Harriet the Spy

As I begin to reflect back upon my favorite childhood books, it is hard to choose just one to write about.  I loved The Secret Language (I, of course, had to create my own), the full Nancy Drew Series (I named all of my paper dolls after the characters), and even Winnie-the-Pooh (although my favorite character was always Piglet). But, the one that I can’t shelve is Harriet the Spy.

Harriet was a pre-teen, a sixth grade girl with a caretaker.  Her best friends were a boy named Sport and a girl named Janie.  Harriet loved to write. She had dozens upon dozens of notebooks.  When one filled up, she would purchase a new one and begin again. Harriet carried those notebooks wherever she went and she wrote about everything she saw. She even created places where she could “spy” on strangers and then she would write about them. She had a wonderful caretaker, Ole Golly, who encouraged her to write and who accepted her for who she was when even her parents didn’t seem to know. Harriet got herself into some trouble (as one might suspect) because when a notebook fell into the wrong hands, people’s feelings got hurt.  And, then, she even lost Ole Golly. In the end, she still had notebooks and she was still writing.

I would read that book over and over again.  I wanted to be Harriet.  I loved the idea of watching people – in fact, I still love watching people today.  For me, Black Friday has never really been about shopping – it’s all about watching the crowds of people panicked as if Christmas is tomorrow.  I love to sit on the beach and try to figure out the people around me.  I develop them into characters in my mind as I watch but rarely do I take that back and write it down. Harriet would have; she wrote down everything.

Harriet took a tomato sandwich to school every single day. I thought tomatoes made sandwiches too slimy, so I took Cucumber sandwiches. Every day for an entire school year, my mother would make me a cucumber sandwich to take to school. Not the little dainty ones that one might have with tea, but an actual full-sized Wonder bread sandwich with mayo and cucumber slices and pepper.  They were perfect and I thought that made me almost Harriet.

I also became a spy. Mostly in the summer when I had the freedom to roam around the private neighborhood on the Cape.  I would drag my brother and our friends down to the boatyard and we would sneak between the boats trying to catch someone doing something. Nothing ever really happened, but we hoped. The most exciting thing we encountered was a boat named The Happy Hooker. We were at that age where we sort of knew what a hooker was, but not really.  We really just knew it wasn’t something good. And on the side of a boat – the name was scandalous. We were too young to even consider the irony of a fishing boat being named Hooker.

And, just like Harriet I wrote frequently.  I wrote mostly in diaries but when I wrote short stories I would write them into a notebook. It didn’t matter to me what I was writing in. It was the writing that made me like Harriet. I tried at first to write the types of things that Harriet would write, like “I wonder what it feels like to be a tomato.” But that didn’t really work for me, so I wrote about my daily encounters in more of a story form.  Either way I was a writer just like her.

All of my life reading has brought me joy. It takes me on adventures that I would otherwise be unable to take.  I have always been so excited that my girls have also both developed such a love for reading. Reading to them and reading with them has brought me as much joy as reading a book on my own. So I thank Harriet the Spy for being such a great book to encounter. I am still writing. I still love to people watch. And, I still love my cucumber sandwiches.

One more race

It’s almost over.  I began the YMCA running series last March in hopes that entering races would re-motivate me and help me get back into running regularly.  It worked.  Not only have I run many of the 12 races, but I am in first place in my age group. So as the series has progressed, I have set new goals along the way.  Trying to increase my pace I followed a training program which I haven’t done in quite a while.

I’ve placed in the top 3 in my age group at more than one, but I’ve also rediscovered what fun it is to race.  To get up early on a crisp morning, drive somewhere I’ve never been before, and see people all around me that I don’t know. It’s great to feel the energy and anticipation before a race. And, it’s great to watch the personal triumphs at the end of a race.

The last time I ran I was in control. I could make my pace increase or decrease. I could tackle the hills.  I felt like I could run forever.

This Saturday will be my final race in the series. The temperature is predicted to be perfect for running – mid 50s.  No rain. It will be a course I’ve never seen before in area I’ve never been before. I can’t wait! To finish this race will mean I’ve accomplished a goal. And, I may even have achieved my first ever series win!

Running After Dark

I’m feeling doomed and it’s not because of the election.  So for many years I was a better runner in the summer – really enjoyed the heat and adjusted well to running in it.  I ran in the winter, but indoors on an indoor track team. We did some training outdoors in the winter but it really wasn’t my thing. So as I grew older I used my birthday as the re-start date each spring to get back into it and then I ran through the summer and into the fall until the first frosty day.  Then it was time to rest for the winter.

At some point, aging and looking for a challenge, I was accepted as a charity runner for the Boston Marathon.  I had no choice but to train during the winter.  I managed – thank goodness it was a milder winter in 2002.  I bought new training clothes and mittens and made my way through.  After training in the winter, the summer felt hotter than usual.  I struggled with the heat.  I didn’t quit, but I did struggle.

So I switched strategies once again.  I began training on an actual year round schedule but with lesser intensity on the hottest or coldest of days. And I traveled through a decade of really training – developing my “jogging” into really “running.” I learned about hill repeats, and strides, and interval training and I practiced them all as well. I felt strong and proud.  I raced almost every weekend and I got faster.  I ran a total of 5 marathons but really excelled in my half marathons and 10K races.

When I ran that final Boston Marathon in 2015 it rained and it was cold and I was not dressed appropriately.  I lost feeling in my hands.  I thought I wouldn’t finish, but I persevered and I did finish.  I vowed I would not run another marathon. I vowed I would not run again in winter.  So we moved south.

My hope was to run year round again – the south would offer temperatures that would allow me to do just that.  Instead I found myself working so much it was hard to fit in any running at all.  But again, I persevered.  After a dreadfully hot humid summer that slowed me down almost to a standstill, I began again.  I have now been faithful to my training for over 7 weeks.  It is not easy to make it happen each day. But I have done it and with each run I have felt stronger and grown faster.  I finally felt like I was back in the saddle.

Then we change the clocks and I feel like there’s yet another barrier to break down.  Now, for the past two days I have dashed out of work 5 minutes early, to rush home, to change quickly, and with minimal stretching I set out to run.  Only 30 minutes but it’s running. But I cannot keep up the pace – not the running pace, but the rushing pace to get home to run.  So I find myself once again re-thinking and wondering – how early can I rise in the morning?  Can I get up, stretch, run, and still make it to work on time?  How do I make this work now that I am solidly back into it?

I will persevere.  I will make this work.  I will not give up my running. I need it to stay centered and balanced.  I will make this happen – one day at a time!  One step at a time!

Bridge Jumping

No I haven’t jumped off of a bridge.  Ever. But I each summer I drive across what my family has affectionately dibbed “the humming bridge.”  It’s a small metal bridge that crosses the Pocasset River.  We have this routine where the driver announces a moment or two before it appears…”Humming Bridge, get your wish ready.” As we actually cross the bridge we lift our feet up, close our eyes, hum, and make a wish.  Well, the driver doesn’t close his or her eyes, but everyone else does. Just like with all truly magical wishes no one can share what they wished for or it won’t come true.

So, actually, if we keep our eyes open, and if it is high tide, we may see some kids jumping off of this bridge and into the river.  For decades kids have jumped off this bridge. It’s illegal – there’s even a sign posted. When I was a teenager it never even occurred to me to jump off this bridge.  But when I became a mother I was forced to actually decide whether or not it was okay to jump.

My children saw other children jumping off this bridge without any harm coming to them.  So, naturally, it didn’t take long before they and their friends thought it would be a great idea.  Again, it’s a small bridge; no higher than a high dive in a pool, yet it feels so unsafe to me.  And, did I mention it’s illegal?

I searched deep within me to figure out why I felt so strongly about this bridge and then it came to me.  The Pocasset River is a tidal river.  As the tide goes in and out on Buzzards Bay, this river’s depth also increases and decreases.  If a teenager was to jump at low tide it was likely that they might hit bottom and hit it hard and possibly be injured.  If a teenager was to jump at high tide it was likely that they would enjoy it and do it again. But probably not get hurt and probably not get arrested. So, I continued to say no and give the reason as “it’s a tidal river.”

I knew it happened the summer they did it.  They didn’t know I knew.  They tried to keep it a secret.  But kids talk.  And even when they try to talk in code moms can often figure out what they are talking about.  So I knew.  I said nothing. I was thankful no one had been hurt and that they were smart enough to only jump at high tide.  Several summers went by with me knowing and them thinking that I did not know.

Then came the summer of the ALS ice bucket challenge.  What a great challenge that was.  Raising money for ALS reserach while dumping a bucket of ice over our heads and then passing the challenge on to unsusecting friends and family.  Thus, it was this challenge that inititated some creativity among those preparing to dump buckets of ice over their heads.  My daughter came to me one day and said,”Michael and I have this great idea for our Ice Bucket challenge but we need someone to film it.  Will you come to the humming bridge to film us?  We want it to appear like after we dump the ice over our heads we fall off the bridge and into the river.

So now I was torn.  I knew she had already jumped and I knew she would be fine, but I felt like it was almost ethically wrong to allow her to jump. I struggled with her thinking I had changed my mind. I didn’t want to be that mom that was standing there on the bridge, alllwoing her child to break the very visibly signed law about not jumping off the bridge. So, of course, I said yes. And it was glorious!

Michael’s parents and I walked to the bridge with the two kids.  They had their buckets of ice and ice water ready to pour. They shared their challenge while setting up the fall. We recorded. They dumped the ice over eah other’s heads and as the buckets landed on the sidewalk, the two of them fell off the bridge and into the water. And, for the first time in my life I was right there – I was a part of bridge jumping. And it was really fun to watch. And I smiled.

via Daily Prompt: Bridge

Finally, cooler weather!

So, I’ve tried several times to get back into the swing of things.  Running regularly. Eating healthy consistently.  And, here, blogging with more frequency.  I love to write and I love to run and I love putting them both together.

For the last 4 weeks I’ve been working out daily – using a strength training plan from militarydietplan.com.  I’m now in day 5 but I’ve also developed a pattern with my running.  A few more days and I will truly be back in the saddle again.

So I’ve tried to determine what has impacted me so much that everything really dropped out and then, more recently, what happened that brought it all back again?  Weather definitely has played a part.  So hot and so humid this summer that I wasn’t motivated to run or workout, but I also wasn’t motivated to do much of anything so writing didn’t happen.  I think loneliness played its part as well.  Living alone for so many weeks was not motivating or pleasant.  Having my hubby back in my daily life and engaged in our fitness has made a huge difference as well.

And, again, more recently I signed up for a trail race that went really well.  Setting my sights on completing the 6K race in under 45 minutes and then actually finishing in only 35 really boosted my confidence. The two days following, my training runs have also been at a much faster pace. I’m almost down to a regular 10:00 minute mile again and if I can do that I know I can get back to some 9:30 races. Wow would that feel so great!!

So, the other great thing that is propelling me forward is Barry’s decision to begin running again.  I know he has no desire to do anything long but he got out there this week and ran over a mile.  Before we know it, he’ll be up to that 5K distance and we can race together.

#thingsmovingforward #racing #startingover

Fall Thoughts

Visiting the mountains of western North Carolina reminds me of living in New Hampshire. It’s funny how I can get so caught up in just one factor that I am blinded and cannot see all of the others.  There are so many things to love about New Hampshire and  I got so tired of being cold all the time that  I turned it into a New Hampshire problem. In fact, I even used the words, “I hate New Hampshire.” But, then again, I was focused on being warm.

New Hampshire has so much to offer!  First, it has the ocean – a definite must in my daily life.  The ocean defines me – after all I am a Pisces!  I love the rolling waves and the smell of the salt water and the feel of the sand beneath my feet.  And, the ocean touches upon New Hampshire.  Second, it has the mountains.  And, the mountains are merely an hour north, not 6 hours west.  It’s a very doable and pretty drive all in one day. The mountains offer parks and rivers and hikes (and for those who enjoy winter, which clearly I do not, they also offer skiing). Third, New Hampshire is in New England.  Believe it or not, one can travel through all 6 New England states (and probably cross into New York as well) in one weekend adventure – see the pumpkin festival in Keene, NH and eat in downtown Burlington, VT, head to Freeport, ME for some shopping, zip into Boston, MA for a Red Sox game, gamble away some money at Foxwoods in CT, and finish off with a quick tour of the mansions in Newport, RI. Choose your path and spend the night in the middle, but all 6 states in one weekend!! New Hampshire also offers a quick and easy drive to my favorite place in the whole world – Cape Cod (but that’s another whole blog).

The best thing that New Hampshire has to offer me is family and friends.  And, yes I did take this for granted.  Sometimes we really don’t know what we have until it’s gone.  I’m not saying I made a bad choice to leave – I’m just saying I didn’t really know what I had to begin with.  Isn’t it funny that Dorothy learned that same lesson and yet, as many hundreds of times I’ve watched the Wizard of Oz, I never really got the point – I had to experience it for myself.

Yet now I’m torn.  I really love North Carolina and it has so many things to offer as well.  It has ocean and mountains and quick travel to Myrtle Beach, SC. I live in a house on a lake. I have a job that I love.  And yet, the holes are there.  The pieces are missing – the pieces that are only in New Hampshire. So, how could I create a New Hampshire that I could live in?

Well, easier said than done.  I am still not willing to be cold.  So that means I need a warm house with heated floors and a roaring fire place and warm cozy clothes that can be worn both at home and at work. Maybe I need a job that can happen at home. I need someone to deliver my groceries so I don’t have to leave the house in the winter.  I don’t know. I’m not sure it will work, so how do I find the best of both worlds?

YUP, that is the real question.  How can I make it work to be in North Carolina during part of the year and New Hampshire the other part of the year?  There’s my new challenge!

The Exercise Challenge

When I’m not running I don’t really feel like myself and yet all I seem to do is work, work, work.  I have barely been able to find enough time to eat and breathe on certain days.  I tried the whole “register for a race in order to have a goal,” but that didn’t really work. I was able to fit in just enough to be ready for each race, but the joy was gone because I’m so tired all the time.

My husband says he needs to get in shape and he repeats this all the time but never really does anything about it, so I came up with the Exercise Challenge.  We’ve challenged each other to participate in 30 minutes (or more) of exercise every day and document it each night with each other.  We’re going to continue to do this until we next see each other – 18 days in a row – starting today.

So, yes, we called.  I rode a bike for 37 minutes and made it 5.56 miles.  He walked the beach wall with my niece for 30 minutes.  Funniest part – he followed up by going out for ice cream.  I followed up with chips & guac.  I guess our next challenge will need to be a food challenge.