Thursday, September 18, 2014

What Are You Most Proud of?

CBS News recently reported that Malcolm Mitchell, a star football player for the University of Georgia Bulldogs, has joined a book club of middle-age women. It all started when one of the women chatted him up at a Barnes & Noble. She told him about the club she'd just joined, and he asked if he could join, too. And he did.
I love this.

When the reporter asked what accomplishment Mitchell was most proud of, he answered that it was reading the entire Hunger Games series in two days. The reporter pointed out his amazing skill on the gridiron, and Mitchell's reply made me tear up.

"That came natural. That's a gift. I had to work to read."

Mitchell started college at a junior-high reading level and was determined to change that. So he did. Through hard work and determination, and being called a nerd, he improved his reading. Now, he always has a book with him. He hangs out at Barnes & Noble. He reads books he wouldn't pick for himself and plants himself in a group of older women to talk about those books. His mind is wide open and willing. He is courageous.

I learned to read very young and very easily. I never thought reading was hard. It was like breathing or swallowing or scratching an itch. It came to me naturally. It was a gift. I'm grateful for it but not particularly proud of being able to read. It's a means to an end...it's how I get at stories and entertain myself and learn lots of other things. Like Mitchell with his gift for football, I honed and refined my gift through years of college and graduate school. But the gift of being able to read--of making sense of squiggly lines on pages of books--I take for granted every single day.

When I was growing up, many things that came easily weren't particularly interesting to me. I could do them and was happy when I succeeded at them, but my biggest sources of pride were the things I had to work at, the things I struggled for.

During my senior year in high school, I found myself drowning in academic overload. I'd signed up for too many AP classes and felt crushed by the homework and pressure to keep my grades up for college. Midway through the year, my advisor suggested I drop one class. I chose to drop physics because that was my easiest class...the only one that wasn't Advanced Placement. It was boring, and so I didn't care about it. The physics teacher told me it didn't make sense to drop my easiest A, and perhaps for him, it didn't. But for me it was the only option.

We value most what we work hardest for. Perhaps that's the reason I am so very proud of my crafty accomplishments. I've worked hard to teach myself design principles and made a lot of garbage in the process. I'm proud that my craft area feels like home now...it was a huge struggle for me to gain confidence in myself as a creator of paper art, to let go of my fear of failure.

I'm also proud of my writing. But in very real and weird ways, writing presents an even bigger challenge. I've not achieved that same confidence in it that I've achieved in crafting. It's scary to put words out there, to plan a book and follow through with it, to be vulnerable and honest and open and overcome the barriers I've erected in my self-identity as a writer. It's much safer to write advertising copy or sales articles about memory chips or an analysis of Chaucer's proto-feminism or blog posts about bad mommy karma or why I don't own fine china.

Writing actual books? Those things I've carried around with me my entire life like security blankets or pacifiers or oxygen tanks? Can I create one of those precious objects?

Sure I can. The fear, however, comes from wondering how good it will be, wondering how it will be received, wondering if anyone will read it, worrying that someone might not like it, worrying that I might not like it. The fear comes from putting a big project out there, exposing it to public opinion. The fear of failure looms larger at my computer than it does at my craft table.

When a card doesn't work, I toss it in the trash and move on. How will I feel if I spend months or even years writing something that has to be tossed in the trash?

THAT takes courage.

Malcolm Mitchell has that kind of courage. He saw a lack in his education, one most people around him likely didn't care about at all as long as he was performing well on the football field. After all, the average American reads at a junior-high level. It's not like he was functionally illiterate. Still, he decided to overcome his deficit and he did, and whole worlds have opened up for him...even the world of the middle-age women's book club.

Thank you, Malcolm Mitchell, for inspiring me. I love your courage, your refusal to settle for average, your willingness to connect with others and put yourself out there in life.

It's time to write.

------

What are you most proud of? Where in your life have you chosen to limit yourself, play it safe? Do you find courage in Mitchell's story, or is there some other story that hit you over the head with inspiration? A book, perhaps?   

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gratitude Journal #249

What a weekend.

Today, I am grateful to Dr. Bean and staff at MedVets in Dayton for treating Daisy for "garbage gut" on Saturday. Poor thing is sick, and there's no way to tell what caused it.

Today, I am grateful for learning about subcutaneous fluids and knowing that even though my dog looked deformed and sloshy about the shoulders, she had plenty of water slowly absorbing to help her get well quicker. She slept a lot this weekend.



Today, I am grateful that she happily ate boiled chicken for breakfast.

Today, I am grateful Jack got to ride Thomas the Tank Engine on Saturday with George and his brother while I was at the vet.

Today, I am grateful for emergency plumbers who come on Sunday night and figure out that our pipes are clogged. I'm grateful for people who do this dirty job...no, a better adjective would be "NASTY" job. Thank you ever so much.

Today, I am grateful that the raw sewage that spewed from our pipes didn't ruin anything important and that it's all contained in an unfinished area of the basement.

Today, I am grateful that our local Hampton Inn had vacancies and that they allow dogs so we could decamp to a place with a fully functional water system and breakfast served early enough for my kids to eat before heading to school.

All tucked in at the inn


Today, I am grateful that it was a raccoon and NOT a skunk or deer that ran in front of my car on the way to the Hampton Inn last night because my house stinks enough already and my car just got fixed and anything worse than a suicidal raccoon would have made me completely lose my sense of humor.

Today, I feel really sorry about the raccoon.

Today, I am grateful we can pay for all this chaos when so many people struggle with these sorts of emergency issues.

Today, I am grateful no one (other than the raccoon, of course) was hurt, maimed, killed, or otherwise tragically affected by events this weekend.

What are YOU grateful for today?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

IM Moo: What a Weekend!

The weekend flew by. We are home now and trying to get back into the normal routine.

*snort*

I just used the word "normal" to describe our lives. Seriously?

Anyway, the 2014 Ironman Wisconsin is best recapped in pictures. So let's take a look.


View of Lake Monona from our hotel room.

View of Starbucks. Well, it's hidden behind trees but yum.

Speaking of Starbucks...it's where we went first
after checking into the hotel. We had some
rain on Thursday, but not much.
And that's a pumpkin spice latte.
Yum.
 
Angela, Mike, and George, looking cute.

George trying out the swim course on Thursday.
He did this again on Friday.

Mike and Angela on Saturday in front of the Wisconsin
State Capitol Building. It was a gorgeous day!

Mike and Kenny hit it off. Kenny is the son of David and Debbie.

Here's David (Ang and I are in the background). 
Debbie is standing just off camera.


Saturday Lunch at the Old Fashioned: George, Mike, Angela, David,
Debbie, and Kenny.

Nicole and I met years ago via the wonderful
world wide web. It's become a tradition at IM Moo to meet her
in person for coffee and conversation. This year, we spent over three
hours Saturday afternoon chatting. Love her!!!

Angela and I outside Tutto Pasta. George is very superstitious
about eating only at this restaurant the night before the race.
After dinner, we went to the roof of Monona Terrace
to check out the swim course. The moon was
almost full, and I was amazed my little iPhone 4
got such a great shot.

George and I take a selfie.
It's about 5:30 AM on race day. We're not this yellow in real life.

I took this shot as we walked down the helix to the swim start.
Ang and Mike looked so cute walking side by side!

David, George, and Mike are suited up and ready to swim.

Sunrise over Lake Monona. Conditions were perfect.

The swim start. Only a wide-angle camera would capture the true scope and
insanity of nearly 3,000 people starting to swim all at once.

Another angle of the start. There are boats, paddle boards, and kayaks
to spot trouble and keep racers on the course.

I don't have any pictures of the bike, but George and David both did well. Mike, however, had multiple flat tire issues, and ran out of CO2 cartridges and inner tubes, so his race ended early. He and George are already registered for next year's IM Mont Tremblant in Canada, so he's looking forward to a better race in 2015!

I caught some video with my phone of George starting the marathon.

video





David near the start of the marathon,
stopping on the run to give is number-one fan a hug.

This is how I do an Ironman...drinking a delightful zinfandel at
Brocach Irish Pub. I trained for months to look this relaxed.

David, halfway through the marathon.

George, halfway through the marathon, about to give me five.
He was seriously hurting at this point, and had almost given up
between miles 3 and 4, but he ate a bunch of potato chips
and recovered. Who knew chips could save a race? 
Here's some video, this time of the encounter halfway through the marathon.


video



David and George at the finish.

David and George, you are Ironmen!




P.S. Many thanks to the following for adding weight I didn't want: Brocach Irish Pub, the Great Dane, the Tipsy Cow, Cooper's Tavern, the Old Fashioned, Tutto Pasta, and Starbucks. Special thanks to Starbucks for opening at 3:30 AM on race day. We ate our way through the weekend, and it was all delicious.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Quick Update

George finished last night around 9:15...and he's an Ironman again for the fifth time. Yay, George!

His friend Dave finished his first Ironman about an hour ahead of George. Yay, David!


David and George


Mike experienced epic bike problems (repeat flats, gear issues) and was forced to abandon the race. You're not allowed assistance in an Ironman, and when you run out of inner tubes, you're done.

Next year, Mont Tremblant!

I'll fill in with details when I get a chance. Today is all about driving safely home to Ohio.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday Got Ahead of Me

I'm wiped out and need to go to bed for a VERY early wake-up as race day is tomorrow. It's just ten hours until the cannon goes off. I'll blog what we did today while George is on the bike tomorrow, but for any worriers out there, rest assured it was a lovely day from beginning to moonlit end!

ZZZzzzzzzzzz.......

Friday, September 5, 2014

Feeling Random on the Friday before IM Moo

Not much race news today. George and Mike swam this morning, went to the pre-race briefing, and spent time with their legs up, resting. They took newcomer David on a quick bike ride this afternoon. This is David's first Ironman, and apparently the bike trail portion of the 112-mile ride course is a bit dicey. They want him to be prepared.

Angela and I enjoyed shopping on and around State Street. I picked up my mother's thank-you gift but can't tell you what it is because she's going to read this post. (Hi, Mom!) We also stopped by Walgreens because, of course, I forgot my toothbrush.

Random news from Madison...

1)  We're eating our way to the Ironman. Angela and I decided that tonight's dinner should be a veggie sub at Subway, and when I told George this, he sat up straight, puffed up with righteous foodie indignation, and declared, "I will NOT eat dinner at Subway." Well, that put me in my place. I'm such a Philistine.

2) Do you know how, sometimes, you see something at a quick glance and have to do a double-take because your brain can't quite trust what your eyes just told it? Something similar happened earlier in the day and proved that, clearly, my ADD is getting worse. While Angela and I sat on our favorite flat rocks by the swim entry point, sipping Starbucks while Mike and George swam, I was talking (hard to believe, I know) when I caught a movement out the corner of my eye and thought, "That swimmer is heading for the rocks!" Double-take ensued, and I interrupted myself mid-sentence to blurt out, "Oh, that's a DUCK!"

And it was.

Angela was very nice about it, but I'm starting to worry about myself.

3) The makers of Crest toothpaste will be getting a sternly worded email from me about the hinged caps on their tubes. They don't latch closed, and last night, when I pulled out my cosmetic bag to brush my teeth with my (forgotten) toothbrush, I discovered that half a tube of toothpaste had squirted all over stuff that doesn't even have teeth...like my very expensive bottle of allergy eye drops and very inexpensive bottle of nail polish. What a nightmare of a first-world problem...which may or may not have provoked a smallish temper tantrum.

4) Thank you, George, for going to the front desk to pick up a complimentary toothbrush and for not judging me for my toddler tantrum.

5) Jack went to the sixth-grade social after school today and had a wonderful time. I had to order him to go, and I'm so glad I was right to do so, as it might have backfired spectacularly. He's also texting me and George like mad from his new iPod. It's adorable.

6) Praise Jesus that the escaped cobra was captured! Y'all know how I feel about snakes, and that scary, slithery thing escaped the zoo just to search all America until it found me and gave me a heart attack and then bit me to make sure I was dead. I just know it.

7) George started a thread on a triathlon forum about the water snakes in Lake Monona, asking if they were bad this year. Well, there are no snakes in Lake Monona, but he enjoyed watching the panic that ensued.

8) We're heading out soon to eat again. Oy vey.

Peace, love, and heartburn in Madison.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

IM Moo Begins

George and I arrived in Madison, Wisconsin, this afternoon for his eighth Ironman race. On the drive into town, we caught first sight of Lake Monona, where the swim portion of the race takes place. George said, "My stomach just did a flip turn."

Pre-race jitters are nothing new.

We met up today with George's sister Angela and her husband, Mike. Mike and George will race on Sunday. Angela and I will carry their bike pumps and cheer them on.



Tomorrow, George's coworker David and his family will join us as well. It's going to be a great race this year.

I can feel it.

Our first stop after dumping luggage and bike at the hotel was Starbucks. That's a very good sign. Starbucks opens at 3:30 AM on race morning.

Salted Caramel Mocha...yum

I'm going to need me some caffeine and sugar. For sure.

After our Starbucks pick-me-up, we walked down to Monona Terrace (race central) and George checked in, got his goodie bag and wrist band and timing chip...everything he needs for race day. After taking all that back to the hotel, George decided to go for a little swim. It's extremely windy today, so the water is super choppy, which makes sighting while swimming, ahem, a challenge.

It makes breathing while swimming hard, too. George didn't stay in the water that long, but it was good enough to loosen him up after hours in the car.



As you can see in the background, there were other racers getting the feel of the water. Today it's a little slow, but tomorrow, when almost all the participants will arrive, this area of the shore will have the atmosphere of a big, impromptu party, with lots of people pulling on wetsuits and swim caps and heading out to loosen up and to get the feel of the water. It's always a fun time because Ironman racers are, generally speaking, a happy, cheerful, friendly lot.

Must be all the endorphins.

Tonight, in just a bit, we will join Ang and Mike for dinner at some excellent area eatery because, really, an Ironman is all about nutrition.

If I'm going to get through this race, I'd better keep up my strength.