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Am I runner? A “real” runner?

Most runners I know ask themselves this question frequently. I wonder this about myself daily. As if there is some objective way to know, as if I will ever be able to prove myself enough, as if anyone’s definition of me matters more than my own.

But: am I runner? When will I know? At what mileage? At what pace? After how many races?

For most of these 22 months, as I have fought the good fight to redefine myself and to claim the courage to be fully the person I have wanted to be, I have nonetheless been plagued with that question. Does finishing a half marathon make me a runner? If I run three days a week, four days a week, five days a week, is that it? What do other runners mean exactly when they talk about joggers versus runners?

It’s been an insane, intense two weeks of training, tapering, and nerves. Excitement, too. Pride. Hope. Hard work. Fear. Bravery. For my birthday in December, Bill gave me entry fees to two races and one hotel stay. I raced the Hot Chocolate 15K last Sunday, and today had the Carlsbad 5000 scheduled. At times this past week I wondered what the heck my coach and I were thinking racing back-to-back weekends, one a distance and one more of a sprint.

But if we risk nothing, we can achieve nothing.

After last Sunday’s race, Coach Husband gave me Monday off. I was loony enough to ask him Sunday afternoon what I was running on Monday, and after looking at me like I was stark raving, Coach Husband reminded me to wait until my adrenaline wore off to feel my legs…and holy cow. I had worked them with my pacing, and I ended up desperately needing Monday to recover. On Tuesday, he gave me 3 miles easy. On Wednesday, we did intervals: 8 X 440. He wanted a 1:45.0 pace minimum, but I showed up with 1:33.0. And then a 4.2 mi run at a comfortable pace. On Thursday he gave me 6 mi (thank goodness!), but on Friday I was tapering off with 2.0. Yesterday I had to rest completely. My legs never felt fully recovered, but I decided to ignore that for today and go in with all guns blazing. I was so thankful for Wednesday’s intervals, because my body really needed to feel that pace for a sustained length of time, and it was those intervals specifically that gave me confidence today to go for it.

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So how did it go officially?

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I had set a goal for myself of 20:30…or better. I was secretly going for sub-20, and Coach Husband kind of sensed that, too. My official time was 19:52 for 3.1 miles. My pace was 6:24. My first mile was 6:11, and my second mile was 12:21. I was the 18th woman to finish in my division out of 266, the 35th out of 755 for my gender, and overall in my wave 135/1511. Room for improvement? Certainly. But this was also a race with some different kinds of competitors thrown in the mix, too. As in: super fast ones. I am extremely happy with my PR, which represents so much growth for me, but I am left even hungrier for gaining speed than I was before. My goal next year is to race the Carlsbad 5K in the high 18s, for starters. I am not easily satisfied with any performance I ever give in anything, and never have been, which is one of my strengths but which also makes me vulnerable to myself. Coach Husband is extremely important in those moments.

I was so nervous going into this race, because I wanted to PR so badly and to PR by a certain amount. I could barely sleep last night and was projecting the race over and over again in my mind, thinking about my legs and pace and how I wanted to will them to go.

And then I remembered:

“I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” (attributed to JACK LONDON)

This is one of the reasons I run in the first place: to feel alive and use my time to live in as much of a glowing blaze as I can live.  I knew I would have to face the pain and stare it down if I wanted to go as fast as I went today, but it is the facing of that pain that helps to give life meaning. We can choose to avoid suffering and fear, as runners or as people living our daily lives even if we don’t run; but if we choose avoidance, we lose the chance to conquer ourselves and to give our lives purpose. I refuse to be stifled by inertia or fear. I will live, I will live, I will live. I shall use my time on Earth, because that’s all I have coming to me. And knowing this full well, I will live, I will live, I will live. It is, in fact, this knowledge of my life’s impermanence that makes it possible for me to feel as much joy as I feel just being alive each day. When we know that we will end, everything takes on a sort of passion and vibrance. Nothing is for granted. I have always known this, but running has made this truth all the more clear to me. We have only these miles and a stretch of road that ends far off in the horizon: we have to make it count, now.

The gun went off, and there was not much time to ramp up into my pace. In fact, I felt this race was more like a sprint! The Carlsbad 5000 is known as “the fastest 5K in the world,” and I believe it. My strengths reside in the longer distances, where I am mentally very tough and, to be honest, more mentally trained. To run extremely fast for a short time is a different kind of beast. There is no way to make up for a slower start later. It’s all or nothing, from the gun, it seems. I was hurting after two miles, and my pace slowed but never dipped below my target time. I spent the last mile chanting the words of the great Prefontaine to myself, “Do not let fatigue make you a coward. Do not let fatigue make you a coward. Do not let fatigue make you a coward.” I love Pre. I told myself that I could endure almost any pain for 3.1 miles, and indeed, that scenario played out. I never quite let the bear get on me, but we were probably close!

Some highlights:

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My friend Susan, whom I have always admired tremendously since first meeting her as a colleague at TVHS, also ran today! I love everything she stands for, and we keep up with each other on Facebook, but I haven’t seen her in person for quite some time. I was so excited to SEE her!

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My dad made his racing comeback today after being out with injury for almost two months. He hasn’t been able to train, even. His doctor gave him an all-clear on Thursday. I am overjoyed that he is back and ready to race. I have missed him and felt his absence keenly, and I have been feeling empathetic despair at his not being able to run. Runners need to run. I am so glad he is back, and I am so proud of him, too.

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Bill and Ruth Wysocki. If you are a track and field nerd, you will understand why this is cool. She actually lives in Temecula, and I have seen her at my corner market. I am a bit starstruck by her.

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Finally, running together again! One of the many traits I love about my dad is that he has that ability to look his fears straight on and to absolutely slaughter them. He’s a courageous one, this guy. So proud always to be his daughter.

 

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Coach Husband, thank you again for yet another great race. I put all my trust in you, and you have never mishandled that trust. Not only that, you keep me from going TOO crazy with nerves. You understand what kinds of pressure I put on myself in all areas of my life, and you help me remember how to treat myself gently even when working hard.

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We were playing around a bit before the invitational races. Katie helped me pick out my colorful spring ensemble, and the yellow shirt was swag. I painted my nails purple this time. I always paint my nails a wackadoo kind of color before a race, or when I am fighting for PRs in my training. If you ever see my nails a little colorful? It means I am fighting for some personal goal at the moment, one that I might not even be talking about. Crazy color nail polish started as a way of acknowledging that I am “in character” as a runner. Am I runner?

 

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The women’s invitational: Jordan Hasay, Gabe Grunwald, Brenda Martinez, Julia Bleasdale… The intensity of their race brought me to tears at the finish line. As I watched them give everything to the point of doubling over when they came in, I felt an emotion beyond words. Their athleticism is incredible to see in real life, not just on the television. I’ve been watching Hasay for years, and to see her in person today: unbelievable. Their strides and musculature take my breath away. And I know how hard they work, work, work. Inspirational, truly.

 

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Bernard Lagat was going for the American record today…and took it! We saw history made this afternoon. So very, very awesome.

 

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Later this afternoon, Katie did some training of her own. We’ve been training this week, as she is signed up for a 2K in April. Much of the fam is running in April at a Temecula race. We are all doing different distances, but we’re looking forward to being there together. Dad is helping Katie through the 2K, I am doing the 10K, and my brother and sis-in-law are running the 5K.

 

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With Sue at the starting line this morning

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Entering my corral and nervous as all heck. When I was younger and felt these kinds of nerves for Academic Decathlon or Mock Trial, I hardly knew what to do with them. As I have gained experience, though, I have realized that nerves are a sign of sincerity, that what we’re doing matters to us. I try to use them to help focus me. So when the gun went off, my mind was laser-focused. Bill asked me later about the scenery for this race. I had to laugh. What scenery? I was vaguely aware of the beach to my left at one point, but I wasn’t looking! This was also the first race I’ve done without music. I wanted nothing to fight with the tempo of my body. I wanted to hear the sounds of the race, and of my breathing, and of my footfalls to help guide my pace. This was new for me, and it seemed to work out well. I will need to decide what to do about the 10K. Music or no music? Music can really aid long distances, but it can also be a distraction. I am going for a 42:00:00 10K some time within the next few months. I don’t know if that’s doable on the April course, since I haven’t seen elevation charts, but we will see.

So back to my question: am I runner? I am not sure that any distance, pace, or time in a race can tell me that for sure. To know, I have to look deep within. What is a runner? What is the heart of a runner like? I think a runner is someone who looks at her performance and wants to give more. I think a runner is someone who faces fear daily and wants to keep charging headfirst toward her limits, or what she believes to be her limits, so she can challenge them. A runner cries, a runner celebrates, a runner feels joy and pain together. A runner does not give in to herself, when she has a million reasons going through her head not to run. Am I a runner?

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When I got home, I took a 5.1 mile celebratory lap at a comfy 7:25 pace around my hometown. Because although I PR’d at 19:52 and came in 18th in my division, I know I can do better. Because training for next year starts RIGHT NOW. Because I am a long distance runner, and today is my long run day. Because I am my work ethic. Because I am tired of tapering two weeks in a row. Because I believe in myself and the ability I have to pull myself along in this life. Because I want to know my limits, and through knowing my limits, to know myself.

Because I am a runner.

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“Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity/To seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment/Would you capture it/Or just let it slip?/…You better lose yourself in the music, the moment/You own it/You better never let it go/You only get one shot/Do not miss your chance to blow…Success is my only ************* option, failure’s not/Feet, fail me not…You can do anything you set your mind to…”

~EMINEM, Lose Yourself

Less than two years ago (June 2012), I was 60 pounds overweight with no self-improvement goals on the horizon, feeling my world was sweetly full but growing smaller around me. Less than two years ago I was out of touch with the ambition I used to have in spades to challenge myself and to conquer myself and to prove myself. Less than two years ago, I defined myself only by what I was to everyone else around me and forgot that we must first define ourselves by our own inner standards in order to know/remember whom we are. Less than two years ago, I lived in a state of forgetting what it was like to make myself vulnerable to my own wildly ambitious goals, to throw everything on the line and risk failure. Was it taking the easy and content way out? I filled the hunger for truly living with food instead of real accomplishment.

Less than two years ago.

But it wasn’t time to write myself off yet.

Believe me. Wherever you are in your journey, believe me: you can do anything you set your mind to do and are willing to work for. If I can, you can. We are never stuck. What life would you write for yourself if you could?

“Send in your skeletons/Sing as their bones go marching in… again/The need you buried deep/The secrets that you keep are ever ready/Are you ready?/I’m finished making sense/Done pleading ignorance/That whole defense/What if I say I’m not like the others?/What if I say I’m not just another one of your plays?/You’re the pretender/What if I say I will never surrender?/…In time or so I’m told/I’m just another soul for sale… oh, well/The page is out of print/We are not permanent/We’re temporary, temporary/Same old story…”

~FOO FIGHTERS, The Pretender 

So for my birthday in December this year, my husband Bill gave me the gift of a race entry to Hot Chocolate 15K in San Diego, as well as a hotel stay nearby the night before the race. He found an historic hotel for us—The Horton Grand—in the Gaslamp Quarter. He gave me months of excited anticipation,  but more importantly he gave me the chance to achieve a goal with the encouragement of our family. He gave me the means to capturing something of infinite value: my sense of self-worth, proved to myself on the pavement. He gave me a goal to which to dedicate months of hard work, something to hold in the front of my mind every cold and nearly-dark and sleepy morning of my training.

And he gave me his expert coaching.

Official stats:

Hot Chocolate 15K (9.3 miles), March 23, 2014:

*5th place woman overall out of 2575

*37th place male/female participant overall out of 3488

*1st place in my age and gender division, out of 481.

I sure like that first place in my division. 🙂

Time was 1:04:56. 6:58 pace. Another results page posts my pace as 6:57 pace.

My 10K split was 43:27…mostly uphill. One of my goals for the next training phase here is to nail a 42 minute 10K.

My splits were CRAZY today, and I could feel that as I was running them.The first five miles of this course is mostly uphill, with rolling hills and downhill to follow. This was the race of my life. My goal going into the race was to hit 1:10:00 at least. I exceeded what I was hoping to do, by quite a bit. I ran with every part of my heart and mind today.

“Interchanging mind control,/Come let the revolution take it’s toll,/If you could flick a switch and open your third eye,/You’d see that/We should never be afraid to die/(So come on)/They will not force us/They will stop degrading us/They will not control us/We will be victorious…”
MUSE, Uprising

We drove down to San Diego yesterday afternoon and checked into the Horton Grand, then walked to the expo at the San Diego Concourse. After a few samples of chocolate and picking up my swag bag, I had the kiddos and Bill return to the Grand, and I walked several blocks in the other direction toward Petco Park to scope the starting line and runner’s area. I relished walking in the city in the early evening, the bustle, the freedom, having a sense of purpose and assurance. I will never tire of the city, any city, and the endless fodder for imagination.

When I returned the hotel, we collected ourselves and walked a few blocks to Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza. I ordered the tapas order of flatbread, hummus, baba ghanoush, and lebni, along with a ginormous organic kale salad with feta, good figs, almonds, and a pomegranate vinaigrette. I polished off much of it, but at a certain point just had to holler uncle. Oh it was delicious.

“All the writers keep writing what they write/Somewhere another pretty vein just dies/I’ve got the scars from tomorrow and I wish you could see/That you’re the antidote to everything except for me, me/A constellation of tears on your lashes/Burn everything you love, then burn the ashes/In the end everything collides/…So light ’em up, up, up/So light ’em up, up, up…”

FALL OUT BOY, My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark

It was almost dark when we got back to our room. I set out my running clothes and pinned by bib on my shirt. We bathed, and then Katie, Eric, and I spent time at our window looking out at the busy city below. We watched the taxis, the line of people waiting to watch the play next door to us, and we looked across at restaurants and other hotel windows. We could see inside of some a little bit, and I told my children about Rear Window. We watched people come and go, and it was completely one of my favorite moments in a weekend of favorite moments. (I told Bill several times that this weekend has to be one of my favorite ever in my life. It truly was perfect. I could not wish for more than this moment right here).

I read to our children, and from down below we could hear the piano and sax music rising from the lounge. Outside, the noises of the city were gentle and lulling. One of life’s pleasures is bedding down above a busy city, especially on a Saturday night. To hear all that life happening around me was so incredibly soothing and magical. The saxophone had such a retro feel to it, too. In another life, I would have liked to have lived for awhile in an apartment in a major city. That was not to be in this narrative, but I got to enjoy a piece of that universe last night, and I loved it. Thank you, my William, thank you!

“You chewed me up and spit me out/Like I was poison in your mouth/You took my light, you drained me down/But that was then and this is now/Now look at me/This is the part of me/That you’re never gonna ever take away from me, no/Throw your sticks and your stones,/Throw your bombs and your blows/But you’re not gonna break my soul…”

~KATY PERRY, Part of Me

This morning I woke up with my alarm at 5:30, read the news a bit, and got dressed. The 15K would start at 7:40ish, after the 5K waves finished. I waited until first light, ate my favorite pre-race fuel (I do not fuel on training runs, but for long race runs I do fuel), which is a ProBar Superfood Slam. I took on a bit of water, not too much. The babies were just waking up. I dressed Katie, and Eric had gone to bed in his comfy clothes to make for an easy transition. I kissed them all goodbye and began the walk to the starting line.

That walk in the early city light was another magical moment for me. I cherish solitariness. I watched a man mop in a closed restaurant that had probably been open most of the night. Runners came from various corners. The city was just beginning to wake up, or go to sleep, or both. The Coronado Bridge rose in the background. I started to get a lump in my throat knowing I was part of the same mindset as so many of these runners: people who make wild goals, put it all on the line, and define themselves by hard work just to prove something to themselves. I wish I had known this kind of secret happiness years ago…

“It’s funny how some distance/Makes everything seem small/And the fears that once controlled me/Can’t get to me at all/It’s time to see what I can do/To test the limits and break through/No right, no wrong, no rules for me/I’m free…Let it go/I’m one with the wind and sky…I’m never going back/The past is in the past/Let it go, let it go/And I’ll rise like the break of dawn…”

ADELE DAZIM, Let it Go (Just kidding, IDINA MENZEL)

By this time, my nerves were getting to me. They had been nudging at me all week, and last night as well, but I did not want to disappoint myself. I can put such pressure on myself, but that pressure also has enabled me to achieve most of my goals in life. Bill is such a loving husband, and an superb coach, and he urged me to be gentle with myself mentally and to rely on my hard work and training. Just run, we repeated together all week. Just run. I start getting all neurotic, though. My thoughtful friend Steve texted me last night to wish me luck and poor man had to hear about how freaked out I was that my legs might not work in the morning. (I always harp on this one, but they always work…what the heck). This morning as I walked the blocks alone I kept repeating the words of Kara Goucher, “Feel the joy that is running.” Feel the joy that is running.

And then? As if out of nowhere right as I entered the runner’s area, I saw my DAD! He had come all that way so early in the morning. I wish he knew how much the sight of his happy face buoyed my heart right up. Just his presence helped me remember my joy, and to remember how watching him run his first half turned me from a runner into a runner with some wild racing goals of her own. I remembered why I loved to run, and what I felt—proud—watching him cross that half marathon line. And to feel his support in those last moments was just what I needed.

I lined up in my corral, J, which was assigned to the elite runners by the times we had entered when we registered. It was to be the first corral to take off for the 15K. I know—it’s still crazy and improbable to me, too. Elite runner? I’m just going with it, folks.

“Freedom/I let go of fear and the peace came quickly/Freedom/I was in the dark and then it hit me/I chose suffering and pain in the falling rain/I know, I gotta get out into the world again/…And now I will start living today, today, today/I close the door/I got this new beginning, and I will fly/I’ll fly like a cannonball, like a cannonball, like a cannonball/I’ll fly, I’ll fly, I’ll fly like a cannonball…”
~LEA MICHELE, Cannonball

I steadied myself, and then the gun. I raced with everything I had. Leave it all here, I told myself. Get up those hills, and get that first half done. Our wave thinned way out, very quickly. I jockeyed for position with some guys. Three women were ahead of me, and I picked one off… but by the second mile, she had resumed her lead on me. She would go on to win it for the ladies. The three women ahead of me for most of the race maintained their pace and lead. Mostly I was trading places with three men. I can run hills fairly steadily, since I train on nothing but hills. I remembered what my friend Jim had told me about hills. And even though I went out fast, I was so grateful for Bill’s interval training. I know what it feels like to hit the anaerobic state. I was flirting with it, but holding myself off just a bit, keeping the length of the race in mind.

Our times were at every mile marker. By the Mile 4 marker, I knew I was slaughtering this race in terms of my own goals going into it. By the Mile 6 marker, I knew that even if I slowed down to my comfy training pace, I would have my own goals in the bag. So I kept pushing harder instead, because that’s who I am. I never took any water, or any offerings of chocolate at the stations during this race. I don’t take water when I train on 9-10 miles, and it just would slow me down here.

It wasn’t until the last mile that things got REALLY interesting in the race. I had been the 4th place woman for miles. I was rounding the second to last corner, and one of the men cheering called to me specifically, “NUMBER FIVE IS RIGHT BEHIND YOU!!” It was super motivating. I love that man, whomever he was. I never even saw his face. I put on speed, and then the woman caught me at the last curve. She is a 59-year-old marathoner who, I think, is totally awesome. As competitive as I am with myself, when I see someone else do something brilliant I genuinely celebrate. I can run all day, but I am still learning the art of racing. Morris came in right at that last curve—man, she knew what she was doing, holy cow—and squeaked by me. When I tried to regain the inner line, she used her body to completely shut me out. I had to go outside of her, and by the time I finished that she put on her kick and was OUTTA THERE. It was beautiful, actually. I had talked with her momentarily at the starting line. I remembered looking into her clear eyes and thinking: There is a woman who has run all her life and has the sparkling eyes of youth. I want to be that, too, someday. And then to have her pull a racing move on me at the end? I am so inspired by her. I wish I could tell her this without looking nuts.

I have so much to learn about racing. Running I can do, right? But racing is different. There are things to know. I spent most of my run trying to suck in as much information as I could from the other elites in front of me. How did they take curves? When do they split the line? How do they work hills? How much kick do they save? I viewed this race—my third ever—as an opportunity to learn from those who were better.

The crazy part is that the first place woman who took it for our gender was 20 secs per mile faster than I was, which is a couple of minutes or so. I have improved by more than that in my own pace since my October half. It is time to stay serious and focused about shaving off some more time from my pace. I think this is a reasonable goal for me. This race has only made me hungrier for more difficult goals. Never settle.

As I crossed the finish line, the announcer called me out as the 5th place woman, of any age. I couldn’t believe it. But I could. Because consistent and prioritized hard work really does pay off. And because my coach is so smart about what he asks me to do. He knows his craft. And he knows me. And I listen.

I love running because there is really no way to cheat. If you work hard and push, it shows. If a person tries to cheat herself, or misses runs, it shows. Running is such a pure sport. Although road racing is not the most objective way to run (a track is pretty pure), running itself can be a highly objective sport. That is so much of its appeal, to me. I changed as a runner when I started keeping accurate account of times, routes, and mileage. The numbers can be muddied by some variables (stoplights, etc.), but not by much. I love its objectivity. This particular race means a great deal to me, but it will mean MORE next year when I run it again to see how much I improve on this particular course. Still, the numbers today made me proud and, more importantly, give me the inner motivation to keep going for better.

“Do you remember the days/We built these paper mountains/And sat and watched them burn?/I think I found my place/Can’t you feel it growing stronger?/Little conquerors/I’m learning to walk again/I believe I’ve waited long enough/Where do I begin?/I’m learning to talk again/I believe I’ve waited long enough/Where do I begin?/…To keep alive a moment at a time/But still inside a whisper to a riot…”

~FOO FIGHTERS, Walk

When I crossed the finish line, I felt emotion fill my entire body. For the next several hours, I would tear up and randomly cry a bit just thinking about the race and the sheer elation that comes with conquering a massive goal, thinking about how fortunate I am to be alive, feeling grateful for my family, and reflecting on how a fateful day in June 2012 when I decided to absolutely change myself come hell or high water had led to this moment…this moment, of feeling fit and healthy for myself and my family. This moment, of proving to myself that life is as vibrant as I dare to live it. This moment, of being absolutely alive. I think of all the times I got up to train when I didn’t exactly feel like it…worth it, worth it, worth it.

“Well I’m not a trick you play,/I’m wired a different way/I’m not a mistake,/I’m not a fake,/It’s set in my DNA/Don’t change me/Don’t change me/Don’t change me/Don’t change me/(I can’t be tamed)/I wanna fly,/I wanna drive,/I wanna go/I wanna be a part of something I don’t know/And if you try to hold me back I might explode/Baby, by now you should know/I can’t be tamed/I can’t be saved…”

~MILEY CYRUS, Can’t Be Tamed

I saw a friend of mine from my teaching credential courses at the finish line. She has a decorated running past, and her husband is a runner who maintains an awesome running blog that I read. I loved seeing her there, and reconnecting in this sphere. It was a special moment. I then found my husband, my dad, and my children. We went to get the finisher’s mug, filled with chocolate loveliness. We shared it, then went to our hotel. I changed, and we went for a proper breakfast at an Irish pub.

Home again in Temecula, I unpacked, washed and put away some laundry, and took the kiddos to the park. And basically ate leftover chocolate chip pancakes all day. Back on the clean path tomorrow!

Now, some (or way too many) pictures from this weekend:

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Our room in the Victorian-meets-a-bit-of-Italy room

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View from our room, from one window. The other window looked down the street the other way.

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Walking to the Hot Chocolate Expo at the Concourse

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EXPO! We sampled a bit of hot chocolate, but there weren’t too many vendors there really. The Long Beach Expo is about three or four times bigger.

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Selfie with my favorite coach at the expo

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Racing swag bag…loving the warm-up hoody!

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In the courtyard of the Horton Grand

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Bill did an EXCELLENT job choosing this hotel for us. I loved it, was gaga over it really.

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My loading-up dinner!

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Walking back to our hotel after dinner

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“Feel the joy that is running.” (Kara Goucher)

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My family was there to cheer me on, and there is nothing like that feeling…

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Selfie while waiting for the start

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Corral J: No walkers. This business just got real. No pressure. 🙂

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Thousands of people!

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Blowing a kiss to Eric and Katie while Eric points to Mommy!

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Head down, getting my mind focused on my legs and doing a system check while grounding myself to Earth and remembering: I have trained. The hard work will pay off. Just run. Just run.

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Eric cheers!

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Finisher’s mug! Hot chocolate in the middle, and a little side container of hot chocolate sauce, along with a banana, pretzels, a rice crispie treat, a marshmallow, and graham crackers.

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Back in mama-mode: sharing the contents of the finisher’s mug! Concentrating on even and fair distribution!

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Thank you, my William, for this birthday present, for your love, for your belief in me, and for your superb coaching. We make an amazing team, you and I.

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Ready for check-out after breakfast

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A walk to the park and building roads in the sand together

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Playing hide-n-seek with some boys we met at the park… I snapped this right as Katie happened to find me!

“I’m in the race, but I’ve already won/And getting there can be half the fun/So don’t stop me until I’m good and done/…Perfect day, it’s the perfect day/It’s the perfect day/Nothing’s gonna bring me down/I could stay forever as I am/On this perfect day/Nothing’s standing in my way/On this perfect day, when nothing can go wrong…”

~HOKU, Perfect Day

This has been one of the best few days in my whole life. I am so thankful and so over-the-moon about how my race turned out. Consistent hard work, discipline, and sheer tenacious will make all the difference.

I have the Carlsbad 5000 a week from today. It is the fastest 5K in the world, and Bernard Lagat will be there racing. I don’t have expectations set for myself as yet. Bill has me speedworking this week, but in truth, my strengths do not reside in the short distances. I am a long distance runner. But. It is a race experience, and I want to get a benchmark time on this course this year so I can have an objective standard by which to measure myself next year. Time to get my head in THAT game!

“There are places I remember/All my life/Though some have changed/Some forever, not for better/Some have gone, and some remain…”

I am three years old and visiting my Grandpa Don Matics at the Island Market on Balboa Island. I am looking at a comic book while he looks over the produce of his store, once his parents’ store, and later my father’s and uncle’s store. My mom and I take the ferry across the bay that day, the ferry my dad used to pilot when he was in college. My mom used to take him dinner on that ferry and talk through the night, before they were married.

I am six years old and visiting my Grandma and Grandpa Yoder at the Newport Beach house on Christmas Eve, also along that same bay. My cousin Jed and I sing Silent Night in front of the Christmas tree.

I am nine years old, and my dad takes me to work with him at the Island Grill, next to the store, in the Matics building. We grill burgers, dip chocolate covered frozen bananas, and sizzle up fries all day. We eat lunch on the seawall along the bayfront, in the spot where Grandpa Don eats his lunch almost every day. I love working the restaurant with my dad. My great-grandparents once worked a restaurant out of the same place.

My dad and I take a bike ride around the bay once when I am young. When we move from Yorba Linda to Temecula, I bring my new friend to the beach, and I am tumbled by the biggest wave I ever boarded. There are barbecues of kabobs on the patio of Grandpa Yoder’s house. My cousin Beth, the first of all of us to be married, has her bachelorette celebration on the island. Years go by, and I have my babies. Katie gets to meet Grandpa Don, barely. She has three years with Grandpa Yoder. Eric has three months. Katie and Eric play in the Matics building and sit on the seawall and ride the ferry to the Fun Zone. The Matics-Lambert-Horne Family sells the Matics building. The Yoders keep the house, and I visit once, but then two years go by.

The connection to this place of two of my three grandfathers dwindles to memory. I regret the loss for my children of knowing this bay, beach, and island the way I have known it. I regret the distance they will have from this piece of their family history, if a sense of history is partly determined by place. Our family has been part of this place for five generations; the last time I ever saw Grandpa Don, he was telling me stories about the people, it seemed, in nearly every house or business on the bay.

Within a month of selling the Matics building last year, MLH sells the family avocado grove in rural Valley Center. The places of my childhood—our childhood, with my cousins—are gone from us. There is mourning. Can my children ever be anchored to these places of their history?

The history is not all rosy. The island represents years of hard work and long hours for many members of my family. I remember my dad, in particular, in the ’80s. I am not sure I ever knew a harder worker. In the summers, he must have been on his feet for over twelve hours a day, every day. I know there were times he wanted out, but he gave his every bit of energy to the larger family and for his young and growing family. I am not sure the island was a vacation spot for him, the way it was for all of us in the next generation. I am sure it wasn’t. Like the Yoders, the Matics family built everything they had from the ground up, through hard work, through the entire efforts of their bodies and minds. I often feel that my generation reaps so much of the benefit without having to experience the back-breaking: no matter how hard we might work, and we do, we aren’t doing what my grandparents and great-grandparents did and building ourselves from nothing. Knowing that is enough to keep me working as hard as I can every day at what I do, while still knowing I will never quite reach the standard set before me.

So Newport Beach and Balboa Island have been translated from one generation to the next. The way I read those places is not the same way my dad reads them. When he was growing up, he had a little fishing boat. To ever imagine owning any other kind of boat would have been met with faces aghast from my great-grandparents and grandparents. Maticses just don’t do that: spending money on luxury items and taking time away from working to cruise around. Did I mention before that we like to be setting goals and working almost constantly? We do. It’s an obsession with us, and a heritage of which I am very proud.

When my dad and mom bought a boat a few weeks ago, it was a chance to translate the beach and bay one more time for the next generation. Katie and Eric will not know the place the way their great-great grandparents knew it, or their great-grandparents, or even their grandparents, or even the way I knew it. Almost all that was tradition, from people to places, are out of our reach now. The people have passed, the building is gone. The Yoder house still remains, and it is almost appointed exactly as it was when my Grandpa Yoder passed. For now, my parents have been able to dock their boat at his dock. Walking in on this sunny morning and taking in the familiar scent of that house and seeing my kiddos’ pictures just the way they were as a newborn and at 3-years-old made me mourn again for times that are far past now. I missed not only my grandfather, but my cousin’s ex-wife with whom I am no longer in contact, and all the times we used to bring our toddler girls there to visit him and play on the floor by his bed in the family room. Even though it looked so much the same, I found that the unchanged state only underscored to me the necessity of adaptation and acceptance of an evolving narrative. We have to be willing to imagine old places in new ways and to acknowledge that it is the act of constant change and, yes, loss that keep our narrative moving forward. It was a sad, but revelatory, moment for me.

My dad and I have talked much about how different will be Katie and Eric’s connection to, and memories of, the bay. This fifth generation is going to have such a unique experience here. Newport Beach and Balboa Island will be only a place of play, for them. It almost boggles my imagination to think so, but coming at this from an English lit major’s point of view I will say that this is our opportunity to reinvent/translate/reimagine this place in a completely new way. I am excited to be along for the ride, frankly, although I did nothing to earn it. My great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents earned this luxury, and I am profoundly grateful to all of them for letting me be part of it.

And today? Today we played:

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My mom and Katie are ready for adventures on Open Gate

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Eric takes a selfie

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It was a beautiful day to cruise on the bayliner

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Looking for seals (we found some sunning on a buoy)

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Looking at the old Matics building by the ferry…so much history there, so very much…

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I loved driving this boat. Loved it. The speed on the open water is thrilling! And yet also, strangely, meditative… I could be content driving a boat for hours.

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Someone else loved driving the boat with Boppa, too. This little guy was SO excited this morning when he woke up. It’s boating day!

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We were all screaming and cheering with delight at ripping over the ocean. This boat goes FAST!

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Excited for speed!

So, yeah: remember how I mentioned my wanderlust in the mountains? It applies to oceans, too. Our intention today was to give the kiddos an introductory boating experience: cruise the bay, go out into open water for about thirty minutes, come back in, call it a day. But when we saw how close we were to Catalina, my dad and I had a bit of a confab. We could get there today, easily, we realized. The island called to us, what can I say? I get caught up in adventure…But my dad and I egg each other on in this respect… So then we thought, let’s just drive by the island.. and the next thing we knew: we were sand docking at Catalina. And getting out to shore. With bathing suits.

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Catalina!

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I was nine-years-old the last time I was on this beach.

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With the casino building in the background of Avalon… Let me just say: this getting on a boat and going anywhere-you-want business is very addicting. And the learning? Oh man, the learning of how to read the compass and charts and calculate our course is VERY addicting. I love learning this new language. Love it.

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Happy boy loves the boat! He kept egging us on to go faster…

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Driving home from Catalina Island

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I got to drive us about halfway home and turned the boat into the jetty. I am still not brave enough to navigate in the bay as yet. I have this fear that I will knock over a paddle-boarder.

We got some gas and headed back to the Yoder house dock, and started for home about 7:30 PM. Such a memorable, amazing day. My adventurer’s heart is still feeling the thrill!

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
-ROALD DAHL

At an elevation of 8500+ feet, we discovered a mountain world above the Palm Springs desert last Friday. I had been scoping the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway for several weeks when I serendipitously discovered that our charter school happened to be offering a field trip there this spring. Although I have hiked just a bit around California, I had never ascended the tramway up Chino Canyon to the Mount San Jacinto State Park. We must have been extremely close to the backside of the mountain we see from Idyllwild.

I was not even five minutes into the tram ride when I was, true to form, exclaiming that this was the coolest thing ever. The sheer cliffs transform before your very eyes, now sporting desert plants and suddenly hosting pine trees and large patches of snow. You can see the wind turbines lining the desert below, as well as the manmade oasis that is Palm Springs. Adding to the enchantment, the tramway has a charming retro feel: even the tickets have the look of something from the 1960s.

When we reached the top, the cold last-of-real-winter air had us dashing to the restroom to put on more layers. Although we had missed intercepting snow in Idyllwild this February, snow covered large patches of the forest in abundance here. We hiked through the butterscotch and vanilla scented air, weaving a trail around Jeffrey pines. We hiked every labeled trail, and then some.

I say now with all seriousness that I am never, never, never to go hiking on my own. I know fully better, yet I cannot resist straying off trail and following my heart and curiosity around from beauty to beauty. I am like Merida following the Will-O-the-Wisps in Brave, truly. I just want to reach that rock. I just want to see that tree. Let’s just go a bit higher. Thankfully my mom, who was with us, and a sense of motherly responsibility for not losing my kiddos in the mountains were the only two factors that kept me remotely grounded and sensible about staying within sight of the Adventure Station so we could get back on trail. I might need to invest in some hiking gear and learn the art a bit better and more thoroughly, so that my wanderlust is not the death of me. It is both my strength, and my weakness, to trust in the beauty of things.

But I am not at all sorry we strayed a bit. We were able to find a solitary spot on a hill, surrounded by rocks and snow in soft blankets with just enough of a sunny spot to spread out and stay warm while having our lunch and listening to nature.

Our imaginations then took hold, as they so often do when we quiet our minds and let the beauty of nature fill us up. My mom, the kiddos, and I started pretending: what if we lived right here in our spot among the rocks and pines? Where would our table be? Where would our kitchen be? Would we store our food in the snow drift right there? Where would we sleep? Where would our cooking fire be? What would we make? We played at this for quite some time, and Katie gathered materials to make a pretend dinner. We loved our secret little forest home, off the trail somewhere special in our memories. It has been almost a week since we went on our field trip, and Katie and Eric are still talking about the magic there. Eric has told me many times that he is eager to go back on the tram to our ice palace. Me, too, buddy…me, too. Nature renews, and we are reminded of how connected we are to all living things through our shared DNA, even to the pines. How amazing an event that we are even here right now in this universe.

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Contentment: resting on the forest floor in the scented air, the sun warming us, my baby on my lap safe and close while I breathe in the day and close my eyes for a moment. I smile at this picture, since I could easily be a mama gorilla here, as well as a human mother. There is mirth in the connectedness of the primate order.

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Climbing on the rocks in our special spot…

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Honey sticks! These kiddos love hiking food as much as I do: Clif Bars, honey sticks, vegan chocolate cookie to share, trail mix, peanut butter/almond butter, fruit… healthy food tastes delicious anytime, but especially when hiking and feeling the elements around us. Here, Eric is sitting on a rock at our lunch spot.

 

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Golden afternoon

 

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Tram ride up the mountain at the start of the day

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Katie took a break mid-hike to give us her rendition of “What Does the Fox Say?” Love my goofy girl!

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Snow!

 

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With my adventurers at the desert view notch on one of the trails… How could Earth possibly be more beautiful? There is so much to explore and to appreciate! I think we found a new favorite place.

“You’ll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind.”

IRISH PROVERB

Approaching St. Patrick’s Day this year, I found myself lacking a bit of inspiration and oomph to make the holiday memorable. St. Patrick’s Day has always been a minor holiday for me, a bit too close to Easter on some years, and since Bill and I do not ever drink alcohol, we find ourselves a bit on the sidelines of the modern St. Patrick’s Day ethos. Curiously, the kiddos have strong Irish lines on both sides of their family: Bill has traced his ancestry extensively. The first William McGaugh in America was from Ireland, a farmer who fought alongside George Washington. My strawberry blonde, blue and hazel eyed babies seem to preserve some of this lineage, and so it is a wonder that we aren’t a little more into the holiday. In some ways, we celebrate Irish culture a bit more around Christmastime.

Still, over the years a bit of a tradition has developed for the wee McGaughs: we make Irish soda bread, a rainbow fruit salad, and broccoli soup (we don’t much go in for the corned beef and cabbage—I like it all right, but am mostly vegetarian-minded now, and the kiddos and Bill don’t care for it) and watch The Wizard of Oz. We usually do an Irish craft and listen to our St. Patrick’s Day playlist.

I had the makings of our dinner, but no other inspiration this year until seriously the last possible minute. I had the start of a cold, my mind is focused on my 15K this coming Sunday (very important to me, a big test in my mind of my training and hard work), and Katie happened to be scheduled for her back teeth sealants on St. Patrick’s Day morning.

So it wasn’t until lunchtime, over a cup of Irish tea and a slice of Dubliner cheese, that I started thinking more in earnest about our St. Patrick’s Day dinner plans. We had invited my mom and dad over to share our bread, soup, fruit, and mint chip ice cream, but I had no table laid out and no crafts ready to go. Katie and I brainstormed together about how we could decorate. I had been stressing a little bit because I was wishing I had gathered some St. Patrick’s Day decor for our table and planned a bit more, but then I decided to delve into the challenge of decorating without buying anything new and to enjoy the creative process that comes from setting such parameters. Something she said sparked the idea of “I am thankful and lucky because…” placemat making. We found our leprechaun hat we made from a couple of years ago, and put it on a green serving plate. We cut out shamrocks, and I pulled out my light green runner. We happened to find a long dark green Williams-Sonoma ribbon that was exactly the length of the table, and we put it on top of the runner. Happily, I had some orange cups leftover from Eric’s first birthday party, and they held our markers. In February we had just purchased green tapers from our favorite candle makers up in Idyllwild.

In short, it all came together. I am usually the anti-procrastinator, but I have learned that waiting until the last minute sometimes works quite well, too, as it forces creativity out in a different way.

And it was merry.

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Eric and Katie made Irish soda bread together, while we listened to Celtic music as well as old favorites like The Proclaimers, The Cranberries, U2, and Damien Rice.

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We made Blarney Stone friends, watched some information on the Blarney Stone, and talked about the gift of rhetoric (I had written a really nerdy paper on the Blarney Stone in college, looking at some primary source documents).

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The kiddos and the other adults decorated their “I am thankful and lucky because…” placemats while they waited for dinner to be served. Our rainbow fruit salad is a favorite every year.

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Laughter and smiles for Katie and her Amie

And the truth is? I am still not personally much into St. Patrick’s Day. Wearing a bit of green would be enough for me. But St. Patrick’s Day means something to my children, and that’s enough of a reason for me to enjoy it at this point. Who doesn’t like the magic of a little extra-special day once in awhile? Katie talks about our St. Patrick’s Day dinner and traditions as soon as it becomes March, and those traditions are one way to anchor their childhood for them. For now, I want my children in the land of dreams and light, a place where magic moments can happen, the lullaby of their young lives:

“Somewhere over the rainbow/Way up high/There’s a land that I heard of/Once in a lullaby/Somewhere over the rainbow/Skies are blue/And the dreams that you dare to dream/Really do come true…”

 

 

We have a laboratory in our house. Cupboards and drawers hold measuring tools. There are instruments for fine incisions. Books containing step by step procedures for changing states of matter and combining particles into mixtures line up like sentinels at the ready along one workspace. We have burners and faucets; we have tools that break large pieces of matter into smaller pieces. Test subjects wait on couches and in chairs just outside of our lab.

We have an art studio in our house. Several storage units hold materials in all shades and hues of pigments. We can arrange colors into familiar or unfamiliar shapes. When we present work from our studio, we think about form and line and space. We make fanciful works of art, as well as serious ones. Sometimes we throw whatever materials we have together to see what emerges on our surface.

Our laboratory and art studio are the same room. We often read poetic language in this room, and sometimes we write our own. We practice math in this room, too.

I’ve written before about the use of our kitchen as one of our favorite learning spaces. Math, science, language arts, critical thinking, life skills, even (occasionally, if I bring the research) some history: it’s all here. I often think of our kitchen as our “life lab,” a place where often the most highly contextualized learning takes place. Our kitchen is the place in which to experiment. It is a place where Katie and Eric have been encouraged to be autonomous from the beginning of their lives.

Bill and I cherish autonomy and independent thinking in our children. We want them to find their abilities and to celebrate being capable people who need us  to do as little as possible when it comes to self-care. We encourage them, even push them, to fight for their independence. The good fight. I don’t mean to sass us or to be disrespectful; I do often tell them, however, that I want them to be as independent as possible and that, in our family culture, it is not appropriate to ask others to do work for us, if we could do that work for ourselves. We should not want to live off the productivity of others. Favors are one thing; servitude is another. Working hard and proving oneself capable is a source of self-worth, we believe.

So I have been extremely proud of Katie, as I always am, for her recent strides toward autonomy and self-sufficiency. One advantage to taking a rest day from running on Saturday mornings is that the kiddos have some time downstairs without me hovering around and running the cruise ship. I stay in bed for just a bit, and Katie and Eric have time with their dad, time to use iPads, time to watch cartoons, and time to invent.

Katie has been making little food items for herself and others for awhile, but lately at age six, she has really pushed herself to excel and learn even moreso.

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A few weeks ago, I came downstairs and she had made—from scratch, entirely on her own, with NO recipe and just her own understanding of the process—some cupcakes.

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She has made numerous snacks for our daily morning snack time and recess. Pictured above are Katie’s Banana Bites.

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One afternoon she was reading a book about a tea that inspired her to make an afternoon snack for us: ladybug cookies (she used some of the leftover graham cookies from Miette as the base) and goat milk yogurt and honey dip for apples (I did cut the apples). What she does here, she does on her own. If I am not in bed on a Saturday morning, I have been either teaching Eric or doing chores like putting away laundry. Yes, she uses food dye on her own. She gets into the flour, sugar, salt, anything she needs—on her own. She uses knives I have deemed appropriate based on her skill level—on her own.

Shortly after this snack, she became really enthusiastic about putting on a tea for lunch one afternoon for the three of us. Okay, let’s do it, I said. What do you need, I said. The sneaky English teacher in me said, write down the ingredients during Eric’s art class. She also ended up writing out her menu. We could also easily turn this into any number of English assignments, actually.

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After Eric’s art class, we went shopping at the corner market. We came home, finished up a couple of assignments, and then I turned her loose. L.O.O.S.E. I can’t emphasize that enough. No one can experiment properly with a helicopter parent buzzing around. When she gets into her zone, she hums and sings and is so happy. Who am I to intrude? She did ask for help a few times, and this was the extent of what I did: cut her apples, showed her the steps for whipping cream in the Kitchen Aid, cut the celery, got out the rolling pin and showed her the steps for making her pinwheels she had read about. The rest was all her.

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She made: ants on a log, strawberry jam pinwheels, more goat yogurt dip (dyed blue this time), raisin-date bread triangles with cream cheese and bananas (she cut the bread herself, squares into triangles—MATH!), circular tea sandwiches with proscuitto and watercress, and strawberries dipped in whipped cream with sprinkles. She was at it for awhile, and Eric and I were starving by the time the tea was ready…but it was so worth the wait.

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Katie’s tea party, made by Katie

After posting some of these pictures on Facebook, I received several public and private messages about how Katie had arrived at this point in her young life. I certainly don’t have all the answers to raising children or even training children to cook at such a young age: I think it partly depends on the passions and interests of the child, truly. But I do know, also, that there were choices I did make to facilitate her growth in this area, and that those choices were thought-out and deliberate. I don’t know if those ideas will have the same net result with Eric…who knows? And certainly my mom also helped by baking frequently with Katie. I can think of several times last year when my mom watched Katie and they made cookies…by making up recipes on the fly. My mom is brilliant at things like that, and she helped instill the process and knowledge of possibility in Katie’s mind in that regard. Here are some other ideas:

1. When Katie was 3, I cleaned out a whole bottom cabinet, as well as low shelves in both the pantry and the fridge. I stocked the cabinet with her cutlery, a basket of napkins, plates, placemats—anything she would need to set up her snacks, meals, or to help set the table. On reachable shelves were also her snack items, or items that could be turned into a snack with a bit of preparation. Our children must always, always ask permission to have a snack, but I wanted to have something in place for her to grab if that permission was granted. So, in short, she felt the kitchen was highly accessible and that she was expected to know how to participate in its workings.

2. Both children, since they were newborns, have cooked with me. They would be on the counter in a car carrier. Worn  in my Bjorn. Held on my hip with one hand while I cooked with the other hand. Sat on the deep counters when they could sit. I always had them with me and always used the opportunity to narrate anything I was doing, all the steps, what colors things were, information about the science behind what we were doing. It didn’t matter to me if it didn’t all sink in: this was a chance to build vocabulary, to practice steps and descriptions of processes, to hear the basics of things like fractions and why baking soda reacts with other items a certain way, why we make pie crust the way we do to make it flaky when it heats up, etc. Talk, talk, talk. And have them present. I rarely, if ever, put them on the floor when I was cooking. We didn’t own things like bouncers or walkers. My philosophy is that, when young, they were to be with me doing whatever it is I was doing….so they could learn. Washing the car? You wash it with me. Banking? On my hip so you can hear how it is done. Doing laundry? You put in the soap. You close the doors. Of course there are times when I just need to zoom through something, but most of the time, if they could be with me…they were. And I would ask them to do whatever was age appropriate. Even if it meant a mess. Which leads me to…

3. I don’t care about mess in the name of learning. I keep a clean house for the most part. I dislike dirty floors. I vacuum almost daily. But I don’t care about mess when we’re working on something. And if I start to care, I tell myself not to and stay quiet about it. I can get to it when we’re done. Not when we’re doing art. Not when we’re cooking. Not when we’re doing a science experiment. Learning IS messy. Children, when they are creating, are messy. There will be chaos. It won’t all be “correctly” done. But in my philosophy of teaching, that does not matter. Look, I have seen numerous parents in my son’s art class who want to do the project for the kids. Oh, is that you at age 33 able to do a project designed for a 2-4 year old age range? Good for you. What about letting the child do it? Sometimes I want to scratch my eyeballs out, seriously. Please, for the love of all that is good, we are not making museum-worthy heirlooms, people. Back off, please. Children need a chance to practice, without interference. If they are confused about a step in the directions, sure, by all means model it once or twice until they get it. But what they produce is good enough. More importantly, it is an important marker of where they are and what skills they have at this moment in time. That snapshot of what they are able to produce ON THEIR OWN is significant information. How can we measure growth if we insist on putting our hands on their art and making it look like we think it should? By the same token, if Eric helps me polish the wood at home, do I hurry right over it with my rag? No…we talk about it. He gets chances to keep improving at it. It’s always been the same in the kitchen.

4. Whenever my children help me in the kitchen, they are given ability-level tasks to do, from the get-go. They measure. They pour. They crack eggs. They miss…flour goes places…egg goo gets on the counter… Their legs get covered in whatever we’re working on. But they do it. Practice, practice, practice. I let them help. As Type A as I can be, I also know when not to be Type A and can hold it back. It is more important that they learn, in my view, than that things stay neat or that they have to be done my way. I can always clean up later. They have to have time and room to get good at cooking. How will they get good at it if they are not allowed to be chaotic at it first?

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”
CHINESE PROVERB

Just as in a classroom, the homeschool model can drag a bit right past the holidays as everyone looks toward the long months ahead until June. The long stretch can be a godsend with respect to making steady strides in curriculum, but it can also be…a long stretch. When I taught advanced placement courses, the May AP tests felt like a sprint starting in March, the quieter and subdued months of January and February behind us. I read an article (citations sorely needed here, I know) claiming that outside of the first month, February-ish is the second most popular time that families consider quitting the homeschool model. Although that is not currently a consideration at the McGaugh Academy, the January-February duo can be a dreary time in or out of the traditional classroom.

How do we take proactive measures to stay the course during this time at the McGaugh Academy?

1. Exercise, play, and study in as much outdoor daylight as possible.

2. Get involved. Katie and Eric started their wish list of extra-curricular activities after Christmas: horseback riding for Katie, gymnastics and art classes for both. I will explain more about why we found now a good time to pick back up with some of our passions, as opposed to the beginning of this year.

3. Schedule field trips/excursions.

4. Pick an external study location and commit to visiting it at least once a week if possible, as something to anticipate.

5. Keep to the structure established in the beginning of the year: exercise time, start time, snack time, recess, procedures. Structure is my friend. It’s not everyone’s friend, and that’s fine…but having a structure has saved our particular homeschool model so many times.

Here are some (okay, several) pictures from our past couple of months here at the McGaugh Academy. We work on math and language arts every day, and we alternate between science and history. We try for an art enrichment project once a week in our home (usually Fridays), though we did go through a bit of a dry patch around the holidays. Sometimes we  work on the weekends, or have “double days” when we know we’re going somewhere special during the week. We have grown better at working in the car, and the kiddos are now to the point of being able to work, read, and support each other at each other’s extra-curricular activities. Eric is old enough for one independent class and one mommy-helps class; Katie, of course, is entirely independent. Because we worked to establish protocols at the beginning of the year, and because we have a year under us already (plus all the unofficial preschool years), we feel seasoned enough to study and learn anywhere, which has been so freeing this semester. We were hesitant to schedule much in the beginning of the year, both for personal family reasons (wanting to keep our schedule free to visit ailing family members) and for wanting to play it cautiously as we made the leap from Kindergarten to the more substantial first grade material. We also wanted our kiddos to start becoming more vocal about which activities THEY wanted to do. The timing seemed to work out just about right here…

A snapshot of what we’ve been up to the past two months (by no means exhaustive, just some highlights):

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More science labs: making clouds and investigating aspects of the water cycle as we finished a unit on Earth science

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Art enrichment: decoupage

 

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Katie’s first drama class and drama performance in “Robin Hood”

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Katie started horseback riding lessons…

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…and she really loves riding!

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We try to take some math (usually a spiral review packet) to the local coffee shop once a week

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We spent several days augmenting our yearly study of Lunar New Year with literature, hands-on activities like bamboo arrangement, and a dumpling making party with a big group of best friends in Los Angeles

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We feel strongly that some of our best learning is done in the community, and our particular community has SO MANY resources just waiting to be tapped into. Both children are now old enough for Painted Earth, a pottery painting studio in town. We have gone on our own, and we also took a class in which the teacher taught them how to paint owl mugs. This particular class spanned both of their ages, so it really was perfect. Now that Eric is a bit older, we are hitting this golden time of finding activities they both can do. It’s wonderful, really, to watch them together, and I am fully enjoying them at this age.

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Finished owl mugs: hot chocolate and cuddles

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Eric started his gymnastics class! Katie and I work on math (typically) while Eric has his class nearby. When it is Katie’s turn in the afternoon, Eric and I spend time reading and working on his literacy and reading skills. What I have found at this stage with them is that having them in independent extracurriculars allows me sacred one-on-one time with each of them, while the other one still feels supported as we cheer and smile and wave from nearby.

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Katie loves her gymnastics class, too

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We moved on to physical science this month: studying states of matter. That has been a popular science topic with Katie and Eric! A fun one!

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Eric has made strides in his confidence in his weekly art class. In this first picture, Katie is hugging him and encouraging him to go up to present. She works on other work while Eric works on his project, but she joins us for circle time and she always goes up with him—-because the first week, he didn’t want to go up by himself. For all the flack that homeschoolers sometimes receive about this mythic “socialization” business (a criticism that really pushes all my buttons for a number of serious logical and philosophical reasons, and one day I am going to let loose and absolutely rant on my blog I’m afraid), I am so thankful to get to witness my older child mentoring my younger child to a position of self-strength in an academic and social setting. Mixed-aged groups are incredibly powerful tools, whether the children are related or not, and mixed-aged groups more realistically mirror actual workplace environments. But, let me stay on track here. 😉

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This picture was taken last week, and Eric ran up to share his project with the class. See his face? So proud and happy. What was even better? Watching him clap with all his big heart for all the other kids who presented after him. He’s getting the procedure here, and he loves his class.

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Practicing pointillism in art class

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Putting her recent language arts skills to use without being asked or prompted, Katie wrote a letter to her grand-aunt, my Aunt Donna, who is currently in the hospital for a serious (but recoverable) condition. Katie and Eric were not allowed in the ICU, but I went with my parents the night before our trip to San Francisco last week. When Katie found out she was not going to be able to visit, she went into our backyard, picked a bunch of flowers, wrote this card, drew pictures, and told me to give Aunt Donna a kiss for her. My big-hearted girl. Her letter writing is also coming along! I have also had her practice writing to favorite fictional characters.

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And Eric’s phonemic awareness and sight word recognition is coming along, too. He is on pace to start reading around the age that Katie did (4.5 years), but every child has variations. I can tell he wants to read, though, and is manifesting pre-reading cues almost daily. We’re working on getting you there, little buddy. Anyway, he spelled all of these words and can read them. He needed an assist with sounding out a couple of them, but did the rest on his own.

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When Katie is taking her riding lessons, Eric and I hang out in the car. Sometimes we draw, or read, or look at the car manual. Looking at the car manual is one of his favorite things to do. We played a fun scavenger hunt game with the idiot lights this week. I would show him a light in the manual and he would have to find it (car was on in battery mode).  He loved that game! It’s fun to see what we can come up with in a small environment to learn and to entertain ourselves…

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Katie started an art class, and they are studying Matisse. The teacher is a Google-able artist herself, and I think Katie is going to grow in this class. She even has homework, and like a true child of mine, is thrilled about that fact. Yay, nerdy genes, yay!

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At home, we included Eric in the conversation about Matisse, looking up more of his work and then working on a Matisse-inspired project. We studied positive and negative space, and we tried to use typical Matisse shapes. It was also a way to connect our symmetry studies in math to artwork.

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Near Valentine’s Day, Katie worked on her own little project, using her handprint and footprints as part of her spelling of “LOVE.”

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Eric’s yearlong project of an alphabet book is coming along. We finished “Pp for pumpkin” this week. Ten more to go! I am going to bind them all up when we’re done. We like to set them out and have Eric practice all of their sounds.

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Math is Katie’s favorite subject, and we consequently do quite a bit of it. We have been working on skip counting, coin counting, input-output boxes, symmetry…all kinds of really fun topics, actually. Eric received a neat-o cash register from Santa for Christmas. It counts real money and plays other math games, as well. We’ve been using real coins with some of our math worksheets and the cash register to check for accuracy after calculating in our heads. In the car, we play the classic Math Field Day game of “mental gymnastics”: I give Katie a sequence of addition and subtraction steps and she has to tell me what number she lands on. The car is GREAT for all kinds of mental/verbal academic games.

I do not have much language arts or history represented in pictures here, but we are constantly reading, and working on main idea/supporting evidence, phonics, cause/effect, ordering, reading comp, reading aloud, pleasure reading, and more. She is handling chapter books well, and she often reads if she has down time or before bed. In history, we are learning about famous leaders and are pulling in enrichment from various American Girl series and, occasionally, Five in a Row. We are mostly finished with her history textbook for this year, so we are casting about a bit to deepen some concepts for her.

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We are often up early in the morning. I get up at 5:30 to quickly skim news and run/lift weights/bike. The kiddos are usually up by the time I return, and we all wave goodbye to Bill and then read and get started. Our days are busy, full, and productive, and I cannot believe we’re on the home stretch of first grade! We have some field trips and school events coming up—Katie and I are SUPER excited about the Math Extravaganza at the Springs campus this week because we love to play math games. We are also in discussions with a younger friend of mine who is doing graduate work and taking education classes. She has asked to come observe our language arts teaching/lessons/methodology and to implement four lessons of her own with Katie: her program allows her to use a homeschool model for her project as long as I am a certificated teacher, which I am. It feels good to be able still to mentor the next gen of teachers coming down the pike and, most of all, to give back to the teaching profession. I think of the time and care my mentors and some colleagues gave to me and I have no hesitation in giving it right back. I remember, too, being at the new stage of my career and trying to find teachers willing to let me observe and work with their students. I talked with Katie about it, and she is eager.

A fun week ahead!

At 1746 Post Street in Japantown, above a tea shop and a store selling the gothic Lolita aesthetic, there is a room. Should you dare, you will enter it with your ten other teammates and be immediately locked in. The clock starts. Although the room looks normal, appointed as it is with IKEA furniture and even a rug, it is not. Your mission? Get out of the locked room in one hour. How? Find the clues scattered throughout the room. Figure out what is important and what is not. Use your wits. Work together. Solve puzzles and riddles. Who will make it out?

Real escape room games began in Japan and are quickly becoming popular in San Francisco. Some iterations are now popping up in Los Angeles and its environs. They beckon the nerdy, the fantasy-minded, the gamers, and those who wish for a moment to be Sherlock. Anyone who has ever wanted to live in a mystery novel? This game calls for you.

One of my best and most culturally savvy friends Steve was the first to draw my attention to this game about a year ago. It was shortly after our Spartan this past January, though, that we revisited more seriously the idea of rounding up our high school posse to form a team, along with spouses who wanted to play and Steve’s brother Jeff. Four of us and our families would drive up to the bay, meeting Jeff and his wife and Marguerite, all of whom already live in San Francisco. Drive for 16 hours in a weekend to play the game for an hour? Could we be any nerdier (or cooler)? It was a whirlwind weekend—epic—and one of the most memorable and best in my life. What a random thing to do: meet for lunch, play a mental game in the middle of the city, and disperse. But sometimes the most unusual decisions are the most significant, and as random as it seemed, playing this game together also made perfect sense.

It was a chance, also, to give Katie and Eric another dose of one of my favorite cities. I might raise chickens for eggs, make my own weekly bread, and have farm life fantasies, but I am also a passionate city girl at heart. I thrive on the bustle, the slipping in and out of anonymity, the fodder for the imagination, the juxtaposition of pristine with the run-down, the diversity of characters, and the history. San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I never tire of her. I leave her feeling renewed and reconnected with myself.

When I was an undergrad at Stanford, the dorms with frosh in them would host a yearly autumn scavenger hunt around the city. We would have a small team and a long list of tasks to accomplish (as documented with pictures) or items to find. We had to dance in the Union Square parking garage. Buy something from an adult shop near North Beach. Get a picture with a street performer. Find the sea lions off Pier 39. And so on. Stanford wanted us to know our city, and we did. Whenever I am in San Francisco, I still remember places where my frosh friends and I were running around like crazy people working on our item list.

But this locked room escape game? Definitely one of my favorite memories in San Francisco, ever.

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We met at Marguerite’s home in San Francisco for lunch and a strategy confab. “Our little group has always been/And always will until the end…” From Mock Trial, to Academic Decathlon, to a locked room game that is a test of wits…I mean, right? In our 30s, we embrace who we are: cool nerds. Very, very cool ones.

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I love this picture of Eric at Marguerite’s. He is lost in his own thoughts, gazing out her window. Does he imagine himself living in this beautiful city? I think he does. He is quite vocal about how much he adores San Francisco. This picture captures such a moment. You can live anywhere, and be anyone, that you imagine, my Eric.

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Smiles during our planning session

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If this picture doesn’t evoke all of our Mock Trial days, what will? I love us. I love our little group until I die.

So then we went to 1746 Post. Bill dropped me off a little ways from the building, and I walked it just savoring my independence and the bustle of the city and the people all coming and going and that feeling in the city of being both limitless and small at the same time. We met up and waited for the hosts of the game to retrieve us from the floor below. I watched a long blonde waif with face and arms covered in delicate white powder working behind the gothic Lolita store, looking like a doll amid the babydoll dresses and stuffed animals. The hosts fetched us, and we were taken into an anteroom to deposit all of our belongings. We were given some basic rules and briefed on general procedures. Our nine person team met the two other players. Then we were taken into the room, given clipboards, pens, and paper…and were locked in. The clock began.

To say anything much more would be to put the integrity of the game in possible jeopardy. Out of 887 teams who played before us, only 14 had ever gotten out. We worked feverishly to be the 15th, but we were not. The clues themselves—once located—I did not personally find to be difficult, and I don’t think the rest of our team did, either, but I haven’t asked them yet. We were not playing against our intelligence, I didn’t feel; rather, we were playing against the clock. Whatever we encountered, we seemed to be able to solve. The sheer volume of items we had to find and decipher, though, proved to be the main challenge. The hosts who watched us play indicated that we cracked a major piece of the room’s major puzzle much earlier than most other teams ever do, and they were certain we would get out. But we got stuck on the penultimate clue for a bit. Interestingly, Steve, Dan, and I had begun to think of something that would have rendered that clue unnecessary. We each remembered a vital piece of information uncovered early on in the game, and we had begun working on…uh…a different way to represent that information (keeping this very vague here) that, had we been successful in our train of thought soon enough, would have revealed the key to the door. Had the three of us talked at that crucial moment, we might well have landed on the…uh…”representation” of that clue that we needed, because all three of us were mentally headed in the same direction but just had not gone far enough. Alas, we each worked independently on that hunch, unknowing that the other two were also attacking from that angle, and we did not talk it through together.

But maybe we cannot be blamed, because there was this REALLY CREEPY music playing the last ten minutes, ha ha!

Next time, team, next time.

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Almost. You bet your bottom I want to play another version of this again! There is a time travel themed room in San Francisco, and some versions in the Los Angeles area (a werewolf village theme).

Other highlights of our single day in San Francisco:

After an pre-dawn two mile warm-the-brain-up run in the morning, we headed down to the Ferry Building for an early breakfast. We purchased some pastries at Miette (Scharffen Berger cakelet, palmier, a cupcake with meringue and a candied peanut on top) and coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee. Oh my. Yum. I also selected a gruyere pretzel bun from Blue Bottle to share, and it was perfect. After breakfast we wandered the farmer’s market, took in the people, sampled wares, and looked longingly (okay, maybe it was just me for this one) at the many runners striding along Embarcadero. For next time, a bucket list update: wearing running clothes to the bay front and taking a run to Fisherman’s Wharf.

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Breakfast in the Ferry Building! The kiddos were so much in their element, truly. They love to travel and are experienced road trippers at this point, having been to the bay several times and across the United States and back. The car time is easy. We read, study, sing, play, nap, make up games, etc. They enjoy all the travel stops, the trucker stores, the roadside cafes. Their little brains thrive on the novelty and exploration. Katie lights up, and Eric asks his thoughtful questions about everything. I am so excited about our longer road trip this summer. I so enjoy them on trips like this, in ways that are different than the ways I enjoy them at home. I love to see them discovering themselves in these new places, I guess, and I am always eager to see what captures their attention. Katie loved our time in the Ferry Building and all along Pier 39. She is dying to go see Alcatraz next time, and would stop to read the big posters with quotes from the former prisoners on them. Eric is begging to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on our next visit. I told them that, each time we come, we want to add a layer of depth to their knowledge of the city. The first time they experienced San Francisco, we did all the “basics”: Union Square, cable car, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Golden Gate Park/Japanese Tea Garden, Chinatown. Now we want them to start knowing different neighborhoods and the historical parts more intimately. I wish we had days here…

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Pier 39

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It was a lightly drizzly morning along the pier

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It was important to me to show the kiddos the Presidio this time, and it worked out well that Eric has had it on his wish list to see the Golden Gate Bridge “up close” for quite some time. My Great-Uncle Ross worked at the Presidio, and he met my Great-Aunt Bella in San Francisco. My nana would go up to visit them, and so this particular piece of San Francisco has a family connection that we wanted to emphasize for our children, especially since Uncle Ross recently passed.

As it happened, we seemed to be in several neighborhoods this time, or close enough to them to see some important structures: Coit Tower, which used to send semaphore signals to ships in the bay; the Transamerica pyramid, which marks the financial district; the intersection of Haight-Ashbury; the Mission Dolores. All of these we hope to show them more in depth over the years. Bill took the kiddos down Lombard Street again and also to Koret (a children’s park) while I was playing the room game. Katie loves Lombard Street, and Koret is amazing. They had a great time.

After I finished the game, my family and I headed to Union Square just to soak up some city culture and urban vibes. We saw the bagpiper come out, the drummers. We at dinner at Lori’s Diner, a favorite from last year. I went hipster and ordered two huge pancakes and eggs for dinner and devoured every bite. We walked a bit in the city at night and then left semi-early to get the kiddos bathed and in bed so that we could get an early start home on Sunday.

What a whirlwind of a time. Completely memorable. So much fun!

What if we could find the courage to define ourselves by our goals, instead of our weaknesses? What if we could remember the vitality that arises from internally motivated hard work to keep growing, challenging, and improving ourselves? What if we could never give up on making ourselves the best version of ourselves we can possibly be? What if we could remember the feeling of anything being possible, our whole lives open in front of us?

I often reflect that my university education was absolutely the best gift my family ever gave me, outside of life itself. They traded needs and wants in order to do it, and I took that trade to heart and worked also at claiming outside scholarships to help offset books and always working—at one point working three paid positions while keeping up units.

Yet as much as my four years at Stanford meant to me back then, my university and my education grow more significant to me with each passing year. In the 11.5 years since I graduated (whoa! what??), I have returned several times to campus, mainly for visits and once for a work-related Advanced Placement conference. At every phase of my life, Stanford has meant something different to me. It has been a constant in the narrative I am writing, a setting to which I return to reflect and to measure myself. If there were consistent themes in all of my classes, it was the necessity to keep challenging ourselves, to keep asking the meaningful questions, to let our minds play fearlessly with this universe and what we might find to be true, or not true.

When I forget who I am, I remember this place. When I grow weary or confused, I remember this place. When I wonder if I am doing enough to make my life meaningful, I remember this place. When I wonder about humanity, I remember this place. When I think about happiness, I think about Stanford and the lessons I learned in and out of my classes there. Whatever life brings, my education is mine. Whatever twists and turns come my way, I can dig down and find Stanford inside of me: the hard work, the quest for knowledge, and the mirth that arises from coming up against a challenge and finding the way through it.

Stanford, I am not sure I have always lived up to you since 2002. I did challenge myself in certain ways, but some of my ferocious need to better myself waned a bit here and there, as I explained a bit a few weeks ago in this blog when I discussed contentment vs. eagerness. It is a fierce need for self-betterment that can only come from within.

So. Shortly after running the Spartan with one of my best friends, Steve, we revisited the idea of playing this crazy (and fun! really fun!) real escape game in Japantown in San Francisco called Escape from the Mysterious Room. I will blog about that experience later, in order to keep this entry more focused, but most of our high school best friends of 20+ years decided to form a team and play this weekend. In an extraordinary show of nerdiness, four of us drove up to the bay with our spouses and kiddos to play this game for 1.5 hours on Saturday. It is one of the most random things I have ever done—a whirlwind and epic San Francisco trip to play a nerdy riddle and puzzle-solving game—but it also makes perfect sense, too.

When I knew we’d be near Stanford, it wasn’t long before I knew: this is my chance to run it. Road trip or no, running is so much a part of my lifestyle at this point that I can’t imagine taking any trip in which running could not occur. Stanford would be a perfect place to get my mileage in on Friday. More than that, running my alma mater would be incredibly meaningful….so much so that I kept getting teary-eyed thinking about it all week.

As an undergrad, I wasn’t particularly healthy. Certainly not physically… And I also lived with self-doubt, punctuated by some really triumphant moments in classes and feedback from professors that periodically made me realize that, yeah, I belonged there…maybe. It has only been in my post-graduation life that I have seen in myself what the admissions committee must have seen and realized that I had a right to have a spot there, experiencing that quality of learning and teaching and being.

But at the same time, I feel now that I have to keep earning it, that spot. There’s a sense of responsibility I feel as a result of that education, both to myself and to the world.

This time, I knew I would be returning in probably the healthiest form I have ever been, stepping on that campus. I visited last year, already in charge of my nutrition and already a three-day-a-week runner. But it was shortly after that visit that I decided to up the ante and start setting performance goals for myself in my sport. I decided to conquer my first half-marathon, to work hard to improve my times and distances for the sake of improvement/hard work. In setting those goals, I certainly became physically healthier; yet I am also so much mentally stronger. I know myself in ways I never have known myself before becoming a serious runner. I would be returning to the campus as the person I wish I would have fully been when I was an undergrad there.

And I would run. I chose to run one of the most difficult routes of which I could think, also a route that is the epitome of a run for a Stanford runner: the route to the Dish. I had walked it twice, but running it is different. The Stanford Running Club does this route. I knew also, from experience, that running this place would connect me to it in the intimate and special way that only running somewhere can do. I would know my campus in a new way, after this run. I would leave a different part of myself there. I would be returning to Stanford stronger, as if meeting a lifelong promise I had made with her when I accepted my admission all those years ago.

Approaching Stanford on Friday afternoon, I actually had quite a nervous stomach. This was a test of sorts, sure, but moreso, this would be an extremely meaningful plot point in my life narrative. Would my legs work? (Of course, but I always worry about this before a race or before going for a PR while training). What if I can’t run well in the afternoon? (I always run in the morning). What if the route is closed due to all the rain? (Could I feel as meaningful about running some other route)?

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After fueling on a protein bar, I left Bill, Katie, and Eric in Tresidder to grab some lunch.

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The best way to describe the hill leading to the Dish is: BWHOOSH! The hill feels like it shoots straight up in several places. Of course, it really doesn’t, and perhaps I was psyching myself out a bit…but it made me feel like the Temecula hills I eat for breakfast are basically child’s play. Still, I had to coach myself up the steep hill. Usually I tell myself to “fight” or “go” or to “get up there,” but unexpectedly something else came out of my essence as I was speaking aloud to myself: “Prove it. Prove it. Prove it!” That’s the beauty of running: you usually find out something about yourself. Prove it. I had my headphones off at this point. I had made a “Run Stanford” play list with several meaning-laden choices, but when it came to it, I wanted to hear everything around me, hear the peace, hear the rain, hear the birds, hear my own voice getting over fear. But what was I proving? Myself, to myself. That hard work for the sake of hard work, matters. That the most powerful motivation comes from within. That I am a stronger version of myself. That I could run a Stanford run. That I was living up to my unspoken promise.

Periodically I stopped my GPS to take pictures. I don’t normally do that, and I did weigh both sides of that issue, but in the end I decided to make an exception and document the moment.

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I saw deer. The rain soaked me through, but it was a peaceful and cleansing rain. I love to run in the rain since rain is such a loaded symbol in art and literature. The drops on my face connect me to the cycle of things, to nature itself. At times I felt as though I was running in a big cloud up there. And the moment I looked out at my university spread out below, I actually saw a rainbow in the sky. I exhaled another word: mine. Not that the university is mine, or that it can be no one else’s. That “mine” meant simply that my education, my experience, my sense of worth, my hard work in those classrooms, my self-discovery then and now, the promise: it’s mine, forever.

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Almost to the Dish!

Then I wanted some more mileage, so I decided to run a personal tour of some meaningful places on campus. I touched my left foot over the marker for the class time capsule in the Quad. I ran to the top of the Oval. I ran around about half the lake. I ran to my frosh dorm and looked up at my window. All I could think of was people, people, people. Who I had known in these places, and who I had been when I knew them. I ran to the classroom in which I had taken Shakespeare with Professor Rebholz (I wrote about him recently, as he passed in November), intending just to let my hand graze the door as a tribute. Here was something odd: every other classroom door I saw was shut on Friday (sometimes they are closed, but unlocked…I didn’t test them); this classroom, however, had the door WIDE OPEN when I ran past it. I am not at all a superstitious or supernatural-minded kind of person, but I duly noted the coincidence, that’s for darn sure. So I ran in and took a picture and ran out:

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And I also ran to this:

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On the day I graduated, my dad brought up a rock from our family property, my Grandpa’s property, in Valley Center. We had to sell that property last year, in an extremely emotional act of loss. My cousins and I grew up there, and the memories run deep. We all have a few rocks and artifacts from the land, and there is also this rock…at Stanford, in a secret location. Only a few people even know where it is. I saw it last year a few months after the sale, and that was emotional. The kiddos have seen it and touched it. Over the 11.5 years, I have left items under it, though some of the writing has not held up well.

On Friday, for the first time, I ran to it.

On Friday, for the first time, I returned to a piece of my grandpa’s land and to my great-grandpa’s land—just a piece, but still a piece—stronger and better. I touched this rock with healthy lungs, with a healthy heart. With legs that can run. With a mind that is disciplined.

I finished my run at The Claw, and it was 7.2 miles. I actually intended to keep going a bit, but Bill happened to call to say they were all on the second floor of the bookstore. Right as I was hanging up, another runner appeared. She was an undergrad, and she asked me—get this for putting a fine ending on it—if I were part of the running club (they meet at the Claw) and was there to meet for the run. Full circle. Kind of blew my mind how the story turned out on Friday.

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So it was off to the bookstore. The kiddos each got a new book, and I treated myself to a running shirt with a Stanford “S” on it. Now that I have actually run there, I feel I earned the right to wear it. When I got home today after our drive, I unpacked our suitcases and did two loads of laundry and then took the shirt out for a 9.1 mile (1:07:17) spin around Temecula. The meeting of two worlds!

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And here is a picture Bill took of Katie eating lunch in Tresidder. Looks like they had fun!