and I’m off…

A week ago, I was going to do a post on summer beauty. But I was too hot to think and realized it’s all pointless when it feels impossible to look fresh and put together in the DC heat and humidity.

Then last night I was going to write a post on packing. But let’s be honest, I suck at it. I mean, I’m good at folding and organizing and remembering everything (and I do mean everything) but I always bring one pair of shoes too many. At least this time I practically (almost willingly) left my precious hair dryer behind, but I more than made up for it, as evidenced by the grunt the driver made when loading my deceivingly small but heavy suitcase into the trunk.

Five dresses (think easy breezy, not work), four pairs of shoes (not including the travel pair), three workout outfits (maybe overly ambitious), two lipsticks (not including lip gloss) and one bathing suit (just in case) later, I’m in a car on the way to the airport.

And where am I going? I almost forgot to mention. San Francisco until Friday. Napa for the weekend. Enough said.

This trip to SF that I used to take quarterly already feels different. For starters, it’s the first time I’m not building a long weekend in wine country around a business trip in the city. Then there’s the whole not flying Virgin thing. (I’m not breaking up with you, Richard Branson… Your flights were just so much more expensive.)

The bottom line is I’m ready to get out of dodge and while Northern California apparently is not welcoming me with the cool weather embrace I crave, I’m thinking that a “heat wave” in San Francisco holds a different meaning from one here in DC.

I may have packed poorly, but I’m getting away. And I hope Napa has a lot of wine to help me drink to that.

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leg one

I made it to San Francisco, the first stop of my  nearly three-week journey.

But about this time yesterday, it seemed improbable I would ever make it.

My Sunday morning started off nicely. Lattes with friends. Children playing quietly. But then I got a call from my bank, concerned about “unusual behavior” on my account. As in, “iTunes, $9.98. iTunes, $9.98. iTunes, $9.98.” I stopped her from reading the complete list after I heard about ten such charges. (It turned out there were 17 in all, totaling $170.) I had to make a game time call. Confirm for the bank that these were unauthorized charges and have my card canceled or eat the cost. At the time, I didn’t know if someone had stolen my iPad or Colin’s iPod touch. But it was clear that something was amiss. So I canceled my card. The day I was leaving town for 18 days.

As it turned out, some game Colin was playing was rigged so that players “buy” gold – literally. He never had to put in an iTunes password or otherwise verify a purchase. Needless to say, I immediately deleted my account information from all our Apple devices and he will never play this game again.

With all this on my mind, I still had to shower, finish the laundry, pack, clean out the refrigerator, get the cat feeding schedule straight and take out the garbage. It was in performing the last task that I realized an animal had taken up residence in my outdoor garbage can. I saw it, let out the perfunctory squeal, jumped up and down a lot, and ran inside to tell the boys. I thought it was a dead raccoon. They went to take a peek and verified it was a live possum, playing dead, of course. With the militant precision of little boys on a mission, a plan was hatched to knock the can down (nerf swords in hand in case it got fierce) and eventually, the little furry guy stopped faking his demise and scurried off.

At this point, I poured myself a drink.

I double checked the burners on the stove. Refilled the cat bowls one last time. Kissed the boys a gazillion times. And finally, got in Nancy’s car for a surprise ride to the airport. At the airport, I had more wine and took deep breaths.

The only other hitch came as my flight was landing, parallel to another plane. That was a little creepy for someone with my flying phobia, but at this point, I felt I had hit my daily quota of crazy and told myself it would be fine. Which it was. And now I’m here. Working, of course, and hoping that I remembered to lock the front door.

on growing up

Kids will be kids. Until they aren’t. And when does that process begin? Each milestone from their first giggles and steps to riding a bike and everything in between prepares our children for the path to independence, and eventually (or rather, inevitably) adulthood.

On Saturday, Jack flew to San Francisco to spend a week with his grandfather. This trip was born out of a teary declaration he made several months ago that went something like this:

Jack: Mommy (sob, hiccup) I’m an adventurous spirit (sob, hiccup) and (sob, hiccup) I just realized (sob, hiccup) I’m never going to get to slay a dragon.

(Yes, the poor child inherited my flare for the dramatic.)

Dragons might not be real, but cross country flights are, so I quickly arranged with my dad for Jack to fly out to San Francisco the last week of summer vacation. (Yes, we start school on August 20th.) At the time, the trip seemed so far off. But before I knew it, I was driving him to the airport and watching him as he pulled his own suitcase through the terminal. As if that weren’t grown up behavior enough, as we waited out the delay, he asked if he could have a decaf coffee. It felt like a landmark moment, sitting there at the Starbucks drinking our lattes. For the record, I now have a decaf vanilla latte with whip fanatic on my hands.

If he was scared or nervous, he didn’t show it, but I was roiled inside. All my own flying angst was multiplied by infinity, but I knew I couldn’t show it. I was light. I was airy. We joked. We bought extra books just in case he finishes Lord of the Rings. An hour and a half after our schedule departure time came the call to board unaccompanied minors. He gave me one last hug and walked away with the gate attendant without looking back once.

Me? I collapsed in a heap of tears for the next 45 minutes while waiting (as I was required to do) for his plane to be in the air.

Was I scared his plane would crash? Oddly, no. Was I afraid he wasn’t going to have a good time or that my dad wouldn’t take care of him? Absolutely not. But more than how I expect I will feel with his first shave, first love, or the deepening of his voice, watching my little boy march bravely toward an adventure without me struck a chord deep inside my mommy core.

He’s always going to be my baby, but he’s growing into such a little man.

a girl’s gotta run

It has been 15 months since I laced up my sneakers and hit the road for a run. 15 long months of being crazy because I don’t have an effective replacement outlet for my emotions. 15 long months of feeling bigger than my skinny jeans like me to be because running is the only cardio workout that makes me feel close to svelte. 15 long months of envy, agony and depression when I see other runners getting to do what I so miss.

Being in San Francisco drives my desire to run more than any other place. I love the fog. I love the temperature. Running along the Embarcadero, exactly four miles from my hotel to Fisherman’s Wharf and back, there’s an eerie morning silence juxtaposed by the companionship of other committed runners.

As I sit here and glare at the cross-training shoes I brought so I could use what passes for a fitness center at the hotel, I know that if I had my running shoes this morning, I’d risk increased back pain for the joy of running. I’d kill to feel the dampness of the fog on my face and to experience the exhilaration of pushing myself to a faster pace. Because of my training sessions at Fitness Together, I’m much stronger now than I was 15 months ago, and I want to test that out too. Would I run faster? Could I run longer? Would I be able to attack hills with greater ease?

Oddly, I don’t even remember the Last Run. I doubt I knew at the time that it would be the last one. I’m sure I got up one morning before taking the back procedure journey and headed out the door for my morning run assuming I’d do the same the next day. Then the next day, I most likely couldn’t get out of bed.

I feel like I deserve a Last Run do over. I deserve a chance to bid running adieu. The hardest thing about not being in pain like I used to is accepting that I can’t pick back up and train for the Boston Marathon. I can’t even do the Capitol Hill Classic, a 10k which in the past I found “not long enough” but would do “for fun.”

If you are the worrying type, stop. I’m not going to do it. I know my doctor would kill me if I went back to him and had to explain what I’d done. I know my cross-trainers would not give me the support I need to make the run pleasant. And I know that I’m so very lucky to have been relatively pain-free recently and that I’m lucky I get to wear heels.

A quick run down the hallway in said heels is going to have to suffice for now.