Saturday, November 9, 2019

The School Pictures

When you're a teacher, you get a school picture packet like the kids do. You don't have to pay. The picture company just sends you an envelope with a 5x7 and several wallets.

Sometimes if the picture was good, I'd send a photo of myself to my mother. Because what else are you supposed to do with multiple school-style headshots when you're a full-fledged grown-up?

Also, most years, regardless of the quality of the photo and sometimes especially if it was bad, I would cut up the wallets, sign the backs ("Stay Super Sweet!" or "BFF!") and give them out to my friends. I did this in an ironic sort of way. Like, I knew it was funny to give out school photos when I was actually 27 or 33 or 41. People laughed. My school friends would cut up their own photos, give me 2x3s, and I'd put them on the bulletin board behind my desk.

I bring this up because it occurred to me the other night that handing people copies of my novel feels sort of like handing out school photos. Except unironically, but also uncomfortably. You hand a friend a book, and you're asking, Would you like a copy of something I did? Would you like to stare at it indefinitely? Would you like to spend eight hours with it and then have to pretend that you liked it? And, should I sign my name in the front? #BFF?

I'm looking forward to feeling less awkward about this. How long do you think it will take?

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Input/Output

Mostly I want to remember this sweet little exchange, and I know if I don't write it down, it'll go. Now that I'm old and addled, I can barely remember which of my two children did what, said what, or when.

So, here's what happened:

I walk into Mac's room to say goodnight. Mac adheres to bedtime rules just barely, often hopping onto his mattress fully clothed at 9:30:59. Bedtime is 9:30 ("It's still 9:30!" he yells), so I'm usually irritated at this point in the evening. I'm irritated on this particular evening in question.

While Mac's teeth are technically brushed, I'm doubting he put in the full two minutes. There has definitely been no shower, even though I suggested it. He's wearing the same clothes he had on for P.E. at school that day. He's sitting up and all the lights are on.

I'm about to comment on this sad state of affairs when he says, "Mom, when's the Boston Marathon?"

"Well," I say, surprised, "it's in April." I pause then, wondering if he thinks we're going. I'd talked about maybe going to the Boston Marathon, but then I ran too slowly at the Twin Cities Marathon. Plus, the Boston in question would be 2021, but the details don't seem important just now. "But I didn't qualify," I remind him.

"You didn't?" He seems surprised. He shouldn't be that surprised--I was suffering so supremely by the time he saw me at mile 21 that I didn't even see him as he cheered not two feet from my face. "Was it close?" he asks, hopefully.

I give him a dramatic thumbs down accompanied by a pfffft sound. "No." I shrug. "Not that close. Four minutes or so." He looks a little defeated. "Remember, my marathon didn't go that well?" I ask. I'm calm about it; over it, if you will.

"Oh." He cocks his little head, his pink hair hanging over his ears, thinking. And then his eyes brighten a little bit. "But you did it, Mom. You finished the marathon."

"I did finish it," I agreed. "That was good." And, it's nice he knows it counts for something.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Celebrity Sightings

I wrote below about all of my book tour trip anxiety. And guess what? I was a nervous wreck for the whole stinkin' week, but none of the problems I worried about came to fruition. I had a magical time. The very worst thing that happened was that my shirt broke a little on the way to the event on Wednesday night.

Did I panic? No, I did not.

Did I fix it with a safety pin? Indeed, I did.

AND, I had some pretty big celebrity sightings. Or, to be fair, I had one celebrity sighting and was also present when other people had two more. Let's start with those two:

First, apparently I rode the elevator with Jim Belushi in Chicago. At dinner that night, one of the publishing bosses recounted the anecdote wherein she and I rode the elevator with Jim Belushi. I was very shocked to hear this. "I thought you knew," she said. No! I did not know! And she was too suave to even elbow me to clue me in!

Then, in NYC I was walking along Central Park South, when two of the publishing peeps stopped for a hurried and excited conversation. "What happened?" I asked.

Come to find out, we'd just passed Rachel Dratch from SNL.

Did I see her? No, I did not.

But do you know whom I did see and recognize in the Minneapolis airport Starbucks? Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach.

"Did you talk to them?" Dan asked on the phone when I called to brag about it.

"No," I said. "I didn't want to bother them. But I smiled really nicely, and I think that conveyed a lot."

He might have snorted at this point, but let's be honest. Between the time Glennon tweeted at me during the World Cup and the time I smiled at her in the MSP Airport Starbucks, I think it's fair to say we're best friends.

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Business Trip

This week, I'm doing some traveling to promote my book! There are plenty of things to worry about, including but not limited to:

  • My life-long and nonsensical aversion to handbags might make me seem like a rube.
  • The tailor took in my Tuesday night skirt perhaps just a teensy bit too far. I can sit down and walk, and it looks good, though, so that's the most important? Eating is totally optional.
  • What if I lose my ID in Chicago, and then I can't go to Boston or NYC?
  • The other authors in the group are significantly younger than I am, and almost certainly cooler. 
  • Anything could happen when it's my turn to speak.
  • I'm meeting a lot of new people. Some of them know me from the phone, where I'm usually at my best. As Dan likes to say, "Are you going to be normal, or are you going to be yourself?" There's no telling in advance. Some version of me just pops out, and there's nothing I can do.
  • The usual things like deodorant failures, falling, and GPS snafus. And, also not understanding fashion, even though I've had expert coaching.
But, do you know what? I don't even care about all of these things because my elation about this trip is going to overpower all of my nerves. I wrote a book and some other people want to hear about it! And, it's my first business trip during which I will not either have to share a hotel room or hotel bed, so no matter what else happens, I'm already #winning.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Marathon Race Report

I've had a couple of magic marathons. My training was solid, I felt confident, and everything went amazingly on race day--strong finishes, even paces, big smiles.

I've also had a couple of just fine marathons. I ran within my fitness and felt pretty good.

And then, there have been a few really hard-fought marathons. My stomach got messed up, my legs dragged more than they should have. I ran through a dark night of the soul to get to the finish line.

This last weekend's marathon was one of the hard-fought ones. After 16 or 17 pretty good miles, I started cramping in my feet and legs. My stomach hurt. I narrowed my focus to one foot in front of the other. About three miles from the finish line, I reminded myself that if I dropped out, I'd have to go home and tell my children that I didn't finish the race because, in the end, I just didn't feel like it.

That's not really the message I've been trying to impart to my kids about sticking with the hard things. I've been more on the "try your best and accept your failures" train lately. I've ridden the "don't give up" car. So, one foot in front of the other, right? There really wasn't a choice.

Eventually, I got to the end and meandered through the finish area. Only one volunteer asked if I needed the medical tent. I made it to the light rail train, which I planned to ride back home. This was harrowing because of my stomach situation, but you'll be happy to know I held off the sickness. When I arrived at the homestead, I burst in the door. Shef stood to give me a hug, and I ducked under his arm and headed for the powder room. On the way, I accidentally yakked on the kitchen floor.

That's the kind of day it was. I pointed at the vomit and told Dan, "I didn't make it." It's true I didn't make it in that one instance, but in the "finish the marathon" sense, I did make it. I just didn't make it look pretty.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Conference Calls

In my previous job, I never had an occasion to be on a conference call. In my new job, it happens rather frequently. That would be fine, except it turns out I'm really bad at conference calls. Here are some particular challenges:


  • First, I spend a lot of time worrying about whether I'll get on the call at the right time. What if I have the time written down wrong? What if I've converted between time zones incorrectly? I'll probably have to check the time five or ten times before the appointed moment. I'll also have to google the time zone conversion three or four times. This will happen even though, so far, I've never actually missed a call.
  • Because of the above time problem, I often dial into the call a minute or two early. Then, I awkwardly wait around for the "host." I am never the host. Eventually, the host will get on and say, "Hello?" and I have to announce my presence. Whichever way I say my name always sounds wrong. Should I refer to myself in the third person, as in, "Kathleen is here!" Or, should I offer a cheery "Hello!" with no name? I usually go for the second option, and then inevitably someone else will talk when I'm trying to say my name. 
  • Talking at the same time as others is the next, and perhaps most troubling, problem. Whenever I want to say (or feel I should say) anything on a conference call, at least one other person starts to talk at the same time.  A long, "No you!" "No, you!" "I'm sorry!" "Excuse me!" chain follows. I wish I could just listen on all the calls, but sometimes, I'm supposed to weigh in.
  • When I do manage to ask a question or make a statement, the other people on the call don't seem to know who I'm talking to, even though it seems obvious to me. Most recently, someone had to yell at me: "WHO ARE YOU ASKING, KATHLEEN?" In these moments, I'm very glad we're not having a video chat because I'd be blushing and sweating on camera instead of just in private.
Every single time on hanging up from a conference call, I feel I've earned at best a 6/10 for my performance. I'll keep practicing. I'll let you know if I improve.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Taper

My marathon is in two weeks, and I did pretty much all the workouts in my training plan. Well, to be honest, I did have to skip one or two of the hard ones because I'm pretty sure the plan was written for a younger person with enhanced ability to recover. I'm older--a masters runner--and I can only do a maximum of one-and-a-half speed workouts per week.

But, with the exception of that one week where I took an extra day off because I'd tweaked my Achilles tendon (on that run with the turkeys I wrote about), I ran all the miles. Yay!

Last week, I really celebrated my efforts by completing both of the prescribed speed workouts and my final 20-miler. I did that last long run all alone without my headset (I drove to a route and forgot it, which annoyed me till no end). In the final portion of the effort, I kept telling myself, "This is the last mile of your last marathon training run." It was a motivational little mantra.

It was the next day that I realized the problem with my end-of-run, last-mile pep-talk. While it's true that I was in the last mile of that particular marathon training run, I still actually have to go out the door and log the taper miles. I have skipped the taper in many a marathon cycle because I've been too busy teaching, but this time I'm seeing it through. Therefore, I still had a hill workout this week. I did four up-tempo miles yesterday in the early-morning dark. I did them even though I've basically been feeling like my legs are dragging for an entire seven days.

My friend Jordan says that my blah feeling is exactly appropriate. I should be excited to be feeling awful because it means I did the training just right. In two weeks at marathon time, I'll be totally ready. We'll see! I hope so, and I'm looking forward to lightening my load even further after today. Today's my last run over 10 miles. I've got 12, and I'm going with friends. It'll be way better than 20 with no friends and no headset.