As Always, Be Careful What You Wish For

I got a new phone today. It’s an Android. Let’s first be clear, though, that what I’ve actually been wishing for is an iphone and I’ve been wishing for this for, well, as long as iphones have been around. It, however, has elusively evaded me, signing exclusive deals with network providers that were first out of my reach (I was held captive by a contract), then switching once I, too, might make the leap to iphone land. This quest to be together has been further complicated by the fact that I am part of my husband’s company’s phone plan, so I am subject to his whims, and more accurately, his bias against apple. All of this makes for a not very sad story of a girl and her blackberry. Until today.

Now I have an Android and, for the record, am on Sprint, my now 4th network in less than 3 years. I feel slutty. Also, for the record, I was and am, I think, still excited about this phone. I can download pretty apps, play games, check the weather (some things, to be fair, I COULD do on my blackberry but it wasn’t very easy or fun). The only thing I can’t do is make a phone call using contacts that exist on my phone.

You see, I’ve been working ALL DAY trying to sync my outlook contacts with my Google account so that the phone, which syncs with that, will bring in those very same contacts. BUT the application my husband used for this is not working on my computer. “Because of the technology curse that you have?” you ask, because if you know me at all you know that I have a technology curse. Probably. Maybe. I don’t know. All I know is that it is now 17 minutes before my nanny leaves for the day and I’ve spent nearly 5 hours trying to figure this FLIPPING thing out. I can technically dial someone’s number, but that’s just not the same. “Looking up someone’s number?” That is so 20th century.

I know it’s terribly boring of me to complain about this because a) technological problems are boring and everyone has them (evidenced by the zillions of google results for “problems with…”) and b) I just got something new and fun. I would officially, then, like to register this, not as a “complaint”, but as a “frustration”. A fair distinction, if I do say so myself. And the only reason I share this with all of you is that squarely near the top of my to-do list, just under “phone set-up” is “blog post”. It’s been far too long. But now with only 11 minutes until the nanny leaves, this is what I’ve got. My brain is all-consumed with installations, ‘errors’ ‘syncing failures’ and my own profanities. There’s also a voice in there saying, “this wouldn’t be happening if you had an iphone.” Damn you Steve Jobs. I mean, bless you Steve Jobs, as you deal with your illness, but Damn the marketing that leaves voices in my head. Or how about I leave Mr. Jobs out if entirely – it’s probably the voices of my friends-with-iphones.

Reporting real-time, I should let you know that the nanny left 30 minutes ago and I had to take a break. I bought myself more time via a DVD from the library and now, by some miraculous back-door that sort of popped in out of nowhere from Motorola, I THINK my contacts are syncing! I’m still a bit discouraged that this has taken all day, but at least I have a starting point with my phone and I am getting a blog-post out of it. If you would like to log in a complaint (or just a frustration) with this post, then I suggest the comment box. Don’t call me – I’ll call you. In exactly 5 minutes and 10 seconds when my contacts are done syncing.

Tae Kwon Don’t

I walked into parenthood admittedly blind and without knowing what I was getting into with virtually no baby/kid experience. Regardless, I had some pretty lofty ideals around food, TV and electronics and how our life would look, overall. What I’ve learned after 5+ years is that parenting is a lot about ‘letting go’. Letting go of a lot of things, like, a life resembling anything like it was before kids, but also letting go of a lot of some (somewhat) arbitrary standards.

When discussing and deciding extracurricular activities for our kids, one that we both agreed would be a positive thing was a martial art form. An Eastern disciplined sport seemed a good match for a Buddhist and an athlete. However, I stated in no uncertain terms that I did not want him in Tae Kwon Do. One of my nieces had been into this martial art form since she was a small child – she excelled at it and won all sorts of state and national tournaments as she grew into a lovely, charming adult. So why the harsh judgment? Years ago, I went to one of her practices – always living far from my family, I never managed a trip to see her at an actual competition. At the practice, the instructor was using phrases like, “imagine your opponent in front of you…imagine crushing his chin,” he hissed as they moved into their next gesture. Crushing his chin? THAT seemed awfully harsh for a young child. I don’t recall his whole monologue, but I remember being a bit taken aback by the violent nature. So, when it was Max’s turn to possibly start in a class, I made it clear that I didn’t want it to be Tae Kwon Do or Karate. We settled on Aikido, which hubbie had done for a while as an adult and it was exactly up my alley. Wiki says it best:

Aikido is often translated as “the Way of unifying (with) life energy“ or as “the Way of harmonious spirit.” Ueshiba’s goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.

By comparison, Wiki’s definiteion of Tae Kwon Do includes:

Thus, taekwondo may be loosely translated as “the art of the foot and fist” or “the art of kicking and punching.”

We were having our initial conversation when he was ~ 3 years old, but the Aikido place that Mark had his eye on didn’t start until 5. We waited for 2 years. Recently, as we were exploring new activities for the fall, we looked up their schedule – we are now 5 and we were sure he would have a great time with this (it has been a challenge to find extracurricular activities that he actually likes). But the schedule didn’t work for us at all. Mark was being rather picky about the place to take him, feeling he had found “the” pure Aikido place.

And then his school after-school activities calendar showed up. Right there, on Mondays, right after school, he wouldn’t even have to leave the building, was a Tae Kwon Do class. I resisted at first. We looked for other Aikido classes. But nothing seemed to work very well for us. Welllll, I thought, how bad could it be? These classes usually have a tight affiliation with the school and it’s philosophies so THIS instructor probably won’t be talking about crushing other people’s chins. Right? 

And we promptly signed him up. He has only gone two weeks, but he actually really likes it thus far. And might I add something here? My tendency for ‘non-violence’ has been completely lost on this young boy who makes up violent scenarios about people’s heads coming off and gross things happening with eyeballs. Oh god, the eyeballs. I think he’s in for a career in horror films. And then there was this: Evolution Anyone?

So, this is what I’m talking about. Letting go. Going with the flow. I find parenthood challenging so I’ve found that my ideals get a little whittled back in the name of simplicity, ease and yes, sometimes just plain laziness (may I interject TV here?). My lofty ideals extend to lots of things – food, electronics including TV, cleaning up – and in all of these areas, compromise abounds. Interestingly, in many areas, I had ideals that were higher than my own that I live by – so those were probably not realistic. Over my lifetime, I have really settled into an ‘everything in moderation’ lifestyle, so I’m not sure why I ever thought it would be different with how I raise my kids. I guess because we see our kids as a way to make a better us. It’s our chance at redemption for our own vices. Or at the very least, we don’t want to impose our own vices or lack of self-discipline onto an innocent being. But the reality, I have found, is similar to how I end up feeling after moving. I have loved moving from city to city throughout my adult life. Each time I got a rush from the POSSIBILITY of finally being the person I always meant to be. And a short time after the move, I would realize that I was still me. I wasn’t going to fool anyone, including myself, that I wasn’t. So I think the ‘compromised ideals’ are more an acknowledgement that I am just me. I can’t be a different kind of parent than I am a person. My kids get a lot of treats. They watch more TV than I thought I would have been comfortable with. My son LOVES our ipad (my husband is hugely into computers and technology). And cleaning up? My husband is still working on training me in that. So, Tae Kwon Do it is! If this is the worst I do for my child, I think we are in OK shape.

Nice Tri

Sooooo, a few days ago, I woke up at 5:11 a.m. (it ended up that I didn’t need to get up at 4:00 a..m, whew!) to take on a 1,500 meter swim, a 40k bike ride and a 10k run. I think the experience could perhaps be summed up with the conversation my husband and I had just about an hour or so after the race, as I lay on the floor of our living room, SO happy to be sitting, my leg muscles shooting sparks of, not pain, but just flashes of feeling through my body such that I wouldn’t forget that they were slightly traumatized. I said, “you know, triathlon is weird – each one of the work-outs is really not a big deal by themselves, but you put them all together and…” hubby finished for me “ and it’s one loonnnggg workout.” Precisely. 2 hours 58 minutes and 35 seconds long. You add in that I’m push’n the pace a bit, and it’s a lot more than I would do on an average day. Here’s the play by play:

The Swim. 35:57. What I consider my weakest event, I at least felt like I was going to be able to muddle through the approximately 1 mile. After waiting around for ~45 minutes for the other waves to start, me and 60 other 40-45 year olds, put on our royal blue swim caps, goggles, and for myself, my bright orange kiddie-sized ear-plugs (I have tiny ears). The next thing I knew, we were ‘on deck’, which was quickly followed by our invitation to jump into the water. We had an AMAZINGLY pleasant morning (really, a miraculous gift that a “cold-front’ blew in the night before and it was in the ‘70’s). But the first submersion in the water had me wondering if this was, indeed, a good idea. My first few moments in water always make me think this, so I wasn’t too concerned. I was speaking with a plump-faced woman about where we could/should start from when suddenly I heard the countdown from 10. I looked at the woman with the “oh my gosh – here we go!” look and we were off. And then I sort of wasn’t. I went out, searching for my person to draft behind, as instructed by my ex-triathlete husband. But I couldn’t keep up with anyone, and then I thought I was going to vomit. I suddenly felt so ill that I was sure I was going to have to stop. Oh no! 5 minutes in and I have to stop!? My mind raced as I fell further behind the pack. I need to look for one of the guys in a canoe…wait, I don’t really want to stop, but I think I have to, oh I’m going to be sick, all the while my body felt light and airy and I had no strength. I truly thought I was done. And then I decided I didn’t want to be done. Just make it to the first buoy, and then decide. I really want to bike and run! And so it went…I found my own (slow) rhythm and didn’t worry about drafting off of anyone. One stroke at a time was my mantra. Suddenly the mile seemed like a very very long ways, but I kept convincing myself that if I just kept swimming, I WOULD, in fact, reach the end. In moments like this, simple messages really do the trick.

The Bike. 1:26:08 I was so looking forward to getting on my bike after that swim. I was pushing my bike out of the transition area, which I spent way too much time in. I wanted to wear a biking jersey for totally vain reasons – a 40-year-old 2-baby tummy, albeit a pretty fit one, when leaning over on a bike is just not that pretty. My husband advised against the time it was going to take to put on a shirt. I scoffed at this arguing it would take a number of SECONDS to put it on. As it turns out, I had not anticipated the fact that I was going to be wet when I put it on. The jersey rolled when I put it on and it was absolutely stuck at the top of my back. I strained and pulled, jumped and contorted to get that thing down. My husband’s words were revolving around my head like a stock ticker. I finally left the transition area, running my bike out to the course. And I ran and ran and ran. The distance we had to cover while running our bikes seemed excessive and I started wishing I had not put on my biking shoes yet – if you don’t know, biking shoes have clips on the bottom where the ‘pedals’ go in, so they are not flat. Let’s suffice it to say it is VERY AWKWARD to run in biking shoes. But alas, the bike ride began. Because of our miracle break in the heat-wave, I am not allowing myself to complain about this little thing that I did encounter on the bike ride (the wind), which did provide some challenge (the wind), but since I am NOT complaining about it (that damn wind!), let’s just say, by the end of the 25 miles, I was tired. There’s also something else about triathlon that is ‘interesting’. Because we start in waves, there are always stronger people who are going to pass you at some point. In our case, the men were after us, so I had a few giant swimmers plow over me in the water, which was slightly annoying, given I was dealing with my mental freak-out, but in triathlon, totally expected. THEN, on the bike, I’ve got these guys F-L-Y-I-N-G past me riding a good 5 – 8 miles per hour faster. Lots of them. Between that and the thing I’m not mentioning (the wind), it made me wonder if my odometer was incorrect and I was not going 17 miles per hour, but actually 3. I like to name people during races, those that I end up playing tag with, based on some characteristic of theirs or their clothes. These are the folks that I pass, who then pass me, who I then pass etc. etc. etc. During the bike ride, I was playing tag with Tattoos (huge beautiful tattoos on her calves), Sweet Tea, Blue-top and Pinky. It’s sometimes frustrating that the same people keep showing up to pass you AGAIN, but it’s better than having them pass you and never seeing them again, which is most of the super-power biker dudes I just mentioned, so it’s with a fond frustration that the tag continues. It was also on the bike that one of the best parts of the race showed up– my husband and two small children appeared holding a huge “go mama go” sign. My husband cheered while my 3 year old stared into the road, having no idea who or what she was supposed to be seeing (in her defense, I have trouble picking out my own husband when he’s on the bike – everyone looks the same. The numbers we wear might be for the race officials and photographers to know who we are, but they are equally so our family can pick us out and cheer for the correct person.), and my 5-year-old, who had already told me he didn’t want to go watch my race (sigh, we try to instill good sportsmanship, but anything interrupting lego-building on a weekend is a mere distraction from what is truly important ) so he watched me go by with as much enthusiasm as the rocks he was sitting next to. In addition, one of my best friends and her family were there. She let out such a whopping ‘whoop’ that I was first energized by, then verclempt over. I had to focus on the road to keep myself from crying. I have the best family and friends ever. Sorry, I do.

go mama go

The Run. 49:03 As I got off of my bike, an excruciating pain shot up from the utmost top part of my inner-thigh. Panic. I’m sure it’s just from the bike, it will work itself out… I ran, again, awkwardly, through the sand in my biking shoes, towards my transition area. I was awkward because of the shoes, but also now because of this muscle…pull? Strain? Cramp? What was happening? No! Not the run! This is MY event! I’m a runner! I can’t be injured for this!! Ack! Deep breath. I whipped off my biking top (too hot), which really did only take a few seconds this time and sat down to put on my running shoes and massage my inner thigh – very ladylike of me, I know. I was supposed to put on a visor, pick up a small water bottle, a goo and small case of sugar and salt tabs, in case I needed them. I was so distracted by my muscle problem, however, that I put on my shoes and hobbled off. I continued to massage my upper thigh, which now looked like I was grabbing my crotch as I literally hobble-ran out of the transition area. I was running a whopping pace of 101/2 minute miles. “My” event didn’t look like it was going to go very well. AND I needed to, in every-day terms, “use the restroom”, in running terms, “pee”. I had planned at stopping at the porta-potties next to the transition area, but as I hobble-ran PAST them I realized that they were partitioned off from the course. Now I had a bum leg and a full bladder. ‘One foot in front of the other’. A few minutes later, my muscle was hurting less and I was able to increase my pace, little by little, until I was actually AT my goal pace. Woo hoo! And at the first mile water-break stop, there was my lovely, vacant porta-potty. I hated to waste the time in there, but it just had to be done. My 40-year old 2-baby bladder just wasn’t going to hold that much liquid for the duration of a 45+ minute run.  This is why we compete within age-groups – because 24 year old bladders vs. 40 year old bladders is just not fair. “Fifty” kept me going – he was the guy I played tag with on this race – the person who body marked him made a very large and exuberant 50 on the back of his calves. The rest of the run was pretty great – I ran my goal pace (not my ‘I would love to run this pace’, but my ‘I’ll be happy if I run this pace, pace). The support from my friends and my own family, again, really kept me going.

I finished, with the immediate thought that I wasn’t sure if I was going to do another one of those for a while…that it was, very simply, hard. There’s a reason not everyone just wakes up any morning and decides to work out doing 3 sports for 3 hours. Later that night, when I was feeling back to my normal self, my husband found the results on-line. I came in 18th out of 54 women. Not bad. Then I noticed that the woman’s time who came in 10th (in our age group) was 2 hours and 55 minutes and 24 seconds. Remember in my last post, when I said something about not having a competitive bone in my body? Only 3 minutes and 12 seconds faster and I could have been Top 10!!?? That about translates to a non-freaked-out swim and/or a faster transition (no bike top). So, as it turns out I DO have a competitive bone in my body. I am now thinking I may just have to do another triathlon – Top 10 or bust!! But don’t worry, I’ll still hand out energy along the way.

Blood, Sweat and Triathlon

Soooo, tomorrow morning I am getting up at something like 4:00 a.m. to go swim 1,500 meters, bike 40k (25 miles) and then run a 10k (6 miles). All in a (Labor) day’s fun. It’s funny – I spend a great deal of time working out – especially as I prepare for events such as this, and while I am out swimming, biking or running, I almost always formulate that day’s blog post. I have created great tales and life analogies, been inspired and have even made myself laugh, which must leave people wondering about me. I often think I should create ‘Fitness’ as it’s own archive category because staying in shape has been a pretty big part of my life since college. I think this may be one of the things people even sort of associate with me – if they were asked to describe me in 3 adjectives, “fit” may very well be one of them. YET, I don’t really write about it. I have a couple theories on this.

The first is plain logistics. Especially since motherhood, I often find myself sneaking in work-outs where I can. Yes, I am one of those crazy people you see out running in 100 degree heat at 1:00 in the afternoon. I try not to use too much nanny time for working out, but occasionally, when my husband travels, that’s the only time I have for it, and if I have meetings or other commitments earlier, I end up doing my work-outs at less than ideal times. I also feel like I am always squeezed for time and I need to shower and get on to the next thing in at least 5 minutes less time than it usually takes me to get ready. So, my formulated blog posts go straight down that shower drain, along with my sweat and tears (usually not blood, and actually tears are rare too, but I liked how this sounded and I really got attached to this as the title).

The second is that I often write about things I struggle with, e.g. parenthood, parenthood and parenthood. I do write about other things, but mostly I struggle with being a good mom. My blog tends to be my therapist on the screen – I work through things through my writing. Staying fit and healthy is important to me and working out really is a sanity tool for me – but I don’t struggle with it. I am not a competitive person, so there isn’t a lot of ‘thrill of victory’ or ‘agony of defeat’. It’s like going to the grocery store or dropping my kids off at school. It’s just a part of my routine. My husband’s sports abilities provide much more interesting material, as he is the real athlete in the house – his chosen sport at the moment is road cycle racing and he actually wins things. I am often amused by his type-A competitive behavior, which differs so greatly from mine – I would let someone pass me just to make them feel better about themselves, if I knew that is what they needed. Case in point: when Mark was training for IronMan triathlons a handful of years back, he went to listen to a pre-race talk by one of the coaches. I tagged along because there isn’t usually a whole lot to do at Ironman events other than Ironman-related activities. The coach was a very competitive guy and he told the group a quip – that when he raced, as he passed other people, he would visualize “sucking their energy” as he passed them, because he figured they didn’t need it anyway. I was appalled. The Buddhist in me vowed to right the world and from that moment on, whenever I pass people – in a race or just out for a daily run, I visualize giving them energy because I can see that they need it more than I do!

So here I am, writing about sports while I explain why I don’t write about sports. Every day needs a little irony. This, as I sit next to a bottle of “Liquid Endurance – Heat Tolerance” – a chemical mixture I am taking 3 times today to help me in my race (all pre-race activities and diet are dictated by the athletic A-type hubby). I thought it funny that on the same label, it says, “Please keep this container in a cool dry place. Do not expose to excessive heat, moisture or sunlight.” Perhaps that is how it would work best – if I kept myself in a cool dry place and didn’t expose myself to excessive heat or sunlight either. Naaaahhhhh – where’s the fun in that? I’ve got some energy to give away.

Just a Quick Toot

I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I am VERY excited to report that today is my official first day to be published. One of my essays, Trash or Treasure, is in the September issue of Parent Wise, a local parenting resource guide here in Austin. If you are in Austin and have a kid, you know it. If you are not in Austin, let me know and I’ll send you one because I do plan on picking up a few hundred copies – they are free. Did I mention I’m kind of excited about this?

It drops today, so I haven’t read it yet – I am sure it’s going to be a little difficult to read through – I’ll see all of the things that I ‘should have said differently’, the word I don’t like or I’ll remember the paragraph that I took out that I’ll think it would read better with. But then I’ll shove all of that aside, and just be pleased…I had it on my goals in 2010 to publish, but then I sort of forgot to submit anything. I think a year late is waaaayyyy better than never. So, THANKS Parent Wise for liking and publishing my essay – you are already near and dear to my heart, but now will have a place in my writing heart and history, forever.