Tag Archives: memories

Running Fast

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I run more than I used to. And much faster.

 

For the longest time, I had a set running scheme. Twenty jumping jacks, hop on the treadmill, start at 6.4 speed, increase the speed one tenth every half mile for two miles, slow back down to 6.4 for the third mile, speed up a decimal every quarter mile until I hit mile 3, then speed up to 7.0 until I got to 3.11 miles, or a 5k. Stop. Stretch.

 

I’ve always been sluggish. I’ve never been quick on my feet. My legs are disproportionately short and squat compared to my longer, leaner torso. I’m not built for speed. I was proud of my nine-to-ten minute miles, since 7th grade me could barely puff out a mile in 14 minutes and always had to stop and walk.

 

Then I had a conversation with one of our church teens. He’s a he, considerably taller than me, with long skinny legs and long flailing arms. He attends the school I attended when I was a teenager, and one of the features of their physical education program (as is the case with every phys. ed. program) is a regularly scheduled timed (and graded) mile run. We were comparing mile times; I rather proudly told him I could run a mile in about nine minutes.

 

He looked at me in wonder. “Nine minutes?” he said, almost pityingly. “That’s like, a D.”

 

Even though I know this boy well enough to know that he would never intend to hurt, I broke a little inside. I had worked hard for several years to get that fast. I was only able to make it to the three-mile mark in the last four years (my first time was when I was 20). I have managed very well for a person who is not genetically predisposed to athleticism. I’ve rarely even experienced “runner’s high”—running doesn’t feel good until I’m finished running. The act of running isn’t very fun, but it’s the most straightforward thing I’ve figured out to do that helps me stay healthy. As someone with no coordination, questionable depth perception, and a visceral aversion to group activities, sports are a significantly less enjoyable fitness option. Yoga, though and fun and challenging alternative, doesn’t get my heart rate up. I love feeling my heart thud confidently through the miles; I love the feeling of my springy knees; I love coming to the end of a few miles knowing I earned the warmth radiating from and through my muscles. So I run. Not fast. Just determinedly, and consistently: at least five times a week at varying distances.

 

I wasn’t about to take anyone’s pity for not being able to run fast. The following Monday, I started a mile at my usual finishing pace (7.0, or about an 8.75-minute mile) and sped up a bit every minute. I surprised myself with my first 8.25-minute mile.

 

Of course, I couldn’t let myself stop there. I had to get faster, and I had to be faster over longer distances. I kept my established pattern for 5ks, but kept increasing my starting speed. I would do 2-mile interval runs, alternating a minute of sprinting with a minute of running at an easier pace until I reached 2 miles, always finishing at my maximum speed. I would run a mile at a time, going as fast as my legs and lungs could carry me. I supplemented with weighted leg exercises, like squat jumps and calf raises and walking lunges and many, many more. I would choose my pre-run meals carefully, making sure that I would be full but not too full and sufficiently carbed up for my fastest and easiest pace.

 

Soon I could run 2 miles in 16 minutes, which quickly shrank to 2 miles in 15:23. My 5k time went down from 28 minutes to 25 and change. Occasionally I can go for 4 miles without killing myself (although my feet have taken a beating).

 

This week, I ran a 5k in my shortest time ever: 23 minutes and 58 seconds, or about 7 minutes and 45 seconds per mile. Today I ran 4 miles at an easier pace of about 8.5 minutes per mile, finishing in 32 minutes and 43 seconds.

 

All of this information is, I understand, more or less meaningless statistics on a runner who will probably never run in any race longer than a 5k. I realize that there are hundreds if not thousands of people out there who can run much faster than me and who probably think a 7:45 mile is embarrassingly slow. I understand that, so laugh all you like.

 

But I am proud of myself. I am fast, sort of. And I am getting faster.

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Summer Sound

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I’m not a fan of summer. It’s too hot for my taste, as well as far too sticky and sunny. I’m an autumn girl, but the South doesn’t know what a real autumn is. We get four seasons of summer around here: Summer, Post-Summer, Damp Summer, and Pre-Summer. Yes, winter is just damp summer around here.

Summer has grown on me over the years. It used to be that I wouldn’t step foot outside in the summer unless compelled to do so by activities I didn’t necessarily sign up for. Recently, though, after traveling in hotter countries than mine and living for weeks without air conditioning, I’ve learned to tolerate the heat. In fact, now I’m more likely to get too cold than too warm. I like the feel of the sun on my shoulders, and I’ve lost my aversion to sweating and humidity.

But I’ve always loved the sounds of a southern summer.

It’s the cicadas, mostly. I’ve always loved the sound of humming cicadas. Daytime finds them joining in a great swelling chorus line, humming together under the direction of some unseen conductor. At night, the crickets join them, their silvery notes making the air hum and shimmer with the sounds of childhood dreams.

Then there’s the sound of summer thunder, rolling and deep. The thunder sounds of summer are warmer and thicker than the rattling thunder of winter and spring. Winter and spring storms are aggressive, overassertive. Summer storms are here to stay. They don’t feel the need to make a name for themselves. They come and they sit, rumbling away like a disgruntled neighbor rambling about politics. Angry, but resigned.

It’s the crickets that charm me most. Cricket song always meant something magical was about to happen. Fireflies came out with the crickets. Firecrackers, too, and fireworks. Bonfires and marshmallows came out with the crickets. And watermelons and grill smoke. Crickets brought all these things to summertime. They sang me to sleep, and when they stopped it was time to get up and play.

Night in, night out, until autumn came and chased them all away.

Cooking Day

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Thanksgiving is a big holiday in the Rambler family. For my father, it holds even more weight than Christmas.

And of course the biggest part of Thanksgiving is the food.

Alright, it’s the second biggest part. The biggest part is gratitude. What would Thanksgiving be without thankfulness?

But the second biggest part is the food.

Mother and I spend the whole day before Thanksgiving cooking. My responsibilities revolve around baking pies (three minimum: two pumpkin and one apple) and taste-testing the dressing. Mother is the kitchen fairy who makes everything taste wonderful, and I watch from the sidelines in awe, stepping in when I feel that I won’t mess everything up. I also wash a lot of dishes.

This is probably my favorite day of the year. I am no cook, but my mother is, and I love to watch her. I hope that twenty-one years of following her around the kitchen will have soaked in by the time I find myself out on my own.

We depend on each other on Cooking Day. She repeats aloud the list of things that need to be made at least ten times during the day, asking me if there’s anything she’s forgetting. She never does. Every year there’s green bean casserole, turkey, sweet potato soufflé, dressing, yeast rolls, cranberry orange relish, the three aforementioned pies, and some kind of salad. See, now I feel as though I’m forgetting something—and she’ll comment and correct me. I wonder why she worries about it. She’s the one who reminds me to put salt in the pie crust and all the other things I tend to forget when it comes to cooking. She’s the wizard. I’m just a little flying monkey wielding a whisk.

Somehow at the end of the day, it all gets done. It always tastes delicious. The leftovers always last for weeks. We make ten different kinds of turkey dishes over the next few days following Thanksgiving. It is the inaugural day of the Rambler holiday season. It’s beautiful. It’s marvelous. It’s one of my favorite things to do with my mother—cooking, laughing, making messes, and sharing memories. Cooking Day is on my list of things I am very, very thankful for. 

Aside

Most of today was spent judging at a speech tournament. The funny thing about judging speech tournaments is that sometimes I forget that I’m there to judge, not just see people who I only get to see once or twice a year.

The most commonly heard two words of the day were “Remember when…?

I didn’t talk to too many people from the old days of competing: just my former co-captain and the captain the year after us. But being the lone wolf writer-type that I am, I overheard many conversations between old friends about events I remembered, too, and every time they started talking they started with the phrase “remember when.”

“Remember when our coach did that thing that was absolutely hilarious? Remember that time so-and-so totally clobbered that guy in a debate round? Remember that time the team traveled to Charleston and we all sang Kum-By-Yah in the gazebo in the battery? Remember when we all knew what was going on in each other’s lives? Remember when we laughed together like there was no tomorrow and all that mattered to our teenaged minds was that we were together, right now, today?

“Remember when we were champions? Remember what it felt like to win? Remember what it felt like to lose?

“Remember when we made that banner with all the signatures when a competing school had a student in ICU? Remember going to that student’s funeral? Remember how packed the funeral home was with people he knew from speech and debate?

“Remember when we were all, in a way, the same? Remember how, when we went to tournaments, it was like we had walked into a sea of black suits? Remember how all of us were just black-suited bundles of pure potential that had yet to decide where we were going or what we were going to do when we got there?

“Remember how we talked about how weird it would be once we graduated and moved on to immerse ourselves in individuality? Remember where we came from? Remember what we were?”

It seems as though we all drifted away, my competing friends and I, and became each more clearly ourselves. We’ve changed to different political parties, different hair, different faiths, different lifestyles, or even different last names. But once a year, if only one a year at least, we meet and remember a time when we were less different then we all are now.

Blessings to you all. I remember. I remember and I always will.

 

 

Remember When

Fast Forward

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For the first time in my life, I find myself wishing that something upcoming would just hurry up and get here. I wish it were Thanksgiving. How I would love to have an excuse to spend all day in the kitchen with Mom, making dressing, baking pies, mashing sweet potatoes, and listening to music. The fire would be glowing in the fireplace and the house would smell of yummy things.

If I were to be completely honest with myself and you, I wish it could be Thanksgiving about three years ago. We still had my grandparents then. I was still in high school—my senior year. That was a good year. Not to say that this one isn’t great, because it is, but it seems that our family is so much smaller now than it was then.

I remember the last Thanksgiving we spent in my old house. I had begged to delay the move until Christmas break so we could have just one more Thanksgiving dinner in the split-level house in the middle of the woods. My grandparents were there. Most of our things were in boxes, but my family was there.

Then we moved. I remember spending the whole Christmas break unpacking boxes and painting and cleaning and arranging. My best friend Ozzie and I spent a whole day painting paw prints on the walls of my room while listening to Manheim Steamroller. We were freshmen.

Glory be. We were freshmen in high school.

And here I am, a junior in college, and still wondering if going backward would be better than going forward. Sure, I know “you can’t go back,” and all that jazz. Still, I can think of a few things I would have changed. There are some things I wouldn’t have done, wouldn’t have said, and some people to whom I never would have even said that first “hello.”

But, as I said, however much you may want to, you can’t go back. You can only go forward, trust God, and know that the best, after all, is yet to be.

So Close, So Far

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It’s been two months since I got back from Croatia. I’ve been thinking about Croatia lately; all the things I saw, the people I met, and my students who became so dear to me in such a short period of time. I miss the hills around the hotel I stayed in and the river that wound around the roots of the hills. I scroll through the hundreds of pictures that I took and I see all the faces of the friends I made—American and Croatian—and I think about how badly I want to go back. Even if I don’t stay forever, I know I want to go back.

People warned me about this. Friends who had been on missions trips told me how badly they missed the countries they’d visited. I always listened and kind of nodded, not really understanding how deeply their journeys had impacted them. But now I understand.

Sometimes I wonder if it was a dream. One of those wonderful, rambling dreams that is real and wonderful and you never want to wake up. If it weren’t for three weeks’ worth of photographic evidence, I might think that I had dreamt it. But it was real. It was wonderfully, wonderfully real.

One of the girls who joined my society speaks German fluently. We like to have German conversations with each other, if only to have people stare at us as we talk about the weather. When I speak with her, I remember the hours of conversation I had with the Croatian pastor’s wife. I remember how blessed I felt to be a blessing to other people.

When I play in church, I remember playing my violin in a sweltering kitchen on my last Sunday in Croatia. I had played in church, so when two of the members invited us to lunch, I brought it with me. To my surprise, they wanted a concert, so I gave them one. It had to be one hundred degrees outside, and with the oven going, the kitchen was rapidly reaching the same temperatures. But I played. For some reason, the heat didn’t matter anymore after that.

And I remember my students. I hear one student’s favorite song on the radio, and I sing along. I remember how much fun we had together; how much fun it was to learn how to teach with such a clever and forgiving group of girls. I remember hours of playing UNO, and almost getting good at it.

I remember giving the Gospel to my students every day. I remember how one of them wanted Christ in her life. I remember how happy she was when she told me she wanted to accept Him.

I could write a book of all the things I saw God do. I would write it, then read it over and over again, just to remind myself that yes, it did happen. All of those wonderful things did happen. All of those wonderful people really do exist.

The first chance I get to go back—God willing—I’ll go.

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Day Twenty Six

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It is entirely possible to pick up the treads of an old life and keep going. Even if you escape the familiar for a certain period of time, you can begin again. Life is like riding a bicycle. You don’t forget how to keep on living.

After twenty six days away from home, I am finally back. Oddly, despite all that I’ve done and seen and experienced, I feel as though I had never left.

What is it about the human mind that helps us pick up so easily where we had left off? My best friend was waiting at my house for us when we got home. We talked as if I had never been gone. Neither of us had changed—at least not so much that we couldn’t relate to each other anymore. We rattled away as if it was just the day after the last day we had spent together.

The mind is a tricky thing. A magnificent thing. It stores the memories of an adventure, yet allows us to put those memories aside long enough to dwell on the present. The memories are not forgotten. Just put aside.

And we keep on living.

The minute someone can offer me an explanation for that, let me know.   

Lysdexic

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It’s probably a bad thing that an aspiring writer cannot type.

I blame my elementary school typing teacher. She forced us to use a program to learn how to type that was more of a video game than an instructive system. (For those of you who don’t know me, video games scare me, and my parents taught me to entertain myself with books, thank you very much, so I hated the thought of even a moderately fast-paced computer game.) It had complicated, nerve-wracking challenges, and the program screamed at me every time I made a mistake. I learned to type while staring at the keyboard, just so I wouldn’t mess up. I did fine—until the teacher brought out the traffic-cone orange keyboard skins that fit over the keys so we couldn’t see what they were anymore. Computer class usually ended with yours truly disintegrating into a puddle of tears on the classroom floor, my sanity scalded by a supposedly “kid friendly” typing instruction program. The normal kids, the ones with quick reflexes and agile fingers, would stare at me like I was a pudgy-fingered freak from mars, defeated by an earthling computer.

I can type alright now. But I still stare at the keyboard. Only this year, 11 years after typing class, have I started to notice that I can look up at the keyboard 50% of the time. If I’m typing in German or hammering out an unfamiliar word, you can forget about it.

But to this day, I either can’t hit the shift key and a letter at the same time, or I hold the shift key for too long. So I end up with a lowercase “i” or the word “DEcember.” Any word with “tion” on the end get scrambled: “exertion” becomes “exertino,” “revolution” become “revolutino,” etc. I’m not trying to write in Spanish, honest. In fact, I scramble words constantly. Just now, “word” became “wrod” when I tried to type it into the post. Autocorrect is always doing overtime when I try to write anything, anything at all. I’m a typing lysdexic—I mean, dyslexic.

Whenever I reach for the backspace, inevitably I’ll end up hitting either the “\” or the “=.” So instead of a line of correctinos==ons i\I’ll get a line fo==of equals sings\\\ngs.

Moral of the story: write out manuscripts by hand until I get published and earn enough money to hire someone who’ll take dictation.

The end.

Forensics Rumble

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Today, dear readers, I’m going to go back in time.

I’m going to go back to a time in my life when getting up early on a Saturday was a weekly occurrence. Back in the day when I’d don a short skirt, hose, and heels and climb on to a bus headed for destiny. Back when talking to walls seemed perfectly normal, and was actually expected. Back when my worth was determined in the space of ten minutes with a thirty second grace period.

Back when I was in Forensics.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about (“Crime scene investigation? In heels? What?”), allow me to explain. The National Forensic League is an organization dedicated to the development of the performing and speaking skills of American teenagers. Its members, mostly high school aged kids with a few college students thrown in, compete against each other in debate (Lincoln Douglas and Public Forum), public speaking, and interpretation (otherwise known as acting). The students spend the week practicing pieces and perfecting cases until Saturday, where they drive out with their teammates to compete against other schools at a hosting school’s tournament. A typical tournament runs four rounds, each an hour long, where the contestants perform their pieces in front of a judge who’s armed with a ballot and a stopwatch. Awards are given based on the amount of points gained and how the students rated against each other in their rounds. It’s intense, it’s stressful, it’s life-altering…and it’s a ton of fun.

For me, it was three years of learning. Learning how to compete in a sometimes hostile environment. Learning how to make friends with people whose backgrounds were so different from my own. Learning how to stand on my own two feet. Learning how to lead. Learning how to win. Learning how to lose.

I almost didn’t join the team, though. My freshman year, the idea of being on any kind of team stressed me out. I was a pudgy girl through junior high and elementary school, not to mention uncoordinated, and I had never belonged to a team of any kind—soccer, softball, basketball, volleyball, Bucky ball, none of them. I couldn’t handle it.

But my mother told me I should join. “You love speech and drama,” she said. “Besides, you need to get involved while you’re in high school. And who knows, you might meet some nice boys.”

Well, I ended up accomplishing one of those, anyway.

I remember going to my first tournament and being terrified. Lost in a strange school, surrounded by strange people in suits, with nothing but a poorly-drawn map to help me get to where I needed to go. My piece, the opening from Jane Eyre, was neatly typed and clipped into the mini black binder clutched in my hot little hand. I was entered in the Oral Interpretation event, a sophomore at the bottom rung. At the end of the day I had a second-place trophy, the nickname “that Jane Eyre girl,” and an intimidating reputation for blowing people out of the water. That day was one of the first of many challenging and exhilarating days in the world of high school speech and debate.

Fast forward three years, and I was the team co-captain, a seasoned competitor with countless tournaments under my belt, and a qualifier for the national tournament. All of that unimportant stuff aside, I had forged friendships which have lasted even into college (shout out to Sterling H., my fellow O.I.- and D.I.-er, and my roommate Lynn, O.O.er extraordinaire.), hardened my personal convictions, grown as a performer, learned both how win and how to lose graciously, blossomed as a person, and saw God turn me into a leader. The gang of girls who joined the team my senior year dubbed me “Forensics Mommy” almost from day one. Even now, every time those girls see, me, they still call me “Mommy.” My chance to reach out to them and the others on my team is my most precious memory of all.

Back to tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be serving as a judge at the Anytown Academy Annual Speech and Debate Tournament. Tomorrow, I will be the one with the stopwatch and the ballot; I will be the one that makes the judgment call. The wheel has come full circle.

What a difference four years have made.

So now you know. I will probably write about my experience in the NFL (that’s right. National. Forensics. League. I’m a member of the NFL. Isn’t that grand?) quite frequently. It was a long and noble chapter in my life, and so much wonderfulness happened that I cannot help but write about it. And tomorrow I’m reentering that world in search of inspiration.

Even two years after graduating, I still can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday.