Health & Fitness & Oreos

Running Nowhere Slowly

dadvmom.com_runningnowhereslowly_runners_silhouetteMy town’s annual 5K was last week. I started at the back of the pack. This was strategic. I prefer to pass slower runners than be overtaken by quicker ones. It’s a mental thing. So I lined up between a grandma in jogging culottes and a teenager drinking a smoothie. Granny, I wasn’t so sure about, but I figured I could outpace Jamba Juice.

The race started with the usual cheers and hoopla, and adrenaline carried me the first half-mile. As weariness set in, humiliation quickly followed. Had I really become the kind of grown-up who could not run a 5K? I shrugged off the doubt and picked human pace cars to keep me moving. For a while, I followed a guy with a dragon tattoo on his calf. I fantasized that this was ninja training and he was my sensei. But Ralph Macchio slowed to answer his cell phone, and as I passed him, I noticed the dragon was actually a hefty mermaid.

Next, I set my sights on a woman with the most beautiful butt I had ever seen — round, strong, jiggle-free. As I matched her pace, I believed that with every stride my own backside was firming up. When she and her running companion slowed to walk, I realized she was about eleven, and running with her dad.

But mostly, I was passed. Passed by a woman dressed as Minnie Mouse. Passed by a gentleman in a grape soda costume. Passed by a three-year-old pushing her own stroller.

Part of the problem was my soundtrack. At the start of the race, I clicked on an old playlist titled “Exercise” that should have done the trick. Def Leppard kicked things off. I flashed back to high school and channeled my younger, more athletic self. But as I started to fade, so did the playlist. Eminem gave way to the title song from a Barbie movie, Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” and excerpts from The Sound of Music. Julie Andrews can do no wrong, except when it comes to motivating a tired person to run. I tried to click away from “Do-Re-Mi,” but my fingers were too sweaty.

I used to be a runner, before the kids. I started jogging in college as an attempt to curb the Freshman 15, then kept it up because I loved the way running made me feel. Since the children, it has been harder. Harder to train. Harder to enjoy. Harder to fall into any sort of rhythm. I do other things, but I miss the way I used to slip on my shoes and lope out the door.

The last time I ran a 5K was two children ago. I ran it with my Dad on the 4th of July. That time, I was the pace car for him. But, of course, I had trained, gone out a couple times, practiced the course. Why hadn’t I prepared better for this?

I lurched past a port-o-potty and briefly considered hiding in it. If it had seemed better ventilated, I surely would have. But a woman entered as I got closer, so I kept moving.

At the beginning of the first big hill, I gave up and walked, chiding myself with every step. Why had I just quit? Isn’t that always the way with me? Why do I stop things just when they are getting hard? As I caught my breath, I got even angrier at myself. Why does it matter? You are here. Just do your best. Jogging was easier than listening to arguments in my head, so I picked up the pace again and let gravity send me down the next hill.

One of the things I have always loved about running is how you can settle into its discomfort. The second and third miles were not as tough as the beginning. I found my working breath. It did not sound pretty, but luckily, nobody was running with me, and if I cranked up “The Lonely Goatherd” loud enough, I did not have to listen to my gasping either.

Other folks seemed to have goals that involved time and pacing. I’d like to run 8-minute miles. I want to finish in under 30 minutes. I had fuzzier objectives. They were more about personal dignity than physical achievement. And I dumbed them down as the race progressed.

Just don’t walk.

Just don’t walk too much.

Just be sure to run when you cross the finish line.

Just don’t be last.

Just don’t be last by too much.

By the time I approached the finish line, Billy Joel and I were in a bit of delirium. As I crossed, I fought the temptation to look behind me. I felt fairly certain I was not the only straggler. But I realized that was not the point. I felt lucky. Lucky to have the use of my legs, the health of my lungs, the gift of my mind to swirl with nonsense as I trotted the streets of my town. I stopped thinking about how many people had passed me, and instead gave thanks. Then, I slumped on the grass and drank a smoothie.

I know plenty of friends who have given up. This is the way I will always look. This is the way I will always feel. Parenting, aging, a lot of things can do that to you. But it does not have to be true. I saw folks along this course, ages two to eighty-two. But he is younger. She was in better shape. Hogwash. The only person I raced today was me. And though I very nearly lost, Julie Andrews carried me through. Just start at the very beginning…a very good place to start….

Health & Fitness & Oreos

In Defense of Head Lice

We have it again.

Not all of us this time. Not even most. But enough.

The tiny combs are unsheathed. The bedding has been bagged. The house smells like coconut oil and eucalyptus. Also frustration.

We should probably cancel the play date we scheduled for Tuesday. And alert the school nurse just to be safe. For a little while, anyway, we’ll be that family.

Which isn’t exactly fair, since head lice do not choose their hosts. They do not hand-select the most slovenly or ill-behaved among us. They simply cling to hats, pig-tails, and hoodies, and wait to catch a ride on the next person who leans in for a hug. If anything, you might say that head lice, well, they follow the love.


But that’s not what it feels like at first.

When you find a bug on your kiddo, it’s disgusting. Serious heebie-jeebies. And for every one that you see, there are usually a bunch you don’t, including dozens of sticky little eggs (nits) cemented to your child’s hair. Of course, that grossed-out-ness morphs pretty quickly into annoyance. Because getting rid of head lice is a pain. You really do have to comb out your kid’s hair repeatedly, strand by strand, removing bugs and eggs as you find them, being sure to dispose of them in chemicals or bleach, in order to prevent them from crawling right back in again.

And even once you get the infestation under control, then, there’s the embarrassment. We can’t let anyone know. Once you are outed as a head lice family, it feels like the whole town is pointing. As though you purposely infiltrated their homes or gave bugs to their kids during baseball practice. Sometimes it’s enough to make folks shy away from befriending your kid. Which, of course, is heartbreaking. All over a couple of bugs.

So, I am here today to try to reframe the experience. It does not have to be like this.

Because, in addition to everything I have already said, having head lice is also kind of…nice.

Yeah, I said it. Lice can be nice.

If you are (un)lucky enough to discover a louse on one of your children, or (gasp) even on yourself, from that moment, you enter a holding pattern. Whatever you had planned is canceled. Wherever you were heading, you’re not. Instead, it’s kind of like a snow day. You are calling in sick and staying at home. To treat head lice. Which, while irksome, is also among the most old-fashioned of parenting rituals. Like churning butter. Or dipping string into pots of hot wax to make candles. There are plenty of monotonous tasks that bring people joy – weaving, knitting, chanted meditation. Combing out lice can be similar.

I know folks like to hire professional nit-removal companies to handle outbreaks. But I maintain that having head lice is an opportunity – to withdraw, bond, and connect with your kids. We use oil treatments instead of chemicals here at our house. But with either medium, I can’t handle it and do anything else.  When I comb out my kid’s hair, I can’t cook, or clean. Or fuss with my computer. Or play on the phone. I just have to be there, right next to my child, and detangle and talk, and talk and detangle, and try to take the bugs — and the stigma — away.


It is a long process. If you comb out your kid’s hair in less than an hour, you have probably missed a bunch of bugs. So take your time. Enjoy this forced opportunity to gaze at your kiddo for longer than usual. Savor the break from the busy-ness of customary days. It’s like a vacation without the fuss of packing and actually going anywhere.

And as annoying as head lice can be, it is an opportunity for teaching perspective. It is okay to be initially dramatic. To panic and blame and kvetch. But it is also an opportunity to show kids the difference between an actual problem and a mere nuisance.  To discuss issues that are bigger than a few bugs on a comb. During our most recent louse bout, my daughter and I talked about peer pressure and dating, the Syrian refugee crisis, and veganism. We made plans to work at a soup kitchen over Thanksgiving weekend and to someday hike a portion of the Appalachian trail.

In this way, head lice was a little bit of a gift to us. It afforded us time to talk about things that matter.

If all of that is not enough, there’s the very phrase itself. When you comb eggs out of someone’s hair, you are quite literally “nit-picking.” In almost every other situation, this is an insult. Nobody wants to be nit-picky. But head lice gives you permission to be fastidious. To destroy every last invader. To painstakingly finish a task. I carry around lengthy To-Do lists and end nearly every day with dozens of tasks yet undone. There is something quite satisfying about giving into your inner nag, and completing a picky job.

And finally, a case of head lice is a chance for solidarity. No matter if it’s one kiddo infested or everyone, I always treat my hair, too. I douse it in coconut oil infused with a few drops of tea tree, and lavender, rosemary, or thyme, and I wrap it in an old towel or hair net. I do this for three reasons:

  1. I’m paranoid. It you ever have lice in your house, you will psychosomatically scratch whether you have them or not.
  2. It smells good. There’s nothing like a little aromatherapy to soothe a stressed-out soul.
  3. It is a message to my kids: I will not let them suffer humiliation alone. For all my preaching about the niceties of lice, other kids will sometimes ostracize, ridicule, and judge. I want my kids to see me in this battle with them. I share their discomfort and I am on their side.

If ever these little buggers hop on your little buggers and hitch a ride into your home, take heed. And take advantage of the time. Call off work, mix up some sweet-smelling oils, and grab a tiny comb. And accept the invitation these invaders offer – to be fully present for your children during a time of embarrassment, distress, and love.




Video Killed the Radio Star

Katie and I were interviewed oh-so-briefly today for a fledgling TV talk show. Ordinarily, I avoid video cameras. Not just because they add 10-15 pounds to my already substantial frame, but also because I dislike sounding like an idiot. A relative stranger asks me a question, and in thirty seconds or less, I try to string together an articulate thought. If (when) I do not, the video happens anyway, and filters out into the world where it can mock me forever. I am altogether too flappable for such an endeavor. And too much of a chicken.

However, Katie has disliked weekdays lately. She and school have not exactly been simpatico. As a partial antidote, we have made a plan to infuse after-school hours with activities she enjoys. More swimming. More adventure. More “just us” afternoons. And, since we live in Los Angeles now, she would like to audition for a film. Ideally, she would like her first role to be Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter movies. But since that part has already been taken, we did this television interview instead.

And it was great.

Kind of. I mean, the finished product looks ridiculous. One of us is always on the verge of laughing. My eyes shut every time I speak, and my ears seem unusually crooked. Plus, has anyone studied the relationship between a rolling camera and a melting brain? Despite the fact that I compose sentences for a living, I could not remember the words tablet or adolescence when answering a question about tweens and technology. Part of me hopes they never air the tape.

Katie, on the other hand, sounded polished and articulate. She was thoughtful and humble and absolutely radiant on film. So there is this other part of me, the grown-up part, that desperately hopes they do air it. It may wound my pride, but it would bolster hers.

Ken and I muse sometimes about our purpose here on this planet – the ambition that drives us, the schemes we have deferred. He will probably never be a marine biologist or an astronaut. And I don’t think even an off-off-Broadway director is going to cast me as the saucy heroine in a new musical comedy. But we are making peace with these defeats. And adjusting our aims. Besides, it has occurred to us that our biggest mission here on earth is to be of service to our children. To raise them to be decent humans, to help them set their goals, to be the fire that fuels their dreams. Even if it means embarrassing ourselves from time to time on national television, it is worth the humiliation to see our kids soar.


Interview Practice Introduction — Take 11