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Why I Run

I’m running on the beach. It’s raining. The wind, which was gentle at mile one, is abrasive now at mile five. The waves are pounding, drowning out all the other noises in my head. I’m dragging through the sand a bit, weighted down by my soggy shoes, but I push on. I inhale the salty air like its some kind of drug and I go, running alongside the ocean and the dizzying expanse of the horizon. There’s nowhere I’d rather be. I am in this moment.

And I’m so grateful because it finally happened. In this moment, I became a runner.

…………………………..

I was never an athletic kid. I was awkward and apprehensive. I would never have elbowed my way across a soccer field or bolted from first base to steal second. I wasn’t inactive – I swam and biked and played tag – but I had no interest in competition.

I also fatigued easily. I used to have this recurring dream about trying to run but my legs were weighted down and I had to drag them with all my might just to move a few feet.

So I stuck with art and books and casual sports until I hit high school. It seemed like everyone was doing a sport, so I decided to join the track team. How hard could it be, right?

At the first practice, we had to run a one-mile warm up. I had never run more than 100 yards. I plodded along and quickly fell to the back of the pack. The star athletes lapped me with ease. But I kept my head down and huffed my way around that track four long times. As I rounded the last corner, I noticed that I was the only runner left. I decided this was going to be my last practice. Then I heard my name, and clapping. I picked up my lead legs and completed the mile. The team cheered as if I had done something great. And while I didn’t break any records, except maybe world’s slowest mile, I had done something. I finished when I didn’t think I could.

It was a miserable run, but it was my first taste of the joy that comes with running. I’m sure winning feels nice too, but that’s not why I run.

…………………………..

After high school, I put running on a shelf. Every now and then I would pick it up and dust it off. I’d manage to run two miles, sometimes three. I even worked up to a 10K at one point. But I always put running back on the shelf. I ran because I wanted to lose weight or get in shape. It wasn’t something that I did out of love. In fact, I kind of hated it.

Then I had a baby and another baby and lots of things got put on that shelf. Running got pushed to the way back. Until one day, a friend recruited me to run a 5K with her. What the hell? I thought. I’ll do it. And so I became that pokey runner on the track again. Only this time, I liked it.

I trained for a few months and on race day, I felt really good. I didn’t just enjoy the finish. I enjoyed the scenery, the quiet, the feel of my shoe hitting the pavement, the room in my head for actual thoughts. I relished the whole run.

So I started running more. I got new shoes, clothes, made a running mix. I ran a 10K and a few more fives. I got faster, stronger, hungrier. I started to love running.

About four months ago, I signed up for a half marathon. The race is Sunday, the day after my 40th birthday. I’m still not sure what I’ve gotten myself into. 13.1 miles is far. My knees hurt, my feet hurt, and I’m terrified. But I’m also exhilarated.

Running is no longer something I can put on a shelf.

…………………………..

When I run I am nobody and somebody at the same time. I am uninhibited, primal. I grunt, sweat, pant, spit, curse, and listen to gangsta rap. And unlike that first run in high school, I do it with my head held high.

When I run I am in my own world, but out of necessity, I am fully engaged with the world around me. I know every crack, curb, leaf, and blade of grass in my path. I know when it’s trash day. I know where all the good roadkill is. I know where the sidewalks end.

When I run I am ageless. I could be a kid or an old lady or almost 40-year-old me. I’m just movement and sweat and breath. And I’m so happy.

I run because it makes me feel alive. And it feels damn good to be alive.

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Ode to Vermont

After a challenging, stimulating, frenetic year, I celebrate the return of summer and the sleepy, old fashioned New England vacation.

Ode to Vermont
Thank you for the peace that comes at sunset. For laughter in a car when you’ve been riding for too long. For good music. For country roads. For slowness. For children who peek in the windows of restaurants. For smiling waitresses who bring coloring books to the tables, serve hoppy beer, and put sprinkles on the ice cream. For deer grazing on the side of the road. For the antique truck driving by. For the abundance of cows. For arrivals. For the crisp night air and a deep blue sky. For holding hands. For fireflies. For lights on in distant windows and the life happening behind them.

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Now We Are Six (and three quarters)

The girls have a running game that play with their dad where they shout silly insults at him (please note the way in which men play with their children is oh-so-different than the way women play with their children). After they lob a few insults his way, he grabs them with his “claw” and tickles them. Everybody giggles.

Their “insults” are hilarious. Sometimes I have to stop what I’m doing to write them down.

Dad, you’re the funky chicken man.
Dad, you’re a cup of coffee.
Dad, you’re a piece of bacon.

But since Sophie’s turned six, the game has sunk to a new level. Gross kid level.

Dad, you’re poop.

Sophie we don’t says things like that, even playing.

Sorry. Dad, you’re a fart man. (giggles)

Stella, sweet Stella, is only three.
Dad, you’re a mailman.

Thank you, Stella.

Sophie can’t resist.
Dad, you’re the mailman after he’s stepped in dog poop.

I wasn’t sure when my adorable child would hit the age where bodily functions become a hilarious obsession. But apparently, it’s six.

Yet, she will no longer admit it when she farts. Blames her sister every time. She’ll let out a string of farts, notes on a tuba, and then get mad if you try to accuse her.
But if someone else farts — hilarious.

The other night at bedtime, Sophie asks her dad to tell her a silly story.
Sure.

But make it really silly.

Ok.

And make sure it has lots of pooping and farting in it.

I think he’s going to discourage her, explain to her that there’s more to humor than fart jokes. But instead he winks at her. This ain’t my first rodeo kid.

Sophie smiles and snuggles in for the ride, laughing and farting all the way.

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Demon Children

It was the night before Halloween and I was like a woman possessed. I needed the Ghostbusters before I found my way to Gozer. My demon children had finally pushed me to the Dark Side. It was bound to happen eventually.

They had finished dinner at the usual speed of sound and left me eating beside a mound of Play Dough. It seemed like a good idea while I was cooking dinner, letting them break out the Play Dough. But my taste buds disagreed, as the overwhelming funk invaded my meal. Nevertheless, I thought I might get a few minutes to read while eating.

But they ran off to the bath. Stella, who earlier begged her sister to take a bath with her, suddenly decided she’d rather be alone. So they fought for control of the tub. They kicked and pinched each other, but no one gave in, their screams increasing in volume and pitch, water splashing all over my floor, until I shouted, “Silence! Demon children!”

“You will carry on like this no longer,” I said in a deep commanding voice. “I exorcise thee both.” They stood silent and transfixed awaiting their next instruction.

Actually, I went all crazy demon mother on their asses, and they responded in kind.

“That’s it!” I screamed. “Bath time is OVER!” I pulled the plug while they screamed louder. I screamed over their screams, complaining about indigestion and wondering why no one had stopped screaming yet. At one point I threatened to take away Halloween. “And,” I sniffled, “I think I’m catching your stupid cold!” They screamed louder. Apparently, I had spoken the unspeakable.

They continued to scream until all of the water drained from the tub. One sobbed, “I want to take a baaaath,” while the other cried, “I want to get out of the bath!” But neither demon moved.

Exclamations points were being thrown about wildly. If we had a fireplace, I would have launched the dishes into it. Oh, how I wanted to smash things.

Sophie told me she would never speak to me again. I stared her down while visions of motherfuckers and shut the hell up danced in my head. But I said nothing more. Neither did she. The shitstorm was over.

I went upstairs, grabbed their towels and wrapped my demon children up.

Sophie leaned against me and said, “Sorry, Mommy.” I dropped my fighting stance and apologized too. Sophie said, “I’m sorry, Stella.” Stella said, “I sawee too.” They hugged. I went awwww.

Then together we all picked up the Play Dough and headed upstairs to get ready for bed. It was 5:45.

They had no idea.

We all curled up in Sophie’s bed and read demon-free Halloween stories, like Winnie the Pooh and Ladybug Girl.
Sophie said, “I love you Mom.” Stella said, “You’re the best mom ever.” Exorcism complete.

“That’s because I have the most wonderful girls in the whole world.” Imagine that. My demon children had transformed into little angels.

Suddenly this horrible night before Halloween had softened into a series of sweet moments. Me, back in mom mode, wrapping my girls in towels, helping them find the princess pajamas. Sophie loaning Stella a nightgown so big that it covered her feet. Me reading stories while they snuggled up against me. Rubbing Sophie’s back while Stella dozed in my lap, her hair, still baby-soft, against my neck, nuzzling while her little arms held tight around my waist, trying to stay awake in this warm space full of light and love, far away from the head spinning and demonic wailing that took place so many moons ago.

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The Lateskis

I’m one of those people who is always late. I literally started writing this blog a year ago. I’m incurably tardy. I’m a lateski.

I can see all you timely folks rolling your eyes. I know. I know. We are tough to take. But we mean well. And we try. Hard. We just have trouble getting out the door.

You don’t understand us. We’re not trying to be rude. We’re not laid back, easy breezy. We’re actually in a constant state of hurry. More like a flurry. A PigPen-ish whirl of action that rarely leads to the places we are trying to go.

I used to be a high school English teacher, which meant that I had to be at work early. 7:10 to be exact. A.M. This is not ideal for a lateski. I was approximately five minutes late for work approximately 170 out of 180 days each school year. For seven years. Thankfully, I had a boss who, while he didn’t understand me, tolerated me.

But damn, was I proud of myself on those 10 days a year when I was on time. And barely on time at that, never early. Haha! No! Never early.

Normally, I skulked into work with my head down, hair still damp from the shower, trying to blend into the wall until I hit my classroom, where I would find my students waiting. But on those timely days, I strutted into work, greeting everyone in my path, like I was running for office. Make way folks, for teacher of the year. She is on time. Ironically, these campaign walks through the building often made me late to class.

These days, I work at home (contrary to popular opinion, this is not a euphemism for doing housework; I am gainfully employed; my office just happens to be in my house; and very little housework is done here). While I miss teaching, this work arrangement suits me. There is little prep time required. I can scuffle or whirl into my office in slippers and pajamas if I need to. Some days I scuffle in at 6. That’s A.M. Some days, I whirl in at 9. Sometimes, I work at night, but I always get my work done and I no longer feel the daily panic of a lateski commuting to work.

Getting my kids out the door in the morning is another story. I’ve kind of passed the lateski gene onto them. It doesn’t matter if we ban television in the morning, have them dress upon waking, make lunches the night before. We’re still running to the bus stop with one shoe on and a hairbrush in our hands. We usually make it.

My husband is 50% lateski. He’s on time for work and school, but chores and recreational activities are a crapshoot. It took him two years to change the light bulb in our shower.

Intermarriage of lateskis can be tricky, like marrying a 2nd cousin. Instead of having a timely partner who helps me correct my tardy ways, we are twice as late as we were when we were single. We were even late for our own wedding. I could blame traffic and a nearby car accident, but lateskis always have an excuse, so you wouldn’t believe me anyway. We have missed two wedding ceremonies entirely. We’ve only missed one flight, though. Still, don’t expect us to be the first guests at your dinner party. When we say we’ll be there at 5, that’s really 5:45 Bouchard time. It’s like island time, only less relaxed.

I think the crux of the problem for a lateski is that, in addition to underestimating how long it takes to do pretty much anything, we are prone to distraction. I have ten minutes before I have to be at work. Great! I can stop for a coffee. I have to be somewhere in 30 minutes; sure I can braid your hair, do the laundry, and balance my checkbook. We also have a tendency to overlook the variables that enter into life. I assume that because it takes me 30 minutes to get somewhere, that it will always take 30 minutes to get there. Traffic, construction, snow, misplacing my keys, children – these things never enter into my mind when I decide that I have time to take a 20 minute shower.

So we’re the Lateskis. It could be worse. We hang out with another couple dubbed the Chardonnay-fers for obvious reasons. We all have our crosses to bear. Be patient with us. Yes, we are going to be late to your party, but we’ll get there eventually. And when we do, we’re going to have a wonderful time.

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Eulogy for a Goldfish

Goldie, oh Goldie, what a wounded name. We didn’t know you for long, but we loved you anyway. Sort of.

You went the way of many pet fish, death by overfeeding. But honestly, Goldie, did you have to eat everything that Sophie spilled in your bowl? You goldfish have to smarten up if you want to increase your life expectancies. Nevertheless, I apologize for the inadvertent kill. Could we call it fish-slaughter?

You were a good fish and pretty to look at, most of the time. You sure did poop a lot, and sometimes it hung there in a long, disgusting string. For days. On those days, you were hard to look at, but you took it in stride.

When I told the girls you had passed, they cried. Sort of. There weren’t actually any tears, but they moaned a little and conveyed something akin to sadness.

I promised them that in a few days we’d get a new fish. I know full well they’ll be excited for a few days and then forget about it, leaving me to feed it and clean the bowl and bemoan that disgusting poop string. But I guess that’s not your problem anymore.

Sorry we weren’t better companions. What can I say? I’m really more of a dog person.

I hope you find peace in your new resting place, the public sewer system. I’m sure you’ll meet a few friends there. Say hi to Tuna and That One for us.

Good night, sweet fish, goodnight. Let the flights of angels (and the whoosh of the flushing toilet) sing thee to thy rest.

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Shit. Fuck. Damn: A Love Story

You may not know this about me, but I love to swear. This surprises people because I look sweet. I smile a lot. I giggle. I like warm hugs. So when I drop an f-bomb, it seems out of place.

But I so enjoy it.

Nothing shows indignation like a fierce “What the fuck?” or an “Are you fucking kidding me?” Nothing makes the pain of a stubbed toe or paper cut go away faster than “shit fuck damn!” uttered in a quick staccato. Or the long drawn out “fuuuuuuuuck!” when I realize I’ve deleted the blog I’ve been writing for the past hour. Nothing concludes an argument with my husband better than the mumbled “Asshole” after he walks away. Swearing is the best therapy there is.

I learned most of my swear words from my dad. A long car ride with him was like listening to the audio of Good Fellas. Sons a bitches and assholes followed him everywhere. Between them, the dumb shits and the motherfuckers, we couldn’t get anywhere. It was like driving through Deadwood.

But my swearing is never gratuitous, never unwarranted. Sometimes, shit is simply the most appropriate word.

Then I became a teacher, and swearing was frowned upon in the classroom. So I had to learn to censor myself. And them. Sometimes I would take a deep breath, sometimes I would bite my thumb, but none of these strategies felt as good as swearing.

I always fell off the wagon during summer vacation. Summer Jen, complete with flip-flops and a foul mouth, was relaxed and free. I miss her.

Once I had kids, I learned there is no such thing as summer vacation. I could swear around my babies, but then they got older and started repeating what I said and the profanity party was over.

Now my little ones mimic everything I do, so I must mind my mouth. But it’s hard. For these cherished offspring of mine like to push every fucking button I have. Plus they leave little, pointy toys all over the floor of our house, like booby traps. So I’ve had to get creative.

I’ve dropped a mashugina, a Jiminy Cricket, and the timeless sugar honey iced tea.
Son of a monkey’s uncle is a favorite. Fudgesicles is a fall back but it’s a little trite. Chimichanga is more fun. The more syllables a fake swear has, the more authentic it feels.

There are times when the children are exceptionally challenging (note the euphemism) – when they are writhing on the floor speaking in strange, whiny tongues and nothing will cure their ails except for a good night’s sleep. My husband and I call this a shit show. We say it behind closed doors, of course. We’re not monsters. In front of them, we speak French. We call it le sheet show (the t is silent). No one gets hurt or corrupted, and we feel a lot better about the whole damn thing.

I’m not sure how I’ll feel about swearing the first time Sophie calls me a bitch or tells me to fuck off. But for now I love it. It’s like exhaling, my own personal mantra. Shit fuck damn. Shit fuck damn. Thanks Dad.

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