I did a five-mile race today in Parkland. I thought I knew everything I needed to know about the shooting, and what the effect on the community before I got there.
Turns out I had no idea.
Yes, they are all that.
I knew the clinical details, of course. Who did it, how many were killed and injured and the protests and movements that have followed. What I did not know was the community itself. I’d been there only once before, years ago, when it was as it still is — green with trees and lawns, wide roads and sidewalks, expensive houses grouped in mostly gated communities, very clean and tidy without industry or even strip malls to sully the appearance of a perfect place to live.
When it all changed at 3:18 p.m. on February 14, nothing on the surface was likely any different. The homes are still where people live, work, play, eat, sleep and raise families. The landscaping still looks fantastic, there’s no trash on the streets and commercial shopping is still located east of the Sawgrass Expressway.
But you cannot get away from what happened here. The maroon ribbons , faded and shredded, are still tied to trees near the high school. And as much as you want to look past the school, you can’t. It’s very large, the buildings are very conspicuously painted bright white and the surrounding fencing boasts dozens of mostly maroon advertising and support signs and banners. Local businesses who proclaimed their wares here before are especially proud to do so now. At today’s race, just shy of the seven-month anniversary, people wore #MSD Strong shirts, the city’s commissioners and mayor posed for photos with all the race winners and the girls from the school’s cross-country team helped present the age-group and overall winner awards.
In Parkland, everyone knows. Everyone cares. No one forgets. And city staff, runners and volunteers understood that this was not just a race. It was a step to something more. Maybe not forward or better yet, though I did see joy and smiles. It is not normal in Parkland, but I don’t know when or if it ever will be. I do know it is a great place to spend a race morning, and nothing can ever change that.
Admit it. You read the title and thought you knew what this was about and where it was going.
You’re right, sort of.
For a number of reasons, I’ve been doing a lot of yard work around the house lately. A recent construction project left back yard looking like a sand pit. We needed rocks, stepping stones, mulch and plants replaced and brick retaining walls rebuilt. My trusty little Versa (AKA the “Tin Tomato”) hauled everything from two different garden centers. All I had to do was carry, distribute, dig, water, feed and sweat a lot.
Then there’s a lawn to mow and edge and hedges to trim. I can now (usually) start our antique lawn mower (AKA “Sir Stinky”) with only a few pulls. The trimmer and hedger are modern-era machinery and are actually fun to use. But this is not work I would care to do as a regular everyday job for other people. Doing this in my own yard is work enough.
When it comes to taking on the tough stuff, most women I know don’t shy away from stepping up and serving notice on life’s problems and obstacles. For too long, we were not ready for #MeToo and #WhyI Didn’tReport. We were stuck in #NiceGirlsKnowBetter and #StaySilentStaySafe. That was the time of the Big Lies. We lied to ourselves and each other. Then a few of our inspired sisters braved the bullies and breached the wall. And the power deluge hasn’t stopped since. It’s difficult to watch the media coverage and keep hearing the messages from the past, reminding us to go sit down, shut up and let the men in charge handle things. We need to keep the power tools firmly in our grip and use them intelligently to clean out the mess of so many years.
I did a 5K today that represents a turning point in my running T-shirt collection. I had to start a fourth shelf to accommodate the next phase of expansion.
The three other shelves are nicely stacked and neatly packed with a colorful array of shirts, never worn but highly valued. For a long time, those shirts represented the only thing I received to show I’d been there, run that. Then I got much older and a little better and started placing in my age category. (I’m also probably outliving some of the competition, but let’s not get all smug about it).
Run enough, and your collection overtakes your space.
A total stranger approached me before the race this morning, just to ask me about my running experience. I told her I’d never done this particular event before, but I’d done about 100 others (based on my T-shirt count), plus triathlons and competitive swim events. She was just starting out, and was mostly walking her races at this stage. I told her to keep at it, because it would get easier and she would run more and walk less over time. She asked me why I do this. It’s the one question for which I never seem to have a good answer. I enjoy it, and believe that competing against yourself first and others second is the best way to obtain a sense of where your training routine is and where it need to go. It’s a means to challenge the ravages of time and the onset of disease, and a great way to get involved with a very caring community. It’s how to be alone in a crowd, a team of one against the clock.
And it’s a means of expanding your wardrobe. Unless you’re like me, and those T-shirts sit on shelves, testament to early mornings, long drives, heating pads, ice packs, easing out of bed or a chair due to day-after aches and pains and untold money spent on entry fees. And in case you’re wondering, there’s an empty shelf number five about shelf number four.
Three years ago, I chose the impossible. I did my first triathlon.
It still amazes me that I ever thought the idea of combining swimming, cycling and running was a remotely good idea, let alone a good sport for this aging human.
I still have that first hard-won medal, hanging by itself, but surrounded by many more achieved since then, none without hard work, all of them appreciated. The trophy wall has expanded to three walls and part of the floor (I’m looking for an antique corner table so the trophies on the floor will no longer rest there). I start Triathlon Competition Year Number Four tomorrow with a triathlon, of course. A tough one (it involves a bridge crossing during the bike portion), but it’s a good way to celebrate both a milestone in competition and a milestone birthday. I have begun my seventh decade on the planet.
At a time when many of my contemporaries prefer the comfort of the couch and computer, I look for stairs and seek new ways to wake up sore in the mornings. Bottles of OTC pain relieving-pills and a variety of ointments, salves, rolls and gels are now a common presence in my life, rather than an occasional visitor. I need a training day off now and then, something I once considered only in times of illness or excruciating pain. My workout gear still takes up more closet space than regular clothing, and my bike lives on an indoor cycling stand so I can ride it on rainy days. I’ve been packed for this weekend’s event for almost a week, so ready-set-go has conquered nerves and anxiety. I still use a gear list, but by now I can place everything in my transition bag the same way, in the same place, every time. If only I could re-pack the bag after the race as neatly as I pack it before the race.
I enjoy the competitive community; we temporarily stop being friends at the sound of the starting gun, yet we are there for each other if something goes wrong out there. We never let an injured athlete sit alone and hurting on the course. Show up in transition with a broken shoelace or bent spoke, someone in the crowd can fix it. You need extra water, ice, sunblock, bug spray or a protein bar? The guy or gal in your rack row is sure to have some. TP run out in your porta-potty? Open the door and ask; another competitor will get you some. It’s gratifying to see a lot of kindness out there in a world where bullying seems to be a government institution and the widespread callous treatment of minorities is expected and accepted. Triathlons, swim meets and competitive running events have neither race nor ethnic requirements, and remarkably few physical requirements; you only need to bring your best effort.
It happened this week. My feet got older and bigger. I went to my favorite local running shoe store (still love Linda, George and all the gang at Tri Bike Run, even after this), and found out that there’s no way around it. I am now a double-digit shoe size.
Turns out this is not unusual: our feet gain as much as a size every decade after age 40. The tendons and ligaments lose elasticity, lowering the arches and flattening the feet. For the record, I’ve always had flat feet, so how much lower can they possibly go? Am I looking at the possibility of rolling along on concave arches? And if I live to 100, I would be a size 14 foot. That’s NBA player territory, house-building material, floorboards for the Ark. How do I stop this? Do I sit down for the rest of my life, risking a heart attack and growing to the size of an office building, but preventing further foot growth? Do I engage in the ancient Chinese ritual of foot binding, an excruciatingly painful practice involving the breaking of toes and wrapping them to create the small feet deemed desirable and beautiful? No option is a good one, but the idea of showing up at a race among all those prettily shod feminine feet, clad in their racing flats of fluorescent pink, yellow, green, orange, white and lavender makes a person want to start way in the back of the pack and stay there.
Getting older is inevitable, but I hoped I would outrun the signs of aging for awhile. Not this one. So if anyone doubts the existence of Bigfeet, they need only catch a glimpse of my closet, where my size 10 Brooks reside. Unless of course, I am out running. Then just listen for the pitter-patter of some not-so-tiny feet behind you.
Thanks to my friends Gayle and Paul, I almost got arrested yesterday. Knowing their collective sense of humor, they will probably find this story funny.
I stopped by the post office to drop off a holiday card for these dear friends, and as I was in a hurry, I drove up to the curbside box, a commodious double-wide thing with enough room inside for a football team. Failing to actually look, I attempted to gently place my little card in the slot , and the mailbox upchucked cards all over my car. Turns out the box was overloaded (probably by some eggnog-addled snowbird who shoved packages down its slot and jammed it), so my one pathetic excuse for a greeting card resulted in a puking postal. I got out of my car (at that point, there was no one pulled up behind me) and picked up the cards, intending to put them back into the impossibly stuffed slot. Fortunately, a nice postal
Yup, my box runneth over, too.
worker came out just in time to empty the box.
Of course, as I am bent over, hands full of other peoples’ mail, who pulls up but a local cop. At that moment, of course it looks like I am committing a federal offense. Call it luck or a lack of desire on his part, but I was spared a set of nice shiny handcuffs, a ride in that tricked-out ridiculous police SUV (why our town cops have them is a puzzle; we live in a village, people!) and worst of all, explaining to my husband how his wife is in jail and he would have to fix his own dinner for one night.
So, if you have a good holiday story, please post, share, tag and laugh about it. We could all us it. And stay safe out there.
Those of your staring out your window at bare trees, a brown lawn and leaden sky…don’t read any further. The rest of you may carry on.
I got the bug to pull weeds today, after Small Business Saturday shopping ’til I dropped. But I wasn’t pulling just any weeds. It’s a three-foot by six-foot patch of oyster plant, an invasive species that’s still used as ornamental ground cover here, because it thrives where other plants don’t,
but has a tendency to grow Teflon©-tough roots and take out anything living in its path. This plant is considered a pest in Australia, and I wish we felt the same about it here. You pull out one plant, and find roots for a dozen more. I worked for an hour and removed about a third of the spread, filling three large trash bags. I will owe The Husband at least another box of those. Filling them was the easy part; I will pay for my foolishness next week, when I have to drag them to the end of the driveway for pickup.
Why was I removing this plant pest, when leaving it would be easier? I planted tomatoes (twice, since heavy rain pounded my first plant into sad submission), Brussels sprouts and broccoli. They are thriving, so I figure I have another green thumb to spare. Not sure what will go there, since it is only partial sun and backs up to the fence line. My state planting guide lists a lot of possibilities, but it always boils down to what we’re willing to eat and how we protect the crop from critters. A trip to the garden center or farmer’s market plant dude is in my future, though living off our land certainly isn’t. What we grow would not feed us for two days, never mind a whole season. Round 2 of the whack-a-weed game is tomorrow. Stay tuned.