Tuesday, May 26, 2009

To Run a Marathon

Jon and me around mile 14

The very word marathon is synonymous with perseverance, dedication, working hard for a long time. Two and a half months of training and 26.2 miles later, I understand why.

Yesterday I ran the LA Marathon and I have to say, it was a great experience.

I want to do it again. I ran faster than I thought I would, enjoyed it more than I thought I would and felt better than I thought I would – until about an hour after the race. But I’ll get to that later.

Monday morning

Jon, my marathon-training friend, the guy giving the thumbs up in the first picture, picked me up for the race about 5:30 a.m. I was happy to not have to worry about driving and parking downtown and it was nice to have someone to share the experience with.

I was more than thrilled with the running-perfect, cloudy grey weather. And even though I worried that I had not slept enough, trained enough, stretched enough; I was as ready as I was going to be.

A little after 7 a.m. we crammed into the crowd of runners filling Figueroa Street. We were in the middle with anxious bodies shoulder to shoulder as far as I could see. There was no room to stretch, barely enough to nervously recheck my running shoes. Unwanted sweatshirts were flying through the air, empty water bottles dropping to the pavement. The Marathon officials blasted a song about LA that sounded vaguely familiar and the mayor addressed the crowd. I have no idea what he said.

The start sounded and the crowd slowly inched forward. It took us 2 minutes to cross the starting line.

The first mile was characteristically slow and I resisted the urge to weave in front of all but the slowest walkers. I tried to relax and not think about running a marathon and simply enjoy the run. It wasn’t too difficult. It was a great running day with great energy among the runners and the spectators.

I turned on my MP3 player and after the first song (POD – Alive) I heard Kip’s voice. Apparently, after I went to bed Sunday night he stayed up late and recorded little sound bytes of encouragement. For the entire marathon, every few songs there was a little Kip PSA straight to me, “I love you and I am so proud of you!” as well as little jokes that weren’t really funny, but made me laugh anyway.

He read some of our favorite scriptures too, ones like Hebrews 12:1 (…….let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith …) He didn’t read the whole passage, but he didn’t need to. It’s one I have known since I was a kid, but understood better yesterday as I stared at that orange finish banner fluttering across the street. As I focused on it, rather than my weariness and discomfort, I knew I was going to finish.

Around mile 9 we saw Cindy, Jon’s wife, and their daughter standing along the road, cheering us on. That was fun. A few miles later we saw Kip, jumping up and down and waving ecstatically, stopping only to snap pictures. He was with my kids and my parents who had flown from Oklahoma to cheer me on.

Happy to see the family

I thought I would enjoy running through the diverse neighborhoods, seeing my town from outside the car. And I did, but it was different that I expected. The city was at its best, a Utopian novel where there is no traffic and strangers come out of their homes to offer weary travelers food and water.

By mile 17 I had to stop at the port-a-potty, and so Jon ran on, and I began to hit the harder part of the marathon. Just as I was beginning to feel really tired I heard someone yelling my name and saw my brother Tim and his girlfriend Heather standing on the side, cheering. I was so happy I started crying. I was not expecting them there and the sight of them was overwhelming. Tim even rode his bike up a few blocks to continue cheering.

Three miles later, as the marathon began to feel like a marathon, I was surprised to see Kip, the kids and my parents again.

Near Mile 20

My dad caught this on video. The off-camera voice calling my name is my mom.

I kept running.

By mile 23 I was getting tired. My knees hurt and I felt a little out of breath, out of energy. I was used to a little joint pain on long runs, but not running out of steam. I had accidentally left my energy snacks in Jon’s car, so I began accepting the food people offered along side the road. I grabbed a couple orange pieces, a banana, even candy.

I decided to take more frequent walk breaks, but only for about 30 seconds at a time. I was afraid if I stopped to walk too long I wouldn’t be able to run again.

About this time I looked up and saw friends from church, Julie and Greg. They coach a Students Run LA club and were at the marathon to cheer their kids on. When they saw me they jumped into the street and ran along side me for a few seconds.

“How are you? You’re doing great! You’re almost there, just three miles! Look up! Do you see the city? That’s the finish. You can do it!”

There are no words to describe the power of that encouragement -- someone who has run the marathon before, who knows how it feels to reach mile 23, who can speak confidence into your life, and says “You are almost there. You can do it!”

I ran on.

As I approached mile 25 I was so tired I thought the banner said 26, but I knew it wasn’t. I kept running. When I got to the last mile it was obvious. An LA-sized crowd lined the street with barricades to keep them out of the final .2 mile run.

The last bit was uphill and as I ran I stared at the finish banner.

I’m going to make it. I’m going to run a marathon. I’m going to make it. I’m going to finish a marathon.

I turned off the MP3 player and decided to feel the moment.

An announcer perched above the crowd read names and numbers as runners closed in on the finish line. I heard my name as I crossed the line and sensed the computer register my time – 4:36 – so much better than I had dared to hope two months ago.

It felt like I was walking through a dream as the race volunteers crowded around me,
“Congratulations! Theresa! You did it!” My name was printed on my shirt, but it felt like they knew me. They loved me. They were smiling. They cared that I had finished. Physical exhaustion produces such sweet delirium. One of them hung a medal around my neck. I felt it there.

After the race I walked around in a stupor for about 20 minutes while my family waited for me at the reunion area. When I got there they hugged me, gave me flowers, checked out my medal. Jon and Cindy were there too. Jon had finished with a new PR too – 4:28.

Enjoying the finish with Jon and Cindy and the kids.

Monday Afternoon

I felt great, considering I had just finished a marathon, until we got in the car and started driving home. Suddenly I got an intense headache and thought I was going to vomit. Kip stopped at a 7-11 and got me another Gatorade. I drank half of it and by the time we got home was barely able to walk from the parking garage into the apartment. I felt the encroaching darkness of fainting and lay down on the living room floor.

Water intoxication headache

The headache intensified and my dad, who is a doctor, began asking me how much water and Gatorade I had consumed during the marathon. We realized it was a lot. In fact, I had decided at the beginning of the race that I would walk through every water stop and drink at every mile. So I did, sometimes drinking two cups of water. I did the same most of the time non race people offered water in between the water stops. Apparently it was too much and I had developed hyponatremia – water intoxication.

I had heard about such danger, but after my brush with dehydration a couple months ago, I had worried more about not having enough water. By the way, I have since learned that the best way to avoid both dehydration and water intoxication is to only drink when thirsty.

I immediately stopped drinking the Gatorade and tried to eat a few chips that Kip threw salt on and gave to me, but I couldn’t really eat much. And after a little internet research we realized that salt wouldn’t help at this point. I just needed to wait it out until my kidneys could process the extra water. The headache was excruciating. I couldn’t move for hours.

By mid afternoon Kip and my parents were moving around me, getting the apartment ready for my brother’s birthday party. I felt helpless. I could hear them discussing whether or not we had any more toilet paper for the guest bathroom, and I simply didn’t have the energy to get up and find it for them.

Around 5 p.m. I slid into bed, with my running bib still pinned to my shirt, and tried to sleep. I couldn’t. I couldn’t eat anything either. I still felt nauseous.

My dad’s sister and her family arrived. They actually came into the bedroom to congratulate me on the run, admire the medal, pray for me. It was like being in the hospital.

By about 7 p.m. I got up for a little while to say Happy Birthday to Tim, and then went back to bed. Around 10 p.m. I got up and got a shower, washed away the marathon dirt. I ate a little bit of birthday cake. And went to bed. This time I slept and the headache was gone when I woke up this morning. In fact, other than sore legs, I felt pretty normal.

So would I do it again?


It was an amazing life experience to set a goal, train for it and actually run it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Truth in Education

I should get a raise

Tonight our 7-year-old watched the news with us, snuggled in between Kip and me as he took in a report about the President requiring automakers to drastically reduce vehicle emissions.

He wanted more explanation and so we paused the television, thanks to Kip’s homemade TiVo system, and answered a volley of questions on pollution, vehicle emissions, economics of fuel consumption, etc.

Up to this point, watching the news together had been a welcome reprieve from a day of rushing around, running errands and, for Kip, dealing with unpleasant office politics.

It came at a lull in the day, somewhere in between me rushing home to make dinner and Kip arriving from a long day at the office. We were both cashed out on the couch, sharing a beer and watching the NBC nightly news like it was the 1955.

Our son’s questions pushed the conversation into a polite version of Which Way LA with male and female parents carefully crafting their ever so slightly opposing political perspective on the same issue, when suddenly he said.

“Wait ... he can’t do that.”

I held my breath.

“The president can’t do that.”

“Can’t do what?”

I was waiting for the pending political statement on government control or sacredness of free market economy.

“The president can’t make laws. Only the congress can.”

I basked in the glory of information understood just long enough to inoculate myself from the inevitable disappointment of tomorrow's homeschooling "failure," and then I explained executive orders.

He took that information in and then ran into the kitchen and found the roll of generic Saran wrap.

“I know how they can do it! Just put this around that thing that comes out of the back of the car and then it won’t make pollution.”



That’s great.

He beamed.

My husband, who was at this point, helping me finish a little risotto to go along with our salmon, exchanged a smile with me. We enjoyed the fact that our son was still young enough to believe every compliment we gave.

Do you think I’ll be famous?


I should be fired.

I lied to my 7-year-old son today.

We aren’t unschoolers. We use a curriculum for math and loosely follow a literature-based history program. But the truth is at best we only get about 10 hours of that kind of “school time,” a week. That is less than half the time public schooled kids spend in the classroom. I could argue that a lot of traditional “school time” is wasted, but the truth is, I know even with the wasted time not withstanding, they spend more time in “textbook” instruction and homework than we do – a lot more.

For the most part I am comfortable with falling short on “school time,” because I know we have fostered a rich learning lifestyle that encourages curiosity and allows any time to become an educational moment. We simply take learning one question at a time.

Our educational philosophy depends on questions and an honest search for answers.

And that is why I felt bad about telling my son with absolute certainty that there would not be a major earthquake until he was 13.

I think I said it tongue-in-cheek at first because I know that he knows that earthquakes are unpredictable. We had been talking about it all day since the jolting earthquake last night and I know he understands not only what causes earthquakes, but also the fact that at this point in history no one knows when they will strike.

In fact, I’m sure that when his sister asked me when the next one would be, he was standing right next to her when I said, “If I could tell you that I’d be a millionaire.”

I’m sure he was standing right next to her, because he has been unwilling to be alone in any room since the quake.

So when I told him he would be 13 when the next major earthquake shook LA, I was surprised to see the look of relief in his face. And then he started to justify it with the information he had on earthquakes. Within an hour he was telling me with relief, “There won’t be a really big earthquake until I am 13.”

I hope he is right. And I hope if I am wrong it won’t wreck his world that I told him something comforting to help him sleep tonight.

We do the same for ourselves, don’t we?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Days Gone By

I have been unusually busy and a little sick the last few days, the mess on my desk testifies to that, but I don't want to miss blogging on the last few days.


My little boy turned seven.

We took him to California Adventure where we all rode the big rides together – all day. He had a special Disney button with his name and age, and all day people called out “Happy Birthday!” as we walked by.

I have taken the kids to DisneyLand several times in the past couple years, but this was the first time Kip has been with us in a long time, and this was the first time all of us could ride the “fun” rides together.

At one point I actually heard Kip say, “I love this place!”

If I could pick a handful of near-perfect days to keep forever, this would be one of them.


Jon, my marathon running friend, and I went on our last big run before the marathon. We ran 16 miles this time. The fact that I want to say, “only 16,” reminds me of how far I have come, both physically and mentally. It wasn’t too long ago that 10 seemed forever. Having a regular Saturday morning training run has really helped me to be faithful to the training. I wonder if I would have gotten this far without it.

But I am still nervous about the big day. We are down to 12 days before the marathon, and I still wish I had another month to train. But maybe I would never feel ready to take on the big 26.2.

Let’s just pray for cool weather.


Mother’s Day I woke up with a sore throat and stuffy head, so I pretty much did nothing all day. I missed my mom and felt sorry for myself.

The highlight of the day was cleaning off the kids’ toyshelf. I filled seven Trader Joe’s bags full of books, games and toys to give away at our homeshcoolers’ curriculum swap.

I grieved over a couple sentimental items and the years that have slipped past, but overall, the cleaner shelves were worth it.


The kids did “school,” in the morning and then we rushed around, getting to park day and then to a new acting class at a local community theater playhouse. The kids loved the class and my 10-year-old seemed to take it very seriously, especially the drama games that involved stomping around and acting angry. For a brief moment I wondered if we should be encouraging this behavior….


I went to a year-end brunch to conclude the Community Bible Study that I have been attending every Tuesday morning since September. The ladies at the church decorated the tables in a garden club theme, and several of the women wore their Sunday hats. It was a humorous contrast to the rest of my world, and yet at the “sharing” time, I found myself blubbering in front of 100 women about how much these Tuesday mornings have meant to me and how it has been like spending the morning with my “grandmother, mother and aunts…”

And it has.

Then in the afternoon we went to the “after party,” our weekly rendezvous at the park. The kids of course did what they always do -- climbed trees, invented new games and generally ran all over the playground. I said good-bye to two new friends who are moving on to other parts of the world. I haven’t known them long, but I’ll miss them.

Just some of the kids briefly gathered together for a group photo ... and some people wonder if our homeschooled kids ever "socialize" with other kids.


Today the kids and I left our little urban life and headed to the woods in Topanga Canyon to see a presentation of Julius Caesar at the Will GeerTheatricum Botanicum. It was amazing, although I am sure a bit over their heads. Next time we will have to do a better job of preparation. We went through the basic story several times, but after the pivotal scene on the Senate floor, my son leaned over and whispered, “Why did they kill that guy?”

I had to turn off the part of my head that goes into an in depth dialog about roman history, government, motive and human nature and I just said, “He wanted to be king.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right.”

I know that is not entirely accurate, at least it wasn’t a satisfying answer for me. But there is plenty of time for expounding … later. It is ok to leave some learning experiences for tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Typical Tuesday

When asked what our day looks like, I hear myself prefacing the answer with “well today wasn’t typical, but . …”

Apparently I need to change my expectations or my habits.

But today was a typical Tuesday.

6 a.m. I stayed up too late updating my blog Monday night, and therefore ignored the alarm. I can do amazing math in my half conscious state. 6 -1 = 5 and therefore not enough sleep for me to operate machinery, much less perform well as a mother/wife/teacher.

8:03 a.m. “Mom, It’s 8:30! Are you going to get up? Are we going to the park today? Is it going to be hot or cold? Can I play the Wii then?”

When did snuggle time turn into this?

“Riv, It’s not 8:30, it’s 8:03! I am getting up. I should have two hours ago. Yes, we are going to the park. Yes, it is always hot, but you know it’s cold too. Wear shorts. Wear a hoodie. And no … no Wii right now.”

I open my eyes.

Kip groans and rolls over.

He’s not feeling well. He coughs.

There is something I don’t understand about him. When I get sick I drink lots of water and ignore it until I’m really sick. Then I retreat to bed and pretend the world can run without me.

He calls in sick and then spends the day catching up on all his non-work related projects. I think the new CD needs some finishing touches today.

He mumbles something about how everybody at work would be really mad at him if he had the swine flu and came to work anyhow.

Yeah. He is right.

9:30 a.m. We eat breakfast. I’m running at least an hour behind schedule, but we do the morning family devotion routine anyhow. My 10-year-old reads the Bible verses, and I enjoy hearing how she is not only reading better, but “doing” the voices. Miriam sounds a little bit like Barbie when she asks Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and find a Hebrew woman to nurse this baby for you?”

10 a.m. I respond to a couple of e-mails about a field trip I’m planning. I ask my daughter about the math lesson she is working on. The phone rings, our neighbor needs a favor, which is no problem. I just have to slide it into a space somewhere between 2:30 and 3 p.m.

10:40 a.m. Dang, I’m late for my weekly Bible Study class and I didn’t get a shower.

10:50 a.m. I arrive at the Bible study and use my stealth powers to slide into my small group unnoticed. No, that isn’t true. The attendance person laughs because I always arrive about the time she finishes taking attendance.

1 p.m. The kids and I meet up with some of our friends at Kenneth Hahn park for a post-Bible study play date/ lunch break. The kids need the run-around time, and I like connecting with this group of moms that I only see on Tuesdays.

2:30 p.m. I rush back home to babysit my neighbor’s little one for a few minutes while she walks their dog. I make sure the 6-year-old has the right clothes for his soccer skills class. I return a call from our children’s church director about a policy meeting that I missed. I make sure Kip is ok. He looks sick but the inside cover of the CD is looking good.

3:35 p.m. The kids and I are back in the car and I’m trying not to be upset that we are already 5 minutes late on the first day of class. Luckily the instructor remembers us from the track and field class last month.

While my son runs around orange cones and practices butting a soccer ball with his head … is that even safe? I chat with another group of moms. These ones all have kids in public school. They keep me current with things like science fairs and homework. Sometimes the normalcy of their routine sounds refreshing. They know me from last month, so I don’t have to field questions about homeschooling this time.

4:45 p.m. We swing back to the house and pick up Kip for a special Disney movie screening at the theater complex near our home. It is for a movie that I haven’t heard about yet, but my daughter has decided it sounds a little babyish. The 6-year-old boy has no opinion.

5 p.m. We barely arrive before show time, only to realize this is like every other “free” thing in LA. We are shown to the back of the line that wraps around the theater. An attendant tells us the lineup started two hours ago.

5:05 p.m. A very strange thing happens. The same screening employee approaches us and tells us that they need more of our “demographic” in the screening pool. I look around and notice that we might very well be the only white, mother-father-daughter-son group in line to see this free screening of Disney’s first black princess. We are ushered to the front of the line.

5:06 p.m. We are told that the theater is full anyhow. An immediate interrogation irrupts from the 10 and 35 year olds in our group, “why would they allow more people to register for an event than they have room for.”

I look incredulously at the 35-year-old.

How long have you lived in LA?

I tell the 10-year-old to not be upset. Just wait.

And thankfully, I’m right. The same person approaches us and gives us coupons for ANY movie we want to see, along with the promised coupons for free popcorn and soda.

5:10 p.m. We trade our coupons for the 7 p.m. showing of Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D IMAX, and I suggest we try the indoor putt putt golf place in the same movie theater complex.

5:15 p.m. Kip takes the kids to the glow in the dark, indoor golf place, and I sneak off to Nordstrom Rack where I find an awesome sweatshirt. Yeah, that is what Kip thought too. Sweatshirt? But I am really excited. It has sleeves long enough for me, and I can ditch my old sweatshirt, a 10-year-old, second generation, hand-me-down that came from my sister who got it from my brother’s high school girlfriend.

7:10 p.m. We slip into the best seats in the house for the IMAX film. I try really hard not to be upset that we missed the first few minutes of the movie. I might have glared at the person who, 5 minutes earlier, told me to “Relax, movies always have 20 minutes of commercials.”

He makes up for it by going out to get our popcorn and soda. I never eat movie popcorn or drink soda, so that makes me a little sick.

8:30 p.m. I’m still laughing about the movie, which is totally worth seeing if you can take a 10-year-old kid with you to enjoy the clever humor.

9 p.m. Kids go to bed and I decide to ignore the mess in their room and the load of unfinished laundry in the drier. I check my e-mail and decide that tomorrow really has to be a typical day so I can get something done.

But then I look at my calendar and realize that I have a special field trip planned in morning, and I’m driving the carpool. And then there is that appointment in the afternoon and a potluck in the evening.

I might have to wait until Thursday for a typical day.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Weekend Friendships

It’s late Monday evening, and I’m tired.

But it is a satisfied kind of tired. The last few days have been really great – running, camping, eating with people, engaging in rich conversations with new and old friends.

It deserves at least a lazy recap.

Friday night I met with our website team to discuss revamping HomeSchool LA. The website has been stagnant for months now, and I am excited about the prospect of renewal. Our goal has always been to create an internet resource for local homeschoolers and people interested in exploring homeschooling; and also to help homeschoolers connect with each other.

The connection part of that mission is near and dear to me. Having been both a homeschooling parent and student, I deeply value the friendships afforded in the homeschooling community. It makes such a difference in the overall experience.

Look for more to come on that.

Saturday morning I went for a 14 mile run, or was it 16? It was a little tougher for me than the 20 mile run of last week, mostly because it was hotter, and partly because I was just a smidge bored with the concept of running for hours at a time. So once again I was thankful to be running with a friend.

I think that our time was pretty decent, and I’m more optimistic about actually running the marathon, although I am disturbed that the increase in temperature seems to zap my strength as much as it does. I really hope it is not brutally hot May 25th.

Then Saturday afternoon I headed out to McGrath state park for a little camping and hanging on the beach with my girlfriends from church. I only knew a few of them well before the camping trip, so it was really fun to get to know the others better.

The whole experience was delightfully disorganized. It felt more like a kids’ slumber party than a serious women’s retreat. As far as I could tell, there wasn’t an agenda of any kind, other than to share dinner together Saturday night and hang around the campfire. I brought the new quintessential camping food – sushi. I was starving from my morning run, so I was especially excited about the food.

Fresh, guacamole made from ingredients scored from a roadside veggie stand. I love California.

And then we hung around the campfire talking all night.

This was the strangest and best campfire food -- roasted bananas stuffed with chocolate and peanut butter.

If there was any contest, I think the story somebody had about pulling a partially digested He-Man leg out of a kids’ butt in a babysitting-gone-bad story, took first place in the worst job category. But the dropping-acid-while- riding-Space-Mountain-at-Disney was a great story too, mostly because it came from the quietest, sweetest woman in the group.

These uber-cool girls slept in hammocks under the stars. Had I known that was an option I may have skipped the stinky tent experience.

I didn’t sleep much, but enjoyed more great conversations, including a walk to the beach right after dawn with another new friend, and a much less funny conversation about life and death and finding our place in between.

Then around mid morning I was struck with a strange pang of homesickness, packed up and drove home in time to enjoy “second breakfast” with Kip and the kids. They were sitting on the balcony, enjoying the luxury of Sunday morning pancakes under sunny skies and swaying palm trees. Is this our life?

Sunday evening we went to Kairos, our church in Hollywood. I overcame my post-camping exhaustion and taught the kids’ class. I told them the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and I got a little theatrical with the part about Jesus shouting, “LAZARUS, come out!” Then we rather spontaneously had to play dead guy hopping around in the “grave clothes,” crepe paper streamer.

If you try this at home, be advised that when you put blue crepe paper across a 6-year-old’s mouth, he will probably suck on it, producing an inky blue substance that will spread about the hands and face. Also other children might get excited and run around with scissors and accidentally cut somebody else’s T-shirt. But other then that, it could be a very fun learning experience.

After all this fun, we met with more friends at our favorite Thai Town restaurant in East Hollywood. If you are in Hollywood looking for cheap eats, I highly recommend RCA. If you can handle a little heat, the chicken panang is amazing.

So that was basically the weekend. I went home, and before crashing called an old friend and planned a summer road trip up the coast.

So what else is there to say? Life is good.