If I could, I’d Miss Him.

img_69265 years old:

I stood and stared, for hours, out of the window of our New York apartment building waiting for my father to show up. It was my birthday. He never showed up. I don’t remember much about New York, but I remember looking out of that window for a long time. I remember waiting.

6 years old:

We moved to Georgia. My mom, my two sisters, and me. I only think about my father when people ask. We have a step dad, but I don’t know where my father is.

12 years old:

I’m pretty good at not thinking about my father. Years have gone by, and he doesn’t cross my mind. I don’t even remember what he looks like, and I don’t care. He obviously doesn’t care about me. I don’t care about him either.

17 years old:

My sister asks, “Have you ever thought about finding your father?”

No. Why would I try to find him, he’s never cared about me.

She asks, “What if he did find you?”

It doesn’t matter. It’s too late. Why would he care now? Why should I care?

28 years old:

Maybe I should find my father. I, at least, need my medical history. Nah, forget it. I don’t care.

36 years old:

My sister finds my father’s son, my half-brother, through Facebook.  My sisters remember him. I don’t. I guess I was too young.

I learn that my father died when I was about 9 years old. On his death bed he told his son and daughter, “you have a sister, find her.”

I learn that his wife, their mother, didn’t want him to have anything to do with me. I get her disdain. I was a reminder that my father cheated and had a child with another woman. My father had to sneak to spend time with me. Sometimes he could show up when he said he would, other times he never showed up.

Mom didn’t know why he was sneaking to come see me. His sporadic visits, sometimes unannounced, worried her. She feared he was going to try to kidnap me. She got a job offer in Georgia and left without leaving any contact information.

41 years old

It’s Father’s Day, and I’m trying not to think about my father. . . again.

It makes me cry to think that I spent so many years angry at him. I wish I knew more about him.  I try to understand my mother’s fear and her decisions.

I wonder how things would have turned out if he’d communicated a bit more. If mom wasn’t so scared.

All this is pointless. He’s gone. This is all past. Why cry over the past?

I try not to think about my father again.

One Way to Teach a Kid About Karma

My foster mom used to put a sign-up list on the refrigerator each day of chores that needed to be done. She always had 5 or 10 things on the list so that we could sign up evenly for 1 to 2 chores.

The rule was that none of us got to play or do anything we wanted to do until the dinner chores were done (chores where in addition to clean up that was required after every meal: clearing table/washing drying dishes/sweeping/mopping if needed) and then our chores list was completed.  As I became older, I couldn’t even leave to go on a date unless my chores were completed.

Having us sign up for chores was like tossing a pork chop to a pack of hungry dogs.

As soon as the school bus turned onto our street each girl would be packed up, we would make eye contact that said, “you’re going down today!”, our legs would be in the aisle ready to jump up and run down the narrow path with no care to anyone who might get bumped along the way as we raced to be first out of the gate—I mean bus doors.

I don’t remember, but I’m sure a few of us pushed or tripped a sister out of the way now and then to ensure being first across the finish line—I mean to the refrigerator. 

First one to the list meant first to sign up for the easiest chores, first one finished with chores, and first to go play.

We usually worked well as a team to get dinner dishes done so we could hurry and start our list.  But then a new girl moved in, let’s call her Fancy Nails.  She was an okay girl except when doing dishes, and somehow she always seemed to end up with the washing assignment and man SHE WAS SLOOOOOW.

Fancy Nails had half inch to inch long natural nails, and she always worried about breaking or chipping them. She would pinch a dish or utensil with two fingers of one hand and pinch the dish rag with two fingers of the other hand and slowly wash each dish that way taking over an hour to get it all done. 

Most girls can relate to concern over the fingernails, but Fancy Nails lived with 4 tomboys who found outdoor play time more important than fretting over nails.

The more she cut into our play time, the more we resented Fancy Nails. Something had to be done. 

Fancy Nails was a deep sleeper so one night I clipped her nails. 

I know, that’s not nice, and that’s exactly what my foster dad said when he noticed the bedroom light on after we all should have been long asleep and decided to check on us. He found me hovering over Fancy Nails in her sleep, trying to clip each nail without waking her.

“What are you doing?” he asked from the door way.

“I’m tired of her taking up all our free time because she doesn’t want to break a nail,” I whispered still trying not to wake her.

“Is that smart?” He asked. I was surprised that he wasn’t scolding me or grounding me.

“She needs to speed up. We are all tired of her,” I justified, “I’m just the only one who will do something about it.”

“What do you think she will do when she sees her nails have been cut?” Great question Daddy. I knew she would be mad, but hadn’t thought much more beyond that. 

He added something like, “She hasn’t lived with us long and we don’t know much about her. What if she’s violent? What if she gets so angry she tries to hurt you while you sleep? We haven’t had her long enough to know how she will handle it. I would be hiding anything that could be used to hurt me if I were you.”

My clever feeling was instantly replaced by “Oh, CRAP.” I abandoned the mission and got in bed leaving Fancy Nails with 2 long nails.
Daddy turned the light out and I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I was no longer worried about play time, but about all the ways she might hurt me.

The next day, Fancy Nails got up, went to school, came home,and did dishes a little bit faster, but she never mentioned her clipped nails. I’d expected her to be angry and or to tattle.

“I think she’s okay with it,” I told my foster dad. “She’s acting like nothing happened. Maybe she doesn’t care.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “She really took care of those nails. I can’t believe she doesn’t care. What if she’s one of those people who stay quiet until they get revenge?”

I’m older so now I know what Daddy did here. No punishment could teach me a lesson like the paranoia he put in my head wondering what Fancy Nails would do to exact her revenge. 

Sharing a room with Fancy Nails, I don’t think I slept well for 2 or 3 weeks. Anytime she moved in her sleep, I startled awake thinking she was coming for me. Anytime she helped set the table for dinner, I worried that she put something in my drink or food. When I helped her with dishes and saw her working on the sharp object I put distance between us.

To this day, I don’t know if Fancy Nails ever said anything about the clipping. Sometimes I wonder if she knew how paranoid my foster dad made me and played along. I know I was much nicer to her and eventually I started sleeping better. I don’t think I completely dropped my guard though until she moved on to live with her family again.

First Race, Make a Wish & the Oxygen Tank Lady


Denver Half Marathon: What am I doing?

Dread, and a tiny bit of excitement is what I felt when I clicked the confirmation button to finalize registration for the Rock n Roll Denver Half Marathon. I still had no idea how I would get to Denver, and I still couldn’t even run a mile without stopping.

I could “wog” (walk/jog intervals) a mile or two but not run or even jog non-stop. Even my wog was a sad sight of flailing arms and air gasps. You would think the air itself was drowning me.

My friends talked me into this, and for a worthy cause: Raising money for the Make a Wish. We had 5 months to get ready and to get as many people as we could to pledge money for every mile completed at the marathon event.

Even so, I still considered backing out. Plane fare and hotel stay for the 4-day weekend seemed unfeasible. And, don’t forget, I still couldn’t run even a mile without stopping.

I focused first on training and downloaded apps:

C25K (Couch to 5K)


C2Half Marathon

Running for weight loss

No matter what apps I tried, I still could not seem to string together a mile of non-stop running. Though I could Wog 5-6 miles with no problem, I considered backing out.

Motivation to Just do It

Many things seemed to push me forward to come through for this event.  The top 3 were:

Encouraging Friends–“Who says you have to run the whole thing non-stop?” a friend asked. Hmm, it never occurred to me that wogging would be okay. I can wog like a champ. That question gave me all the confidence I needed.

Pledges–People who knew me and had seen me try to run still pledged money. Maybe they believed in me more than I did. Maybe they didn’t think I would make it far and it wouldn’t cost them much to pledge.

An Anonymous Angel–Someone paid for my trip. Everyone was using a specific travel agent to get the best deal. I couldn’t afford to pay for all of it yet, but I’d broken the trip down into steps. As soon as I could pay for at least the air fare, I called the travel agent.

“You are all set up,” they said.“Okay, how much do I owe?” Debit card ready.

“It’s already paid for.” Said the voice on the phone.

“But, that can’t be right I haven’t paid yet.” This must be a mistake.

“Someone has covered your expenses. They wish to remain anonymous. Enjoy your time in Denver.”

To this day, years later, I still have no clue who paid for my trip, but I was grateful and backing out was no longer an option.

Race Day, Wogger’s High and the Oxygen Lady

Okay, lets fast forward to race day. My wogging distance was up to 9 miles by race day, but I was certain I could make the last 4 miles with no problem.

I had my headphones, ear buds, interval watch, bottles of water, and GU energy gel. I was ready. Ready as I’d ever be to wog intervals (2 minutes jog/ 1 minute walk) for the next 13.1 miles.

The first 3 miles or so, went according to plan, but by mile 4, my intervals became two minutes of walking and two minutes of jogging.

 Mile 5 had me walking 3 minutes and jogging a minute. I silently blamed the Denver altitude and began checking behind me to make sure I wasn’t last.

Mile 6 was my pep talk mile. I had an inner Rocky conversation where I told myself to get it together and get back on the plan. I found “Eye of the Tiger” on my iPod, and eventually got back to 2 minutes of jogging, and 1 sometimes 2 minutes of walking.

Around mile 7 I felt it. Wogger’s high. I felt refreshed and energized. I’d gotten my second wind. I felt strong, my stride was great, everything suddenly felt easy.

I was JOGGING! More than 3 minutes nonstop! Just when I decided that I was doing damn good and that I was jogging my best jog ever, two women who looked to be in their mid-80’s walked right past me. One was pulling like an oxygen tank!

Right now, you are probably imagining that these ladies did that fast walk, where their legs move so fast they look boneless. No, they were walking like they were on a Sunday afternoon stroll through the park.

The wogger’s buzz was killed and soon I was back to intervals of 3-minute walking/1-minute jog, then 5 minute walking/1 minute jogging, and then I lost track and just prayed for a glimpse of the finish line.

Appreciate the Journey

Despite learning that my best jog is still slower than an old lady on a Sunday morning stroll pulling an oxygen tank, I had so many great experiences from the moment I confirmed registration until finally reaching the finish line in Denver 5 months later.

♥ We raised more $200,000 for Make a Wish that day.

♥ At every mile marker, a Make a Wish child and family would cheer and hug us along the way. Those were some very special hugs.

♥ Every time I walked, I got a chance to meet new people, learn their stories, find out what motivated them to run or in some cases walk.

♥ I met people who would become life-long friends. We would do more races together. Or, well, they would run and then wait on me to wog my way up to them, and later we’d celebrate the day with a lot of laughter and a satisfying meal.

♥ I will always remember the oxygen tank lady. Deflated as I was, she was inspiring.

♥ I got to meet Team Hoyt. Rick Hoyt, suffers from Cerebral Palsy and due to an issue at birth his muscles do not receive messages from his brain. He put in to run a 5k when a school mate became paralyzed. Rick wanted to prove that life goes on after disabilities. His Father, Dick, found a way to push him through that 5k. After the race, Rick told his Dad that when he was pushed through that race he didn’t feel handicapped anymore. Since then, Team Hoyt has completed over 1,100 races, including marathons and triathlons, spreading the message: YES YOU CAN!

We met Team Hoyt at a convention the night before. Many people there would be running the next day. Goodness, if anyone felt afraid of running their first race before meeting Team Hoyt, they’d have a tough time doing anything but their best after meeting these guys.

I have since wogged and struggled through quite a few races, and I’ve had many more memorable experiences along the way. This first race will always be dear to me because of all the firsts associated with the trip. And, of course, who can forget being out paced by an 80 something year old lady pulling an oxygen tank?