Friday, April 24, 2015

It was a wicked pissah!

In the days leading up to the Boston Marathon, as the forecast worsened, text messages flew among my friends.

"What are you wearing for the race?"

"Rain jacket or no?"

"Do you think we can finish before the rain starts?"

"Is an east wind a headwind or tailwind?"  (It's a headwind.)

"Freaking.  Out.  Ugh."

People often wonder what about the marathon is so addictive.  It's punishing, unpredictable, and the most amazing experience when things go right.  I've had a few races where a lot of things went right, but it's what goes wrong that keeps me going back for more.

The Boston Marathon in particular has been a real challenge for me.  With each of the four times I've run it, I've learned something more about the course and about myself.  There are some runners who do really well in Boston--my coach Maureen Roben has told me (more than once) it's a fast course, if you run it smartly.  Some of those smart runners ran the race last Monday and did very well, despite the conditions.

Me?  I'm still learning and hope to be a smart runner one day.

Before the race I kept reminding myself that I've run three rainy marathons, and two of those were among my best.  It was reassuring; maybe too reassuring.  Because that third rainy marathon, the one that wasn't among my best, the one I kept pushing out of my mind, there was a stiff headwind during that race.  Just like what was forecasted for Monday.

The Boston Marathon for me this year was slow.  It was cold.  It was wet.  And it was windy.

But it was also the Boston Marathon, a race that is always a uniquely memorable experience.  A race that I'm always thankful to be running.  The volunteers were as friendly and full of smiles as ever. The spectators, though fewer in number than previous years, were as loud as ever.

And I learned that people in Boston love their moms.  A lot.

I wore warm clothing to Athlete's Village, which I planned to discard either in the start corral or in the early miles.


I was able to shed the flannel pants before the race began, but was too cold to lose the shirt.  And I ended up wearing that soaking wet cotton shirt for the entire race.  It was heavy.  It was uncomfortable.  It left a chafing rash.  I definitely should've braved the cold and ditched it.  (Maureen's comment:  "Cotton is rotten.")

But the spectators loved it.

All along the course I ran to cheers of "Go, MOM!"  At Heartbreak Hill I heard "Spank that hill, MOM!"  Passing through Boston College, "I love you, MOM!"  (Moms of BC students, your kids might be a little homesick.)

And my fellow racers were equally jubilant.  It was as though the crazy adverse weather unburdened us all of time goals and we ran just to have fun.  We sang together the songs that blared along the race course like a bunch of drunk hockey fans.  Sweet Caroline alone carried me for miles.



If you judge a race by the wattage of the smiles on the participants rather than times on the finish line clock, you'd have to agree this year's Boston Marathon was an unqualified success.



As for my time goal?  Well, I finished a little bit faster than last year but still well short of what I trained to run and how I expected to perform.  Each year since 2013 I've left Boston feeling like I have unfinished business there, and this year is no different.

So I guess it's time to do like Shalane--eat a donut and get back on the horse.  "Because I don't feel like ending on this note, with this Boston."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Long and Winding Road

Hello, friends, it's been a long time.  By now most of you have seen Eli's fantastic announcement:

Yes, he's getting a brother.  From Uganda.

But I thought you were waiting for a girl. . . .

We were.  And then we weren't any longer.

And I thought you were adopting from Ethiopia. . . .

That was also true.  We were trying to adopt from Ethiopia, until we switched our focus to Uganda.

Actually, I should say switched our focus back to Uganda.  Because, you see, when Brad and I originally contacted our agency about adoption, we specifically inquired about its Uganda program.  I had researched the country and was intrigued by the thought of adopting a child from "the Pearl of Africa."

But God had other plans for us at that time.  God had Eli waiting for us, in Ethiopia.

I don't recall if I've shared on this blog the story of God stirring my heart at a most crucial time; if we know each other in person, you may have heard this before.  Because it's pretty amazing.

Soon after Brad and I married we began to talk about children.  Had he wanted them? Had I wanted them?  The conversations were always about that road not taken because we were both 44 years old at the time and so, for me at least, well beyond what are commonly thought of as childbearing years.  Brad likes to tease me about masterminding our parenthood through adoption -- he calls it my "grand plan" and says he suspects I hatched it long before we were even married-- but it really grew out of those conversations.  It wasn't something that was on my mind until I sat back and questioned our assumption that we'd both missed the parenthood exit on this highway of life.  I asked "why not us?"

So late in the year 2011 we started tentatively discussing adoption.  What would that look like for us?  We had no definite plan, no timeline, we just started to look at our various options.

Then one day in December I was consumed with thoughts of adopting a child from Africa.  It was one of the possibilities being discussed, but we hadn't seriously narrowed down any of our options at that point.  I recall that day so vividly; I remember what the pull in my heart felt like, my thoughts refusing to settle on anything else.  We were travelling that day to see Brad's family for Christmas, and while we were there Brad's mom asked me if I had any desire to travel to Africa.  My heart stopped as I casually responded "Sure.  Maybe someday."  Because I hadn't even told Brad yet about the passion for Africa that had taken root inside me.

We returned home and I called a local agency that facilitates adoptions from Uganda.  They had time to meet with us the very next day, and so we went.  Our visit was only to get more information about maybe, possibly adopting, but by the time we left our future was clear.  We were meant to do this.

But the agency nudged us away from Uganda and toward Ethiopia.  Turned out its Uganda program was brand new, and we would have been one of the first families to officially sign on for it.  With this adoption being for our first child they were concerned about us going through such a fledgling program.  They talked to us about Ethiopia, and what a wonderful country it was, and we were hooked.

That was December 30, 2011.  On January 2, 2012, we submitted our application to adopt from Ethiopia and we were off!  Throughout the process of gathering paperwork, meeting with our social worker for our home study, attending adoption classes, I continued to feel that pull.  A sense of urgency I couldn't explain to my bewildered husband.

We had our dossier completed in seven weeks, and I hand-delivered it to our agency's office. Our home study was finished and approved by the state shortly thereafter and we were added to our agency's wait lists on Friday, March 2, 2012.  We were officially waiting for an infant or toddler boy or siblings, but our preference sheet specified a 3-5 year old boy.

At our first meeting with the agency, they gave us a general timeline of how things might unfold for us.  For a toddler boy in our age range, they thought we might receive a referral in about nine months.

We were on the wait lists for one business day.

We later learned the agency purposely put us on the wait lists and didn't offer us the referral until the following Monday because they wanted to give us some time to sit back and breathe a little after furiously completing all our paperwork and various approvals.

Because Eli was there, waiting for us all along.  Remember that day in December when I was consumed with thoughts of adopting from Africa?  Well, that was the day he was brought to the orphanage in Gambella.  The same exact day.

And that pull in my heart?  Those were prayers being spoken in Africa for this child, being answered here in the United States.

God is so amazing.

And now God has brought us back to Uganda.  Because there is now a child there who is ready for us.  Who needs us. And we need him.

It's been a long and winding road, this second adoption, but we are right where we should be.

At Brad's and my wedding, I walked down the "aisle" in that beautiful flower garden on the lake to The Long and Winding Road by The Beatles.


And just like it was a long and winding road that led me to this incredible man with whom I was undoubtedly meant to spend my life, a long and winding road has led us back to Uganda to complete our family.

Photo from www.visituganda.com
I look forward to continuing down that blessed road to where our child waits for us, and welcome any prayers you have for our family.  And once we have him safely home, I'll tell you the story of how God brought us to him.

In the meantime, in the weeks and months ahead, I'll tell you a little about what we've seen of the road so far.  Because there's been a lot of glory, even on the most twisty sections.