I am back to running twice a week now with the goal of a big hike or bike ride on the weekend, and have added 2-3 days of gym on top of that while I build up my back muscles and core. When I run, it takes about 10 minutes to get warmed up. Then I’m good and feel like I could just keep running for a long time. Unless the back pain is there. In two weekends we will have guests, an early American Thanksgiving, and the the Great Climate Race 10K. I’m really looking forward to these things. I love having friends and family over at our house, which doesn’t happen often enough.

My family is scattered around the United States, and some are young and financially not able to get time off or travel far. Our next gathering is Christmas in California, but unfortunately not everyone can be there. Still, I think we will have a really good time with those who are. The people coming to our house in a couple weekends are my husband’s family and some friends. His family is very close too, and like at least the vast majority of my family, they are fun, loving, and genuinely kind.

This is going somewhere that has something to do with “Dictionary”. I was tasked to plan a Halloween party at work–just an afternoon of snacks and something fun to do. The party is Friday. I’m dressing up as Radagast, one of my favorite fictional characters–the brown wizard from The Hobbit. He is very nature-oriented, kind of a wild forest guy. I also really like the elves, but for some reason so far have only dressed up like the wizards (Gandalf a couple years ago, Radagast this year). Maybe next year I will be Galadriel.

Anyway, I was trying to sleep last night and was kept awake because I couldn’t figure out what game or craft to do at this party and it’s only two days away. My first idea was a horror movie trivia game, but, as I thought about it, I thought about the best memories I’ve had with my family–and that was playing games that unintentionally just had us rolling on the floor with laughter whilst elbows to elbows in the living room with my mother’s never-ending giggle and laugh-tears and my father’s booming voice and witty one-liners. One of these games was Dictionary–a truly fun game that has a “reader” (you take turns) finding an obscure word in the dictionary that he or she thinks nobody else will know, and writing down the definition–and reading the word to everyone else. Everyone else has to write down what they think the word means. It’s a great tool for writers just to come up with a sentence or two or three based upon something they imagine a word to be–but nobody has to be a word whiz. Knowing word roots does help but is not necessary.

In the end, you have these extremely random, funny phrases and “definitions” that describe unknown words. The reader collects them all, reads them aloud, and everyone has to vote on which definition they think is right. There are points given to those who guess the right definition correctly, to the writer if he/she wrote a fake definition that sounded credible enough and got votes, and to the reader if nobody guesses the correct definition.

I came up with a list of obscure, ancient monsters/creatures for a dictionary game on Friday–rather than having people look through the dictionary, and to keep it Halloween-like. And in doing so, I was taken back to those times at my parents’ place in Twin Oaks, that big blue-gray house in the Sugar Creek woods. These memories are so tangible that they hurt. I can remember sitting in the den, with its wood-burning fireplace and toy soldiers lining the mantle, and its checkered couches and built-in bookshelves with antique books passed down from my grandparents and other relatives. I remember laughing so very hard, along with everyone else, at the corniest definitions that came about in those games, to the point my jaws and ribs hurt and I would be writhing on the floor in spasms. Our family and friends were just so naturally goofy that there was none of this “too cool” attitude or moody shit. It was just having fun, and that meant everyone.

Things have changed a lot since, not to mention the death of my father, getting older, the family moving further apart physically and emotionally. There is still a core left that is very close, but we no longer are geographically together and it’s just very hard at times when we only get to see each other once or twice a year. We have been doing lots of skype nights with video lately–but it’s not quite the same! It is still good to talk to, and see, the people who make me feel safe in this world. Hmm, maybe I should suggest a skype night and play Dictionary over the internet!

When I think back on those older days, when we all lived in close proximity and when Dad was alive, I get very lonely almost. My husband and I don’t have the same social network my parents did. We are kind of shy rather than outgoing. Thank goodness for my husband–he also has that same humor and sometimes we lie in bed at night talking too late and laughing and shrieking at the most mundane things. We have good friends, but it is harder and harder to find times we can all get together. So when my husband’s family comes for the race, I will be in heaven with that crowded house and those lovely people. His family is so funny naturally that the stories-of-the-past they tell bowl me over. We spend hours telling tales, not so much playing games, but the final effect–laughter–is what ties us.

Laughter is so good for the soul. I think being raised in a silly family that liked to roast each other in good humor taught me the notion of humility and the ability to laugh at myself. It taught me not to be so damned serious about myself and to back away from people who are all about only their narcissist selves. These traits also nourished a kind of mutual respect that understands and accepts imperfections. The laughter drew us so close. I always hope that somewhere out there in the universe, other than in memory and dream, is some sort of parallel universe or afterlife that allows me to see my father again and to see others who have gone before me.

I think of these things often when running, too. Wandering thoughts are good for not noticing tiredness or pain, and the memories, as ephemeral as they seem, feel good.

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