Tagged: running

This is What Happens When Cancer Takes Over Your Blog

Top searches that brought people to my blog this month:

– i’m 63 will i definitely lose my hair during chemotherapy?

– golytely not working kids

– i did my golytely prep but it feels like something is stuck

– chemo day 14

peach pit and seedling

Well, I have only myself to blame.

It’s been awhile. I’ve been busy. Very busy. So busy I pretty much stopped writing for six months.

Let’s just say, life is good. Very good.

Last year was an incredible year. I got married, was in the best shape of my life, had just come back from a vacation in Utah (one of my top three places on earth) with my son and his girlfriend, and had enough finished knitted items to toy seriously with the idea of starting my own little business.

And then at the end of May I went to the ER. And quickly discovered I had cancer. Ovarian cancer.

I won’t go into detail about that year. I wrote extensively about the experience here on Mind Margins. After surgery and chemo, I was declared cancer-free by December 2013.

It was an incredible experience. I am so lucky to have caught it early and to have survived. Two friends I made during that time, and the majority of women who were diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year (all years, in fact), weren’t so lucky.

Looking back at this past year post-cancer, I suppose I went through a modified version of the stages of grief. During treatment I was nothing but positive. I never, ever thought I wouldn’t survive. Post-chemo, however, was another story. Looking back on what I had gone through, and survived, I initially felt scared. I thought a lot about dying. That turned to anger. Then sadness. Then just plain depression. It didn’t last long, but these past few months I needed a break from all things cancer.

And every time I sat down to write, my fingers wanted to write about having cancer. My brain didn’t.

So I did everything but write–which means I got a lot of knitting done. I started running again. I spent a lot of time just sitting and thinking about what had happened and the things I learned from it. I put things in perspective and reorganized my life. My husband and I finally went on our honeymoon.

I grew my hair back.

And I knit. I knit a lot, sometimes for hours and hours. These past six months have been filled with family and love, appreciation for life, and learning to pick up where I left off. It sounds trite, but things that used to seem so important really aren’t anymore. When little things get to me now, it’s easier to see how unimportant they are. I don’t brood for days over them, like before.

I know how short life is, and how every moment is a choice. Either we embrace what we’re given and move forward, or we stay stagnant in resentments and feelings of injustice.

Relationships are important. Being kind is important. Never forgetting how short life can be is really important.

Though I haven’t been writing, I’ve been reading. I may not have commented on my friends’ blogs, but I have been keeping up.

I’m running again, and am up to 10 miles. I’m slower than I was before, but that’s okay. My oncologist says I’ve inspired her to run, and we’ve run two 5K’s together, both of them benefiting cancer. I even have my future daughter-in-law running with me. I’m also doing strength training and eating much healthier than before. Except for some residual chemo brain fog, I feel great. I’m not the same person I was before, and that’s a good thing.

I’ve learned a lot from cancer, but it’s time to release its hold on my blog. Here’s to more writing, more questions, and more thoughts on being human.

– Angela

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Picking Up Where I Left Off

I’ve been procrastinating. I’ve been doing everything but finish the post I had started about my second round of chemo. I had planned on finishing the story. Instead, I’ve done everything but write about it. In all honesty, I’ve forgotten a lot of what happened. Whether from the chemo drugs or selective memory, I don’t remember as much as I thought I did. I made notes during that time, and we have video and photos, but I haven’t wanted to look at them.

The main reason I’ve been procrastinating, though, is nothing other than pure dread of reliving the experience. Now that I’ve put a little distance between what happened and my return to “normal” living, I much prefer the way things have turned out. It’s hard to leave the bright lights of survivorship and go back to that dark, scary place.

And so I keep putting it off. I write about knitting. Or I don’t write at all. I have enjoyed getting my life back on track and feeling good again. I do yoga. I run. I go for a walk. Last weekend I ran my first 9 mile loop around the lake since last May, with walk breaks, and I’m starting to feel as good as I used to. Running is still very, very hard. It’s taken me much longer than I thought it would to get my conditioning and stamina back. I still have to walk a lot, and after every run I am bone tired. But I realize every step, no matter how fast, is an accomplishment. Thankfully, I have good friends who still want to run with me, despite the walk breaks.

shoe polished car

My friends thought it would be funny to shoe polish my car while I was running to commemorate the loop.

shoe polished car

So funny.

shoe polished car

So, so funny.

I have been very emotional lately. All those salute to mothers commercials during the Olympics always made me cry. Any athlete’s story that was highlighted made me cry. Even seeing the winning athletes stand on the podium made me cry! I seem to feel things more deeply now that I know how tenuous life can be.

Reading other cancer patients’ blogs makes me feel so sad for them. I love reading them, but I feel frustrated that I can’t help. I saw a bald woman walking her dog at the lake the other day and I instantly teared up. I wanted to run over to her and tell her how beautiful and brave she was for walking in the open without a scarf. I didn’t, and I wish I had. I was never brave enough to walk around without a cap, even at the cancer center.

I dreaded going back to the hospital for blood work a few weeks ago for my three month check up. I thought that sitting in the waiting room amongst the people going through chemo was going to make me want to cry. It didn’t, and instead I looked around at all the amazing, strong, upbeat people who were waiting for chemo. They all had hope, and it made me proud to know I was once one of them. Instead of feeling sad, I felt powerful for having made it through. I got to see the chemo nurses. Seeing my oncologist and her nurses felt like going to see my family. And my CA-125 cancer antigen number was a 9, the lowest it’s ever been.

I celebrated a birthday this month. It was, of course, a very special birthday, one I might not have seen if we hadn’t caught the cancer as early as we did. A year ago Saturday was the last marathon I ran before I got sick. There are lots of milestones ahead in the coming months, and I plan on celebrating them all.

The kids are all gone again and the house is a lot more quiet. We’re starting a large vegetable garden in the backyard and I’ve been eating a lot healthier than I was before. I love being able to enjoy and savor the taste of good, simple food again. Losing my taste buds and not eating were by far the worst parts of chemo. That, and losing my hair, which has grown out to about an inch now–with a lot more gray, dammit. My body looks different after being sliced open and having tubes inserted for chemo ports, one of which still remains in my chest.

mulch pile

The huge mulch pile we had delivered that had to be transported to the backyard. You can tell how excited I was. But at least I’m no longer the bald headed lady who lives on the street.

I’ve changed. There’s no way around it. The first few months after chemo were joyful. Everything was shiny and new. I had my life back. I had dodged a bullet. That was so close! Nothing could touch me now. I was like teflon; all the small aggravations and worries seemed inconsequential and insignificant.

Now that things have settled down again, and I physically feel almost as good as I did before I was diagnosed, I’ve had more time to think about all that I went through. I’m a little more somber. The shiny, happy feeling is a little more tarnished. The fog cleared and I understood for the first time how serious everything had truly been. I could have died. Chemo was hell. How did I get through all that? Every slight twinge of pain anywhere in my body now makes me instantly worried. What if it comes back? is always in the back of my mind.

But I survived. Hopefully the cancer will never come back. If it does, I know I’ll be able to deal with it, like so many others have done and continue to do every day that they’re given. I’m only one of many who have gone through this. Some days I’ll feel sad about what I went through, but most days I won’t. There’s no reason to. I’m alive, I’m healthy again, and life is very, very good.

And one day I will finish the story I started, all in good time.

yoga dog

Look at all that hair! Yoga dog just wants a good belly rub.

Have You Missed Me?

As you might have noticed, I went missing for a while. I started a story and left everyone hanging, right in the middle.

How rude of me, and probably somewhat thoughtless to those who don’t see me outside the words of these posts.  My only excuse, and the real reason I went missing, is that it was hard.

Life became a daily cycle of feeling like crap and not wanting to bring anyone down to where I was. I didn’t want to talk about it, think about it, or put into words how hard it was. It was too close. I needed a break from cancer, so I took it.

Chemo is the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through, in every way you can imagine. I never doubted that I would survive, but I have no idea why I ever felt that way. Maybe I was naive, or in denial, or just plain stupidly stubborn  And it wasn’t bravery or strength, and I’m certainly no hero just for having survived cancer. Braver, stronger women than myself have fought much harder than I ever did and still lost.

I was simply lucky enough to be diagnosed before it had spread.

I wouldn’t wish cancer on my worst enemy, but cancer itself was also never the enemy. It was always just something that happened to me, a bunch of rapidly dividing cells that found a home on my left ovary.

Chemo and I, on the other hand, were never friends, and I cursed him often. He had a job to do, though, and because of that I tried to be as accommodating as possible. I hated chemo. Chemo was scary because I could physically feel, with each treatment, that his poison had the power to kill all of me, and not just the cancer cells.

medicines

Having cancer has been quite an experience, a very humbling one, to say the least. But it’s even more humbling to know that I survived.

Today I sit here on the last day of the year, reflecting on everything that’s transpired this past year, from the first inkling I had on January 4, the day after our wedding, that something wasn’t right, to a trip to the ER, surgery, chemo, and now, recovery.  While I was thinking about all of this, the thought crossed my mind that I should be ready to see 2013 go. Hell, I should be ready to kick it’s sorry ass to the other side of the moon!

But in all actuality I’m kind of sad to see this year end. In some strange way, I’m okay with all that’s happened. It wasn’t all bad.

I married a wonderful guy, one who challenges me everyday to see things in a different way and to be a better person. I logged a lot of good running miles the first five months of the year, and I’m slowly starting to run again.

I got a lot of reading done. It wasn’t always quality reading, but those fluffy novels got me through many hours of post-chemo nausea and fatigue so deep I could barely get out of bed. And I won’t even go into depth on all the hours I spent watching Breaking Bad on my iPad. I credit it for saving my sanity those first two worst chemo treatments.

I got a lot of knitting done, too, and set up an Etsy shop. I rediscovered walking. My taste buds are back, and a good, cheesy pizza is once again heaven on Earth.

I learned that my children have turned into good, kind, caring adults, and that they chose their partners well. I discovered that people you think you barely know can turn out to be nicer than you ever imagined. I realized that people want to help, that almost everyone is kind in their own way.

I got four new hairstyles this year: shorter, even shorter, bald, and now a quarter inch of baby fine fluff with a lot more white hair (or extreme blonde, as I prefer) than before.

That’s me on the right, in case you couldn’t figure it out. Everyone loves to rub my baby soft hair now.

I learned that you can become friends with someone and love them just through their words and emails, and that losing them hurts just as much as losing someone you’ve known your entire life. Friendships, like life, can be forged–and lost–in the blink of an eye.

The words “life is short” became real this year, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I appreciate more now, the so-called little things. Taking a walk outside, running without a watch, playing games with my kids, cooking a meal together, hearing a good song on the radio . . . I could go on and on. I try not to waste those moments.

But there is still a story to be finished, a resolution to be told.

So in 2014 I want to finish the story I started, if only to help other women and their loved ones, and to honor my friend Katie and all the women who didn’t make it. Even though you all know that I’m okay now, please bear with me for the next few months while I write up all the unfinished posts I started. Maybe something I share will help you or someone in your life one day.

So, as I bid adios to 2013, I have to admit it was a good year, if only for this one big reason: I’m still alive.

teal ribbon

Back Home Again

Thursday, 6/13/13: FIRST MORNING IN MY OWN BED

I feel split open. I have no walls left, no boundaries, no anger. I have razor sharp focus. I feel pure love at my core. It all sounds so new agey and I could care less. There’s no room for anything but honesty, love, happiness, and acceptance. Amazing how coming face to face with your own mortality can change you overnight.

After the surgery, when we stayed up until 3:30am talking, I told everyone that this cancer has been a gift. I really meant it. It’s been a gift in that it’s cleared away a lot of cobwebs, that I can suddenly see what’s important in life and what’s not. It’s very much like that scene in Contact (one of my favorite movies because it’s from a book written by Carl Sagan) where Ellie travels through a series of wormholes on her way to  the aliens who have made contact with planet Earth. In between the various wormholes she has the chance to look around at the solar system, at the incredible beauty and magnitude of the universe, and all she can say is “I had no idea. I had no idea.” That’s how I feel.

The first few days after surgery, while I was on morphine, I had a strange experience. Repeatedly, throughout the day and night, I would “see” something out of the corner of my eye, always in the same area, at the foot of my bed in front of the door. It was a tall, thin man wearing a hat like men used to wear during the 30’s and 40’s. I never “saw” this man, I just always knew he was there. It wasn’t scary or creepy, it was more protective. I never had the thought that this man was there to take me to the other side. He was just there, watching over me. I didn’t tell anyone about it until later.

Blame it on the morphine.

On the flip side,  I never felt the presence of Bob or Arshad while waiting in the pre-op room before surgery (Bob and Arshad are two running friends who died in the past five years, Bob from lung cancer, Arshad from a car accident.) For some reason I always imagine Bob and Arshad coming to get me when the time is right, kind of like they’re bringing me into the heavenly running group they’ve started up there. I somehow “knew” I was going to be okay because Bob and Arshad were nowhere around.

[Do I sound really flakey and new agey? I do sound really flakey and new agey. I have no idea if ghosts and spirits exist or if there’s any sort of an afterlife. It’s all a fantasy in my head, but somehow it made sense to feel that way at the time.]

Michael and I had a great talk at midnight last night. We’ve never been able to be this open, to talk about our issues with patience and understanding. I guess we were both too defensive. He cried and told me this cancer is very serious, much worse than I think it is. Even if it’s only stage 2 it will be a battle. It may kill me in the end. He loves me so much. He is prepared to go on this journey with me. I am so incredibly lucky.

I’m procrastinating writing about the surgery and post-op. It is somewhat hazy and dark. Not sure I’m ready to go back to that place, but it has to be done. It’s time to rest, recover, and build my strength for the fight ahead. I’m also procrastinating reading about chemo and what to expect. I need to use all my strength to staying focused on today. Tomorrow will come, and I will be ready, but one step at a time. One day at a time.

Friday, 6/14/13: ONE WEEK POST-OP: HARDER THAN I THOUGHT

Took a shower this afternoon and took a true look at my body. First thing I notice is that I am skin and bones. My calf and arm muscles are flabby. My boobs are almost nonexistent. My incision scar is almost 9 inches high, from pubic bones to middle of ribs. My abdomen, waist, and upper hips are bloated and swollen.

But my skin is clear and acne-free and my hair has stopped falling out.

Stayed up until 3:30am watching The Notebook with Dom. Woke up feeling much better than yesterday. No stomach issues, and I ate well all day with no gas, no nausea.

The blood thinner injections are starting to become tedious. There is something very odd about sticking a needle in your body and injecting something. I have to admit, the blood clots kind of ick me out. The thought of something traveling through my body to my brain, lungs, or heart and possibly killing me — with no warning — is disconcerting. Maybe worse than knowing I have cancer.

Did a full loop of walking around the neighborhood. At 9:45pm it was still 91 degrees and no breeze whatsoever. My speed has certainly improved, though it is still uncomfortable to walk.

Eating in bed

Donut pillows make the best plate holders for eating in bed.

Looked at some photos Michael took when I was in the hospital. I am slowly starting to think about what happens next. I have a booklet I picked up at the hospital about chemotherapy and will begin reading through it. I also want to listen to the recordings Michael made of Dr K talking to the family right after surgery. Michael says she lays it all out and I need to know exactly what I’m up against.

One step at a time.

Very excited because tomorrow morning Bill is picking me up at 6:15am to meet WRRC for our very first Saturday Run My Hood in Sunnyvale at Kevin’s friend’s house. I won’t run, of course, but I am hoping to walk a little. Mostly, I just want to see everyone again and get back into some semblance of a “regular” life again.

Saturday, 6/15/13: A SHOT OF ADRENALINE

Spent the morning visiting with my running group in Sunnyvale. Bill picked me, Michael, and Susan B up at our house and we drove in together. Bill realized he might have left his phone on top of his car and had to leave immediately afterwards. He located his phone via GPS signal later in the day, in the median at Highway 80 and Big Town exit, smashed and pretty much destroyed — which meant a new iPhone 5.

WRRC

White Rock Running Co-op, my running group

It was so wonderful to see so many of my friends again, even if I couldn’t run with them. I managed to take about a three quarters of a mile walk with Michael and Katti (and her baby bump) and spent the rest of the time sitting and visiting with everyone. I was actually glad that I didn’t have to run because it was humid and a hilly route. Strangely, Stacy B was there with her busted up ankle and told me she also has blood clots and has to give herself injections of a blood thinner. She even has to have them twice a day. No fun.

Runners

The fast guys at the front

I am thanking the Timing Gods for making this all happen during the hottest part of the year. I have probably lost a lot of muscle not only from not being able to run, but also from not eating for three weeks and my muscles being used for energy when the fat reserves ran out. Not sure how scientific that is, but my calf muscles are super flabby!

Kilt

The indomitable Dane, who’s really a Scots, who proves that real men do wear skirts.

Appetite was great today, so Operation Fatten Up Angela is in full swing. After spending the entire morning in Sunnyvale, came home and took a long nap. It was the most activity I’ve done in weeks. Ran some errands with Michael (shoe shopping and buying dog food) in the afternoon, then finally got around to watching Alien with the family in honor of the alien monster baby I gave birth to a week ago. Just call me Angela Ripley Turnage.

Marine Corps Marathon 2013 shirt

Hoping there’s some way I can still be ready for Marine Corps.

First popcorn since surgery!

Sunday, 6/16/13: FATHER’S DAY VISITORS

Best sleep since I got out of the hospital. Slept four hours straight through, got on the iPad for about 45 min, then slept for another three hours. I felt great all day. Am trying to stretch out the pain meds to 5 hrs or more. It’s only tough when I walk around and the pain meds have worn off. I’d really like to get off of them as quickly as possible.

Feeling sad because my daughter flew back to Portland today. She will be back in a few weeks, but I will still miss her.

Completely forgot to take my blood thinner until after 2:00pm, the first time I’ve done that. I made the kids buy me a pill case the other day so I could keep all my morning and afternoon medications straight. I’m going to put the alcohol wipe in the morning section to remind myself of the injections.

Treated ourselves to What-A-Burger for dinner after the dog park (first junk food post surgery!), called my dad, and watched Smoke Signals in honor of Father’s Day. I pretty much napped off and on all evening on the couch. Nick loves to make fun of me for falling asleep all the time. Woke up at midnight just as The Shining was coming on, so Nick, Nicole, and I watched it until 3am. I, of course, fell asleep repeatedly.

6/17-19/13: SETTLING IN

The rest of the week the family and I tried to settle back in to our lives. I have had a lot of visitors,  but this Monday we managed to have our first visitor-free day since being admitted to the hospital. I continued walking in the evenings and made it up to 1 mile.

The stress of dealing with everything hit Michael the other night and he had a little meltdown. It’s to be expected. Everyone deals with tragedy in their own way.

I finally sat down and listened to the 45 minute recording of Dr K talking to my family directly after surgery. It was tough. While my family was celebrating the fact that she got all the tumor, she brought them down to earth with the reminder that this is still serious. The most sobering moment for me was when my daughter asked what are the chances the cancer will return, and she answered 85-90% chance it will return. I had no idea. I’d rather know the truth than have everything sugarcoated for me.

She took 25 lymph nodes to be biopsied, in addition to tissue from all my major internal organs. Now we wait until the pathology report comes back to see if it has spread. In the meantime, I need to start reading up on chemo.

The Confidence to Not be the Best

Confidence doesn’t come from being the best at something. It comes from realizing you don’t have to be.

How many times have we found ourselves working harder and harder to be better than others at a specific task, only to then reach our goals and realize we’re still just as messed up as we were before? I’m a runner, and the day I qualified for the Boston Marathon was one of the most amazing days of my life. I had finally proven to myself that I was legit, and I felt like qualifying meant there wasn’t anything I couldn’t accomplish.

Only the incredible feeling of invincibility eventually wore off. Even worse, I felt less confident about my running than I did before I qualified. I became plagued with self-doubt and insecurities. By the time I stood at the starting line, I was a mess. I had gotten sick a few days before the race and knew I was in trouble. I looked around at all the toned, athletic bodies around me and felt as if I was an imposter, as if I didn’t really belong there, as if I didn’t deserve to be there. I had a miserable race and wanted to make myself invisible from the cheering crowds.

I was sick alright, and it wasn’t just physical.

Dallas Marathon 2012

My friends and I sometimes push ourselves to the point of injury to get faster, to get better. We claim it’s because we’re competitive, or because we want to be our best selves. Some of my non-running friends find all of this inspiring. Others think it’s just plain crazy. I think it’s probably both.

Because when it’s all said and done, it’s just not that important. Look at Lance Armstrong. His drive to be the best cost him everything in the end. Hubris also played a huge part in his downfall, but perhaps hubris and the drive to be the best at something go hand in hand.

Wanting to be the best doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can be the impetus for some incredible changes in our lives. I think it’s when we make being THE BEST at something more important than anything else that leads to a hollow type of confidence. It’s like not being afraid to jump off the ledge but forgetting what’s waiting at the end of the fall.

Fast forward to today. I can’t honestly say that I’m any more confident than I was in Boston, but I can say that I no longer care as much about how fast or how far I run. Of course I still love to run fast. And long distance running is what I love the most. But I’ve realized neither defines who I am or how I view myself, and I don’t feel as if I have anything to prove, to myself or anyone else.

And if I don’t have anything to prove, it just means I’m one small step closer to being happy with what IS. And that’s good enough for now.

Enemies and Rivals

We have met the enemy and he is us.  – Pogo

I’m tired. I work hard, I run hard, and I never seem to have enough fun. Everywhere I turn these days it seems someone is showing me their angry face, or I’m reading yet another snide blog post from someone who is angry at someone else who is taking all their hard-earned money and having a great life at their expense.

I’m so tired of the rhetoric.

The election is over and we’ve all moved on. Right? Wrong. And of course we shouldn’t just “move on.” That’s not how democracy works. We should all be ready to roll up our sleeves, dive in, and get this country back on track. All of us, We the People, not just the ones who vote the same as we do.

And that’s what is making me tired.

Seven years ago I started running. The people I run with are the best friends I have. We laid one to rest yesterday and perhaps it’s the reason I woke up this morning with these thoughts pushing their way to the front of my crowded brain. Things that once seemed important no longer do. Life is short, and I have some things to get off my chest.

My friends and I run crazy long distances for hours at a time, and no subject matter is off the table. Within my larger circle of running friends we rarely talk religion or politics, which pretty much mirrors life at large. I suspect most of us don’t talk religion or politics with our less close friends either. Within my smaller circle of running friends, however, religion and politics is what we talk about the most, kind of like what we do with our families.

Even amongst my less close running friends, we all get along great. We come from all walks of life, have very different jobs from one another, enjoy varying interests outside of running, and we break bread and toss back a cold beer together quite often. We really like one another.

Beer

Beer: the great equalizer

Of course we all stay in touch on Facebook when we’re not running together. But something happened these past two months. We had to choose our next president. For some people, Facebook suddenly became a battlefield. Things I never would have expected to see were posted, not just by my running friends, but by everyone. Some of the posts were funny, some rude, some mean, and some downright ridiculous. What bothered me the most wasn’t what was said — though some of it was very surprising — it was the vitriol behind the words, the hatred and disrespect if you felt differently.

The other day I read a blog post that disturbed me, but I couldn’t figure out why:

When we answer to each other, as we do now, we are only as successful as our neighbor allows us to be and he is only as prosperous as we permit him to be.

When one neighbor can pass a law or raise taxes on another neighbor, then we all lose making one man’s tax benefit another man’s income loss. This negative spiral of self-defeating tax and law resolutions causes every man to have a small piece of his own personal freedom (and income) taken away from him by his neighbor. In this way we each take turns taking from, and losing to, each other until in the end, everyone is just a slave to everyone else.

Many people feel this way. Even my better half leans in this direction, and I still love him. I find those words sad and cynical. What happened to being my brother’s keeper and all that? The fact that for this person his “neighbors” are the ones keeping him from personal happiness (and solvency), and his equating this to slavery, makes me wonder how we got so far off track. I appreciate his thoughts, though, because I’m trying really hard to understand views that are so different from my own.

(Personal aside that really bugs me about his post: he eventually throws in something about having to pay for his neighbor the teacher’s higher salary, health care benefits, pension, and school building improvements. Sigh. Those evil, greedy teachers who are once again out to steal money from those who have real jobs. At least he didn’t bring in the unions. For 18 years I was admired for being a teacher, and about two years ago I seemingly overnight became the root of all problems in this country, without even being a member of a union. Fighting teacher-hate makes me really tired. I apologize for the digression.)

Dog

Shasta asks the question: Can’t we all just get along?

The entire point of my tiredness is this: WE, the citizens of this country, are not the enemy. When did we let ourselves be convinced to turn on each other, to be each others’ victims and rivals? We’re spending so much time these days hating some other guy (myself included, apparently, considering my response to the aforementioned blog post) that we’ve lost sight of the fact that our country is only as great as we make it.

We own this place. Those people in Washington are there as our representatives. I live in Texas and I’m not a Republican. My congressional representatives rarely represent my views. That doesn’t mean I throw up my hands and cry uncle. I don’t want to go out and shoot up a school, either, but I do bitch and moan a lot because I earned the right to do so when I voted.  I continue to make my views known to my Senators, even though I rarely agree with their votes, because that’s the way it works. I have to trust in that. If I didn’t, I would try to change it.

As for taxes, of course there are problems. Teaching in a low income neighborhood for 20 years illuminated a lot of welfare abuse. I saw it firsthand. But here’s the deal: those poor families and their children who need assistance aren’t going anywhere. They aren’t going to magically disappear and suddenly leave more money in your pocket. Isn’t it better to try and help their children, and at least offer them a good education as a way out of poverty? If we can’t see the benefits of having good public schools, as a way of preserving our country’s future, without resulting to privatization and making a profit off our kids’ education, then there’s no hope for us. None. Hopefully those tax dollars will come back to us in the form of intelligent, responsible citizens. They won’t all be lost. I’m willing to help my neighbor with that, and I’m willing to see the bigger picture and think of the ramifications for the future, not just my own small, short life.

Poor people are not the enemy. A larger share of our tax dollars go to mega corporations in the form of tax breaks, grants, and incentives. These corporations then use our tax dollars to develop new products, which then leads to jobs being outsourced overseas to people who will work for pennies a day. Then these same companies turn around, pay the guys at the top six and seven figure salaries, and the corporation pays little to no taxes. Isn’t this just another form of welfare? Socialism? Capitalism? I’m not seeing many benefits to our country by continuing down this path. I’m not anti-business. I would love to run my own small company. But if you’re going to use my tax dollars, I’d like you to at least contribute something back to society.

We have plenty of money in this country, it’s just in all the wrong places. But, really, rich people aren’t the enemy either. We all know that. Let’s work on putting our money where it can be put to good use.

Maybe we should all turn off CNN and Fox News and start thinking for ourselves. Look around. Talk to those neighbors you resent so much. Bandy together and see what you can do to change the things you don’t like. Accept that there will be differences in your beliefs. Those differences are what make life interesting. Assume that most people are smart enough, and have enough common sense, to be able to make good decisions. Debate. Talk.

And, please, let’s get rid of all the catch-phrases and labels. Liberals, socialists, conservatives, entitlements, idiots, blah, blah, blah. I am not an idiot because I think something other than you. It’s not okay to belittle someone because they’re different. Please, be respectful.

Houston Marathon 2012

Houston Marathon 2012

I didn’t support the decision to go to Iraq. I had a teenage son at the time and worried about all the sons and daughters being sent off to die for something I wasn’t convinced was right. It hurt when others felt my nonsupport was unpatriotic and treasonous, as if the simple acts of questioning war and fearing for the safety of our troops made me less of a patriot. Now I shake my own head in disbelief at those who talk of secession. Is that a more honorable solution, to walk away rather than work towards a better future? I’m very confused by this.

It’s all much more complicated than I’ve stated. There are no easy answers. I would lose any debate on this issue, I’m sure, and get way too emotional for my own good. I’m just someone who is tired of the way we all seem to hate each other these days. I see it when I drive my car, when I buy groceries, when someone steals my lawn mower and my grill, and when people talk about others they don’t even know. I honestly think our differences are smaller than we imagine. We seem to have lost sight of the ability to “walk a mile in someone’s else’s shoes.” Compassion is not only reserved for those who believe as you do.

I sometimes feel as if we’re treating each other as opposing sides at a football game, with our future, the football, being thrown around so haphazardly. Us against them. Maybe we could take a lesson from my running group, all of us so very different, but all running — together — towards the same finish line. I think we owe it to each other, to our children’s futures, and to the future of this country that we all love.

We have a lot to lose if we don’t.

A Great Way to Start a Day of Feasting

If you’re an athlete, you love to eat. It’s one of the main reasons I run so much, so I can eat what I want without having to worry too much about putting on weight. Thanksgiving, however, throws me under the bus every year. I love sugary desserts, and can’t resist going whole hog on that one day of the year (well, except for Christmas and my birthday, of course).

The solution: run the annual Turkey Trot in the morning and start the day of feasting with negative calories. Dallas supposedly has the largest Thanksgiving Day run in the country, drawing over 36,800 runners and walkers last year. With temperatures in the low 60’s at the start this year, I have no doubt that the 5K and 8 mile races drew an even larger crowd. I was sick this year and didn’t run, but my better half, Michael, took some awesome photos of the event.

Things always get started off with pre-race warm up exercises.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

Some people really get into the warm up, especially the kids.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

The event begins and ends in front of City Hall, which was featured in that fine 70’s sci-fi flick, Logan’s Run (yeah, the one with Farrah Fawcett).

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

Everyone and their dog comes out for the big day. There are lots and lots of dogs. And strollers.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

It’s more fun when you run it with good friends.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

Come on, Dude. Really? You’re kind of missing the point.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

If you want to race, you better start up front to escape the masses. This guy’s serious about burning off his pre-feast calories.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

A sprint to the 5K finish is a fight to the end for these guys. It was neck and neck all the way to the end.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

Someone forgot to tell him you never run in cotton on a warm day.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

She makes it look easy with both feet off the ground in her super fast minimal shoes.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

Are they giving thanks, or just posing for a photo? I love people who run in costumes, but have no desire to do it myself.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

There’s always one Dead Head in every crowd, in every city.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

You gotta love a guy who runs barefoot wearing a t-shirt advertising beef. Muy macho. I wonder if he’s listening to Metallica, too?

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

The eight mile course has a puke-inducing uphill finish. Bon appetit, guy with the banana!

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

Here’s the real reason most people run the Turkey Trot: to drink beer and bloody Mary’s in the cemetery afterwards with their friends. It’s carbs!

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

And if you can’t join them, you can at least give them a hand.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

Some people remind us just how much we have to be thankful for, and to remember those who can’t be with us.

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

Here’s to another year of eating and turkey trotting with good friends. I hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Dallas Turkey Trot 2012

Channeling My Funky for Portland

Tomorrow I’m jet bound to Portland, Oregon! I’m running the Eugene Half-Marathon on Sunday, but the best part is that my daughter and her fiance live in Portland, so I’m making a week of it.

My bags are packed, training is under my belt, and I’m ready to go.

I’ve only been to Portland twice, both times very briefly. Once was en route to Seaside and Astoria to meet some runners at the end of the Hood to Coast Relay, and another time for a wedding.

As I told someone when I was there, “These are my people.” I feel at home in Oregon. My mom even told me afterwards that I was probably conceived there, so I guess it is a true homecoming when I visit.

I’m having to live some of my unrealized dreams through my daughter, who’s worked as a park ranger in Yellowstone, a geologist in Jackson Hole, and now lives in Portland. I guess all those summer road trips out west to the national parks influenced my daughter more than I thought they would.

Dallas should reach a high of 90 degrees today, so it’s a good time to head north. When I called Dominique to ask what kind of clothes to pack, I was told to “bring a little of everything” and to dress “funky.”

Just what I wanted to hear. I’m the type who packs everything but the kitchen sink, but funky? I’m anything but.

Are Converse sneakers considered funky? Maybe they are if you’re my age.

For a race, it’s pretty easy to pack. All the sacred running items go in the carry-on, to avoid having to scramble for race gear at the last minute if the checked bag gets lost.

Now that I have a Kindle I’m traveling much lighter. I usually pack three or four books, and buy three or four more when I get to wherever I’m going–and keep my fingers crossed when they weigh my luggage.

But I rarely have (or make) time to do much reading anyway when I travel. Too much to see! Too much to do! Too many adventures to be had!

About thirty of my running friends and acquaintances are traveling to Eugene to run the race, though most are running the marathon. I would be running it as well if I hadn’t lost a full month of training back in February after a trip to the ER, then a pulled calf muscle, and then a stomach virus.

Sometimes you have to be realistic and scale back. I’m looking forward to running “just” the half marathon.

And if you’re a runner, or you saw the movie (actually, there were two), then you know about Steve Prefontaine. Eugene is where he lived, trained, and was killed in a car accident. The race finishes on Hayward Field where he trained.

After running with Dean Karnazes last Friday, it’s kind of like meeting two running heroes in one week.

So here’s to sunny skies in Oregon, a smooth, uneventful flight, fleet feet and lots of laughs with friends, precious time with my lovely daughter–and most of all, to running. Funky or not, here I come.

The Flip Side of What We Weigh

Last week I wrote a post in my running blog about how other runners judge each other and what constitutes a “real” runner. In reference to my post, a friend told me about a comment one of her friends made when they were wearing their bathing suits. This “friend” felt it was okay to make a comment about her being both “skinny” and having “so much” cellulite on her thighs. My friend is a tall, gorgeous mother of three who is faster than a lot of the men I run with. She just laughed and said nobody’s perfect.

This made me wonder: why do some people think it’s okay to make comments about a woman’s weight if the woman is thin?

I’m one of those women who have never had to worry much about their weight. I run, still seem to have a fairly high metabolism, and can generally eat what I want within reason. I’ve never been anorexic or bulimic, and until I had my first child it was always a struggle to put on weight. When women ask how I stay so slim, I tell them I run a lot, that I’ve always been on the thin side, and that it must be genetic. They almost always make a comment about how lucky I am.

There is a flip side to all of this, however.

When I was little girl I was an extremely picky eater. I turned my nose up at all sorts of “yucky” foods. I loved meat, but hated hamburgers. I didn’t even like chocolate milk or chocolate ice cream (still don’t). I was allergic to milk when I was born (breastfeeding was actually frowned upon), and was fed goat’s milk instead. Maybe that’s where it all started.

I can’t remember a time when other kids didn’t make fun of me, especially in elementary school. Toothpick, Skinny, String Bean, and Olive Oyl were the most frequent names I heard, and Turnip was said a lot because of my last name. Adults didn’t make fun of me, but they made comments nevertheless. My grandmother made it her mission to fatten me up with chicken and dumplings and half and half. I don’t remember being necessarily bothered by the name calling, unless someone was being purposely mean. I guess I got used to it after awhile. I remember calling one of my friends Tomato Potato all through grade school, and he hated it, so I was just as bad as the others.

First day of school

I spent most of my time outside, riding my bike, roller skating, hitting a tennis ball against the house, playing badminton with my sister, and running around the backyard setting up pretend Olympic competitions. Whatever calories I took in were quickly consumed by physical activity.

I had a hard time finding pants that fit, even in slim sizes at Sears, and my mom always had to bunch up the material at the waist and sew it together. Sometimes I just used a big safety pin on the sides. My junior high school drill team outfit had to be sent back twice because the person doing the alterations didn’t believe my measurements were correct. Even my top hat had to be made smaller.

Junior High

In high school I was painfully aware that I was a late bloomer, but I had a circle of friends who were kind of geeky and accepting of my thinness. I was jealous of the other girls and their womanly curves. It wasn’t until I had my first child that I finally filled out a little and acquired some of those curves, especially hips. A chocolate chip cookie binge one Christmas vacation at 30 was my first realization that I couldn’t eat cookie after cookie without consequences.

Even though I’m not short, I’m small boned, and a few extra pounds on a small frame really show. There have been times I’ve changed my diet to eat healthier, but I’ve never had to diet for longer than a few days to lose a couple of unwanted pounds. The older I get, the more I do have to watch what I eat, however, and I have a wicked sweet tooth. I live for carbs.

When I started running six years ago I did lose a little weight at first, but mostly I toned up. I ate more to accommodate for the lost calories, but I also ate healthier. When a teacher colleague saw me for the first time in a year after I began running, she told me I was “too thin” and that I looked “unhealthy.” In my opinion she was overweight, but I didn’t tell her that. I told her I was running a lot, ate like a horse, and was healthy.

I was amazed that she didn’t think twice about sharing what she thought, but also knew she would never tell someone they were too heavy, no matter how “unhealthy” they looked to her. Her lack of tact didn’t really bother me, but it did make me wonder why she thought it was acceptable to be so blunt with someone about their weight.

It’s almost as if it’s okay to call someone skinny and make comments about it because, well, they’re skinny and that’s what’s accepted–even envied–in our society.

My daughter was once brought to tears by a high school teacher who asked if she was anorexic–right in the middle of a lesson. She’s shorter and smaller than me, and has always had a hearty appetite. He felt horrible when he made her cry, but why did his concern outweigh the embarrassment it caused?

I love watching The Biggest Loser, despite all the drama. I love the moment when the light bulb comes on in each of the contestants’ heads and they break through the wall that’s been holding them back, the moment when they give up all their excuses, let go of all the pain and hurt and things from the past that are holding them back, and allow themselves to be healthier, stronger, and happier. When you do something you’ve never thought possible, then the true person you are is able to emerge. Seeing that transformation in others is always inspiring to me.

Even though I’ve never had to lose a lot of weight to experience that moment, I think I know what it feels like through running. After I ran my first half marathon, which is something I never thought I could do, I was euphoric for days afterwards. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done up to that point, and for the first time in my life I knew that anything was possible. I knew that I had the strength to do anything I set my mind to.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to eat very little, exercise regularly, and still not lose weight. I have friends who eat like little birds, and they struggle week after week to lose weight. Some have struggled with weight loss their entire lives. Some have been made fun of and treated disrespectfully in ways I’ve never had to deal with.

Whatever package we come in, the journey remains the same for all of us. It’s easy to say be happy in your own skin, but not so easy to pull off, especially when others can be quick to point out things you already know about the way you look.

Let’s all start looking a little deeper.

Turning Obstacles Into Words

As someone who runs marathons, I know that running is 98% mental. If I’ve trained consistently and put in the miles, the body knows what to do. If any obstacles arise, either during training or the last miles of a race, I’m almost always assured that it’s my mind getting in the way. This holds true for everyday life as well. I’m ready to turn these obstacles into words and take the sting out of them.

I noticed last year that certain things kept coming up in my writing, words that I wrote over and over. Probably the most frequent thing that came to the forefront was the idea of acceptance, especially acceptance of things as they are, not as I want them to be. This is also tied in with no control, awareness, and not judging. I went through a short phase where I tried to meditate every day after yoga, and those three concepts kept coming up each day. The actual words would appear in front of my eyes out of the darkness, unbidden and nagging, since I was trying to clear my mind. Eventually, when I got up to 20 minutes of meditation and it became harder to focus for so long, I turned them into a mantra, saying the concepts aloud in my head on each out breath. Acceptance . . . awareness . . . not judging . . . no control . . .

We all know how our minds can mess with us, how we can turn the smallest obstacle into something huge. I have a memory from childhood that stands out as a symbol of the word FEAR. My family had gone to Six Flags and we were high above the ground on a wooden deck in the trees. To get to the other side we had to walk over a suspended bridge. I remember being petrified of walking across that swaying, unstable bridge, and I refused. I threw a hysterical fit. I don’t even remember what it was that scared me, because I’ve never been afraid of heights. In the end, I think my dad had to take me down a spiral tree slide to get back to the ground below.

                                                                                                             Source

I still don’t like bridges that bounce, but not to the extent I did as a child, when irrational fears are somewhat more acceptable. Nowadays my fears tend to be more based on something that could happen, which might be the silliest fears of all. For instance, a few months ago Michael and I spent a day in Ft. Worth filming the race course for the Cowtown Marathon. Michael wanted to get some footage of downtown Ft. Worth, so we drove to the Trinity River levee and parked the car. Michael lugged the camera equipment to the top of the levee to film. I had visions of dead bodies in the river and gangs of homeless people attacking him. In the meantime, I sat alone in the car, in an empty parking lot behind a ballpark, watching some construction nearby. As a woman, I was afraid. I felt out of place and alone, like I shouldn’t be there, and was convinced someone would show up and hassle me.

Of course nothing happened. The construction guys didn’t pay me the slightest bit of attention and Michael didn’t see one single dead body or dangerous homeless person on the levee. It was the fear of what could have happened that caused more stress than anything that did–or didn’t–happen.

Last year I had a lot of lessons on acceptance, one of them due to training through an extremely hot summer. In the end, I had no choice but to accept I had no control over the weather. Either I accepted it, and ran anyway, or I got angry and stayed home. My training was therefore inconsistent and led to two nagging injuries. I’m sure I still have more lessons on acceptance headed my way, but at least now I recognize it when it shows up.

This year’s obstacle to be turned into a word is fear. I never would have called myself a fearful person in the past, but I think in many ways I am. I don’t like being pushed out of my comfort zone, and prefer to dip one toe in slowly until I get used to a situation. In a more literal sense, I’ve never been one of those people who runs screaming into a cold body of water. I go in slowly, inch by inch, at my own speed. I’m going to work more on being a screaming jumper, not letting fear hold me back.

I’m ready to turn these mental obstacles into nothing more than words. By doing so, I think I take away some of their power. Words can be turned off, left unspoken and therefore unacknowledged. As long as the concepts take up space in my head, in the form of obstacles, they can do damage. If I turn them into words only, with no experiences to back them up, they remain meaningless.