#21 Came Early

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I’ve never done marathons on consecutive weekends and have wondered if I could trick my legs into believing they weren’t tired. Last Sunday I finished the Honolulu Marathon with my husband. Today, thanks to much appreciated encouragement from race organizer Kawika Carlson, I completed the Hawaii Kai Ultra Run marathon (my 21st). Guess what: my legs are pretty tired! And my mind is kaput. So I’ll write more tomorrow after a good night’s sleep and after more endorphins kick in!

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#21?

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MarathonDear Readers,

Days have passed by so quickly since the marathon that I almost forgot about Wednesday’s post!

And here it is Wednesday evening. And here I was so sure that after finishing my 20th marathon last Sunday I would be moving onto different kinds of marathons — the kind of long-term goals that require commitment, endurance, and humor, like being a better parent and playing the bassoon again.

So why am I already thinking about a 21st marathon? Has the proverbial Runner’s High made me take leave of my senses?

I’ll keep you posted and set the stage for a cliffhanger — but I’ll let you know by this weekend!

 

 

We Did It!

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MarathonTag!The handsome guy on the right finished his 1st marathon, I completed my 20th.

This one was special: we did all 26.2 miles together. We stayed with each other from start to finish. At times he was stronger and he lifted me; other times I felt like my experience could help my husband. We talked, laughed, and were quiet at times. Fellow marathoners and spectators cheered for us.

We crossed the finish line holding hands and our arms raised in joy and relief.

Every mile of this marathon and marriage has been worth it!

 

Trying Not to Think About #20

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MarathonWell, friends, it’s Wednesday and on Sunday I’ll attempt to complete my 20th marathon.

Because I’ll be with my husband who is doing his first and will be walking a fair amount, I haven’t had quite the same muscle aches, strains, and cramps I have learned to embrace.

I also haven’t had the nice weight loss that usually comes with hard training, but that’s fine.

I am convincing myself that allergies and I are just having a bad date right now, nothing more serious than that. If so, I will smell of garlic soon which has helped overcome many a cold in rapid time.

Fortunately, I have very concrete goals at work to keep my mind free from wandering too far. Stay in the moment as many good friends have said.

I’ve never, ever been someone who wants time to rush by except when I’m in an airplane. I look forward, though, to posting again on Sunday with what I hope will be good news about finishing those 26.2 miles. Send good thoughts to all of us out there. We appreciate them!

 

A New Wrinkle

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Yesterday was built around our daughter.

Most of the morning we worked out logistics for the big event: her performance with her hula classmates in front of hundreds people at a swanky mall in Honolulu.

Between rehearsals, prepping, primping, transportation, eating, performance, and post-performance bonding, six hours of a Saturday mostly flew by.

Schnee in HonoluluWithout missing a beat, though, and no costume change, we drove straight from the mall to a Girl Scout holiday party with wonderful friends, games, food, presents, conversations, and another rush of time. Five hours later, all The Three of Us could think about was sleep.

A funny thing happened, though, on the way to gathering with other parents at the stage area to cheer our kids on: a salesperson approached my husband and me with moisturizer samples from a boutique where even walking in and breathing the rarefied air carries the expectation of leaving a tip! I guess we were profiled!

Except that the tips were given to me by a young man from France who carefully massaged the left side of my face while telling me how to care for my skin. I swallowed down laughs and tried not to joke too loudly with my husband that this impromptu face treatment was going to cost a fortune.

Actually, said Guillaume, it would cost just a few hundred dollars and last two years because even after years of tennis and distance running, my skin, thanks to not smoking and my already being a fan of organic creams, was in pretty good shape.

He then asked the question I had been waiting for: my age. This time, I could not stifle my laughter. I made him guess. A good salesman, he made me several years younger. We talked a little more, but I was determined not to spend any money and to make it to my daughter’s hula performance in time. Guillaume expertly applied at least $30 of product to the other side of my face, made another sales pitch, gave us his boutique’s contact information, and let us go.

On the way to Girl Scout festivities, I talked to my husband about the fun and unexpected boutique experience. Mind you, I grew up avoiding malls. I’ve never had a credit card. I’ve usually held two or three jobs. Just last week, I blogged about how I had purchased my last piece of new clothing. I’m a fan of free samples.

My husband turned to me in the car at a traffic stop, smiled and said, “I’ve never seen your skin look better. Maybe you should consider buying the product.”

You see how lucky I am. Maybe it was my husband’s kind words, Guillaume’s magical potions, or exhilaration about my daughter fitting in so well into the communities we have found in Hawaii that I felt lighter, maybe even 5 years younger!

A day later, I’m back to the challenges and joys of parenthood, thinking of what I need to accomplish at work this week, and uneasy thoughts about the state of world affairs, but I believe my skin still has a certain glow to it — or maybe that’s just residue from the yogurt my daughter spilled on me this morning.

 

 

Jana Novotna

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Death does not always make sense.

Sometimes, understanding wins out against grief. When my father died a few years ago, I remembered he was not always the kindest person to his body and that his life was also filled with hardship. He still lived, though, a pretty fulfilling, reasonably long life. He saw his first of six grandchildren begin college. His marriage lasted more than 50 years.

When I read last week that Jana Novotna, a former Wimbledon champion, had died at age 49, my first thought was, “How is this possible?”

Although I had met Jana just twice when I was working as a tennis reporter, reading about her quiet battle with cancer felt like learning about a few close friends close to my age who also died too young.

For those of us who have worked as reporters, any star who agrees to spend time answering questions with grace and humor is a real gift for a writer.

Jana was a gift to the tennis world in spectacular ways. Her fearless, relentless volleys and taking control of the net was a welcome sight for fans who have grown so used to the power baseline rallies that dominate the game today. Jana wore her emotions on her sleeve, and, after losing one of her three Wimbledon finals, sobbed on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent.

Jana won “only” one major singles title, arguably two if one counts the year-end championships on the professional tennis tour. To be honest, until I read about her death, I had not thought about her a lot in the last few years. Every once in a while I would watch a clip of her playing a major final in the ’90s. “Boy,” I would think, “I miss that gritty style of play. I miss Jana.”

And then I would move on, quickly, to helping my young daughter get ready for her next weekend activity. As most parents know, watching anything for more than a few minutes on television with a young child awake can be a challenge!

I hope my daughter will be like the Jana I saw on an off the court: fearless, smart, confident, modest, tenacious, gifted, sensitive, agile. I wish I had spent a little more time appreciating Jana when she was alive instead of missing her now.

I Purchased My Last Piece of Clothing

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247735_CT15_LF_ICKHow is that for a headline!

And what does it mean?

My husband looked at it while I was typing and said, “Oh no, your readers will assume the worst!”

I told him I would let readers know as soon as possible I am just fine, that I could have fun with this post.

I’m a middle-aged guy who recently reconnected with many of his high school classmates. I sent them an early holiday picture of my beautiful family: my husband of 15 years and our gorgeous, seven-year-old daughter.

In high school, I was easily identified as the skinny kid with blond hair who wrote poetry, and played tennis and the bassoon. In fact, I’m still skinny, write poetry, play tennis and the bassoon. My hair is pretty much the same as way back when. The blond is being overtaken by gray, but I still have the same bangs and haircut!

I was also the gay guy who dreaded the torment — verbal and physical — I faced almost every day. I couldn’t wait to escape the small village, small high school, and long winters of my youth. I was convinced my writing skills and determination would help me find my place in a larger, more accepting world.

Guess what? It didn’t happen overnight! It took decades.

Part of that, of course, was accepting myself and learning forgiveness.

As I wrote my high school classmates, I made it through many painful, but also great miles to be able to send that picture of my husband, daughter, and me, to share gratitude for still being part of a community I left behind years ago to land where I am now: a middle-aged guy finding peace with the convoluted but exciting roads that took me to Hawaii to savor life with a family who is the reason I get up in the morning; a worthwhile profession I’ve been in for 20 years with a new goal of joining a small group of colleagues with actual licensing in our field; a 20th marathon in a few weeks I will finish with my husband who is doing his first; poems I want to publish; and a bassoon that needs to be taken out again to fill our home with strange, wonderful sounds!

So why did I purchase my last piece of clothing yesterday, a pink buttondown shirt purchased on Black Friday, a real deal!

The deal is this: with age comes an understanding of what really matters. I still wear clothes I’ve had for 30 years, shirts, jackets, pants, even ties from my grandfather and father. I take care of them. They are keepers, just like poetry, the bassoon, my family.

My family lives pretty modestly in Hawaii. I went through clothes this holiday weekend I will probably never wear again, that have seen their better days, that have no family ties, that I no longer need. They fill up space I want to leave open for my daughter as she grows, discovers life, and weaves her own coat of many colors.

With the miles ahead, I’m sure I’ll need a new pair of shoes now and then, but nothing fancy. As for shirts, pants, running clothes, a few ties (not widely worn in Hawaii), I’m fine. What I have now will likely last another 30 years. I learned from my father how to keep them in good shape.

To celebrate, though, I ordered my last real new piece of clothing: that pink shirt. It’s a color I feel proud of wearing, and I know I will like the fit.

When a Picture Says a Thousand Words: Part 2!

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Ben mit BartExcept that this picture is from four years ago when our daughter was just 3. Yes, it reminds me how quickly time goes by, and, even though it’s a cliché, to be grateful for every day.

Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Readers! Stay healthy, enjoy good food, read something fun, and run or walk a few miles afterward, hopefully with friends!

 

Reader Input Received

Ruckmann-by Kubota!Dear Readers,

Thank you for responding to my asking what you would like to see more or less of in Tennis, Trisomy 21 and Taking in Life Together.

The main message I received was to keep the main themes — homelife, childraising, education, faith, tennis, running, personal history that ties into universal experiences. Politics: well, maybe a different blog for that topic might be needed. Truth be told, I’ve always been more a feature writer than a reporter although I have worked as both.

Thank you helping me define the direction of Tennis, Trisomy 21 and Taking in Life Together in its second year! Like training for marathons with friends, it’s more enjoyable to keep going when you are fortunate to be with good company. I am lucky to know some of my regular readers personally. Others I know only through your writing and I am honored you read mine.

It is perhaps my busiest week of the year, and my family is starting to awake after a soothing, rainy night, so I better sign off soon, but I look forward to spending a little more time catching up with you as we head into the Thanksgiving holidays. Be safe.