Winter roses

We’ve had a recent cold snap, and though last week I may have poked gentle fun at rainy day behaviors out here in California, I have to make fun of myself this week. I am quickly losing my tolerance for cold.

Monday’s cold weather brought a bitter wind, and all I wanted to do was hide inside—after a morning run, of course. I have to dust off the winter running clothes every now and then, right?

It was cold here over Christmas, too, and when I returned from balmy North Carolina after the holidays, I knew I had to tackle a winter gardening chore: pruning the roses. (Not my favorite gardening activity, I’ll confess.) I left three stems taller than the rest because small buds graced them, and I hoped they might bloom, despite freezing temperatures in December.

One bud finally began to open within the last week. So I cut all three buds to bring inside and finished the pruning chores.

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To me, this is the exact color of dusty rose

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The dragonfly visitor

As I continue to fight to get over a lingering illness, my energy is slowly coming back. A couple of days ago, I knew I was on the mend because I felt like going outside to take some pictures.

A visitor has been stopping by my house every day, usually several times a day. She kindly posed for me on several of her favorite perches:

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Glittering in the sun

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Smiling at me?

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Sunning atop an apple tree

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I cannot get over the intricacy of her wings

I’ve been calling her Joy—first, because her visits delight me. Second, one of my dearest friends is named Joy, and she loves dragonflies. So when this small, beautiful creature visits me, she makes me smile and makes me think of my sweet friend.

What visitors delight you in your garden? Or bring you joy on your daily walk? Or welcome you in a special place you visit to unwind?

 

Loss and the fierceness of hope (and a giveaway to spread joy)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

My husband and I spent this weekend unpacking the remaining boxes from our move, unwrapping the pictures that still sit on the floor waiting to go on the walls of our new house. I scrambled through reams and reams of packing paper already piled in our garage, waiting for a trip to the recycling center (The movers spared no paper when it came to packing—they even double-wrapped a single wash cloth. I kid you not.).

An irreplaceable treasure had yet to surface, and I fiercely hoped I had simply overlooked it among the remaining boxes.

In 1999, my mother painted a matching china vase and oval box for me in a beautiful rust color with two chickadees on each piece. The oval box had a lid and base, and Mom had drifted the leaves from the lid down one side of the base to connect them visually. I have loved it ever since she gave it to me and thought it was one of her finest works of art.

I was excited about where it would “live” in our new home, because the wall color seemed to match the set perfectly. But a sickening feeling began to fill me as we unpacked box after box, and even revisited other, already-opened boxes, until I could no longer deny it.

The lid is gone.

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The set as it is today.

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Hope and headbands

Despite still fighting a nagging ankle injury, I signed up for a cross-country 5K that was this past weekend: the Sweat Hope 5K. One of my dearest friends agreed to run it, too, and because it raised money for a great cause and promised to be my last race in my hometown for awhile (and because of its spectacular name, especially appropriate for me), I wanted to have as much fun with it as possible.

The fun started a day early.

I picked up my race packet Friday afternoon, and, having just come from a Girls on the Run (GOTR) event, was sporting my GOTR coach’s t-shirt. When I arrived, several folks greeted me with enthusiasm and remarked on my shirt. It turns out that the race organizer (Jessica Ekstrom—also the CEO/Founder of Headbands of Hope) and her sister had been in the very first Girls on the Run.

The very first season! The one that started it all. Both girls are grown now, and they were both at packet pick-up Friday. They joked that they must have been the reason GOTR kept going. I walked away wondering how many other success stories such as theirs had come out of GOTR.

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My new “Sweat Hope” headband with a sticker from Saturday’s race. I thought my happy Fall mum was the perfect place for this shot.

On Saturday, the fun continued. Although I didn’t run as well as I had hoped and had to walk the big hills on the course, it was a beautiful day and a good excuse to spend time with my friend and her husband.

I emailed Ekstrom after the race to congratulate her on such a great inaugural race. This was a great race, in large part because it was so well organized. The race started on time (yay!). It had great volunteers along the course and at the finish (yay!). There were great sponsors who were present with goodies for all of us (including a yogurt parfait station complete with dairy and vegan yogurt — double yay!). There was even a sack race for kids after the main race wrapped up.

I don’t know if Ekstrom plans to organize future Sweat Hope races, but if she does (and I hope she will), you runners out there won’t be disappointed.

Ekstrom kindly agreed to share a little about her experiences as a founding member of the GOTR family and in her role leading her own company. Headbands of Hope makes and sells fantastic headbands (seriously, runners, these things do not slip while you’re running). For every headband the company sells, it donates a headband to a girl with cancer and also gives $1 toward cancer research.

Ekstrom is gaining national attention for her work, and I wanted to know more of her story. Continue reading

Don’t let the tutus fool you

I’m a running purist. No color runs (runs where you get doused with bright colors of paint) or tough mudders (think of obstacle courses and mud with some running thrown in) for me. But if that’s your thing, hey, that’s cool with me.

I also don’t like to wear costumes when I run, if for no other reason than I like to run without distractions of extra-warm or too-itchy clothes. But I’ll admit that I enjoy seeing the fun ways other runners express themselves with what they wear.

Some runners wear shirts with inspiring messages. Some runners wear funny socks up to their knees. Some runners wear stuffed turkeys or reindeer antlers on their heads when a race celebrates a particular holiday. Some runners wear tutus.

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My husband took this picture at my first 10K several years ago, the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon in Dublin, Ireland. It was great fun, in part because of women in tutus and other fun costumes celebrating the day together.

Costumes can make running fun – a good kind of silly – and can distract other runners from the pain or negative thoughts that creep in during a race. As I think back over the races I’ve run, the toughest ones always had moments of awesomeness because of what another runner was wearing. Wearing something that makes other runners smile at a rough point in the course or encourages spectators to cheer louder? Well, that’s a gift.

So when the social media world exploded last week with news of Self magazine mocking two women wearing tutus during a race, I paid a lot of attention – even more when I learned that one of the runners in the photo was fighting cancer, that both women coach Girls on the Run (GOTR), and that they make and sell tutus to raise money for their local GOTR chapter. These are my people, and a national magazine mocked them?

Here’s a quick summary: Self magazine published a photo of two women wearing tutus and race bibs to accompany a short piece mocking runners who wear tutus, calling it “lame.” Social media lit up with fury. The magazine back-pedaled, apologized and has scrapped the snarky column moving forward. To see what else has come of this story, watch this great interview with Monika Allen (the runner fighting incurable cancer) with Katie Couric from yesterday’s show.

In the photo, Allen is dressed like Wonder Woman and her friend like Supergirl, and if you look closely, you can see that her friend’s race bibs says, “Die tumor die.” If the editors at Self had looked closely, they might have prevented the firestorm they brought on themselves. Allen was running the LA Marathon that day, her first marathon since a brain cancer diagnosis several months earlier, and she dressed like Wonder Woman in a tutu to lift her own spirits and to bring joy to others.

The marathon was Allen’s 19th and her slowest, but she ran it and triumphed in more ways than simply completing a marathon. She’s bringing national attention to the ways we tear each other down instead of building each other up. And she’s doing it with grace and kindness and energy while she faces a fight with cancer that she may never win.

Self wanted its readers to judge her for her tutu, to make themselves feel better because they would never wear tutus while running. The magazine apologized because Allen has cancer. But would they have apologized if she hadn’t been fighting a disease, if instead, she had simply been a healthy, beautiful woman who wanted to have fun during a hard race?

They misjudged her because she wore a tutu. They didn’t count on her also being strong and poised and intelligent and willing to speak out for what is right.

Tutus, girls and the media
Like Allen and her friend, I coach young girls who delight in wearing tutus and are just learning to associate running with joy and fun. They’re also learning to examine how media portrays women (and men, too) and how to stand up to bullies. The magazine has given GOTR chapters all over the country an easy way to discuss these topics. But what pains me is that there will continue to be plenty of other examples of the media making fun in poor taste, of tearing others down, of trying to stereotype based on appearance, of crushing self esteem to make a buck.

When do we say, “Enough”? The conversation will continue, and Monika Allen’s role in the conversation has, at least briefly, turned it in a positive direction. Maybe by the time the girls she and I coach reach adulthood, we’ll all be a lot farther down a better road. Be sure of this: If they’re wearing tutus on that road, it would be a mistake to judge them.