Monday, August 11, 2014

My Holy Shit Training Moment

"Holy shit, I get it!"

I admit those words came sputtering out of my mouth just after mile 7 of my 10 mile long run today. I repeated them several times too. I have just finished week 3 of my training for the Philadelphia Marathon and it is finally sinking in just how serious of a plan I have chosen. The concept is cumulative fatigue - designed to prepare you fully for the rigors of the marathon - and today for the first time in the training program I really really got it.

Yesterday, after just two weeks of following the Hansons Marathon Method I finally managed to defeat my nemesis and knock 8 seconds off my 5k time. I've been chasing a PR in that distance ever since I ran my 23:29 in Philly last September. I've watched as the minutes have fallen off all of my other distances, but in the 5k I had remained stuck. Until yesterday morning in Asbury Park. I didn't shatter my time, but 8 seconds was enough to make me feel like I had done something substantial. On a much hotter day and in certainly more humid conditions, I mailed in a 23:21 and kissed that Philly time goodbye. It felt so good.

After completing the Asbury Park 5k on Saturday, 8/9/14
Official Time: 23:21, 7:31/mile
Being stuck at 23:29 was part mental - I had some emotional ties to that race and I think for awhile I was having difficulty dealing with those. But it was also physical. I just needed to get faster and stronger. I can already feel that happening and it's amazing.

Today my plan called for a 10 mile long run. From reading the strategy behind the plan I know that it is designed so that the long runs begin to simulate the final miles of the marathon. You are running on tired legs from all the work done during the week. For some unknown, God-forsaken reason today I decided to run at 4pm along a hilly route with not so much shade. Yes, in August. It sounded much better in my head.

I felt great for the first 3 miles. See, life has been good these last few weeks and these last few days especially. Running is my thinking time and right about now thinking is good. I have a lot to look forward to over the coming weeks and months. Songs like "On Top of the World" and "Happy" which are currently on my running playlist don't seem to do it justice. Perhaps soon there will be a blog post about some of these things, but for right now they will just remain nebulous. Let's just say that vacation is coming up, dating is great, preseason football is on, and the Afghan Whigs are about to be back in the States. (And did I mention that I finally got a new PR in the 5k?)

So, I had a lot of good things to think about for the first few miles of this long run. And then I started to realize that my hip hurt a little. And my legs felt like lead. And I really would just rather be taking a nap. And who picked such a hilly freaking route to run on for 10 miles?! The internal debate began. I'll just do the one loop and then the second time I will take the shorter loop and then run around close to my car until I hit 10. As I debated, I slowed down.

Then, I said...really? You are going to run past your car again and just keep running around randomly until you hit 10 miles? Dumbest. Idea. Ever. Do the full second loop (with all the hills included) and do a cool down walk back to the car when you hit 10. Full 10 miles. Full challenge. No cop out. So, that's what I did.

And as I came up on mile 7 and my "holy shit" moment I realized that not only was this run training my body for the marathon, it was also training my mind. Here I was coming up to the end. What was I going to do?

By the time I got to mile 8 1/2, I remember thinking, here you are. It's the last mile and a half of the marathon. Are you going to treat it the same way you have treated your first two and survive through it? Plod across the finish line and feel like you barely made it.

Or are you going to dig deep and run so you leave it all on the road? Force those tired legs to perform like you know they can. Get your BQ or pass out at the finish line trying. From somewhere I found it. And those tired legs worked because I willed them to work. And I learned two important lessons today: 1) what I do in training is what I will do on race day, and 2) when I think I can't, I can.

Perhaps good for life too, but that's probably another blog post.

After my 10 mile Long Run on Sunday, 8/10/14

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Training My Brain

This morning I realized through heavy eyelids that my upcoming marathon training cycle will be much more about training my brain than training my body. As my obnoxious alarm beckoned me out of bed after a mere 4 1/2 hours sleep, the only thing I wanted to do was turn it off and roll back over. 

I hit snooze and allowed for the internal debate. 

I had already run 7 miles last night.

I haven't even started my official training program yet.

I'm so tired and this is my last chance to rest before my "real" marathon training starts.

But would I feel at 9:00am rolling out of bed not having run?

There's a whole running club to meet up with at 8:00am.

It's been a really long, emotional, full week and 7 miles was good, but adding on another 6 would be divine.

Training to BQ is going to be so much harder than getting out of bed for a 6 mile run after a night out. If I can't do it now, how will I ever hope to do it for the next 18 weeks?

This was only Day 1 of many when I will not FEEL like getting it done, but I must train my brain to do it anyway. And so I rolled out of bed, threw on some running clothes, and got out the door in record time. I made it just in time for the quick club meeting at 8am and to tag along with two club members I've never met before on a 6 mile loop around the Rutgers campus. We had a great time together.

On Thursday, I will officially start my training program for the Philadelphia Marathon. I'm using the Hansons Marathon Method which will mean six days a week of running and an aggressive schedule of speed work, tempo runs, and strength training. There will undoubtedly be many days when I would rather curl up in a ball than run. Those are the days when I will dig deep and train my brain. I already know that the finish line demands it and come November 23rd I want to know that I gave everything I had to my training. No excuses and no regrets - 18 weeks of forward motion.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Past Two Months

Plugging along the final stretch
It's been just about 2 months since I ran the NJ Marathon and made my first attempt to achieve a qualifying time for Boston. Even though I knocked 12 minutes off my time from the NYC Marathon in November, I still didn't hit the sweet spot of sub 3:40. I did go sub-4 which is sort of a big deal and I knew when I crossed the finish line that I could do better next time out. A 3:55:16 was great, but it wasn't great enough for Boston.
Beach finish line!
It was no more than 15 minutes after finishing the race when I started talking with one of my fellow running club members about our next BQ attempt. That night we were texting back and forth about training plans and strategy. This running thing has definitely bored its way into my soul.
The morning after the NJ marathon I received a Facebook message from my training coach from the NYC Marathon. He had been at the NJ Marathon and cheered me forward at a critical moment as I was leaving Asbury Park and headed into the wind for the last 6 miles. Cliff's message was matter of fact - that I will get to Boston through Philly and a reminder that with the Philly Marathon I will have the good running months to prepare. It was exactly what I needed to hear in the midst of my mixed emotions about my finish in the NJ Marathon.
I rested for the week and then ran a 10k on Saturday morning, achieving a 5 minute PR completing the race in 48:39. I went for the trifecta of PRs in one week and ran a 5k that same evening, but couldn't quite pull it off. I missed a 5k PR (going back to a race in September 2013) by 23 seconds, but did manage to place first in my age group.
A lot has happened in the two months since those races - personally and professionally - and I am now on the verge of beginning my training for the Philadelphia Marathon. It will be my 2nd attempt at a BQ and the honest truth is that I'm just this side of mortified. The doubts are creeping in. I'm realizing just how much time 16 minutes is to knock off one's marathon time.

But there have been some wonderful things going on in my life which only promise to get better and I find hope in them. I am happily back to dating again after my heartbreak of earlier this year. There have been 3 amazing Afghan Whigs shows with some of the coolest people I know, with more shows to come this fall. Two weeks ago I was able to once again travel to Sao Paulo, Brazil as a part of a campaign I am assigned to for work and it was inspiring on so many levels. My sister Karen and her husband are about to have their second child and my other sister Naomi will be visiting from Idaho twice this summer.

It hasn't been all roses though. Work has had its challenges. Fighting on the side of working people when corporations have so much power and influence isn't always encouraging. In May, we had a final vote count for an organizing effort I had spent long hours working on over the past year and we lost by 2 votes. The month of June has been spent fighting back against attacks on public workers in NJ. But, for two days in June we brought together all of the organizers working in our CWA District for a retreat and I found deep hope in all of the incredible work being done.

And then, on Thursday, June 19 there were two beautiful moments of the arc of justice bending which gave me hope in the midst of a lot of discouraging developments. I was sitting in a training class when we got the news that the union election for US Air and American Airlines agents would be moving forward this summer. US Air agents are currently CWA members and American Airlines agents have been actively organizing to join our Union for more than 20 years. With the recent merger of the two companies all agents will now vote on the question of Union representation. With this announcement came flashbacks to our most recent organizing effort during which workers came so close to winning and to the mountain AA workers faced as they fought for their Union. I cried when we lost that election in January 2013 and teared up again when word came on June 19 that the election would be moving forward. Support is overwhelming this time around and, with continued hard work, in just a few months AA agents will finally have their Union.

I was still in that same training class when my social networking feeds started exploding with news of the vote on same sex marriage in my denomination, the Presbyterian Church, USA.
Indeed, I witnessed the arc of justice bending just a bit that day and it was beautiful. I thought of all of those who can now know our church to be as welcoming as Jesus himself. I thought especially of our youth and how important it is for them to know they are loved and welcome. I pray that we can live it in a true and meaningful way. This one was deep for me and I am so thankful.

There is something about how all of these pieces are playing together in my life right now that reminds me of the delicate balance between hope and despair, between determination for change and the temptation to just give up. I will carry all of these life pieces into my training and as I prepare for my next BQ attempt I will get ready to go full throttle towards the finish line. No fear to attempt here. In every part of my life I choose hope over despair and the determination for change over the temptation to just give up. I find that it's a decision I must make daily. And so I will.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Brooklyn, Boston, Baltimore - Maybe I Should Just Be a Roadie

I've been looking forward to the past 3 days ever since the tickets went on sale and in the ensuing chaos I ended up with the Holy Trinity of East Coast shows - Brooklyn, Boston & Baltimore. Those of us Afghan Whigs fans on the East Coast patiently watched as our friends out West gathered setlists and cool photos with the band and relayed every possible detail about the shows out there. We watched the Coachella livestream, read every article, and sifted through all the photos - knowing that soon enough our time would come. And come it did.

For me, it was 3 days of friends, feelings, and f*@king awesome. I brought my cousin Alyssa (currently a resident of Boston) to her first ever AW show. We got drenched waiting almost an hour for the doors to finally open there. I had more than one heartfelt conversation about the tough stuff of life with people who over the last two years have become really good friends. I devoured some delicious Jamaican food and threw back my share of beers. I drove a lot and for at least some of those hours on the road had some really good company in the car (Elissa & Andre!). I met new people. I had amazing late night red velvet chocolate chip pancakes. I danced my ass off and and lost most of my ability to hear. I finally got to hear these "Do To The Beast" songs live which I have been listening to non-stop in my car, on the running trails, and in my basement. I laughed a lot. I cried a little. And I realized just how important this band and the friends I've made through them have been to me in dealing with the loss of my husband.

With Alyssa waiting outside Paradise Rock Club in Boston 5/16/14
When the unmistakeable opening for Faded started in Brooklyn I steeled myself for what I was sure would be neverending waterworks. That was, after all, what happened during the 2012 tour anytime that song was played. I was a little taken aback when it didn't happen. Instead, I was simply filled with a sense of peace about how awesome it was to be there in that moment with so many of my friends and I was thankful for the gift Joe had given me of connecting me with them. I came to The Congo because Joe was on the listserv going back for as long as I can remember. After he died, I continued to keep up with the emails through his account and found the Facebook group that way. There are just no words to describe the awesome people I have found there and the fun we have had together starting with the Bowery Ballroom show in May 2012.

The reunion tour was an emotional one for me. Joe hadn't even been gone a year and it was my first time experiencing shows without him, but I've noticed a real change has taken place from then until now. For sure sometimes I still feel awfully lonely, but I have grown in to a peace that I'm never alone - I felt it during Faded in Brooklyn and many more times over the days that followed.

With Elissa & Melissa at Brooklyn Bowl, 5/15/14
I was too excited about seeing the Whigs to figure out what I was supposed to
be doing with my hand.
With Melissa & Amie at Brooklyn Bowl, 5/15/14
The band kept it interesting for those of us who attended all 3 shows and switched up the setlists pretty significantly between the three nights. Although Baltimore was definitely my favorite show out of the three (it is actually in a dead heat now for my favorite show ever), Brooklyn and Boston each had songs that were particularly memorable. Neglekted in Brooklyn was just plain hot and anytime I get to hear John the Baptist live I consider it a special treat. They pulled out Crime Scene, Into the Floor, and Miles Iz Ded in Boston - all of which were exciting for me to hear live again.

The biggest highlights though definitely came in Baltimore. Turn On the Water. Debonair. And of course the perfect trilogy from Black Love - Bulletproof, Summer's Kiss, & Faded. Greg did a intro to Faded from Sometimes It Snows in April that he did at the other 2 shows as well but for some reason here it was just out of this f*@king world. As was the whole show. 

With Melissa waiting in line at Ottobar in Baltimore 5/17/14
I Am Fire seemed like it would never end and I didn't want it to. Greg sang the opening verse directly in front of us and stared right at Sheila while he sang the "I could love you" line. (Thankfully, she didn't pass out from the excitement.) I have never had more fun singing along at a show than I did during F&F and Going to Town at the Baltimore show. I'm sure it wasn't true, but from where I was it felt like every single person in the crowd knew every single word and it was a high too intense for words.

The Ottobar was a perfect venue, reminding me of every great Jersey dive bar that is no longer and I was finally in the front row again for an AW show. It just felt right in every way. The band was having fun. Everyone in the crowd seemed to be giving it all they had and Greg only had to call out a rogue audience member once for taking a photo with flash. Greg made two beautiful dedications to Sam Holden and I had some of the photographs he has taken over the years floating through my mind during the show (one of my favorites). By the time the encore was over in Baltimore, I had no voice left, my ears were ringing, and I was sweating from head to toe. I was surrounded by kick ass Congo members and we were all firmly planted on Cloud 9.

Susan's setlist from the Ottobar in Baltimore, 5/17/14
Brooklyn, Boston, & Baltimore were days I will not soon forget.

While walking back to the car after the Brooklyn show two friends and I ran into Greg who was coming up the street in the other direction. It wasn't "my" moment since I've been lucky enough to meet him before and feel like I've said what I needed to say then, but something Greg said to my friend who was talking to him stuck with me.  The more I thought about it the more I realized it is the perfect summary to the past 3 days and really the past two and a half years. He said, "music is the thing that makes us feel not alone. It's what connects us all."

Three cheers for the savior of misbehavior who once again hits the nail on the head.

With Malinda & Melissa in the front row at Ottobar in Baltimore, 5/17/14
Joe has been gone for more than two years but somehow he is still there with me at the shows and in the music. I feel like I have a way that I carry him with me now that has allowed me to accept his death and also to accept that I have more living here to do. The place I feel that most clearly right now is at these shows. I think that's why I am now feeling joy and peace at these shows where before I would get hit with these waves of overwhelming sadness. He may not be standing next to me but that doesn't mean I'm alone. I feel like Joe left me The Congo for a reason. It's true that music connects us all and I'm so glad that Joe left proof of that and so many amazing people who do great things for each other. 

We never lose those we love when we find a way to weave them into who we are and the world we are building. They go on in that way and, at least in my corner of the universe, music is one of the most powerful ways we are all connected - past, present, and future.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Top of the World

After 4 months of training I am 1 week away from the NJ Marathon and my first attempt to achieve a qualifying time for the Boston Marathon. I still pinch myself at the thought. I can't believe that my running journey, which started as a way to cope after the loss of my husband, has brought me to this place of incredible personal fulfillment and challenge.

Since I started training for my first half marathon in December 2012 I've run more than 1,360 miles and I've completed six half marathons, one full marathon and many other shorter races. I've raised more than $6,000 for the American Cancer Society and the Colon Cancer Alliance in  memory of Joe. I've met amazing people who share in my life beyond the roads and trails and watched as friends and acquaintances have taken up running and told me that I was part of the inspiration.

I've had some big ups and some frustrating downs over the last 4 months, but I'm ready to make a go at it and see where my training has gotten me. I have been following a more aggressive training plan this time than when I trained for the NYC Marathon last year - incorporating more speedwork, regular core exercises, as well as higher mileage runs and more of them. I've been working on my mental game too, training my brain to push on when I think I can't and to keep moving no matter what. I've trudged through the snow, the freezing cold, plodded out long runs on the treadmill, and most recently eaten bugs for 12 miles (ah, spring!)

I also decided not to race at all in the month leading up to the marathon because one thing that I have learned about myself as a runner is that it is not in me to treat a race as just a "training run". If I'm in a race, I run hard no matter what and I've learned that is a bad formula for the weeks leading up to a big race. For me, the not racing has been the hardest part of this training cycle. I have grown used to starting my race year sometime in February and not letting up. This year, my calendar has looked quite different - just two races in March and then nothing until the marathon on April 27 - so right about now I am more than a little antsy to toe a starting line. Hopefully, that's a good thing.

During my two races in March a song floated to the surface that has come to take on so much meaning for me during this training cycle and I have a feeling it will be central to carrying me through the race next week. I'll put it in my shuffle more than once for sure. On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons always seems to keep popping up at big moments. It played just as I was entering the Battery Park underpass during the NYC Half Marathon on March 16 - the last mile of the course. It came on during training just as I was running up the big hill in Thompson Park. It was the song playing as I ran along Lake Michigan two weeks ago with the sun shining and my heart positively overflowing as the bridge came through my earbuds. More times than I can count I've had it on repeat after a particularly rough day or to get me going in the morning.

I really do feel like this song is the story of me right now.

On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons

If you love somebody
Better tell them while they're here 'cause
They just may run away from you

You'll never know quite when, well
Then again it just depends on
How long of time is left for you

I've had the highest mountains
I've had the deepest rivers
You can have it all but life keeps moving

I take it in but don't look down

'Cause I'm on top of the world, 'ay
I'm on top of the world, 'ay
Waiting on this for awhile now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I've been waiting to smile, 'ay
Been holding it in for awhile, 'ay
Take you with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child
I'm on top of the world.

I've tried to cut these corners
Tried to take the easy way out
I kept on falling short of something

I coulda gave up then but
Then again I couldn't have 'cause
I've traveled all this way for something

I take it in but don't look down

'Cause I'm on top of the world, 'ay
I'm on top of the world, 'ay
Waiting on this for awhile now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I've been waiting to smile, 'ay
Been holding it in for awhile, 'ay
Take you with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child
I'm on top of the world.

And I know it's hard when you're falling down
And it's a long way up when you hit the ground
Get up now, get up, get up now.

And I know it's hard when you're falling down
And it's a long way up when you hit the ground
Get up now, get up, get up now.

'Cause I'm on top of the world, 'ay
I'm on top of the world, 'ay
Waiting on this for awhile now
Paying my dues to the dirt
I've been waiting to smile, 'ay
Been holding it in for awhile, 'ay
Take you with me if I can
Been dreaming of this since a child

I'm on top of the world.

My March Races

My first half marathon was in Miami on March 9, 2013 and I ran it in 2:11:39. I loved the race so much that when the time came to sign up for the same one this year I did it right away. It's turning into quite the birthday weekend for me - I bring my little guy, we catch a Mets Spring Training game, and I get to run a race.

This year's race fell on March 2, 2014 - smack in the middle of my training for the NJ Marathon - and it became the race that made me feel like I really can qualify for Boston. After the harshest winter I can remember my body and soul both desperately needed a break so this long planned escape to Miami could not have come at a more perfect time.

My friend Juanita, my son and I boarded a plane early that Friday morning bound for sunny Fort Lauderdale. We took off from 10 degree overcast skies and landed in 77 degree sunny perfection. It didn't matter that my checked baggage was misplaced for an hour in the airport or that the line at the car rental counter took almost 45 minutes. We had a weekend of sun and warmth to help us forget about the more than 50" of snow and record cold temperatures that had plagued us all winter in NJ.

The weekend in Miami was just what I needed and by the time I toed the start line Sunday morning I had a feeling that I was ready for something big. My goal was to beat my previous best half marathon time - the 1:51:30 that I ran in the Rock n Roll Half on September 15, 2013. I was hoping to run a sub-1:50 half marathon.

When I got my results I almost couldn't believe what I had accomplished...not just sub 1:50, but WAY sub 1:50.

Running past the cruise ships along MacArthur Causeway
It felt amazing to start the year off with such a great race and although I knew conditions in NYC would not be quite as friendly (many more hills and a whole lot colder!) I also knew from that race that my fitness had improved greatly even since the fall.

Two weeks after I ran the half in Miami I was running 13.1 through the streets of Manhattan. I didn't originally make it in to the lottery for the NYC Half Marathon, but I'm so glad I made it in when they did the second draw. There really was nothing like running through Times Square even if I had to wait around in the 20 degree cold at the start line and run all the hills of Central Park to get there. This was an incredible race for me.

Towards the beginning of the race I had "I Run for Life" playing on my shuffle and kept seeing Team Determination runners and Fred's Team runners one after another. I freely admit getting choked up by that. As we ran through Times Square and then out 42nd street towards the West Side Highway I was overcome by the combination of the latest Afghan Whigs song playing in my ears and the memory of driving Joe along that route to his chemo treatments.

The crowd support was a blast. It was fun to end the race around the block from CWA's NYC office and to once again be part of a large race in the greatest city in the world. It was cold. It was windy. There were hills. But it was fun and I managed to finish in 1:48:10 - not too shabby considering the cold, windy and hilly parts.

At the finish line!

Ready to Run

Running NYC & Miami built my confidence and taking this past month off have rested my body and cleared my mind. I'm hoping the combination has put me in the best place possible for Sunday. No matter what happens, I'm sure my first marathon in New Jersey will be unforgettable. I've been thinking a lot about this quote that my friend Malinda posted during her training and just being thankful that I haven't been afraid to name my goal and go for it, even though it is awfully big.

Here's to ATTEMPT #1!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Waiting on Easter Joy

I'm anxious for the sunrise.

This has been a particularly meaningful Lent for me. I have participated (to the best of my ability) in the 40 bags in 40 days challenge and have cleaned out huge areas of my home (and consequently my life). I have kept the words of William Arthur Word in Fasting and Feasting close to my heart and tried to let them shape my attitudes and actions. And, as a result of both of these things I have found myself in deeper relationships, in moments of profound spiritual meaning, and renewed in my passion for the work that I do every day.

But I long for the joy that comes in the morning.

In my work, I am constantly in the midst of struggles for justice in all its forms and there has been no shortage of stories where the fight continues against immense odds. In my own personal life and in the lives of those around me there have been dark times and overwhelming grief. Domani is feeling Joe's loss in new ways as he grows, now wishing almost every day that he could "have his Daddy back". We are indeed Easter people living in a Good Friday world.

And I am ready to celebrate the end of Good Friday. And Holy Saturday. I am ready for our Risen Lord - especially after the last three days.

Thursday was a doozy. Work was stressful. I got myself into a car accident on the way to my office. Then, came the news that there was fraud on my credit card and a new one would have to be issued. Later that day it was a migraine and unbearable traffic on the Turnpike. By the time I arrived to my church's Maundy Thursday service I was feeling everything but holy.

And then my Lenten journey - the struggle between darkness and light - was caught in this beautiful prayer we said and I just could not hold back the tears.

A Prayer for Liberation

One: Gracious and Loving God, you make us for life that is full and joyous; you make us for love; you make us for community; you make us to be free. Too often, we turn from your ways and oppression results for us and for our sisters and brothers. God of the Exodus, act anew in your world.
All: Liberate us from the oppression of selfishness for the freedom of sharing. Liberate us from the oppression of anger and hatred for the freedom of peace. Liberate us from the oppression of guilt for the freedom of forgiveness.
One: God of the Exodus, liberate your children. Restore us to freedom.
All: Liberate us from oppression based on skin color or gender or other external characteristics for the freedom of living together as your children. Liberate us from the oppression of closets for the freedom of claiming our identity as your beloved. Liberate us from the oppression of false privilege for the freedom of knowing who we truly are.
One: God of the Exodus, liberate your children. Restore us to freedom.
All: Liberate us from the oppression of ruthless competition for the freedom of cooperation. Liberate us from the oppression of financial poverty for the freedom of sufficiency. Liberate us from the oppression of overconsumption for the freedom of enough in your grace.
One: God of the Exodus, liberate your children. Restore us to freedom.
All: Liberate us from the oppression of fear for the freedom of faith. Liberate us from the oppression of cheap cynicism and false optimism for the freedom of hope. Liberate us from the oppression of isolation and indifference for the freedom of love.
One: God of the Exodus, liberate your children. Restore us to freedom. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

I went home Thursday night, put Do to the Beast by the Afghan Whigs on my automatic turntable, mixed up a gin & tonic, and sat with my box of cards, letters, and mementos from the last 2 years. It was just as spiritual as the service at church. Just as I was about to begin my second spin of the album, the little guy woke up and wanted to join the listening party. It seemed right and so the second spin was for the two of us.

On Friday we had the joy of a lunch with my grandmother and the fabulous stories and special love that go with that. Then, once again, a visit to church to observe Good Friday. The church was open from 12pm-7pm, allowing people to stop in whenever they wanted and stay for as long as they wanted. There was a page prepared with readings to use as a guide for your time there, but I also just put my earbuds in and set some songs to play on my iPhone (something amazing about listening to Lost In The Woods in the sanctuary). It was the words of the guided approach that caught me this time.

Today God makes common cause with our human suffering.
We read the scriptures, sit with the hymns and feel the feelings of the day Christ died.
Suffering is not rational. It has no answer. But in the cross God meets us in our suffering. From this day forward we know that there is nowhere we can go where God is not with us. God, into your hands we commend our spirits.

For as dark as these days and months have felt there could have been no words more reassuring. After all, being alone in the dark is so much worse than the dark itself.

Today, Domani and I paid a visit to both the cemetery where my 3 grandparents are buried and the cemetery where Joe is buried. Domani has been asking more questions about death and heaven these days. I guess it comes with the territory of being a 3 year old and having dealt with death so intimately already. He wanted to know if we carried Daddy up to heaven when he died. He wanted to know when he could go to heaven and be with his Dad. And he wanted to know who brought the toys to the grave of the little boy buried next to Joe and what had happened to the train that was there last time.

Tonight, he was sad going to sleep. He looked up at the picture on his wall of the three of us from when he was a baby and said again that he wants his Daddy back. 

Yes, world, I am ready for Easter. I am so ready for Easter.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Black Love & The Thin Veil Between Heaven and Earth

I've been following the UPS tracking all week as my vinyl & CD copies of Do to the Beast by The Afghan Whigs have made their way across the country, inching ever closer to my doorstep. Today, at 12:27pm the package was checked in to a UPS facility in Horsham, PA - wherever that is. Tomorrow, it should arrive and the 16 year wait will be over. 

So tonight, I had the very important task of making sure Joe's turntable was up and running. I wanted to make sure that things went smoothly for my personal listening party tomorrow night so when I got home tonight I tucked the little guy in bed and got right down to business. I pulled out the automatic turntable and the cords that were stuffed in the cabinet with it and made my first best guess at hooking everything up.

I went to Joe's impressive vinyl collection and chose the first thing that grabbed my attention - My World Is Empty Without You as covered by (who else) The Afghan Whigs. I found a spot to put the turntable, plugged it in, pushed "play/cut" and listened to nothing but faint sounds. Ugh. Obviously I needed to pay more attention to all the cords that had been stuffed in the cabinet.

So, I started playing around and after half an hour still hadn't figured it out. Damn it. Joe and I had listened to this turntable together. Why didn't I pay attention? Why don't we ever pay attention when we think we don't have to? Why am I entertaining existential questions when I should be figuring out how to get the turntable to work? Finally after a few foolhardy attempts at getting the sound to work that are too embarrassing to mention here I heard the still, small Joe voice say, "just google it". So I took the full name of the turntable and chose the highly sophisticated act of typing in "kenwood automatic turntable kd-65f troubleshoot" and found exactly the summary I needed to push my problem solving over the edge.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen (GENTLEMEN!), I wasn't plugging in the phono preamp which if you own one of these automatic turntables probably has you thinking "stupid girl" and if you don't probably has your eyes glazing over and skipping to the next paragraph. 

Oh the joy...oh the rapture....when My World Is Empty Without You started playing through the stereo speakers. I listened in stunned silence, only pausing long enough to text a friend who I knew would instantly understand the enormity of the moment.

And then I knew it was time to raid Joe's vinyl collection and kick back with a drink. Tomorrow night it will be Do to the Beast on repeat, but tonight it was an old favorite heard in a different way. Tonight it was Black Love with a gin and tonic and a thankful heart for the thin veil between heaven and earth that still allows me to remember a rich love and celebrate what it brought to my life and where it has landed me today.