Thursday, January 22, 2015

When It Rains

I sit here writing on one of those days where it's pouring rain and that shifted some of the plans for this morning making it lonelier than I expected. That's called life sometimes but I tried to be relatively happy. The runner's world article came out and it's still overwhelming and surprising that the slow news day continues. It refers people to read my blog which a few of the pieces have done which makes me nervous because a) their writing is always so much better than mine and b) while it's a public blog it's really thoughts that anyone with a regular brain would share more privately and what if all these people figure out that I'm just a guy with a damaged brain who likes to run?

Still, I appreciated the piece for many many reasons but probably highest on the list is that this is by far the most comprehensive piece done that tells a totality of the story not just a small piece (I'm not complaining about any other piece; I'm amazed any piece has been done much less more than one). It's once again been brought up that I should write a book, once again with a couple of people who work in the world of writing but I've shrugged that off knowing I tell my story here and remind them that the plot line of one foot in front of the other is pretty lame isn't it? Still when Pamela LeBlanc who wrote the piece said she gets to interview someone actually important, Bill Bryson from A Walk in the Woods, I let her know that it was he who was the lucky one in the interview (though I am amused that she continues to interview people known for putting one foot in front of the other; she's obviously a good writer with no capacity for ADD if that keeps her intrigued).

I am still intrigued that with only one exception not one media pieces has mentioned the custody issues from a couple of years ago. While relationships and divorce and custody proceedings are usually complicated, the reason it intrigues me is that the custody thing was about one thing and one thing alone and it was whether or not I was fit to parent with my medical condition since they were arguing that I wasn't a safe parent due to the seizures and cancer with the literally stating we don't think you're a bad father and specifically putting in legal language that I did reckless things like running with Kiana in a stroller for races. Perhaps it's because that yearlong process was probably the most emotionally tolling thing in this story that I can't quite make sense why it's skipped over.

Anyway, with that said, I am grateful to be able to still put that one foot in front of the other. While I'm aware there will come a day where my fastest races are behind me, I continue to dare to dream that my best foot forward is still ahead of me. I've definitely been getting whooped in crossfit I try to get in bikini shape for the Spartan cruise. It's intriguing to watch people who are older, younger, shorter, taller, different gender than me whoop me on the exercises sometimes while doing more weight than me with smaller bodies but this is the first time I'm working with weights in my entire life but I'll keep trying. I've even set up a spear throw in my backyard since my lack of accuracy is what's caused me the most burpees.

But even as I am excited about that race or thinking about the half, I just got even more excited about the Miracle Match Marathon weekend. The stroller races started after I did Boston and my brother, mother and daughter cheered. I've now gone back and done a race beside each of them. At the recent half I won both of my parents were there cheering but at this one, both of my parents are doing the 5k as are Kiana and I. While the plan is to run it next to Kiana, I'm tempted to let each of us do it at our own pace and then go back to finishing with each other but no matter what I am incredibly grateful that for the first time ever all three generations are doing the same race on their own two feet with no one in a stroller. While I imagine that won't get anywhere near the attention that the wins have, to me that means the family business is about to get a whole lot better. Very much to me, to my parents and I hope to Kiana, it's worth celebrating a whole lot more. I accessorized my Livestrong bracelet with my four letter word hope yesterday and it's at events like that where another 4 letter word, love comes into play that keeps hope alive. There's probably lots more words like patience and saintly that could be used to describe my parents if for no other reason than they put up with raising me.

While my speed has caught some people's attention, I've always said running is my therapy. I'm not sure if I'm running to something or from something but that something is likely death. If I'm running to it, I'm known for being relatively fast so we can say that's why I may die young. But I'm also known for endurance, having ran near 50 miles last week so maybe while death will eventually catch up, it'll sure have had to have hung in for the long haul before it got there. But either way I'll be so glad I didn't do it alone. Yesterday Kiana did her last run of 2 miles in a trail workout where as is our custom we start together, high five when we go opposite ways and then finish racing. It was raining and there was a time where I would have seen two people doing that and gone what kind of crazy people do that but yesterday, well yesterday I was glad we were the crazy people (for all the worrisome people we came home and showered and got in warm jammies and did art immediately after).

So I hope I continue to live the mantra that you have to work on the relationships you want to keep. I'm having lunch with two friends today who were among the first to be there in the hospital and high on the pecking order. We've traded some rather fun emails getting ready for it, some of which will never be repeated in front of my mother or perhaps anyone. But one of them asked if I could pick them up rather than him biking to the lunch like he usually does because of the rain. I biked most of the last 4 years or got rides due to the driving restriction so I couldn't resist making the joke that he was laming for having to depend on rides from people on bad weather days. Showing why he's my friend, without missing a beat, he said "We're all onto you: you need rides when gas is over $3.00 a gallon but now that it's cheap your seizures are magically cured."

So I take back that initial complain about a rainy day... we definitely need it and while when it rains, I don't mind being lonely, that was not today. Today, I got to walk my cute little girl with an umbrella to school today, I had lunch with some great friends, got to hear about my parents signing up for the Miracle Match 5k.  And in just a little while, I'll be listening to some music while I run in the rain with the Ship of Fools (it's the fact we run in any weather that is the origin of that name and why they're my kind of people). So if today is what rainy days are like, through the run, I'll be singing and after I'll likely be dancing in the rain.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

What The Wise Men Tell Us

My friend Matt calls the various media that comes out about me the J-Wire. The half marathon win got blogged about by a fitness writer who has become a friend and whose writing a piece that will come out about me in the runner's world website. The rogue distance festival course was one that went through lots of neighborhoods with tons of turns in moisture where Kiana's smiling despite being cold and I look intensely confused or confusedly intense. As I've sat here and struggled over how happy to be over the last few days since the half marathon win because to me it feels like an asterisk win since I made a couple of wrong turns even I did end up doing greater than the expected distance... Just for the record the nearly 14 miles is from my watch and there's been no half where I've gotten 13.1. There's what we call a garmin bonus as the GPS watch is never exactly what the race is, always a little extra (courses are supposed to have a little bonus and to get it exactly you'd have to do the tangents perfectly).

It may sound strange but I am just as if not more proud of the 10th place with a 1:23 on a tough course last month than the win this month with a 1:26 because of that having gotten lost asterisk. But as someone intelligently pointed out in a way that finally helped me accept it a little easier was there a point that I ever thought about quitting or slowing down, in fact when I'd figure out the right direction I ran harder after having checked in because I didn't want Kiana to miss her kid's k which she placed 3rd in. She's very happy with her spibelt that came as a result of that. Pink and polka dotted. She put it on yesterday with her pajamas till she went to bed and is wearing to it to school today. Cause utility running belts are what all the cool kids are wearing now right?

The ups and down of everyone's life are normal. But having made friends through the "guy who runs with brain cancer" awareness, I've made both running friends and friends who have a connection with a disease. I have two friends who have recently had to put their fathers in hospice care and are traveling unexpectedly and rather quickly to be there for them in the end. I was at a brain power hour recently and heard stories again that made me both grateful and nervous. Being involved in the cancer community I've sure had to see way too many unexpected deaths or at least faster arrival to death than anyone anticipated. But I'm clearly aware of one thing, that with incredibly rare exceptions, those people who are part of proactive organization are not representative of the entire cancer community or of people in general. Because when people get involved with Livestrong or the BrainPower 5k or other types of research funding, they are the go getters in life, the ones who want to do something outside of just being a passer by or a victim. There are those in these groups who want to believe that in the end it will all be okay, that nothing shy of 100% defeat of cancer is acceptable... (I seriously annoyed one breast cancer advocate and she let me know how mad at me she was that I wasn't using my podiums more for saying no one should ever die from cancer ever....). Let me be clear I like the attitude but even the flu or common cold don't have that kind of batting average (death and taxes are the only things that I know does though while I like good batting averages I'm not a fan of either of those even as I try to accept the reality of them). One of my doctors in a time where cameras weren't rolling and no one else was in the room more than slightly reprimanded me for the not likely to make age 40 thing that is mentioned in so many of the media things... he reprimanded because both that's just statistically not absolutely true but also because since he's also a serious optimism he knows that the reason he and I both have raised money (and in his case, he's helped conduct actual research) that's as things stand not as he hopes they will also stand. Still, while maybe we will achieve the improbable dream of better brain cancer care before/if mine grows, I work off the attitude in the waiver that was in the study I'm a part of, that this research may not help me but will help future generations. I'm also going to be donating my brain to science when I die but I'm okay with the help they get from that being put off as long as possible.

But while I try to be a dreamer of improbable dreams, and today's blog is coming because it's a day I accept the end of a dream that I'd held onto one for a few years, I also try to balance realism. There are many religions that want to believe that in the end it will all be okay... including the one that I am most closely associated with is Christianity (please don't judge them by me).  I'm not sure how we can imagine heaven being perfect and where everyone's perfectly happy if its where some of the people you love are there forever and some are are gone forever based on one gigantic choice. I suppose that's the romanticism of the nirvana where you get to keep trying till you achieve egolessness. I won't know till forever arrives which, if either, is completely true but the reason I subscribe to one more than the other is because I do think the universe and human existence show over and over that while this isn't true of most choices, there are single moments and decisions that can dramatically alter the course of each human's existence.

With that said there is a song I listen to on days like these, American Flag Umbrella that says that "in the end it will all be okay because that's what the wise men tell us and if it's not okay, it's not the end of my friend." Somewhere in my heart of hearts I want to believe that's true but today is one of those days where I accept that some things aren’t okay and never will be. That’s life. Still, in my book it’s better that way than there never having been life or hope in the first place. You intensely pour yourself into a race that you're lost in the middle of and if you look at the finish line picture, I'm fairly unhappy because of how it had gone. I'd gotten lost in one of the brainpower 5k's before and lost placement but in this one still managed to win it if for no other reasons than it's rare that half marathons are decided by a small margin. As the announcer said at the beginning of the race on Sunday as he made announcements about the course, it's really only a problem if you're near the front. Perhaps the lesson to be learned here is that the longer distance you sign up for, you get a little bit more room for mistakes and wrong turns and still have a chance as long as you give it what you got AND even if you're not smiling or happy you go till the finish line.

Perhaps the speech I'm most pleased with is the one I gave to the Livestrong leaders, Holding Hands. Here I describe how getting cancer was like being born because of it's confusion. But the birth process has something we've learned to ignore that both the giver of life, the mother and the receiver of life, the child are in a lot of pain through the process and generally crying. I didn't take killer after brain surgery and there's actually been a study done that children born through natural child birth end up being able to handle stress throughout life better than those not because the brain wires for stress certain ways (as a group, let's not go getting all or nothing here). There are those who would argue that this is a stupid argument... why sign up for pain if you don't have to... I hear your argument and remind you that I sign up for Spartans, marathons and today Kiana did her first set of stair workouts to get ready for Jacob's Ladder at the Waco marathon. It's a little bit of fun that she's 8 because now we're getting to do repeats of my favorite number and her age. So to each his own but I hope that the reason I have any chance when challenges come is because I like to sign up for things even when they don't come easy.  I don't enjoy the pain by any means but I think maybe it teaches us something... I've continued to going to these cross fit classes and these workout enthusiasts and their no pain no gain bit... even me a guy who didn't take painkillers after brain surgery argued back... couldn't you also say, no pain, no pain? I did the most
pull ups I've ever done Monday (had to get serious help to get through the workout) and I literally said to the coach, I'm really good at running, why am I doing this and then did it anyway. That's good right or does it just show something's wrong with my brain?

So I am certainly not a wiseman and I don't know how to balance their contradictions any more than I do the ones in my life. But even on a rough day, well I'm glad that I've had some good chapters and I dare to dream that there's usually at least one or two left for most of us on our own hills and stairs. And that's something that reminds me that even if all won't be okay that I appreciate the hope and life that came along way.



Monday, January 12, 2015

Let Your Memory Lead You

Going through some organizing of old things, I found something I wrote years before brain surgery about memory:  "Does our past affect our view of the present more or does our present affect our view of the past more? There’s no way to know but I think it may be a coin toss on any given day." And while it's one of the most often repeated things in this hitchhiker journal, its entire purpose is just to tell myself, a guy with a damaged memory the story of things as I saw them in present time so that if I have to hear this story down the line from someone, well that someone might as well be me. There are a few people who my heart trusts instinctively because they somehow inherently realize the memory deficits quickly by themselves, others who upon becoming aware of it from me or others are helpful in various ways. Perhaps my favorite recent memory is someone who got Kiana a birthday present and though I've got some clue as to when we met (hints from Facebook) she was someone I clearly trusted shortly after meeting her because when I did I let her know something I rarely do on first meeting: down the line I may not remember her nor how we met (still don't and she's been nice enough to tell me that but not nice enough to tell me when). With that said, today's title is borrowed from the musical Cats (judge me accordingly) but when I don't remember things exactly clearly that can be difficult and annoying so be warned that this entry is one of those long rambling ones where I try to capture a few moments that meant something to me so as would be sung on Broadway when the time comes that I read it the memory lives again. (In wrestling they used to say, get ready to rumble... if you keep reading after this, listen to me saying get ready for rambling).

2015 has started with some great pleasantness. The biggest and best to me were various parts of Kiana's life. In no particular order, Kiana's enjoyed her birthday celebration with her friends. The party was okay by anyone's standard including Kiana's (an extra challenge for me was that due to tough weather it was entirely indoors) but we had kids who stuck around for six hours and she loved that her party turned into a playdate (in the interest of simple frankness there was one father's actions that made me a little more accepting of why I may have made some media pieces). Watching her play reminded me of why I'd never wanted an only child growing up in such a packed family but glad to see she was enjoying a good time. While it had a long way to go, it was the most collaborative process between both of Kiana's parents which makes the thought of both living and dying easier. 

For the second time this year out of the two report cards in second grade, she got perfect attendance and straight A's. I was amused that for straight A's they get a little ribbon and for perfect attendance they get a meal at a restaurant. While those who don't show up can't make a difference I probably believe those who say the primary difference between those rewards may have to be that there's more funding lost for kids being absent than for kid's poor grades. The award she's never gotten and in simple frankness will likely never get is the one for good citizenship. They have a 1-4 scale for both grades and behavior (straight A's is all 4 academically, straight citizen is all 4's behaviorally). While she has mostly 4's in the behavior there are some skills she hasn't quite mastered... As I sat through award assembly, afterwards I asked both parents and the principal herself what the equivalent award of good citizenship was in adulthood since those ones for straight's A's and perfect attendance can easily be translated into actual awards in adulthood . While no one can argue that those skills don't have function and benefit, no one could come up with a similar award where just behaving well earned you an award. We'll keep working on it but that realization maybe made me worry a little less about it.

Three things from great past memories came out this week. In chronological order of when the events occurred, there was a new video about the Miracle Match Marathon Kiana and I did last year in Waco  including where she got carried up a set of stairs called Jacob's ladder. We'll be going back this year and doing that ladder again though this time we'll be doing the half because it runs through a zoo while the full has a different course. It features many many cool people.

The second was from Livestrong, perhaps the coolest fighting cancer event I've ever gotten to be a part of and certainly a place where I met some great people. They shared an interactive document of their findings. I didn't even know that kind of technology was possible (but if you'll notice that I'm getting a little more technological as this is the first blog entry that has links where you just have to click on one word instead of a thousand random letters and numbers). While there are pictures and videos of me on there, I honestly have never seen a more patient centered conversation. Like the Waco piece, I was one of several participants and feel privileged and humbled that my story is one of the ways we get to the better picture. I am not sure I belong there but I hope some of the work I've tried to help with allows me to be a lens through which people view many of the stars in the constellation of humans who fight cancer and make life better.

With that said, one of the rough parts about the start of the New Year was that I got a letter that my neuro oncologist who rocks bow ties will no longer be part of the hospital in a few weeks. I had no plans to change insurance during this reenrollment time but now I'm trying to figure it out. Perhaps there are people who think all doctors are equivalent but I don't for many reasons. These are guys and gals who I trust with literal pieces of my mind and both he and the ones at Duke helped get me as close to peace of mind as humanly possible. I joke that maybe I should have sent him flowers but I did send him an email sharing that I was bummed out about him leaving and saying thank you. People who you trust with your life should not be easily exchanged in my book. I don't know quite what I'll do and am relieved I have a bit of time to figure it out but wondering if its time to start returning to Duke (which is a bummer cause New York had just passed the place I'd visited more than Duke).

The last media piece was a Spartan video recap of the race I did with my little brother and Kiana and her cousin. Speaking of getting passed, everyone else who does talking in the video is faster than me at Spartans. Still, if you've ever wondered how much my mother loves me, I think  you can see it displayed in how sincerely she kisses me at the end of a Spartan with my face all muddy and I think you can see how much I appreciate it with the smile on my face.

Perhaps there are people who work in the media or come out enough to where it feels normal. Almost two years into a variety of all these things, let me make it clear that for me the answer is no. I sat through an interview recently for the runner's world website and someday we'll schedule one for the last ESPN shoot and I honestly don't understand but it is kind of cool to get some of life's memories captured by more than this blog and people who communicate better on their worst day than I do on my best.

But speaking of Spartan, I am getting pumped about going on their cruise and have finally joined a gym. It's a crossfit gym and apparently unlike fight club, the first rule of cross fit gyms, you have to tell everyone that you've joined. I've honestly never worked out with instruction besides running and in my first workout, I got beat by people who were older, shorter, a different gender than me. Okay, I came in dead last because the entire workout only had 1200 meters of running and apparently your body has different muscles than just running. I didn't know what gym to join and this one is run by a friend and also so many of the people I've met in the Spartan world are crossfit aficionados.

The part that I'm struggling and excited the most about in regards to the Spartan cruise is that it will be my first time using a passport. Above all feelings, I am really stoked about using my passport to a new place for the first time since brain surgery. However, from a guy who confesses to much on the internet, to be completely honest I'm disappointed that it won't be with a cute girl who I'm pursuing romantically (well I mean right now it's scheduled with no one but I should find someone to join me soon). It's funny when everyone was trying to talk to me about being open to real romance after the great breakup while I blatantly denied it and haven't even had the courtesy to call anyone a girlfriend labeling them George Clooney girls, I did make a list of desirables or things to put off if I ever got a girlfriend for the first time since high school. From a guy who was valedictorian and tries to always PR, maybe it was too ambitious... but I was hoping it was someone who understood who I was before and after brain surgery so they could understand some of the overwhelmingness. I even had a bottle of old wine I got to open with them showing that this would be a relationship about more than sour grapes. Of course we all consider things like looks and IQ and interaction and I figured if anyone messed with me enough, we'd go get a passport stamp together and that would make a great step in a darling lovely fairy tale. I'm a guy who married his high school sweetheart (that didn't work out so great) and grew up thinking I'd save my virginity till marriage (I didn't but certainly think that's a commendable effort). I'm not sure why that was/is such a big deal to me but I am just trying to balance whether let it go here is probably the right thing and things may pan themselves out without my awareness of (after all it looks nearly scripted that I put off brain surgery to run a marathon and trained hard and qualified for Boston and then won one almost exactly two years later, 1 second slower). But I don't want to be people who seem to easily accept failure or mistakes over and over as learning lessons (I see the logic in that but I also think it might be smarter to learn from other people's mistakes since I don't have enough time to make them all by myself). And really there's only two things left on the list, the passport and doing a race with someone and if you give it all up, how close are you to the Vince Lombardi quote that If you learn to quit it becomes a habit. (This is where the intelligent people point out that it's fairly hypocritical to call it quitting when you've been openly announcing and showing that you haven't really been trying; I mean graduating to the Van Gogh girl term mentioned in the last blog was progress but let's be honest he still died alone with mental illness). Anyway, I bet I come back beaming from that cruise and that race and give this less thought then.

But speaking of races, Kiana and I did the Rogue Distance festival. This would be the second race I would ever do with Kiana a couple of years ago, in its first year. They have three distances, a 30k, a kids k and a half marathon. The first two years I did the 30k even though each year they had a kid's k. It starts 2 hours after the 30k and I cannot do a 30k in under two hours though I'm close. It may tell you something about my growth in parenting that it wasn't until the 3rd year that it occurred to me to do a shorter distance to make sure Kiana had time to do the kid's K. This year we were gunning and it may tell you something that I was ahead of every half marathoner but that two 30kers were ahead of me (damn elite runners). Because there were three distances on the course and various arrows and turns, a few of us half marathoners ended up doing wrong turns and I ran nearly 14 miles in 1:25 and change (last month I did the toughest half I've done with her in 1:23). I was actually on PR pace because this was the longest break I'd had between races and the legs were more rested than usual since in the New England cold, I'd found it hard to get out of a warm bed. At the end of the race, my mom was there cheering and I didn't know if anyone had beaten me because of the extra distance from the wrong turns. She tried to take a picture but I was frustrated enough to where I couldn't even smile for it immediately and I had to get Kiana to the Kid's kilometer race.

It didn't take long to get the smile back on my face because out of 22 kids, Kiana took off and while she was nowhere near it at 600 meters with a lap to go, she turned it on and came in 3rd. She'd won her age group before and gotten a medal but it was her first trophy which has joined the family trophy case! I smiled going in knowing that some thing had gone right about making the decision that led to Kiana's first victory (she'd won an age group division before but this was outright placement).

As we were sitting there going through the results I told both the timing guy and the race director about what had gone wrong. While frustrated because by all account I'd had a commanding lead, I said I understood that since I hadn't stuck strictly on course that I'd accept being disqualified. In a moment where humanity continues to amaze me, the guy in both 2nd and 3rd place both made the argument for me being the winner of the half which I received. This is the second half I've ever won, the first one with a stroller. With a stroller, I'd taken 2nd and 3rd both of which had received media attention and this one got none, but somehow that bit of humanity makes this a very meaningful win. The prize was a pair of skechers and while I haven't picked them up, they will likely become my day to day shoes so as I put one foot in front of the other, I'm reminded of how much I believe in and am amazed by humanity.

In 2013, 2014 and 2015 I've gotten lucky enough to win the first race of the year (for the record, I don't win anywhere near most races I do). Each year has been better than the one before. In each of those years and the ones before it I've also tried a new sport (2012 Livestrong century where I learned to bike, 2013 Spartan where I learned to get whooped and 2014 where I did a triathlon and learned not to drown since saying I learned to swim would be a stretch). I am glad 2015 is starting the way it has. I don't know what the new thing(s?) will be this year sports or otherwise but trying to stay open to it while trying to hang on to the new ones and the great friends. But as I'm sitting here signing up for races and possibilities that will come with new memories I am thankful where it has led me.














Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Sight of the Stars


I'm not sure I could have asked for a much better transition from the best year of my life to 2015. Christmas was great with my family... The last weekend of the year was captured with 21 miles that were just for the run of it since there are currently no marathons on the calendar so it's not exactly training under those circumstances just keeping a base. Or as I sit here with a Cowboys playoff game just happening remembering the old Emmitt Smith quote that all men are created equal and some just work harder in the offseason. 

But 2014 wrapped up well with Kiana's 8th birthday dinner on the 29th in which she got new dresses that she was thrilled about (for Christmas I got new running shoes and Kiana got new running shoes and dress boots. It's a little embarrassing to admit that I'm not sure whether I or my little girl gets more excited about shoes but oddly enough it made me pleased that one of the simplest gifts got of her best smiles). I asked her to not get any older please and she said "I will always be your baby but I'm not a baby anymore I'm a child now."  I am not quite sure why Kiana always carries dust to throw in my eyes while she's being nice  .

New Years ended with a really fun trip. There was a stop at Mark Twain's home, a guy who while I will never have anywhere near his skills I hope to echo his idea that you can sample life. This was the first trip without a formal event though running in the Northeast snow/hail and got the hardest working out at the EPIC gym in NYC reminded me I've got a long way to go in being fit. I even dressed nicely for New Years hoping to get at least a ginger kiss. Still wondering whether someone you meet in December is worth kissing in January in another state is risky and doesn't that sometimes end up in getting slapped? If you think I'm going to put whether or not I got a midnight kiss in a public blog.... You probably like TMI.

There were many bright sides to going to New York Cities, one of those cities so nice they name it twice. It's one of those places even if you live there with unlimited funds you couldn't take it all in. I went to Madame Tussad's wax figurine museum for the first time which was impressive. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I couldn't resist taking a picture with George Clooney asking him an important question but his ears were full of wax so he didn't provide an adequate answer.  

Somehow the universe has been kind enough to let this be the 4th trip to New York since I won the marathon and there was one before that way back in my college days. There is a piece of art that I've gone to see all but one trip, Van Gogh's starry night. I love the piece on its own but there is also a beauty about a mad man with a tortured mind removing ghosts from the windows that haunt him.  A commercial disaster in his lifetime who painted for therapy, perhaps the reason I run. While I'd taken pictures of the painting and have an iPhone case that references it, I took one with the painting remembering his quote "I know nothing with certainty but the sight of the stars makes me dream." There can't be any more George Clooney girls now that he stepped up his game but perhaps in 2015 I can find a chapter or two with a Van Gogh girl... Even as I write that I don't know what it means but I promise not to cut my ear off.

Still, I'm a competitive guy and I like keeping score. Somehow, both in totality of trips and days, with this visit, New York passed up Duke as the place I've visited most often. Even as I had time there with some people I've met because they lost someone to brain cancer and even as I left I read of ESPN anchor Stuart Scott dying of cancer today at 49, I thought of what he said and I hope my life echoes it: you beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live. I hope I'm getting that right as often as I can.

With the mindset of trying to beat cancer the way he did, So somehow in that competition between life and cancer, between New York vs Duke (though I still cheer for Duke in sporting events), my humanity vs my disease, in that there are no races left that I haven't done with Kiana, in that competition book, cancer has already lost and I hope to keep padding the scoreboard. Certainly, as I look ahead at January and February, it's kind of cool to see that Kiana's ahead of me and currently has four races to my three in the next two months! Two of mine are behind her in a half marathon where I hope it will be my fastest with a stroller and one where I hope it will be the funnest one for her yet as we get to run through a zoo in Waco at the Miracle Match Marathon (http://miraclematchmarathon.net/?page_id=369)!

Still like Van Gogh, I hope to paint my dreams onto a canvas. His was an actual artistic canvas; mine are somewhat more specific and somehow more vague than modern art. So the annual 8 New Year's resolutions have been finalized and will start being worked on. Some old resolutions have now become habit/lifestyle/normal so there were some new ones (weight issues, parenting goals owning less at the end of the year-if there's anywhere financially I have embraced life changes that I'd recommend it would be here because you can't imagine the freedom you find from the things you leave behind). I won't share them all but a few can be more public.  I want to get through an entire book or the first time since before brain surgery. I'm reading Unbroken while Kiana's reading the Hobbit hoping to instill the idea that you read the book before you watch the movie. Using my passport for the first time since brain surgery to a new
place is also looking likely since I'm doing a spartan race in the Caribbean in March, 
http://www.thespartancruise.com (there was also a trip to Brazil scheduled that got cancelled to go to Duke. While media covered the marathon win I hope my feet not just my pictures arrive on doorsteps there someday). I'm going to try to join a gym for at least till then see if I can't do some cross training for the spartan and for running and to look better in a bikini.

So from little to big, we know if there's anything starry in my brain it has serious faults. But even damaged with unexpected twirls that came with an unexpected beauty, I am going to keep dreaming and trying to run my dreams down.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Most Wonderful Times of the Year

Tradition! I think as I fiddle through life, it's probably one of those things that helps you keep balance once in a while. So as Christmas Eve settles in, Kiana and I will keep a tradition that I've had pretty much my entire adult life, we will hang up an ornament representing the most important event of the year. In certain years, there is no competition, the year Kiana was born, college graduation, first puppy, and last year there was nothing that could have outdone winning a marathon with Kiana and what came with it.

This year was hard! Kiana did her first 5k, she won her age group in her 2nd one, she had some impressive school projects. I won a few races of my own and taken on new challenges in a triathlon and a duathlon. There were some incredible special people that entered life who have definitely framed lasting impacts. It was the most traveled year of my life (and Kiana's too who has seen more of the world since we won a marathon than I saw in my entire childhood). If getting the holiday card down to a few pictures was tough... getting it down to one ornament was much tougher. Over the years, the ornaments have been hung (and taken down when we leave) in hotels, other people's home because we have no tradition of where to be for Christmas but sometimes even when gifts are left back in our home to be opened when we return, the ornament comes. Because if nothing else, every year no matter how good or bad, you get to hang out with a memory of a good time, a good thing.

But without further ado (drumroll please), the ornament this year is... cheating a little. It's five ornaments in one! Appropriately enough, they are all from races but each one of them is a Spartan race. My friend Cookie from Spartan helped me "materialize" the concept (who wants a cookie). In chronological order, let me share the 5 parts of this ornament with you. Trimming the edges are finisher medals for the Austin super, the first spartan obstacle course (and only one of two) where I got all the obstacles. And like too many races, the first time I did a Spartan I went alone, this time it was more than one carload from my running group, still slow on the uptake that challenges and obstacles are better when we share the course. Appropriately enough, the evening of the race was finished with a dinner with friends both ancient and new.

The second part is the California beast medal. I in fact did not complete all of the obstacles successfully on the first try but I did my burpees and snuck back into the line and did it again (risking burpees in doing so), 120 burpees later. I enjoyed a trip where I made some new friends, three from Austin came with me, reconnected with some of the Spartan ones from 2013. It was also great that I saw several from college since I had studied in Napa Valley. The guy with a damaged brain was grateful that some of the friends he saw included the professors who taught me not just what to think but how to think for the first time in years.

The third part of the triangle is the Spartan sprint that I went to in Portland to do with my brother. If I had to have gotten it down to one ornament this probably would have been it. Because this was the race I did this year where my mom, my nephews and niece were all there. It also was my little brother's first race of any sort. And we did the obstacles, the burpees side by side which would have been a pleasure by itself but in my mind I realized that while there will be plenty of times where we're cheering on each other in our separate future adventures (he's not crazy enough to run a marathon, I'm not crazy enough to do some of the stuff he does on snow with boards), but it was cool to do one with him. It also has helped me sleep better at night that with that event, all three of the people who came to cheer me on at Boston, my mother, my brother and Kiana I've now done an event together. By self admission my little brother had mixed feelings about getting whooped so thoroughly but showing that we share the same blood, when they announced the date for next year's event near him, 8/8, my birthday, he said I should take it as a sign that we're supposed to do it again. And if there's no greater sign how much my mother loves she kissed me with affection while my face was all muddy. Kiana was there cheering and that may be the softest peck that kid's ever given me ;).


The center piece of the ornament, what binds them all together is the kids medal. Kiana would actually do the kids course twice out there in Portland with her cousin. She'd finished her first Spartan a few months before crying but this one she was flying and smiling at the end. Anytime Kiana's smiling like that it makes me smile bigger than anything else. It may be a competition as to who has more happiness from it and that's a race I wouldn't be too bothered in taking second place in.

Last but not least, in what is the biggest medal I own, it actually all hangs on the "necklace" from the charity race which team Epic Strong was able to defend and win $4000. That team had Alexander Nicholas who had introduced me into the world of Spartan, it had guys who have beaten me time after time, women from the great state of Texas all of which have also beaten me. We even had one kid from the area that I'd won the marathon at. I've handed out medals in a few places but that was learned from Alex who guided me through my first Spartan and then medalled me. I've encouraged people to sign up for their first race or athletic event or even just to walk more because while different levels show different levels of insanity, there's no one who couldn't use a little stronger heart and muscles.

Where the check itself went was pretty cool, to Livestrong, an organization that has helped me and thousands of other cancer survivors make cancer more manageble because it doesn't come easy. So this round ornament, I hope represents somehow coming full circle both literally and symbolically. It shows that the best year of my life, the most wonderful times. It was the year I was in the best shape and got the fastest times in pretty much every single road distance was shared with friends and family and passed forward to other people who I will likely never meet just as those who had provided while angels, are strangers. It certainly feels appropriate because I still hold close to my heart that if you sign up for some messy tough things in life, the ones you don't sign up for, are a lot easier to deal with. And it was great that it was done with people who whether they are friends or family is often indistinguishable. More practically speaking if you build some upper body, something I often neglect, it probably helps to push a growing kid and keep holding her up.

So I'm grateful that an ornament was created representing in a single thing events that represented friends, family, exercise, travel, giving back but as 2014 is wrapping up... and actually the first few races in 2015 are all road races with Kiana either behind or beside her... but as we hang up this ornament, I probably need to sign up for a Spartan or few (actually some of the people from both the running world, my family and the triathlon world I joined are ahead of me in signing up). But we'll worry about that on boxing day because on Christmas eve, I have an ornament to hang up and I am here with my family and we've got some tamales to get ready so we can unwrap them tomorrow.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ruining Hell

During this most wonderful time of the year, I continue to wonder different organizations have been
kind enough to let us share their message or why media covers the story of a guy known for putting one foot in front of the other. Last night I helped speak at a running event for marathon kids since I'm one of their parent ambassadors. Kiana and I are currently on the cover of livestrong.org for fundraising (but if you're going to donate, donate to my fundraising efforts for the marathon since tax things are just around the corner and I'm just a few hundred shy of rasining 5k for Kiana's 5k http://www.livestrong.org/fundraising/kianaleon/-. But the thing that I am often curious about far more than that is how the universe has been kind enough to give me such good people as friends... that actually was not much of a mystery to solve because it became obvious that with who I am only the absolute best people could put up with me.

I'm a man usually made out of discipline in many ways and obviously the fact that I speak in public events knows that I know when to reel it in in front of a crowd but there are times in person and sometimes on social media where I can't resist. I fixed my own toilet for the first time entirely by myself recently, without the instructions, or youtube, or anyone's guidance because that's the definition of manly to not get anyone's help ;). A couple of weeks later it's still working but my first through both out loud and shared and tweeted etc was, I just fixed my toilet... shit's about to go down. So because I'm also known for that kind of silliness... and for this type of blog, sometimes people share things with me figuring the guy will give them if nothing else an honest opinion (I take that as the highest compliment when people say they ask me what I think because they know I'm one of those friends who will give it to them straight about what I think about their girlfriends, job decisions, etc). Still when a friend not too long ago was making some inappropriate
remarks about their inappropriate actions, I couldn't help but heckle them, "You know you're going to hell for that right?" They wittily responded with "Some of my favorite people are going to hell." I returned with the banter of "Some people you really don't like are going to hell too." Without missing a beat she said, "You just ruined hell for me!"

Our communal activities towards the end of the year from Thanksgiving to Black Friday to Christmas to New Year's often says much about us. Our shopping habits sometimes show our affection or practicality, at other times it show off our diving into a bit of materialism where black Friday is for some of us the day after we say how grateful for what we have we go crazy for wild deals. In extreme but too common case , we spend money we don't have for things we don't need to impress people we don't like. While the calories are probably more than anyone could burn off, I do love how much the getting together happens, the holiday
parties that are classy, the ones that seem entirely appropriate for trying to keep pace around the celebration of the First Noel with ugly sweaters and red dress run (speaking of witty, I loved when a friend said to me when I said I didn't have an ugly sweater that I could just bring a sweater since I brought the ugly with me). With the red dress run (it was a charity race for all of you who thinks this means that the sexuality found in the left temporal lobe finally got affected), I thought people would be proud of me for wearing matching shoes but instead I'm getting their therapy bills forwarded to me for the nightmares it's causing in people. But with all of these things, the meals, the goofiness, for me the events are just the excuse and getting to see good people relaxing is the true reason. 

And still I keep running but with my first duathlon the day after the dress run, I realized I'm pretty happy with my running finally perhaps because I finally figured out what (I hope) I've gotten right about introducing Kiana to running. You see me for me running was taken away as purely fun relatively early in life. I got spanked for running in 3rd grade in the hall and that's what landed me on the track team (I'd get spanked again for running in the hall in 7th grade so I don't know what your thoughts are on corporal punishment since I'm still running but then again, I'm not doing it in the hall anymore). But in the sports I played in conditioning was used as a punishment for getting things wrong (you made this mistake go run extra, I'm not quite sure why we don't say hey you got that right, practice getting it right). So an activity that we all try to do shortly after we start walking somehow gets a very negative association too early which for me was a spanking and disappointment if I didn't win. It's an association I've never quite completely shaken. 
So to share more briefly what I said with the marathon kids group last night, I've tried to get Kiana to embrace the love of running for many reasons. One is that it's something we can do together, two it's an activity that while I'm part of a running team, no matter where I'm at or how much medical bills or races are, you really do only need the basics to do. I thought I had arrived at "teaching it right to her" back when training her for her first 5k on a day she was supposed to do 2 miles (the longest I was going to have her do) she ignored my "coaching" and did 2.5 miles that day. Then again, I thought we had arrived when did a 5k side by side but while she smiled at the running and the medal but soon after she was playing with the hula hoop. I thought we had arrived when in her second 5k she had won her age group by 7 minutes! But it turns out that she was and is still teaching me because if there's any moment from all her runs that I can think of when I'm fairly clear that we've arrived, it's when at the end of the latest trail of lights run, when she had run the fastest 2 miles she'd ever ran, she cried because she couldn't get back out and run it again (we'd run again the next day). She didn't care about her time, there was no race, no medal, she just wanted to keep going because it was fun. I don't know when my fastest running times are behind me but that comes for all of us... and I don't know if Kiana will always keep the love of running but I am glad she has it at least for now for it's own sake. Because I hope she keeps the perspective on running and exercise that she does on life, love, relationships. I hope her perspective is not the one we often ascribe to movies or tv shows that they are made or broken by the endings but that it's more like a good concert or a good song, you're not just worried about the last note, you want to try to enjoy each and every beat, every step of the dance.

So I am going to keep signing up for new adventures. I tried that duathlon at Circuit of the Americas with team Radioactive which was the toughest short course I've ever ran and I have no idea how those drivers go around those curves at the speeds they do cause I was pretty scared and I was barely breaking 30 miles an hour. (I am actually not quite sure what it says about me that I am more comfortable in ugly sweaters and red dresses than I am in the tight fitting duathlon triathlon outfits).
I took10th overall and 2nd in my age group and I got appropriately whooped. But my annual most important event of the year hung up on Christmas eve ornament is almost ready but it rhymes with that. There there running events out there, all of which I would have been in the top 3 spots, some of which I would have won but even knowing that I'd do the duathlon again, still believing that if you sign up for some challenges that the ones you don't sign up for are easier to deal with. 

We all have faults and inadequacies. In the categories of people, I probably fit in with more of my friends are the ones with high goals that don't recognize their strengths and are sometimes very focused on their weakness but we keep trying. One of the ladies from my church said she would run her first race, a 2 miler if I'd sign up for some things I need to work on. I accepted that deal and now she's looking for a 5k to make me work harder. I would worry if I became in denial of where I could improve and just wanted to become idle in past good stuff. I am incredibly grateful to be standing at the strongest point I ever have at the end of a year but that was not true in 2010, or 11 or 12 or 13 even if they were each a little stronger than the one before. 

While I go to church, I'm not sure I know what hell is but just like my friend I wonder if heaven or hell would be ruined if the people I liked were missing or the people I didn't like were present (that may say why we think one is easier to get into than the other). But if you'll allow me a simple expression of my religious beliefs, I don't think it's a place where people burn forever. If the Guy who runs the universe created a place where people suffer longer than they could cause suffering on anyone (since that would be eternity), in simple frankness, that's not someone I could love or would want to spend much time with. But our sense of justice comes from somewhere and we hope somewhere the unfairness of this life is punished or rewarded. But perhaps, as people reach out to celebrate Christmas or Hannukah or festivus, one of the things they  have in common is a getting together to celebrate the human connection, that the heaven we feel we get sent to is when we're with each other. It is perhaps why we fear death so much and want to believe or embrace eternal life because with people you care about, no joint time could be enough and you wish the separate ones would be shorter.  While life can get in the way and is not controllable people, to me the people who are the most heavenly people are the ones who are working on it in the here and now and not just waiting till after life. I loved this weekend because in my house or bars or running events I literally saw people from the vast majority of aspects of my life.

Still there are certainly times over the last few years, big events where life felt like hell. Hospital stays, ambulance rides, brain surgeries custody hearing, divorce issues, work problems, financial and heck even during some of the athletic training.  In some of those I reached out for help; sometimes the right moment was when I was reaching for someone and they showed me to how to step for myself. In others, the universe was kind enough where I had stubborn friends who literally showed up at my doorstep and got as close as humanly possible to leading this lion to water and making him drink. And I think them doing so helped me incredibly to put out of those infernos. So they helped take me out or at least through many of those hells and if anyone wanted me there, I thank those angels for ruining hell for them.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Resentment, resolution and resetting

The early Christmas gift I referenced from my roommate in the last blog was a new laptop, a MacBook specifically. If you think all of my travels are self financed lets just say the previous laptop was older than brain surgery. I actually joined the "smart" world back when brain problems started because one of my neuropsychologists recommended an iPad and some scientifically developed apps that would help restore or at least reveal the memory and language issues.  I could work on it in a way I could turn it on in a car or waiting room faster than a laptop or even pen and paper couldn't quite provided. I'm old or old school enough to where it took brain cancer for me to get internet access at home so that I could more properly research it. And it was a year with the iPad before I'd get an iPhone, smart phones still something I'm suspect of when at restaurants everyone at a table is on their phone instead of talking. I know there's entire classes on emoticons and non verbal communication but I still like the sound of people's voices and I don't quite understand the crowd where that seems like too much work across a table. I've joked with the people who have sent me handwritten holiday cards that I am confused as to how officially like it. But at the end of the day I love stuff like that... perhaps revealing that I am old soul even if its an immature one whose letter to Santa is questionable.

But in trying to make the transition from a cursed dell to a blessed Apple there was more emotion than I was ready for (I might have hinted to anyone in the world that my next computer would be a mac from the sticker I'd put on over that Dell). Transfusing the videos was relatively easy since I rarely do video. The pictures were overwhelming to say the least because they went back exactly one decade to 2004 when I got my first digital camera. They say it's a good exercise for all of us to predict where your life will be in 10 years... There are zero elements I would have gotten right. I mean I definitely wanted to be somebody but had I known what the world was going to have land on me, perhaps I should have been more specific. But there were pictures of the South Pacific, of Australia, of Peru, of Kiana literally from day one with both of her parents throughout the 8 years that have gone too fast till a few days before with her and I. Perhaps reflecting that I used to be a yearbook photographer or just how cute I think my kid is there were literally just slightly over 40 thousand pictures. For the guy who quotes songs on here regularly there were a few thousand songs as well... (If you think I bought all of those on I tunes, I ran over bridges in several cities in November; pick your favorite and I'll get you a good deal.) But the songs and pictures reminded me all the laughs I've had in the last 10 years including the 4 with cancer even if they were filled with cheap music, fast drinks and live women ;). 

But the real challenge I created from my computer ignorance of apple or perhaps computers period was that I didn't set up the gmail connection right and chose to delete all emails that were archived. Short version is that how I did it erased every single email I've ever kept archived. While tons that were spam or junk, they were however all together in the new program. I would spend two hours looking through them and restoring some but I could only view 20 at a time so it was not entirely pleasant. Actually it was an exercise in resentment... Not in the English meaning of resentment but in the Latin origin which translates into sense once more or feel again  (ie reinstall).

The simple truth is I didn't keep a single email ever before brain surgery. I used to have photographic memory back then... perhaps I still do, the film is just gone now. But I'd kept many from the divorce in what can be best described as confused intention. The simple truth is that my parents were not together for very long so I know only formalities (and one obvious reality) about how they interacted that is not told retroactively. So while it was tempting to burn every picture, notes etc between Kiana's mother and I (we were high school sweethearts who had been together for 14 years), I packed it all up in a box so that Kiana could look through it someday; it's still there and if she ever gets the curiosity of seeing her parents flirt, she'll have. It's sat undisturbed. While I hadn't read them since then and the emotions had been put aside if not forgotten, I also kept all the emails for the divorce proceedings, some of that was for memory reasons, some of it was legal reasons and some of it was because I wanted Kiana to know that I tried and that her mother had quit very easily and see it in each of our words. I am grateful that the specificity of self perceived righteous indignation will not be necessary and it's a good thing it'll be impossible.

But there were many many other emails, from various relationships and different points. It was comforting to see some old emails from friends and family that had sent some very heart felt sentiments when this journey started, some were tough to see how the relationships had shifted, changed, faded just because of circumstances. I still have friends from every stage in my life and I"m a fan of keeping them. Many (most) of these blog entries have nods, winks, nudges to people that to spell them out would probably be too long but they usually get it but it's also a way for me to test my memory when I go back and read them. But those nods were all spelled out in emails written to myself and now it will be only memory to test. Oddly enough it was harder to find the more recently received emails because there's so much more emails I "subscribe" to now. I do wish I could find all the funny personal ones both new and old because it seems a little bit of insanity runs in my circle of friends; unfortunately, instead of running, insanity took a stroll near me and got to know me pretty personally. 

After spending a couple of hours going through all the emails, I made a strange decision, I erased most of the ones that I had sat through and found except for ones that had possible measurable ramifications to the future (i.e. legal decrees, medical records). At the end of the best year of my life with the least medical appointments since 2010, I realized while I would have never gone and done neither brain cancer nor the deleting of all those emails, well it had happened and it was an opportunity to rest. I try to live in the present and for the future, no matter how good or bad the past has been. I'm proud of my running times but I am more proud of the fact they are still improving. I am proud of Kiana's progress but I want to keep challenging her. It's why I took on new challenges this year like my first triathlon in which I placed despite coming in 114th on the swim (but perhaps showing some awareness, realizing how bad I was at the swim, tomorrow I'm doing my first duathlon, run-bike-run). 


And I'm starting to think about New Year's resolutions as the year resets. I achieved 6 of the 8 for 2014 (I've never achieved them all in any year). The biggest one that I had made was one I didn't get to which was to try to get to the Grand Canyon this year... there was never a time where it was necessary, it didn't quite feel right at any point either thought a couple were close. 

So while I'd never kept a diary, the history of the last four years will primarily be this blog, social media, pictures and songs. Most pictures I take never are seen by anyone but I"m grateful for a bit of a photography background. In simple frankness, you can tell exactly how much something messed with my state of mind by how many songs are associated with it. So the memories aren't going to be totally gone but they will be filtered a little more retroactively and only in non verbal communication.

As importantly, I also used all my frequent flyer miles to do something I haven't done in way too long, I got a plane ticket to the northeast for New Years in the first trip in quite a while that has no race or anything to with cancer. I can't ever stop training but I think it'll be the longest I go without having to set an alarm clock in well over year. I'll be doing many things and catching many places but one of the ones I'm excited about is a return to NYC. While I try to take the wisdom of Elton John and rarely do things twice because there' more to be seen than can ever be seen and more to do than can ever be done, I'm excited about this trip for many many reasons. But one highlight is that it's going to be a sweet moment when I step there that it will become the place I've taken the most trips to surpassing Duke. That's not superstitious, just a simple acknowledgement or gratefulness that the place I traveled to for cancer is not where I will have visited most frequently. This started with 22 months of straight medical appointments and this year there were only 4 months that had any which is a relief. Anyway, all the details aren't worked out yet but who wants to bet me that I can find a girl to kiss at midnight? In 2010, when this all started I didn't go out for New Years because that had been the best year of my life back then (I've had many good years but to call one the absolute best takes a few special things) and back when 2010 ended with 2011 brain cancer stuff coming... I thought it would be (and it was) a much much worse year. But here at the end of the best year of my life, I'm excited about the transition believing 2015 will also be a great year and we'll find a way for it to come in with a bang. And it's an interesting thing that by the emails being gone that a whole lot of the past, the details of some of those dreams are erased. But whether they were great dreams or nightmares, if you focus too much on past dreams, in my book that's getting in the habit of oversleeping into life. So I want to keep focusing on waking up to making new dreams.




Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What the Fates Allow

It was almost exactly one year since two MRI's ago but the last one was before any of the Christmas stuff had kicked in for me so somehow I hadn't gotten into my listening to the seasonal music which I usually do after Kiana and I put up the tree. This MRI result appointment was after that and as a good friend called and said please let me know how today goes, A Merry Little Christmas was playing in the background (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZ6yQgBvuoI) and I couldn't help but respond, "hopefully the fates allow us at least a few more years."

I have a more structured what I do before and after races than what I do before and after medical appointments. But I headed out to a run... I was pretty sore from the Decker challenge so I was going to just do an out and back for three miles, maybe 4, seeing how the body felt. Somehow in the middle of the run I remembered that well, I ran 4 miles to celebrate arriving to the 4 year cancer anniversary and I said, I'm trying to get at least five years with this thing so I ran 5 miles listening to more seasonal music...

I've always loved being busy... I am not good at standing still. But I had to cool down some after the race and just kind of sat at pictures. I looked at one of Kiana celebrating having made an ornament from Saturday.  And my friend and roommate Randal had come to the MRI to watch Kiana. While she's regularly seen all of them on CD, this is only the second time she's ever been there for the full MRI. She at first watched and then looked away when the needle was going in and luckily someone caught that moment from the picture. She would be interested in the machine a little bit more but in
between it all she'd keep going back to reading. We try to make sure we do something extra fun around the appointments she comes to so that while she realizes I have to deal with the hoking and poking, well, that's not what it's all about. I've been criticized by a few people for doing that but I think as much as I've put myself into being part of the community whether it be in fundraisers, Livestrong, races, and media, I want her to have a concept of part of it all. More importantly, if and when the results go bad on an MRI, I want her to have some clue... I don't know...is that bad parenting? (Perhaps the bigger clue of how bad of a parent I am was that for a biography project she had originally chosen Katy Perry but went back to someone similar a few decades earlier, Frida Kahlo whose art has at least lasted longer and made unibrows sexier).

Still, I can't say that this was the sharpest I've ever been pre MRI. I'd spent as I always do way too much time looking at the images between the MRI and the results. However, my habit is the same as what the doctor does to look at the current one and the previous. For some reasons, I couldn't find the recent previous ones and the only one I could track down was one of the pre-surgery. I literally cut and pasted the tumor section on a presurgery one and on a post surgery one, knowing that they couldn't possibly be the same because surgery obviously affects the brain. They looked so different but to me the MRI from Friday the tumor looked so much bigger.

 Anyway, on the way to the doctor I made an unexpected visit to an Austin spray paint park where the art regularly comes and goes. It's a place where it's allowed and encouraged but by the nature of the place, perhaps life life, it's temporary no matter how beautiful. It was only my third time to a place I'd never heard of... reminding you that sometimes you find beauty in unexpected places. But also reminding you that no matter how impressive it is, it's not designed to last forever since one of the pieces I saw the first time would be sprayed over by the second time. It was not a branch but an actual olive of love. I went not too long after to see it sprayed painted over. Now in an unplanned stop it was gone altogether and replaced with a whole new set of very different artistic beauty.

Still when I finally picked up Kiana from school and headed to the appointment it was what was going through my  head. And I hoped the only new thing in my head even as I looked once more at my obvious (to me anyway) not the same as before tumor. The doctor came in and immediately shared that everything was stable. I took him at his word and breathed for the first time in a few days. (I guess I'd been breathing while pounding during running and putting up the Christmas tree with Kiana but I really don't remember that part... must be the bad memory).

We would do the pulse (mid 40's) and the basic tests. He would ask about seizures and I would mention to him the one time since I last saw him where I forgot the meds twice in a row and almost had a seizure but recognized it and headed home. He asked if i was throwing up from the meds (it hadn't happened in three weeks and it's been happening less frequently). It had happened after the MRI as usual (which by the way I have no complaints about because with that metal dye I actually feel better after I throw up rather than sitting there with that feeling) and after the half (though it's debatable why I throw up after races to other people). I told him that I'd ran my fastest mile and marathon since I last saw him so obviously being away from him was good for me. And I reminded him that when he let me start driving again, I'd brought a bowtie to clip on and we took a picture together. I shared that I've grown more sophisticated since then and actually worn bowties twice properly since then and gave him a bowtie for Christmas. He asked if I had any questions and I showed him what I'd been looking at. He thought it was good that I look at them myself while my roommate was in the back shaking his head (I let them both know that Texas law lets me and no one was going to speak for me on that one and it would keep happening). Still, he showed me pre and post surgery MRI's and while there is change what to me was a bigger tumor he explained and compared why it was scar tissue from the surgery not tumor growth.

The next MRI was referred to at the office but the next appointment was set for June 1st and by 10 am this morning I'd set the MRI for May 31st that way, so that (I hope and dream) this is something I don't have to think about as much for a while.  In the end, I high fived Kiana and continued breather. My rooommate delivered an awesome Christmas present when we got home and said he was going to deliver it after the MRI no matter how the results and that I should go out after Kiana got to bed (I did to a fun night where let's just say leave it at that the results were absolutely nowhere near the best part of the day including catching another part of Austin I never had). While I'll be running plenty between now and then, I'm thankful that for right now our problems will be miles away.We went out for dinner and homework and reading as a way of hanging our shining star upon the highest bow. So I'm thankful for what the fates allowed. And while they do, I'll smile and muddle through somehow. But I imagine we'll have ourselves a Merry Little Christmas now.