Monthly Archives: September 2013

Roots N Blues

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When I woke up yesterday morning I had every intention of going to boxing, but instead I went for a 5 mile run because honestly, I had a lot to process from the weekend.

I ran the Roots N Blues half marathon on Saturday.  Some races go well.  Some races not so much.  And there are those days where you crash and burn and the whole event seemingly goes down in a fiery ball of flames and devastation.  Which in turn leaves you feeling like a wasted pile of ash and debris.  Saturday was one of those days.  The Blues part was certainly appropriate.

The race itself wasn’t too bad actually, but here’s how the weekend went.  Friday after work I grabbed my kiddos from school and made the 90 minute trip West on 70 to CoMo (Columbia, MO for non-Missouri natives).  We got to my friend Phebe’s house just in time for dinner.  Phebe and I have known each other since we went to camp together as kids, and as fate would have it, we reconnected a few years ago, right around the time I moved to MO.  Coincidentally, she got married the very same day that my marriage officially bit the dust.  Kind of like my race day this weekend.

Phebe was supposed to run this weekend too, but she had some difficulties training in the heat of the summer, so she decided to postpone her half-marathon debut.  Back in June, while my Ragnar team was piled in the van on the return trip from Chicago, Wes’s son John, who goes to Mizzou, mentioned the Roots N Blues half marathon and several of us put it on the calendar.  So, although Phebe was unable to be at the start line with me on Saturday morning, I had several others there.  Wes, Shane and Kristen also ran the half, while Mark and John both opted for the 10k.  At 6:30ish, I met up with my crew to get my bib and timing chip from Shane who had picked up my packet for me the day before.  We were hanging near the start, doing race prep, and another familiar face showed up.  Amy, a fellow Fleet Feet-er and student at Mizzou, was ready to rock her first half marathon.  She talked me through the course a bit, since she knew it better than I did.  It sounded like it might be tougher than I was planning on.  But, I figured I would just go with it. I was hoping for a PR, but not really sure what to expect due to some recent knee pain.

The before...RRG, Wes, Mark, Shane & Kristen

The before…RRG, Wes, Mark, Shane & Kristen

The race got underway and I separated from my compadres as soon as we crossed the start line.  We’re all there to support each other, but we all have to run our own race.  It was a pretty course.  Great scenery.  But hilly and challenging.  Ultimately not my best race, but still not bad.  The good news is my knee felt fine, probably thanks to the vast amount of time I spent on the foam roller the previous day.

The route was beautiful.  The first mile or so was hilly as we left the downtown area and ran through the Mizzou campus.  Eventually we came to the MKT trail which is where the bulk of the course landed us.  It’s not as difficult to run on as true trail, but it’s not quite as fast as a pavement either.  The views were spectacular.  We ran along a path that lead us into this tree covered trail.  At one point we came upon a misty field, the sky was blue and the moon was still hovering.  Gorgeous.  We ran across several wooden bridges over the creek bed, which bounced slightly, making it feel like running on a trampoline.  It was hard to take in the view from both directions, but I tried.  Again, gorgeous.  We ran around a little lake with the sun reflecting its radiance.  In the middle of the race, the moments of beauty were frequent.

At about mile 8, some guy started pushing into me and I couldn’t figure out why he was crowding me off the path.  Until I looked over and saw Shane.  I couldn’t have been happier to see him.  I wasn’t feeling particularly stellar.  He asked, “How are you feeling, Runner Girl?”  I responded, “Eh, ok, not great.”  He said, “Well, you look great, so let’s start with that.”  I smiled.  We were only together for a minute or so and he started to pull away.  I let him.  He gave me the encouragement I needed, but, like I said, we all have to run our own race.

Then I started to get mad that he was pulling away, so I told myself, “Linds, if you don’t want to get left behind, go catch up!”  I tried to stay with him.  I would start to gain on him, then back off a little, and then I’d get close again.  I never did catch him.  But I tried to keep him in my sights the whole time.  I was mostly successful.  The last couple miles were some pretty tough hills.  Even the girl who loves hills was cursing the steep grade at that point.  With a half mile to go I noticed John standing on the sidewalk waiting for Wes.  I couldn’t talk but I got John’s attention and we fist bumped, or something that vaguely resembled a fist bump anyway.  Ultimately, I finished about a minute and a half behind Shane.  He was waiting at the finish for me.  I wasn’t exactly sure of my official time.  I knew it wasn’t the PR I had hoped for.  I had held back somewhat due to that sketchy knee pain I experienced on my Thursday run at Babler.  I had been worried about pushing too hard and blowing things for Chicago in a few weeks.  But I was still hopeful that my chip time would put me just under an hour and 50 minutes.  It did.  Just barely.  1:49:53. 14th female ages 30-39.  I’ll take that.

As I put my medal around my neck, grabbed a bottle of water and tried to catch my breath, I ran into my friend Ali, who I met when she came into FLEET FEET one day a couple years ago, all the way from Quincy.  Ali and I bonded instantly, since we not only have the Quincy connection, we were both going through a divorce at the same time and we both lost our dad’s way too early in life.  Ali introduced me to her running partner, who is also her new husband, and then she said something about how much she appreciated my last blog post about Friday the 13th.  I said, “Thanks.  Oh, and, this is Shane.  Wes should be through the finish any minute.”  The timing of her statement was pretty funny since she got to meet one of the stars of my last post.

Mark, who had been done for a while joined us.  And a minute or so later, Kristen crossed the finish.  And a few minutes later Wes and John completed our group.  We hung out, took pictures, teased Wes for being sweaty enough that no one wanted to be near him, and got our free drinks and BBQ sandwiches.  Eventually, the group started to peel off for naps and showers and such.

The After...with Karen and John added to the group.

The After…with Karen and John added to the group.

I hopped into my Pathfinder, thinking I had a pretty good idea of how to get back to Phebe’s.  I was hoping the kids hadn’t given her too much trouble while I had been gone all morning.  I started on my way, but somewhere I made a wrong turn.  I finally realized I was way off course.  And I was trying to figure out how to get back.

I was cruising along, not speeding, but driving a back road with a speed limit of about 45 miles.  I was trying to figure out where I was going.  I was messing with the radio.  I wasn’t paying close enough attention.  And then I looked up to see a car stopping in front of me.  I stepped on the breaks as hard as I could, but I braced because I knew what was coming.  I was breaking too late.  And then it happened.  I crashed into the back of the black Mitsubishi in front of me.

I took a deep breath.  Made sure I wasn’t hurt. Put the car in park. Took a quick look around at my mess of a car. Turned off the engine.  Unbuckled my seatbelt.  And opened the door.  Everything was in slow motion.

As I stepped out onto the pavement, I could see the other driver unbuckling her seatbelt.  I looked over and saw a few witnesses walking toward us.  Even though I couldn’t hear their voices, I could tell they were asking if we were ok.  I nodded. The other driver got out of her car, visibly shaken.  I felt absolutely horrendous.   She was a teenager, and was clearly very scared.  I knew her fear, I felt it too.  I asked if she was ok.  She nodded.  I said, “Are you sure?”  She nodded and said, “I think so”.  I suggested that we move the cars off the main road since they both seemed drivable.  We turned right onto the side street and got out of the cars again.  I asked her if she wanted to call the police or if she wanted me to.  She said she wanted to call her mom, so I called 911. Then I called Phebe, so she would know why I was taking so long to get back.  I was glad to know my kids were in good hands.  Then I called Wes.  It went right to voicemail.  I knew he was probably sleeping.  I’m sure the voicemail he got from me later made little to no sense at all.  I remember thinking I was rambling (not surprising, I’m kind of known for that).  Then I called Shane.  I was so glad he answered.  I was in complete shock, but could feel my tears burning my eyes and I could hear my voice shaking when I told him what was happening.  He asked if I wanted him to come to where I was.  “Yeah, I need moral support”.  I felt my throat tighten when I heard him say to Mark, “I’ll be back, I’m going to help Lindsey.”

I started looking for my Driver’s License and insurance info.  I didn’t have my current card, so I called Allstate as I unpinned my bib that I still hadn’t removed.  The officer walked up and I handed him my phone to verify that I was up to date with my insurance.  Then he handed me a form to fill out.  I located a pen and started to write.  My hand was shaking.  Shane walked up about 5 seconds later.  I couldn’t look at him, because I knew if I did the tears would start.  I held it together while the cop talked to me.  And when he brought me and the other driver together to exchange info.  He didn’t give me a ticket.  I still felt horrible.  I knew I deserved one. I knew it was 100% my fault.  That is the worst feeling in the world, knowing that something that was totally avoidable was your own fault.  The cop suggested we take pictures of each other’s vehicles just in case.  Shane took pictures for me.

The cop left.  The girl and her mom left.  I immediately collapsed into a sobbing mess in Shane’s arms.  The word’s My fault, My fault, My fault, kept playing in my head.  It was undeniable.  Even though my prideful human nature has crept in and tried to rationalize things like, she stopped suddenly and for no reason at an intersection where we didn’t have a stop sign and she may have had a break light out.  The fact of the matter is I was distracted and I caused this accident.  I will own the fact that I did this, even though it really, really, really sucks.  It’s not the first time I’ve messed up.  And it very likely won’t be the last.

Shane let me cry.  He said all the right things.  At least no one was hurt.  At least my kids weren’t with me.  At least both cars are still drivable.  At least the sun is shining.  It could be so much worse.

All true.

But he still let me cry.

I finally made my way back to Phebe’s house.  She said all the same things as she made me coffee and peeled oranges for the kids.  I cried some more.  Wes found my message when he woke up and called me back.  He said all the same things too.

I was exhausted.  Between the adrenaline of a race, the euphoria of finishing the race, a subsequent adrenaline spike from the accident and then the array of emotions that followed, I had been all over the place and my energy level was paying the price.

I spent the rest of the weekend trying to recover from all of it.  Periodically throughout the next 36 hours, I would randomly start crying. I slept hard Saturday night. I worked Sunday after church and spent Sunday evening on the couch. And then came my run yesterday morning.  I was thinking about the events of the weekend.  I was thinking about my friend Caleigh.  Friday morning she was so excited to spend the weekend celebrating her 30th birthday but then she unexpectedly got some devastating news.  How weird that we find ourselves struggling and celebrating at the same time.  The bad doesn’t see that we’re busy enjoying the good and just decide to turn around and come back another time.  Sometimes we have to deal with the good and the bad, all at the same time.

I got 2.5 miles out yesterday and it was considerably hotter than I thought it would be.  When I turned around I was instantly met with the relief of a cool breeze which simultaneously caused the resistance of the wind, which made things more challenging but also more comfortable.  So, something that was making me work harder and causing me to struggle, was actually good for me at the same time.

Sometimes bad things happen.  Like bad news or car accidents.  But just like Shane told me, “It’s over, don’t dwell on it.  All you can do now is learn from it.”  So I will take the bad situation, and I’ll own it.  I will try to remember that when I get off course, instead of getting distracted, I’ll stop, get my bearings and try to get back on the right track.  Sometimes things happen that make us work harder, and even though they make us struggle, they ultimately make us better, stronger, refocused.

Here’s the other thing I was thinking about during that run.  In a few weeks, I’m going to take to the streets of Chicago to run the same marathon that I’ve run 4 times already.  Ever since Vancouver in May, I’ve been so excited to get there and lay it on the line in an effort to earn the sub 4 hour time I know I deserve on that course.  I missed it last year because I was injured, the year before that because it was obscenely hot, the time before that I was injured AND it was hot.  I have been as close as 4 hours and 2 seconds.  Yep, that’s right, 3 seconds away from my goal time.  A lot could happen in the next three weeks, but I’ve decided to run the race I won’t regret.

My best friend in the entire world will be standing next to me at the start line in Chicago on October 13, to embark on her first attempt at 26.2.  This is a girl who has stood by me through many years of “My fault, my fault, my fault”, and no matter what happened, never once did she ever consider leaving my side.  I still remember the phone call on the day of Phebe’s wedding, as my marriage crumbled, when Britta said to me, “I’m with you in this. I’m not going anywhere.”  So the only race I know for sure that I won’t regret in Chicago, is to stay with her, step for step, if she wants me to.  Her race, is my race.  Sometimes it takes bad things happening to point us in the right direction again. To refocus us on what matters.  A sub 4 in Chicago?  That can wait.  When I toe the line next to B for the Bank of America 2013 Chicago Marathon, my words to her will be, “I’m with you in this.  I’m not going anywhere.”

No regrets.

 

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Friday the 13th

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What does Friday the 13th make you think of?  Playing Ghost in the Graveyard? Or probably a slasher movie where the lead character is some creepy guy who goes around wearing a hockey mask, right?  Yeah, me too.  Usually.

But this year, Friday the 13th made me more introspective.  I had so many reminders that day about how precious life is.  And not because I was being chased by a guy in a hockey mask.  At least, I don’t think I was.

Anyway, here’s the deal.  On Friday after I left work, the weather was amazing.  I had already declared that I was going to Forest Park to run until my heart was content.  I needed to get in a long run since my attempt at 19 miles last Monday failed miserably.  I was dehydrated, slept too late and it was like 90 degrees when I started.  I finally gave up after 10.5 miles knowing that to continue for 8.5 more would just be stupid and irresponsible considering the conditions.

As I cruised along, going east on 40, with the windows down, I was listening to one of my new favorite songs.  Sara Bareilles’ voice filled my car with the words…  You said, remember that life is not meant to be wasted. We can always be chasing the sun. So fill up your lungs and just RUN. But always be chasing the sun!

Yep, that’s exactly what I was planning to do.

I parked my Pathfinder by Grand Basin, knowing that I had a little more than 2 hours to run before my friend Shane showed up to join me.  I figured I could get in about 15 miles.  More than anything, I was going to be racing the sun because it’s getting dark so much earlier now and running alone in Forest Park in the dark didn’t seem like the best idea.  I filled my water bottle, grabbed my Gu, located the satellites on the my Garmin 310, hit play on my purple ipod and set off toward the park perimeter.

I looked up at Art Hill, heavily spotted with people on blankets, enjoying the day.  The park was packed with people running, on bikes, on rollerblades, playing with their dogs.  As I ran, despite the fact that I was listening to the likes of Fort Minor and Kanye, various lyrics from my pre-run song kept coming to mind.

All we can do is try and live like we’re still alive…

My thoughts drifted to a customer I had helped at work earlier in the day.  She wanted to start running again.  She’s training to complete a half-marathon on Valentine’s Day with several friends.  With tears in her eyes, Shannon showed me the scars on her foot, her knee, her arm.  Then she showed me the picture of her car after the accident last November.  It’s hard to believe she’s still alive. Running this half is going to be a celebration of her comeback, but she deemed she couldn’t be ready by November of this year, so she pushed it back to Valentine’s Day.  As we talked, that seemed even more appropriate because she not only has visible physical scars, she has scars on her heart too from everything life has thrown at her in the past few years.  We all have scars.  But all of our scars look different.  And our scars help us tell our stories.  It doesn’t matter when Shannon runs her race, the point is she isn’t wasting the fact that she has been given a second chance.  But sadly, not everyone gets a second chance like that.

I couldn’t help but think about someone very close to me who is dealing with a pain that is all too familiar.  Wes lost his mom in July.  While most of America was shooting off fireworks and celebrating with family, Wes was sharing time with family in a totally different way as he said goodbye to the woman who raised him and loved him all of his life.  The most important person in his world was suddenly gone and he is now left to deal with the after effects of trying to fill that void in his heart.  The initial impact of grief is so different from the months down the road when you are still grieving, but the rest of the world seems to have just moved on.  I know this all too well.  It’s been almost 12 years since I last saw my dad, and I still pick up the phone to call him on occasion.  Then the flood of sadness washes over me all over again.  And I wish I could take that sadness away from my friend.

But something I adore about Wes is that just like my dad showed me, his mom taught him how to live each day as if it’s something special.  It’s impossible to replace people like that.  All we can do is continue living in a way that is a tribute to them.

There’s a history through her, sent to us as a gift from the future, and to show us the proof, more than that it’s to dare us to move, and to open our eyes and to learn from the sky…

After two loops around the park, I headed back to my car to check on Shane’s location.  As the moon was rising high in the sky, it was past twilight and the stars were coming out, I was glad to learn he was on his way and would meet me at 8pm. I still had time for a couple more miles, or so I thought.  I refilled my water bottle, grabbed my headlamp and some Sports Beans before setting off again.  But I didn’t get very far before I ran smack into him.  I was more than happy to see him early since it was officially dark.  But I had 7.5 miles to go to finish off my 20 miles and I wasn’t sure he was willing to go that far.  Shane agreed to go for one more loop around the park, but he had a stipulation. If he ran the full 7+ with me, I had to go for margaritas afterward.  He didn’t have to twist my arm too hard to get me to agree to that.  I know Shane well enough that I was already planning on it before he brought it up.

At mile 17.5 I announced that I didn’t feel like running anymore.  But Shane didn’t let me quit.  Not that I really would have, but I guarantee I wouldn’t have done as well without him there and I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.  We kept on, my little light illuminating the path, my breathing heavy and the sound of my pounding heart echoing in my ears.

And the gift of my heartbeat, sounds like a symphony…

We got back to my car with less than half a mile to go, so we finished by running along the Basin.  We ran to the bridge, turned around, feet crunching the gravel below and finally my Garmin beeped announcing 20 miles as I stopped right in front of an unbeatable view.  Moon reflecting off the water, fountains reaching for the stars above, the Art Museum lit up like a crown on top of the hill.

With our mission accomplished, Shane and I headed to the Central West End for some tacos and margaritas at Gringo’s.  We ate.  He sucked down margaritas at the same rate I sucked down water.  He checked out some girl walking by and I offered to play wingman.  I laughed at him for being a germ-o-phobe  and he teased me about drinking my margarita too slow.  We later determined that my drinks were being made with considerably more tequila than his were.  Apparently, the bartender thought he was doing Shane a favor.  Eventually, Shane made sure I was safely back to my car and we parted ways. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.

The next morning on my way to work, I got a text from Shane that read: How are you running girl?  I feel alive, from the run and recovery beverages last night.

Exactly.  Shane described how that long run made me feel too.  Thinking about the gift I am given in each day that I wake up and get to lace up my shoes for a run.  And spend time with my friends.  And hug my kids.  And help other people appreciate the gift of their own heartbeat.

20 miles is hard.  But it reminds me that I’m alive.  Heart pounding, legs and lungs burning.  Taking in my surroundings like the wildflowers, the sunset, Grand Basin.  Enjoying the company of someone who has the ability to make me laugh even when it hurts so much I don’t think I can go another step.  Celebrating an accomplishment.  All of it.  This is what living looks like.  Sometimes its messy.  Sometimes it hurts.  Sometimes the pain is almost unbearable.  But those are the times when your friends show up and drag your butt through it.

You said, Remember that life is not meant to be wasted…

Each day is precious.  Go live like you mean it.  I dare you.

My running peeps...Wes, Shalini, RRG, Gerry, Shane and Kris.

My running peeps…Wes, Shalini, RRG, Gerry, Shane and Kris.

Here’s the link to the song, if you wanna have a listen:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFFberbflbU

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RRG Remembers 9/11

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It happened just the other day.  You know, that moment when you hear a date and you are automatically transported back to right where you were when something significant happened.  I was scheduling an appointment and the woman’s voice said, “How about Wednesday, September 11th?”  I heard myself gasp when she said the date.  And immediately I did the math. It’s been…12 years.  How is that possible?

As soon as she said it, I thought back to where I was on that beautiful fall day we all remember like it was yesterday.

In June of 2001, I had just returned from a trip to Mexico where I spent a week building a house in Juarez.  Little known fact about LJ: I know how to do drywall and stucco.  And I would rather put up drywall than do stucco any day of the week!  I had the summer of 2001 off because I had just left my job as a preschool teacher and I was working on a job with the AOA (American Osteopathic Association) in downtown Chicago, which I started in early October.  A day or so after I got back from Mexico, I went for a long run on the lakefront.  Or, well, it seemed long to me at the time since it was maybe the farthest I had ever run at one time.  6 miles.  While I was running that day, I started thinking about what I was going to do over the summer months to stay motivated since I knew I had at least a couple months off from work.  What about running a marathon?  Hmmm, yeah, I could do that.

When I got home that day, I looked into registration for the 2001 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon on Oct 7, 2001.  It was still open.  (Last year, it sold out in a record 5 days.  And this year there was a huge debacle when Active.com crashed during the first day of registration) Anyway, I called my dad and told him my thoughts and he agreed to coach me through my new endeavor.

Each day of the week, I would get up with my hubby (I was still a newlywed at the time, had been married just over a year) and I would drop him at work downtown at Clark and Kinzie.  Then I would go park in my spot at North Pier and run by the lake.  Sometimes I ran north, sometimes I ran south, sometimes I ran out onto Navy Pier.  On really hot days I would finish my run at Ohio Street Beach and jump in Lake Michigan for a quick cool down.  Most days were just short or average distances.  But Friday was my long run day.  I would always follow up my run with a call to my dad so we could talk through how it went.

On September 11, 2001, I was feeling more tired than usual probably because I had just run my first ever half-marathon on Sunday, September 9th as prep for my upcoming marathon.  So when I got over to the bridge and started my run, I had already decided I was only going a few easy miles just to stretch my legs.  I ran south that day towards the museum campus.  When I got down near the Field Museum I turned around and the Chicago skyline was staring back at me in all its glory.  There was this perfect blue sky, the sun was shining and making Lake Michigan glisten.  The likes of the Aon Building, the Prudential Building, the Smurfitt-Stone Container Building were proudly standing guard over my beloved Windy City.

I headed back north on the lake.  I glanced up at Buckingham fountain in Grant Park. You know, the one they show at the beginning of the show Married With Children.  A classic sight in Chicago that holds so many memories for me.

And now that I know the rest of the story, it was just about at the exact moment that I was taking in that magnificent sight, that our world was being forever changed as the first plane struck one of the towers of the World Trade Center and the horror of that infamous day began.

With the chaos still unbeknownst to me, I continued my peaceful jog back over the Chicago River to the location of my Jeep. I slowed to a walk while I caught my breath.  I pulled the key from my shorts pocket and as I started the engine I heard the familiar voices of morning show DJ’s Eric and Kathy, but they weren’t their usual silly selves.  Something was happening.  Something bad.  What was going on?!

They cut to the President, but they were still talking over him or they didn’t turn the connection on in time or something, so I missed GW’s first statement where he announced that the planes had crashed into the WTC.  I began to drive down the parking ramp, around and around and around from up on the 11th floor, as I listened intently to President’s words, some that would ultimately become so familiar.

As I exited the parking garage, the sun was blinding.  I kept waiting to hear something that would tell me exactly what was happening.  Eventually, I started to piece things together.  But planes?  Why would they crash them into the buildings?  My confusion was like that of everyone else in the world who felt the terror of that morning.

Once I had some indication of what was happening, I felt an urgency to get out of the downtown area.  I pulled out my little flip phone and desperately began trying to call Mike.  We were still sharing a cell phone at that point, and since I had it in my hand, I just kept calling his office phone over and over and over.  I left voice mails.  And tried again.  Eventually I tried calling my dad and my mom.  I’m not sure at what point I got through to my mom, but I think it was right away.  I don’t exactly remember arriving back at the loft on Western Ave.  But the next thing I distinctly remember is standing in the middle of my living room that was surrounded by floor to ceiling windows and sat above all the surrounding buildings, so  it felt like I was up in that beautiful blue sky.  As I stood there, remote in one hand and phone in the other, I was glued to the TV like the rest of humanity and I watched those iconic buildings fall to the ground.

Recalling that moment still makes me cry.

I finally got ahold of Mike, who had been in the firm library watching the events unfold, and I said, “I’m coming to get you.  Right now.”  By the time I arrived back at his office to retrieve him, they had decided to close the building and send everyone home.  Downtown Chicago was about to turn into a ghost town.   I’ll never forget driving down 94 that morning, feeling like I was having an out of body experience.  I pulled up at a stop light and I looked to my left.  The driver of that car looked back at me and I know the blank expression on his face mirrored my own.

As the events of the day transpired, I couldn’t get over the fact that I had just been to New York for the very first time only 6 weeks before.  In July we had a spent a weekend there and since I was training for the Chicago marathon, I did a long run of 12 miles through Central Park.  We had gone out to the Statue of Liberty.  We had walked all over Manhattan, enjoying the sights, the culture and everything that NYC has to offer.  I remembered standing on the deck of the Circle Line out on the Hudson, staring at the skyscrapers of the financial district.  The captain of the cruise who was narrating the tour, spoke of a church that would only be visible for a few seconds when we would pass the twin towers and it would peak between the two buildings.  I had my camera poised and ready.  And the photograph I took, which now resides in a frame in my living room, is absolutely stunning.

Every year on September 11th, I’ve tried to return to the Chicago lakefront to run right where I was on 9/11.  For the 9 years I still lived in Chicago, I think I only missed one.  And now that I live in St. Louis, I can’t get back to that particular spot.  But I still make a point to go out for a run at that time of the morning when the terrorist attack on America began in NYC, with the tragic events continuing to unfold in Washington DC and Pennsylvania.  I run as a tribute to all the people who ran to get away from the destruction, the courageous firemen who ran into the devastation and the passengers who fought back against evil.  I run to pay my respects to the families, like the Beamers, the Glicks, the Burnetts, the Binghams and the many others who were so intimately related to the tragedy of that day.  I run to remember how precious freedom is and to honor those who fight for it.  I run because I am so grateful that I can, and because I am thankful to be given the opportunity here on this Earth to enjoy my surroundings with the people I love.  I know it’s not much, but it’s what I can do.  So, this week, on Wednesday, September 11, once again, I will run to remember.

 

Please feel free to comment with your memories or ways that you feel moved to honor the victims of September 11th.

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Unknown Territory

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Sometimes we have to march into uncharted territory.  Regardless of whether we just happen into it, or it’s a choice to go in there, we sometimes get lost when we navigate the unfamiliar. Then we have to backtrack to figure out where we went wrong.  We encounter obstacles.  We learn to adjust to the path in front of us. It’s all part of figuring out where we’re going.  And who we are.

Yesterday was Labor Day.  I had a whole day of no kids and no work, so what did I do?  I had an offer to run the Chubb trail with Shane, Wes and Shalini, but they were going at 6am.  6AM?!  On a holiday?!  Ha.  I don’t think so.  So, while I was at the movies with Steve on Sunday night, we decided we would venture off to the Chubb Trail on our own at a more reasonable hour.  Neither of us had ever run there so we decided to go exploring together.

Here’s the thing about me and Steve.  We’ve only known each other for about a year and a half, but we found each other at just the right time. About 2 ½ years ago, before I had ever laid eyes on Steve, I was on the brink of making one of the biggest decisions of my life to march into potentially treacherous and severely uncharted territory.  Steve was just a few miles away doing the same thing, but in a completely different way.  Both of us had been living our lives the way we thought we were supposed to on the outside, but we had both finally come to the conclusion that it was time to be true to ourselves. We didn’t just walk into unknown territory, we RAN.  We both knew that people would react however they would react and there wasn’t a whole lot we could do about it. Some people would agree with us, some wouldn’t.  Some would respect us, some wouldn’t. Some would accept us as we are, some wouldn’t. But we had to set that aside and live the life we each knew would be best, regardless of anyone else’s opinion.  Fortunately, we both have the full support of our families. I ultimately made the decision to file for divorce and leave behind the life I had come to know, the life of the outwardly appearing “Fairy tale”, because in reality, I wasn’t as happy as the princesses you read about.  Steve, on the other hand, decided it was time to declare to the world, or at the very least his family, initially anyway, that he wasn’t interested in finding Cinderella.  I’ve alluded to it before, by referring to Steve as the Will to my Grace, but the fact is one of my best friends is gay.  (This is where Steve and I look at each other and say, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” and laugh hysterically)

Yesterday morning I got a text from Steve at about 7:30 to say he was on his way to pick me up and before I dragged myself from the comfort of my bed to get ready, I perused the facebook status updates of my friends.  There was one that stuck in my mind.  One of my brother’s best friends, Brandon, posted this:  A lot of my best friends married outside of their race.  I love that our parents taught us that it’s ok to love everyone, and anyone.  Gay, black, white, whatever.  Love the one you’re with!!  Then Brandon went on to tag my brother and a bunch of other guys I have always thought of as my “little brothers” who I’ve known since they were about 7.

Now, obviously I’m not going to marry Steve (even though we joke about it often).  And not just because he constantly reminds me that I’m gross.  But that’s all beside the point.  I’m glad his parents taught him to love without judgment, because Lord knows how much I needed to be accepted when Steve stumbled into my social run that Spring evening.

The point is about being accepting of our differences.  Going through a divorce taught me more about grace than anything I have ever experienced in my life.  The people I appreciated most as I went through the process were the ones who accepted me and loved me through it, without judging me or interjecting their own opinions about what they thought was best for my life.  In reality, I lost some friends.  I had to endure hateful and hurtful words from some people. I felt judged and occasionally I felt like the person I am wasn’t enough.  It was hard and scary and sad.  The truth is, no one ever really knows what’s going on inside someone else.  But I had some really great people come along while I was lost in that uncharted territory.  People like Steve.

We all have our own struggles, our own opinions, our own weirdness, our own issues, our own baggage…should I continue?  I think you get the idea.  We all have to march into the uncharted territory that is called Life.  And for better or worse, Life doesn’t come with a manual, or a map.

As Steve and I began our quest into Chubb yesterday, we were both dragging a little.  He pulled a map out of the box by the trail sign and I exclaimed loudly, “We are not taking a map.  That’s ridiculous.”  One of the nearby hikers mentioned that it was a pretty easy trail.  We quickly realized she meant easy to follow, not easy to run.  It was steep, rocky, rooted, technical and challenging.  And despite the theory that it was “easy to follow”, we still managed to hit a dead end and found ourselves lost about a mile in.  So we backtracked. We hit another dead end.  Backtracked again and finally found the path we were supposed to be on.  I joked about the two us getting off the beaten path…shocking, right?

We got a few miles in and came to point where we could go a couple different directions, but Steve’s back was hurting, we were getting low on water and we were at a good point to turn around.  So we headed back.  We ran into some friends out for a hike with their new puppy.  We saw lots of families.  One little boy stared at me with a wide eyed grin as we passed.  I’m hoping he was thinking that he wanted to grow up and run trails like that.  We both rolled an ankle at least once and I hollered out loud when a rock jabbed the side of my foot right where I have developed a nasty blister.  We got to another point where we thought we had taken a wrong turn, backtracked only to figure out that we were in fact on the right track so we continued our course.  The run back was considerably faster than the run out and we ended at just about 5 miles for the day.

When we finished our run, we hung out in the pavilion for a bit before we headed back to my house to spend the day at the pool.  While we sat there, I tried desperately to remember what I had done last year for Labor Day.  I was racking my brain but unable to remember.

Eventually, we hopped back in Steve’s car, stopped for some SoBe’s and made our way to the Lake Chesterfield pool for one last day in the sun.  Nick stopped by to swim with us for a while.  And later the three of us ended up back at my house grilling and drinking on the porch.  (Side note: The last time the 3 of us were together, JUST the three of us, was the infamous night of Nick’s birthday when Steve shared his brilliant idea of signing up for the Vancouver marathon for his own birthday, and I said, “Great, I’ll go with you!”)

Anyway, after dinner, Nick eventually decided to run home and Steve and I watched a few old episodes of Arrested Development.  We’ve already decided we’re going as Tobias and Lindsay for Halloween this year.  Hilarious?  Yes, I think so.  Around 9 something, Steve left for home.  About 30 seconds after he left, I burst into tears as I finally remembered Labor Day last year.  Not all of it, but I remembered spending about an hour curled up in Katrina’s arms sobbing uncontrollably.

You see, my kids started school today.  The day after Labor Day.  Just like they did last year.  And the year before that.  And so on.  Last year, it occurred to me on Labor Day morning, that it was the first time that I wasn’t going to be the one to pack the lunches on the first day of school.  Or help the kids pick out their clothes.  Or help Ally with her hair.  Or tuck them in on Monday night and say a special prayer for each of their teachers.

Today, just like last year, I met my kids up at the school to take a picture and walk them to their classrooms.  This will likely be our new tradition and thus our new “normal”, which still just feels weird to me.  After I got back to my car, I proceeded to have myself a good long cry.  Partly because Silas, my baby, started Kindergarten.  Partly because life doesn’t look the way I thought it would.  I have given up the fairy tale.  And partly because I am completely hormonal.  Whatever.  The fact remains that I am continuing to enter the unknown territory of this thing called Divorce.  I am still learning what it means to be a single parent and what that looks like.  Two of the boys’ previous teachers found me having my “moment” and I can’t even tell you how much I appreciated their hugs.  At least I know that my kids are in great hands.

I can’t imagine what yesterday would have been like if I hadn’t spent the day with Steve.  Being with him, exploring, laughing, just chilling, took my mind off of the anxiety that could have overwhelmed me all day and instead we just had a really great day.  And that made me think about something, life will always hold the challenges of unknown territory, but as we learn to navigate the obstacles, and dead ends, backtracking and resetting, and everything in between, it’s so much better to have someone with us when we do.

I’m still encountering new territory, new challenges, on pretty much a daily basis.  But I’m so thankful for the people who remind me that I don’t have to do it by myself.  I’m not the only one trying to figure things out.  And I don’t have to figure it out alone.

So, yeah, I don’t get to do all the things that some moms do.  I only make about half the lunches. I only do half the drop offs and pick ups.  But I’m still a full time mom, because I don’t ever stop loving my babies.  And I hope if there is one thing that they learn from me, just like Brandon said, it’s that it’s ok to love everyone, and anyone.  I hope they look at me, and see that I choose love, because I am loved in return.  And for that, there is no map needed.

Steve and I on our Labor Day Chubb Expedition

Steve and I on our Labor Day Chubb Expedition

 

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