Where the Bananas Run: A 5k and a Banana Split!

 

Banana Runner

Today started off early and awesome and continued that way as I participated in the most fun race I think I’ve ever done. It was small, close, and a later start at 10 a.m. We ran through a local trail in a forest preserve, The Hammel Woods.

I woke up at 7:15 a.m. naturally and was immediately AWAKE. An hour before my alarm. I got right up and showered, then made myself an omelet with basil and mozz cheese. I had plenty of time to digest so I wasn’t too full– just energized. I relaxed then did my make-up and got ready. I pulled up just in time to start!! The event is The Banana Sprint 5k, hosted by DNA Athletics, a local running store.

Seeing all these people in their bright yellow banana costumes just made me so happy! I felt like the Bee Girl in “No Rain,” who finally finds her tribe– the Bee People in the field.  For $25 we got a bib and a decent full banana costume. Shirts were extra– I didn’t buy. Especially since everyone wore theirs differently. Some had pinned up the “tail” to free up their legs, since otherwise it dangled in front. A group of women were wearing yellow tutus around theirs, others were actually wearing a running belt around the middle! The kids had tiny banana outfits, too. A couple of families had kids on bikes or tricycles. Adorable.

Someone recognized me right away from a party I’d been to last summer, someone in a run club we both belong to. We took a selfie before the gun went off, making sure the top part of our costumes — the “banana hoodie”– was up around our faces and visible.

We started out running together but I ran out of steam and she went on, then I got my own pace going. I was slow as ever but probably happier than I’ve been in the majority of my races because it was just such a wonderful way to spend my Sunday morning. As long as races like this exist, the world isn’t so bad.

My costume was even funnier because I’m so short– 4’11”. Everyone’s fit differently according to their height. Mine went to my feet but somehow never tripped me.

It was cool this morning– 50’s– but in that full-body costume I was sweating! I took full advantage of the water stop. This race was well-organized and a beautiful path, a lot of it shaded by trees. It was an out and back course with a little side detour after the 2 mile mark. I started seeing people returning, and several had given up and taken off their costumes completely.

They may have been faster, but I’m proud I lasted the whole 3.1 miles IN full costume! Soon into the race, my cell beeped and it was an text from my bestie in Texas, alerting me that labor had begun for her second child. “Thundercats go,” she said, referencing the “Juno” quote that we both loved as a now shorthand for signaling labor. They chose to be surprised about the sex– I was so excited! She’s still working hard now, or at least I haven’t gotten an update saying she’s had the baby yet.

I texted her back some encouragement and love and let her know what I was doing– we had talked about the race before. She said if she were still living here she’d be meeting me at the finish line in a gorilla suit! ❤  I miss Leslie so much.

Today I realized something: I don’t honestly care about my pace much. Although racing and running CAN be social, for me it’s usually solitary. I didn’t have time to put on my Nike Run app, which sucks because I love seeing the maps after my runs and this would have been a good windy one. But in a way, it was liberating. I just let it go. Although I still plan to get more serious about a routine and of course, improving my pace and distance, I just enjoy it for its own sake. I LIKE being alone and enjoying the quiet, the heat, the breeze, the cold, whatever conditions are at that time. Early morning, afternoon, evening. Whatever.

I like seeing other runners and we pass each other. I loved knowing I gave them a laugh, seeing their dogs.

After, it was the best part: THE BANANA SPLIT BAR! That was really what sealed the deal on this race for me, when I saw it pop up on Facebook. Under a pavilion there were all the ingredients and more than I anticipated.  Three different types of ice cream; I chose vanilla-strawberry swirl and chocolate scoops. I chose caramel syrup, my first time. Caramel chips, nuts, m&m’s. Two maraschino cherries. No whip cream.

No guilt, just glee.

Banana Splits

 

I kept my costume on and have never enjoyed a banana split so much in my life. I think it was probably only my second. Or my first? It’s not something I usually order. I may have shared someone else’s once. I earned it today!

And the pictures I got were so much fun. The ones posted by the race organizer were so happy and bright– and I’m in one of them, at very start of the race. Beaming and waving.

Another benefit: I don’t need to buy a Halloween costume this year! I’ve had plenty of years with sexy costumes and money spent building detailed, creative costumes involving wigs, accessories and props. Not this year.

For $25 I’ve got what I need. I’m going to a Pirates and Ninjas Housewarming party in a few weeks. I’m going to be a banana. And if I’m feeling sassy, I’ll just put on some black leggings and my black lace-up boots and I’ll be the Sexiest Banana Ever. Halloween 2018!

 

 

The Demon Baby of Oak Street

“That’s a good one!”

As I pulled into a parking spot last night for work, the driver of the van parked next to me said this in reaction to my Halloween mask. The facility is on Oak Street.

Clearly, driving in it was the right decision. I had another encounter en route: a family in the lane next to me noticed my latex “Happy Baby” mask and couldn’t stop laughing.

Quietly,  I was rejoicing. It was working already!

I went in and found my co-workers and together we walked to our assigned spot in the woods. Everyone had masks, except for a few people.

This is actually my first year wearing a mask– I’ve never gotten the appeal. I thought they were a waste of money or just plain lazy.

A co-worker, Cindy, and I work together in the office up front. We work in a day treatment facility for adults with disabilities. I wasn’t excited this year about dressing up but on Thursday we met up at a Halloween store on our lunch break to find something together. I had to make a stop first so only arrived with enough time to buy the mask and aprons she’d picked out for us. But I quickly realized the mask fit too close for me to wear glasses.

So Thursday night I went back and exchanged it for this large latex baby head.

I had a blast with my co-workers, marveling at their costumes! All so creative.

My mask took my costume to the next level. NOW I get the appeal!

But the best moment of the night– the big pay-off!– happened at the end.

On my way out I saw some clients inside– put on my mask, and popped in to say hello.

They outright screamed– with laughter.

“What are you anyway, a demon baby?”

Officially, I was a Portillo’s drive-thru worker. (Our theme was fast food characters/staff) A friend of mine who worked there leant me her neon orange knit hat with the logo on it.

A few times I thought I’d lost it in the forest, but it was quickly recovered.

Every year I dress up I have to laugh at the vastly different interpretations. This wins!

Demon baby. Sure, we’ll go with that.

“Amuck, amuck, amuck”– in a Pumpkin Patch! My (Early) 36th Birthday Party

I decided to celebrate my birthday about three weeks early this year– since all the fun Halloween/fall stuff is closed by November. I chose a family-friendly, sober activity where we could all just be kids again and run “amuck, amuck, amuck!”

Bengston’s Pumpkin Patch in Homer Glen.

I can’t remember the last time I felt so special. I’m beyond blessed! It was an eve of hilarity, surprises, generosity, memories, and non-stop laughter. It was exactly what I needed.  It was a great mix of old and new friends! I hadn’t seen most of them in quite awhile but we all came together as if no time had elapsed.

In attendance were my dear friends Melissa and her husband Bill; Kaela, Justin and his son, Kai; Leta; Tammie; Ian and Mallory (siblings) and her boyfriend, Camron; Heather and her man, Phillip, and Dawn. I love them all and am so happy they made the effort to come celebrate with me, even though it rained earlier! In your 30’s it’s easy to feel disconnected from people you’ve known for years– everyone is so busy with jobs, families, obligations.

But I was happy to learn tonight that the ties with these people run deep. I see them always being in my life. They indulged me in my favorite love language: pictures. They posed for pictures with me that were classic and adorable, they took pictures of me just being myself and enjoying the day, they took tons of unflattering but hilarious selfies!

My birthday is actually four days prior to Election Day, which is depressing. So I told myself I deserved something extra-special to compensate. Who hasn’t been stressed with all these horrible news stories about our candidates?

My friends were the perfect anti-dote. We took so many silly pictures that I’ll have to finish uploading them tomorrow! Work in the morning. 🙂 It was a small group, which was perfect. Everyone got along great and I got to spend time individually with them all– something I’ve learned from past birthdays is hard to do at a big party.

I’m glad I didn’t go in with a plan. I just had people text me when they arrived and we found each other and decided what to do. And we did everything fun! The Fun Slide (twice!) — I finished first both times! The petting zoo, a hayride, the haunted barn, and mostly just hanging out, catching up, and taking myriad fun pictures because I’m an obsessive picture-taker! Luckily, they were all good sports and everyone jived well together, too.

I had a Toasty Cheese sammich, an apple cider donut, and apple cider ice cream with a flabbergasting hyper-color orange spoon that turned purple where you ate!

Somehow it was 75 degrees but I luckily had found the perfect ensemble yesterday, including a big loose sweater that matched my very ’90s black floral dress, which I wore with black tights and brown leather lace-up boots I’ve had for eons! I felt stylish and beautiful in it.

Tammie, Dawn and I closed out the park together, including a manic spinning session on the Honey Pot ride (like the Teacups at Disney!)– which Dawn commandeered. Tammie was in the Teapot behind us and went “Live” on Facebook to record it– which I’ve always wanted to do but never thought anything I was doing was cool enough. Haha ! I got my chance. She had us spinning so crazy all I could do was hang on, cackle with abandon, and do my best not to hurl. (I didn’t!)

Party on, Wayne.

Then the three of us gals walked to our cars together and I separated from them to find mine. However, we were all in a muddy field. It was dark. I couldn’t see the path. I went down a hill and then tried to turn right and power up a hill to get out and realized I was spinning in the mud. I tried second gear. Nothing.

Luckily, both Tammie and Dawn were still there– I texted them about my problem and within minutes, they both came to find me. Tammie got out and suggested I put in in the “L” gear and drive slow– Dawn gave me a push from behind with her SUV and told me via phone to get on the grass, out of the mud. It worked!

For a few minutes before, I almost panicked. There were no parking lot attendants. I was in the back of the field, alone, in the dark, past 8 pm. at least 30 miles from home on a Sunday.

But God heard me. And with a little help from my girlfriends, I was back on the road going home within a few minutes.

Today is one of those days I’m loving being single. I love that I can spend five full hours at a pumpkin patch with my friends having adventures among the ordinary, and that they will not leave me when I truly need help. I’m more than okay– I’m loved and cherished.

I already know that 36 is going to be my best year yet! But I’ll also cherish my last few weeks as a 35-year-old, indulging in as much Halloween fun as possible! The actual weekend of my birthday I will be traveling to see family.

And now, it’s time for a hot bath and a good sleep! Goodnight, my pretties.

 

Race to Ravenswood: Crypt 5K 2016

Last night I ran a 5K through Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago! But I had an entire adventure before crossing the start line. To me that was better than any haunted house– a truly authentic Halloween experience.

Traffic for the Cubs game and Chicago Marathon was horrendous– I arrived in my designed SpotHero parking garage with only 15 minutes to start time. There were no cabs.

And so I took off running! I had 1.6 miles to traverse, relying on Google Maps’ walking. My route was not unfamiliar– I had driven that way myriad times over the years visiting friends in Evanston. From N. Sheridan to Bryn Mawr to N. Ridge to W. Hollywood and on… finally to Rosehill Dr. and N Ravenswood Ave.

I’ve been alone in Chicago plenty. But on foot at night I’ve never usually walked more than a few blocks, from my parking spot to whoever I was visiting or wherever I was going.

And here I was, running alone in the dark through it! I alternated walking.

I felt no fear. There was something wonderful about hoofing it alone on the way– a warm-up. AND I saved money. Plus, Edgewater is one of the safer areas of the city.

I had asked several people to do the race with me, and about five were interested– but all ended up backing out. I am so glad I didn’t allow that to stop my own plans.

On the way I used the bathroom at a gas station, and walked too far and had to turn around a couple times. I was about 22 minutes late starting– my first time ever being late for a race.

It took me about 40 minutes to arrive, and when I saw that start banner I was excited! The crowd had dispersed and no one was cheering. But I was proud of myself.  But I got myself psyched up, yelling as I continued on and soon was entering the graveyard! There were purple and green flashing lights, smoke. Quite the spooky atmosphere.

Many were in costumes but I kept it simple, sporting a normal race outfit with the event t-shirt and a thermal underneath.

Most were just walking along, so it was easy to pass people. I had brought a small flashlight for safety– the path was easy to follow. Little orange electric candles on both sides of the path did the job, plus orange traffic cones with arrow signs taped on. Certain enormous tombstones and memorials were lit up.

I stopped to admire a few of the graves. I asked a pair of female friends to take a picture of me by one of them.

But mostly I just ran! I didn’t feel jealous of the couples or families or people with friends.

It was awesome doing this solo. It was peaceful and breathtaking. I was safe and happy.

I have never felt like such a bad ass! Running a 5K alone in a Chicago graveyard at night! I think it was my first-ever race totally alone, where I wasn’t meeting up with someone after, at least.

And my time was great! I shaved off about four minutes of my usual per-mile pace.

Crossing the finish line, I was ready to head home. There was a post-race party at a bar closeby, but a friend of mine in Plainfield was celebrating his birthday. My phone was at less than half battery capacity, and I wasn’t up for another trek back to my parking garage. So I asked a woman about the closest intersection to find a cab, and followed her advice. A cabbie in the drive-thru for White Castle waved at me.

Pretty hilarious! He pulled up a few minutes later and I gave him my parking garage address. He was friendly, making conversation. He asked how often I come to Chicago and I found myself answering that these days it’s mostly for races, which is true!

He couldn’t believe I hadn’t found anyone to race with, saying “You’re a charming lady.”

Well! Thanks. 🙂 He was impressed I had walked there, as well. “It’s a long walk,” he said.

After my car was brought around, I tipped the valet and drove to the party! Not bad at all.

Minimalism: The New Goal

I’ve been raised in a family of keepers.

The typical reaction to getting rid of something is, “Wait a minute! Don’t you need that?”

Or, “Let’s give this to Amee! Then she won’t have to buy it.”

They’re givers. They mean well.

But at some point, you gotta just decline.

Nothing crazy. We throw away garbage, we clean. We don’t collect animals.

But we do keep paper! And pictures. And furniture.

And for me, being a writer, I have A LOT of paper.

I felt that everything I’ve ever written was something precious. I WROTE IT, it’s gold! This will be worth money! For awhile, I thought I wanted to publish this some day.

But I realize, I don’t. I wrote it for ME. It helped me express what I felt at that time. But that’s not the person I am today. I have no need to make those feelings public or share them now– they’re not true anymore. I’ve grown beyond them. Ripping up the majority of those poems is cathartic. It’s also hilarious to read my angsty love poems from seventh grade, about boys I would never kiss. I was so shy, I could barely flirt! It’s served a purpose, keeping it. It reminded me who I was growing up. It provided some laughs. It impressed me, with my own grip on language at such a young age.

But if I keep it, I’ve got to manage it and store it. And I’m ready to let it go and move forward.

It takes up a lot of space! And I’m only 33.

In a week, I’ll be 34. And I find myself envious of friends with apartments that have barely any stuff.

Zero clutter!

“But it’s just a ROOM!” my Dad will say.

Exactly. A beautiful room with lots of space.

And I want to move. That’s another goal for this year.

And it can be fun, if I try. If I put on some music or TV and just sit down and ruthlessly make decisions.

I don’t want to bring all this with me. I want to have less to pack. I’m making a point to go through all those boxes I just shoved things into each time I moved, and forgot about. I’ve gotten through the majority. It takes a lot of emotional energy to sit with those items and make decisions. But I’m doing it!

To those of you who are gifted with organization, how do you make decisions about photo albums, family pictures, and old correspondence? Letters, cards?

I can either organize, display, or pitch them.

Already, my closet is gloriously vacant. I would say I’ve donated or given to other friends about 80 percent of the clothes I used to own. I had kept things dating back to high school! Old slutty Halloween costumes from my Twenties. Everyone had them! I don’t need that kind of attention anymore. Now I feel sexier wearing something with class, that covers me up. Things that don’t fit me anymore. Old bridesmaid dresses. My Prom dresses. They were the trendy Jessica McClintock corset types from 1998 and 1999 with the big tulle skirts that looked like a pumpkin if you squatted down in them. I kept them thinking, “Maybe I’ll make a pillow out of the skirt!” But I’m not gonna.

And taking them to a thrift store was so liberating. Someone else will enjoy my dresses and costumes. They will have a new life, in someone else’s closet. Maybe even for Halloween. I donated a gypsy dress I wore many times for Halloween. I certainly got my money’s worth! I donated a couple of toy swords I had. I always went all out for Halloween and bought props and accessories.

This Halloween, I just want to be myself! No costume, no make-up, no wigs.

I don’t want to try on a new identity. I like my own!

The First Halloween I Didn’t Dress Up

Halloween used to be my favorite holiday– and mostly, that’s still true.

I’ve been obsessed with the color orange since high school, at least. That’ll never change. I dig horror, and all the spooky propaganda that goes along with Halloween. Corn mazes, haunted houses, jack o’ lanterns– all of it.

But I used to get really into costumes myself– and this is the first year I’m just apathetic about it. I could have gone to a costume party last night. I was on my way, actually. For the first time in my life, I didn’t even try to put together a costume. No shopping, no thought. I just looked in my closet and put on something I thought would be comfortable. The invitation said it would be outside, and that we should dress warm.

I have some pink overalls– they’re actually snow pants. I’m talking cotton candy pink. I put those on, over an obnoxiously neon orange running pullover, with some bright gloves. Plus, a lumberjack type snow hat– the kind with the ear flaps. I figured I’d be warm and bright and I’d just let people make up their own ideas for my costume.

But I drove around for awhile and couldn’t find it, despite calling for help with directions. It was dark, I was tired after work, and I was just feeling like having a quiet night at home. So I texted my friend and apologized, but she was cool with it. She’s a bit of an introvert too, so she understood.

I rented “The Lost Boys,” and relaxed at home in my pajamas instead.

I just wanted to be myself. I used to be so festive– so happy about putting on costumes, for any excuse. I still enjoy it sometimes– but it’s just not a thing for me anymore most of the the time. I’ve gotten rid of most of my old costumes, and a lot of my older clothes.

I could still dress up, I’m sure there will be other opportunities to go out. But I’m tired of strangers hitting on me at the bars, and I have no desire to put on anything remotely sexy as a costume. I have no desire to go shopping or assemble anything. I actually am supposed to dress up for a work meeting– but it’ll be very simple.

I’m all about simplifying these days.

Moreover, I just like myself the way I am.

And that’s something I’m proud of.

Sister’s light brought me back to my faith: Common Sense column #12

This is my most personal column yet.

I wrote it in tribute to my aunt, a nun who helped to build my faith. I believe it she who guided me to the opportunity, and praying to her gave me the strength to apply for the job at all.  And as the Year of Faith begins in my church, I declared mine via my column.

Here ya go!