Running with the family, or “Why is there purple stuff in your ear?”

There is a way to make your family and friends think you are the coolest person ever AND reap other priceless benefits along the way.

Running.

1 oucWait! Don’t stop reading yet. Those inspiring stories about people whose idea of exercise is walking to the fridge but then they start running and they realize they love it and months later they’re competing in marathons?

Yeah, this isn’t one of those stories.

I strongly dislike running. I mean, it hurts. A lot. And makes your mascara run. I asked a running-fanatic co-worker once why she enjoyed the sport and she got a dreamy look in her eyes and smiled and said, “You know that feeling when you can’t breathe and your legs won’t work and you have to stop by the side of the road to throw up? Gosh, I love that feeling.”

Um, no, thank you.

Besides, have you been at the start line of a race? All those toned abs are intimidating.

This is a story, however, about a kind of running – the fun kind, where you get out with your family on a Saturday morning and spend some time together and get some exercise and end up feeling as if you’ve accomplished something important while still keeping your mascara intact.

2 picI’m talking about fun runs, those one-mile races with more emphasis on “fun” than “run.”

This spring, our daughters and our 7- and 3-year-old grandsons have hit the fun-run circuit. We’ve been pelted with confetti, dug colored cornstarch out of our ears and had a blast.

We none of us are runners (except the 3-year-old, who runs the whole mile without stopping or even breathing hard — I see Olympic medals in his future) and I was apprehensive about our non-athletic status before we signed up for our first race.

But I was being silly. Everybody is encouraging and enthusiastic, and the grins on the kids’ faces as they cross the finish line to cheers and ecstatic high fives are priceless. They may even have learned something about reaching goals and trying your best and helping each other.

And as a bonus, you get say this to your friends: “Sorry I can’t go shopping with you Saturday morning. That’s a race day, you know.”

An Area of Concern

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An Area of Concern

This sign continues to crack me up every time I drive by it — which is pretty much twice a day. I have two questions: 1) Since this billboard still is up in May yet advertises a March special, can customers still take advantage of the offer? And perhaps more importantly, 2) exactly what constitutes an “area?” Is it measured by square inch? By proximity? If I have a little tattoo on, say, my ankle but then a big ol’ one on my back, does that count? And who are these people pictured, anyway? Why are they so insanely happy? And gorgeous? Does hair and-or tattoo removal do this to you? If so, perhaps I should get a tattoo and then sign up for its demise. I just need a second area.

DIY Family Fun

Older Daughter and son-in-law are the most incredibly creative parents I know. I understand where my son-in-law gets that from: His parents are do-it-yourself and use-what-you-have advocates from way back. I’m not sure where Older Daughter gets it from since my idea of creativity is making peanut-butter chip instead of chocolate-chip cookies, but somehow she takes ideas from Martha Stewart and inspiration from Pinterest and, with a few fabric scraps and leftover nails, she’ll end up with something wonderful. The two of them collaborated on this fantastic backyard project that’s the talk of their neighborhood: A music station and a tunnel-maze, both made from found and recycled items. First, they collected their materials. Older Daughter hit yard sales and resale stores for the used kitchen tools that would become the musical instruments, and my son-in-law measured and cut leftover PVC pipes for the maze. They then spent much design time working out the configurations before attaching everything to the two plywood pieces they’d nailed to their fence.  The buckets in between hold spatulas, whisks, spoons and other “mallets” for music-making as well as cars and balls for the maze (which also, as almost-4-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable naturally needed only 30 seconds to figure out, works great for small water balloons.) Whenever I visit the Captain’s friends come over, I head they run straight for the backyard. Listen, I can play a mean roasting rack, accented with a really cool saucepan beat.

Nobody Checks Betty White’s ID, Either

Okay, I realize that some days I’m more likely to look all of my almost-54 years than other days. I mean, we can’t be fabulous every single minute, can we? That would be boring. And exhausting. And, truthfully, I rarely achieve “fabulous”  anyway.  The nearest I get is “Not Too Bad if You Don’t Look Too Closely” and, honestly, I’m fine with that. However, when the cashier at Kroger decides to hit the “Age Verification Bypassed” button instead of going through the motions of asking to see my ID when I come through her line with a six-pack of Red Stripe, it makes me think  maybe I should put a bit more effort into my morning routine. Or have a morning routine, perhaps. Sadly, this Kroger incident merely capped off a week of subtle reminders, age-wise. For instance, a friend who also has a 54th birthday this summer gleefully pointed out that next summer we can celebrate by shopping with senior-citizen discounts at Belk. And my younger brother who I still picture in a Little League uniform is turning 50 this year. But the most telling of all is the morning when the headline on my daily fashion-advice email from a favorite style website  was “Get Betty White’s Sexy Look!” … and I clicked on it.

Running Without Scissors

This spring I’ve been helping my husband John Pitts, sports editor for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo, cover local races. I think he mainly wants me involved so I’ll make sure he gets up and out to the starting line in time, since runners and sportswriters seem to have different interpretations of  what “early in the morning” means. (One thinks 5 a.m. and the other thinks  10 a.m. You be the judge.) But I’ve honestly enjoyed the up-close-and-personal perspective I’ve gotten from helping cover both the Corinth Coca-Cola Classic 10K and Tupelo’s Gum Tree 10K Run. I mean, I do not run. It hurts. It makes me cry. It’s painful. I do not understand why people do it. I remember somebody who ran explaining it to me once. She said, “You know that feeling when you can’t move your legs and you feel so sick and dizzy and you have to stop and throw up? I love that!” This is madness with a capital “C” for crazy, too. Because whenever I feel like that, I immediately go lie down. And perhaps call the doctor. I do not think, “Only four more miles to go!” That’s the difference, I guess, between those who run and those who buy a pair of Nikes maybe once every five years. Or the difference, perhaps, between those at the front of the race pack, poised to spring into record-breaking action as soon as the gun goes off, and those at the back, who are, like, “Has it started yet? Are we supposed to be moving?” As an experienced race reporter now, I can tell you that there’s quite a contrast between the intense anticipation at the front of the line and the relaxed gathering going on in the back. But that’s one of the most surprising things I learned: There’s room for all. Maybe even for folks who don’t even like to run.

The Slide ‘N’ Nap

This is the smile I cannot get enough of. Well, one of them, anyway. Almost 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable has a complete repertoire of smiles but I’m especially delighted with the one that says, “Okay, Kacky, it’s your turn to go down the slide now.” We were playing in his backyard on a recent warm and sunny day and, as usual, he was in charge of the schedule. First we do sand-box construction work, then run around the yard for a couple of laps, then fall on the grass laughing with Roxie the Dog, then try to climb up and over the 7-foot-high fence and then try to surreptitiously fill up water in the red plastic bucket and tote the water to the sandbox to turn the construction zone into waterfront property despite Mommy telling him not to do that. Again. Then we play some basketball (I’m great with the Thomas the Tank ball and 4-foot-high plastic goal) and check to see if the carrots Mommy and Daddy planted in the garden yesterday are growing yet. And then there’s the slide. Actually, he has two in the backyard. One is short and wide and adult-friendly. The other is long and narrow and built only for those who consistently fail the “you must be this tall to ride” test. The Captain’s preferred method of playing on the slides is to A) make Roxie the Dog slide down and B) figure out a way he can ride his dump truck down. Plus, we both love the game that I invented called “Sleep.” See, I sit on the bottom of the short-and-wide slide (because I can’t fit on the bottom of the long-and-narrow slide) and I lie down on my back with my feet on the ground and I start snoring and the Captain climbs to the top of the slide and then slides down, bumps into my head, leans over to gleefully ask “Kacky? You awake, Kacky?”  and then laughs wildly as he jumps off the side of the slide to do it all again. This goes on for several minutes. If I’m lucky.

Hoopla!

Hoop it up! If you think hula hoops are only cheap plastic toys that kids play with in the backyard for a few minutes before going on to something else, then please think again. Older Daughter, an accomplished belly dancer and teacher, has fallen in love with hooping. It’s the latest fitness craze, plus it’s fun and easy to learn. I mean, who can resist picking one up and swaying those hips? You really get a feeling of accomplishment once you keep one in the air for a few minutes. But it’s more than core work. Older Daughter teaches workshops and classes in hooping, and she choreographs whole routines using your arms and legs for a total-body workout. Plus, she and my son-in-law make and sell hoops. It’s fascinating to watch the process. They make the hoops out of flexible plastic piping and then create the designs with sticky colored tape. Amazing! They do custom hoops as well as children and adult sizes and even portable hoops that fold up for easier transport. In true entrepreurial spirit, they’re planning to take their hooping business to the Web and sell at local festivals and shows — if only they could come up with a name. Every possibility on their list is already taken or one or the other of them doesn’t like it. The top contender of “Hip Happy Hoops” turned out to be close to the name of a Web site touting recreational drug use — not really good for the family-friendly image they’re going for. Husband and I think they should go with “Capt. Adorable’s Hoops.” After all, 2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable is a great help with the family business — he jumps up and down on the hoops when they’re laid out on the floor and unravels the rolls of tape when he’s not using them as dog toys. Adorable!!!