Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's good to be yellow!

So today was the "Run for the Hills" race. I've entered it for the past several years but always as a walker, never as a runner. There are two courses, an 8k trail run which goes up, down, and up and over Bald Hill. There is also a 2 mile walk/run event on the bike path. I've always stood in the walker line, watching the 8k runners, green with envy. It's like the high school cafeteria all over again. Those runners are the cool kids, and there I stand with my lunch tray and my choir shirt on. Every year I tell myself, next year I will be one of them. Those "trail runners". They are a class all to themselves with their long hair or shaved heads. They have trail shoes caked in mud before they even reach the start line. They stretch, their bandannas flipped over their cool hair. They are serious, ipods, if on, contain music like Iron Maiden, Sound Garden, or some other driving beat. There is no room for pop queens here. Be damned you American Idol fans. No, they eat Justin Bieber for breakfast. Even their attire is different. You are more likely to see camo or tie-dye than a running skirt. No matching Nike outfits to be seen, it's function over fashion. And,like the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket,there is a pass to get you to the other side. The holy grail of this event is the yellow race number.

If you are a walker, or a 2 mile runner you get a white number. Somehow, you aren't even worthy of the same color race number as those trail runners. So for the past 4 years I have spent this first Sunday in June lined up with the white numbers. Always wishing, always hoping that someday I too would be yellow.

Today was my yellow day! I got up early, chugged my coffee, my peanut butter toast and my banana. I put on my short tights, my shorts (no one needs to see my butt in spandex) and my blue "run" shirt. Top it off with my black running vest and I can check off the "doesn't match" category of the trail runner. I lost a few points for the lack of bandanna, but it was hot today. I did have my ipod on but there was no pop to be found. Lynard Skynard belted out into my ears. As I pinned on the yellow number I was so excited I could hardly stand it. The rest of the event was pretty much a blur. I started too fast and choked a bit on the hills because of it. This was a super hilly race so I ended up having to walk the really steep stuff. There was a lot of jockeying for position along the way. I found a formidable opponent who would race past me on the up hills and I'd pass her on the down hills. We played cat and mouse until the end where she kicked my ass on the long flat to the finish line.

The trail was muddy and slick in certain spots and about 100 people running through a weeks worth of Oregon spring rain didn't help for traction, but as I ran through the mud and switchbacks I felt like a trail runner. I didn't see myself as separate from those other people, I was one of them. I didn't quite make my goal time, in fact I was off by just a couple of seconds, but that is ok. I have the yellow race number. I didn't win, I didn't even place in my age category, but that yellow number and running with the trail runners was priceless. Today will go down as the day I became one of them. I am a trail runner. Guess it's time to clean up my I-tunes!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Enter Ms. Nancy Fancypants!

I'm a teacher! Luckily I don't dress like one. Well, I don't dress like one anymore. I used to be guilty of wearing "hideous" Christmas sweaters. I didn't realize they were hideous at the time, it was pointed out to me by both my dear friend Erin and a former student. So two years ago I made a clean break from the yearly sighting of the holiday sweaters right before Winter Break. Oh, and there was that Winnie the Pooh jacket that Erin again brought up recently. Again, that was shed several years ago. But I am proud to say I have never owned a jumper, themed blazer or anything with the alphabet or an apple on it.

Now, while I have never worn the traditional teacher garb, I also haven't been crazy fashion forward either. Oh I watch Project Runway and I flip though In Style magazine just to see the latest fashions, but I never owned any of those crazy expensive styles. I thought they were quite silly actually. Who would pay $238 for a pair of pants that have legs the size of a tepee?

Well as it turns out, I would. After they have been marked down like 20 times from our local fashion boutique. I had been eyeing these beautiful charcoal beauties for weeks. But $238? I am a public school teacher for cripes sake! That's a car payment. Price aside, they are totally impractical as well. I work with children, those pants need beautiful high heeled pointed toe shoes to pull off the package. I spend hours on my knees, at kid level. The knees alone in those pants were probably worth about $50. But then that fateful day happened earlier this fall. I passed the clearance rack and there they were. Marked down again and again and again and my $238 fantasy purchase was now $29. I snatched them up, ran in and tried them on. I discovered that they were about two miles too long. Alterations run $10. Phew, that took the price up to $39 but damn, I'm worth it. I threw caution to the wind and pulled out the cash. Those beauties were mine and I was going to do it. I waited while they pinned them up so as to be the right length for a shrimp boat like myself and picked them up exactly one week later when they were just right. I brought them home, hung them in my closet and planned the day I would wear them in all their glory. That was in October.

I have been looking at those amazing pants hanging in my closet for almost 7 months now. It never seems like the right time to wear them. They are too fancy, they are too long, they are too big. It was just never the right day to wear them. Until today. I have been sitting on an interview committee for the past two days interviewing prospective candidates for our 4th and 6th grade openings. As I was looking through the closet last night I came upon my beautiful, beautiful pants. Yes, today would be the day. And so it was. I found the perfect top and the perfect shoes and I put the whole thing together. As it turns out, huge legged pants are kind of strange to wear. At first, I was concerned that I couldn't really see my feet. This is a hazard of having tiny doll feet (again a term given by Erin). They don't exactly show up under boot cut jeans, let alone full blown crazy pants. It was like a miniature mansion for my shoes under there.

However, for the first time in a long time, I felt like I looked pretty damn good. I understood why people wear $238 pants. They made me feel better looking. Was I? No, hell no, it was the pants. I think they were my own version of a cape. I felt like a super hero! Fashion girl. So, will I wear them again? Damn straight I will. I think I'll pull them out on those days when I need a little bit of the magic pants! Everyone needs a little magic sometimes.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I Got Nothin'

Today I did it. I completed my first entirely solo run. I did six miles all alone, not even running in opposite directions as Sean at the same location. Well, scratch that, we were at the same location if you count Mac Forest as the same location. However, as soon as we parked the car we went in different directions with the agreement of meeting back there in just over an hour. I started off in a terrible frame of mind. I didn't want to run today and I certainly didn't want to run alone. Luckily the Ipod was with me today so at least I had that. Much to my surprise, I learned three things on my run.

First, when running alone, always choose music over silence. I think the songs kept me going most of the time. It was fun to hear the old play lists I had made back when I used to attempt to run on the treadmill. Just when I thought I was done, a song would bring my mood and energy right back up.

Second, I always have more energy in the tank than I think I do. I kept playing these mind games with myself. I hit one mile and figured I'd go to two. I hit two and thought well, I may as well do three. I challenged myself with trees, sign posts, hills, etc. Whatever it took to get me to just keep going. When all was said and done I had run for the full six miles when I only planned to do four.

Third, I will never, ever solve any problems, personal or otherwise while running. I keep thinking that I am going to have some sort of epiphany out there in the solace of the trail run. My mind will calm and all the things I have been worried about or trying to figure out will become clear to me in the peace that is the run. This is a pipe dream for me and I have finally come to grips with the fact that the only thing that becomes clear to me on my runs is my mind. Literally clear. Empty, nada, clean, blank, whatever synonyms for clear you can find is in fact, my mind, on a run. I believe I more closely resemble a dog from the Labrador family than a member of the human species. I notice the occasional flower or bend of a beautiful tree. I notice the others along the way and can get my wits about me enough to smile and say hello. But as for solving any problems of the day, I experience the exact opposite effect. My mind becomes quiet. I think of nothing except the song in my ear or the sights around me and even then they don't really interrupt the silence much at all. Time stands still and I just run.

As we drove home I was lamenting to Sean about how frustrated I am at my lack of ability to use my time productively and think and figure stuff out during these hours we spend out in the woods. He looked me straight in the eye and said "Maybe that is the best thing for you and exactly what you need. Your mind is constantly going a mile a minute and you can't shut it down even when you want to." "Maybe this is exactly what your brain should be doing when you run".

Well, I'll be damned. He may be right. I guess I'll have to try and figure it out on my next run.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bug Quest 2010

Today I spent much of my afternoon crawling around with 30 excited 8 year olds, magnifying glasses in hand searching for bugs. It's Spring in 3rd grade and that means time to study creatures with both six and eight legs. I haven't ever taught 3rd grade before so I have never had the opportunity or excuse go get outside with a journal in hand and search out those critters. I was curious about how it would go, but as the day progressed and the weather just kept getting better and better it was obvious that I could not put if off to another day.

I wrote Bug Quest 2010 on the white board and spelled out the expectations. We would head out with our bug journals (think regular spirals that we had put our own covers on with scrapbook paper and puffy letters). Each kid was issued a magnifying glass and a pencil. They were given the locations they could explore and directions as to what I wanted them to do. Find some bugs, look at them and sketch them in their journal. They could also write descriptions on each bug they found so we could more easily identify them later on. The only real rule I gave them was "do no harm!" We could not kill the bugs we found.

I can honestly say that this little activity may rank up there in my top 5 teaching days of all time. The kids raced around the playground in search of any insect, spider or whatnot they could find. They were ecstatic. "Mrs. Ross, over here" was heard all over the playground. They found worms, spiders, flies, wasps, beetles, and the jack pot find of the day one tree frog. No he wasn't in the bug family but how often do you find a tree frog at school?

They found creative ways to use their magnifying glasses like trapping the bugs under them or using them to pick the bugs up. Each new bug find was like the discovery of a new uncharted land. The excitement of the kids with each new sighting was contagious and I found myself crawling around with them, slowly running my finger through the grass trying to prompt the movement of a bug out of their camouflage cover. We picked up rocks, lifted up water covers and peaked under benches. It was some of the most fun I have had in years. Leave it to a bunch of kids to remind me to take some time and play with some bugs.

I think I'm going to have to go find us some bug boxes this weekend. I have a feeling there is going to be a lot more bug searches in our future. Thanks kiddos, today was a very good day! Maybe not so much for the bugs, but for 30 8 year olds and one teacher, the memories will be priceless!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Playing with art!

This year I had the opportunity to participate in The She Project. I had heard about it at a holiday party last winter and thought it sounded like a lot of fun. If you want to get the entire scoop you should google The She Project for the history. The condensed version is a bunch of women sign up and on a certain date there are phrases sent out to everyone who is playing and you respond to your phrase with whatever you are feeling at that particular moment in time. I could be a poem, a drawing, photos, etc. I figured it sounded really cool so I signed up and anxiously awaited my phrase to arrive last Friday.

When it finally came I was so excited. "She couldn't see that she was one of them." I took that to mean my inability to view myself as a runner. Sure I go out and run, sure I have the gear but I'm not a real runner. Real runners are fast. Real runners are in events, real runners are not me. So I scoured the house to see what I could come up with to fit into my pre-purchased 8x10 frame. First I found a bunch of race numbers. Then I found a bunch of race pins. From there I hauled out my old copies of "Runner's World". I scanned for inspiring photos or phrases I wanted to use. As I put it all together it occurred to me that wait a minute... who might have all this stuff? Why a real runner might. Huh, go figure. Anyway, this is what it looked like right before I proudly carried it down to the Corvallis Library.

There will be an artist reception next month and I am so excited to see it hanging in the library with so many other women. All of us in one single snapshot in time. I'm sure it will be amazing and humbling at the same time. I can hardly wait!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Husbands are better than kids!

I have been lost without my little Ipod shuffle. I have no idea where it went. I'd like to think it was stolen, but I am sure there was no criminal activity involved. Well, not unless you consider it criminal the way my brain appears to be turning to mush with each passing year. I can only imagine that I'll need some sort sort of id tag around my neck by the time I hit 50. Maybe I'll be a good candidate for one of those chips that Rogue has in his neck. I imagine I'll wander around for days before someone thinks to scan my neck and send me back to my proper home. Anyway, my Ipod continues have gone missing.

I just figured gone were the days I would run with my favorite 80s tunes in my ear, Duran Duran serenading me with each passing mile. That is until last night. Sean came home from work with an exceptionally adorable smile on his face. "I have something for you." he says "Put out your hand and close your eyes." I love surprises like this so I willingly followed his directions. I feel the light case in my hand but I can't identify it until he says "Happy Not a Mom's Day"! Now this is a throwback from last year when I got my new Mt. Bike on Mother's Day. I made a big deal about how I shouldn't be getting something on Mother's Day. I'm so very excited that this has now become a yearly holiday for me. Let's see, two years in a row makes it official right?

So what was in that little box you ask? A brand spanking new pink shuffle for me! I have the best husband in the entire world. Now, to somehow affix a homing device to it! The shuffle that is, not the husband!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Toast to Lexi

A very sad e-mail this morning alerted me to the crossing over of good soul. No, scratch that a GREAT soul. Very dear friends lost their long time beloved dog Lexi. Many of us had the good fortune to call Lexi a friend. She is the very reason Sean and I wanted Border Collies in the first place. She was an amazing dog who brightened all the lives she touched. She embraced life and each of us was better for having known her.

She will be missed by the Ross family more than I can say. So Miss Lexi, rest in peace, or better yet, run free beautiful girl in the endless dog park which is now yours. Give our love to those who went before you.

To us of the human species left behind, let us not forget how very little our pets ask of us and how very much they give in return. It only takes a minute to scratch a head or give a hug. Cherish each day you are given, they are a short term loan, use them well.

As for me, I think there's a Frisbee that needs throwing in the next room.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Shush! I'm running here.

So I did it. Today I ran just over six miles with just me, myself and I. Ok, that is not entirely true. There were a ton of people out on Bald Hill and Sean was running the same basic route as I was and he finished up the last couple of miles with me.

But for those of you who know me well, the true feat of the day is that I ran mostly by myself. It didn't start out that way. This was plan "C". Plan A was to run with a friend today. A family emergency changed that plan. Plan "B" was to use the Ipod. I actually thought that was going to be the plan right up until I got to the car and realized I had no idea where my Ipod is. I thought it was in my gym bag and when it wasn't there, I figured it was in the car. Nope, not there either. I hope it isn't in some stranger's possession. I love that play list! Plus, it is my shuffle and the only ipod I really know how to use.

However, once I realized it could not quickly be found I decided I may as well buck up and run with myself and my dreaded thoughts. I did my warm up with Sean and then we quickly parted ways as I saw his tiny frame get smaller and smaller as he picked up speed in front of me. No problem, I can do this. So I broke into a jog myself. It started out ok. I looked at how much bigger the sheep have gotten and noticed that the "Camas" flowers are really in bloom now. I also notice the poison oak starting to perk up as well. So far, so good I thought to myself.

About that time I thought, "hey, I'm going to really use this time constructively, let's figure out some of those issues that have been bugging me lately". And that is when it happened. The negative little flame began to burn, "you can't think about work, you can't even breathe." "Hey, have your legs gotten heavier since you last ran?" or the "How much farther do we have?". Oh crap I thought to myself here we go again. I began to sink into that self pity party that I do so well.

Then I looked ahead and saw the most adorable old couple walking at a snails pace enjoying the flowers. About a mile ahead I saw a family with two little ones learning to ride their bikes. Two ladies were kicking butt with some fancy walking poles down the inside single track. This doesn't even begin to count the number of wagging tails and muddy paws I saw today. Everywhere around me I was surrounded by people who were just happy to get out and enjoy some fresh air and a beautiful day.

And so I decided that no mater what, I was going to silence that stupid inner voice of mine and just run. When I started to get tired, I slowed down, pulled out my nasty gel and as I tore it open and squired that thick stuff down my throat I heard that little voice start in again. This time I did what anyone else would do. I shushed it. I literally held my finger to my mouth and made the shushing sound. Who cares what I looked like. This had to be done! And you know what? It worked. It really worked. So I started back on the path with the quiet of my non thoughts. Will I ever solve problems when I run? I doubt it, but I can enjoy the scenery, the people and the moments of silence. And for the record, that is good enough for me.