Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Build Others Up

A few months back, I read an article on divorce, and one of the clearest predictors of marital success is how the partners speak to each other. Couples who stay together use courtesy words (please and thank you) and say kind, supportive, positive things to each other often. In couples who divorce, one or both partners often speak rudely, hurtfully, or insultingly. Doomed couples go negative with their words and stay negative.

While this research applied to marriage, I believe it applies equally well to friendship. When someone starts tearing a friend down with words or using the "parent" voice with them, the friendship might be doomed.

Parent voice used between friends is insidious. While there are very rare instances when it might be justified, when one adult uses the parent voice on another adult, he or she is putting himself or herself above the other...scolding, judging, insulting, ordering, and humiliating. Parent voice does not invite response because complaining about it puts you in the position of a whining child. If you respond in anger, well, you're just two grown-ups acting like toddlers who need a nap. Trying to reason with parent voice doesn't work, either; it escalates the situation.

Parent voice, when used one adult to another, is an exercise of power that silences the victim.

Years ago when I worked in a corporation, my boss took a few sick days during a critical time in an important project. She wouldn't take calls, and told me and another employee to "handle it." Working with our boss's boss, we did handle it, and quite well. In fact, we had fun pulling the project together with upper management, a gentleman who was a true team player.

When our boss came back to work, she called the two of us into her office and asked what we'd done. We showed her, but instead of praising our efforts, she started tearing us down. She adopted a parent voice, gave us a condescending lecture on Advertising 101, and told us we'd made a mess she would have to clean up.

There was simply nothing we could say to her in response. It was awful, uncomfortable, and embarrassing. We also felt angry because we knew her criticisms weren't at all valid.

Later that day, she was removed from management, shunted sideways into a dead-end position. She hadn't realized that her own boss had taken such an active roll in helping us out...until it was too late.

So the moral of the story is this: don't ever use the parent voice on your boss. And it's not a good idea to use it on friends, either.

I know what it's like to be torn down by a friend, and it sucks. I also know what it's like to be built up by loving friends, and it's awesome. I want my friends to know the awesomeness of being built up, not the suckiness of being torn down.

Friendships end for all sorts of reasons, some of them quite natural and normal. People grow apart, grow at different paces, move away, move on. After spending 20 years married to the military, I became sadly accustomed to letting go of my civilian friends who didn't have time to continue reaching out to people who moved away.

Only very rarely have friends used unkind words with me, and even then, mostly the friends were just in a temporary bad mood. When they snap occasionally, my instinct is to either build them up or simply ignore the situation. I know I sometimes lose control of my better nature and lash out in frustration or hormones. Real friends understand and cover each other with grace and love.

Unfortunately, some people enter a state of perpetual negativity, pouring out parent voice and other meanness repeatedly on a friend, pushing that person further and further away over a period of time. Hurting people hurt...and they often hurt the people it's safest to hurt, those they trust to love them through anything. Perhaps it's an attempt (conscious or not) to force a confrontation to end the friendship. Perhaps the person is suffering from depression or other mental illness. Perhaps they simply want to move on and don't know how.  Whatever the reason, the friendship weakens and might even fall apart in a nasty friend divorce if the meanness continues unchecked.

As with marriage, friendship takes two people who are committed to each other working together and being kind. When one or both give up, there's not much that can be done. As long as there's hope, working on manners, offering kind words, and building each other up...well, who knows what sort of healing might happen? Grace and love do sometimes win.

And when they don't, let the lost friend go with a much good will as you can muster. Divorce can be messy, but it can also sometimes be a relief.

Have you ever used parent voice on a friend or had it used on you? Did your friendship survive the ugliness? Why or why not? What were reasons for friend divorces you had? Do you think you could have behaved differently for a different outcome, or was the friendship doomed? How can you, today, show a friend some small kindness to build them up?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Ironman Recap

We've had a busy week driving home and getting started with a new school year. It's been a bit crazy (for instance, I got rear-ended while stopped at a red light Friday...oy vey!), but I want to recap the Ironman experience before I forget all the details.

First of all, Mont Tremblant knows how to put on an Ironman. Let this be a hint for Madison, Wisconsin, and other Ironman need to open the weekend with a live rock concert and fireworks. Mont Tremblant did. And it was amazing.


Second, the people of Mont Tremblant truly understand customer service. We were so impressed. Yes, it's a resort village and must have good customer service to keep drawing the crowds, but almost everyone we interacted with, from housekeeping in the hotel to servers at restaurants to the falconer who took us on a hike, was warm, kind, helpful, and friendly. This speaks well not only of the workers but of their management. Thank you, Mont Tremblant and Canada, for making our trip so pleasant!

Third, almost everyone in Mont Tremblant spoke English, even though French is the official language. What a gift to a whole province that most of its people are bilingual! Culturally and practically, this makes Quebec accessible and fun to visit for we mono-lingual Americans. After a while, we started making up a patois of French and English phrases just for fun, but I really, truly wish I spoke French now.

Fourth, we thoroughly enjoyed spending this time with George's sister, Angela, and her husband, Mike. Spending time with them is easy and relaxing and comfortable. They clearly love Nick and Jack, and they understand and appreciate Jack's quirks. How I wish we all lived closer together. Every time I make toast du mort*, I'll think of them and giggle!

Fifth, people who do Ironman races are both crazy and amazing. Athletes included a pair of identical twins, several married couples, a blind woman, a 74-year-old man, several people with lower-body paralysis (imagine doing an entire 140.6 miles using only your arms for propulsion!), a woman who had lost over 100 pounds, and the list goes on. We watched athletes cross the finish missing swaths of skin to road rash from bike wrecks, and a guy with his arm in a sling finished the race. I'm still trying to figure out how he did the swim.

[To see a 12-minute, professional video of the race, click HERE.]

Sixth, Ironman events offer extreme displays of sportsmanship. Racers help each other along the way with words of encouragement, a spare salt tablet, a CO2 cartridges to fill flat tires. Many people who finish earlier in the day come back near midnight to cheer on the last people to cross the line. We stayed up and witnessed an amazing sight. Mike Reilly, known as the Voice of Ironman, called out the final finisher's name and said, "You are an Ironman!" as he'd done for every other finisher that day.

Then, Reilly got word that another runner was just a few minutes out, and even though it was past the deadline for officially finishing, Reilly asked everyone wait for that athlete. A group of about twenty spectators joined the athlete for his last quarter mile and ran him across the finish line while Mike shouted words of encouragement. Mike congratulated him and got the entire crowd to shout, "You are an Ironman!"

So what if it wasn't an official finish? That man went 140.6 miles in one day, swim-bike-run. Of course he's an Ironman. And Mike Reilly was as enthusiastic and excited for him as he'd been for the first place winner of the whole race.

That's what Ironman is about: gutting it out and doing your best. Out of nine attempts at Ironman races, George didn't finish three. But he always came back and tried again. As crazy as all these athletes are, I've got nothing but respect for them, taking on such a huge challenge, pushing themselves as hard as they can.

At the T2 area, while retrieving George's bike, I saw an athlete in a wheelchair roll into the tent. He knew he'd not made the cut-off and wouldn't be allowed to start the run, but he was surrounded by people cheering him on. Now, I imagine his disappointment was acute in the moment, but seriously? All of us watching were inspired. How can we gripe about our petty challenges when this man, using just his arms for propulsion, just tried to do something most able-bodied individuals can't do?

He'll be back. And he'll finish. I just know it.

George's finish was 18 minutes faster than last year's finish in Madison, Wisconsin, at 13:57. He set a personal record for the swim...1:11, four minutes faster than ever before. Not bad for a 50-year-old, eh?


He's already talking about signing up to do Wisconsin again next year, possibly with several of his crazy friends. And I'll be there to cheer him on, carry his bike pump, and retrieve his sticky, sweaty bike. I'll gladly be his Iron Sherpa...again.

George Raihala, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

He Finished!

I'm wiped out, and George is starving, so this will be quick.

George finished in 13:57 after a painful marathon. He was unsteady on his feet but sensible (sort of), has showered, and now wants to eat. He told his sister that if he tries to register for Ironman Wisconsin next year, she has permission to taze him.

Typical post-race negativity. By next weekend, he'll think an IM next year is a great idea. IMs are like childbirth, I think, although I never had amnesia myself...I remember every pain my children put me through. But I did it twice. Voluntarily.

Ironman Mont Tremblant is George's sixth Ironman.

Nine tries.

Six finishes.

That's a special kind of crazy.

We're off to feed the beast. He's limping, but we're going.

I'll wrap up our Ironman weekend when we get home. Thanks for all the support and encouragement and prayers today!

For Narnia!!!

Another video, this time of the start of George's second lap of the marathon.

For Narnia!

George seemed in good spirits but says his knee is bothering him. He's steadily increased his pace on each of the run splits, though, so YAY!!!!

Mike had a trip to the medical tent following his bike and will not start the run. He's going to be fine, but muscle cramps ended his race this year.

T2 Video

If you want to see a video of George's transition from bike to run, a.k.a. T2, check out this link. He looks so much better than last year, and he's hauling the mail!

T2 Video

Tri to Understand

This is the second race-day post. Scroll down for the first race-day post!

Years ago in Madison, I saw a woman wearing a shirt that said, "Just Tri-ing to Understand." After attending my seventh start of an Ironman race, I feel like I'm starting to get it.


Just a bit.

It seems to make more sense at the finish line, though.

George gets body markings, including
his age (50) on his calf. This way, racers
know when people older than they are
pass them. ;-)

Nick and Angela, Iron Sherpas

The lake in early morning. 

Milling around before the start.

His nose is healing nicely from its
impact with the dock.

Mike, number 2007, looking happy!

Suited up with his Sherpa carrying the bike pump.
So glad I didn't have to carry that thing this year.
Thanks for the help, Nick!

Mike suited up and ready to swim. Sherpa Ang has his backpack.
She's earning her Sherpa gift!

The start was accompanied by fireworks and a canon blast, but the crowds made it impossible for us to see any of the waves leave the beach. We Sherpas went back to the hotel, picked up Jack, and ate a quick breakfast before moseying down to T1, where we saw both guys running from the lake to their bike gear.

Both were VERY happy with their swim times. George may have PRed his swim at 1:11, and Mike significantly improved his time over last year with a 1:33 swim!

It's fascinating to watch athletes in T1. Some have huge smiles on their faces, and others look for all the world like they're thinking, "Thank God I didn't drown!!!" or perhaps, "OMG, I have 138.2 miles left to go!!!!"

Most triathletes have favorite and least favorite events...the three sports are just so very different. George and Mike generally enjoy the swim. George says he zens out. They both prefer the bike (unless they get muscle cramps or bonk, in which case each has claimed to want to give their bike to anyone who will take it, or possibly throw it under a bus so they never have to ride it again).

The run is the weakest event for both guys, so the key is to keep their legs fresh enough to make the 26.2-mile. It's tempting to rage on the bike, thinking you're making up for a slow run, but that never works. All three times George didn't finish, he stopped half-way through the run with horrible cramps and dehydration. We don't want that happening today!

And now we wait. The bike splits are weird lengths. The first is 7km, and both men are over that mat with good times, but the second bike split is 73.5km, which means we won't get an update for quite a while.

In the meantime, we're relaxing. I should be back around 4:00-5:00 with a bike update and hopefully some pictures from the start of their marathons! If you want to track them for the eight different bike splits, go to Ironman Mont Tremblant Athlete Tracker and use 1965 for George and 2007 for Mike.

Ironman Begins

Ironman race day began at 4:00 AM after a night of very little sleep. We'll head off in about ten minutes to meet Ang and Mike and saunter down to the swim start...hopefully with a strong cup of coffee in hand.

Various weather reports are calling for a high of 80, 82, 86, and 88. Wow. That's quite a range. If you're the praying type, please pray for lower temps for all the racers. One-hundred-forty-point-six miles are brutal enough without adding heat to the mix.

George's race number is 1965, and Mike's is 2007. You can follow them at the Athlete Tracker on the Ironman website. Live coverage starts at 6:00 AM here, and finish coverage starts around 3:00 on the same page. That's roughly when George will be starting the marathon and a bit before the winner of the whole race will cross the finish line.

Race safe, men and women of Ironman Mont Tremblant 2015!