Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In My Head

The deep breathing while running is definitely helping my performance. I ran a 10K on the treadmill today, the first time since the Cap 10K on 3/27 that I've run a full 6.2 miles. I finished it just 27 seconds short of my all-time best treadmill 10K time, completely turning my attitude around. I'm considering signing up for a half marathon around the time of my 40th birthday to help give me motivation for working out and to give myself a birthday present of accomplishing something I've never done before. Yesterday, I thought that I wouldn't do it because it seems so far beyond my reach since I haven't run further than 5K in over 3 months. Today, I think I will do it because I'm pretty sure I can if I work hard in the intervening months.

So in 24 hours, I went from thinking that I probably couldn't even finish a 10K right now to turning in one of my best times, with a time on the second half that beats my best 5K time by 10 seconds. I can do this. Of course I can do this!

My biggest hurdle in running isn't my knee. It isn't my lungs. It's my head.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Just Breathe

By the way, Mom, that's a reference to "Breathe (2 a.m.)" by Anna Nalick, a song which Aerie quite likes.

I've had a lifelong struggle with my lungs. It was, of course, complicated by my smoking for more years than I care to remember, but it began, so my mother says, from scar tissue left in my lungs when I had pneumonia at the age of two and was hospitalized, oxygen tent and all. In the intervening years, I've repeatedly tried to get various doctors to help me find a solution to improve my lung function, but each one, each time, either has or has not administered a breathing test and has, in either case, diagnosed me with asthma and prescribed an inhaler. I've tried Primatene, Ventolin, Albuterol, Advair... Maybe more. Never has an inhaler helped. Never has an allergy med or Bronkaid or guaifenesin helped.

After another bout with bronchitis last week and a 2- or 3-week struggle with running because of breathing problems, I thought I'd try again. My primary doc referred me to a pulmonologist. He talked to me about my history, mentioned "bronchi..." something-or-other, which can result from lung infections at a young age, administered a breathing test, and diagnosed me with asthma. I'm not sure how I can have asthma when I never have anything like an asthma "attack;" he explained that the ONLY (and he emphasized "only") lung disease consistent with my breathing test, which was essentially normal, is asthma. Therefore I have asthma. QED. And he prescribed Symbicort, one I haven't tried, but which so far seems to have zero effect, just like all the others.

So in the midst of all this, I got an email from One of the 5K or 10K races that I signed up for used for their online registration, and I've been on their email list ever since.

It was an article entitled "Breathing Tips for New Runners." I certainly never considered myself an "elite" runner, but I didn't think of myself as a "new" runner either. I didn't think it would have much to offer me, but I clicked it anyway because the timing seemed like kismet.

The article suggested that it was possible to breathe slowly, deeply, and regularly, even while running. I scoffed. I disbelieved. I thought, even if it was possible for other runners, it certainly wasn't possible for me and my damaged, weakened, and, despite what the breathing test said, definitely sub-normal lungs. When I run, I huff, and puff, and wheeze, and gasp, and suck, and blow.

Turns out, it is possible. I tried it today. I was amazed. I couldn't believe it. I still ran out of wind and had to walk for 3 or 4 brief stretches through the 5K, but it may have been because I tried a faster pace than I'd done on Monday. But by filling my lungs deeply and pushing the air all the way out on each breath, I breathed slowly. I didn't fall back into rapid, shallow breathing.

I'm choosing to accept that maybe this is a turning point for me, both in my running, which has been declining lately, and my breathing, which has been a constant irritant to me for my entire life. Maybe it's time to accept that my "normal" breathing test may be correct and that my lungs are not as awful as I have believed them, for my entire life, to be. I want this approach to breathing during exertion to be my gateway to actually achieving the improvement that I've expected since I first began running a couple of years ago. Maybe I should finally read that Pranayama book that I bought years ago, too.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Youth Sports

Thumper started 3-year-old soccer at the YMCA, with one practice last week, one practice this week, and his team's first game this morning. It was mostly a hot, sweaty, comical chunk of chaos, starting with some basic instructions, like, "Your team stands on this side:"

This Side

Then they were all told to put their right hands over their hearts. Then they were all told which one was their right hand. Then they were all told where their hearts are. Then they were all told to put their right hands over the "Y" on their shirts. Then they took some sort of oath:

The Oath

I couldn't quite hear, but it didn't sound like the Pledge of Allegiance. Perhaps they were swearing eternal devotion to the referee? I'm not sure.

There was much waiting for the kids to get back into position, and many adults running around like Australian sheep dogs getting the kids back into position.

#9 in orange was the real superstar. He was one of maybe 2 kids who was able to dribble and knew exactly where the ball was supposed to go. He didn't always care which goal he was dribbling toward, but he scored probably 90% of the goals made today.

That's my boy kneeling down as the action begins, watching #9 dribble right past him, and then sitting down in the grass. He also liked to throw himself on the ground far from the action and make angry faces because "somebody pushed me down!" All in all, it was a lot of laughs, with only one hardcore pushy dad yelling at his kid. And his kid reeeeaalllyy didn't want play.

Shortly thereafter, Thumper began to get into it a little more, yelling, "Go Cardinals!" throwing a high five or two, and actually making some attempt to slow down that scoring juggernaut, #9.

And thus Thumper begins his youth sports career, following precisely in the footsteps of his old man by getting completely blown out by the competition. Yay!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I say that I live in Austin, but I'm actually in the suburbs outside of Austin. Austin is a unique, liberal oasis in the center of the conservative desert of Texas, if you're inclined to think of conservatism as a barren wasteland. I'm not; I was once conservative, though I have more liberal leanings now. But one way in which I never meshed with conservatism was in my religious beliefs.

A few days before Thumper was born, I wrote about how I was pondering his religious education. I have, in the intervening years, come to the conclusion that our conversations about religion will develop independently of my constant over-thinking. But I've noticed lately that here, in my suburban landscape, there are a lot of upper middle-class white folk who are surprisingly (to me) religious. They also make lots of babies. I suppose it's not surprising, ultimately, that there are good Christian breeders here in suburban Texas, but I've been feeling more and more in disguise lately.

"Vacation Bible School" (familiarly referred to as VBS) has repeatedly been suggested to me as a summer alternative for the boy, and church daycare and/or preschool is also a highly recommended solution, even from my south and central Austin friends who are not particularly religious. Apparently it's not uncommon for the agnostic or atheist parents to send their kids to church child care, and hey, they don't indoctrinate THAT much, anyway. The more time we spend at our suburban YMCA (which, Lord God, is a lot of time, because of the gymnastics, the swim lessons, the soccer, the child care while I work out, the cool pool with the splash pad, the free babysitting one Friday a month, the cheap babysitting two Saturdays a month... Well, it adds up to a lot of time, is what I'm saying...) the more I seem to find myself listening to conversations between mothers of four and five kids talking about the dilemma of either home schooling or sending their kids to private school, of church, and bible school, and bible studies, and backyard bible clubs. Forgive me if any or all of that should have been capitalized.

I was even invited to attend a backyard bible club, or Backyard Bible Club, or backyard Bible club, today. I didn't exactly or directly respond to the invitation and immediately felt the degree to which I am undercover out here in the suburbs. Religion is a dominant part of the lives of most of the moms that I've met through the couple of moms' playgroups to which I belong, and I do my best to fly under the God radar. I try not to talk about religion, because as far as I can tell, nothing good can come of such a discussion. At best, I will be stuck trying to explain myself, and at worst, Thumper will no longer be able to play with some of the friends he has made over the past year or two. Making friends has turned out to be one of Thumper's best skills, but still, I don't need to be burning any of his bridges.

So it turns out that, despite all my agonizing over the religious education of my child, I'm an anti-religion snob whose first reaction to the word "bible" is distaste, and there's no chance of me inculcating my child in Christ, though I recognize that growing up without faith is a disadvantage and that without early indoctrination, faith is virtually impossible.

Still, there's going to be bounce houses and ice cream at the Backyard Bible Club.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Yo' Mama!

Well, my Mama, actually. Or Mom, to be more precise. Or Grandma, if your name is Thumper. She's blogging again. Check her out. She's fun, and funny, and she's learning and still going through changes and discoveries and adventures in her most joyful retirement. She and Pops are exceptional people. Go see what she's thinking about today:

Think About This.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Media Contact

Maybe I'm not the best choice for this role, but as the current administrator of my dads's group, I not only schedule the weekly play dates and approve new members, I'm also the contact for media inquiries. In January, I was contacted by a freelance writer who was working on an article for a major, national women's magazine. He's made it pretty clear from the beginning that he had already written the article and was mostly looking for quotes from members of the group that he could plug into the article to support the conclusion he'd already come to before talking to any of us. As of today, his article has now been returned to him for final edits, and he wants a couple of more dads to talk to for about 10 minutes tomorrow to cull a few more quotes, I suppose.

In May, the photo editor for said magazine contacted me to schedule a photo shoot with our group. She's waffled on dates, saying maybe this week, maybe next week, maybe the week after that to send a hired photographer to shoot us. I suggested she take advantage of the talents of one of our members, who has shot some excellent photos, some of which he took at past play dates. She was non-committal, until today, finally saying she wanted him to take more photos of us at upcoming play dates. She stressed that it's important to her magazine to represent diversity in their photo shoots, especially those involving real people, which struck me as manipulating reality to make it fit some idealized version, true reality be damned.

After 5 months of emails with these two journalistic professionals who won't make a decision and stick with it, I got a little fed up. So I sent the following email to my group today to promote the Wednesday play date, which will be taking place at the business of one of our members:

First, let me say that the rest of this message is tongue-in-cheek, and I don't give a rat's ass about satisfying [national women's magazine], since I'm sure the article will not in the least represent us (or at least me) and what it means (to me) to be a stay-at-home dad. I'm sure that the author wrote the article before speaking to any of us, and the gist of it will be that "silly, incompetent dads think they can be moms! Isn't that cute?"

That said, I would really appreciate it if we could turn out in large numbers for Wednesday's play date this week. First, it will be great to see what our own [Dad #1] and his family have come up with as a business idea and to throw our support behind it. It sounds unique, and a lot of fun, and priced more than reasonably, compared to other indoor play spaces. Second, I'd like to see [Dad #2] get national exposure as a photographer, too, if that's also what he wants. So let's come together and support these two dads and see what good can come of this mess for them. Maybe [Dad #2] can get some shots of us in front of a sign or a logo, or a web address on Wednesday.

I suggested to [national women's magazine]'s photo editor from the beginning that she take advantage of [Dad #2]'s talents, but she hemmed, hawed, delayed, and was generally a giant pain in the ass about picking a date to send a hired photographer to. Now she's come full circle and wants [Dad #2] to shoot us Wednesday at All Things Kids, and presumably any other play dates we turn up to over the next few days. Or weeks. Or whatever. I have no idea when they plan to actually pull the trigger on this project and publish the damn article already. It can't be soon enough, as far as I'm concerned.

What she seems most concerned about is "diversity," though she never specifically defined what she meant by that. They like their photo shoots to be diverse, "especially of real people," even if reality is semi-homogeneous. I presume she means it in the "racial diversity" sense, but she didn't specify, so if you're coming on Wednesday, please come at your most diverse. If [Dad #3] shows up, we'll have "white man with blond kids" covered, though that beard isn't quite "Middle America" enough. [Kid #1] and [Kid #2] should definitely come, but maybe it would best if their mom brought them and [Dad #4] stayed home. [Dad #5] and [Dad #6] certainly should be there, and if anybody has any black friends with kids that they can convince to take the morning off from work, I'd appreciate it. As the only woman in the group, [Mom #1], you better show up, or I'm kicking you out, and whichever dad it was that had something about a "partner" in his bio, I'm counting on you, too. [Dad #7] should come, but only as a real person and not as an actor. As the definitive "blue-eyed devil," I'm not sure I should be in any of the pictures, but [Thumper] and I will be there to check out [Dad #1]'s ultra-cool imported European toys. [Dad #2], please make sure to get some self-portraits with the mohawk and the baby strapped to your chest. I can only hope this will be one of the weeks that your hair is blue or some other unnatural color.

Anyway, please come. It's $5 per kid, unless we show up in a group of 10 or more kids, which will prompt [Dad #1] to give us a 20% discount, or $4 per kid. If we can't be racially diverse, maybe we can be, I don't know, politically diverse? If [Dad #8] and [Dad #1] are in the same room with the rest of us, we'll pretty much have the spectrum covered. Religiously diverse? Fashionably diverse? Or diverse heights and weights? Shoe sizes?

And thus you see why maybe I'm not the best choice for media contact.
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