Category Archives: Bring the tears

Emotional memories

Lesson in a Lunchbox

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It’s Friday morning and I just got back from dropping the kids off at school. To say I’m glad this week is over would be a vast understatement. Aside from the fact that they started school on Monday and I wasn’t there to see it due to my school starting at the same time, we had a total of 7 sporting events in 5 days between baseball and soccer. And with summer giving one final push into the mid 90’s we were without AC. Again. This week wasn’t pretty. But we got through it.

Today at noon the kids are leaving school early when their dad picks them up to spend the holiday weekend at Lake of the Ozarks with his new girlfriend and her 3 kids. This morning, in their flurry to get ready for school and their excitement over the weekend, Silas and I had a hard time seeing eye to eye. On anything. Actually, it’s been like that for about the last 48 hours, just one thing after another. Nothing major, just lots of little nitpicky things. We had some pretty great moments over the summer, but the last few moments before school this morning were not our finest.

As parents, we all struggle with walking that fine line between being firm on things that we maybe don’t need to and giving in to our kids to the point that they walk all over us. I never do it perfect and this morning was a clear indicator of that.

Yesterday when we got home I asked Silas for his lunchbox so I could empty the remaining contents. He couldn’t find it, not in his backpack, not in the car. But he assured me he was absolutely positive he had not left it at school. So this morning as I walked into school with him to see if we could locate it, he was more than unhappy with me that he had to carry a brown bag. I’m not sure why that was my fault, but he seemed to think so. As sure as he was that his lunchbox was not at school, as we approached his classroom, sure enough, there it was hanging on his hook in the hallway.

He stormed into his classroom without even looking my way. I popped my head inside the door and said a quick introduction to his teacher who I hadn’t met yet. She mentioned how excited he has been all week about leaving at noon today, I quickly brushed past the fact that it was not with me.

I was halfway back to the car with lunchbox in hand when I paused. I really didn’t want to go back into the school, especially since I was wearing the same clothes I was wearing at drop off yesterday (it’s been a rough week, don’t judge me) when I had to go in to deal with Ally’s meds. But I stood there on the sidewalk knowing what I needed to do.

As a mom, there is nothing better than seeing the look of pure joy on one of my kid’s faces. I got to see that look several times over the last few weeks, like at one on one Cardinals games with each of my boys, our Fab 4 adventure day all around the city and my road trip with Ally to see her fave band, 1 Direction (who is apparently breaking up, so there is a lot of drama around here).

And there is nothing more heart wrenching than seeing them with a look of defeat or disappointment. One of those moments occurred a couple weeks ago at Ethan’s baseball game. He was up to bat and he got hit by a pitch for the first time in his career. It wasn’t hard, I knew he’d be ok. But I could tell that it shook him. He took his base. Lead offs are allowed now, so he was testing the water with that. After a couple pitches, the pitcher threw the ball to the first baseman and Ethan wasn’t at all close to getting back to the bag in time. He was clearly out.

I could see the look on his face. He was disappointed, embarrassed, frustrated. He felt let down, and worse he felt he had let his team down. That’s the worst feeling in the world, especially when you’re out on the middle of the field with everyone looking on. I watched carefully as Ethan came off the field and one of his coaches put his arm around Ethan to speak to him. He didn’t make him feel bad, just used it as a learning experience. With kids, or with anyone really, it’s all about what you say in those moments.

That got me thinking back to my own days on the softball field. Now, let me be very clear, I was not good. Ethan has talent for baseball, I did not. Sure I could throw and catch and shag a fly ball, but my batting average was .000. Seriously, my final varsity season I either had a pinch hitter, walked or struck out at every single at bat. I made contact for an occasional foul ball, but I had no hits. None. Somewhere I even have a certificate to prove it.  Despite all that, there is a right way and a wrong way for a coach to treat his players and my coach didn’t really know the difference. While I was at best mediocre, I still always put forth any effort I could muster. I’m all heart, I always have been. I distinctly remember a time my coach had promised me a place in the starting lineup, but as game time neared and he announced the positions, my name wasn’t mentioned. I found myself sitting on the bench again. I made it through the game and helped gather the gear at the end. And as I shuffled toward where my dad was waiting in the parking lot, I felt the tears welling up. It wasn’t long after I shut the van door that the tears flowed and I vented my frustration. It wasn’t about the fact that I didn’t get to play, it was that I had been promised an opportunity and then without explanation it was taken from me. I wasn’t treated right and that stuck with me. Obviously. It’s now 22 years later and I still remember it like yesterday.

My dad just listened and let me get it out. I don’t recall what he said to me that day, but I remember coming out of that experience knowing that he was still proud of me and my efforts. And I had the confidence to seek the explanation I desired.

I went to my coach the next practice and explained my disappointment. Rather than owning his mistake, he basically manipulated the situation and told me I got his words mixed up. I left feeling even worse, when really, all I was seeking was “You know what, you’re right, I should have handled it differently and I’m sorry.”

Coincidentally yesterday when I was going through a box of stuff and I came across a picture of my dad. There was a sticky note next to it with these words written in my handwriting: The one who attempts to be better than oneself is likely to have more success than one who attempts to be better than someone else. I have no idea who to give credit to for that quote, but it very easily could have been something my dad said to me in the van that day more than 2 decades ago.

Flash forward back to today. Me standing on the sidewalk holding a 2nd graders lunchbox. It took less than a fraction of a second to decide what to do. I couldn’t wait until Tuesday when I see Silas again to make things right. So I turned around, walked back into school and straight to his classroom. He looked up at me like why are you back in here? I walked to his desk, he stood, I knelt. I whispered in his ear, “I’m sorry we fought this morning. I didn’t want you to leave for the weekend with it this way. I love you.” He put his arms around me, and kissed me on the shoulder, then went back to his desk. I smiled and told him to have fun. And I went back out of the school to the parking lot, got in my car and drove away, crying of course.

Even in his absence, my dad continues to teach me things. All any of us really needs is validation and acknowledgement of our efforts. It’s ok if we don’t see eye to eye all the time, as long as we accept and love each other in the process of figuring it out. I don’t need to be right all the time and I don’t need to be better than anyone else, I just need to do right by my kids to the best of my abilities. And to try to be better than myself, better than who I was yesterday. And I guess if I keep doing that, then I’m doing alright.

With my little buddy at Ethan's baseball game on the first day of school

With my little buddy at Ethan’s baseball game on the first day of school

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The Truth about Mother’s Day

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I have a confession to make.  And it likely won’t be very popular.  But when have you ever known me to do something simply because it was popular?  Here it is.  You ready? The truth is…I’m not super fond of Mother’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom and I am glad to be able to honor her.  But as a mom, as a single mom, this weekend is really tough.  I’ve spent the better part of today either crying or fighting the tears that want to come, depending on the situation.  Crying at work isn’t typically the most acceptable way to greet customers, so I got by ok there.  It was actually a good distraction.  But it was difficult to hold back when I was at the grocery store and several people were buying flowers, and cards, and I was overhearing conversations of the planned menus that were being prepared tomorrow for all the moms.

I keep thinking back to a couple years ago, my first Mother’s Day after things were finalized.  I remember sitting in Ihop with the kids, cutting pancakes and mopping up spilled orange juice and tending to everyone’s needs, when suddenly I looked around me.  It was like slow motion that I noticed all the families.  My eyes went from one table to the next, to the next, scanning the faces of moms, and kids, and dads.  That was the day I realized Mother’s Day would never be the same for me.

Fortunately, I managed to get my work schedule switched around tomorrow, so I can spend the day playing with my babies.  Assuming the weather cooperates, we’re going to spend part of the day at Eckert’s Farm over in Illinois where they will have rides, inflatables, and all kinds of other activities for the kids.  But the other day when I called to make reservations for Mother’s Day brunch and as I spoke to the lady on the other end, she asked how many.

“Four,” I told her.

“Are there any children in your party?”

“Yes, 3.”

“But you said there are 4 total in the party, right?”

“Yes…”

I wanted to scream into the phone, “Yeah, that’s right!  I’m making my own reservation for my own brunch!  And I’ll be picking up the tab too!”  It wasn’t her fault that things turned out like this, but it was just one more reminder that my life didn’t go the way I planned.

The reality is I am a mom with great kids that I wouldn’t trade for the world.  The other part of my reality is…I do it alone.  Yes, I have a fantastic guy in my life who has come through for me big time on several occasions.  And yes, I have the most amazing friends ever who make sure I am never lonely.  And yes, my kids and my mom and the rest of my family love me to pieces and I’m so blessed to have them.  But none of them are responsible for taking on the role of the other parent in my household.  That is reserved for me alone.

Trust me, I’m not saying I regret my life choices.  And I’m not saying I want to be back where I was.  But I pulled out a picture earlier of Mother’s Day morning a few years ago.  My three babies sitting on the floor next to my bed, crowded around a tray full of pop tarts and soggy cereal and something in a plastic wrapper.  They had decorated big cards that read “I love you, Mommy!”  That picture was taken the last time I got to wake up on Mother’s Day to my babies’ smiling faces.  Tomorrow I will meet them at church and we will go off and spend a fun day together.

And while there is definitely something to be said for sleeping in, I would trade that a hundred times over for the snuggles in bed, and a tray of soggy cereal and cold pop tarts prepared for me.

I keep thinking about my friends that have lost their own moms, and my friends who have had several miscarriages or lost children, my friends who have been alienated from their children and friends that have struggled with infertility.

Mother’s Day is a beautiful sentiment to honor and celebrate the women who have brought us into the world and loved us unconditionally.  But it is also bittersweet for many.

The fact is we can’t have any way of knowing what the experience is of anyone we encounter tomorrow.  So the best we can do is to honor the moms of the world, wherever their babies are, on earth, in heaven, in their hearts.  And tomorrow if you look around and notice a mom without a partner, or someone with sadness in their eyes, give them an extra smile.  As a personal request from RRG, do what you can to pay it forward and spread a little extra sunshine.

So to all of the women in my life, whether you are a mom or not, I salute you and celebrate you tomorrow for the beautiful souls that you are and all that you bring to this world!

To all of the moms in my life, we have the toughest and most amazing job ever.  Thank you for helping me navigate this challenging, rewarding, heart-breaking, exasperating, wonderful path of motherhood.

To the ones who are grieving, if I could wrap you in a big Lindsey sized hug, I would do it!  I am sending love and prayers to so many of you.

To the three little people who made me a mom, I can’t imagine life without you.  You make me laugh, you make me cry, and sometimes you make me completely CRAZY.  But I love you all a super, super, super lot!  And I wouldn’t trade you for anything!

And finally to my own mom, there are no words to thank you for all that you have put up with from me, but my one hope is that I can be to my children even half of what you have been to me.  Love you, Ma.  Thank you for making tomorrow worth celebrating!  Happy Mother’s Day.

Mother's Day 2011

 

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Confessions of a Single Mom…

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I really believe that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Being a single parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.

I can be very resourceful.

I love being the girl who knows how to fix stuff.

Sometimes I forget to pay a bill on time.

Sometimes I remember about the bill, but it’s late anyway because I don’t have enough in my bank account to cover it.

I freak out when I can’t find a sitter to watch my kids so that I can go to work.

I’ve had to take at least one kid with me to work and have him hang out in the back room with the ipad.

I am so grateful for my awesome neighbor, Stephanie, who sometimes watches my kids and then she makes it seem like I pay her back when I watch her daughter for 10 minutes.

Sometimes when I’m stressed I yell at my kids.

I immediately feel guilty when I yell at my kids.

Sometimes I let my kids eat popcorn and ice cream for dinner because I just don’t have the energy to prepare anything.

I am always tired.

I stay up way too late, even though I’m always tired.

It’s possible to feel lonely in a house full of noisy children.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have sucked it up and stayed in an unhappy marriage, just so I wouldn’t be so lonely.

I miss my kids when they go to their dad’s.

Sometimes I get can’t wait to give the kids back to their dad, so I can have a break.

Even though I chose this life, sometimes the loneliness is almost unbearable.  I mean, I’m talking sit in the car in the garage to avoid going into an empty house lonely.  Like, wrap up in a blanket and fall asleep on the couch with the TV on to avoid going upstairs to an empty bed lonely.

Last night I did both of those.  This morning I woke up with an overwhelming, oppressive sadness.  I had a hard time kicking it.  It took a 15 mile bike ride and a 6 mile run before I finally figured out what my problem was.  As I stood in the kitchen, leaning against the counter, eating my lunch which consisted of last night’s leftovers warmed up in a take-out box (are you envisioning Diane Lane at this point?), it finally struck me.  Today would be my 13th wedding anniversary.

13 years ago today, I woke up surrounded by people I love.  I was lying next to Amy.  And Britta was in the bed next to us.  My best friends in the world.  We were at my parent’s house in Michigan.  I remember my mom coming in to the room for something, maybe just to see if I was awake yet on my wedding day.  I’m pretty sure my dad was in the kitchen making French toast.  My sister was likely tending to my niece, MacKenzie, and my brother was there somewhere.  I woke up to a house full of people I love.

Today, I woke up to an empty house.  No one.  Other than the sound of my ceiling fan, complete silence. It took almost every ounce of energy that I had to drag myself out of bed.  The loneliness was almost physically painful.

I had a fantastic weekend while the kids were away.  I went to Art Hill at Forest Park to drink wine and watch Casablanca with girlfriends on Friday night.  Saturday night after working all day and church, I was a 5th wheel when I met friends in the loop for a round of Bags at Market House Pub, followed by bowling at Pin-Up Bowl.  And after work Sunday, I had dinner with Nicole and Farrell.  So, how is it possible to have such a full schedule and still feel lonely?  I don’t know.  It just is.

For someone who actually craves alone time, it doesn’t really seem like it makes any sense.  But it is what it is.  Tonight after work I get to pick up the kids and drive to Michigan for a few days.  There is nothing better to heal the heart than a few days in New Buffalo.  We’re going to visit my mom, and play at the pool, and go to the beach, and get Shakes at Nancy’s.  And for a few days, my heart will be full to overflowing because of my kiddos.  And on Sunday, they’ll go back to their dad’s.  For a brief moment, I will breathe a sigh of relief.  And I’ll go for a run and enjoy being alone.  And then by Sunday night, I’ll probably feel lonely again.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends and I know they would do anything for me, just like I would for them.  But sometimes there are things you just have to do on your own.

As I was finishing up my run today, Britney Spears came on my ipod.  Yeah, that’s right, I said Britney Spears.  Ya wanna make something of it?! Don’t judge me.  Anyway, I listened to the words “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more, I’m stronger than yesterday”.   So, yeah, I’m leaving the loneliness behind me one mile at a time. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the loneliness that comes along with my kids going back to their dad’s, but I do know that I’m stronger today than I was yesterday.

On the beach in MI with my babies

On the beach in MI with my babies

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Ode to Mayberry

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It’s funny that I consider myself a city girl at heart, when I really could not imagine a more perfect setting for my run this morning than Mayberry USA.  It’s the 4th of July, Independence Day, and I’m spending it with my kids in the town that I spent so many of the Christmases and Thanksgivings and 4ths of July of my childhood.

Quincy, IL is nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River, just across from Hannibal, MO, home of Mark Twain.  It’s about halfway between St. Louis and Chicago, so it’s one of those rare places where Cubs and Cardinals fans can set aside their differences, focus on their mutual love of baseball and actually be friends.  This is a town where people decorate their houses for the holiday like it’s their patriotic duty, large flags flying and small flags stuck in the ground lining the sidewalks.

As I set off on my run this morning, I wasn’t really sure how far I would end up going.  I was hoping for 6, but I wasn’t sure if my hip would let me go more than 3 or 4.  It’s still giving me trouble and I’m just hanging on to hope that it will hold out another couple weeks to get me through that half marathon at the end of Racine 70.3.

I left my Grandma’s house and headed west on Payson Road over to 24th street.  I turned north at Niemann’s Horse Farm, which holds a secure spot in my earliest memories of this place. I ran past the entrance to my Aunt and Uncle’s neighborhood and I waved hello to a man driving a tractor down the road.  I ran past homes with freshly painted porches and manicured lawns, well maintained, showing the pride these folks have in the lives that they’ve built here.   I continued north on 24th all the way to Maine St.  That’s right, Maine, with an ‘e’.  As I stood at the corner of 24th and Maine, waiting for the traffic to clear, I nodded hello at a couple cyclists and I smiled at the driver of an old-school Ford as he cruised on by.

I ran west down tree lined Maine, past all the old mansions, toward the heart of downtown and the river.  At some points the brick sidewalk showed the age of the town, you could see how the roots of the huge trees had grown over the years, breaking the bricks and rippling the sidewalk.  It got a little treacherous, but it was well worth it for the nostalgia of the day.  I thought of our trip out to Camp Point last summer to see all the sights of where my dad had lived in his earliest years before the Jacobs clan came to Quincy.  My Uncle Tim drove us out there last year for the Camp Point 4th of July parade (be careful not to blink or you might miss the whole thing).  We went by the cemetery to pay homage to my Grandpa Wayne who fought with the Navy in World War II and my Great-Grandpa Issac who fought with the Army in World War I.  We drove past my Great-Grandma Winnie’s little pink house…or where it used to stand anyway.  We stopped by the park and got root beer floats and elephant ears, at 10am.  Breakfast of champions.

I snapped back to present day when I got to 12th street.  I briefly considered turning right and bailing on my run with a stop at Maid-rite, but instead I went left and headed back in the direction of my Grandma’s house, knowing that my kids were probably chomping at the bit to get over to swim with my cousins.  They adore my cousin Jerrison, who is the youngest of 3 boys my Aunt Jane and Uncle Tim adopted from Haiti a few years ago and is the same age as Ally.  I ran down 12th, past the Governor John Woods mansion on my left, and Mr. Bill’s Bar and Grill to my right.  I ran to South Park, established 1895.  I ran on 12th until it turns into Cherry Lane and leads back to 24th. I ran over the Curved Creek bridge and up the hill by Niemann’s, past the long white fence lined with American flags flapping in the breeze.

At this point I realized I was going to top out just shy of 8 miles for the day. I guess there is something to be said for sentimentality carrying me through and over-riding the pain.  The sun was high and it was warming up, I probably should have brought water (I usually try to practice what I preach with this one).  I started wondering if I should have headed out on the bike before my run this morning since I need more practice with transitions.  I did get in a decent brick workout yesterday, a ride out through the country roads with surprisingly more rolling hills than I would have thought, followed by a short run.  But today, was about getting back to being who I am.  Before I was a triathlete, I was a runner.  Even before that though, I was a Jacobs.  That’s the thing I really love about being here in Quincy.  Even time I come back, I am always reminded of who I am.  And even with all my baggage and goofiness and geekiness, here I am completely 100% comfortable with all of my weirdness.  That’s the thing about the Jacobs family; we’re all about the more the merrier.  We quote lines from the National Lampoon Vacation movies.  We help each other.  We love baseball.  We share stories about the good old days.  We take a lot of pleasure in the over-the-top fireworks display that my Uncle Jerry puts on.  We take naps on Norma’s couch and we cheer on our beloved Cubs without fear of ridicule.  We eat a lot.  We put together jigsaw puzzles and watch reruns of Andy Griffith and Cheers.  We’re not extravagant, we just are who we are.  We’re loyal.  We’re accepting. We’re not perfect, but we love without judgment.  We find comfort in family and traditions, and we know how to celebrate life without holding back.

I used to declare that I’m not sentimental, because I don’t keep a lot of “stuff”, but today proved that might not be entirely accurate.  Maybe I don’t keep the “stuff” but I keep the memories and I remember the traditions, and that’s what really matters.  Being a Jacobs is near and dear to my heart.  I’m proud to be who I am, and I’m proud of where I came from.  And obviously, I’m not completely averse to keeping the “stuff” because my Great-Grandpa Issac that I mentioned earlier…well, his old trunk from when he headed off to the war has found a home in my living room.

Yesterday I got this picture of my niece from my brother, with the caption: It’s like she wakes up every day and says…what is something awesome I can do today?

Brooke Love Jacobs...being awesome

Brooke Love Jacobs…being awesome

My text back to him was: Well, duh.  She’s a Jacobs.  Would you expect anything else?!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a burger and some strawberry pie to eat before we head off to a small town baseball game and fireworks.

Happy 4th everyone!  I hope you are all enjoying your families today, as much as I am enjoying mine. And I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to say a heartfelt thanks to those who have given their lives and fight for the freedoms that we enjoy and celebrate on this day.  Thank you and God Bless America!

Mama J and RRG having breakfast in Camp Point, IL 7/4/12

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Father’s Day

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This blog is typically a forum for me to share my athletic adventures (feats of strength, anyone?), so this post might be somewhat unconventional.  But it’s my blog so I can do whatever I want!

On this eve of Father’s Day 2013, I am missing my dad, just as I have every Father’s Day for the past 11 years.  Therefore, I’m going to use this opportunity to pay tribute to the man who loved me, raised me, gave root to my passion for running and then showed me my wings and taught me to fly.

When I graduated from High School, my dad gave me a journal.  In the first few pages, he shared his memories of watching me grow up.  Memories of things he had watched me do and things we had done together.  He told me over and over how proud he was of me and my ability to work hard despite my circumstances.  He wrote…”I’m proud when I hear that you are recognized for your smile and the spirit it brings others.  Your high school days have been a reflection of life.  There have been really good times and some not so good times but through it all you have continued to smile.”

Life continues to have it’s challenges, but just like my dad said, through it all I keep on smiling.

My dad’s journal entry concluded with him writing…”You have a gift with words and poetry that I have never had.  I’m proud of you.  Success is ahead of you.  Love, Dad”

Some things don’t go the way we plan, and some things never change. When I got married in July of 2000, I was so blessed to have my dad by my side walking me down the aisle.  The night before, at the rehersal dinner, I read a poem I had written for him.  There was not a dry eye in the room.  I read it again at his funeral on December 5, 2001.  Again, there was not a dry eye in the room.  As I sit here alone, typing these words, I assure you, there is once more not a dry eye in the room.

So, in honor of this Father’s Day, I’m going to share a slightly modified version of the poem that I wrote for my dad and had the privilege of reading to him almost 13 years ago.  Here it is…

Father of the Bride

You’ve been my hero, my shining knight
You taught me pride and wrong from right.

You walked me to North Hi-Mount when I was just passed your knees.
You dropped off your “Pup” at Chuck E. Cheese.

On a little blue bike, you taught me to ride slow,
Even though I yelled, “Daddy, don’t let go!”

We ran 5k races side by side,
You always let me win in the very last stride.

Breakfasts at 7, MANY wake-up calls,
Credit cards, phone bills, trips to the mall.

Whether driving a pick-up or a little black ‘Vette,
Checking the oil I will never forget!

Broken hearts, softball tears,
Cross country races, football cheers.

Rowing smiles, choir voices,
Some good grades, some bad choices.

Referee and chauffeur you have been,
My teacher, my coach, my father, my friend.

You saw it all, you wiped the tears,
You mended my heart, you calmed my fears.

You taught me tradition and what family means,
You gave me faith in myself because you always believed.

I hope I’m the daughter you thought I would be,
I’m everything that I am because you loved me.

So as you give me away, with your love and a kiss,
If nothing else, please remember this…

Where ever I go in this great big world,
I will always be my dad’s girl!

This Father’s Day, if you are a father, I honor you.  If you are spending the day with your father, I envy you.  Make the most of every moment you’re given!

And to my dad: Dad, You were right.  High School was a reflection of life…some good times and some not so good times. But you taught me how to get through it, how to lean on my family, and how to keep smiling no matter what! I have been so blessed to be your girl. If I can prove to be even a fraction of the person that you were on this earth, then I know I am on the right track.  Thank you for loving me through it all, Dad.  I love you and miss you every day.  Til we meet again…Love, Lindsey

The first man I ever loved

The first man I ever loved

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Boston 4/15/13 and Running in Red Riders

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I had a post all set to load earlier before I went into work, but I ran out of time.  In light of today’s events, I feel like there are a few other things I need to say instead.

Wow.  Just wow.  Happiness is walking into work and finding a free pair of brand new, bright blue Nike Free 3.0 waiting for you.  Heartbreak is having a customer walk in a few minutes later and ask if you heard about the explosion at the finish line of the biggest running event in the world, which resulted in deaths and injuries of runners and spectators.  Tragic. Absolutely devastating.

I’m grateful to report that I have, in some form or another, heard from everyone I know that was running today when the explosion occurred at the end of the Boston Marathon.

I still don’t know very many of the details, but here is what I do know.  This sucks.  The fact that anything as glorious as the Boston Marathon and all that it stands for is now tarnished by this tragedy is absolutely horrible.  We all know that I’m a crier, and just because I was at work all afternoon/evening, doesn’t change that fact.  Every post I read, every story I heard, all brought more tears.  My friend Flavia posted this: And just when you think it can’t get any worse…Relatives of Sandy Hook Massacre victims were VIP guests at the finish line tent, where the bombing occurred.  The theme of this year’s marathon was “26 Miles for 26 Victims.”  That might be the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.  Something that was meant to give hope, just re-victimized those people who have already suffered so much.

I can’t believe any of this.  I can’t fathom what it would be like to have the experience of living my dream of crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon, only to have that experience shattered by a bomb going off, and potentially losing a limb.  Not being able to run again.  Or worse, losing a loved one.

I tried to be there today.  When I went to Quebec in 2011, I went with the intention of qualifying for Boston and the possibility of being there today.  That marathon in Quebec is the one that got cancelled courtesy of Hurricane Irene.  Then I went to Dallas.  I ran the race of my life and fell just short of qualifying.  That would have gotten me to Boston today. I wanted to try again last year in Chicago, but I sprained an ankle 3 weeks out and I knew my hopes were shot.  My Smoky Mountain teammates might even remember me saying last year that this year I wanted to run Boston and then drive down to NC to run our relay 4 days later (That’s right, I leave for NC on Thursday and I’m sure we’ll come up with a way to honor the victims of Boston at SMR).  None of that had even occurred to me until I got this message from Jess: “Glad you weren’t at Boston this year!  God works in mysterious ways!!”  Oh my goodness, yes, I was desperately trying to be there this year, but something kept standing in my way.  Maybe its coincidence, but I believe it’s something bigger.  I always say that everything happens for a reason.  I know my time in Boston is coming, but now I’m so thankful it was not today.

Here is the message I have for the person or people who did this: You have tarnished something beautiful today.  You have grieved my heart and the hearts of my friends in the running community worldwide.  But we are not afraid to keep running and we will not let you steal our joy.  We will continue to do what we love and we will be united in that.

I can’t say it any better than what my friend Megan posted: It is the men and women running toward the chaos that bring hope…

My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by this horrible tragedy today. xoxo…

 

On a lighter note, if you feel so inclined, here is the piece I originally planned to post…

RUNNING IN RED RIDERS

I’ve been severely out of sorts this past week. Which explains why RRG has been uncharacteristically quiet. It’s a combination of a hormonal imbalance, a completely crazy ridiculous schedule with a bunch of random life interferences thrown in and a series of bad workouts.  But…I’m Back, Baby!  My mojo has been missing for a while, but I found it on Saturday.  I’m sure my Smoky Mountain Relay teammates will be happy to know that, seeing as our race starts THIS Friday!!!

Remember Dorothy’s ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz?  Well, here are my new ruby slippers…

RRG's Ruby Slippers

RRG’s Ruby Slippers

Red Mizuno Riders.  Dorothy was right, there is NO place like home.  I’m ashamed to say that my first marathon was completed in a pair of cheap, crappy, worn out shoes from Famous Footwear.  GAAAHHHH!  Did I really just admit that?!  It’s a miracle I didn’t get injured, and another miracle that I decided to do it all again.  6 more times and counting.  I treated myself to some “real” running shoes shortly after that first round with the Chicago marathon in 2001.  That was my very first pair of Mizunos.  I’ve been running mostly in Mizunos pretty much ever since, careful to replace them every six months or so, until last year, when I put myself in a pair of the Brooks Glycerin 10.  I love my Glycerins but a couple weeks ago I went out for a run at Babler and my shins were killing me.  My body was telling me it was time for new shoes.  One of the great things about working at a running store is that I have easy access to trying lots of different shoes.  And ultimately, I ended up right back where I belong, Mizunos, which just feel like…home.

If you read about my 20 miler last Monday, you know how awful that was.  On Thursday when I ran 6 with Nicole at Queeny, I was resisting the urge to puke the entire run.  Of course, that probably had something to do with the Chick-Fil-A I ate just an hour before.  We’ll chalk that up to a lesson learned the hard way. Then, later on Thursday I went off to lead the social run and ran 4 more miles with Nick.  I’m not sure which one of us was hurting more though, because at one point I felt like I was pulling him along, which doesn’t ev-errrr happen.   I topped out for 10 on the day, but none of those miles felt particularly good.

And swimming last week? Well, that was a total disaster.  I was having so much anxiety in my life that I already felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.  Not a good state to be in when you jump in the water.  I think I barely managed 500 meters and at one point I was so frustrated with myself I ended up at the end of the lane with my head on my arms, clinging to the side of the pool, sobbing.  Rambling Runner Girl turned into Crying Swimmer Girl.  Or as Steve said when I told him that story, “Lately you are Crying Everything Girl.”  Seems that way sometimes, doesn’t it?

So, after a rough week of workouts and life in general, it felt so good to go out for a run Saturday morning before work and feel like I was finally getting back to being the girl that I know I am.  I was also reflecting on the things that had gotten me down over the past week. Seeing how I got through all of that made me realize just how far I’ve come over the last year.

So, here’s the question:  Is it really all about the shoes?  Well, I work in a shoe store, so the obvious answer is Yes!  But it’s also about the person wearing the shoes and what they do with what they’ve got.  The shoes aren’t going to run themselves.  There are times where you just have to put on whatever shoes you can find and get the job done, but once you learn to do that, it makes it so much better when the shoes really fit.

During my run on Saturday, I was listening to the Rascal Flatts song Unstoppable.  “You find your faith has been lost and shaken, you take back what’s been taken, get on your knees and dig down deep, you can do what you think is impossible…”

Over the past several years, my faith was lost and shaken.  By that, I primarily mean my faith in myself.  But slowly I’ve been rebuilding that.  I am taking back what’s been taken.  It’s hard, and I’ve had to dig really deep, but I’ve been willing to do that and I’ve learned that I really can do what I used to think was impossible.

While I was out for that Saturday morning run, I felt like I was sliding effortlessly across the blacktop, kind of like I was flying, in my red Mizuno Riders and it made me think about something my friend Luke said to me a while back.  Luke is one of my best, best, best friends from High School.  Which means that, obviously, we’ve known each other for approximately…a very long time.  He has seen me conquer countless battles in life and he’s been there through a lot of heart aches. He was also my Homecoming date Senior year since nobody else wanted to take the weird girl who cries all the time and only talks about running. As things have finally started to fall into place with my life, I feel like I am finally getting my groove back and I told Luke that I felt like I was soaring.  His response was “Babe, you’ve always been soaring.  You just didn’t realize how high you could go!”

He’s absolutely right.  And I think it’s finally time for me to find out.

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Chasing My Shadow

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A couple weeks ago, my friend Amy Marxkors, wrote a piece about how you can’t run and cry at the same time.  I assure you, this is correct.  I speak from personal experience.  Personal experience as recently as this afternoon.

I’ve been having a rough week.  So rough in fact that when I met Faith for coffee this morning prior to opening the store, it didn’t take more than a minute or so after her walking in, and I was dissolved in tears in the front window of Starbucks as I shared my woes with my friend.

I managed to pull myself together eventually and put on my happy pants while I was at work, but as soon as the clock hit 2pm, I knew I needed to get my run on.  I needed to find me some hills.  Off to Babler I went for a quick 4 miles before I had to pick the kids up from school.  As I cruised down 109 towards one of my favorite running spots, the tears began to cruise down my face all over again.  I could hear Faith’s words from this morning ringing in my ears, “Lindsey, I know it’s hard, but you are so brave.”  I pulled into my usual parking spot by the statue, changed my shoes, threw on my visor and set out on my usual “bad day route” with mascara still streaking my face.  It didn’t take more than a step or two for me to figure out that crying was just not in the cards if I wanted to get this run in.

I’m sure curiosity is peaked…why had Rambling Runner Girl turned into Crying Runner Girl?  Well, I’ll tell you.  But first I have to ask the question, why is it so hard to say the word “No”?  It’s one of the first words we learn to say, right after Da, Ma, ball, dog and car. Sometimes even before some of those.  And toddlers use “No” more than any other word in their rapidly growing vocabulary.  Actually, so do some adults who act like toddlers.  “No” is universal in how many different languages?  And even cultures that use a different word for “No”, still clearly understand what it means.  We also have many different gestures to indicate “No”, some more appropriate than others.  But at what point, did it become so difficult for me to say No?

I’m a pleaser.  I like to make other people happy.  And I deeply take to heart other people’s feeling when I’m making a decision.  Especially when those people are my children.  But as a parent, sometimes it’s necessary to say “No” to things they want, or that other people want for them, because we have their best interest in mind.  We can’t please everyone all the time, so we really just have to do the best we can, to make the decision that we can live with at the end of the day.

A few weeks ago I was asked to make a decision about something regarding my kids.  I wrestled with it. I struggled.  I did my research.  I talked through it with the people closest to me.  Ultimately, I knew what my answer needed to be, but I knew it was going to be hard to say it.  Last night, I said it.  I exercised my right to say no.

This morning, I needed to hear Faith’s words, because I was doubting myself.  I didn’t feel brave.  But as she reminded me, I’m not the same person she met 2 years ago.  Now, I am brave.  Because to me being brave isn’t about being fearless.  Being brave means standing up to adversity and intimidation with conviction and fortitude.  Being brave means getting back up when I fall down.  Being brave means saying what I need to say whether I say it in a whisper or a shout or even if my voice is shaking.  I continued to let all of this sink into me as I embraced the rolling hills of Babler this afternoon.

By the end of my run, I noticed the graceful way my shadow seemed to glide across the asphalt, such smooth movements, almost like I was flying. It was actually kind of beautiful to watch.  It’s funny how I was working so hard to put one foot in front of the other, sweating, struggling, pushing myself to go harder but from a totally different perspective my counter-part appeared to be going along with such ease.  So there we were, two of me.  Which one was real?  Both actually.

It’s all a matter of perspective.  Sometimes we just need to step back and look at ourselves from another angle, because sometimes we see ourselves a little too closely.  So I will go on chasing my own shadow and I’ll try to remember that the “me” that is fighting to keep going is the same “me” that is graceful and courageous and strong.

Does this shadow make my butt look big?

Does this shadow make my butt look big?

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Finding Purpose in the Rain

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The other day I saw one of those silly ecards on Facebook that was exactly perfect.  It read, “I don’t go crazy.  I am crazy.  I just go normal from time to time. Get it right.”  That pretty much describes every runner I know.  Otherwise, why would I have gladly gone out into a downpour this morning and run 17 miles?  I started at 9:34am. By 9:37, my braids were soaked, my shoes were squishy and there were streams of water pouring off both sides of my navy blue FLEET FEET hat.  By the time I finished I was reminiscent of the scene in the movie League of Their Own where the announcer says, “And then there’s Marla Hooch.  What a hitter.”  It wasn’t my most gloriously attractive moment, to say the least, but I got it done.

So, picture this: Linds J running 3 loops around Creve Coeur Lake in the driving rain.  Every once in a while I would tip my head toward the sky to let the rain fall on my face, I could feel myself smile, and I would close my eyes.  Lindsey quirk #5: Sometimes I try to run as long as I can with my eyes closed.  I find it a good form of release, and I especially like doing this on a long straight downhill.  I’m sure eventually I’m going to bite it.  Probably really hard.  But until the day comes when I go careening down the side of a hill, rolling through trees and brush, resulting in stitches and/or broken bones, I will likely continue this practice.  Anyway, I was out there to put in the miles all by my lonesome today, but weirdly, I was not the only one.  There were several other runners on the path and as we would pass each other, we exchanged that slight smile and knowing glance that says, “So you’re crazy too.”

And here’s the other thing, while I was out there getting after it, I had about 25 friends that were doing something even more ridiculous.  13 miles of trails in the rain at Cuivre River State Park for the race Quivering Quads.  From what I hear, it was a total muddy mess.  And I think that sounds absolutely, spectacularly awesome!  Like I said, as runners, we’re all crazy.

Runners, let’s face it, we’re a little bit cultish.  I mean that in a good way, of course.  Or as my non-runner friend, Ben, says, “Runners are all drinking the Kool-aid, but it’s more like a protein shake.”

Seriously, think about it.  Anytime a runner finds themself in a room full of mostly strangers, we still have a way of gravitating to other runners.  It starts out with an, “Oh, you run too? What’s your favorite flavor of Gu?”  Afterwards comes a brief assessment period to size each other up with questions like: How many marathons have you run?  Ever done an Ultra?  What’s your PR?

Eventually, you and your running acquaintance find yourselves huddled in the corner where the true bonding begins as you discuss things like stress fractures and where you were on the course the year they cancelled the Chicago marathon because it was so bloody hot and the water got lost.  By the time you’re being dragged out the door, you and your new bestie have become facebook friends, you’ve tweeted about this awesome kindred spirit you’ve just met and you have plans to run together next weekend.

But why do we do it?  Why do we willingly go out in weather worse than the postman would and put our bodies through such torture?  Well, we do it in the name of fun.  We do it for discipline. Sometimes we do it out of guilt, knowing how we’ll feel if we don’t.  We do it for bragging rights.  But we also do it for purpose.

At the end of my run today, I found a new friend hanging out in the pavilion at Creve Coeur.  As I stretched a very tight IT band, Ed and I started talking.  When he was younger his goal had been to break the 4 minute mile.  The closest he ever got was 4:08. Umm, yeah, he passed the sizing-up assessment with flying colors.  But not just because of his speed.  Now Ed has Stage 4 Colon Cancer with metastasis to the liver.  He’s had baseball sized tumors removed and ongoing chemo.  Just like my friend, Teri, who I’ve talked about before, he is continuing his athletic feats while fighting a battle for his life.  I have nothing but respect for these folks, especially as I think about how much easier it is for my healthy body to go run 17 miles.

And earlier this week, I made another new friend, who I fit with new running shoes at the store.  Douang recently lost her 22 month old child, who was diagnosed with Leukemia at only 6 weeks old.  I can’t imagine anything worse in life than the pain of that.  She said she took up running to find purpose and to just keep going.

We all have storms in life.  They all look different.  You never know what’s going to be thrown your way.  Running has been a constant in my life, but the storms have blown through.  Some were just a passing shower, and some have been more catastrophic.  Some have delivered me to a point where I wanted to just stop eating altogether; running gave me a reason to eat.  I knew I needed food to have enough energy.  If I didn’t eat, I couldn’t run.

Douang was right, running gives us purpose when we want to throw in the towel and quit.  Or when we don’t even know what we want or what the next step is.  Storms in life will come and go.  During the times that the rain falls hard we learn to appreciate, even more, the days when the sun is shining.

It’s funny.  As I sit here typing this, the sun is starting to come out after a LOT of rain.  Which is appropriate seeing as I am currently entering a season of life where it feels like the sun is shining after running at least 17 miles in the rain.  I know it’s going to storm again eventually, so in the meantime, I’ll keep running.  I’ll keep logging the miles in any kind of weather, just to stay prepared for whatever comes my way.  Running won’t save me, but it might just give me a reason to get out of bed on the rainy days.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, there is a pint of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch in my freezer that is calling my name.  I’m going to eat the whole flipping thing. And then lapse into a post 17-miler coma.

RRG after a very wet 17 miles.  Shirt says Running on Faith...because sometimes that's all you've got to go on.

RRG after a very wet 17 miles. Shirt says Running on Faith…because sometimes that’s all you’ve got to go on.

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Running Through the Storm

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It’s funny how day to day life happens so gradually, but one morning you wake up and come to a screeching halt as you realize how totally far away you’ve gotten from the person you thought you were and the person you hoped to become.

Not all that long ago I was in the midst of a personal crisis.  I had just moved to a new state, was trying to get settled into a new house and was struggling to understand the tragic death of a dear sister in law and my unborn nephew.  All the while, I was faking a marriage that had completely fallen apart.  Instead of dealing with any of this in a healthy way, I escaped into my own little fantasy world.  I still managed to take care of my 3 kiddos, unpack all the boxes and follow through with my commitments.   I did it all under the guise of “I’m doing just fine”, when really, I wasn’t.  At all.  In fact, I hadn’t been fine for a really long time.  Years.  I tried to make everything look wonderful on the outside, to cover up the fact that inside was a big, old, ugly mess.  Eventually, my fantasy world came crashing down around me, as they inevitably do, and it was time to start picking up the pieces.

I’ve always attached my identity to others…I’ve been a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend.  But who am I?  Who am I?  I had absolutely no idea.  And so began the quest to figure it out.  I quickly realized that I had been so focused on taking care of everyone around me I had completely forgotten to take care of myself.  That is, in a healthy way, not the self-centered way I had been living inside my own head as a means of survival.  I took on the emotions of everyone else, to the point that I didn’t have a clue what I was feeling.  I was getting buried alive under everyone else’s baggage.  I had gone numb to my own emotions, lost the ability to feel and put up a wall. A big, thick, brick wall. On one side of the wall, I painted a picture of the always smiling mom with the perfect, happy life who had the kids sitting nicely, the house clean and dinner ready when their dad got home.  But on the other side of the wall, I had allowed others to quench my spirit and break me down into a woman I didn’t even recognize. I went into self-destruction mode, crying out for someone – anyone – to just notice me.

Initially, it was easier to define what I didn’t want to be.  I didn’t want to be a doormat.  I didn’t want to be a cookie-cutter image of the people around me.  I didn’t want to be an extension of anyone else.   I did not want to be a victim.  I couldn’t continue to ignore the fact that I have a right to set down boundaries for myself and other people need to respect them.  I no longer wanted the heart of stone that couldn’t feel.  And I didn’t want to stay trapped inside myself.  How in the world was I going to break out? How was I going to take down the wall?  Well, the only way I could, one brick at a time.

The first question I addressed pertained to how I could take care of myself through this process of, it may sound cliché, “finding myself”.  Well, I love to run and it’s been on my bucket list to get to Boston for THE marathon of marathons.  I had been training for another 26.2 in April of 2011 when my world began to crumble, but that got thrown by the wayside.  I began to research fall races and map out my next course.  Then, I started my training program to run the Quebec marathon on August 28, of that same year.  Running gives me time to think, time to process everything going on around me.  But it also gives me time to just “be”, when I don’t have the capacity to think anymore.  My passion for running gave me an idea.  I remember sitting at IHOP with my mom one morning talking about a need to get out and do something for me.  We could see FLEET FEET through the window where we sat.  Less than a month later I started my new job where I get to share my enthusiasm for an awesome sport with others, people from all walks of life and various levels of ability, from the beginning jogger who has decided to make a life change to the amazing ironman tri-athlete who has overcome great odds of addiction or illness, and everyone in between.  Everyone has a story to tell and I love to hear them.

Writing is another of my passions.  I know, go figure, right?  But with a background in foster care, I never had any formal training in journalism.  I enjoy writing and I believe it allows me to articulate in a way that I otherwise can’t.  So when I stumbled across an opportunity to write for an online news page, I sent in a writing sample and was accepted.  Voila!  That was easy.  It was just a matter of setting my fear and self-doubt aside long enough to put myself out there.  Every Wednesday during that summer, was “Field Trip Day”.  The kids and I would load up a backpack containing our essentials for the day and go off to explore our new surroundings.  This not only gave us something to look forward to doing together each week, it also gave me great material to write about.

So, what have I learned through my journey to find myself?  I learned that the answers I was seeking weren’t nearly as profound as I expected them to be.  I’ve learned that I really hadn’t lost who I was as much as I thought.  In fact, I’m still most of the things I was…a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend; but I found out that I’m so much more, too.  All of my labels that attach me to others are part of who I am, but they don’t define me.  I’m an individual, I’m a runner, I’m a writer.  I’m passionate about the people and the things I love.  One of the best things that anyone said to me during this journey to find myself is that I am valuable.  I deserve validation and all the time it takes for me to process and respond to any given situation.  I want to be totally authentic.  I have real feelings and emotions and I’m not afraid to figure out what they are and express them anymore.  I get very excited and animated when I share stories of things that make me happy. I get sad when the people I love are hurting.  I get very scared when I feel vulnerable. But I allow myself to feel those emotions fully.  I express them.   And then I release them so they don’t weigh me down and overwhelm me.  I set goals for myself, sometimes I accomplish them and sometimes I don’t.  But that doesn’t mean I’ve failed, it just means I need to reevaluate my goals and keep on trying.  I make good choices and bad choices.  Hopefully, the good out-weigh the bad, but when the bad blow up in my face, I want to teach my kids and myself that I can get through it.  My successes and my failures are part of what makes me who I am, but not my definition.  I want to be a good example of a strong, healthy, well balanced woman for my children.  I can’t expect to do it all perfectly, but I hope that I can teach my children to be self-assured, well-adjusted people who are not afraid to love whole-heartedly, laugh often, live fully, take risks and stand up for themselves and what they believe in.  I hope that we can celebrate each other’s successes and I hope that when we mess up really big, we can say, “Well, that sucks, but I still love you and we can get through this.”

In loving myself, I am much better at loving others.  I am a more calm, caring and patient mom (most of the time).  I am a more empathetic friend and a better listener.  Self-awareness has helped me to really not sweat the small stuff, because I am able to declare the things that truly bother me and let everything else slide off, instead of letting it all fester in a cauldron of stress and unevaluated emotion.  There is a sense of freedom that comes with that and freedom was something that I was desperately longing for.  It is highly unlikely that I will ever be completely fearless, but I am no longer willing to let my fears hold me back from doing anything.

So, what does define me? Well, it’s an ongoing, changing, evolving definition.  But life is not necessarily about the definition, it’s about the journey to try and find it.  The best part is, if I discover something about myself that I don’t like, I can change it.  For now, I just try tolive in the moment and enjoy the things I love, with the people I love.  I love to run.  I love to write.  I love the funny things my kids say. I love to walk on the beach and stare up at the moon on a clear night.  I love coffee, probably more than I should.  I love that my little brother can make me laugh so hard I almost pee my pants.  I love singing at the top of my voice when I’m driving and I don’t care who sees me.  I love exploring new places.  I love that I sometimes talk to my best friend on the phone multiple times a day.  I love the extraordinary moments that happen when I least expect them.  I love surprising someone with the perfect present.  I love crappy, reality TV (I know, it’s sad, but I do).   I love a good glass of wine with my girlfriends.  Most importantly, I love that now I can say, and really believe, that this is who I am. Take it or leave it, this is me.

As for my dream of getting to Boston for the pinnacle of my running career, Hurricane Irene had other plans for me in Canada. Despite my training and preparation, I was unable to even attempt the Quebec marathon that day because of the gale force winds that caused the race officials to cancel my event.   I spent an amazing weekend in Quebec, only to find out the morning of the race that my goal would have to wait.  But I learned a lot more about myself through that whole experience that completes me as a person.  I was devastated that I didn’t get to run my race and I cried.  I cried the whole long, miserable walk back to the hotel in the rain.  Then I spent a rainy day sitting in a quaint, French coffee shop looking at the whole situation to assess what I could gain from it.  However, that didn’t stop me from throwing a 2 week long pity party about lost chances.  When I finally put a stop to that, I felt like I still had an itch that needed to be scratched after the frustrating demise of not just one, but two marathons.  Sometimes life just takes unexpected turns and you have to figure out what direction you’re going to head from there. The direction I chose was south, to Dallas for the Whiterock Marathon.  I didn’t run it with numbers in my head, putting a lot of extra pressure on myself.  I ran it for the pure joy of running and to honor my dad who ran that very same race 30 years ago.  I ran it 2 days after the 10th anniversary of saying good-bye to him.  I ran to heal.  In 40 degrees, gusty winds and pouring rain, I ran my heart out.   I missed my Boston qualifying time by just minutes, but I ran my fastest marathon ever because I ran simply for the feeling of joy and freedom that running gives me.  I don’t know if I will ever get to run Boston, but that doesn’t take anything away from what I’ve already accomplished.  Just like everything else in life, it’s really not about the destination; it’s about how you push through all the obstacles you face and what you learn along the way.

 

The view of Quebec City from my hotel room...the day BEFORE the marathon.

The view of Quebec City from my hotel room…the day BEFORE the marathon.

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A Love of Running is Born…

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I don’t remember exactly the way it happened, but when I was about 9, I started running with my dad.  I remember lacing up my high-tops…yes, really.  And I distinctly remember running this one hill that wasn’t far from our house, on South First St. in Kirksville, MO.  That hill was a beast.  And we did repeats.  But for some reason, probably because it gave me the opportunity to hang out with my dad, I didn’t mind the pain of hill repeats.  Still to this very day, if I’m ever feeling discouraged about anything, I go run the hardest hills I can find, and it makes me feel better.   There is something about conquering a tough hill that truly makes me feel strong, like I can get through anything.  I give my dad all the credit.  Every time I run a hill, I can hear his voice saying, “Just keep your eyes up and it doesn’t matter how slow you go, just continue putting one foot in front of the other.”  He was teaching me about running, but at the same time, he was teaching me valuable lessons about life.

Dad and I started doing 5ks not long after that.  I usually walked away with an age group medal and sometimes a trophy for being the youngest runner.  My friend Angela who started running with us was always annoyed by the fact that she was just a couple months older than me.  It makes me happy that Ang is still running too, and a couple years ago, she ran her first marathon.

I loved running with my dad.  We didn’t talk, but he was just there, right next to me, the whole time.  He always let me set the pace, which was likely pretty inconsistent in those first few races.  He taught me when to start turning up the heat at the end so that I left it all on the course in a sprint to the finish.  And even though he could have pulled ahead of me, he never did.  He always stayed one step behind me, and pushed me to the finish.

By the time I got to high school, I’d kind of had enough of running for a while.  I ran one season of Cross Country my freshman year and then I said, “Dad, I think I’m sick of this.  I need a break.”  He said, “Ok, take a break.”  So, I did.  I tried other things. I played catcher and outfielder for my high school softball team.  I went to college and took up rowing.  By 2001, things had come full circle, and I was back to running again.

In June of that year, I had just returned from a trip to Juarez, Mexico, where I had gone with a church group to build houses for a week.  I had quit my job as a preschool teacher just before I left on that trip.  I was living in Chicago at the time and the day after I got back I went for a 6 mile run along the lakefront.  On that run, somewhere near Shedd Aquarium, I started thinking, I need something to focus my energy on while I spend this summer looking for a new job.  Hmm, what about a marathon? Yeah, I could do that.  As soon as I got home, I started researching the Chicago Marathon.  That was back in the days when you could wait to register until a few months before the race.  Now, if you don’t sign up the day registration opens, you’re not guaranteed an entry. I called my dad, told him what I was thinking, and he said, “Yep, I’ll walk you through it”.  And so an adventure began…

Every Friday morning, I would do my long run.  I slowly, gradually increased my mileage a little at a time.  And every Friday morning, after I completed my run, I picked up the phone and called my dad to say, “I did it.”  Occasionally, during those phone calls, my dad would have someone in his office, and I could hear him say, “It’s my daughter.  She’s training for the marathon and she just ran 18 miles.”  His voice was dripping with pride and my heart would swell.

One Tuesday morning, in September, I was out for just a short training run on a beautiful, blue sky day.  I got back to my car, only to hear complete chaos on the radio.  I couldn’t figure out what had happened during those 3 short miles, but I knew it was something big.  Then, they cut to the President speaking, and I slowly started to understand that while I had been out running, not just one, but two planes had flown into the World Trade Center in NYC.  Like the rest of the world, I was in complete shock.   And like almost everyone else I know, I spent the rest of that day in front of the TV with a tear-stained face watching the rest of the day’s events unfold. Every year on September 11, I think back to where I was on the Chicago lakefront, when the world as we all knew it changed once again.

As October 7, 2001 approached, my nerves started kicking into high gear.  My parents had to be in Connecticut the night of October 6 for my brother’s EMU football game against UCONN.  I was really scared that they wouldn’t make it back to Chicago in time to see me somewhere on the course.  My dad insisted that they would figure something out.  So after my brother’s game ended, they spent the night at the hotel closest to the Hartford airport and jumped on the first plane into Midway Sunday morning.  As they were landing in Chicago, I was just beginning my first attempt at 26.2 miles.  I had no idea if they had made it back yet or where I might see them, if at all.  I just knew that I needed my dad.

The course has changed somewhat over the past 11 years, but that year the middle of the course was in the heart of downtown Chicago on State Street.  At about Mile 12, I was completely miserable.  I hadn’t really seen anyone I knew along the course and I was feeling somewhat abandoned.  I wasn’t even halfway through, I could tell I had a bloody toe, and I really didn’t want to keep going.  I was staring at my feet in some junky old Addidas that I really should have replaced prior to that event, and I started to pray.  God, this sucks. I don’t know if I can do this. Please let me see someone I know.  And soon…

At precisely that instant, I lifted my head up and looked past a sea of runners and spectators several people deep.  My eyes went straight to one face…my dad’s.  It was like something out of a movie.  The sun was shining right down onto him lighting him up in the midst of all those hundreds of thousands of people.  I literally cut straight across the course and probably knocked a few people over in the process.  I stood before my parents, jumping up and down, saying, “I’m right here!”  They couldn’t believe I’d found them.  They gave me a quick high five and I was off again.  I started to cry at the emotion of seeing them right when I needed it, which made me start hyper-ventilating.  If you’ve ever run a marathon, or any distance for that matter, you know how imperative breathing is.  I calmed myself down, got my breathing back under control and continued on my way.  My folks went to other spots to try to find me, but that was the only time I got to see them on the course that day.  And, sadly, that is the only time I’ve seen my dad during any of my 7 marathons.  Less than 2 months later, a very sudden heart attack took him from us in the middle of the night.  But that marathon, and that summer of weekly long run calls to my dad, was a gift that I will cherish forever.  My dad got me back to my love of running.  I think he knew that I was going to need running in my life to get me through the hard times.  He gave me the passion, the knowledge, the tools, the drive, the determination and the confidence.  He was my coach, my cheerleader, my running partner.

I had the privilege of running one very last 5k with my dad during that summer of 2001.  In August, we signed up for the Bison Stampede in New Buffalo, MI.  It was our first, and only, race together in over a decade.  It was a pretty uneventful race, and I didn’t do all that well, but it was a good way to work some of the kinks out before the big one.  As we toed the start line, I knew I had gained some speed on him over the years, so I said, “Dad, I need to run my race, so I’m probably not going to stick with you today”.  He said, “Yep, I know.  Do what you need to do.”  He knew I was finally ready to run on my own.  And he knew it was time to let me.

 

A love of running was born.  Thanks Dad...

A love of running is born. Thanks Dad…

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