Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Letter From My Little Girl

Sometimes you walk away from a run thinking, “Nailed it.” Yeah, today wasn’t one of those.  In fact, I haven’t had one of those in longer than I really care to talk about.

Sometimes we succeed at our goals, sometimes we fail.  Sometimes we feel like the overwhelming effort we are putting in is all for naught.  But sometimes we see a glimmer of hope that all that hard work had a purpose.

There are days we suffer to get through, speed workouts where we feel like we are spinning our wheels, mile upon mile where we feel like we are running through sludge.  Why do we even bother?  But then race day comes when there is nothing quite like the feeling of crossing the finish line and basking in the glory of knowing that you nailed it.  All because we were willing to keep going through the hard part.

Today, I had one of those days.  I didn’t nail a workout.  Or a race.  I didn’t even run at all.  But the bling I received today came in the form of a letter from my daughter.

This morning I was struggling to remind myself that no matter what anyone else thinks about me, I am a good parent.  I love my kids.  And I may not remember everything all the time, but I take care of them the best I can and I know they don’t ever question how much I love them.  I am human.  I know I will fail them sometimes.  In those moments, I need for the people in my life to not try to fix me, not expect perfection, but occasionally stand back and let me fail.  And then love me anyway.

Tonight, Ally reassured me of just that.

My kids have been with their dad for the past 11 days for Spring Break.  Man that was a long time.  Especially after coming off an extended vacation with him in February too.  I picked them up from school today and I was greeted with big smiles, even bigger hugs and lots of I love you’s.   In the car, I mentioned to Ally that I had a card for her.  And she said she had something for me too.

When we got home I gave her the card.  And I gave one to the boys as well.  I got dinner started and the kids were working on homework.  At one point I think I had half the neighborhood in my house.  And then I was standing in the laundry room when Ally came in and said, “Here Mom”.  She handed me a piece of paper before she turned an walked out.  I unfolded a type written note and began to read.  I stood there, leaning against the washing machine reading a letter from my 11 year old.  Seriously, she’s only 11.  How did she get so smart?! The tears filled my eyes, but by the time I read the last line they flowed freely down my face.

I couldn’t ask for anything more in life than what Ally said to me in that letter.  In reading what she wrote from her heart, I know I must be doing something right.  I know that the struggles are worth it.  I know the pain has a purpose.

Here is Ally’s letter…

Dear Mom,

I missed you this past week.  I hope you had fun in Chicago.  I hope you took lots of pictures.  Thank you for all you do for me and supporting.  Thank you for your wonderful meals and cleaning and providing for us.  You’re the best mom in the whole entire world.  Thank you for working for us.  You are so funny!  I love when we bond and laugh and watch movies while eating ice cream.  Those are some of my favorite moments!  I’m excited for the potatoes tonight.  It’s been forever since you have made them!  I can’t wait to go to Chicago and Michigan in a few months.  I love you so much.  I had a great time in Guatemala but I still missed you.  I’m super excited for school to be out in May!  No more homework!  Yippee!  I’m so proud to be called your daughter.  And every day I get with you is special.  I know you’re always with me in my heart even if I’m not with you.  You may only get fifty percent of the time but that time we do get is special and means a lot.  Over the years we keep building a stronger relationship.  And it keeps getting stronger.  Even though you got divorced I found the good that came out of it that I know you better and have a better relationship.  Love, Ally

Hands down that letter is the best reward I have ever received.  More valuable than any runner’s high, any finish line and any medal from any race ever.  Today, I received confirmation that there was purpose in the pain.  And that makes me feel like I nailed it.

From my baby girl...

From my baby girl…

My Secret Addiction

I’ve been quiet for a couple weeks.  I guess you could say I was letting the dust settle on my last post.  I haven’t really been able to figure out what someone says after opening up their heart in such a way.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge my gratitude for the outpouring of love and encouragement I received in response to RRG: Unveiled.  The Facebook comments alone were enough to bring me to tears many times.  But additionally, the texts, hugs and personal messages from those of you sharing your own stories with me were truly overwhelming.

A little over a year ago when I started Rambling Runner Girl, I never could have imagined sharing the depths of my soul like that, but those of you who have been loyal supporters, have made it come easy.  And while the words seem small and inadequate, from the bottom of my heart, I say Thank you.

Last week while I was at work, I had an epiphany. And that was…I have an addiction.  Now, I know what you’re all thinking, which is “Um, duh, you’re addicted to running” but hear me out on this.

I guess after a post like Unveiled, it’s not terribly surprising that I’ve had several conversations about things like attitude and the troubles that come with this life.  At one point I even typed these words in a text, “There will always be problems.  The key is having joy in spite of them.”

That’s so true, isn’t it?  Most of the time, life is about getting it all done, going to work, making the rounds, paying the bills, checking off the list.  There are days where the refrigerator breaks down or the service engine light comes on in the car or we spend an hour on hold with Anthem to find out that they are changing our health insurance plan because of Obamacare.  Sometimes the little things can make it feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders and we aren’t sure how we’re going to get out from under it.  But we fight through it all, and eventually we step outside on that first spring-like day after suffering through the Polar Vortex, then we close our eyes and smile as we lift our face to the sun just to feel it’s warmth.

So, at work the other day I was talking to Mike Barro.  We were discussing the fact that triathlons really are not a poor man’s sport.  There is always something more to buy, especially with cycling.  A new bike.  Specialized parts.  Cycling shoes.  A helmet.  An aero helmet.  Apparel.  Accessories.  The list is endless.  And even once we acquire the necessities at the very least, there is maintenance. And repairs.  And race entry fees, should we choose to be competitive.

I am the exception to that rule.  While triathletes seem to hemorrhage money sometimes, I am not capable of doing that on a single mom budget.  That’s why finally, this week, I am considering replacing the helmet that I’ve been using since college.  Do the math, yes, it’s been a long time.  That is also why I’ve considered that I may be going to Arizona in November with a road bike instead of a tri bike.  It’s not ideal, but I’ve suffered worse inadequacies before.  (Is there anyone out there who wants to buy me a bike?  Anyone? Anyone? No?) I don’t exactly fit the mold here.  But when have I ever fit any kind of mold?  I don’t.

So as Mike and I were talking, I was explaining that while the timing of getting into triathlons was somewhat off financially, it was so right in terms of so many other things.  Triathlons came along at a time that I had many uncertainties in my life.  I was about to be a single parent.  I was going to be a single home owner.  I had just gone back to work after several years of being a stay at home mom.  I was stepping out of my comfort zone on many levels.  So why wouldn’t I step out of my running comfort zone too?  Tackling challenges makes me happy.  Facing fears makes me happy.  Crossing a finish line makes me happy.  Proving something to myself makes me happy. And just knowing I had the courage to try, makes me happy.

While I was running on Saturday, my longest run this year, a whole 6 miles, a song came on my ipod.  The words were…”It’s like the sun is shining when the rain is pouring down, it’s like my soul is flying though my feet are on the ground.”  And yeah, when I’m running, it’s like that.  If I’m having a bad day, running helps me escape that for a little while and reminds me that it will be ok.  If I’m having a good day, running just makes it that much better.

My addiction isn’t about triathlons.  It’s not even about running.  My addiction may in some part be about the endorphins that surge through me after a solid workout.  And I do love a good “runner’s high”. But mostly, I’m addicted to joy.  Simple as that.

My friend Diana said to me last week that she thinks for a lot of people, it’s easier to be sad, or grumpy, or angry, than it is to be happy.  And while I have my bad days where I am in a funk, I know that is definitely not the case for me.  I find it so much easier to just be happy.  Even in the face of adversity, I will choose to grin and bear it, both literally and figuratively.  My addiction is joy.

In the words of Buddy the Elf, “I just like to smile, smiling’s my favorite”.

RRG: Unveiled

Disclaimer: This is a completely different type of post and is not for the faint of heart.  This is also not for children.  It is the first post I have not allowed my daughter to read, due to the fact that it contains some fairly graphic details.  But this is a story that needs to be told, to help me heal and to help others who may have experienced the same.

“And this we know, that God works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”  Romans 8:28

This is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever written.  But something that makes me who I am is my ability to be transparent with my struggles.  I am real. I am genuine.  I am much less than perfect.  But I will go the places that others won’t dare and I will say the things that some would keep inside their heads out of fear.  It doesn’t mean I am fearless about wearing my heart on my sleeve, it just means that I accept myself completely and I make no apologies for who I am.

Before anyone in the audience reads this edition of RRG, first you must take the following pledge.  Please raise your right hand and read the following out loud:

I, (insert own name here), do solemnly swear that after reading this story, I will not feel sorry for the narrator in any way.  And I promise to never, ever, ever treat her like a victim.  The End.

Ok, so, I’ve mentioned before that there is a lot to my story that most people don’t know.  This part of my story begins when I was 13.  I was in 8th grade.  My best friend was Kirsten.  We liked to wear matching clothes on a regular basis. We thought we were the girls from the Sweet Valley High books.  We fought over blue eyeliner pencils, but we made up immediately and we would laugh until our sides hurt.  We did things like going up on the roof of her parent’s house with an entire bottle of hairspray to see if we could make Kirsten look like Helen Hunt in the movie Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.  We could typically be found singing along to Tiffany and Debby Gibson and Milli Vanilli from a pink boom box.  These were the days that I still liked to pretend that my hairbrush was a microphone.  (Ok, since we’re being real here, I may on occasion still do that)

Those were the days when to say I had a boyfriend, meant that we were “going together”.  Where were we going, you might ask.  Good question.  Probably anywhere our parents would take us.  Like to the High School football games on Friday night, an occasional school dance or a trip to the movie theater, that we would follow up with a walk to Pizza Hut after seeing something like Goonies.  “Going together” meant holding hands and sneaking into the corner of the coat room at Leo’s Roller Rink to kiss.  If memory serves, my first real kiss happened there.  Although I can’t exactly remember who it was with.  Clearly it was very memorable.  Although, I do remember I was fond of kissing.  I still am.  I guess some things never change.

I have great memories of that time in my life. My light shined so bright. And then there was an abrupt shift.  At the end of my 8th grade year came the news that my family was moving back to Michigan.  I was terribly sad at the thought of leaving my closest friends…Kirsten, Carrie, Maria, Jill and Jacquie, along with several others.  I was devastated.  But, as the middle child, always the peacemaker, I bucked it up and accepted the new adventure that I was headed into.   I started my first day of High School in East Lansing when my dad dropped me off after staying at my Grandparent’s house the night before. I knew a handful of people from my early childhood days of living there, but no one had gotten the memo that I was “the new girl” since it was 3 middle schools converging to form the class of 1993.  So I pushed my way through the crowded hallways of East Lansing High School, in my blue and white polka dot dress without really talking to very many folks that first day.  I was back to being a little fish in very big and scary pond.  And when the day was done, I walked home to a brand new house.  Kind of a lot for a 13 year old to process, right?  Actually, you have no idea.  There was so much more to it than that.  So much more that no one really knew until about 20-some years later.

Now, don’t get me wrong, High School got better.  It didn’t take long for me to find a group of friends. Jill, Beth, Nikki, Troy, Luke and Noah are solidly at the heart of my best HS memories.  I got to be on the field of the Pontiac Silver Dome as a cheerleader for the State Championship football team in 1991. And in the spring, I loved catching for Nikki on the softball team, even though our team was terrible.  I sang in choir and I had a part in the chorus of the production Hood my sophomore year.   I volunteered in Mrs. Swanson’s 5th grade class at Glencarin, my old elementary school.  A girl after her dad’s own heart, I was a sports medicine trainer for the men’s soccer and wrestling teams.  I was all over the place, always involved, always doing something.  Always with the infamous Lindsey smile on my face.

But little did anyone know that behind the smile, there was hurt and confusion and frustration and anger and guilt and shame, like no 13 should ever have to endure.  Like no person of any age should ever have to endure.

I went off to college.  I did my first semester at a small school in southern Michigan, only to find that I really belonged back home in EL with my Spartans.  I started at MSU in the spring of 1994.  A couple years in I joined the women’s crew club.  I even stayed an extra year at State to use up my one year of eligibility as a varsity athlete thanks to Title IX.

I graduated from Michigan State with a Bachelor’s degree in Family Community Services.  Basically, I can work for social workers.  I did various types of volunteer work throughout college, working with at risk and low income kids.  I went on to complete an internship in foster care and adoption.  My cases included children of alcoholics and Schizophrenics.  I saw the worst of the worst of what can happen to people.  And it broke my heart.  Every. Single. Time.

In one of my Child Ecology classes, I read the book There Are No Children Here.  It’s about 2 brothers that grew up in Cabrini Green, the projects of Chicago, in the 1970’s.  This was about the point I decided I wanted to work with inner city kids in Chicago.  So upon graduating, Nikki helped me load the pick-up truck and cruise on over to my new apartment in Chicago to set up shop.  In June of 1998, I changed my address and I started a new job as a crisis counselor for a youth outreach program.  I looked somewhat out of place, my blond ponytail bobbing, as I walked past a crack house one day to discuss the possible placement of one of my kids with his grandma, whose home, standing next to said crack house, had a front door that was barely attached to the hinges.  But my job was just to get through the initial crisis.  I mostly got called to the police station when a kid had run away from home and I had to figure out a short term plan of where we would put that kid for the night.  And then, I rarely saw them again.

That job didn’t last as long as I had planned.  Not out of fear.  I needed a change mostly because I needed to work with people who I could have a rapport with, not just one and done.  I’m just not wired that way.  I am created to be in relationships with people, relationships that can grow and thrive.

And here’s what is so crazy, I was trained to work with folks that had been through the wringer.  I was prepared to help people who had been abused in the worst ways.  It was painful to see.  I have a huge heart for people and it killed me that anyone would have to go through things like that.  And yet, it never even occurred to me, that I was one of them.  I wanted to fix people, because it was easier than taking a look inside and fixing myself.  Abuse isn’t always outwardly violent.  Sometimes it is forced harshly by a stranger, sometimes a loved one.  Sometimes it is subtle and so gradual that it is hardly perceptible.  And sometimes the victim almost appears willing on the outside because it is done at the hands of someone they trust, someone they are afraid to say “no” to.

In the few months leading up to my departure from my glorious Jr. High days, a slow transition occurred.  I went from being the genuinely spunky, free-spirited girl that everyone knew, to being a broken, shattered soul that hid behind a mask of the spunky girl.  I learned how to suppress the horrible thing that had happened to me and pretend that I was still the bubbly, ever smiling Lindsey.

It wasn’t until an afternoon in spring of 2011 that the events that had caused that transition finally came fully back to the surface.  I remember sitting on the counter of my old kitchen, Mike and I were talking while he made himself a sandwich or something.  We were still in the throes of trying to decide if we could repair our mess of a marriage.  I don’t remember how we got to this part in the conversation, but I remember saying very casually, “Well, you know, it probably has to do with what happened when I was 13.”  He stopped what he was doing and looked straight at me, expressionless.  “You know what happened when I was 13, right?”  He very slowly responded, “No”, with the “o” trailing on for what felt like forever and finally disappearing into an abyss.  That was the first time it occurred to me that the shameful, awful thing that happened so many years ago, that made me feel ugly and disgusting, wasn’t written all over me like I had come to believe.  While I thought people could look at me and see how yucky I was, this was the first time I realized that it wasn’t true.  No one could see it.  I had hid it that well.  Even the few people I thought I had tested the water with, in alluding to what may have hypothetically happened, had no recollection of me ever saying anything.  I had watered it down and changed the details enough, that this reality was brand new information.  It was at the heart of the onion that’s layers I had just begun to peel back.

I’m pretty sure it was later that same day that I made the drive over to my counselor’s office.  And I began to reveal this secret to her.  Slowly, this skeleton that had been hiding behind piles of other junk in my closet began to creep out.  It was time to really talk about what happened in the summer of 1988.

I was 13.  He was 18.  We were friends.  But we liked each other more.  I thought I was pretty special getting so much attention from someone older.  He would drive over to my house and hang out with me.  He would come with my family out to our cottage at Spring Lake.  I was only allowed to ride in his truck sometimes; I had to get special permission.  My mom was constantly concerned about his age.  “Oh, mom…” I would whine, “Don’t worry so much.”

I don’t remember exactly how we went from being friends to the point that I was his “secret girlfriend”, but somewhere along the way, it happened.  We knew that no one could know because of our age difference.  We would write each other notes and pass them secretly.  We would hold hands when no one was looking.  And then the kissing started.  We were very careful to not get caught.  We were the epitome of a “bad secret”.

During the summer months, it would get hot in my bedroom.  So I would often sleep in the basement on the couch where it was cooler.  If there was a breeze, I would leave the sliding glass door open and just close the screen so I could fall asleep to the sound of the crickets.

One night my secret boyfriend came in the back door so we could watch TV together.  There was kissing.  And I could feel his hands through my oversized Garfield night shirt.

There were other nights he came back and we did the same.  And then one night something changed.  He told me he wanted to “teach” me some things.  I didn’t have a clue what he meant, but I had come to trust him, so I didn’t argue.  I was sitting next to him on the couch with my knees pulled up tight against my chest. I can still hear his voice, as he placed my little girl fingers around his male anatomy and said, “You hold it like a baseball bat.”  I remember repeating over and over the words ‘I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this’.  But sadly, I was only saying them to myself.  Those words never came out of my mouth.

I wish I could say that was where it ended.  But I can’t.  Honestly, the rest of what happened that night, and other nights after that, is pretty much a blur.  But there are snapshots permanently etched in my brain and I remember consciously thinking in those moments, ‘I don’t even understand what’s happening’.   My 13 year old mind couldn’t grasp it, so it went into shut down mode.  Frankly, the rest of the details are somewhat irrelevant to this story.  Already the damage had been done.  My innocence was gone and this was the beginning of my journey down a path to a state of complete powerlessness.  My light had gone dim.

I believed that I had no say in what anyone did to me.  My body had no beginning and no end, no boundaries.  I existed for the rest of the world to do with as they saw fit.  I believed that I was ugly and unlovable.  I wasn’t good enough and I never would be.  And yet, I put on my smile, and went about my life.  And then, a few weeks later, I moved away.  I was able to start all over so I shoved that part of myself into the deepest, darkest part of my soul.  But it permeated my being.  Through most of high school, I adamantly spoke out against sex, to the point that I got teased for being a prude.  Which was ironic since it was a complete contrast to the dirty whore that I believed myself to be.

I wish I could go back and tell that little girl that it wasn’t her fault.  That even though she trusted him and let him in the back door and was too paralyzed with fear to speak up for herself, she didn’t do anything wrong.  And while now I know that to be true, that I didn’t do anything wrong, the demons still sometimes rear their ugly heads and I have to remind myself all over again.

There is a reason I have the word “Beloved” tattooed on my left forearm.  It is there to remind me that all those things I believed about myself were lies.  What happened is not who I am, and it no longer defines me.  The truth is I am broken.  But I am beautiful.  I am loveable and I am loved.  And who I am is enough.

So, that’s part of the story behind Rambling Runner Girl.  Why do I run?  I think at times running has been an escape, a way to run away from everything, and everyone, including myself.  Running was a way to prove to people, “I’m so strong.  You can’t hurt me.”  And maybe that worked outwardly, but inside I still hurt.  Over the last few years, as I have started to face myself, my history.  I stopped running away from the past.  I started running to heal.  I’m running to reclaim the light that has always been inside of me.  And now, that light burns brighter than ever.

There’s a little flame inside us all, some shine bright, some shine small.  The rains will come and the water’s rise, but don’t you ever lose your light…” –Addison Road