Archive | People RSS feed for this section

Who’s Your Superhero?

12 May
Love Their Heroes

Love Their Heroes

I am under no superhero code or secrecy so be careful what you email me. It might become a blog. The words below are Andrew’s in an email to me after I asked him which superhero he’d be if he could pick from any of them.

So, I put some thought into the which superhero question and I have expanded my answer.

Why Batman? Mostly, Batman had no super powers and yet is a super hero. Superman — is Superman. Spider-Man — Spidery characteristics. Green Lantern — has the ring and stuff.

Batman is just a guy with cool toys and training that works in his favor.

If I were to rank order though:

1. Batman

2. Iron Man (He has the powered suit and stuff but his real strengths are his brain and his character.)

3. Spider-Man (The boy-next-door hero is what I like most about him.)

4. Wolverine (Mostly his personality and the super healing is cool.)

5. Green Lantern (I blame Ryan Reynolds.)

With all that shared, I hope Andrew knows there are two kids and a lady who think he’s pretty super. Just as he is.

Sleepy Soldier Taking a Break

Sleepy Soldier Taking a Break

Daddy & Daughter Love

Daddy & Daughter Love

Rough-n-Tumble Boys

Rough-n-Tumble Boys

AthHalf

Daddy’s Biggest Fans

Caution: Bridge May Ice in Winter

21 Apr

So many life lessons exist for the kids within the miles and hours spent in a cocoon on wheels with other people.

  • We need fuel to run. This can be taught by the amount of gas fill-ups needed or snack food fixes you’ll require. Even though we know they aren’t good for us, we will most often invite things we don’t eat on any other normal day – chips, beef jerky, Combos, giant pickles in bags and Swedish Fish – to be an additional travel companions.
  • Sleep happens.
  • Interstate billboards offer you plenty of knowledge nuggets about religion, sex, eating habits and laws we should follow to make society better and safer.

21 is the legal drinking age.

Litter is bad.

Speed limit is slower than you’re driving.

Seat belts even keep a picture of the state of Georgia safe.

  • Stretching is important.
  • Too much time trapped with the same people causes fits of laughter, whining, tested nerves and lunacy. Such are the emotions many of us go through on a given day.
  • The road trip games we play can offer quite a few lessons. For example, we enjoy the alphabet game. We play ours by finding words on signs, billboards and cars that go in alphabetical order. You can’t say the same word as another person unless it’s for Q, X and Z. (The toughest to find.) First person to find the Z word, wins. This most recent road trip showed me how this game wad teaching the kids:
    • Patience – sometimes you need to wait for 20 minutes and few signs before finding your word.
    • Things don’t always come easy – daddy was driving too fast by signs, some signs were blocked by other vehicles, one person would say a word faster, etc.
    • Make the best of a situation – when you are the only one still looking for a G word, sing a silly song about the letter G and how it is hiding from you. (Nia had a lot of original tunes.)
  • Be ready for the speed bumps. Traffic, accidents, car issues, items accidentally left on the roof, wrong or misread directions, a threatening wasp unexpectedly trapped in the small space with you, a spilled drink, and/or extra pit stops will attempt to throw you off course and shatter your spirit. How you handle these situations is a glimpse at how you’d handle problems at school, work or relationships. Proceed with caution.

Faces Among Us

19 Apr

You walked by children, women and men all gathered for a joyous event. You brushed by bright yellow balloons being held in the hands of a lady waiting to celebrate someone she loved. You almost touched one person as you made your way to the point in your plan.

I saw you standing next to a group of people. You spent time in their presence and likely heard their conversations. Did someone give you a smile? Did you make eye contact with anyone? Maybe even exchange a few friendly words we often share when we’re standing next to strangers momentarily connected because of the time and place? How could you stand among them – be so close – and still want to hurt them?

None of that would’ve been good enough to change what happened though, right? You were determined. You had a mission. The faces around you weren’t going to make you think twice. You were a robot. No. That would actually mean you wouldn’t feel emotion after what you did. But you did feel emotion, didn’t you? Is that when you were happy? Did you feel as though you accomplished something? Proud?

I don’t know why I’m trying to understand something that’s incomprehensible to me. With every heartbreaking act of violence, I try to grasp the why of it even when the why may not change the sadness caused. I look around at people I encounter on any given day and I wonder how many people are having insincere pleasantries with me. They make me think they must be ok because of that reciprocated smile or brief elevator conversation but in reality they may be hiding something dark.

No, our smiles or positive energy may not be enough to stop people from wanting to cause us harm. In some way, it may actually fuel their desire to hurt us. Some of the faces among us are a dangerous mystery but we can’t let them steal away the things that makes us different. Our consideration and compassion for others. Our heart. Spirit.

I will continue to smile at strangers and offer kind (and often awkward on my part) words to them. I have a hope it will do more good than harm.

Laugh Track Humor

24 Feb

funny“Why do they keep laughing at everything she says?”

It’s a valid question, Nate. Especially since 75% of what comes out of her scripted sitcom mouth is not funny. (Or is it?)

“It’s called a laugh track, buddy. Basically, the people who make the tv show have a sound that makes it seem like an audience is laughing. They use it so we know something was meant to be funny.” Even when it’s not.

That got me thinking about the whole chicken versus egg thing and questions started ping-ponging around in my brain.

How much do we learn about humor from the laugh track cues on sitcoms? (Are many of us are trained to laugh at things because of what we absorbed watching tv punchlines that producers led us to believe are hysterical because of an audience reaction?)

Why do you want to teach my children to laugh at the sassy little girl on your program? Do you know how hard I’m working to teach them not to sass? Sure, I know we don’t have to watch your show but I actually do find that sassy little girl comical – probably because of the early laugh track humor invasion established in my brain at an early age. Instead, I’ll just watch the show with them and when her line hits I’ll smirk in my head and then reinforce to the kids, “We shouldn’t talk to people that way.” I’m so conflicted and hypocritical over here.

How much of our humor comes naturally? Some are just born with a fabulous sense of humor? Maybe we learn it from the adults we had around us as we grew up? Funny friends? But where did they learn that someone tripping over a chair and into a pile of garbage is funny? Banana peel on a head and then a quirky line to cut to commercial? Bwa-ha-ha! (I only laugh at these scenes on special days.) What makes me laugh so hard at the zany things Amy Duncan does on Good Luck Charlie? I laugh at her daily and only feel a little ashamed about it. And why the heck do I think the drunk driving scene in 40-Year-Old Virgin is funny? It’s so wrong. So wrong. But it makes my laugh go silent and tears fill in my eyes because it strikes me as hilarious. Surely I can’t connect that demented sense of humor to laugh tracks?

Are emoticons the electronic equivalent to a televised laugh track, helping readers know when they are supposed to smile? How will we know when to chuckle or that someone is just kidding unless they give us a 🙂 or a ;)?

Of course, I am ridiculous and these are all just the inner-workings of my mind as I was doing the dishes one night. It does make me laugh when I think about it all though. Which makes me wonder …

Room to Grow

14 Dec

A few weeks ago, I started writing an unfinished blog about how it’s been tough for me to give my kids room to grow. I’ve been worried that I’m suffocating their free spirits by not letting them play outside by themselves more – or stay over more friends’ houses – or let them walk the block to the bus stop without supervision. I see children playing outside in our neighborhood with other kids, no adult in sight. It looks as though they run this place. Confident and carefree, growing into their own. My kids, meanwhile, are sheltered.

It’s not that I don’t trust my children. I don’t trust others and situations outside of my watch. It’s been like that even for sleepovers at friends’ houses. Nia just had her first “alone” sleepover at a friend’s this year and I was worried the whole time. I woke up in the middle of the night. I checked my phone. She was fine and I felt like a mess. What’s my problem? I played outside until the street lights came on or until I heard the yell from home base. I had sleepovers and adventures sans adults. It’s just so tough for me to let them walk barefoot in the grass because I feel like when I do, they get stung by a bee.

What I need to remember is that the bee is really out of my control. I didn’t see it there as I sat and read my book. The kids didn’t see it there as they giggled and chased each other. Moments of bliss, interrupted with pain and tears. Mom and dad are there to make it better though. Scoop them up with hugs and kisses – medicine and a bandage. Don’t forget the ice cream. Still, we are able to be the protectors. Always the protectors. But what happens when you can’t be there to protect or comfort?

The heartbreaking tragedy that happened in Connecticut today captures that fear for me. Each day, we send our children on their merry – or cranky (depending on their mood that morning) – way to school and we head off to work or to whatever routine we have on the schedule. “Love you! Have a great day!” Words of caring we exchange to each other as they walk toward the bus or building. “See you later.” Because that’s what’s supposed to happen. See you later.

Sometimes, the hurt that happens when they are away from us isn’t permanent like the violence of today. Hurt feelings or worry in their hearts because of bullies, a fight with a friend or boys saying rude and inappropriate things. (That last one happened to Nia today.) For the most part, that hurt can be healed with an end of the day hug and talk with mom and dad. They feel better. They have some options on how to handle things if it happens again. They know teachers will be there to help because mom and dad talked with them. But still, I couldn’t keep them protected at the moment of their pain and I need to absorb that I never will be able to do that. They are not hurt-proof. None of us are. Mere mortals. Breakable. Perishable. Fragile.

Thinking about what happened in Connecticut today, my heart hurts for all those facing “What now?” and it hoards fear about “What if?” I am telling myself to allow my children to savor more barefoot in the grass and sleepover moments – especially for all those innocent little ones who now cannot.

I ran 13.1 miles and …

5 Nov

I loved every second of the 2:31 it took me to finish it. Really. I loved it. Just look at my finish line picture. Hilarious proof.

PUMPED

If you’re wondering how in the world I could love such a thing – here’s why I had so much fun during the Savannah Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon:

  • It was in Savannah, Georgia. A beautiful place I called my home for six years. Loved ones live there. I had our babies there. I became an adult there. It’s even more than that though. It was the view on the run. The historic city offered my eyes gorgeous homes, buildings with impressive stonework and character, and trees with personality due to their branches’ unique curves and Spanish Moss clothing. Even better? It was a sun-shiny day.
  • The people were lovely. So many came out to cheer on the runners. Their clever signs along the route – “You think running a marathon is hard, try waiting for you to finish.” “Don’t poop yourself!” “Run, Total Stranger, Run!” “Worst Parade Ever!” “If running was easy it would be called your mom!” – dotted my breathing with giggles and served as entertaining billboards. How could I pass up the small children who held out their hands for a high-five? Neighbors eating their breakfasts and even enjoying mimosas on their front lawns as they tailgated and relaxed as thousands of people passed by their homes. (One house even offered free margaritas!) Sanitation workers lined up and waiting to roll out offered high-fives and words of encouragement. That almost brought the first hint of water to my eyes. It really happened when I passed two neighbors sitting comfortably on their front porches. One was an older woman who greeted us with a kind smile and wave. “Good morning! Good morning!” she sang in such perfect Savannah style. Beautiful.
  • Andrew and Ginger. They are such fantastic running buddies and coaches. It was comforting to go through all the same pre-race, race and post-race feelings together. I didn’t get to run with Ginger the whole time but we started together and finished together – something that made the race so perfect for me. We stood side-by-side in the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd in Corral 17 as we waited in anticipation for them to set us free. We had to say goodbye to Andrew because he was all the way up in front of the thousands in Corral 4 for his first marathon. (He did amazing and I’m so proud of him for accomplishing it. When he sets his mind to something …) When it was our turn, we did our thing. I knew I wanted to keep my pace nice and easy so I held back from trying to stay with her pace. Twelve miles – and almost finished – later, I saw my friend. I kept looking for her pink skirt and her Brew/Drink/Run shirt and was so happy to see her. “My friend! My friend!” I shouted. We finished together – same time – same pace. We joke that we should’ve stopped at the finish line and said, “No, you go first. No, you.”

Finish Line Friends

The Marathoner and Me

Corral Crowds

  • I ran my race. I didn’t stop once. I didn’t walk. Not even to take off my long-sleeve shirt that was under my tank. “I undressed while running” should be a t-shirt. I just can’t believe how good I felt. Andrew said we were likely banking miles on the hills we run around home and he kept telling to “trust the plan.” All that training paid off. I felt incredible. I now wonder if I should’ve pushed myself more. I was afraid to get burned out. I wanted to enjoy it and I did. Everything from my music (thanks to Facebook friends who offered soundtrack suggestions) to my muscles – it all felt right. I have zero regrets on how I ran it but I think I will try a little harder now. From mile 8, I kept telling myself, “Don’t push it yet. Not yet.” Now that the fear of the unknown is over, all I feel is bliss. Thank you, I’ll have another.

When’s the next race?

A Backpack, Boyfriend(?), and Other Back-to-School Stuff

13 Aug

As Nia and Nate made their way up the hill to the bus stop for the first day of school, my mind flashed back to last year. Sweet siblings. Kindergartener brother and Third Grader sister, holding hands as they made the walk together for the first time.

Sibling Sweetness – 2011

It’s funny to think what a difference a school year can make. Right after I took the photo below, now First Grader Nate darted across the street, making sure he’d beat us all to the corner of the street.

image

School Siblings, See ya! 2012

The kids were very excited to start this new year. Nate is digging the thought of getting bigger (and maybe getting to stay up later like Nia gets to sometimes). Nia, meanwhile, had been hoping for the teacher she got. When the letter arrived a week ago, she repeated over and over as Andrew opened it, “I hope it’s Mrs. Ballard. I hope it’s Mrs. Ballard.” Andrew tricked her and acted like it wasn’t but just as soon as he saw her face turn to disappointment, he gave her the announcement she wanted. Her face beamed. She then wanted to trick me like her daddy did to her. When I got home, she had a sad face and handed me the letter, “I really wanted Mrs. Ballard.” “Oh, I’m sorry Bean.” I looked at the letter and then looked up to her giggly, happy self. Apparently, she and Andrew rehearsed the trick.

She was so happy to be headed back to school that she didn’t even let a little girl get her down at the bus stop when she turned Nia around to see her back and then sneered, “That’s last year’s bag!” Nia told me she replied, “So? Actually, I’ve had it for three years. It’s a really sturdy bag.” I am always amazed at how she manages to be so cool against cruelty. Even more impressive? Nia was playing with the little girl, along with Nate and another friend, in our front yard when I got home after work. I need to take lessons from Bean’s heart and attitude.

Bean also had some discussions with a boy today about if she still had a “boyfriend.” Her response to this also cracks me up, “I don’t know. You should ask him. Why do you want to know anyways?” We gave her the talk that she doesn’t need to worry about any of that business. Just have friends. Something she insists is all she is with this other boy. “We’re just friends!” she says with animation and giggles. Sigh.

Nate was rewarded for good behavior with silver sticks next to his name and didn’t get any warning sticks. (Phew.) I’m hoping him “winning” the good deed sticks will help him keep his eye on the prize. You know, learning and all – while staying out of trouble, of course. Now, if he would just eat the fruit and veggies I pack for him …

I hope this year brings them fond memories and expands their brains enough to be able to play Apples to Apples with us without much explanation. After all, that’s why I had kids – breeding adorable, capable board game opponents is tough.

image

First and Fourth Graders!

Didn’t Look Back

11 Aug

I had a goal. To finish my first 10K. Then, I made it tougher on myself. In my head, I made a time goal. I’d be happy to finish in 1:15 but I’m really shooting for 1:11.

I’m ecstatic to say I actually did more than meet my goals. I surpassed them.

I finished the run at right around 1:08. I can’t even believe it.

First 10K Results

I was really worried about this run too. First, the farthest distance I’ve ever hit before this was 5.3 miles so the fear of the unknown was heavy. Secondly, Andrew and the kids were supposed to be there with me. Andrew was even going to run it as well but things happen and poor Beanie was sick so Andrew made the selfless choice to sit the race out and stay home so I could have my turn. That all made me feel sad because he couldn’t run it and I was also sad to do it alone. The last thing that caused worry for me was that I did not sleep well last night. There were storms and the dog was a nervous wreck. The lack of sleep hit me hard in the morning.

When it was time to run, I started in the way back of the pack. In fact, I was the only one without a stroller – and I was actually behind them. I didn’t want to get caught up with a speedy person because it would make me feel like I need to be faster and I knew I just needed to keep my pace like I’ve been doing with my training. Slow to start, then gradual increase.

When the RunKeeper voice told me my first 5 minutes was an 11:40/mile pace, I knew I was doing good for me. But then, a few more minutes in, she spoke in my ear, “10:18 per mile.” Whoa, I thought. I better slow my tushie down. That is way too speedy for me. I’ll never make it. I still have about four miles to go.

During that time, my pace managed to take me past a few people but it didn’t matter to me. I wasn’t racing them. I was racing me. I never looked back and tried not to think about the distance between myself and the group ahead of me. I just did my thing and it felt so wonderful. The hills were tough and I needed a few short walk breaks but they didn’t keep me from making (and doing better than) my goal. Some Red Hot Chili Peppers helped bring me across the finish line. Rocking.

I’m so thankful to have all the support I do from Andrew. Not only did he really want me to run and give up his race for me, he kept refreshing RunKeeper from home so he could see when I finished almost as soon as I did. I love that, just as I am his biggest fan, he is mine. I suppose that’s how it should be. One of the questions he asked me was if it was as hard as I thought it was going to be. It wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done but  it ranks up there. I’m pretty sure my next big run – a 13.1 in November – will be much harder. I may have to take a look back at this 10K, just to remind myself I can do it.

Hurdled

18 Jul

They may have rattled me but I didn’t let them deter me from my 30 minutes of training. It turns out, the hurdles made my run far more entertaining than usual.

  • The Rain – It was a challenge before it even started because of the sprinkles. My attitude was already whiny and the rain almost swayed me out of lacing up my sneaks. I didn’t let it win though and set out on my damp 2-point-whatever mile jaunt around the blocks.
  • The Dog – Well, at least it was a friendly, jumpy dog. I made a turn and then thought I heard yelling. I made a quick about-face and came snout to hip with a happy Lab mix. Its owner came running after it and told me how sorry he was – that the pup just has a lot of love to share. Besides the change in my pace (I was averaging a good time for me when it all happened) and the doggy drool on my sleek black running shorts, I didn’t mind it in the slightest. After all, it was a friendly dog. (Phew.)
  • The Middle School Hecklers – I’m not quite sure what exactly they were screaming at me from the window of their house but  I made out that it was pretty funny by their laughing fits after shouting. I think I heard something about me “really running fast now … whatever!” I thought about all the ways I could react as I ran by again (because my route requires me to). Should I creatively give them the middle finger? Should I stop and face them dead-on and yell like a lunatic about how hilarious they are? Should I just ignore it and pretend like I didn’t hear it? Of course, I chose that one. I actually thought to myself how I remember doing stupid things like that when I was in middle (*ahem, high) school. Cruising by Burger King’s drive-thru with my friends screaming, “I want a Whopper!” at the top of my lungs comes to mind. Also, I mean, why should I stoop to a middle schooler’s level? I know they were middle schoolers, by the way, because their voices haven’t quite made that turn to high school male yet. (Ok, so I had to get one shot in … what?)
  • The Music Fail – One of the reasons I could hear them shouting those sarcastic words of praise and support at me is because my music failed. This is probably the main mental jolt that bugs me the most during a run. It frustrates me to the point of cussing. Granted, I had some things to distract my brain during this run …
  • The Perky Runner – And boy, was she perky. I encountered this new neighborhood runner at about 20 minutes in. I was tired and had just endured all the other earlier hurdles and then she made an appearance. She was bouncy. Really. Bright pink tank top. Ponytail dancing. I breathed a weighted smile at her and slouched by. My music then decided to work again. “Clocks” by Coldplay. Baby Nia’s favorite song. We would play it and she would just chill. I was better now. I ran up the “big hill” in the neighborhood and my earbuds informed me “25 minutes.” I turned to head home – and saw pink tank top in the distance. Only, her ponytail wasn’t in jazz mode. It was more in a calm ballet. She was walking. I know (I know) I shouldn’t compare. I am out there for me and to get healthier for my family. It was just a slap in my attitude that I needed. When I saw her all perky, I let it make me feel less than. When I saw her minus the perk, I felt upset with myself for letting another person influence my spirit.

It was an adventurous 30 minutes. Reflecting, I’m glad the rain didn’t keep me inside – hurdling mental obstacles feels healthy.

Our Trip to C-Town

26 Jun

There’s a lot of space under that bed …

“I’m not going to Crazy Town tonight,” Andrew told me as we settled in our beautiful, historic room at the John Rutledge House Inn for the weekend.

I had just asked him to look under the bed to make sure nobody (or ghost body) was under there.

Not even in Charleston, SC for 30 minutes and I’m already testing his reasons for marrying me almost 12 years ago. Fitting, because this trip was serving as the honeymoon we’ve never taken. Two days after we were married, Andrew left for six weeks of training in California. Then, a few resting months after that, he deployed for six months to Kosovo. After that, we set off together to buy a house and have a baby and then another deployment to Iraq and well, 12 years later, here we are in Crazy Town.

We wanted to go somewhere within reasonable driving distance, somewhere we’d never been and somewhere featuring one of our favorite things, good beer. Charleston was hosting a beer festival during the weekend our children would be in West Virginia with family so it was on.

We enjoyed our drive there and back. It featured discussions about General Sherman burning stuff (forever an inside joke between us now), me reading us history facts about Charleston, and talk radio by the megabyte that Andrew has stored on his phone.

10 and 2

We didn’t arrive at the Inn until midnight but enjoyed goofing off in the ballroom for a minute and sampling the complimentary brandy and sherry.

Statue Pose

The next morning, we ran through the city before others were awake and garbage was collected. The streets felt like ours for a few minutes and a few blocks. We talked when I could (I was running after all) and spotted incredible buildings and stores we might be interested in checking out during our later walk. We even ran alongside rivers where they meet up near a beautiful park.

After our run, we had a delicious breakfast of our choosing brought to our room. It was glorious. We filled out a card and put it on the doorknob before we fell asleep each night. We didn’t skimp on our selection.

Bedroom Breakfast

We loved our walks through downtown – even a painfully long one for me in flats and at high noon when we missed the trolley to the beer fest. This 2+ mile walk came after our 4+ mile morning run and 2+ morning stroll. We needed that brew.

Cheers, we made it!

We arrived at the fest excited to sample and enjoy. It wasn’t exactly what we were expecting but we still had a great time with each other. We talked with people and devoured cheese fries and then decided to head back to our room early – in a taxi. (Best $8 of the trip.)

We had plans to dine somewhere fancy that evening. I even packed a strapless dress and heels, ready to hit the night life. Only thing – we decided to rest for a bit. That was around 6:30. We woke up around 9:30, too zonked to move out of bed.

The next morning, Andrew went for a solo run while I sank deeper into the heavenly memory foam mattress because I hadn’t changed positions much through the night. We enjoyed another bedroom breakfast and then walked next door to go to church.

Rolled out of bed and into church

Up for another stroll, we set off for more exploring and I’m so glad we did. We discovered a large market area and bought treasures for the kids. After a good early bird (without the discount) dinner, we headed home, feeling content and so lucky to have been able to spend that time together – even if it neared Crazy Town for a bit. Besides, I think he already agreed to go there with me when he said “yeah, sure” at the altar.

Time to start thinking about our next trip …

%d bloggers like this: