Monday, February 28, 2011

Pump, pump -- pump it up!


What is awesome right now?

Awesome is knowing that I have a bag of Boy Scout popcorn (which I’ve heard is their version of the best Girl Scout cookies – apparently this popcorn is THAT good) in my purse that I will have tonight.

Awesome is knowing that despite the fact that my kitchen flooded (yes, AGAIN), I should have NEW floor in by Saturday.

Awesome is having a husband who is going to help me learn DreamWeaver for a class tonight! (But, seriously, if anyone in BloggyLand knows how to use DreamWeaver…I will pay you. Seriously.)

Awesome is somehow managing to finish Chapter 1 of something of a dissertation (long story) in about 30 minutes. Yeah, that’s right.

Awesome is awesome because Barney says so.

Awesome is remembering that I work at a Louisiana institution that lets out for Mardi Gras next week!

Awesome is being on the ball with my chair stuff for Junior Auxiliary.

Awesome is NOT freaking out just because tomorrow begins my Two Months of Chaos.

Awesome is knowing God cares for ME and for YOU.

Awesome.

What’s awesome for you today?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Round One, Almost Done


Blonde Bombshell Betty
Betty’s got a new ‘do now. =) Charlie sent me a text picture of her trying on different wigs, with one of the messages being, “I’m married to a blonde bombshell.” Heck, yeah!!

She ended up going with a short cut, though, which makes her look really similar to my mom – which I’m sure my mom loves and my aunt would not, as Mom is 11 years older than Betty. However, it’s no doubt they’re sisters.

She’s in her last session of radiation (I believe) this week, and she’ll fly back to Texas on March 5. She’ll stay there two weeks and then she and my other aunt will fly to Chicago for another round of treatments. It should take about a month, I believe, to see if the radiation has had an effect on the tumors in her brain.

The new 'do
Please continue to pray for her and for others that I know who are fighting with this disease. One friend from Bible study mentions her friend’s child, who is at St. Jude right now – and a friend of the child, who has lost his eye due to this awful, awful disease. My husband’s cousin’s father also was diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing treatment right now.

We live in a sin-filled world, but we know that this is not our home. God knows we’re hurting, and He knows this is not an easy place to live. That’s comforting to me, to know that I can cry out to our Abba Father, who hears and understands better than anyone else.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

2:29:00, Part III

God bless Kelsey, who put up with my insanity toward the last two miles of the race.

I’m pretty sure I went nuts at Mile 11. We had two miles. (Around) twenty minutes. That was it. The end was in sight, my legs were hurting but not dying, and we were going to, as Drew Brees said, FINISH STRONG.

Again, I’m sure I went nuts.

I started yelling, trying to encourage Kelsey and myself, shouting, “WE GOT THIS STINKING RACE! WE’RE GOING TO HAVE AN AWESOME TIME! WE’VE GOT LESS THAN TWO MILES TO GO! WE GOT THIS!” I’m not sure if she heard. I’m sure several observers and other racers did, though. I was loud but, unfortunately, probably not very coherent at this moment.

At Mile 12, Kelsey said she didn’t want to take our last walk break like we had planned. She just wanted to finish. I was up for the challenge. So we kept a slower pace than usual so we could finish.

The race ended in City Park. We went over a bridge, and Kelsey saw this big, white museum ahead. “Is that the finish?” she asked me.

“Yes.” Liar.

She sped up, and I sped with her. My second wind was going so strong. We got to the museum…and she realized it wasn’t the end.

“It’s right on the other side of this building,” I said. Lie No. 2.

We darted around the museum…and the end was not in sight. However, there was a huge crowd of people around the race area, and we both knew we were within just a minute, maybe 90 seconds, of finishing. And then, we saw the beautiful green finish line. “That’s it!” I shouted. “I’m not lying this time!”

And then I gave her the final words Rindy gave me before I left for New Orleans, “Watch out for the cracks.
Crossing the finish line

We ran. We ran hard. We didn’t even see our husbands cheering for us. We just ran.

We crossed the finish line, and I threw my arms up in the air and thanked Jesus that we had made it.

We estimated we’d finish in 2:30. Even with the potty break, we finished in 2:29:00.

It was a beautiful victory.

I wanted to cry. I really did. I’ve never wanted to cry after a race, but I did after this one. Everything hurt. Kelsey sat on the grass, but I was afraid if I sat down, I’d never stand up again. We hobbled to the car with our husbands. We passed marathoners who looked absolutely miserable by Mile 25. We clapped and cheered them on. One of them saw our race bibs, and he said, “Good job, girls.” We were stunned. He’s on Mile 25, and he’s saying we did a good job for our halfie? We were more impressed with him.

Overall, it was a fantastic race. Several of our friends were running it, too, though we only saw a couple. It seemed to go really fast, but I think the way I arranged my playlist helped. No beads were thrown this year, but there were some great new signs:

“Dear Runner I Have Never Met: I’m Proud Of You.”

“If this were easy, I’d be doing it.”

“My car got towed because of you.”

And one good T-shirt: “Dear Lord, please let someone be behind me to read this.”

Post-race treat? Mexican food. Yep. I was in a Mexican mood.

And…I’m ready for the next race!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2:29:00, Part II

I had mentally prepared myself to suffer the first three miles. I knew it would take about three to warm up – the temperature when we arrived at the race start line was 33 degrees, but it did warm up quickly. My toes were cold, my hands were like ice, and I only wore what I knew I would wear crossing the finish line. There would be no throwing the clothes on the side of the road for me.
 
The first three miles are also the most boring. There’s nothing to look at, really, until Mile 2. I had a great playlist set up, though. I figured we’d run around an 11-minute mile, so I had three songs that averaged around 11 minutes total, knowing that on the third song, we should be hitting the next mile marker shortly. It really helped the race to go by quickly and keep my mental state up.

Kelsey’s knee started acting up around Mile 2 or 4, I think, but she kept on running like it didn’t hurt at all. My ankle gave me a few issues, but around Mile 8, my feet were on fire, and my quads were killing me, so, no, I didn’t notice my ankle that much.

By Mile 4, I was feeling happy. We were making great time, the sun was warming all of us up, and my songs were starting to get awesome. I arranged my songs based on what I estimated my mental state to be.  I listened to Maino’s “Here Comes Trouble” (the clean version) twice sometime between Miles 6-9. I knew Miles 6-10 would be my hardest because I would be hurting and knowing that I had around halfway to go. I had Ke$ha (I hate her lyrics, love her music because it’s fantastic running music), Lady Gaga, Hillsong, Jesus Culture, and some of last year’s Super Bowl songs, “Heart of the City” and “Black and Gold Super Bowl,” to keep my mood up.

Around Mile 5, though, I realized something: A bad part of nature was calling.

For about a mile and a half, I debated whether or not I wanted to waste time for a potty break. I decided that I could suffer through because I wanted a good time. However, by Mile 7, I was DYING, and I informed Kelsey that I needed a potty break.

One problem: No *(^&%^& port-a-potty around.

SERIOUSLY???!!!!

I felt absolutely miserable. Then, like a gold-colored halo, I saw it: Burger King.

I raced inside as Kelsey, sweet Kelsey, waited outside. Both stalls were occupied. And not by racers – by customers.

I wanted to bang on the doors and tell them to hurry the heck up and did they know I was MAJORLY pressed for time? About 30 seconds after I entered, four other runners came in, too, but I had the first stall pick.

The lady in Stall No. 2 barely made it out before  I barreled inside, took care of business, washed my hands (because, yes, despite the fact that I’m racing, I still washed my hands…didn’t dry, though), and rushed back out.

I’m guessing we lost somewhere between 4-6 minutes on that, which really ticks me off, but I couldn’t wait. I would have died. 

Mile 8
Our husbands at this time were having a delicious breakfast. Mine ate some kind of crab omelet with brie cheese. Yes, I was jealous. When we hit a 10k, Kyle got an automatic text saying that we had made it that far. He and Dustin, Kelsey’s husband, were near the Mile 8 marker, so they decided to surprise us and cheer us as we went by.

It was so wonderful to see them cheering for us as we passed by. It really pumped us up that much more. Unfortunately for Kyle, he had told Dustin moments earlier, “Watch this. She’ll come by and give me a kiss.” As I passed, he motioned me over.

I, who had Glitter turned up fairly loudly, knew I had already wasted time at the BK, so I “apparently” yelled, “I can’t! I had to take a poo!”

To which Kyle immediately turned bright red, as there were probably around 200 people who heard about my bowel moment. Me? I had no shame.

Also around Mile 8, we passed three fairly buff looking early-twentysomethings who were walking. As we passed by, I heard them say, “We may have to walk the rest of the way. I can’t handle this.”

Hehehehe. I might have bounced my next few steps.

Around Miles 6-9, we passed up CafĂ© du Monde in the French Quarter, went down Decatur Street and around the French Market, and my music was blaring. Men in red dresses (there’s an annual race in New Orleans for the American Heart Association where the men wear red dresses) handed us water. People who just wanted to watch the race offered beer and king cake. Some people took it; I wondered if they threw up a few miles later.

I felt a little tired from Mile 9 to 10, but once we hit that 11, I had my second wind.

Monday, February 14, 2011

2:29:00, Part I

My race rocked.

My second half-marathon, which again was the New Orleans Rock and Roll Half, was 20 minutes faster than last year’s. I attribute this much faster time to having run a year and a half now instead of just six months, as before; knowing what to expect; and training better because of that knowledge. Instead of running one 10-mile route once before the halfie, we ran two, just to be safe. We ran more, we ran harder, and our time showed our resilience.

We seriously carbo-loaded the whole day before. For breakfast, I had an omelet with hash browns and toast; lunch consisted of Juan’s Flying Burrito’s blackened redfish tacos; and dinner was an early helping of Reginelli’s ham pizza and pita chips with hummus. I know what you’re thinking – no New Orleans cuisine while down south? Nah. (Though I did stop at PJ’s Coffee for a pound bag of their King Cake coffee – it was a must have, ha!)

Lights were out at 8:30 p.m. Seriously. I tried to sleep, but sleep was hard to come by. The night before, I had a nightmare about missing the race, so the night before the race, I rolled over my poor half-asleep husband to check the time because I had woken wide awake and just knew it was time to get up.

It was 12:20 a.m.

6:15 a.m. "mug shots"
I tossed and turned all night, but I did get some decent sleep. We awoke at 5:16 a.m., four minutes before the alarm clocks (yes, that’s plural) went off. I took my time to dress, having neatly placed everything out the night before. At 5:45 a.m., we were on our way to meet Kelsey and Dustin, whose sister literally lives across from the starting point.

We were about .3 miles away at 5:54 a.m. when we realized this was going to be a bigger hassle than anticipated.

Of course, everything was blocked off. Seventeen thousand runners were trying to get to this one location. A cop motioned us over and tried to get us to go the other way, and we insisted that we were simply “visiting” a friend of ours who lived at 123 Local Drive (we actually did give her address and name, though I covered up my racing shorts with my jacket). “No, we’re visiting our friend. She lives right over there,” we insisted. And the cop told us another route to take, which was about a three-mile loop around St. Charles Street, which included some dudes rolling down their window and asking us if we knew where “Sheenay’s” was. Nope. Did they know how to get to Annunciation Street? Of course not.

Freezing before the race -- 6:45 a.m.
We finally made it there and to an outstanding parking space at 6:15 a.m. Race started at 7 a.m., and, yes, the race officials *might* have asked us to be there at 6 a.m., but after freezing my booty off for about two hours last year, I decided against arriving too early this year. We arrived there around 6:40 a.m. and found a couple of people we knew who had also driven down for the race.

Kelsey’s husband and mine waited for us at our corral until a little after 7 a.m. The race starts in waves, so we didn’t start running until 7:21 a.m. according to my watch.

I flipped on my pink Shuffle, affectionately named Glitter, and let Crash Kings’ “Mountain Man” begin my race.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

For God so loved the world...

We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. – Romans 5:3-5

A, ahem, *pastor* and his "congregation," rolled into town Monday, and they have stirred up students on campus, saying that they all are going to hell. I’m not really sure who fits into the “going to heaven” category – he never makes that clear. Everyone who attends our university is bound for eternal damnation. That’s what he says. At one point, he called one of my students a “whorish woman,” but he doesn’t know her. How can he serve as her judge?

There was no hope in their message. He and the others spoke of hellfire and brimstone and briefly mentioned that Jesus came…but not of how He came to save them. Not how He came to love them. Not how He came because we are sinners and needed grace.

Our student newspaper wrote a story about the visitors, and the most telling quote came at the very end of the story, from a student admitting she was not a Christian but how she recognized that these people were not Christians. They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing. While that was poignant enough in itself, her last quote rang in my ears: “I think God wants everyone to be happy.”

I’ve been working with the differences between happiness and joy for the past several days, something I feel God is revealing. Our culture has a desperate need to be happy. Heck, it’s even written in our Declaration of Independence – we have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We buy expensive cars to make us happy. We buy nice clothes to make us happy. I have “happy drinks” of the caffeinated kind to jump start my mornings.

We have an addiction to happiness.

But, truly, isn’t happiness fleeting? We don’t live in a happy world. The “preacher” got one thing right: we live in a sinful world. Filled with turmoil and anger. Filled with unhappiness. And our American culture, in particular, has done all it can to fill our unhappiness with this life with material possessions. Vacation here, and you’ll be happy for a brief time. Buy that house, and you’ll be happy. Pamper yourself with a day at the spa, and let all your troubles melt away.

Until something bad happens. Until you can’t afford the mortgage payment. Until you are diagnosed with an incurable disease. Until a friend, a co-worker, a family member betrays you. Until you lose everything.

Happiness is fleeting; joy is divine.

Joy is a gift from God. Joy comes even when sorrow erupts in our lives and we feel that no one understands. Joy is there because, throughout all the constant turmoil of changes that this world brings, God is unchanging. God is loving. God is righteous.

And to accept His gift of salvation is to have perseverance through the suffering. To have character built upon the trust that we have in God. To have hope that, even though we live in a sin-filled, unhappy world, the best is yet to come.

The “pastor” spoke only of sin, only of unhappiness. No offers of hope. His sentences didn’t make sense, his logic didn’t work. And, thankfully, people saw through his charade and realized…that’s not what Christianity is about.

Yes, everyone has sinned. And, yes, without Christ, everyone is doomed to suffer eternally. But there is hope in the One who came to rescue us.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Super Bowl, my last long run, and my experience with a 5-hour energy drink

Everything hurts.

My back hurts. My legs hurt. My ankle is on ice (more for caution than need). I am tired. And fairly whiny.

Yesterday, Kelsey and I finished up our last long run before the New Orleans Rock and Roll Mardi Gras Half-Marathon, which is this Sunday. We had planned on running 12 miles in about two hours and 10 minutes, giving us enough time to get ready for church. However, after about an hour and 55 minutes and having run only 10 miles, we decided to stop at that.

It wasn't a pleasant run. First off, we had run an "easy" six miles the day before. And they were easy! However, we discovered there's a reason why training schedules tell you to rest the day before a long run. It's the pain. The aching in your legs, the feeling that they're turning to lead, and the inability to run much faster than a slow walk.

The five-hour energy drink I took right before our run did NOT help, either. Pass the coffee, please. Kelsey and I had discussed drinking one before the halfie, but we wanted to test it beforehand. Good call. So I took one. A full one. And, yes, I read the instructions (somewhat blindly, as I was driving over to our running location and it was 6:40 a.m.) saying something about take half if something, something, something. Whatever, I drink six cups of coffee a day; what's this going to do? (Turns out if it's your first time to drink it, you should only drink half....Ohhh....)

I drank it down quickly, took my asthma meds (which also hype me up a little) and drank my pre-Gatorade drink, because, yes, I do think the 1-2-3 Gatorade system that the commercials advertise works. I did notice my eyes were just a little bit wider when Kelsey and I started running, but I did not feel overly hyper.

Now, granted, I don't know if it was the energy drink, the lack of sleep, the lack of carbs (two slices of low-carb bread and a Snickers bar should not have been the only carbs I consumed on Saturday), or the running, but about six miles in, I felt this awful knot in my stomach. My running slowed even more. When I'm running around a 14-minute mile, you know something's up.

Therefore we stopped at 9 a.m. Ten miles. One hour and 55 minutes.

To add to the "what I did that was not smart" moves, I did not stretch afterward. Frankly, I didn't have time. The fact that my hair was dry for church was no small miracle. And then after church, we headed down south for a Super Bowl party about two hours away. When there's a line of scrumptious food that makes your mouth water by just looking at it, who's really thinking about needing to walk around and try to stretch?

I did make up for the carbs I lacked on Saturday, though. Oh, did I make up for them...

And, speaking of the Super Bowl, congrats to Green Bay. I really didn't have a dog in this fight, but I was happy to see the Pack win -- mainly because a dude who is an alumni from my college was on Green Bay's team.

At any rate, today I am sore all over and NOT running today. I've got 9 miles to do this week between Tuesday and Thursday since I'm supposed to (blessedly) rest Friday and Saturday. And then...we run...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wishing and hoping and waiting…

From one of my friends who teaches high school:
Student: Mrs. W, do you think we will have a snow day tomorrow?
Teacher: Well, here’s what you need to pray for – that the electricity doesn’t go out at your house, that it does go out at the high school, and that there’s ice on the roads.

We in Louisiana anxiously await any white accumulation. And it doesn’t have to be snow. A student and I ran outside when we heard white stuff was on the ground, and we stood outside, jacket-less, for several minutes, debating: is it sleet, or is it snow?

We eventually decided it didn’t matter. We’re still hoping for ice. Ice means the roads are frozen over. Ice, around here, equals Snow Day.

So now all of us – employees and students alike – are refreshing our web browser for the university’s website, checking weather.com every 15 minutes for updates, and you’ll frequently hear two or more people optimistically saying, “Oh, but it’s going to get worse tonight. It’s supposed to REALLY ice over tonight.”

Additionally, the university posted information on its Facebook page with the unfortunate leading words, “ALL UNIVERSITY SCHEDULES AND OPERATIONS ARE NORMAL AT THIS TIME.” Nothing kills a potential Snow Day buzz than that.

However, the comments underneath were quite interesting:

“You're not trying hard enough, Mother Nature.”

“I will stand on the side of the Interstate with a water hose if I have to.”

From a graduate who obviously does not care about anyone’s happiness
“The university president needs to be like he used to be and make everyone go no matter what. I graduated in 2003 and had to endure several snow and ice storms. School used to never close.”
Someone else’s response
“Oooh, you're so cool cause you can endure ice storms. Wow. Want a cookie?”

So until tomorrow, when I hope to be sleeping late in my nice warm bed instead of doing what I should be doing – working – I bid you all adieu and for those of you who are actually experiencing bad weather, stay safe and enjoy your Snow Day!

UPDATE: Campus is closed at 3 p.m. today as well as tomorrow.

It's sad when the students AND faculty start jumping up and down in happiness...