Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Kate Goldstein

One of my best friends died recently. She was on a work-related trip to India, went for a run on June 14, and never returned. Searchers looked for a week before finding her body several hundred feet below the trail where she was thought to have run. There is a news story about it here. Since my way of dealing with crap in my life seems to be writing about it, here goes....

I met Kate through the Greater Boston Track Club. She joined, looking for a competitive group of women to run with. We found out that we lived a half-mile from each other, and we began running in the early mornings along with Anna Novick, a Harvard student and fellow GBTC athlete.

At first, we would exchange emails the day before a run, but eventually we just started showing up at the same time - 5:05 a.m. - in Central Square on Mass. Ave. Kate trained with the Greater Boston Track Club for a few months, but ultimately decided to switch teams to New Balance Boston because she found it to be a more supportive environment for her. Kate was constantly looking for improvements in all aspects of her life. If something was amiss or she didn't like something, she took care of it right away.

Despite the club switch, Kate continued running with me and Anna. Anna and I trained for marathons, but Kate mostly ran the long mileage just because she wanted to. While Anna and I craved the thrill of racing and trained for it, Kate trained to train. She ran because she simply loved running, and that was it. She was only competitive with herself.

We covered thousands of miles and bonded over chatter about her family (her dad who she said looked like Groucho Marx, her mom who worked tirelessly as a family practice physician, and her genius younger brother who was often misunderstood but she loved fiercely), her dog, her research, her consulting gigs, her state of mind, politics, religion; all of this was a two-sided conversation of course. She always wanted to know how I was doing - and not in a superficial way.

Kate had a few quirks as a runner. She always ran on the softest available surface. If we were running on the river trail, she would take the dirt path next to the pavement. If we were on a sidewalk, she would run on the grass strip or people's yards. She loved true trail running and enjoyed driving out to Concord in her Prius for long runs in the woods. After one such run, Kate decided that she didn't want to wear a sweaty sports bra on the drive home. She stripped right there in the parking lot and changed, not giving the bikers across the parking lot a second thought.

Kate had a potty-mouth that she tried to tame around me - out of respect for her non-swearing Mormon friend. Still, there were a few special occasions when she unleashed some obscenities: when she nearly stepped on a giant snapping turtle by Jamaica Pond ("Holy $***!"), when drivers would stare at her instead of the road ("Watch the road a**holes!"), and when that nagging IT band would act up ("F***!"). Kate often had to stop and tie her shoes; so much so that she became known for it. On her birthday, Anna bought her a new pair of shoelaces.

Kate had an extensive collection of running shoes, which grew when she joined New Balance Boston. She got a great discount at the New Balance Outlet because of her team membership, so she took me a few times to buy shoes for me and my family.

Kate was always generous, almost to a fault. She once confessed to me how tight money was on a grad student budget. A few weeks later, she left an Ibex running shirt on my doorstep. It wasn't a holiday; she just knew that I loved Ibex gear and was too cheap to buy it myself.

Kate craved real face-to-face interaction with people. She was not hooked to Facebook and rarely posted on it. She preferred talking in person. She sometimes felt isolated as a female MIT student and so rallied diverse but like-minded women, founding the Powerhouse Women. We had "Powerhouse Parties" at her place in Central Square once a month. We would cram into her little apartment and sit on every available surface and just chat about what we were up to, our roles as women, the challenges we faced, and how we could help each other. I sometimes felt that as a stay-at-home-mom that sometimes freelanced and was scraping by as a nanny, I didn't belong there; Kate made it clear that I was not only welcomed there, but needed there.

Kate enjoyed cooking for everyone; she invited the Powerhouse Women to all bring something, but made a majority of the food (and it was always delicious of course). Kate was an excellent networker, but she never networked for the sake of advancing her career. She connected with people as a person - not as a potential employee. When you conversed with Kate, she always made you feel like the most important person in the world. No matter how busy she was, she always had time for you.

Kate moved to Jamaica Plain; between that and me getting pregnant again and thus running fewer miles, we didn't run together as much. Instead, we would meet at the MIT lunch trucks or at a park so my kids could play with her dog Ezekiel.

When I was in the hospital on bedrest before having my third child, Kate stopped by the hospital to say hello. She was sweating, in running gear. She talked to me, reassured me that everything was going to be fine, complimented me on hanging in there, and downloaded Audible for my computer so I could listen to books while laying in my hospital bed. She logged into her personal account and told me to feel free to use it. She gave me her schedule that week, which included a lot of commuting in the car; she told me to call and we would chat to pass the time.

We met up to run a few times while I trained for this year's Boston Marathon. We would meet by the BU Bridge, about halfway between our places, and run along the Emerald Necklace - her running along the dirt paths of course. I confided in her that my training wasn't going great: I was running fewer miles than I wanted, getting a lot less sleep than needed, and not getting to workouts like I should have been. She helped me enjoy running more for just running, and not stress out about the things I couldn't control. She was always supportive and encouraging.

On one snowy winter run, Kate brought Zeke along. Every once in awhile, Zeke would stumble and put up a paw, and Kate would stop to gently pluck the rock salt out. Kate once told my kids about a time when she ran with Zeke on some trails in New Hampshire; they got lost and Zeke helped them sniff their way out. My kids told and retold this story and it is the stuff of legends in my house.

Kate loved my kids (9, 4, and 1-year-olds) and was genuinely interested in their well-being. She talked to my nine-year-old about the books he was reading. She let my four-year-old walk Zeke and feed him peanut butter and Kix. The last time we saw her, Kate gave my daughter a decorative nutcracker. My daughter had asked for it and Kate handed it to her; I was embarrassed about this, but Kate assured me it was fine.

A few weeks ago, Kate was having a rough time. She texted me, "Hey Emily, I so hope you and the little ones and Scott are well. I could use some support, relationship is ending, having difficulty working and needing to take time off from my PhD. All changing at once :("

That was Kate: if she needed help, she asked for it. She didn't wait for me to instinctively know that she needed help (and I am so grateful for that!). I called her up, but she wanted to chat in person. She needed help moving out of her place in JP that weekend, so we decided to meet up then. I had my kids with me, so she never got the chance to speak as freely as she wanted to. While my kids played with Zeke, we moved Kate's stuff out to a trailer. She was moving her stuff back to Providence to her parents' place while she recovered from all the changes and hard work on her thesis.

I knew it would be a few months before I saw her again, so I gave her a card and told her how amazing she was. I reassured her that although she felt like she was weak and vulnerable, she was "KATE STRONG!" Just like Boston became a stronger community after last year's bombing, Kate would become a stronger woman. She sent me a text a few days later: "You have no idea how much your note meant to me Emily. You're an angel in disguise."

Kate told me about her trip to India. She was almost dreading it because she just wanted to relax at home for awhile. She considered delaying her trip, but I told her she would feel better in the 10 days before her trip. Plus, she was going to help install solar panels in poor Indian villages; she would not want to miss out on that.

Her last text to me before leaving for India was this: "[The weather] is really beautiful. Thank you again Emily for being a beautiful kind thoughtful giving person. You're wonderful."

Kate was always complimenting me, building me up. She always thought of others, and put her thoughts into action. I am a better person for having known Kate Goldstein. She made me into a more confident, balanced, thoughtful woman. It was an honor to call her my friend.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A few of our favorite things

1. Summertime! Bruce and Phoebe have one more week of school left and are counting down the days until vacation. We get a zillion holidays during the school-year, so that combined with the other zillion snow days we had and we have a very late summer vacation.

2. Hampers. Oliver's new favorite trick is to overturn the hamper, throw out all the laundry piece by piece, and then climb in. And just hang out. He doesn't really do much once he's in there. He just sits.

3. Our garden! I am happy to be able to do a little more in the garden this year. Our little plot yields a few tiny ripe strawberries per day, plus a good-sized salad. We have strawberries, herbs, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, a million tomatoes, and a tiny blueberry bush.

4. Running. I recently switched running clubs from the Greater Boston Track Club to the Boston Athletic Association. GBTC practices were across town and increasingly difficult to get to, while the BAA practices are a half-mile from my house. I am getting to practice more reliably and I'm hoping this translates to better fitness at some point. I still feel postpartum lumpiness, but I managed to run a 19:56 in a hilly 5K last weekend (first race since the marathon!). This weekend I'm running a trail 5K that I am really excited about.

5. Minecraft. Every day after school, Bruce speeds through his chores so he can get his 30-minute fix of Minecraft. He builds villages, trades diamonds for cookies (makes sense, right?), battles zombies and dragons, and blows stuff up with TNT. Afterward he tells me all about it. I just nod my head.

6. Everything related to firetrucks. Phoebe is still crushing on firefighters, particularly the ones at the station closest to us. She knows a half-dozen of them by name and regularly tells stories about their firefighting exploits.

7. Scott! We celebrated Father's Day with a manly breakfast, new headlamps, church, and dinner with a radiology friend. Speaking of church and Scott, he got called as the second counselor in the bishopric two months ago. So far it means that he is stressed out a bit more, emails a lot more, disappears on Sundays, and doesn't sit with us in church. Looking on the bright side, he pays more attention in church (since he has to sit up front!), and gets to counsel people and make a difference in their lives.

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Monday, June 02, 2014

One year.

Oliver's birthday was a much quieter affair than his brother's. It was a beautiful day out, so we played at the park...
 ...and played the piano too. He loves pounding the keys.
 We caught a glimpse of Bruce at school recess.
 And we had a little family party that evening. Phoebe was a big helper: she blew out his candle...
 ...and opened his present (she picked it out too! Can you tell?).

Oliver loved his chocolate cake and even fed himself quite a bit of it. This was something to celebrate too: he has had trouble grabbing things and putting them to his mouth. That's been a blessing when Bruce's Legos have been left on the floor, but it's been a problem for feeding and it's been something we are working on with Early Intervention.
At one year old, Oliver is 18 lb 1 oz. He is in the 6th percentile for weight and 60th for height; this I blame on the Raymond genes. Oliver actually lost weight in the past few weeks. He had RSV (remember that failed attempt at getting insurance to cover the vaccine? Grrrrr) and refused to eat solid food for awhile. He never got bad enough to be hospitalized, but he got very wheezy and even two months later wakes up coughing in the mornings. Anyway, between the sickness/ lack of appetite and the increased mobility, he slimmed down a bit. The doctor gave me the rundown about high-calorie dieting (which we totally love in this house) and we've been attempting to drink whole milk ever since (drinking/ sipping from a cup is another thing we are working on with Early Intervention - it is slow going).
 At one year old, here are some things Oliver loves: sticking his finger in my nose, unrolling the toilet paper roll, breastfeeding all the time (still), watching the washer and dryer spin, knocking down towers of blocks or stacking cups, taking baths, laughing with Bruce and Phoebe, shredding paper, throwing books off the shelf, eating at 4 a.m., snuggling and hugging, and playing with my hair (another habit that has lingered from birth).

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Happy birthday to the boys

May is birthday month at our house. With Bruce's and Oliver's birthdays two days apart, we ate a lot of cake. Because Bruce's birthday was kindof a downer last year, we went all out this year. Bruce invited all his friends for a Minecraft-y party at the park. He chose the menu: strawberries, watermelon, blueberries, chocolate-covered pretzels with sprinkles, graham crackers, and ginger chocolate cupcakes.
He invited about a dozen friends, including a few girls that are in love with Oliver. This kid got plenty of attention.
The best part was smashing the Creeper Pinata. It was filled with silver (Hershey Kisses and Yorks) and gold (Rolos).
Bruce invited girls to his party, but the girls mostly hung out with Oliver and Phoebe while the boys blabbered about Minecraft and Pokemon. One of Bruce's friends also had a birthday that week, but we couldn't make it to his party. We gave him his gift - a Minecraft cheat book - and it became the life of the party.

Bruce's party was the weekend after his birthday; he had plenty of fun on his actual birthday too. He had waffles for breakfast, took chocolate chip banana bread to share at school, ate fish sticks and homemade fries for dinner, and opened up a few gifts (the highlight being a Minecraft subscription). He had a piano lesson that night and brought a piece of cake for his teacher. She asked what the cake was for and he said, "It's my birthday."

"Happy birthday! I guess I can't say anything bad about you today," she said.

"That's okay," Bruce said. "You can say whatever you want. I had such a great day, it doesn't matter what you say."

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