27: Daddy Issues

After having almost no contact with my dad for 10 years, he sent me a text one day asking to talk.  That night several years ago, I put on my running shoes.  It was already dark.  It was a damp, foggy night.  I started running.  And then I called him. I jogged all over the city for well over an hour.  I was guarded.  The history was long and complicated.  Though I felt maybe I could have some conversation with him after all these years, there was no way I was just going to spill my guts.  Where do you even start trying to explain your life now to a person whose memories of you stopped a decade ago.  So I mostly listened.  There was no earth shattering news, nothing in particular he needed to talk to me about.  As we wrapped up the conversation he said “Your dad loves you Katie” and without a thought I just said “Love you too.”

As soon as I hung up the phone I wondered whether that was the truth or a lie.  Had I just said I love you too because that’s what you say when someone says it to you first?  Or was there something about the relationship between parent and child that just supersedes logic.  It’s like some inescapable and unexplainable truth.  Even if you despise your parents you love them.  One thing was sure: hearing those words from him didn’t bring me any kind of comfort.  I believe they were entirely sincere, but it didn’t stir my heart.  It was just another thing he said.

On the other hand, memories of my grandfather (pictured above) are only positive.  He was a very good man. He and my grandma raised five kids in the small town he grew up in. He fought in World War II and then was a mailman.  He was active in the church and seemed to know everyone in town.  He walked every day until he couldn’t anymore.  He taught me how to twiddle my thumbs and run the Dustbuster.  He never yelled and always had a twinkle in his eye.  Banter was his specialty.  Playful teasing about anything and everything was the norm.  “I’ve gotta give you a little crap” he’d say.  He loved when you’d give it right back.  But he was not affectionate.  Hugs seemed to make him uncomfortable so he preferred the spaghetti handshake.  He never said I love you.  I lived in another state the last years of his life.  When I learned he was in his last days I called to talk but really had just one goal in mind.  Our conversation was short, probably just a little about what was new with me, but at the end I was very deliberate in saying “Ok Grandpa, we’ll talk later.  I love you.”  “Ok, talk to you soon,” he replied.  I smiled and shook my head as I hung up the phone.   He didn’t have the words, but he asked my mom to be sure I was the one who spoke at his funeral.

Growing up, my idea of romantic love came from what I saw in movies.  My mom and I watched a lot of chick flicks and she loved Turner Classic Movies.  I was raised on Doris Day and Rock Hudson movies.  There were also the contemporary classics.  Basically every Meg Ryan and Sandra Bullock movie from the 90’s.  The torture of unrequited love.  The way people always bumped into their soulmate through some serendipitous twist of fate.  The way the couple always seemed to hate each other before they realized they loved each other.  Men courting women.  Women being aloof and standoffish.  But always, always the way they always lived happily ever after in the end.

I was never the person who thought life was going to be a fairytale.  I certainly was never a princess so the idea of a prince charming was never part of the equation either.  I related more to Claire Danes in My So-Called Life, the one season cult classic, about angsty Angela trying to figure out where she fit but lusting after Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto) and being constantly tormented by the way his mixed messages keep her on the hook.  So heart wrenching.  So reflective of my own teenage heartache.  So awkward, so wishing I could wear a flannel tied around my waist so uncaringly, SO wishing I’d be in the middle of a dance floor dancing to Haddaway’s “What is Love”, and so wanting to be liked by a boy.  I had desperate crushes and plenty of guy friends but was basically the same person in a younger body which was a *little* too intense for a teenage boy.  In middle school I was overweight and awkward and was teased a lot.  In high school I couldn’t be cool around older guys for the life of me.  I was focused on doing all the sports and activities.  I had pretty strong ideas about the way the world worked and spoke up about them all.  My junior prom date ditched me ensuring one of my teenage nightmares came true. I didn’t have my first real boyfriend until I was a senior in high school.  I married him when I was 19.  We divorced when I was 23.

**If you haven’t read the previous installment of my four week Advent series, please catch up HERE**

The second week of Advent another purple candle joins Hope and represents Love.  I have a complicated relationship with that word.  Love.  You can feel it without being able to say the words.  You can say the words without feeling it.  There’s just one word to describe the love you have for your family and your partner and your friends and your job and everything you own.  I wish that in English we had nuanced words to describe love like they have in other languages.

Forelsket – Norwegian

That overwhelming euphoric feeling you experience when you’re falling in love with someone. This is the word to describe that giddy feeling when we haven’t reached the point of “I love you,” but are past the initial crush phase.  The way I felt about the first man who seemed to like me just as I was.  He was 20.  I was 17 years old doing a summer exchange in Italy.

Koi No Yokan – Japanese

The sudden knowledge upon meeting someone that the two of you are destined to fall in love.  The way I felt when I saw the man who would become my (now) husband when I saw his picture on Match.com

Gigil – Filipino

The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is irresistibly cute.  The way I felt about a law school classmate of mine who I just adored but knew I’d never date.

La douleur exquise – French

The heartbreaking pain of wanting someone you can’t have.  The feeling I tried to ignore for years in the relationship with the man I thought I would marry.

Ya’aburnee – Arabic

This phrase translates to “you bury me.” This is the hope that the person you love will outlive you so you can spare the pain of living without them.  The way I feel about my sister.  I truly do not know what I would do if I had to navigate life without her.

Queesting – Dutch

When you invite someone into your bed for some pillow talk.  A man whose kindness and closeness was what I needed most when I was at a low point.

L’esprit de escalier – French

The inescapable feeling you get when you leave a conversation then think about all the things you should have said.  The end of my first marriage.

Razbliuto  – Russian

The sentimental feeling you can often feel towards someone you used to loved but no longer do.  Two people who were my closest friends at one time.

Sobremesa – Spanish

The conversation at the table that continues after a meal is over.  The food, the drinks and the laughter can make for great memories.  The reason our favorite thing is to host dinner parties.

Ilunga – Bantu

A person who is willing to forgive abuse the first time; tolerate it the second time, but never a third time. This is from a language spoken in a region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It may be one of the hardest words to translate because it has so many layered meanings. This one little word touches on patience, forgiveness and breaking points.  It describes a person who will forgive someone for the first offense against them, tolerate it a second time, but will not forgive them for a third time.

Maybe this is the one that best captures it.  That feeling I get when my dad says “I love you.”

Complicated, complicated, it all gets complicated, but among different cultures, religious traditions, and literature over decades there is one common theme: love and hate cannot exist in the same space.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

For as ilunga implies love doesn’t come without pain.  Sometimes we are the ones in pain and sometimes we are the ones causing it.  The only way this love thing works is to forgive.  Others.  And ourselves.  To be forgiven by others.  And maybe we get to that “third time,” the breaking point where the relationship needs to be broken.  But even then, letting go with love rather than hate is the thing we do for our own heart.  It seems as complicated as it gets, love in ALL these forms makes the soul richer.  Love is always worth it.  Whether it is easy or hard, life will always be better in the light of love.

26: Arrival of Hope

My mom went all out for Christmas decorating at our house.  Practically every horizontal surface had fiberglass angel hair covering small twinkle lights with the nativity and snowmen and other Christmas figurines.  Sparkly snowflakes hung in the picture window framed by more twinkle lights.  Vases would be filled with special holiday silk flowers and shiny beads and, of course, even more twinkle lights.  Every light fixture in the house could be off and there was this softly colored glow that felt warm and special.

Keeping the Christ in Christmas was always very important to her.  We attended church every Sunday so it was easy to incorporate the traditions we saw there into our home.  Every year one of the earliest signs of Christmas, often even before the tree or the twinkle lights, was the Advent wreath on our kitchen table.  Four Sundays before Christmas the church put up their huge Advent wreath, three purple candles and a pink candle in a wreath of evergreens, and we put out our Advent wreath at home, the four colored candles often left over from year to year in a modest and very used brass candle circle.  The first week just one purple candle was lit.  The second week a second purple candle was lit.  The third week the pink candle was added and the fourth week the fourth and final purple.  Every night at dinner the candle(s) would be lit.

Similarly, at the beginning of the month a colorful poster board Advent calendar would be nailed into the wood panel wall behind our kitchen table.  Our parents had to be at work very early in the morning so it was usually quite a chore to get us out of bed and down to breakfast.  But during Advent, my sister and I took turns opening the tiny numbered doors each day.  The years we had an Advent calendar with little chocolates behind the numbered doors were the best, but even when there was no chocolate there was a teeny tiny picture that got better and better as the days counted down.

If someone had quizzed us about what Advent was or why we had these traditions, I suppose I would have said something like “it’s the countdown to Baby Jesus being born.”  Obviously, I know now that the tradition and symbolism go much deeper than that.  I fell away from the church before taking care to learn the deeper meanings and since my beliefs are different now, I won’t even try to talk intelligently about what those meanings are.  Generally, Advent is a time of preparation and planning but patience for the goodness to come.

So much of what I love about Christmas is about the traditions, the things you do every single year.  When I started attending a Unitarian Universalist church, a place that does not have a single doctrinal (i.e. biblical) foundation and openly welcomes atheists I just assumed that many of the traditions I became accustomed to in that were based in my church would never be a part of my adult life.  Color me surprised to listen to a sermon last December all about the tradition of the Advent wreath and the importance of incorporating this, or something like it, into your family’s rituals.

December is the darkest month and as Christians are waiting for the birth of God’s s-o-n, those who are not of this faith are waiting in anticipation for the s-u-n to come back.  The candles can symbolize light triumphing over darkness.  They can also symbolize the cardinal directions or the elements of earth, air, fire, and water all acting in tandem with each other to create balance in our world.  In the Christian tradition, the candles represent: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. Focusing on one of these each week serves as a check in an often ties into a gratitude practice and that’s what I am going to do to honor the Advent tradition this year.

Week 1: Hope.  Hope is a funny thing.  I am notoriously impatient so hope has always felt more like dark desperate terror-filled demands than some magical beacon of light out there in the distance somewhere.  My sense is that the only difference between desperation and hope is the fear of powerlessness.  Hope is something you want or a vision you have that you aspire to, though you are perfectly happy with what you have now and would be happy even if that vision never comes to be.  Desperation is the fear that you won’t reach that vision, and that life will be somehow less than because of it.  I have lived my life largely in desperation.  The things I do, I do because I don’t know or don’t like what life looks like if I don’t.

What’s the antidote?  Acceptance I suppose.  Accepting one’s powerlessness.  Giving up control.  I’ve written how 2018 has been a difficult year, and it has.  Dealing with the hope, and then the expectation, of having a baby.  There was a turning point midway through the year.  I’d picked a fight with Noel for not doing everything I thought he could do to pull his weight.  I realized immediately after that this exact fight was precisely what I had always said in my mind I wouldn’t let happen.  I’m not the person who wants a child for having a child’s sake: I want a child that is the product of a strong, loving, healthy relationship.  We had to do things differently.  We are still figuring out that balance of trying but not trying and all the while not losing the essence of what makes us us.  I feel better than I’ve felt in a long time.  Things feel easier.  The things I need to do to try for baby are the things I don’t mind doing that are now just part of the routine.  Physically and mentally I feel great.  Acupuncture, herbs, whole foods, more sleep, less stress, more restorative activity, it’s all working to keep me feeling strong and fit.  And most of all, I don’t feel alone in this.  I have a partner and people who care about me who have been wonderful.  So, yes, I want the vision of my future to come true but that can’t be all of my hope.  My hope must rest in the refuge of all that is good now.

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth.

-T.S. Eliot, Wait Without Hope

I will not see this month of darkness and waiting as something to merely get through.  I will accept the darkness and fight against my impatience to accept this time of rest and introspection.  Without winter’s blustery cold, the warmth of the summer sun would not feel so sweet.  Perhaps the hope I’ve place in my vision of the future falls woefully short of what is really meant to be.  Afterall, Adventus means arrival.

 

24: Gratitude

“We have a tradition at our house before a meal.”  People start looking around nervously.  You can see the thoughts scrolling through their mind.

I didn’t think they were religious.
Are we going to have to hold hands?
We are praying!?!

Then we explain that we go around the table and say something that we are grateful for.  Of course, you can opt out.  No one ever does.  When we started this about a year ago, it was just Noel and I trying this before dinner.  I had just read The Happiness Advantage by by Shawn Achor.  Simple as it sounds, the premise of the book is that we can’t wait for this or that to happen before we let ourselves be happy.  We have everything we need right here, right now to be perfectly happy.  Instead of believing we will be happy when we become successful, our happiness is what causes us to be successful.  It’s all about our mindset.  Like many self-helpy type books, The Happiness Advantage encourages people to actively seek, notice, and verbalize things they thankful for.  In fact, it is so important that he made it Happiness Habit #1.  Gratitude, he says, is one of the best starting points for retraining our brain to look for the positive, rather than the negative as most of us have become accustomed to doing. When you know you’ll need to verbalize something every day to be thankful for, you start looking for things, and then seeing them all over.

When we decided that we were not going to put our gratitude practice on hold when we had guests, but instead to ask them to join us in the practice, we just assumed most people would say something superficial to get it over with.  That’s not what happened at all. Some of the most wonderful conversations at our dinner parties stem from our gratitude practice.  Men saying incredibly kind, wonderful things about their wives that have us in tears.  People talking about difficult things that has brought profound perspective.  And, of course, people sharing exciting news of promotions, new babies, new houses and so much more.  By starting with gratitude, we watch as the small talk falls by the wayside so real connections can form.  It is one of the things we are most proud of; creating a place and a time for people (many of whom don’t know each other) to come together and connect.

My childhood memories of Thanksgiving are rich.

The bloop bloop of the bubbles bursting through the white foam on the top of boiling potatoes.  The whirr of the electric knife slicing through the turkey.  The plop of the canned cranberries falling onto a salad plate.  The whisper of the sugar being poured into the whipping cream and the whizzing of the handmixer.  The muffled sound of the adult’s conversation telephoned from the basement through the vents into the first floor bathroom. The splash of milk pouring into glasses.  The hummmm of the space heater.  The squeak of the basement stairs as grown ups came down with hot creamy casseroles and jello salads.  Holding hands dutifully reciting “Come Lord Jesus…”

Deer hunting, Thanksgiving and Christmas all meld into one big memory ball because they were all so similar.  Always at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  Always with all the whole family.  Always the same food.  Never a discussion about why.

Tradition.  “The handing down of information, beliefs, or customs from one generation to another” says Miriam-Webster.  For better or worse, sheer repetition creates memories and with more repetition, tradition.  The sights and smells transport us to another place and time.  For some, the memories are warm and comforting.  For others, they are painful.  Whether great or terrible, most of us don’t know the source of these traditions.  There is little storytelling.  There is little intention.  “This is how we’ve always done it,” just has to suffice.

In our family, there was much that went unspoken.  People didn’t say “I love you” or “I’m sorry” or “forgive me.”  And at Thanksgiving people didn’t say “I’m grateful for…”  We were taught that “thank you” was an automatic response when someone held a door, or gave you a gift, or served your food.  It wasn’t something that stood on its own, a gift in itself because it came from a place so real and true.  None of this was with ill intent.  The opposite.  I suppose people felt these things were so obvious they didn’t need to be said.  Of course I love you, look at all I do for you.  Of course I’m sorry, look how I’m trying to fix it.  Of course I’m grateful, how could you not be with this family and this food at this table we’ve shared together so many times before.  Perhaps the Acts of Service people who taught us how to say thank you were fulfilled by the satisfaction of doing for others without needing to be recognized and fussed over, so it didn’t occur to them to teach us the Words of Affirmation that others in our life need from us now.

And so we have to learn.  Learning takes practice. This Thanksgiving, I am very grateful that the practice we nervously tried last year means that this is not the first time in a year I’ve thought about all the things I’m truly grateful for.  Now I can really focus on the traditions and creating traditions of our own, because the day-to-day things I am grateful for have been at the forefront of my mind every day for the last year.

Sincerest wishes to you and yours for a happy, tasty, tradition and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thanksgiving

22: Opening Day

Did you just think “Brewers?”  City folk.  I tell ya.  “Opening day” in November in Wisconsin *should* mean just one thing.  Deer hunting.

I grew up in a small Wisconsin farming town.  Deer hunting, in the heavy Midwestern accent of Brittany Murphy in Drop Dead Gorgeous, “it’s just whatchya do.”

Mid-November had a collective anticipation that I have never felt living anywhere else.  There was an energy, a buzz.  Boys in my class fresh out of hunter’s safety eagerly turning in their absence slips so they could hunt with their dad on a school day.  Taverns around town with big banners welcoming hunters.  The cool radio station playing “Da Turdy Point Buck” during prime morning time.

My dad digging his blaze orange out of the cedar closet in the basement and laying out all of his gear.  Huge, puffy orange overalls, an oversized coat and a fuzzy hat.  Sliding his deer tag into that plastic sleeve that he pinned to the back of his coat.  Those giant snow boots, often out for the first time this season.  Pulling his rifle off the gun rack above his cluttered workbench.  Taking it apart, cleaning it at the kitchen table with ESPN in the background. The soft zippered case leaned up against the refrigerator to grab on the way out of the house.

My mom, sister and I had a different ritual.  We packed our bags to make the long one-mile journey to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for the weekend.  The aunts and cousins would eat blueberry waffle breakfast for dinner and then the kids would play in the basement and the upstairs bedrooms in pajamas while moms and aunts prepared sugar cookie dough in the cramped kitchen using every possible horizontal surface.  The next day Grandma and Grandpa covered the long table in the basement with a vinyl tablecloth, pulled the folding chairs from underneath the stairs, and turned on the scary hot space heater.  Moms rolled and cut out shapes from the sugar cookie dough as baked cookies went into tupperware containers.  After “hot dish” and white bread with peanut butter for lunch, kids were put to work frosting cookies.  Icing that was more food coloring than anything else slathered all over stars and santas and snowflakes with crispy brown edges.  Colored sugar glitter was immediately everywhere except on the cookies.  Inevitably one kid would hog the red hots so you could never get a Rudolph nose when you needed it.  “Oops, this one broke.  I guess I have to eat it,” meant getting sick stuffed with cookies.  And despite all the anticipation of the main event, within an hour one by one the kids would abandon our posts as this one and then that would find a toy laying on the basement floor they’d rather play with.  Sometimes the dusk hours would be interrupted by a blustery cold blast and then hunter appearing at the top of the steps to yell down into the basement that so-and-so got a deer.  Of course we all had to go out into the driveway to admire the latest kill that by now was strung up inside the garage before the hunters left us again to celebrate their masculinity, surely with beer.  By early evening everyone was gathered in the living room watching a Christmas movie on video with root beer and popcorn in our hands.  Grandpa periodically getting up from his chair to turn on the dust-buster close at hand to take care of all the kid crumbs we left on the living room floor.

I don’t remember the last year we did this.  I’m sure I didn’t know it would be the last time.  It’s funny, the things you don’t realize are becoming memories.

“Memory is a net; one finds it full of fish when he takes it from the brook; but a dozen miles of water have run through it without sticking.” ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

I suppose that is why it is important to be purposeful to create traditions and rituals.  You don’t know what fish will be caught in the net.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

21: Sissy

I know exactly what my first memories are.  It was the day my sister was born. I was 2 years, 2 months and 15 days old.  I remember helping my dad pick out a balloon at the florist.  I remember walking into a hospital room and seeing my mom laying there.  I remember trying yogurt for the first time.  I didn’t really understand what was happening, but whatever it was it was a BIG deal.

We were not always close.  On any given day, we were likely to be somewhere on the spectrum between annoyed and outright disdain.  She was into dolls and dress up and drama.  I was into sports and school and socializing.  When we were younger, attempts to do much of anything together inevitably wound up in a fight.  It wasn’t uncommon for us to be forced to sit on the kitchen floor looking at each other and “thinking about how much you love your sister.”  There was a time I put chewed up gum in her hair so she had to have a piece of her hair cut off.  There was the time she was jumping on the bed, fell off and then told my parents I pushed her.  But we were built-in companions so we found ways to compromise so we could play together.  She would play alligator swamp on our swing set with me…if we could put on sparkly outfits and pretend we were in the circus.  I’d play dress up with her…and be maid while she was the princess.  We’d play softball in the backyard and when she got tired of me winning she’d just throw the ball at me instead of running to tag me out.  We managed.

As we got older we just avoided each other more and more.  Middle school was brutal for us both (and everyone right?) and we both had some self esteem problems.  By high school our interests and personalities were so different there just wasn’t a need to spend time together.  We didn’t get each other.  She was angsty and didn’t care about school or much of anything it seemed.  And from her perspective I was a goodie two shoes know-it-all just looking to tell her what to do any chance I could get.

I graduated high school and moved away.  Cell phones and social media weren’t really a thing yet so my Krissy updates came through my mom.  It was only because she guilted me into staying at my sister’s new apartment while I was home on a visit that we are so close today.  She showed me her new place with pride, we ate Kraft mac and cheese and talked.  For some reason, we both had our guard down this time and we learned a lot about each other.  The rest is history.

Our lives and interests are still very different.  My path was easier for people to wrap their heads around, school, career etc.  Krissy paid her way through her early 20’s and cosmetology school by working at Hooters.  When she told us she was going to start working at Hooters, it would be an understatement to say that our family had “concerns” about her employment choice.  We also quickly saw that Hooters wasn’t as scandalous as we thought and that she was kicking butt at the company.  In her years at Hooters she traveled all over on the company dime for special publicity events, received national-level awards, was an extra in a Denzel Washington movie, did a segment on Good Morning America, was  a contestant on the Singing Bee, was a regular in the Hooter’s calendar and swimsuit pageant, and was the covergirl and centerfold of Hooter’s Magazine.  Oh, and she also was quickly recognized as a fantastic salesperson and an even better mentor/trainer.  Within a few years, she was promoted to store manager and, let me tell you, any idea you might have about how she may have been treated as a Hooter’s Girl pales in comparison to how she was treated as a young female manager.  She proved a lot of people wrong.

Despite that, people have always had some skepticism about Krissy’s ability to do things.  “Are you suuuuuure you’re gonna do _________?”  I’m embarrassed to say that I have fallen into that category too.  Last Fall Krissy asked me one day if I wanted to go on a run.  Sure, I’ll go on a run.  I told her we’d run on the Oak Leaf until she was tired.  Four miles in I told her we were turning back.  That first eight mile run led to jokingly suggesting that Krissy run a half marathon with me.  About six weeks later Krissy ran her first half marathon.  “Why haven’t you ever done this before?” I asked her one day.  “Because I never thought I could,” she said.

I suggested the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C.  The race is always on the Top Ten marathon lists and the idea of traveling somewhere for a race appealed to me.  It also happened to be one of the only races that allowed you to transfer bibs or defer to the following year.  Perfect, I thought, if I get pregnant or she’s not ready we can just defer a year.

Training started pretty slow.  A lot of sporadic short runs that we walked half of. If I didn’t suggest a run, we weren’t doing one.  We were sitting by the pool on vacation in California with about 12 weeks til the race, surely safe enough to broach the topic of being in or being out of this race.  Clearly annoyed I’d even brought it up Krissy said “I’ve been running you know.  I wanted to surprise you.”  Right then we agreed we’d do our long training runs together every weekend no matter what.  We were doing this race.

My confidence wasn’t fully restored when we started our training runs.  A lot of “I didn’t eat enough” or “I didn’t stretch enough” or “what’s that pain?!”  I didn’t know how to help or what to say.  Without an athletic background, she had no way of knowing whether what she was feeling was just her body adjusting or something that meant she needed to stop.  I didn’t know when to be soft, when she needed tough love, or what advice to give.  We both just fumbled our way through.  But one thing was clear from week to week, she was getting stronger.  The distance we struggled to finish last time, she would run with ease this time.  She learned from her mistakes and got into a solid habits.  She took care of herself.  She tried different things on her runs.  All of it was paying off.

Our 14-mile run was a major breakthrough.  It was raining, not like sprinkling, really raining.  True to our word, we were running today.  No excuses.  We hooked up Juneau and off the three of us went down the Oak Leaf, completely soaked.  Luckily the rain was warm and there was no wind, so besides wet, we were pretty comfortable.  And it started to be a fun, cool thing that it was just us out there…training…in the rain.  Doing our thing.  About mile 9 Krissy started to fade, needing to walk more, clearly struggling and the thought of four more miles daunting.  We walked for a bit.  She cried.  We decided to bail out and called for a ride back.  Krissy was so mad.  Totally down on herself, doubting whether she would be able to do this.  She called me later that day.  She’d been out doing errands and at two different places overheard people talking about marathon training and having to bail out way sooner on their runs than we did.  With that, she was back in it.  We agreed to redo our 14 mile run the next week.  She was very angry with me by the end, and struggled through the last couple miles but she finished it.

A couple weeks later as we prepared for our 16-mile training run, I could already feel her uncertainty.  Can I do this?  We had guests in town who ran the Chicago marathon a couple years ago.  She told me later talking to “normal people” made all the difference.  With that, her mind got right and stayed right.  There was such a determination.  Not all fired up and intense and rah rah like I get.  Quiet, matter-of-fact almost.  She was running better than I’d ever seen her.

Race day was great.  We weren’t rushed for time.  Of course there were Marines and flags and cheering people and motivational signs all over the place.  We’d were very strategic about our race shirts.  It was common for us to brainstorm shirt slogans in the worst part of our training runs and we settled on “Bad Year to Bad Ass,” a nod to using some of the recent challenges we’ve each had to motivate us to focus on something positive and accomplish something we could really be proud of.  On the back, her shirt said “My first marathon” on the back of my shirt “Krissy’s first marathon, show her some love.”  The strategy worked.  The entire race people were shouting “Go Krissy” “You got this Krissy” “It’s my first marathon too!”  But they were also shouting “And GO Krissy’s friend!”  I found myself wanting to correct everyone who said this.

She’s not my friend.  She’s my sister.  She’s in a whole other category.  She takes more of my grief, gets more passes, has said yes to the most crazy ideas, and has more of me figured out than anyone besides maybe Noel.  Even more than him sometimes.  She will literally share more years of my life than any other person. After years of Krissy showing up at every athletic competition I’ve ever done with signs and support and the title of “Katie’s sister” it was one of my proudest days not to be Katie but to be “Krissy’s sister.”  Back when we were just trying to become close, I called Krissy for advice about I don’t even remember what and her answer was simply “family comes first.”  She has lived by that not just in words but by showing up, taking a backseat, being a supporter.  What a privilege to be by her side as she accomplished this goal for herself.  I hope she always knows that I’m by her side.  As she’s accomplishing goals.  As she’s figuring it out.  And when she’s not her best self.  I also hope she never doubts herself again.  I know I won’t.