Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rain, schmain

It's 5 a.m. and my alarm wakes me. I hear rain on my roof. Wait. Is it rain? No, it's the sound of my son's fan; he always sleeps with a fan running in his room for white noise. Whew. Hit the snooze and get five more minutes of sleep. No, the sound is coming from outside my window. (Parental guidance warning - profanity alert). Fuck. It's triathlon day, and it's raining.
We knew this could happen. The weather report indicated a 70 percent chance of rain, which really means 100 percent (I mean, really, have you ever known it NOT to rain when there was a 70 percent chance of precipitation?).
No problem. I'm 9 minutes in the water, 30 minutes on the bike and 20 minutes on foot. I can do this. And I did.
I arrived early at the site because I wanted a good location for my bike. This was smart. I wanted the shortest distance from the pool to my towel and dry(ish) clothing. I got a prime spot on the first rack.
Because rain doused my plan to have my biking and running gear organized, I heaped all of my shoes, clothes and gear in a garbage bag and tried to prioritize it so the stuff I needed first will be on top. Head band to protect my ears, gloves to warm my hands and cushy bike shorts to protect the place where plan to spend the rest of my day ... all stuffed inside my bike helmet. Socks stuffed inside my cycling shoes. Tri number pinned to my hoodie. I'm set.
Eleven of us did the triathlon from my To Be Re ( workout family. Another dozen or so members, friends and family cheered us on. How lovely it was to hand my swim parka to my friend, Cary, just before I jumped in the pool. And how even lovelier it was when she handed it to me as I trotted from the pool to the transition area.
I survived the swim. I. Survived. The. Swim. I did most of it on my back, but I finished strong. Despite having taken swim lessons, the competitive side of me kicked in, and I found myself winded at the end of the second lap. Rather than stop, though, I rolled onto my back, tucked my arms tightly to my side and used my legs to power me through the water. Worked beautifully. I heard the voice of my friend and trainer, Keith, reminding me that my back kick is "home." Like Will Smith's character tells Kevin James' character in the movie "Hitch" when he starts to break out and do some dance moves beyond his abilities: "You live right here, okay? This is home."
During the transition area, I let go of an important character trait that normallyy works very well for me when I'm on the job: organization and neatness. Threw off the swim gear, threw on the cycling gear, and I was off and pedaling. In the wrong direction. Thank goodness for volunteers.
Pedaling in the rain was painful. And cold. The rain drops pelted my face and felt like little needles. As I pedaled through my three laps (10 miles), I realized that the rain on this leg of the race helped. I wanted to get to a dry place. Pedal faster, please. Hot cocoa awaits.
Running after biking took a few adjustments. My toes were numb from the cold and because my shoes were too tight, and I felt a little bow-legged. It takes a few minutes to regain your footing after the bike ride. I'd sloppily left one running shoe out in the rain in the transition area and one shoe protected in my garbage bag. Right foot was wet and spongy. Left foot was dry.
The spirit of sportsmanship at these events is inspiring. On the run loop, we were encouraging each other and cheering each other on. At the finish line everyone claps and pushes you forward. Having my own (along with 10 of my friends') cheering section was incredible! I forgot about the rain and cold, and I had a blast. Rain, schmain! I can't wait to do it again.
April 11 -Tri for the Cure, women only. I'm there!! Who's in?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hey batter, batter, batter!

I keep returning to this photo of my cousins, my sister and me that was taken in the 1970s, when I was maybe 9 years old. I haven't seen pictures of myself at that age in a long time, and the photo brings back memories, especially as my first triathlon approaches.
My son, who hasn't seen many pictures of me as a kid, said I looked scrawny in the photo. "Look at how baggy your clothes are. You look like you're sick!" he said.
I was really skinny as a kid. I have to say, I was not a cute kid; I did look sickly. I just wasn't that in to food, and I wasn't on any medications or diagnosed with any illnesses. I just didn't like to eat. (Unfortunately, I got over that a long time ago.)
I was one of the youngest kids in my class, having gone from kindergarten right to second grade after doing about two months of first grade. I was one of those brainy kids who was good at math and language arts (formerly known as "English"), so they double promoted me. (Unfortunately, I got over that braininess thing a long time ago, too.)
In gym class and on the playground, when it was time to choose teams for Red Rover or kickball or tug-of-war, I was usually the last kid picked for the team. Oh, the kids liked me, but they didn't want me on their teams. I was scrawny, slow and unathletic.
In summers, my mom signed me up for softball leagues, and I held a batting average of ZERO. The coaches hated putting me in. Actually, everyone hated putting me in. I hated putting me in. I was on the Sheriff's Bulldogs, and our team was GOOD. The coach, who was a sheriff deputy, hence the name, would instruct me never to swing at the ball when I was at bat. I was a head shorter than some of the girls, and a little runt of a player, so my batting range was small. I was easy to walk.
Yet, I'd hear the "Hey, batter, batter, batter. SWING!" chants and I'd fall for it every time, followed by the umpire's call "STRIKE!" The coach's face would turn red, "I TOLD you not to SWING!"
When you are told at a young age that you are not an athlete, you believe it. You believe it for a long time. Like 30+ years.
So, on the eve of my first triathlon, I'm thinking about the scrawny girl wearing the orange hippy-like jersey and the goofy braids that she thought made her look like Marcia Brady (tell me you can see the resemblence). I'm still not the fastest girl on my team, but in three months, I've gone from being unable to complete one lap at the pool without stopping twice to completing 10 laps in nine minutes. I run a 10-minute mile, and I can nearly catch my friend, Adriana, when we bicycle (that girl is FAST).

Monday, February 22, 2010

I had five grandmas

I changed my Facebook image to one that a relative tagged me in.
I'd never seen the photo. I'm about nine years old, and I'm pictured with four cousins and my sister. Everyone in the picture is smiling except me and I'm about a foot apart from the group. It's Christmas time because the Kaviris cousins are wearing matching red-and-white dresses, and they are surrounding their Great-Grandma Ruby at Grandma Ruth's house.
I can't imagine why I wasn't smiling because I loved going to Ruth's house, especially for her annual Christmas party. Her tiny house might have been 1,000 square feet, and we squeezed in babies, kids, cousins, aunts, uncles, neighbors, grandparents ... it was the best holiday party. I always tried to duck from a woman named Harriet - and I have no idea how she was "related" to us - who would marvel loudly over her drink and cigarette at how much we grew from year to year, pinching our legs.
Ruth was my grandfather's second wife. Having a grandfather who married three times makes for an interesting family dynamic. He had my dad and his two brothers with his first wife and a daughter with his second wife. In addition, wife No. 2 had two children, as did wife No. 3 (I think she had only two; maybe it was three). Actually, my grandpa married four times, but the fourth wife was later in life, shortly before he died.
The "relative" who tagged me in the photo is my dad's dad's second wife's sister's daughter. Got that? So, really, we're not related. We're step-somethings.
The cousins in the photo would be my dad's dad's second wife's daughter's kids. So that makes them step-cousins.
I loved that I had so many aunts and uncles and cousins and "steps" that I never understood how or if we were really related. For years, I thought the Binnses, who lived next door to my step-grandmother, were actually related to us because they were always at family get-togethers. Add to that my dad's three marriages (his second wife died) and my uncles' five marriages between the two of them, and that made for a lot of extended family. Lots of steps.
Having had so many marriages and divorces had other effects, too. My grandfather and I had a conversation a year or so before he died where he lamented that one of us, his grandchildren, was living with someone without being married. He pointed out that he could have done that, too, but he did the honorable thing and got married. Four times.
Actually, I said, what I picked up was that marriage was disposable. If you didn't like it, you got out of it and tried it again. It wasn't a forever thing.
Hence, two marriages - one that lasted 11 months and the other that lasted nearly 10 years.
He wasn't offended. In fact, he said something like, "I hadn't thought of that."
I never wanted my family to fit some mold and be "perfect" like the Beavers on TV. I was proud of the fact that even when someone divorced, we got to keep the kids. They still came to holiday parties and summer cookouts.
If I wasn't smiling in that photo, it was probably because, as the oldest cousin of my generation, I was annoyed because some grown-up stopped us from spying on the boy cousins or tearing up Ruth's basement, so we could pose for picture after picture.
Thirty years later, I'm glad they did!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

'What's the MATTER with you?'

My boyfriend sent me a text message last week: "You hugged all my family last weekend."
I met them for the first time, and we hugged upon meeting and again when we said goodbye.
People in my life like to point out when I hug.
To my knowledge, I've never refused a hug, and I've never publicly declared "I don't hug," but, apparently, my body language says "I'm not a hugger."
My aunt says when I was a baby, I was anything but cuddly. When someone would hold me, I'd stiffen like a board.
In all fairness, my family is not comprised of big huggers. I don't remember ever giving my grandparents hugs, but I always kissed them on the cheeks when leaving their house. And my mom doled out hugs, but they were usually for Hallmark card-type moments. I grew up thinking - and, yes, I really thought this - that hugs were for relatives who live in other states, to make you feel better when you've been crying, for the person you were in a relationship with and for babies.
Then, I married into a family of huggers. Upon returning from my first visit to my now-ex's hometown in Michigan, my mom asked how it went, what they were like.
"They're huggers," I said.
All of them - his parents, grandparents, cousins, brothers and his brother's girlfriend. All huggers. When we'd arrive at their home, I'd brace myself as we walked through the door. "Incoming!" I'd think to myself.
Several years later, my then-husband and I moved to Michigan while he attended grad school.
Imagine my surprise when, after we'd gotten settled in our home in Holt, Michigan, visits to my in-laws still began and ended with hugs.
"I thought after we moved to Michigan, we wouldn't have to hug your parents every time we see them," I said, confused.
His return look said something like, "What's the MATTER with you?"
It wasn't that I didn't like them. I like them a lot.
Eight years later, and I thought I'd evolved. Then my boyfriend's text made me wonder if my reputation as a non-hugger would be impossible to shake. I love hugging him; I do it all the time, for absolutely NO reason, unprovoked, inspired merely by digging the sight of him. And his scent. Yet he still sees me as someone who doesn't freely hug.
My response to his text message: "Yes. I know. I'm a new woman. A hugger. Check me out."
Between you and me, I don't understand hugs, but I understand that we all have different needs, different ways of expressing friendship, love and affection. I've gone from being a conservative hugger to a moderate because I realize that some of you need hugs; you get something from them. And since relaxing my rules on hugs, I have to admit, they're not so bad.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

'Maybe when you grow big, you will get one too.'

"Stop," my son keeps telling me.
I can't help it.
He fascinates me.
His body is morphing before my eyes, changing daily as his head goes from boyishly adorably to ... well, I assume eventually it will be manly handsome. His baby-smooth skin has been invaded by a dusting of dark hair above his upper lip and randomly placed pimples. His voice is squeaking toward new depths, and I am grateful that I have saved voice messages on my cell phone that preserve his sweet-boy sounds.
This week, thanks to a work-mandated furlough, I off work and playing stay-at-home mom. Rather than picking him up from THERE, driving him HERE, shoving him full of food, goading him to do homework, shower and off to bed ... I'm able to breathe a little and actual study this little man who has my eyes and my family's penchant for sarcasm.

I have been thinking a lot about what he was like when I really was a stay-at-home mom, for the first four years of his life, and he was discovering things for the first time, like girls being built different from boys.
"Mommy, where's your penis?!" my then-3-year-old asked as he and I squeezed into a bathroom stall at a shopping mall - you know, the kind where the tiniest whisper bounces along the tiled walls and floors. As I hovered above the seat, my toddler bent over to get a good look at my anatomy. "I don't have one," I answered quietly. "Girls don't have penises. Stand by the door."
"Oh," he said, looking disappointed, even a little sorry for me. "Maybe when you grow big, you will get one too."
"I don't want one, Adam," I told him. I mean, really, who does this little pipsqueak think he is? "Only boys have them, and I'm OK with that."
Now my innocent little boy is turning into an image-conscious young man who doesn't think I notice him looking at girls, who checks his hair in the mirror and who has just discovered the music of the Beatles.
I suppose I miss that little boy, but every age Adam turns becomes my new favorite age (except age 3, also known as The Age of Temper Tantrums). He becomes wittier, smarter and more fun to be around, even when he is being surly and difficult.