Monday, February 6, 2017

Fly like a bumble bee

Ever since I officially entered a relationship with Elaine on Facebook, I've gotten many in person and online questions of how I got a girlfriend. So since I'm such a private person I thought I'd write the story down. She doesn't remember it going quite the same way I did but of course that means she's wrong...

I've spent a whole lot of time and effort into being single. That's not entirely correct of course because there were people I went out with, some people would call that going on dates, others would call that dating, I fervently denied to anyone including and above all to myself. A messy end to a 10 year marriage left me gun shy. If there are places where my humor coping mechanism got me to avoid questions... that was it. People asked me if I was afraid of commitment so I'd wise crack with a simple answer, "No I'm not afraid of commitment, I'm just committed to being single." I'm not sure that I can make an argument why those girls were bad fits for me or good fits, possibility just was closed off and probably like anyone I've ever been attracted to, they could easily do better.

But anyone who knows me knows I'm not afraid of commitment, I'm afraid of breaking commitment. My divorce decree states that I'm against my divorce but that I respect people's right to walk away... It's a question of whether I'm stubborn, a man of my word, or just trying to always show my endurance that I stick with my commitments but I'd rather the motive be debated without the result ever falling into that.

How I ended up on a relationship on Facebook is actually a pretty simple story... in an age where many, myself included share probably a little too much on social media (I mean if so many of my friends care about my traffic situation or outfit every single day, we all probably need a bigger focus). But recently for no grand reason at all, like today on no particularly special date, I made a video of pictures Elaine and I had shared for the over a year we'd spent sharing adventure. Like sending someone flowers because it's Tuesday or accidentally wearing matching t-shirts, it was a moment that danced between being organic and being conscious and being affectionate... I'm too manly to be that sappy in person. Because she's more intelligent/introverted and doesn't share so much on social media (the girl bought a new car recently for crying out loud and told a few friends and her parents compared to me who you know thinks a car has cool license plates and wants Facebook likes over it), she heckled me asked when I was going to put that video up on Facebook and I joked that I would do so right after she put is on a relationship on it. That was over chat and a few minutes later, she had put us up and since this was unfamiliar territory for either of us we were not quite ready for the reaction it got... (I did put the video up on Facebook by the way but because of copyright music purposes it got taken down 30 seconds after I put it up).

But I digress, the question wasn't how it ended up social media but rather how I ended up getting a girlfriend. So back in April of 2015 when she and I were both dating other people I asked her to be my vice president as I started running for President of the Austin Runner's Club. She didn't quite understand why I'd be asking her, a 23 year old hardware engineer who had no event background to be 2nd in command and the race director for a club that was older than both of us. She accepted and we set on the adventure of taking the club to rhyme with the past while accommodating for the future.  I would save her a spot at the Boston marathon bus and we'd sit pre-race and just chat. She'd hit her PR and made a joke about me in her race report which the coach would respond to that I was just trying to get myself on her radar. I was so hurt that he would disrespect me that way that it got me to make a couple of jokes out of it. She got a PR but I've still not received a thank you note that it was because she was bored enough on the bus to be able to sleep right before the race.

A couple of months later she would be turning 24 and invited a few of us to do a trail race to celebrate. It was a night trail race and with no spatial orientation, uneven footing, I was hesitant but I signed up just because if you celebrate your birthday by doing a race, how do you not say yes. It was my first trail race but I would sign up for the 10k with a few others while most were doing the 30k.  Somehow the universe was kind enough to where I would win my first trail race. A while later, she came in and it was the first time ever she won a race taking the women's 30k title. I gave her medal and her trophy at the finish line because I'm a big fan of handing out happiness.

It was a series of races but I was at that time only doing the first one. She went back out to the second and between the two both of us had actually stopped dating other people. But at the second one someone who barely knew her came up and asked where her boyfriend was and she said, 'we broke up' but wondered how they knew about it to begin with since they'd never met him or had a conversation. At the 3rd race, where I was absent, someone came up and asked her where her husband was and when she replied she wasn't married she got the response that they thought the guy who handed her the medal and trophy was her husband. She laughed it off and would share the story with me and we'd chuckle together.

Two curious things had kept happening during that time because of our working together. The first was that she would watch the way I interacted with people more, in speeches, in one-on-one. She correctly diagnosed that I was somehow irreverent and reverent, that I'd sit there and make fun of people in a way while being completely serious, that I had a bluntness I hoped was effective even if uncouth. She said that the way I got along in the world was like watching a bumble bee fly; it didn't make sense that something could stay afloat so counterintuitively (even while were friends she was already calling me out for being fat). We were moving to tweaking some things at the Austin Runner's Club with some strong support and some opposition, minor but vocal for messing with somethings that had stood for longer than either of was old (and I have 11 years on her). It was and is still primarily working though it's ruffled some feather but somehow the bumble bee's wings are still there and I'm still hoping to get some things to bloom.

But the second thing was that while we were getting work done was often after workouts, chatting at one or the other's cars because there are conversations that are better in person than workout over long emails (or blogs for that matter). People kept asking if we were dating and we kept saying no because we weren't. It certainly wasn't on my radar because even with silly Jr High relationships and up (I didn't start any earlier than that) I had never sought to turn a friendship into a relationship other than friendship. Those type of relationships I was hitting on the girl on day one. In my book, if you didn't notice that immediate 'chemistry,' well they have a word for people who don't have type of chemistry, it's called friendship. We'd blow them off and get back to work talk.

At the very last race of the trail series, I would return with Kiana for her first 10k, her (and mine) first night race, her first trail race, her first time camping. We would get it done and we sat up by the camp fire till late making s'mores and not too late into the night, Elaine would come in and also win that race, another night 30k. After getting to bed, I woke up and Elaine was sitting outside the tents unable to go to sleep and we started chatting. Because our friends were camped all around us, I suggested we move a little further away not to wake anyone up and we sat and chatted as the sun was rising over a lake. My friend Chris came over and sat with us for a while and he would say, 'this is why everyone thinks you're dating.' A few moments after he walked away she turns to me to said in what I read as sarcasm, 'we should just go on a date and tell everyone it didn't work out so they stop bugging us.' I responded with a sarcasm of my own of 'oh are you asking me out' and she made it clear it would only be one date.

We'd go to a Russian restaurant she picked out that she'd never been to but had heard of; I was impressed she would do an adventure to a brand new place. I'd pick where we went and it was an improv festival because at that time and in college she had done improv; she was impressed I had thought of finding something so specific she was into. (By the way in case you're wondering when we saw the reaction that being in a relationship was getting to we couldn't figure out what date to set it to and it was decided to that first show).

Just by virtue of busy-ness and single parenthood and travel, our second date would not be for almost 2 months near the end of October when the James Bond movie came out. In my social media oversharing approach, and because  this was the first time I was going to a Bond movie with a girl, I asked if this made her a bond girl on my Facebook status... and boy did I get lectured and reminded of what happens to most of the Bond girls. Somehow in Specter it works out that Bond's female companion Swann are still together at the end of the film. To this day, I still call her the Bond girl and I'm thankful for the different ways we've bonded... I own the song from Sam Smith there, Writing's on the Wall

I've been here before
But always hit the floor
I've spent a lifetime running
And I always get away
But with you I'm feeling something
That makes me want to stay

Perhaps there was something to be said for the song that headlined that movie.

I was heading to Brazil to head to Christmas that year to finally use my passport. I had invited a few friends and the Bond girl but somehow she was the only one available out of the ones who said they might be able to and if anyone thinks I wasn't like oh boy, all pressure with a girl you've only dated a short time to be taking her on both of your first international trip in a long long time... but it was a 'wonder'ful trip and seeing the statue of the Christ was nice too.

It would continue well. Despite all the races I've been fortunate enough to win, she was part of the weekend where I'd get my first breaking the tape moment at the Lucky Trail Marathon series. We'd win the half marathon relay together both wearing ARC shorts that might as well have said, do these make my butt look fast. People kept saying we looked good together but I think it was just the average of the two.

We kept working well together with ARC and each other and actually in all of those interactions there was never a backing each other up just because. There were times where we have disagreed and voted and both won and lost against what the other one was thinking. Some of those arguments ended with stating 'thank you for your opinion' when the tone really did have something else that ended in k and followed by you implied. Her retort to my humor was to say that the entire point of working with her was a 'long con.' The best wit I could reply was I'm a fan of being constructive, that's what con is short for there, right?

But despite races together, besides each other, where we were behind the scenes, I still had never to her, to me or to anyone called her my girlfriend. I'd made enough progress to where I'd at least acknowledge that I was dating her. What the distinction is between those is so clear that obviously I don't need to spell it out cause everyone knows (or I have no clue and can't possibly imagine being that creative). But last year when I got to be part of Coaches Vs Cancer at March Madness' Final Four, my teammates, some of the media as they interacted with her, Mike, a friend from Livestrong who was there, all without exception called me out on the fact that I wouldn't call her my girlfriend. I'm not a ceremonial guy which is why I've skipped the podium when placing and winning at races, I wanted to skip graduation even though he was the first in his family to get a degree. Because I'm not ceremonial or obviously official somehow since I was acknowledging or in my book getting a real girlfriend for the first time since high school, I actually sat her down and asked all cheesy like if she would be my girlfriend. She said yes and we celebrated with ice cream and donuts for dinner followed by wine then bourbon. That after all is what it means to be an adult. 

Pick any aspect of our relationship before or since then and it's by no means conventional. This was the first relationship that grew out of friendship from me that came from working together and me doing an event I was afraid of. There are aspects of it like her sharing a story once about her grandmother's dementia that made me think she had the capacity to understand some of my approach to cancer but there's been moments where she's been there with me at the Livestrong challenge, at the Brain Power5k, at the UT medical school cancer institute kick off where she's seen and shared how comfortably uncomfortable I am being an advocate. I've joked in complete serious that she's the first girl to make it past 2 MRI' but at the last one she said she should actually come to the next one and the results. There was something really spicy in whatever we were eating that day. There's been times where she's had emotional days for various where I've been sympathetic and ones where I've shown zero sympathy because I say that there's a reason tears and anger are built into the system like pain during running, it almost always just shows your threshold but there's times its an indicator to stop or slow down and other times it's exactly how you build strength and one should avoid the avoidance not the pain. The imbalance of the fact that I come with so much baggage is something I'm not quite sure why she embraces but I am actually reconciled by a moment long before most people thought we were dating where at a house warming party a friend's roommate thought we must be together because of the way her and Kiana played games together since 'there was no way she'd spend time with or get along so well with my kid if we weren't together.'

A few months ago, literally a few months ago if how slowly I move towards relationship isn't evident, a conversation began about moving in together. For people who are old fashioned and traditional like say, my church members, my family and oh... me, this really is a step that should be reserved for marriage. We had conversations with friends and family about it and decided to move forward and she's moving in of all days on April 1st. There's been method decisions like she and Kiana went for their first run together ever recently (Kiana said she talks about more fun stuff than me). They are both children of immigrants (by the way because I have 11 years on her, there's been some heckling from long standing friend, 'well at least she's closer to your age than Kiana's' or 'oh so you never want to have a girlfriend than you find a cute 25 year old IBM engineer and suddenly you're open to a serious relationship.'). For Chinese New Year, they cooked together. There is an arguable defense that this step should be reserved for marriage and that this is a life of sin and well, I'm not going to argue much but just restated what I said to a church friend I thank God for this here life of sin. 

I've started preparing for her moving in. I'm a pragmatic guy so that original just meant cleaning out the closet and garage, than it turned into building the closet to have more shelves and hanging space. The closet now has a barn door cause apparently my girlfriend is a hipster (she picked it out). That made me realize the hall closets needed some work which required new door knobs which should match others... This girl and I have been to 3 world wonders, to some great races but moving in we just realized that details matter even if almost no one is ever going to see them. I almost entitled this entry cleaning out my closet actually because of this but they weren't dirty, they just needed more room. I've done things like that in real life that were awkward but the right thing to do like tell Kiana, tell Kiana's mother and introduce Elaine and Kiana's mother officially. There is beauty in practically. The bumble bee's flight perhaps never quite makes sense but it's work amongst the flowers that makes life grow in a healthy direction.

You know I don't know what's next with us... never mind I do. We did both of our 1st race in 2017, I ran my first 8 mile run and she was out doing 16. We've won  3 relay races since then and we've both won other races and had other PR's since this all started. But somehow after the wine, cheese and chocolate celebration of us deciding to join places, it was the first joint race that night trail race, for both of us in a place and distance neither of us had ever run before.  

She's moving in on April 1st but it's not a fool's errand. Between now and then we are headed to California where I went to college where I'll help with Huck Cancer. We are headed to Beaumont where I won the marathon and we're both doing the half marathon, a cycling time trial and a weight event. Elaine, Kiana and I are doing our first trip together to my last World Wonder and Kiana's first one, the Great Wall of China. Without exception on each of those trips we're all going to places one of the parties have been too but sometimes isn't a good relationship taking on new things together and other time getting acquainted with each other's previous  life?

Just to not mess with karma to celebrate it I also took her to the same place we went on that first date, the Paramount Theater. But I also dreamed forward and we have medical appointments, social and races on each other's calendars as far down as October, well past the next MRI. I honestly don't quite know how this work, Aerodynamically, the bumble bee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumble bee doesn't know it so it goes on flying anyway. So we will too... if you've gotten this far in reading about it you're probably much too nosy or like me a hopeful romantic... If that's the case and you want to watch the video that got all this moving on social media and this blog, check our our video here. So yeah I have a girlfriend and this bee has fallen under her spell but what do you know, it's up that I fell... 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Anything but grey

This is the story of my life  And I write it everydayI know it isn't black and white And it's anything but greyI know that no I'm not alright, but I feel ok causeAnything can, everything can happen That's the story of my life-Bon Jovi

I'm five days away from achieving my first month away in my own bed since I won a marathon almost 4 years though I've yet to go a full month without a competition... July is the next month where that's even possible right now. The last 6.5 years can and have proved predictably unpredictable or is it unpredictably predictable... Wait isn't that a contradiction in terms?

But I keep going in a story that I'm not ready for but know not quit till the finish line and life keeps being kind enough to keep moving the finish line. There's some guilt in that... I've seen friends in the communities that were so supportive when this cancer journey started that have gotten cancer and passed away. So I do what I can with my conscious and am helping out with 3 different fundraising things currently never quite knowing whether that's passing hope forward or assuaging guilt back (the one anyone can actively donate to online is here.) 

There are some highlights that I think are wonderful because I am a sentimental man. Kiana repeated as one of the kids that passes on to regionals in the science fair. Last year she did a project on a 'gerbil brain' which would not only win the 3rd grade, it would go on and win at regionals which is several school districts. It was about spatial orientation and memory... one which I don't have and one which is damaged. 

This year she made her project about 'Does color affect Memory,' testing how language (another damaged section of my brain) and memory. She tested how people read against different colors and contrast whether they remembered it wrong. I've never asked whether her projects has anything to do with the cognition tests she sees me practice (nor would I as what 10 year old self recognizes their own psychology that well which by the way how did a decade turn by so fast?!?).  But I am intrigued by it. Both years by the way, part of her hypothesis was wrong but as she describes the testing and the results she does not make excuses for her hypothesis not having panned out, she explains why she thought it was what it was and what it wasn't. Part of the value of the project is how well they deliver it to the judges and if she did 1/2 the job she does in practicing with me, I'd certainly pick her to be the winner every time (though I may be biased). I've long joked that if all this brain cancer stuff leads her to be a neuro surgeon it would be worth it but it turns out that as grateful as I am for mine, I saw him briefly a few times. My neuropsychologist is who I'm a gigantic fan of and perhaps fixing the engine is one thing but it turns out that perhaps figuring out how it ticks when it's an engine that's trying to understand itself might be the more complicated science. Kiana regularly states science is her favorite subject and it keeps shows. I went into brain surgery wearing a t-shirt that was a gift of someone slicing up a rocket combining the memes of 'it's not rocket surgery' and 'it's not brain surgery." I wish I had the creative design to make one for Kiana that somehow demonstrated that what she's doing well... it is brain science! I was there when they were announcing the awards and my heart doesn't pound like that before races, MRI's, or even brain surgery. We celebrated afterwards with a special meal and sparkling cider because you know that's how you train kids early. 

But the script continues to write itself in this story. I actually had no races for January but then Spectrum Trail races announced an 8 mile race. I'd never done an 8 mile race in my life and they had never put one on. There was also a 16 mile option and a marathon one. I loved what the race director said about how they didn't try to put on a 10k or a half as part of it because with the way the trail went (it was around a lake) that would have been a lot more forced and they just went with the way it naturally flowed. When I heard all that, how could the kid born 8/8/80 not take that race? But speaking of forced, I might have traded for Bib #8 after packet pick up successfully. The dance between choice, chance and circumstance is a rhythm with some choreographed moves. I had told the James Bond girl who was doing the 16 miler that maybe I'd pull off an 8 minute per mile pace. On a road I could control that but on a technical trail after a muddy week, if it happened, it would happen as organically as my birth not my bib. 

I went out running as hard as I could on my second Spectrum trail race thinking I had a solid lead till the turn around point where a little too focused on my watch I took a slip and realized I only had a 20 second lead which isn't much in a regular race midway and certainly not so on a trail race. The pace at that time was 8:14 but I would never look at my watch again, that's how I had fallen and slipped on a rock so it was time to just gun for the win. I sped up but not enough to get to an 8 minute pace average but I kid you not won my first race of 2017 and only 8 mile race ever with an 8:08 pace. I went back and ran the James Bond Girl in who would win the 16 miler. We've had some joint victories and some individual victories but it was a nice moment to have our first individual joint victory. (For those of you who want more details on my first real girlfriend since high school well that deserves it's own proper entry and will get one but if a Facebook relationship status didn't make it clear, someone else's Facebook status certainly did.) If anyone whose read this blog thinks the single dad who put off brain surgery to run a marathon and then won one pushing a stroller is having anything near conventional approach to a relationship you haven't been reading this blog very well but be assured, while it's not typical in many ways, it is a good one. I am not sure what was more heart warming about that race, that it was a double win, that it was in unknown terrain, that it was on my number of miles with my number at my number's pace but hey having to choose between which of the many good things makes it great is the kind of problem you can sign me up for any day.

But high on that list of both Kiana's winning project and us winning a race is that it was an organic event. For Kiana who knows what prompted her to do that but hearing her talk about it you could tell she was honestly asking a question, honestly acknowledging the assumptions that were correct and incorrect and finishing it all with conclusions but just as if not more importantly with just as much curiosity. For me, it was a trail race at a place I'd never been, a place where you often can't see even to the next turn, much less around it but there was still flowers and trees and rocks and a lake, a dangerous beauty that you took in both to enjoy it and to stay on your feet. 

I'm not done figuring out the dance between planning and improvising, avoiding hubris but dreaming and pursuing success. There won't be a day where I'm not reminded that the grey matter between my ears is still damaged but it's not so damaged that it can't take in a spectrum of  so many colors that alone is a victory. And those colors for me and for Kiana and for those we love create affectionate memories. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

One question haunts and hurts too much, too much to mention,
Was I really seeking good or just seeking attention?
Is that all good deeds are when looked at with an ice cold eye?
If that's all good deeds are maybe that's the reason why
No good deed goes unpunished
       -from the musical Wicked

I ran recently in the coldest day Austin has had in over 6 years. It reminded me of a story my mother tells me about when she used to work in a shop in her adolescence. As she was headed out she didn't want her hands exposed and had forgotten gloves so she tucked her purse under her jacket in the back room and started to brave for the cold with her hands in her pockets when her boss wondered why there was something swelling unnaturally from her jacket. There had been previously shoplifting by employees so he approached her disappointed and presuming that would be the case once more. Once she showed him that it was just her purse and that she hadn't stolen anything, he apologized but he also gave her a piece of life advice, "Don't do anything good that appears bad or anything bad that appears good." I'd tell you how I got to hear that story but that's a bit embarrassing even for me but we'll leave it at that it had something to do with something that happened during my own adolescence. 

It's a story that's been flowing through my mind for a few reasons but one of them is that recently the James Bond girl went to see Wicked and got me to listening to the album again(she by the way in the age of social media is apparently now officially in my life since off a dare it's now on Facebook).  I saw the show the better part of a decade ago in London and was intrigued by the revisiting what happened in tale of The Wizard of Oz. It reminded me of the African proverb that until the Lion gets its own historian, we will only hear the perspective of the hunter. But despite usually deferring to the Lion in stories, in the Wizard of Oz, it's always the scarecrow that I relate to, the one missing the brain. Somehow I got fortunate enough to know that in neither version is he one of the bad guys but in Wicked, he's the one who develops more depth after his brain has been damaged. Listening to it on the long drive from west Texas home when my favorite dance partner, Kiana  made the drive happier by saying I was the complete opposite of the Scarecrow character lyrics singing dancing through life

But the way we view history and remember it matters. It is in fact why I do keep this blog, because a guy with a damaged memory wants to remember and well, in completely frankness, if I or Kiana have to hear the story down the line, I want it to be mine, the lion not the hunter's version. As I've said many times about this blog or the stories I tell, is this story true? No, it's just what I remember. But there are little tidbits that until someone points them out to you about your own story you're like huh? Like in Wicked, they talk about Dorothy's ruby slippers and say 'taking shoes from a dead woman's feet, seriously who does that?!?'

So it has been interesting to hear stories about and from my life and ancestry over the holidays and wonder about what I didn't know, how much I don't and won't know. My father was retelling the story of how he and my mother get together. He's not a guy who I share any genes with but he's my father. I don't recall this but apparently at age 6 I pointed at him when he had just started dating my mother and said that guy is going to be my dad in front of a crowd (even then I was very shy). But he's been in my life for literally 3 decades and it took an ESPN piece before I internally recognized that I'd known my father most of my life. But I wrote about that August 2015 and it would be the better part of 16 months before I'd say it as clearly as I said it on Christmas eve 2016, and the first time I honestly ever said while looking in his eyes that there wasn't a single day in my entire childhood that I felt an ounce of treatment difference between how kind he was to me and my little brother, his one and only biological son. There wasn't a moment where he hadn't lived up to 'recognizing' me as his own (no name was on my birth certificate so he just added his, no adoption was necessary). It wasn't until then that my last name was Leon but maybe that was when the mane finally showed up on my face. I've talked about some of the difficulties of my childhood on occasion but as I listened to his stories from sleeping in a place with fleas to why he may be such a good father, his own dad was incredibly absent for much of his childhood, I realized his childhood made mine look like a cakewalk. The conversations led to us strong, silent manly hispanic types having had a bit too much jalapeƱos or something because we had watery eyes.

During the Christmas visit, we went to a few places but everyone else was riding in a minivan or a higher vehicle so my grandfather rode with me in 'normal' car. It was the most one on one time we'd ever gotten. The man whose been married for over 60 years gave me some life advice and told me what he thought of my dating life. There were moments when he told stories about 'my grandfather' used to say, a phrase I use except it's still in the present context. Somehow while I'd met my great grandfather it was similar to Kiana my only memories are of him in the much later stages in life. My grandfather had a grandfather who used to say witty things... it was something interesting to absorb. There were times in my childhood were there were 4 generations present in the same room and I am glad Kiana had the same privilege. 

Each of us is a 1st generation immigrant with my grandfather and father having gone back and forth for more of their youth/young adulthood. This a move at times criticized and at times praised for being there and not being there for their families simultaneously. However, my father did it illegally or undocumented whichever jargon you prefer. My grandfather did it entirely on an invitational program where the US government utilized migrant workers for farmers. He did things in Minnesota and Texas and California... I heard stories I never knew I never knew. I came over at 8 and learned English and went to college on an academic scholarship in Napa Valley. I resented when I was 18 and 19 being asked which winery I worked at and how good my English was since it was clear they were assuming I picked grapes. But then I should have been an grateful for the opportunities that came from each generation of my family deciding that the next one was more important. Not my grandfather nor my father nor myself brought drugs or crimes, none of us rapists so I trust that means that we are some of the good people and now we are all American citizens. So while we all did it in different ways and while I've had a few different guiding lights on the specifics of parenting, I think the moon that lit the path of me being a good father came directly from reflecting bigger lights in my own family even if it took me decades to notice and acknowledge it. 

I've messed with Hispanic gender roles some in being the primary caretaker of a child. It may tell you that they still exist in my head because I've spent a few days volunteering at Kiana's school as a 'cafeteria lady' even if the title is officially 'lunch room monitor.' I wondered if Kiana would be embarrassed by it since I recall at least one of my school friends being embarrassed that their mom worked in the cafeteria but then again that was junior high. My own mother is a school cafeteria manager and I've certainly never been embarrassed. In fact one of the jokes over Christmas was about our childhood when my mom used to make tamales etc and I'd actually sell them door to door. Now my little brother works for Nike in the catering section of their headquarters. I joked that my mom had either worked in food service or not had a 'regular job' and now my little brother works in food service and I don't have a regular job. So maybe I'm not the only one of the Leon's messing with gender roles.

But it's been interesting because I feel like I've learned more about society in a few days in November and January of volunteering at the cafeteria than in other ways I've helped out at schools (formal teacher, chess coach, math tutor, library helper). Small children who want help getting their food open who I say they have to do it themselves or at least try (huge success rate). But someone said that was their parent's job to do things like open the milk... we barely drink in our household and certainly not from cartons that are opened daily so not sure how that would work. Another person said that was making them feel less dependent of adults (is saying to pre-k kids, see you don't need me to be able to eat your food a bad thing?). Still, I'm proud of many things in life but on that list was that I volunteered in November and when I went back last week there were several children who said look I now open it by myself. There are simple things I have to do like wear an apron and hand out napkins, forks and spoons, give the bathroom pass out but somehow too many of the kids are used to demanding those things instead of asking for them so when they do that 'NAPKIN!' tone I simply hold my hand to my ear and say I think you're missing a few words and sometimes they get it or sometimes with redirections from their friends it becomes 'May I please...?' There was one kid who said I had to do what he said since I was just a volunteer... anyone want to guess if he got a napkin? It may be slightly less efficient but I hope they learn the lesson someone taught me in high school that 'if someone is nice to you but not nice to the waitstaff, they are not a nice person.' However, my favorite moment during all this has been that the kids who had proper manners to begin with was they wanted to ask my name. Someone said I was Kiana's dad and for an hour or two I became "Mr. Kiana's dad." I became a big fan because while I've had names, nicknames and titles my entire life but Kiana's dad was the only one where they all converged.

Oddly enough I almost wasn't able to hang in this position because AISD has a policy of someone not being able to help if they've ever, ever, been fired from a position. I had honestly answered that I had been fired from being a probation officer with a brief explanation. Back when that happened I'd been given both at the time and after the fact the opportunity to resign at the moment I was fired and in the post firing negotiations. While I understood the game, I didn't care for formalities which felt dishonest so I took the firing. Yet here, more than 4 years after the fact, I renegotiated with my previous employer to be able to not have been fired in order to be able to go help out as a 'cafeteria lady.' I was amused that wanting to be honest a few years ago at the end of a job and a few weeks on an application was fixed by negotiating to less than honesty.

It's been little things mentioned here which is where the lyrics of wicked stood out to me which this blog started with. My father and grandfather talking about the slack for being there or not being there when they were out of the country working (both while at home and abroad they got both accusations). Me trying to help out at school requiring me to fix honesty on paper, me trying to help kids need adults less getting me reprimanded by adults. Me finally acknowledging a relationship that's been true for a while gets me both attention and some reprimands about how I always knew the George Clooney days and ways were temporary (I didn't). Sometimes I think I have confused goodness with conformity, a way to get attention for doing the things you're just supposed to do. When I was first teaching Kiana to throw a frisbee at age 3 or so, when she'd dropped it I'd respond with 'ahh' or 'it's okay' but when she caught it I'd just have her throw it back. She started dropping it more so I switched it around and then she was more excited to catch it. But that didn't seem right either so I just left the disc in her room and we'd throw when she wanted to. She still likes doing it, I hope, because it was something inherently fun, inherently good.

Now next month, I'm headed to San Francisco for an Ultimate Tournament that raises money for Livestrong. While I hope you donate here, going to play my favorite sport in my favorite city while raising money for an organization I love is not much of a sacrifice. I've done it for Marathons and bike rides and Spartans but doing good things while doing good things should be commended but probably on the same level as if I raised money flossing, sometimes a little awkward, sometimes feels invasive but really it's good for you and keeps your smile better which gets better smiles in response.

I live a rather public life. I've spent the last few years even more publicly hoping that while I've settled all financial debts that somewhere I balance the karma debts of how many people have been helpful with life, with the cancer journey, with the emotions. Every time near the end of the year when I do something nice, I joke that 'I have to do one nice thing a year and I was running out of time.'  I've turned the joke around this year and said 'I have to do one nice thing a year and I want to just get it over with in January and then I can be mean for the rest of the year.' That's the way it is but it's my hope, my goal that some of the good things I do are things that really never get commended or shared on social media but are done simply because life is good and I want to share it.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Saw that it was good

We live in an age where far too much is supposed to be epic, awesome, incredible, life changing, inspirational. Anyone whose life is that big of adventures journey, let's just say I'm jealous and not quite sure how anyone could handle that and not be constantly exhausted.

But speaking along big important lines, it is around this time of year that Kiana and I hang up an ornament representing the most important event of the year. It has gotten tougher and tougher over the last few years. This isn't because some of them have had rough spots, they absolutely have but it's because while once in a while there may be a night with no stars, there's never a full year of those types of nights. So our little tradition of hanging up an ornament is sometimes a clear outlying beacon and sometimes it's harder than others because there's too many stars in Orion and you need all parts of it to make the constellation come together.

I can say with certainty that 2016 was the best year of my life; that may seem a bit of old stale statement when I've made it when I'm about to make it for 3rd year in a row, never before having even done it two years in a row. I like to think I'm not prone to exaggeration neither forward nor backward. And I certainly don't spend a whole lot of time looking backwards neither while running or living since it's a bit of an absurd principle to trip on what's behind you if you want to keep going in the right direction. In races anyone who ever looks back at me, the chances that they are going to beat me decrease dramatically. In cancer, I run to try to keep the grim reaper behind me but you better believe I'm never giving him any confidence boost by checking out how close he is. There have been times where I was hoping he was tasting how my dust tastes but my hope these days, and there's no such thing as false hope, is that I've left him far enough behind that the dust between us has settled for a little while.

So when you've had a year where you struggled to pick pictures for your holiday card and there you had 5 places to work with, what do you pick as the ornament?!? I got to go to two world wonders. I pr'ed in the marathon and won a 5k, a 10k, a half, and multiple relays. I got to be part of March Madness. Kiana has kept straight A's and perfect attendance all year, learned to play chess, won the science fair at the District level. We got out of debt. I did the beer mile as Bond, James Bond. My family trifecta'd in the Spartan with me. The MRI's are still stable and past a six year mark. I learned my heart has more room than anyone including myself believe. It turns out Kiana's continues to show that because she learned to ride a bicycle this year and cruised up and down hills for 20 miles. Which one of those is the biggest, 2016's North Star? And once you've picked one, how do you represent it when you want it to be unique like a snowflake?

It's also a time where we wish each other a Happy (insert appropriate religious festival here from Hannukah to Christmas to Festivus etc). Me and my next door neighbor joked with each other Happy December to make sure we don't offend the other (in total honesty if someone wishes you a happy anything even if it's not accurate, I try to take it in stride. I mean if someone wished me a happy birthday on any day besides 8/8 I'd be glad they cared enough to share happiness not that they were not 100% correct on the details). So in the best and happiest year of my life, I tried to think about what brought the most happiness to the Leon household and oddly enough the answer came, like so many good things in life, from the right connection. Kiana has got a bit of an obsession with acorns and pine cones, like the dog in Up with "SQUIRREL" she picks them up inspects them and takes joy every time she sees one lights up and says ACORN! This girl has gotten to see the lights of New York, the rides of Disney, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Texas Capitol. But a simple acorn still gets her to beam and I love it. It is perhaps why children's movies like Frozen capture the reality of the little girl who sings karaoke and we make up songs about acorns and butterflies and flowers and daily life, some people are in fact worth melting for.

Because in a world where everything is supposed to be epic, I love the Genesis creation where the  story of the creator of the universe does it 'saw all that he had made, and it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning." The Guy makes the entire universe and knows thats what he's supposed to do in a days work but knows the way to describe it is nothing more grandiose than it was good. Another major religion the one who retroactively placed Jesus birthday on December 25th on a  probably connection to Hannukah or Pagan Holidays, says redemption comes from someone whose birth was considered possibly illegitimate who grew up to be a homeless preacher who hung out with the poor and unhealthy is now celebrating with hymns about Him. If that seems to preachy, let me quote that more modern theologian, Gandalf from the books of Tolkien, 'Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.' I've gotten to meet serious politicians, world record holders, amazing accomplishment but for many of them just as me, it's a connection to a good human or two that motivates us to do those good things. 

Look I am a fan of 'epic' things, elite standards. It's why I run an arbitrary distance called a marathon at an arbitrary speed to qualify for Boston. It's why I sign Kiana and I up for adventures that are titled 'challenges,' others where at the end I'm proclaimed a 'beast.' But through it all, in the year that had so many of those, I love that Kiana still noticed acorns and saw that they were good. There's a steep steep hill here in Austin, called Wilke. I've done it many times, first as part of runs, then once as repeats with a stroller to see if I could handle the steepest marathon in Texas with a stroller. But yesterday, just yesterday, for the first time ever, I ran it side by side at Kiana's speed. She got to pick the speed and she got to pick the number of repeats (4). I did twice as many as her when she was done (8) while she sat and cheered me on. I reflected back on each of those and just couldn't think that all of this has helped my heart grow but we're only at two steps from the first Wilke repeat and didn't the Grinch's heart grow 3 sizes so looks like maybe I've still got room left to grow.

Still, when we got to the bottom of the hill after it was done she noticed a bunch of acorns on the ground and literally grabbed them by the dozen. I am a fan of both the discipline approach in running and materialism so I told her she could only take one home. Somewhere she's realized that life lets you bargain and I'm okay with her questioning authority (including mine) so she ended up with two and we were both smiling as she got them back as she entered in the car. 

So when tomorrow comes we'll be hanging out with my parents who just celebrated their 30th anniversary. We'll be hanging out with my grandparents who are over 60 years of being married. I'll have both of my brothers and my nephews and nieces and cousins and uncles. We'll have some tamales to unwrap and a few hugs to give. But in the middle of it all, I'll take a short short moment to hang up an ornament that someone who is a saint, someone who noticed Kiana's enchantment and turned a pine cone into an angel and it will represent what will be the best part of the best year of our life. That even among epic, awesome adventures we still notice that its the little things that make us see that life is good. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Enemy of Growth

JFK once said, "Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth." I am not much of a conformer. In fact for a guy who likes to plagiarize, I mean quote people, one of the most oft things I say, "The reasonable man conforms to the pattern of the world, the unreasonable man demands that the world conform to him; therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." But while that romanticizes non conformity, it takes a simple look at any days headlines to know that sometimes non conformists are the enemy, the danger. So conformity, like so many of life's beautiful things whether it's good or bad is not a black and white matter.

It's a gray zone which is also the case in the gray matter of my mind. The MRI results were relatively stable with the doctor going over all of the measurements as he always does. Showing that there was a slight growth in one section from 13.66 mm to 14.01 mm. My neuro oncologist said it wasn't enough to where he was worried about it and somewhere you understand and somewhere you go well why was it enough for you to mention it to me. We did some new memories tests and I told him about some of the ways I keep learning to cheat with iCloud, and iPhones and help from people where I hide it well. Some people spend their money and time doing makeup or hair to look better or hide aging or damage.  I spend it working on memory, spatial orientation, face recognition. We fight the damage of our mortality perhaps with as much conviction as another Leon sought the foundation of youth. 

We measured different things. My resting heart rate is still 42 so I've managed to continue to have the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, at least in my heart.   I also managed to 'not age' in one area. They weigh me at every appointment, something I rarely do despite a scale in my bathroom. The medical scale is a little more precise there I imagine but I weighed exactly the same I had six months ago which got my oncologist to joke that maybe the scale was broken. No in the end he did manage to congratulate me on not letting the 'weight creep' get to me. There may be creeps that get to me but that one I've avoided... so far. He asked about my running life which is perhaps how I've not gotten any fatter and I talked about how there were still some wins and some PR's but that it was getting harder. 

He's talked about how he now runs up to 10 miles with his kids in a stroller and the section he doesn't like in that loop is the section I didn't. I told him about Kiana's races and mine. It was an appointment that was awfully close to lunch and while there has never been an appointment where he seemed unconcerned, this was the most relaxed time and longest conversation we've ever had during a medical session. We talked about a couple of mutual friends and even about my dating life which is of course all sex, drugs and rock n roll. If you want more details about that, just ask him oh wait there's that doctor/patient confidentiality thing. 

But he told me about the details of research that keep emerging, the progress that we've made on both learning more about brain cancer and where it comes from and where it's going. It's funny I have a cancer that we knew very little about when it started for me, at least not in a way that was being shared with patients. It had no known dietary, lifestyle genetic or environmental components. We've figured out a genetic component but it's not a gene that is passed down just a genetic abnormality so it's not much progress. But it turns out that there are at least two very different variations of this tumor, one of which is more likely to not grow as long as the body and brain are getting enough varied stimulation. In my public speeches, in this blog, in that hope that floats in me, that thing with feathers, I've long said that perhaps, perhaps the reason this hasn't grown hasn't just been the running, the thing that everyone knows me for. It has been that I've kept running and running harder but also perhaps, if not more so, importantly I've added a new exercise approaches every year  cycling,  spartan, crossfit, swimming, trail running and basketball. I want there to be an enemy of growth in this area and I hope it's that I keep making the mind and muscles take on new challenges and the good brain cells are using up too much energy so that the tumor doesn't have any to grow. There's not enough left of my tumor cells to do proper tests on them but I'll keep conducting tests in the field since they can't be done in the lab. 

The end of year tumor check up, MRI whatever you want to call it is always the toughest. Perhaps it's because it's interrupting the holidays. Perhaps because it's so close to when it all started, November 5 of 2010 it brings back many bad associations (Put the emphasis on the beginning of that. There are ways where a bad ass is a good thing but this is not one of them and I prefer nice ass...ociations anyway). But it's not the only place where the patterns were tweaked and changed for the better. 6 years ago, this weekend would be the one where the ultimate community would throw a hat tournament to help with my medical bills. This year Huck Cancer was putting it on to benefit Livestrong. There was a friend who was there for me at Duke and another who had flown in for the tournament. They didn't know each other back then and now they're roommates. There was someone from San Francisco who helped put together the tournament and a friend who helped teach me about proper bicycle maintenance and basketball and now we were all part of the same tournament where each of us shared why living with cancer has to be fought with more than just medical approaches. The person who they started the tournament for in 2010 has since passed away from Brain Cancer. When it was my turn to speak, I mentioned the name of the organization, Huck Cancer and acknowledged that the emotions that from that reality rhyme with that. It is my sincere hope and belief that both tournaments 6 years ago and a few days ago were ones that in the end were both beneficial to individuals and the greater good. 

6 years ago the day after that tournament I ran a half marathon in my fastest time ever. They had randomly assigned me bib 911 and I joked that they saved me the hassle of putting the emergency number on the back. Now I was the president of the club that put on that race, assisting the director put it together. I'd gotten up at 6 back then to run. I'd spent most of the last few days organizing it and somehow I was just as happy at the finish line holding the tape cheering and watching as both the men's and women's course records went down in the same day. Both to me were signs of very good growth. 

None of it, NONE of it came alone. There were signs of measured grown in that I didn't shy away from being from people that I care about before the MRI, between the results or after it. I certainly am not perfect and am still pretty damaged in the area but I honestly believe this is the best by far I've ever handled the pre during after MRI period. Those PR's matter too. 

The night before the MRI I had a meeting about that half marathon and it took me a second to shake the rest before addressing all the crew that would put it together but ultimately I reminded them that the shirts mattered, the timing mats, the finish line, the food but it was because for a lot of people this would be their first half marathon, or their first medal or their toughest one. If nothing else for all of them it would be their latest one and each day, each race should be special. The details matter of course but it's because each detail makes the angles, the direction that whispers itself into a beautiful picture in just the right language. The race grew in both registrants, finishers and what we will get to contribute as a non profit. We had the crew to get that together. Or as our race director likes to say  teamwork makes the dream work. There have been some very good dreams coming to life these days.

I was not nor likely will ever be completely selfless. I snuck into the Brown Santa 5k which was the hilliest short race I've done all year. I did it last year and took 2nd. This year I snuck in and won it in a faster time. But we were there cleaning and tearing down after it all and I saw the small tweak we'd make in the shirt. It's called the Decker Challenge but we'd snuck in 'your limits' under it to tweak it to say 'challenge your limits.' The tumor did that in a few ways a few years ago. Me, my friends, my family, the people I love we've challenged it back and we are winning. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Not Yet

As I get ready for tomorrow's MRI, I can’t help but think about why I shutter when they come since I am not afraid of dying or the results being bad.  But on days like the one before, the one of and and when waiting for results, when I'm perfectly honest, I know I'd be relieved either way of the results and I really don't know which one of the two would be more relief. 

In simple frankness, I despise MRI's. It's what told me I had cancer. It's where they took me too when I woke up on with a seizure on the side of the road. It's something that I'm legally required to talk to Kiana's mother every time I have one because of the custody decree. It's the last thing they do before we messed with new drugs or surgeries. But it is not the machine itself. In fact I fall asleep in there often. It's just like when you make associations with like a song or smell that it doesn’t take you forward but takes you back and with MRI’s all past memories there are at best stable and some very bad, I can’t really think of or remember any good MRI's so it's a traumatic flashback. However, with a smell or a song it’s momentary but with that magnetic resonance imaging it lasts a lot longer than a moment since I usually have to wait between 1-3 days for results. I’ve had my radio station in my car playing holiday music and the line that stuck out from Mr. Grinch was one I could easily sing or say to that machine, given a choice between the two of you I’d take a seasick crocodile!

I’ve long said that I’ve never once prayed to beat cancer, just to handle whatever comes with it right. I told a friend I run with, a political professor whose invited me to speak to his students about running and he said that he wished I hadn’t told him that because now he felt guilty about praying for me. But then again, I’m not superstitious but I am a little bit stitutious so me, the kid born 8/8/80 tries to schedule results as often as I can to arrive on the 8th just daring to dream my number won't betray me. When I told my professor that little bit of superstition, something I don’t usually acknowledge, he responded to my silly number wishing with a little faith of his own and said “Screw what you say, I'm praying for you.” We were chatting and while I did not type LOL it was one of the rare times I actually laughed out loud to a computer. Even MRI’s are better with a little bit of irreverent reverence. 

I’ve kept some of the same things I do every time like running but I changed some things like actively spending time with some people who I’d usually avoid trying to keep running but stop running away. I did cheesy little things like this week is the most lumosity I’ve played in weeks if not months kind of like when you brush or floss your teeth extra when you’re going to see the dentist. If I work on the neuropsychological rehab there’s no way this tumor could have grown! I tried to find happy silly little moment’s like listening to Weird Al’s “Amish Paradise.” The things that people do to get me to stop singing sometimes…

Still, today reminds me why I’m exhausted with the health care system or with the disease or some days they are hard to distinguish. Last month I had to deal with two phone calls to approve this MRI, between the two of them almost an hour to get a procedure approved. This customer service was rep was very kind and polite and so was I though I might have been a little more firm… Afterwards, I went for a solid track workout. Then the next day I got a card that my insurance had been bought out or absorbed or what have you with a new insurance card that was effective December 1st but that nothing should change except that it wouldn’t be continuing after January 31st and I needed to reapply through the government health care website… Today I got a call from both the MRI place and my neuro oncologist office that now my MRI wasn’t approved and everything might have to be delayed… I was more firm just as polite and got transferred, without exception each person having no clue why they had gotten me and me restarting the process with the last person me literally calling my insurance company and my doctor’s office and trying to get them to talk to each other with me on the line. After over an hour, 6 calls with 5 different people, the appointment for tomorrow morning and Thursday still stood, was re-established.

It is moments like these, days like these why I understand why the Hulk goes away to not be angry, why he avoids it, why he avoids people in that state. But it is also during those moments that I understand why the clothes get ripped. It is those moments where I remember that I’m the kid who grew up in a rough neighborhood; who knows that while I’ve never started a fight but I’ve finished a few. 

There are people who want to be held when they are in that state of mind, who want to put their head on the table and breathe and calm down. I recognize it it to some level and don't speed up. This evening is the slowest I've driven in months getting passed in many places and realizing I'm going below the speed limit and trying to speed up to it. But I also tried dealing with the aggressive emotions in a productive way and went to the track for 3.5 miles of speed intervals, at first trying to dissipate the anger but eventually just channeling it through running, through pounding on the ground, through music and pounding in my ears. By just coincidence of the iPod shuffle, I warmed up with a song about Being Good, how the lion belongs in the cage. Skipped songs once the work outs started, dealing with the emotions of it, thought about stopping at 2.5 and then Eminem's Till I Collapse Came on:

Music is like magic, there's a certain feeling you get
When you real and you spit, and people are feeling your shit
This is your moment, and every single minute you spend
Tryna hold on to it because you may never get it again
So while you're in it, try to get as much shit as you can
And when your run is over, just admit when it's at its end

I pounded hard and it was the fastest pace I'd kept all night and I thought well maybe it's time to admit that my run is at it's end. But I had planned for one more 800 and if there's anything I do is keep my commitments so I went out and the song that came on was of all things the Lion King's "Just Can't Wait to Be King." The last race I won of the year was a 10k last month at a zoo and both then and now fate had been nice enough to intervene to play at the right time as volunteers at the last water stop were kind enough to cheer. Then it was when I made sure to not do hubris and keep running until the actual victory arrived:

Everywhere you look I'm
Standing in the spotlight!
Not yet!
Let every creature go for broke and sing
Let's hear it in the herd and on the wing
Today though it was simply that no matter how well that second to last repeat had gone I was not yet done with the work so this creature went for broke to sing and heard it on the herd and on the wing. Turns our a song about how it's not yet time got me going further than admitting that my run is at it's end. Some of the anger will be with that machine tomorrow, some of the frustration but so will some of the good songs and the hope that it wasn't the immature lion that wins the day. I hope the win comes from the voice that says the finale, the arrival is at least not yet. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Grown Up Child

Change is life's constant, they say. I've heard the more things change, the more they stay the same. Which one of those two is it exactly? I'm not really sure but this is the time of year that has become the unpredictably predictable one. 
I just finished all of my holiday cards. I've been doing this for a decade now, each holiday season I've had a kid cause she's cute ;). But the list has grown with very few drops since somehow life has been kind enough to let me keep most of my friends while getting new ones. Kiana does some of them, I do some of them. The postal service seems relevant for something besides bills. I'm cheesy enough to where as I sit there with stamps, I put them on and really hope that even though I don't see them regularly they are ones I share a little bit of forever with. Some of them become a little big embarrassing to me in realizing that I haven't put appropriate effort when I realize that the last time I talked to them was when I was getting their address. But with most, it is a moment to recognize and look back on their life and mine over the course of a year. 

For several years now, I've put a quote that I hope encapsulates the spirit of the year (though multiple people have pointed out I usually forget to put the actual year on there). And for the last 3 or 4 they've all been quotes from Doctor Who.The methodology is simple, I go through and grab pictures of significant things from the year, let Kiana whittle them down and then lay them out. 

The quote this year was "there is no point in being grown up if you can't be childish sometimes." Who that's referring to I honestly am not quite sure... because as I look back on this kid who is just 9 years old, I was still not sure which one of us is raising the other. Someone sent us our first two Christmas gifts for the years. I opened mine and started enjoying it day of. Kiana got hers and said well it's not Christmas yet so I'll just leave it under the tree till then. At that point,  it was fully confirmed which one of us was raising the other. That night we'd go to a social run that was post Thanksgiving and most of the options were pretty healthy, fruits, vegetables, nuts. Kiana got all that and I went for the chocolate covered almonds... Shortly after I wrapped the Christmas presents I'd already picked out for her and put them under the tree with full confidence she won't try to figure out what they are before officially opening time. And I thought I was made out of will power. 

But there was a pattern to the picture that I didn't realize till the whole card being printed out. While they kept highlighting our adventures, some established and stepped up (Spartan, speaking engagement, running races) and some new (her bicycle ride and her learning to play chess), they had one thing in common. Every single one of them was a local picture, at an Austin event. While we've had a chance to travel still and done races out of town again (including a Spartan and a 5k picture that were in the running to be chosen), somehow it was refreshing to realize that our favorites ones were right in our backyard. I often name my teams the scarecrows with the joke of 'if I only had a brain' but turns out maybe Dorothy was onto something that there's no place like home. It is the people you are open to share that with that mean more to me than just the big events. Perhaps it's why this year it's the most pictures there's ever been of me on my own holiday card, acknowledging that I was actually there sharing the events.

But it was also the fact that it's been a year where I've both loved and struggled with watching Kiana grow up. I've long said that my parenting philosophy was 'first you give them roots then you give them wings' but this was the year in which for the first time I didn't make Kiana a meal on the first day of school, she made it. It was one where ideas like me reading to her were so antiquated, where she was placing in the UIL chess competition, looking a few moves ahead. Those pictures of most of those events together were ones where I wondered whether I was trying to hold onto her childhood by enjoying rolling in the mud at Spartans or riding a bike with her just around the neighborhood with her. Yet those moments that to me harked back to childhood even if I hadn't experienced them were to her one more stepping towards growing up. It was riding next to her dad but trying to do it faster, getting to where she could do pull ups, taking him to a stalemate, reading books in 4th grade that he hadn't gotten to till late Jr. High, pointing out ingredients to purchase for her recipes that well he'd never cooked with, telling her about her school project while he pretended to check his email so that he could look up the words in the assignment so his smart phone didn't make him feel as dumb. Two childish grown up or was it two mature children racing, living, loving side by side was 2016. 

Some other things are almost identical to something that happened two years ago. Kiana and I did the Trail of Lights Fun Run. Two years ago ESPN was filming it and Kiana cried at the end because it hadn't been long enough (only run she's ever cried at the end of)... the concept that this was a fun run where 'I'll Walk, Yule Run' I hadn't communicated it well enough and she just wanted to get to the finish line. Two years later we started more like the back of the pack, jogging it out and stopping to take pictures with the lights, some without pictures just to point out the details and looking forward in the middle of the run to coming back to walking it and taking it in even more. Perhaps just if not more importantly, our approach of sharing it hadn't changed long after the cameras were gone. The hot chocolate at the end was still very good. 

When it was being filmed it was the day after an MRI. This time I have an MRI in about 48 hours. They were filming that then too along with the results. I was nervous then and now. With an anxious mind, I have made mistakes including then and other MRI's about relationships and just general approach to life. People sometimes advise me not to make them again but that's like saying just will power your way to a faster marathon. Being better prepared helps but to think anything in life is 100% certain by better preparation is a good way to trick yourself. Still, I am trying and hoping to show people I care and not make any drastic mistakes. This is one where the point is to be grown up not childish.

But the chess coach, as I do before each MRI, has made a list of what to do if things go awry and being a grown up requires me to see that things in my brain that are not good have grown. It doesn't help to do it when right now due to whatever, I have a letter that says I don't have insurance at the end of January and I need to go back to the market and apply. It does help actually that this weekend, I am helping put on the Decker Challenge, the half marathon that I did after getting out of the hospital, the one I have been a part of every year since I started running it, the one ESPN filmed me running the last time I did and that I have been behind the scenes. It was the one that gave me the randomly assigned 911 at my first half after finding out I had cancer and I joked 'I don't even have to put an emergency number on the back, you guys put it on the front.' No matter what the results are on Thursday I'll be out there at that event focused on a race that once upon a time helped me regain focus on that running was going to be my therapy. I hope me helping run the event now is the way it shows that the universe balances itself out in the end. 

But no matter how that MRI goes, and here's hoping it goes well, once that's done and the race is done, I'm going to end the weekend by being a little less than fully grown up and have some happy holidaze.