Author Archives: Rambling Runner Girl

Welcome 2019!

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New year’s resolutions have never really been my thing. I’ve always been more in the school of thought that if you want to change something about your life, why do you need to wait for a certain day of the year? Just make the decision and do it. Even if it’s on, say, June 22.

However, I do understand that with the closing of one year and the beginning of a new one, there is a tendency to reflect a little more, to think about the things that went wrong, the things that went right, the things that just went and were endured.

As I was preparing to shut the door on 2018, which definitely had its share of high-highs and low-lows, I found myself enjoying every moment that I got to spend with all of the most special people in my life. After saying goodbye to my last living grandparent just a few days before the anniversary of my dad’s passing, it would have been hard not to think about the relationships that are so important to me.

I was fortunate enough to have a chance to say goodbye to Norma when I know she still heard and understood me. I got to recount some of my favorite memories with her and then make even more memories with my uncles, aunts and cousins. Its easier to let go when you know it brings your loved one peace, and it will bring them to a really joyous reunion.

Speaking of joyous unions, y’all know I got married in 2018, right? And we celebrated with that trip to Ireland I’ve been dreaming of for so long. So even with the hard tears, there were happy tears too. And it seems to me, that hard tears mixed with happy tears are the proof that we are really living.

In the past week, I’ve spent some quality time with our new blended family of six, enjoying old traditions and making some new ones. The kids have had their friends around and gone over to friends’ houses. We traveled to the little ‘ville in the northeastern corner of Missouri, where the beau and I met so many years ago before we found our way back to each other, to see his parents. We also got to see his sister and her kids. And at the last minute I got to reunite briefly with the friend who was like a sister to me during the very challenging tween years. I couldn’t know that she was only a mile from me and not at least stop in for a quick hug.

A couple nights ago, right after returning from NEMO (Northeast Missouri) I hooked up with my friend/colleague/roommate Katrina so we could have one last beverage at iTap, our post work retreat when we were both dealing with some of life’s most challenging hits. We couldn’t let iTap close it’s doors for good today without a little reminiscing. As we were heading our separate ways back to our respective neighborhoods, she suggested we try to do a meet up every month. Yes. I agreed. As busy as life gets, it’s reasonable to find at least an hour out of 30 days to have some friend time.

Last night, we had friends over for snacks and drinks. There were kids running around, the pug kept attacking my “frother” (friend who is like a brother-did I just make that up?) Dan, and his wife (who he also married this year) Andrea has been a kindred soul of mine since I first met her on a run (back when I still led the social run) and before we set them up.

I’ve gotten to run and have coffee with one of my besties from Chicago who has been in St. Lou visiting family over break. I even got to start the new year hitting the trail with her this morning at Al Foster, my fave. We remembered running there together 4 years ago on Christmas Eve, we even remembered some of our conversation from that day.

This afternoon, the beau and I took all 4 of our kids, and one of my “adopted” daughters over to Skyzone. We had 7 jumpers. 5 kids and 2 adults. That’s right, even after running 6 miles this morning, I kept the adrenaline going for a romp in the trampoline park. Followed by happy hour at Sonic to negate all the calories burned.

So as I have packed in the quality time here at the tail end of 2018 and extending into the front end of 2019, something occurred to me. Last night, Andrea asked “So, what are your resolutions?” I didn’t really have an answer, since I don’t really do resolutions. But while running with Lynnie today and playing at Skyzone with the kiddos, it just reinforced that I want to continue nurturing my important relationships and living life in a way that is really, truly living. And while I wouldn’t really call them “resolutions” as much as “reinforcements”, I would say these are mine:

Live fully. Laugh more. Love whole-heartedly. Worry less. Take more pictures, both with the camera and mentally. Run with friends regularly. Do anything with friends more regularly. Love the ones who treat you right, and let go of the ones who don’t. Hug as often as possible. Snuggle a lot. Don’t beat yourself up for eating the ice cream (or the pizza, or the tacos, or whatever empty calories present themselves). Seek out more adventures. Take in as many sunrises, sunsets and star-filled skies as possible. Smell the roses. Don’t sweat the small stuff, or the big stuff. Trust that it’s going to work out the way it should. Remember to breathe. Look around and enjoy life. Do the things that make you happy-write more, read more, run more. Go on more hikes with family. Be present. Take care of yourself. Smile. Make people wonder why you’re smiling. Play more games. Play more in general. And when given the choice, jump on the trampoline with your kids. (But be sure to take some ibuprofen and maybe do some Kegels once in a while)

Happy 2019, everyone! I’m wishing you all a year full of love, laughter, hugs, smiles, snuggles, sunny days, starry nights and more happy than hard tears.

Much love,
Rambling Runner Girl

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Happy Nursiversary to Me

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As of today, it’s been exactly one year that I’ve been at my job. There are still days I find it hard to believe I made it through nursing school and I am actually a nurse. When I look back on that process, I know that training for endurance sports is a major contributing factor to my success.
Endurance: the fact or power of enduring an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way. Synonyms: tolerance, sufferance, forbearance, patience, acceptance, stoicism.
Training to run marathons and complete long-distance triathlons gave me the mental capacity to keep going when it gets hard. Nursing school was hard. Life as a nurse is nothing to scoff at either. But here are a few things that I have learned, or at least been reminded of over the past 365 days:
*I care deeply for people. Even when it’s people who are threatening my sanity, I put my entire heart into serving them. Even if that means I have to sit on hold with a pharmacy well after the 5:00 dismissal so that someone gets a prescription they need so they don’t have to remain uncomfortable. Doesn’t mean I won’t complain about it, but I will still do it.
*The sound of a fetal heartbeat is the most beautiful sound in the world. It never gets old. Not. Ever.
*For all the nurses I fit for shoes at Fleet Feet, I daily think about how important good footwear is. But Aleve is necessary to keep on hard as well.
*I never get tired of carrying my dad’s stethoscope around my neck. I take him with me daily. Today our supply guy, Paul, asked me about it and I’m pretty sure we both had tears in our eyes.
*OB/Gyn is definitely where I am supposed to be. I love the hope of new life, the relationships I get to build over 9 months and the beautiful babies that come to visit.
*I have cried for my patients on more than one occasion, and I have prayed for them even more.
*There will always be someone who doesn’t like you. And that’s ok.
*Spontaneous triplets might be the coolest thing in the world.
*It makes me crazy when people leave a voicemail without telling me their name.
*Coffee makes the world go round.
*Scrubs have pockets for a reason.
*You can’t beat a good pen.
*Even better than the words “Thank you” are the words “I appreciate ya”.

Nursing is not for the weak or the faint of heart. It takes strength, and endurance to get through the days and the weeks. You don’t always know when you’ll get to eat, or pee, or even sit down for a moment. But take advantage of the aide stations when they come, keep putting one foot in front of the other and stick with it for the long haul. And it will be worth the effort.
Unrelated to my job, I’m pleased to report that I’ve been running a couple times a week. Even in the midwestern misery of heat and humidity, I’ve built my mileage up to 8 whole miles. Its slow and steady, but it gets the job done. No Garmin, I just know where the turn arounds are from many years of training and I couldn’t begin to tell you my pace. I don’t really care, maybe cause if I knew it would make me sad how far I’ve fallen off from where I was before. But also, I’m enjoying it more this way. So there’s that.
And last but not least, since we were talking about being in it for the long haul, I picked up a project recently that I had to set down for nursing school. It seems kind of appropriate that on the year anniversary of starting one job, I’m going back to another. No, I’m not selling shoes again, and I won’t be making an income from this one for a bit, but I started back today as a writer. I had a conference with my book coach this morning, in the chaos of my life, with a husband, four kids and a puppy in the background, and it’s time I got back to telling my story.
It’s never going to be easy to find the time to make this dream come to fruition, but it’s not going to get any easier the longer I wait. And so, the journey of Rambling Runner Girl resumes. Slow and steady, one foot in front of the other. Onward!
Maybe by my second work anniversary, you can all celebrate by buying my book. ;)

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Runner’s High

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Medical definition of runner’s high: a feeling of euphoria that is experienced by some individuals engaged in strenuous running and that is held to be associated with the release of endorphins by the brain.
I can tell you the exact last time I experienced this. It was approximately 3 years, 6 months, 3 weeks and 3 days ago. I had already completely a knock down drag out of a 2.4-mile swim and a grueling 112 miles on a bike in the foothills of Arizona with crazy winds. I still remember wanting to throw my cycling shoes into Tempe Town Lake and never wear them ever again. I’m fairly certain they haven’t touched my feet since then. But then, it was time to trade in my bike for my Mizunos. My time had come. The first few miles of that marathon were, interesting, to say the least. I needed some nutrition, and sodium, and my legs had to get a handle on a different form of propulsion. But after a few miles, I felt it. I remember at about mile 5, yelling to my friend Allison, who hates running, “I’m so happy to be running!”
During the marathon at the end of an Ironman, a runner’s high is not likely to last the entirety of 26 miles. It came and went. I had moments of feeling like I could keep running forever, despite the depleting efforts of the day. And because I am a mere mortal, I had moments that I just wanted to cross the finish line and end my misery. I will tell you this, there is nothing, NO. THING. At all in this world, like coming down the finisher’s chute of an Ironman, and knowing that, in spite of all the obstacles you were up against, you completed the whole dang thing. I have chills just remembering it. And by chills, I mean tears welling up in my eyes.
Flash forward to June 2018. Reality. A runner’s high seems pretty much like a thing of the past, a figment of my imagination, an unattainable dream. Since that day in Arizona, I have run two other marathons. One of them, very nearly killed me. Like, seriously, almost killed me since it sent me into acute renal failure and septic shock. In fairness, I was the dope who ignored my kidney’s pleas to stop running and continued on through the hills of Mark Twain forest anyway. But I digress.
After the marathon of death, running has been brutal, not fun at all, and I have just sort of trudged along through the miles to get them done. At the end of 2016, during my “comeback marathon”, the thing that kept me going was the fact that I was running as a St. Jude’s Hero. I was running for kids who couldn’t. I loved that race, but I didn’t particularly love the running. It was just relentlessly putting one foot in front of the other and wishing it was over.
That’s basically how I would describe almost every mile I have run since November 16, 2014. Relentlessly putting one foot in front of the other and wishing it was over. Running has become painful, both physically and mentally. Its something I do just to say I did, to attempt to stay fit, so I can eat all the food. I’ve tried taking breaks, running in my favorite places, giving up the Garmin. But the joy was gone. It’s not fun anymore. What’s wrong with me?
Nothing, nothing is wrong with me. I’m just…human. And it’s ok that something that is hard, and painful is…hard and painful. Even if its something that used to bring me so much happiness. Even if the passion isn’t there. Sometimes we have to let go of things we love.
And sometimes, on a muggy, June morning in the Midwest, on a path we’ve run countless times, when we least expect it, they come back to us.
I’m not gonna lie, I struggled to get out the door this morning. I guzzled a cup of coffee thinking the caffeine might help the headache I’ve been fighting for the better part of the week, and I took some Midol knowing that it was most likely hormonal. It was humid, I wasn’t looking forward to running, but I’m trying to just feel good in the skin I’m in, so I made myself go.
It was pretty uneventful for the first few miles, but then, with about a mile to go, I felt kind of weird. I had just passed Wildwood Towne Center and I was in the home stretch with a little over a mile to go. I was thinking that I had recently said to the beau (Yeah, he’s the husband now, but he’s always gonna my beau) that I’m considering signing up for a half in the fall, just to give myself something to focus on and work toward. I was thinking about what I might sign up for. I was thinking that I would do it like I did with training for my first marathon, Chicago 2001, no Garmin, no time goal, just finish and enjoy the journey. I was thinking of so many of the races of the past 17 years, flashes of the highlights and the lessons learned. And the next thing I knew, I felt it. It didn’t last long, but it was there.
At first, I thought I was just getting goosebumps because I was dehydrated. But I did a quick assessment (I’m a nurse, it’s second nature) and I realized I was fine. I was just having a release of endorphins in a way that made me *want* to keep running. It was The. Best. Feeling. And even though I fully expected it to leave as quickly as it came, I made a mental note to just enjoy the feeling while it was there. I ran up the hill toward the pedestrian bridge…still there. I crossed to the other side of Old Manchester and rounded the curve back to the neighborhood…still there. I headed around the mud-pit that is Lake Chesterfield, it’s drained again, this time on purpose to try to figure out how to fix it. Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better, am I right? By the time I had less than a quarter mile to go, it was gone. But there was a quote that had been in my head, for whatever reason, at the beginning of my run: Don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened.
I don’t know if my passion for running is fully restored. I don’t know if I’ll ever have another runner’s high ever again. But I had one today. And I’ll take what I can get.
In the meantime, I’m gonna keep doing what I do and trying to enjoy the moment that I’m in. As I’ve been writing this, I received a picture from Ally who is at camp this week, I’ve been listening to three boys going in and out of the house and inventing a game they’re playing, and my husband walked by and gave me a kiss a little bit ago.
Now, I’m no expert, but I’m gonna go ahead and say that maybe, just maybe, the reason I felt a little lighter on my feet today, and less like I’m trudging along up a mountain is because my life is a little lighter and less trudgey these days. It’s still not perfect, and its definitely got its challenges, but my people are here. So, I’m going to let the endorphins flow freely, I’m going to enjoy the moment that I’m in, and if and when another runner’s high comes along, I’ll take that too.
But instead of holding my breath and waiting, I’m gonna go pack a suitcase for Ireland. #bucketlist

 

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Welcome to the Next Chapter

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I’ll be honest, I didn’t run today. In fact, I haven’t run in over a week. But I can still ramble like nobody’s business. Now, I don’t know if there’s still an audience out there, but RRG is willing to talk to anyone who is willing to listen.
If you’ve been on this journey with me since the beginning 5+ years ago, or even if you joined the ride somewhere along the way, you know that this has been a sounding board for my struggles. And of those there have been many.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how when you are in the midst of a trial and you can’t see the way out, you definitely can’t see the purpose for the struggle. You might remind yourself of Kanye’s lyrics occasionally, “N-now th-that that don’t kill me, can only make me stronger…” and you might even convince yourself those words are true, but you certainly don’t know what the “stronger” is going to look like or why it’s necessary.
As I was driving home today after work, it occurred to me that tonight is the last night I will be alone in my house. My beau has been gradually moving his stuff in here, but he’s back in Shrewsbury for one more week. Tomorrow night the kids come back from their dad’s. On Wednesday, my brother, sister in law, niece and nephew, and my mom, will arrive for the weekend festivities. On Friday, my nieces fly in and the Kirksville crew will make the drive down. As of Saturday, this will be an even fuller version of “our house”.
So, what does one do on their last night of solitude? Well, I stopped at the library to drop off some books, I went into Barnes and Noble to pick up a birthday present for my almost teenager, I hit up Gold’s Gym for a workout and I went to counseling. Exciting stuff, right? And now, here I sit, with the remnants of my organic frozen pizza and the last of the bottle of wine I was working on over the weekend and I’m contemplating the events of the last 7-ish years.
As I prepare to turn the page on this chapter, I think about all that I accomplished. I learned how to be a home owner, I learned to be a single parent, I became an Ironman, I went back to school, graduated with honors and became a nurse, with a real job. But tonight when I pulled into the garage, it was obvious to me that those major life events that I’ve tackled, pale by comparison to the things that don’t really have a label.
When I was a newly single home-owning parent, there were nights I would pull into the garage and sit in the car, sometimes for an hour or more, because I couldn’t bear the thought of going into an empty house. Tonight it was clear, I’m not afraid of the empty house anymore. I haven’t been afraid in a long time, but when did that transition take place? When we’re in it, we don’t see it happening, but then one day, it’s right in front of us and we realize that we made it.
When I got home, I was ready to jump out of the car and get the oven going for my pizza, but there was a song on the radio, and because I am a weirdo, I sometimes sit in the car to listen to a song to completion. This was the chorus, “I have won, and I have lost, I got it right sometimes, but sometimes I did not. Life’s been a journey, I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret. Oh and you have been my god through all of it.”
All of those nights that I was afraid of going into an empty, lonely house…I was never really alone. He was always there with me. And while this chapter is closing, and I’m about to embark on a new chapter, that will hold it’s own set of challenges, and struggles, and trials, but also so much joy, not only do I know that I will never be alone, I know that I can look back on these past struggles and I can say I’m ready for it. I made it. This is what the stronger looks like. I persevered through the hard part. Through all the hard parts. I did it. And even more importantly than that, I did it well.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

 

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An Open Letter to 41, On the Eve of my 42nd Birthday

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Dear 41,

With 42 standing just outside the door, waiting for you to make your exit, there are a few things I need to tell you before we part ways forever.  Before I can say good-bye, I want you to know how much our trip around the sun together has meant to me.

We have seen a lot of good days, and some bad.  We’ve shared laughter and tears.  We’ve had our ups and downs, but that was all after you came roaring in last October while I was in the middle of my third semester of nursing school.  We cried together when things were hard, but you also stayed by my side and saw me through to the end.  We made it all the way through school together.  You watched me graduate with honors and rise above my fears to be the student speaker at my graduation ceremony.

We experienced so many adventures together.  We traveled to NYC, Louisville, Columbus, Memphis, North Carolina, Kentucky Lakes, the mitten (twice), Chicago and more.  We saw my Cubbies win the World Series-something I always hoped for, but never really believed I would see.  We ran the St. Judes Marathon in December; running through the St. Judes campus hearing, “Thank you, Hero!” from the parents and the kids we raised money for, was absolutely unforgettable.

Traveling to NYC with the beau was amazing, spending a week at Kentucky Lake with the kids was full of laughs, we enjoyed a week at the beach with the Jacobs side and last but certainly not least, hiking to the top of a mountain in the Smokies where we got engaged to the love of my life!  It has been quite a year.

We started my very first nursing job, 41!  And I could not be happier.  I really love it!  Working with a father/daughter OB/Gyn team is the perfect setting for me.  I love the hope for the future that I get to witness on a daily basis.  I have found my passion, my calling, my purpose.  I was born for this, but you were the one who helped me figure that out.  On any given day, my heart bursts with happiness and breaks wide open for the patients I am coming to know.  All while wearing my dad’s stethoscope around my neck.

41, you were certainly not without frustrations, but we conquered things together and we made it.  You have set things up for 42 to be something really special.  Make no mistake about it, 41, you will always have a special place in my heart.  You helped me come to a point of truly accepting that I am a work in progress.  Not just saying those words, but owning them, believing them and embracing them.  You helped me find my peace, 41, and for that I will be forever grateful.  I know I’m going to miss you and it’s hard to let you go.  Not because I am afraid of 42, or whatever lies beyond, but because of all you have done to make me who I am, the person who I am supposed to be.  From the bottom of my heart, 41, thank you.  Thank you for everything.

All my love,

RRG

PS. Don’t tell the others, but so far, you are hands down my favorite.

First Day of 41

Last Day of 41

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Redefining and Refining

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So what’s next?

Its no surprise that after finishing nursing school and getting engaged in April, I’ve heard that question more than a few times this summer.

Initially, my response was, “I’m going to take boards and see where I’m at.”

Well, I took my boards (and passed, YAY!) in June, so what have I been doing since then?

I decided that I was going to take the summer off! Since I was going to have the kids for a big portion of the summer, and since we had a couple vacations planned, and since they have suffered through the last two summers with me going off to school every day, it seemed appropriate for us to have one last hurrah.  Pretty soon I will be working, and by next summer we’ll be a family of 6, so I felt I owed it to them, and to myself, to have some fun.

I took my board exam while they were on vacation with their dad in early June and that was about the end of my peace and quiet for the summer.  After that we had pool days and adventures.  We spent a few days in Kentucky at a lake house over the 4th of July where we shot off fireworks, fished, jumped in and swam off the doc, played games, ate A TON and just generally enjoyed ourselves.

A couple weeks later, we spent 10 days in Michigan with the Jacobs side.  We crammed 12 of us (my mom, brother and family, nieces and my kids) into my mom’s New Buffalo condo.  It was cozy, but we made it work.  We played Scrabble, went tubing, played on the beach and in the pool, watched sunsets, hiked up the dunes, picked blueberries, ate A TON and just generally enjoyed ourselves.  Are you sensing a theme here?  We’re Jacobs.  We like to eat.

We celebrated Silas’ 10th birthday.  We celebrated Greyson’s (my bonus kid’s) 8th birthday.  We started planning a wedding.  We took all the kids to Johnson’s Shut-ins, which they deemed the coolest place in the world, after whining the entire 1.5+ hour drive there that it wasn’t going to be worth it.  (Just a hint: It’s totally worth it!) We sent my oldest off to high school (very bittersweet!).  We watched a total solar eclipse, sadly not together, but it was absolutely stunning.  It’s been a fun, and somewhat exhausting, summer of Lindsey.

But it wasn’t all fun and games.  I spent quite a bit of time working on some projects around the house as well.  While the kids were gone in June, I spent a couple days peeling wallpaper, painting and surprised them with a makeover in their bathroom.  They loved it so much, they all stopped using my master shower and moved back into their own bathroom, that only took 5 years of living in this house.  I guess I should have done it sooner.  Unfortunately, the shift in shower usage, also revealed a leak in the pipes, resulting in a hole in my kitchen ceiling that is currently under repair.  Thanks, Roger!

The wallpaper removal has continued, with the kids’ help in the upstairs hallway, stairwell and into the front room of the house.  We recently hit a stall there, but will pick back up after these few nice days that St. Louis has for the year pass us by.  I also started a project of refinishing a couple of old chairs.  Since one of the dining room chairs busted several years back, we’re down to 5.  We need to rectify that before there are six of us sitting around the table on a regular basis.  Of course, that will also require that the dining room become a place to eat, as opposed to its current state of “craft and game room”.  Ah, well, life is all about redefining purposes, right?

Another thing that happened this summer was I spent several hours working in the yard.  This is something I always enjoyed the excuse of, “I’m in nursing school, so don’t judge my yard.”  To my dismay, it was time to let go of that excuse and dig in.  As many hours as I spent digging, you wouldn’t know it to look at it.  I’ve made a dent, but it’s a never-ending process.  Oddly, I did find it somewhat satisfying every time I filled a yard waste bag to drag to the curb for pick up on Thursdays.

You want to know what I didn’t do much of this summer?  Run.  If I got in an average of one run a week, I would be surprised.  I’ll tell you this, running in St. Louis in the summer humidity is abysmal.  Any confidence you ever had in your abilities can be wiped away as soon as you step foot out the front door on day that its 95 degrees and 95% humidity before the sun is up.  As soon as you try to make your feet move you wonder who put lead in your running shoes.  Gross.

I found that doing yoga with a background of Pandora’s Instrumental Chill station was just as productive and better for my mental health.  I’ve also found that after a long hiatus from the pool, as in the lap pool at the gym, I look forward to the soothing sound of myself blowing bubbles in the water.  Silence IS golden.  Especially when your house contains boys.  I’ve also averaged about a book a week, reading for pleasure is nice.  And it’s hard to run while reading, so I jumped on the elliptical with my book more often than not.

But between yard work and not running, here’s what I figured out.  This summer was not just about the summer of Lindsey because I got to play so much, it was more about the summer of redefining Lindsey.  I started thinking…I used to be a runner.  But does the fact that I don’t want to run because St. Louis is miserable this time of year mean that I should change the name of this blog to Rambling Swimmer Girl or Rambling Yardwork Girl?  I’m no less a runner just because I’m not as fast as I once was, or because I am only running when I feel like it and, sit down for this runner friends, WITHOUT a Garmin (Gasp!  The horror!)  I’m no less a runner when I average 5 miles a week than my friends who are posting about having a hundred-mile week…well, ok, maybe I am less a runner than them, because I literally AM running less.  A lot less.

But ya know what?  I’m ok with that.

The other day while I was sitting in a church parking lot with one of my best friends in the entire world waiting for the moon to eclipse the sun we were discussing how my relationship with running has changed.  I used to run 2 or sometimes 3 times a day.  Seriously.  It was kind of a sickness to be honest.  I had so much inner turmoil, my head and my heart were such a mess, that I felt this need to make the outside hurt just as much as the inside.  Every time I ran and pushed to the point of feeling sick.  Now I don’t think of that as particularly fun.  I told Lynn, “Running is there when I need it, but I no longer need it to be everything.”  Redefining Lindsey.

So where is the metaphor in this summer?  Because I’m RRG, and you know I’m all about metaphors.  Well, here you go.  I distinctly remember one of those days of working in the yard, I was a sweaty dirty mess in cutoff jeans that I’ve had since college and orange rain boots.  What?  I don’t want to come across some long slithery thing and have it take a stroll across my foot.  No thanks!  And besides, the one time I went out in sneakers, I ended up with poison ivy on my shin.  Grrrrrr.   Anyway, I was out there trimming hedges and gathering the clippings and pulling weeds, but it wasn’t just about making the parts you can see presentable, there were points that I was on my hands and knees digging underneath the bushes pulling out old, dead, rotted leaves that had collected in hard to reach places.  It gets nasty under there.  And I’m still bearing the battle scars of evergreens, holly plants and pricker bushes.  It got pretty ugly.  But it was necessary.  You have to clear out the crap to keep everything healthy and growing.  And it’s NEVER going to be finished, it’s always a work in progress.  There’s going to be blood, sweat and tears sometimes, but it’s going to be worth it in the end.  I guess you could pay someone to do it for you, but where is the satisfaction in that?

I am no more a gardener and no less a runner than I used to be.  I’m just RRG, doing what makes me happy.  And somedays that looks different than other days.  I will continue to redefine who I am, or maybe refine is a better word.  I’m sure I will find another race to train for in the not too distant future, but in the meantime, I’m going to leave the Garmin at home, or read my WW II novels, or whatever.

So, what’s next? The year ahead will be one with some pretty major transitions.  I’m going to start working again full time.  I’m planning a wedding.  I’m trying to finish some projects to get the house ready for 2 more.  Redefining and refining.  The leaves will fall, weeds will keep popping up, and so forth, but I’ll keep doing the best I can.

People have also been asking what exactly I want to do when I get a job.  I’ve been answering that I’m not really sure, so I’m keeping my options open.  I know I do not want to work in a nursing home, I prefer OB or Peds to geriatrics.  About a week and a half ago, I decided it was time to send out a resume with some intention, now that the summer is winding down I should start what has the potential to be a long, tedious process (like yard work?).  So, I sent a resume.  Yes, “a”. And yesterday afternoon, I was offered a job that feels completely meant to be.  Without knowing exactly what I was looking for, it is exactly what I was looking for. It doesn’t always work out that easily, but sometimes, like every 400 years or so, the sun and the moon align.  And when that happens, it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I’m a nurse.  I start September 5th.  Stay tuned for more…

When the sun and moon align

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When the Skies Clear

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You never call, you never write…Oh, wait, I guess I’m the one who is supposed to be doing that, aren’t I?  Sorry, it’s been a busy year for RRG.  And it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down anytime soon. If anyone is still interested in my ramblings, I would love to give y’all an update.

Just this morning, I finished a book I’ve been reading, called The Keeper of Secrets.  The cover reads ‘A novel of love, loss and survival’.  As I finished reading the story of a family of German Jews, it occurred to me that it was also very much a story of healing.  Sound familiar?

Well, here’s my update in the form of a story of love, loss, survival and healing. In order to do so, I need to take you back in time a little bit, so you can see the progression through the Aprils. This might take a while, so bear with me.

April 2011

6 years ago. The absolute worst month of my entire life. I was stuck, trapped, miserable. On April 1, I knew that as the keeper of many of my own secrets, the only way to move forward was going to be to unlock them, but the very idea was absolutely terrifying.  I was dreading where my path would lead me if I opened that door and allowed the things to tumble out that I had kept locked away in a shroud of darkness and pain, some for many years. In the wee hours of April 2, I tapped into what was only the beginning of the nightmare, as I began telling my then husband how unhappy I was in our marriage.  And over the next couple of weeks, as the layers got peeled back, it got uglier and uglier, all the secrets of my life revealed, everything from small scrapes to deep gaping wounds.  My heart was raw and bleeding.  I was on the verge of losing absolutely everything I held dear and I wasn’t sure I had the capacity to carry on.  I spent most days that April getting the kids off to school and then hiding under a blanket until I had to go back to get them.  Everything I had feared in bringing my shame and my secrets out of the closet, had proven correct.  I was being dragged through the mud and threatened to have all of my dearest relationships stripped away from me.  I went back and forth between being wracked with grief and feeling numb, which was probably my brain’s way of not allowing more pain than I could handle.  On April 30, I was supposed to run the Nashville marathon with a couple of my girlfriends from Chicago.  Obviously, with my life falling apart, that had gotten set aside.  My friends had decided to run the Christie Clinic marathon instead.  I was laying on my couch in the living room, with a blanket over my head to block out the sunshine coming through the windows, that was in such stark contrast of the melancholy that was permeating my being.  I could hear the playful voices of my children outside in the back yard.  I got a text from my friends saying that they had qualified for the Boston Marathon, which was exactly what we had all been hoping to do that day.  How was it that instead, I had gotten to a place where my life had completely fallen apart?  How was it that hearing my kids voices outside was very possibly the only thing keeping me alive?  I had literally stopped eating, I didn’t care, I didn’t want to be in this world anymore.  But somewhere, under that blanket, from the deepest depth of my soul, I said a prayer.  My heart cried, “Jesus, be enough.”  And if He was enough, I needed him to show me.  I needed to believe that even if I lost everything, I would still be ok.

That night, I sat at the dinner table, across from a person I was still legally married to, but the vows were so broken that the relationship was a shell, a mask of what it was supposed to be.  I stared at the food on my plate and moved it around, not interested in providing my body with necessary life giving nutrients.  My shoulders slumped, my eyes and my heart downcast, my spirit broken.  And then there was a conversation. I asked question after question and finally started getting some answers.  After that conversation, he left to go pick up the kids from his parents’ house and I stood staring out the window, pondering the information I had just been given.  And in that moment, I went from being trapped and ready to give up to finding the will to fight.  I was ready to fight for my kids, for my freedom, for my life.

April 2012

I had filed for divorce in August of the previous year, it had taken me 3 full months to summon the courage, and we were deep in the process. We were still living under one roof, I had moved to the basement, or the “dungeon” as I called it.  I hated being two whole floors away from my kids, but it was necessary for me to have my own space, until we were working on an official custody schedule in separate residences. It was a long, tedious, painful process.  I had been in therapy which was imperative to help me get through the yuck.  I had started working for Fleet Feet not long after my fight showed up, I needed something of my own.  One of my friends at work, Jordan, had put together a team of people to go run an overnight relay of 200 miles through the Smoky Mountains.  It sounded amazing and I felt a pull to be a part of this team, the Smokin Aces.  Sometime in mid-April, several of us met up to caravan, we were meeting the rest of the team in Bryson City, NC.  I drove myself in my Pathfinder, behind a van full of my teammates.  At some point along the drive, maybe near Padukah, a couple of them jumped in with me to drive the rest of the way.  One of the guys was driving when we entered the forest and I remember staring out the window trying to take in all of the beauty before me.  We stayed in an amazing house in the mountains, owned by one of our teammates and headed to the race course the next morning.  We were all piled into a huge 15 passenger van, 9 of us with everything we could have possibly needed for a 24 hour period.  We took turns running, navigating, driving, prepping food, napping, etc.  I will never forget Nathan making me a tortilla with Nutella and sliced bananas, it was seriously the best thing I had ever tasted.  Partly, because it came with a realization that someone was willing to do that for me, with no expectation of anything in return.  It was a simple as a tortilla, but it meant the world to me.  I ran my parts of the race and loved every second, but it was also the quiet moments in between that I hold close to my heart.  I ran a part of the course that was 5.5 miles on a gravel road, up hill the whole way in the pitch dark of a forest in the middle of a foggy night.  I literally ran up a mountain, and when I got there, my teammates were waiting for me, cheering me on.  A while later, I found myself at one of the exchange points, a little church in the middle of nowhere, lying on a sleeping bag looking up at the stars, sharing stories with my teammates while someone tried to boil water with a camping stove to make Ramen noodles.  They were only lukewarm and mostly crunchy, but they were perfect.  My last leg of that race was up the side of a mountain, along a ridge, a crazy out of control downhill, across a river, through an unmarked trail through the woods where I got lost and trapped in a ravine.  Our team had gotten ahead of the race organizers and the trail hadn’t been marked yet, eventually, my friend Ken came into the woods and found me dehydrated and delirious, took me by the hand and dragged me out of the woods.  There were times he was actually pushing me up the hill, despite my pleas of I can’t.  He never let me stop.  In that moment, I had no idea that two and a half years later I would be participating in an Ironman, and that same friend would be running alongside me as I was a just a few miles from the finish, both of us smiling, me knowing that I could. I had battled mountains, fog, getting lost, trapped, and bruised, but I had survived.  And I knew I would continue to do so.

It was during that race that I fell in love with the North Carolina mountains, I fell in love with the friends that had taken care of me and taught me so much, and it was there that I realized I was going to be ok,  that someday I would heal and I would love again.

April 2013

Mid-month, the Smokin Aces were headed back to the mountains for an encore.  We had taken 2nd place the previous year and we were out for blood.  Ok, not really, we just loved our team and the race and we wanted to have a great time again, especially if it meant winning. 😉 Craig and Alamar flew in to St. Louis and we all piled into Ken’s van for the drive to Bryson City.  I didn’t drive myself this time, I wanted to be with my teammates.  I loved everything about that trip, that race, all of it.  We met up with the rest of our teammates in Carolina, got a little lost on the way to the starting line, and when 11 of us situated between 2 vehicles we set out to conquer the course. The race was a couple days after the Boston Marathon bombing, so I had brought armbands for us to wear in honor of the victims.  Again, the race was a menagerie of running, eating, napping, laughing and all the trimmings, but there was a different air about it for me a year later.  I crushed that same uphill in the middle of the night leg, taking 5 minutes off my time from the year before under a sky full of stars.  I was happier, lighter.  I had been officially single since September.  I had bought a house.  I was moving forward.  Still struggling, but making progress.  Even I could see how much difference a year had made.  And then I ran leg 34 again.  The uphill part was still hard, but I had a much better idea of where I was going.  The downhill didn’t feel as chaotic and out of control, I just enjoyed the momentum.  I got to the bridge, that incredible bridge, and my friends were waiting for me, but I smiled at my escorts out of the woods, rather than crying because I couldn’t do it.  Again, I was in love with the North Carolina mountains, the peace that they bring to my soul and their fragrant reminder of healing.  As we drove out of the mountains the next day on our drive home, I stared out the van window, my eyes filled with tears at leaving, but knowing I would inevitably be back someday.

April 2015

I don’t recall that we had a team go in 2014 or 2015, but I wouldn’t have been able to make it.  April 2015 is when I went back to school.  I had been feeling a pull for a career move and after some conversations with my beau who I had been seeing since December of 2013 and some investigating, I was enrolled in a program to become a Medical Assistant.  Let the school days begin.

April 2016

During my Medical Assistant externship, it became obvious to me that I wanted, I *needed* to be able to do more for my patients.  So I decided to continue my education in the Practical Nursing Program.  In April of last year, I had just finished my first semester of nursing, and school life as a single mom was about to test my limits in a way that I could not have prepared myself for, at least not any better than I already had.  I had already conquered an Ironman, I was beginning to understand what I was truly capable of, and I was going forth, fearless in my pursuit of excellence. I knew that the next year of my life was going to be challenging, but I had no idea that those 12 months would put to the test all the strength I had already built and challenge me in a way I had never even dreamed.  There would be blood, sweat and tears.  Lots of tears!  Especially in the moments that I questioned if the strain that this endeavor placed on my precious relationships was worth the quality time it took from my treasures.  There was lack of sleep, there was stress upon stress upon stress.  There were priorities that became second and third tier and then they were washed away into nothingness because in the grand scheme of life, they no longer mattered as much as they once did. They would have to wait until there was time.  But since I was blissfully unaware of how difficult the upcoming 3 semesters of nursing school was going to be, I signed up to run my comeback marathon in December and agreed to raise money for the kids of St. Jude.  I agreed to letting my daughter pick up a new sport, Cheer, not realizing how much travel would be involved as I neared the finish line of nursing school.  In April of 2016, Brian and I went to Nashville for a weekend during my break between 1st and 2nd semester.  And then, for approximately 365 days, my life was turned totally upside down.

The year leading up to April 2017

Being a single parent is hard.  Nursing school is hard.  But in this equation 1 + 1 does not equal 2.  Single parenting + nursing school equals about 65 billion.  There is a reason that people get degrees before they get married and have children.  But when April arrived, I realized I just had to hold on a little longer.  Two semesters of Clinical rotations were completed. 3 semesters of intense studying done.  I had traveled to about 10 different states for various things, a trip to both Michigan and New York with my love, travels to Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio for Cheer competitions with my teenager, and a weekend in Memphis to run a marathon.  I raised $3000 for St Jude, far surpassing my goal.  And there were the countless nights of helping kids with homework, chauffeuring kids to and from practices and games, and just generally keeping things afloat and being a mom.

There was a conversation that occurred with my friend Kim one morning during a long training run.  I was reminiscing about the days that I was fast.  Back when I could run a sub 4 hour marathon without a second thought, when another race day usually meant a new PR, back when I was within 2 minutes of my Boston qualifying time. Back then, I was a badass…

“Are you kidding?!” Kim said.  “You are still a total badass!  You are going to nursing school.  And you’re a single mom.  And you’re training for a marathon!  That IS badass!  Who cares how fast you run it, you’ve got a lot going on.  Give yourself a break.  Your badass may not look the same right now, but believe me, you are a badass.”

I can’t tell you how many times I replayed her words in my head to get me through especially those last few months.  The stress was sometimes unbearable, sometimes I was an emotional train wreck, other times all I wanted to do was sleep forever.  It was exhausting.  It’s amazing how using your brain to sit in a classroom and learn can take an extreme physical toll on your body.

April 2017

On April 1st, I knew I only had 3 weeks to go until graduation.  I had survived.  My grades were all in good standing and all I had to do was pass my finals.  Those three weeks draaaaaaagged like nobody’s business.

Two weeks to go…I had a massive meltdown, to the point that my instructor told me to get out and go home.  She knew that I never missed class and I just needed a break from people and from using my brain.  She told me to go for a run.  I did, and a massage, and margaritas.

A week to go…we had our first exit exam and I kicked its butt.  I had finally, over the past couple years, come to the actualization that I am smart, but even I had no expectation of doing as well as I did.  I picked off each exam one by one. We had our graduation pictures taken in our whites and the flying nun hats.  I only had one exam left but I knew that it didn’t matter, I had passed.  I made it.  As the weight lifted and the reality set it, I cried with joy.  I cried for all the lost moments of quality time with my family.  I cried for the lack of sleep and the struggles.  I cried because I was so happy it was finally over.  And I had done it.  I had sometimes clawed my way through the thick of it, but I had made it.

It occurred to me that I had conquered the physical realm in becoming an Ironman and now I had conquered the cognitive realm in becoming a nurse.  Braun and brains wrapped up in one, true strength and stamina personified.

After we finished tying up loose ends at school on Friday the 21st, it was finally time for a highly-anticipated road trip.  I had a cooler full of food, a suitcase full of hiking gear, and I was ready to show my beau the mountains I had fallen in love with 5 years ago, Bryson City, my bridge.  We drove through Gatlinburg and saw the devastation of the recent fires, we visited Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Tennessee and very nearly got blown off the mountain from the wind and then we found ourselves at the most perfect, peaceful cabin we could have imagined.  There was a huge porch with rocking chairs that overlooked the mountains and the sound of the river rushing below us.  The next couple days were a perfect combination of adventure and relaxation.  We hiked in the rain and saw beautiful waterfalls, and we sat on that porch or by the fireplace, drinking coffee, or wine, or moonshine, depending on the time of day and our hearts’ desires.

On our last day of hiking, I was planning to take him to my bridge.  We found it with relative ease, thanks to maps and directions from my friend, and former teammate, Michael.  As we hiked down the trail, I had twice run up during the Smoky Mountain Relay, I recounted my memories of those runs.  I told him about the difference a year had made, how the first time I was a hot mess in every sense, without someone coming to drag me out of the woods I might not have made it.  But a year later, I trusted my teammates to not leave me there, I had confidence in my own abilities and I had my smile back.  We found my bridge. It was helpful that the trail markers still hung in the trees due to the race only 2 days prior, so we were lead straight there. It was just as beautiful as I remembered it to be. And it was absolutely horrifying to Brian, who is neither a fan of heights nor shaky unstable swinging bridges over the Little Tennessee River, which is not so little.  Having the opportunity to take him there, I was glowing.  The day could have ended there, and I would have been happy, but it didn’t.

We stopped by Nantahala Outdoor Center, this is where the finish line to the race is staged each year and in 2013 they held the Kayak Championships at the same time.  Wow, you ever wanna watch something cool, that’s it.  We had packed a picnic and we wanted to find a hike, but since we were in a gorge, we didn’t figure we’d make it very far up the Appalachian Trail on either side of us to get some scenery.  We asked for some ideas and the NOC guys sent us up to Wesser Bald, it’s only about 1.5 miles up the Appalachian Trail, and when you get to the top there is an old fire tower you can climb up for 360 degree views.  Perfect.

Even the drive up was stunning, waterfalls everywhere we looked, and I never got tired of them.  When we got to the trail head, we parked the car and grabbed our jackets since it was sprinkling on us off and on.  I threw the backpack of food over my shoulders and we headed up the trail.  It was a very cool hike, beautiful views, we even crossed a small waterfall.  It was steep and we warmed up quickly.  It wasn’t too long and we were at the top.  And as promised, there was the tower.  He wasn’t too excited about climbing up, but he humored me and did it anyway.  When we got to the top, we were greeted with views of a big, giant cloud.  On one side, we could see off in the distance for a while until the mountains disappeared into the clouds, but in all other directions, we could see mostly just white.  We took pictures of what we could and then I, for whatever reason, was in a hurry to feed him, suggesting that we eat under the tower where it would be drier.  But he made me stay for a moment.

I’m not going to share all the details of how the next couple of minutes went, because I’m going to save that for us.  But with the mist falling lightly on us, as we stood in a cloud on top of a mountain, just the two of us, he gave me a ring. And I gave him a sandwich.

Immediately after it happened, a hiker climbed the stairs to join us, we had no idea where he had even come from, but he showed up just in time to take our picture.  Then he looked around and said, “Well this might clear in 5 minutes or it might take 5 hours.” He didn’t feel like waiting so he left.  He seriously came out of nowhere to take our picture and then he was gone.

We ate our sandwiches under the tower, mostly in shocked silence.  I know what you’re thinking, RRG, when are you ever silent?  But I was speechless, I really had not expected that and I had very few words. We agreed that we would mostly keep it on the down low until we had a chance to tell the kids, but we knew they would all be excited. As we finished our lunch, we could see the light of the sun trying to burn off the clouds, the view was changing.  So we climbed back up the fire tower and the scenery was stunning.  We had the 360 degree view that went on for miles.  It was incredible.  The sun was shining, the mountains were spectacular and we were engaged.  Who would have thought?

Eventually we made our way back down the mountain and went back to the cabin.  We ate leftover grilled pork and potatoes for dinner, and drank moonshine on the porch while we watched the most perfect sunset. And I couldn’t stop smiling.

It was hard to say goodbye to the mountains the following morning as we packed up and made the trip back home, but with more good memories in my pocket, I know I will be back again someday. The Smoky Mountains now have even more of my heart.

But how did April 2017 end?  Well, we did tell the kids, and they are excited.  We don’t have lots of details to share yet, we are still mostly just enjoying the moment.  We’ve never been ones to rush things, so we aren’t rushing this next chapter either.

On Saturday, April 29, the eve of the last day of the month we went to church.  In the beginning of the service we sang the old hymn How Great Thou Art. I sat with the words rolling around in my head, “…all I have needed, thy hand has provided” and it struck me how true that was.  He really did carry me through the last six years of my life and give me everything I needed, both good and bad, security and growth, joy and pain, sorrow and peace.  It was all what I needed to become the person I am.  As the service ended and I stood between my daughter, and my fiancé (still weird) I began to sing the words, “Christ is enough for me” but the tears filled my eyes and the words caught in my throat as I thought back to that prayer I said almost exactly 6 years before, “Jesus, be enough…”  It may have taken him 6 years, but He gave me everything I asked for, and so much more.  He showed me that when I ask him to show up, He will, every time. And when I trust His plan, it is better than I could have imagined.

I know things won’t always be happy and sunshine and rainbows, but I also know that some of the best moments happen in the rain.  And eventually, the skies will clear.  In the words of the random hiker on Wesser Bald, “it might take 5 minutes or it might take 5 hours” it might even take 6 years, but the clouds will pass and the skies will clear.  And you can be very sure that the view will be worth the wait!

Our big moment (Photo courtesy of random hiker guy on Wesser Bald)

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The Song of the Woods

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Wow, my second post in just a couple weeks!  I know what you’re thinking…um, Lindsey, shouldn’t you be studying?  The answer to that would be a resounding Yes.  But I’m starting to think that writing, for me, is even better therapy than running.  Or maybe it’s writing about running.  Yeah, it’s probably the combination.

But after this morning’s run, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to reflect on what that 30+ minutes was for my well-being.

Wednesday mornings are my favorite.  Typically I get Ally out the door to catch her bus around 6:45 before the boys are awake, so I have a few minutes to sit with her while she eats breakfast.  Usually the front door closing is the cue for Silas to stir.  And then a few minutes later I have to go nudge Ethan to get moving.  Today was no different.

By 8 am the boys were dropped at school and I was on my way to what I call, “My Secret Place,” to go for a run. It’s not really a huge secret, it just sometimes feels like one because I never see anyone else there.  Which I love.  And today I needed that. My life has been filled with so much excess noise and voices that I needed to seek refuge in solitude.

I pulled into a parking spot and was surprised to see a couple other cars there, but I knew their drivers were probably off on hikes, or bikes, and I would still likely be the only runner on the road.  I was, at least, the only human runner on the road.  I started my watch, just because I had to be diligent in observing the time.  School doesn’t start until 10 on Wednesdays, but I still try to be in my seat before Mr. Mahoney gets to the classroom, which is usually about 10:04.

Anyway, I started my watch and put in yurbuds in my ear, but I didn’t turn on my ipod just yet.  Over my head I heard a loud “Caw, Caw” from a big black crow, and I turned my face up to the blue sky.  I didn’t see the bird, but I heeded his warning that instead of filling my ears with the sounds of Kesha and Jayzee and the other trash that seems to motivate me, I needed to hear the song of the woods.

I started out and it wasn’t long before the sounds around me rewarded me with their symphony.

There’s a little brook that runs along the road, and almost immediately I was happy to hear its joyful babbling.  It struck me that so often, when we hear water, it is rushing, fast and furious, much like me in most aspects of my life lately.  But the brook was soft and peaceful.  At times the movement was so subtle, it was almost still, and I relished the reminder that sometimes is ok to be silent.

Just up ahead, about 25 yards ahead of me, I caught sight of a deer slowly crossing the road, into the woods on the other side.  A few seconds later, another one.  And a few seconds later, a young fawn, who stopped and stared down the canopy covered lane at me, before continuing on into the woods behind it’s guardians.  I smiled at how peaceful they were out for a morning stroll.

There was a chorus of critters all about me.  I can’t even pretend to know which birds I heard.  I recognized the rhythmic tapping of the woodpecker, but the ones I didn’t know, I enjoyed, nonetheless. There was one that sounded like it was whistling, one that had a high pitched squeak of squeezy toy and one that sounded like it was beaconing me, “Hey, you.  Hey, you. Hey, you…” as if I could just float up to join him in the branches above.  The orchestra was rounded out by the clickity-clack of cicadas, I think.  Are they even around right now?  And definitely lots of chirping from grasshoppers and their friends.

There was an occasional shuffle of leaves off to the side, squirrels scooting around in their hurried but indecisive patterns.  And then there was a chipmunk.  He stopped on the road right in front of me.  I stopped.  We regarded each other and then just as quickly he was gone.

It’s amazing how when you are really focused on hearing each and every sound around you, you can even hear the soft drifting of a leaf as it falls like a snowflake to the ground and softly plunks down on the pavement.  It became a game I played with myself, watching the leaves fall and seeing how far away I could hear them land.

I think if I would have had time, I might have made up for some of my missing marathon training mileage today.  However, Pharmacology was calling, so I answered.  After a quick shower at home, tossing my backpack in the car and a refill of my coffee for the drive to school, I walked in just after Mahoney had taken attendance.  He said hello and nothing more.  I’m usually prompt, so I think he let my minor tardiness slide.  I was out of breath from hustling in from the parking lot, but I was still pretty proud of the fact that on my way in the building another student acknowledged my Ironman backpack saying how much she liked it.  My response was, “Thank you.  I earned this.”

Unfortunately, school didn’t go quite as well as I hoped today.  Pharm is typically the one class, I am confident I can do well in, but today I think my anxiety of third semester got the best of me and I completely bombed my test this afternoon.  Somehow, I am going to need to figure out a way of reminding myself of my song of the woods while I sit in the computer lab where the silence is deafening and pummels me with doubt lately.

It’s not a secret that this semester has been a rollercoaster of emotions so far, and I’m confident that will probably continue until I make it to the next round and I can proudly say, “I earned this.”  But in the meantime, however brief the moments may be, I will often return to “My Secret Place”, my happy place, and allow the woods to sing to me a song that reminds me that I can and I will and this too shall pass.

Perhaps next time I should just make a recording to listen to while I study.

A peak inside My Secret Place.  It's not really such a secret, some of you probably recognize it.  I'll even tell you where it is, as long as you all promise not to show up all at once...

A peak inside My Secret Place. It’s not really such a secret, some of you probably recognize it. I’ll even tell you where it is, as long as you all promise not to show up all at once…

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Don’t Stop at Pain

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I wish I could take credit for the title, but I really can’t. It came from someone I have a lot of respect for, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Hi.  Remember me?  I’m that girl who runs, and raises three kids and tries to do way too much at any given time like training for an Ironman while learning how to be a single mom.  And when that’s done I jump into writing a book and going to nursing school, while still trying to figure out how to be a single mom.  Oh, and I write a blog about all of it.

Anyway, it’s been a while, so I figured I owed you all an update on how things have been going.  And if I’m being honest, I didn’t want you to forget about your old pal RRG.

Last time I wrote, I was kicking off my second semester of nursing school and continuing a course to help me write my book.  Well, second semester proved to be a little more than I was ready for, so after a couple weeks, I decided to take a hiatus from the book and just focus on getting through school and keeping the kids alive.  It was the right choice.  The book will happen, just not right now. As Nancy, the book professor, agreed, any of my non-school time right now has to be devoted to my kids.

It was a busy summer since I was in school 4 days a week and the kids were home, but we managed to carve out some quality time at the pool and go on some outings. Some days that consisted of the boys dragging the kayaks down to the lake while I sat nearby with my nose in a book, or a computer.  Or on rainy days, the three of them would set up a board game at the dining room table and I was just a few steps away at my desk.  But I think everyone was pretty happy with how the summer played out.  And I really couldn’t be more proud of how my kiddos handled it.  A couple days a week I would have to go off to school while they were still sleeping, so I would leave a list of daily chores and without fail, the chores were done when I got home and everyone was ready to play.

We were all rewarded at the end of the summer with a few days at a cabin in the woods near Table Rock Lake.  Brian and I took all 4 kids to the cabin we stayed at in January, and I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “Thank you for bringing us here!”  They loved it.  We enjoyed endless ping-pong, swam in the lake, hunted for buried treasure, made s’mores, laid on a blanket gazing at meteors, played board games, went sight-seeing, made good use of the hot tub despite a heat index of 100 the first day or so, belly laughed, snuggled and fought like family.  I can think of no better way to celebrate coming through second semester on the Dean’s List.  My 4.0 is no longer intact due to an A- in Pharmacology, but I am learning to accept that sometimes survival trumps perfection, because sometimes perfection is found elsewhere.

As of last Wednesday, we are all back in school.  It was a staggered start with Ally on the 16th beginning 8th grade at a new (her first ever public) school, me on the 22nd and the boys on the 31st.  This was the first time in several years that I got to see them all off to their first day of school.  You may remember how much it tore me up the last couple of years to not pack their lunches and prep their backpacks and take pictures before driving them off to school since they were with their dad.  So, to say that I was happy that everything aligned for that this year would be an understatement.

With my clinicals really kicking off this semester, it’s been a little stressful the way all of our schedules overlap, but as has been the case time and time again, I have great people in my life who step up to help where it’s needed and ease the burden.  For that, I am grateful.

So, here we are at the end of week two of third semester.  2 weeks.  10 days.  And I have already gone from the high of making the Dean’s List a few weeks ago, to seriously doubting how anyone ever allowed me into nursing school.  Third semester is kicking my butt.  I know, I know, I said that last semester too.  There is absolutely a learning curve that comes along with the beginning of a new semester, new classes, new instructors, new methods of teaching and testing.  So, I should probably go easy on myself for the fact that my first few test scores haven’t been as high as I would like.  Yes, I still passed, but let’s keep in mind that in nursing school anything less than 80% is failing.  I think we all know by now I am not a fan of falling short of the mark.

By midweek last week, I had hit a wall.  By Thursday night, when I really blew it on an online charting assignment and had to email my program director, hoping and praying that she would reset it, I ended up falling asleep after many tears wondering if I should just quit.  Give up.  Find something else to do.  I have never wanted to quit something so bad in my entire life as I did Thursday night.  After the countless miles I have run, learning how to swim to become a triathlete, completing an Ironman, nothing has ever driven me to the point of wanting to totally throw in the towel like nursing school did.  I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, completely defeated.  I tried to convince myself that if I could just get through the first few weeks of this semester, it would get better.  It had to.  But even after getting some sleep, I woke up for Friday morning clinicals still doubting this path I have chosen.

I was fighting back tears as I arrived at the nursing home Friday morning.  Friday actually went better than expected.  I am gaining confidence in the field, completing my assessments, building a rapport with some of my patients, bonding with my classmates.  This is my niche, this part I’ve got.  But my head is still swimming with the what if’s…What if I drop the ball on an assignment?  What if I fail this Med Surg  test on Tuesday?  What if I can’t get past this semester?  Should I just stop now, before it hurts even more? Before it gets even harder?

After clinicals, a few of us went to Todd’s Canteen right down the road from our facility.  We talked and ate and shared our struggles.  I felt better by the time I left, but the doubts in my head were still holding on.  I got home to see Ally step off the bus, and then headed over to pick the boys up from school.  It was an absolutely perfect September afternoon so the boys were asking to go to the park where several of their friends were going.  Despite my desire to go home and bury my head under a pillow, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to let them play.  So off to the park we went.  I did my best to be social with the other moms even though I didn’t really have the mental or emotional energy to.  My battery was low.  I knew I needed to recharge.  I wasn’t entirely sure that getting up to run 19 miles with the training team on Saturday morning would do it, but I knew I needed to give it a shot.

I was asleep Friday night before the kids were, but I knew they were all at least quiet and settled.  I crashed.  And I was up and out the door before the sun came up, hoping that a good long run would be the therapy my soul was seeking.

As a few hundred of us, clad in reflective gear and high tech watches and hydration items, gathered in the parking lot on the river front listening to coach Brandi give us a pre-run pep talk, she said, “Eventually you’re going to hit the dark place.  It’s probably going to happen between miles 11-18, but be sure, it WILL happen.  And you’ve got to figure out what you’re going to do to bring yourself through it.  For some, it may be thinking about family, or the finish line, or…” and she listed off several other ideas.  All I could think is that my whole life feels like a dark place right now.  Nursing school-kicking my butt.  As much as anything else in my life ever has.  And we all know I’ve taken a lot of butt kicking.

But I know that I run because it reminds me that I can fight through the hard stuff.  I DON’T stop at the pain.  It’s not in my nature.  We did a short warm up, took a group pic and off we went, down the Katy trail.  As I ran with the group, I talked with friends, learning that several others hadn’t been able to make it to many of the group runs lately either and had not put in the miles they should.  That made me feel better about my own situation.  My last and longest run lately was a 15 mile march of torture a few weeks ago during the summer of endless humidity that had me walking as much as running during the back half of those long, painful miles.  So, I relaxed knowing that I was just going to do the best I could.  I actually felt pretty good for most of it.  At one point, around mile 8, I even reached what we call the runner’s high.  My endorphins were on fire and I felt like I could run forever.  I knew it wouldn’t hold out for the entire run, so I rode the wave of adrenaline while it lasted.  It was brief.  By mile 11.5 I was starting to drag.  By mile 13, I was really looking forward to the 14 mile finish line of the first loop and being back at the red Fleet Feet tent to eat some sports beans and take a quick break before heading out for the last 5 miles.  My body was tired, but my mind was already convinced (mostly) that I could do the whole 19 if I needed to.  I was running with Joan and I had one earbud in listening to my ipod when Eminem came on and I heard the same words I’ve heard a thousand times.  But for some reason, they stood out to me this time.  He said, “Yeah, it’s been a ride.  I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one.  Now some of you might still be in that place.  If you’re trying to get out, just follow me.  I’ll get you there.”

And that’s what did it.  I did have to go to “that place to get to this one”.  But I’m not stuck there anymore.  Yes the voices in my head still pop back in for a visit sometimes, but they don’t get to stay.  I had temporarily forgotten that I am a leader and I know my way out, but a big thanks to Marshall Mathers for reminding me.  At 14 miles when we got back to the tent, a couple people from our group were debating going out for the last 5.  I could have topped off my mileage at 19 yesterday, but I decided to call it at 14.  I recently decided to drop to the half marathon in October since its not my A-race and it’s the day after my birthday when I have a wedding to go to.  So, just…why?  I really don’t need my mileage to be up at 19 yet since my marathon isn’t until December 3, when I go to Memphis for St. Judes.  I know I could have gutted it out and made 19 miles happen, but I also knew if I had, it would have been me trying to prove something.  And I don’t have anything to prove.  At least not to anyone other than myself. I opted for making a good decision for me.  I’d gotten my 14 miles in, it felt good, and then I went home to spend the day with my people.

Between Friday and Saturday, I didn’t get nearly as much studying done as I had hoped, but I have Sunday, and in this case the Monday holiday, to get prepped for Med Surg.

Last night we went off to church and you can ask Ally or Brian who were sitting on either side of me, but I’m pretty certain my face lit up when Pastor Rob announced that our guest speaker was David Hawkins, a tall skinny dude from East St Louis who has spoken at our church before.  I absolutely love listening to him.  His message was about trials, and it couldn’t have been more perfectly timed.  “Don’t stop at pain,” he said and I felt like an arrow pierced right through my heart.  Yeah, that’s exactly what I was doing, I was stopping at pain.

David spoke about a basketball player named Tim Duncan who grew up on St. Croix as an Olympic hopeful in swimming, but when Hurricane Hugo destroyed the facility he trained at, he was forced to find a new sport.  With his 6’11” frame, someone suggested basketball, which turned out to be the right call.  Tim went on to be a force in the NBA.  You should go look him up on Wikipedia, I’ll still be here…

(Insert elevator music here)

He’s pretty amazing, right?  Well, the point David made was that “the storm lead him to his destiny.”  The STORM lead him to his DESTINY.  Just think, if I hadn’t been through the storm of the last several years, would I be where I am right now?  This is my destiny.  Being a nurse is my destiny.  And God has never let me go, not through any of it, and he won’t let me go now.

The other thing David said about pain, is that when you try to escape it, or try to push down pain, you also push down your hope, your faith, your dreams.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve done enough of that already.  I won’t let the pain stand in the way of what I’m doing.  I’ve never been one to quit because of pain before, so I’m sure not going to start now.  Don’t stop at pain.  Ride the highs, don’t stop at the pain. I can’t say it enough.  In fact, I might just go write that on a post it and slap it on every one of my nursing books.  And in my car.  And on my mirror.  Persevere, Lindsey, and Don’t stop at pain!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, Med Surg is calling.

Fleet Feet Training Team...Ready, Set, Go!

Fleet Feet Training Team…Ready, Set, Go!

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When Opportunity Knocks

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Is it just me, or does it seem like Opportunity always waits until the most inconvenient time to start knocking? I swear every time I am just getting out of the shower, or I’m sitting on the toilet, I hear ‘knock, knock, knock’ and then the door goes flying open…Oh, wait, that’s usually my kids.

But seriously, when I think back to when Opportunity came calling in regards to Ironman, I could not have been less prepared for his arrival. I didn’t know how to swim, I didn’t have a bike and I was just newly a single mom, working a retail schedule wondering how in the world I was going to make this happen. But, like I usually do, I took a leap of faith in the hopes that the details would work themselves out. And I have been ever since grateful that I did.

Well, once again, Opportunity has picked an interesting time to show up on my doorstep. A few months ago, I started a program with a book coach. It has been a long time dream of mine to write a book. If you come here often, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that I love doing this. So, when I was introduced to Nancy last fall and she proposed the timing of her group coaching for Module 1 to lay the foundation of writing my book, I thought, “Yeah, I’ll be flying pretty easy through the end of my MA externship, through the holidays and into my first semester of nursing.” To clarify, I have a light class schedule right now due to transferred credits and at the time I had no idea the first few months of this year would be so emotionally taxing.

A couple weeks ago, Nancy and I met via Skype to go over everything I had accomplished in our first 16 weeks of working together in preparation to write my book. She was thrilled with the work I had done and was excited for me to press on to the next part of the course where I will actually write my book. I hesitated. I was like, “Yeah, well, ya know, I’m about to start my second semester of nursing school, we’re rounding the corner into summer when my kids will be home and I just don’t have a clue how I’m going to do this…” I promised I would pick back up the next time this part of the course came around. Nancy responded in terms that I understood, “Lindsey, stopping now would be like doing a triathlon and taking a nap after the swim. You won’t start back up again. I’ve seen this too many times and I would hate for you to lose this momentum.” I knew she was right, but I just couldn’t see how any of this was going to work. She agreed to let me think about it and we would reconvene in a few days to discuss.

I pulled out my school handbook and looked at the heavy course load I’ll be starting in May. I looked at the calendar that hangs in the laundry room for the kids to have a quick easy view of the custody schedule (I’ve blocked off mom days in red and dad days in blue, so they always know where they’ll be…and lets be real here, it’s helpful for me to have that information at a glance, too). I considered how daunting a task it is to WRITE AN ENTIRE BOOK. It’s a little different than sitting down for an hour every once in a while to write about whatever went through my head during a 45-minute run. Especially now that I use run time as study time. Yesterday I went out for an 8 mile run and spent most of it trying to recall the 12 pairs of Cranial Nerves and their functions. I’m pretty sure you’d all be really bored reading about Trochlear and Glossopharyngeal. (If not, let me know so we can start running together as study partners)

Anyway, yes, it’s daunting. And scary. And the fact that I am even considering it makes me quite nuts. But as I sit here looking at my Ironman Finisher coffee mug, that contains the sweet nectar that gets me through each day, I remember how I had no idea how I would tackle that dream at that specific time in my life. But I did it. And I can’t imagine if I hadn’t. Even better that I did it under the circumstances that I did. Since when do I not accept a challenge?

This morning I went off to the gym, Ironman backpack slung over my shoulder, containing my swimsuit, towel, swim cap and goggles. It has been months since I have been in the pool. Seriously, my last swim was the NEMO tri in September and I haven’t been in the water since. But for some reason I felt a draw to get in the pool today. After doing a workout on the elliptical, I didn’t end up with a whole lot of time, but I wanted to at least get wet and make sure I even remember how to swim. I couldn’t find a pool schedule posted anywhere so when I saw another woman, a little older than me, sitting on the edge of the pool putting on her swim cap, I asked if she knew the schedule. Typically, I have the entire pool all to myself, so the fact that anyone else was there was surprising. I just wanted to make sure there weren’t any classes that needed the lanes. She thought we were fine. And then we started chatting. My swim time was dwindling by the minute, but I was really enjoying our conversation. She was also a runner turned swimmer, due to loss of cartilage in her knees. She too loved the marathon like nothing else. But she said, “When you can’t run, you figure out what you can do, and do that.” She ran her first marathon in Chicago in ’86 and qualified for Boston. She didn’t realize at the time how special that was and since she had a young baby and life circumstances, she let the opportunity pass. I don’t recall her saying the word “regret” but I could feel it hanging there in the humidity.

As I swam my brief 600 meters, her words followed me like the blue line on the bottom of the pool. I couldn’t shake them. Anyone who knows me, knows that Boston is another of my dreams. I’ve been so close to a BQ, but it’s still just out of reach. Given the opportunity, we all know I would seize that one. I can’t fathom letting it slip from my grasp.

And that brings us back to the other dream in front of me. My book. How in the world am I going to undertake writing a book while I’m in the meat of nursing school? Well, how do I ever do anything? One thing, one day, one step at a time.

When Nancy and I reconvened last week, I had already made my decision. I said, “I was trying to decide if I was scared of how I would do this with my class schedule or if I was just scared of actually doing this at all.” I explained that my fear was more about tackling the dream of writing my book. There is a huge risk involved. What if I fail? What if I get stuck? What if I get behind and I can’t catch up? If I had let any of those things stop me with triathlon, I wouldn’t be able to call myself an Ironman.

So now, here I am, on the brink of another dream. And even though it’s scary, I’m ready to jump off that cliff and take a leap of faith that somehow it’s all going to work out. You probably won’t hear much from me around here for a while, but at the end of it, you might have a book to read.

Last week while I was in the middle of a workout, I pulled out my phone and went to my Evernote app. The following words just kind of came out of me:

Triathlons are hard. Ironmans are hard. Ya know what else is hard? Life.
The trials and turbulences of life take strength to endure. And if you don’t train up properly it can sometimes feel overwhelming, like you’re drowning. But if you push through, you’ll eventually find yourself back on solid ground, albeit sometimes shaky. You are likely to crash and burn once in a while, in between the moments when you think you are finding your rhythm. But perseverance is key. Ultimately through the mess that is life you will start to find your joy and even look back on the obstacles behind you with fondness and gratitude, for they brought you to where you are. There is beauty in the struggle and satisfaction at the finish when you hear the words, “You Are An Ironman.”

If that was on the back cover of a book, you’d buy it, right? (The correct answer is: Yes)

I may have only gotten in 600 meters in the pool today, but I got so much more by taking that step back out of my comfort zone and making the effort. Thanks to my new swim friend, I was reminded of something much more important.

I was reminded that Opportunity doesn’t always come back if you don’t answer the door. I don’t want to spend so long looking through the peep hole in the door trying to decide whether to invite Opportunity in or not. When Opportunity knocks, I won’t let fear stop me from answering. I will fling the door wide open! Even if I did just get out of the shower, and I’m only wearing a towel.  😉

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