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“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” JOSEPH ADDISON

Not too long ago, I wrote about my active pursuit of reclaiming the life and mind of a passionate reader. After a lifetime of words and novels and twelve week quarters in college with book lists thirty deep (plus course readers) and then my own teaching of English literature, I had somehow let a great deal of that passion idle a bit. I discovered that the obstacle to reading wasn’t so much the struggle in motherhood to gain footing and space for reading but rather an issue with basic time management of my free time. Yes, having children does mean that on hold are the days when I could lose myself in books for eight hour stretches; however, just as with making time for health of the body, there is time to be scrounged up and salvaged for the health of the reader’s mind.

With a little over a book a week accomplished in July, I pointedly wanted to keep the momentum going and finish another five books in August. A long time ago this number would have sounded heart-achingly small to me; these days, those five books in four weeks represent a small feat. Funny how perspective can change so radically when time is so precious…

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So, the August five:

1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert Pirsig (1974, philosophical nonfiction with fictive elements). After reading a few of my blog entries from our road trip and noticing my themes of technology, selfhood, and purpose, my friend and motorcycle adventurer Dave aptly recommended this seminal text, which has now become a favorite of mine. No doubt I will reread this book periodically. Pirsig, a professor of rhetoric and philosophy, uses a two to three week long journey with his son Chris on their motorcycle as the frame to discuss the metaphysics of Quality, epistemology, our relationship with technology, western and eastern systems of thought, religion, institutionalism, wisdom, and creativity. Not knowing Pirsig’s bio, I experienced the thrill of a major twist part-way through the book that floored me. Incredible read.

2. Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, art by Alecos Papadatos and Annie Di Donna (2009, graphic novel, philosophy, math). Admittedly this was a re-read, the original reading having taken place when Katie was little. I think it is essential to re-read books not only at different times of life, but also alongside other books to see what new knowledge may emerge. I’ve been exploring the history of math and logic lately, and in fact, read this concurrent to Zen. That the themes overlapped did not surprise me. This graphic novel explores the history of the foundational work of mathematics, with Bertrand Russell narrating and participating in two of the three parallel story lines. Frege, Cantor, and Godel also make appearances, though there are liberties taken a bit with some aspects of historical accuracy (in the book, mathematicians meet and converse when they never did in real life). The theme of rationality vs. madness echoes Pirsig’s work. A quick little read. Made me fall head over heels with Bertrand Russell all over again.

3. Mindset by Carol Dweck (2006, nonfiction, psychology). You know how you hear about something you haven’t had too much on your radar before, and a couple days later you hear about it again, and then again…all in different contexts? This is the story of how Dr. Dweck’s book came into my life. My friend Jen was the tipping point here, when she happened to mention what a game-changer this book truly is, right when the book was hanging out in my Amazon cart. Jen is absolutely right: Mindset is a subtle revolution, but an important one, as it discusses fixed vs. growth mindsets. I think all parents, CEOs, teachers, and coaches would benefit from reading this one. If you’ve ever put yourself in a box, believed that you just couldn’t learn or make progress in some area, or felt fear of failure, then this book might be one for you. We are also reminded about the ways in which the right kinds of praise can empower a child and in which some kinds of praise inhibit and limit a child.

4. Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers: Prophet of the Computer Age by Betty O’Toole (1998, nonfiction, biography, collection of letters). Lady Ada Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron, Romantic poet, and a mathematically-inclined mother who later turned to mesmerism. Spanning 25 years of Ada’s correspondence, this book expands upon Ada’s friendship and collaboration with Charles Babbage, inventor of the Difference Engine and the Analytic Engine. Honestly? This publication felt dated. There seemed to be almost an air of worship of Ada, who, yes, had great mathematical ability and some insight about future possibilities for Babbage’s work. I got a little skimmy toward the end: Ada’s failing health and daily laudanum made some of her letters a bit “out there” for me. There can be no doubt that Ada was a bright woman, and I don’t know exactly what it was, but something felt a bit forced about the analysis of Ada’s contribution to the budding field of computing. Still, she’s interesting to know about…

5. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (fiction, 1964). I read this with Katie and since I don’t usually include books read with her on my reading list, perhaps I should! It just somehow feels a bit like cheating. I am including this book as mine, though, because it ended up taking quite a bit of our time. Worth it, too. And the prose is so stunningly lovely. I did not feel as though I was reading a “children’s novel” but rather a work that could easily hold its own in any college class discussing philosophy, authorship, and agency. What is the nature of loneliness? What is truth? How do we create the self? What does it mean to be an observer? A writer?  How do we use words for the good? What does it mean to be an outsider? I read this book when I was a child and clearly missed most of the importance of these questions in my youthful analysis of the text.

I am partly into another handful of books, one of which I sat down because a flippant character was annoying without apparent purpose and too greatly; the second of which I am still working through and it’s a tome; the third  because I haven’t quite gotten into it yet. However, I think I will choose one of our running books next. With limited time to read, I am much more discerning these days and have discovered the liberty of putting the book down if I don’t get excited about returning to it!

Happy reading, Everyone!

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At the line of every race, my finger hovering over my Garmin, there is a moment of utter terror. It flashes quick like lightning, and the well-trained mind chooses to translate the adrenaline into excitement. Still, that moment of terror is there. For a moment I think about all the miles ahead and how my body will start to feel toward the end if I really push. As I step to the front, I wonder if this will be the race where I gamble and come up short of my goals. Those races are out there, and I know it. The Billy Mills in June, even though I placed, showed me this. My race was not what it should have been. Those races are out there, and every time I race, I risk dealing with setback, even failure. I have a moment before every race when I wonder why I put myself through that pressure, why I am asking myself to train hard for months to reach the next goal and then test that work, publicly to an extent, by laying it on the line.

Why do it?

The process generates meaning. Running, for me, is not about perfection; in fact, I don’t know if I ever will have a “perfect” run or if such a run can exist. The sport is one of constant improvement and growth, with ever-changing personal targets. No matter what I do in a race, there’s always Monday morning. It is work that can never be finished. There’s no resting on laurels, no absolute standard to reach and then quit. To be a runner is to embrace the growth mindset as a way of life.  It is to look constantly at my strengths and weaknesses equally, to acknowledge them both as having transformative power—the shortcomings perhaps moreso.

To race is to put everything I am out on the course and to feel it all: elation, fatigue, joy, struggle, conviction, fear, determination, and even humor. The runner’s mind is so wonderfully receptive to being able to entertain so many emotions at once while selecting those that will be most productive for the moment.

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Starting line this morning at the Disney 10K in Anaheim

Several months ago, part of Team Matics & McGaugh decided to race during Disney’s half-marathon weekend. My sis-in-love Ashley did the 5K yesterday morning, and my brother and I ran the 10K today. The race began at 5:30 AM so that all could finish before the opening of the park at 8:00. I was up at 3:00 AM to get ready, eat my Superfood Slam, and catch a shuttle (Bill, the kids, and I stayed nearby but offsite), and use the port-o-lets. Officials let us into the corrals at about 4:45 AM, and I strode a bit, decided my legs felt good, and then put my mind in its zone. Time passes fairly quickly in the zone. I had my camera/phone this time so Bill could track me from the hotel room. I wore my racing flats, a first in a race. Lately I have been racing (and training, mostly) without music.

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After picking Katie up from her first day at school (she takes a full day now on Fridays, blog to come), we headed down to the Disney Hotel for packet pick-up and the expo. Clif Bar sampling buffet? Oh yeah! We wandered the expo together and had dinner in Downtown Disney.

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Watching the animatronics at the Rainforest Cafe during dinner

 

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I am not usually a runner who advocates eating whatever we want, and I fully subscribe to eating clean to train clean, but you know what? We were at Disneyland, we had to be awake before 4AM, and we split this dessert six ways. So we splurged on the sugar and fat this time, and it was delicious. It came out of the kitchen with the waitress bellowing out, “VOLCANO!!!!” Last night we enjoyed ourselves.

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Gear laid out and ready to go last night

By the time we got to our room, bathed the kiddos, and settled down, it was almost 9:30 PM. I read a story, and then Katie read a story to us. Her voice was so very soothing, and I got sleepy. I drifted off, but woke up at 11:22 PM. I kept waking throughout the night, eager. I maaaaaybe got four hours of sleep. I don’t know which I am feeling more right now: the lack of sleep or lactic acid! But I always think, “Whatever. If I can have childbirth labor for hours on little sleep, I can run on little sleep!”

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With my brother David after our race this morning

The Disney course was uniquely magical—how could it not be? Disney does everything with such creativity and precision. I think what made me laugh inside the most was, well, you know that male voice that tells you to keep your hands and legs and hats inside  the cars of the rides? The one that announces parades and fireworks? Okay. So, about three times on the course, coming from bushes or trees, that man’s voice would caution things like, “Proceed carefully as the course narrows” or “There is a turn up ahead that crosses tracks.” It made me smile inside. Like the mirth kind of smile.

We started out headed toward the convention center and then shortly after Mile 2, we were heading into California Adventure. Cheerleaders greeted us, and I felt joy up my spine. We went through part of Cars Land, and Mater awaited us on the sidelines. I kept thinking of all the memories I have with Katie and Eric in the very places where my footsteps were falling. I felt a mixture of joy, and tears, and motivation, and magic. We crossed over to Paradise Pier, past Ariel’s Grotto. I thought of the first time we ate there, and of Ashley’s birthday there. There were multi-colored lights in the water shooting up in the dark, dark morning, and Mickey’s Fun Wheel was so beautiful. I ran along the boardwalk, and thought about holding hands with my Eric and my Kate; I thought of last June, going on Screamin’ for the first time with my girl. I thought of holding my boy and kissing his neck in the line of Mickey’s Fun Wheel. The carousel was spinning around. I think Mr. Potato Head was still talking…

We crossed around and passed The Little Mermaid ride. One of the most powerful moments for me was running in the exact location by The Little Mermaid ride where Katie lost her tooth last week. Surreal in part, but such a strong sense of connection, too. In fact, every time I think of that moment of the race, I start wanting to bawl. Part of even starting to run in the first place was to be healthy and energetic and the best I could be for my kiddos. I also think of how many amazingly happy and magical memories we have together in this place that is so consistent and enduring. Thank you, Walt Disney, thank you thank you thank you for your vision. What a gift he gave to us. I pictured this moments with my children throughout the race. I run with my body, and I run with my mind…and this morning, I felt more than ever that I was running with my heart right at the forefront.

The course then crossed by the Wilderness Camp and Soarin’ and then out past the fountain and toward Tower of Terror, I think. We popped out in a backlot. Super neat and I wish I had been able to pay more attention to these “secret” parts. As it was, a great deal of my attention was on making my lines for the course. Some of that cool behind-the-scenes stuff that wasn’t familiar to me already is somewhat lost in my memory right now. There were floats turned on and playing music at a couple of points, I know that, and at one point either then or later behind Small World, I passed a huge costuming building. Anyway, we popped out and crossed over into Disneyland and then on down Main Street toward the castle, hooking a right past the rockets. (I thought of Eric and one of his favorite rides). We came out by the Matterhorn and went around Small World, into the float area, and back out again through Toon Town, past the teacups, back out through the castle, off into Frontierland, and eventually out through a big gate by Winnie the Pooh into Downtown Disney, where we hit Mile 6 and then continued .20 until the finish.

So, how did it go?

I was the 4th woman in out of 6271 women. 1st place was 38:20, 2nd was 39:47, and 3rd was 40:15. The 3rd place woman knocked me out of position shortly after we reached the Mile 5 marker. She was on me near Mile 4, but I was able to hold her off for awhile. The 1st and 2nd place overtook me in Mile 2, and there was no hope of my catching them—this time! I fought for it with the 3rd place woman, but she was just better. “I need to work harder to be better,” is my take-away from that!

Out of 9603 runners total, male and female, I ranked 23rd. First place in division. (Technically the first place woman overall is in my division, but they have a policy of not awarding twice. I think she should get both awards, and I feel a little weird reporting my placement as “first” in my division, although that’s what the results say—I am really second in my division, I feel, but not according to runDisney). Either way, I am getting some divisional placement hardware, to be arriving by mail soon. What’s more meaningful to me, actually, is the number of runners and my relative placement. It’s a good sample size.

I had a trio of new PRs, too, which is more important to me than all of that. A new 5K (3.1 miles) PR at 19:46. New 10K (6.2 miles) PR at 40:31 (Garmin and what the chip tracker on my bib indicated or 40:32 as what was recorded for some reason online). New overall pace PR of 6:29/mile. I wanted to go 6:30/mile or better, and I just squeaked it in! Granted, this was fairly flat, right? But all of my data lately has been suggesting that overall I am gaining speed.

As I ran I conducted “system checks.” A new discovery? My breathing has become so much more efficient and better with all of the swimming. My lungs felt larger this morning. Mentally, I was able to draw on the swimming, too, to give myself confidence that my lungs could keep sustaining the pace: “You swim 100 laps for an hour gulping and gulping air while plunging your face in water; I think your lungs can last 40 minutes here, Sarah. Get going.”

Fatigue did creep in shortly after Mile 5. You know it is happening because you starting getting thoughts in your mind that you want to stop. It’s just the body breaking down a bit, but fighting that thought is so important. I have learned through interval work how to identify that tired thought, compartmentalize it, and then use my mind to override/banish it and turn the screw harder. In fact, it is that thought of wanting to stop that becomes my cue at this point to demand more of myself. Still, my body was starting to break down, and I could feel some acid creep. I was really trying to catch the 3rd place woman and flirted with the bear. I became aware of spending big energy but getting little gain in speed in return. Still, I ended with a big push and strong. The 3rd place woman and I greeted each other after the finish with great respect; the sportsmanship in running really touches me immensely. There is such a respect there, because we all know what it means to fight deep, deep inside for our best work. Yes, we might be racing each other a bit, but we know also that we are really racing ourselves. There would be no way to sustain the daily training if running were exclusively about beating other people. It’s ourselves we seek to master.

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Ashley was out there with us early, holding waters, and cheering us on. So thankful for her.

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And this guy. Oh, Bill. Thank you for your knowledge and planning and coaching which has made me into a better runner. This man right here takes care of me completely and is a better caretaker of my training than I could ever be. He is forever weighing my desire to train hard with a love for me that doesn’t want me to get sustain injury. He has to read me as an athlete but know me as a wife and best friend. His planning has given me speed. With him, I am accomplishing my goals, and this is a part of our journey together that I never would have expected. We are healthy together, and we are creating a world for our children in which we hope they, too, will see that hard work makes most things possible.

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And finally, I never forget where I started: barely able to run a single mile, or breathe while doing it, 60 pounds overweight. It’s never too late to be what we hope to be. It’s always possible to learn, and to improve oneself. Aim big and never sell yourself short. We can do it if we’re willing to work, experience setbacks, and work some more. Doing only the things we are good at initially never gets us anywhere. Why not start at square zero? There is no shame in it. I think what I have discovered is how powerful life can truly be when we make our habits about improvement and not perfection. If we’re not good at something, or perfect at something, so what? Let’s celebrate because there, right there, is the potential for hard work and growth. Isn’t that why we are alive?

Watching the sun rise at Disneyland today was pretty cool, too.

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Happy School Year, everyone!

You guys, I am so excited for this year. Putting aside the two-week adjustment period of late night planning that always happens when we first get going and having very little free time (a state which, I know from experience now, always passes as things mellow out the first month), I have such a good feeling about where we’re headed in 2014-2015. We’ve made adjustments to our vision, emphasizing a growth mindset this year and celebrating challenge, effort, and self-evaluation.

Eric’s solidly in Pre-K now, and with another year on him, he’s ready to work alongside his sister. I can see his maturity, and he doesn’t ask to leave the table as much this year. Katie just entered 2nd grade, and I can see the growth in her approach, as well.

I’ve been working on growing my pedagogy, too, and made decisions this summer to introduce math and science journals. We love our Harcourt math, but when I really want to target Common Core types of questions, I strike out free form and we use the math journals. I think this is a happy compromise, so far. Katie has made comments already about liking the journals and feeling like she gets to be more creative in these subjects. I filled a huge basket with unique pens, journaling supplies, glue, stickers, etc. I pull it out only for journaling, and the kiddos go bananas to get to the basket. I bought a bunch of special papers and pens for use in English, with the idea being that we write all the time in so many different ways: letters and reader responses and lists and poems and more. We’re getting away from worksheets and feeling freer this year to show our learning in different ways.

We’re using diagnostics and pre-assessment this year more as a tool than we did in the past. For example, I had Katie work through a Chapter 1 math test and some sample problems from each lesson. Her goal was to find the hardest topics she could in Chapter 1, and then we celebrated. I made a big deal of it. Easy stuff? Nah…we don’t want to spend your time on that, Katie, I said. Let’s target this topic, instead. I use a thumbs up/sideways/down system for her to communicate her feelings of comfort about certain topics. The new approach seems to be working quite well and frees her up (an important thing for Katie, very important) from worrying about doing everything perfectly. I am communicating to her that I am not very interested in what she can do perfectly, and neither should she be…if she wants to grow. (This makes perfection uninteresting and therefore less stressful). Let’s go after the weak areas and use those to grow our brain muscle.

Found a weakness? HUZZAH! YES! Let’s attack it, as a team. This is our modus operandi this year. (It’s the same one we use as runners, and so we’re really walking the talk here). Everything is an opportunity for growth, not judgment. I’ve always believed that, but I am really attending to my language this year and being more thoughtful about types of praise, how I frame tasks, and how I involve her in goal setting.

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Katie’s favorite subject is math, and she wants to be a nurse.

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Eric wants to be an engineer when he grows up.

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A new addition to our curriculum this year: piano lessons. We take lessons at a home studio. Couldn’t be better. Both Katie and Eric are reporting high degrees of interest in their lessons and are showing as much by wanting to practice anywhere they can. We’re aiming for 10-15 minutes of practice a day between weekly lessons. A few blips here and there with that plan so far, but we’re still getting into our new schedule a bit.

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Katie is starting to learn tricks during her riding lessons now.

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She has also begun French, a language I took in college (along with Latin—I had Spanish in high school). We are using Rosetta Stone. She finds the software incredibly friendly.

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We are both training for Long Beach (Katie has a kids’ race the weekend of my half in October). There are certain intervals we can do at the track together, and we love that time. Great bonding for us.

Soccer also starts for her next week. She is the next size up in cleats, which we obtained today.

Eric starts an art class next week right after Katie’s riding lessons. Both kiddos are still also taking gymnastics recreationally.

It’s going to be a busy fall! So much opportunity for growth and finding passion… And most importantly, maintaining a mind-body balance.

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Yesterday we took a field trip with my mom to Santa Ana to the Discovery Cube, a children’s science museum. Loved it. I couldn’t recommend it more. So much to do! Favorites: laser harp, earthquake labs and seismograms, dinosaur garden, rocket lab, gravity balls, the eco friendly shopper game, an electric Jacob’s Ladder, the tornado, the wind machine, and so so much more. This place has not been on my radar, which leaves me wondering how I could have missed it all this time? Anyway, we know about it now and are thinking of returning very soon. K and E took their science journals and collected information throughout the day; today we scrapbooked some pics in their journals.

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Math journals are daily and a huge hit this year. I differentiate these. To do that, I start with Katie’s standard and work backwards to a pre-K or K standard for Eric. Going well so far… and like I said, it is a place to practice those iReady (diagnostic software in use by our charter) Common Core-ish questions, whereas our Harcourt really does not format those questions all that similarly. Since we don’t use Saxon, I think we might be at a disadvantage when it comes to Common Core assessment. This journal, along with an enrichment class Katie will take on Fridays at the Springs iShine campus, is my way of attempting to address what I view to be a discrepancy at the moment.

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On Tuesday I had a nice English lesson all ready to go. As usual, we started the day by reading on the couch before it was “time for school.” During our reading session, we discovered how awesomely rich one of our recent library books truly is. We started riffing, and I threw out my plans and went with the spontaneous lesson. We were able to pull in a Dickinson poem, using simple geometric shapes in art to convey emotion, a nonfiction article about bullying (which we tied into a lesson on “main ideas”), and we still got our reader response standard taken care of. I put a bunch of prompts in a bowl (a bit pre-vetted, I admit), and Katie picks one at random. She feels such control over that, and not like the command to write is coming from on high. It was a lovely morning. Riffing with the kiddos is my favorite. Sometimes the best thing we can do with plans is to lay them aside to seize the teachable moment. There are so many ways to work in standards; as a teacher I have to acknowledge that my path may not (is not) the only way. My goal this year is to completely balance fiction and nonfiction selections. For every fiction, a piece of nonfiction with it… I also printed out a stack of book report forms. Katie reads all the time now. She can finish a book a day, at least, if given time. She is plowing through the Boxcar Children right now. Over the summer, she read 25 substantial chapter books on her own, so we’re a go here. She has found a passion for reading. Now, to get Eric there… He is showing all kinds of signs for reading. We’re hitting the phonics big time right now with him, beginning sounds and sequencing and all that. We’ll see… My basic idea is repeated methodical exposure, and we’ll see what happens.

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Phonics game on the driveway, practicing short vowel sounds. We drew the vowels in the rectangles of the driveway, and I would say a word. They had to run to the rectangle with the vowel they heard.

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This was actually our opening volley, a few days before our charter officially began for the year. The kiddos were eager to start, and Bill was back at work, and school just felt right. We set up our science journals and did various magnet labs all day. We fished for magnetic objects, made a compass, magnetized objects, and played around in general with attraction and repulsion. The journals and the heavy hands-on aspect of this day, I hope, set the tone for our year with Katie and Eric.

Tomorrow is Friday, and after a bit of a morning here, Katie will FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER attend a set of three enrichment courses at Spring’s iShine campus. She goes to her first class (math games), has her packed lunch, and then attends a science lab, followed by nature art. She initiated asking for these classes last spring, and we are excited. I don’t feel sad or worried or anything except joy that she is embracing her learning and independence tomorrow. Her classes fit her perfectly, and I cannot wait for her to experience the joy of taking her backpack and lunch to a real classroom and getting the best of both worlds. It’s good for her, and she needs the experience of relying on herself like that. It’s a big deal to change teachers at any age, and she has three different teachers and classrooms tomorrow as a 2nd grader. I just can’t wait to see what she thinks of it. I can share her for one day a week, although I will miss her. Eric will benefit from some one-on-one time, though, I think, too.

My exercise schedule is fully in school mode, too. I am up at 4:30AM (5:00 AM by the latest) to run, swim, and lift weights. I have a race this weekend (a 10K at Disneyland). I don’t know what I was thinking scheduling a race the first week of school, but I have kept up the training. I told Bill that I will get up however early I must to keep training. He has to leave for work earlier this year because he no longer has first period prep. So that’s earlier for me, too, but my health is a priority, and I will do what it takes. After this race on Saturday, I ramp up my mileage in prep for the half marathon. I run 30 mi a week right now (and swim at least a couple hundred laps), but after this 10K Bill is talking about ramping it up to 40 and then 50 mi weeks. This will necessitate twice-a-days, but that’s fine. The Long Beach Half is extremely important to me for some goals I have lately. Whatever it takes. We only get to live once, so we have to bring it, right?

It’s a busy year! I love autumn so much. Happy back to school, everyone!

It’s the kind of cheap metal ring made in Hong Kong that behind handprint smeared glass sits waiting with Chinese finger puzzles, bouncy balls, and Tootsie rolls to be bought with thirty or so arcade tickets. It was pink, originally, with concavities around the band to reflect light, making a two-cent product look more luxe than it could possibly be. Little girls flock to those rings, I know now, because I have a little girl.

Little girls and seventeen-year-old girls in the heady swirl of first love, that is. That high school boy didn’t pick it out for me; we were simply together at the miniature golf course and arcade when I happened to choose it with my tickets. The logic of some seventeen-year-old girls must, as far as I can tell, go something like this: if he’s with me when I pick it out, the object takes on a bit of his essence (magically!), and therefore it is a prized possession representing our time together and his commitment to our relationship, yadda yadda, QED.

In time the ring came off, sooner rather than later. I tucked it in my boxes of jewelry from my youth, and it sat with Minnie Mouse earrings, a Christmas charm bracelet, a necklace made of a whole walnut in its shell painted to look like a pumpkin from my Girl Scout leader, and myriad other relics from a childhood gone past. The pink ring itself I all but forgot about and numerous times, too, though in moves I would see it now and then always with surprise and with a phrase that could be intoned a variety of ways, and was over the years: “Oh, I remember that.” I rarely purge my things, and in anticipation of my daughter who might one day decorate herself with such baubles, I kept the ring.

Sure enough, Katie found it, played with it, and then it managed to sit atop our red wall shelf in the hallway that leads to the garage for about a year. It ended up back with my jewelry somehow after that, and I didn’t see it again until my son Eric got ahold of it toward the beginning of this summer.

Ever since he became aware and talkative, he has asked about my wedding and engagement rings. He wants to try them on, but: “Oh no, I’m sorry, Eric. I never take those off. Daddy gave them to me when we were getting married, and I will keep them on for always.” Eric knows that his daddy is my best friend, that I will love Bill forever, and that “married” means always being together.

So Eric did what Eric does, in the sweetness that characterizes most of his decisions. He married me. He took the pink ring, put it on my index finger two away from Daddy’s rings, and married me. And in the past few months, I never take it off.

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All the pink has worn away, and the dark grey scrapes of use show. But I never take it off. Rings on more than one finger on a single hand is a style I like for myself sometimes, but it’s not the classic look which I often prefer. But I never take it off. It hardly stands up to the pool water, and sand, and long run sweat, and cooking, and gardening this summer—but I never take it off. He’s watching, you see. That I wear his ring means I want to be with my Eric for always: he knows that. He talks about the ring he gave me. He notices. “Who gave me this ring right here, Eric?” And in his young four-year-old voice, he always answers, “Me!”

When I swim laps in the early mornings after my daily run (really, really early now, since Bill leaves for work at 6:55 AM at the latest), I find myself thinking about many topics and landing frequently on this ring. As the laps go by—25…50…66…80…100—I find myself marveling at how a single object can change so thoroughly in symbolic meaning. It meant one thing, years ago, and now it means another.

It also has the symbolic meaning, therefore, of changed symbolic meaning. The symbolism becomes nicely recursive this way. A symbol of a symbol of a symbol…and here is 200 more chlorinated yards done, as everywhere I am surrounded by blue.

I am tempted here, of course, to delve into semiotics, Ferdinand de Saussure, the way meaning derives from signifier and signified, the objective vs. subjective and their relationship, and how meaning evolves or is constructed and reconstructed over time, but then I think it’s enough to say for now: my son’s pure and magic heart imbues this object with a meaning quite different than ever it had. What is this process by which we imbue meaning? Or do we imbue it? Where does meaning come from (and is come from even an appropriate term here)? Or is there any such thing, in reality? I am currently obsessed with these questions. The ring means, now, not only the bond that he and I share; but also this ring means that, if we are lucky, we get to evolve from the people we once were and learn what it means to live and love truly for the happiness of some little person’s mighty heart, a person who looks up at you with absolutely unconditional eyes and has every reason to believe that all love is like that in return.

As I write, Eric is sitting beside me in bed. I read and write often on Saturday mornings, public or private, while Bill watches our children. I usually read to Katie for about half an hour before she goes down to Daddy, having been awake reading my own books for awhile. After she leaves, I start writing, and Eric usually is so excited to play with his sister that he does not miss me. Part way through this entry, he came into my bedroom and is cuddling beside me. I am giving him kisses frequently. I sought his input, too, after telling him my topic this morning.

“What does this ring mean, Eric?”

“It means I love you.”

I love you. It’s so clear and easy for a child’s heart. Nothing could be so bright and simple as to love. I hope he always feels that and knows it.

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Eric on his fourth birthday, August 8th.

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His little heart is love… He wanted to help make biscuits the other night. It was his idea to cut them into heart shapes, for love, he said.

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My beautiful boy

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He asked for a cheerful rainbow cake for his birthday. This is so him.

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This series was taken at Newport Beach before his birthday and his haircut. (He asked a few months ago to grow his hair long, “like Rapunzel’s.” Sure, why not, buddy? But then he started not liking it in his eyes and asked to have it cut on his birthday with Boppa). Here, he had just caught his first fish on his drop line. He had caught sting rays previously, and we threw them back. He was, however, crystal clear about wanting to eat his fish…which was surprising. Sure enough, he helped to cook it. The rest of us had some bites, and then he had all of the rest and even licked his plate, he loved it so.

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Glee.

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Eric’s favorite hobby lately has been to take anything apart. I mentioned to him a week ago that anything that has a screw can pretty much be taken apart. “You can find out what’s inside things,” I said. He has been an unstoppable force of curiosity since. We took apart an old telephone together and reassembled it to be a “trick phone.” Then Bill gave Eric an old computer stack… I come by to see new computer parts in Eric’s wigwam in the living room quite frequently. There are often screws in various places on the floor—watch out if you use bare feet in our house!

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My astronaut, Commander McGaugh

This is the boy who married me, well, one of the two. I have no doubt his father was very much like this, too, growing up. I see this magic in Bill’s heart and mind, and in his sweet blue eyes.

Yes, I will love you forever, my Bill. Yes, I will love you forever, my Katie. And yes, I will love you forever, my Eric. I never will leave you, not really, not even in my age.

I wear your ring to show you that promise.

Paddleboarding happened to be one of the first items on my Summer Bucket list during its drafting phase. Whenever we’re in Newport Beach I see the paddle boarders, looking at peace with the water, the salty air, the sun, and the wind. It’s slow and methodical, paddleboarding. Yet, like anything with method, there is a vast freedom to it once we learn the strategy.

I’ve been spending most of my reading time reading about Russell’s Paradox again, Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, and theories of infinity and sets and self-referentiality. I like to play with the Platonic ideal. I took a logic class in college, and I wish I would have pushed myself further in the direction of symbolic systems. I’ve been thinking about rules and how we find freedom in the constraint. At the same time that I am reading mathematical types of texts during the day, I have been devouring Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at night. Of course it happens that thematically this is a highly appropriate choice for my interests at the moment. I think Pirsig’s novel is brilliant. It would seem, maybe, that all of this is light years away from my English major, but it is very much not—when you think about what a system of language really is and how that system takes meaningless symbols and rearranges them to generate meaning within a self-referential system. I can’t help but think about my History of Rhetoric class, where I saw some of those connections so clearly for the first time.

So when you’re out on a paddleboard, you are this mass of organic, animate material with a brain that contains all of the universe, but the universe contains you, too. You are a speck on the bay, a point in infinite space-time; yet being present in the moments of instantaneous change absolutely gives the experience quality. You can take the paddleboard anywhere: up close to the moored boats, near the shore, across the bay to one of the islands. There’s method to how you navigate the wake various duffy boats and cruisers leave behind, a mathematical method. It’s all physics, and you are a real participant on the water. It sloshes onto the board now and then and onto your hot toes, giving a bit of relief to tingling feet that have stood on texture for two hours.

There’s a rhythm, too. A few strokes on one side, a few strokes on the other. It has to be balanced, you see, or you will veer in another direction entirely. As with any act of navigation, there is anticipation: you have to be aware of not just the present moment but also of the future moment. There is prediction. There is both logic and art to it, and both together give rise to the beauty of the experience. Like so much else, especially those activities which seem to require the mind-body connection so rigorously, there is in paddleboarding a path to meditation and peacefulness. You look out at the bay and wonder how much closer you might be to understanding the axioms of the universe and the language in which it is written. You wonder about the modern concept of the “I?” and how our brains give rise to our unique selves.

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My mom, my sis-in-love Ashley, and I went paddleboarding through a company on the penninsula. After my dad and my kiddos drove us across the bay in the motorboat, Colby took us to a beach near Bay Island, gave us a couple of pointers, and then we were off to our own devices! My dad snapped this pic as he and the kiddos were leaving to go dock fishing back at the house.

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I am now a paddleboard enthusiast and have been thinking about getting one of my own. My mom, who also enjoyed herself, just stocked the house with two family boards so we can try it out some more. I have seen some wicked Pinterest pictures of people doing yoga on their boards—I wonder if I could ever work up to THAT? Ha ha. It seemed to be enough just to stay balanced and meditative in our first position there. Still, I can see why people go out on paddleboards every day. A great workout/cross training AND so relaxing at the same time.

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Paddleboarding is boss. I would also like to get in a kayak again…

So, what’s this about the pole dancing? In truth, I was not imaginative enough back in the spring to put that on my summer bucket list. Do you ever wonder how much we miss out on doing due to lack of imagination? I was just having a conversation with my friend Steve about this: how we put ourselves into boxes, and if we could just get past the fear, we would find the whole world opened to us.

Anyway, one of my friends from my teaching days shared a clip of a pole dancing competition during a discussion we were having about cross training and swimming. I guess I sure had some preconceptions about pole dancers in general, but when I saw the competition clip I let those stereotypes go and found myself full of awe and respect at the athleticism required to do it. One thing led to another, and my friend suggested we try an introductory, do-you-like-pole-dancing class together. Well, why not? If I can overcome my fear of heights to fly on the trapeze (back in March), then I can certainly try pole dancing. I do not want to get to the end of my life having stayed only in my comfort zone; I don’t think I can fully grow or discover myself that way, or make discoveries about the nature of the universe, either. I called this “Summer Bucket List #11.5, because in reality, it was a late add.

We went to Dollhouse Fitness in Encinitas. I don’t have any pictures of the experience, because, really, how would you get such pictures? And wouldn’t that expose the privacy of others? At any rate, we took the intro class, and IT WAS SOOOO FUN!

We learned several tricks (including various ways to fly around the pole) as well as a choreographed routine. We were encouraged to enjoy our bodies and to respect them, and, as with most physical activities like this, there was a definite connection to the physics of the motions. My upper body and core got nicely worked. More importantly, I had a blast. I loved it. Thoroughly. I checked into options, and there is a studio close by to where I live. I might treat myself to a drop in class once a month in the evenings. Our schedules are about to go into school mode very soon, and the kiddos are in a bunch of activities: I am not sure how many more commitments I can reasonably add for my own edification, although the pole dancing was such a fun way to work off my Type A mode. I can’t stop thinking today about pole dancing more… The feeling of flying around the pole in a fireman twist was absolutely amazing. I felt weightless and (close to) graceful. Who knew I would find part of my essence in a pole dance studio? It’s important to explore in life, that’s for sure! We never know what we will find!

As a child, a teenager, and a young college student, my appetite for books of all kinds hardly knew boundaries. I could polish off, easily, a book a day—and make significant headway into another, at least. I spent my time in college reading several books a week, basking in the life of the mind, in the life of words. I remember the single day I read Great Expectations, so gripping I could not put it down, even during dinner in the commons. I read it all through the line and sat away from everyone so I could continue it. Before my kiddos were born, on weekends or on break from teaching, I could read all day and sometimes forget to eat, in the yard, in my cozy chair, on the toilet. Bill is a big reader, too, and so we were perfectly content reading in nearby spaces, chatting only briefly—and then, about ideas. I majored in English, my love for words and ideas so vast. I’ve never been complete without at least one book going, but often I read many in parallel. It is a great passion of mine to read books in parallel, in order to challenge myself to find the connections between two seemingly disparate topics or subjects. I read everything: fiction, of course, but in my later years I have gravitated toward the nonfiction of hard science, math, the history of ideas, literary criticism, philosophy, logic, anything.

Just as everything else changed when I had young kiddos, so, too, did my reading habits. I had packed a book for the hospital—you know, during labor, which would take hours—when I had Katie. That shows you how little I knew. After she was born, I snuck in a few books while she was nursing (Atonement being one), and there were books that followed—sloooooowly—as I got my footing as a mother.

Then I had another child. Books in my “stack” (the pile of books I most wanted to read) grew dusty. I rarely purchased books for myself anymore. Keeping up with the times and age, I read a few books digitally…and again, slowly, it felt.

Around this time, though, I was caught in the nexus of making all kinds of excuses about why I did not have time to take care of myself physically or intellectually. It’s true: full-time at-home motherhood and homeschooling takes a bunch of time. In fact, it takes almost all the time in a day, or could. A workaholic type like me can find tasks to do constantly: cleaning more, combing through lesson plans, organizing, coming up with crafts for the kiddos, ad infinitum. I view motherhood as a pleasure, yes, but also as a job—and when something is a job, that designation changes the way I approach it. In all jobs, we do our absolute best. I watch myself for signs of slacking. I attack with Type A vigor. A job must be done right, no matter what it takes. Why try for 95% in a class when you can earn 105% by working extra and, better still, learning more? You know, that kind of thing…

In pursuing one line of work, though, I found myself letting go of the other parts of my life that contribute to balance. Exercise, healthy eating, and physical fitness, certainly (which I have discussed at length, I’m afraid!)…but also the life of my mind, the essence of what makes me, well, me. How could I be interesting to myself, to my husband, or to my children if I did not take the time to keep growing the life of the mind?

To his credit, Bill never said one word about my relative lack of reading, or at least my far slowed-down pace of reading. We would discuss the books I did manage to read, and he would summarize his reading. My list of wish-to-read books grew longer. I had enough to draw on from my undergrad years, plus some recent reads like Pinker and so on, to continue discussions. I used to say to myself with a sigh, thank goodness I had my university years because now I hardly have time for any of it but at least hundreds of books are already in my brain! 

Eventually when I took up my exercise routine, I felt the addition of new priorities only compounded the problem. Now I have to wake up at 5:00 AM—when can I possibly stay up late reading? Now I have to plan out all the schooling for my kiddos—shouldn’t that take the precious 1.5 hours I have left at night? In the past two years, I have read, but it has been very sparse indeed. I enjoy heavy doses of fiction with my children, and I would read small articles and an occasional book or two, but there were times when it felt almost impossible to start a book: how would I ever finish? How unsatisfying is it to read only a handful of pages before drifting off to sleep?

I felt a large part of who I have always been—a reader, a writer, an evolving thinker, a learner—receding into the corners.

So, just as with my unhealthy body, I decided to take action and do something about this. My children and my husband deserve to have me at my best; more than that, I deserve to have me at my best.

I assessed the time I frittered away on the Internet and social media. A bit too much. Still too much, but it is a work in progress. I don’t watch TV—I mean that quite literally—except if the kiddos happen to have a program on, but I do occasionally watch or re-watch movies. I used to re-watch movies and cross-stitch, but in the past year, I would re-watch movies and get online and just surf around. Relaxing and maybe okay for me once in awhile, but there was time I could reclaim for my reading. In the morning after exercise, I could get on Facebook and news sites, or I could choose to read. It turned out there was all kinds of time available, if I just managed my impulses a bit more. I could read while cooking dinner, if the kiddos were outside. As Katie has become an autonomous reader (although we still do read together for the sheer enjoyment of it), we are making a culture of reading time as a family (cannot WAIT until Eric gets there, too)!

I’ve also remembered that, when I do sit down to read with focus, I read really fast. So there’s hope. I made my iPad into just a reader—no social media distractions when I am on that device.

Summer Bucket List #10: Return to being a consistent reader and reinvigorate the life of the mind

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Just as with taking exercise and diet seriously, I have found that deciding to make reading a priority is almost all of the battle. When I have a choice—15 minutes to read or to use Pinterest—most of the time now I will read. Sometimes not, but I am working on it. I choose books that I think I will love, and if I don’t love it, I put it down. I used to finish books through no matter what, but I don’t have time for that at this point.

I decided to have a “day book” and a “night book” going concurrently. The day book is a physical book that I can carry about without worrying about damaging it. I still like the feel of physical books, anyhow. The night book is always digital. I can read it without disrupting Bill with the light, and I feel it is important to cross over into this technology and be both kinds of reader: old-fashioned and high tech. I find I read differently on my iPad—faster, for one thing, even than holding a book in my hands.

So, since July 2nd, a month’s time, I have finished five books. It’s not many, but it is five times more than my best month (lucky to finish even one) in a very long time!

1. The Transhumanist Wager by Zoltan Istvan (2013): A philosophical and science fiction book about the transhumanism of the future. He borrows heavily from Ayn Rand, a fact he acknowledges, and I follow this author on Facebook. Very pertinent to discussions of technology, evolution, religious vs. nonreligious societies, science, and what it might mean to be human in the future.

2. Jane Austen, Game Theorist by Michael Suk-Young Chwe (2013): Professor Chwe, a game theorist from UCLA, uses rational choice theory as a lens through which to examine six works of Jane Austen. He argues that Austen intentionally explores strategic thinking and was herself a game theorist. One of my hobbies is to study game theory, and of course I have a background in Austen, so I appreciated many aspects of this book. I did send a more extensive review to my friend Kathy, but I think I will say this: this particular work is more suited to fans of game theory who happen to know Austen, rather than devotees of Austen who might know a bit of game theory. Bill picked this out for me in Portland, and I have many fond memories of pouring over it during moments on our trip.

3. Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, collected and edited by Leonard S. Marcus (1998): This has to be my favorite book of the summer. Nordstrom was the director of Harper’s Department of Books for Boys and Girls from 1940 to 1973. She is enchanting in her letters, an amiable taskmaster, an unbridled dynamo. This is her collection of letters to favorites like Maurice Sendak, E.B. White, Margaret Wise Brown, Shel Silverstein, Garth Williams, John Steptoe, H.A. Rays, Else Holmelund Minarik, Ruth Krauss, and more. Nordstrom’s voice in her letters completely absorbs me. She reminds me in her writing and voice of a friend of mine, actually—I won’t say who right here. Witty, authentic, maternal, she could be the best friend and mentor but also dish out the tough love. There is no doubt that she was probably one of the most gifted editors ever to have lived, and we have so many of the books on our shelves that passed through her office. I enjoyed feeling my motherhood self and my academic self join together in this book; as I read her letters to authors my kiddos and I have savored together, I felt a beautiful sense of wholeness. Beyond that, Nordstrom several times had me laughing out loud. She was a HOOT! This is an excellent book, great I tell you.

4. Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi (2011): I never watched Ally McBeal, but I adore Ellen Degeneres and happened to catch an interview a couple of years ago with her wife Portia about Portia’s struggles with body image and disordered eating. This book has been on my list for a few years, and it was an extremely quick read now that I finally got to it. For me, right now, I think it was an important read in terms of keeping my head in a sensible place and not taking calorie restriction too far (I’ve been maintaining and am always constantly assessing my approach to make sure I am thinking about body and athleticism in a healthy, productive way). I found the latter part of the book, her recovery, to be the most well written.

5. The Man Who Loved Only Numbers by Paul Hoffman (1998): This book is a close second for my favorite book this summer. Hoffman writes about Paul Erdos, arguably the most prolific mathematician of our time and certainly eccentric, and therefore endearing to me. Erdos lived out of two tattered suitcases and travelled from mathematician to mathematician. He spoke only of math, for the most part, and never had any interest in marriage or his own family. He was unfailingly kind, and in my opinion, probably self-actualized and transcendent. A genuis. In one anecdote, he gives college tuition to a struggling student; years later when the student is able to pay him back, Erdos refuses the money and simply tells him to give the money to another student who needs it for tuition. In the course of telling us about Erdos’ life, Hoffman discusses the history of modern mathematics as well as some of math’s greatest theorems and proofs. Discussions of prime numbers, Bayesian probability, infinity and sets of infinity deeply excited my mind as I read. There are passages about Euler, Gauss, Godel, Hypatia, Ramanujan, Hardy, Russell, and Cantor. Occasionally, Hoffman invited the reader to study and ponder equations. We are asked to consider whether math is discovered or invented, and a bunch of other philosophical mind-bending questions too. I could hardly put this one down. Erdos charmed me. Math charms me. I would definitely recommend this book. It is helpful, but perhaps not essential, to have had math at least through Calculus to enjoy the basic gist of this one: awesome mathematicians are awesome, and math is utterly breathtakingly beautiful. I teared up several times, and once even cried, while reading this book—at how lovely a mind was Erdos’ and how stunning math truly is.

My Tuesday morning routine has been one of my favorites since returning from Oregon. I do not run on Tuesdays (or Saturdays). I used to lay in bed a bit, do weights, and putter around a bit, but now that I have discovered swimming I have something completely exciting to wake up early to do! I get up at 5:00 still and am to the pool by 5:30 AM. I swim 100 laps as the sun rises—pure, life-altering magic—and then I pull on dry clothes, head to the coffee shop with one of my books, and have a coffee and read for at least half an hour to forty minutes. Then I order another coffee and breakfast for the kiddos, and I come back home already having lived passionately before the kiddos are up. I feed them, and then we go to riding lessons at 8:30 (and then swim lessons, which are now done). That coveted reading time after my laps has been a revelation to me this summer. I feel so in touch with myself in those moments. It’s like discovering bits of myself that used to be there but that now in my 30s are so much more real to me… The freedom, too, is intoxicating and wonderful and fulfilling.

I never used to be a morning person, but I am now, I guess! And a night one, too… There’s just so much to take in during this life—too bad we have to sleep!

So I have reconnected with being a prolific reader (or semi-prolific reader, as the case may be)! I am balancing mind and body and once more find pleasure in treasured conversation with minds that have passed through this universe. I am now reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, on my list for years and a recent recommendation from our friend Dave. That’s my night book; and I am re-reading a graphic novel about Bertrand Russell and logic. I try not to re-read, but in this case, I think my mind is primed to get more out of it (even though I remember loving it the first time). The Russell book will be my day book.

It’s funny how reading never took discipline before; I could fit it into my life whenever I wanted to. Carving out intentional space for reading is new to me, but I have to make it a priority in order to have balance. This has been a big self-improvement goal this summer, and I hope I am able to maintain balance as the school year gets going. I worry about that, but I think if I approach it as a job or as a matter of discipline, I will be more successful at keeping this pace of reading going than I have been in many a year. I hope so!

I know almost nothing about shoes, and my shoe closet is a mess of outdated styles, attempts at being fashionable, and a handful of tried-and-trues. In the fall I grab my boots; in the summer my flip-flops. I have a pair of nude go-to heels, green Nikes from J.Crew that have nothing to do with running, leopard print loafers that were a stylish find from an aunt who knows more than I do about taste…and a bunch of work shoes, old prom shoes, and a hodgepodge besides. Whatever gene it is that gives some girls (and guys) shoe-sense, well, I totally missed that one. I just cannot get fired up about shoe shopping, and, as much as I obsess about details when it comes to certain tasks like writing, lesson planning, cooking, solving math problems, and observing nature, I am sure I have ruined many an outfit by inappropriate accessorizing because my mind has such a difficult time going there.

That’s why I am often barefoot, or close to it. Even at age 34.

But then two years ago I became a runner. Even then, I resisted my dad’s encouragement to get fitted properly for a shoe. It sounded so above me, frankly. The first purchase of running shoes I ever bought consisted of this method: dash into the sporting goods store, engineer the conversation with the salesman to be as brief as possible, try on two pair of shoes, pay, and hightail it outta there.

Then one day many months later when I was feeling fancy free and less careful and more devil-may-care, I agreed to go to the Running Center and have my gait analyzed and try on shoes properly. All the difference…

Fast forward two years to the present, and I am now an eager shoe shopper…but only for running shoes. I am burbling with excitement every 600 miles, though I am diligent about wearing my shoes out. A toe beginning to peek through and worn soles, on top of recommended mileage are usually enough to get me past the “I know it’s time, but I can’t spend that much on myself” feeling. As a runner, it is my one piece of gear that has to be changed. I can feel them go flat. I also take into consideration having enough lead-time to break in new shoes before a race.

I bought my grey, pink, and purple Asics on February 13th. I remember feeling unattached to them at first, and also apprehensive as I thought about how much I would have to test myself in those shoes and would I evolve the way I hoped over the next months? They were a blank canvas on which I would write my next chapters of forging myself. I felt the nerves of someone who wants desperately to prove herself to herself. I remember missing my previous blue and orange Asics like a security blanket. We can’t cling, however, and expect to get anywhere, can we?

600+ miles of training later, hours greeting the morning and expending myself on the track, I retire these grey-purple-pink shoes. We went miles, you and I. We achieved milestones, you and I. You were there as I tested myself. You were there in the dawn. You supported me through good runs and bad, you felt both beads of sweat and tears of joy, and you traveled more than any other pair of shoes. You represent a season in my life, forever. Who I was when I first put you on has evolved into the person who took the last run with you this morning.

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I raced six races in these shoes:

* Hot Chocolate 15K in San Diego, CA (1st place woman in division; 5th place woman out of 2575 overall in gender; personal PR)

* Carlsbad 5000 in Carlsbad, CA (18th out of 266 in division; 35th out of 755 overall in gender; top 250 finisher medal, 5K PR)

* Run Through the Vineyard 10K in Temecula, CA (1st place woman overall)

* Strawberry Festival 10K in Vista, CA (1st place division; 3rd place woman overall; PR at the time)

* Billy Mills 10K in Sacramento, CA (1st place division)

* Butte to Butte in Eugene, OR (3rd place division, current PR)

 

These shoes and I have some good memories and personal achievements together! They also ran Stanford with me, trained all over Oregon, ran with my daughter, and unofficially walked Crater Lake, the redwoods, and Point Reyes  (which they were not supposed to do, and I had brought other walking shoes but got a little negligent there).

And last night, in one big grand hurrah (although I did a short run in them this morning before my swim), they were with me for my best interval set ever of 8X440s at the track, a true breakthrough set. Using VDOT O2 tables, Bill can see that I have increased my oxygen-carrying capacity by 5% since March, which is huge and which predicts jumps in my PRs at all distances. (We’ll see if that pans out, but so far I have done exactly what the tables have predicted I could do throughout the year). I think swimming for miles is helping with this. I swim three days a week, two of those sessions being after runs. My run this morning was a recovery run from last night’s work, just a bit of humdrum fanfare for these shoes. Last night, however, they went out in a blaze, as if to say, “We are leaving you with the joyful promise of what you might be able to accomplish in your new shoes. Do not be afraid—embrace this next phase!” Very different from how I felt in February…

For the first time, also, my coach/husband advised that I purchase not only training shoes, but also a pair of racing flats. This surprised me, but I take it as a favorable statement of where he believes I am in my training at this point. For training I stuck with my usual Asics. I’ve not been injured in the Asics (except for a fall that was my fault). My racing flats are New Balance. For the first time, I will bond with two pair of shoes at once. I will train occasionally with the racing flats but will mostly save them for races. The blues and greens of the new shoes suit me, not that I choose based on aesthetics…but I lucked out this time! (I am not much of a grey-pink-purple girl, but did not have another Asics choice at the time).

The retirement of running shoes always brings emotion, but this time I am more excited than I am melancholy. These shoes will race Disneyland in a few weeks and also the Long Beach Half, where I will try to improve my time from last year on the course that began my racing career.

I may know next to nothing about accessorizing with shoes, but I do know how to run in these!