Me and God and the Dog

If you’ve ever driven by our house you’ve noticed that a couple of blinds are always raised 10-12 inches. Some of you probably do the same – raise the blinds so the dog can look out. Shadow, our golden retriever likes to sit by the door or window and look out. Mostly, it’s to watch for us. We’d see him looking out the front door as we drove in the driveway. As the garage door raised, he’d start barking, tail wagging – happy to have us back home.

He found us at an Easter Sunday picnic at Al’s dad 13 years ago. Of the 50 or so people at the picnic, he wandered in and picked the family with a couple of 10 and 12 year old boys.
He buddied with us all afternoon, following us on a bike ride and walk in the woods. We already had a two beagles, and certainly didn’t need another dog, but for some reason, I made the off-hand comment to Al’s stepmother, “If he”s still around next week and no one claims him, we’ll take him.”

One week to the day, while I was gone to softball practice and the guys were at the airshow, Al’s dad and stepmother delivered Shadow to our backyard; tied him and left him there for us to find. That’s how Shadow came to be in our family.

He was wearing a green collar, which he has worn all his life. He was your typical golden- running, sniffing, tail-wagging, friendly to a fault. Of course, living with us he would have to be an outside dog and since we lived in a neighborhood, he would have to bear the restraints of a leash and chain. We started our life together that Sunday one week after Easter.

He loved us. He loved the boys. We were his people. He never looked for any others. Although, he certainly loved others. Every person he met was an opportunity for a pat on the head or a back rub. His tail wagged incessantly. He was a favorite at the vet’s office. Even during unpleasant procedures he stood patiently. And if he wasn’t wagging that tail during the procedure, it started back up again as soon as they were done.

However, he didn’t love being tied up, or being left outside. We’d let him loose ocassionally; what joy to see a dog running. Eventually he started joining us inside on the hot summer days. No need to make him suffer in the heat. At night he’d go back outside. Every morning at daybreak, he’d bark outside the back door – just in case we didn’t realize it was daylight and time for him to come in! Eventually it was just easier to let him sleep inside, too. He got full run of the house and was house-broken from day one. Never had an accident.

For years he had his way of letting us know it was time to get out of bed. Shadow would walk beside our bed, so happy to see us again – or so happy it was morning. Anyway, that tail of his would be going 90 miles an hour, whapping the side of the bed. There wasn’t much laying around in bed once his tail started hitting the side of the bed. His tail could be a lethal weapon around things on coffee tables-watch out for drinks and flowers left around.

He was a gentleman. Never snapped at anyone. Wasn’t a whiner. Didn’t tear through garbage; didn’t chew up anything; he was happy just being. While he was a beautiful golden retriever, he never retrieved; that concept was lost on him; he was pretty good at finding hidden doggie bones. A couple of times meat mysteriously disappeared from our kitchen table, but that was the exception. He was no guard dog. ANYONE could come to our house and they would be met at the front door by a big brown doggie with a wagging tail. The only time he ever, ever barked ferociously was once in the middle of the night. To hear it was both startling and scary. Were we being robbed, aliens, what? He was barking at deer daring to stand in the front yard and nibble at some plants. Never again did I hear him bark that way.

I don’t know if retrievers instinctively like water, but Shadow stayed as far away from baths, lakes and oceans as he could. Initially he couldn’t handle big groups of people, like Thanksgiving at our house. However, after his first Thanksgiving here, he didn’t cower in the bedroom anymore. The Shadow knew how to work a crowd for food. And we all obliged him.

He loved to be free and run. I don’t think there’s a much better sight than watching a dog run and enjoy himself. Unfortunately, he’d run and stay gone for a long time. I’d get a call from the apartment manager near our house that our dog was over there and he looked too tired to come home. So, I’d load up and give the dog a taxi ride home. That happened more than once and gradually we learned he was not to be trusted on the loose.

One of my favorite sights was watching Shadow in our neighbor’s fenced-in backyard. There were three dogs who lived on the opposite side of the fence, including a Rottweiler. It was such fun to see those dogs race back and forth along the fence line barking and yapping at each other. I always imagined they were calling each other names, and saying bad things about their mothers. Eventually they’d tire and rest; Silence, except for panting. Then – one would seemingly throw down the red flag and they’d take off again, barking and running. It was such a joy to watch.

Like many dogs he was terrified of thunderstorms. Panting, drooling, heart-racing, shaking-oh it was bad, and annoying to us. It helped to build a tent for him or put him in a confined space, but he feared them throughout his life until deafness relieved him of that fear. Curiously, he also shrank back when the boys ran through the house with their toy guns. It made us wonder about what happened before we met him. Loud noises and guns, who knows?  Before his older and age and deafness, Shadow seeme

He was with me during the year I was plagued by unknown health issues. The dark days of holding on, wondering if I would ever run and play again, Shadow stayed with me. He couldn’t do anything, except just “be”. Many, many days it was just, “me and God and the dog. Now, when our situations are reversed, and Shadow must be wondering what is going on, if he will ever run and play again, I stay with him, not able to do much, but just be.

Like all pet owners, we saw him slowing down, getting grayer. Having good days and bad days. And then more bad days than good days. How do you say goodbye to someone who never caused you harm, was always happy to see you. Saw your children grow up and leave home alongside with you.

Two weeks ago I knew he was near death. He could’t eat, walk or hold down water. I told the boys to come say their goodbyes. Perhaps Shadow had a Mark Twain side, “reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated”. He rebounded and resumed walking, eating, sleeping. Just “being”.

He found us on a Sunday, and chose to leave us on a Sunday. Do dogs have any idea how much they mean to us? How they permeate our lives and enter our families? How we grieve their absence? All I know is, we were the most blessed family in the world on that Easter Sunday, thirteen years ago.

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The First and Last – Chattanooga Race Report

RunChatt

We’ll just start with jumping into the water with my wetsuit on – after waiting 2.5 hours, that run and jump into the water was quick.  For all the talk about the current, and I knew it had to be there, I couldn’t feel it!  I quickly discovered that 2.4 miles is a long ways.  I’d practiced open water swims (never that far, but it was downstream), and I wasn’t scared, but I got tired quickly.  I knew I would. And I knew I would look pretty silly if I bailed out on the swim.  No swim has ever been easy for me, why should this one be?  I just kept going. Finally the buoys changed colors, signalling the halfway point.  The bridges came into view, I knew I would finish. One bridge, two, finally the third.  What a joy to hear my name and climb out.  And how happy I was to see the first RTMC peeps, find Meredith, Jro and Carter and make the run to my bike.  I’d never swam that far, a huge accomplishment for me; however, it came with a price.  Wearing the wetsuit for that length of time, 80 minutes, placed my weak lower back in a compromising position, and I could feel it during the swim.  I didn’t realize how much it would continue to bother me throughout the day.

My goal on the bike was to average 16mph.  It seemed I was cruising along beside folks who were out for a Sunday stroll and I wondered if I should lower my pace.   My cadence sensor wasn’t working, for the first time ever.  It was irritating and I tried several times to adjust it without success.  I finally just went with it and made it a point to keep my cadence brisk.  My lower back, aggravated during the swim did start to bother me.  My back never hurts me during bike rides, but I’d never swam 2.4 miles in a wetsuit just before, either. Once again, I dealt with it, and would get off the bike periodically and stretch.  Kind folks always asking if I needed help.  I started eating my rice cakes every 15 minutes.  I was pleased to realize I could roll through the aid stations and grab water or nutrition like a pro!  The crowds in Chickamauga were amazing.  In fact, all along ordinary folks – families, grandads, grandkids – picked out a spot just to show their support.  How kind they were to spend their day with us.

BikeChatt

On the second loop bad things started happening.  I got naseous and could barely sip or eat. I worried because I knew without fuel my body would give out.  I tried forcing food and water down with little success.  My pace slowed.  I felt worse.  From 75 miles on, I didn’t eat or drink.  I knew it was a matter of time before I gave out.  Finally at mile 90 I got off and stood, lightheaded, chilling, feeling miserable, brokenhearted.  I sat.  I laid down with my feet elevated.  People yelled for me to go on.  Asked if I needed help.  After 15 minutes or so a sheriff’s deputy came by and asked if I needed help.  It broke my heart to ask for a ride.  And I heard him say the words, “Rider 1566 is abandoning”.  There is nothing like that utter despair.

After about 10 more minutes of waiting for SAG, which I had seen ALL day before.  This SUV pulls up in front of the deputy and parks in the road.  Out jumps bike racer super hero, Scott Thomas, who I had never met and did not know.  He immediately begins telling me I need to get back on the bike.  There are lots of people behind me.  I have plenty of time.  I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand how bad I feel.  He tells me he races bikes.  He’s been there.  Through tears I tell him I can’t eat or drink.  “Throw the nutrition plan out the window”, he says.  Honestly, there should have been a movie camera filming this encounter.  It was gripping.  He keeps talking. Telling me he will follow me.  Finally, for whatever reason, I get up and get back on the bike.  I’d probably been there at least 40 minutes.

I start off and am able to pedal at a decent pace, but with some nausea.  He comes along beside me and gives words of encouragement – “I look good”.  Obviously, I still have a little pride left because I’m thinking, “Well, I am a good cyclist.  I CAN ride a bike”.  This goes on for several miles with him giving me updates and encouragement.  Kind of like having my own team car!  Slowly I find I can take in water.  He follows me to almost to Chickamauga, where he says he will turn off to go home.  He describes the course to me, reassures me, tells me I can do it.  I am beginning to believe I can.  Chickamauga is deserted compared to the first time.  No worries.  I start out of town on the ascent.  No problem for my legs.  I’m drinking more water and feeling better.  I find my superhero Scott is still behind me.  I am touched beyond words by his kindness and ask his name.   I finish my water and he is prepared to give me more, but the final aid station is close at hand and I’m on a downhill stretch.  Comfort zone, letting it fly.  I grab another bottle and head back out to the main highway towards town.  For the last time Scott pulls up beside me and lets me know he is going home.  There’s no way to every repay him.  I was dead in the water by the side of the road.  My day was done and I knew it.  Whatever you want to say, God sent him along just for me that day.  I gave him a last look and a hand signal and mouthed the words, “thank you”.

The miles back were pleasant and easy.  I gained strength and speed.  I kept thinking, “some days I may quit, but not this day”.  Hitting transition and seeing friends who had faithfully been waiting all day for you was heartwarming, uplifting, and humbling.  At this point, I knew I had been given a gift to continue the race and believed that I would finish, it might be late, but I would finish.

Changed clothes, hit the port-o-potty and started out with my traditional fireball in my mouth.  I saw dear friends who had given up their day to spend it waiting for me.  And remember hearing Lana Burl say, “Enjoy the run” as I started out.

I keep a fireball in my mouth a lot when I run.  So if you ever see me and think I look like a chipmunk, that is why.  It was the best thing.  I chastised myself for not grabbing the other one I had.  There was one in my Special Needs Run bag, but alas, I had left it in the car early in the morning.    I hoped there would be hard candy on the run, it was the only thing that tasted good.  It seems like a silly thing, but for whatever reason, that was my thought.

Yes my back was still hurting.  My hamstrings were tight.  But my body worked.  The run was a gift to me, I knew.  I sipped water through the rest stops.  Tried orange slices.  Had a potato chip once.  Tried sucking on Chomps.  I could’t take much in, but I was trying.  When chicken broth was offered, I took it, because everyone said I should.

The hills on the front half were not bad at all.  The back half was as hilly as advertised, but I walked up and ran down.  As we headed back into town I found I couldn’t eat or drink again and my stomach was acting up.  But I was still moving.

Somewhere around 15, my mouth was parched, but I couldn’t drink.  My stomach hurt.  I was nauseous again, lightheaded, chilling.  It was dark.  But I have to say, as I ran along the highway, LOTS of cars yelled and blew horns.  Not in the negative way we’re accustomed to, but all yelling and giving words of encouragement!  Well done, Chattanooga!

I felt like I was going to fall over into the shoulder of the road while I was walking.  Between mile 16 and 17 I saw a couple of police cars and went to them.  They called the EMT’s, who quickly came and cheerfully announced, “that, yes, I was dehydrated!” They were great guys who tried to give me water, took my vitals, told me I could continue.  I threw up.  And threw in the towel.

They gave me a couple of liters of fluid at medical and of course, I was better the next day. The questions are, “Could I have finished, and what went wrong?”.

After discussing it with Dr. Kevin Sprouse, who has been an amazing help to me, we determined that in my quest to prevent bonking, I took in too many calories the night before the race and during the ride.  A rookie mistake that I paid dearly for.  Could I have continued?  He says it’s hard to know.  Possibly, I could have slowly walked a mile or two and recovered.

I’m left with the sting of not finishing what I started.

However, there was so much more good in the day than not.  What I hold most dear in my  are the relationships forged along the way.  I have always said one of the reasons that set triathalons apart from other athletic competitions was because of the camaraderie. Nothing can take away what is in my heart and that is the gratitude of being able to compete and the relationships that have resulted from participating.

Not finishing my first, and last Ironman will always be with me. However, fear of failure should never be a reason not to try.  If it had been, I would never have attempted that first Trideltathon years ago.

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One of the great ones….

The world would be a better place if everyone could have the kind of childhood I did. It wasn’t perfect, but it was perfect for me. Our parents, whose middle names had to be love and stability, were never close to wealthy. It seemed in the 60’s, no one was. There were no self-help books about parenting yet all the kids in our neighborhood seemed to grow up and become good citizens. There were no blogs on nutrition or fitness, yet we were healthy and ate farm to table.   I thought that was a sign we didn’t have a lot of money – having to grow your own food! Kids seemed to roam the neighborhood without parents. However, there always seemed to be a pair or two of eyes on us! Our most expensive toys, and only toys, might be a bike or ball. It didn’t mean we didn’t play, we played hard and long, but we made our own toys or played games. Hideaways on a hillside covered with trees. We played outside for hours. We played Monopoly, Clue, Risk, Operation, rummy, triple solitaire (and others) days and late into some nights. Marathon games. We played in the woods,  in yards, all over the neighborhood.There always seemed to kids around, most of them older than me, but I don’t remember it being an issue. I learned to play basketball at the neighbor’s house, learned how to hit a baseball in the front yard, played kickball, freeze tag or some other game way past dark in the summer and learned to ride a bike in my front yard. We rode all over the place, without helmets or gears. On the road or off the road. We had a “dirt road” in our neighborhood. I think developers were planning to enlarge the neighborhood, but only got as far as clearing the way with a dirt road. They’ll never know how much use that dirt road got!  It was a gold mine for kids.  It may have been a half a mile long, it seemed longer, and had trees and forests around it. It was a perfect place for playing, riding bikes (perhaps a little like mountain biking). No doubt that freedom on a bike gave me the sense of ease and comfort I feel on a bike now. And there was never a better place for sledding and playing when we got snow, which was which seemed to happen quite a bit. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, towns didn’t have lots of snow plows and dump trucks full of salt waiting to clear the road. And we lived in the county. We might see a snow plow once a winter! Our neighborhood was hilly, the best place for sledding was the road beside our house!  We’d sled daytime or nighttime.  I remember sledding at night, more than once, and having a bonfire started with a tire.

However, all that is just background. On our street, on our block, our houses separated by maybe 50 yards of a field, lived the Pobst’s and the Pacholski’s. I could not tell you when the Pacholski’s moved there from New York; there just has never been a time when I didn’t know them. There were 6 children in our family and three in theirs. The youngest Pacholski was Janet, a year older than me and a couple of years younger than my sister, Laura. We three, Janet, Laura and myself were a common sight. If you saw one of us, you saw all of us. We spent many, many days and nights at each other’s house.  Those marathon board games, that was us playing.  Roaming around the neighborhood, that was us.  In the summer, we’d “camp out” in our tent camper.  In those days before indoor air-conditioning, we could be heard rolling with laughter playing our card games, especially triple solitaire.  My dad had to get out of bed one night to quieten us down, which of course, only made it harder not to laugh!  Sometimes we didn’t make much noise when we camped out because we were in stealth mode sneaking around the neighborhood, maybe hitching a ride on the back of a milk truck.  Oh the fun we had!

The parents who made this idyllic childhood possible were the great ones.  They didn’t have books or tv shows or even sermons telling them how to raise kids.  But they didn’t seem to stress over it and were for the most part,  successful.

There was a turning point for Janet’s family.  Her father died suddenly of a heart attack.   I remember when he died,  I might have been 7.  I  wondered how he could not be anymore. I had no way to understand it. Things might have changed drastically for the friendship between Janet, Laura and me if not for Janet’s mom, Jean Pacholski.

In her own words, which I heard decades later, she never considered moving back to New York after his death with her 3 young children. She and her family stayed put, ensuring that Janet, Laura and I would hours upon hours, and years and years of time together.

It couldn’t have been easy as a single mom in the 60’s – no blogs, self-help books or even role models. But what I remember is that life did go on for them, even normally it seemed. I knew a few other families who lost their fathers, and it was very difficult for them. And the children of those families struggled. I’m not saying that it wasn’t just as hard or difficult for the Pacholski’s, it must have been, but somehow, Mrs. Pacholski made it work.

I can’t tell you lots of stories about her. I know she had a beautiful voice.  She sang in church and in musicals.   I know she was a deacon in the Presbyterian church in the early 70’s, (still not sure how that happened way back then). I know she was active in her kids’ lives, choir, band, etc. I know went she to work someplace. I know she must have fixed us food while we were there many, many times, but I can’t remember it. I can’t remember words of wisdom she left me with. I don’t even remember if she ever played board games with us.  But I remember her.  I remember her being there. And her letting us be there. And just letting us be, us. Be kids. She helped provide that ideal childhood I had. She must have enjoyed us.  We were always welcome.  I don’t remember her being cross or angry with us – and we were kids who did a lot of silly and stupid stuff! A lot.

She died on Valentine’s Day this year, surrounded by family. And I’m sad to know she’s gone, but incredibly, incredibly grateful for what she gave me.

So I take a few moments this cold February to say thank you to Mrs. Pacholski.   She helped me become who I am. Even though I didn’t know it, she showed me courage.  She helped give me a childhood filled with love, security, fun and confidence.  A childhood every child should have.

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Hi, I’m Jep

Hi, My name is Jep. My people do this a lot. Today, my turn. Some things you may not know about me.

That's me!

That’s me!

12. I like my people. They are called Adrian and Kristin, or Honey. They are good to me. Sometimes they let me stay with other people. One people they call, “mom” or “eleanore”. I like her. She let’s me play outside.

My people!

My people!

11. I have lots of friends. I like my friends. I like to visit my friends.

These are some of my friends.  We play.  We run.

These are some of my friends. We play. We run.

10. I like trail running, whatever that is. My “Eleanore” must like it, too. I am fast. She is not fast. But she is faster than she was.

I have to wait for her. A lot.

I have to wait for her. A lot.

9. These are not my friends. I think I would like them, but they don’t like me. Sometimes they come and try to beat me up. My people protect me. They yell at those dogs. I would still like to be friends. Sometimes I go over to their yard and poop. Hee, hee, hee. Why won’t they be my friend?

I would play with them if they would let me.

I would play with them if they would let me.

8. I like riding in the car. I ride up front with my eleanore, whatever up front is. Sometimes I hang my head out the window. It is so-oo much fun! I smell so much out there. Sometimes I sleep in the car. But when we get out, I am ready to play.

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7. This is not my friend. And this is not my friend. They are scary. They are danger. And, shhh, don’t tell anyone, but there are even more of them out there! I see new ones every day. My people are blind to them. I will try to be brave. I must be brave. I will be brave, for my people.

I think this is a zombie.

I think this is a zombie.

Mrs. Zombie.

Mrs. Zombie.

6. I like sweet potatoes.  I like cucumber peels.  I like digging.  Mostly I like digging for sweet potatoes.  I do not like broccoli.

I like potholders, too.  Whatever they are.

I like potholders, too. Whatever they are.

5. I like sticks. Big sticks, little sticks-I like all sticks. My people say “retrieve the stick”. I retrieve. Then I play tug-o-war. My people say ‘drop it’. What does that mean?

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4. I like the man across the street. His machine scares me. But I like the man. He gives me sticks.

I like this man.  He is kind.

I like this man. He is kind.

3. This couch is mine.

I like this place.

I like this place.

2. Sometimes my people “eleanore” calls me “shadow”. What is shadow? Sometimes when I am alone, I think I smell another friend in the house. I look for him, but cannot find him. Is he hiding? Maybe he is shadow. Maybe he will be my friend one day. What would he look like? Does he look like me? I want to be his friend.

I see my eleanore...is that what a shadow is?

I see my eleanore…is that what a shadow is?

1. I am happy. I like my 2 people. They let me sleep in my bed. My people “eleanore” does not let me sleep in bed. I still like her.

This is the BEST place ever!

This is the BEST place ever!

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Hi, I’m Jep

Hi, My name is Jep. My people do this a lot. Today, my turn. Some things you may not know about me.

That's me!

That’s me!

12. I like my people. They are called Adrian and Kristin, or Honey. They are good to me. Sometimes they let me stay with other people. One people they call, “mom” or “eleanore”. I like her. She let’s me play outside.

My people!

My people!

11. I have lots of friends. I like my friends. I like to visit my friends.

These are some of my friends.  We play.  We run.

These are some of my friends. We play. We run.

10. I like trail running, whatever that is. My “Eleanore” must like it, too. I am fast. She is not fast. But she is faster than she was.

I have to wait for her. A lot.

I have to wait for her. A lot.

9. These are not my friends. I think I would like them, but they don’t like me. Sometimes they come and try to beat me up. My people protect me. They yell at those dogs. I would still like to be friends. Sometimes I go over to their yard and poop. Hee, hee, hee. Why won’t they be my friend?

I would play with them if they would let me.

I would play with them if they would let me.

8. I like riding in the car. I ride up front with my eleanore, whatever up front is. Sometimes I hang my head out the window. It is so-oo much fun! I smell so much out there. Sometimes I sleep in the car. But when we get out, I am ready to play.

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7. This is not my friend. And this is not my friend. They are scary. They are danger. And, shhh, don’t tell anyone, but there are even more of them out there! I see new ones every day. My people are blind to them. I will try to be brave. I must be brave. I will be brave, for my people.

I think this is a zombie.

I think this is a zombie.

Mrs. Zombie.

Mrs. Zombie.

6. I like sweet potatoes.  I like cucumber peels.  I like digging.  Mostly I like digging for sweet potatoes.  I do not like broccoli.

I like potholders, too.  Whatever they are.

I like potholders, too. Whatever they are.

5. I like sticks. Big sticks, little sticks-I like all sticks. My people say “retrieve the stick”. I retrieve. Then I play tug-o-war. My people say ‘drop it’. What does that mean?

20131117-200038.jpg

4. I like the man across the street. His machine scares me. But I like the man. He gives me sticks.

I like this man.  He is kind.

I like this man. He is kind.

3. This couch is mine.

I like this place.

I like this place.

2. Sometimes my people “eleanore” calls me “shadow”. What is shadow? Sometimes when I am alone, I think I smell another friend in the house. I look for him, but cannot find him. Is he hiding? Maybe he is shadow. Maybe he will be my friend one day. What would he look like? Does he look like me? I want to be his friend.

I see my eleanore...is that what a shadow is?

I see my eleanore…is that what a shadow is?

1. I am happy. I like my 2 people. They let me sleep in my bed. My people “eleanore” does not let me sleep in bed. I still like her.

This is the BEST place ever!

This is the BEST place ever!

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Just in case you meet any goliaths….

When Thing One and Thing Two were 4 and 2 1/2, about 20 years ago, or two blinks of an eye in mom years, our lives were in a very transitional place. After living in the Greenville, Mississippi for 4 years, we moved back home to Tennessee. Sounds easy enough, right? Not.

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Those were deep roots we planted in the Delta. The street we lived on was just the right place for families with young children. It was not a busy street at all, perfectly level, with lots of stay at home moms. I was a brand new mom – with no friends, no experience, no nothing in Mississippi. And those people in Greenville, MS took us in and showed us what Southern hospitality was all about. As hard as it was to move there, it was even harder to leave those friends.   My heart seemed to break that late November day when we said our goodbyes.

That’s where we were 20 years ago. Thing One, Thing Two and I were living with my parents in Bristol while the Hubs scouted out the housing market in Knoxville, or Athens, we weren’t sure. It was a hard time for me. I lost weight without even trying. Which says a lot.

It’s not easy bringing two youngsters into a house with your parents (who never hesitated to say “yes” when asked if we could stay with them). All of sudden almost everything the boys had known, their house, family structure, friends, church, preschool, landscape – it was all gone. It wasn’t always easy on my parents. Try changing your family dynamic from 2 to 5 overnight.   Especially when a 2 1/2 and 4 year-old are included. Of course, there was more good than not. However, in the end, it was hardest on me. Even though friends and family were great and certainly did their part to help during the transition, I sure did miss those people that had taken us into their hearts and homes.

The house, full of love, was not big. And sometimes, much too small when Thing One and Thing Two were overly rambunctious or testing their limits. When the walls started closing in, we headed out. We got acquainted with several small, local parks. One, called Rooster Park, was very close to my parent’s house, so we visited there the most.

It was on one of those visits when I was in a hard place, and we were walking along the path-Thing One, Thing Two and I. For whatever reason, Thing One ran back to me and handed me a little rock or stone. His words were, “Just in case you meet any Goliaths.”

That’s all he said. He ran off to run and play some more. And I’m standing there with the stone in my hand like, what just happened here?  That is probably like, the most profound thing anyone has ever uttered to me. (If you’re lost here, google the story of David and Goliath.)

The story needs nothing else. No explanation. No three-point sermon. The message was delivered to me at a time when I needed it. And it was enough.

So, to my friends who are getting ready to embark on the last phase of their Augusta Half-Ironman journey and, to those dear ones who have a giant camped nearby:

“Here, just in case you meet any Goliaths.”

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Front Window

Remember the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “Rear Window” with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly? I can now identify with Jimmy Stewart in that movie. I broke 2 bones in my ankle 8 days ago, or 5 weeks before the Augusta Half-Ironman. Not very good timing. But then, it’s never good timing to break anything.

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Anyway, since there are so many things I can’t do right now, I’ve had to find some new activities. Sometimes I sit in the kitchen, eat a meal, look out the front window, pretend I’m Jimmy Stewart, and wait for something to happen.  Not much happens in our neighborhood of two streets. It can be hours before a car passes.  Our neighbors across the street are decent, law-abiding citizens-so no help there for excitement.

I had seen an older, helmet-less, spandex-less man riding his bicycle up the hill past our house on several different occasions.  And he wouldn’t go up the hill just once. He would make a complete loop around the neighborhood over and over again.  Maybe for an hour.  This is pretty interesting.  I’m pretty much the only one I see riding my bicycle in the neighborhood.  And I only ride to get out of the neighborhood.  (Think steep hills.)  Today he started riding loops again and I was watching.  “Why is he doing this?” I wondered.

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So, I clunked my walker out to the end of the driveway to wait for him to come around again. (It takes him about 7 minutes for him to make a complete, 1.4 mile loop of the neighborhood. Think steep uphills and fast downhills!) You would have thought I was a 7-year old waiting for the ice cream truck! I needed to interview this bicyclist and find out what he was doing.

He, Greg Kraft as I learned, was gracious enough, or surprised enough, or patronizing enough to stop when the lady with a bum ankle, sitting by her walker, at the end of the driveway, asked if she could interview him on his last lap.

Greg and his wife just recently moved here from the Buffalo area. Smart man. He retired from working 25 years in the Corrections Program of New York.  He rides about 90 minutes 5 times a week. He has been concerned about the safety of our roads. (See 3 sentences above.) Therefore, he has only ridden the 2 roads in our neighborhood – which is pretty admirable if you’ve ever seen our neighborhood.

Anyway, he asked questions, I asked questions. I learned he’s riding because he enjoys it and to stay in shape.  He learned about bike rides, Cycology bike Shop, and some local places to ride.  And I was happy to meet someone who I met not have met otherwise, if I had two good ankles.

AlfredHitchcock bike

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The Preacher and the Plane

I love the story our preacher told several years ago. He had been away on a mission trip to Asia (or Africa) for a few weeks and was returning to Knoxville on a Saturday night. Being a preacher, he was scheduled to preach the next day. (Personally, I think of this as poor planning, but perhaps his Boss required it.)

Anyway, his plane was flying into Atlanta, probably the purgatory of airports. And the preacher was to catch another flight from there to Knoxville. As the plane circlingl around Atlanta, the pilots were told to maintain their flight pattern. Think purgatory. They did this for some time because of bad weather. The plane eventually ran low on fuel and was diverted to Knoxville. And our preacher realized, “THERE IS A GOD!!” “AND HE LOVES ME!”  He was actually going to get home ahead of schedule, in daylight. He told the flight attendants that since Knoxville was his final destination and he had no checked bags, he would just get off the plane here. The flight attendants checked and learned that sadly, he could NOT de-plane in his hometown, because Knoxville had no customs for him to be checked through. Three times the pilots called and asked if there was a way for this man, who probably saw his house as the plane flew in, to get off the plane. Each time they were told, “No. And if they let him off the plane, they could lose their jobs.” Thus, he had to sit on the plane, in Knoxville, 15 miles from home, and wait. Wait for the bad weather to pass in Atlanta and wait for the plane to be re-fueled. Then, the preacher and his plane flew back to Atlanta, where he de-planed, went through customs, and eventually caught a later flight back to Knoxville. Again.

Of course, he used this personal illustration for his sermon in different ways. One of the points we can take away from it is that usually our journeys don’t follow our roadmaps-EVEN though we know that OUR plans are the best, because, after all, we made them!

I’ve been following a training program or roadmap since January to help keep me in shape and build towards a half-Ironman. I expected that as time passed, my strength, distance and speed in the swim, bike and run would build. I would eat right, rest, race a few sprints, do an Olympic distance tri, clean my bike chain a few times and then – I would be READY for a half-Ironman on September 29th.

Never did the thought occur to me that I might have to deal with an ongoing injury that has kept me from running for more than 2 months. As the days turned into weeks and months, worry has crept in. Actually it has charged right in and taken up residence. Sometimes it’s panic. I sit on the plane, looking out, knowing how to get to my destination, but can’t get off the plane to get to where I need to be.

For lack of space, I will not go into details about the injury. Suffice it to say it has something to do with the lower back or SI stuff. The PT’s and I keep working towards improvement.

Why do I have to go through this? I have never had such problems before. We have all faced something that lands us someplace where we feel stuck.  I can’t answer where that is for you. After weeks and weeks of this, I’m grateful for the years of health. I’m grateful I can use the elliptical. I’m grateful for the concept of run/walk. I’m grateful for friends. I’m grateful for the days when there are workouts I absolutely do not want to do. And no one will notice if I skip. But I’m grateful that somewhere along the way, someone taught me to put on my big girl panties and go ahead and do it. Or at least try.  I’m grateful for books to read that sometimes give me that one little piece of insight I need.  I’m grateful for small improvements that, even though not at full speed, have put me back on the road on a very limited basis.

achilles

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