The Cheetah Family

I have been extremely remiss.

The year’s big fundraiser for Jack’s hockey team, the 2015 Cheetah-thon is coming up in two weeks and I haven’t written anything about it. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve written anything about the Cheetahs all year.

That, however, doesn’t mean we don’t still love our Cheetah Nation. ‘Cause we do.

Photo of Jack wearing a black jacket with the Montgomery Cheetahs logo on the back.

Unrelated: Look at his hair. I wish he hadn’t wanted to cut it. Oh, I miss it sooo much.

I’ve been a little checked out from the team this year. It used to always be me who took Jack to practice on Saturdays, but Alex has taken him at least half the time this season. We also didn’t go on the tournament trip for the first time since Jack joined the team. There’s been a lot of Cheetahs hockey without my participation over the past few months.

Jack has had a few really rough practices this year, mostly because he doesn’t always want to do the drills or stay on the ice for the whole practice. (And once because he just flat-out got pissed at another kid and wanted to brawl, hockey-style—that was a hard week.) He gets tired, he says, and it’s cold.

Even so, when I ask Jack if he still wants to be a Cheetah, he always says yes. We’ve talked about some of the things that are hard for him when he’s skating and we’ve been flexible in letting him take a week off here or there when he’s needed it.

Because the thing is, when he’s into it, when he’s happy to be with his team, the magic of special hockey appears.

Photo of Jack and another player in red jerseys skating across the ice.

I stole this photo from the Montgomery Cheetahs Facebook page. I love it.

Photo of Jack sliding to the ice during practice. He's smiling.

Jack often enjoys the drills where the entire point is to fall spectacularly. I love that grin.

Profile of Jack in his hockey helmet.

Taking a break during practice.

Photo of Jack from the back, skating away from the camera.

One thing Jack almost always enjoys is simply skating. It’s second nature to him now.

Jack in full gear on the opposite side of the plexiglass from me. His hands and helmet are pressed up against the glass.

Jack has also been known to ham it up a little during practice.

Jack in a red jersey and his buddy in a blue jersey. They are on the opposite side of the rink, leaning against the side of the rink and looking totally relaxed.

Jack hanging with one of his two best friends, who is also on the team. (Obviously, I suppose.) They’re working hard. Can’t you tell?

Jack is resourceful. He’s always finding things to keep him entertained. There was one practice where I saw him skate over to the rink door and I thought he wanted to get off the ice. By the time I made my way over to see what was up, he was busy entertaining a group of parents by finding ways to ask for their drinks through the plexiglass.

Photo of Jack on the other side of the plexiglass. He's breathed on the glass to make a fog and has written the word "coffee" in it.

I was all, “If you caffeinate that kid, so help me God…”

This is one of the things I really enjoy about Jack. He looooves entertaining people. He is such a goofball.

And every once in a while, he grabs the camera and I get to see parts of the hockey experience from his point of view.

Photo of me sitting on the ground in a locker room. I'm untying his skate.

One day he will be able to tie his own skates and life will be sooooo good.

The Montgomery Cheetahs have given Jack so much.

He’s learned to do something that’s pretty hard and that a lot of kids his age can’t do. He has access to a large disability community. He gets good exercise and learns about teamwork.

More than that though, he is unconditionally accepted. Yes, he is asked to do things and demands are put on him, but if he can’t do it, if the drills or following directions or doing anything other than lying the ice is just not in the cards that day, it’s okay. He isn’t forced to perform. The coaches and I encourage him and try to get him excited, but if the answer is no, the answer is no. And even better, he’s not made to feel bad about it.

For kids like Jack who are pushed so hard so often to do things that are extremely difficult for them, it is nice when they have a place they can chill out and just belong.

This is never more evident than when the Cheetah Nation gets together off of the ice. The team held its yearly party last weekend and, as always, it was a joy to behold. There was food and booze and a DJ. Players of all ages and their parents danced or jumped or ran in circles or shared video games or did whatever made them happy.

Photo of chairs stacked against a wall. Jack is laying across a bunch of them.

Like hanging out on piles of chairs.

That’s what I love about the Cheetahs. No one is pressured to be anyone or anything other than who they are.

With the Cheetahs, Jack is accepted for being exactly who he is.

Photo of Jack in a large room, with tables and people behind him. He has a huge grin on his face.

Anything that makes Jack this happy makes me that happy.

If you are able, please consider donating to the Montgomery Cheetahs on their Cheetah-thon fundraiser page. It takes a lot of money to keep a team like this going. They work really hard to keep player costs to a minimum, so the team depends heavily on funds raised at the Cheetah-thon. If you donate in Jack’s honor, make a note of it during the donation process so I can be sure to thank you.

Whether you can donate or not, thanks for always being so supportive when I talk about Jack and the Cheetahs. It really is a fantastic community. In fact, it is far less of a Cheetah Nation and far more of a Cheetah Family.

 

The Rat Stands for Obviousness

On days that I work, I take the Metro train into DC and then walk about 15 minutes or so to my office. My route from the Metro to work is entirely dependent on the timing of the walk signals. If the walk sign is green, I go one direction. If it is red, I take a turn. This means I get to walk a different route almost every day.

That first walk signal though. I don’t know why, but it is almost always red, leaving me to make a right turn. Very rarely it is green, sending me on a route that, if the other signals cooperate, leads right past Alex’s office.

Today all the signals were in line and as I neared the corner by Alex’s office, I texted him to demand that he wave to me.

Closeup photo of the outside of a building. You can see three windows. Alex is visible in one of them, giving a thumbs up to the camera.

This photo wasn’t taken this morning, but you get the point.

I rounded the corner, focused on his building windows across the street and expecting only to see Alex. Instead, I saw this:

Photo of giant, really creepy inflatable rat on a sidewalk.

I know. I fucking know.

Alex, looking out of his window, must have seen my head explode right there.

I waved to Alex, I took a flier from the guy standing next to the rat, and I continued walking. And then I stopped because, dude. I’ve seen Scabby the Rat before, but never close up like this. I knew I couldn’t just walk away without, well, without doing this:

Selfie of me. There is a giant inflatable rat in the background.

My best celebrity sighting yet.

As a former union member myself, I felt a little bit bad being a big dork around this Very Serious Protest, so I made sure to read the ENTIRE flier that the guy gave me as penance.

There was an actual picture of a fat cat on the flier.

Photo of a corner of the flier. There are words and also a cartoon of a cat in a suit and top hat, smoking a cigar and holding a bucket of coins.

It’s like my morning was full of small presents, wrapped in awesomeness.

It turns out that Occidental Petroleum is using a contractor who uses a subcontractor who does not pay area-standard wages and benefits. The Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters has a labor dispute with this subcontractor and wants you to call Occidental Petroleum to tell them that they should hire different contractors. *fist raised, solemn nod of solidarity*

Anywho, while this whole thing was going on, Alex was watching with his own special kind of joy. Evidently my backtracking for a photo and to get a better look did not go unnoticed by the guy handing out fliers. It turns out that I am neither subtle nor smooth.

But I was delighted. As you know, I’m a big fan of rodents, especially weird ones. Add in a good cause and a rare DC-sighting of Alex? Well, that was the best block in DC this morning.

******

* “The rat stands for obviousness” should actually be “the rat symbolizes obviousness,” but Alex and I always use it the first way, so that’s how it stands here. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, look up Ralph Wiggum and The Debarted/Departed.

Remind Me Never to Sign Up For a Spring Marathon

I’m in a bit of a pickle.

I’m running a 15K race on March 14th and I am seriously undertrained. I was doing really well on my training and then I got sick and then it started snowing all the time and then I lost motivation and then I got really busy and then it snowed some more and then I lost even more motivation and then I realized how totally screwed I am.

I keep trying to run, but all of my good running paths are either covered in snowy ice or feature invisible spots of the even better kind of ice that makes you fall down. Usually that’s not a big problem because I have a treadmill and can just run on it. But my treadmill is broken so I can’t run on that either.

I feel trapped.

Part of me is all, “Fuck it, I’m running through the ice.” I tried to do that yesterday. I got two houses down my block before I slipped on some of that invisible sidewalk ice and clonked my knee. I stood up, dusted myself off, turned around, and walked home.

Do you see how it is?

I did manage to go on an 8ish-mile run last weekend, which at least makes me believe that I can ambulate through 9.3 miles, but that doesn’t make me any less undertrained. I say 8″ish” because I had to walk sections of the route due to deep, crunchy, uneven snow.

Photo of my foot in a running shoe in ankle deep icy snow with frozen footprints that I am stepping in.

It was extremely frustrating.

Needless to say, I am devastated about my treadmill.

I believe it to be irreparable. It’s been weirdly bouncy for months. Then it got kinda bumpy. Then it felt as if a hole was forming in the deck. I checked under the belt and it is all kinds of cracked all over.

At first I was all, oh the shame of being a chubby runner who smashed through her treadmill deck, and then it occurred to me that the deck might have gotten cracked during our move last year and gotten worse over the months since due to, well, due to me being a chubby runner. But once I started thinking about when the weird bounciness started and flashed back to the shoving and pushing and pivoting the movers did to smash the treadmill around our basement corners and into position, it occurs to me that I may not be entirely at fault.

While it is too late to file a claim with the movers, all is not lost because yesterday I did run at least a tenth of a mile while doing reconnaissance at the treadmill store. If you add in the six laps I took around the running shoe store earlier in the day, it’s almost like I ran an ultramarathon.

I mean, I feel proud of myself that I can just go out and (mostly) run almost 8 miles after not doing any significant exercise for a while. I think that says good things about me. Crawling the last mile of my upcoming race will say fewer good things about me.

Even better? I’m flying to another state for this race, so I get to embarrass myself in front of a whole new crop of people. Wish me luck. Or at least wish me funny stories.

How to Choose a Christmas Card Photo

I addressed most of my Christmas cards last night. As a result, my hand is cramped into an unfortunate claw position. Rest assured though that if your last name starts with one of the first letters of the alphabet, your address will be legible and delivered correctly.

I cannot make the same promise for you Zs. In fact, anyone Winegardner or later stands a good chance of having their card misdelivered due to an address written with a highly suspect claw-shaped pen grip.

In case you’re wondering, this was Alex’s contribution to the holiday card endeavor:

Photo of Alex licking an envelope.

I always make Alex lick the envelopes. This year he was all, “Can’t you help?!” as if he were being put upon to do the lion’s share of work. I think my expression gave him all the answer he needed.

Clearly if I sent out cards, I managed to take a photo worthy of being put on the card. (Operating under the assumption that I always put a photo on the card, which I do.) That photo was not easy to obtain. I looked through an entire year of photos of my three kids and couldn’t find one that met my high standards (read: three children, no one crying).

Dammit. Time to take a photo.

The resulting photo shoot took two evenings, one meltdown, the decision to eliminate flash photography for sensory reasons, and me shouting, “CAT BUTT!” to make my kids laugh.

Still, it was a struggle.

Photo of my three kids. They are all making faces and it looks like Sam is trying to strangle his brother.

And this was when they were in a good mood.

Even though my kids aren’t always cooperative for group photos, I did have some other options to consider.

There was the gerbil substitution:

Photo of three of my gerbils gathered around a seed bell.

Hand one of them a flute, put an Xbox controller in another hand, and you’d never be able to tell that they’re not my human children.

There was the absolutely hilarious cat photo option:

Photo of a light-up snowman decoration, in front of which is Ruby the cat peering into the camera lens.

I especially love that you can see a second cat in the background clearly wondering what the hell the new floor lamp is all about. (That’s a snowman by the way.)

There was the first-night pre-meltdown photo session option:

All three of my kids. Sam looks all right, but Quinn's eyes are closed and Jack has wet and wild hair.

I only managed to take two photos that night before the whole system broke down, for which I take full responsibility.

There was the hand-drawn option:

Drawing of three stick figures sitting on a couch. Underneath it says "I love you mom —Sam"

This is actually kinda my favorite.

There was the festive but not super flattering Santa photo:

Photo of my three kids sitting with Santa. No one looks particularly good in it, including Santa.

I love that Santa and Quinn have the exact same grimace-smile.

There was the “my family can’t make funny faces if only the backs of their heads are in the photo” option:

Photo in which Alex and two of my kids are faced away from the camera, peering out of a tiny window. I am facing the camera with a big smile on my face.

This was inside the Washington Monument. Quinn was huddled as far away from the window as he could get.

And then there is probably the best option, the one that I dare any of you to find fault with:

Photo of a couch on which no one is sitting.

Not a funny face anywhere to be seen.

None of these actually ended up on the card, which some of you will be getting in the mail and some of you will be seeing posted here on Christmas.

And now that that is done, I begin my quest to take a suitable photo of all three of my children for next year’s card. I’m not kidding. It’s a twelve-month process. Wish me luck.

Race Report: Bourbon Chasers*

* Bourbon is totally gross, by the way. Also, distilleries smell bad. I think maybe the bourbon part of this race was lost on me.

It is (finally, jeez) time for me to tell you about the Bourbon Chase, the relay I ran earlier this month with 11 other people. If you aren’t into reading the whole race report, I can tell you that we finished all 200 of our miles in 32 hours, 36 minutes, and 43 seconds.

This is a link to a short video of us crossing the finish line. LIKE BOSSES. (You have to sit through a quick ad first.)

And here is a photo of Team MLC after we finished:

Photo of the 12 members of my team posing for a photo after we crossed the finish line. We're all wearing neon green shirts and medals.

This is a really good group of people. I felt really proud to stand with them.

That was the short version. The long version lies ahead.

It’s hard to recap a race like this because the team is divided into two vans that don’t spend a lot of time together, so I will leave out at least half of the story. Not to mention that all twelve members of the team undoubtedly have their own stories that are nothing like mine. But I have my story, so that’s what you’re a-gonna hear.

The story starts after I arrived in Kentucky with several of my teammates and we headed to the grocery store to buy food for the vans, including soda and peanut M&Ms. You know, because we’re all about fueling properly.

Because I’m an athlete with total body awareness, the first thing I did was hurt myself getting out of the van. Aaaand someone caught it on camera.

Me getting out of a big white van. I have very clearly just banged my head on the door during my egress.

How I don’t have at least one broken bone at all times I will never understand.

The relay started in Louisville, where they had a night-before party. Said party took place under a bridge.

Photo of Chester wearing a small race bib and posed in front of a concrete banner reading "Louisville," which is under a bridge.

This was early in the evening. Chester is an early partier. More people showed up later.

I had a whole bit I was going to write about hors d’oeuvres and how it’s rare to be served them under a bridge and stuff, but then it turned out that it was too hard to figure out the pluralization and spelling of hors d’oeuvres, but “appetizers” didn’t sound as funny, so you’ll just have to make do with this photo of Chester eating a cocktail meatball and make your own joke in your head.

Photo of Chester next to a meatball on a stick. The meatball is as big as his head.

You can also make jokes about meatpops if you’d like.

The race started bright and early the next morning at the Jim Beam distillery.

Photo of a big building that says "Jim Beam" on the front and a small inflatable race start line to the left.

Picture me, who has been relatively calm up to this moment, breaking out into a flop sweat.

I was in Van One this year (as opposed to last year’s Van Two experience), so my half of the team was on deck as soon as our first runner stepped over the start line at 8:30. I was runner four in our rotation, so I had a bunch of time to stress out before my run. My friend Heather (Disney Heather) was Runner One, so she had substantially less time.

I was really proud of my whole team, but I was especially proud of Heather and my friend Emily, who was also in Van One. Both of them are relatively new runners (like they’ve been running for less than a year) so taking on something like the Bourbon Chase was really brave of them. The greatest thing about it is that both of them killed all three of their legs. I couldn’t be happier for them.

Still, at 8:30 in the morning, all of that was in the future and we were nervous and excited and peering anxiously at the cloudy sky and happily posing for dorky photos.

Me standing next to a statue of Jim Beam. The statue includes a cup in which Chester is sitting.

Chester hadn’t had enough of a party the night before, so he carried on with Jim Beam.

No amount of pacing and wondering if you could just make a break for it and skip out on the race entirely will stop time though, so eventually 8:30 rolled around and Heather headed out for our team.

Photo of runners heading out at the start line. Heather is in a neon green/yellow shirt in front.

Heather (in front in the yellow) earned a four-step head start for answering a trivia question correctly. Way to shave that second off our 32-hour finish time, Heather!

Happily, once the race starts, the nerves go away and the motion of being a support crew and a runner takes over. We didn’t have a designated driver this year (we missed you, Mike!), so several of us took turns driving the van.

Facebook post featuring a photo of me behind the steering wheel of the van. The post says, "This is the scariest part of the race for me—driving the team van. #didn'twreckit"

From Stimeyland’s Facebook page. And, no, I didn’t wreck it, but I wasn’t exactly invited back behind the wheel after my first turn. I wasn’t very good at driving it. I was better as a navigator. And I’m not even all that great as a navigator.

I started my first leg at about 11 o’clock that morning. This leg was only 5.2 miles long, but it had the distinction of being ranked as the hardest leg of all 36 of the legs. This was mitigated by my having less hard legs later. That leg may have been tough, but I absolutely did not have the hardest trio of legs. Not by a long shot.

(Leg.)

Still, that leg kinda sucked. It was ranked so high in difficulty because of all the hills, including a super steep, half-mile long hill at the very end. I think the next two photos say a lot more about this leg than any of my words could.

Photo of me heading off on my run with a big smile on my face. Emily, who has just passed the wrist baton to me looks happy to be done.

Emily has just passed me the baton and I am off on an adventure! Look how happy I am to be running!

5.2 miles later…

I am walking as the next runner takes the baton and heads off on her leg. I look like I could drop dead AT ANY SECOND.

There were more flattering photos taken of me and Marisa at this transition, but this one best captures how I could probably DROP DEAD AT ANY SECOND.

Also, I just noticed that it looks like Marisa and I are shoe twins. That’s exciting!

One of the really fun parts of running these relay races—and I am being completely sarcastic here—is figuring out when, where, and how to change clothes while sharing a van with five other people. I chose to change my clothes in the van at the next transition point when we were waiting for Marisa to run in. Everyone else was out of the van, so naturally I had all kinds of privacy.

Except. This is what they were doing while I was changing.

Photo taken from the inside of the van of one of the team members writing in window marker on the window.

I know! I’ll wait until the whole team is decorating the windows of the van surrounding me before I take my clothes off!

Someday I’ll get the hang of being with other humans.

I feel like Van One’s first legs went really quickly and smoothly. And after watching the weather reports of looming storms that threatened all day, we were super relieved to get through our first runs without rain. Being in Van One instead of Van Two was kind of awesome. We showed up at our vehicle transition area to meet up with Van Two, who had been eating and pacing and touring distilleries for hours by this time.

We were happy to put all of that to an end though by passing them the baton and watching them run off into the afternoon.

Of course, the first thing we did was eat, making sure to post a photo of us sitting and stuffing our faces to pay back Van Two who had done something similar that morning when we were running and they were eating. Also, one of the people at the table ate an entire pizza. It was IMPRESSIVE.

From there, we drove to the place where we were due to meet up with Van Two later that night and we spent several hours futzing about until Runner Twelve showed up, wet from light rain and wearing a headlamp to combat the darkness, passing the metaphorical torch back to Van One.

Screenshot of a Facebook status. The photo is Chester shoved into a van cup holder with cords and keys draped over him. The caption says, "Chester is being treated poorly."

Some of said futzing around.

Our next legs would all be run in the dark. Last year during our relay, I was the only runner who didn’t run in the dark. My place in the running roster, the pace of the runners who preceded me, and the rotation of the Earth at that time of year in New Hampshire had created a situation where I ran seven miles just after sunrise. It was delightful.

Not so this year.

Another Facebook screenshot: In the photo, it is nearly dark. I am making a sour face. The caption reads, "ABout to head out to Run Two: 5.5. miles along Knob Lick Road. Yes. Knob Lick Road. I'd rather be sleeping."

I texted Alex the name of the road and he texted back “Knob. Lick. Road. Penis.” Upon completion of my leg when I saw his text, I showed everyone in the van and couldn’t stop laughing. In retrospect, maybe it was less funny and/or appropriate than I thought it was.

It had been raining on and off for much of the afternoon, but once it got dark, it rained like a motherfucker. No other way to put it. It stopped raining for a few minutes when I was handed the baton and set off onto the Knob Lick.

The weather though, it did not hold.

I was excited about the novelty of the night run—as well as a little nervous—but I could have done without the uber-novelty of a night run that felt suspiciously like I was running through a shower.

Soon enough, I was slogging through pouring rain. It was very dark on my leg so my entire range of vision consisted of the small area that was lit up by my headlamp. The headlamp did an excellent job, however, of illuminating the diagonal streaks of rain that were driving across my vision.

It was a tough run. I started running steeply uphill before the end of the first mile and stayed running up through mile two. The weird thing is that when it is that dark, there is no way to tell where the hill ends or when there is a slight reprieve in the slope. It all just feels kind of hard and upsetting and all you can do is watch lights of cars or runners ahead of you to see if they look like they’re going uphill or whether they drop out of sight down a slope.

It was brutal. I spent a lot of time wondering if I’d ever been wetter while wearing clothes (highly unlikely); whether I’d run a mile, two miles, halfway yet (no, I hadn’t); why this run sucked so much (ugh, tiiiiiiiired). I didn’t run spectacularly fast on any of my runs, but I actually ran slower than I expected on this one. It just sucked all the life out of me. I was extremely happy to see the transition point.

It felt good to put on dry clothes and sit happily in the van eating those peanut M&Ms and Diet Coke while the next runner set off.

I barely remember the transition where we traded off to the next van. The thing that stands out from that transition was the extremely long walk back to our van during which I stepped in a deep puddle, getting my cushy sport slides wet. I had a sad.

I had a happy though upon hearing that we were headed to some unknown high school to sleep in a gymnasium. We pulled into the parking lot, I grabbed my sleeping bag, and I stumbled off into the gym. As I set my alarm and shoved it deep into my sleeping bag to muffle it, it occurred to me that if overslept, my teammates would never find me inside a sleeping bag in that huge, dark, silent room.

“Wake up at 4 am, wake up at 4 am, wake up at 4 am,” I told my brain repeatedly before I closed my eyes.

I woke up at 4 am, thank God, and I felt GREAT.

Facebook status screenshot: (no photo) "$5 for two hours sleep on that bare gymnasium floor is the best bargain I have ever come across."

Today if you asked me if I’d be willing to sleep for only two hours on a wood floor, I would laugh you out of the room. That night, it was the most luxurious thing I could ever have imagined.

That was short-lived, however, as we rushed off to meet Van Two at the Wild Turkey distillery. If you’re ever in Kentucky and looking for said Wild Turkey distillery, just follow the stink. Because that distillery is at the center of it. Dude. the distilling process smells horrible.

I had made peanut butter and jam sandwiches for our van and was busy digesting that and trying to drink Gatorade as I walked to the visitor center bathrooms with Heather, who was next up to run, and Marc. It was cold, it was smelly, my stomach was unsettled, it was still dark, and all of a sudden I had a life-changing experience.

Facebook status: Photo of a huge bonfire with caption "My trip to the bathroom got waylaid by something waaaaaay better."

Seriously. Life. Fucking. Changing.

Ten minutes by that fire and I was warm to my bones, I smelled only nice burning wood, and Wild Turkey was suddenly my favorite bourbon ever. We sent Heather on her way and headed onward.

The last twelve transition points are really fun because runners are really happy to be done. It’s super delightful.

Except when it’s not. There were a lot of really tough stretches for the people in my van on that last leg. Distances were long, there were lots of hills, and there were evidently some demon horses on the course. (Heather came around a corner in the dark only to have her headlamp illuminate the eyes of a big horse whose head was draped over a fence right next to the road. It was, apparently, both surprising and terrifying.)

I watched each of my teammates set off and finish and it was so exciting. It is amazing to see people who have worked so hard and struggled through injuries or pushed way past their comfort levels to complete something so difficult and wonderful. I was (and am) so proud of each of them—both those in my van and Van Two.

My third leg was motherfucking delightful. It was less than four miles long and even though there were a couple of uphill stretches, none of them were extreme and also, the leg ended with, like, two miles of gentle downhill. I felt like I was flying.

Except, that is, when the runner from the team that started eleven hours after we did blew past me like I was standing still. That’s when I felt like I was trudging along like a hedgehog on sleeping pills.

Before that happened though, I was chugging along up and down some small rolling hills, Michael Franti singing “I’m alive…” on the speaker I had on my waist and I felt so purely good and I remembered exactly why I run. For those moments. For that feeling. For that good.

I didn’t run particularly stellar times this year. Last year during the relay, one of my victories was running so much faster than I’d hoped to. This year it was about loving my team and recognizing how much stronger my body was than last year. It was about knowing that an extra three minutes on a leg or a slow slog up a particularly hard hill isn’t that big of a deal in a world where I am willing to spend 32 and a half hours in a van with people who cover 200 miles on foot.

Being a runner, for me, isn’t about being the fastest or the first. It is about finding that feeling. I don’t always find it, but when I do, it is magic.

There are always hills and valleys though. The non-magical time of trying to comb a day and a half worth of knots out of my hair followed immediately after my magic run. It was ugly. It turns out that the braid was not the miraculous “keep hair neat” tool that I thought it would be. Still I emerged victorious. Eventually.

From there, all I had to do was cheer on our runners until we passed the baton to Van Two for the final time. And from there, all we had to do was go to lunch. Chester joined us in his own way.

Three photos of Chester. The first he is sitting next to a bucket of peanuts, the next he is holding a peanut sitting next to the bucket of peanuts, the last, he is sitting IN the peanuts.Last year, as a member of Van Two, we ran all the way to the end. This year, we drove to the finish line and napped in the van until it was time to shuffle over to meet the rest of our team. It was awesome.

Even more awesome was watching our last runner race down the road to where we all joined her in running and/or limp-running the last few meters. It was really cool to be able to cross the actual finish line with everybody.

Photo of Chester with a big medal around his neck. The medal shows two people dancing on a disco floor. The medal reads "Bourbon Chase Fever."

Did I mention that this year’s Bourbon Chase had a disco theme? Because if you don’t know that, this medal doesn’t make sense.

The finish line party featured bourbon and beer and lots of food and juuuuuust a little bit of rain and it was perfection.

Facebook status: Photo of Chester sitting behind a plate with a beef pulled beef sandwich, two cookies, eans, and coleslaw. He sits next to a beer. The caption says "Kentucky, motherfuckers."

We ate a lot of food and I couldn’t even finish my whole beer, like a loser.

And then I started to feel like I’d fall asleep if I sat down, so I was part of the group that championed a return to a hotel, but not before I texted this victorious photo to Alex.

Photo of me holding my medal, which is around my neck.

Tired, but proud and happy.

And that is 8.3% of Team MLC’s story of the Bourbon Chase 2014.

I’m so grateful to have been able to be on a team with these awesome people. Thanks for being so wonderful—all of you!

Two photos, one on top of the other. The top photo says "before" and shows all 12 of our team standing in front of our van smiling. It is before the race. The bottom one reads "...and after" and shows us wearing our medals after crossing the finish line.

Team MLC rocks!

To Bassoon or Not To Bassoon?

Sam plays the flute. I think I’ve been pretty open about that. Well, recently he came home from school saying that his advanced band at school (in which, in case I’ve been unclear, he plays the flute) doesn’t have a bassoon player and they need a bassoon player and, hey, maybe he could be the bassoon player.

Cue me going to the internet to look up what a bassoon looks like.

photo of two bassoonsOkay.

That looks…complicated.

So now Alex and I have to make a decision as to whether we should let Sam play the bassoon in his band. We do not agree. One of us is right and Alex is wrong.

However. On the tiny, tiny chance that maybe I’m wrong, I’m going to let all y’all weigh in on this. Per usual in internet he says/she says, I’m not going to tell you which one of us thinks what.

THE FACTS, UNDISPUTED:

1. Regardless, Sam will continue to take flute lessons.

2. Regardless, Sam will play the flute in jazz band.

3. Sam has agreed to practice both instruments.

4. We can rent the bassoon for $40 a year so only have to pay for reeds and instruction books.

5. Sam’s music teacher is very happy with the idea that Sam might play bassoon in advanced band.

6. Sam has aspirations of being a professional musician and hopes to play in a band or symphony for a living, thus making his parents extremely proud and also condemning them to years upon years of sitting quietly in stuffy concert halls listening to classical music. And the occasional jazz concert.

THE ARGUMENTS, BITTERLY DISPUTED:

Sam plays the flute. He has invested 3+ years in flute playing. He takes flute lessons that we pay for AND drive him to and from every week. We recently bought him a fancy-ass flute. He is very proud of being a flute player. Sam should continue to play the motherfucking flute.

OR

If we let Sam learn to play the bassoon, we will be expanding his ability to enjoy playing music and, hey, learning a new skill is never a bad thing, right? Furthermore, if there are ten million flutists in every band and zero to one bassoonists, mayhap we are making him more marketable and likely to attain gainful musical employment by letting him learn the bassoon. We should just let Sam play the stupid bassoon already.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:

Will we be diluting his musicianship by letting him play a second instrument before he has mastered the first?

If we let him learn the bassoon, how long before he insists we purchase a bassoon for him?

How loud is a bassoon and how miserable will it make our lives at home when he is practicing, particularly in the early days when he is not very good?

If Sam helps out his band by taking up the bassoon, how grateful will his music teacher be and how many A’s will she give him?

If it turns out that Alex is right and I am wrong, will I have to divorce him or the internet?

Thoughts?