We Made An Excel Spreadsheet

I was in session today with one of my clients who is navigating her role in her family–and how to spend the holidays with them. She and her husband will spend their time driving half way across the country where they will split their time among his parents, her dad, and her mom (hers are divorced) and all the respective siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents. In order to devise a plan that will allow them to maximize the time they will spend with each part of the family, they literally made a spreadsheet to work it out.


And that’s how it is for a lot of families. Adult children have divorced parents…and maybe a partner with divorced parents. Or have divorced parents and have a partner with one “set” of parents. Or have two in tact sets of parents but live in completely different places. Or two in tact sets of parents who live near by but have nothing in common with the other set. Sometimes you can get all those people together in the same room. Most of the time, you can’t.


And then you make a spreadsheet. Because the holidays are stressful enough. You can’t go throwin’ conflict on the fire, too. Even though you may spend the entire holiday season feeling pulled in 17 different directions and/or caught in the middle of a few. Or a feud.


I am thankful. I am one of those few lucky (blessed) individuals whose parents never got divorced. I have a partner whose parents never got divorced. I like his people; he likes mine. We can all–and frequently do–spend time in the same room together.


And so here’s what my Thanksgiving gathering looked like: A trip to Columbia, SC with my husband, son and father to stop at the home of my husband’s sister, brother-in-law and niece (and really, they’re my siblings, too). While there, the parental in-laws stopped through on their way to the final destination of us all, and we all (all 9 of us) went out for dinner. The parental in-laws took the niece and charged on to Washington, GA. We got up the next morning (Thanksgiving morn) and headed there ourselves…to the home of my brother-in-law-in-law’s people. His parents, brother, sister-in-law and two nieces. Add about three others who weren’t spending the holiday with their families (one of whom is because they really shouldn’t spend time together without a therapist on retainer), and you have 18 people for Thanksgiving. Two went home after the big meal, but the 16 of us remained…and actually enjoyed one another’s company.


Thank God I don’t have to make a spreadsheet. But I am mindful of those who do. And I feel a little guilty–because what I just described is so NOT the norm. For those of you navigating the rough waters of the holiday season, hang in there. My hope for you all is that you can find a way to get what you want and what you need from the people you love most–and that your holiday will be short on conflict and feeling pulled in so many directions.


Starting with Goofy

I ran my fifth and final race of 2010 this past weekend: the OBX Half-Marathon. While standing with one of my running buddies in the corral waiting to start, I struck up a conversation (like you do when penned in like a herd of cattle) with an Amazon woman standing next to me wearing a shirt from the 2009 Goofy Challenge. You know, the one where you go down to Disney World and run the Donald Duck 13.1 on Saturday and the Mickey Mouse 26.2 on Sunday…and walk away with 3 medals and two very sore legs. And she’s done this not once, not twice, but FOUR times…and will likely do it again in January. According to her, once you do it once, you are addicted. She has also run the Boston Marathon–not because she qualified, but because she raised funds. She, like me, admitted that she’d never be fast enough to qualify. But she got my hopes up, especially when she said running Boston was everything everyone said it is. And this woman, mind you, has an average 13.1 finishing time that is slower than mine.

Somewhere in the first couple of miles of this race this weekend, I started thinking about why it is that thousands of people pay money to run lots of miles on a Sunday morning–and do all the training leading up to it. And I realized that every runner has a story. And every runner has a reason.

For some, it’s to make an extra couple of grand on the weekend when they finish 13.1 miles in 62 minutes.

For some, it’s to commemorate the birth of a child–and getting that pre-pregnancy body back.

For some, it’s the only thing that keeps them going…because focusing on 13.1 or 26.2 is way more fulfilling that that stupid number on the scale that never seems to budge.

For some, it’s proving something to someone else.

For others, it’s proving something to themselves.

For some, it’s showing the world that 42 is better than 35, and almost-31 is better than 21.

For some, it’s the feeling you get when you finish faster than you ever did…or just that you finish at all.

For some, it’s about letting go and trusting–really letting go and trusting–the work you’ve done and the hours and miles you’ve logged training to get you through a few hours in a day where so many variables can make or break your race experience.

For some, it’s the feeling of knowing that you are loved and cared for when your favorite people are at the finish line.

For some, it’s the feeling of knowing that the people bundled up in their coats and drinking coffee(?) are there to cheer you on–even though you are all complete strangers. But a stranger’s encouragement can be the thing to get you over the bridge.

For others, it’s about reclaiming–or claiming for the first time–one’s identity as an athlete…or as a runner.

There are many reasons to run. But whatever got you out there to the start line pales in comparison to the feeling you get when you cross the finish line.

And that’s why I run.


Support Staff

There will be more to come from the OBX race weekend, but I thought I’d whet your appetite with this…especially since it’s Al’s birthday.


After Al did his first marathon, he swore never again. When I signed up for my second half-marathon, he and the other non-running husbands agreed to sign on as support staff. Their job description includes: transportation, picture-taking, loading the car so the wife with tired legs doesn’t have to make multiple trips, childcare during training, cheering, mimosa-making, finding a place to get breakfast while the wives run, race day drop-off, pack mule for the dry bag, being there at the finish. Support staff fee: beer at the finish line. Because there’s usually lots of it. Or just pancakes while they wait.

Al even actively did support staff as a runner in his second marathon (my first…and truly his last). And he crossed the finish line, said “Never again, and I mean it this time,” and signed on as permanent support staff.

He once again took on that role this past weekend at the OBX Marathon and Half-Marathon. Not only for us, but for a man named Scott. Most of my people were waiting near the 26 mile marker for Robin to finish the marathon. We cheered other runners and encouraged them (hopefully) by telling them that once they rounded that corner at 26, they had one more turn before the finish line. And we cringed for the runners who looked like they were really hurting. And then there was Scott.

He turned the corner at 26 and his legs were visibly toast. He moved off the course to a small tree and leaned against it–until he slid down the side and laid on his back in the grass. A security person and another woman went over to attend to him. Al realized that they would need additional help to get that man from the grass to medical, and the security person couldn’t leave his post. Al and the other woman got Scott to his feet and walked/carried him to the next turn to where he could see the finish line. Scott demonstrated that he was of sound mind by stating his name, the date and what he was doing…his body was just toast. But he dug deep and said, “I’m going to jog it in.” Al and the other woman let go, but stayed nearby to make sure he stayed upright…until he was close enough to the finish line and within feet of medical.

Scott crossed the finish line of that marathon in four hours.

I’m not sure he was prepared for the kind of finish he had, and I’m not really sure that Al predicted becoming support staff for another runner. But that’s how this thing goes. You don’t have to run to participate in the running community–all are welcome. Because we need runners and support staff and volunteers and those strangers on the side of the road blaring music, ringing cow bells and giving high-fives.

And knowing that kind of unconditional support is out there–and that there are people that get why we do what we do as runners–is why I run.

Lean Forward

On one of the morning shows this morning, they touted today as the day for “Control of Power.”

If that’s what an election is about–power–then I think we’ve seriously lost sight of what our government was designed to do. And why we elect people to begin with.


I don’t want to hand out power. I don’t want people to vie for power. I don’t want this partisan competition in Congress to see who can get the most seats or look across the aisle and shout, “Nanny nanny boo boo.” Because if that’s what we’re doing on election day, we might as well send all the candidates to an adult daycare facility and let them duke it out on the playground.


What elections are really about is selecting individuals to represent us, the people. Not the interests of lobbyists or a political party that doesn’t really exist–or parties that do. And the people can all agree that the economy is taking longer to recover than any of us would like. The people can all agree that jobs are scarce. The people can all agree that healthcare still needs work. The people can all agree that immigration is an issue to be addressed. The people can all agree that we need clean energy.


OK…maybe not so much those last two.


The point is that we don’t need to spend all our time and effort leaning right or left but leaning, as MSNBC suggests, forward. We need to have people who are interested enough in moving our country forward representing us in our respective state capitals and in DC. Not people who are interested in power and special interest groups. Not people who are going to perpetuate policies of the past that moved is backwards and sideways.


I did go out and lend my voice to a forward leaning and…well…sane ballot. I did my part, self-defeating though it feels like it was.