Monday, November 29, 2010

Campbell, age 4


I am totally loving Campbell right now. Four is such a good age with him. He’s fairly independent – he can get dressed and go potty all on his own – but he still loves to snuggle and hold my hand. His enthusiasm about pretty much everything in life is infectious.

I wish he could stay four forever. Apparently he heard me say that, which sparked this conversation:

C: Why do you want me to stay four?

H: Because you are a great four-year-old and lots of fun.

C: But on my next birthday, I HAVE to turn five.

H: Yes. Yes you do.

C: I’ll be a great five-year-old. I promise.

H: And this is exactly why I want you to stay four.

C: Look! The chicken truck!

The other day in the car, he asked if I had won my “big race” in New York. When I told him no, he informed me that I needed to go back and try again and win this time. I said that I needed more practice, and he decided that I was allowed to practice a lot more but that I did need to back and win next time. I told him I’d get right on it.

One day, when he was being particularly cute, I told him he was going to have lots of girlfriends. His reply? “That’s good. Because I like girls. But I only have one girlfriend, and her name is L. She’s my favorite girl.” Fortunately, L is the daughter of one of my best friends, and she’d make a great in-law.

My mother-in-law took the big three on their annual shopping trip for Christmas outfits, and Campbell came back with a spiffy number that included a sweater vest and a tie, of all things. According to my mother-in-law and the girls, he really did pick it out on his own. Campbell wore the tie through the store, over his Thomas the Tank Engine shirt, until his grandmother took it off to pay for it.

When he got home, Campbell had to put the tie right back on. Then he asked if could go to L’s house to show it to her, because he knew she’d like it. I can’t believe he’s four and already worried about dressing to impress.

Last night, the kids were doing artwork at the kitchen table. Campbell brought in this picture.


I asked him to tell me about it.

C: It’s you and me and Elizabeth.

H: Do we all have belly buttons?

C: Yes. Yours is the biggest.

H: Thanks for that. What’s between our legs?

C: It’s everyone’s penises.

H: But Elizabeth and I are girls, and we don’t have penises.

C: Oh. Yours aren’t penises. Yours are tails that are taped on to you, like cat tails.

I was particularly impressed with how quick he was to change the story. He’s a smart little dude.

If only he could stay four forever.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More about New York . . .

But not about the marathon, I promise.

I actually did a lot more in New York City than run. I went with two of my best friends, and we lived it up.

We arrived on Friday, and after I made a pilgrimage to Central Park to see the marathon finish line, we hit the town.


Statue of the NYC Marathon founder Fred Lebow at the finish line

Our first stop was to see Pee Wee’s Playhouse on Broadway. The show was still in previews, so it had some rough spots. Despite that, it was a whole lot of fun. I smiled through the whole thing. A funny aside – two women edged their way into the row in front of us and then carefully encased their seats in clear plastic trash bags. A woman sitting next to then turned around and said, “Either they’re afraid of bedbugs or they have weak bladders.” We all cracked up, which probably wasn’t nice, but the women really did look ridiculous.

After the theater we walked for what seemed like hours and found an amazing Italian restaurant in the Hell’s Kitchen area. I had asparagus risotto that was divine. I wanted to lick the bowl clean.

Saturday was low-key. I went to the marathon expo, which was a zoo, so I grabbed my race packet and headed back to the apartment. On the way, however, I found a great little yarn store called Knitty City and spent too much.

That night, I fulfilled another longtime dream and watched fireworks over Central Park. My friend H and I parked ourselves on the steps of the Natural History Museum, right below the statue of Teddy Roosevelt, and had a great view.


On the way home, we stopped at a cool bakery for some treats. I resisted these cupcakes and opted for a black-and-white cookie instead.


Sunday was the marathon, which I’ve already written way too much about.

On Monday, my other friend, L, and I took a Circle Line cruise around the island. In the months ahead of the trip, spending three hours on a boat seeing a different side of the city seemed like a grand idea. But on the actual day – not so much. The weather was terrible – rain, wind, sleet – so we were trapped inside the boat. I made brief forays on deck to snap pictures, but I never lasted for more than five minutes. Unfortunately, the part of the tour I was looking forward to most – the Harlem River around to Spuyten Dievel and then the George Washington Bridge – was cut out of the tour due to bridge construction on the Harlem River. So the boat had to double back. Seeing all the bridges, Gracie Mansion, and the UN wasn’t as interesting the second time. Even the tour guide, who had been excellent up until that point, seemed bored.

The Verrazano-Narrows. Hard to believe that the day before I ran across it in sunlight.

PB080012The tip of Manhattan


Always inspiring


My favorite bridge

The Queensboro Bridge – which nearly did me in during the marathon

After the three-hour tour, I went to Purl Soho, a famous knitting and fabric store. I wasn’t that impressed, given the store’s hype. The place is very small, and it’s half fabric, half yarn, which means they don’t have a huge selection of either. I did still manage to buy some yarn, though.

Monday night, I met Marinka and Kelcey for dinner, which was a blast, except for the fact that I had a raging case of vertigo from the boat ride. I spent most of the meal gripping the edge of the table to keep myself upright. I was even present for the now-famous “Ma’am” debate. I was a bit worried that one of them would channel Teresa from RHONJ and flip the table, so I kept a firm grip on my plate just in case.

The perfect weather returned on Tuesday, so H and I started the day with a walk in Central Park, visiting the Reservoir, the Shakespeare in the Park theater, and some playgrounds. I love Central Park.

H headed back to the apartment to pack, but I ventured over to the Natural History Museum for an hour, which was just the right amount of time. There are only so many dioramas and taxidermied animals I can look at. The museum was showing a movie called “The Race to the End of the Earth,” about polar exploration, which I would have liked to see, but the show times didn’t work for me. Same thing with the planetarium. Maybe next time.


The Hayden Planetarium – our apartment was right around the corner.


It’s just even cooler looking at night.


Dinosaurs say “Rawr!”


It’s awesome from the inside, too.

Some other random pictures, and I promise I’ll shut up already about the trip.


The Dakota, where John Lennon lived until his death.


This teeny building was down the street from our apartment. I would have loved to go inside. The rooms must be so small.


And, finally, a picture B sent to reassure me that the kids were all alive and well.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My New Do

Thanks to my darling youngest daughter, this is my second draft of this post. She walked by my computer and did something to it that shut it down, and, unfortunately, my draft didn’t save. Grumble. The first draft was much better, I promise.


For the second time in 2 1/2 years, I cut off ten inches of hair for a donation to Locks of Love. But this time, donating was much more personal.

The woman who has cut my hair for years has an eight-year-old niece. When the little girl was 3, she was diagnosed with cancer and had surgery and chemo. She beat the cancer and had a relatively normal childhood. Until now. Her cancer is back. She underwent surgery a few weeks ago and started the first of her nine chemo treatments this week. Just this week, her parents sent off a bit of her hair to Locks of Love so they can match her new wig to it. My hairdresser started crying while telling me all of this, and I cried, too.

The last time I donated, it was to some child somewhere with cancer. This time, even though my hair won’t go to this little girl, I see her sweet face when I think about the donation. I hope that my lopping off my hair helps make some other child’s life a little bit better.

marathon3Before – notice the medal (ahem)



And after. I took about three dozen pictures trying to get any I’d be willing to post.

I’d love to have a short little pixie cut, but I know better. Each time I talk about getting one, B pulls out pictures of some of my unfortunate high school hair cuts, and that sets me straight.

To top off my morning of altruism, I went straight from the hair dresser’s to the blood bank and made a donation. I figure that between the two, I can be a selfish witch for at least two weeks.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I see giant hollow cakes in her future.
(Taken with my iPhone, so the quality isn't great.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Final Marathon Post (maybe)

A week ago today, I was running the marathon. I’ve spent a lot of the past seven days thinking about the event and what the whole journey means to me.

This marathon means more to me that the two I ran and one I trained for back in my 20s. Why? Because this one was harder, all the way around – harder to train for, harder to run, harder to recover from.

The last time I trained for a marathon, I was 29 and child-free. I was able to go to running workouts in the evenings and run before or after work without a problem. On Saturdays I’d meet up with the crew and go running for hours. Afterwards, we’d have a leisurely breakfast, and then I’d go home for a long nap. By the time B got home from coaching Saturday diving practice, I’d be rested and ready to go. It was easy-peasy.

This time around, however, I couldn’t go to evening workouts because I had to take Ella to climbing practice. During the week, if I didn’t get out the door by 5:45 am, I didn’t get to run.  On Saturdays I’d have to start my long runs at 5:00 or 5:30 so that I could finish and get home in time to take Lily to ballet class. There was no time for breakfast with friends and a nap afterwards. Finding time to run was as much of a challenge as the actual running was.

I’ve had many people tell me that they are proud of me, and my response is always “Thank you. I’m proud of me, too.” And I am. I pulled off training for a marathon (albeit a slow one) while managing kids, a husband and working. That’s no mean feat.

Friends – and my husband – have asked if I want to do the NYC Marathon again. Immediately after the race, my answer was no. I’d done it and fulfilled my dream. No need to do it again. But now? I want to do it again. Now that I know what to expect, I know I can do better. Plus I won’t be starting from scratch with training. But I’m holding off on putting my name in the lottery – for now. There are a lot of great marathons in Texas that don’t involve leaving home for a week, as nice as it was to do that. If I decide to train for another marathon, and I think I will, I’ll pick one that’s closer to home.

And now for some pictures, courtesy of

bridge1 The Verrazano-Narrows covered with runners. Running across it was breathtaking.


Me on the bridge. The hat was a freebie from Dunkin’ Donuts, and I loved it. Unfortunately, I dropped it somewhere along the course.


I have no idea what mile mark this was taken at, but it was obviously early in the race.


Not feeling so good at this point. I think this is in Central Park.


Finished! I’m the sunglasses-wearing speck beneath the lion on the banner. In the top right of the picture you can see the Chilean runner and his entourage.

finish line

I was crying and laughing at the same time. One friend said I looked delirious, and I think that’s a pretty accurate description.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marathon Report – Part 2

Everyone keeps asking if the marathon was fun, and that’s a tough question to answer. Because running for more than five hours isn’t fun. And miles 14 through 17 were the exact opposite of fun. I don’t think I could describe the day in one word. So I’ll do a re-cap.

I left the apartment at 6:00 and hopped on the subway. At each station, more and more runners got on, giving each other nervous smiles. I chatted with a lovely woman from Toronto. After the subway, I got on the Staten Island Ferry, which was filled with runners. If you could have harnessed the collective nervous energy of the thousands of runners, you could probably power the whole city for a day. I am very glad I was assigned to the Ferry; it was a cool way to head to the race, watching the sun rise over Brooklyn and the Verrazano Narrows come into view. As we lined up to take the buses to the start, the Statue of Liberty was right there. No matter how many times I see her, she’s still awe inspiring.

The scene at Ft. Wadsworth was one of controlled chaos – 45,000 runners being herded by thousands of polite, cheerful, enthusiastic volunteers. I’m still amazed at how everything went off like clockwork. The cannon for the first wave fired at exactly 9:40, and the cannon for my wave fired at exactly 10:10.

I was assigned to the last corral of the second wave, so I was at the very back of the pack at the start, which was just fine. I'd heard that the front was like a running mosh pit, and given my tendency to panic in crowds, I was glad for the breathing room. I was even happier to be at the back while running across the bridge. The view from the bridge was spectacular – all of New York was laid out in the distance. A cruise ship had just come into the harbor under the bridge, and two cargo ships were lined up to leave. One of the Fire Department fire boats was right beneath us, spraying huge fountains of water. For a brief moment, I regretted not having a camera with me, but then I realized that no picture could ever accurately and fully capture the scene, so I drank it in as a ran.

Running through Brooklyn was really cool. The different neighborhoods turned out in full force to cheer us on. At some points, there were so many spectators lining the streets that it was like running through a tunnel of sound. The Williamsburg section was a bit surreal. A large number of Orthodox Jews live there, and they were out watching – the men with their black hats and ear curls, the women with their long dresses and hats – but they were silent. The little kids, though, were going nuts. It was just such a contrast after the noise of Park Slope.

Turning on to First Avenue after the death march on the 59th Street Bridge was a life saver for me. The mass of sheer humanity moving northward, both the runners and and the spectators, was an incredible sight – bobbing heads as far as I could see.

Several times during the race, I ran behind groups from Achilles International, and they were just inspiring. One group was escorting a blind runner – with one guide holding on to a tether and three guides keeping the path clear for him. I also saw Achilles International guides escorting wheelchair and amputee athletes. One group was running with a man who was blind and deaf – it was his 13th NYC Marathon. I saw him at mile 24, so I think it’s safe to assume he completed his 14th. This is group I want to be involved with. Being able to share my love of running with others who otherwise might not be able to run races would be a wonderful way to run.

As I was running through the Park, at about mile 25, my aunt and uncle spotted me. Seeing them was a much-needed boost at that point. As was giving two little girls high-fives on Central Park South.

Finishing the race was such a joy and a relief. All the months of work and worrying and planning had paid off, even if my time was slow. When the volunteer hung my medal around my neck, I gave her the biggest hug and started crying for real. She gave me a hug back and got me moving again, which was a good thing. I really, really wanted to sit down.

I had arranged to meet Heidi and Lisa, my good friends and pit crew, at the steps of the Natural History Museum, and as I staggered up the hill from the Park to the Museum, I kept repeating, out loud, “Please let them be there. Please let them be there.” And the were – jumping up and down and cheering for me. I got all teary again.

heather finish Me and Heidi after I finished

When we got back to the apartment, I found a banner made by our neighbors and their kids. They had sent it along with Heidi and Lisa, who had hung it up while I was running. This is my favorite part of the banner.

marathon2I hope you wine!”

Monday morning, I went to the marathon store and splurged on a finisher’s jacket and shirt. I wore the jacket for the rest of the trip, but I did take off the medal.

marathon3 Finisher’s jacket and medal

I could go on and on about the marathon, but I’m sure bored everyone to tears at this point. So I’ll end with another heart-felt thank you to everyone for all of your e-mails, comments and texts of encouragement, support and congratulations. They really did make a difference.

Monday, November 08, 2010

NYC Marathon Report

I finished!

My time wasn't what I had hoped, but I don't care. I've fulfilled a long-time dream, AND I finished smiling.

I knew from the get-go that it was not going to be a good race. I spent too long shivering at the start, and my legs were dead before I even started running. It also took two miles for my toes to thaw out so that I could feel them.

Once I got going I was able to settle in with 9:30-9:40 miles, which is right where I wanted to be. I held that pace comfortably through the first ten miles, despite the hills in Brooklyn - and Brooklyn seemed to be ALL uphill.

Things got ugly at the half-way mark. I ran a 2:10 half, which is slower than I've ever run a half marathon, and that just deflated me. My legs ankles and knees were killing me, and I still had at least 2 1/2 hours of running to go.

That's when I started walking. Mile 15 was on the Queensborough Bridge, and that was the lowest point of the marathon. The bridge has a long, long uphill approach, which I walked. The bridge itself was just grim. We were running on the lower level, with trains running overhead. It was dark and noisy and dirty, and there was no crowd support. I started thinking that I was going to have to walk the rest of the way. And then mean little voices in my head started thinking about what everyone would say if I walked the second half or if I dropped out. I did my best to ignore those little voices, but they just kept going. I had been wearing a pace chart on my wrist, and I ripped it off on the bridge in disgust.

Once I turned on to First Avenue, things got better. I put on my shuffle, and the first song to play was U2's "Elevation," which is one of my favorites. Listening to music also made it easier to ignore the voices of doubt. Plus the crowds on First Avenue were amazing; at times they were four and five people deep.

I walked more, but at mile 17 it became obvious that it hurt LESS for me to run than it did to walk. So I adjusted my stride and plugged along.

At mile 20 I started to enjoy myself again. I knew I was going to finish, and while I was walking now and then, I was mostly running. And the closer I got to the park, the more I knew I was about to fulfill my dream.

Running along Fifth Avenue and through the Park was just amazing. The crowds were insane. I managed to pass the guy dressed like a rhinoceros and the girl dressed like a chicken. I just could not let them beat me.

I loved being running through the Park and seeing the Metropolitan Museum, the Boathouse, Belvedere Castle and the Obelisk. One woman in the crowd was holding a sign that said "YOUR ONLY FUCKING CHOICE IS TO FINISH," which got a big cheer from all the runners.

I started getting weepy on Central Park South and on the last turn into the Park. I had watched the marathon on TV for so many years and seen runners take this turn, and there I was, running the same route. In the last point two miles, I passed the miner from Chile and gave him a big cheer.

My official time was 5:06 and change, an hour slower than I had hoped. But I'll take it. I left everything I had out on the course. There was nothing left in my tank when I finished.

I have so much more to write about the race - all the amazing things I saw and people I met - but I'll save that post for another day.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Big Apple Bound

My bags are packed and by the door. My race confirmation is printed and in my wallet. My race-day shoes are on my feet (I don’t want to risk having the airline lose them). I am as ready as I’ve ever been for a trip.

But first, a big thank you to each and every one of you for your e-mails, comments and words of support and encouragement over the past four months as I’ve tackled this insane quest. Your support has helped tremendously.

I’m not taking my laptop with me, so I won’t be posting to my blog while I’m gone. But I’ll post my results on twitter (@hokgardner) and on facebook (heather o’keeffe gardner). I’ll have a full report when I return on Tuesday. I’m guessing it will include how I cried from sheer joy and excitement and overwhelmed-ness many times during the race.

I’ll be carrying you all with me on my run. You’ve helped to make this journey special. Thank you.

And I’ll catch you on the flip side.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Yesterday was a bad one at chezhok. Where should I start?

I have asthma. It’s fairly mild, and for most of the year I don’t even have to take any medications. However, every four months or so, something – allergies, a cold, a change in the weather – will trigger a bad spell, and I’ll have to get back on my meds.

I hit a bad spell two weeks ago thanks to the fall ragweed season, and I went in to see my doc. Before he completely messed up my immune system by giving me a pneumonia vaccine, he told me to start using my Advair inhaler daily and to add theophylline into the mix if the Advair didn’t do the trick.

When I ran this past weekend, my lungs felt tight, so I’ve been taking theophylline since Sunday.

Normally when I take the stuff, I feel jittery and sped up for about an hour. It’s not too bad – kind of like I’ve had too much coffee. But yesterday, I apparently had a bad reaction to the medicine. The jittery feeling never went away; instead, it got stronger and more severe as the day went on. At one point in the afternoon I described it to a friend as feeling like I was a deflating balloon zipping around the ceiling.

By the time B got home for dinner, I was in bad shape. My hands were shaking, and I swear my eyes were spinning in different directions. I felt completely and totally out of control of everything. B sent me off to the bedroom to calm down and procured some Xanax for me. Then he put the kids to bed, which would have been a complete disaster if I had tried to do it.

While I was waiting for the Xanax to kick in, I packed my suitcase for New York. I have no idea whether it contains anything that I need for my trip, but it’s sitting there filled with neatly folded clothes.

An hour later, I finally stopped feeling like my body was humming and I was again able to form coherent sentences.

I opted not to take the medicine this morning. I’m far less jittery, but my lungs are feeling tight, which worries me given my plans for Sunday. I’m also exhausted, which I think is an after effect of spending the whole day running at 150% of normal speed.

My doctor’s recommendation was to take half a pill instead of a whole. I’ll try that tomorrow. I need today to continue calming down.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Starting to panic

So I may have mentioned a few (or 20 or 30) times that I’m running the ING New York City Marathon this Sunday. In a mere 48 hours, I’ll be on my way to the airport, and yesterday I began to freak the frack out. Not because of the race – I’ve done the work for that; all I need to do now is show up at the starting line – but because of what I need to do at home before I leave. I’ve begun making lists and checking items off.

Here’s just part of my list:

  1. Buy Cliff Shots and Cliff bars for race day – check
  2. Buy inexpensive sweats to wear to the start and discard as I run – check
  3. Pick out and wash race-day clothes – check
  4. Pick playlists for the race and sync my iPod shuffle – check
  5. Select knitting projects for the trip - nope
  6. Buy a few new tops to wear on the trip - nope
  7. Leave detailed instructions of what needs to happen each day for B – nope
  8. Leave signed waiver and birthday present for Lily to take to a birthday party – nope
  9. Buy groceries for while I’m gone – nope
  10. Set out Lily’s ballet clothes so she and B can find them Saturday morning - nope
  11. Wash, fold and put away laundry so the family won’t go naked while I’m gone – nope
  12. Clean the house so it’s not extra disgusting when I get home – nope

Just looking at this list and the undone items makes my stomach hurt. B keeps reassuring me that he does in fact know where the grocery store and washing machine are, but I feel this ridiculous sense of obligation to make sure everything is as taken care of as possible before I leave.

For the next two days, I’ll be frantically cleaning, folding and shopping. Or I might just become so paralyzed by it all that I do nothing but sit on the sofa and stare into space. It could go either way.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Daily Inventory


At least six times a day, Elizabeth and I have this conversation:

E: Where Ehwah doe?

M: Ella is at school.

E: Oh. Where Yeeyee doe?

M: Lily is at school.

E: Oh. Where Bubble doe?

M: Campbell is at school.

E: Oh. Where Wook doe?

M: L*** is at school.

E: Oh. Where Mahnee doe?

M: M*** is at school.

We’ll finish her inventory, and then she’ll go off to play, only to come back 20 minutes later to start all over. Elizabeth also goes through the list when she gets up from her nap, any time we get in the car, and whenever we get home from running errands. It’s exhausting.

And I’m glad she can’t say the names of any more of our friends.