Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Do I Have the Words?

I woke up this morning, in a world that feels changed.

Yesterday was election day, and I was able to do something quite incredible, I was able to vote for a woman for the office of President.

It was a heady and exhilarating experience.

Adding to the gravity of what I was doing was the knowledge that I was also, effectively voting *against* a candidate that has come to represent, in my eyes at the very least, the seedier underbelly of America. The disgusting little primal demon that may exist in each of us that we choose to quash, every day. For me, that level of hate, of distrust, of fear and loathing of other people is really an alien concept...I guess you could say that I am (happily, proudly) hopelessly out of touch with my darker side.

Also making this election exceedingly significant to me is the fact that it is the first one that *both* of my children are obsessively aware of. As 8th and 9th graders, they are no longer "little kids". Though many of their peers are still in the "parroting their parents' beliefs" phase, mine have been going out of their way to learn about the candidates and ask questions. They have formed their own opinions and have a burgeoning understanding of exactly what is at stake.

As the results started to roll in last night, the tensions were increasing.

My youngest was panicky and getting increasingly frantic. Still young enough to revert a bit to "little kid" mode fairly effortlessly, she devolved into a series of "no, no, no" utterances...

My eldest watched with an increasing sense of disbelief and incredulity. The faintest tone of cynicism started to creep into his tone of voice...taking me as much by surprise as the recent changes to his voice, wrought by puberty had a few months back.

I sent us all to bed (minus Mr. Man because he is a big kid and his bed time is outside of my jurisdiction), holding fervently to the hope that with a good night's sleep, things would look better in the morning.

Such is the luxury of being the eternal optimist. It will all be alright, because it just *has* to be.

My alarm sounded at it's usual hour and I pretended to be woken by it, even though I was already mostly awake.

I grabbed my phone and refreshed Google.

She didn't win. Dammit.

I felt sick and sad and scared and outraged.

I wanted to shake my virtual fist and scream my moral outrage at the ugliness that had been wrought.

A quick visit to Facebook - bad idea. very, very, very BAD idea - showed me that others were well ahead of me. Some wallowing loudly from the depths of despair and hopelessness. Others readying the torches and pitchforks. And others gloating over their candidates victory over mine.

My finger hovered over the reaction bar as I scrolled through this mess of emotions and I found myself at a complete loss. I don't know how to react. Where is the reaction for "scared"? Which face means "confused" or "worried" or "in shock"?

And then the root of my confusion crystallized for me: What am I going to tell my kids? How the hell do I explain this to them? How do I send them to school this morning, where they will be surrounded by peers who are reveling in a victory that they likely don't fully understand...they rooted for their parents' candidate in the same way that a small child roots for their parents' alma mater...not because they have cultivated their own personal interest into that school but because it means something to their mom and dad...how do I send them to be surrounded by that with adequate protection over their raw feelings about a candidate for whom they made a very conscious and informed decision to support? How do I help them to assuage their fears for their friends and classmates?

I can't *fix* this for them. And I can't fix this for me.

All we can do now is hope. Hope that with this result, the ugly that has been unleashed and whipped up into a fervor will feel satisfied and vindicated...hope that it will roll up its sleeves and now do the work to actually make changes that will be *great*.

As the eternal optimist, I can't help but to scan the horizon for the best place to set up my lemonade stand...it's practically reflexive.

And so I send my children - and in fact, myself - out into the world today with this simple message to the victors - Congratulations on your candidate's victory. I sincerely hope and am counting on your judgment that he is the best candidate and that his presidency will be a great win for all of us. So let's stop fighting and tearing one another down and instead, start working together to do great things.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

We Live in a Van, Down by the River - Ragnar Style


If you've been following along, you've read the prologue...you've read the Pre-Ragnar chronicles, and you've heard all about the party. If you *haven't*, go ahead and click any of those handy-dandy links, to get caught up.

Caught up? Excellent...then let's get going...

Friday morning dawned relatively bright and chilly in Hull. We had all agreed to go down to the start, to see the our first runner off, for his first leg, even though the fine friends in van 2 wouldn't need to get running for quite some time. We headed out around 5:15 and drove straight to the beach. The sun was just starting to peak it's head out on the horizon line and though it was a tad bit nippy to be at a northeastern beach, the sunrise was totally worth the shivers...
*almost* enough to make you not miss your blankets
Of course, we had to take advantage of the scenic backdrop and the fact that we were all in our snazzy outfits, complete with Glitter Skirts to get our first team picture.

After that, we passed the time by, what else, taking some selfies!

Photobomber on the loose!!
The Executive Pastry Chef accidentally photobombing
This kid just keeps popping up in photos!
We also had some more traditional pics...

Some dude asked The Flash for this pic...
because he looked like "A Serious Runner"
The Mighty B was all smiles and grins!
"Get this thing off of me"
Our first runner was the PIC's brother, who had 6.7 miles to run...3-2-1 and our race had begun! We quickly headed back to the vans and piled in to start driving up the road, so that we could met him and get his headlamp and vest from him...6AM was technically still part of the "nighttime hours", so he had to start off wearing them...even though the sun was up.

We caught up with him right around mile 3, and he was looking strong. We helped him strip and then rushed off to the first handoff...which was to TBC, for a 3.58 mile jaunt.

He took off like a ROCKET. We hurried back to the van, and ran into some congestion trying to get out of the parking lot...by the time we got out on the road and passed him, he'd already cruised through half of his course. So we sped up and went to the second handoff where I would start my first leg...I rushed over to use a porta-potty...thankfully they have a "runner on deck" one reserved, so that you don't get stuck in a line...I stepped out of the loo and they called out our team number, meaning he was in the final stretch...I actually had to run over to the chute to get there in time, because he was FLYING...
He didn't enjoy that *at all*, lol...you can see me running off in the background

...and off I went for 8.62 miles.

Now, let me step back for a minute...when the PIC was talking us all in to this race, one of the "selling points" was the fact that it was "such a flat course." I call bullshit. On this leg alone, I gained 200+ feet of elevation in the span of 2 miles. With each successive leg, we gave the PIC more and more sideways eyeball...flat my ass!
Note the sharp incline...followed by a flat...and then another sharp incline...and then *what the fuck?!?!?!* 
It was grey and damp but about 65 degrees, so not terrible running weather...there were a handful of runners in my line of sight, at any given time, but unlike any other race I have ever done, there were no crowds or spectators..which was kind of weird. It felt more like a training run then anything. The scenery was pleasant enough...I mainly ran through some residential areas. It was a school day, and it was a little after 7AM, so there were lots of kiddos standing at bus stops, staring at me in all of my glittery glory...I simply called out to them "Stay in school!"

All was well and good and my team mates appeared along the course to cheer me on...which is awesome...and all was well...until suddenly, my watch lost it's mind...and stated chiming off miles every 10 steps or so. Not bueno. Before I knew it, my watch had me at 12 miles...and I hadn't the foggiest idea how far I had actually gone. Nor how far I had to go. I decided to look at the time elapsed and then extrapolate how far I might have already gone...which was a fruitless endeavor.

As I finally ran up on the "One Mile to Go" sign, I was pretty relieved...this run was harder than what I had been banking on, and I worried that it might be indicative of how the rest of this experience was going to be for me...all thoughts of this promptly fell out of my head though as I rounded the corner and headed down the chute, to hand off to Mr. Man.

I can totally see him at this point...
Mr. Man took off and we scurried to get ahead of him...he had had foot surgery just 6 weeks earlier, and we weren't even certain he would be *able* to run...when asked to provide a pace for him, I kept it extremely conservative and quoted around 10:15...in case he needed to walk.

Ha!

Ha ha ha ha!

That stinker blew through his 3.22 at a 8:19...so quickly that there were *no* pictures to be had of him. By either *us* or the official Ragnar photogs.

I'm almost done, right??
He handed off to the PIC, so that he could run his first 7.3 mile leg. We met up a couple of times, to give him water and praise, before finally heading off to the hand off, where he passed the slap bracelet to his SIL, so that she could bring it on home to  van #2, and the Flash.

Now, it needs to be said, PIC's SIL is not a runner. Or at least, she *was not* a runner before this. She and her new hubby - yes, they are newlyweds and A-D-O-R-A-B-L-E - decided to do this race together, as a means of getting fit and healthy and active together. That or they were drunk. I'm certain it was one of those...

Yeah! It's Mr. Man!!!
...at any rate, this was a HUGE undertaking for any of us, but perhaps mostly for her. She bit the bullet and was running 3 legs, each of a distance longer than she had really ever run before. She set out on that first leg with a big smile and a great attitude...

We drove ahead, so that we could greet her a few miles in, with some water and love...and stopped and took some silly shots...cause that's how we roll.

That first major van exchange was WILD. There was music and cheering and shopping and antics galore. Getting in to the area was sort of awful, as the exchange is at a small, private beach...you drive down a narrow, 2 lane road that is being shared by van traffic in both directions *and* runners. A bunch of us bailed out of the van to go over to the chute, so that we could be sure to catch the hand off while Mr. Man worked on parking the van.
The Arch!
 With the slap bracelet safely on the arm of The Flash, we made our way back to our van and headed out to find ice, real bathrooms and food that didn't come from a cooler...

We settled on a Target parking lot, and all of the other van 1 folks were kind enough to GTFO so that I could reorganize the van, because my eye was starting to twitch from the chaos that was the inside of the van...before too long, everything was in it's place and we headed over to Red Robin for some grenade and then on to our next van exchange point, to rest...

...and that is where I will leave you for tonight.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Party On Ragnar


When last we left our intrepid adventurers - at least *some* of them -  they had just arrived at Boston Logan.
Hi there!!!

Did you miss that part?  Well then, by all means, catch up on the adventures here and here...


See? Utterly GINROMOUS
We hailed an uber which, I have to say, is probably my favorite thing so far about living in 2016. 

Even if it has actually been *a thing* since 2009. 

What can I say? I was not an *early adopter*...but hey, I live in Amish country, so cut me some slack. It's not like they have uber horse ad buggy...or *do* they???

Anyway, first stop was the van rental place, Adventure Rentals. Let me pause here and give them a little love...the vans, though GINORMOUS, were AWESOME. Clean, new, comfy and utterly GINORMOUS.

After a few tense moments, figuring out that *someone*, who shall remain nameless, but who may or may not be photobombing the picture of the van, had somehow put the van into a strange "manual mode", we were on our way to our hotel.

While en route there, we heard from the NY crew, who were packing up into a car, to begin the trek northward.
From top left - Undercover Superhero, Brother of Undercover Superhero,
The Executive Pastry Chef,
The PIC's SIL and The PIC's Bro 
We checked in, without incident, piled into one of the vans and then made our way out to eat and then grab provisions...

Pillows - Check!
Water- Check!
Window Chalk Markers - Check!
Swedish Fish - Check!

...ok, we were good.

Also? It's pretty and airy...
We headed back to the hotel, to get ready for the pre-race party, which was held at Reebok headquarters and then took off for Canton.

Now, let me tell you a thing about the Reebok headquarters...I want to live there. They have a full sized soccer pitch...they have a rubberized 1/4 mile track, encircling one of the buildings. They have conference rooms that double as cardio studios. They have random treadmills just hanging out in the hallway. I'm pretty sure I could live there, happily ever after.

Oh, hello 1/4 mile track...
After ogling the grounds a bit, we headed in to the registration area, to check our team in and watch our safety video...

We checked in without incident and then heard from the NY crew that they were almost there...so we wandered around, taking in the sights, awaiting their grand entrance...

Gee, *what* kind of event was this?
Too bad there weren't any signs...
The Mighty B and The Flash had plans to take in a Red Socks game at Fenway, so they skedaddled out, but not before the NY crew got there and introductions were made...

I will say this, in the interest of full disclosure...for a party that was so widely publicized by Reebok/Ragnar, I was a little disappointed in what they had to offer. I was expecting something more like a typical race expo...I mean, there were some vendors, but probably no more than 5. The invite promised van decorating goodies and, best of all, FOOD TRUCKS. There were 2. We left hungry.

At some point, for reasons that I no longer remember, I was left alone in the expo...now, if you've been reading Duchess Pandora's Box for any length of time, you know darned well that this is a recipe for calamity...or at least something really messed up to go down.

This was no exception.

One of the 5 vendors was hawking some sort of race belt, calledThe Tube...now, I'll say this, it's quite comfy and stretchy. I know this, because one of the sales women grabbed me and slid one on me.

Which was awkward aplenty.

Then she went on to show me the various pockets.

By putting her hands into them.

While I was wearing the contraption.

Even more awkward.

She was especially exuberant in her demonstration of the rear pocket, right on my butt.

At which point I looked at her and said "Hey, this is the most action I've gotten all day...and I've already been patted down by TSA twice, so that is saying something."

She didn't seem to get the point.

At any rate, while a comfortable product, it has 2 major drawbacks (three if you count an overly handsy salesgirl)
1 - It's not waterproof or even wear resistant
2 - No bib clips

These two were really great sports!
Anyway, I finally managed to extricate myself from her groping, just in time to see the Amish arrive.

No, really. Ish.

I guess they *do* have uber.

Right after that, the NY crew made their grand arrival and we headed out to the food trucks and the van decorating.

Although Ragnar *did* supply us with some glass decorating markers, they were barely noticeable, so I am really, really glad that we stocked up earlier, at Walmart and Target.

The PIC's brother proved himself to be quite handy at reproducing the Sole Crushers logo on the van, so we of course had to document his efforts.

Such concentration 
Which were AWESOME.
Pretty sweet, eh?


We also decided that no van, carrying so many OD30 members, would be complete without a little "Daily Bunny" love, so we added him to our sweet ride.
The PIC is no Picasso, but it ain't half bad
Wile we were decorating, there were shenanigans...there was a beer mile going on, on the aforementioned track...Reebok was providing shoes for you to run a mile in while throwing back some cold ones...being a lightweight, I passed.

Zoolander and Hansel put in an appearance, as well, so I *had* to get a picture with them..though I have zero chill or blue steel apparently...

I'm more of a confused smile kind of girl myself...
Shortly after that, it was time to head back to Logan Airport and pick up Mr. Man and TBC. The drive into Boston at dusk was really pretty...and surprisingly fast!
That'll do Boston, that'll do...

We had them in the van in no time! We checked in with the others, to find out when and where the eating would go down...and checked in with the baseball buddies...who were having a ball, as it were...
Oh, and also, clearly a hot dog
We met up with the rest of the crew at a local place and threw down some grenade to fuel us for the next day's adventure and then headed back to the hotel to crash...

...the rest? Is a story for another day.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Pre-Ragnar Agony...

If you haven't already read the intro, you might want to catch up, here...we'll wait.

Welcome back...now let's get going...

In the months leading up to Ragnar, there were circumstances and happenings and happenstances and unluckiness a plenty...

First, TBC broke his collarbone. He was out of commission for a full 8 weeks. Luckily, he was back in action by February, so plenty of time to recover for the race.

The Frankenfoot
Then Mr. Man finally got his much needed foot surgery scheduled...Huzzah! Except...they scheduled it for 6 weeks before Ragnar....whomp, whomp. Which made his ability to run the race...questionable...at best.

Then TBC got a nasty, awful terribly, very bad case of strep throat...which kept him out of school for a full week. As a responsible parent, it seemed pretty irresponsible to pull him from *more* school, to run a race...

So we posted that we had 2 spots available on our team, to see if anyone would bite...

...a week passed. No one did. (or at least we *thought* no one did...turns out they *did*...but Facebook, in it's inimitable wisdom, had moved the messages to the mythical and mysterious "Filtered Message Requests" folder. Never to be seen nor heard from again...or at least not until much too late.)

So we decided to cross our fingers, say a prayer and hope for the best. Original team stayed assembled, truant teenager and hobbled husband included.

The next big kerfuffle was an eleventh hour call from the van rental company...the PIC had reserved 2 15 passenger behemoths for us, months in advance...and now, suddenly, the company that he had rented them through had opted to shutter the doors on that location. So he had to scramble to find an alternative.

But, he's a hero, so he succeeded. And our epic journey seemed bound for greatness...I mean, really? What else could go wrong? Right?

Right??

RIGHT????

As I may or may not have mentioned in the past, I have really, really, REALLY shitty travel karma.

I set out for the airport at 3:20am on Thursday. My flight was set to leave at 6:54am.

I arrived at the airport to find that the security line looked like something out of pre-fast pass Disney World.  The line snaked around the corner, down the hall and straight on through to the far side of the moon.

I nervously started texting my husband and asking the TSA folks for guidance and maybe a little help...nope. They said "It's gonna be *close*."

I got to the gate 10 minutes before the flight was set to depart, and found the plane sitting there, presumably with my luggage safely stowed beneath it.

But the doors were shut.

I asked the nearest Spirit Air employee to help me...their answer was, quite simply, that I was not getting on that plane. 

The "fine" people of Spirit Air were gracious enough to be of absolutely no help whatsoever in helping me find an alternative flight arrangement.

They would rebook me...but not until the next day. Which wouldn't work, since we would be starting our run at 6AM.

They said they could put me on stand-by for the flight that Mr. Man and TBC were flying out on...but it wasn't a guarantee.

I asked if they could help me find a flight on another airline. Nope.

I was on the verge of tears and may have whimpered. I don't think they noticed...

Thankfully, Southwest was happy to have my business.

Oh goody. *Another* security line.
Less thankfully the terminals didn't connect with one another. So I got to go through a second security line. And pat down. But I made it. With an hour plus to spare...

Happily, I had a fully charged iPad and a rental of Deadpool to watch...so everything was coming up roses...FINALLY.

The flight was FULL. And of course, since I had only *just* booked it, I was in one of the later boarding groups. Which meant I was absolutely *guaranteed* a seat in the middle. Of two strangers. My *favorite* place to be.

I entered the plane and started eyeing my potential neighbors...looking for a pair that didn't appear to be too objectionable...but trying to hold off on making eye contact until I got close enough to attempt to give them the "sniff test". Don't judge, BO is a *thing*.

I found some likely contestants and decided to engage..."Hey, I don't snore, I don't talk, I won't take up much room and I promise not to bite, kick, thrash nor throw-up...mind if I sit between you?"

With an offer like that, how could they refuse?

The flight went off without any hitches, and I landed safely in Boston, without incident. I was met, at my gate, by the PIC...and then we scurried off to meet up with the rest of the early flight crew - the Flash, The Mighty B and Liz - performed a daring rescue of my luggage, which contained the all important Glitter Skirts, and then we called our Uber!
The Flash, The Mighty B, Liz, ME and the PIC
The rest...will come after some rest!