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Diving Into a Whole New World June 13, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 4:36 am

So swim mom it is.

After enrolling my daughters in classes and camps for nearly a decade, we’ve got a winner—for one of them anyway.

Beginning when they were old enough to hold their heads up, they shoved books, musical instruments and (non-toxic) art supplies into their mouths in an effort to find their “thing” they would enjoy doing in life. As they got older it was off to everything from Lego Engineering Camp to theatre and from summer T-ball to tap dancing.

We have discovered that my 9-year-old daughter doesn’t like anything and views enrichment activities as some sort of punishment designed to torture her. On the other hand My 7-year-old daughter loves everything and can’t understand why she can’t go to classes every day of her young life.

But now she has found something she loves more than any other: Synchro.

That’s Synchronized Swimming for those of you who don’t spend your mornings on the pool deck watching your daughter contort herself into seemingly impossible positions all while suspended in 12-feet of water.

I blame this latest foray into a whole new world on insomnia. My husband and I both suffer and stay up late watching whatever is on TV. Every four summers what’s on that time of night is the less popular summer Olympic events: softball, mountain biking and yes, synchronized swimming.

For those of you who go to bed at a decent hour, synchronized swimming is “a hybrid form of swimming, dance and gymnastics, consisting of swimmers (either solos, duets, trios, combos, or teams) performing a synchronized routine of elaborate moves in the water, accompanied by music. Synchronized swimming demands advanced water skills, and requires great strength, endurance, flexibility, grace, artistry and precise timing, as well as exceptional breath control when upside down underwater. During lifts, (where six people act as the platform, one person acts as a base, and one and/or two people act as flyers) swimmers are required not to touch the bottom – yet pull off an outstanding lift.”

That’s the encyclopedic definition, but I can define it in one word: impressive.

Sure, I started out mocking it, but that was before I tried to fathom how they could actually pull off those moves…in mid water.

So this spring I started looking into the sport for my daughter who never, ever, wants to get out of the pool. I was shocked to find not one, but two synchro teams in my little corner of the land-locked state of Colorado.

The first, with the unfortunate name of the “Orcas,” was already full for the competitive season. Then I find out there’s a summer team and next thing I know I’m driving my daughter across town every morning to a pool that’s actually deep enough for “tower,” “barracuda” and “dolphin.”

And now I have a daughter on a sports team for the first time. Well, there was the summer my then 5 year-old spent playing t-ball, but I’m not going to count it since she spent all her time on the field catching insects.

After a whopping two weeks of practice their first meet is in Denver in two days. They had a mock meet this morning and I, in a rare instance, found absolutely nothing to mock.

I was so proud watching her power through moves that I will never complete myself. And in that moment I knew, in the end children are the ones who decide what their “thing” in life is to be. We parents are just the drivers.

 

 

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For Boston April 18, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 5:05 am
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I became a runner on April 15, 2013, the day two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

 

Three friends who were running that day experienced the terror of being the target of a completely random, and deadly, act. First they were scared, then angry—but always resolute to keep on running. Helpless to change what happened to them that day, all I could think of to do was join them.

In my year of running I’ve learned a lot about resiliency.

 

My friends who were in Boston that day introduced me to a group of runners who may pause, or slow down for a stretch, but never quit. Chances are there is a group like them where you live. They run 13.1, 26.2, 50 and 100 miles at a stretch, through all the hours of the day and deep into the night. They run when temperatures are “zeroish” with their shoes full of icy slush. They run up hills so steep it would make more sense to crawl up them.

 

In other words, they are completely nuts.

 

They are also completely awesome. I’ve lived in Northern Colorado 45 of my 46 years, but I’ve never seen it up so close as I have running. It seems that nature saves her most quiet beauty for those who go slow.

 

I’ve come across a herd of deer at sunset in Lory State Park, marveled at the size of the snowflakes near the water’s edge at Horsetooth Reservoir and noticed the tiny buds of spring coloring the snow long before I would have on my bike or in my car.

 

The challenge of running is hard on your body, but soothing to your spirit and empowering to your mind.

 

Scott, who ran Boston last year and will be at the starting line tomorrow, started running after watching the Colorado Marathon in 2004.

 

“Watching those people giving everything they had made me realize two things,” he said. “First that I could do it too and secondly that I was witnessing something epic.”

 

I first tested myself in the heat of August at the Black Squirrel Half Marathon (gnarrunners.com/black-squirrel-half/) and then in a foot of snow at the 10-mile “Silent Trails” run in Southern Wyoming (highplainsharriers.org/silenttrails/). I felt such a sense of accomplishment at the finish line of both races that I forgot to check my time.

 

I often think of Boston on my runs. Instead of fearing that finish line, I’ve dreamed of crossing it. But to qualify you have to meet time requirements in another marathon before registration begins in mid-September. I applied to be a charity runner, but had underestimated just how many people were affected by last year’s bombings. For example The Childrens’ Hospital of Boston had more than 800 applicants to raise the $4,000 required to run on their 130-member team.

 

I’m going to Boston to cheer on the participants and then come home and run my own race on May 4. The Colorado Marathon (http://www.ftcollinsmarathon.com), dubbed “the nation’s most scenic marathon,” comes 17 miles down the Poudre Canyon before finishing in downtown Fort Collins. The Canyon, which saw flooding last fall and the High Park fire the summer before, is itself a beautiful example of resiliency.

 

January first I began running the 350 or so miles training for a marathon requires. And while my new sport has done wonders for my state of mind, my knees aren’t taking it quite as well. An orthopedic doctor recommended that my first marathon be my last. “One and done,” as runners like to say.

 

But whether or not this is the only marathon I ever run, this one’s for Boston.

 

26.2 March 23, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 4:48 am

I think it’s the .2 that’s going to do me in.

While training for my first marathon I’ve learned that no matter how far you’re running, the last mile is indeed the longest mile.

Premature celebration is to blame. When you’re about 100 yards into the 1760 in that last mile your mind starts saying, “We did it!” while in truth you have those 1660 yards to go.  When the time comes for the full marathon, I’m afraid I’m going to be done right before I’m finished.

I became a runner on April 15 of last year, when a couple of disgruntled brothers decided it would be a good idea to bomb the finish line of the Boston marathon. My friends who were running that day experienced the terror of being the target of a completely random, and deadly, act. First they were scared, then they were pissed. I got pissed right along with them, and decided the best act of defiance would be to run the marathon myself.

But getting to the start line of the Boston Marathon as a competitor is so much more difficult than getting to the finish line. I didn’t tell anyone when I started running, because first I wanted to see if I could actually do it. I found my body’s weak spots and despite punishing them a dozen or so miles a week, it seemed like I’d be able to hold together.

I ran a half-marathon last summer and survived, so I figured I’d go for Boston. The problem was thousands of other people had the same idea. To participate in the Boston Marathon you first have to run another marathon or two or three until you meet the time requirements for your age. As a 45-year-old woman that time is 3 hours and 50 minutes, which means I  have to run each mile in roughly 8 and a half minutes. Runners have to qualify for Boston before registration opens in September.

Without enough time to qualify, I looked into being a charity runner. You raise about $4,000 for a Boston-based charity and run on their team. I figured there would be plenty of spots open for someone willing to run 26.2 miles and come up with $4,000 for the pleasure. I thought wrong. All the charities I applied to were full. Boston Childrens Hospital had more than 800 applicants for its 130 member team.

I wouldn’t be running Boston this year, but I found another marathon to run. The Colorado Marathon, held May 4, winds down the Poudre Canyon and finishes in downtown Fort Collins. It also happens to be a Boston qualifier.

A training program for a marathon starts about 18 weeks before the race.

You run two short runs a week (2-4 miles), a medium run (6 to 8) and a long run (10 to 20 miles) on the weekend. I’m on week 12 of my training and have run about 230 miles. I have about 170 miles to go. I’ve run through snow, frozen slush, rain puddles and mud. I’ve run in blustery storms, under twinkly stars  and in brilliant sunshine. I’ve run up and down mountains, on country roads, on bike paths and through neighborhoods. On a couple of below zero days I ran on the “mill” at the gym.

Some of those miles have gone quickly and I’ve felt like a rock star runner that could go forever. Some of those miles have been brutal, 13 through the slush on a day when the temperature never got above 13 comes to mind. Some of those miles have been filled with the beauty that nature saves for those who go slowy. Many of those miles have been tedious.

I’ve thought of Boston on all of my runs. Experiencing at least a portion of what those runners did to get that start line makes me angry for those who didn’t get to finish and sad for those who had the experience tarnished by evil.

But from that evil came the inspiration for thousands of us to become runners–runners dreaming of finish lines instead of fearing them.

 

To Dye For February 23, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 4:35 am

After more than two decades of listening to his begging, pleading and chiding, I finally let my hairdresser take my hair’s virginity.

On a dreary winter day two weeks ago, I not only gave him the go ahead, I let him pick the color. Pretty risky considering one friend I referred to him came out of the salon looking like, in her words, “Tony the Tiger.”

But I emerged from the salon with a dye job so close to my hair’s natural color that it took my own husband a couple of hours to notice. I still can’t decide if I want people to notice or not. I’ve always said that when I dyed my hair for the first time it would be obvious. I would choose a shade of orange or red so shocking,  that everyone would know what I was up to. Instead of hiding my age behind the color, I would be boldly announcing it.

And then the time came to actually pick a color. I sat there with an array of color swatches (do you still call them “swatches” when they’re hair?) in front of me and froze.

“Chef’s choice?” my hairdresser asked sensing my lack of direction. Sure, why not? (Then I heard a voice in the back of head remind me, “You could look grrrrrreat!)

So he mixed up three of four colors, made sure I was aware that the color wouldn’t cover all of my gray, and the dyeing began. Two hours later I thought I looked so dramatically different that I’d have to head straight to the DMV for a new driver’s license photo.

Tickled with my transformation, I went to the gym and announced to even the most casual of acquaintances, “I just got my hair colored!” Judging by the efforts they made to do anything but look at my hair I realized I had entered sacred ground. Apparently the first rule of dye club is: “Don’t talk about dye club.”

Since that first day I’ve spent some time since wondering why coloring your hair is such a secret. Surely everybody doesn’t think that the women they know have somehow miraculously escaped the aging process–that  they don’t have a single gray hair despite being  in their say, 70s? How about the women who haven’t had the time to get their roots done and look like an easter egg only half dipped in dye?

For better or for worse I’ve always had a minimal beauty routine. It’s probably because my mom never wore make-up or spent much time fixing her hair. I was left to experiment on my own, often to the detriment of my actual looks. I marched off to high school one day with such bright pink triangles on my cheeks I looked to have a severe case of Scarlet Fever.

Now I have daughters of my own and I realize they are always watching what I do. “Don’t you think you’re pretty?” my 7 year-old asked when she caught me putting concealer under my eyes one day.

“Yes, but I also think I’m tired.”

Should I wear make-up when I’m older? she asked.

After a few minutes of contemplating an answer, I said, “It’s up to you–it’s about what makes you feel pretty.”

And in the end it does come down not to what others think, but what you think when you look in the mirror. Judging by the number of times I’ve snuck a pleased peek at myself in the past two weeks, it was time to let my hairdresser have his way with me.

 

All I wanted for Christmas was some patience December 29, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 5:02 am

I’m not a patient person.

I’d tell you why, but I don’t want to take the time to get into it.

The holiday season tests even the most tranquil among us: the traffic, the lines, the snippy sales clerk who you don’t really blame because the woman in front of you in line has asked for a price check on each individual bow in her overflowing basket.

Back in November, with the scraps of the turkey feast still in front of me, I made the promise to myself that I do every year: This year I’m going to keep Christmas simple and low-stress.  And then about two weeks later my significant other walks into the kitchen at 1 or 2 a.m., sees me up to my elbows in a double batch of sugar cookies and asks, “Weren’t you going to scale it down this year?”

This year I had a plan for dissolving the seasonal stress. Every time I was aggravated, annoyed or just generally grinchy, I would sing phrases from “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Long line at the Post Office? “It’s the hap-happiest season of all.” Daughters didn’t leave a single piece of tape in the house to wrap a present? “Hearts will be glowing.” Crushed the joyful hearts of a dozen first graders when they ran out of jingle bells during the school party? “Be of good cheer.”

But then there was a week without Yahoo, two back surgeries and a flaming semi on I-70. You might argue otherwise, but to me the unholy trinity of stress is made up of the internet, the medical system and traffic. During this year’s days of Christmas, I dealt with all three thieves of holiday  joy. Chances are you had an encounter with at least one of them.

Like thousands of others I lost access to my Yahoo account two weeks before Christmas. As in no e-mail, which means, no present tracking, no looking up addresses of old friends for cards and no invite information for holiday happenings. Because the on-line system was down, they required a call to customer service. It was during this process I learned that after you’ve been on hold for an hour and a half–listening to Muzak and a message that says “Your call is very important to us”–they actually hang up on you. How festive.

Around about this time, my husband had his first back surgery to “shave” bulges on two of the lower discs in his back. He would have a second surgery 10 days later because things didn’t go as planned the first time around. You know surgery, where you show up three hours early for a 40-minute procedure. Needless to say we were not feeling goodwill toward the nurse who took a phone call before signing the release papers we’d been waiting for, long after my husband was cleared to go home.

Then came the trying ordeal of being parked on I-70 for more than an hour while they cleaned up the charred remains of tractor-trailer that had caught fire six hours earlier. I didn’t notice a lot of “heavenly peace” on the face of my fellow drivers.

The surprising thing is that this, the most stressful holiday season I’ve had, has also turned out to be the best one. Not being connected to the internet for a week forced me to actually pick up the phone and catch up with my friends in a way you just can’t do on-line. Being able to help take care of my husband has made me feel closer to him than I have before. And I actually had some quality conversations with my Dad and daughters while we were stuck in that traffic mess.

Ok, I can’t sit around contemplating human nature any longer, I’ve got decorations to take down.

 

Are You Ok? November 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 9:24 am

Any suicide notes left by two 18-year-old Colorado State University students haven’t been released yet, but I already know what they most likely say: “The world will be better off without me.”

There might not be a note, or the wording might be different (saying it’s their family or friends who will be better off without them) but that’s the message their final act conveys.

I know because when I was 12, my 15-year-old brother left us a note like that. And as a suicide survivor, I can tell you that it’s never true. The world is never a better place when a teen takes his or her own life and a family is never better off without one of its young members.

The overall rate of suicide among adolescents has tripled over the past 60 years, according to a report from the National Mental Health Association. It is now the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds and the second leading cause of death among college-age students.

What haunts survivors is that this third leading cause of death is preventable.

My Dad, who shared his birthday with my brother, didn’t have to mourn every August 30th. My mother didn’t have to pause every year at Christmas when she unpacks the brass stars my brother made in metal shop. My daughters could have met their Uncle.

I could have gone through life without worrying about when the ones I love will be abruptly taken from me.

My 9-year-old keeps asking me what happened to Uncle Mark. I don’t want to tell her about suicide. I don’t want to tell her that people can wake up under heavy, dark clouds every day and think the sun is never going to come out again. I don’t want to tell her that people can die from the lack of hope.

Hope is the only thing we have to stem suicide.

In the aftermath of my brother’s death, I remember talking to a teen who had killed a woman while he was driving drunk. He had been planning to commit suicide, when a girl approached him in the halls of their high school and offered him a piece of gum. Knowing that one person cared, that there was hope for others caring for him again in the future, was enough to keep him alive.

You can save lives. If know someone is hurting, even if you just suspect they are, reach out to them. Let them know that you, for one, would not be better off without them.

Read with: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tR-qQcNT_fY

 

Confessions of a Heli of a Mom October 6, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 5:25 am

HELICOPTER PARENT: a parent who is overly involved in the life of his or her child

This definition was recently added to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. I know because they called me for a photo to put next to the entry.

I just sent them the same mug shot they have posted in the school office above the following notice: “Warning, when sighted (which is often) do not aggravate this parent. Allow her access to her children and/or take items from her for her children. Any attempts to limit this access will only lead to additional visits on her part.”

My rotor blades kicked into high-speed this year when my youngest daughter started full-day first grade. That means that instead of being gone 2 hours and 45 minutes a day for half-day kindergarten, she’s now gone nearly six.

Does Mama like that? No, Mama does not.

My daughter isn’t a big fan either. She came out of her hot classroom the first day, flushed cheeks stained with tears. “Mama, six hours is way too long. Isn’t there half-day first grade?”

And so to ease the adjustment for both of us, I’ve been at school a lot this first month. I went on her field trip, I meet her for lunch once a week and I’m dropping things off way too often. I’ve stopped by with a snack, her lunch, her library book, her homework, her umbrella and yesterday with her winter hat.

I know, I know, my daughters will be more resilient if I let them deal with the consequences of their own mistakes.

After all when Ramona lost one of her brown oxfords on the way to school (she threw it at a dog that was following her), she made herself a slipper out of paper towels and she was just fine. For that matter Ramona walked herself to school every morning starting when she was in kindergarten.

Except that Ramona isn’t a real person, and neither is her mother.

There have been a couple of times that even I realized I’d gone too far. Like when my eldest called from the nurse’s office because she had a splinter and the tweezers they had at school weren’t “sharp enough” to get it out. By the time I got there it had fallen out (if it had ever been there at all).

Yes, my children are coddled. In my defense I’m not the only one to blame.

I’m going to blame society, because society is always to blame these days (probably because it can’t stand up in its own defense).

My husband and I (both Colorado natives), scoffed at all the snow days they called last year—most when there wasn’t even enough of the white stuff on the ground to make for decent sledding. We were down right astonished when they cancelled school because of “heat” in August and rain in September (the neighborhoods surrounding our school weren’t affected by flooding).

In my, and society’s, defense, I think we just want to make it easy for our kids—maybe because we know that once they leave home it will be anything but easy.

I know it’s time to stop coddling and get serious about preparing my daughters for the “real world,” but that doesn’t make it easy. Childhood is so fleeting I find myself clinging to theirs for dear life.

It doesn’t help that during fourth grade orientation for my older daughter the teacher handed out a poem entitled, “Growing Pain: 9 is halfway to good-bye.”

“When your kid turns nine and you notice for the first time that it is slipping through your fingers. That it won’t last forever. That your turn is half over.”

I read lines like that and I wanted to take both my girls out of school, rent a boat and sail off to see the world.

But that wouldn’t be right for them—and in the end parenting is about your children and not you.

I just wish the end was farther away.