Form-fitting gear, medals and turtle dreams

I’m sporting this shirt for luck today.

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Tomorrow I’ll be wearing this.

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Not to church. Did that last week and it was sooooo awkward.

I’m actually wearing it to my very first Aquabike race, triathlon style.

750m swim, 20k bike, 750m swim.

I’m ready, I think.

Except they have this weird rule in racing triathlons where they log your age as what you’ll be on December 31st of the same year.

47.

As if 46 doesn’t feel old enough.

But you know what? It’s okay. Better than okay. I thought I would be scared today. I thought for sure I’d obsess about cycling into another biker, dream about whacking some other poor swimmer on the head or imagine myself coming in long after the sun goes down and the rest of the racers are home with their feet up sipping electrolyte drinks.

But I’m not obsessing, dreaming or imagining all those horrible things.

I’m excited!

I’m pumped!

I keep walking around the house and informing family members, dogs and the occasional fly… “I’m going to be in a race tomorrow, don’t know if you know. It’s a swim, bike, swim. Yeah… so.”

I can’t wait to put on my form fitting tri-outfit that celebrates and accentuates my extra curves – leaving far too little to the imagination. I’m excited to strap the timing chip around my ankle and put on my lime green swim cap with my own very own race number. I’m all giddy about gathering with the other racers and hearing “Go” and then dashing off into the chilly water to begin my first swim.

I feel like a kid again – but even better because back in the day I was too scared to even try stuff like this. I loved adventure, but I hated the idea of racing, being last, being the turtle in the midst of the rabbits.

But now I truly don’t care. I’m a racer. An athlete. A 46 (or 47 – whatever) year old triathlete, to be exact. Go, turtle, go!

So if you think of it tomorrow, say a little prayer for this aging racer. That I don’t run any cyclers off the road, drown any fellow swimmers or come in long after the final horn has blown. Just pray I finish with a smile on my face. And that I get a medal. I really, really want a medal.

Okay, off I go. Gotta go start putting on my outfit. It takes a bit of time to stuff all of me in there.

On your mark, get set, GO!

Savannah, Justin Bieber and a Dark Night

I’m 45 years old and I downloaded a Justin Bieber song.

It’s true.

Sure it was a while ago, but the lyrics came to mind this week.

As long as you love me, we could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke.

Now that’s sweet.

This last weekend Brian and I went camping up in the mountains. I carried Savannah on my back in a cool little pack and Brian carried all the rest of our gear – tent, sleeping bags, diapers, food and a million other “just in case” essentials.

And yet I was the one to get all the compliments from the other hikers.

“Wow, way to go.”

“Good job, Mom.”

Brian carried twice the weight and received half the glory.

I married a good man.

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So we got to the campsite, six miles up a long and winding trail. By the time we arrived, I was drenched from head to toe in sweat and my shoulders were aching. I was thrilled to see the cabin where we could check in and Savannah was thrilled to see all the other hikers. She doesn’t know a lot of words yet, but it doesn’t seem to matter. She’ll hold a conversation with just about anyone as long as they nod at her animated noises.

We finally headed off to our site, set up our tent and nestled into our jammies. I wondered at Savannah. This was her first time out in the wild. Her first time camping. Her first time hiking.

Would she hold up?

I wasn’t sure what a dark night and the cold mountain air might bring. I could picture us trying to rock her as she wailed at the injustice of it all. Where is my crib? What have you done? Why is there a bear nibbling on my ear?

Waaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

We laid out our sleeping bags and snuggled her in between us. She pulled her blankie up to her nose and looked around.

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Her eyelids did the sleepy shuffle and Brian and I exchanged smiling glances above her head. This just might work!

The sky darkened and Brian and I whispered a sweet conversation until our own bodies settled in.

At home Savannah usually wakes at 4 a.m. I’ll sneak in, give her a pacifier and off she’ll go to dreamland again. On this trip she woke up several more times than usual. Maybe it was the dark, the noise of the fellow campers, the colder night air.

I thought she might get undone, but instead, she woke up and reached out her hand. She touched my chest, “Mama.” She reached over to Brian, “Papa.”

And went back to sleep.

Four or five times through the night, “Mama,” “Papa.” Back to sleep.

She didn’t care if it was cold. Dark. Different. As long as we were there, she was fine.

I had a tougher week this week. My heart was hurt. I was tempted to pout, wail, ball up my fists. But then I remembered Savannah and her nighttime touches, and instead I imagined myself curling into my God’s arms, tapping his chest, “Papa.”

He’s there. I’m safe. And as long as he loves me, I can face anything.

Enter Justin Bieber: As long as you love me, we could be homeless, we could be starving, we could be broke.

Of course the week didn’t bring anything near as dramatic as all that, but the song came to mind. And yes, that’s why I downloaded a Justin Bieber song at 45 years old. It makes me think of my God and it reminds me of what’s important, no matter what this life brings.

He loves me. And I desperately need that.

But don’t expect me to dance. Or flip my hair as I gyrate my hips.

I have my limits.

This Christian, atheist and ex-military guy walk into a…

We’re like the start of a bad joke: An atheist, a Jesus-lover, an artist, a teacher and an ex-military guy walk into a bar…

Only it’s no bar. We met at the dog park and (most) every Monday night we walk into a coffee shop or someone’s home to talk writing.

They’re my writer’s group—and they rock.

It’s our dogs that actually brought us together. Mattie brought her owner, Jayson, to the dog park. Max and Simba Roo brought me.

Max and Mattie

Max and Mattie are sweet on each other, so while they whispered sweet nothings into each other’s ears , Jayson and I found out that we’re both writers.

Tiva hangs out at the park too, and she introduced me to her owner, Thom.

Jayson, Thom and I started chatting and they invited me to their writer’s group. We’re a diverse band of artists. Thom is a gifted cartoonist and sculptor. He’s a great writer as well, and has written a book on being the best atheist you can be. I write books on loving Jesus and then speak at women’s retreats. Jayson does Civil War fiction, Cheri writes children’s books and Pam does a little of everything, including painting and sculpting.

You’d think Thom and I would go at it at our Monday night meetings—I’d thump my Bible and he’d debunk my beliefs and the others would vote for the most eloquent argument. A good old-fashioned rivalry: like the Yankees and the Red Sox, apples and oranges, vegetarians and cattle ranchers… you get the idea.

But it’s not like that. We genuinely like each other. And while I occasionally say things that make his eyebrows go skyway, he smiles when he sees me at the dog park and still welcomes me into the writer’s group.

The others are just as engaging. We don’t share a lot in common beyond a love of the arts and a tenderness for our pups, but that’s enough. It’s enough to make us laugh together, cheer for each other and share life.

Now I’m not saying that I wouldn’t love for Thom to believe in Jesus. After all, I love Jesus and care about Thom – I’d be crazy not to want that. But I don’t hang out with Thom for that sole purpose. I hang out with Thom, Jayson, Pam and Cheri because they are lovely people with unique talents and I genuinely enjoy their company. They make me a better writer, a better artist and a better person.

And bad joke or not, that’s good enough for me.

Camouflage Mama and True Beauty (flasback Friday)

October 15, 2006

Camouflage Mama

It happens every afternoon around 4:37 p.m. I don my camouflage pants and head out the door. Sam’s bus arrives at the bottom of the hill at 4:39. She’s in high school now. Cool. Happening. She wears lip-gloss and just a touch of foundation to take off the shine.

She even has an I-pod she received on her birthday after three years of
complaining about the bulkiness of her old-fashioned CD player. “I mean
really, Mom. All the kids make fun of me. It’s so bulky and HUGE!”

Yeah. OK. I couldn’t even LIFT the record player I listened to in the 6th
grade.

So I start walking – slowly. It’s all in the timing. If I get too close and
the kids on the bus see me, all will be lost. I hear the familiar sound.
There it is. I spot the yellow through the leaves, and see a window on the
bus. A set of teenage eyes meets mine. They widen. I’ve been spotted! Drat!
I quickly duck and pretend to pet a caterpillar.

I asked Sam once, “So what if your friends see me? They won’t know I’m
coming to meet you, they’ll just think I’m some lady out walking her dogs.”

“Every day Mom? At the same time? And a woman who looks EXACTLY like me?
Mom.” Slight eye roll. “They’ll know it’s you.”

Right. And that’s . . . horribly, mortifyingly not good, right?

Right.

The bus starts moving away. I see a bobbing brunette head coming up my way. I
wave. She waves. We grin. On this day she loops her arm in mine as she draws
close. She doesn’t even realize she’s doing it. She right away starts in on her day.

I smile a little grin of victory. Undercover. Top secret. Camouflage love.

Mission accomplished.

October 16, 2006

Swan

She was tiny, frail, beautiful. I met Swan at a woman’s conference. Wrinkles lined her lovely face. She dressed stylish with a touch of sassy. Swan spoke in a quiet voice, and her hands trembled slightly as they rested on her lap. She was the picture of gentle beauty.

Then Swan prayed.

With a voice full of passion and strength, she prayed over the conference.
With power she prayed for each woman present. She seemed to grow in stature
with each word spoken to our God.

I have a picture of what Swan will look like in heaven. I’m sure it’s a pale
vision of what will truly be, but even with my limited imagination, my
picture takes my breath away. She is adorned in vibrant colors. She is
brilliant and strong with energy spilling from every pore. Her Lord takes her
dancing and without a single ache or pain, she graces the heavens with her
lovely form. Her eyes are full of light and her smile is warm and
captivating. She is all that she is now – only with a touch of heaven thrown
in.

I want to be like Swan. As my body weakens, I pray my spirit strengthens. As
my heart grows weaker, I pray my love grows stronger. With each passing day,
may I be more like Jesus, until my final breath takes me home to him.

It’s not easy being a woman (flashback Friday)

November 21, 2003

Being a woman is hard, and the traps of womanhood snare me with greater and greater frequency. It all started with the whole eyebrow waxing thing. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. How would that look? One eyebrow to two, two eyebrows to one.

Way too confusing.

Then there came the panty hose, heels and even coloring my hair. These were fun things, little adventures into my girly world, but these seemingly innocent pursuits can turn on you. All of a sudden like.

Let me explain: my friend recently introduced me to fake nails. “They’re fun!” She said. “And they look good… and really, Elsa, they only take a minute to put on.”

So I sat on my bed, clipping and filing my fake nails. Strange, really, to hold a nail in your hand as you clip and file it. Then there’s the glue, strong enough to put airplanes back together. I read the instructions carefully. Put a touch on the nail; press the fake one on the real one. Paint. Be happy.

So I did.

The next morning I took a shower and three nails fell off. Apparently, you’re not allowed to shower once you put on fake nails.

I glued them back on.

Later I washed the dishes and another nail fell off.

Great. No dishes either. I glued it back on.

I put on my panty hose and poked ten lovely holes in a dashing formation. Which promptly caused ten galloping runs. Fine. I guess I just wish the panty hose onto my legs or ask the dog to help – as his claws are now shorter than mine.

Later on, I arrive at work and type. It sounds like I’m performing a drum solo on my keyboard. TAP, TAP, TAP. People gather around my cubicle and start swaying to the tune.

I growl at them and determine that I am done with the nails. I try to pull of the remaining fake ones and nearly pull off my real nail along with twelve layers of skin.

So now ten days later, I have seven nails on and three nails off.

Great. I’m a mutant.

I’ll probably die this way.

(Postscript: Nearly ten years later and I remain traumatized. I shudder walking through nail salons.)