Friday, March 29, 2013

Erin's Run

Erin Wooley was a student of mine during her senior year in high school, and she was a stand out swimmer on the girls swim team during the years I worked as assistant coach.

Because of the swim team/ classroom combination, I spent a lot of time with Erin and got to know her well.  She also quickly became one of the kids who sought me out for boyfriend advice and friend advice and overall friendship.  Erin was fierce and determined with a work ethic that rose above that of her peers; she was a distance freestyler and a butterflier, and she would work so hard at practice that her face would radiate with heat when she got out of the pool.  She also had an artistic and poetic streak, an impish smile and contagious laugh, and was unafraid to speak her mind, especially about women's rights.  Erin was one of my special girls, and I knew when I hugged her at graduation, that we would keep in touch.

We did keep in touch, including corresponding frequently through Erin's UMaine years, and decision to get her law degree at Vermont School of Law, and then through her brave battle with lymphoma, the same disease my father had.  You may remember that I had Erin's name on my shirt when I ran the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco. 
And you may remember when Erin died after complications from the stem-cell transplant that had everyone so hopeful she had beaten cancer.  She was 26. 

I  still have some of Erin's poems in my creative writing binder, some of which have her handwriting on them.   I remember Erin so fondly that I can still hear voice and imagine her laughter in the hallway outside my room.  And I am still haunted by the image of her mother, at the burial, stroking Erin's coffin before walking away, as if smoothing the covers on her daughter for the last time.  I seriously almost fainted from being in the presence of that level of grief. It is true that the brightest stars burn out the fastest. 

In honor of Erin's life and all the amazing things she did and was planning to do, a group of good folks, headed up by my friend Ben, a classmate of Erin's, have organized a 5K run and walk in Bangor.

Erin's Run:  Saturday, April 27th at 10 am at the Bangor Waterfront.

One of the two beneficiaries of Erin’s Run is Spruce Run, an organization dedicated to serving those affected by domestic abuse. Erin worked at Spruce Run as an advocate for women and at the time of her passing, she was enrolled at the University of Vermont Law School with the goal of being a family attorney in order to continue her advocacy work.

 The second beneficiary of Erin’s Run is a scholarship set up through the University of Maine Athletic Boosters. The Erin M. Woolley Scholarship Fund is an award given annually to an underclassman member of Maine swimming and diving that best embodies the contributions of dedication, spirit, and spunk that Erin made to the program.

Locals, please consider joining us for this run or walk.  Because it is the inaugural event, we need a good showing of participants.  You can register HERE. Please follow Erin's Run on facebook, and get more race-day details on the race website

We hope to see you there!

Monday, March 25, 2013

among other things: random acts of kindness.

If my kids ever complain that they have a boring life, please show them this post.  

We spent the weekend in Southern Maine with our friend Meredith and her kids.   It was a totally packed and adventurous two days. 

We also have an announcement to make about our two youngest, Reed and Rosalyn.  They are dating.  

  The flirting begins at Bruce's Burritos in Yarmouth, where I fell in love too, with my black bean and sweet potato burrito. 

Skyler and Rozzy being silly girls. 
It was over burritos and quesadillas that we first learned of the scavenger hunt that was going to shape our weekend.  Meredith and kids had created a pile of cards, each with a task that we needed to accomplish over the course of the day.

For example:

Pet ten dogs.  Destination:  the dog park!

Give high-fives to ten strangers.  Destination:  Trader Joe's.

FYI:   The patrons of Trader Joe's loved high-fiving all the kids.

 Give away flowers to strangers.  Destination:  With flowers in hand, we drove to the Portland Head Light. 

The kids decided to approach people and say:  "Happy Spring! Here is a flower!" 
left to right:  Roz, Beckett, Skyler holding Ulani, Reed and Killian.
 Most people were thrilled to be handed a flower by an adorable child.  Some people said:  "No thanks."  (really?)  One woman had a really enthusiastic response and said:  "This just made my day!"  That was exactly the plan. 
The random acts of kindness portion of the day was the most fun for the kids and the most fun for the moms to observe. 

The next card said: Try real maple sap from a maple tree.  We made the diplomatic decision to put that one off until Sunday when we had more time.  We then selectively discarded a few of the scavenger hunt cards because the kids were getting pretty tired.  So we will "Touch a live lobster" on our next adventure. 

We went straight to the reward:  The Destroyer. 
 "The Destroyer" is a veritable boatload of ice cream, 12 scoops to be exact.  By now it was almost 5:00 pm, so The Destroyer also turned in to dinner.  Don't judge.

For the next hour, the kids played board games and Reed and Rozzy showed off their love for each other with romantic dances around the ice cream shop. 

Saturday night, the big boys and Skyler played street hockey while Reed and Roz played "family."  Overheard:
Reed:  "Come on, Roz, let's go pack for Michigan."
Roz:  "What is Michigan?"
Reed:  "It is some sort of state."

Sunday morning, I went for a run along the river in Bath and then we packed everyone up to go celebrate Maine Maple Sunday, when all the sugar houses in Maine open up to the public.   

Learning all about maple tapping, sap, and syrup.

I then drove north with two exhausted children who demonstrated their exhaustion not by falling asleep, but rather being annoyed by everything the other one did or said.  Typical.

We rounded out our incredible weekend with playground time and dinner with Tim.

On our way out the door, Tim reminded Reed to put his boots on his feet otherwise he would have to walk to the car on his hands.  Reed thought that was too silly not to give it a try. 

We love these people in our lives who make everything so much fun.  We are so incredibly lucky.

Have a great week everyone, and if you have a second, there are still 3 days to vote for Top 25 Outdoorsy Mom Blogs.  Thank you!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

march madness.

Last week we went to the sunny beach, and this week we got a storm with 18 inches of snow and TWO SNOW DAYS IN A ROW which meant more time with these beautiful babies, but STILL.

We don't even have a snow scraper for our car anymore because it's SPRING.  So, the kids just do it for me:

Dear March, I'm just not that into you.


Other things happening:
- In two weeks we are running Race the Runways Half Marathon in Brunswick.  Training has been, um, spotty.  I've done the best I can.  I'm just running it to run it and looking forward to the whole race scene, but my expectations for performance are low to medium-low.
-  Tim and I are going to New York City in three weeks.  Just a little excited.
-  You may remember this from last year, but my blog is in the running for Top 25 Outdoorsy Mom Blogs.  I need your help to get into the top 25.  Why do I need to be in the top 25?  I don't know.  But thanks and love!  Just click below:

Monday, March 18, 2013

all the tiny good moments.

Like when Reed hit the target at Skeet ball.  
Or when I FINALLY finished 44 senior research papers and had a quiet moment of joy in my office. 
SOMETIMES extra-good behavior at school is rewarded with sprinkly sweet things. 
"Yes, I would love to watch cup-stacking world record videos with you guys."
Skyler's soul is as gentle as this therapy dog's, trained to listen to kids reading at the library. 

It appears that Matt and Ange are singing us a lullaby. 
A Friday night of live music and merriment with the loveliest of people. 

A Sunday morning rainbow fruit salad. 
playing catch on the first day it's warm enough to shed the jackets.
My favorite:  Reed lip-synching to "All the Single Ladies..." with his school buddy. 
I'm a huge fan of the tiny moments and tend to record many of them on Instagram.  You can follow me there.  I am: 1mominmaine.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"and the air had so much light and sweetness...

...that it was a pain to come within doors."  Ralph Waldo Emerson

What happens when the thermometer creeps above 40?  To the beach, of course.   Weekend adventures where we stay outside as long as possible:  welcome back.

I am lucky that my kids are up for anything, even willing to walk a mile to the beach in the winter.  Our adventurous spirits were rewarded when lo-and-behold, Sand Beach, which is sometimes the coldest and windiest place in Maine, was a pocket of protected warmth and sunshine, just for us.
 When we got to the beach, Skyler threw off her coat and yelled "SUMMER!"  Not quite, honey.  But close. 
 I sat on the rocks up above the beach and breathed in the air and watched the kids poke around in tidal pools and whoop for joy.  We filled up on sunshine and vitamin D.

On the hike back up to the car, they each found a dollar.  LUCKY DAY INDEED.

Look, Mom.  We have discovered the selfie.
 I don't know about you all, but I am loving the extra sunlight and that lovely smell of mud which tells us that things are melting and thawing and stretching into warmer days.  (That's me trying to be enthusiastic about March.)


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

make it yours.

I recently turned 39 and I just now had an important revelation.

I always thought that life was free and easy, sunny, and full of laughter, and that hard, bad things might pop up into your life for a minute, but you recover from them quickly, and then you go back to your easy, free, sunny, and full-of-laughter life.  I actually thought that. 

Until my dad died when I was 29 years old, nothing hard had ever happened to me.  I have no bad childhood memories.  Okay, some girls were really mean to me in middle school, and okay, when I was six, I got a splinter under my fingernail which really hurt, and when I was eleven, I broke my arm, but I kind of liked the attention. That is it.  Besides the fact that my dad and I were extremely close and he was a total gem of a man, I think the reason his death rocked me so hard is that my whole foundation of the world was shaken.  Bad things can happen.  And I'm embarrassed to admit it, but until then, I actually thought there was an impenetrable shield around me. 

I credit and blame my parents for providing me with such a lovely and happy childhood that it never occurred to me that life could be any other way.  I literally never heard my parents argue.  I saw them kiss good morning every morning, hold hands, laugh, eat every meal together, and even up to the very end, travel together.    My mom will be the first to remind me it wasn't always that lovely, but she will also be the first to add that it actually usually was that lovely.  The point is that from my protected place in the world, things looked really good.  We ate all of our meals together, we camped in the summers, skied in the winters, not to mention we didn't live in a war zone or face hunger or illness.  We had a peaceful life in the suburbs, classical music, rooms lined with books, well-balanced meals, and heaps of love. 

I remember vividly a 9th grade Health class in which we were studying emotional health, and the teacher offered that when she found the need to cry, and she made it clear this was pretty often, she would take a shower so that she could cry in private.  And I sat there and thought:  "Why in God's name would anyone ever need to cry?  On a regular basis? For no real reason?"

My Pollyanna attitude could very well just be the byproduct of a healthy childhood and some basic innocence and naivete about life.  But my feelings about this happy, care-free world carried well into college and into adulthood, and actually helped to foster some of my problems.  Everything has to be happy!

A few weeks ago, I had a series of hard interactions with someone that made me feel pretty beat up.  Within a few hours, I also received emails or texts from dear friends dealing with really hard situations:  relationships ending, relationships barely hanging on, a child with a new scary diagnosis, a child with depression, a car stolen right out of a driveway, and not to mention my multiple family members fighting cancer.  I had a moment.  I was sitting in my car when I realized... 

So, this is what it's going to be like all the time, huh?

Not that life is all the bad stuff.  To the contrary, there are so many wonderful things, now and always.  But the hard things are not intermittent storms that rise up over the plains and then swiftly disappear.  Instead, there is a constant stream, a complicated pattern of winds that we need to learn to negotiate.  And each new rough patch shapes us and stretches us and leaves us understanding ourselves so much better.   And it makes us better friends and listeners and life-appreciators.  We all know how much brighter and more vibrant the sunset is after a storm.  

I have struggled these past two years because of some honest-to-goodness hard times and hard decisions and all of the fall-out that came with them; But I have also struggled because I'm acclimating to a more complicated world that I now understand and accept.  I have built and will continue to build a wealth of resources to rely on for hard stuff, stuff that I now understand isn't just going to end.   I will always worry about my kids.  There will always be sickness or the possibility of it.  Happiness isn't something that is created for me, it's something I have to fight for and hang on to and fiercely protect.

What I have found and created with Tim is way more than I even dared to hope for, and the fact that our paths crossed when they did still totally baffles me.  (And the universe said "Cue the kind, smart, handsome sportscaster").  Falling in love gives you that rush of newness and joy, and the whole world becomes colored with all of the amazing things you are going to do together.  And, it also makes you feel really vulnerable.  I look at Tim and think:  Good God, you are so incredible and wonderful and don't you dare get sick and please buckle your seat belt and don't do anything stupid like cross the street without looking!  Perhaps more than ever in my life, I understand that something so good and rare should be cherished, and that I have to take the most special care of it, and protect it, and always breath life into it, and still take care of MYSELF within this new life.   

A few weeks ago Suzanne sat down with me and wrote me a list of affirmations to read to myself when needed.  Suzanne knows my story better than probably anyone, and I get so much confidence from having her confidence in this new life I've created.

(You should all have a list of affirmations, and you should all have a Suzanne):

Meditation, hard exercise, relying on family and friends, reading insightful things by smart people,  writing and talking:  these are not just things to help us cope with adversity, instead, they are things we need to do to live a full life.  I am no longer muscling from one obstacle to the next.  It's both freeing and humbling to understand that whatever comes will come, and I will stand strong with my ever-deepening roots and do the best I can do to weather the storms.

Just like yours, my life is wonderful and tender, great and hard, all at the same time.   People heal and cancer treatments work, sometimes.  Relationships recover, or they needed to end in the first place. New relationships are born.  People come into your life when you need them to.   I worry about my kids, about the effects of divorce, about whether or not I can harbor them in that rosy and safe world. But they show me all the time, just by being so truly themselves, and by being so loving and confident, that they are okay.  Way better than okay. 

I'm grateful for all the years behind me and all the time ahead of me.  I am at a beautiful vantage point to see ahead, to all the sides.   I truly understand a few key things now that I wish I understood always:

Trust your gut.  Trust in yourself.  You can't control the world around you. You get to be happy, but it isn't handed to you, and it isn't la-la-la kind of happy, it's a deeper, earned, stronger self-love happy.  When you create it for yourself, then it feels more real, and it's more yours.