Friday, June 24, 2016

Macy and Some Birds and Some Bees and a Head Full of Gray

I have long since assumed that the child of mine that will cost me the most hair will be Macy.  She is adventurous, brazen, curious and more than most kids, is willing to accept the punishment if the joke is funny enough.  An example this last point happened just yesterday morning.  Macy woke up earlier than the rest of the house.  I’m assuming that her thought process went something like this.  “Why is everyone sleeping?  Who is least likely to kill me if I wake them up?  I wonder what he will make me for breakfast.”  With that, she crawled next to my bed and found my pajama clad posterior sticking out from under the covers and gave it a firm slap.  I shot out of bed to find her giggling into her hand under the side of my bed.  Giving her the “she’s not a closet serial killer” benefit of the doubt, I see her as a little girl who is destined to grey what hair I have left on my balding head. 

All of that being said this is not about a slightly reddened hind quarters or a lack of sleep.   It’s about something much, much worse for my hairline.  Macy, fresh out of kindergarten, asked a question that most dads don’t want to hear from a girl twice her age.  It was asked in this awkward kind of way that said that she didn’t’ know what she was asking or what it would do to my soul.  I was getting Macy into the minivan after a post soccer season party and she asked, in an innocent voice as the van door began to slide closed, “Daddy, before you have a baby do you have to sex mommy?”

The door continued to close and I physically saw my dropped jaw in the window reflection.  I’ll chalk that up to something else I saw as just an expression.  My jaw dropped, completely.  I have always seen myself as someone who thinks on their feet.  I regathered myself for a moment and scrambled for something to say.  I pushed the button to re-open the van door and found a curious little girl waiting behind it.  My exact response went like this, “Well, sweetheart, where in the hell did you hear that?”.

Parenting 101, if you have nothing to say, lash out.  Punctuate it with a mid-level kid level swear word for effect and then close the door rapidly.  Lash out, check.  Mid-level swearing, check.  Door closed…damn.  The only change in the van was the fact that my eldest’ s attention went from some trinket she had received at the party to trained perfectly on my next words. 

I repeated my former statement, in a softer tone, at the car in general.  “Where did you hear that?  Was it at school?”

“No”, she answered reluctantly, “It was (The name of the junior sex ed teacher has been changed to protect her from Macy’s uncles) Cinnamon.  She told me at Avery’s birthday party.”

Avery rose in her seat looking confused, angry and right at Macy.  I saw a window to divide and conquer. 

“Avery,” I asked, “did you know about this?”

Before Avery could offer her vehement denial, Macy piped up proudly, “No it was just me and (insert two other girl’s names here).”

As far as I could tell the disease was contained to one set of local ears and two other pairs that I had no control over.  I quickly went from father to outbreak prevention specialist.  

My wife gave me a look as if to say "good luck with this one, champ.", arms crossed and cocked smile. She wasn't stepping to save me.  At least not yet.  

What came out of me was somehow both convoluted and vanilla.  To paraphrase, "Well, um, sweetheart, when to parents love each other very much, it's like this, see, it was just stuff you hear at a birthday party, geez, well Mommy and Daddy, you're too young to be asking...." the last part of whatever I was saying was drowned out and eventually deafened by the automatic sliding door.  The trump card I had on my wife was the fact that we came in separate vehicles and the kids were piled into hers.  Unfortunately, the reprieve was a mere two blocks.  

Truth be told, when we got home we had a very mature conversation with our eldest two children.  We explained that 'what she heard was correct, but it isn't time to learn about it just yet.  It's a conversation for later, but that we love them very much.

So here it is girls, over the next forty or fifty years, I will be making a lot of jokes about how boys are off limits and that I'll sharpen my gun in preparation for any gentleman callers.  I'll say you can't date until you get through college and any boy dumb enough to try to kiss you will have the full force of Poppy, your uncles and yours truly to deal with.  That, my ladies, is what you call a show.  It's because I love you very much and I will never think that there is a special someone quite special enough for you.  I'm biased, sure, but you three are pretty amazing and deserve the best.  If you take anything from this story, it's just that the question Macy asked is valid, just premature, ask me again in twenty years if they have phones in the convent.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Went up a Boy and Crapped Down a Mountain

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about a race I was training for and my daughters wondering “if it’s so hard, why do I do it?”.  This past Sunday, I ran the marathon and I was left with the same question.

“If it’s so hard, why do it?”

The training for this marathon had not gone particularly well, but I held the attitude, 'I’ve paid for the race, I’ve done the training, might as well run'.  I packed my bag with everything I could possible need and headed to my sister’s house in Denver for the night.  Because of the location of the race, we would have to get up at a god awful 2:30 in the morning to get there in time so we decided to have an early dinner and go to bed. 

For those not dumb enough to endeavor into marathon running, it is common practice to “carb load” the night before a race, which for me is generally a pasta dish, no red sauce, murders the ol tum-tum.  I came up with the brilliant plan to have ramen, and my sister found a place that was ramen/ ping pong themed.   Did that combo send any red flags up?  Nope, let’s eat.  Fast forward to midnight.  The scene is my wife and sister both sound asleep while I create a laundry list of mistakes on my porcelain throne.  I finally got back to sleep, but I was starting to panic about my readiness for my run. 

The next morning, I paid my throne another visit, gulped a strong cup of coffee, a half a bagel, a banana and a larger than prescribed dose of Pepto.  Breakfast of champions.  We loaded into the car and made our way to the starting line.

Getting to the start required a shuttle and for me to leave my wife as she wasn’t running and my sister as she was running a half-marathon and therefore started a little later.  I took a seat at the back of the bus and tried to relax, a feat made impossible by my bus mates.  For me, when running a race, it is relaxing to find people that are approximately in the same condition as me, slightly pear shaped, a little older and uncomfortable with what we are about to do.  This bus was nothing like that.  My co-passengers, we’ll call them Lance, Zeke and Turbo, all had a one upmanship that was inspired.  One talked about “bonking” and only running a 6:30 minute mile, the next talked about a Pike’s Peak challenge where you run a marathon route to the top of the peak twice in two days and the third, Turbo’s story, is that he is running this marathon as a warm up for a 120 miler he’d be doing the next week.  The thing about these guys, is that they weren’t bragging.  I think they were that good, which made me feel that bad.  I got off the bus perfectly ready to go home. 

I was lucky enough to meet up with a couple of friends of mine at the start.  They are very funny people and spending a few minutes with them took my mind off the bus ride and the ramen playing ping pong in my intestines.  The bus ride would not return, the ramen would. 

As the race started it became apparent the jostling of the run was going to make what was on my insides want to make its way outside.  I made pit stops in at least four of the rest stops in the first half of the marathon, each stop being more horrific than the last.  I suppose one of the beautiful things about being a quick runner would be beating twelve hundred people to the outhouses, a luxury I will most likely never understand.  By the time I reached the thirteen mile marker, my body had exercised the ping pong demons and most of the liquids I would have enjoyed in the race.
The second half of the race was more or less uneventful but suffice it to say, I was more dehydrated than I would have normally been on a race like this.  The temperature rose to 85 degrees.  Another perk of being fast would have finishing before the sun got through the clouds, but no such luck. I’ve heard it said that a marathon starts at mile twenty.  A truer statement has never been uttered.  I struggled big time, negotiated with myself, and finally pushed through.  My wife met me around mile twenty-five and encouraged me through the finish.     As I crossed the finish, I was more relieved to make it than I was happy to finish.  I got my medal and tried to cool off.  Getting back to our car is a separate story, too long for this already too long post. It was over, six months of training, hundreds of miles, weekend hours that could have been spent with my kids, all spent to run these 26.2 miles.   

So girls, revisiting the question “why do it if it’s that hard?”.  The last post about this talked about everything from losing weight, to making friends, to bonding with my sister, but that’s not all.  There is something more base than that, at least for me.  For my friends from the top of the mountain, it was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, sure, but I presume it’s about something else, too.  For my bus mates who apparently run marathons in their sleep, it is more.  For my sister and I think most runners.  It’s about pushing yourself to do things you’re not sure you can do.  I didn’t run the time I wanted but I hadn’t planned on crapping my way down the mountain either.  I didn’t plan on having no sleep and I didn’t foresee 85-degree weather.  But though all of those things, I finished.  I didn’t run the time I wanted, but I finished.  When I woke up Monday morning, I was sore, my head ached, I was somewhat nauseous and needed to go to work and none of those things could erase what six months of training and a morning of trudging had instilled.  It wasn’t fast, and I’m not great at it but to quote my wife, “if marathon’s were easy, everyone would run them”.  So I guess, in the simplest way possible, “why do I run if it’s so hard?”, the answer is “because it’s so hard”.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Glass Ceilings and Bouncing Pastors

It’s been told to me never to talk religion or politics in polite company and in the spirit of adhering to good advice I intend to talk about religion and politics today.  While I can feel eye rolling from here, it isn’t what you think.  There will be no moral high horse or party divisiveness.  

I am the father of three wonderful girls.  They are smart, caring, funny and beautiful.  Years ago, when my oldest daughter was very little, my wife and I decided to explore a church to attend.  We decided that the church had given each of us structure and perhaps my kids would be better off with a little structure themselves.  The problem was that my wife was raised Lutheran and I was raised Catholic.  My wife and I jokingly discussed the infallibility of our own denomination while simultaneously downgrading everyone else’s.  Honestly, we talked about our churches the way one would talk about their favorite football team.  Go Catholics!  This dance went on for years before our first daughter was born but came to a critical mass when we needed to decide where our children would attend service.  In the spirit of accuracy, this last sentence should read “where our children would attend their occasional service” as life gets in the way more often than I’d like to admit.  

My wife and I decided that we would like our kids to have some religious upbringing but could not ask one another to convert to each other’s denomination.  Looking back, our decision to interview priests and ministers for the job seems strange, but trust me, it was much stranger at the time.  Adrienne lined up three or four meetings in our living room for the same afternoon, one after the other.  My greatest fear was having them overlap and having the awkward moment of ‘Father Mike’ and ‘Reverend Dave’ duking it out in our foyer for our immortal souls.  Little did I know this would not become even close to the problem.
The first gentleman came in and, after some pleasantries; he asked “What are you looking for in a church?”  

My response was simple.  “If my daughter wanted to advance in your church, how high could she go?”

He replied that she could become a deacon or the like.  That's it, a deacon.  Not a priest, not a bishop, not a cardinal.  My wife, smiled politely, and in words that were as PC as they come, invited the man to leave.  This happened a few times, with only one putting up a fight.  He was perplexed by the fact that there was an artificial ceiling that would restrict my child and that it would be upsetting to my wife and me.   I’ll give him his moxie for still selling, but he was in an unwinnable position.  Over my life I have watched the women around me overcome barriers like this or be victimized by them.  I would not knowingly put my daughters in a situation where they would be restricted by design.  My wife agreed and we eventually settled on a congregation that puts zero restriction on who can minister, and then we attend said congregation mostly on Christmas and Easter.  In hindsight, it was a lot of hullabaloo for two hours of meetings annually.    

This brings me to the point of this posting.  Like some religions, politics can be a stacked deck.  However, something changed just recently.  Last night Hillary Clinton clinched the nomination for the Democratic nomination.  Politics aside, it should be a proud moment for this country.  In the fifty-five ish presidential elections this country has held, no major party has ever run a woman as its candidate.  Fifty five elections, well over one hundred candidates, zero women.  As a father, it is very difficult to say to my daughters with a straight face that they can be anything they want if they try hard enough.  110-0 is tough math to overcome.

So here’s the thing girls; in your short lives, you have seen some amazing things.  Our current president is the first African American president ever.  Hillary could be the first woman president ever.  Forget politics for a moment and breathe that in.  The ceiling seems flimsy compared to what it was just a generation ago.  I’m hoping that the future is different for you girls.  I’m hoping that the idea of a woman, a minority, or anyone who is marginalized for any reason seems silly.  I’m hoping that for your future, but it isn’t what has happened in the past.  I’m sure your mother, your aunts and grandmothers will shed a tear over the coming months as they recognize the significance of what has just happened.  As of last night, Avery, Macy and Darby, I can say with a lot more confidence, you can be anything you want if you try hard enough.