Tuesday, May 26, 2015

#11 Read Four More Presidential Biographies - CHECK

Hi lovely readers,

I have procrastinated writing this post for more than two weeks because honestly writing about James K. Polk, U.S. President No. 11 seems about as exciting as reading about the man. That's a wordy way of saying I didn't enjoy learning much about Mr. Polk. But I am excited to cross off another item from the list, so my motivation has been reinvigorated.

Here's a bulleted list of some of the things I learned about American history whilst reading this short, but looonnnnggg, biography:

*Polk's presidency was made possible when the two presidential front runners, Martin Van Buren (for re-election) and Henry Clay (long time presidential aspirant and total grouch) spoke out against annexing Texas. They were out of step with what Americans wanted and their outspokenness cost them their careers.

*In the vein of "some things never change," Toqueville visited from France and "concluded that "religious insanity is very common in the United States." Separation of church and state, in those days as now, did not keep preachers out of politics."

*"Somehow he [Polk] is the least acknowledged among our presidents of great achievement, which is somewhat mystifying. He boldly exerted the influence of the presidency in both foreign and domestic affairs. He threatened war with the British to take from them a major share of the Oregon Territory, waged war against Mexico to grab California and New Mexico, and increased the landmass of the country by a third, creating a continental nation that reached from ocean to ocean. He reduced the tariff, permanently stripped public tax funds from the unaccountable and often corrupt control of private banks, and created an independent Treasury that was viable for more than 60 years." (page 1)

*One of the reasons, I'm not a fan of Polk: "Yet over a career that ran more than a quarter century, as state legislator, U.S. Congressman, Speaker of the House, governor and president, Polk seemed TO GROW OR CHANGE LITTLE AT ALL. [All caps are mine.] He knew what he knew about traditional Republican orthodoxy satisfied that he was true to his beliefs, and thus concluded he was indisputably right." (page 2) Boo to not growing or expanding one's experience. However...

*Here's something I can admire: "Polk believed that if democracy was to have meaning, the great mass of people were as entitled as the wealthy few to vote and to serve in high offices." (page 29)

*Polk's "Great Measures": "He would lower the tariff; He would recreate Van Buren's independent treasury; He would acquire Oregon from the British; He would acquire California from Mexico." (pages 102-103)

*"...Harry Turman published his list of eight great presidents and rated Polk, chronologically, behind Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson. "A great president," said the thirty-third chief magistrate of the eleventh. "He said exactly what he was going to do and he did it." (page 103) Yes, Mr. 33, but at what cost? Dare I ask.

*And finally..."Polk left office with no iconic image, no host of hero-worshipers, no hordes of admirers sated with his charisma. If his administration approached "greatness" - and most...agree that it did - it was on the basis of performance alone." (page 155)

So there you have it. A brief snapshot of the notes and quotes I copied as I read this biography. I believe I have entered the "boring stage" of this writing project. I am undeterred. I will trudge on, but first I will read more Anne of Green Gables and the book I've chosen from the high school reading list first. When those are complete, I'll be able to check off numbers 10 and 22 as well.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

#13 Get a Pedicure with Bright Red Polish - CHECK

Leave it to me to find a way to make getting a pedicure a "deep thoughts" kind of moment. But I did. That's who I am.

Choosing to get a pedicure after the 5k was a brilliant strategy. Cross off two 4040 items in a day, and give my feet and legs a much-needed treat. I also made it a girls-only event. My mom, sister, daughter and I walked a block down the street to the downtown mall where the concierge at the hotel said we would find a nail salon.

Daughter spotted a man with a sign asking for help while we stood at the crosswalk. She asked if I had some money so she could give it to him. I handed her a small bill. The pedestrian light flashed, the numbers counted down and we crossed the street. She approached the man, dropped the money in his container. We smiled, read his sign about the money really going for beer, smiled some more and kept walking. Daughter, now a proficient reader, questioned me about the beer sign, and I told her he was making a joke.

I limped the entire way to the mall. My sister asked, "What is the matter?" I reminded her that walkers had thwarted the start of my race and in an attempt to get around them, I had run the first bit of the race on the balls of my feet and pulled my calves. The left one was far more painful than the right. There really couldn't be a better time for a twice-in-a-decade pedicure.

We signed in at the nail salon and were shown to the polish display to pick our colors. Daughter was so excited to be included in this particular 4040 activity. She asked, "How many colors can we get?" When she was told two, she exclaimed, "Yes!" loud enough for the other customers to hear her excitement. We were assigned to our chairs and the warm tubs of water. We sat down, placed our legs in the warmth and enjoyed the accompanying mechanical chair massage.

Here are the thoughts that bubbled to the surface as I relaxed into the experience.

When I added the pedicure to the list, I thought I was giving myself permission to do what I admit I thought was a girly, indulgent thing that I judgmentally thought too many women did too often. It turns out that the pedicure was actually my soul's attempt at nudging me closer to living more in my body than in my bookworm's head and heart. Who knew? I was ticklish and there were moments particularly as the woman massaged my arches that weren't comfortable. I used my training mentality to get through those moments. "This arch massage won't last forever. The discomfort is temporary. The overall experience is awesome." Turns out, I've become a mantra machine. My inner dialogue continues to get so much stronger on the side of positive self talk.

And then as I relaxed, I thought about the man on the corner we passed on our way to the salon. I daydreamed about how great it would be to offer him a chance to sit in the chair. To soak his tired feet in the warm water. To have another human being touch the tender places on his worn feet. Would that make him feel better? Different? Loved? I wondered when was the last time he had experienced a warm bath, felt clean, and refreshed?

The woman rubbed lotion on my legs. They were already feeling better after the time in the warm bath. She placed my feet into the flip flops I had carried with me. I was fascinated by the woman's steady hand and how she applied the bright, shimmery red to my toes.

She led me over to the blue light to dry and set my pedicure. There I struck up a lovely conversation with a woman whose husband had run the mini-marathon (13.1 miles) that morning. She told me about their running life, races to definitely go to (Peachtree Race in Atlanta, July Fourth each year). She told about the inspiring stories you always hear about why people are at races, what motivates them to run. I told her about my 4040 list and checking the 5k off the list with my brother-by-marriage.

Checking number #13 off the list was such an enriching experience. I love the ways this list is surprising me. Building me. Transforming me. Giving me permission to be self-indulgent in healthy ways. I know I won't make getting a pedicure a regular thing, but it will become a special treat I offer myself more often than on a decade's basis.

PS: As we walked back to the hotel, I. Did. Not. Limp.

Monday, May 11, 2015

27. Make a Look Book of Cadence's Fashions for Me - CHECK

I recorded in my daughter's journal around age two that she had begun to pick out her own clothes.

I am so glad I thought to write it down. Six years later, I wouldn't have believed it without the proof. I mean, come on, two years old? I remember one Sunday morning she picked out a yellow dress and put her white and pink Cardinals jersey over it. I let her wear it to church, and she was a hit among the Cards' fans.

I decided pretty early on that of the many battles of parenting I would have to choose, what my daughter wore would not be one of them. As long as she was appropriately covered and had a jacket in case of cooler weather, I was going to let her match or unmatch to her heart's content. Her clothing choices, I decided, would not be a reflection of me. But me letting her feel a sense of control and a sense of self-expression would be a reflection of my parenting style.

One day in kindergarten, she said, “Mom look, I'm matching.” Cadence showed me her two floral prints. I paused and asked her to explain in what way she matched. “They're both flowers. So they match.” I couldn't argue with this logic.

In the past year I have noticed that she really has an eye for style, aesthetic, and what looks good. I began letting her choose my jewelry in the mornings before work. I watched her careful consideration. Her wheels were turning. She was contemplating what would look best. Almost without exception, her choices were better than mine. It was a joy to interact with her in these quick moments of our busy mornings, and it was satisfying to see her confidence grow as I encouraged her stylings.

From jewelry selections I moved on to asking for her help in picking out my wardrobe. Again, she dazzled me with her eye and her choices.

As I drafted my 4040 list, I worked to find activities that she and I could do together. I decided to add #27 “Create a Look Book of Cadence's styles.” I was already capturing morning's wardrobes when she selected them, why not make a book of these photos as she created them throughout the 4040 celebration?

Enter my friend, Christa. She's a gifted photographer who wants to expand her portfolio, so she asked me if she could photograph Cadence and I doing some activity together for a “Slice-of-Life” photo shoot. I asked if she would photograph Cadence coming up with outfits for me to try on, and she agreed.

One Sunday afternoon a few hours before Cadence's long-anticipated Girl Scout Daddy-Daughter Dance, Christa came over. I laid out my closet's contents on the bed and the sofa.

Our instructions for Cadence were simple: Pretend you're a fashion designer and create outfits for me to try on.

I was not prepared for what followed. Cadence studied my body like an artist. She clasped her hands together making a steeple of her index fingers and pressed them to her lips in contemplation. “Do you want to know the theme?” she asked. I told her I wanted to be surprised. She began gathering clothes from the bed. At one point she looked perplexed. I said, “What are you looking for?”

“I need a hat. For a cowgirl. The theme is cowgirl,” she answered.

I offered her a straw hat. “Try it on,” she commanded.

“No, that's not the look I'm going for.” Seriously. My almost eight-year-old said those exact words.
I brainstormed with her and she agreed to the black hat with a bill.

The next 75 minutes went like this. Sometimes she'd whisper her theme to Christa, so that she could bounce off ideas to someone. I was always surprised.

In addition to a cowgirl (complete with a pink bandana because you know, “Cowgirls have to wipe their dirty hands on something...”), Cadence transformed me into a teacher and told me how to pose.

A "zoo person"

A bridesmaid (in the dress my paternal grandmother wore to my parents' wedding)

A mechanic (like my novel's character, Astrid)

And president (inspired by a top hat akin to what President Lincoln might have worn.)

She also made a sign that read “Vote for her.” And an arrow pointing to me. I might start calling her Chelsea Clinton!

I was most surprised by her confidence and how comfortable she was in this starring role. She was creative and thoughtful about all of her choices including when she dressed me as “someone at school who you go to if you have a problem and don't know how to solve it.” Score a point for the school counselor!

I have no idea if this fashion thing will stick or not. Honestly, I don't care. What I do care about is that I am able to create an environment where exploration of who she wants to become and what career path she wants to pursue is a fun, creative, and safe experience.

I like knowing that I am working hard to be a safe person she can bounce off ideas with, to think things out loud with, and that she knows that I trust her to know and trust herself.

These are a few other favorite moments that Christa captured beautifully. I created a tangible look book from Walgreen's using a mother's day sales code and some rewards money. I can't wait to display it in my living room.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

#9 Buy a Bike Rack - CHECK

There's not much to say about accomplishing this goal, but there are three people I want to acknowledge for their vital participation.

Eddie, one of my best friends from college, helped me determine what bike rack model would work best with my hitch and also helped me find a great price. (I must admit, I did not do enough research before putting this one on the 4040 list. It was a pricey item.) I have no regrets. Having this bike rack will facilitate many a bike ride this summer with Cadence.

Eddie assured me I could attach the rack on my own. I watched the video and felt good about being able to do it.

I removed the pieces from their shipping containers and began reading the instructions. Within moments I determined that there were slightly more steps than the video highlighted, so I loaded the parts into the back of my Pathfinder and headed over to my friend's house for dinner. As we were enjoying the mild evening with Cinco de Mayo-themed food, I asked her son, Y, (who builds robots) if he would help me assemble the bike rack.

We went out front to the car and dove in. His sister, M, came out and joined the team. Between the three of us, we problem-solved our way through the assembly. I was really proud of these young people. We worked well together bringing our own strengths to the effort. I could not have done it on my own. I am not fluent in the language of the manufacturer.

We started the project in the daylight and finished it after the sun went down. Thank goodness for the flashlight on my phone!

I love the diversity and splash of practicality that is represented on this list. I look forward to our first ride.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Perfectly You and Totally Bi#$in - Race Weekend - #12 CHECK

I had so much excited energy on the day before the 5k I may have set the cruise control and tapped my foot all the way to Indianapolis. I called my sister en route to ask her husband, a physician, and my running partner, what chemical was coursing through my veins. I was hopped up on something, and it was GREAT! I had no idea that adrenaline would kick in so early.

My sister has requested that as I recount all of my novice observations that I add the bit about me asking if the race packet included safety pins. I thought it was a reasonable question, but apparently it demonstrated my newbie status.

Our travel was delayed by construction on and off the entire drive. Rich and the family picked up my race packet for me, and we met at the hotel shortly after. Rich presented me with the long-talked-about socks. He called them "Perfectly you and totally bi#$in." After receiving the gold and blue "Bookworm" socks, I absolutely agreed!

My mom and sister kept whispering some race-related information in my daughter's ears. Top secret stuff I was told.

We visited with family for awhile, carried out a dry turkey club from the Hard Rock Cafe across from the hotel, and got to bed later than I would have liked. Motorcyclists provided us with a cacophony of sounds that made falling asleep very difficult. Around 3:00 a.m. I woke myself up with a coughing fit. I got up and dressed for the race about 5:30, ate oatmeal, drank grapefruit juice and tea, and then Rich and I began our walk downtown to the start of the race.

But not before a few pre-race photos:

Showing off the socks

And the backs of the "Team Fancy Free" shirts Rich made us. (Rich has been singing a made up song with the phrase Fancy Free to me for nearly as long as we've known each other. He observes what I'm doing in a particular moment, reading, washing the dishes, etc. and then sings that I'm doing it "so fancy free." That is the back story for our team shirts.)

We followed the crowd down to the starting line. There were so many people. We made our way to the "5k R" area, which was in front of the "5k W." We took a few more photos, but generally I just wanted to live in the moment and take in everything. Really great music was playing over the loud speakers, so I warmed up by bouncing to the beat. I was amazed at how not cold I was given that I was wearing shorts and it was in the low 50s. We were surrounded by a sea of humanity, so they helped keep me warm.

Rich had a friend running the mini-marathon after our race, and by some stroke of luck, Bob was able to find us in our corral and wish us good luck. The Indiana state song was sung, the countdown began, and we were off. I was not prepared for how much dodging of walkers we were going to have to do. When the path cleared some I realized that I had been running on the balls of my feet. I lowered back to my heels and felt tightness in my calves.

Rich reminded me to set the pace I was comfortable with and he would run by my side. The following is a bulleted list of the things I observed, thought, said, or experienced during the race:

*There were all kinds of bands and groups on the sidelines playing music and giving encouragement. Rock, military band, Rock band with a French horn, gospel, belly dancers, DJ with hip hop "Welcome back everyone! We're so glad to see you. This is like an anniversary for us. You can do it!" There was a Christian man with a mic who was telling us that the most important thing we could hear this morning was that Jesus was our Lord and Savior.

*I was not prepared for how many young kids there were running with parents. It was definitely motivating.

*Rich kept track of our time and our distance with his Garmin watch.

*I was stunned when he first told me I was maintaining a better than 11 minute mile.

*The running community is a supportive one. People looked out for each other. I loved the volunteers cheering us on and immediately thought, "Cadence and I are going to volunteer."

*Rich and I carried on some conversation in spurts, but mostly I looked a few paces in front of me, concentrated on my breathing, and plowed forward.

*He confirmed that I was indeed a reasonable running partner and that he would do another race with me.

*Around this time, we also hit an incline and I could tell that I was wearing out and slowing down a bit.

*I was also grateful that there was no wind.

*At some point I looked behind me and said, "Well, I'm not going to be the last one in." Rich said, "Oh no, not by a long shot."

*We observed one guy bark at his wife/partner when she stopped running. He said a few discouraging things to her and resumed running. I was even more grateful for my running partner.

*Knowing that a longer race was happening after ours, that helped me keep perspective about the race I was running. It WAS a marathon for me, but to behave as if it was would be ludicrous. I was grateful to have that perspective and to keep my head in check.

*The thing I will remember most about those minutes with my brother-by-marriage was what he said to me as the finish line emerged: "I am really impressed with how seriously you took training for this race. You set your mind to not stopping, not doing it half-assed, and you are doing it. I am so proud of you."

*As the finish line got closer, and I could hear the music again, I looked up and saw the time. We were under 36 minutes. All of a sudden, I felt compelled to power through to get an even better time. The thought crossed my mind that I was fatigued enough that my legs might buckle, but they didn't. I finished the race in 33 minutes!!!

We met up with our cheering section holding the top secret signs that they'd made the night before. And that's when I started crying. I said, "I beat my own personal record." I hugged my daughter and nephew first and then my parents and sister. It was a glorious moment. I was so unbelievably proud of myself and so happy to have had people there to witness this milestone. Rich and I continued walking towards the volunteers passing out the medals and then collected our post-race foods. The gatorade was atrocious and had to be washed down with water.

We had no problem reuniting with our family which is amazing given the throngs of people. I told them more about the race, we took more pictures, and took in the sights of the post-race party. We looked at our phones. It was only 8:15, but it felt like 2:30 in the afternoon to Rich and me.

All eight of us headed back to the hotel so Rich and I could eat another breakfast and have showers. Never has a hot shower felt so good! We spent the rest of the day celebrating my oldest nephew's 8th birthday.

Take aways from this experience:

*I am exceedingly proud of my effort and training.

*I set a goal "Run the entire race." And I accomplished it.

*I am more determined than I previously knew.

*Slow and steady wins the race.

*I want to keep running and doing 5ks.

*I ran my first post-race run today. Just because I wanted to.

*I have a new level of appreciation for my skinny body. It is strong. It carried me ably through my first race. People can think what they want. I am lean and healthy.

*I am being transformed by this 4040 experience.