Friday, December 14, 2012

He ain't heavy, he's my brother

Had a little more hair in the 70s
Pushing my luck with the free 30-minute parking, I stayed an hour visiting with Lars at the hospital today. Tomorrow he is going home.

We talked about his journey, shedding some tears--the norm now with every visit. Lars said he's bawled more in the hospital these last months than he has in his entire life. I guess that's what happens when you know your life has been spared.

I asked Lars if he remembered that night in the ICU when his condition was so critical. He did. He remembers all of our faces by his bedside. And he remembers envisioning himself hanging onto the outside of an aircraft, struggling not to fall, praying "Lord, I just can't hold on anymore."  Lars feels it was people praying that kept him alive that night.

The road to complete recovery is going to take time, but it's amazing that he's here and getting better.

There's been and will continue to be much celebrating. But I imagine there are also going to be some hard days ahead at home. That seems to be the case when the worst of a crisis is over. The reality of returning to life hits. But I know God is going to continue to work in and through Lars. So many people have already been touched by his story.

We have been telling Lars how everyone speaks so highly of him. We've all kind of put him on a pedestal. That is not what he wants. So I told him I could write a post about him not being perfect. He said to please do that.

I can do this. I'm his younger sister, and I got the dirt. He terrorized me growing up--like only a brother can. Won't go into details here, but let's just say there are reasons I'm so claustrophobic.

But here's the thing. Lars is just an ordinary guy. Likeable, yeah. But flawed, just like the rest of us. In other words, a sinner. But a sinner saved by grace.

Ephesians 2:8-10 says: God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

1 Corinthians says: "Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!" 

Lars is a testimony of  a life made new in Christ. All credit and praise go to the God Lars loves and serves.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bikini summer and the last hurrah

My last posts have been of a more serious nature. I think it's time for a little levity and comic relief. Pulled from my Losing It blog, this was written two years ago.  Before I was wearing comfortable shoes and plucking chin hairs. Enjoy...

There's an expiration date on a woman's age for wearing a bikini. I was certain I was near it or had surpassed it. I didn't set out to wear a bikini. Hardly. I was just hoping to drop a size so I could retire the jeans with the blown-out knee (see post, Diving for Pie).

I was now down 40 pounds and had gotten rid of those jeans and everything else in my closet. But I had kept the swimsuit. Like all women I know, I hated swimsuit shopping. That's probably why my swimsuit had the same number of years on it as my last teen-aged child. It was the tent variety--the kind that has a generous amount of material with steel-case under-wire support and a skirt down to just above the knees.

But our family was going to California in July, and I could no longer avoid buying a suit. I took my daughter along to give honest critique. I was going for a smaller tent, but Amber said I should at least try a tankini. I put one on. Surprisingly, it didn't look too bad.

Amber said I looked great and could even upgrade to a bikini. What? No. Did she know what a gray-haired middle-aged mom looked like in a bikini? It was wrong, unnatural even. But Amber said that it would give me something to work towards. I just needed to work on my abs.

I wouldn't have done it except a friend challenged me that summer to wearing one. She'd do it too. The challenge was to post bikini pictures of ourselves on Facebook by summer's end. I know, it sounds immature, let alone immodest. But I had a lapse of judgment. I was in midlife crisis mode. This would be the last hurrah before I entered old age, wearing sensible shoes and trimming hairs off my chin.

I was coming to the game late in life, but if I was ever going to do a bikini it had to be now or never.

Yeesh. My hands began to sweat just thinking about posting a picture for all the world to see. I envisioned being at the grocery check-out line and seeing a tabloid picture of a woman's thighs circled, the title reading: "Can you guess whose cellulite this is?"

I'd only wear the suit at Huntington Beach where no one would know me. I hoped. It would be a one-time event.

I bought a purple one. I practiced posing in front of the mirror. Unfortunately, bikinis don't come with under-wire support. But if I tied the straps really tight and put my hands on each side of my waist and pulled back, I could make it work. I briefly thought about using duct tape.

I started to work out hard core. I did strength training, upping the abs. On days I didn't work out, I ran or rode my granny bike. I did push-ups and sit-ups before bed. I was getting extreme and annoying my family. I wasn't the mom they knew, the one who had always said it was never too late for dessert.

Paige imitating the Mom Pose
I wore the bikini the first day at the beach. I was careful not to make any sudden movements. I got rope burn around my neck from the straps being pulled so tight.

The picture was taken with me standing between each of my daughters. They each put a hand at my waist and gently pulled.  I posted the picture when I got home. It wasn't bad for a gray-haired mom pushing 50.

Sorry you don't get to see the full picture. Like I said, it was a one-time event.

P.S. My friend never did post a picture, instead commented "gottcha" on my Facebook wall.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A time to dance
Our daughter, Paige, got married last weekend to her best friend. During Matt and Paige's engagement, Dave had brain surgery and had just finished radiation. We were ready for a happy event.

I took two weeks off for the wedding. The first to get ready. And, the second to recover and spend some down time with my friend, LaDonna, who had come from Washington to help with the wedding.

The weeks weren't at all what I had expected. There was the typical frenzy in finalizing details for the wedding. But the days were layered with grief and crisis. The week before the wedding our daughter and son-in-law, Amber and Paul, lost their friend, Brian, in a car accident. Brian was Paul's best friend and best man in their wedding. Amber and Paul flew home early. Paul was pall bearer at the funeral.

My brother, Lars, was critically ill in the hospital. His condition worsened when he moved to the ICU. At several points we didn't think he'd make it and took turns saying our goodbyes.

I was so tremendously thankful that LaDonna was here. She held me together during intermittent meltdowns. She cooked, made cupcakes, ran errands, scanned pictures for the PowerPoint, and decorated at the reception.

The entire extended family resolved that the events leading up to the wedding would not diminish Matt and Paige's day. Their day came, and it was beautiful from beginning to end. And, contrary to our wedding nightmares, it went off without a hitch. The few things that went wrong were so minuscule they are hardly worth mentioning. (Wedding tip: if you're planning on using tea lights, don't buy the cheap ones from Walmart.)

By today's standards, Paige, at 20, is young to be married. Several people told Matt and Paige they should wait to get married until they were through college and established. At first, we thought that would be wise too, but then it was apparent they were more than ready.

Matt and Paige have survived losses in their lives that most people twice their age haven't experienced. In the last few years, Matt has lost two brothers and one of his closest friends. Paige has helped him through the grief as well as that of close friends who have lost a parent or a sibling.

Matt and Paige have learned to trust God in all circumstances. They have an eternal perspective.

I sat for a moment with Paige during the Friday night rehearsal. I told her I was happy and proud that she and Matt hadn't lived together and were getting married. Paige said, "Mom, none of us knows how long we're going to live. Why wait and lose the chance to marry the person you love?"

The next day, Lars' family came to the hospital dressed for the wedding before heading to the church. Lars said to let the good times roll. He'd be dancing at the wedding in his head.

As Paige came down the aisle on her father's arm, it felt triumphant. All the things that had transpired in the weeks and year before made the celebration all the more meaningful. It was time to celebrate God's goodness and grace. It was a time to laugh and a time to dance.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance.
Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Fairly 50

It's almost 11 o'clock. I am an hour away from turning 50.

I say it out loud. Fifty. I've been around for as long as I can remember. Yeesh, that's a long time.
My turning fifty marks the end of probably one of the most well-chronicled cases of midlife crisis there ever was. I've written this blog for the last two years. I've been embarrassingly self-focused and narcissistic as I've struggled to grow up in middle age.

I've joked about all the foibles of growing old in mind and body. But beneath all the humor, I've done a lot of searching too.

My journey through midlife has had all the five stages of grief, but not necessarily in this order: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

I'm to the last stage of acceptance. I know people say, "You're only as old as you feel." "Age is just a number." "You're only 50; that's not old." Yada, yada, yada. 

But truth is, I am getting old. So are you. No one's getting out of this alive. We're getting closer to eternity every day. It's foolish not to consider what comes after this life.

Lars, my big bear of a brother
As many of you know, my brother, Lars, was critically ill last week. He was within a few hours of dying. An emergency surgery saved his life.

I was alone with him just before he was taken to surgery. It was surreal. The doctor said there was a high rate of mortality for him. In plain words, he was saying, "You could die."

It was unthinkable of life without Lars. We all depend on him so much. He is one of the greatest men I know. He is a humble man of integrity, having a heart for the Lord and for people. His life exudes the character of Christ.

As they wheeled Lars out of the room, I told him that I loved him and that he had nothing to lose. He gave a little wave and said, "Well, see you here, there, or in the air."

God spared him. But, really, God spared us from the grief of losing him. Lars' faith has been in Jesus Christ. He has the assurance of knowing where he's going after he dies. He has lived his life in light of eternity. He truly has nothing to lose.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Walk on By

Dionne Warwick's Walk on By has been playing over and over in my head all day.

I sang it when I thought about getting a Twix Bar from the vending machine and when I was tempted to pilfer a Panera Bread cookie from the Blood Bank.  I told myself just walk on by tonight when I saw that I had all the ingredients to make a lemonade pie.  (If you haven't had lemonade pie, best not ask for the recipe. If you're anything like me, you'll whip it up in five minutes and be burying your face in it ten minutes later.)

Time to quit fooling around. Four and a half weeks before the wedding, and I don't have a dress. Well, I did have one. I bought it a few months ago at Macy's. First dress that I liked and which fit, even though it was a wee snug on top. I figured it would be just fine if I bought the right undergarment.

Yesterday I took the dress into Soma Intimates to find something that would work its magic. I squirmed into the dress, and with considerable huffing and circling around backwards in the dressing room, I got it zipped.  I took a look in the mirror. Oh my. Not the look I was going for. Everything squished up the back of the dress into my shoulder blades, while my front side was smashed flat like I had taken to binding my chest.

I now have three options. One, get the dress altered, which will probably cost me more than what I paid for it. Two, hit the mall in search of another one, the idea of which makes me want to curl up in a ball, sucking my thumb. Or, three, keep singing Walk on By and hope the dress fits by November 3rd.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Mama Big Hoof

I went to the foot doctor yesterday. I had a painful protrusion on the right side of my foot. I quit running because of it and had promptly gained ten pounds.  After thoroughly giving me a foot exam, the foot doc said that I was most likely wearing too small of shoes.

There are some nasty little secrets about getting old that no one tells you until you're already there. Like that as you get shorter, your appendages get longer.

When I was in college, my shoes were a size eight. Can't say my feet were small, but they did match my body size. I'm on the tallish side, so eights weren't unreasonable.

But then I started having kids. I thought that with the first pregnancy it was the extra fluid that was causing my shoes to be tight. But after I gave birth and eventually lost the baby weight, I had to go out and buy all new shoes.

After each subsequent pregnancy, I continued to go up half a size. Finally I topped out at nine and a half. I wasn't happy. But since I was done having babies, my feet were done growing. Or so I thought.

A couple years ago I had a really bad case of plantar fasciitis. If you've never experienced this fun little malady, it's when the ligaments in your arches are inflamed and tear. It feels like you're walking around on bloody stumps.

I went to Lair's to get custom-made orthotics.  The shoe guy who was doing the casts of my feet asked me what size I wore. I told him a nine. Sometimes a nine and a half.

"You know, wearing too tight of shoes can bring on plantar fasciitis. I think you're at least a size 10."  He had to be mistaken.

He made the supports and put them in a pair of New Balances. I tried them on. They fit. I looked at the tag. Size 10-1/2. Aww, come on. Are you kidding me?

He tried to make me feel better by telling me that New Balances tend to run small and the supports took up extra room. But still. How could my feet have grown two and a half sizes, for crying out loud? I could understand feet getting wider. But longer?  Yep, they can. Everything spreads and lengthens as we age. Noses. Ears. Even feet.

I was seriously depressed.  If my feet kept growing at this rate, I'd be wearing a size 15 by the time I was 70.
I guess things could be worse. My nose is still the same size, unless I'm in denial about that too.

I'm now looking for something to fit my big hoofs for the wedding. On principle, I've decided I'm not buying anything bigger than a nine and a half. I'm sure I'll be in pain, but I figure I can go barefoot at the reception.

Picture of feet:

Too tight shoes;

Monday, September 3, 2012

What's going on with Dave

Dave's been quiet the last few days. He won't say, but I know he's nervous.

Radiation starts tomorrow on the two small tumors that are located near the brain stem and nerve which controls hearing.  The radiologist will be treating the tumors aggressively every day, Monday through Friday, for six weeks. There are risks, some unpleasant to catastrophic. Which we don't like thinking or talking about. The catastrophic risks are low. But he is likely to have hearing loss in his (unfortunately) good ear.

But we forge on. What can you do?

There are a lot of positives, not the least of which is being at Mayo Clinic. I counted up a total of eleven separate areas that have seen him: Neurology; Neurosurgery; Neuropsychology; Radiology; the Brain Clinic; the Rehabilitation Clinic; Employee Health and therapy with Occupational, Physical, Recreational, Vocational, and Speech. And in the way that sets Mayo apart, all the areas have collaborated together to give seamless care as one team.

Maybe it sounds like I'm sucking up to my employer, but I am honored to work at Mayo.

Our hope and prayer is that Dave sails through radiation as he did with surgery. That's what we're planning on. If Dave is tolerating radiation well, he'll be going back to work in a few weeks, starting part-time. His manager and co-workers have been incredibly supportive. We are grateful to them as well.

Paige and Matt's wedding is right around the corner. We have a lot to do yet, but the process is fun and we're excited for the big day to come. And, Dave's looking forward to walking his little girl down the aisle.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Cry baby

I'm not a cry baby all the time. Just the times I don't want to be. It's the one thing I don't like about being female.

People say crying is cathartic. Maybe. But I think it's more exhausting than anything. If I tear up for just five minutes, I'm drained and pretty much useless for the rest of the day.

Why couldn't I save up my crying for right before bed? Stuff a pillow over my face and let it go. But, no.

I have yet to make it through one of Dave's appointments without losing it. I start getting this little niggle, an ache, in the back of my throat.

And then my eyes well up. I try to keep it at bay. I look away, inconspicuously wiping at the corner of my eye. But inevitably I start leaking. The doctor or therapist or nurse leans over and hands me a tissue. And, then it's over. I take the whole box, using up tissue after tissue, stuffing the used, soggy ones into my purse for later.

Dave doesn't cry. Hasn't cried, moaned, groaned, complained once since his brain surgery. He's a rock. Not that he isn't struggling on the inside. He has to be. But for guys, hurt comes out in different ways.

I've heard that guys don't cry because society has told them not to. I don't think that's it. I think it's just that they're wired differently. Thank God. If He made us all girls, it would get way too mushy.

Thank you all for your encouragement and prayers during Dave's surgery and recovery. It means more than you can know.

The next step will be six weeks of radiation treatments on tumor tissue that wasn't able to be removed during surgery. It's tricky. The tumors are close to the brain stem and the nerve that controls hearing. There is risk, but Dave is getting the best care in the world by the radiologist specializing in treating these types of brain tumors.

We are unspeakably grateful to be at Mayo--both as employees and on the receiving end of patient care. We wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

None of this easy. In fact, you can get scared spitless dwelling on the what if's. You have to shelf the fear. But sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between having peace or being in denial.

Scripture helps. It comes to me in the middle of the night. I hold onto that. And roll over and give Dave a hug. Because I can.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Helmet head

I bought my first bike helmet last weekend. I've never worn one.

Thing is, there weren't bike helmets when we were kids doing wheelies and riding around without holding onto the handle bars. We wiped out, sure. Got scraped up, bled a little, maybe even broke an arm. But I guess we were lucky; no one I knew sustained a head injury.

But I knew I probably should wear one. I had been pushing the envelope whizzing down the area bluffs on my granny bike. I don't know if a bike helmet is really going to help much if I catapult over a guard rail and slide down an embankment, but at least my head might not crack open. That is, if I have the helmet on right. Which I found out isn't all that easy.

So last weekend I went to Walmart to buy a helmet. I picked out the cheapest one I could find in my favorite color, periwinkle. As soon as I got home, I decided I'd test it out and go for a spin on granny bike. I cut the tags off and looked at the directions.

The first line read: PROPER FIT IS CRITICAL TO HELMET PERFORMANCE. Boy, I better do this right. I read on.

1. Put the helmet on. I got that part.

2. Adjust the side straps.  The directions said you could adjust each strap in front and behind the ear for a more custom fit. This stumped me. The front strap pulled my eyebrows to the side so that I looked like I had a bad face lift.  And the back straps were so loose they'd flap in the wind. I fiddled with the straps until I was ready to throw the helmet across the room. Finally, I enlisted Dave's help. He easily moved the straps into the right position. I moved on to the next step.

3. Adjust the chin strap. I was to make sure the strap fit snugly against the throat. Make sure the buckle is flush against the skin under the chin and that when you open your mouth, it is snug on the chin and hugging your head. Okay, this really presents a problem to those of us who are older and have loosey goosey skin under the chin.

I was afraid I was going to get the stretchy neck skin pinched in the buckle. I looked in the mirror. I tried to pull the skin back with one hand while I fastened the lock in place with the other hand. Problem here too. I couldn't see and had to get my cheaters.  I was starting to get a really bad headache.

Finally, I got the helmet fastened. The helmet was loose. It easily moved back and forth when I turned my head. I had a vision of myself taking a spill down the Norwegian Hill, the helmet jerking my head back, and me being strangled in the straps.

I started over with step 1.

After 45 minutes, bad words, and a full-blown headache, I had the thing in place. I think I had the PROPER FIT.

I sighed, took the helmet off, and went to taste test wedding cakes in the kitchen with Matt and Paige. I really didn't want to go for a bike ride anyway.

P.S. Maybe I should go for this kind of helmet. No kidding. It's for real. Inflates on impact. Might be the solution, if I can figure out how to put it on.

Read more:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's Greek to me

All of these were in my fridge. Yes, I love yogurt.
Greek yogurt is the thing. I've been the skeptic. I figured it was a marketing ploy to charge $1.19 for a six-ounce container or $6 for a quart ($9.59 at the Good Food Store). Rip off.

See? Only milk.
I have my own yogurt that I love, love, love. I buy Dannon Low Fat Vanilla yogurt by the quart. It has saved my butt (literally from getting bigger) when I'm craving dessert. Dannon plain or vanilla has recognizable ingredients. Milk.
Uccky, gunky yogurt

Most other kinds (including the cheap Greek brands) have weird gunk in them like carrigeen and guar gum. (What the heck is guar gum it even natural? Is it from a guar tree?)

But finally I caved and bought Greek. I saw Fage Greek at Aldi's. I tried it and I admit it was quite wonderful. Still expensive though, even at Aldi's. I decided to make my own.

Found out the only thing that makes Greek yogurt Greek is that it's strained. The whey separates from the solid part. Whey is the watery stuff.

Anybody can do this.  Use good yogurt; gunky won't work. Stick a coffee filter into a colander and place it over a bowl. Dump in the yogurt and put it the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Keep it in longer and it gets thicker. Voila! Greek yogurt--nothing short of glorious.

The other way is to make it from scratch. I used to make yogurt when my kids were little. They loved eating it with a little little freezer jam mixed in. Only thing it was kind of runny. I decided I'd try again but strain it after it had set in the fridge overnight.

You need just milk and a couple tablespoons of good quality plain yogurt for the starter (like Dannon, Fage, or Old Home). You can use nonfat. But I use low fat which makes a less tart yogurt,  is yummier and only a few calories more. A good bargain, I'd say.

Making yogurt is kind of like doing a science experiment. Not really time consuming once you get the hang of it. Just putzy.  Here's the best set of directions I found.

I made two quarts. Both are already gone. I ate it all, I admit, in a few days. I eat it with fresh berries. Sometimes I add a little vanilla, honey or sliced almonds. It's so good, I could weep.

I promise, if I keep blogging, I won't make this into a foodie blog. There are enough good ones out there with amazing pictures and awesome layouts. My photographs are more the point-and-click variety and my layout is the basic template from Blogger. My skills are limited.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Tale of Kale

Last week Paige and I met with the florist to decide upon flowers for the wedding.  The florist suggested several flowers that would work nicely with the wedding colors. She also gave a few options for greenery around the bouquets and boutonnieres. She asked, "Have you thought about kale?"

Ironically, yes, I had thought about kale.  Up until an incident a few years ago, I can safely say that I had never given a thought to kale. Like if there was a list of any manner of random subjects that I would never have occasion to think about--Nascar, men's Brylcreem hair cream, three-toed sloths--kale wouldn't even make it to the bottom of the list.

I really didn't even know what kale was. I had a very vague recollection of being in a restaurant when I was young and being served something green and wilty beneath a square piece of lemon-lime jello with shredded carrots. I remember tearing off a small piece of the green stuff and then spitting it out into a napkin. I think I spit out the jello as well. (Only in Minnesota would a restaurant serve grated-carrot jello.)

But I do think of kale now--admittedly more than I care to. Here is the story of how I came to ponder kale.

Awhile back I worked in a position where I served customers on a one-to-one basis.  My work was similar to a hair stylist's. It required me to make conversation with a total stranger for a good half hour.

It's amazing where a topic of conversation can go when talking with customers. Especially when the customer is another woman. There are so many things to discuss--the whole gamut of fertility: pregnancy, childbirth, nursing babies, perimenopause. Husbands. And, aging: what's with the stretchy thing under my neck? (All subjects, I realize, that I've covered in my ongoing blog which I keep saying I am going to quit writing.)

But there was one conversation I had with a particular customer that took a very different turn.

I don't remember her name, and if I did, I wouldn't share it. But I'm certain her name wasn't Lenore. So that is what I will call her: Lenore. Lenore told me she was recently retired. An attractive woman, she was well groomed, very put together.  In other words, reasonable and sane looking. No signs of craziness at all.

It was the week after Thanksgiving. She sat down at my station. To get the conversation rolling, I asked if she had gone anywhere for the holiday. Lenore said it had been a very different Thanksgiving, just her and her husband.  She said they didn't have turkey. They had ham. I responded, "Oh, ham would be good."

"Yes," Lenore said. "And, we had kale." I politely said, "I see."

She began to tell me a bit about kale. She was getting her husband to eat it. Lenore said he was getting healthy. She didn't say he was exercising more or that he had cut down on his fat intake. Just that he ate kale.

She leaned over and whispered somewhat conspiratorially, "Not too many people know what kale is." I asked if it wasn't the thing that garnishes grated-carrot jello squares.

Oh, yes, Lenore, told me. Kale is indeed a garnish. But it was so much more. After Thanksgiving, she informed me, she made a split-pea, ham and kale soup. Oh. There you go, I thought. That's a way to make kale. Not that I was ever going to do it. But now I knew you could. In case I was ever asked.

She told me other ways to prepare it: in salads, steamed, sauteed, chopped, baked. She told me where you could get it. You could find it at Walmart, but it really is better at HyVee.  Her favorite place, though, was at the farmer's market in the summer.

I thought that I had heard all that I was going to hear about kale and decided to change the subject. I asked her if she and her husband had kids. She said they did. Two. Both grown and married. And, they ate kale. Their spouses did too. She had grandchildren. I had a pretty good hunch what was coming. Sure enough, her grandchildren all liked kale. In fact, they loved it. Sometimes they even packed it in their school lunches.

By now, I was feeling challenged to see if I could divert the conversation from kale all together. I asked where her children lived. One, lived in Colorado. "Did you know, kale is really popular in Colorado? Not so much in Minnesota. But people eat it all the time in Colorado."

I sighed and cut my eyes to the clock on the wall. I wondered how much longer I had with this woman and her kale stories. But, to be polite, I asked about her other son. He lived in Germany with his wife. They were both professors there.

Okay, here was an in-road. I was going to get her off the kale. I asked if she had ever visited them.

She had, in fact, last spring.

Now, if you had visited Germany, wouldn't you think there would be a ton of things to discuss?  I don't know, I've never been there, but like, cultural differences, hostels, wienerschnitzel?

No, Lenore had a one-track kale mind. She began to tell me about the wonderful farmer markets in Germany. I held my breath. She continued. They went every day they were there and bought huge, beautiful bundles of kale, not at all like the small bundles that you got in America.

I asked if they did anything else while they were in Germany. She told me they took a trip too to France. Now, I don't even have to tell you. You know where this is going. The French eat kale by rolling it up and drizzling it in olive oil with a squirt of lemon juice. They had a special name for it too, which she shared with me, and which I tried to quickly forget.

Finally, we were done. We had talked about kale for 45 minutes.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I never thought about kale. In fact I didn't flippin' care about kale. But after my encounter with Lenore, I find that I cannot escape it. I see kale in the lettuce section at Walmart, at the farmer's market, featured in magazine articles. In fact, last week I saw it in Section D in the newspaper.

And, now, kale will even be making an appearance on the altar, front and center, at our daughter's wedding.

What the kale?

Kale picture:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Here's the skinny on this

I happened to see Bob Harper's book, "The Skinny Rules." I didn't buy it. Someone else did.

In any case, I wasn't terribly interested in reading it. I've read enough books on weight loss in my life to make me want to spit. None of them helped me lose weight, or if they did, it was for the short-term. I'd gain it back, feeling even more defeated.

After most of my adult life struggling with my weight, I finally figured out how to lose the fluff on my own--not with the help of someone telling me what to do and making  money off my fat. I wrote a whole blog about the journey--my foibles and attempts to finally lose the weight and keep it off. Losing It-A mom's story of weight loss and transformation

After no longer being on the rollercoaster ride for a few years now, I am not tempted to read weight loss books or magazines with titles like Lose 23 Pounds in 31 Days! on their covers.

But, since I like Bob Harper and do one of his workout videos, I picked up the book. I perused the rules on the contents page. Bang! These are same things that I've been doing and found that works. I feel just a little bit gratified, I admit.

I haven't read the whole book, and probably won't, but I've scanned portions. And I gotta say, "yep, that's true " to almost everything I've read so far.

Bob Harper doesn't have the patent on what it takes to be healthy, but I think he is right on in his book. If you don't want to invest in it, order it from the library.

It debunks some popular myths and makes sense. Not that there's an easy fix. You have to make permanent changes in your behavior. But being at a healthy weight is doable. And you can get to the place that you are (as Bob says) "someone who can not only resist all the jumbo colas and supersized fries that get waved in front of our noses, but not even feel tempted by them."

Check it out:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Dressing for the Mob

Paige announced last night that she and Matt would be married in exactly four months. All of a sudden I feel a twinge of panic. Four months isn't so far away. I'm thinking we should be panicking because we're not panicking.  We should be, right? We're so relaxed chillaxed about the whole thing, it feels wrong.

Maybe it's because everyone asks, "So, how are the wedding plans coming?" Umm. Fine. I think. And then the next question, "Are you stressed?"  Umm. No. Should I be?

The fact that they mentioned this though makes me feel like we must be missing something. But we just did one daughter's wedding, so it's not like we don't know how these things go.

We can check off church, venue, pastor, DJ, photographer, bride's dress, bridesmaid dresses, engagement pictures. We're meeting with the florist, and Amber's making the invites. What are we missing?

It's the MOB dress. Because that's the other question. "Have you found your dress yet?"

I don't know why getting the mother-of-the-bride dress really is such a big deal. But if you look at any wedding site, there is always a whole section for what is appropriate for the mother of the bride and groom to wear.

Mother-of-the-bride dress, aka prom dress for the middle-aged
When I was shopping for our first daughter's wedding, most of the mother dresses looked like grandma dresses. Or prom dress for the middle-aged.

Kind of hideous. In pastel shades with names like "moss" or "choral," they're made of heavy polyester. And, they're hot. Not hot as in your-mom-is-a-hottie. But hot as in I'm-getting-a trickle-of-sweat-running-down-the-inside-of-my-pantyhose.
The other extreme. The Queen Mother of the Bride
Not the look for the MOB

I got lucky with Amber's wedding. I scored with the first and only dress I tried on. I saw the perfect one online at Nordstrom's for $298. I found it at Penney's for $98. There was just one left in my size, half off. With my $10 coupon, I snagged it for $39. I loved that dress. It was short, simple, and I didn't get a trickle of sweat running down my leg.

The first time around
This time around it's going to be tougher. I guess dress manufactures have recognized that mothers don't exactly want to look like the Queen Mother. It's gone the other direction. Online you see dress descriptions like "curve-hugging jersey and spandex sheath flatters and bold scooped neckline leads into a deep back for an alluring hint of skin."

Spandex? Curve hugging? Alluring skin? Flattering? ...Serious?

Good grief. What 50-year-old woman has the right to wear a spandex dress, let alone to her daughter's wedding?  There are just two rules for the mother of the bride: 1) don't be trashy, and 2) don't make a scene.

I'm going for something that won't be embarrassing. After all, it's the bride's day. Our beautiful daughter is marrying her best friend. He's a wonderful man who cherishes her. We love him and couldn't be happier.

On Paige's day, I'm going to be her cheerleader. And, I won't be wearing spandex.


P.S. I still haven't come up with a new name for my blog. But I did finally get a check from Google for their advertising.  I figure that I've netted approximately 12 cents an hour blogging for the last two years.

Pink dress from:

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Muffin tops and bubble cleavage

My middle-aged crisis came to an end with a whimper and a sigh.  I'm glad I'm finally over it. I'm getting older. So what? I'm not exactly thrilled with the wrinkles, age spots, and everything else that's going south, but I'm okay with it. It's the circle of life.

But now I have nothing. What can I blog about? Grandchildren? I don't have any. Although we do have a granddog who is adorable. But writing about a dog is just like showing too many grandchildren pictures. People's eyes tend to glaze over after a couple of hours. Maybe I could have a blog called The Geriatric Adventures. But I'm not quite yet to that stage either.

But I am going to have to start another blog. I don't have any other hobbies.

I think I'll keep this one but just change its title. It took me too long to bribe 18 people to sign up as followers. My sidebar shows 17 but there is another one who signed up as anonymous. (Who are you, by the way?)  And I did have a creepy guy from Germany that I had to block. I did a little investigation and his Facebook timeline picture showed decomposed bodies swept up on a shore. Disturbing, to say the least.

I know I have more followers who read my blog, but none who officially want to come forward. Why is that?

Anyway, I was lying in bed this morning thinking about what I was going to wear to the family reunion today. And, I just had to share. So, the retirement of my blog lasted for just one week.

I really need summer tops. All I have in the closet right now are the size of hankies. I had been buying my clothes at Gap. Everything they sell there is 100 percent cotton. I'm really bad about forgetting that fact when I throw them in the dryer.

So I went to buy some shirts yesterday. It wasn't a good experience. If you've shopped recently, you may have noticed that the shirts in style right now are skinny, clingy, threadbare, and have scooped-out bust lines. Unless you're built like an ironing board with two raisins for breasts, you're going to look really bad.

For one, these shirts cling and accentuate the fluff around your midsection and any back fat you may have. They are so tight that people see that your bra has three prongs. Worse, though, is the four inches of cleavage showing.  The fact that cleavage is four inches says something about middle-aged cleave. It's long. Plus, it gets lopsided and you have to do a lot of adjusting. Not at all attractive.

Why in the world are these shirts popular right now? Even teenage girls look bad in them.  I've been noticing some serious muffin tops and breast spillage out there. Good grief. I'm not a guy, but I have a hard time not staring. Where do you look? I feel sorry for hormonal teenage boys. But then there are so many breasts exposed that maybe they've become desensitized. Bare breasts are no longer a novelty.

True, you can wear a camie under the top. But the camies I've found all have scooped necklines too and just make your middle section look fluffier.

Is there is such a thing as clothes that are "youthfully mature," I'd like to find them. I'm open to suggestions. Meanwhile, I'm going to the reunion today. I hope noone notices I'm wearing a hankie.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The good that comes

Dave, his junior year in high school
The last three weeks have been a blur and often emotional as Dave recovers from his surgery. But some wonderful things have been happening. Who knew that brain surgery could be a good thing?

The first days in the hospital were rough. Dave's eyes moved back and forth crazily. He saw everything as overlapping or moving. He didn't have balance and was unable to walk. But each day he slowly improved until he was able to move to the rehab unit.

There he was surrounded by an army of therapists--physical, occupational, speech, and recreational.  We learned that the brain, if given the right stimuli, over time is capable of creating cells and neurons to find new pathways, even years after an injury. His therapists are working with him to improve his balance, coordination and eyesight.

What has surprisingly been the most helpful has been speech therapy. Initially, we wondered why he'd even need it--his speech was fine. But speech therapy really focuses on the cognitive and communicative.

Dave has the ball, freshman year
In the 70s when Dave had his brain surgeries, he was given physical therapy but never really helped with the cognitive effects of his injury.  He was sent home with a brochure and essentially told good luck.

Dave has compensated for the physical; most people aren't even aware of his challenges. But it is the communication and cognitive part that is most difficult to understand or explain to people. It is the invisible piece of a traumatic brain injury.

Dave told noone about his struggles.  He couldn't articulate something that he didn't fully understand himself. Because the brain has to compensate for the injury, his response time is delayed. When there is too much stimuli (like when he is in a group of people with everyone talking at once) all he hears is static. People have misunderstood him as being antisocial or angry, when in reality he is neither.

When Dave entered the rehab unit, he was relieved finally to be around people who "got it." He didn't have to explain himself or what was going on inside his head. They understood the mechanics of how his brain worked. And they helped him understand it.

To me, I always felt that there was a puzzle piece about Dave that I was missing. It was difficult for me and our family to understand him. Now things make sense. We're both making adjustments in how we communicate with one another. We wish that he would have been given the opportunity for this kind of therapy years ago.

God, truly, has been working all things together for good. These weeks have been healing for Dave. He said it's as if a huge burden has been lifted from his shoulders, a burden he has been carrying around for almost 40 years. He says he's at peace.

I feel like I've been healing too. I've finally graduated from my midlife crisis. I'm content and looking forward to the next chapter of our lives.

Since I no longer have my midlife crisis to write about, I'm retiring this blog. Maybe some day I'll start another one. I may have to call it The Geriatric Adventures.

P.S. If you're new to my blog, you can find more posts in the archives. You can look them up by the months they were written. My favorite and funnier posts were the ones which I wrote earlier. Thanks for reading the blog!. I enjoyed writing it. Blessings...

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Glad for the rollercoaster

I got up at four this morning after popping an Ambien and crawling into my own bed at midnight. Four straight hours of sleep and not being jack knifed in a hospital vinyl chair is a blessing. Shouldn't be blogging, should still be sleeping.  But my body and mind won't let me sleep any longer. Plus I need coffee. That addiction can be a curse.

Dave, just before being called to surgery
So here goes. I'm going to blog but try to keep it short and get ready for another day at the hospital with Dave.

We were elated when Dr. Marsh met us after the surgery was done with no complications.  The tumor was removed without damaging the nerves.

Dr. Marsh said that after Dave fully recovers, he should be as good as he was prior to surgery. I passed the good news on to the prayer chain and posted it on Facebook.

But reality kicked us when we finally were able to see Dave after he got to the ICU. The surgery may have gone well but it was still major brain surgery.We couldn't hold back tears seeing him, his head wrapped and his eyes unable to focus.

It is evident now how serious his brain injury was from years ago. His ability to compensate has been stripped. It's like he has to start all over again. Dave has two new impairments--double vision and loss of feeling on one side of the face. But the doctors are confident that those impairments are temporary and will get better after the swelling goes down.

They say crying is good, that you shouldn't hold back. That crying helps. I don't think it always does. At least, not after you've cried yourself to the point of dehydration. I wish I could turn off the faucet, but I can't. I hurt to the core for Dave, not only for what he is going through now, but what he's already been through and has been dealing with all these years. It breaks my heart that I didn't fully understand and wasn't more patient.

People's words on Facebook have been so kind and encouraging. We've heard from friends we haven't seen for over 20 years. I've reconnected with some of Dave's extended family who live in California and we rarely are able to see.

I posted that first night after surgery that it was rough and it was going to be a roller coaster. Dave's niece, Jamie, who lost her Dad (Dave's brother) to cancer several years ago, replied:

Aunt Jacci, I know it is hard right now and even though the surgery went well, recovery will take time and patience. It will be okay though. Just remember it would be worse if there were no roller coaster left to ride!

Jamie, thank you. It was exactly what I needed to hear. Dave's still here. We have our friends and family. We have the Lord.  We're not alone. We'll ride it out together. It's going to be okay.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


In a week, Dave is having brain surgery. That tight ball of anxiety with which I'm so familiar is not there. Somehow it seems wrong. If there was ever a time to worry, this would be it.  I wonder if it's peace. Or if it's a denial mechanism.
Dave, as a freshman.

I guess I've gotten to this place from being married to Dave for 25 years. I've never once heard him say that he's worried. Concerned, yes. But not worried. He shrugs off the small stuff. And it's all small stuff compared to what he's been through.

The course of Dave's life changed when he was 17. He grew up in California. A gifted athlete, he was the star running back on his high school football team. By the end of his junior year, colleges were already looking at him including Penn State and West Point.  During football practice his senior year, he began having severe headaches and blurred vision.

The doctors thought the headaches were caused by being worn down from mono combined with the effects of multiple concussions playing football. He went to an optometrist to have his eyes checked. The optometrist examined him and sent him to a neurologist that same day.

He had a brain tumor growing around his optic nerve. He had surgery to remove what was a benign meningioma. He began recovery and was hoping to finish out the football season.

But the headaches returned. Another tumor had grown in the cerebellum, the area that controls balance and coordination. He underwent a second surgery. And then another emergency surgery after he started convulsing. His brain was swelling and hemorrhaging. One-third of the right hemisphere of his brain was removed. A fourth reparatory surgery was done to place mesh where the brain tissue was removed.

The doctors said he wouldn't ever be able to walk again. Dave's incredibly stubborn. Tell him what he can't do, and he'll set out to prove you wrong.

Dave had been the golden boy. The once star athlete had to relearn how to walk, talk, and write with his left hand instead of his right. The simplest tasks required intense concentration to compensate for traumatic brain injury. Playing sports was no longer an option. He finished the school year at home with a tutor. At graduation, he walked down the aisle assisted by his brother, Mike, at his side.

In his brokenness, he turned his life over to God. He spent the next five years rehabilitating himself to the point he was able to start classes at the community college and hold a job.

I met him several years after this. I admired his faith and how he had overcome adversity. He was good for me. He was the only guy who wouldn't put up with my flakiness. He told me, "I don't have time for this." We were married eight months later.

After we had Amber, we moved to Minnesota. We started working at Mayo; Dave started  to be seen by Neurology. A scan showed a small tumor, most likely residual tissue left from previous surgeries. Since it was small and wasn't growing, it was decided to monitor it with yearly scans. Each year the MRI showed that the tumor had not grown.

But we both felt like we were living with a time bomb. One year Dave's regular neurologist wasn't available. He saw another doctor, a soft-spoken man from India who was about to retire. I expressed my fears. He gave wise advice that I have hung onto ever since. "Leave here, enjoy your life and don't worry. You could live worrying about what may never happen, and you will have lived in fear needlessly. If he does one day need surgery, we will help him, but you will have lived through the experience twice."

Matthew 6:34 says this and has special meaning,"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Seven years ago he did get another tumor, this time in his spine. He underwent a fifth neurosurgery. Meningiomas are the most common type of brain tumor. They are almost always slow growing and don't grow back when removed. Dave's are atypical, fast growing and which often reoccur in other parts of the brain or spine. The spinal tumor grew back in six months and was treated with radiation.

Six weeks ago, an MRI showed he had two brain tumors; the original one having tripled in size. He is scheduled for surgery May 29th. We are grateful to be at Mayo. What are the odds that this California boy would end up in Minnesota working for Mayo which is rated number one in the country for Neurosurgery?

There is risk for further impairment, although Dr. Marsh says the risks are low and he will do his utmost to avoid damaging the surrounding brain tissue.

We have relative peace. I enjoy my days not thinking too much about what's ahead. When I do tell someone about Dave's surgery I get emotional. Mainly because I'm grieved that Dave has to go through this again. I so hope and pray he comes out with no further impairments.

The hardest part about brain injury is being misunderstood. Until you know what he's been through, Dave can come across as abrupt as he compensates for the part of his brain that's missing. He has many physical limitations but has compensated so well that it is often too subtle to detect.  Every day is a struggle.

He has persevered where most people would have given up. He has never wavered from his faith.  He's one of the most unpretentious guys I've met.  He unapologetically tells it like it is. He has a dry sense of humor that's hilarious. He's an amazing guy.

Despite its ups and downs, our lives have been rich with blessings. We have three beautiful kids,  supportive family and friends, a wonderful church home, and a God who is always near.  Whatever lies ahead, we'll deal with it, praying, being grateful for the blessings, and allowing God to use our circumstances for good.
Our beautiful family.

Monday, April 30, 2012


Dave in blue velvet.
Landon's prom was last night.  He came home this morning after the post-prom party saying he had fun at the dance busting out his moves.

It was Landon's first prom.  For Dave and me, it was the fifth time going to the prom's grand march to see our kids on stage.

The grand march is held in the gym prior to prom. The guys are decked out in tuxes; the girls in beautiful evening gowns.

When we went to prom, the girls wore Gunne Sax, cotton dresses with lots of lace. In retrospect, they were a little dorky.
Me in my Gunne Sax.
You have to get to the gym early to get a good spot. Doesn't matter when I get there; I always pick the wrong place. I end up crawling on my hands and knees crouched between aisles to take a picture. I have yet to get one good picture at any grand march. The same thing with graduation. Either the picture is a blur or it's too dark. The worst part is I miss the momentous occasion trying to take a picture of it.
Landon and Josee

This is our last child. I'm going to get a good picture. We arrive early. I sit next to the middle aisle. I figure I'll be right there to take a picture when Landon and his date walk by.

The emcee comes out, welcomes everyone, and explains how the couples will descend the stage and walk around the outside of the aisles. Drat. I'm in the wrong spot. Again.
There are seven pages listing the order of couples' names. Landon and his date's names are on the sixth. I count off each page before Landon's name is called. Finally it gets to page six.

I crawl down the middle aisle. I practice getting the best angle on the three couples ahead of Landon and his date. And then their names are announced. They come through the arch on stage.

I raise my camera and press the button. Nothing. I try again. The screen freezes with the words "Internal memory full."  I can't believe it. I frantically try to delete pictures to restore memory to take just one picture.

I'm missing watching Landon and Josee descend the stage. They reach the floor. I am kneeling on the floor directly in front of them. I give Landon a little wave. Landon looks down at me, smiles and nods.  I raise my camera and pretend to take a picture.

And then they're gone.

I don't know why, but I'm always left with this little ache in the back of my throat the night of prom. There is all this flurry of activity helping your son or daughter get ready. You tell them to be safe and have fun. And then they leave. And you stay behind. With your camera filled with blurred images.

I feel better when Paige texts me later that she feels a little sad for some reason too. She remembers her own proms. And now her little brother is at prom, handsome and all grown up.  She just wants to give him a hug.

Landon will be a senior next year. He's our youngest. There will be just one prom and graduation left. I'm not taking any pictures. I'm going to sit back, soak it all in, and just watch.

Amber and Paul
Matt and Paige

P.S. Notice there are no pictures of the grand march. If anyone got one of Landon, let me know.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The luxury of a nervous breakdown

Two years ago I had a meltdown that was a long time coming.  It was on the heels of four years of various trials. Some were the normal stresses that people experience if they live long enough--minor health problems, the challenges of raising teenagers, caring for aging parents. And there was serious stuff too.

Things eventually settled down. When everything should have been good, I went into a funk that wouldn't leave. I had bouts of depression before, but this was the worst. I slogged through every day and, for the life of me, couldn't think of a thing I was looking forward to. I focused on just getting through five minutes at a time. Spiritually I bottomed out. While I once had been passionate about the Lord, I now felt wooden.

What was my problem anyway?  I figured it was a luxury to have a nervous breakdown, feeling guilty that I didn't have anything to be depressed about. Other people suffered real tragedy. All that I was suffering from was a midlife crisis and selfishness.

When you're depressed the last thing you want is to be around people. But it's the thing you need most. I credit my friend, Terri, for dragging me out for coffee. She'd make me laugh.  Every day I talked to LaDonna, a friend who lives in Washington, who distracted me from my inward angst. My sister, Vicki, who is younger, took the role of big sister and would check in with me, letting me talk and cry  Friends at church, who didn't know what was going on but just knew I wasn't myself, gave me hugs and encouragement.

Dave, at a loss, would tell me I was going to be okay and stepped up with housework. I felt sorry for Landon, the remaining child at home who was trapped with a mom who was an emotional wreck.  It couldn't have been easy for him.

It was obvious even to to me that I needed medical help. I went to our family doctor and balled and balled. She gave me the depression test. It was no surprise that I scored at the top as severely depressed.  She referred me to Psychiatry. With my first appointment, I was diagnosed correctly and was put on two little pills that prevented me from ending up in a corner, wild eyed and licking my lips.

It took awhile getting off the bipolar express, but eventually my whacked-out brain chemistry evened out. I started feeling better. The turning point was when Amber got engaged. My girls both said, "Mom, now you have something to look forward to."

I stayed busy for the next months helping plan the wedding. The day of the wedding was glorious. It's hard to describe the feelings you have seeing your little girl walking down the aisle on her father's arm. While Paul and Amber took communion, I felt such abundant grace. I had been richly blessed by people who loved me through to the other side of a dark time. Life was good again. I felt joy.

With Terri, who keeps me laughing.
P.S. I think most women have times of depression. Depression can be situational, hormonal, spiritual, or biological. In my case it was a combination of all these. Get help if you have depression that is persistent. You're not alone.

What's helped me kick depression to the curb is blogging, laughing with friends and family, not taking myself too seriously, and exercising regularly. And taking those two terrific little pills every day.

Blessings, Jacci

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bill and Shirley at this season

Tomorrow I take Mom to the hospital for knee replacement surgery.  A little risky since she has a-fib and is on blood thinner for blood clots. No matter. She acts like she's going to a party.

Mom at Amber's wedding
A picture of herself she sent to Bill when he was in Korea. She wrote on the bottom, "I'm still a little girl at heart."
Tonight I helped her get ready to leave early in the morning. I'm her coach for pre- and post-surgery. Kind of like going to birthing classes, we did an hour of instruction to prepare. We get to wear matching t-shirts for her stay in the hospital. And the hospital loans each of us an i-pad while we're there. Not a bad gig.

Right now Mom and dad live in an apartment at Greenprairie Place, an assisted living facility.  Mom loves living there. She so social, she's in her glory. She's on different social committees and is in a book club and Bible study. She writes for the newsletter, interviewing and doing feature stories on incoming residents.

While she recovers from surgery, she and Dad will live at the nursing home. Dad moved there last week so he'd be adjusted before Mom goes to the hospital.

Mom and I went over to the nursing home side to visit Dad tonight. It took awhile to get there since Mom kept stopping to schmooze with each resident. She knows everyone. She stayed there a few years ago after she had a head injury from a bad fall. The staff love her. Joey, the night duty nurse, told her they're all looking forward to having her around again. She's their success story. (She recovered and made it out of there.)

Dad as a young boy on the farm.
I'm hoping that the nursing home will again be a temporary stay for my parents. I don't know though. It's getting harder and harder for my dad. Even though he has home health at Greenprairie, it's becoming more and more difficult for him as his body is failing and his memory is going.

I know a lot of old people when they have dementia get stubborn and mean. It's the opposite for my dad. He's become more tender and grateful. He's just pleasantly confused.

Mom, who is mentally all there but has a few health problems, is breezing through this season of life. She's one of the happiest and most joyful people I know.

No matter the outcome of Mom's surgery tomorrow, all will be well. I am more blessed than I deserve to have Bill and Shirley as parents. They have lived their lives well. I hope I can be like them when I grow up.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Nosing out Ethel

A bunch of us did the Corn on the Cob 5K last summer. We all finished with varying results. I kept up a respectable pace with the women in my age group. And a couple got first and second in their age categories. Not too shabby. 

I've done a few races just for fun. I'm resurrecting this post about my first race from my blog, Losing It, It's one of my favorites. If you didn't catch it the first time around, enjoy....

Signing up to do our first race was LaDonna's idea. We found one: The Rochester Women's Track Club Four-Mile Run--two laps around Silver Lake. LaDonna was pumped. I was dubious. We hadn't been running for all that long, and I still sucked air after two blocks.

The day of the race it was 96-degrees with drenching humidity. I felt a little sick when we pulled up to the race site. There were women milling around like race horses at the starting block. They looked like real runners, hard-bodied and wearing color-coordinated  spandex and running shoes. We were wearing our husbands' gym shorts, baggy t-shirts and cross-trainers.

We stood in line to check in and get our race numbers and then joined the others to stretch. I didn't know too many stretches so I just did a few neck  rolls. An older woman was stretching her leg above her shoulder. The front of her t-shirt read 86-year-old bungee jumper. Her name was Ethel and she was now 87. I hoped that I could have her legs when I was her age. Heck, I wished I had her legs now.

Over the megaphone it was announced that it was time to begin. We walked up a short hill to the starting line. I saw there were a few men in the group. Must be husbands seeing their wives off. But then I noticed an outline of a bra under one of the husband's t-shirts. Oh, crap. They weren't husbands; they were women racers. I started to panic--we should have known. This was a track club, for crying out loud. These were elite runners. We were in serious trouble.

All 45 racers began to line up behind the starting line. LaDonna and I pushed our way to the front, figuring we'd take every advantage we could. I felt like I had to pee, but it was too late. It was time to do this. At the shot of the gun, I bolted. I ran faster than I ever had in my life. I was ahead of the pack. I felt like a track star. For 10 seconds. And then I started sucking air. The remainder of the race it was one woman after another passing me. My side started to ache, and I felt a painful pulse in my head. It was so stinking hot. This was all LaDonna's fault.

I counted off each step with This...Was...A...Big...Mistake. Don't...Ever...Listen...To...LaDonna...Again. Where was she anyway? I glanced back. She was keeping stride with Ethel. LaDonna didn't look so good. The other contenders started giving advice as they passed us. "Breathe in through your nose; out through your mouth. Drink at the next station. Only one more time around the lake." Are you kidding--another lap? I…Am…Going…To…Die…Today.

LaDonna was whimpering halfway into the second loop of the lake. "Jacci, I...gasp...can't I'm not kidding. I'm going to have to...gasp...quit.." I gasped back, "Oh, no you don't. You got me into this; you're finishing it. Besides, you don't have a choice. You still have to get around the lake to the van."

We shuffled side by side. Ethel was gaining on us at the last turn. Racers were at the finish line waiting for the three of us and cheering us on. "Come on, finish strong. You're almost there!" We pushed hard, nosing out Ethel at the end.  LaDonna collapsed on the curb, still whimpering. I started laughing uncontrollably. Delirium, I guess.

We had finished the race. And, we weren't last. I placed 43, LaDonna 44, and Ethel finished strong in 45th place. Since Ethel was the only one in her age category--80 and above--she got a trophy. LaDonna and I received cool purple participation t-shirts, proving that we were real runners.
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We did it! 2011 Corn on the Cob 5K