Month: June 2013

A Reason To Celebrate

Luke and Steve exhausted in Ecuador

Today is Father’s Day. I’ll be honest. It is a tough day for me. I have never had a close relationship with my own father. We spent years estranged. We do not agree on most things. And I am not certain that there is any way to fix the situation because after 45 years of consistency you begin to accept that some things simply are what they are. Picking out a Father’s Day card is difficult because in the myriad cards available in the store there isn’t one that says, “I know you did your best, and I’m learning to be okay with that.” But I am not at my laptop this morning to write about my issues. I’m here to write about my husband and how he has given me a reason to celebrate Father’s Day.

Twenty years ago when my husband and I had been dating for just a month, he introduced me to his parents. We met for dinner with the whole family at an upscale, Swiss restaurant, and there I got my first glimpse of where Steve came from. There are moments in your life when a seemingly insignificant gesture suddenly epitomizes something much more grand. At one point during dinner, my father-in-law, deep in conversation with his son, leaned in closer to him and laid his arm across the back of Steve’s chair. He was talking and smiling and you could see in his eyes how much he loved being with his son and how utterly unafraid he was to show his son how important he was. I had never seen anything like that, such a small gesture that demonstrated the appreciation, love, and affection between a father and his son. That was the exact moment when I knew that Steve was solid. I knew he would someday be an amazing husband and a devoted father. I knew I had no reason to fear.

Steve and Joe

Steve and Joe happy in Hawaii

Now it might have been a bit naive on my part to take such an innocent gesture and ascribe to it such a grandiose meaning, but I don’t think so. Twelve years into this parenting gig with my husband and I don’t think I was wrong in my assessment. (Of course, I rarely think I am wrong about anything.) He is every bit as genuine and affectionate with our boys as his father is with him. From Day One he has been there for us. He never works more than 40 hours per work week. From the beginning he fed, changed, and bathed our boys without complaint. When they were sick, he was the first one to the thermometer to apprise the situation. When they puked up seemingly impossible amounts of pizza, fishy crackers, and juice, he disinfected the mess with the utmost courage and care and far less gagging than I ever could. He read The Hobbit to them, struggling mightily with the lengthy lists of names but muddling through undaunted. Many days after putting in his time at work, he arrived home excited to see us only to find that I was glassy eyed and already AWOL; instead of  being selfish he took one for the team and fixed dinner, did dishes, made lunches, and put the kids to bed so I could regain some sanity. He cried with me when we identified copious obstacles our sons needed to overcome with fine and gross motor skills, speech and language, reading, and academics. He spent hours building and flying kites, untangling fishing line, finding the tiniest of Lego pieces in the largest of Lego storage buckets, and perfecting his driving skills on Mariokart Wii. He has given all that he is and then some for our little family. For all the times that he felt like he was a single parent doing more than 50% of the work in the house, he never balked or grumbled. He’s a far better person than I will ever be.

So now when Father’s Day rolls around and I start to feel a bit melancholy, I think of Steve. I think of the father that he is and the gift he is giving to our sons with his constant presence in their lives, with his patience, and with his dogged devotion. When I see the tender-hearted, gentle, kind young men our sons are becoming, I see their father in them. (When I see their stubbornness, their impatience, and their kookiness…well…that’s all me.) I have plenty of reason to celebrate on Father’s Day. It’s just not the reason I expected.

My Very Blonde Moment

“I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb…and I also know I’m not blonde.”  ~Dolly Parton

A very obedient bull snake prepares to use our doormat.

An obedient bull snake prepares to use our doormat. Reptiles can breathe and read.

I have been busily working to prepare for a garage sale this weekend. I despise garage sales. The only thing I loathe more than having a garage sale is having a house filled with stuff I am dying to get rid of. And this is how I’ve gotten myself into the predicament of needing to be involved in a garage sale in the first place. For about a month now I’ve been taking a good, long look at our closets, cupboards, cabinets, closets, and drawers. I’ve boxed up books, dishes, toys, and crafting supplies and hauled it out to our staging area on one side of the garage. This week it was finally time to involve the boys. Together we attacked their bedrooms and their playroom, spending hours finding lost game pieces, reuniting action figure collectibles, and tossing out random things none of us could explain.

As we were down in the basement playroom today, I pulled open the blind to let more light in. When I did, I noticed in the window well a small garter snake lifting its head up and checking me out. Spiders I can’t stand but snakes fascinate me, and this one was downright cute (if a snake can be cute). I quickly called Joe to come check him out. We stood at the window staring at the little guy until he spooked, probably because of all our gawking and pointing, and slithered his way down into the hole under the rocks where he resides. When he was out of sight, a thought popped into my head and before I could stop to evaluate it fully I opened my mouth and it spilled out.

“Do reptiles breathe air?” I asked my biology-enthusiast son.

The minute I heard my words I realized how truly asinine I sounded. But alas…it was too late. It was already out there and there were no take backs. My son was staring at me as if I had seven heads.

“Ummm…Mom? Every living creature on this planet breathes air,” he said just before erupting with laughter. Nice kid.

“Well…” I stammered, searching for an explanation as to what had caused my temporary lack of common sense and my absent third-grade science skills. “I’m TIRED” was all I could come up with.

“What? Do you think reptiles are aliens? All we’ve got is oxygen, Mom. It’s kind of necessary for life. That’s pretty basic science.”

“I know. I know,” I said, trying to recover. “I just wanted to see if you knew the answer. I was testing you,” I answered, hoping to cover my tracks.

“You think your son who was obsessed with dinosaurs for years doesn’t know that reptiles breathe air?” he asked. “I know a thing or two about reptiles, Mom.”

He then ran upstairs to tell his brother what I had said because there’s nothing better than pointing out to your sibling what a boob your mother is. The minute he left I looked back out the window. The snake had reappeared, its small head held high up in the air in indignation. I swear I saw him roll his black-slitted eyes at me.

As the two boys spent the afternoon having random laughs at my expense, I tried to be self-effacing and calm about the flub so as not to fuel the fire any further. Throughout the day I texted them random comments about air, and I joked along with them and laughed too. I mean, my question was pretty ridiculous. There was no denying it. And having a mini-meltdown about their hysterical laughter was not going to make the case against me any less damning. So I rolled with it. I had no other options. But, man oh man, admitting and accepting my own idiocy is a lot of work.

It’s humbling when my brain takes a quick vacation. And it is happening to me more frequently as I age. I walk into a room and stand there trying to determine why I am there in the first place. I start one task and then like a Labrador Retriever chasing a squirrel I’m off in another direction only to realize hours later that I never finished that first task. Today’s brainless statement was likely induced by a lack of sleep coupled with deficient nutrition after ingesting a greasy burger and fries for lunch. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself because, honestly, my mind is not usually that vacuous, and I refuse to think I’m losing it this young. I mean, I do know that there is no life without breath. Guess today I needed a reminder that sometimes life is a bit more worth living when you’re laughing so hard at yourself that you can’t breathe.

I Was So Hungry I Ate My Words

A mile from the top of Vail Pass

Finishing the most difficult part of the climb

Colorado is filled with extreme sports enthusiasts — marathoners, triathletes, cyclocross racers, river kayakers, rock climbers, mogul skiers, and myriad other endorphin junkies. Intrepid Coloradans trek up our 14,000 feet peaks each and every summer weekend because, well, they’re there. And everyday, run-of-the-mill, “normal” people take on day-long rides like the Triple Bypass where they cycle over 3 mountain passes, 120 miles with over 10,000 feet of elevation gain just to say they did it. What’s crazier than that? How about that people choose to do that same ride in reverse the following day to complete the Double Triple Bypass? With these things in mind, please understand that what I am about to relay regarding my adventure yesterday is not extraordinary at all. Oodles of people can tell the same story, so I am not being modest when I say that this is not a big deal at all. Except that it is…to me.

Ten years ago, we were driving back from a trip to Aspen and along the highway heading east over Vail Pass we spied some road cyclists struggling their way up the pass adjacent to the speeding cars on the highway. I remember hauling up the pass in our Jetta and remarking that those riders were insane. There is no way I would ever do that, I told my husband. Then, just five years ago, the darling man bought me a road bike. I went into the bike store dragging my heels because I was certain I was not a cyclist. Still I went along with it because I was 40 and I needed a decent form of exercise, one that hopefully would not tear up my knees or hips like running might. That year when we passed cyclists huffing and puffing their way up and over Vail Pass I said I could never do that. Simply putting in 15-20 miles was difficult enough. I didn’t think I’d survive a trek up a mountain pass. It seemed an insurmountable task. I had no intention of ever being that certifiable about exercise. Period.

Yesterday the unthinkable became reality. With three friends from our MS150 bike team, Steve and I rode from our hotel room in west Vail up to and then over Vail Pass and down into Copper Mountain before turning around and riding back up over the pass and eventually back to our hotel room. It was a 47 mile trek where we climbed over 4,000 feet in elevation in less than 4.5 hours. At times during our ride, the grade of the path hit a wicked 18%. That’s steep enough that even in my easiest bike gear I needed to stand up like a Tour de France racer to power my bike up the hill. I’ve never had to do that before. It was both annoying and awesome. We started our ride at 8,000 feet in elevation and climbed to over 10,600 feet so the air we were sucking was thin too. It was my longest ride of the season so far and the most challenging ride I have ever done.

At the top and geared up for the cold ride down to Copper

At the top and geared up for the cold ride down to Copper Mountain

As we flew down the last big descent of the day and my bike hit 34 miles an hour despite the headwind, I had a cheerful refrain echoing in my head. (It sounded exactly like this.) When we finally returned to our starting point at the Vail Cascade Resort I was Queen of the Freaking World. It is true. I had to chew up and swallow whole those things I’d uttered in the past about would never or could never. And while I normally don’t enjoy eating my words, yesterday I had no problem with it. Maybe it was simply because I was so hungry? I had burned over 2500 calories in 4 hours, right? Truth is, though, I have rarely felt as strong as I did when I clipped out of my pedals at the end of that ride. Not only had I done something I previously believed I physically and mentally could not do but I did it less than a week after turning 45. I never had to get off and walk my bike. The altitude never got to me. I fought the urge to give up when my quadriceps were screaming at me and I stuck it out. I rode my bicycle like a cheap, show pony. And while I may not be better, faster, stronger, or in any way more impressive than any other Coloradan who completes that identical ride, I do not care. I did it. I earned the right to eat my words and I still had enough room left over for a post-ride celebratory dinner at Terra Bistro. Suck it, 45!