An Evening with Jodi Picoult 

My plan, once I finish the book, is to meet up with any interested friends–of all colors–to discuss.

The traffic odds were stacked against me… both Chris Stapleton and ADELE were in town.  But I knew I would go anyway because my favorite author was in town on a book tour for her most recent release.

When I get there, I realize I have been to this section of the city before in order to get my race number for the Music City Fourth of July 10k run (ridiculously hot).  There are people riding a party bike and singing “Don’t Stop Believing”; there are kids tearing it up down the street to get to the skate park nearby.

I smile warmly and politely to the others waiting in line.  We make small talk and wait excitedly for the door to open.  When they do open, we calmly file in the building and get a name tag and gift bag each with a hardcover copy of the new release.  I set my bag down and grab something to eat.  There are tiny tarts–pecan, chess and cherry–to enjoy and either white or red wine (pinot grigio or pinot noir).  I choose the red and sit down at my table to enjoy it all.

We wait patiently for the guest of the hour to arrive.  (I can imagine that the anticipation for Stapleton/Adele was much louder and more raucous,  but I digress…)

She tells the story of how the book finally came to be, after shelving the idea for years.  How the struggle to get down a story, as a privileged white woman, on race was a challenge.  How she came up with the title,  and what we can do in our communities to ALLY ourselves together.

 The title, Small Great Things,  comes from a Martin Luther King Jr quote: ” If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

While a majority of the group assembled that night were also white women, we were all interested in what we could do to help break down those walls, to bring us all–including my tablemates, a pleasant mother/daughter duo–together.  

I’ve always pondered ways I could work to bring us all together.  I remember the young black boy at my private school. I would say hello and give a cheerful smile, but circumstances developed later on that school year and he left.  (I have always wondered why?)  Then there was the Saudi Arabian girl I sat next to my Senior year.  She struggled mightily to learn the English language, had a sharp wit and a caring heart.  (She transferred to public school that winter.  I still wonder about her and where she may be now…)  While we had a few other people who were not white, the roster was pretty concentrated on a certain “look”.

I enjoyed listening to Nic Stone interview Jodi and the perspective she was able to offer.  [Planning to read her work, “Dear Martin”, when it is out.]  Her struggle struck a chord when she described texting the author and month ago on her fears for her sons after the most recent events in the City of Charlotte,  my previous city of residence.  My heart goes out to my past city and to the people like that who always have to worry.  What can we do to help generate positive change?

The evening and the conversation brought back the passion to continue blogging and use that as practice to restart my writing.

While we patiently waited our turn to get our books signed, my table mates and I struck up a conversation.  It started with what’s your favorite of her novels?  (Second Glance,  about a eugenics project in Vermont in the 1930’s.)   Then we progressed to other topics.

—–

My plan, once I finish the book, is to meet up with any interested friends–of all colors–to discuss.  We need to give everyone a voice and hear what is said.

Let’s ALLY together!:

  • Always Center the impacted
  • Listen and learn from those who live in the oppression
  • Leverage your privilege
  • Yield the floor

West End Muses

It is real, raw, and inspiring. The emotions are palpable.

Then you meet one of these people first-hand. Just amazing, wonderful people, chasing their Dream.

We are all trying to get somewhere and are doing our best to get there…  Nowhere have I seen this more in evidence than Nashville.

Every day about 85-90 people move to this City on the hopes of making something big out of their talents.

The dreams and words written on bar napkins, the notebooks crammed with random lyrics while the next musician waits his/her turn at open mic night, guitar in its case behind him as he waits.

It is real, raw, and inspiring.   The emotions are  palpable.

Then you meet one of these people first-hand.  Just amazing, wonderful people,  chasing their Dream.

They’ve poured their heart and soul into countless hours of performances at hotels, bars, and honky tonks.

I have no idea how this process goes, so I cannot explain the emotions that must go through that individual when that day arrives when you finally have proof–in hand–of your hard work.  Sometimes it can take years, which makes the achievement that much more resonant.


 

Recently, a bunch of friends and I from my local run group made it out to watch one of our group debut her first EP.  [I love that right now, my phone tried to autocorrect to EPIC, ’cause it is…and was.]

Big smiles were in effect as she took the stage and brought that country sass, warming up with each song.  A small “family” had gathered for her of other aspiring musicians, friends, co-workers,  and buddies from the run group.  The love sent her way, from both near and afar, buoyed her with each song.  The stage lights shone down on her and Ben Potter, her guitarist.  The moment sparkled and crystallized into a memory as sweet as sugar.


 

Having a copy of a friend’s hard work in the form of a CD makes the moment real and re-liveable.  The culmination of work and late nights, the sweat and tears…and years, oh years of Dreaming.  It’s transcendent,  magical, beautiful.

Just as beautiful, inside and out, as you are, Chellanie.  I wish you years of success and big dreams,  with plenty of sass.  I’ll be here watching you shine brigher.

Kicking the Hamster off the Pity Party Wheel…

If I ever am unable to run for any reason in the future, I am totally happy to volunteer. Helping people in any way possible truly speaks to my Soul.

I was having one of those epic runs… You know the type if you run too.  Great day/weather, good friends to share it with.  Sure, I was struggling a bit that day, but we all were, so commiseration was the glue that held us all together to the very end.

I got home and did my yoga/stretch routine, but even after that something didn’t feel right.  The underside of my foot was in pain that persisted all night and in to the next day.

I tried not to freak out.  “Just rest it, you’ll be fine.  Take a day off from running…”  But the pain was still there the next day and the next.  I couldn’t avoid it anymore.  The reality of an injury was staring me in the face as I was preparing to train and run in a half marathon race with my new run group.  “I can’t be a Quitter…not now…not so early into this”, my mind said.  But my gut told me that I had tried to be Epic before while in pain.  That stubborn move led me to 6 weeks in a walking boot and a slow return to running.  I knew the pain I was having was exactly the same as when I had had a stress fracture to my left fibula just before another half marathon race that I had been hyping about on my social media page for Months…

“It’s time to shut the running down, sister”, I said to myself.  The other half of my brain cried, “Nooooooooo!”

But I shut down running anyway until I got a chance to finally see a doctor.  “Training for the Middle Half, were ya?”, he asked.  “How’d ya know?” I replied in surprise.  “With the pain you’re in, you definitely have to shut down running for a bit and rehab this injury.  So NO racing for you, dear.”

I honestly don’t know how I didn’t break down crying in the exam room.

I hobbled to the main wing of the Hospital for x-rays (inconclusive), and blinked back my tears as the receptionist there checked me in.

“This is NOT happening, it’s a bad dream.  I’ll wake up and have the most Epic run I’ve ever had.”

But no.

REALITY. seriously. bites.

Pity party train…


So my mind switched into rehabilitation mode.

“Okay, girl.  We’ve been down this road before.  It was worse last time, but we caught this stuff way ahead of the game than we did the first time.  Let’s see how fast/efficiently we can recover now…”, it said.

Off to Operation Recovery Mode.  Healthy whole foods with Omega 3’s, lots of rest, and Cycling Class…my one small claim to Sanity.  I commenced to pedaling my short, stumpy legs as hard as I could make them go.  Challenging myself in other ways in order to keep up my fitness.

Gradually, my foot started to heal and short walks started to feel comfortable again.  The nervous voices in my head stopped nagging me 24/7 and were letting me do my own thing…

Not out of the woods, yet…  But darned close!


Finally, the day of the Middle Half loomed close.

I knew I was still not physically ready to race…let alone for 13.1 miles.  The hamster wheel in my mind raced.  “Whatcha gonna do now? ”

Then someone in my run group–also sidelined with an injury–suggested Volunteering.

“Sounds good to me”, I said, “When and where?”

“Let me reach out to the Race Director and see what you can do”, she said.

Music to my ears.  I could knock that stupid hamster telling me I was a looser because I couldn’t run out of my mind and be USEFUL.

I know I have gone to bed the night before a race so nervous and excited that it was hard to sleep, but I was having the same issues sleeping that night just thinking about volunteering.

If I ever am unable to run for any reason in the future, I am totally happy to volunteer.  Helping people in any way possible truly speaks to my Soul.

With a huge, happy grin on my face, I showed up at the volunteer tent and jumped in full tilt to whatever they had for me to do.  Picking up trash with a grabber, hauling bags of ice for the water bottles to stay cool, aiding at a water station.  Just show me what to do and I am totally in to help out!

Resisting the urge to pinch random people… hehe!

Water, water everywhere!!!!

Aiding at Water Station #1 at Mile 2 was a BLAST!  Not sure how the intensity and enthusiasm was at other water stops, but I’m going to hope we set the bar for the rest of them to follow suit. 😉  Cheers, whoops and hollers, positive words of encouragement and a few selfies later and we were all cleaning up the tables and picking up empty paper cups.  Our crew had a wonderful time together and smiled at each other in camaraderie as we walked away.  Jobs complete.  High Five, Team!


I made it back to the track where the half marathon would end with just enough time to see the elites finish, so I knew I had my spot locked in for the rest of the race to watch my new-found friends complete.  My heart had been with them every step, even as I worked frantically at the water station.

Cowbell Corner, locked in and ready!  HOLLAAAAAAA!!!!!

To be honest, even though I couldn’t run this race, watching my new friends compete and being there, cheering each one I noticed as they reached the final stretch to the Finish Line really warmed my soul.  Since moving here in February, I really struggled with the fear of fitting in and finding friends of my own where I had something in common with them.  Being shy and reserved with a bubbly exterior is a constant struggle for which side of my personality will be stronger that day.

As I stood behind the metal barrier fence, I thought to myself how Blessed I am.  Other people would move toward the fence and away again after a husband, wife, loved one, or good buddy had finished, but I was still there until the 3 hour mark in the race, cheering on people I Actually Knew!  I am so happy to be in this new town with all these Awesome new friends.

Together we will tackle more races.  I will be back (shortly) with a vengeance. We WILL have the most fun together.

…And if they ever need a fangirl, I’m totally on board for that too!

YOU: the Movie

Recently I was listening to a podcast…what he had to say completely floored me.

Did you see that great new movie about that guy/girl who did this crazy/brave/sensational/epic thing?…

Ever thought to yourself,  that would be pretty cool to be the main character in that movie? …But I’m too (fill in the blank here.)

What would it take to change all that?  Deliberate, planned out processes…or a sudden cataclysmic dust-up with the life you once knew.

That’s what happened to my life.  A demanding  but unfulfilling job (that I hated) and a diagnosis of stage 4 cancer in the family.  I was out on a Commitment Run on the new year that I cut short, then later that evening discussing in-depth pulling up roots and moving.  Changing life as we knew it on a dime…

I will admit, it allowed me to fulfill a 20-year long dream of mine by moving to the outskirts of the city of my dreams,  but I had definitely not predicted that on New Year’s Eve, the night before, holding a glass of cheap champagne at Parent Midnight (9pm).

So I ask you, if you could write the movie featuring You, how would you write it?…

Recently I was listening to a podcast where a very famous runner was being interviewed.   What he had to say completely floored me; it made me think really hard…

He said, “Script your perfect life.”

What parts of your life work for you, and what parts would you change?  What would your Ideal Life look like?  What would it be?  What would you do?

Want the blockbuster life/movie of the Century?  Write on your own, right now!

(Just remember me in your credits line at the end of your movie.)

What Emerged from the Ashes…

My small problems, discomforts, and complaints burned in those ashes…

This past weekend,  I drove with some friends of mine from a local run group I had recently joined down to Chattanooga to watch the Ironman race.  There were about 5 people we were hoping to cheer on that day.

If you’re not familiar with an Ironman, it’s a race where they swim 2.4 miles, bike for 112, miles, and then run a full 26.2 marathon after all that.  (There are smaller versions where you run half those distances, for a half Ironman; and even shorter for an Olympic distance Ironman.)  [I should also mention that the bike portion of the Race in Chattanooga ends up being more–116 miles as the out-and-back portion–and deemed safer if they lead the racers that extra 4 miles.]

Weather conditions at the race were higher than average.  The thermometer climbing up to 97° by the height of the day.  (The hottest day for late September on record for the City since the early 1930’s…)  Sure, you say, fall season in the South.  Try running in the heat of the day , when your body temperature cranks up about 20° more with exertion.  That’s ramping up Temps to 107-117° per athlete!

Most people we met just past the bike transition area were walking or easy jogging to conserve energy and reduce body heat output. Definitely not a day for any PR’S  (Personal Records)!

Meeting the runners at the run transaction seemed best because it’s not easy for the athletes to see you from the shore while they’re swimming and the bike section is out and back with little area to spectate.  The run loop in Downtown Chattanooga provides at least 2 chances to watch and cheer for your favorite competitor.  (We added more viewing and cheering time by shifting from one watch area to the other, then did the whole rotation again once they passed the halfway mark.)

Doing that meant a lot of walking, but I was up for that (even though I’m rehabbing a small injury).  I was eternally grateful for the team tent, where we met with the coaches of their group, shared some shade, and swapped some stories in the intense heat of the day.  

Families and support groups were crowded in every available shaded spot they could find in order to help tolerate the heat to some small level of comfort.  Still, everyone was dripping in sweat, especially in the low-lying areas of the city.  Moving from cheering for their friends and family to seeking air conditioning,  when they could. 

Watching them run/race walk in grueling temperatures for hours on end after having biked an extra-long time, I was in awe of the ability of the human body.  I watched a grown man, muscles seizing in the heat and obvious fatigue contemplate stopping.  His family had stopped there (temporarily) to cheer for him.  He contemplated giving up.  While waiting for the wagon, he stretched out his throbbing legs in a shaded area of overpass.  When at last the wagon swung by his area, his determination and grit had returned.  He stood up and waved the ride away, deciding instead to keep on running.   (I saw him once later on in the day and yelled encouragement.)

I kept out of the way of support vehicles and made conscious efforts to keep my words of encouragement to acceptable turns of phrase. (Like not shouting “Almost there!!!” at mile 8 of 26.2. Lol!)   For the most part, I would silently ring my cowbell or holler to lift someone’s spirits.  Inside, my thoughts were a turmoil of processing and logic in true Gemini-style.  I thought about the day, this race, the tired/sweaty people still gutting it out, the sacrifices and hundreds of hours of training involved to bring these people to this point in their lives.  While I am not sure I will ever get to that level–or ever truly WANT to be–The experience was generating a slow fire in my heart.  

My small problems,  discomforts, and complaints burned in those ashes.  My “excuses” and lame reasons meant nothing while staring this level of Dedication head-on.  Sure, I was currently rehabbing a small injury,  but that shouldn’t mean that I throw my hands up in despair and claim that as my official excuse to never push myself further,  once healed.

Later on, the heat of the day started dissipating incrementally.  The sun moved to a different point on the horizon, offering more shade to the sweaty watchers like ourselves.  We huddled on the other side of the road for relief and would jog across the way to cheer once again when a familiar race number was called,  signalling a friend on their way that we needed to keep cheering for.  Once most of them had passed,  it was back to Checkpoint 2, where the sun was just past set in the airless bowl just before Memorial Bridge and the mighty Tennessee River.  The cooler temperature offered the runners who were still going some level of reprieve. At this time, the occasional runner was up to light running to make up race time from their sweaty mid-day slog and all day efforts. The cheering levels intensified here, hoping to give the runners buoyancy for the miles left to go.

We eventually exited this area once again and made our way to a different part of the city that most of us hadn’t seen yet. The art district–which sits on a hill–offered a much-welcome breeze, some pleasant musical distraction, and some wonderful sculptures to remark upon.  Descending the lighted stairs in the evening was a scary, but exciting experience as you felt as if you could quite possibly  keep walking to the aquarium rooftop, if this sensation of flying continued…

We found a circuitous route past Barton Ave to reach the Finish Line and tucked in to an open area to find people we knew and cheer on those we did not.  Multiple high-fives were requested by passing runners, on their way further down the chute to the Finish Line.  Quite a lot of cowbelling or shaking of lighted tambourines that were passed out with the Little Debbie sponsored logo on them.  The atmosphere was Electric.  The excitement palpable.  The physical pain and struggle written clearly on each athletes’ face, whether smiling or gutting it out to the end.  

Hearing the announcer offer the proclamation to each finisher, by name, “You are an Ironman!!!!!!!” rang like church bells in the air, next to the winding Tennessee River on Ross’ Landing.  Emotions floating to the surface and rising up as an offering to those who had stuck with it,  the athletes finishing in the 14-16 hour mark, with cheers ringing louder as the minutes crept further into the night and the midnight cutoff time.