Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Dam Half Marathon Adventure

It all started with this crazy lady.  Now she's really nice, but she bambozzled me into running a half marathon trail race after someone else had conned her into running a marathon trail race.  Pretty sneaky, but I'm glad she did.  You see, it was my first half marathon, my first trail race and honestly the first time I had ever run more than 8 miles, and I only did that once.  Sigh.  I must have lost my mind. 

Anywho, I got up at 4 A.M. and arrived just in time to get a quick hug and wish my crazy lady friend, Melissa best of luck running her marathon.  Then I spent the next hour talking to her husband, Rick and fighting off the urge to puke. 
Me and Melissa before her Marathon....Yes, that's the last time I smile for several hours.  HA.

Start of my half marathon....I'm the one in purple in the middle.  Didn't want to puke now....wanted to finish!
 So 7 A.M. finally arrives; I haven't puked and the gun went off.  We meandered down the pavement and onto a dirt road which lead us across a quick moving water way and then towards the first aid station.  Now, I had prepped my old MP3 player with plenty of upbeat songs to keep me going.  It died on me within the first mile and found its fate amongst the used water cups at this first aid station.  What?!  I sure as heck wasn't carrying anything that wouldn't work or help me for another ten or so miles.  That's just crazy. 

Now I have never run this far, but I was informed by Melissa, who has way more experience at this then me, that I should eat a bit of something every few miles in order to keep up  my energy and such.  So I did.  I ate pretzels and downed a cup of gatorade.  Alrighty then, I'm doing good and have to turn around and head back the way I came.  No problem. 

At this point I run past a, I presume, married couple.  They were stopped to fix something and the man was asking her if she needed a snack or something, to which she replied, "No, not til mile five.  You know that."  I kinda giggled to myself and thought how neat it was that they were doing this together.  They finished way ahead of me, by the way.  So sweet scene fades from memory as the pain in my hip begins to flare.  Now, I have a VERY high pain tolerance so I just keep up my walk a bit, run a bit theme.  No pain is going to make me quit.  I'm a Kessinger, after all.  We don't quit! 

At this point, I finally hit the trail.  It's gorgeous and I love it.  The view almost takes away the hip pain, as I begin to understand why Melissa so enjoys these kinds of races.  I'm running all alone, through a mass of trees, fallen logs and slippery rocks.  I can hear the crickets cricketing, the frogs croaking and the wind wrestling with the leaves above.  It's cool, clean and the smells are amazing.  Then, to my left, I hear a rustle in the brush...a rustle that really shouldn't be.  Scenes of bodies found in wooded areas from CSI, NCIS and Criminal Minds pop into my head.  Yes, I watch way too much death.  Suddenly, out pops this head, a deer head not more than twenty feet from me.  He or she, I didn't stop to ask, gives me one looks and then takes off in the other direction, all the while I'm continuing my forward motion much more quickly.  I'm surprised I didn't go tumbling down the hill.  The rest of the trail was much more peaceful.

As I come bursting out of the trees, okay, okay...more like slowly breaking forth from the trees, I see the dam rising before me like the mythological entrance to Olympus or something.  It was HUGE!  I'm at mile five and you want me to climb that thing?!  Are they nuts?!  I'm already tired.  I've conquered the trails; it should be easy from here, right?  Wrong.  The incline had to be 70 % and it was a long way up there.  None the less, I set one foot in front of the other and off I went.  By the time I got to the top I was nearly on my knees pulling myself up.  When I arrived there were two very nice men making sure everyone was okay.  I looked at them and said, "What idiot thinks it's a good idea to get up at the crack of dawn to run 13.1 miles?"  One guy looks back and with a straight face replies, " I was thinking ya all were idiots, but I sure wasn't gonna say it."  I thought I was gonna die laughing.  Then I turned and headed around the top of the dam. 

It really was pretty up on the top of that thar dam; however, the running was not so much fun.  The wind picked up and the road was very rocky.  I'm not talking little dirt road rocky, rather ankle killer rocky.  I just went back to my walk a bit, run a bit thing and kept going.  What seemed like miles later, oh wait; it was miles later, a couple, in fact, I reached the end of the dam and an aid station.  Thank you God!

There were more nice fellas there.  I downed some more gatorade and pretzels.  Those two things didn't seem to mess with my tummy and I happen to really like pretzels.  I was also eating some honey stingers and while I was tired and sore, I wasn't exhausted.  I was, however, approaching the furthest I had ever run...8 miles.  I told the guys that I felt like Sam from the Hobbit when he reached the edge of the shire and tells Frodo that when he takes one more step that will be the farthest from home he'd ever been.  As I took those steps I found myself in the grasslands.  Here was more treacherous terrain.  The trail was basically a four foot path bushwacked winding its way miles away from everything.  If you die here, they'll find your bones next year.  :)

For the next like five miles I trudged, yes, trudged through this grassland.  It was getting hot.  I was exhausted.  I'd gone further than I had ever run before and now both hips felt like someone was stabbing ice picks into the joints with every step.  It didn't matter if I was walking or running, they HURT.  So, I trudged.  Not much else to say about this part of the race other then I used every bit of my stubborness and determination to keep going.  I wanted to quit, but I couldn't becasue I was in the middle of nowhere.  I wanted to cry, but I couldn't because the tears just wouldn't come.  So I pushed on.  I prayed and I let my mind wander and I finally came to a beautiful place with flags flying and an aid station.  They told me I was very close.  The 13 mile mark was coming up and then the finish line.  Halalujeh! 

Then I was back on the trails again.  The coolness was refreshing and I ran more and more.  I was past the point of feeling pain and was running on pure joy of running.  Yes, I was in my happy place.  It's really beautiful and pretty much perfect there.  I smiled to myself when I saw the 13 mile marker, and thought, there's only .1 more to go.  Easy stuff.  And then the trail went on and on and on and on.  I began to feel like the greyhound running around the track and never catching the blasted rabbit.  Finally, I arrived at pavement and then continued running.  The joy was pretty much gone.  I was ticked.  Where the heck was that stupid red blow up finish line?  Come to find out whoever had set up the last .10 mile had totally gotten it wrong and it was nearly another mile to the finish line.  None the less, I finally saw Rick and knew I was close.  I ran under that silly red blow up finish line and smiled....for real.  I had done it.  I ran my first ever trail race and my first ever half marathon.  Ah, satisfaction!  Satisfaction of knowing that with only three weeks of training, yep, that's right, and inner strength and the stubborness that drove my parents crazy as I was growing up, helped me finish that half marathon.  Of all the medals I've earned over the years...this one is the best. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

10K and Death Marches

Running is in my blood.  I've done it since I was little.  I've always enjoyed the solitude, the pain, the competition.  I had to stop running in college when I injured myself and only drugs would fix the pain.  That was many, many years ago.  Life happened.  Jobs.  Marriage.  Kids.  Divorce.  Survival.  You know.  Life.  Then one of my friends started running.  She was a mom just like me.  She had a job too.  She'd never run before.  I found myself yearning to run again.  So last summer I did.  I ran.  It hurt.  It felt good.

I ran my first 10K this past weekend.  I was scared.  I was thrilled.  And then the snow storm came.  Five inches of it.  No way!  I hate being cold.  Everyone thought I would bail.  Silly people.  Once I put my mind to a task, I complete it or die trying.  I prayed before going to bed that the streets would be clear, the sun shining and the wind nonexsistent.  God is good.  It was cold, but doable.  The starting line was crowded with a crush of runners.  I could feel the adrenaline rushing through my veins.  I could taste the brisk rushing of the wind.  I could hear the blood rushing in my head.  And then everything was controled chaos. A crush of people racing through an inflated starting line.

The first mile passed with occasional chatter and laughter amongst us runners.  I then settled in for the long haul. 

As I started mile two, I pushed the world away and went inside myself, to my runner's place.  There I prayed for my friend, Carla who is fighting cacer for a second time.  God and I conversed stride by stride.  I argued with my Creator, explaining to Him who holds the whole world in His hands how important she was to her family and friends; how her example and love for Him needed to keep shining. 

As I expounded with the Everlasting Father, I hit mile three and the wall.  It was about this time I started seeing people who weren't really there.  I was pretty sure I saw one of my friends in a passing car even though I knew good and well he was in Virginia.  This brought a smile to my lips as I traversed memories of laughter and quiet.  Unfortunately, pain soon invaded both my runner's place and fond memories. 

Mile four found me alone, plodding onward through a stone cold, drippy, tunnel that was eerily silent.  Mile four was by far the worst mile I have ever run.  The silence hit me like a ton of bricks.  Then my shoes hitting the pavement broke through the silence, and I was reminded of what we should never forget:  the Death Marches of the Holocaust.  You see, I teach my students about the Holocaust.  I've done hours, days, weeks of research on it.  The word pictures that get me are the children on forced death marches plodding step by step, ghosts of themselves moving across the country in mass and dying in silence.  Wiesel's Night is a book that haunts me.  It intrudes upon my life at the oddest moments.  Mile four was one of them.  He says of his first night in the concentration camp after marching to what he thought was to be his death, "Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed...Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live..."  I wept.  I'm not ashamed of it.  I wept because I hurt.  I wept because "Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it."  Mark Twain.  I wept because my lungs ached for air.  I wept briefly, yet it seemed to last forever.

The only thing I remember about mile five is that there were policemen directing traffic at an intersection so we runners would be safe and a sign that said, "Run like you stole something."  I have to admit, I laughed.  Laughter at this point was a good thing because I thought my lungs were going to explode and my legs were going to give out.  I had no idea how long I had been running because my watch was on my kitchen island at home.  I just knew it had been a very, very long time.

As I rounded that last block, I saw mile marker six and the huge inflated finish line.  My heart sang!  I was going to survive.  My strides lengthened and my mind flew briefly over the past six miles: the laughter, the chatter, the prayers, the cancer and its warrior, the fond memories of friends, the death mraches, the tears, and the silence.  And I crossed the finish line at a run; a run of pure determination  silently screaming to the world, "I am alive!  I will never forget!  I love deeply!  And God is oh so good!"

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Simple Teacher's View

I am a teacher and some days, I weep.  Let me just give a brief background about a sliver of my life. My salary as a teacher has been such that my children are presently on state insurance and have often qualified for free/reduced lunches.  I currently have no health insurance myself as what I make is just enough to pay the bills and occasionally enjoy a day out with my children.  I live in a home with no trim around the windows and plywood flooring. When something breaks down, I have to go out and work a second or third job in order to pay for it.  My vehicle is over ten years old, I don’t take summer vacations and eating a rib eye steak is a luxury. 

The idea that most have about teachers only working nine months and getting summers off; it doesn’t exist in most teachers’ worlds. I don’t just work forty hours a week.  I grade papers after the kids are in bed and do lesson plans on the weekend.  I also spend hours in professional development or taking more college courses in order to retain my highly qualified position the government says I must have.  Most, if not all of this comes out of my own pocket with little compensation on the pay scale. I also work several other jobs within the school, and somehow still find time to make cupcakes for my kids’ school parties. 

I challenge my students every day.  I challenge them to strive for something better even when they are disrespectful, cursing at me, curled up in a ball in the corner or crying.  I listen to parents tell me their child isn’t at fault, and I should teach differently.   I have worked with administrations which didn’t support their staff and boards of education who didn’t understand the intricacies of how to run a school.  I struggle every year under the ever-changing, next-best assessment and work hard not to get angry when told I will be given less resources, but am expected to have more students meet standards.  Then I sit quietly, shake my head and ball my hands into fists when my state says it will revise my retirement plan (as I shouldn’t need what I put into it) and then not only work against my right to be in an organization of teachers, but also work to take away my bargaining rights, my right to strike; basically, my right to stand up for myself and my fellow teachers. 

How sad that the greatest profession in the world, and one most necessary, is slowly and treacherously being destroyed.  How sad that our future, my children’s future, our country’s future is being dismantled piece by piece.  How sad that this country cannot figure out the basic idea that we educators are the backbone of our nation; we are the ones who create the next generation of thinkers, problem solvers and leaders.  If you can read this, you’ve had a great teacher. If you have a degree, it was because teachers helped you get there. If you are in the legislature working against teachers, maybe you need to sit down and reminisce about how you got there, by the effort of a dedicated teacher, I’m sure.

I know some fabulous teachers.  Teachers who give of their time, money, efforts and more, even while skimping on these very things for their own families.  And while this point of view may sound drear, I love my job.  I just often find it disheartening. I believe it is a noble thing to teach.  I believe it is an awesome responsibility; one I approach daily with prayer. What I have also realized over the years is this … I am not just a teacher; I am a missionary working on a shoestring budget, not knowing what tomorrow will bring, and some days, some days, I weep.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hot!  Tired!  And sweaty at the Zoo!

Thank goodness there are these really cool sprinklers where we can all cool off....even little ones in strollers.

When we are good and tired there is always the trusty train ride.  It brings you to the animals and a cool breeze with it!

If all else fails and you have finished with the lions, tigers and bears....oh, my!  You can always try to catch a drop of water in your hand.

Little ones grow bigger over the summer!

Sweet girls find colorful frogs to play with in the pool...

Alpakas named Dexter realize that summer brings sweet watermelon....

And this little boy swears he didn't set the field on fire (thank goodness for an aunt who put out the flames.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fourth Blows....UP!!!

Fourth of July is our family's favorite time fo the year.  We gather together two or three or four times in order to eat, visit and blow up as many fireworks as possible.  It helps when one in the family is a dealer in fireworks and can get them at basement bargin prices.....the fun goes on for hours.  Laughter.  Singed fingers. Bug bites. Conversation...

The kids line up their boxes and try to remember in all their excitement NOT to drop their punks amongst the bees, black cats and roman candles.

Little girls play with spraklers.....

While the "little boys" play with the big stuff....

Families sit down after hours of lighting off firecrackers....sweaty and smelling of gun powder...

Children are entranced by the "bombs bursting in air" only fifty feet over their heads.....laughing when the end of an artillary shell smacks them in the shoulder or squinting their eyes as the smoke billows over them....

And exactly how many kids will a trampoline hold before it breaks?????

Veterans are recognized for their service and valor!!!

And the aftermath of four thousand firecrackers leaves its mark...

O Beautiful, for patriot skys, for amber waves of grain.  For purple mountain's majesty, above the fruited plain.  AMERICA!  AMERICA!  God shed His grace on thee.  And crown thy good with brotherhood.  From sea to shining sea!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Church camp is the thing my kids look forward to during the summer!  So we packed up Clara's bags the middle of June and off we went.  Since she's a big girl this year she got to stay five days...and let me tell you something.  That was a looooong five days for her mother.  Clara, on the otherhand, had a blast. 

She caught up with Mr. Hawkins' granddaughter and they got along swimmingly! She said they learned about the disciples and Jesus and memory verses. They did a slip and slide with soap - very bubbly. Campfires....campfire songs....campfire mosquitoes. 
And of course, SWIMMING!!!!

Timothy was able to go this year too.  Since he's not a big boy yet (HA) he only got to go to an overnighter.  He and his cousin were pumped (poor counselors.... I'm not sure they knew what hit them). Since this was just a taste of camp for them they only learned a new song or two, swam and did a bible story. Boy did they enjoy it though.

It's hard to believe they are growing up so quickly.  I'm thankful there is a place where my kids can go every summer to learn more about Jesus and spend time with those who are like minded!!!


The first week of June is always vacation bible school at my church.  It's a time where the church is overrun with dozens of three year olds to sixth graders.  They play.  They learn about Jesus.  They sing songs.  They do crafts.  And they eat tons of cookies.  I think at our largest day we had nearly fifty kiddos running around.  It's a fun time.
Another thing the kids all love is our missions time.  This year we supported a fella who had spent the last six years translating the entire bible into the Lisu (not sure I spelled that right) language so that the people in the village where he works could read it in their own language.  The kids love helping others and one of the things we have that is a big hit is PENNY DAY on Friday.  The kids save their pennies all year just to bring them in on the last day of vbs. 
Pennies came in red piggy banks

In orange juice bottles

In sacks, ziploc bags, in pockets and in precious little hands.

When our minister Wallace Wartick took those pennies to the bank to be counted he carried in a gallon can of them and set them on the counter.  He told the cashier he had pennies to be counted.  She smiled and told him no problem.  He then told her to wait a second he had more, but couldn't carry them all at the same time.  He then proceeded to bring in four more gallon containers.  That's right folks.  Those kids brought FIVE GALLONS of PENNIES in on Friday.  Our God is truly an awesome God!!!