Perhaps no 6 characters have been harder to type than the 6 characters of the title of this blog post.
Earlier today, Kristen and I took our much beloved dog, Stoney, to the vet to be put to sleep.
We were a mess.
I couldn’t even speak. It was completely the right thing to do, to end his suffering, but it hurt too much for words to come out of our mouths.
They quickly ushered the bawling couple with the barely-able-to-walk dog out of the waiting room and into an examination room. Prepared for our arrival they’d laid a nice blanket down on the floor. After a couple sniffs Stoney laid down one last time.
We were a mess.
An absolute proper mess. The lady asked me something about money and I just handed her my debit card.
Truth be told, it’s after 2 AM and I’m still a snotty mess. I keep expecting him to bump against my feet under my desk or let out a deep sigh or push open the living room door to remind me to go to bed.
Stoney has been constantly at our side for the past ten years. It’s hard to even know what to do without him, he’s such a part of our daily lives.
I grew up hearing the phrase, “Man’s best friend.” And you know what? I am feeling the loss of a best friend right now.
The past few weeks have been gut wrenching. At our last trip to the vet she let me know that Stoney was in very bad health. He had a heart murmur and at his age that likely meant he had heart disease. We could run some tests but at nearly 13 years old there wasn’t much we could do.
Leaving that day I had no concept of how fast the disease would take over. Over the past few weeks he went from being short of breath and a little bit slower to taking 20 minutes just to go one block.
By Sunday, he couldn’t get up the stairs into the house after going potty and he stopped eating. These were both our agreed upon indicators that it’d be time to let him go.
The older kids were already aware of what was going on… that the time was getting near. We didn’t want it to be a shock to them. When I made the appointment on Monday I let each of them know. We explained it to Jackson, but he’s 4 and it’s really hard to understand. I’m 39 and sometimes death doesn’t make sense to me either.
Then, after school, we all got on the floor with Stoney and spent some time giving him love and sharing stories about him… I’m so glad we did that.
Tonight, not really sure what else to do with myself, I made this video. It means a lot to me.
This dog has been so much more than a dog to our family.
Megan has orientation in a couple weeks for high school.
Jackson starts pre-school at the same time.
And in a lot of the country people are already starting school, football practice, marching band, all of that.
Summer flew by leaving a contrail of good memories.
But I’m still holding onto summer…
In San Diego our warmest months are still ahead. The ocean water will continue to get warmer until late October.
I’ve not been to a football game yet so it’s still summer.
My fall travel stuff doesn’t start until mid-September.
We have countless evening dog walks, morning surf fishing sessions, and afternoons at the bay left before the weather turns. (As if it every really turns here…)
And we’ve done summer right!
We had a great family vacation.
We’ve played in the bay.
We’ve played a ton of board games.
We’ve shared dinner nearly every night around the table.
Kristen and I have been good about sneaking away for an evening walk in the neighborhood or along the waterfront more nights than not.
We’ve hiked and biked and kayaked and swam and seen a lot of sunsets.
Summer’s Last Stand
All this to say that before fall stuff cranks up I’ve got a lot of summer left to take in. Here’s what my next few days entails:
Thursday morning – Kayak fishing in La Jolla for calico and maybe get lucky on a yellowtail, home by noon.
Saturday – Sunday – Overnight offshore fishing trip with Paul, celebrating his birthday by hopefully catching our first tuna! Leave Saturday night and return home Sunday night.
Monday – Inshore fishing trip with a bunch of guys from church, hoping to get a group of teenagers on their first big fish.
All of those fishing dates schmooshed together accidentally– but I’m not complaining. It’s as if this summer has dug in, putting up it’s defenses against the onslaught of Fall and all the busyness that comes with it.
Summer will be defeated. It’s inevitable. But the last stand will be epic.
In more than 10 years of blogging I’ve never taken 15 days off from writing. But that’s what I’ve just done, a little self-directed exile and forced break.
So where have I been? McLandia.
Seriously, this kid.
OK, so it’s not “my stove” but I do a lot of the cooking while we camp… I LOVE IT. I also have a slight addiction to boiling water.
When the rains came we picked up these super fashionable plastic ponchos for just $7 in the camp store!
Do you see it?
The rains came hard one morning, so hard that our tents bottom turning into a waterbed and I had to go build a dam to stop the water from coming in.
I love that the rangers have fun with their information board!
How can you not stop to take pictures of this? It’s like my desktop background except in real life.
Jackson snapped this goofy pic of Paul on the Yosemite Valley shuttle, and I love it. Paul is the best big brother ever.
After the rains came I got to make a little covering for our cooking area. This became our “warm spot” for the rest of the trip.
This spot won over my heart… so gorgeous.
How cool is it to find your daughter painting along the river… the final product was AMAZING!
Loved this little spot watching the sunset with Kristen. Our private national park.
Paul burning his uniform jacket from school. He was stoked.
I found this little footbridge along the Pacific Crest Trail while trying my best to get un-lost on my first fishing adventure of the week.
Hard not to be inspired by views like this.
One of the things I love about Yosemite is how excited Kristen gets about it… here she’s stepping up her iPhoneography game.
Beautiful little spot after a short hike fro the trailhead.
A broken pool at our first hotel didn’t stop the fun, we just went to the local trampoline park and had a blast.
JT loves the hammock, actually all the kids love their hammocks
Loved this little camp site. Upper Pines was PACKED but not as loud as I was expecting.
I just love this river… it’s one of my favorite spots on our planet.
McLandia is the mythical creation of Paul (11). It’s a place where imagination, play, discovery, and creation meld together. It’s our own personal imaginary fiefdom existing within our hearts that expresses what it means to be a McLane.
Over the past few weeks or so we’ve seen mom and Megan go on a girls only trip to St Thomas, celebrating Megan’s graduation from 8th grade and continuing on a tradition of the McLane girls spending solo time together while exploring a new place. We’ve ended a 7 year run at Darnall Charter School as Paul finished 6th grade– including ceremonially burning Paul’s school jacket– I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him so giddy. We thought about doing something on the Fourth of July… but like every year we just went to bed early and didn’t see any fireworks. We’ve camped in Yosemite, eaten way too many s’mores and drank way too many cans of soda, we survived a torrential downpour where our tent floor turned into a waterbed, watched a bear steal someones food, watched sunrises and sunsets at Half Dome and the Minarets, talked mega-crap while competing at Bananagrams and Uno, hiked to waterfalls, camped and resorted, and a whole lot more.
And so, today, we return from our annual pilgrimage to Imaginary McLandia to our lives in Real McLandia.
We step away, to rest and play and rejuvenate and reconnect with who we are. And now we head back home to live out who we are over the next several months.
The kids have weeks and weeks of summer vacation left to go. But mom and dad got what they needed during their short time off– a trip to McLandia where we have space to dream again.
On Sunday, I had the chance to witness Kristen in run the LA Marathon.
It. was. awesome.
The Road to LA
After completing her 5th Half Marathon last spring she started thinking about LA.
A marathon is intimidating. A 5k or half had become pretty manageable for her. One builds on the next, you know what to expect, and lots of people are happy there… just improve on the last one to better your time.
She spent a month or so toying with the idea. When you consider the length of time it takes to prepare for the marathon– in her case about 6 months of training– and all the things that have to go just right– a few runs during the week, a long run on the weekend, three kids, a husband who travels for work, nutrition, injuries, illnesses, and all the normal stuff– it’s a huge undertaking just to train.
The last several weeks has been a series of longer and longer training runs. We’d wake up early on a Saturday and I’d drop her off, track her for 3-4 hours using Find My Phone, drop off water every few miles, then pick her up at the end.
One week she circumnavigated most of San Diego Bay from the Coronado Bridge all the way down to Imperial Beach then up through Chula Vista and National City to San Diego.
Another Saturday we drove up to Oceanside and she ran all the way to Solana Beach along the Pacific Ocean
In the week leading up to the race all of the talk was about the heat. An early Spring heat wave pushed temperatures to the mid-90s with 15% humidity on Saturday. That kind of heat and 27,000 runners going 26 miles just don’t mix. The last 24 hours of wondering about the impact of the heat were no good. You wanted to get it out of your mind, but dang– that’s too hot to run that far.
Kristen barely slept on Saturday night. Nerves and excitement and all of that. When my alarm went off at 3:45 am, she was already up and just about ready to go.
I dropped her off at her Santa Monica shuttle at 4:30 am and went back to bed. Our friend April crashed at the beach house, too… I took her over to the same shuttle stop at a pedestrian 6:30 am before heading back to the house one more time to check on our kids. When the race started at 7, I packed up my stuff– a cooler full of frozen towels, my camera, and my phone to meet her along the way.
11 Miles In
My first stopping point was about 11 miles into the race in the business district of Hollywood. My experience in LA is so limited (Despite living just 2 hours south, we avoid LA like new moms avoid sleep.)
The first thing you need to know about the LA Marathon is it’s very diverse. Usually, the races Kristen has run in have been predominately 30-something year old white people. But that just wasn’t the case in LA. There were people of every walk of life, every age… middle schoolers and elderly… every ethnicity, and every cause.
But, more importantly, Kristen was in great spirits.
I asked her how she was doing… GREAT!
From here, I made my way south from the race course to start navigating through the side streets, grabbed some coffee at Starbucks, and made my way to West Hollywood to try to see her 45 minutes to an hour later.
When I found the race course at exactly the 15 mile marker, Kristen was still a mile or so down the course, so I took a while to stand there, people watch, and cheer folks on.
Here’s something awesome about big races. Everyone comes out to cheer people on, even if they don’t know a single runner in the race. They show up, they cheer, they encourage, and lots of people even bring things to give to runners out of their own pockets… fruit, water bottles, and er– hot dogs and pizza slices, too.
And when I finally spotted Kristen, she was still having a blast FIFTEEN MILES into her day.
From West Hollywood, I went back to our minivan and started to work my way across town more to get to the next spot on the course, 22 miles, in Brentwood– most famous for being the home of O.J. Simpson. To get there… I had to wind my way through neighborhoods like Beverly Hills… where my minivan made me feel like I was on the cast of Beverly Hillbillies.
Driving through Beverly Hills neighborhood. Saw a lady walking a pink poodle. Is this real? #LAMarathon
From there parking was a real problem. I ended up finally finding a spot about 5 blocks from the race course. And in my rush, I forgot to take notes on where I parked… more on that later.
By this time the heat had kicked in. Racers were super fortunate that an unexpected, un-forcasted cloud base made it pretty pleasant most of the morning, high temperatures in the mid-80s. But that started to burn off late in the race. And it started to get really, really hot.
In this last set of pictures I want to point out some of the lasting impressions I had on the marathon.
And don’t forget about causes. I’d say a quarter of the runners were running to raise money for something.
And– oh yeah– this smiling lady.
By this time, she was starting to get tired and hot, so she accepted my invitation to take 2 minutes off to cool down… bring on the frozen towels!
Having just come through a non-shady part of the race with 4 miles left in the blazing sun, 2 minutes of cooling off really seemed to help.
And at this point… it’s just a victory lap. Six months of training and it was abundantly clear she’d finish her first marathon!
After this pit stop I got a text from April, she was at the finish line and looking for a ride back to the beach house.
The problem was that I was 4 miles away… cell service was jacked up with so many people trying to post selfies… and I HAD NO IDEA WHERE I’D PARKED!!!
Seriously. I was so pumped to go see Kristen at 22 miles that I forgot where I parked. 15 minutes later I finally found my way and was back in the car.
From there, I got lucky and guessed a side street that went all the way to Santa Monica, Colorado Street. And I took that all the way to where I could see the finish line… but then got stuck in traffic. I picked up a very tired April and then we spent the next two hours trying to find Kristen and make our way back to Venice Beach.
Huge congratulations to Kristen. She made it look easy… if 26.2 miles can be easy.
And I don’t know what her next challenge will be. But I think it’ll involve a bike and swimming.
In case you didn’t know, Tammy, is our first daughter. She was born a few years before Megan was born. She was a rotten apple and one day, while on a road trip, she was kicking the back of Kristen’s seat and wouldn’t stop… so I pulled over the car and left her on the side of the highway.
I’m not going to claim Tammy’s story was a great parenting moment. But I do think there’s value in a strong family fable… even if it’s a cautionary tale. So while a fictional daughter who we left on the side of the road might be a tad bit psychological damaging to our children: She’s still part of our family and we’re excited that Hollywood is telling her story.
Now. Where’s my book deal? Where’s my residuals?
She’s my fictional daughter and I have the right to exploit her story for my personal gain however I’d like.
[All jokes aside. Does anyone know where this story came from? It’s crazy coincidental. My real kids would greatly benefit if I could prove that Hollywood ripped off my story.]