Bedtime dreams

I remember the night I told Travis to reserve the days surrounding April 20, 2015 just in case I qualified for the Boston Marathon. It happened months and months ago -- well over a year. I had yet to sign up for Grandma's Marathon, the race that would eventually solidify my date with Boston

But there we were, lying in his tiny bed, discussing future things. We'd only recently reconciled after a short, but highly inadvisable, split, and my insides felt fuzzy just dreaming of future things, nonetheless my dream of running the Boston Marathon with Travis along for the journey. 

At the time, it felt as hypothetical as it was. It was still 2013, after all. The plan was a maybe. A hopefully. But it felt good. 

Every so often he'd ask for a reminder of the date of the race, just in case. I'd smile thinking about it. April 20, 2015. So far away.

Now here we are, one day shy of leaving for that once-hypothetical trip to Boston. On Monday, April 20, 2015, I will run the Boston Marathon with Travis along for the journey. 

It's our first vacation together; his first flight (except for that time we jumped out of the airplane, also highly inadvisable). While booking our flights, I selflessly gave him the window seat on all four flights.

Just kidding, it was totally selfish of me. I just want to watch him experience the sky.

Mostly, I can't wait to watch him experience everything. All the things that are amazing to me, I get to share with him this weekend. This dream trip for this dream race in my very element. 

Last night we laid in (our much, much larger) bed, talking excitedly about our adventure and commiserating over how much we'd miss our cat while we're gone. Tonight we'll pack up our suitcases, and I'll sleep like an excitable toddler the night before Christmas, which is to say I probably won't sleep at all. 

I guess I'm just so thankful for this life right now.

From the moment I finished the Madison Marathon in the fall of 2013, lighting a fire inside that wouldn't burn out until I got to the Boston Marathon starting line, to the moment we set aside the dates for our hypothetical Boston vacation, to the moment I checked us into our flights this afternoon.

Everything is awesome, The LEGO Movie was right. 

Mostly, I'm so happy my lovable, Chicken-doting partner-in-life-things gets to share it all with me.

Travis, my parents, and my sister will all await me at the finish line, which is basically equivalent to leaping off a cloud into a pile of glitter and puffy hearts after running 26.2 miles. Those are the four best people in the whole wide world waiting for me. 

I finally feel ready. My legs are back and feeling strong. Where three weeks once felt too soon, five days now seems too far away. It's here. Only now, I don't want it to be over. I have looked forward to this very day for actually ever. 

When the post-race blues hit after Grandma's Marathon, I told myself, "there's still Boston." When the glow of the Fall 50 wore off in October, I told myself, "there's still Boston." 

But what happens after Boston?

I AM NOT PREPARED. 

So for now I'll soak up the excitement and daydream about Boylston Street and the hundreds of dollars I'm going to spend at the race expo. And the new friends I'm going to hug the shit out of when I find them. And jumping on the hotel bed. And laughing and running and, let's be real, crying my face off when it's over -- with joy. 

I'm going to run my hardest on Monday, and whatever comes of that will come. Maybe it'll be my best. Maybe it won't. But what it will be is my very big dream come true, and I get to share it with the people I love most. 

Except Chicken. Goddammit, I'm going to miss Chicken.

Want to follow along on race day? Text 15415 to 234567 for text alerts of my progress.

Today and every day: #BostonStrong

Is my feminism showing?

By definition I am a feminist.

Of course, the word “feminism” is usually clouded by unsavory attitudes. People throw out feminist as an insult.

Advocating for women’s rights is a problem, you see. As we’ve learned here in the blessed country of America, advocating for the equal rights for any minority population is a problem. God bless our country. Home of the free.

I digress.

With that said, I’m not overly vocal on the subject. I mean, sure, I don’t want politicians in my vagina, nor do I think my vagina should prohibit me from earning more than my male counterparts, but I tend to keep my feminist outcries secured pretty tightly. I’m not easily offended by every “injustice” against womanhood.

Case in point: I've lost no sleep over the horrors of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and its gross depiction of domestic abuse and the degradation of womankind. You know what I did lose sleep over? The fact that someone is a millionaire for writing shitty novels.

However, a recent Twitter exchange erupted within me a feminist fire I didn't know I had. A simple, well-meaning tweet, of all things.

As I readied myself one evening for a run on the treadmill on a day I felt particularly sluggish and bloated, I took to Twitter to drown my sorrows. As I do.

The tweet was met with nods of understanding from girlfriends and the occasional “favorite” from other Twitter users. I am not alone in this struggle, I learned, as I climbed aboard the treadmill.

Then I received a reply from a person I’ve never heard of in my life. A man. One I don’t follow on Twitter, and who doesn’t follow me. Innocently enough, and with good intentions, I’m sure, he tweeted:

“FYI: we don’t notice.”

The “we” he undoubtedly referred to is men. Men don’t notice the unsightly bloat I feel as I’m squirming uncomfortably in my running shorts.

Initially, I had the instinct to smile.

How nice, I thought. How chivalrous of a man to not notice our fat days or our bad hair days or the days we feel ugly. I’M BEAUTIFUL TO MEN, NO MATTER WHAT.

But after a few seconds, I felt an uncomfortable tingle under my skin. Unfamiliar at first, but I soon recognized the sensation.

Feminism.

What does he mean, “we don’t notice”? As if I adorned the running shorts and tank top specifically to appease men. As if the worst part about feeling bloated and unsightly was that men would be appalled. As if everything that we do is to impress them. As if I need a man’s reassurance that feeling bloated is okay.

I couldn't get the tweet or its insinuation out of my mind for the entirety of my slog on the treadmill. This idea that women are inclined to feel unattractive in their gym clothes and it’s ingrained in a man’s mind to make her feel better, as if her sole purpose was to appeal to him, the wee stranger from the internet.

What if I what I worried about was how I felt about myself? What if I wanted to impress my own worst critic? What if when I leave the house, I’m not worried about what men think of me, but about how I feel? What if I don’t need a stranger on the internet to validate my worth?

OK, who am I kidding? I love to feel flattered. But come on.

We don’t notice.”

How presumptuous.  

Maybe I was trying to impress a woman, for all he knows. Or a cat. YOU DON’T KNOW ME.

Know what a better response would have been?

“Quit your bitching and start running.”

Because that's what I did.

All that glitters is cold

Oh hey, what up, internet? I turned 33 since we last spoke. I'm that much older and wiser. Everything is different.

Just kidding, nothing is different. Except I'm older and richer and happier, so that's new. I am actually all of those things, what with a birthday and a new job and the fact that we've made it over the Year-End Dark and Cold Slump of Doom.

That struggle was real, you guys. And now that it's over we've been thrown head first into Sub-Zero Temperature February.

It's amazing.

I hope it lasts forever, and that I never get to enjoy the sensation of warm, fresh air filling my lungs while I run in shorts at sunrise to the tune of morning birds and crickets. 

[SOB]

Seriously, what if it's never warm outside again? I'm halfway through my training cycle for the Boston Marathon, which is now a too-soon two months and two days away, and the majority of the running has been done on the treadmill.

Everything feels different this time around. The workouts feels tougher. I feel slower.  

I'm sort of unfairly expecting this experience to be identical, if not better, than the training that led me to Grandma's Marathon and its subsequent Boston qualifying finish. I assumed the speed would come back, lickety-split. I assumed I'd be stronger. Ready. Faster. 

Turns out none of those things are happening, and I'm finding myself disappointed. But I only realized this morning, during a particularly painful slog on the treadmill at 5 a.m., that I'm being cruel to myself. 

How shocking.

No race will ever compare to my experience last summer at Grandma's Marathon. I had a fire under my ass. I had a goal. All I wanted in the world on that weekend was a qualifying time, and when the race went off without a hitch, and the weekend wrapped itself up in a perfect, love-filled bow, that was the ultimate.

I qualified for the Boston Marathon, and it's all I ever, ever, ever wanted as a runner. 

OK, so now I'm going, it's the dead of winter, I don't necessarily need to qualify again, the air outside hurts my face, I'm not feeling fast, and I haven't run outside in nine days. The glory and glitter and hope of making it to Boston has fizzled into, "OK, but can they move the race to October so I can train in appropriate weather?"

Don't get me wrong, I am CAPITAL LETTERS, OUT OF MY MIND EXCITED to run that race. It's going to be amazing. Crossing the finish line will be the single coolest moment in all of my running to date.

I am lucky I got there. Our flights are booked, our lodging is set, my official Boston Marathon jacket is (still wrapped up in its packaging because SUPERSTITION) in my closet -- it's happening. And that's rad. 

I love you, Boston Marathon jacket.

I love you, Boston Marathon jacket.

I need that to be my motivation. The excitement and luck and celebration.

To be clear, I also need the snow to melt and the temperature to increase by about 45 degrees because what the actual hell?

I've got shit to do on those roads.

A year of things big and small

One sunny afternoon, on a particularly fantastic run, I began reflecting on everything that changed in 2014; of all the things that amazed me this year. 

Running goals I didn't even know I had were smashed. I surprised myself with a half marathon finish I never expected, I qualified for Boston with a finish time I didn't know I was capable of. Just two months ago I ran 50 miles with a smile on my face and a stronger finish than other races I've run that were a fraction of the distance. 

I'm almost hesitant to say goodbye to this running year, even with the Boston Marathon looming in the near future. Because what happens after that? Everything I ever dreamed I'd do happened in 2014. The next year is an unknown. That leaves me feeling both excited and underwhelmed, in an odd way. I chased a big dream for a long time, so what do I chase now? 

To be determined, I guess. 

Over the summer I said goodbye to a long, long time of living alone, and took a giant leap with Travis. Now we share a home, and it's a great home. Are there times I miss the absolute solitude of living alone, all my things in their places, every mess my own? Absolutely. But, as I told him recently, I can hardly imagine what our relationship was like before we shared a home. Now we also share a lawnmower and a snowblower and groceries and a cat. Shit got real, and I'm proud of us. 

To be clear, Chicken is forever and ever and ever and ever and ever mine. But we all live under the same roof, and he loves her pretty hard, so it's OK for him to stake a claim.

That day, while running, as I thought of all the awesome that rained down this year, I practically cried right there in the middle of my run because that's what I do with all these emotions of mine. They just happen. 

But then I thought of the one scar that completely maimed an otherwise perfect year -- losing my kitty. 

I swear to god, I have not recovered. And, I suppose it's not shocking, but I didn't know I could feel so absolutely deeply for so long. I feel haunted, regularly, by those last few moments in that goddamn little room at the vet clinic.

She bit me, you know. She bit me in a panic just before it all happened. I had to go straight from the vet, still grieving, to urgent care at 8 o'clock on a Monday night, and spend the next seven days on antibiotics to fight off any infection that might take hold in my pinkie, which swelled up like a bitch.

That's what I have to remember about that day.

It all coincided with the move, of course. I went from living alone with my two cats, to a new home, a new life, and one less cat. Ten years of normal wiped away for a new normal. An exciting, but a the same time incredibly tragic, new normal. It was more change than I anticipated, and man, that's been a struggle. 

Add in a dash of winter, a sprinkle of 4 p.m. darkness, a cup of professional unfulfillment, a taste of lost running motivation, and here we are. 

Needless to say, the last couple months have felt like an enormous pile of No Thank You. This isn't new for me. Every year as November hits, I fall into a slump, just with less of the cat factor. This year's been different, though, because I've had to expose it to someone else -- a live-in boyfriend. 

For the majority of my adult life, whenever the winter slump hits, I can hide. Oh, can I hide. On the couch, with my blankets, with my cats, with my solitude, and just ride it out in my own way. No one to answer to, no one to explain to, no one to wonder why I don't want to leave my sweatpants. Ever. Not even a little. Nope, I'm good here, hiding out alone with my television series marathons, thanks. 

So this is new. And it's opened my eyes a little bit. I haven't necessarily liked having to open my eyes, but that's how we grow, right?

I don't even know where I'm going with this other than to hope someone can relate, and together we can feel okay knowing we all feel a little inexplicably miserable sometimes. But that it gets better, and it's okay to lay on the couch and watch six episodes of Sons of Anarchy in a row on a Saturday afternoon.

Wait. That's okay, right?

For me, fortunately, things are beginning to feel brighter. My running mojo is slowly creeping back, for one. It must have been hiding wherever the sun's been hiding for the last six weeks. 

I also had a great job opportunity sneak its way into my attention span (probably between episodes of Sons of Anarchy), and before I knew it, I was offered the job. I stepped way the hell outside of my comfort zone even pursuing the opportunity, and that, alone, did wonders for my outlook. 

So it looks like my year of change will end with one more big one -- the end of my current job, which came to me when I needed it most, and has been my constant for three years. 

But I'm excited that 2015 will start with a new opportunity and a new challenge. I took a chance on myself, and then, hey, look at that. It paid off. It's not often I like to willingly crawl outside of my safe space. In fact, never do I like to do that, let's be real.

So chin up, self. It's a big, bad (and cold and dark) world, and you've just gotta live in it and make it happen. 

Other things of note:

  • I spent the last month 100 percent addicted to the "Serial" podcast, and if anyone wants to road trip to Maryland to visit Adnan in prison and solve a crime, let's go. 
  • Sarah Koenig's voice narrates my inner monologue now, thanks to that addiction.
  • Sons of Anarchy, you guys. Seriously. SERIOUSLY.
  • I've read some great and not-so-great books in the last few weeks, including, but not limited to: Dark Places, Sharp Objects, Looking for Alaska, This is Where I Leave You. 
  • Currently reading: Wild
  • In August I started the 100 Happy Days challenge of taking a photo a day of a happy moment. I loved it so much, I kept it up. Today is day 136.
  • Gave National Novel Writing Month a shot again in November. Made it to about 20,000 words, which is the furthest I've ever gotten. I smell success by about the year 2024.

I'm officially out of bullet points. Cheers to a hell of a year, and even more to a bigger one to come. 

My kitty, my Harley.

As I type this, it's been two months and three days without my kitty. That's compared to the nine years, 11 months and 28 days I had with her. 

"We've got three kittens, you have to take one."

That's phone call I got from my mom on a summer day in 2004 after my parents, somewhat by accident, brought home three kittens from a shelter. As I'm not one to turn down a free kitten, ever in the history of the universe, I brought Harley home to my upper flat in Waukesha on August 1, 2004. 

Boy, was Chicken pissed. So pissed. She'd been my lonely-only kitty for two-and-a-half years by that point, and man, that was okay with her. I kept the new kitten in the bathroom while I was away at work so both cats could safely adjust to the new life, and I'd cry often when I'd realize I upset the balance of the feline universe. 

"I'm sorry, Chicken," I'd say, stroking her soft kitty forehead, while she cowered and growled in my bedroom, aghast at the tiniest, fluffy creature who'd invaded and personally offended her world. "Please love the kitten. It'll be okay."

The aggression and despair lasted about two weeks, until the day Chicken cautiously approached Harley on my bed, sure to eat her. I watched nervously, prepared to intervene when Chicken decided Harley was lunch, not a playmate.

Instead, Chicken gently licked Harley's soft kitty forehead, as if to say, "It's okay, kitten. This can be your safe place, too."

And for nearly ten years, that's what we were -- each other's safe place. My cats became my world. My only constant. Jobs went, apartments went, boyfriends went, friends went. Cats did not go. Harley and Chicken, together, were never best friends, but Harley and Chicken were my best friends. My family. Where there was Krista, there were Krista's cats. They were always there, always mine.

I haven't been dubbed a cat lady for no reason.

Harley was like an additional appendage. I'd say, often, that if she could crawl actually inside my skin, she'd have done it. She wanted my attention at all times, regardless of any other thing happening around us. In my lap, in my face, tucked into my arm, under the blanket, nuzzled into my neck, under my shirt, wherever she could crawl into.

Her personality was so goddamn big. There was so much personality in that one cat who was so small. The mischief in those giant green eyes never wavered. She wanted in your glass of milk, in your bowl of soup, on your laptop, in your purse, on the kitchen table, and back into my lap. Always in my lap.  

I miss that fucking cat in my lap. And in my face. And on my table. And in my glass of milk. And on my laptop. Everywhere. She was everywhere and now she's nowhere and that void is gigantic.

The void is in my home, in my heart, in my clothes, where I'll occasionally find one of her ever-fading hairs. The void is in the stupid water fountain I purchased just for her that still sits, running, in the room where she was, even though Chicken won't touch it with a 10-foot pole. The void is in the crook of my arm when I sleep and in my lap while I eat and in the cat toys that Chicken won't touch, but Harley loved. 

Harley's favorite fuzzy glitter ball now sits next to her picture on a shelf, which is next to the clay impression of her paw print, which is the only physical evidence I have left of her, other than those ever-fading cat hairs on my clothes.

A fuzzy glitter ball, a photo, a paw print, and the most broken of hearts that has a cat-sized hole in the middle of it.

I have a distinct memory from all those years ago, when Chicken was still a clumsy, sassy kitten, of realizing, "Wow, cats live so long! I'm going to have this cat until well into my thirties. THIRTIES! This is going to be the greatest, longest adventure."

Yet here I sit, at 32, understanding that already one of those great, long adventures has come to a close. Ten years wasn't long enough. The very first pets you have on your own, your very own, are everything. You love them, you spoil them, you feed them, you care for them, you let them melt into your heart. But what I didn't prepare for was the moment you realize you loved, spoiled, fed, cared, melted as much as you could, and now you have to say goodbye. 

I didn't talk about Harley's messy health here because I didn't like to accept Harley's messy health. Not my baby kitty, no way. In the end, it was cancer. It was kidneys. It was everything. It was the look in her big green eyes that was no longer mischief. 

In her last months, I was it for her. She got along with no one, nothing. Not Chicken. Not Travis. Not anyone. Just me. She loved me and she trusted me. When she wasn't curled into the closest possible space between us, her fire had gone out just a little. She'd cower. She'd give me the signs that there was hurt inside her. I'd ignore them, of course, because no fucking way. Not Harley. I was all she had, and she was mine, and if all I could give her was my love and my lap, then that's what I'd give her because I loved that cat as if she were a piece of me. 

The moment I realized my love and my lap were no longer the safe place for her was quick. It had to be. I couldn't think about it, I couldn't talk about it. I scooped her up in her favorite snowman blanket and left home for the veterinary clinic. But not before leaning her down close to Chicken's face so my companions could have, at the very least, that moment.

Neither understood, of course. 

"Mom, get that cat out of my face," was the general consensus of Chicken.

But felt the weight of the moment, and I still feel the weight of the moment. I feel the weight of those next few hours, still, so heavily in my chest. I held her, I snuggled her, I cried tears on her soft kitty forehead, I laughed, somehow, with my sister, who was with me every moment of my goodbye, thank whatever god exists. 

The thing about deciding the fate of a pet you've loved for a third of your life and who depends solely on you is that it's impossible. The thing about being in the room when the life leaves their sweet body is that it's impossible. The thing about leaning down, tears all over your face, to kiss that sweet kitty forehead one last time, and to tell her that you're so, so sorry, and that grandma will take such good care of her, is that IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. 

The thing about deciding that fate is that it never leaves you. At least, it hasn't left me yet. Not in two months and three days. I feel guilty. I feel like I let her down. I feel so many things. But mostly I feel like there is a giant hole in the space she used to be.

I should see it as a small blessing that to date, losing my cat is the hardest thing I've had to endure. A cat! God, life's about to get so much harder, I'm sure. But the pain is so palpable. 

When I returned home that night and crumpled to the floor, which is exactly how I notified Travis of the day's proceedings -- with that crumpling, I was sure I'd never recover. That was it. I'd be crumpled on that ugly brown carpeting until the end of time.

Turns out that wasn't true. I cried every single day for a solid two weeks. Every single day. Those tears tapered. I still cry. Now, for example. But less often. When it hits, it hits. It took me two months and three days to have the nerves to write this blog post because I knew I'd cry again, and I'd have feelings, and I'd miss that smooshy, little, green-eyed baby. 

Chicken, well, she doesn't miss her. In fact, Chicken's become a new cat in the last two months and three days. The little asshole (who I love so very dearly). Travis, who's allergic to cats and who never fell under Harley's love spell, well, he's quite okay in a one-cat home. But that doesn't mean he hasn't been wonderful every time I sob every tear imaginable into his t-shirts. He's caught me more than once in a pool of snot, laying on the bed downstairs where I last snuggled with Harley. 

So it's just me at home in my single-cat grief, and that's okay. I mean, my grief is large enough for an entire home. I'VE GOT IT COVERED. 

But Harley, my baby Harlequin Robert Frank Lloyd Wright Brothers Grimm Reaper, my baby. My kitten, my sweet, sweet, snuggly noodle who curled in the crook of my neck, in the crook of my arm, in a ball on my lap, in a ball on my table, in a ball wherever you could fit your small, noodle-y body, I love you. I love you so much, and I am so sorry. So very sorry every day. 

I hope you feel happy, and I hope you feel loved, and I hope you're never scared, and I hope grandma's lap is as warm and comfortable as mine. If I could kiss that soft kitty forehead one more time, I would, and I'd tell you one last time that you're my favorite baby cat. All the time, forever.