Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another year passes…Never Forget

Tomorrow is a day to remember.  It was a beautiful Tuesday morning…

I had left Staten Island the year before in search of a more structured life.  Sounds a little backwards…I left a city of opportunity to return to the Lehigh Valley.  Funny how things happen, though.

I had just changed jobs and was teaching my first software class to a room full of nurses.  They had no faith in me and I was definitely scared of them.  I started my class at 9 am.  A short while later one of the secretaries, a friend, came into my classroom to deliver the news of a plane hitting the World Trade Center.  Then, another one…

I left my class and sat in the secretary’s office staring out the window listening to news radio detail the events over and over…breaking in with the latest updates of other hijackings.  I remember jumping out of my seat to call my mom.  She was doing some housework and didn’t have the television on.  She immediately called my grandmother who lives in North Jersey, about 45 minutes from the Tunnel.

My personal life was complicated then.  I was trying to end a relationship with a train-wreck of a man while developing one with a stable gentleman.  I called the latter first.  Our cells wouldn’t connect.  I tried the other…same result.  This was a time of coming together and these goddamned cell phones…

I called almost every friend I had in Staten Island…I thought of the worst.  How couldn’t I?  I was oddly appalled that work wasn’t cancelled.  In hindsight it was a dumb thought; I worked in health care.  Health doesn’t stop.  Besides we were anticipating a surge in patients due to the disaster.  We were on alert. 

From a work perspective the rest of the day was uneventful.  Yeah, I taught my other class and I guess it went well.  I just don’t understand why nurses couldn’t understand dose versus quantity.  I  digress.  After returning to my apartment I got a message to meet my then boyfriend at TGIFriday’s.  What a disaster.  He had left work after the towers collapsed and spent the rest of the day drinking.  Wonderful.  He was devastated.  It’s interesting, actually.  He was one of few people I met who had such passion for NYC.  And he was passionate about everything.  He lived for the city, longed to be in the city, always was a part of the city.  I never fully understood why he left. 

It was at that moment that the events of September 11th punched me in the face.  I didn’t know where my true friends were and I was stuck in my own personal ground zero.  My ‘stable’ life had crumbled and I was left behind to pick up the pieces.  I needed to make the most of what I had and move on. 

That weekend, I kicked him out.  It took some time for the dust to settle, but I eventually recovered and left him behind.

About three weeks later I went to Staten Island…up to the Wag… parked my car, illegally of course, and just stared at the jagged city skyline.  Almost every day of my college career I looked out over the Hudson and gazed, admiringly, at the city line.  Those two shining towers reached towards the heavens.  I didn’t know the skyline any other way.  Now, it’s changed forever.

I took a cab to the ferry and hopped on the 25 minute ride across the choppy waters.  No one spoke.  Occasionally, you’d hear a crying baby, or a sniffle, but other than that…silence.  After getting off the ferry I immediately headed to the subway, but it was shut down.  I followed the mass of people headed north toward ground zero. 

There was still dust and debris all around, people wearing face masks, and hundreds of flyers posted to places of business.  These flyers were those of the missing.  Their pictures showed them with a beloved pet, or a newborn baby; maybe a spouse or on a fishing boat.  Some people were holding the flyers of their loved ones asking strangers if they were seen.

As we got closer to the site, the silence fell upon us like a heavy cloud.  Again, no one spoke.  There were no cars with blaring horns or sirens.  People were walking so slow; even stopping to lean on a wall and silently sob. 

And there it was…a big gaping hole in the soul of the city.  You don’t realize how large a city block is until it’s vacant.  Thousands of people were in the bowels of the site pulling up debris in an effort to search for any sign of hope.  I walked up to the fence, held on and cried. 

I cried for all those who had their lives cut short, here and at the other locations.  I cried for the families who had lost their loved ones.  I cried for the heroes who gave their lives to get people to safety – they knew their outcome, yet continued on.  I cried for the souls of the terrorists who will burn in hell forever. 

Tomorrow…September 11, 2009…I’ll never forget.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Man Eater on the Loose

Early Sunday morning I woke, just after the sun rise, to hit the road running.  Whichever direction I plan to go I walk for about 2/10 of a mile before I start really moving.  I decided to go North, of course, it’s up hill.  I passed my neighbor’s house…all cute and tidy.  The woman of the home has years of experience in gardening…not just vegetables, but flowers.  Everything is strategically placed and perfect.  The sunflowers are tied to the North side of the house, facing East, beaming with vibrant colors.  The lavender is spilling out over the side of the road with it’s fragrant flowers reaching towards the top rung of their fence.  A new addition just this year is a fairly large garden with a few beautiful tomato plants.  They look nothing like mine…they are just perfect; round, ripe red fruit with it’s plants tied neatly to a wooden support.  I always have this urge to hop the fence and pull a few tomatoes, but reality sets in.  I have about five tomato plants of my own.  I’m sure the tomatoes are just as good regardless of the appearance.

Nevertheless, I continue moving and notice a few tomatoes on the side of the road with large teeth marks; definitely not human teeth marks.  Still walking, I turn my head and look over my shoulder…as if I’m going to see a werewolf.  Nothing.  I look front again.  There’s a rustle in the shrubs; I hear something coming.  And out of nowhere this animal jumps out of mid-air and tackles me to the ground.

Naaah, that was just my overactive imagination.  Nothing jumped out at me…I just walked a little further and started my jog, only to return home 3 1/2 miles later without incident.  B-O-R-I-N-G.  Sorry to spoil the excitement. 

I’ve always been a fan of horror movies.  But the good ones…Psycho, John Carpenter’s Halloween…good ones.  Yes, I’m a fan, but it scares the pants off of me.  I said it earlier, I have an overactive imagination; even after the film stops my mind is racing.  My fear of being stalked by Michael Myers definitely affects my morning runs, but maybe it’s a good thing: I try to avoid unlit streets before the sun comes up, I run in a zig zag pattern when I can, I run across the street from parked cars and I always carry a knife.  Just kidding about the knife.  But, really, would you be surprised?  I didn’t think so.

During most of my morning excursions I’m excited to see someone walking to get the paper, or letting the dog out.  I’m even more relieved when I see a fellow runner.  It gives me a feeling of comfort and safety…but then again I’m all alone.  Ch-ch-ch-Ha-ha-ha.  Yikes!  I run faster until I hit the driveway, my ‘home base’.  Then I spend five stressful minutes fighting with the garage door keypad.  I’m like Lori Strode struggling to find her keys to the house while Myers is just steps behind her.  I really need to have the hubby take a look at that.  It could save my life one day.

Monday, August 24, 2009


A couple of months back I signed up for the Philly LiveSTRONG Challenge 5K.  There were so many reasons as to why I signed up:

  1. I’ve been a fan of Lance Armstrong ever since I read his first autobiography. 
  2. I love to sign up for runs and I needed another 5K to set my sights on breaking my current PR.
  3. Being part of something huge would be a plus.

Little did I know, at that time, would number 3 eventually be my number 1. 

My inbox was flooded with emails from the organization with fundraising tips, info on upcoming Challenges, the latest news on it’s campaign to ‘go global’ with the cancer fight, etc.  I read almost every email and clicked on every link.  I was motivated to spread the word, raise awareness and raise money.

I teamed up with a fellow co-worker/friend and we focused on motivating our peers to join us in the fight.  We eventually became a team of nine with over $2000 in donations. 

My motivation had deep roots…  Earlier that year a superior of mine had lost her young daughter to cancer.  I witness the devastation that the disease had caused this innocent family.  As a Mom, it hurt me deeply.  Every night, for weeks, I cried as I put my beautiful daughter to bed.  I prayed that I’d never see my family go through such turmoil, that I’d never see my daughter go through physical pain…that I’d never live to the day in which I saw my daughter go before me.   Part of me felt guilty that I had a healthy family; the other part of me was downright angry that this was happening at all. 

I was determined to help out in some way…

A few weeks before the Challenge, that heartbroken mother visited me at work with a donation in hand.  After accepting the much appreciated donation, in memory of her daughter, she opened her palm and presented me with a white ribbon.  Written across the ribbon was her daughter’s name.  I immediately knew the history behind the ribbon – another co-worker had pinned it to her shirt before the Lehigh Valley 1/2 Marathon.  Names of those being remembered or honored were pinned to her shirt.  My mission was to carry her name on through the next race. 

I because just a tad annoying with my solicitations, but when you believe in something…you’ll push it so far.

This past Saturday morning I checked the donation list and had raised $600 for the Challenge.  I was thrilled to smash my original goal of $250.  After heading down to the LiveSTRONG Village to pick up my packed I headed home to pick up Ava and hit the Wal-Mart for yellow ribbon and pins. 

That night, with butterflies in my stomach, I wrote names on 12 ribbons; names of people who were remembered and honored by the donations I had collected.  I carefully pinned them to my shirt and eventually went to bed.

I was jolted out of bed just a few hours later by a buzzing alarm clock.  I got ready, woke up the rest of the fam and headed to Blue Bell.  It took some time for me to get centered – thousands of people, lots of signs to read, a dull headache and more butterflies.  It wasn’t until I kissed Marcus and Ava that I was able to take a decent breath and walk to the start line.

Starting the race took longer than expected.  After a 30 minute delay and waiting for all the cyclists to go before me, I said a short prayer and hit the pavement.  It wasn’t my motivation to post a good time that kept my legs moving…it was the fire in my belly – which I guess killed off the butterflies!  I was experiencing so much emotion during the run that I couldn’t stop moving…at one point I was running a 7:38 minute mile.  Maybe that doesn’t sound too fast to you, but I’m not even 5’2” with even shorter legs…THAT’S ROCKET SPEED FOR A SHORTY LIKE ME! 

Towards the end of the run I passed my team leader, but decided to hang back a little for us to cross the finish line together.  It was quite poetic…and cheesy, I guess…  We did this together; it only seemed right to finish together.  We crossed the line and I stopped my watch at 27:17…it happens to be a PR.  :)

Before I headed back to my family a familiar voice shouted my name and I immediately scanned the crowd.  An old co-worker behind the finish line was waving at me with a huge smile on her face.  I learned a few months ago that her young daughter has been fighting Leukemia.  A mutual friend had made a donation to me in her daughter’s honor.  I proudly walked over to her and displayed her daughter’s ribbon…she was so excited…even took a picture.  She didn’t care how sweaty or stinky I was…she reached over the fence and grabbed me for a hug.  It was great.  I was proud that day. 

I found my family and most of my team…we all felt so great, in so many ways. 

On the way home I reminded my husband that I also ran in memory of his mother.  I never had the opportunity to meet her, but she must have been an amazing woman.  After all she raised him.


***It’s been over 15 years since I lost my grandfather to lung cancer due to asbestos exposure, but his memory is fresh in my mind.  I still glance at the picture I have on my nightstand of us dancing at my aunt’s wedding.  I remember him asking the photographer for that shot.  It saddens me that he didn’t see me grow up, get married and see his beautiful great-granddaughter, but I know he’s watching.  I hate that my grandmother is alone because his life was cut short.  But the only thing I can do is remember…and keep moving forward. 



Sunday, August 16, 2009

To Podcast or Not To Podcast

By now, almost everyone knows that I have an iPhone.  It’s complicated to explain why I express so much excitement over this phone.  Those with one understand.  It’s not really a phone…it’s a personal assistant, a competitor and a friend.  Perhaps, I’ve gone a little overboard, but regardless…that’s me.

So when the iPOD first came out a few years ago I most definitely wanted one.  Sure the colors were awesome and yes, I was driving a Volkswagen Beetle, but aside from that screaming stereotype, I was tired of going to the gym with my one hundred year old Sony Walkman.  It wasn’t the embarrassment of being seeing in public with my beloved, bright yellow Walkman, rather it was so annoying to find a tape worthy of being played while I worked out.  All my music were on CD or some type of non-tape format.  :)   It was so time consuming to make a mixed tape and more of a headache to fast forward to the next song when I wasn’t in the mood for it. 

My hubby, boyfriend then, bought me a SanDisk mp3 player for my birthday in 2003.  It was AWESOME.  I was so excited to put whatever I wanted on it…AND THEN WALK PROUDLY INTO THE GYM.  That mp3 player sustained my music need until early this year.  I started running not too long after I had Ava in February 2008 and only naturally, when began to build my endurance I was running for longer periods of time.  Did I tell you that my mp3 player had only 512 storage?  Yeah.  This didn’t allow for enough flexibility to skip one song…over the course of an hour I’d be at the top of the play list again.

SO…I was in a position to possibly get an iPOD.  Why was I so hung up on this?  I don’t know.  I didn’t drive the Beetle anymore and I had been eating meat regularly for at least 4 years…what gives?  There were so many options…and they came in shiny colors.  Sold!

But, for whatever reason, the hubby was anti-iPOD and I would up doing research on all other devices outside Mac.  I found a great video mp3 player and purchased it…I wouldn’t call it ‘settling’ because I fell in love with it.  With 16G of storage it blew my other one out of the universe. 

Get to the point.


Hubs comes home one Monday evening with an iPhone.  I’ll spare you the silly details, but wow.  What an amazing little piece of technology.  It was like the start of a new relationship; we were attached at the hip, always looking at each other, sneaking away to be alone…trying to learn as much as we could about the other.  Glorious.  During the early stages of my journey I discovered that this phone is more than a phone…it’s an iPOD, too.  Hmmm, loop hole!  The next discovery down iPOD lane was the podcast.  I heard the term a million times; I knew what it was, but I had never experienced it for myself.

Well, knock me down…there are a boat load of podcasts out there.  Self help, cooking, fitness, science, religion…the list is endless…and can get quite bizarre.  I subscribed to a few podcasts and was blown away.  I get a weekly yoga podcast, so I can take a class whenever I want.  I also subscribed to a running podcast (the format is brilliant) which I enjoy thoroughly.

During the running podcast, the caster goes into some detail about the broadcasting of it.  It sounded detailed, but I think he’s just meticulous…so why couldn’t I do this?

Sometimes my mind gets ahead of me and I dream up these fantastic scenarios until reality slaps me in the face.  I have so much to talk about…I think the podcast would be a great venue for me…but…really?  What would I talk about?  How long would I talk?  How often would I broadcast?  Could I potentially offend people?  or even worse, break some sort of copyright laws?  So many questions.

Maybe I should just stick to the infrequent blogging?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

It was just out of the ordinary.

It’s been a while since I have written…it happens…I go through spurts.  Every now and again something would happen in life or an emotion would be sparked and I made a mental note to blog about it.  Well…mental notes don’t have reminders. 

My place of employment observed the Independence Day holiday on Friday, July 3rd.  For months now, Gus and I have been discussing making a trip to the outlets to spend some cash on much needed clothing.  Actually, the spending spree was part of a Christmas gift which I had never redeemed.  We continued to procrastinate; pushing the trip off due to the weather or waiting for a few more pounds to melt from our frames.  Since we had a free day off and the weather has been gorgeous we made the trip to the Philadelphia Premier Outlets.  The trip proved to be necessary and oddly enough I witnessed a side of Gus that rarely rears it’s head…unadulterated spending. 

Typically, for every holiday, we visit my parents, spend the day and have dinner.  It’s a few hours of mild socializing and gorging.  There’s always a lot of food for about 5 people, including appetizers.  During the warmer months, these holiday’s are finished off with overdone meat on the grill and delicious sides.  Mom has an obsession with recipe clipping and likes to make desserts that have never crossed her table.  Gus and I had no plans for the 4th, and, as usual, we went to Mom and Dad’s.  But, there was a twist.  Dad decided to make a special trip to Wegman’s because he was going to pick up virtually everything for dinner.  In my thirty-one years of life (plus a few months) I believe I can recall EVERY time my father went to the grocery store.  The reason is probably due to his busy schedule, but nevertheless, he doesn’t go.  I was worried; Mom said he was planning on picking up steaks, chicken AND ribs to make on the grill.  As I said above, every grill event is sealed with burgers catching on fire, bone dry chicken or overly well done steaks; AND NOW WE’RE ADDING RIBS TO THE MIX?!?!?!  Dad doesn’t make ribs; that’s Gus’ specialty.  The only way I’ve had ribs prepared at Mom and Dad’s is baked…yuppers, overly cooked, baked ribs.  As Mom is informing me of the peculiar situation my brother is asking in the background if Gus can bring his BBQ sauce ‘just in case’.  With all the facts pointing to ‘no’ we decide to accept the dinner invitation.

Dad’s excited to BBQ, but he has enlisted in Gus’ expertise to assist with the grilling.  I’m thrilled!  When the menagerie of meat was pulled from the grill and presented to us on the overcrowded dinner table I took a deep breath and adjusted the waistline of my shorts.  The food looked delicious and I knew it would taste even better. 

The chicken was juicy and tender, the ribs were finger lickin’ good and the steaks, bless your heart, were cooked to a perfect medium.  UNBELIEVABLE.  EXTRA ORDINARY.

Sunday was Karen & Danny’s daughter’s birthday party.  She was turning one the following day and they invited friends and family over to celebrate.  Looking back, I think this was a ‘normal’ day…(what ever that really means).

Fast forward to Tuesday which was the full moon.  I was off to teach my regular yogalatte class…I didn’t feel like teaching.  One of the participants suffers from a medical condition that I’m not familiar working with.  She has some difficulties speaking and I have trouble reading her facial expressions.  We had a moment in the last class where we were both trying to communicate to each other and it just didn’t work out too well.  Disastrous.  So, longer story short, I taught class and we both walked out with smiles on our faces.  I think we connected and all was good.  After Ava went to bed I grabbed my laptop and sat on the back deck to relax.  I’m obsessed with the news and while I was reading the local paper’s website I noticed that some sicko had murdered his girlfriend and toddler son and fled the area.  Did I mention that he was armed?  I’m mildly paranoid and the newsflash prompted me to grab my stuff, head inside and lock the door. 

As the extraordinary events were occurring around me I was fighting to get a major project into the implementation phase.  Hours of phone calls, days of missed lunches and two later-than-usual evenings began to take it’s toll on me.  Thursday slapped me in the face and I was not prepared to fix dinner.  Gus had a hockey game and it was another factor that killed the little motivation that I had.  But, eureka, I call up Karen to suggest dinner.  Kids eat free on Thursday nights at Perkins…she and I respectively piled our kids in the car and met in less than 30 minutes. 

We’re not even there 10 minutes and some lady from the back of the restaurant sprints to the front counter yelling, ‘Call 911!  Call 911!’  A man trailed behind her holding a baby; he flipped the kid upside down and started smacking him on the back.  A few patrons and I go over to the family to help out.  Oddly enough, the baby is crying, but the mother is sticking her fingers in his mouth.  So, if you’re not familiar with basic infant choking protocol you don’t sweep the back of the throat with your finger AND…if the child can cry they’re NOT choking.  The mother is flipping out wondering why the child’s eyes are tearing and glassy…it’s absolute chaos in the lobby of Perkins…the hostess is on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, and since it’s kids night, a life size Elmo is walking around trying to amuse the uneasy kids.  Weird.

After the commotion settled down I returned to my seat and tried to pull myself together to look at the menu.  Karen and I both order the same exact thing, Eggs Benedict with hash browns and fruit, iced teas and meals for the girls to share.  Considering all the distractions we focus on having a good time and eventually, it came naturally. 

A relaxing dinner would be followed by a relaxing evening…or would it be?

In typical fashion Karen and I head up to the register with our girls and tell the woman to split the total between the two cards.  Easy request?  Well, not really.  I pay my half, but then Karen was charged extra and as the woman and Karen tried to figure it out, Ava needed to get down and run around the lobby with her arms in the air, giggling.  She refused to let me pick her up and just became so disobedient, which is out of character.  We HAD to leave. 

Karen told me to leave and I was all too eager to get out of there.  After wrestling Ava into her car seat we headed home for a bottle and bedtime.  Thirty minutes later Karen called me to say that she just got home.  Guess it took a long time to get the bill straightened out.  Ha!

So, needless to say, the past few days have been just out of the ordinary.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring…

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Maybe it’s just me?

Last night, while I was half-heartedly enjoying my green tea, I finished Bart Yasso’s book “My Life on the Run”.  It was late and I was exhausted so it took a little while to push through the last few pages, but I was successful in closing the book for the last time. 

It was a cool thing to read recounts of past events from someone who grew up in the Lehigh Valley.  Bart mentioned places that I’ve been and races I’ve participated in.  I felt like we had a connection.  He often mentioned the camaraderie among runners…we’re like a breed of people.  We stick together.  Really? 

I started running regularly back in September of 2008.  So many reasons pushed me to buy my first ‘real’ pair of running sneakers.  Maybe it was because I had already registered for the Emmaus Halloween Parade 5K.  I was overwhelmed with nervousness and excitement that day.  In one breath I couldn’t wait to start and in another I was wishing that it was already over. 

I didn’t have a running partner or even a friend that had signed up for the race.  Gus dropped me off at the starting line and he’d meet me at the finish.  I didn’t know what to expect from the people and the race itself.  To add insult to injury I was dressed as a bumble bee…well, it was a Halloween parade race! 

I wasn’t really forced to make eye contact with too many people and since it was dark out I couldn’t really see anyone anyway.  I happened to bump into a woman who had taken a few of my yoga classes.  We chatted for a few and that was it.  No one else said hello or tried to strike up a conversation with me.  Everyone appeared to be in their own little worlds. 

Now, I had heard of this running social circle or supposed ‘camaraderie’ that I mentioned above.  Perhaps I wasn’t seeing it because I was a bundle of nerves. 

Perhaps it was something else.

Not too many people would hit the road in late fall through winter around my regular routes, so I didn’t have the opportunity to throw up a friendly wave or nod, but I was almost craving the moment.  The next big race I would run was the Super Bowl 10K.  I was again nervous because I had never run that far before AND again, I still didn’t have a running partner and I didn’t know of any people who signed up to race. 

At the starting line people were in their own little worlds; some drinking coffee, others stretching by themselves; some were hanging around with their families, others with their friends.  A few of us were loaners…just walking back and forth waiting for the start of the race.  No one said hello or even tried to strike up a conversation. 

At a few points during the race I actually tried to lighten up the mood by breaking the ice with some people keeping pace with me (or me with them).  “Whew, this hill sucks!”  Yeah, no response.  Nada, nothing.  Hell, I thought it was funny. 

So I finish that race.  No new friends.

Insert a few more races with the same experiences.  Nothing.

The weather, as always, started to turn in mid-April and I ran the Lehigh Parkway a few times.  This was an entirely different experience.  For the most part I exchanged a greeting or some friendly gesture with every person that I encountered.  There were even a few people who would make a little small talk and then go on their merry way.  It was a refreshing change to what I had experienced; however, I wasn’t satisfied.  A lot of seasoned runners hit the Parkway and I’m convinced that the people I saw there were some of the same people I saw at the starting lines of those mentioned races.  WHY CAN’T THE ATTITUDE CARRY ON TO THE RACE?  Maybe they’re as nervous as I?  Maybe not talking, or being stoned faced is their way of focusing?  Who knows?

May 3rd was the LV 1/2 Marathon.  For the most part I wasn’t paying attention to anyone around me because I was focused on myself.  I was worried about everything…was I dressed appropriately?  did I have enough to eat?  did I eat too much?  what if I have to pee?  will I finish?  To boot, there were thousands of people. 

I made small talk with someone in the port-a-potty line and actually found an old friend on the other side of that line.  We chatted for a few minutes and then parted ways.  I took my place at the start and just hung out waiting for the race to start.  So many people surrounded me, but other rude people were still trying to squeeze in.  It got very tight that I bumped into the guy next to me.  I apologized and he accepted with a nervous smile.  I came to find out, through conversation (!), that this was his first 1/2 and he was anxious to get going. 

Bart Yasso’s stories were/are inspiring.  He’s done so much in his life and has met so many interesting people.  He owes it all to running; it’s a common bond among that group and it’s a strong bond.  So, if runners are a strong group and there’s this camaraderie I keep mentioning why…why was there a runner sidelined in the Parkway, during the 1/2 marathon, with a knee injury?v Why were people running past her, not even looking in her direction?  Why was I, a ‘newbie’ to this group, the only one who stopped to see if she was okay?  Why?

People afraid to stop?  Focusing on that PR?  Disgusting.

So, today, during my 5 mile run in the Outer Banks I asked myself these questions. 

Maybe there are a lot of nervous people out there…maybe I have been surrounded by newbies at each race and they’re wondering why I’m so stuck up.  Maybe people did ask that woman if she was okay, but those people weren’t any where in my little pack of 15.  Maybe I just need to be a little more positive.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fajita Indigestion

On vacation in the Outer Banks this week…we arrived Saturday afternoon after about a nine hour drive.  Ava was just wonderful.  Gus, being the always prepared Eagle Scout, packed a variety of toys to keep her occupied and I, being the prepared mom, packed a few different types of snacks to keep her stomach occupied. 

We left at about 6:30 am and by 8-ish I started to feed Ava some vanilla yogurt while she shoveled puffed cereal into her mouth between spoonfuls.  I over packed that particular snack bag with cereal, ya know, just to be on the safe side.  I rolled down the edges of the bag and left it with Ava as I hopped back over to my seat in the front. 

Every so often I heard a crunch.  I would turn around each time to see that little girl munching on cereal with a smile on her face as she gazed out the window.  It appeared as if that bag was never ending.  There was a constant supply of cereal!

Not too long after we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel we made a stop at Wendy’s.  Now, we’ve eaten at this Wendy’s before…it’s dirty, the service sucks and there’s always something messed up with my order.  Guess what?  It’s still the same.  Come to think of it…EVERY Wendy’s I’ve eaten at has been the same…dirty, crappy service and wrong orders.  I guess they’re consistent, right?

I opened Ava’s car door and noticed a small pile of cereal in between her legs.  As I picked her up, Gus was laughing from the other side of the car; there was a considerable amount of cereal stuck to the back of her pants.  I brushed her off and brought her around to the other side of the car so I could change her diaper.  I took off her pants and found another handful or so of cereal up one of the legs.  Amazing…AND there was still cereal left in the bag!

We’ve been having a good time since our arrival.  It’s challenging to keep Ava occupied and amused in foreign territory.  Putting her down for naps and bed time is tough.  I know that I’m not completely comfortable sleeping in a strange place. 

So, as I sit in an empty dining room, smelling the dishwasher detergent and burping up the fajitas we had for dinner I think about everything that we’ve done already and what we have planned for tomorrow. 

I take a breath and decide I’m just going to make some tea and enjoy that.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

In the Moment

We all, at multiple times in our lives, marvel at the speed with which time flies.  We also remark to others about this speed:

“Enjoy every moment.”

“It sure goes fast.”

“I remember that as if it was yesterday.”

So, we look back at those situations and take the advice of others and try to enjoy each moment.  But, we’re distracted and always looking towards something in the future.  Now, as that ‘something’ is happening perhaps we’re enjoying that moment, but we could also be looking towards something else. 

A large group of friends and my immediate family (Gus and Ava) are heading to the Outer Banks this Saturday.  We all need a vacation and some time away from the every day.  For the most part we are all looking forward to this vacation.  It wasn’t until early this morning that I focused on the present and put aside my thoughts on this Saturday. 

Around 3:30 am I got out of bed and hit the bathroom; haven’t done that since I was pregnant, but as the saying goes, shit happens.  Just as I snuggled back into bed Ava started screaming out of the silence and I rushed to her room.  Perhaps her teeth were bothering her, or something startled her…regardless of what it was I couldn’t calm her down with the usual back rub.  Against all the recommendations of any baby book I picked her up and sat in the rocking chair.  Ava was nestled close on my chest and I gently rocked the chair back and forth. 

I became a little frustrated that it was now close to 4 am, I should have been sleeping and waking at 5:30 am to hit the road running.  Within minutes I was disappointed in my thinking.  I instantly fell in love with that moment.  I won’t always be able to comfort my child, snug in my arms.  She won’t always want me to comfort her.  And most certainly I won’t always know when she’s crying for help.  Instead of feeling sad about what the future would or would not bring I was so happy that I had this personal moment with Ava.  I wanted time to stop…or just go a little slower. 

I actually felt liberated to be in the moment.  

Eventually Ava returned to her crib and I to my bed.  I did wake up early to go running and went about my day.  I picked up Ava after work and headed home.  While on I-78 I was again overcome with ‘the moment’.  I glanced back at my little girl and saw her smile as the breeze blew threw her hair and over her bare, wiggling toes.  She was living in the moment and so was I. 

Maybe I have a greater awareness, maybe I drink too much green tea.  Regardless of my change in focus it’s a good thing and I hope it can be maintained.

Monday, May 18, 2009

In a fog

Over the weekend a friend named John came over to till my garden.  Gus and I decided on doubling the size based on all the plants that I started from seed.  His view point was that the larger the garden the less grass he’d be responsible to cut.  I was grateful for John’s help and so excited to get started on the season.

Sunday afternoon rolled around and while Ava was napping I got in the dirt and planted everything I could.  Any time I walked past a window I couldn’t help but sneak a peek at my garden.

Before I knew it Monday slapped me in the face.  I slept in, no running today, and make a pretty kick ass pot of coffee.  Seriously, folks…it’s some type of European blend.  It was blacker than potting soil!  I thought that this cup of joe would kick-start my day, but I was sorely mistaken.  My attempt to get the little girl out the door proved to be a taxing task…I ran out and back into the house three times.  I forgot her bed sheet, then I realized that I didn’t have ‘work appropriate’ shoes on.  Then something else forced me back inside.  Ugh.  It took me about 10 minutes to leave the garage. 

Not too long after getting to work I was inundated with phone calls from various peers sharing the news, as it happened, of the people who were leaving the department against their preferences.  From that point forward, if I hadn’t already lost focus on the day, my focus was completely gone.  I trudged through the rest of the morning, motivated only by the fact that I am going away next week and I have a lot of tasks to get in order.  I decided to hit the gym over lunch to relieve some nervous energy and refocus my mind.

The objective sounded easily attainable, but it proved to be out of reach.  I don’t remember walking over to the gym, nor do I  even remember getting changed.  I wasn’t prepared to run, so I hopped on an elliptical.  My MP3 player blasted tunes in my ears, but I don’t remember hearing anything; there were large screen tv’s in front of my line of sight, but I can’t tell you what I watched.  I was in a complete fog; absolutely affected by the events of the morning. 

I think that I broke a sweat and I think that I did enough stretching, but it didn’t rejuvenate me as I had hoped.  I shuffled to the local pizza shop to pick up my salad and headed back to my cube.

The rest of the day was a blur.  Before I knew it the clock said 4 and I was wrapping up for the day.  I was craving a drink, but I don’t have the stomach for alcohol anymore, so that was out of the question.   I blasted some music on my way to pick up Ava, but I didn’t even hear the words.

Maybe tomorrow will be a different day…perhaps I’ll regain my focus.  I’ll hit the road in the morning for a few miles of a run.  Hopefully that will clear my head.

It’s going to be cold tomorrow morning…I’ll have to break out the gloves and hat.  Did I mention that there’s a frost advisory for tonight?  I had to cover all my newly planted fruits and vegetables; I hope they survive the night.  They’re probably confused, too…in a fog.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Conquering the Half

I woke up early Sunday morning anticipating the upcoming 1/2 marathon start time of 8:10 am. I was up probably around 5:30 am...wanted to choke down some food and get myself in order.

The night before I had gathered most of my race essentials and laid them out on the kitchen table. I was planning to run with my MP3 player and I wanted to create a 'special' play list, so I didn't have to fuss with it during the actual race. I have a new MP3 player and it uses Rhapsody, so I installed the software on my crazy slow and old laptop...for the love of Nancy I couldn't get all the songs I wanted in the play list, so I went to bed pretty pissed off at everything.

Back to Sunday morning...I was up and full of nervous energy. I barely ate anything, but finished my huge mug of white tea w/ tangerine. DELICIOUS! I had to refrain from drinking too much...didn't want to literally run to every bathroom stop!

I packed my Target reusable bag with the 'essentials' and left the house 15 minutes earlier that I had planned...nervous energy. I put in a Motley Crue CD and blasted it all the way to the high school. It was so loud that at one point in my drive I was in 2nd gear going 40 mph...didn't even hear the engine screaming.

Being by myself was a bit of a stresser. I hate looking lost and clueless, so I pretended I knew exactly where I was going and started walking from my parking spot to the mob of people at the high school. Thankfully, I ran into one of the clinical administrators at the hospital and we both walked to the school talking the entire way. I was slowly expending that nervous energy.

We parted ways and I again felt helpless. PEOPLE WERE EVERYWHERE...spilling out of the high school, lined up the street waiting for a port-a-potty, and others just wandering aimlessly through the streets. I finally got some information about the bag check, but that was located in the stadium (where the finish line was), past my car. So, instead, I walked back down the hill to my car and finished preparing myself there. At the time it was in the mid-50's and overcast. I was okay in my short sleeved shirt and running skort. I put my hat on to shield me from the anticipated rain and headed back up the hill to the starting line. With 30 minutes to go I decided to join the port-a-potty wait line. It was a little gross that there was NO hand sanitizer in the john or anywhere around the john. Crap, something I didn't prepare for!

The half marathoners were separated into three groups, designated by colors, based on their estimated finish time. In addition to these corrals, there were also pace groups. I had signed up for the 2:30 pace group. Yes, that's 2 hours and 30 minutes. I found my blue corral and just waited...and waited...and waited with the 2:10 pace group. Finally, at 8:10 am sharp we were told to take our marks and not long after that the mass of thousands of people started to move forward down Linden Street...just like cattle running down the ranch. When I hit the top of the hill in front of the high school I could see all the people moving like a giant wave. What an amazing sight!

I was pumped up listening to the runners pound their soles on the pavement, while the surrounding spectators shouted and rang their cowbells ("gotta have more cowbell)! I focused on pacing myself down Linden Street towards Ott. I didn't want to race out of the gate and bonk too early in the game; I needed to focus on a steady, consistent pace that would carry me to the finish line.

At mile 1 we were just heading through Cedar Beach when a few sprinkles bounced off the brim of my hat. No worries, though, I had the hat and I had experience running in the rain. We crossed over Hamilton Street and headed up Yocco's Drive onto St. Elmo Street. There are some beautiful houses on St. Elmo so I was able to check 'em out better on foot than from my car. The sprinkles had graduated to a steady shower and I was suddenly feeling constricted by my hat. Not too soon after, the hat came off and it felt as if my head could breathe.

About 1/4 of the way into mile 2 we hit Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. It's practically a straight shoot so I was able to get into a steady rhythm. Somewhere at the end of the road was a turn around because not too long after I hit mile 3 I saw the 'headliners' running back. Before I knew it, there were masses of people running on both sides of the street...some heading east and some heading west. My attention immediately shifted to finding people that I knew heading west. I yelled at some people and they yelled back at me. It definitely pumped me up and it took my mind off of running.

After the water station was the turn around and then I hit mile 5. My left knee suddenly felt like it was going to explode. After mentally assessing the situation for about five minutes, I discovered that it wasn't my joint, but the muscle behind my knee. It was SO tight, but I kept on moving. I was excited to hit the parkway and run on some gravel to give my legs a bit of a break.

About 1/4 left of mile 6 and we hit the parkway. It was just beautiful. I turned off my MP3 player (which rocked me) and let the headphones rest around my neck. I listed to the sound of the runners hitting the trail, the steady shower of rain in the creek, coupled with the bubbling of the creek. The birds were chirping all around us and the rain was just pouring off my face. It was a picturesque moment...a time of reflection and meditation. Aside from all the sounds around me, it was oddly quiet. Because there were no spectators on the trail the 'hype' of the race died down, a lot, and it was as if I was on a solo run...with a lot of other people. After a while I felt like quitting; the parkway was such a mental was steeper than the highest hill, the biggest mountain. At that point I reigned my thoughts back in and reflected upon the reasons behind my running the race. I had something to prove to myself, but that something is still unknown.
There were other factors that pushed me to this day:
Family who have since left this Earth
Friends and family who have survived cancer and other terminal diseases/conditions
Jahna Foland, a young, beautiful and strong 26 year old woman, who lost her battle with cancer just last month
My Gus
My Ava

Well, no matter...I made it. About 1/4 left of mile 8 and I rounded a corner (still in the parkway) filled with spectators and I proceeded to run through the covered bridge. I've run through that bridge before and expected the uneven wooden boards, but I have no doubt that some poor unsuspecting runner tripped.  Just before the end of the covered bridge there were three string players playing the most beautiful music. It reverberated through the bridge and filled my heart; my entire body relaxed and I was able to continue on. Aside from the drummers who kicked us off at the start of the race, the strings were the best musical act along the route.

Mile 10 was monumental for me. It was double-digits and the race was almost over. I HAD to get out of the parkway and about 3/4 of a mile I was outta there. As I was nearing the end of the parkway I noticed that the 2:30 pace group was just coming up on my heels and eventually, they passed me. I needed to get a little more pumped up, so I put the headphones back on and cranked up the music. How interesting that a Motley Crue song was the next selection. Just wonderful. It gave me an extra kick and I picked up my pace a little...just a little. :) Once again people were on the streets cheering us on...I got a little insane and started yelling at the volunteers stationed at one of the road blocks. I wanted more noise, more yelling, more encouragement. On volunteer, caught off guard by my peppy nature this late in the race, got excited, started jumping up and down and cheering me on.  "You're almost there!"

Just before hitting mile 12 I came down the hill off of St. Elmo Street and could see the stadium...I could HEAR the drummers and I could HEAR the cowbells, air horns and crowd screaming...cheering. I started to get a little emotional. I wanted to see my family at the finish line. I just wanted to hug Gus and kiss Ava. I wanted to see their faces shining with pride as I crossed that finish line. That's all I wanted. But, I had to get through this last bit of road. I ran down Yocco Drive, which was a challenge. Not because of the terrain or my screaming knee, but because I could smell the french fry fryers and the hot dogs coming from Yocco's. I was HUNGRY. What a tease. I then crossed over Hamilton and hit mile 12 as I headed back into Cedar Beach.

God bless those spectators standing in the rain...shouting at people they didn't even know. Showing support and getting me to move my legs. Since I could no longer see into the stadium the sounds were a little muffled so it sounded farther away.  It was a little discouraging, but I knew the end was close. As I rounded the corner between the tennis and the basketball courts there was a woman holding up a "PEDICURES" sign with an arrow pointing to the finish. It put a smile on my face and encouraged me to keep going. It also reminded me that I had three stones in each shoe from running the the parkway and that I was going to be nursing a huge blister on the inside of my right foot.

Right before hitting mile 13 there was this crappy little hill that I had to run up to get back to Linden Street. It was uneven, cracked pavement which narrowed at the top and curved a little to the right. It was a potential bottleneck and a definite pitfall, but I made it. The spectators were lined up on the left side of Linden all the way to the stadium. The drummers that sent us on our way at the start were awaiting our arrival to the stadium with rhythmic beats. And again, another crappy little hill to run up and I would be on the stadium track. At this point I was scanning the crowd for my family. I hit the track and start running the loop. It was so neat to run in the stadium with all these people cheering. There was loud music playing...I believe that I heard 'Celebrate' by Kool and the Gang. I HATE that song, but I didn't care. I was celebrating!

I rounded the corner on the track and about 10 seconds later I saw Karen, Marcus and Ava. I started to was a wonderful moment. They were proud and so was I. I crossed that finish line at 2:31:06, with my pace group. I grabbed my medal, the foil wrap (to stay warm) and immediately sought out my cheering section.
Gus and Ava were walking towards me and I towards them. I immediately embraced them both and started sobbing. I was in so much pain, but felt like a million bucks. As I pulled away, Gus looked down at his shirt and said, "You run a 1/2 marathon in the rain and you wear mascara?!" There was a huge mascara smudge on his shirt. :) Of course I'm not going to leave home without a little mascara! Karen and I hugged...she said that she was so proud of me. And that I was nuts!
We took a few photos and headed to the car.

Walking, breathing, sitting...pretty much anything has been a bit of a challenge since yesterday, but it was worth it. I think of the people who aren't fortunate enough to move like I do or breathe like I do and it all seems so much easier. I'm nursing my left knee and trying to be gentle with the inside of my right foot. .
No matter what I'm faced with, I wouldn't change anything for the world.
And I'm definitely going to do it again.

This week I'll rest and allow my body to recover.
Next's up at dawn to hit the pavement again.