May 26, 2011

Does your life fit in a bag?

If you pack an emergency bag for a natural disaster - like a tornado - what exactly do you put in it? How do you prepare for your home and belongings to blow away? These are questions I had never asked myself until this week.

My weekend started with sunshine, a cool breeze and a 4-mile run with a friend. I ran through downtown Bentonville, through the Farmers Market, by what had to be a 75-year-old woman cruising happily on her bicycle, past houses with smiling people in rocking chairs who called out, "Good morning," and by the splash park, where kids were squealing as they ran through jets of water. It was a lovely, Mayberry kind of day.

Bentonville splash park
On Sunday, the weekend just got better. I made brunch and nailed my first ever attempt at a frittata. Then I spent the afternoon reading Runner's World and lounging lazily in the swing on the deck, admiring the flowers Trea had just planted. I couldn't wait to tell you all about my picture perfect weekend.

But while I lay in the sun, concerned only with tan lines, the city of Joplin, Missouri - only an hour north of my house - was being destroyed. I saw the news first on Twitter, but I didn't think it could be that bad. Then I turned on the TV. I live just an hour away, and our weather was the moment. Within a couple of hours, we had our own storm system approaching, and I spent the rest of the evening huddled with Trea and the dogs in our crawlspace under the house, as tornado warning after tornado warning got extended later into the night. (Thankfully, we live on a hillside, so our crawlspace has lights and room to stand up. It's not pretty, but it's not as terrible as it sounds.)
Later, as the country watched the horrific news coverage of Joplin, we started getting new warnings in northwest Arkansas about a particularly dangerous situation brewing for Tuesday. Our weathermen were predicting impending doom, and after Joplin, no one doubted them. Events all over town were canceled. People left work early to get home and hunker down before the storms hit. I even bought a weather radio, which I've never bothered with before. I also wanted to pack a bag to take with me to our safe place. But how do you pack one never come home?

I ran through all the possible scenarios: If our house was damaged by a tornado, we might have to leave and stay somewhere else until it's repaired. What would I need to take with me? Our house could be completely destroyed. What would I want to save? Or the worst thing I could imagine was our house being destroyed - while trapping us under the rubble. What would we need to survive? I looked at my bag, and then I looked at my home. I had no idea where to start. 

I packed a flashlight, batteries for the weather radio, an overnight bag with toothbrushes, vital medications and my glasses. I packed a multi-tool for working our way out of a jam, and work gloves to protect our hands if we had to move big sharp stuff out of the way. 
Survival kit

I packed a first aid kit, an umbrella, Pop Tarts and phone chargers. I also threw in our Garmins because, well, you know. I wore my running shoes and my wedding ring. Before the bad weather started, we took some blankets, jugs of water and dog food to our safe place, and planned to grab our emergency bag only if we had to actually take shelter. I also had the laptop and iPad ready to go so we could stream the weather coverage and watch from the crawlspace as long as battery life and electricity for WiFi held out.

I'll make a long story short and let you know we're OK. We had to take shelter for a short time during a tornado warning, but the storm weakened, and we were able to relax. But the conversations we had to have that day will always stick with me. 

Should we take our marriage license? It's in a fireproof safe, but that won't stop it from blowing away. But we decided, no, leave it. We're just as married whether a piece of paper survives or not. It's more important to pack life-saving supplies. Should we pack the letters we exchanged on our wedding day that we plan to read on our 25th anniversary? No. That's just paper. If we never get to read those letters, it won't change our commitment to each other. And I saw more clearly something I already knew: the most important things don't fit in bags, and you can't take them with you. The most important thing is our family. As long as Trea is safe, I don't need a bag of stuff. It's just stuff.

After we went to bed Tuesday night, the entire community of Denning, Arkansas, was destroyed by storms that had decided to leave our house alone. I don't understand tornadoes, and I don't know if anyone can ever truly be prepared for a disaster like Joplin or Tuscaloosa. I can't predict how I might respond if I had to endure that kind of destruction. But I've taken inventory, and I know what's important. And it will never fit in a bag.

May 21, 2011

My Dad

Don't you love those days when the good guy wins, hard work pays off and everyone lives happily ever after?

Today is one of those days. 

I haven't talked about my dad a lot here, but his story is what motivates me to keep going when things get hard. In April 2009, he was riding his motorcycle when he was hit head-on by a truck. At that moment, time stopped, and my happy family's world fell apart. He was air-lifted to a hospital over a hundred miles away, and he and my mom didn't see home again for six months.

He was unconscious for almost a week. He broke his jaw, crushed both wrists, and had multiple compound fractures in both legs. One hand was almost severed. The doctors said his right leg would likely need to be amputated. He woke up with no memory of the accident, with his teeth wired shut, breathing through a trache, and all four limbs bandaged so that nothing could move. He had no way to talk or communicate for several days. It was a nightmare.

He had multiple surgeries to repair his broken bones. All in all, he spent 100 days in the hospital and rehab. It was the longest summer of our lives. He endured unimaginable pain, and he handled it with the most grace I've ever seen. Even though he was miserable, he always smiled, said thank you and joked with his nurses. With my mom by his side, he worked. He was determined to get better, to learn to feed himself, to walk again. He spent night and day in bed, moving whatever he could move to regain the strength lost from weeks of immobilization. Six months after the wreck, he went home in a wheelchair with one leg still very broken.

After a year, he could stand up without help. He spent countless hours in physical and occupational therapy, pushing his body to get better. When his therapists said their job was done, he still wasn't satisfied with his progress. He could barely walk 10 steps unassisted. So he joined a gym and got a personal trainer. He fought and worked and never gave up, and he got rid of the wheelchair. After 18 months, the stubborn fracture in his leg finally healed.

When he got hurt, we thought he would never walk again. I thought he would never have a normal life. He's permanently disabled from this accident, but he's strong. He rebuilt his body, and now he can take care of himself, he can drive and he's independent.

And today, he walked a 5K. 

Magnolia Blossom Festival 5K

Everyone faces adversity at some point in their lives, and some people don't get a happy ending. But today, he did. He has amazed his doctors, and he continues to amaze me. I'm proud of you, Dad!

May 20, 2011

Put on your happy pants

How do you deal when everything goes wrong? When Murphy and his law are out to get you? When a bad day just gets worse and you become jealous of Alexander from that book? Do you grin and bear it, or do you take it out on those who dare to have better days?

Lately, I've had a lot of bad days. Last week, on my way home from a business trip, the pilot didn't show up for my flight. While I was stuck in the airport, I was assigned a stressful, kind-of-a-big-deal project with a deadline only a few hours away. And since there was no Wi-Fi, rendering my laptop an unwieldy paperweight, I was left to peck away on my blackberry, cursing the pilot who never showed. Several hours later, I finally made it home and had never been so glad to see my driveway. My bad day was over! I walked inside to learn that the air conditioner had gone out, and my living room was 85 degrees. Later, when I had located a good box fan and forgiven Delta, I sat down to blog about my bad day. But Blogger was down. Seriously.

It was one of those days.

Then, before I could even unpack my bags, I came down with the plague of all plagues. I hurt in places where I thought I was too young to hurt. There was fever, there were chills, there were saltines and ginger ale and not much else. It was ugly, and I was so down in the dumps. Just too many bad days in a row, where everything was going horribly wrong.

But of course, I got better and have resumed regularly scheduled programming. And I discovered that my complete loss of appetite for five days had given my waistline a makeover! While I do not recommend the plague diet to anyone and would not wish it on my worst enemy, I could not be happier about spending a few days in a fever-induced stupor and waking up to my figure from three years ago. I can wear my favorite skirt again!

Wardrobe rediscovery

I can wear my gray Express pants - the ones I haven't been able to sit down in since 2008! I have been trying to squeeze back into these pants every fall and spring since I got married. These pants are not stretchy, and they do not forgive even one cupcake more than my allotted daily caloric intake. So these, y'all, are my happy pants.

Wardrobe rediscovery day 2: pants I haven't worn (comfortably) since 2008!

So today, when I arrived at work just as the skies exploded with cannon ball raindrops, I reminded myself of my happy pants. When I walked all the way (FAR!!) to my building from the parking lot through sideways rain, only to realize I had left my laptop back in the car, I walked proudly back to get it in my happy pants. I think you see where I'm going with this.

When everything that could go wrong at work went wrong. When I got stuck in the chiropractor's office without an umbrella during the second deluge of the day. When all I wanted in this world to cheer me up was a giant sweet tea from Chick-fil-A, and instead I got a big swig of UNSWEET tea after I drove away from the window. When I missed my deadline. When I got caught in a THIRD thunderstorm - this time with hail! - on my way home. When I dropped marinara sauce all over my freshly mopped kitchen floor.

When everything is going wrong, at least today, I can comfort myself with my happy pants.

Because I can't move to Australia.

May 16, 2011

Gold Rush 5K

I set a new PR at the Gold Rush 5K! I (unofficially) finished in 31:47 with an average 10:16 pace, which I was very happy with. Trea finished just under 30 minutes (also unofficially), so we both met our goals!

There wasn't a start mat, only a finish mat, so I'm going by the time on my Garmin, which I started exactly as I crossed the starting line - behind about 800 people. I made the mistake of lining up too far back, thinking it wouldn't matter since the race was described as chip-timed. Then I spent FOREVER trying to run faster than a shuffle among tiny children and strollers just to get to the start after the crowd lurched forward. This definitely wasn't my favorite race, and I won't be running it again. However, Garmin says I finished in under 32 minutes, and that's all that matters! And I finally got to meet Whitney, whose blog I've been reading for several months now. She finished just ahead of Trea, and hung around and cheered for me. Thank you, Whitney!

Another highlight was getting to run with our friend, John.

Gold Rush 5K

He smoked us both and finished ahead of Trea in well under 30 minutes. Way to go, John! He is such an inspiration, always full of energy and encouragement. In just over a year, he has lost 150 pounds (and counting), and he is determined to stay fit and healthy. Check out his story here.

Since this race, there hasn't been much running in my world. I spent several days in Minneapolis, and I only got to run once while I was there. My hotel was downtown, so I took a quick run around Loring Park, just a couple of blocks away.

Running in Loring Park

I was so looking forward to running in the cooler weather of the North, but I arrived just in time for 85 degree temps, hail storms and tornadoes! Ah, just like home.

Since I've been back in Arkansas, the weather has been perfect for running, or so I hear. I've been in bed with the plague since Saturday, and still haven't made it back to the real world. While everyone else is enjoying sunny skies and highs in the 60's, I've barely had the strength to hold up a book.



But I'm hoping I'll be back on my feet soon! The Cancer Challenge 10K will be here in no time!

May 5, 2011

Three things Thursday

1. I signed up for the St. Jude Memphis Marathon! It will be my first full marathon, and I am terrified. I had a great time at the Bentonville Half, and I want to see if I can push myself even farther. Trea will be running it too.

2. I tweeted running legend Bart Yasso about the race, and HE TWEETED ME BACK. Be still my heart. This made my day!

3. I'm running a 5K in less than two days. The Gold Rush 5K is Friday evening. I thought it would be good idea, after working all day, to run a fast race on a course I'm not familiar with, on practically no training at all. My only other 5K was last October, and I finished in about 34 minutes. I will be amazed if my time improves at all since I've taken so much time off lately and have done basically no speed or tempo work (ever). This ought to be interesting. Wish me luck. I will need it!! If nothing else, at least I got lots of cool stuff. A tech shirt (to add to my collection of too-big race shirts that I'll never wear - why does no one offer XS??), a running hat and Burt's Bees lip balm! Even though I'm not thrilled with the shirt size, this is an awesome swag bag, in my opinion.

May 2, 2011

Run your face off!

The Internet is a funny place. When I signed up for Twitter, I thought I would just be following headlines. I never dreamed I would meet strangers, who would become my friends, who I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. (!!!) to cheer for. But almost all my local Twitter pals were running the Ozark Race for the Cure 10K Saturday, and I couldn't pass up the chance to yell for them at the finish line. I wanted to run too, but I knew I wasn't prepared. One month ago, I ran my first half marathon. Then I took some time off. And the next thing I knew, a month had flown by, and I had run (not counting my 13.1 race miles) a total of 10 miles in April. TEN. So, no, I wasn't prepared to run a 10K after four weeks of leisure, which I spent patting myself on the back for running a great race, partying and sipping mai tais. So instead of running, I did the next best thing. I cheered myself hoarse!

After the Bentonville Half, I promised myself that I would go out and cheer at a race. Running 13.1 is the most physically challenging thing I've ever done, and it would not have happened without the support of my husband and dozens of strangers. Trea was the best motivator I could have asked for. But the volunteers and spectators who came out to support the runners were awesome too! I had the best time reading funny signs, giving high-fives and simply hearing encouraging words. And nothing could top having friends cheer for me at the finish line. I knew they would be there, so I worked even harder to do a good job. Without all that, I would have given up at mile 10. That's when I realized that being part of a running community is not just about running races; it's about being a good race supporter.

The 5K and 10K runners started together, so by the time we made our way to the finish line, some 5K sprinters were already finishing, but I didn't expect to see my friends for another half hour or so. I looked down at my phone to text someone, and I heard a familiar voice screaming, "ANNA!" and saw my maid of honor running down the road! I didn't know she was going to be there, and it was such a fun surprise. Although I felt kind of bad not paying attention and having HER yell for ME even though she was the one running and panting!

Trea and I did such a good job cheering that we almost didn't have any voice left by the time our 10K finishers got to us. Trea came up with our sign idea and held it the whole time, so he was the life of the party. People LOVED him. He yelled over and over, "Good job, good job!" And in between runners, there were these gems: "This is a race; why didn't we bring any water?" "We need a vuvuzela. My throat hurts." And finally, "I could really go for a lozenge." Cheering is fun, but apparently, that activity requires some preparation too. We'll know better next time.

My friends did great, and I was so glad I was there to see them finish!

Go John go!
After they finished, they came over to help us cheer on the rest of the runners. I didn't think we would ever get John and Trea to leave! John discovered his long lost love of the high-five, and Trea posed for pictures with random people who loved the sign. We tried to stay until all the runners had finished because, as Trea said, the ones coming in at the end probably need encouragement the most.

Getting back on the race scene definitely motivated me to put some races on the calendar and start up a training plan. I learned this month that if I don't have a goal and a training schedule, it's way too easy to talk myself into doing nothing and procrastinating for a day that never comes.

So I'll be running the Gold Rush 5K this Friday evening! And next up is the Cancer Challenge 10K in June. And then, I'll be running my first marathon in December!!! More on that later!


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