Monday, March 30, 2009


I decided.

I’m in.

I registered for the 2009 LA Marathon!!

It wasn’t really a tough decision after Sunday’s run. Of course, it helped to have the encouraging support of my dear friends, especially Kip, Kathleen and Jon. I think at this point I would be a little disappointed if I didn’t go for it and train all the way. So … I’m going to give it my best.

And Kip helped with the other big decision.

He ended the agonizing car search and bought the shiny black SUV from the Craigslist guy.

I spent the second half of this afternoon worrying about Kip as he drove around the hood with a manila enveloped, oddly marked “cookie money,” stuffed with three hundred and fifty $20 bills. I guess the bank was out of $100s in Inglewood.

But when he returned with this very LA vehicle, so unlike our humble van, I still wasn’t sure it fit us. At my 6-year-old son’s request we took it for a family spin around our neighborhood. And of course Kip insisted on me taking the wheel.

Strangely enough, I discovered that I actually really liked it!

All I ever wanted in my next vehicle was a one of those “beep-beep-key-chain” things (keyless entry) so I could open/lock the door easily. But this vehicle has that and a bunch of other little perks. It has what my kids call butt warmers. (Hey doesn’t everyone want a hot ass? -- couldn't resist.) And it actually reports how many miles are left on its tank of gasoline.

But now there is a new decision. After Kip brought the shiny new SUV home, he suggested that maybe we should fix the van after all -- for me -- and sell his old car. Nice one. That might have worked if he hadn't let me drive it.

What will be its name?

Running Far

I am beginning to feel like a real runner.

This morning I got up before dawn and ran 14 miles -- seven miles across the Marina through Venice Beach all the way to the Santa Monica Pier and back. And for the most part, I finished feeling great.

Training for this marathon (which I have yet to decide to run) has been a really great experience so far. It has challenged me both physically and psychologically, maybe even spiritually.

Last year one of my friends who ran the LA Marathon mentioned something about all the people, “running for Jesus.” I think he was referring to all the runners wearing Christian T-shirts with Bible verses. I thought it was kind of weird.

But now that I am taking on long runs, it kind of makes sense to me. It doesn't seem strange that Christians would identify with their faith as they experienced a test of perseverance.

Persevering through physical training is kind of like inventing your own crisis.

And the Bible speaks to people of faith during crisis.

After the first 10 miles of my run, about the time my knees started reminding me that I don't usually run this far, my MP3 player cycled through the last of the upbeat running mix --the long mix with the really stupid songs like Nickelback’s “Rockstar” and Evanescence/Linkin Park "Wake Me Up;" it began playing a folder of worship music that Kip had downloaded to practice for Sunday.

The songs were not really “running” songs, but the words were beautiful – inspirational in every sense. Just as I was beginning to look longingly down the road, wondering if I would make it the last few miles, Lincoln Brewster’s Everlasting God played. The song finishes with the really cute little kid quoting Isaiah 40: 28-31.

“ …….Even youths will become weak and tired. And young men will fall exhausted, but those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

So I kept on running -- even sprinted at the end.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dubious Deliberations

Making decision is the most stressful part of being an adult – I think.
I constantly second-guess decision I have made and I never seem willing to defend unpopular decisions to people who disagree with me. After all I might be wrong.

It’s not that I’m completely yellow-livered. I don’t flip flop just to stabilize my popularity. I actually want to hear people’s arguments and I am often willing to change my mind.

But it is stressful.

Like right now I’m trying to decide if I should run the LA Marathon on May 25th.

I haven’t said I would do it yet. But I have been training, running 60 minutes or more four times a week and hauling a long run on the weekend.

The thing is, I am just not sure that I am ready. What if I am not? I don’t want to commit to something that I won't be able to finish.

I gave myself a deadline on that one. Tuesday. Nothing works like a decision to decide.

Kip and I ran 10 miles December 31st to meet my 2008 New Year's Resolution to run 10 miles. This year I cautiously increased that to "train" for a marathon and maybe run it.

Dear Emily Elise --our mini van of many adventures -- is your time with us done?

When it comes to family decisions like – should we fix the van’s transition for $1,400 or buy a new used car with our savings – I balk. I procrastinate.

Right now or dead van is sitting in a parking lot at Kip's work.


Kip wants an upscale used SUV he found for a ridiculously low price on Craigslist. I’m less of an optimist and I want to make sure it wasn’t stolen or found floating in Katrina. Besides, when I drove the SUV, I realized how comfortable I am in the old minivan.

Minivans aren’t that sexy, but they are like a pair of well-worn shoes.

Of course, well-worn shoes stink. .... hmmm.

It is even more difficult when the decision involves the kids and their future.

After years of negotiating, Kip and I are basically on the same page about homeschooling the kids. Except now that Kip is firmly on my side, I'm giving myself liberty to question every aspect of the process.

Are we doing the right thing for math? Are we doing enough “school”? Should we participate in this activity, go on this field trip, attend this social event? Why don’t I have a stronger sense of direction?

I know I need to spend more time in quiet solitude, away from self doubt, in the presence of God. And I guess I need to make peace with the reality that sometimes I will make wrong decisions, I will fail and I will live to see another day.

But I'm just not sure ......

I’ll let you know what I decide about the marathon.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Remembering Homeless Kids Again

I ran into Sister Lynn today. I don’t know where she got “Sister” as an official title, but adults and homeless kids in West LA alike know her by that name. She is somewhat eccentric, and I have learned that a conversation with her will leave me longing to help. Somehow. That's her gift. She makes the chronic, terminal problems of homeless families urgent.

This woman literally spends her entire life caring for poor, hungry, neglected kids. In her battered green van that has seen too many city miles, she roams around LA, helping kids in big and small ways.

She is often seen with her cell phone, calling her random network of kind-hearted people.

"Do you know of anyone who has got a baby bed? We really need a baby bed today."

"Do you have any extra food, maybe some school clothes for these kids?"

It can be overwhelming.

She finds kids living with their parents in parks, under bridges, in transitional shelters and at over-priced, run down motels. She can’t take them home, but for a few hours she takes them places to play and enjoy childhood. She seems to know about every free childrens’ program in LA, and has her girls participating in several childrens' church programs every week.

I met Sister Lynn several years ago at an Awana’s program. I was sporadically volunteering at that time, and had the privileged of connecting with a couple of her kids then. One little girl, particularly touched my heart, a beautiful 6-year-old African American girl with huge green eyes that stared into my soul when we talked.

She was memorizing John 3:16. I read the Bible verse for her and she stared into my eyes and repeated it over and over until she had it by heart.

”God so loved the world…”

Such simple acceptance.

No questions asked.

When I saw my friend with her van today I asked about this girl. I hadn’t seen her in a couple years, and I seemed to remember there being some problems with her family at their transitional home.

The story I heard made me sick. Angry, sick, and really, really sad.

I wept when I got home, more than I have wept over injustice in a really long time.

I don’t like feeling this way. I don’t like knowing that our city of beautiful, famous people and perfect weather hides forgotten abused children. But it does.

As much as it hurts, I don’t really want to forget about it. I want my heart to be available to help in whatever way I can.

Because in the end I still believe that God loves the world.

Of these four children, three were homeless when I took the picture. One is my son. Two of the homeless kids found permanent housing with their mothers in Bakersfield. The other is my little friend whose story made me weep today.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Flipping Burgers at the Ball Park

This evening I “volunteered” at our little league’s snack bar for a couple of hours. It was kind of surreal, being nearly invisible behind the counter, flipping burgers. In some ways, it felt like I was back in high school, working at Wendy’s .

Of course, back then they didn’t let me use the grill. I spent most shifts wiping tables, refilling the ketchup dispenser, cleaning out the little disposable ash trays. (Ahh --- the smell of cigarette ashes mingled with old ketchup. I’m sure it’s half the reason I never smoked.)

Back then the closest I got to actual cooking was running the french fry machine. I perfected the art of staring into a vat of bubbly oil and waiting for each fry to swivel and flip. I didn’t exactly put the “fast” back in fast food.

But things were different then.

Back then my co-workers didn’t chat on their cell phones every five minutes or listen to I-pods. And back then, I was actually getting paid, even if it was only $4.25 or whatever.

So what is up with this trend of parent “volunteering”? Aren’t we busy enough helping with school work, driving our kids everywhere, arranging playdates, not to mention planning and executing actual healthy meals. Now we get to “volunteer,” or pay $50 for the organization to find another “volunteer,” usually an eager teenager who doesn’t mind flipping burgers or painting props.

Anyhow, I didn’t want to pay another $50 for anything tonight.

And I didn’t mind helping out. I naively supposed it was standard procedure – support the team, help out with the concession stand twice a season. But somehow, as I bounced enthusiastically into the concession stand, I got the distinct impression that the two paid teenagers were actually surprised to discover I was an actual parent, actually covering my shift.

But in some ways I didn’t mind, I had a front row view of baseball culture, watching different faces lean through the window and order junk food. Do you realize people actually chew sunflower seeds – it’s not just a stereotype?

I recognized a few parents from other kid events around town. But no one recognized me. It was kind of fun.

I felt like a traveler, passing through. It’s a familiar feeling.

I floated through most of my childhood, observing people. I rarely felt at home, except in the presence of my family. I know what it’s like to feel like an outsider. And sometimes I like it. I can disengage and watch the fry daddy bubble. I’m just not baseball people.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Upside of Downsizing

I have confession to make.

I read Women’s Day magazine, but only in the bathroom.

I’m not sure why I read it. I don’t think I have ever read anything there that I couldn’t have written myself or hadn’t thought of last week. It’s probably more mind numbing than People or Cosmo. But maybe I like it because it is refreshingly devoid of “beautiful” people – at least the anorexic, plastic surgery enhanced Hollywood types. But honestly, I think I read it because it arrives in my mailbox and the forgettable articles are the perfect length for poo poo time.

Anyhow, tonight, after a long afternoon of dealing with fussy, fighting kids, I retreated to the bathroom for a long, hot bath. I locked the door and strongly recommended my husband take the bedtime duty. He was on his way out the door for a recording session, but I guess he knows when I am on the verge of crazy because he stayed a little longer and read the bedtime story.

Anyhow ... I filled the tub and read the latest WD cover to cover, even after I dropped it in the bath.

In between the adds for ridiculous knickknacks, most of the issue seemed to be dedicated to tips and ideas for living on a budget. It made me laugh. Good old WD, always two steps ahead the housewife.

It was all so common sensical, and anti consumeristic. I am so glad being a tight wad is finally cool!

It’s been hip to be green for a while now. A few years ago I thought it was funny when environmentally conscious people, soap boxing about saving the planet, started giving advice that my parents had been doing for years. Things like 1)turn down the heater in winter, 2) use reusable water bottles, napkins, etc and 3) try walking every once in a while. It saves money too. And it's healthy . Win. Win. Win.

But if people won't do it for the planet or their bodies, maybe they will for the budget, if it is fashionable enough.

My parents always lived on one income. Until I was twelve, it was almost no income, as my mom was a full-time homemaker and my dad a college student/medical student.

My mom skillfully stretched the budget. I don’t know how she did it. But I know that she and dad were committed to their lifestyle decisions and they never seemed to worry about not having stuff. They invested in people.

We didn't eat at restaurants very often, and when we did it was usually McDonald's with shared orders of fries and tap water only. No Happy Meals with plastic toys. But at home we often had strangers at our dinner table. My parents understood hospitality.

It was a great childhood.

So, with my apologizes to the many, many people who are unemployed and homeless, I want to say that I don’t think this general economic downturn is all bad. It seems to be helping people break the cycle of consumerism and materialism, and look for creative ways to reuse and recycle. When I read crazy advice like -- "consider purchasing large-ticket items like power tools to share with your neighbors," I am amazed that this hasn't been considered before. What? Share? If this recession lasts long enough, it might even resurrect community in this country.

So that is my nightly soap box, after soaking in a soapy tub with a mushy magazine. I feel clean and hopefull.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Not Running in the Rain

It’s a beautiful rainy day.

I love the rain. It doesn’t rain enough in Southern California, so when it does we celebrate.

But the bad side of rain is that sometimes I use it as an excuse to skip the morning run. (I use anything for an excuse to skip the morning run.)

Running in gentle spring rain is exhilarating. I actually love it. But this morning Kip didn’t want to run and I didn’t feel like running alone, so I tried something I haven’t in a very long time – an exercise DVD. I don’t really like exercise programs because I have to constantly pause and concentrate on whether or not I am doing anything resembling the perfectly agile host. But I probably need to learn a few new stretches, crunches, whatever those exercises are called that tone and firm all those problem areas.

So here I am in the living room, with my exercise ball, two little free weights, staring at the TV. Denise Austin, no relation to Jane, is clapping and smiling at me.

“Great Job!! You’re doing great!”


The rapidly deflating exercise ball slips out from under me and I flop to the floor. I’m no longer tightening my abs, working my glutes.

My six year old, who is sitting on the couch dutifully watching my contortions and pushing pause on the remote every time I scream, “Stop it! Am I doing it right?” looks at Denise.

“Is she a mom?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“She seems like it.”

My husband, who is effortlessly doing a 100 or so sit ups, stops to check out the TV.

“She has had kids?”

I’m fighting to keep the ball under my lower back.

“Don’t say it.”

My sleepy 10 year-old daughter wanders through the living room.

“Cool you’re using the ball.”

”Go get dressed,” I grunt, desperately trying to emulate a very easy looking crunch.

“She’s weird,” my daughter comments as she wanders back through the living room five minutes later.

“Why is she all like, “Yeah!!””

She does a frightening impression.

“Yeah I don’t know, I think she was a cheerleader or something.”

My daughter smiles and I am amazed at how she has come to accept my dry sense of humor, my slight sarcasm. She seems to know when I’m trying to be funny. But somehow she knows when to take me seriously too. I wonder how long she will let me paint her reality. I respect her intelligence, and I try to always tell her the truth, as far as I can. So maybe she’ll let me have a voice in her heart for a long time. I hope so.

So that is how I started my day. In my world, a simple exercise DVD is a family affair. And what should be a personal struggle has become a family learning experience. As annoying as it is, it is kind of what I idealize, living life together, transparently, letting my kids see me try hard, maybe even fail.

On the other hand I like the relative peace of running through our neighborhood – alone.

If it rains tomorrow morning, I’m going to run.


I've been wanting to blog for so long now it has become a running joke in my house.
"I'm going to start a blog," I promise in random conversations to friends. This is always followed by some description of a blog based on homeschooling, or movie review, or dating, or politics or faith. Or whatever.
At which point my friends always say, "You should do it!"
Which is enough to satisfy my blog yearning, and I never do it.
I do have reasons for not blogging. For one, everyone has a blog, and most are kind of boring. Not to mention the fact that Wired magazine has declared blogging -- so yesterday.
And then there is the old, "What will ?? think." But as the years have passed, my reasons for not blogging have grown to encompass not only my mother (hi mom!) but now also my daughter who is grown up enough to read my blog.
So ... yesterday my husband announced that he was going to start a blog. He even had a snazy name picked out, so I decided there is no time like now.
Here it is.
Hope you have a good laugh.