Carry on Jesus

“I’ll leave these shoes,” my new husband said while he tossed a perfectly good pair of dress shoes over by the trash can. “I guess we don’t need the boxes for all of these things either,” I responded as I removed gifts from packaging and re-wrapped them in dirty clothes. We then rearranged our belongings in our three suitcases desperately trying to  fit an entire Lladró nativity set with all of its packaging along with the rest of our wedding and travel stuff in there. It was like a bad game of Tetris. Thanks to my father in law, Jack McCall.

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Jack never did anything in a small way. He also always did things his way. The first time I met him he asked me if I had closed toe shoes so we could go cut cows. I had no idea what he was talking about, and he was one hundred percent serious. I was horrified. Cut cows? Did he mean castrate? I then learned that cutting cows meant sorting them out so that he could sell some at the local auction, and that the sandals I was wearing were not appropriate for the task because I might get cow poop all over my feet. I guess he thought this was a good way to screen a potential daughter-in-law.

Later that evening, he told me that my then boyfriend (now husband and father of my three children) and I should probably not have children because they would be ridiculously hard headed. He may be having the last laugh about that one.

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My husband and I were married in Spain. To honor his mom who had passed away before we met, we bought a small Lladró angel to place on the altar (small being the key word here) once we had arrived in Spain, but before our wedding. Lladró is a Spanish brand of beautiful ceramic figurines. They are fragile, many of them are expensive, and they come in tons of packaging in order to protect the figurine.

Jack was with us when we bought the Lladró angel. The next day, he and some other family and friends (because it took multiple people to carry it all) showed up at our hotel with four bags of Lladrós containing: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, three wise men, a cow, and a donkey. The entire nativity set. The not religious Jack McCall had purchased the entire nativity set of Lladrós. Which was of course beautiful and very generous, but I also couldn’t help wonder if he was just wanting to sit back and enjoy watching us figure out how to get it all back to the States.

Along with the typical wedding stress, Project Get Jesus and Friends Home Safely was suddenly in full swing. We looked at mailing it. Prohibitively expensive. Other forms of shipping. Same problem. So we went to the local department store and bought the largest suitcase they had. And there we were in the hotel in Spain the night before leaving trying to fit them all in and having to ditch some of our other belongings. WWJD?

In spite of the fact that the Lladrós had lots of packaging, we (read: I) were still worried about putting them in checked bags. I didn’t want them to break. It seemed ok to put the animals in there, maybe the wise men. The wise men were the largest with the most packaging so it made sense to put them in the suitcase. Joseph had a very fragile staff. Maybe we shouldn’t put him in checked luggage. And what about Mary. And Baby Jesus? Jesus can’t go in checked luggage. Jesus goes in the carry on. Amazingly, they all made it back in one piece. They have survived a move and three kids (knock on wood) and every Christmas we bring them out and laugh at having carried them across the Atlantic.

This is just one of the many, many stories that Jack McCall left with us. Everyone I meet that knew Jack has a Jack McCall story. Most of them are not suited for small children. Almost all of them are hilarious. He was a good father-in-law (even if he liked to give me a hard time, all the time) and a good grandfather to my kids. He instilled in my oldest a lifelong love of fishing, and in all of them a deep love of the land and respect for the armed forces.

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Who wore it best?

Even when he was sick, he never lost his wit or sense of humor. In fact, one of the very last things he did on this earth was make fun of my youngest for whining. This year that Lladró nativity set is extra special, as it is out first year without Jack here with us. It is a great memory and a reminder of the importance of family, friends, and spending time with people you care about. It’s also a good lesson on the importance of commas (carry on Jesus v. carry on, Jesus) and that when faced with a packing dilemma, you should carry on Jesus. Always carry on Jesus.

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Let’s Talk About the Beer Mile

Holiday gatherings got you stressed? Worried about keeping up with your running routine? Did someone just bring up politics at the dinner table? I’ve got a solution for all of that. Might I suggest an impromptu beer mile.

This one was not impromptu. This was planned. Which beer should I use? Will I need some La Croix for backup? How ’bout pretzels in case I puke?

I had never tried a beer mile until earlier this year when a few friends of mine and I got together one Friday afternoon for some beer mile shenanigans. A beer mile also serves as a great happy hour and start to the weekend. I will admit, I was nervous about the timing of ours. I was in the throes of marathon training with back to back long runs scheduled for the weekend and questioned the wisdom of trying a beer mile the night before. The good thing about the beer mile is that by beer number two you are no longer concerned with any workouts you might have scheduled for the next day.

So here’s how it works: drink a beer then run 0.25 miles. Then do it again. Then again. One more time. Total of four beers and four 400s for a total of one mile of running. Ideally you do it on a track but the only track we had access to was at our local neighborhood high school so we chose to do laps in the neighborhood. Also, you are supposed to use beer with a minimum alcohol content of 5%. I don’t think any of our beers met that threshold. Next time. I used Coors Light which is 4.2%.

I wasn’t too concerned about the alcohol content of my beer because, I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t think I would be able to do it. I know, I know, if I don’t believe in myself, who will? I need to work on being my own champion. Or maybe I just need to do more beer miles. Either way, my prime drinking days are long behind me and even when I was in tip top drinking shape, much like in running, I was more of an endurance kind of girl. Chugging, like sprinting, was never my forte. Nevertheless, I wanted to give a beer mile the old college try. Because beer. And running. Together!

So we set off chugging our beers and running our laps and, as you would imagine, each one got progressively harder. Trying to run on a stomach full of beer is hard. Is there some technique? Like a waddle run?

Woah, we’re half way there! Woah, livin’ on a prayer! Two down, two to go!

My goal going in was to at least complete half. A beer 800 is legit, right? But once I got two down and was still having fun I was determined to do the full mile. Go big or go home! BELIEVE!

Coming in for the win! Who has form this good after four beers? This superstar! Beer mile champ x 2.

After finishing we enjoyed some good laughs and pizza as well as some discussion on strategy and how to improve future beer miling. But mostly pizza.

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Was I really on the ground like this? Because I don’t recall being down on the ground like this. Must’ve been doing some post race stretching. That was smart!

My Garmin clocked me at 16 something for the mile. Jesse Thomas suggests that a mid packer beer mile should be around ten minutes. TEN MINUTES?!?! First of all, that seems super fast. Secondly, I’ve got some work to do. And finally, the off-season is a great time to practice.

So if things start to feel like too much inside over the holidays, grab some beers and Cousin Joe and go outside for some beer mile practice! Even a beer 400 will leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed and able to stay unengaged from political debate. Cheers!

Post beer mile bliss