Secret Time: I Just Started Cleaning Up After My Dogs

Before you put me a box with the rest of the criminal disorderlies – understand I live in a  quasi rural area of Goochland County.

Yes, it is a neighborhood with a name and an entrance.

Yes, there is landscaping that is not free.

Yes, there are patches of woods and natural areas between large lots that I hustle my dogs to with about 50% success rate.

Yes, I should not be so new to this neighborly practice of delicately (with pinched nostrils) scooping their aged poop.

My dogs are 10 and 12.

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For a decade we had an underground fence that gave them a toilet that was over an acre big.  Our lot is 2.5 acres.  We felt we were being generous yet choosy in their roam-ability. Luckily they are polite enough to isolate their business to the wooded part of  their domain. So, when the fence corroded and the college tuition bills loomed large, we decided to forego the $1,000.00 repair. I will spare you the details on the neurosis that resulted. You’re welcome.

Nobody likes poop. I know I should have been picking up after my dogs for the last 2 years but the thought of it literally made me gag.  So I didn’t.  Therefore, in the pre dawn hour as I walk my dogs in my pajamas, I would look around, hope everyone was still asleep (they weren’t) and skedaddle my way through a well worn path to their morning constitution and back.

Until my friend Ken Risdon, said, ‘Who doesn’t clean up after their dog?” Well, Ken – this girl.  Until the last few months.

Why the change? (Besides, Ken’s direct question….). 2 things.

  1. I got tired of sneaking around.  I am now proud of my little poop bags fwapping about as I waited the first drop so I could show my nabes how very communal I am.
  2. I took a core values test at work.

At the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation we are in an exciting time of creating vision and strategic growth plans to match for the next 3 and 5 years.  You gotta know what matters to you to proceed forward. In this process members of our team are taking a core values assessment. I learned that there is a gap between my intrinsic and demonstrated value set and my professed ones.  For example, I feel overwhelmed at times and yet I don’t delegate or ask effectively for help.  I dream big and move things forward and don’t want to take personal credit. I move forward like an island yet I need and want my team. Bridging the gap is the rub. That gap is the where the magic of self discovery lies.  The gap is where the alignment and the progress happens.

I believe in community. I profess to want to get to know my neighbors and live less in silos and more in human contact. Yet I let my dogs shit on their grass.

More secrets:

I miss being with my friends and haven’t arranged one girls night out. I keep waiting for the phone to ring.

I ‘dream’ of more free lance writing but I haven’t made that long list of long term contacts to mine.

I believe in my children and have a strong faith but not strong enough to let them go.  Having a really hard time with this one.

I am working on the gaps.

The gap is where you scoop the poop even when it makes you gag.  Perhaps I am scooping more than just my dog’s poop each day.  Each day, I get to throw it away.  What a gift.

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How I Know ‘Sweetpea’ Whitaker

In July of 1990 professional boxer, Pernell ‘Sweetpea’ Whitaker took a step aerobics class I was teaching as a green group exercise instructor in Virginia Beach. Sweetpea’s professional career began in Madison Square Garden after he won gold at the 1984 Olympics. In 1989, he was named Fighter of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America and The Ring magazine.  I called my Dad in Richmond immediately after class because he had boxed for the club team at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1958 (then, RPI). He was impressed.

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Six days ago, Mr. Whitaker died while crossing a wide intersection in that same town. Long gone from residency in VB, I happened to be in town this fateful day.  That intersection is a few hundred yards from the building where I started my post college professional career. All of these catch points have me catching my breath. I didn’t know Mr. Whitaker but when I learned of his death I remembered we crossed paths for 60 sweaty, stepping minutes to Funky Cold Medina, Casanova by LaVertand a little Jody Watley mixed in.

I still know zero about boxing but back then I knew who he was and his famous descriptor:  “Pound for pound, Pernell ‘Sweetpea’ Whitaker is the greatest boxer in the world.”

In reading about his funeral , I learned a lot about how deep Pernell’s impacts are outside the ring.  His community and his friends are forever changed for the better. I am grateful for the hope he gave many and the smile he gave me.

I hope my Dad gets to meet Sweetpea in heaven.  Maybe they will workout together.

I hear he was a pretty good boxer –

 

For Pete’s Sake, Look Up

In the weeks before he died, she and their sons spent a lot of time staring, eyes affixed on a face that graced the earth for 62 years.

“Will he eat today?”

“Is he comfortable?”

“What will we do when the moment comes?”

All questions natural to a family adoring of a man of faith and fun, adventurous, loyal and feisty to the core.

One day not too long ago when a spark ignited behind the eyes weary from pancreatic cancer, he said:

“Stop staring at me.”

Always gentle, he repeated. “No really, stop staring at me.”

It occurred to her today, just a two weeks after he died,  what he really meant.

Her Pete wanted his wife and their sons to look up.

Up to the heavens, up to the place his face would soon grace. Up to his and their Creator for strength and peace and love.

“It’s not me, it’s Him.”

Today, his Fran returns to work and I expect as she looks up, He and he is looking down on her.

Because I saw Fran on her brave morning walk – I have been blessed. I am reminded as I often was in the brief but impactful time I knew my neighbor, Pete; there is more – so much more than what is right before our eyes. And it is beautiful and wondrous and our gift from God.  Just look up.

On a day when I am full with worry of my children – each burdened with questions about the unknowns of a young adult life.  Answers to which can only come with wisdom and time and living.    Things over which I have no control.

I am reminded to stop staring at them.

I am reminded to look up.

For Pete’s sake, I will.

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Thank you, Fran.

Thank you, Pete.

The Wisdom of Ironman Texas

A very bad haircut inspired the phrase business in the front, party in the back. It appropriately describes my Ironman Texas 2019 experience. Also true, miracles happen in the back.  The miracle of pulling off 140.6 miles by water, bike, and leg engines with just enough training and fitness to get it done.  Just enough.  Knowing her careful and methodical training plan was only kinda followed by her client, my coach’s coaching of me in the hours leading to the start gun were:

‘Your goal is to finish. Your race, your pace, on your terms.’

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Coach Coral (left) and her people

I seem to have a panache for late day Ironman finishes (3) where the cut-off watch-dogs play cat and mouse with my finish line.  Luckily I grabbed it before they did.

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I owe my Texas finish to my sister, my team, my husband, my children, my niece, my coach, my purpose and Eduardo.

Who’s Eduardo?

Between you, me and the fencepost, Eduardo is my angel who landed around mile 18 of the run and did not leave me until the finisher’s chute. He was part of a posse flanking his nephew who was just ahead of me.  This tight-knit family collectively longed to hear the six words:  “Eduardo’s nephew, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.”  Eduardo’s nephew needed his tribe. And I needed one member. I didn’t even know it, yet.

A lot had happened before mile 18 of the run.

A 2.4 mile swim in a lake with moderate water quality and narrow canals. A 112-mile bike ride, 80 of which were on a closed expressway with a thigh pumping, breath stealing headwind for half of the 80 miles on hot, hot asphalt. And 18 miles of a 3 loop run course that was slowly sucking my soul.

And then my legs and my belief in my finish were restored when a nice man asked me if I was okay.  I said yes.  He said I looked like I could use a friend. Indeed.

I learned Eduardo was an ultra runner with an ultra heart. He had just completed a 50 mile trail run and before that a marathon with his beloved second wife.  He blessed me with his presence and words and stories and encouragement along the long, long way of an Ironman day. In his mid-fifties I asked Eduardo if he had children.  He giggled a ‘No’ with a twinkle in his eye and a confession that his most proud living came after age 40 and one wife.  I realized I had crossed paths with a human saint with a real life.  I kept encouraging Eduardo to go on with his family so he wouldn’t miss his nephew’s well deserved finish.  He told me he enjoyed our ‘run’ and liked helping me.  He said I inspired him.  WHAT??  He was impressed the duration and heart of my effort and I told him I was honored to be his mirror.  Indeed that was my reflection of Eduardo’s life story.  At least the bit I knew. Eduardo told me I was going to do this and I knew he was right.  At the beginning of the finisher’s chute, a smiling Eduardo told me to go get that medal.  I wish Ironman announcer, Mike Reilly could have started the long awaited phrase ‘Clair Norman, you are an Ironman’ with “Because of Eduardo…”

Indeed the miracle of human connection can always be found in the back.  Lots of other places too.

Like in the clink of a cold beer cheers on a Sunday morning  after living a life in a day.

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There are miracles everywhere.

 

 

How basketball made me miss Jesus

Recently I was at a natural food store with three friends of the yogic sort, one of whom is an Episcopal priest. This mix has huge happy hour discourse potential. Alas it is a working lunch and therefore dry.  I found myself curious about the spiritual path of the priest in particular because without the collar I might have expected  layers of mala beads.

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I typically find others’ stories much more intriguing than my own so I was flummoxed when the question boomeranged. A seeker raised Catholic, I found myself saying I was a ‘non-practicing Catholic’.  Whaaaaat? The things I love: the incense, the ritual, the quiet reverence to the great mysteries. The structure. The guilt.  I was addicted to it all. And I had the best example possible in the most elegant and wise of practicing Catholics, my mother.  For all that has been revealed that is wrong with the Catholic Church, my mother was right.  Gone far too long and much too soon, my mother is my angel, my muse, my best friend, my example, the bar and arms I seek.

How could I have SAID that?

But it’s true.  I haven’t been to Mass much in the last many months.  This Ironman Texas (April 27) training and the sleeping habits  of my millennial children make me weary of Sunday morning church fights in my home.  Lame.

And then there’s Tony Bennett, head basketball Coach for the Virginia Cavaliers.  He is in Minneapolis in virgin (for him) Final Four territory and gives credit where credit is due. To his blessings, the many blessings in life, indeed to his Jesus.  He says is faith in Christ is the ‘greatest truth’ he knows.  And he’s the darling of basketball, especially this weekend. No dirty tricks, no questionable recruiting tactics, Clorox white, humble to the core and I want some of that pie. I used to visit that bakery regularly.

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Maybe, just maybe my Mass just looks a little different now.  It is on a bike for 80 or 100 miles with my favorite people racing for a cause I never wanted but couldn’t live without. Maybe my Jesus is in the quiet of my heart as I beg for sleep or in the search and  find for the will to take one more step toward that finish line or the lift of my arms as reach out to hug my sister. My Jesus is near. I just haven’t been to his house in a minute. He is in my house.  In the brick one and the visceral one. And I know I practice a lot.  Yoga and triathlon and love. I just miss Tony Bennett’s out loud Jesus. Maybe mine is just a little more quiet for now.

I won’t be quiet when Virginia takes on Auburn.  Jesus, take the ball!

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Messin’ with Texas

In August of 1993 I traveled to Irving, Texas to visit one of my college roommates – a darling of the rolling hills of Roanoke, Virginia hailing from Harrisonburg – home of my beloved JMU Dukes.  Roya took me to the Stockyards in Fort Worth, a Dallas Cowboys pre-season game in their (then) new stadium, introduced me to restaurants galore, and is responsible for my previously rejected now unbreakable addiction to guacamole.  We enjoyed cold beer (have you ever been to Texas in the summer – hot so hot) and while listening to great music we were mesmerized by this big, beautiful world into which we were catapulted just a few years before.

In 1990 we had matriculated from James Madison University completely wide-eyed and (a little) wild for life ahead.  My Roya and I spent many a early morning in our rambling off campus abode contemplating life over tea (me) and coffee (her).  The sounds of the Today Show with Katie Couric’s Virginia roots inspired conversation of the big lives we had before us. When Roya saw an opportunity to move west to Texas she said ‘yes’.  She currently is on a quest to keep inspiring ‘yes’ from our precious group of Dukes.  And it’s working.

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Roya, in the middle under the ‘armpit’ made us stop and pose for a selfie during a recent reunion trip to Florida.  We said yes.

Since her ‘Yes Quest’ some of us have (among other things): started or restarted a yoga practice, made plans to see the Gin Blossoms, enrolled in a Body Combat Sculpting Class, traveled to Whistler for skiing, continued to be badasses at work, and started the essential contemplation of ‘what’s next?’, and ‘what do you want and need to do?’, ‘how will you get there?’

I am currently training for Ironman Texas. A plan already in the works, there is a precious spot (for me) where (before the plane tickets are purchased) one can NOT say yes to Texas (or any Ironman) and enjoy some fitness for a bit because training has certainly kinda begun.  The tickets are bought and the proverbial hay is making its way to the barn.  I am messing with Texas where everything is bigger – like the life I have because I know and love my Texas Roya. She is adventurous, crazy/scary smart, gets up before the Longhorns and sees life as a gift to be lived.  Her heart is bigger than Texas and I am inspired by her to say Yes everywhere I can.  Thank you, my dude!

So on April 29 and beyond, when I am asked if I am glad I messed with (Ironman) Texas, what do you thing the answer will be?

Let the Adventures Begin

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My 2018 Gift of Gifts

In 2018 I turned 50.  I experienced loss and much love and made a solid commitment to say ‘yes’.  Now the charge is to follow through and become who I always have been and unapologetically do all the things to set the table for the grand feast which is: The Second Half, Part Deux, post intermission showing-stopping, color popping, hip-hopping ‘talk-to-me-baby’, don’t stopping moments rich with NOW. And guess who made me do it?

Not a prolific writer (and I love many).  Not an endurance athlete extraordinaire (I know many). Not a half-famous, passion-stirring goose-bump making guest on an addictive podcast about yoga, meditation, the resilience of the human spirit or the nectar of human story. (I have a constant diet of tons).

It was her:

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My youngest.  We share a birthday and dreams of travel.  She gave me the above journal along with a note I will cherish for all of my remaining days. In it she details her own desire to travel, adventure, be kind, compassionate and accepting WITH ME. I just love her heart.  It is relevant to note the journal is a re-gift (Jane does not have a job and therefore $ to purchase gifts).  She received it from her mother’s best friend a couple of years ago with a note encouraging her to travel and live life and…. and in a circle of trust and with great serendipity I am the receiver of that precious gift through my baby girl.

And may we all have such a gift.  Permission.  The gift of being okay right where we are so we can experience all that ‘is’.  Near and far.  For me it is through travel and writing and endurance sports and yoga and mediation and learning and spreading love and acceptance through my work.

Jane and I got an early start on finding honey close to home.  Not far in miles, but worlds away, we spent a night at a ski resort.  Together.  We visualized Virginia as Versailles.

 

We didn’t even ski.  But it was perfect.  Fresh air and fresh croissants with brie (the wine is mine) does the mind good in a moment of buttery surrender to Now.  We watched movies, had dinner with friends and bought handmade leather purses from a street artisan. Bliss.  And no $ on air fare. That is to come.  All in sweet time.

Welcome to now.  Welcome to 2019.

Thank you joy and sorrow.

Thank you Jane and Thank you Journal.

Guide me.  Heal me.

Take me away and drop me back right here, right Now.

Now, let’s have some fun!  Salut!