best laid plans to stay exactly where I put them the night before, I know this is the ugly outfit of an ingrate. And I refuse to wear it.

My race t-shirt, on the other hand, for the half marathon I didn't run? I am so wearing it.


I like art the most of everything

One of Caed's "Mister Pieces"

"I like art the most of everything. When you see it, you just know it means stuff. And like, sometimes the pictures just remind you of things, like cool things you already learned about or maybe you saw before." - Caed, Age 6

I'm not much of a visual artist. I don't draw, paint, photograph, design, doodle or sculpt. Though thanks to a PBS Kids activity print-out (designed for a 5 year old), I did recently learn to sketch a pretty good Hundley. And Dani appreciates my crayon-cast castles. But yeah, not much of a visual artist.

And my son, though just days ago he labeled his abstract colored-pencil piece "my first mister piece",  he's not much of a visual artist either. (Please don't tell him I said that. I do think he's delightful and amazing and naturally talented in several areas. Visual artistry just isn't one of them.)

And that's okay. When it comes to the art for the eyes, we might not be the creators, but we are most definitely the appreciators. And doesn't art need both?

When I think about how we are made in His image, the Creator's image, my first thought is that of course we would find meaning in creating. Whether we create music or art or books or order or scarves or buildings or spaces or curtains or meals--of course we find meaning here. Because He made us that way, because we bear His image.

But my second thought is that He also made us to appreciate. I could be wrong, but I don't think the seagulls perch for hours on the rocky shore just to drink in the majestic beauty of the ocean. I think that's our job--the ones made in His image, the ones who are aware--unlike any other earthen creature--of the intricate beauty, of the art that surrounds us.

G. K. Chesterton said, "All we can say of this notion of reproducing things in shadow or representative shape is that it exists nowhere in nature except in man." Monkeys don't paint landscapes. Mountain goats don't stop to gaze on valley sunsets. Seagulls don't gawk in wonder at the escaping tide.

No, that's our role. We were made to create and to appreciate what has been created. Art needs both. And of all the gifts, these good and perfect gifts that rain down from the Father of Light, these might be my favorite--these abilities to create and to appreciate the creation.

Yes, I have to agree with Caed. I like art the most of everything. 


Credit to Emily of Chatting at the Sky for getting me thinking about the subject of art. She's  written an impromptu, beautiful and thought-provoking series on art over the past few months that's so worth the read.


Linking up for Imperfect Prose with another gorgeous writer named Emily (who happens to also be a gifted visual artist--try not to be too jealous).


Only upon diving and after deep, deep breaths

There are days--most of them in March, when snow melts into ugly and we still wear coats and all the news is of rubble and rebels--that beauty waits like pirate treasure. And in these days, it is only upon diving and after deep, deep breaths, only upon digging and after scraping away the sand and grit, only upon pulling hard upon the lid, that I uncover anything that makes me clasp my hands together over my mouth and whisper "wow." Rare are these moments in March when my eyes close and flutter up thanks that He is capital G Good. Rare, but so very worth the hunt.

Diving in, with Ann and community, counting my domestic equivalent of golden Spanish doubloons from the bottom of the sea:

#121 Skype-built bridge to Istanbul, and

#122 Hearing her speak Turkish in her southern drawl.

#123 Green smoothies for St. Patrick's Day breakfast. (Proof that I make this list as I go--definitely wouldn't have made the list if looking back--see #142)

#124 Old video clips of kids cackling non-stop, then just one and three years old.

#125 Laughing at those babies cackling, laughing so hard we shake.

#126 The way Dani backs up her theories with "Right, Mama?"

#127 Green and gold glitter collecting on hardwood around the fridge. (I can't believe I'm grateful for glitter?)

#128 Disaster avoidance. (A long story, involving our landlord's assistant suggesting power washing the basement--the one that had just flooded.)

#129 Bird on a wire.

#130 Little girl and her shamrock pinwheel in the wind.

#131 Caed's Irish jig, and

#132 Dani's princess-ballet-jig imitation.

#133 Snow melting on driveway.

#134 Outdoor run, chasing spring.

#135 Dani's "I can do dot-to-dot on your cheek, Mama."

#136 My new "neighbor",

#137 And being friends long before we met (because of posts like these).

#138 Internet's on-demand coloring pages.

#139 Fraud protection on a stolen card.

#140 A boy who loves, loves, loves sports.

#141 Phone call from Maine, the voice of my dearly missed friend.

#142 Husband home when stomach virus reared ugly against our little boy.

#143 That these are only a few days in Caed's otherwise healthy childhood.

#144 Purell.

#145 Will I get in trouble if I add washing machines to the list too often?

#146 Gatorade slushies (Dad's invention) staying down, finally.

#147 The Three Stooges as Unaccustomed Tailors (another of Dad's ideas), the first thing to make Caed smile in days.

#148 All six years of him tucked tight in my lap.

#149 Grace that covers my fruitless worry.

#150 His first real food, a meal of 2 toast nibbles and 18 goldfish, my own loaves and fishes miracle.

#151 My girly-girl who couldn't care less that we must stay home all day, as long as she gets to wear "a summery dress with no tights."


Five Minute Friday: Waiting

Joining Lisa-Jo for another Five Minute Friday, where she encourages us to "just write, and not worry if it’s just right or not. For five minutes flat."
Today's prompt is "On Waiting".  Ready?


Photo by Dsdade
I wait.
For the clouds to part like lips and sing down spring.

For the gun to startle the starting line, so we all go galloping.
For the carrying scent of cherry blossom, the silent Lincoln cheering in his chair.

But Tom, I'm not sure waiting is the hardest part. I think running is. Mile 8 to be exact. The waiting is just the scariest part, all the spaces in the course you've never seen, whether water breaks will be well-timed, whether you'll make it without a bathroom break, whether you'll finish strong, whether you'll finish at all.

But when the waiting is over and with it, the anxiety, then comes the hardest part. The race. The enduring. The living, the panting, the grasping for rhythm, the step after step.


Y'all better be glad I ran out of time. Because I felt a serious metaphor coming on, the likes of which would have you rolling eyes and groaning over the cliche.

What do think is most difficult? The waiting (be it with anticipation and/or dread) or the living (be it a sprint or marathon)? Or is the hardest thing just to keep living even in the waiting. To not dwell so much on what might be ahead that we miss the course under our feet? If pressed, I think I'd have to go with option 3. You?


O Captain my Captain

That was us. We were those kids. College finals finished one week, vows exchanged the next. And the soap-scribbled "just married" not yet worn off the car window by the time he caught the bus to basic training.

When I saw him march the graduation formation six weeks later under sultry Texas sky, I swore he looked taller. And neater. As in don't freak out, honey, but I believe in ironing my tee shirts now, neater. (This proved to be a short-lived habit. It didn't take long before he returned to the way of his species and learned how to throw his dirty clothes on the floor--just feet from the hamper--like a proper man).

To say it's been a long road is like saying Caed had a smidgen bit of baby fat at five months old.

See? It's been a LONG road. (And aren't those the most adorable cankles you've ever seen?)

I could tell you the whole long story of the last 15 years, about the winding road to (and through) medical school, his desert detour, the setbacks, the loss. I could tell you about the long hours and the wondering what the heck we were thinking when we headed down this crazy path.

But I'd rather just skip to the present and tell you what happened last night.

My brother in law, home just days ago from Afghanistan, says, "Repeat after me..."

My husband solemnly (and smilingly) swears to serve faithfully. They salute.

"Congratulations Sir!" my army brother says.
"Aim high!" my air force husband says.

And then someone asks, "So will you go by Captain or Doctor?"
And he says, "I'll just go by Myles."

And if this were Hollywood, that would be our cue to hop up on a desk and salute, "O Captain my Captain!" But since I didn't have a desk, and this is Ohio we're talking about, we all just laughed and hugged and high fived and asked, "Now who wants pizza?"

We used to be those kids--the ones sporting the frizzy red hair and the Airman Basic blues, the Goliath dreams and the David odds. Now it's mostly scrubs and straight hair (thank you, pregnancy). Now the long way is the customary way, and nothing is quite as familiar or quite as astonishing as His grace in bringing us this far, as His grace in leading us home.


Eyes on the Giver

"When someone is counting out
gold for you, don't look at your hands,
or the gold. Look at the giver."

Eyes on the Giver, the counting continues...

#86 Always room on Nana's lap 
#87 Little legs kicking up cartwheels.

#88 Being asked to refereee donkey kick contests.

#89 Catching her in the middle of a made-up song,

#90 How she kept singing.

#91 Secret hideout under the drooping pine.

#92 Cross training opportunities springing from a snow-filled driveway.

#93 Ibuprofen. (I might have mentioned this one already?) Because shoveling snow is apparently much more taxing than running a half marathon.

#94 How they only came in after two hours because I bribed them with hot cocoa. 

#95 A truly wiggly tooth, not just his imagination.

#96 Sweet nieces who double as babysitters.

#97 A menu with no kids' options, and

#98 An evening with no kids.

#99 Muddled mint and lime.

#100 Latin American inspired calamari. Who knew?

#101 A forced early reservation turning into a chance to hit the bookstore after dinner,

#102 And then Trader Joe's.

#103 And I could list another dozen right here, all of them TJ's food,

#104 But I'll just mention the crispy crunchy chocolate chip cookies and leave it at that.

#105 A tooth lost!

#106 A note imploring the tooth fairy to please let him keep his first tooth,

#107 A note from the tooth fairy, allowing it, asking him to keep brushing his teeth well and to help his sister too.

#108 Under the pillow, a special book about Babe Ruth.

#109 His newly-gapped grin,

#110 Dani asking, "How did the tooth fairy know Caed is such a good reader?"

#111 And Caed adding, "Yeah, and she knows I have a sister too."

#112 Toothpaste all down her chin, from Caed "helping" her brush teeth, just like the tooth fairy told him.

#113 The way she danced down the aisle with the car seats, then stopped, hands on hips, pointing.

#114 "This is da booster I was talkin' bout! The one witd pink flowers!"

#115 Ahh, my baby-gone-girl buckling herself in.

#116 Bargain curtains, newly hung across the front window. (It only took me eight months after moving in.)

#117 Watching Ohio State win the Big 10 basketball tournament--

#118 Without broadcasting the full footage to the nice folks driving down our road. (Seriously, why did I wait eight months to put up a curtain?)

#119 Woodburning stove ablaze.

#120 Night pulling dark blanket over our heads.


It's 8:00 a.m. Do you know where my children are?

Caed cleared his plate by 7:18 a.m., literally and figuratively. "I ate my banana. I finished my flashcards. Now can I go outside?" he implored.

I conceded. 

Twenty minutes later both kids were suited up and ready to go. Which is pretty good time considering it took me twenty tries to get Dani's fingers properly aligned into her gloves. (Next year, I'm buying her mittens.)

So dear neighbors, you might be wondering what sort of mother allows her children to dig an elaborate "doggy city" of tunnels through the 14 inches of snow covering the backyard, who lets them run rampant and howl like--well like dogs, of course--and all of this before 8:30 a.m. You might be thinking about calling child services or perhaps animal control, but I ask you kindly to give me a chance to explain.

Who am I kidding? I don't have an explanation. 

It's 28 degrees, the sun's barely up on this Saturday morning, and the only thing my kids want to do is play outside in the snow. 

My explanation? I've taught them well.
Our first Maine winter - Caed, 3 yrs, Dani, 1 yr
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find my snow pants.
Our second Maine winter. Dani, 2 years, Caed, 4 years, Mommy, lots of years
Happy Saturday! Also, I realize this is confusing, what with it being mid-March and all, and me still talking about snow. But did I mention I live in northeast Ohio now? You can google "lake effect" if you're still confused.


At Ease, Soldier

It's okay to be quiet. It's okay to have nothing to say.

It's okay to be still, to freeze, to stop, to be.

It's okay to chase sunsets, and it's okay not to catch them. It's okay, even as evening grows dark, to rest, to stop, to be.

It's okay to leave the lights off, to lay pounding head on a pillow, to not get up when the phone rings or when the timer for the cookies goes off. (You might want to get someone to turn off the oven, though. Because it's probably not okay to burn down the house).

It's okay. It really is. The only real problem I see, with any of this, the only not okay thing is to keep going just for the sake of going. To keep talking just for the sake of being heard. To keep chasing just for the sake of not slowing. To keep busy just for the sake of feeling important.

Rest is a worthy purpose. And quiet is a worthy cause.

It's okay to just be.

In fact, it's more than okay.

(It's also okay to keep using old pictures from Maine because you miss the place like crazy and would give up your morning coffee for just a glimpse of that winter shore.)

Is it hard for you to give yourself permission to "just be?" How do you combat the temptation to be busy at the expense of being rested?

Sharing this post with Emily's Imperfect Prose.


On Hearing the Hidden Stanzas

Lindsey said it weeks ago, but the phrase she coined stays with me still. "Everyday life is a practice and a poem."

I don't naturally make note of beauty. I don't default to a heart of thanks. (I know. Shocker.) But even I--grumpy, task-oriented, easily-irritated, impatient mess that I am--can learn with miles of practice and oceans of grace.

If by grace, He teaches me to look with deliberate eyes, if through His lens I strain to see what for years I've hurried past, then this is how I trade the to-do list for a poem. I'm discovering a new way to measure life, not by how much I achieve, but by how deeply I appreciate, by how clearly I hear these stanzas He whispers within each moment.

Joining Ann again, practicing:

#72 The boy talking me into a Saturday art project

#73 A recipe for homemade clay

#74 How Daddy miraculously guessed correctly that Caed's creation was a T-Rex

#75 My favorite of the batch -- Blue of Blue's Clues

#76 Caed spouting off all the jobs he wants to do when he grows up, how he can't begin to choose between being "an illustrator, an author, a pilot, an engineer, an air force guy, a coach, a zookeeper, an astronaut, an artist..."

#77 Dani following up with how she can't choose either, between "a monkey, a princess, a kangaroo, a dog, a ballerina, a rhino or a peopley-kangertar"

#78 How she made us all laugh. Should I add comedian to her list?

#79 His attempt at writing "non-fiction." In the author's foreword, "This book is about the body." And in the page that precedes, "Those lines are vanes."

#80 Little girl's first manicure

#81 The longest I've ever seen her sit still

#82 And smiling the whole time

#83 Sleeping bags for indoor camping

#84 The love of lovies. Caed's declaration, "I'm never going to sell my green blankie. Not even when I go to college. That's a fact."

#85 Dani's imitation, "And I'm never gonna sell my cold blankie. Cuz it is so 'pecial to me."

A poem needn't be flowery, fancy or rhyme. It needn't sway along in perfect pentameter. To be a poem, it must only be seen as such, by someone, anyone, and I don't just mean the experts. If I open my eyes, if I listen closely, if I practice, I begin to hear the hidden stanzas in everyday life, clear as the day--the every day.


Wanna be the best mom ever?

Help them build a fort.

Then let them read in the fort, sleep in the fort, and generally wreak havoc in the fort.

Wanna be the worst mom ever?

Let the heaviest book known to medical students fall on their heads.

Not that this actually happened (though it's a miracle it didn't). But I could just envision the conversation in the ED....
"So, chief complaint is headache? When was the onset?"
"Well, it was about the time the 25-pound book fell on their heads."
"And what book was that?"
"It was Harrison's."
"Harrison's?! Why didn't you lead with that? We need to get a head CT Stat!"


In which the water rises but my blood pressure doesn't

My week was hijacked by floods and spiders. I'm not a huge fan of either one of those things, but to try cleaning up two inches of water in your basement while worrying about where the (poisonous!) funnel spiders are hiding, well it was almost enough to send me careening off the gratitude wagon.

You know how in the cartoons they show a frazzled, perhaps recently electrocuted, wet and shaggy, crazy-eyed cat hanging on by one paw, flapping in the wind like a flag? That would be me this week. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Except for the crazy eyes and maybe the shagginess. That part's real.

Anyway, I hung on, whispering thanks when I could, asking for grace when I couldn't. And wouldn't you know it, the list is longer than ever?

#54 The profound sense of satisfaction I felt after going all homicidal on a funnel spider
(And you can add to YOUR gratitude list that I'm not showing a picture of the dead spider here.)

#55 Reinforcement (for me, for the kids) that it's "just stuff"

#56 Prayers that reach a God who sees, a God who cares

#57 Soft green fleece, my go-to winter gear

#58 Yak-trax

#59 Ice shimmying off trees like cliff-diving teenagers

#60 Snow day!

#61 Waffles served before we lost power

#62 Play dough lattes (because while I had finished making the waffles, I had yet to make my coffee when the electricity failed)

#63 Power restored after just one hour!

#64 Real--as in double-shot, light on the milk--coffee, made the minute the power returned

#65 A very heavy pile of library books

#66 A boy who clambers to read them

#67 Pink mac-n-cheese. Delish, I tell you.

#68 A snowstorm giving us one more shot at skiing for the season

#69 And with the cousins this time!

#70 A husband willing to forgo pre- and post-night-shift sleep to take his son and nephews skiing

#71 A sister who never fails to bring the best snacks, and whose proximity is, hands down, my number one reason to love living in Ohio

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