A Morning of Mourning

Wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and a hockey jersey, I sat out in the morning air waiting for the sunrise.  I gave myself that hour before I would wake up my family and give them the news.

One of my earliest memories was my dad driving us down the Long Island Expressway on a cold, dark, night in the late 1960s.   My half-sister, Liz was sitting on the middle (hump) of the back seat of the black Cadillac and I had my feet up against the side of the car and my head rested in her lap  (that tells you how little I was).  I laid there as Liz stroked my hair, comforting me.  It had been a long day and I was “little kid” tired.  I remember dark sky discolored by the reflections of the lights bouncing off the snow laden clouds and then I fell asleep.
As I sat reflecting this morning, I checked my iTunes and couldn’t find the Doors, so I had to go to Spotify to put “Waiting for the Sun” on repeat.  I thought about the lady I sat next to last Friday on a flight from Minneapolis to Denver.  She told me of the medical problems that her son had since birth.   I told her about little man with the beautiful smile we lost to cancer back in 2010. Then  I told her about Liz and her bout with cancer.  I told her of the aggressive tumor and how my father, now in his late 80’s was taking her for chemo.  It was the first time I really spoke about Liz’s condition.  This lady’s compassion for my father was striking.
Probably 15 years ago, after not seeing Liz for quite a number of years, I stayed over at my Dad’s house.  Liz was always an early riser and I found her sitting on the side of my bed waking me up to ask me if I was a Christian.  Dazed, I remember telling her, “I’m a good little Catholic boy”.  Christ was very important to Liz.

I woke up early this morning about 4:45am like someone had simultaneously turned on all the lights in the house.  I got up and made my way to the living room.  I had called my dad a few times yesterday to check on Liz but wasn’t able to reach him.  She was hospitalized after an infection set in following her last chemo.  I knew my half-brother had headed to see Liz, so I sent him a message on WhatsApp before I went to bed.   This morning there was a message from him at 2:56am saying that “Liz passed away just now“.

I went outside to feel the cool air on my skin.  I negotiated with myself for a while, but once it was irrefutable that  the sun was up, I went in and told my wife.   Then we told my daughter.  That was when I lost it.   We just saw Liz less than a month ago on a visit to New York. We arrived just after she completed a chemo session, so we didn’t want to stay to long, but we got to say hello, or goodbye as it turns out. I had to go into work today, not out of any obligation, but I needed something to focus on and focus I did though I found myself struggling with my role as a half-sibling.  I struggled with the memories that came back.   Siblings, you know them your (or their) entire life.  

My wife checked in on me later in the day.   Last week I saw a really neat card about Angels being all around us.   I picked it up and made a point to mail it to my daughter before leaving for the airport.   Was it coincidence that the angel card arrived on the day Liz died?   It just reminded me that everything happens according to God’s plan, and even when we don’t know, we know.

Rest in Peace Elizabeth Marie Herrera.

Advertisements
A Morning of Mourning

Day 17,802 – It’s a Tuesday

I’m confused because I’m not sure if today should be considered the first, second or fourth day of my holiday.

The Western thinker in me believes that vacations should have a clearly defined, unambiguous event horizon.  Not so this break.   The Western mind wants to create artificial walls and boundaries and to classify and assign artificial meanings and values. If I were to engage my inner Eastern thinker  I would see each day, each day, each moment is equal and flows directly into the next without effort.  The ease or difficulty making the transition from one event to the next is a reflection of my inner self, not the outer world.

Siri informs me that it has been 17,802 days since the day I was born.  That’s what day this is, number 17,802.   She failed to answer the question about how many days I have remaining.

20140415-071736.jpg
This Works

I took the picture above on my iPhone.  I use that phone for work and would normally leave it locked in the drawer in my office during vacation, but I am trying out a new personal cell and I don’t quite trust it yet.  With one little swipe of the iPhone pseudo-button the deluge of emails are turned off and the phone calls, texts and messages sit in Limbo on some Verizon server somewhere waiting for me; calling to me.  I shan’t peek today.  I peeked yesterday and poisoned the serenity of my drive up to the Central Coast of California.  I won’t be foolish again.  It’s a lot of work to get serenity back once it is poisoned.

On this day 17,802 of my life, I woke up early in Avila beach on the Central Coast of California. Laura and I came here on our honeymoon, 7,639 days ago.  It seems like just yesterday.  I think this is the 9th hotel room I have woken up in thus far in 2014.  I am weary but not tired.  My legs are incredibly sore and stiff from a hilly race this past weekend and I couldn’t just lay in bed this morning.  The girls were exhausted and I didn’t want to disturb them, so I dressed and came down to the lobby to write to you all.  You people never write back and I am getting quite resentful.  Hit the fricking Like button already, will ya?  Would it kill you to leave a comment?  I mean really.

Everyone knows the OC, LA, San Diego and San Francisco.  Few appreciate the Central Coast with its seemingly easy-going lifestyle and attitude.   Some might consider it, the moderate part of California, not politically, but in terms of being neither of the extremes of LA nor San Francisco. All things being equal, the locals seem to pull for the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland teams rather than the LA teams.  You can easily prejudge and stereotype an area by the sports teams that the populus follow.  Stereotypes are great.  They allow you to like or dislike people without having to waste time getting to know them, really quite efficient if you think about it.

The hotel offers me a complimentary copy of Tuesdays The Tribune, the Newspaper of San Luis Obispo County. The front page features a banner “HAVE YOU SEEN THIS PUPPY?” Admittedly, the dog is cute, but I am still trying to slow down enough to read and enjoy this past Sundays New York Times. The truth is I never actioned (that’s one of my work words, actioned) reading the Sunday paper from two weekends ago. That’s one of the first signs that I am out of balance.  I brought two books to read and six magazines.   We are only going to be here 3 nights. We have to get back to the OC by Friday so The Child can start finalizing her Junior Prom planning.   Saturday, the girls will indulge me by going to see a lacrosse game at Whittier College. Then the next day will be Easter, time to get together again with Laura’s family.

Time moves quickly.   The Child turns 17 in 16 days.  God willing, in another 500 or so days she will be going to college. That scheduling and planning that I just did there is fallacy of the Western mind.  A classmate of The Child’s was killed a few weeks back in a skateboarding accident.  I can’t fathom that grief.  There was also recent news of cancer in the family.  Those shocks were numbing.  The Westerner assumes that the universe has made promises to us.  We get attached to those promises and believe that they are genuine.  I learned a long time ago, growing up in Las Vegas, that one should never ever ever believe in a promise.  One should enjoy this moment, this hour, this day and these wonderful beautiful people who are in front of me.   The metaphorical phone can ring so quickly and poison the rest of the day, week, month, or life. It’s a lot of work to get serenity back once it is poisoned.

Carpe Diem, people.  Carpe Diem.

 

 

 

Day 17,802 – It’s a Tuesday

2013 In Summary: 12 Months, 12 Pictures

January: Long Beach, NY in the months after Hurricane Sandy
January: Long Beach, NY in the months after Hurricane Sandy.  The boardwalk of my childhood was destroyed.
February: Climbing the first big hill at the Mission Gorge Trail Run with Sugar Magnolia
February: Climbing the first big hill at the Mission Gorge Trail Run with Sugar Magnolia
March: The LA Marathon Medals
March: The LA Marathon Medals
April: Cruise the Carribbean
April: Cruise the Caribbean
May: In Milan
May: In Milan
June: London with My sister
June: London with My sister
July: The Color Run
July: The Color Run
August: Mt. Charleston NV for my 30 Year High School Reunion
August: Mt. Charleston NV for my 30 Year High School Reunion
September:  Andy Pettitte walks to the Dugout in Yankee Stadium as Mariano Rivera is honored
September: Andy Pettitte walks to the Dugout in Yankee Stadium as Mariano Rivera is honored
October: Whittier 5K Run
October: Whittier 5K Run
November:  Santa Barbara Marathon
November: Santa Barbara Marathon
December: With my Honey at Disneyland
December: With my Honey at Disneyland
2013 In Summary: 12 Months, 12 Pictures

59th Street Bridge Run

At 5:15am, about 24 hours after our red-eye flight landed in New York, my alarm sounded a call to run the 59th Street Bridge.

I had other running plans this trip, but the 59th street bridge was a few blocks away from my hotel.  If you know me at all, you know that I have a masochistic love of running hills and bridges, so I followed the route the universe put in my path.

59th Street Bridge by Day
59th Street Bridge by Day

Had I been traveling alone, I would have run across the bridge to Astoria made a left,  gone down to 39th and over to run to the Lighthouse Park at end of Roosevelt Island and then come back.  I wasn’t alone though.  My exhausted 16 year-old daughter with me.  That meant my desired 10+ mile run had to be abbreviated.   It was hard to leave her laying in her bed while I went off to run.  Was I being an irresponsible parent?  What if something happened to me along the way?   I took a serious assessment of the perils of early morning running in New York, then I plugged Simon & Garfunkel’s Live from New York City, 1967 into my ears and I took off into the rain-dampened first morning of fall.

The View from the 59th Street Bridge
The Pre-Sunrise View from the 59th Street Bridge

Before attempting the climb of the bridge I ran from down to 52nd street to put a mile to test my recovering calf.   I hadn’t run much in the prior six weeks and my legs felt strong and ate up the bridge climb like it was chocolate cake.

I had read a few blog posts about running the 59th Street Bridge and I was keenly aware that there was one lane for bicyclist and another for runner/walkers.  As I climbed the bridge, several cyclists descended at high-speeds in the runner/walker lane.   I was confused by this, but I decided to just go with the flow and I ran in the bike lane across the bridge.   Finally one cyclists looked at me and bowed his head in a way as if to say, “sorry that I am in your lane”.   I knew then that my confusion wasn’t about me, it was about them being on the side of the path that was more natural for them.   Never underestimate the power of knowing that the situational craziness is not about you.

IMG_0013I loved the downhill on the far side of the bridge and I pushed down it with everything I had.  I stopped for a breather and checked in on Foursquare.  I guess I expected to have Foursquare come back and tell me I was in Queens but instead it reported that I was in Long Island City.   I was a taken aback as I have for 40 years thought of Long Island City was being south of where I was; somewhere around the Midtown tunnel and the East River Ferry.  I never realized limits of that city extended this far.   I have ghosts in Long Island City so I said hello to them, said a prayer and started running back over the bridge.

IMG_0016
As the sun started to rise, Simon and Garfunkel sang the 59th Street Bridge song, or as it’s better known, Feelin’ Groovy.   At that moment, while running across the bridge, I took a cue from Sesame Street and sang out loud and strong for any the passing bicyclists to hear.

On my left during the run back I saw the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building shining like beacons in the morning light.  On my right was Roosevelt Island and then eventually, Manhattan.   The bridge was oh so very short. If I had a magic genie, I would have wished for my guitar and more time to take in those precious few minutes.

IMG_0019

I exited the running path and made a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts to get an extra-large coffee and some  Munchkins (donut holes) for the Child.  The coffee was horrible and I longed for the coffee that my wife makes with love every morning.  As I walked back to my hotel, hot coffee in hand, I appreciated what a gift it was to be able to accomplish what I just did.

Back in the hotel room, the Child was sound asleep safely in her bed.  I showered and dressed for the very long day ahead.  I packed and then sat and read the paper for a while as the sun bounced off the bridge I just traversed.  Eventually I woke my child up; after all, she had a race to run.

To Be Continued…

59th Street Bridge Run

An Open Letter To The Children of Las Vegas

Dear children of Las Vegas,

Don’t be the guy in the Elmo costume standing on the Strip in 106 degree weather trying to make “donations”.   You don’t want that job, get an education!.

The costume stinks from the perspiration of the guy who had it on the shift before you.  Every dollar you are given will be split with the guy who bought the suit 10 years ago.

On your street, you  have competition from Cookie Monster, Buzz and Woodie, Voltron, the Elvis guys and the little kid who plays classical music on his keyboard and of course, the beggars. What’s doing to differentiate you from any of them?  The beggars actually have an advantage over you in that they don’t have a costume pimp taking half.

You can be so much more; everyone wants you to be more, your parents, your teachers, and even though it’s just for tax reasons, the state wants you to be more.

Better to do the work in school than on the streets. You have to do the lame assignments and get them in on time.  You have to go to the library and do the research for the papers.   Trust me, it seems like a pain, but so is standing on a corner with ice packs every day cooling your skin so you don’t pass out waiting for tourists to part with their money.   Trust me, they don’t want to give you a “donation”.

God bless and PLEASE study hard and have a wonderful life.

Smplefy

P.S.  Don’t do drugs, put away 1/10 of everything you earn whether you can afford to or not, and if you can avoid it, never ever ever use credit to buy a depreciating asset (especially food).

An Open Letter To The Children of Las Vegas

The Color Run

Late last year, The Child told me that she wanted to do a Color Run.  It’s an event where the runners/walkers are sprayed with colored cornstarch as they go through the 5 kilometer (3.1 mile) course.  She had planned to run the event with a friend of hers so we signed her up without a second thought.  I am not keen on obstacle course, mud or similar events, so I chose not to register.

As race day approached, we realized that The Child’s friend did not register because she had doubts about her ability to run a 5K. As race day fell on the day that marked the start of my training for my next marathon, I decided to join my baby in the event.

Before the Race, but after a bit of oranging
Before the Race, but after a bit of oranging

The race started at 8am at the Fairplex in Pomona at a nice toasty 86ºF on the 8th day of summer.  I normally would not run a 5K with water, but because of the temperature The Child and I both did.

The event draws so many people that the race organizers have runners start in waves every thirty minutes.  Because we wanted to beat the heat, we arrived early for the first wave.  The Child has been blessed with the ability to run a mile in 7 minutes.  On a good day, I average between 4 and 5 minutes slower.  At a Disneyland race once, I kept pace with her for about 3/4 of a mile, but once she realized I was near her, she got mad and kicked in the afterburners leaving me in the dust.

I put everything I had into it the start of this race and was 4th in the race about a quarter-mile in.  The Child, oddly was running about a 10 minute pace during the first mile and was behind me. Something wasn’t right.  I stopped to take a picture of her as she passed me and then I stayed strategically behind her.

Approaching the spray down before the orange color station
The Child approaching the spray down before the orange color station

My child could be missing a limb and she wouldn’t admit that anything was wrong.  I know that she was more than capable of running in the heat, so I shadowed her; whenever she walked, I walked.  When she ran, I ran. It’s a weird feeling running with one’s child when one knows that something isn’t right.

I used to live near the fairgrounds in Pomona back in the late 1980s.  Last time I was there at the Fairplex was with an old girlfriend, SueEllen Snyder.  She passed away a few years back and as the race navigated through the fairgrounds, I flashed back on being at particular places with her during the county fair back in 1988.  I remembered that time and place vividly.  I said a quick prayer for her and her family and kept chasing my today.

IMG_1441
Immediately after the race. Note: Perspiration and corn starch may will discolor this skin.

The color stations are what initially had me not wanting to run this event.   The idea of running through colored cornstarch was really not appealing to me.  Turns out, I was right.  I wore my wrap around sunglasses to keep the stuff out of my eyes and I held my breath as I ran through each station, none the less, after the race, I was spitting blue.

The very cool part about this race for me was that the last bit of this race involved a lap around the horse race track.  As the Child was nearing the finish line and clearly not going to pass out, I decided to open things up a bit and run a bit harder.  In my mind, I was Secretariat.

After I passed The Child, I found myself feeling like a bad parent that I left her behind just to feel myself opening up on a race track.  That feeling was short-lived as my daughter sprinted past me.   We both made a break for the finish line.    I poured it on and sprinted past her at the finish line (although she claims she came in ahead of me).

A Color Bombing
A Color Party Begins

The after party was held on the inside of the race track.  There was plenty of room, lots of food and beverages for sale  and a rocking stage.   Every 15 minutes or so, they would have a color party where the race participants would open color packets and throw color in the air.  It made for a beautiful moments, but also made for some additional coloring opportunities.

The After Shot
The After Shot

This was an incredibly poor way for me to start a 19 week marathon training program.   My schedule called for 13 miles and as it turns out, I only ran 2.85 miles rather than 3.1.  Seems the course was a little short, but oh well; it was an even more about fun and smiles than it was about pace and distance.

The Child had corn starch all over herself, in her hair, and in her ears. Turns out it’s not so much the corn starch, but the corn starch mixed with sweat that was the problem. Let me put it like this, when I took my shower after the race, my chest was dyed the color of the Wicked Witch of the West.  Nothing like the site of ones self with dark green nipples.   After two showers, my scalp was still blue.

The event was incredibly well-organized and fun.   The staff and volunteers were high energy.  The crowd was fun and the venue was safe.   Best of all, the race pictures were free for download.  Would I do another color run? Probably not, unless The Child does.

Post Script:  As the day progressed, The Child became warm and started to complain of a sore throat.  She has a bug.

The Color Run

Days Go/Gone By

It’s about 3am and I just woke from that wonderful dream.

It’s that dream of moving back into the dorms at Whittier College a few days before the start of school. Judging by the details of this particular rendition of the dream, would place it at the start of Junior year in the fall 1986.

In my dream, I had arrived at the earliest possible time to check into my dorm room.  I routinely did that to get out of Vegas and be anywhere else.

I had moved into the third floor of Stauffer Hall, room 333.   I was out and about visiting people.   There was that mix of new faces and then old friends/acquaintances (my what Facebook-like terms).   I was wondering how long it would take my roommate to drive down from Alaska.  For some reason, he had my dog of 2013 with him.  I am not sure why.  I remembered that my wife, Laura was not happy about Tango going to stay with my roommate in Alaska.  Something about bears.   I was excited that this year, I could call him on his cell phone to keep track of his journey down the coast.

As I explored the dorms and the houses I saw friends that were reuniting after the summer.   I saw them getting back into their, for lack of a better term cliques and I the feeling of not belonging rose up in inside of me.   So in my dream, I excused myself from where I felt that I didn’t fit. I did that quite a bit as a teenager. I did that just yesterday as I think on it. That behavior has excluded me from a lot of fun, or so I think.

I walked backed to my dorm room and there was a familiar face.  She was clearly the floor RA,  telling me where the cleaning supplies were.   In the dream I didn’t recognize her face at first.  It was the face she was wearing at our 20 year reunion last year.  I recall being shocked in the dream at how much she had matured over the summer.  In my dream I noticed the details of her face more than I ever did in real life.

IMG_5257

I walked into my dorm room and the anxiety set in.   For some reason there was anxiety about whatever math class I was taking this year and how I was going get through it.   I’ve never been one to worry about classes, but my daughter last night was anxious over her finals this next week.   She also has cheer competitions in the coming weeks and there is cheer drama. There’s always cheer drama.

When I left work yesterday,  I had Keith Urban’s, ‘Days Go By” cranked surprisingly loud in my car as I made my way from office workstation to home workstation. Maybe that’s what triggered the dream.

Maybe, the dream was a function of how busy I am with work and training these days.

Maybe it’s the fact that I am a week away from getting on the road again and that after the stressful part of the trip is over, there will be a chance to visit friends and family in my typical hurried manner.

Maybe, it was just time to have that dream again.

Whatever the reason, it’s time to go back to bed.

Peace!

Days Go/Gone By