March, muffins and motherly musings.

Dear friends,

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I made Banana Nut Muffins this morning. I had four very sad bananas on my counter and unlike most weeks when I simply toss expired fruit, I turned the bananas into a tasty breakfast for my boys — breakfast being a relative term since I’m typing this at 10:30 am and both of them are still fast asleep despite the aroma of warm muffins.

In case you’re curious, I don’t have a go-to muffin recipe. I found this one last night and decided to give it a try. My only word of review is YUM. My only alteration to the recipe is that I added half a cup of chocolate chips. By the way, I’ve been adding chocolate chips to banana muffins/bread since 1986 when my Boston roommate showed me her trick. If you haven’t had chocolate chip banana nut muffins before, I exhort you to try them.

(My teenage son, if he read this, would ask for the definition of exhort. I think he wonders why I favor non-standard words. All I can say is that I learned it from my mother. And I guess I’m passing it on, though I rarely hear my children say things like “I exhort you.” I love the fact that my mother was a high-school dropout and yet had the vocabulary of a highly educated person. She was a voracious reader, proving once again the good that select books and periodicals can do in your life.)

Now that I’ve prattled on about my muffins and my mother, will you indulge me in a few words about my daughter? I’m just bursting my buttons with pride. Her tennis team is on an impressive winning streak. This weekend, they played and whipped two opponents in San Antonio, including an upset win over a ranked team, which gives them a 9-1 record at the mid-point of their season. Besides the fact that I’m delighted for these young women, I’m tickled pink because Kate got her first two wins.

When Kate made her college choice, she knew she would be joining a talented team. She knew she’d be getting top-notch tennis instruction, but she didn’t know if she’d ever play a match her first season or two. When the program’s longtime and nationally recognized coach departed not long after her arrival, her tennis future seemed pretty uncertain. (I don’t mean to sound like a mother who values athletics over academics, but because Kate aspires to become a tennis coach, her athletic and academic futures are entwined.) The new coach has clearly hit the ground running, and so has Kate. After playing a handful of exhibition matches, she got the opportunity this week to play her first matches among the “Top 6.” (The team has 8 players, 6 of whom play any given match.)

Kate won her singles match 6-0, 6-1. She and her partner, Lusy, won their doubles match 8-0. Those zeros  in a match score — they’re called “bagels” in tennis. And a bagel is a beautiful thing when you serve one up to your tennis opponent.

So, yeah, Mom is over the moon. Kate’s 20th birthday is Friday and we’re traveling to Oklahoma to watch two days of tennis matches and host a birthday dinner.  The weekend following that, Kate will be home for two days in what suffices for spring break for the tennis team. The weekend after that, we’ll have the great pleasure of watching her squad play two Missouri teams just a few miles from our home. With three consecutive weekends where we get to see Kate, March just may be my new favorite month.

Oh — one more thing.

While we’re visiting Kate, we’re going to meet this little girl.

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She’s a rescue dog. Her foster mother thinks she’s part Lab, part Redbone. Mr. Mom thinks she’s part Walker. She is all parts adorable and, if the stars align, she’ll come home with us. We’ve been thinking of adopting a new dog ever since Frito died, and if this adoption happens, March will be officially perfect.

With gratitude {for the most wonderful, springy, time of the year},

Joan, who tackled her spring project list yesterday with a Pinterest idea that she looks forward to telling you about soon

Tethered.

Dear friends,

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This is Ed. Part Golden Retriever, part Labrador Retriever, Ed is a rescue dog that came into our lives some eight years ago after Parker begged for a canine companion of his own.

We had lost our Black Lab, Cassie, some time earlier and Ed came bounding into our lives just when our household of four broken hearts, two active children and one neurotic Chihuahua most needed him.

He’s lived in three towns with us, two in Oklahoma and now one in Missouri. He has adapted to spacious yards, small ones, the noise of city streets and now — a wooded 15 acres filled with deer and turkeys and rabbits and all kinds of woodland friends he loves to chase.

Of late, he’s been chasing something else.

My 1000 mile goal.

Ed is my running buddy. He’s covered every mile I have since I announced my goal and he’s done it with far more enthusiasm and grace than I have.

I never ran with Ed before we moved to Missouri. I’m not sure why except I just never did. Once we moved to Missouri, things changed. For one, we live in an area far outside the city limits where most of the dogs run free. Our pasture is fenced, but it’s far enough from the house that Ed and Frito (the aforementioned neurotic Chihuahua) were miserable when we first moved in and tried keeping them there (and tried convincing them to sleep in our barn). About a month in, we caved and let Ed and Frito run free like the other dogs. We moved their doghouse from the barn to a sheltered spot not far from our kitchen door and they were gloriously happy to cavort with neighborhood dogs at will and nap by the back door.

But once they were unfenced, our two outdoor dogs couldn’t help but follow me as I headed out on my runs. Whether I wanted it or not, I suddenly had running companions. After Frito died last year, the plural changed to singular, so now Ed is my trusty exercise buddy.

It’s been interesting, this journey into my own fitness that’s also a journey into Ed’s. At about 8 dog years, he’s older than me. His age shows most in the expanding mask around his eyes and the increasing time it takes him to rise after resting. But it sure doesn’t show on the hills, at least not as much as it does on me.

On weekday mornings we run before dawn and the neighborhood is deserted so I allow him to run off-leash. For the first month, I was so slow on the uphill climbs that he would often stop a few yards ahead of me and patiently wait for me to catch up. Occasionally, he would look over his shoulder at me as if to say “Come on. Can’t you go faster?” But mostly he just slowed his pace and/or patiently waited on me.

On weekends, though, I run much later, usually when cars and walkers and other dogs are out and about, so I put him on a leash. On those days that he is tethered to me, he can only get a leash’s length ahead of me and I don’t feel so slow. He is a good dog so he never tugs.

On Saturday, we ran late — almost noon — so I had him on a leash. And even though we put in six miles, I noticed I got far enough ahead of him on the final downhill run that I had to give him a little tug. It was probably unkind to Ed but it was good for my ego. “Come on, old boy,” I said out loud. “Keep up with this old gal. I’m beating you.”

It made me think about how fortunate I am to have such a faithful running companion. He never begs off, never gives up, never gets sick, never brags, never complains. Whether 7 degrees or 85 degrees, rain or shine, dark or light, he shows up. Tethered or not, he is my loyal sidekick who doesn’t know we have a goal but is determined to meet it every time I open the door and call his name.

With gratitude {for this family’s best friend},

Joan, who thinks if anything keeps her running for 52 weeks straight, it will be Ed

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