Tag Archives: health

Aaliyah

“I run because I can.  When I get tired, I remember those who can’t run, what they’d give to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them.  I know they would do the same for me.”
– Unknown

Hey there, Blog World.  I would like to introduce you to someone.

Ladies and gentlemen: meet Aaliyah.

Aaliyahblog2Is this not the most gorgeous little soon-to-be-5-year-old you’ve ever seen?  And now, I’m going to tell you the story of Miss Aaliyah, and how she came into my life.

As some of you may know, I’m a runner.  If you’re new to my blog, you may not realize that fact since I haven’t really talked about it in a while.  I just ran my second half marathon in November (after running my first in May), and have been a bit of a slacker ever since.  As I’m sure a lot of runners will understand and relate with, I was having a bit of a post-race slump.  But as the New Year approached, I started to remember some promises I had made to myself.  One promise, in particular.

Last year, I insisted that 2014 would be the year I ran my first marathon.

I even started a training plan and had a race picked out for April 2014.  Well, I’ll just be quite honest with you…that idea fizzled.  If you’ve never trained for a distance race, let me explain what happens.  Pretty much everything in your life has to take a backseat to training.  I’m not kidding.  Even when you’re not running, you’re thinking about running.  The things you eat and drink change, the amount of sleep you get changes (or at least you stress over the fact that you’re not getting enough), your weekend plans have to revolve around your ‘long run’ day.  Etc. Etc. Etc.  And I only know all of this from training for a half marathon.  Training for a full marathon?  Yeah, double all of that.  It’s a commitment.  A big one.  Because of the holidays and the cold weather and the release of the book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game, that contains my story (woohoo!) and all of the hoopla that went with it, I decided I didn’t quite have the time to devote to training for a marathon just yet.

And then, I found Aaliyah.

irun4A few months ago, prior to my running slump, I stumbled across the Facebook page for a community called IRun4.  After I started doing a little research, I found their website and got pretty excited about the whole idea.  Basically, this is a program that ‘matches’ runners with children with disabilities.  You strike up a friendship with the child’s parent and you dedicate your logged miles to the child.  It’s really a way to motivate both sides.  The parent and their child (if they’re old enough to understand) know that there is a practical stranger out there in the world who cares about them and what they’re going through, and the runner is provided with a reminder of how blessed we are to have the health and ability to do this thing we love to do: run.  Another benefit?  It increases awareness.  Awareness of some of the illnesses we’ve never even heard of that these beautiful children (and their parents) are living with everyday.

Well, yesterday, after an almost 3-month spot on the waiting list, I received notification that I had been matched.  With beautiful little Aaliyah who lives in Texas with her mommy.   After speaking online with her mom, I was introduced to a disorder that I had never heard of.  Little Aaliyah has what is called Rett Syndrome.  The best way I know to describe this is to use a phrase I have found on many of the websites I’ve researched:

Imagine the symptoms of Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Parkinson’s, Epilepsy and a variety of anxiety disorders all rolled into one little girl.  That’s Rett Syndrome.

This is what Aaliyah has to battle every day of her life.

Now, this is all new to me.  All I know about the disease is what I’ve read since hearing the term for the first time yesterday.  I don’t live with it every day like Aaliyah and her young mom do, so I don’t really know what life is like for them.  But I plan to learn.  And I plan to do more research and I plan to become more aware of what little Aaliyah’s life is like.  And until I can find another way to support the disease itself, I will do the only thing I know to do here in my little world half way across the country from her – I will run for her.  Each time I put on my running shoes, I will say a little prayer for Aaliyah and her mom and send good vibes and love their way.  And I will hope that they feel them.

AaliyahblogAnd….I will start searching for my first full marathon somewhere this fall.  What better reason to go the distance, right?  First on the agenda:  training for another half marathon in early May (the same one I did as my first half last year).  With Aaliyah’s little spirit cheering me on, I think this is going to be a successful running year.

So, little Aaliyah in Texas – I am going to do my best to not let you down.  I will earn the distinction as your running buddy and will do all I can to promote awareness of what you are going through.  I will keep you in my prayers and in my heart and will remember you and your mommy and hope that you know that each step I take from this moment on, is for you. 

Because, after all….

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One little girl out there in the world is going to know that she is thought about and loved.  I won’t let you down, kiddo.

Here’s to a 2014 filled with running successes and wonderful new friendships.

***

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” 
– Albert Schweitzer

2014

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
– Edith Lovejoy Pierce

I sit here overwhelmed with the feeling of joy and happiness that this first day of the New Year has brought me.

kiddos1I rang in the New Year with a group of friends that I am blessed and privileged to have come to know in the past few years.  We have shared a stage together, and now, we share our homes and our lives.  Our children have become friends, which warms my heart to no end.  In fact, after ringing in the New Year, we brought a group of them home with us for a sleepover.  As I type this, four teenagers are playing outside in the vast backyard of our new home (after promptly informing me, mind you, that my breakfast was awesome because they had to eat ‘healthy stuff’ at their homes.  Heh.  Oops.)  I finally live in a community where I actually know people well enough for our kids to have sleepovers together.  This may not sound like that big of a deal, but to a roaming nomad Army brat such as myself, finding a place that feels like ‘home’ is no small feat.  I have found it.

I also woke up to this email this morning:

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My heart is full as I realize that something I wrote touched a heart in Saudia Arabia.  Saudia Arabia!  This world just isn’t as small as we think it is, is it?  Months ago, I sat with a cat curled on my lap and the man I love made a comment about it.  And now, because I took the time to turn that into written word, it has touched a heart across the world.

Wow.

Really.  That’s all I know to say about that.  Just…wow.

Tomorrow, I will head in to a wonderful good-paying job that I worked hard to work my way up to.  I will then leave work, and I will come home to a man who loves me with all of his heart, and I’ll know that just by looking at his adorable little dimpled face and seeing that smile that lights it up when I get home.  I’ll also know it by watching him chop wood to bring in to build a fire in our wood stove.  I’ll know it by watching him tinker with my car to make sure everything is in working condition.  singing1I’ll know it each time he picks up a guitar and asks me to sing with him, and making me feel like I’m good enough to do it.  I’ll know it by accepting the glass of wine he hands me after a long, stressful day, or by sitting down to the wonderful meal that he has cooked for me.  I’ll know it by feeling his hand reach out across the table and slip into mine and squeeze it before we begin to eat.  I’ll know it by the kiss he plants on my forehead before we slip off to sleep in our big, warm bed.  I’ll know it because…well.  I’ll just know it.  Because I pay attention.  Because I look for it.  Because I believe it.

I am a blessed, happy, healthy woman.  And I intend to spend 2014 continuing to see and appreciate those blessings that surround me, and will try my best to not take a single moment of this precious life for granted.

Won’t you join me?

Happy New Year, my friends.

***

“Write on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mayberry Half Marathon

“The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.”
– George Sheehan

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  • Second half marathon = *check!*
  • Goal time met = *check!*  (Well, my goal was 2:30 and it ended up being 2:30:44.  Those last 44 seconds don’t count, right?)
  • PR = *check!*  (My first half marathon took 2:43)
  • Miserable pain in legs and hips afterwards? = *DOUBLE CHECK!*

So, today, I completed my second half marathon in Mount Airy, North Carolina.  It was called the “Mayberry Half Marathon.”  Yep, that Mayberry. blog If you aren’t familiar with the area, this is the town that the Andy Griffith show was based on.  And buddy, let me tell ya, they sure use that as a draw to the area!  (As they should.)  You can see everything from Wally’s Service Garage to Floyd’s Barber Shop.  Pretty cool stuff.

So, my day started with a 4:15 a.m. alarm.  (Whaaat?  Seriously?  I’m getting up at 4:15 a.m. to go make myself miserable???  Yep.  Welcome to being a runner.)  blog1And not only did I get up at 4:15 a.m., but so did my boyfriend and his kids to come along and be my cheerleaders.  If you’re a runner, you know how very much this means to us.  Yes, we’re running for ourselves and it’s a very private, personal sport, but when it comes to races, there’s nothing like a cheerleader.  And I had three.  His kids had the option of staying home, but they chose to go to support me.  Talk about warm fuzzies. 🙂  They’re just as sweet as their dad.

So, after our 2+ hour trip to Mount Airy, I get all signed in and get my sweet shirt. blog3 (I was also given the shirt and goody bag – complete with running socks (super sweeeet!) for my Australian friend Zoe who earned hers as well from across the world.  Read that blog here if you missed it!) So, I’m checking out my awesome long-sleeved silky moisture wicking shirt and suddenly I notice this little phrase written up the arm.

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Um.  Say what?

Now, although I don’t live “too” far from Mount Airy (about two hours away), I wasn’t extremely familiar with the terrain.  And let me just say…. Holy. Cow.  They weren’t kidding.  The hills were insane!  I started out thinking this was going to be a pretty chill course.  blog7I love looking at the little smile on my innocent, unassuming face as I took off from the start line.  That smile started fading right about the 8 mile mark as my legs started screaming at me that this was the worst, stupid, most idiotic idea I had ever had in my life.  And I couldn’t help but agree with them.  Yes, the course was beautiful, but who the heck cared!?  I was too busy looking down at my legs to be sure they were still there because the numbness was starting to make me doubt that fact.

blog6“Oh, dear God, please let me finish this thing.  I’ll do anything you say from now on.  Scout’s honor.”  (I was never a scout and God knows that, so I’m sure he realized I was just kidding.)

But alas, scout or no, God followed through and allowed me to cross the finish line.  Barely.   Nah, I’m exaggerating.  Without knowing what the course was like, I had hoped for a 2:30 finish and I finished in pretty much exactly that.  2:30:44.  (As I mentioned before, those 44 seconds totally don’t count.  I was right at 2:30, so I’m going with that.  Bam!)

Note the distinct difference in my face from before the race to after.  Ha!

Am I proud of myself?  You bet I am.  Why?  Well, lots of reasons.  One – I finished.  Two – I started.  Three – I got this awesome medal…

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(There’s that mention of hills again!  This time I knew why!)

But aside from all that stuff, you know the deeper, more real reasons that I’m proud?

“Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too.”
– Richard O’Brien

Keeping that quote in mind – here’s one of those reasons.

blog11That picture is the result of my friend Zoe’s half marathon that she ran, in part, because of me.  Our training together for the last few months led her to run her first half marathon all on her own in Australia.  Together, we helped each other get to this point, and she SMASHED it!  I’m so proud of her.  And I’m proud of myself for helping to inspire one other person out there in the world to feel this intense feeling of pride in herself.  There’s nothing like setting out to complete a goal, and completing it.  There’s a strength there that can’t be explained.  But trust me – it’s good stuff.

And on that same note:  I also got to witness a couple success stories at the race itself.  I spoke to one woman just before the race who was telling me that she was unsure if she would even be able to run.  She had trained hard and had started experiencing some serious pain in her hips and knees just a week or so ago.  The pain wouldn’t ease.  She said she was just going to do a little warm up and then make her decision whether to follow through with the race.  This conversation occurred in the bathroom line just prior to the race, and I lost her after that.  Throughout the race, I thought of her and wondered if she had been able to do the race at all.  At the awards ceremony, I got my answer.  She finished THIRD OVERALL.  How do you like that!?  I felt so proud of her it was almost like I knew her personally.  And that’s another reason why I love being a runner.  We are as proud of each other’s accomplishments as we are of our own – even when we barely know the person.

I spoke to another guy who was completing his 11th half marathon of the year.  One per month.  And he was from Nashville, TN, and is planning to run the Music City Marathon in April – the same one that I’ve got my sights set on for my own first full marathon.  Eh, we’ll see.  My legs still hurt too much right now to make that decision.  But either way – small world.  I just love the conversations that take place among runners.  We’re a family of sorts.  We get each other.  And we all see each other as equals – whether we finished 1st or 120th.  That’s one of the most beautiful things about this sport in my eyes.

And finally, to wrap it all up.  You know what really, really, makes me love these races?  This.

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I am so lucky to have my biggest fan by my side through it all.  He is always, always there.  With an encouraging word and a congratulatory kiss, he is part of the reason for my success.  Yes, I believe in myself – and I know that is the reason why I keep progressing.  But to have someone believing in you along the way?  That sure does add to the sweetness of the whole thing.  I’m so incredibly blessed.  I hope he knows how important that is to me.  I’m in a women’s running group on Facebook and I hear of so many stories that don’t always work out this way.  So many significant others don’t understand what it’s all about.  And without the understanding, they don’t follow through with the support and the encouragement that these women so desperately need.  I saw one woman mention that she has done everything she can think of to show her husband how much running means to her.  She has posted her bibs and medals on their bedroom wall – begged him to come to races – and still.  Nothing.  I feel so bad for her.  Support from our loved ones is a gift that we eagerly open like a kid on Christmas morning.  I am so sorry for the women like her who have nothing to open.  Thank goodness she has that women’s running group on Facebook.  Hopefully it can put a little salve on her wounds as she receives the virtual back pats from those of us who understand.

But for the grace of God go I, man.  I’m tellin ya.

blog9So.  Half marathon #2 is in the books.  I’m a happy camper.  Another success to tuck under my belt…..until next time. 🙂

Thanks for joining me on the journey.  And if you haven’t started your own journey, my request to you is this.  Start today.  It’s out there.  There is something that is going to make you feel the pride in yourself that running has allowed me to feel.  You need it.  Trust me on this.  You need it.

Find it.  And don’t stop searching until you do.

***

“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about.”
– Patti Sue Plumer, U. S. Olympian

Compliments

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“Like most girls, Emily can’t take a compliment.  Around here, if you don’t show outward signs of hating yourself by the 5th grade, everyone calls you conceited.”
– Brian Strause, from the novel Maybe a Miracle

Ok, so am I the only chick on the planet that absolutely can NOT take a compliment?

I saw the above quote in a novel I was reading a while back and it was like a spotlight shown around the sentence with big flashing neon arrows pointing to it saying, “This! This! This!”  One little seemingly innocent sentence tucked away in the middle of a paragraph hidden deep inside a novel seemed to be the answer to this conundrum that had plagued me all my life.  Maybe that’s why I can’t take a compliment?  Maybe it’s just that it has been ingrained in me from an early age not to because I might appear conceited?

Hmmm.  Something to think about.

Are you like me?  Do you get all weird when someone says you look nice?  Do you “pssssssh” it away like I do?  I’d be willing to bet you do.  Well, let me tell ya a story.

This past weekend, I ran a 10K race early Saturday morning.  And, if you don’t mind my saying so, I did pretty darn awesome. mebrrr (Heh…no worries about sounding conceited about that one, huh?)  I didn’t get any medals or place in the coveted top 3 of any of the categories, mind you (in fact, I was dead last in my age group if I’m going to be honest), but ask me if I care?  Go on, ask me.  What’s that?  Do I care?  NOPE!  Because you know why?  The only person I was there to beat was myself.  And not only did I beat myself (not now, secret 12-year-old-boy alter-ego-self, this is not the time to make your childish jokes…let me finish my story…), but I blew my old record away.  I generally run at an 11-12 minute pace (yes, I know, I’m slow), but my average pace for this race was 10:10, with the first 3 miles all being in the 9 minute range.  Dude, I was booking it!  And you know what?  I was pretty darn proud of myself.

So, fast forward a little later in the day.

My boyfriend’s kids were in a play at the local theatre, so I had rushed home after the race, showered, straightened my hair (that’s what I consider “getting dressed up”), and hit the road again to go watch the two back-to-back performances.  Now, as most of you know from my previous blogs, the theatre is my home away from home.  I know so many people there, and most of their kids were going to be in this production.  So, walking into this little mini-reunion, I started running into people I hadn’t seen in a while – at least not since our last production a few months ago. And, in those past few months, I have been training my hind end off this upcoming half marathon next weekend.

I was immediately greeted with compliments.

“Wow, that running is look great on you!”  “You look fantastic!”  “Oh, Melissa, you’re just glowing!”  “Look how toned you’ve gotten.”

It was like a compliment smorgasbord.

And, oddly enough, instead of blushing in embarrassment like I normally would, I just graciously accepted their compliments.  I genuinely thanked them (no ‘psssssssh’es allowed) and let the compliments do their intended job – make me feel good.  Later, I thought about that, and wondered why I didn’t have my normal response.  Why was I able to accept compliments this time with such ease and gratitude?  Before long, it finally dawned on me.

I accepted their compliments….because I believed them.

That was the difference.  running2I have been working hard for the past few months.  I have felt my pants getting a little loose and saw the number on the scale dropping slightly.  Although those things are not at all the purpose for my running, they have been a nice bonus.  And, this particular day, I had put forth a little effort on my hair and makeup, and was probably still riding on the high from my race accomplishment earlier in the day, which probably showed on my face.  I was feeling pretty darn good about myself that day and accepted those compliments with open arms.

Boy, wouldn’t it be nice if every day was like that?

Hey, I have an idea.

Let’s make sure they are.

Let’s all make a silent little promise to ourselves to try to make every single day a day in which you are proud of yourself.  Let’s make every day a day that you believe the compliments that are tossed your way.  Seriously.  Let’s do it, people.  It may not be all that easy at first, but with practice, it may start eventually coming natural to you.  Just like my running.  I didn’t start out with the ability to crank out a 10-minute pace 10K.  It took lots of time and effort and, most importantly, belief in myself.  That’s all we need, right?

Easy peasy.

So, get out there in this big ol’ world and strut your stuff today, why don’t ya?  I mean, you’re looking all good and whatnot, so you might as well, right?  Come on, beautiful people.  We’ve got some work to do!

***

“For once, you believed in yourself. you believed you were beautiful and so did the rest of the world.”  
– Sarah Dessen, Keeping the Moon

Braggin’ on the Hun

“Love is, above all, the gift of oneself.”
~ Jean Anouilh

Ok, I need to brag on my honey.  [I know, I never do that, right??]

Here he is.  Ain’t he purdy?

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*sigh*

Ok.  This blog is not just about how cute the little booger is, so I’ll get to the point.

Let me just start this out with a simple little 100% true and accurate statement.  I am NOT an easy person to love.  Oh, it’s true.  When I’m mad, I’m FURIOUS.  When I’m upset, I’m DISTRAUGHT.  When I’m a little irked, I’m FULLY ANNOYED.  You get the picture, right?  No little responses to anything – everything is temporarily grandiose.  And, as you might guess, this little teeny tiny eensy weensy flaw sometimes leads to some turbulence in the relationship.  Now, it’s not all me, mind you.  My boyfriend Richard has a teeny tiny little flaw too.  He despises conflict.  (I know, right?  *WEIRDO!*)  And when said conflict arises, his fight or flight response is always…always…’flight.’  Well, for this ‘fighter’ that he’s in love with, that crap just don’t fly.

You can imagine how our disagreements go.

1. Something happens (Richard’s fault, of course).
2. I get IRATE.
3. I fling accusations and demand responses.
4. Richard runs.
5. I get MORE mad.
6. Richard stays quiet.
7. I get even more dramatic because of the lack of response.
8. He gets even more quiet because of my increased level of crazy.
9. Time passes.
10. I get tired and chill out.
11. He comes out of hiding and remembers that sometimes I’m not crazy.
12. We talk. We kiss. We make up.
13. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Get the picture?  Here, let me give you a literal picture in case my words weren’t clear.

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Yep.  That’s us.  Well, sometimes. 

(And honestly, it’s really not all that often.  And heck, while we’re being totally honest here, that dude and chick in the picture need to be switched….) :/

(Ok, one more parenthetical.  If our relationship sounds a little too familiar to you, you may be in a turtle/hailstorm relationship too.  What the heck did she just say?  Here ya go.  Read about it here.  We’re a textbook case, and you may be too.  Pretty fascinating stuff.)

Ok, let’s get back to the bragging I promised at the beginning of this story.

Nope, our relationship is not always sunshine and roses, that’s for sure.  But then again, there are times like the past few days.

As some of you may have read in my last blog, my Alzheimer’s-ridden grandmother had a little mishap at the nursing home, and was found on the floor.  What they thought to be a broken hip from an initial x-ray, ended up being an old injury from before (poor little lady) and she didn’t end up having to have surgery after all, thank goodness.  But before we knew that for sure, we were just told that she was being transported to the medical center in Bristol, Tennessee, and was being prepped for surgery on her frail little 85-year-old hip.  So, naturally, my mom dropped everything and traveled here to come be with her momma.  And, also naturally, I dropped everything to go be with my momma.  I worked it out to miss work on Tuesday, and I left Monday after work to go stay in a hotel with her, at least for the first night, so she wouldn’t have to be alone.

And what did Richard do?

He dropped everything to come be there for me.

He drove me there, stayed with us, drove us everywhere we needed to go while we were there (that’s one thing my mom and I definitely have in common – we hate driving in areas that are unfamiliar to us).  He went and got drinks and coffee for the family as we waited, and sat right there with us as the hours drug on while we waited for news, and listened to my poor little grandma as she moaned in confusion and/or discomfort (it was hard to know which was which).  Without technically being “blood” family, Richard played a role in this just like the rest of us did.  He did everything he could to be there for the one that he loved.  Me.

And boy, did I notice.

My little Richard sure can be hard on himself sometimes. Maybe it’s because he has a fiery redhead fussing at him all the time?  Naaaah.  Surely, that doesn’t have much to do with it….  But, seriously.  I think it’s important to remind him every now and then how very much I notice and appreciate these little things that he does for me.  The past few days would have been a whole different story if I, and my mom, hadn’t had Richard along for the ride.  These “small” things will one day be the big things as we look back over these years we spent together.  I hope that we will be one of the lucky couples that make it to the very end.  And, if (when) we do, I hope we look back on our life and see the moments like yesterday.  Not the fights, not the nights in the ‘doghouse…,’ but the moments like these.  The ones where we sacrificed ourselves to each other during our times of need.  Because that is what love is all about.

This is the “us” that I’ll remember most.

I sure am in love with a great guy.  Thanks for letting me tell you about him.

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***

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”
– Benjamin Disraeli

Maw-Maw’s Smile

 

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”Those with dementia are still people and they still have stories and they still have character and they’re all individuals and they’re all unique.  And they just need to be interacted with on a human level.” 
– Carey Mulligan

My family has just been introduced to the world of Alzheimer’s/dementia for the first time.  My sweet grandmother – a mother of nine and grandmother and great-grandmother to so many that we have lost count – has forgotten who she is.

But we haven’t.

My sister gave birth to twin baby girls earlier this year.  The babies were premature and were very close to not surviving.  But after months of intensive care at the hospital and even more intensive, above-par care from their mommy, they were able to come home.  This past weekend, they made their first trip to see their Great- “Maw-Maw” in her new home in a nursing care facility.

And, let me tell you – it was nothing short of magic.

Some of us in the family had almost forgotten what it felt like to see Maw-Maw truly happy.  Surrounded by new faces in a new environment, anyone would be a little confused at first.  But poor little Maw-Maw can’t seem to break out of the confusion that is plaguing her.  Every few minutes she again asks where she is and why she is there.  She has witnessed many family tragedies in her life, including the most recent loss of her husband, and can’t seem to remember any of them.  Watching her face as she re-learns the family’s sad news over and over again has been very hard on our family, to say the least.  As she hears, yet again, about the losses we’ve suffered for what seems to her to be the ‘first’ time, we too feel the sting all over again.  Her inability to remember translates to our inability to forget.  This sweet little lady who has always managed to see the bright side of things, now seems to have fallen into a darkness that none of the rest of us can understand.  Sadly, this is the truth to Alzheimer’s.

But.

Then, there are moments like this past weekend.

This weekend, the darkness cleared even if just for a few moments.  As Maw-Maw took both of those beautiful twin miracles into her arms, her face lit up.  And there before us was the infamous smile that we had all come to miss so much.  For a few moments, she was yet again our mother.  Our grandmother.  And now, as evidenced by the love in her eyes as she stared down at the new additions to the family, our great-grandmother.  She was back.

And it was beautiful.

I guess that’s the key to dealing with these situations.  Yes, the family is suffering.  Yes, we are going through a hard time and we feel like we’ve lost a loved one, even though she sits right there in front of us.  And yes, most of the time, the circumstances are going to be sad ones.  But there will be silver linings.   There will.  And those are the moments that you have to hold on to with all of your might.  Take snapshots – literally and figuratively.  Remember these moments and cherish the fact that the person you love is still there.  They are still with you.  And for a few brief, shining moments, they are still themselves.   And those moments will be the ones that will serve to help heal you both.

So grateful for one more glimpse of Maw-Maw’s smile.

mawmawssmile

Cool Story

“Nothing’s better than the wind to your back, the sun in front of you, and your friends beside you.”
– Aaron Douglas Trimble

So.  Wanna hear a cool story?

Ok, see this pic?

MEZOEblog

That’s me on the left.  And on the right is my friend Zoe.  [Isn’t she gorgeous!?]

Ok, so it’s a picture.  No big deal, right?  Just a pic of two chicks who are friends.  Both women, both in the same age range, (both, incidentally, feeling silly taking a ‘selfie’ pic…), both smiling and happy and healthy.  I can hear you now – “Yeah?  So what?”

Ok, so we’re both runners. Is that a tad more interesting?  No?  Ok, how about this….We’re both runners training for a half marathon.  Slightly cooler, right?

Still nothing earth shattering?

Hmmm..  Alright, let’s try this – we’re training for a half marathon together.  Now, is it cool story?   Sure it is.  Two friends training for a half marathon together.  That’s intriguing, no?

Oh shoot.  Silly me.  I almost forgot the most important part.  The part we writers like to call the twist.  You ready?

Zoe lives in Australia.

I live in America.

Yep.  You read that right.

world-map

With 14 time zones, an ocean or two (I sooo didn’t pay attention in Geography class…), and a boat load of cultural differences between us (people use kilometers?  Really?  I know about the 5K and the 10K, but you mean there are others??), Zoe and I are training partners for our half marathon on November 9.

So, how did this all come about?

Well, it’s pretty simple really.  In early May, just a few short months after starting my blog, and just days before my first half marathon, I received my first comment on here that was not from someone I know personally.  It said:

Good luck! From Melbourne, Australia!

I just wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying your writing- I found you when I was searching running blogs as I’m a new runner myself and totally obsessed. You write so evocatively and thoughtfully, and I often find myself smiling or nodding along to your musings! Best of luck with your half, you’ll smash it!

Warm regards,
Zoë

I’ll never forget how thrilled I was to get that message.  Not only did it make me realize that other people were reading this stuff (besides my ever-loyal friends and family in real life), but someone was actually reading it in Australia!?  What?!  How cool is that?  This message was the first in what would become a banter between two women all the way across the world from each other over the next few months.  And then, when I announced that I would be training for my second half marathon in November, Zoe suggested that we train together.

So, here we are.

We’re only in our first week of training, but I intend to post a few updates along the way to let you know how we’re doing.

Isn’t this great?  Someone way over on the other side of the map is my buddy.  My training partner.  We’ve never laid eyes on each other in person, never heard each others’ undoubtedly cool accents (ok, her cool accent – my southern drawl is nothing much to brag about if you ask me…), and have never even shook hands.  In many ways we’re still strangers, but in many other ways – the ways that matter – we’re friends.

We’re just truly never alone, are we?  No matter how much we may feel like we are at times, something like this reminds us that we’re not.  Somewhere out there, there is someone not only going through whatever you’re going through, but willing to go through it right beside you if you let them.

Yep.  That’s good stuff.

Ok, so now is this a cool story?  😉

And guess what?  It’s just going to get even cooler.  So, stick around!

***

“In union there is strength.”
– Aesop

Nothing

“We humans have lost the wisdom of genuinely resting and relaxing.  We worry too much.  We don’t allow our bodies to heal, and we don’t allow our minds and hearts to heal.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

So, I’ve recently discovered something about myself.

I don’t do enough of Nothing.

(Hush up, grammar police, that was NOT a double negative.  I capitalized Nothing, so therefore it becomes a something.  See?  Seeeee?  Ok, now if you will let me continue….)

I have always been someone who is continuously on the go.  Sometimes by choice, sometimes not.  My life is one of constant movement.  I have a job that is over an hour’s drive (one way) from my home, so work alone keeps me on the move for much of the day.  Then, in the few hours that I have remaining of the day, I spend my time trying to squeeze in picking up one child from dance, one from cross-country practice, and even…(gasp!) making time for my own activities.  I know, right?  A mom with her own activities?  Trust me, I know how unheard of that is.  I have gotten the lecture from strangers and family alike.  I get it.

But that’s a blog for another day.

The point is this – I’m busy.  And I like it that way.

Well, until I don’t anymore.

Lately, I’ve been noticing that I’m not handling stress well.  It’s like I’m in constant “chaos” mode.  Whenever anything negative happens – no matter how small said something may be – my brain signals the “catastrophe” alarm.  All hands on deck!  Snap to attention!  This problem MUST be solved. Now!  It’s HUGE.  The world itself will stop spinning on its axis if this problem is not attended to RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND.  Even if said problem is…oh, say maybe I’ve run out of milk at the house?  MY CHILDREN ARE GOING TO STARVE, PEOPLE!!  Milk must be procured IMMEDIATELY!

Good grief, I’m tired just reading that paragraph.

As a friend of mine posted on Facebook recently:

mess

Yeah.  That.

I think it’s finally starting to catch up to me.  So, I’ve made a conscious decision to stop.

Yep.  That’s it.  Just stop.

Now, I’m not going to stop everything of course.  Some of the things I do can’t be stopped.  (There would be some angry, hungry teenagers sitting outside dance studios and cross-country tracks if that were the case.)  And some things I do, I don’t want to stop.  My hobbies are more than just “hobbies” really.  They define me.  I’m a writer – so yes,  I want to keep writing.  I’m an actor, I want to keep acting.  I’m a runner, I’m going to keep running (I’m even training for my second half marathon right now).

But here’s the difference….

I’m going to chill out a little bit.  Or rather, I should say, I’m going to allow myself to chill out a little bit.

I have started to cut back quite a bit on my blogging.  If you’re a regular follower and you’ve noticed, please allow me to apologize.  (Oh, and if this fictitious regular follower person exists, let me extend my deepest gratitude for reading my stuff so often that you actually noticed I was gone.  How cool are you!?)  Being a writer, I never really stop writing exactly.  Phrases and ideas are constantly going through my head.  And when they do, I write them down somewhere.  But the difference now is that I’m not in such a hurry to get to a computer (or a notebook – yep, I still handwrite things sometimes, can you believe that!?) and put those words and phrases into a story or blog entry.  They’ll still be there when I’m ready – when I have time.  There’s no deadline.  There’s no need to push myself to the point of exhaustion to keep up with some imaginary quota that I’ve invented in my head.  That’s ridiculous.

As for acting – I mentioned in a previous blog that it’s time to take a break.  Auditions came and went for the next show at my theatre and I didn’t attend.  That alone was a source of pride for me – I was actually taking a stand for my own sanity and health and forcing myself to rest a little.

But then something happened that made me really have to put my money where my mouth is.  I received a message asking me to consider a role.

Whoa.  Ok, now that’s different.

I didn’t even go to auditions…I did what I said I was going to do, right?  I stuck to my guns and tried to take a break. But to be asked to play a role?  How flattering, right?  Acting is what I do.  And this role – man, it sounds perfect for me.  Right up my alley.  It would be ok to accept it just this once and rest later, right?

Nope.

I politely declined and thanked them for the consideration.  Wow.  I turned down a role.  I can honestly say that as an actor, this was a first for me.  Acting is so important to me – I would jump at any chance I got to play a role like this in the past.  But now?   Well.  Right now I’m tired.  Bone tired.  I don’t want to see something I love turn to something that I feel like I have to do.  I just can’t let that happen.  There will be other shows.  When I’m ready.

Now, as for running….yes, I know I just mentioned that I’m training for my next half marathon.  I know what you’re thinking.  That’s not “stopping,” right?  What the heck is up with that??  I thought this chick said she was going to chill out.  How is training for a half marathon chilling out?  Well, you’re right.  It’s not.  Not really, anyway.  But see – this is something that I really want.  Yes, it’s hard work, but the feeling I get when I finish a run – no matter how slow the run happened to be or if I met any ‘goals’ or not – is one that is hard to beat.  It is a relaxation in itself.  It’s a purging of all that’s wrong with the world.  If you’re a runner, I know you know what I mean.  Before a run, you can be weighted down with all the worries you can possibly carry – and then after the run, you feel lighter.  You feel free.  I need that right now.  I need to create a better me.  A calmer me.  A more controlled me.

A me I can live with.

Yesterday, my daughter and I were sitting in the living room at home.  The errands were done, homework finished, work and school day complete – and there we were.  Just sitting.  I looked over at her and said, “Is there something we’re forgetting?”  She replied, “What do you mean?” and I said, “Well, I just feel like there’s something we should be doing.”  Her response?  “I guess it’s all done.”

“I guess it’s all done.”

Yeah.

At that moment, I’m sure there were other things that could have been done.  I could have went over my sad budget one more time.  I could have washed another load of clothes.  I could have exercised, I could have laid out my clothes for the next day, I could have forced myself to start on my next blog.  But I didn’t do any of that.  At that moment, sitting in my living room in the silence with my daughter, it really was “all done.”  Everything else would be there when it was time.  But for right then, I allowed myself to bask in the nothingness.

There’s an Italian phrase that comes to mind: dolce far niente.  This means, the sweetness of doing nothing.

And it was perfection.

Time to start creating more moments like that in my life.

More dolce far niente?  Why, yes, thank you.  Don’t mind if I do.

***

The most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of room, not try to be or do anything whatever.”
– May Sarton

Burnout

“Take a rest.  A field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”
– Ovid

I just remembered something.

I’m a runner.

Did you remember that?  Because I didn’t.  I’m tellin’ ya – I seriously think I forgot about that for a while.

I have these little ‘categories’ set up on my blog.  Not sure if anyone ever notices that you can search for writings under the categories, but I thought it was a cool option when I was designing this thing, so I went with it.  I set up four categories – Freestyle Writings, Poetic Musings, Running, and Songs.  When I first started out, I was afraid that the “running” category would be jam packed, and that my readers who were non-runners would be bored senseless.  I was at the peak of my running ‘career’ at that point – training my tail off for my first half-marathon (which I successfully completed in May, by the way).  I was full of wit and wisdom for new runners and amateur runners like myself – hoping to show everyone that anyone can do this running thing and that you just have to push through and believe in yourself and persevere through the obstacles…..yada yada.  So on and so forth.

But then – well, I don’t know.

I just kinda just stopped that.

I just clicked on my own “Running” tab to see the last thing I had written about running.  It was this:  https://missyspublicjunk.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/time-to-chill/  Oh.  An article called “Time to Chill.”  Well, that explains it.

At that time, I was all prepared to purchase this t-shirt and hang up my running shoes:

runningsucks

Yep.  I was done for a while.

In other words, I had been….

running-on-empty

Hehe.  Get it?  Running on empty?  Oh, the wit.

But I digress.

So, yeah.  I had achieved what many of us have achieved in many different areas of our lives at some point.   Anytime you’re passionate about something; you spend all your time doing said something; you dedicate your heart and soul and spirit to the something – there exists the risk of running into that little devil who is always waiting just around the corner to put a stop to it all.  What is this little devil, you ask?

Burnout.

“Burnout is nature’s way of telling you, you’ve been going through the motions – your soul has departed; you’re a zombie, a member of the walking dead, a sleepwalker.”
– Sam Keen

That’s just it.  I had become a sleepwalker.

So, you know what I did?  I took a break.  And I think that’s the smartest thing I could have done for myself.

In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that I’ve started feeling the pull again.  I started with a few short runs – a mile or two here and there.  And slowly, I find myself inching my way back up.  A 4-miler here.  A 5-miler there.  And yesterday – I did my own little 10K just to prove I could.  Little by little,  I’m making my way back.  I saw a post yesterday for a 7-mile run up and down a mountain road here locally.  Hmmmm.  I have two months to train….

My point is this.  Burnout is real.  No matter how much you love something, no matter how much a part of your life it becomes, overdoing it can be problematic.  It really can.  It’s ok to take a break.  You know?  Chill out a little bit.  Let things settle.  Let yourself remember why you love this thing so much and why you ever started it in the first place.

Are you a runner?  Well, there.  Apply this lesson literally.  But if you’re not?  Well then, I’m sure there’s something you can apply it to.

Maybe even someone?  Now, there’s some food for thought.

But see, here’s the thing.  When you want it bad enough, when it has become a part of you, it won’t disappear.  I promise.  Taking a break is not going to un-do any progress you made.  This thing you love is not going to go away.  Not when it’s real.

Rest easy.  Stop worrying.  It will be back.  You’ll see.

***

“”Sometimes in sports there are times when it is best to wait for another day and try again, at least for me. I see life as the race and I see no honor in reaching the finish and passing out or crawling across the finishing line. In Costa Rica, we have a saying: It’s not about being the first to finish, it’s about how you get there.”
-Roman Urbina

Time to Chill

takeabreak

I’m about to do something that I have never done so far in my “career” as a runner.

I’m backing out of a race.

I was scheduled to run the Bear in July.  For those who missed my blog about it, this is a 5-mile race straight up a mountain.  When I signed up for this thing back in February, I knew it was going to be quite a challenge.  I was prepared to put in the training and do what it took to be able to run this bear of a race and be able to say that I did it.  Nothing was going to stop me.

Well.  February was four months ago.  A lot has happened since then.

I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses.  But frankly, I am.  Since February, I have

  • trained for and ran a half marathon.  (Go me!)
  • My daughter has been cast as the lead in a local theatre production (and I have been cast as a chorus member), which means the theatre is our second home.  It takes a great deal of our time and attention.
  • I have made the decision to move into a new home and have had to tackle the stresses that come along with any move.
  • I have hurt my foot in some phantom way (no clue how it happened – but it’s definitely getting better!), which has slowed my running down a great deal.

Oh, I could keep listing things, but honestly, it doesn’t matter.  Because basically?

Well.  Basically, I’m just tired.

I’ve noticed that ever since my half marathon has been over, my thoughts keep going back to this dreaded Bear race in July.  It has been a constant worry in the back of my mind.  Through everything else I’m doing in my life, there’s the undercurrent of, “I should be training for the Bear.  I should be training for the Bear. I should be training for the Bear.”  To be quite honest, it has become a nuisance.  So, after some soul searching, I have decided to back out of the race.

For a while, I struggled with that decision.  I called myself a quitter.  Told myself that, whether I realize it or not, other people are watching me through this process because of my blog articles and my Facebook posts.  By quitting, I am sending a message to my readers that giving up is ok.  That running is not the awesome thing that it is and that you shouldn’t push yourself to try bigger and better things.  I didn’t want this to be the message I conveyed.

But finally, I just decided to stop beating myself up.

I decided to look at it a different way.

Here’s what I want this decision to show you.  No one is perfect.  NO ONE.  If you’re a beginner runner (or maybe even just someone thinking about running), I know how intimidating it is to see these “experienced” runners do all the things they’re doing – the half marathons, the 5Ks, the 10Ks, the mountain-climbs.  Believe me, I know.  I was you just a little over a year ago.  I didn’t think that these runners were human.  I thought they weren’t like me – they didn’t have life stresses that get in the way, or days when they just felt too tired to run.  They were machines, not a flawed, tired human being like me.  Well, guess what?  I was wrong.  They were just like me.  And I’m just like you.  We all need a break sometimes.  We all need to go easy on ourselves and not push ourselves to the brink of exhaustion.

I mean, after all, when it ceases to be fun – then what’s the point?

I enjoy running.  I enjoy appreciating the new, healthier person that I have become because of it.  Nothing will ever stop me from being a runner.  But for a little while, I think I might hold off on pushing myself to the next limit.  I’m just going to enjoy where I am now, maybe enter a few local 5Ks here and there, and just relax for a while.  No pressure, no training, no pushing – just running.

I’m taking a little break from the stress.

And that’s perfectly okay.

***

“It was being a runner that mattered, not how fast or how far I could run. The joy was in the act of running and in the journey, not in the destination. We have a better chance of seeing where we are when we stop trying to get somewhere else. We can enjoy every moment of movement, as long as where we are is as good as where we’d like to be. That’s not to say that you need to be satisfied  forever with where you are today. But you need to honor what you’ve accomplished, rather than thinking of what’s left to be done.”
– John Bingham