Saturday morning, we woke up bright and early to a clatter of excitement outside. A quick peek reminded me that it was Race Day. Just across the street, 24,000 people from around the area and across the country were bouncing up and down with anticipation for the 26.2 mile adventure about to start, right there on our corner. As the appointed moment approached, I grabbed Princess H and scrambled down to the street to cheer them out of the gate. The horn sounded and the first group took off -- elite runners, who were very serious and very fast. I was unprepared for the excitement that comes with that much humanity filled with that much energy running that fast rightinfrontofmyface. It was fantastic. As we stayed and watched the later groups start, the thrill didn't fade. In fact, it was almost more inspiring to see the grannies and packs of chubby girlfriends dressed in green glitter mini skirts and determined grins setting out on the grueling course. They were a little slower, and a lot a less alien.

After the last of the runners was trotting down C Street, the firemen started taking down the enormous American Flag, and we turned around to head back inside the house. Sigh.

The view from the kids' window

Now that my adored little sis is back from the brink, alive and getting stronger every day, it feels a little less blasphemous to complain about reflect on more temporal problems. I really only have one worth mentioning. But it's been driving me crazy lately for the last year-and-a-half. And if you were with me Saturday morning, heading back into that house, I guarantee you'd be sympathetic. The unfinished floors, plastic-wrapped furniture, random construction debris and endless fog of dust are just the first set of nasty reminders of all the broken promises, wasted money and maddening delays wrapped up in those four crazy walls. Mr. One and I don't think of ourselves as the type to be repeatedly swindled and suckered, but there's no denying we've mismanaged this particular (very large) project, and let ourselves be taken advantage of over and over and over again. Maybe it's inevitable that this happens when a homeschooler marries someone born and raised in Utah, but there's no question this blasted house has been -- more than the Ivy League or Manhattan or corporate America -- a sad education in things I wish I never needed to learn.

After making the beds, moving a couple boxes and attempting yet another futile pass with the Swiffer, I went downststairs to tackle something in the kitchen. As I stood at the sink, looking out the window at the lovely mid-morning light, I had to do a double-take. A man was bounding past my side yard toward the finish line a couple blocks away with all the grace and speed of a young gazelle. After running 26 miles in about two hours and twenty minutes, this dude did not even look winded. I stopped to admire a few more early finishers as I buckled the kids into the car to head out to Home Depot (again). Have I mentioned how much I can't stand that place?

We returned a bunch of stuff we didn't need and aquired even more, arriving home via an illegal turn the wrong way down a oneway, thanks to the race-induced maze of still-closed streets. I pulled through our alley and into the drive in time to see a slow trickle of caboose marathoners, huffing and puffing through the last couple blocks: green facepaint smeared with sweat across a bright red face; a woman speeding up to just barely a trot when she heard the cheers of well-wishers on the corner; a couple walking hand-in-hand, she looking fresh and fit, he limping badly and leaning just a bit on her shoulder. My heart welled with admiration for each of them, finishing this hard thing they had decided to do in a moment of enthusiasm, when it seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea.

Like those bedragled runners, I realized, I brought this epic, house-sized headache upon myself. I chose to run this crazy race. At the time, I really did picture myself triumphantly sprinting across the finish line, under budget and ahead of schedule. But, for a host of reasons, (some of which we ought to have anticipated, some of which nobody could have imagined), it just hasn't turned out like I envisioned.

One of the chipper runners I saw setting out that morning had a t-shirt that read "finishing is winning."  As my wonderful, saintly family and a few ninja contractors help me dig out from the chaos that separates our clan from a sane and functional living space, I'm adopting that as my mantra. How incredibly lucky I am that these are my problems! How blessed to feel, at last, that the end is just around the corner. So what if the pick-up truck with flashing lights and huge sign that reads LAST RACER is hot on my heels? We're finally approaching the finish line, and, bruised and exhausted though we may be, we are going to cross it. And that is going to feel great.