Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Skating in the Rain

Skating marathons are few and far between, so when they happen I prefer that we have good weather.

Not this stuff.

The Apostle Island Inline Marathon was this past weekend, and we had quite the girls' weekend planned. My skating friends Mary and Megan and my sister Kristi were all carpooling together to Ashland, Wisconsin, and the three of us were going to skate it while Kristi spectated.

The forecast called for 100% chance of rain by the start of the marathon, and didn't waver from that every time I checked it during the week.

Sure enough, as we stepped off the ferry onto the island, the first few drops began. And then it started coming down steadily. At one point it was a complete downpour and I watched the rain pool on the road into long, shallow puddles. The pros were gliding up and down the practice course getting used to the pavement, and I thought they were crazy.

I have never skated in wet conditions. The few times I've encountered a puddle on my path my skate has always taken a heart-stopping slip. Mary and Megan convinced me to at least start. After all, the course was three loops, I could always peel off after 8.7 miles and call it a day.

My friend Mary had trained hard for this -- she was hoping for a new PR, beating her old time of 1:38. But with the conditions being what they were, she had to re-adjust her goal. We decided to have a collective goal: 1) Stay safe 2) Stay together 3) Have fun. And so we took off with the rest of the pro/advanced women.

By the end of the second mile my feet were swimming in lakes in my skates; I think each skate weighed 3 or 4 pounds more from the water collected in them. I grumbled, I considered, I thought about peeling off after a single loop.

And then I thought about how amazing it would be to skate a marathon in the pouring rain. How many people can say they've done that? How many people would think that was the absolutely craziest thing they've ever heard?

Once I committed to skating the whole thing, my outlook changed, my energy changed, and I was all in.

It went from being disappointing to being exhilarating.

We accomplished our goals: We stayed safe. We stayed together. We all had a blast.

We did it!
Grit and dirt everywhere.
The rain let up about half an hour after we were done. We had to stick around for the award ceremony as I had taken 2nd in my division, though I really share that with Megan, who was 7/10th of a second behind me. Mary pointed out that if we had registered in the open/recreational skate all of us would have placed.

In three years of doing this marathon I still have never seen the sun from Madeline Island, but I can guarantee you we'll be back next year.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

First Father's Day Without

On June 5th Wayne's dad's heart decided it had reached its quota of beats for a lifetime. Despite his pacemaker, his heart was beating at 31 beats per minute as paramedics loaded him into the ambulance. Upon reaching the hospital his body refused to carry on despite their efforts. His wife Millie, daughter Sherrie and her husband Todd were there to say good-bye. Millie told him to save a place for her next to him, in heaven.

50th wedding anniversary, 2004.

60th wedding anniversary, 2014.
He was 10 days short of his 85th birthday. Instead of gathering to celebrate another year, family members made plans to gather for his funeral.

Trip to New York City, 2005.
While Neil had been slowly declining due to Parkinson's disease over the past five years, his departure at this time was unexpected, yet a blessing. He was spared the further loss of his mobility, his ability to dress himself, feed himself, and other such things that able-bodied people take for granted. He is no longer in pain, unable to sleep and be comfortable.

Over the past few years, if I called their home and asked how he was, his response was often something along the lines of, "Well, I'm not sure I would call this living."

The family gathered and came together in a way that honored him. They worked through the details of the funeral, they helped Millie deal with health insurance, social security, utilities and other arrangements. Together they are focused on Millie's comfort, ensuring that her needs are met and that she is able to live the way she wishes for as long as she is able.

And despite the fact that anyone could say, "He lived a long life," people have understood that losing a parent -- no matter how long that person lived -- is still a very real loss and a grief unlike any other.

Wayne's sister, Laurie, had already booked a flight to Minnesota for Neil's birthday celebration, which was to take place the following weekend. A friend paid for the change fee to move the flight, got her into first class and arranged for a limo to pick her up at her apartment and take her to the airport at 4:30 a.m.

Another family member has no bereavement leave and co-workers chipped in to help cover the time away from work.

A co-worker of Wayne's attended the visitation, driving three and a half hours from the Twin Cities to Tracy just to visit for 20 minutes, turn around and drive back again.

And today, on Father's Day, friends of ours, one of Lindsey's close friends and her family, dropped off a plant arrangement and chocolates because they know that the first Father's Day without is the hardest.

Sometimes it is through loss that we truly know our blessings.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Runner's Redemption

The last time Marissa signed up for Girls on the Run, it didn't go so well. It was disappointing. Frustrating. Anything but what GOTR is supposed to be about. You can read about it in my blog post from the day of the 5k, aptly titled "Giving Up."

I swore I would not make her sign up again for Girls on the Run -- I couldn't imagine anything worse than having a repeat of her last season. And yet, she wanted to register. I was doubtful but she insisted, so we did.

What a difference.

I was concerned that she wouldn't want to run the practice 5k because it was raining. Not drizzling, raining. But she was there with a big smile on her face, and off we went. We made a game of it -- we had to jump in every puddle we saw. We weaved back and forth across the trail to hit the puddles. If we were walking and saw a puddle ahead, we had to run to it and jump in.

Puddles ahead!

Marissa and Coach Kristi after the wet practice 5k.
She ran most of the way because of our game, unlike the other times when she only wanted to walk the entire distance. Our pants were soaked from the knees down, shoes sloshing and wet strands of hair sticking to our heads. We stopped at Caribou afterwards for a celebratory cup of hot chocolate.

Yeay for hot chocolate after getting sopping wet on a run!
What a blast. The next morning she said to me at the breakfast table, "I'm pretty proud of myself for running the 5k yesterday." She even wrote herself a note on our chalkboard in the kitchen.

The day of the actual 5k, she was bummed that it wasn't raining that morning, but decided that sunshine and a brisk breeze would do. We arrived at the event on time (actually ahead of time, since we drove with Coach Kristi), and had plenty of time to greet each girl as they arrived.
Ready to run!
A shirt-signing train.
The course was at the University of Minnesota campus. It looped around the campus in many different ways, but wasn't confusing because of all the signage and the volunteers directing runners. They had coaches and volunteers all along the course. We walked in a few areas, but once we saw a volunteer cheering Marissa wanted to run again. She didn't want to be seen walking any part of the race!
And...done! With a big smile.
We finished in 39 minutes. More importantly, Marissa accomplished what she set out to do, and was immensely proud of herself.

That's what I was hoping for. Hooray!

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

A Life In Elevens

While many people count milestones in decades, I like to count my life in 11's when I hit the double digits, meaning 22, 33, 44.

In May Wayne celebrated his 55th birthday, I my 44th. This makes the number 11 all the more interesting. I like to think about what was going on 11 years ago when he turned the age I am now turning. And the fact that our birthdays are only 13 days apart (plus 11 years) makes the math all the more fun.

When I was 11 I was in the 6th grade, starting my first year of education in Sheboygan Falls, the town I would eventually call my hometown, even though I spent my first 11 years elsewhere.

At age 22 I met the man who would become my husband. He was 33, the older brother of a college classmate of mine (now my sister-in-law). He lived in Burnsville and I lived in St. Cloud. He put tons of miles on his Ford Explorer and I on my Chevy Nova going back and forth between our two cities until I graduated from college and moved to the Twin Cities.
Our engagement photo.
By age 33 this husband and I had our first baby -- one year old, born just three days before his 44th birthday. I think back on those early years of parenthood and I smile and cringe at the same time. I have absolutely no desire to go back to those days of sleep deprivation, dirty diapers and interpretive communication with toddlers. Don't get me wrong, they were sweet, cute and funny, but I am happy to not spend my every waking moment caring for wee ones any longer.
Wayne and I with Lindsey, 2 days old.
This year, our growing girls will turn 10 and 12. They are at that magical stage -- not yet moody,  snappy teenagers, but no longer in need of constant care and attention. They have their own thoughts and desires, their own sets of friends and interests, and are well on their way to becoming independent adults.

Not shockingly, we have no recent family photos besides this one from this past Christmas.
What will 55 bring? Our 12 year old will be 23, our youngest (youngest!) 21. They may live at home, they may be in college.  We may be in our current house or in a condo. At least one of us will be retired, maybe both of us if we can swing it. (Or so I like to dream.)

What a trip, this life in elevens.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


It's not possible. My eldest will be a teen next year.

This year, she is officially a "tween." Sometimes a child, sometimes a grown up.

A year ago she decorated her room with pictures of dogs taken from a book about heroic dogs. This year, she tore most of them down because they were too "little girlish."

She used to putter about in her room with her door open, music wafting throughout the upstairs. Now when she is in her room her door is closed, her music muffled. Other family members are asked to not only knock but to wait for permission to enter, in case she's in some state of partial dress.

At the beginning of this school year she went to the before-school care program with her little sister. Now she gets herself on the bus by herself every morning after everyone else has left the house. She wakes herself up, eats breakfast, gets herself ready, packs her lunch and walks to the bus stop on time. And when she arrives home from the bus in the evening, she runs upstairs to her room, grabs her white blankie, kisses it and snuggles with it to read a book.

I used to never hear about her classmates of the other gender. Now I hear about her classmates' crushes. There is speculation that so-and-so likes so-and-so, except she and her friends know that so-and-so likes that other person, but no one will approach the person they actually like, so instead they all gossip and wonder what's going to happen.

Funny. Intelligent. Generous. Kind. Happy.

Our tween.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

What Hasn't Changed

This week's cover of Time Magazine struck me.

I don't believe that the civil rights leaders of the 1960's would have imagined seeing scenes like this 50 years after their own struggle lead to what they believed to be true change.

I do not pretend to understand what it means to be oppressed in our society. I can tell you what it means to be misunderstood.

I went to college at St. Cloud State in St. Cloud, Minnesota. At the time the nickname for this city of 50,000 was "White Cloud." I can't speak to the racial make up of the city itself, but I can tell you that the campus was around 85% Caucasian, 10% international students and 5% African American. Racial tensions were high -- I am not sure why it was more of a powderhorn than anywhere else, but it was. Maybe it was the lack of diversity, but at the time the racial make up didn't look much different than most other cities of comparable size in Minnesota, and other cities didn't seem to have the problems St. Cloud had.

There was the case of the white student beaten by two black students to within an inch of his life. Another incident outside a bar resulted in the opposite result. And then there was the case of the black male student charged with raping a white female student.

That one shook up campus for some time, because sadly there was the typical argument as to whether it was rape or consensual sex. I honestly do not remember the outcome of the trial, but I remember the media coverage and the unsettled feeling on campus while it was going on.

During this time, I lived in an apartment house several blocks off campus. While campus itself was well-lit, city streets the lights were few and far between and the alleys seemed ominous. At least that's how it felt to walk those streets by myself, a white woman, coming home from the campus library at midnight. (And yes, I really did -- I worked the late shift, closed it down at midnight and walked home after.)

One evening, I was walking home from the library and following the advice of all those tips and tricks that had been published in the school paper about safety.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. 
  • Walk confidently, looking in front of and around you, not at the ground. 
  • Walk closer to the street side of the sidewalk, so someone can't grab you from the alley.
  • If someone grabs you, yell something specific for others to do, like "Call 911!" instead of just "Help!" 
My spine stiffened when I saw a figure approaching me. The person was backlit by the street light behind him so I couldn't see his face, but I could clearly tell it was a man -- tall, broad-shouldered. The hairs on the back of my neck pricked up and my shoulders tensed. Would he grab me? Would he try to drag me down an alley? The honest, terrible truth of it is that I thought, "What if he's black?" because I thought that would increase my chances of being attacked.

We walked closer to each other, and I could see the tension in his shoulders as well. Was he about to make his move? Was I about to have my life go in a direction I never intended?

We finally got close enough to see each other. He was a black man, a student I assume, with a backpack stuffed with his studies, papers spilling out of hastily closed zippers, a book under his arm.

We looked each other in the eye, quickly nodded, looked down and kept walking our separate ways.

I realized as I passed him...he was just as scared of I as I was of him.

After all, it was only he and I on this street. I could scream, trip myself to provide bruises for the police and claim that he did it. The state of race relations on campus at that time meant that I would be believed and he would not.

Perhaps he had the same thought that I had when we passed, "Is she about to make her move? Is my life about to go in a direction I never intended?"

For a moment, I understood. We are all human beings. We all have fears. We are all individuals -- our race is not responsible for an individual's actions.

Friday, May 08, 2015

New Workplace

From a #MSPSMB presentation during my time of underemployment.
I started a new job recently.  I'm trying not to make a habit of it, so I'd better stay at this one a while.

I accepted a position as the new Director of Annual Giving at Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. And when I say "new" I mean that they've never had a director of annual giving before. They recently restructured their organization and decided that they needed this expertise full time. It was a perfect match with my skills, plus I LOVE being a part of creating something new; I get to play to my strengths since the role is not rigidly defined.

The building I work in is a part of the Abbott Northwestern Hospital/Allina campus. There are a total of 6 or 7 buildings in this complex, and I was really nervous about finding my way around. But I've found a lot of great things about being on a big campus.

1. There are lots of food choices. There's the hospital cafeteria, the skyway café or Midtown Global Market, which is an entire building of every kind of ethnic food you could possibly want to try.

2. There's a beautiful inner court with gardens, water fountains and plenty of seating. Need a break from your desk? Take a walk and breathe in the fresh air.

3. Parking is a breeze (now). I confess, the first day I ended up climbing and descending four flights of stairs to make it from the parking ramp to my desk, but now that I've figured it out, I'm actually closer to my office from the parking ramp than I was when I worked at Gillette. Plus no outside time walking on an icy sidewalk down a steep hill. Bonus.

4. The campus is right off the Midtown Greenway bike trail. There's a cycle shop that's right on the greenway that will let you store your bike and use their showers for a measly $15/month. Once you're in the bike shop you're on campus, so I can reach my building through the tunnels or skyways. Now I just have to figure out how to do the whole kid drop-off thing in the morning so I can bike there in the summer.

5. The office is 15 minutes from my house. I take three turns to get to work (four if you include getting out of my driveway). I don't take a single highway. I am thrilled with my commute!

There are also some perks to the job that I'm liking.

1. My boss is really cool and smart. Plus his name is John, and considering that I've reported to a John for the majority of my professional working career, I knew this position was a possibility from the first interview.

2. Everyone is so gosh darn nice! There was a beautiful blooming plant on my desk my first day of work. Everyone I met had a big smile on their face and said, "We're so glad you're here!" Every team member is competent at his/her job and wants to work collaboratively with others to accomplish the goals set forth (at least that's my take so far). Trust me, that's a hard one to find.

3. My expertise is valued. I've been digging into data the last couple of weeks (pivot table porn!) and looking at what's gone on before to determine how to structure the program moving forward. Each suggestion I've made has been met as if it's the most brilliant thing anyone has ever said. Okay, so that's not totally true, but it feels good to be appreciated.

4. They have a healthy food policy. No dishes of chocolates at anyone's desks. No break room filled with treats. This may sound like a bummer, but this is actually an amazing thing for me! My downfall has always been snacking at work. When I first started at Gillette I lost nearly 10 pounds in 3 months. That's what happened when I arrived at a new place and didn't know who had the secret stashes of chocolate, didn't know the people well enough to ask for some or, as I was doing at Paradysz, just helping myself to it. I have absolutely NO control when it comes to sweets. The fact that sweets are not approved is THRILLING to me and my health!

5. They encourage physical activity. Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation is all about preventing heart disease through healthy lifestyles choices. We are participating in the Hennepin County "Step It Up" competition in May, where groups track their activities and see who is the most active/takes the most steps. The fact that this organization is located in a large campus with stairs everywhere already incentivizes walking and movement. I love the fact that they encourage their employees to "walk the walk" when it comes to the mission.

6. Jeans days on Fridays. Having come off a work-from-home gig, where yoga pants were the norm every day, I appreciate the break I get to take from professional wear once a week.

7. My desk is close to the break room and bathroom. It's the small things, but do you know how many times a day I get up to refill my water? And of course, that means extra trips to the bathroom. Luckily both are close but not so close as to be bothersome. At first I was worried about noisy conversations from the break room disturbing me, but then I remembered that usually any noisy conversations have me in it, so I don't have to worry. I'm actually the perfect person to have close to the break room, if you really think about it.

It's been a pretty great two and a half weeks.