Ode to a Dog

You may not realize it but April is National Poetry Month.  Which means it’s the perfect month for this particular challenge: WRITE A POEM. If you are like me you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about poetry.  I probably haven’t written a poem since I was in school…possibly grade school.  The good news is that this time I don’t have to present it in front of a class.  The bad new is that I’ll be sharing it on a blog but at least I don’t have to make eye contact.

I’ve always been a prose person.   Give me a novel any day.  As an English major I read plenty of poems and as a Youth Services Librarian I’ve purchased my share of kid’s poetry books.  But, if I’m honest, I can’t say that I’m a big poetry fan. I think that says more about me than about poetry.  I’m relatively sure that appreciating poetry requires more thinking than I’m inclined to apply to a free time activity.  It’s probably no surprise that my favorite book of poems hasn’t changed since I was in grade school:  Shel Silverstein’s classic, Where the Sidewalk Ends. I only own three books of poems and they are all by Shel Silverstein.  I’m going to assume that everyone is familiar with the poems of Shel Silverstein.  If not, please at least google him and read a couple.  Or better yet, check one of his books at your local library.  They’ve held up very well.  Plus, his accompanying illustrations improve on the text, just as they should.  Maybe that’s why I’m stuck in the poetry of my youth…I need pictures.

I will spare you the agony of reading a traditional poem crafted by me.  However, I am a fan of the six word memoir. The story goes that when asked if he could write a complete story in six words, Ernest Hemingway offered, “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.”  Using that as inspiration, in 2008, Smith magazine invited writers, famous and not, to write their own Six Word Memoirs–some were funny, some were sad.  The best have been compiled into books if you are inclined to seek them out.  If you haven’t ever tried your hand at describing your life using only six words, you should.  It’s actually kind of addictive once you get started.

Last weekend we had to say goodbye to our fourteen-year-old basset hound, Luke.  He was a great dog and beloved member of our family.  In his honor, my six word memoir:

Lucky to have loved my Luke.

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Luke

This might not technically count as writing a poem, but as I’ve said before, this is my blog and I can do what I want.  Plus, my dog just died so I think I get a pass.

Before you go…whether you are a poetry person or not, I invite you to join me and write your own six word memoir this week. Your life story in six words: funny, sad, touching or clever.  I will be writing and posting a different one of my own each day on the Before You Grow Up Challenge Facebook page.  Post yours in the comments here or on the FB page.  I dare you to stop at just one.  Actually, I beg you to write at least one!

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Words Into Action

I’ve spent some time writing blog posts about not-so-important topics and hoping someone will read them.  Now, it’s time to write a letter about an issue that is important to me and hope that someone reads it. WRITE A LETTER TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  I’ve never written a letter to any of my congressional representatives.   I did make some calls earlier this year about a certain nominee for Secretary of Education but it appears that no one listened.  I certainly never wrote about anything important to anyone as a kid.  I did write a fan letter to my favorite local dirt track race car driver when I was probably 10-years-old. He sent me a brief note and a signed picture in return. As a teen, I wrote to the movie reviewer at the Daily Oklahoman basically to ask him what I needed to do to get his job!  He wrote back and was both kind and encouraging.  Those letters were definitely in the self-serving column.  Time to do something for someone else. The 100 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU GROW UP book says that even before you can vote you are “definitely old enough to express your opinions and create positive change”.  I’m definitely old enough vote, let’s see if I can create positive change.

Today, April 13, 2017, is the first Take Action for Libraries Day.  I’ve written letters to my Congressman and Senators asking them to commit to saving federal library funding in Congress.  I’m under no illusion that my letter alone will create change.  However, I’m hopeful that my letter joined with the letters, emails and phone calls of others might lead to something positive.  It wasn’t hard to write a letter advocating for libraries.  I believe in libraries and the essential role they play in the communities they serve.


How about you?  Do you put pen to paper to try to affect change?  Have you ever contacted your representatives to share your opinion?  I’d love to hear about it if you have!

Before you go…I’ve included the text of my letter below.  I’ll admit I used one small section from a template written by the American Library Association demonstrating what to say when advocating for libraries but the rest comes from my heart.

It is no surprise that as a Youth Services Librarian I believe in the power of libraries. I’m not sure if you are a library user but, if you are not, let me paint of picture of what happens everyday in our public libraries. Everyone knows that libraries provide free access to books, but a library offers so much more to the community it serves than just books.

Everyday in our libraries children and parents in early literacy story times are encouraging the skills kids need to be ready to learn to read, teenage volunteers are gaining valuable work experience, distance education students of all ages are working on online classes on the only computers they have access to, unemployed and under-employed adults are working on resumes and applying for jobs, students with public school issued devices are using free wifi to complete homework assignments, homeschoolers are accessing online resources and databases and families are attending free cultural and community events. Libraries add value to their communities everyday in more ways than I have time to list. Many people rely on their libraries as a way up, a way out and often the only way forward.

The President has proposed eliminating the tiny amount of federal money ($183 million) provided to every state in the country for small, innovative, community-building grants – hundreds every year– by eliminating the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).  In 2016, North Carolina libraries received $4,229,540 for everything from workforce recovery efforts to computer programs for homeless populations. I am also a parent and a military spouse. I support defense spending and understand the necessity for a strong military. However, the $183 million saved by cutting ALL federal funding to museums and libraries will not even begin to help fund a $54 billion increase in defense spending.

Please protect the Institute for Museum and Library Services and fight to save federal library funding in Congress. We must continue to fund education, arts, and libraries, and to fund them well. Otherwise, what exactly are we defending?”

Valerie Suttee

 

We Got Here Just In Time

I’ve struggled to decide how to recap the quest for a good luck charm.  I don’t have one.  I do pick up pennies when I see them…head’s up or not…and I enjoy seeing a rainbow as much as the next person but I don’t consider either of those things to be particularly lucky.  When I think about being lucky it’s hard not to just talk about my family.  I’m fairly sure droning on and on about what a great family you have is equivalent to showing someone all 400 of your vacation photos.  Lucky, blessed, favored, charmed.  Different people call it different things.  So, let the record show that I’m lucky to have the family and friends that I have, to be healthy,  and to have enough money for the things we need.

Instead of searching for one of the previously listed good luck symbols, I’ve decided to craft a new list of the things that make me feel lucky when I find them.

In no particular order:

  1. Good parking spot
  2. Last Coke in the fridge
  3. No line at post office, bank, etc.
  4. Desired shoes in the correct size (bonus if on sale)
  5. No one in seat next to you on plane
  6. Beautiful weather on day off
  7. Wildlife sighting: bunny, deer, bird (sorry, robin, you only count after a long winter)
  8. Photo of self that could be used on social media
  9. No one waiting for library book you need to renew
  10. Watching crucial TV episode before someone spoils it for you
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I like squirrels but they are too prevalent for me to feel lucky to see one.  However, this guy looked like he wanted to have his picture taken.  He’s well aware of how lucky he is to live where he does.

There you have it.  That’s what good luck looks like in my life.  What about you?  What things would make your own list?  I find  the more things in my life that I can label as being lucky the better.  Luck is relative.  I try to give myself permission to find the glass half full whenever I can.  Some days it’s harder than others but nothing feels better than a sign that things are going your way.

Before you go…my family has adopted the saying, “we got here just in time”.  We use it anytime we go somewhere and suddenly a lot of people show up after us.  I suppose this makes us feel lucky but it also helps us emphasize the half-full glass.  Never mind that the last time we went to PF Chang’s we waited an hour, this time, “we got here just in time”.

 

Rockin’ Rollin’

I set a goal for myself way back in January.  Run a 5K.  My first BIG challenge and I did it!  Hours of boring time on the treadmill, miles on the road, a new pair of shoes, an assortment of hip stretches and exercises, a time-tested playlist, one running coach (thank you, Mona!) and a lot of good advice, guidance and support.

By the time Andrew and I rolled into Raleigh late Friday afternoon to pick up my race packet I was finishing up my final day as an employed librarian and fresh off of a wonderful send-off by my coworkers.  I was a tad emotional, so it was nice to have this challenge to focus on.  If you’ve ever participated in a large race series you know something about the Health and Fitness Expo: part packet pick-up, part museum gift-shop for the running set.  I was first introduced to this type of event when I walked the Shamrock Half-Marathon in Virginia Beach.  Andrew was unfamiliar with this particular aspect of the racing industry.  I think he found it both exciting and a little overwhelming.  It always makes me feel like I’ve wandered into an alternate universe where everyone is fit, motivated and runs for fun!  Yikes.  It is quite the spectacle, though, and served as my first reality check as to just what I had gotten myself into.

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I tried hard to remind myself that I had earned the right to call myself a runner, to be a part of this.  No one made me feel this way.  I was battling myself and that disparaging little voice inside my head.  I guess, I won that argument because the next morning I found myself in corral 8 waiting for the start of my first official 5K.

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When I registered for the race I had to estimate my finish time.  The time I gave was overly optimistic and so when I received my corral 6 assignment I was worried that I would be starting with much faster people.  So, I ended up closer to corral 7 which then morphed into corral 8.  However, it quickly became apparent not everyone was as worried about being in the correct corral.  Walkers in the front corrals, sprinters in the back.  I ended up running around people and stepping aside for others. When will I learn that time spent worrying is time wasted?

Once we actually started I could feel my anxiety release.  It was a relief to finally get going.  This was really no different from any other training run.  It also served as a refreshing reminder that runners come in all shapes and sizes.  I trained in coastal Carolina and the rolling hills of Raleigh provided a challenge to my run-the-whole-thing goal.  But, I allowed myself to just relax and keep moving.  As I climbed the first long, low hill I could hear Lee in my ear, “Accelerate up the hill when others slow down.  That’s where you make up ground”.  Which, I think is probably great advice if your goal is anything other than just surviving. I quickly realized that if I wanted to run most of the race I’d need to walk the hills.  Luckily, there weren’t too many.  I’d like to be clear here, Lee did not give me that advice for this particular race, I’ve just heard him say it before.

I can’t say the time went quickly but I played my regular playlist and pressed on.  I know that part of the fun of the Rock ~n~Roll series is the live music but I needed my music.  There was comfort in knowing how much time I had left in the race based on where I was in my playlist.  I listened to music when I trained to walk my first half-marathon.  It motivated me.  Sometimes it was the only thing that motivated me, especially on the longer walks.  The day before that race I picked up my race packet and I was instantly anxious when I realized that headphones were not allowed on the course.  Now, I’m a rule-follower.  It’s who I am.  So, I followed the rules.  You are already probably well ahead of me in this story and know, of course, that I was basically the only person who did NOT wear headphones during the race.  I walked the entire 13.1 miles alone with my thoughts and without an accompanying soundtrack.  Fun.  I did that race again and, you are correct if you’ve guessed, that I listened to music that entire race.  Sorry, that’s a long story just to say, not without my music! Never again.

One of the worries I had while I was training was my hip.  When I first started I had some issues with my knees.  Luckily, those were short-lived.  Unfortunately, my right hip, or more precisely, my right IT band was not loving my transition from couch to 5k.  I endured a lot of painful runs and even more painful days following runs.  I became well acquainted with a foam roller and got better at stretching but many of my runs were still painful.  So, I was more than pleasantly surprised that as I ran I had no hip pain. Maybe it was adrenaline.  Maybe all of my preparation and foam work helped.  Maybe I was just lucky.  Doesn’t really matter.  All I know is that running without hip pain is so much better than running with hip pain.

As much as I’d love to impress everyone with a remarkable time, I’ll be keepin’ it real.

results

 

I would have liked to have finished under 40 minutes, but I’m happy with the results. When I started this challenge I was more interested in finishing than in putting up a particular time, and finish I did.  I will admit to being somewhat emotional as I made my way toward the race start.  I’m a pretty unassuming person (not sure how that squares with writing a blog about my own life and expecting people to read about it–I’ll leave you to discuss that later) but I let myself feel a bit of pride and, dare I say, accomplishment for having even gotten to that point.  Approaching the finish line my primary emotion was relief.  Seeing my kids cheering me on motivated me to pass the lady running in front of me.  I felt like I had a good final kick but my finish photo looks like I’m barely strolling!  Ah, how the way we imagine ourselves doesn’t always align with reality.  Kind of like how, in my head, I still look 30 and then I walk by a mirror.  Don’t worry, young’uns, age will come for you, too!

finish

The best part of the race?  When it was over.  Is that true for all runners?  Does anyone actually enjoy the race during the race?  I’m asking honestly.  I’ve considered running another 5k, but upon reflection, I think I’ll stick to walking and leave the running to someone else.  Thank you for your encouragement.  I couldn’t have done it without you.  I told you I’d do it and because of that I did.  My friend, Ofie, actually made the trip up to Raleigh and ran it, too!  We didn’t find each other before the race but we caught up after.  In fact, she took the photo of me “sprinting” across the finish line.

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Andrew, Speed Demon, Ofie, Elisabeth

Can I admit now that there were several times during the process of completing this challenge that I was harboring some serious regrets?  In the end, I’m glad I did it.  This blog has served an interesting purpose in my life.  It’s pushed me to push myself and I’m better for it.  Unfortunately for you, dear reader, now that I’m officially unemployed, you’ll probably be hearing more from me.  I can only spend so many hours a day cleaning out my garage. Thanks for reading along.  If you’d like to get emails notifying you when a new post is published just click the FOLLOW button and do anything they ask you to…within in reason, of course.

Before you go…I’ve discovered that I’m an angry runner.  You may be more familiar with this concept in reference to the term “angry drunk”.  I myself am not an angry drunk.  I can honestly count on one hand the number of times I would have even qualified as being drunk and I can tell you I’m more of a giggler than a jerk.  But, during the course of training I discovered that the songs that motivate me the most during a run are not the fun, inspirational ones. Apparently, I run best with a chip on my shoulder.  I need the Gym Class Heroes to tell me I’m a fighter, Busta Rhymes to yell at me, and Eminem to feed some unresolved respect issues I didn’t even know that I had.  I’m not sure what that says about me, but I’m not sure I like it.