Monday, June 7, 2021

The Music Makers

What follows is documentation of one of the coolest things I've ever done. If you love music - specifically country music - then you'll get it. If you're not a "music person," you might think I've gone off my rocker to be so excited about this. But I don't judge folks for collecting stamps or watching MMA fighting or countless other weird obsessions, so leave your judgy-pants at home.  

On the day of the high school state gymnastics meet, Trey and I were killing time in our hotel until we had to leave, and I was scrolling Facebook. I saw a post - one minute after it went up - that The Next Waltz was hosting an event called the Bunker Bonanza where fans could go visit the famous bunker, hang out with Bruce Robison, eat Lockhart barbecue, and basically just be in the presence of musical greatness for an evening. I immediately noticed that it was on Keaton's sixteenth birthday and bought tickets anyway, pleading with Trey to agree with me that Keaton would love it. 

Then, because I am the Queen of Overthinking, I sent an email to make sure it was okay if my sixteen year old attended. What if it was age-restricted and I just missed the fine print? Then everything would be ruined!  

(Not really, but, well, really. Ruined.)

They emailed back to say it was fine for him to come, and I asked if he wanted to go on his birthday, and he acted just as excited as I wanted him to because he is nice and adventurous and loves music and his momma.

And so yesterday we attended the Bunker Bonanza.

It all started with an email that contained an address, very detailed driving directions to a remote location near Lockhart, and a request to do our best to be on time. Keaton and I drove the winding roads, not sure what to expect and feeling as if we were headed to some secret meeting, anxious about getting lost, being late, or not knowing what to do when we got there. We meandered down the gravel drive and parked on the grass next to an unassuming building. 

"You think this is it?" I asked. 

"One way to find out," Keaton replied as he got out of the car. 

We walked into the building, through a small kitchen, and there we were. The studio. The same one I'd seen hundreds of times when streaming their videos online. It was surreal. 

About The Next Waltz. It's a production company that records mostly singles with country artists. I'll never get all the details right, but it's a mechanism for artists to record and release songs without having to front lots of costs. The business side of the music industry has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades, and artists have to do things differently now to make a living. This production company (under the direction of Bruce Robison) is a way to support and encourage those artists. 

I think I first discovered The Next Waltz when Turnpike Troubadours recorded Come as You Are there. As content has been added over the years, I have more than once found myself whiling away an evening sitting on the back porch enjoying the music. There's something pure and nostalgic about The Next Waltz tracks. What they do feels like preservation in some way. 

I follow them on social media, and I contribute $5 a month to their Patreon. It's not much, but it's a nod to the fact that I'm grateful the organization exists. You should, too, by the way.

Anyway, back to the event

As we entered the studio, we were greeted by Bruce himself, a tall, kindly figure welcoming folks into the room with "Hi, I'm Bruce. Have a seat anywhere. We have plenty of chairs." And so we found some empty seats and began to take it all in. 

Once everyone was settled - about 25 of us - he began to explain the concept behind the studio, his path to building it, and the various equipment used in the production process. We saw an old Wurlitzer, a large cabinet housing a piece of tin that creates reverb, a sound board and a tape recorder. In this studio, they record everything in analog on tape. Their aged equipment creates a sentimental sound that feels new and old at the same time. Keaton and I both commented later about Bruce's explanation that they can do everything there that a digital studio can do except autotune. That says a lot about the quality of the music they put out. 

The group of us followed Bruce around the small space as he explained the equipment and instruments. When we entered the room with the sound board, he asked for a volunteer and commented that there was supposed to be a young kid in the group who was about 16 and maybe he wanted to be the volunteer. 

The kid was Keaton, and he sure enough wanted to volunteer!

In that moment, Keaton sat down at the sound board and, under the direction of Bruce Robison, played with the mix on Charley Crockett's I Can Help. It. Was. Amazing.

Once we finished the tour (and Keaton's work on the board), we all took our seats back in the studio and listened as Bruce and his band of musicians played a few songs. The space was vacant but for the sound of the music and the light from the neon logo sign. Travelin' Soldier. Angry All the Time

He played Guy Clark's Desperado's Waiting for a Train, and I saw the man sitting in front of me shed a few small tears while his wife gently patted his shoulder. I knew immediately that the song meant something very important to him, and I was happy that he got to experience it in this almost sacred place. 

As they played Keaton and I sat silently. Every once in a while we exchanged wide-eyed looks that said, "I can't believe how awesome this is," and "This music is incredible." I had a distinctive thought: When he is old and I am dead, he will tell his grandkids about this. 

After Bruce, Tony Kamel performed a few songs. He recently finished recording an entire solo album in the Bunker, the first complete album recorded there. We didn't know of him before this event, but we were immediate fans. The album comes out in September which feels so far away! He has several Texas tour dates coming up, so if you're looking for live music you should totally check him out. Hearing him tell the story behind the songs he wrote and then performing them for us felt kind of reverent. And he plays the banjo like a beast.

(Keaton declared him to be GOAT'd, which I think means really good, and also proclaimed that this guy should be and will be incredibly famous and how do we not already know about him.)

After a little more music, we ate barbecue and visited with the other attendees. Lockhart barbecue is apparently a big deal (which I also learned from Keaton), and ours came from Chisolm Trail. It was delicious as advertised, with the sausage being my favorite. 

When dinner was over, we all found our seats back in the studio and Bruce and company did a few more songs - Wrapped, My Brother and Me. Then he ended the night with the London Homesick Blues. We took one more photo and made our way back up the gravel road, processing what we had just experienced. 

Here's the thing (or, the things, as this post is quite long and I apparently have lots to say): 

The musicians that played throughout the night were incredibly talented, and it was a joy to see them even though we didn't know their names before we arrived last night. One man in particular played guitar, piano, accordion, and maybe even the mandolin. There was so much talent in that room!

There's usually a line between the people who make the music and the people who love the music. Sometimes those are the same people, but sometimes they're not. I'm not a music-maker (although I think I can sing just about anything and my current rendition of Tyler Childers's Feathered Indians is, I'm sure, fantastic). 

I am a music-lover. It feeds my soul. Live music, especially. And after a year and a half without live music, experiencing it in the way we did last night was downright holy.

I got the feeling that some of the guests last night were musicians who had bought their tickets just like we did. While I'm certain they enjoyed themselves, they probably didn't have the same experience we had. This is the part that makes me seem a little crazy - that I really loved the whole thing that much. But we, the music-lovers, got to sit behind the curtain with the music-makers. We got to feel it. And it was an experience of a lifetime. 


Well, Internet, here I am again documenting a once-in-a-lifetime event. Central Texas is cold. 

I've said many times I'm a good Texas girl. I can find it in my heart to enjoy that week of winter we get in January every year. Temps drop into the 30s (20s if it's a bad year), maybe we get some sleet. I can think of a couple times we got enough snow for the kids to play in. I enjoy the cold for a day or two provided that we see 60 degrees post-haste. 

But I have decided that is a lie brought on by what must be my eternal optimism. I hate winter.

Sometime last week we started seeing the news reports about a "major weather event" coming this week. As with all things weather in Texas, I kind of paid attention because it changes like, well, the weather. Sometime Friday I decided this was legit. When I left work at the end of the day, I took anything I might need to be snowed in at home for a day or two. I asked Google if my goldfish would live. I bought groceries. 

Sunday it got cold. We went to bed that night and woke up on Monday to a Major Weather Event. 

Luckily, the kids were already out of school and the bank was already closed because of President's Day, so we snuggled up and took a day off. Unluckily, the temperature never got up above freezing that day and the following night. On Tuesday, Trey went into his office but due to ongoing power problems was mostly just frustrated (more on the power issue later). 

During bad weather, COVID, and any other such thing that closes places down, Trey goes to work. He's pretty essential to the functioning of the bank when it comes to customers being able to do important things, so I gave up long ago admonishing him for risking his life to go to work. He's good at his job, and this is one reason why. And his trip on Tuesday included making sure he was all set to work from home if needed on other days this week. 

So...below freezing temps for several days, snow and ice everywhere, the word "unprecedented" once again losing its impact. Once in a lifetime event and such. 

Then the ice storm came on Tuesday night while we slept. Awesome. 

And now it's Wednesday night. Snow is in the forecast for tonight again, but only like a half inch so basically nothing to us now. It's supposed to be just above freezing the next couple of days but in the teens overnight. 60 degree temps don't return until sometime next week. It's madness and I might have to move. 

Texas and I are not prepared for this kind of weather. There's apparently not enough electricity to handle it. Rolling blackouts started Sunday night. Some people have gone without electricity for days. The water supply in some places has frozen up or run out or something, and pipes have frozen and broken all over the State. In some cases, the situation has proven to be quite dire. 

My parents lost power sometime late Sunday, I think. They live out in the wilderness. I was very worried about them all day Sunday and Monday. They also were without water and cell service, so I couldn't check on them. At one point, Dad drove to Buccee's to get gas for the generator and called to tell me they were fine. When I realized even my friends in Austin and other cities around the State were in the same shape - without water or power - I stopped worrying. My parents are better equipped to deal with this craziness than anyone else I know!

Speaking of eternal optimism - my dad is the King. I knew he was seeing a grand adventure happening right in front of him. When he called he was laughing and talking about how they had enough blankets to keep warm enough and how he couldn't leave because he had to make sure the animals have access to water. And I knew he'd figure out a way to make it work because that's what he does. 

I have great stories from when I was kid. At least once we had to ride on the tractor to church. The school had a special place for our mud boots so when we got to school we could change into clean shoes but change back into mud boots before we left to go home. We picked dewberries on the side of the road when we walked from the bus stop but were always careful to look for snakes. So many things that seem kind of crazy in hindsight but were fantastically grand adventures when I was a kid!  Sometimes I wish my own kids had more those kinds of stories. 

Back to Snowpocalypse. We've managed to be some of the few who have kept power and water. I've written a giant paper that isn't due until March 12th, cross-stitched what might be an abstract cow, and watched more episodes of ER than I can count. Keaton and his best buddy (who thankfully lives down the street) have goofed around in the ice and snow for too long, hopefully not doing anything too dangerous or illegal. Trey worked from home today - for the first time ever. I don't think he's a fan. 

And here we are, once again in an unprecedented once-in-a-lifetime event. And we're not enjoying it. 

The End. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Corona Chronicles: Day Eleventy Billion

 Y'all. Sometimes I forget how incredibly weird the world is these days. 

This week we went on Monday to the sports medicine doctor for Keaton's back. Tuesday the boys had dentist appointments. Today I took Keaton back to the doctor for an MRI to make sure there's no additional damage to his back. (They're pretty sure it's just the fracture, but are being extra careful.)

Each time we walked into an office, the person at the desk took our temperature. I mean, we leaned across a desk and had someone check our body temperatures before we were allowed to enter. And it was perfectly normal. 

Only it isn't.

Every time we leave the house someone says, "Everyone got a mask?" Because we need to have masks to go anywhere. Don't get me wrong, we want to have masks to go anywhere because it's a small thing that we can do to support public good and keep ourselves and others a tiny bit safer. 

But it's so not normal.

As of this week there is a vaccine for COVID. It's first going to health care and other frontline workers, and then people in nursing homes and over 75, and then people with underlying health conditions, and then other essential workers, and then anyone who is left, I guess. 

There is controversy about the vaccine because it was created and approved so rapidly. There have been vaccines in history that were disasters - making people sicker than they were before and causing birth defects and such. But there are many more vaccines that save millions of lives. I have been a vocal proponent of vaccinations for children, particularly several years ago when misinformation about common, widely used vaccines took over the interwebs. 

But here's the weird part with this vaccine: Famous people and politicians are getting their vaccines live on television. I'm quite sure this is in an effort to convince people it's safe, but it just creeps me out. 

Medical professionals who I know personally and trust have said this vaccine is just as safe as a flu shot, and I have no reason not to believe them because they are smart and have devoted their lives to medicine. Several of these friends have posted on social media about getting their vaccines this week, and I am so happy and comforted that doctors and nurses and hospital custodians and other workers are now able to have something to combat this crazy illness. And I'm incredibly grateful that their families have this vaccine to mitigate some of their fears for their loved ones. 

But watching people get vaccinated on tv is weird.

I'm home from work this week and watching morning tv too much. Every interview with every person includes a version of this question: "When it's your turn to get the vaccine, will you get it?" Today it was an actor and a person who runs an online basketball camp. It feels like they are having these perfectly normal interviews and then finishing up with "Do you eat enough fiber?" or "When was your last physical exam?" 

So. Very. Weird. 

I started writing The Corona Chronicles on March 18th, numbering each day that I deemed Texas to be essentially shut down because of the virus. I stopped on Day 47. Since then, things have gradually opened up a bit more and the number of cases has trended up and down (Brazos County has had 13,571 total cases as of today). We made it through a whole semester of school without having to shut down. The amount of effort that has taken is astronomical - and a huge shout out to school nurses and our custodians for being our frontline workers. 

I personally know people who have been sick, hospitalized, and who have lost loved ones (in some cases multiple loved ones) to COVID. And I know people who tested positive with no symptoms. And I know people who are sure they had it early on but tested negative for antibodies. And every so often I open up the coffee container and take a big whiff to reassure myself that I still have a sense of smell (don't judge). 

I started writing these posts as a sort of primary source for my grandchildren when they study these weird, weird times. My first post about COVID was 280 days ago. 

I think that makes today Day Eleventy Billion. 

Yet here we are. Many of us - the lucky ones like us - really no worse for the wear. We have our jobs and our health and our faith and such. And we're especially thankful for all of those things in a year when we see some around us who do not. 

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve which marks the beginning of the weirdest Christmas ever in the weirdest year ever. I saw the picture below earlier this week and immediately saved it to my phone. I pray that in these next few days we can all stop thinking about all of the weirdness and come faithful, joyful and triumphant to simply rejoice. No matter how weird this world is, we have steadfast hope because of a baby in a manger. That is worth rejoicing about!

Merry Christmas. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Mediocre Mommy? Still?

When the boys were little, I frequently referred to myself as The Mediocre Mommy. I felt like (and still feel) that there's all this pressure on moms to be perfect little mommies, and that sounds exhausting. When other moms were throwing perfect themed birthday parties with monogrammed party favors, I was grabbing a cake at HEB on the day-of-the-birthday. 

There was one year we didn't get a plan together for Keaton's birthday (God bless teacher kids whose birthdays are early June), so we told him we had a huge surprise adventure planned for him. We got in the car and headed toward Houston while I googled "fun things for kids" from the passenger seat. Don't judge. It ended up being a pretty fun day. 

But this is not about birthdays. It's about Mediocre Mommies. 

In started with The Adventures of the Mediocre Mommy Then Red Ribbon Week at school. And then the time that I left Keaton alone with his very own pocket knife at the ripe young age of 8.

I am also a serious under-reactor. When I was a principal, the running joke in my office was that I believe Advil solves all problems. If one of my personal children wasn't feeling well or was hurt or something, my response was always "Take some Advil and give it a minute." Headache? Sniffles? Cut your arm off? Advil and time. You'll be fine. 

It mostly works. 

Fast forward to this week. Keaton came home from gym on Monday night complaining that his back was bothering him. He's a gymnast. He's hard on his body. Something is usually bothering him. Also, he's got a little touch of the dramatic. I know because when I was a teenager, I had a little touch of it, too. Hard to believe, right? Just ask my mom. 

Keaton: My back is kind of hurting. 

Me: Take some Advil.

Tuesday came. I got a text during the school day that his back was hurting. 

Me: Well, take it easy, and when you get home take some more Advil.

He went to gym like normal. 

Wednesday. 4:19 p.m. text from Keaton: Do I have to go to gym?

I called him. "You have to get your hours in. So you can go today or tomorrow, your choice."

He chose to go. Good on him. Tough kid. 

See, I want my kids to be tough. I want them to tough it out. Make choices and live with the consequences. Not think that mom is going to save them when they get in a bind. Understand the world doesn't revolve around them. I am 100% committed to NOT participating in snowflake culture. 

I've found this to be harder with teenagers than with little kids. Sometimes teenagers are dumb, and every once in a while it's okay to save them. But my job as a parent is to save them just barely enough. I worry about the mental health of teenagers these days, and I want my kids to know that I think they can do anything on their own if they are willing to put in the work. I also want them to know that I will go full-on-fight-to-the-death-crazy-mom if necessary. I want them to know I'm in their corner, but I also want them to want me to stay there while they handle their own business. 

The point of all this? Keaton's a little dramatic and I'm a purposeful underreactor. 

When I picked him up from his work out on Wednesday, he got in the truck and said, "Mom. Seriously. I think my back is broken."

Broken? Uh, okay. I told him I'd try to get him in to the doctor if it wasn't better in the morning. I may have made a comment to him about the healing powers of an x-ray because of that one time he got an x-ray, confirmed he wasn't seriously injured, and was magically healed. 

This morning the pain wasn't better. But I was busy. I planned to try to leave midday and take him to urgent care, but things got a little crazy at work and it was 5:00 before I knew it. The extra three or four hours didn't make much difference since we were on day three anyway. Finally, at 5:45, we saw the doctor.

They gave him some Advil (see? it's like I'm a doctor), and took him back for an x-ray. When he returned to the room they told him it would be about ten minutes for the results. We waited.

And waited.

And waited. 

It occurred to me that this was not a good sign. I was right.

The kid has a compression fracture in his back. He's worked out twice since it happened. Been to school every day. Taken finals. 

Oops. (I didn't actually say Oops. In my head, I said much more appropriate and inappropriate words.)

Once he got over the initial panic of what this might do to his competition season, he looked me dead in the eye and said, "Let it be known that I WAS RIGHT!  My back IS broken. Ha!" I think he enjoyed that a little too much.

For some reason, my first thought was, The Mediocre Mommy strikes again. 

But now I'm the Mediocre Mother to Tucker (if he really wants to make his point to me, he snaps, "mother"). To Keaton, I'm the Mediocre Momma (he likes to shout "MOMMA" with an emphasis on the "A" when he wants my undivided attention). 

I have teenagers now. It's like I've graduated from Mommy-dom but nothing too much has changed. 

And so we'll visit the ortho, pray our prayers that he heals quickly, and in the end he'll have a great story about how his crazy mom made him tough it out. 

And next time something happens maybe I'll prescribe two Advil. 

Saturday, November 28, 2020

COVID Confessions

I have a confession. 

I hate hand sanitizer. 

I know COVID has increased the popularity of hand sanitizer by about a million, but elementary teachers have been sanitizing kids' hands since the beginning of time. Lining up for lunch? Everyone gets a small dose to rub into their hands to try to keep them all healthy and happy. 

That being said, when Keaton was little I emailed more than one teacher to request that they not put sanitizer on his hands at school. I don't think I have many helicopter mom moments, but this could be one of them. His hands were usually filled with deep cracks that would get infected and bleed and such, and rubbing alcohol all over them was not exactly helping him feel better. (I wish I had a picture of his childhood hands for dramatic effect, but I can't seem to locate one at the moment.) As soon as I pointed it out, every single teacher was happy to send him for legit soap-and-water hand washing instead (because teachers are awesome and will do whatever kids need to be happy and healthy even if they have helicopter moms).

This has nothing to do with why I hate hand sanitizer. It was a only slightly relevant sidenote. 

I shall continue. 

Hand sanitizer is the same consistency as snot, and snot is gross. 

I can handle blood, vomit, and any other bodily fluid. Someone having a disgusting medical emergency? I'm your girl. Working with kids and having kids of my own proves this to be true. I don't get rattled by the gore of life. 

Except snot. And hand sanitizer reminds me snot. I have always had this aversion, but there have only been a few times in my life when it became apparent to the rest of the world. 

The first time was when Trey and I were serving communion at church. 

A few years ago, our church started hand sanitizing the people who were going to serve communion. We have communion once each month, and church members serve to the congregation. Trey and I were in the rotation, and I hadn't thought one thing about the addition of the sanitizer. Until, of course, I was standing up in front of the church next to my husband watching one of our pastors passing it out, pumping a single dose, person-by-person, as we prepared for this holy moment. 


He was one person closer.


Closer still. 


I began to panic. He was getting nearer by the second. There was no where for me to go. I couldn't just leave - everyone was watching. I couldn't refuse the germ-killing snot blob that was about to be pumped into my hands in front of everyone - no one would come to my line. People will think I'm gross. That I'm germ-y. I started breathing hard. 

And then the pastor was standing in front of me. I took a deep breath, held out my hands, and tried to think about anything else as I rubbed my hands together and tried not to audibly gag. You know that feeling when you really want to gag and your throat is seizing and you can't breathe and you start sweating and think you might pass out? I did that in front of the whole church. 

I did that silently in front of the whole church during communion, of all times. It's a good thing I serve a forgiving God. 

The second time was this summer when some friends and I were shopping in Brenham. 

Mid-COVID, some shops seemed like there was no pandemic at all and some shops had their very best protocols in place. Almost everyone had a pump of hand sanitizer at the door with a sign that requested you sanitize before entering. A sign I could very easily pretend not to see so that I didn't spend my shopping experience trying not to vomit in the store whilst rubbing snot all over my hands. 

(You can judge me if you want, but you know I'm right. It's totally snot-like.)

Then, we entered one store where the person working stopped us at the door and asked us to use the sanitizer. Two things went through my head: 1) I am all for community care and I can do this exceptional thing in order to keep others safe, and 2) I am a rule follower. So I gave myself the quickest mental pep talk in history, and pumped it up. 

I'm pretty sure the thing was broken because one actual gallon of hand sanitizer came out directly into my hands. It dripped onto the floor, ran down my arms, and the pungent smell of alcohol made me dizzy in my terror. Frantically I rubbed and rubbed, but I swear it was multiplying. I gagged, audibly, while looking around to see if anyone noticed what was happening. My face contorted in disgust as I locked eyes with the employee. 

"I'm sorry, but do you have a paper towel that I can use to wipe this off?," I asked through gritted teeth.

She found one, and I removed the wretched almost-liquid, and I swore to never ever ever subject myself to that kind of torture again. I mean, a person has limits, and I have found mine. 

To conclude this post, let me provide some comfort for those of you who may think I'm part of the problem when it comes to germiness these days and may be inclined to put on your judgy-pants. I wash my hands like a boss about eleventy billion times every single day. I can move in and out of rooms in public without ever touching a blessed thing with my hands...feet, elbows, even wrists can be used to open doors, push carts, etc. 

Also, I have spray sanitizer both in my office and my house. It's a mist - like water (instead of snot) - and I use it all the time. I saw a commercial today for some Dove sanitizer that appears to be lotion-y, and I can definitely get on board with that. The Google tells me I can buy it at Walgreens, so I'll give that shot tomorrow. 

So don't judge me when I politely say "no thank you" if you offer me a pump of the traditional stuff. Neither of us wants to see my reaction if I have to use it. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Two things from 'Rona times

Two things. One is vastly more important than the other, but they share this post. 

Thing #1:
Today I went into two public bathrooms. In both, I had the same corona-induced experience. 

Now that we're not touching anything, I'm super careful to use a paper towel to open the bathroom door as I exit. In most places, the trash can has been moved next to the door so that the paper towel used for this purpose can be disposed of easily. It goes like this: 
1) wash hands thoroughly
2) use paper towel to open door
3) hold door open with foot
5) toss paper towel in the trash
6) exit

Today's complication (in TWO places) surrounds the use of trash cans that require you to step on the pedal at the bottom to open them. To be clear, I LOVE these types of trash cans as they do not require me to touch them to open them. They are great in non-corona times, but even better now. 

The problem becomes when you have to keep your foot on the untouched bathroom door in order to exit. Are you following me with the use of feet here, people?  

Today it went like this (twice):
1) wash hands thoroughly
2) use paper towel to open door 
3) hold door open with foot 
5) realize you need your other foot to open the trash can
6) mentally measure how far the door and trash can pedal are from each other to determine if you can actually do both
7) hold your hands out to steady yourself, make sure one foot is securely holding the door open 
8) attempt moderate splits to reach the trash can with foot #2, and toss the paper towel in the trash
10) remove yourself from splits position while still holding the door open with foot #1
10) exit the bathroom
11) see how many people were watching you acrobatically hold two separate things with your feet while throwing paper towels with perfect aim and trying not to fall down on the bathroom floor

Who knew going to the bathroom could be such an exercise in balance and flexibility!

Thing #2:
I listened to a couple of Brene Brown's podcasts today. In one of them, she made a statement that I said over and over again to myself to help me remember it exactly. I'm not sure it worked, but here's the gist of it: Shame is not an avenue for social change. 

Dear news, social media, friends and acquaintances and others, if you're publicly shaming someone because they don't agree with you then you are not working for change, you are being mean. So stop it. 

The end. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

I Ran.

Yesterday news broke about a black man who was killed by two white men who thought he was guilty of a string of burglaries. He was out for a jog.

When quarantine started, I started running again. It seemed like the best time to start because we didn't have anything else to do. I remembered that running is good for me - for my health and for my mind.

Back in 2016 I ran a marathon. I ran A LOT over that year or two, and while I'm happy I ran the marathon (hello, bucket list!), I think I got burned out on running. I realized as soon as we were locked down that I needed to see the sun and move every day, so I started walking. That made me think I might as well run, so I started a Couch to 5K program and starting running. And I remembered that I like it.

I like it even better when I'm just running. Slow. No goals to meet. No pace. I decided I would not run more than every other day because I don't want to hurt and be sore and stop running. So I walk, and the next day I run.

Never have I been afraid that someone will think I'm a bad guy and chase me down or hurt me while I run. Never have I worried that someone will think I don't belong here and call the cops on me. In fact, during quarantine I've been the world's friendliest runner - waving and smiling at everyone to get some kind of social interaction. Calling all kinds of attention to myself even though I'm not a svelte, runner-looking runner.

Today I can't stop thinking about this man. I've so appreciated how my runner friends of various skin colors have shared that they think often about how they'll be perceived when they are out on a run. How someone might think they don't belong in the neighborhood they're running in. How they feel they have to be extra aware. My friends who see their own children in Ahmaud Arbery. I'm glad they speak up.

I am newly disturbed. I know this exists in the world, but suddenly here we are again. A black man was running and some people cornered and killed him. In America in 2020. It's incomprehensible. I feel helpless to change it.

I don't know what to do about it. I have no giant solution. I told my boys (again) how important it is to me that I am raising men who know that others cannot be judged by their color or religion or orientation or anything else. That people are people and deserve our respect. They tell me they know. That they really do know. For the future of our nation and our world I pray they do.

Today I added an additional life lesson. Never, under any circumstances, is it acceptable to chase an unarmed person down, corner them, and kill them because you think they might be guilty of something. Never. Nothing makes that okay.

So today I ran. And I thought of all the people I know who run, and I prayed they feel safe while they do so. Because it's all of our responsibility to make sure they do.