A Person of Quality

Sitting on the floor

Words without action die and go to a purgatorial lexicon where they await redemption by a different author.

So, when I say I want to lose ten pounds, I need to actually stop eating M&Ms.  If I want to run a marathon, I have to get my shoes dirty. If I want to do pull ups, then it would help to wrap my hands around the bar and pull.

Sometimes certain words follow me around like stray toddlers until I pay attention to them.

Lately, ‘quality’ has been tugging at my pant-leg.

As defined by a free online dictionary with questionable pop-ups, it can mean:

  • Character with respect to fineness, or grade of excellence
  • High grade, superiority, excellence

When people talk about quality, they’re usually talking about diamonds or overpriced handbags. We’re reluctant to apply the word quality to people, because it gives the sense that some are better than others, which really isn’t true, so hold your hate mail until you see where this is going.

How can you be a person of quality?

Can you wear sweat pants with bleach stains; sit on the kitchen floor and take selfies with the dog; have a dog that shits on the rug; say the word sh**? Does a person of quality have a dent-less car and an expensive smile?

A real diamond is expensive, but that has nothing to do with the quality. If you have a fake diamond, there is no quality. It simply looks like something it’s not.

True quality means being real. And it does cost a lot: your time, your sweat, your brainpower, your heart, your emotions, your thoughts.

It doesn’t mean blurting out every poisonous idea that wafts through your head. But it does mean living by the words you write.

The people I most admire are the ones who have mastered the art of being themselves.

I want to be a person of quality. 

There.

I wrote it.

Now I just have to live it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Groundhog Day

selfie glacier

I love movies where people get to repeat a single day.

When you have babies and toddlers, your entire life feels like ‘Groundhog Day’. You get stuck in this cycle of diapers and bottles and apple juice and chicken nuggets and the only thing that changes is the laundry pile, which never re-sets, but keeps growing.

But before you know it, the kids are writing their own scripts, and all you can do is watch it play out, as your job as director diminishes.

Which day would you re-live, if you could?

I’d like to say I’d chose the day one of my kids was born, but since I often felt I was being ripped in two, it would be a sentimental fiction.

The truth is that even if your perfect day involved lying in the sun, you still have to wash the white sand out of your bikini or put aloe on your crispy spots.

Time does not stand still, and no matter how hard you wish, a single day can’t be re-played. Time rushes forward, and our attitude determines if we ride its surf or drown in its depths.

Sometimes, the greatest use of time is decorating for autumn or making pink cupcakes with sprinkles. Other days, it’s working on a novel or back-squatting LESS weight. It might be surprising a friend with farm-fresh veggies, not knowing she’ll cry as she chops them into stew. Maybe it’s drinking coffee or taking a walk in the sunshine as your friend pours out her heart; these things should never be considered a waste.

We can’t live a single day over again, nor should we want to. But with each sunrise, we can make choices for health and happiness. Choices for the people we love. Choices that will fill hearts and light the spark of life in people who are stuck dreaming of Groundhog day.

 


Line of Sight

*Note the angle of this photo...from the front but not directly in my face. Thank you, coach.

*Note the angle of this photo…from the front but not directly in my face. Thank you, coach.

One of Ali’s repair jobs next door could explode, sending flaming chunks of automobile into our box, igniting the wallballs and turning the plyo boxes into a giant bonfire; and as the climbing rope burns like a candle wick and the ceiling starts to collapse; Rob would still finish his squat ladder, saying something like, “This should only take you six seconds,” as the bumpers smolder at the ends of the bar on his shoulders.

Of course, we’d expect that of a coach.

The rest of us mortals get annoyed or distracted by certain things.

I don’t mind if people watch me squat–it’s a part of this whole process. We encourage each other, and we help each other, because until I can feel the movement in my bones, I can’t always tell what I’m doing wrong.

But if you’re going to watch someone, don’t fucking stand directly in front of them. I mean, seriously. Think about it.

When I’m squatting, I’m keeping my head neutral, and if your body is directly in front of me, where do I look? Your face is too high, your feet are too low, if I look to the side I’ll get a kink in my neck: no, I have to look you squarely in the belly or at your shorts, depending on your height. And I don’t know about you, but this seems a little awkward to me–especially if you’re a guy.

The reader, at this point, might say, “Well, can’t you just tell him nicely to move?”

I probably could, IF I weren’t already descending towards the ground with 70 kilograms on my shoulders.

Sometimes we accidentally find ourselves standing in front of someone, or blocking the clock with our sweaty bodies as we chug our water bottles–I’m not talking about accidental bodily misplacement. I’m talking about deliberate hovering.

People, people, please, we all watch each other at Crossfit. It’s okay. But if you don’t know where to stand, take a look at what the coaches are doing. I have never once seen a coach stand directly in front of me. They always stand to the side a little, or directly to the side, so they can make sure my knees aren’t riding over my toes, or behind me, to endow me with their super-strength as I combat gravity with a barbell.

If you stand directly in front of me while I squat, (and by directly, I mean squarely eyeball to eyeball, 1 meter or less, AND you’re not actively lifting on the opposite rack) then unless you are one of my friends, all I can think about is punching you in the face when I’m done, and that’s probably not a healthy response.

If I were competing, I know there would be people in front of me–but if I’m strong enough to compete, then I hope my focus could endure ogling, hovering, flash photography, train wrecks and forest fires.

Until then, gentlemen, stay out of my line of sight; because if I don’t bore holes into your body with my stinkeye, then with all the ladylike grace I can muster, I’ll have to growl a string of bad words at you as I lift, and I don’t enjoy doing that, unless it’s an emergency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


JungFrau

jungfrau finish kids

I squinted when we left the shadowy city streets and faced the sunny slope towards the mountains.  My long-sleeved shirt weighed 50 pounds, and I had to strip it off , and tie it around my waist in a way that its flapping wouldn’t annoy me for the duration of the race.

This was Kilometer FIVE.

I vowed never to run the JungFrau again.

Four THOUSAND runners corralled like feedlot cattle on the streets of Interlaken. It was elbow to sweaty elbow.

The 4,5 hour pacemaker blew by me like he was doing a 200 meter sprint. When the 5 hour pacemaker rushed past as if his shorts were on fire, I was concerned. When the 5,5 hour pacemaker caught up to me, I thought: “What the hell kind of race IS this?”

This, my friends, is a mountain marathon.

Willkommen in der Schweiz.

Bottlenecks. Staus. Runners coming to a complete and utter standstill on the trail due to sheer numbers. It was a tooth-grinding experience.

Facing the long slope to Lauterbrunnen, I said to myself: “This is NOT a race for time. Run your own race.”

With that thought carrying me through the frustration. I could finally look around and see exactly WHY I was running.

The sheer beauty of the mountains, the power and ruggedness, the full technicolor landscape; it saturates your mind.

Lauterbrunnen marked the halfway point, and as we passed through the town, there, near the campgrounds, stood my kids cheering. After briefly fantasizing of ducking into my tent, taking off my shoes and having a beer, I kept going, bolstered by my kids’ confidence in me.

We looped around Lauterbrunnen, and when we hit Kilometer 25 and headed up the mountain towards Wengen, everything went into slow motion.

You know a race is tough when walking is faster than running.

My strategy was this: run when you can. Walk when you’re dying.

Surprisingly, this worked.

And also surprisingly, I’m pretty good on the switchbacks.

I credit my CrossFit Bogatyr training for this completely.

I never felt out of breath on the climb, as I worked hard to stay upright, so my lungs could fill with air. And I was able to keep going up the mountainside by using my hams and glutes. I saw a lot of runners clutching their quads, trying to give themselves more power on the climbs, but I was in a different gear. Passing a lot of people on the climbs.

When I looked at the stats later, I found that in my age group, I moved from 105th place to 80th in the last half of the race. That means I passed 25 of my competitors on those switchbacks. I passed a lot of men too. Probably because we were outnumbered 4 to 1.

When the switchbacks ended, we were on a narrow trail, single file. At one point we were stepping up from one boulder to another. It seemed like miles of this. And I kept thinking of the weighted box step-ups we do in Crossfit, and how I HAD to keep moving.

My legs were strong.

Runners were cramping up, crying in pain, sitting by the path waiting for the massage team to come to them, and I kept going.

Finally we were along the narrow ridge line, and I was happy when the bottleneck got so bad we had to pause, so I could look away from the stony trail and take in the mountains and glaciers. But it’s like sitting too close to a movie screen, your eyes just aren’t big enough to take it all in. And you wish that you could somehow absorb the majesty of it all and let it fill you.

My heart leapt when we reached KM 40. And when the trail broke wide open and began to descent, I had a burst of energy and sprinted the last 2,2km, passing a few more competitors.

Some of them tried to keep up, but my legs were flying, and I had a smile on my face.

I was going so fast, that I couldn’t see my kids. They jumped out from the crowd and chased me down the lane before I saw them.

The very best part of the marathon is finishing with my kids. They inspire me. They support me. And even if I had stopped at the halfway point, they would still cheer for me just the same.

I don’t know if I’ll have the chance, or the drive, or the time, or the energy to run another marathon. But if I do, the Jungfrau is at the top of my list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


KnockOut

Tiff6 copy

“When I see weakness in a person, I just want to hurt them,” a friend of mine told me recently.

If she weren’t an international boxing champion, this might scare me a little.

She’s become instinctive about finding weakness in her opponents and using it to her advantage in the ring. Outside the ring, it gives her a sense about people. Though she doesn’t go around hitting random strangers, her insight helps me to stay focused on my own goals.

After all, the mind determines whether you go to the gym or stay in your sweatpants eating Swiss chocolate every day.

It’s incredible what weakness will keep you from. It keeps you from achieving that goal weight. It keeps you from signing up for that race, that once-in-a-lifetime event. It keeps you from living a life that makes you happy.

It keeps you hiding in the alley while the parade passes by; and all you can do is scour the street when it’s gone, peeling pieces of dirty confetti off the pavement, and wishing you’d been part of the jubilance.

Weakness.

We all have it sometimes.

I feel lucky I have a friend who can identify it when I’m standing so close, I can’t see it.

Then I can step back, look it square in the face and knock it out.

 

 


School Crossing

school crossing

I hear the coffee maker de-calcifying, as I sit in my living room, drinking a second pot. Even with the gurgles and steam blasts emanating from the kitchen, the only other sound I hear is that of our labrador’s too-long nails, clacking on the floor as he searches for the kids.

A certain energy seems to have been packed up with their school books and taken out in rucksacks.

My kids have never been to a brick & mortar school before–not in their entire lives. And now, they make the daily trek to a place where they’re expected to learn in a completely different language.

They HAD to go to school somewhere–that was evident. But they did have the choice. They could go to the US or stay in Germany.

They chose Germany.

So, I walked them over on the first day of school and handed over the reins to people I’d never met.

Having been a homeschooling Mom for 12 years, I thought this would be tougher to do. I thought I would have tears or sadness. But honestly, it was a relief.

The teachers were friendly, the principal helpful and the students, as I would hear later, were friendly and curious about these American kids who’d just been woven into this tightly-knit Franconian world.

As I walked home alone from the school, I felt happy and excited for my kids.

I was so proud of them.

Proud that they saw German school not as an impossibility but merely a challenge.

While they were gone (for a whole 2.5 hours); I distracted myself with some deep cleaning and brownie-baking; as baked goods seemed a first-day-of-schoolish sort of thing.

When the bustle and energy returned to the house, I heard story after story about teachers and students and books and language and food…

My youngest even walked home with a new friend, and though there was a limited mutual vocabulary, these two had become buddies on day one.

I was relieved.

Sometimes you charge forward, not knowing if you’ll wave your flag on the hilltop, or if you’ll have to retreat and regroup, and figure out where the hell you are on the map.

But for this day; for this hour; for this very moment, my kids have won a significant battle that will change the course of their histories.

And I am damn proud of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 


It’s Called Camping, Buttercup

The tent smells like wet shoes and last night’s onions. It is so damp that the calluses on my hands have taken to peeling off by themselves, as if they have decided to go home early. I wake up, certain that my hip bone has dug a grave for me beneath my sleeping bag during the night.

This is camping, Buttercup.

And yet…

..as I wrap my cold hands around a hot cup of coffee and listen to the ever-present rush of the waterfall, I feel a little warmer about this adventure.

The sun will rise over the canyon around 10:30, and a rainbow will appear at the tip of the waterfall. The tent will heat into a sauna, and we’ll unzip the doors.

I find I am still inspired–jotting down scraps of notes at every turn: fragments that will turn themselves into stories.

Reading and writing and running and the setting so spectacular, I can’t fully capture it–not on film, not on paper–only in my memory.

Yesterday we visited the Trummelbach Falle: ten waterfalls, running from the glaciers through the mountains.

We climbed the stairs, which were carved from rock and gleaming with spray from the falls.

There is nothing jagged or harsh in the cave, only rock that is smooth with the ceaseless caress of water.

But for all the gentleness there is also power. The rush of water so loud, you have to cover your ears. Looking over the railing to the broiling brew below, your stomach gets a knot when you realize one false slip would mean an instant end to your life.

Rob told me during training, ‘The mountain will not be kind to you!’

I know it won’t.

Nature is beautiful.

And powerful.

It is a privilege to be so close to it.

To be immersed in it.

To be inspired by it.

I want to take its beauty and strength

and run with it.

 

 

 


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