Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The tool tip, when hovering over Windows Live Writer, says ‘My Blog’. Yup, it IS my blog. Lately, it hasn’t felt like my blog. It’s been an almost non-existent place. My blog is where I tell my stories, share my experiences or hop on an occasional soap box. I usually approach ‘My Blog’ with ideas in mind, words at my fingertips. My last post was back in September, the end of September. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a long time to go without an update. Maybe taking a short, unplanned, hiatus would go unnoticed by the two people that actually read this crap. Today, I was again reminded by one of those two people that I’m due for a post.
The typical adult excuse is that ‘life just got in the way’. Around the time of my last post I discovered that I was pregnant with my second child. I would have loved to write, but I spent half my time at work and the other half sleeping on the couch! I wanted to share my early pregnancy developments, but it was too early in the game. I felt compelled to tell the world that I have continued to run, not with the frequency or intensity as before, and I will maintain this as long as it feels good and I progress without complications. I want to brag about the fact that I haven’t fallen victim to the Whopper, Jr. (as I had during my first), but I find comfort in pepperoncini peppers. Life continued to move as Thanksgiving passed and the holiday season slapped me in the face.
And today, December 28th, a few days shy of a new year and exactly three months later, I opened my laptop and tried to write…about absolutely nothing. I’d like to say that I will resolve to post something at least twice a month, but life could get in the way again.
Monday, September 27, 2010
August 1, 2003
Just another day.
Marcus and I had been dating each other roughly two years. It started out as a tumultuous relationship, after all I was trying to shake an ex-boyfriend. Moving pretty much took care of that one, so there we were, two cuties in love.
After work we drove to Paolo’s Italian Restaurant in Northampton for a relaxing dinner. As usual, on a weekend, the wait was approximately an hour, so we passed the time perusing the useless items and tacky lawn ornaments in the dollar store next to the restaurant.
We were seated at a cozy table that bridged the way between the front room and the main dining area. Our server, who has worked there for years, (and notably an unpleasant woman) took our order right away. We got our usual meals, after all this was ‘Our Place’. Marcus ordered the Chicken Parm and I got the Italian clam sauce. It’s just too good – a huge bowl overflowing with linguini swimming in a garlicky white clam sauce. Always too much for the average person to eat, my dish was packed up to be saved for the next day’s lunch.
What a lovely evening. Wait. What is this? Oh no.
There was a storm approaching…a storm, I tell ya. A storm that would demolish everything in it’s path. There was no shelter; there was no hope. Realizing this my body was instantly covered in goose bumps. I HAD to make a pit stop. Thankfully, Marcus still had his apartment in Northampton and I politely requested that we head there first. “You can’t wait?” he questioned. “Um, no,” I responded. I believe he asked me if I was serious, but I couldn’t hear the question. I was going deaf; the storm started to consume my body. I was fearful that walking would be impossible.
We made it to the parking lot in about five minutes flat. I definitely took to the stairs two, maybe three, at a time and anxiously awaited the opening of the apartment door. I rushed through the first floor, up the short stairs and into the bathroom. I relaxed in my deafness. Until it was interrupted by a muffled voice, “You almost done?” Was he kidding? Jeez! So pushy.
After the thirty minute diversion we headed back to Allentown – back to my house. We parked across the street, but directly across from my home. I looked over and noticed flickering lights coming from the living room. It didn’t subside; it was constant. Shit, my house was on fire.
I ran out of the car, screaming mad, and quickly pulled the keys from my purse. I popped the lock and threw open the door. My brain couldn’t comprehend what was occurring. I slowly panned the room with my eyes to digest the scene. There must have been hundreds of flickering tea lights in my living room – on the mantle, on the table, on the floor. Rose petals everywhere, roses on the table, champagne chilling. I slowly turned to my left to see Marcus on one knee, reaching for my hand with a ring in the other.
It took about ten minutes for me to pull myself together. Of course, I said yes and called my parents. Dad knew this day was coming; Mom had no clue – that was their problem. After the craziness died down and the engagement settled in my mind I asked how this was all possible. Who the hell did this?
Apparently, a great friend of ours received a text towards the end of our meal. She and her husband started lighting the candles when we left Paolo’s. My unplanned pit stop forced them to blow out all the candles and wait for the next queue. Once we got in the car to head to my place, the candle lighting commenced. It was a challenge for the couple, considering it was about 80 degrees and I didn’t have air conditioner. They needed to close all the windows to ensure that no breeze would damper the flames. As I entered the house, they slipped out the back door.
So, the day of my engagement goes down in history as a romantic event, complicated by Mother Nature. I wouldn’t have had it any other way - the Italian clam sauce is SO good!
This past weekend was jammed with activities which included the celebration of my fifth wedding anniversary. Perhaps, I’ll start there.
We celebrated the evening with dinner at Emeril’s Chop House. To summarize the experience in one word: SUPERB. But the meal wasn’t as memorable as the day we exchanged vows. Even the few months leading up to ‘the day’ are stamped in my mind. I still remember the day we got engaged…that’s a great story for another time.
To keep this post somewhat brief I’ll summarize as best I can:
1). Selecting my maid-of-honor was thought provoking. I still believe that Christine was the perfect choice. Throughout college she was my rock, saving me from terrible relationships (if that’s what we call them) and putting my head on straight – a few times.
2). The plans quickly progressed from a low-budget affair to an all out elegant bash.
3). I found the perfect dress; The perfect dress that my mother hated.
4). We mailed the perfect invitations; The perfect invitations that my mother hated.
5). I found the perfect shoes; the perfect (FLAT) shoes that my mother AND Andrea hated.
6). I had the perfect wedding party; the perfect party that hated each other.
7). We selected the perfect location for our ceremony. Relatives didn’t understand why it wasn’t a Catholic church.
8). Although I was feverishly working out I mysteriously gained twenty-five pounds in about three months time. Turns out, I was very stressed.
9). Stress levels slowly became manageable with an obscene cigarette habit.
10). I successfully micromanaged my wedding, down to checklists for the ‘key players’ on THE DAY. (Let me know if you need a template for your event).
11). Andrea and company threw a hell of a rehearsal dinner. It’s amazing how a non-descript church common room was transformed into our own little paradise.
12). I received my late mother-in-law’s refurbished pearls from my soon-to-be husband along with a beautiful letter from him, that I read before I went to bed. Tears of joy soaked my pillow.
13). A strange calm fell over me as I woke on September 24, 2005. Everyone around me was moving at warped speed – bunch of crazies.
14). Marcus spent $100 on a bullshit breakfast tray from Panera. I’ll never hear the end of that one.
15). Andrea and Karen helped me put my dress on. When it was discovered that the skirt was two inches too big, I laughed. They freaked out.
16). My Mom, bro Matt, Matt’s then lady friend and my beautiful girls got out of the limo bus while I stayed behind with my Dad. It was a moment to cherish, but the silly driver, a nervous Nelly, wouldn’t stop talking to us!
17). I started to shake…the flutes kicked off Pachelbel’s Cannon in D…the girls started the procession…I took a huge breath, but choked on it. Squeezing my Dad’s hand as he held me up, we walked down the aisle. I sobbed like a baby. And Marcus shed a tear.
18). My photographer likes to talk. A lot. All the time. But, damn, he takes great pictures.
19). We visited my late mother-in-law’s grave site to lay yellow roses, her favorite. Wished I could have met her.
20). The Hotel Bethlehem sure knows how to throw a party. And my Dad’s frat brothers sure know how to have a good old Italian time.
21). Our DJ took credit for the dinner CD we created.
22). My Mom drank and danced; Karen drank and argued with the front desk on the whereabouts of her luggage (which my brother forgot to pack in his car) and an estranged friend sobbed on my shoulder.
23). My kick-ass college friends hung out on the front steps of the hotel waiting for the pizza delivery guy while making friends with all the Celtic Fest riff-raffs.
24). I pulled seventy-five pins out of my hair after deconstructing my twenty-five pound Swarovski crystal accented dress.
25). It took about seven days for the feeling to return in my toes. Damn, gorgeous shoes!
26). Next time, I’ll have a destination wedding, but keep the groom.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Ava’s a huge fan of pancakes. She’s so much a fan of pancakes that I make them every weekend. I try to stay away from the boxed mix, so I seek out a new pancake recipe almost every time. I grew up eating different types of pancakes: whole wheat, buckwheat and palačinka. We didn’t have butter in the house; we had margarine and it never made an appearance on our table, except if we had corn on the cob. Topping pancakes off with a pat (or two) of butter was unheard of. Syrup was the only topping.
Whole wheat and buckwheat pancakes appear to be a little more dense and they’ll suck up a quarter cup of syrup like a kitchen sponge. I like to think that these pancakes are the healthier option, but I’m only kidding myself. Pancakes, no matter what type of flour used, are pan fried flour. How can something so simple be so tasty?
Palačinka is a thin type of pancake, typically made with more eggs than the traditional ‘flap jack’. My Mom, staying true to her father’s Croatian roots, made this breakfast treat more often than the whole wheat or buckwheat pancakes. They resemble a crepe, but weren’t filled with anything; a drizzle of syrup did just fine. Although Mom made them frequently, she always pulled out the recipe which was typed onto a large index card. When I first moved out of my childhood home she made me my own recipe – typed on the same sized index card. Yup, she has a typewriter…still.
I subconsciously knew I was going to make pancakes this past weekend. Due to my commitments, Saturday would be pancake day. I woke early, a few hours before the rest of the house, to log a few miles. The crisp air hit the exposed skin on my neck and ankles as I pulled my hat down over my ears. So, it is September. Maybe the hat (oh, and the gloves) are a little ridiculous, but that’s me! I proceeded on auto-pilot for the first two miles, but I caught a whiff of coffee as I passed a familiar house. I immediately shifted my thinking towards breakfast…pancakes in particular. Yum, pancakes.
I love the amoeba shaped cakes with crisp, buttery edges. They’re stacked upon each other like a stable game of breakfast Jenga. Pure maple syrup goodness slowly dripping off the round edge towards the plate below, creating an oil slick of liquid sugar. Delicious.
I hurried home, having put in four miles, and immediately brewed myself a cup of coffee (did I mention that we have a Kuerig)? In my haste I half-assed my stretching and skipped my pint glass of water. I needed pancakes! With my phone in hand and a cup of joe in the other, I started searching for pancake recipes. Since I recently replenished my King Arthur’s whole wheat flour I decided to peruse their website for recipes. Well, well, well…what do we have here? ‘Simply Perfect Pancakes’. Okay.
Like most pancake recipes, this one had minimal ingredients. I appreciated the use of sugar because I enjoy the sweeter pancakes. Sold on the recipe I proceeded with the preparation. Because I always have a need to be in control and take ownership of things, I modified the recipe to make it my own. I substituted milk with almond milk and swapped the oil with applesauce. Everyone at the morning’s table walked away with a smile on their face and a piece of my childhood in their bellies. Maybe I’ll send it to Mom; I think it’s index card worthy.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
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.
September 11, 2009…I’ll never forget.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Monday, September 6, 2010
Labor Day is nearly over – the unofficial end to Summer. The night air breeze comes through the open window with a slight chill, but my cup of hot chocolate keeps me warm. Today begins a new chapter in my life. I’m not sure what book this chapter resides, but it’s new.
The latest issue of Runner’s World offers a few wonderful pieces on trail running. I’ve always been intrigued by trail running. The articles motivated my interested to ditch the pavement and find a trail to get lost in. Allow me to clarify before I even continue with my story. TRAIL RUNNING IS NOT HITTING THE LEHIGH PARKWAY FOR A FEW MILES. Trail running, to me – a non-trail runner, is navigating rocky, sometimes steep, terrain, hopping over tree roots while ducking under branches, watching the sun peek through the tall forest and maybe spotting a deer or two. Trail running is not about PR’s (Personal Records) and Garmin watches; cool shoes and mileage. It’s about losing yourself in nature while being overly observant of your surroundings. Typically road runners, at some point, are on auto-pilot; sure, each run is different even if the route stays the same, but not a lot of focus is necessary. When running a trail (or sometimes walking) you need to be mindful of your foot placement and lurking animals.
So, this morning I was thinking about running a trail as I jogged up the hill past my house. I’m close to a few trails and thought about hitting them one day. Something came over me and I made a quick decision to ditch my current route and run through the park to the nearest trail. Exhilarated by my decision I nearly sprinted through the first few feet of the trail, quickly hopping through the overgrown brush. I took a mental moment and slowed my pace – didn’t want to break my teeth on a rock. I immediately passed a tree marked by a spray painted skull; I contemplated turning around, but continued on. I remembered pieces of the trail from my earlier years and was hopeful in it’s destination.
Ah, yes, here we are. I hopped over a dip in the trail towards the back yard of a familiar house, recently on the market. The exit was overgrown and littered with old children’s toys. I pulled some branches out of my path and skipped up the hill out of the woods. Back to the pavement I ran through the neighborhood, past my parent’s house and danced around my childhood. On the way back home I found another trail that led me to a misty field. The sun was rising up over the valley and cast light upon an inviting bench. I took off my hat (after all it was 49 degrees when I started my journey) and sat down.
Being the traditional road runner that I am, I got up and headed toward the road to find another close by trail. It’s a short trail that’s peppered with some rock scupltures, but no real navigation necessary. I exited on a familiar road and stopped by a driveway nearly barricaded with discarded furniture. There were actually some nice pieces, but I never could have run them home, so I trudged on. About a half mile from home I came upon a house with two stacks of books at the edge of the driveway. Again I stopped, as if discovering a yard sale in a remote location, and began to rummage through the piles. Most of the books were fitness related, both of interest to me and my brother. I found four that would satisfy our brains and carried on. I felt a little ridiculous running the half mile back home with two books in each arm. Maybe it’s not as ridiculous as running with a coffee table hoisted above my head.
The trail run did the trick – it cleared the junk out of my head. Making it back to the pavement and I picked up more junk. I guess you could say that I broke even?
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Close to noon on Wednesday, September 1st and the temperatures are in the mid-80’s with the sun blazing. The curling waves crash on the shore just beyond the waving, bright red ‘No Swimming’ flag. Hurricane Earl has already forced evacuations on the Southern most point of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. I’m not concerned about it; maybe I’ve reached a state of apathia (look it up).
This past Monday morning I woke early, on my own, to check out a free yoga class in the heart of Duck. I lightly loaded my back pack, secured my yoga mat and hit the pavement. The mile run, challenging with the extra, awkwardly placed weight, took me to the center of Duck which was marked with a large bulletin board detailing the local events and activities. I continued on the trail towards a small pavilion overlooking a large, grassy area when I was approached by three people asking where the class was being held. I wasn’t sure, but we were early. In my experience, most full time yoga instructors are historically late without concern. Within five minutes the grassy area began to fill with people. As if given some unspoken direction we laid our mats or towels on the damp landscape and waited.
As expected, five minutes late, a white SUV casually zipped through the gravel parking lot and stopped illegally, close to the pavilion. A tall, woman with sun-bleached hair walked on to the grass with her too long pants and platform flip flops. For a moment, she contemplated taking off her flops, but after sight of the wet grass, kept them on and approached the front of the group. Immediately, she began talking in a loud, yet calming voice. As she explained the type of class we’d be led through, I was overcome with a little disappointment. I didn’t want a gentle stretching class; I didn’t want to spend the majority of my time on the mat. I wanted a strenuous class with DEEP stretching. The angel of my mind intervened to damper the devil. I was on vacation, here to relax. I would not let the plans set forth by this beach bunny ruin the goal. I’m glad that I came to my senses.
About fifteen minutes in to the class I was relieved to spend time on the mat. The sun started to peek over the trees, warming my back; the glistening dew on each blade of grass had evaporated into the salty air - I was on vacation. Just a few minutes shy of the one hour mark we were guided into a seated position with our hands joined on the heart chakra. Blondie focused the group and asked us to think of one thing that we wanted to accomplish – a personal goal, perhaps. She advised us to think on a small scale. My mind went blank. I couldn’t think of anything that I wanted to accomplish; I’ve been blessed in my life and it was uplifting to have a moment to recognize that.
This morning I woke early, again without the assistance of my alarm, to change Ava’s diaper and head up to the common area for a light breakfast and a cup of coffee. There was a yoga class being held at 8:30 am in a loft about 1.2 miles North of our oceanfront house. I arrived, by vehicle, ten minutes early to check out the joint. I was ushered into the shop front by a young, native OBX-er and given vague instructions about payment and where to place my things. I followed her up a creaky set of stairs that led to a loft filled with half finished art work. I cozied up to the far right hand side of the room, right next to a silk sheet that hid bottles of used paint brushes.
A young couple arrived just as the class was about to begin. They laid out their mats, careful not to get too close to me, and our nervous instructor guided us to our backs. After an hour of asana, including a breakthrough in two poses, we were again in a reclining position resting in Savasana. I focused on nothing but my breath. I appeared to have assumed a state of apathia. Within five minutes I was fully seated with my hands in prayer. Namaste. I bowed my head, exchanged pleasantries with my company and headed out the door. Ready to face another day.
So, now, I sit in my room – Ava snoozing in the bed next to mine – slightly disappointed that this short time in paradise may come to a screeching halt with the possibility of a hurricane hit. I’ve fallen out of my stoic state and slipped into sadness. As I type these words I remember the times that recently passed; those that are fresh in my memory…sweet, beach kisses from my little girl, sunshine reflecting from my love’s compassionate eyes and belly laughs among friends. I’m trying to find some gratitude…after all, I’m just sitting on a tiny strip of land that can be gone in the blink of an eye.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Occasionally my memory fails me. But, the things I do remember…ah, the things I do remember…
Today, I thought about my A-2 girls.
Pictures. Twenty-one and the Hurricane. Tequila. Red paint. 19th Hole. Purple Horseshoes. The Fall Semester of Q. Erin’s Tree. Homecoming. Tommy’s baseball. Bob Fosse. Theater crazies. Towel the door. 13th Floor. Iguana. “I need a pledge.” 208. Sweathogs. Jungle Juice. Moccasins. Purple Haze. Clockwork. Newports. Bleeding ears. Take the edge off. Bagel sales. The tapestry of lost souls. Security George. Quick chicks with a transfer. $5 cabbies. Cubes. Playing anchor. Trees…lots of trees. Kaelber’s boots. Electric. Hameggandcheese, saltpepperketchup onacrossiant. Joy ride. Gazebo. Our crazy cleaning lady. Six pack stalkers. Ringworm kitties and AWOL hamsters. IROC Jay. Frank W. Schiermyer. Suicidal furniture. Rooftop July 4th. Jeremy’s. Off duty cops. Painting the BQE. The spirits of the monastery. International affairs. Jesse…where is this guy? Fake ID’s and paper bags. Speaking in tongues. Lighting matches. Trick. Fruity Pebbles. Pumpkins and Springsteen. My Fahrenheit 451. Harmonicas and boxed wine. Love and heart break. Lust and murder. Laughs and tears. Crown Palace. The Oval Office Sessions. Non-filtered Camels. Loren’s goldfish. Mattress sauna. Fluff and stuff. Vander-fill-in-the-blank. First Wives Club. “From coast to coast…” Scandalous. Stripping brunettes. Stat girl. Books and bracelets. All-nighters; hangovers. Shakespeare. Roaches. Everything but the kitchen sink. “ALLOTTAFAGINA!” Tea with a spot of Beasties. Twin towers.
Love. Loyalty. Sisterhood.
Tau Kappa Sigma Founder’s Day 2004
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
|David Williams and Me, January 2005|
My first Tuesday night class arrived with a small bundle of nerves, coupled with a dash of confidence. After all, I had been ‘practicing’ all these years. I signed the attendance sheet, paid the remaining balance and placed my shoes on a short bamboo shelf. There were no shoes permitted in the studio; it was just a matter of respect. I walked through a set of French doors and immediately felt at peace. The walls were painted a subtle, yet uplifting pale yellow and the faint smell of incense wafted up to the twenty-plus foot ceilings. I picked a spot close to the instructor’s mat and sat down. Waiting. Waiting. I tried to sit tall and have it look natural, but man, this really killed my back. Whew. Why did I have to be so early?!
The instructor walked into the room and I was mesmerized. She stood tall and slender with long, curly brunette locks. She wasn’t the stereotypical lanky, malnourished yogi Americans have come to know; she had amazing muscle definition. Her body was painted with tattoos: one on each ankle, one across her upper back and one covering her heart. They weren’t just symbols; they had a story.
After addressing some FAQ’s we started off with breathing. Ujjayi breathing is a continuous breathing pattern/technique that’s done throughout the Ashtanga Yoga practice. Whatever Ashtanga is. Once the group gets the hang of breathing we move on to some Sun Salutations. Ah, yes, something of familiarity. Only this time, it’s much worse.
As I later learned, there are two types of Sun Salutations in the Ashtanga practice: Sun Salutation A & Sun Salutation B. Both are similar, yet very different. We probably did three of each and I WAS dying. Ujjayi breathing was out the window, my mat was soaked with sweat and my shirt was practically over my head. What did I get myself into? We continued on with some standing poses, followed by seated and reclining poses. At the end of the hour session, we laid down on the mat. Ahhh. This was what I was waiting for – SAVASANA. Savasana is the final pose in a typical yoga practice. The participants lie back side down on their mats and just rest in stillness. This time is used to clear the mind and let the effects of the practice settle into the body. The point is to NOT fall asleep. After a ten minute Savasana (Sanskrit translation: corpse pose) we returned to a seated position, placed our hands together at the heart and bowed our heads. Namaste.
As the months went on, I ‘graduated’ from session classes to drop-ins. I made it a point to come to a class two times a week. I focused on learning more about Ashtanga, not just the actual practice but the lifestyle. I read books, articles, blogs…anything that fed my mind. The next natural step was to transform my learning into my every day. Meat was, again, removed from the daily plate and I practiced the physical poses on my own time, in addition to the classes I was taking. The opportunity to volunteer at the studio opened and I pounced on it. But, I needed more. The studio was offering a 40 hour teacher certification program in the upcoming months. Perfect. I signed up, wrote the check and anticipated my future.
The certification program gave me more information into the world of Ashtanga, specifically with regard to the poses. I learned more modifications, methods to get in (and out) of poses and I was instructed on safely assisting others (i.e. providing adjustments to others). For some reason, a person as outgoing as I, public speaking had always been a challenge. I became so confident in the poses that teaching came naturally to me. Sure, I had to work on my cues and visual details, but this would come with practice. I completed class and started teaching a beginner session almost immediately.
After a few months I realized that the honeymoon was over. I began to make some disturbing observations. Whether I was teaching a class or taking one I noticed some students pushing themselves, unnecessarily, towards an unsafe point. They talked about how far they could go in a pose, or how long they could hold their headstand. They pranced into the studio wearing the hottest clothing with their $80 ‘ego friendly’ mats in their multi-function yoga bags. At the end of class, we walked together, in the city’s darkness, to our cars and bid each other good evening. I popped the passenger side lock on my crappy ‘95 Ford Escort and piled my belongings on the seat. I closed the door and hurried to the driver side. I pulled out behind a BMW and left for home.
As time passed I became disappointed in my environment. Everyone was fake. They were missing the point. They weren’t being true to the practice. I, as an instructor and ‘follower’, needed to set an example, but I soon became ashamed of myself. I started eating meat, but didn’t share that with anyone. I stopped practicing daily, but I tried to not let that show. I backed off on my teaching and eventually stopped altogether. Then, just like that, I stopped coming around. I didn’t volunteer, I didn’t teach there and I certainly didn’t practice at home anymore. I was miserable, maybe even depressed. I believed in something that changed my life, but it turned out to be a fraud. Sure, a little dramatic, but I felt betrayed. My body tightened and I plumped up. I tried to move on. Because the pay was decent I continued to teach twice a week at two fitness facilities. I didn’t demonstrate many poses due to my flexibility insecurities and I didn’t feel comfortable adjusting anyone anymore.
About a year into my yoga funk I found myself in a spiritual conversation with my Father. He’s been a devout Catholic his entire life. He’s a churchgoer – typically attending the Saturday 5:30 pm service with envelope in hand. I had questioned my religious background (as I continue to do) since I left Catholic school after 8th grade. I began to disagree with some of the teachings; I also frowned upon the yearly fundraising efforts that were brought upon the congregation. THIS IS IN ADDITION TO THAT COLORED ENVELOPE THAT’S PLACED IN THE BASKET EVERY WEEK! My Dad reminded me that I needed to be more secure in my personal beliefs. I needed to stand firm and not let anything influence them. And besides, I didn’t need to step foot into a church to worship. I just needed to believe.
And the light bulb went off! I was not very confident in my yoga practice; I was judging others based on their material goods and their own desire to bend further, or advance. I was not strong enough to look past this, instead I walked away. The only person I hurt was myself. I needed to change my view. The following day I rolled out my mat and started with a round of Sun Salutations. I could barely touch my toes, but I continued on. After a 60 minute practice I laid in Savasana and sobbed.
I still teach one class a week, but I demonstrate all the poses and make adjustments where necessary. I enjoy sharing my newfound passion for yoga and have been caught taking a class or two. Whenever time permits I’ll practice on my own, sometimes even four times per week. I don’t always follow the traditional sequence of the Ashtanga practice; I like to change it up based on my mood and physical need. And yes, I can touch my toes again.
Life is a journey with many lessons. This was just one of mine.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Dan and I continued past the Fish Hatchery back on Keystone with Jeff leading the way. The hype we encountered through the Parkway died down and we were alone, without any fans. I finally reached a point where I had never been before: Mile 14. Instead of celebrating this small victory I was cursing the side of Keystone that’s a gradual incline to Country Club Road. I continued to talk to myself while everyone moved on in silence. Was I hitting this so called wall already? I just had to slow down and walk up a small stretch of road. Immediately, I apologized to my team mates; I felt defeated. After receiving some positive words from the guys I picked up my feet and jogged up the remainder of the hill until it leveled out at a stop sign.
Before heading onto Country Club towards Riverbend we took the long way through two developments, one with some extravagant homes. Coming up on the right was a gorgeous stone home surrounded by sky high trees. I recalled the time when this house was being built. Mom and I wished of living there; we spoke of it every time we drove to the South Mall. Ahhh, Mom…it would be a few miles until I made it to her house. If I actually make it.
Navigating Country Club became a challenge. Multiple cars, traveling in both directions, needed to maneuver the road to accommodate the three of us. This was then complicated by two bikers and an eventual caddy crossing the street to get to the other side of the golf course (insert joke here) We hit Riverbend, made a right and traveled on the windy road towards Cedar Crest. Yes! A light. This could mean a brief stop. Thank God for traffic!
“Please turn green then red. Please turn green then red. Please turn green then red.” I, aloud, said this about ten times. I needed to take a short break to bend over and try to touch my toes. I needed a quick hamstring stretch. In so many respects God was watching and the light turned green…then red. We stopped. Jeff, who maintained the role of traffic blocker, looked both ways and waved me on. After all, there were no cars on Cedar Crest.
“No, Jeff. We need to wait until the light turns Green,” I said with a smirk on my face. Without asking any questions, Jeff complied and we waited. The light changed soon enough and we crossed over Cedar Crest towards my parents’ development. About half way down the road, I noticed my brother’s ruby red Subaru barreling towards me. He was coming back from the gym, I guessed. I’d see him at the house. If I actually make it.
My feet shuffled through the bend in the road and I saw my hydration team jumping up and down, waving their arms, holding signs and ringing that cowbell. I finally reached another station. My empties were already pulled from my belt. I handed them to someone, not sure who anymore, and requested nothing but water. I was sick of that sweet Gatorade taste; I needed water. Dan stayed with the group while Gus didn’t mess a step. We jogged uphill (ugh) towards the first stop sign.
I make it a point to not look down when I’m running. I try to maintain good form, which includes an elongated, relaxed upper body, although, the writing on the street was a distraction. I had to look down. The path to the stop sign was marked up with some motivational sayings including, ‘2 Legit 2 Quit.’ Thinking of MC Hammer pants almost made me smile, but I was too serious on the outside to even crack my stoned face. We rounded the corner and pressed on for my parents’ house.
Marcus. Gus. GG. Whatever you call him, he’s my love. And he’s always felt this way…from the beginning. This day was a reaffirmation of our love. He again asked how I was really doing and if I needed anything. I just needed him next to me. I needed him to tell me that I could do this. I needed him to carry me, emotionally. He did all those things. The rest of the roads to hydration station #7, my childhood home, gave my legs a bit of a rest with their gentle decline. I felt a sense of relief as I made a left onto Brookhaven Drive East. From the top of the hill I could see my brother’s car parked in the driveway. With each trot the house became more visible. I noticed Gus’ car further up the driveway; Ava was running in the yard and Mom stood on the front patio. My vibrant purple shirt caught their eye and in a flash I saw my mom place her hand proudly on her new hip, anchor her arm straight into the sky and, with authority, sound the air horn.
“HHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNKKKKKKKK,” went the air horn around 10:00 am. There’s something about the sound of an air horn that pumps me up while making me giggle. Mom must have sounded the horn five times before I reached the driveway. She stood here proudly, with a smile on her face, and offered me a cup of water. I politely declined, gave her a high five and a kiss on the cheek before I galloped through the sprinkler to the road. I kept my feet moving and crouched down to high five Ava. She cried after realizing that I didn’t stop. “Mommy,” she screamed. I placed my hand over my heart as I felt a faint ache. One day she’ll understand. Dad ran backwards up the road with a camera in hand, trying to capture the perfect picture of me and Gus. Oh, hell, I said, I’ll just stop for the photo. Yes, rest. Dad snapped the picture and off we went again. Unlike most developments, my parents live in a no outlet ‘hood; the way in is the way out. My route took a minor detour loop towards my parents’ house and back out again. While mapping out the 26.2 mile madness I purposely added this loop for two reasons: 1). I had to squeeze in as much road as I possibly could to total my final distance, 2). Mom’s recent hip surgery would leave her unable to participate in any of the hydration stations. If she couldn’t come to me, we’d bring the race to her.
Gus sprinted back to the entrance to ensure the filling of my bottles and grab me another gel pack. After picking up Dan, again, and Dawn, yes, again, Jeff led the team to the right, back onto Riverbend. I was close to approaching mile 20 where I planned to hook up with a fellow co-worker, Jim. I’ve known Jim on a work level for about five years. I always figured Jim younger than me, but it took a long, hard look at his license for me to be convinced that he was about ten years my senior. Just recently, our relationship has grown to include discussions about running. He was the first person to tell me I could run a marathon, so it was fitting to ask him to join me for the last six miles. THE LAST SIX MILES. Sure, it’s only a 10K, but as research proves, most people hit ‘the wall’ at mile 20. Jim would be my anchor; if I actually make it.
I couldn’t have planned it more perfectly; We bumped into Jim around mile 20. He had rounded a corner and appeared almost angelic with his white tank top as his long stride floated him across the street. We all exchanged pleasantries as I introduced Jim to the crew. He immediately fell into step with me and asked how I was doing. I knew I asked for the right person to be by my side. Aside from the blisters developing on my feet, the aching in my ankles and the tightness in my hamstrings I felt pretty good. Jim remarked on how good I looked for being at mile 20. He could have been full of shit, but it worked. For a little while. I needed to walk soon after that, but to save my pride, I picked up my feet and shuffled on.
We were approaching the light at Brookside road. “Please turn green then red. Please turn green then red. Please turn green then red.” I, aloud, said this about ten times…AGAIN. After a quick quadriceps stretch the light turned green and we took off towards the next hydration station, East Texas Park. Gus and I stumbled upon this park a few weeks prior and I wrote it into the route for Ava. I let the group know that the park was coming up on our right. Jim asked if there would be people here and I just smiled. Once again, we were met by a group of encouraging friends. I gathered my empties, passed them off for refills and ran a loop in the parking lot.
I lost my form again, by focusing on the art work on the pavement. “The day will come when I can no longer do this…Today is NOT that day.” Seeing these words, in color, brought a little tear to my eye. Two days prior I emailed Jim his route and expressed my anxiety over this race. He responded with faith in my ability and left me with two mantras. This was one of them. I looked back at Jim to see his face as he read those words. Pure joy; he was touched. Back to reality. I grabbed my bottles and stopped moving to regroup mentally (my feet thanked me). You’re almost there, everyone said. I turned to Jim and let him know that I would be crying some where along the way. He focused on me, with a stern look in his eye and said, ‘There is no crying.’
With that, we pushed off out of the parking lot towards the next intersection, just me and Jim. Thankfully, the next stretch of road was all downhill. We talked about plans for future races, ultra marathons (50+ miles) and training plans. He told me that this solo marathon, with this route, was comparable to Boston in his mind. Again, he could have been full of shit, but it worked. He reminded me that I would be part of an elite group when I finished, if I actually made it. Jim inquired about my marathon training. I smirked, let out a sigh and proceeded to tell him that I hadn’t really trained. My last long run was a half marathon at the end of April. At that moment, Jim realized that I exemplified the Madness of Muffin. He kept talking to keep me in the game until we made it to the Stoned Crab parking lot. After a quick stop we picked up Dawn and Dan, God Bless them, without skipping a step.
The rest of the route faded from my memory. I remember the actual roads and the turns, but the details are gone. They weren’t important anymore; they weren’t worth saving. My mental and physical drive focused on running home. Gus joined us for the last leg down Minesite, a road I run often. The steady decline is a fast shoot to Riverbend, my street. I ran in the middle of the lane to save my ankles from the sloping sides. The caravan of cars carrying my hydration team flew by from the last stop with their horns blaring. I ripped off my fuel belt and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ as I handed it to Jim. I unhooked my personal item belt and threw it at Gus while we rounded the corner onto Riverbend. Goddamn. Another hill. As if I had fresh legs, I started to kick and leave my team behind. Jim shouted, “finish strong,” while I focused on the finish line. I heard the cowbell and distant screams traveling down the street from my driveway. Cars passed me (including a Swanson Ice Cream Truck) while slowing down to see what was going on. People had parked on my lawn to clear the path for me, balloons were tied to the mailbox and there were little muffins attached to stakes in the ground lining the driveway. I ran up to the driveway, over the ‘Almost There’ writing, pointed to my daughter and ran through the paper finish line. I reflexively stopped my watch and began to rip off my shoes. A foot cramp left me paralyzed, but Gus helped me over to the grass. The socks came off just as I collapsed onto the ground. Ava ran over to me, laid on my chest and gave me a kiss. “I love you, Mommy.”
At the end of the day:
- I actually made it in 5:03:24.
- I loved seeing everyone along the way.
- Dan and Dawn ran way more than I ever imagined.
- I motivated people to get their asses in gear. I have the responsibility to be a role model for my family & friends.
- We ran through a total of four sprinklers and got hosed down by a large woman in a stretched out tube top.
- Jeff drank apple juice. :)
- Dan and I finally held hands.
- I spouted off approximately 300 expletives just during the last 6 miles.
- During the race I ate 3 gel packets, 1 packet of electrolyte/carb jelly beans, 1 serving of shot blocks and 1 piece of gum; I drank 32 oz. of Lemon Lime Gatorade and 48 oz. of water.
- After the race I ate 3 hot dogs, 1 cheese burger, 2 large handfuls of ruffled potato chips, 1 cup of macaroni salad, 1/2 cup of potato salad, 1 piece of cake and a lot of Doritos.
- My pre-race weight was 125; my post-race weight was 125 (this proves my science of hydration worked).
- I burned over 2200 calories.
- I gained 11 blisters on my feet, semi-permanent sport bra marks and a whole lot of respect for myself.
- It took me three days to get my legs back.
- I have one hell of a group of friends that support me…no matter how crazy the idea.
- I will do this again…and I plan to shave an hour off my time.
- I plan on hitting the pavement this weekend.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
July 3, 2010
I was awake before the alarm. The birds woke me up. Or maybe it was nerves.
I sprung out of bed to initiate my pre-race ritual of a warm shower, green tea with honey, some carbs and yoga. For once during the past two weeks time seemed to slow down. I focused on my breathing while sipping my too sweet tea and reviewing my check list for the day. Some team members were planning on arriving around 6:30, so I rolled out my yoga mat at 6 and continued to unwind with some Sun Salutations. This helped center me and also stretch my hamstrings. My poor hamstrings.
With the blink of an eye I was putting on my sneakers as people started pouring into my driveway. Gus tried to manage the parking situation while I wrapped the fuel belt around my waist. Already three people I didn’t expect to participate happened to be standing in my driveway: 1). Steve, my crazy neighbor, handed me $10 towards the Lance Armstrong Foundation and asked when we’d be hitting the road. 2). Chris, a former co-worker a few years back, walked up to me and hugged me so tight. He had dropped about 80 lbs. with the help of some regular running. I knew he would help me on my way. 3). Finally, Bruce…oh, crazy Bruce. He shows up with a GPS device that will be used to track my every move. Ahhh, Bruce.
Dan was also present. He wasn’t a surprise, but his determination later in the morning was surprising.
Jeff strapped on his back pack and helmet as I walked to the edge of the driveway. After some short good-byes and a hug from my supportive husband I started my watch and took off up the road. I wouldn’t be seeing my team until the Fish Hatchery about 7 miles into the race. Boy, did the miles fly.
We were engaged in conversation for the majority of the leg. Tour de France, movies, cars, houses, work, chi running, losing weight, past races and this marathon. Maybe I should have saved my energy and kept my mouth shut, but the group naturally lent itself to verbal communication. Since Steve had a previous engagement we left him behind at mile 5 and pressed on towards the Fish Hatchery. We descended down Devonshire and made a left onto Keystone. Keystone is a gorgeous, narrow road that hugs the Little Lehigh. My body temperature dropped as soon as I hit the shaded section of road and heard the rolling water. I reflexively grabbed one of four water bottles and took a swig. We rounded another corner and encountered two groups of teen-agers, clearly members of a cross country team. I giggled as they sprinted past me.
The final curve in the road put me in a direct shot of the Fish Hatchery Parking lot. I saw a group of people holding signs and screaming for me; someone was ringing a cowbell. This crowd directed all their attention to me while I chugged on toward them. As I got closer I could read the ‘Go Mommy’ and ‘Go Muffin’ signs being held by my Ava and team. I greeted everyone without stopping, passed my phone off to Bruce (thankful to ditch the extra weight) and handed some empty bottles off for refill. I continued through the Fish Hatchery and planned to loop around. Just before hitting the loop I noticed a gentleman sitting on a bench. He was slightly slouched with his legs crossed and appeared to be waiting for someone. Turns out that I was that someone. Rick was waiting for me. I exclaimed, “Holy Shit'”, but please note that I didn’t stop running. We jogged back to the parking lot, both with smiles on our faces. I left him behind and picked up two runners.
Gus, Dan and I left the lot and hit the trail towards the Indian Museum. The next stop was the covered bridge in the Parkway. Gus checked in with me to make sure I had everything I needed to make it to the following stop. We ran together with pride. We crossed the bridge to avoid one of the most ridiculous hills and maintained a steady pace towards the covered bridge. Gus stopped to get ready for the next station while Dawn took his place next to me and Dan.
That Saturday morning proved to be a beautiful day in the Parkway. This was evident by the volume of walkers, runners, bikers and fishermen. At certain spots through that leg we had to navigate groups of people. I noticed some familiar faces like Molly, a former network employee who I’ve become friendly with thanks to local races. I yelled “Hola Senora” as I passed my high school Spanish teacher. We, too, have become friendly at local races. Like the first leg, this stretch flew by. There’s a short, but steep hill just before the public restrooms going towards Martin Luther that I coached the team through. We joked about that hill being a literal ass burner. As we approached the third hydration station I gathered my empties and requested another gel packet. Gus, as always, delivered, Dawn stopped and Dan, expected to stop at that point, felt the urge to continue.
With Jeff leading the way on bike we headed back towards the covered bridge via the trail on the opposite side of the Little Lehigh. Although it was getting warmer, the volume of people seemed to double. Oddly enough there were quite a few young ladies jogging on the course which seemed to be strategically placed by some force looking to knock Dan off his stride. Dan immediately refocused and continued on.
I ran this route numerous times; I knew what to expect. I knew there were a few gradual inclines coming up, but I was prepared for them. Dan took the lead on the first hill, but I took it easy; I didn’t want to burn out before reaching the second. In true Chivalry fashion, Dan let me go first and glided through the second elevation. What a relief to get to the top. Just as we were coming down the hill I noticed a handsome gentleman leaning against a tree looking for trouble. A smile came across my face as I recognized that man for my husband. He was ready to run with me again. I gathered up my empties before seeing the group again equipped with signs and noise makers. Another stop full of surprises: my brother and Gus’ sister and brother-in-law.
I was half way there…well, almost.
Jeff moved on and I picked up Dawn again, lost Gus and maintained Dan. Another gradual incline took us to the opposite side of the avoided ridiculous hill. After about 13 miles of running this sharp decline was torture on my legs. I believe that I came close to a trot down that path. I hit the ground hard and moved forward towards the Indian Museum. Just like that I was done with the Parkway and onto the second half of my journey.
Some of you know this story; some of you do not. Let me take a few to get everyone up to speed.
I have spent most of my living years driving people mad:
Parents, siblings, teachers, students, boyfriends (who soon became ex-boyfriends), strangers, enemies, neighbors, the list goes on and on...
I extend a special mention to my husband and to my friends/family, who have embraced the madness they have come to know as Muffin.
Please don't think that I am unscathed in this whirlwind of Muffin. I have driven myself mad. I like to believe that this madness has formed me to be the near-perfect individual I am. (insert laugh track here) Those close to me know my extreme passion for just about anything: I'm passionate about teaching, my job (no matter how much it's killing me), cooking, maintaining a messy car, blotting the oil off my pizza, my family...this list continues, as well.
About two years ago I started running for the sake of getting the near 60 lbs of baby fat off my body. This was as much of a motivator as the $110 I spent on shoes! Since this time I've lost the weight, and then some, ran numerous 5K's, 10K's, three half marathons, gone through three pairs of shoes and raised close to $1,000 for a charity dear to my heart. I've run two races in costume, got beat by a pair of bananas in one race and passed a lone banana in another. I love the adrenaline rush at the starting line; love the satisfaction of crossing the finish line. A few people ask if I'll ever run a marathon - a question that makes me cringe.
For two Biggest Loser seasons I have watched contestants run a marathon. Some of the losers go home vowing to run a half marathon...or a marathon...some of them actually accomplish this vow. Well, I've just about had it. It burns me up that I have been fairly regular with my running...through snow, rain, hills, whatever...and I haven't run a marathon. And anyway, if I was going to run a marathon it would be something prestigious like Boston or NYC. One small problem with that: I need a qualifying time or an invitation, or a blah, blah, blah...
Gus, being the silent genius that he is, told me to run a marathon. Really? In the summer? There aren't any good marathon's in the summer. With a glimmer in his eye he said, "who says you have to sign up to run a marathon. Just run 26.2 miles." This is exactly what I set out to do.
On June 14, 2010 I notified my friends and family that I would be creating a 26.2 mile route laid out with hydration stops. I solicited some friends to become a member of the hydration team – after all, I needed all the help I could get. I thought it would be a nice idea to order some shirts, ya know, make it look somewhat official. I planned the run for July 3, 2010 which didn’t leave me much time to plan.
My little event quickly spiraled into a huge deal. I spent a full hour trying to map the course to the best of my advantage and also cater to my hydration team. I wanted the stops to have adequate parking, room for kids to play and be somewhat strategically placed based on my refueling needs. It became a challenge to avoid hills, but this was my destiny; I had no option unless I wanted to run around the block for a few hours. Trying to be smart about my hydration I took a look at how the stations were set up for the Boston Marathon. So, um, for a 26.2 mile race, Boston has 25 stops…TWENTY-FIVE!!! I didn’t think I needed that many, so I felt confident with fourteen, including the finish. My friends Karen and Jeff felt that the tee-shirts deserved a good logo, so I was presented with a sprinting, cranberry-orange muffin wearing sneakers and a LiveStrong bracelet. I dubbed the event the ‘Muffin Madness Marathon 2010’. A prototype of the shirt was emailed out to my peeps with additional information on the marathon.
I tried to recruit some runners and even secured a marathoner to escort me during the last six miles. Jeff offered to bike most of the route with me; he would become my traffic blocker. I had a few runners respond with interest in joining me for a few miles. Based on all this information I would be running solo for about 8 miles, or so. Not a bad response.
I needed to take a breather from the event planning and focus on myself. I was unable to properly train for 26.2 miles given the timeline I developed for myself, so I needed to be smart about pre-race nutrition, hydration/refueling and my yoga. I did some research on marathons, for example: proper training, carbohydrate loading and what to expect during the race. Well, proper training was thrown out the window. My last long run was actually the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon at the end of April. I suck.
On to the next point, carb loading – an awesome feature to marathon prep. I didn’t want to fill up on empty carbs, so I perused the Runners World web site for recipes and planned my meals for the entire week leading up to race day. Based on my readings it sounded like most people hit the wall around mile 20. What was so significant about mile 20? Science states that in most people, glycogen reserves are depleted by mile 20. Simply stated, glycogen makes us go. There’s no more ‘going’ when the reserves are empty. Carb loading will add to the tank and consistent hydration/refueling during the activity will assist in keeping the tank from going empty. For race day I purchased gels, shot blocks, energy bars and the ever popular Lemon-Lime Gatorade. Normally, I don’t eat or drink anything during a run, but with the distance and heat I had to be smart.
I started to get nervous due to my lack of training/distance experience, so I shifted my focus back to event planning. Ahhh, denial.
I collected quite a few tee-shirt orders and some extra money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The owner of Digital Trust, LLC offered to purchase all the shirts for my hydration team. So, I guess you could say that I was sponsored by a company. My inbox was filled with supportive emails and questions about race day. Karen, my race-day coordinator, started receiving phone calls from other friends to secure details of my route. Things got hectic very quickly. I just tried to breathe.
Oh yeah, the yoga instructor had to remind herself to breathe…again. Coupled with my carb plan I focused on maintaining my flexibility and mental focus with daily yoga. Maybe I got a little overzealous with the poses; I’m not sure how necessary advanced arm balances are in the running game, but it was all in good fun.
Before I had a chance to get a grip on reality I was making my pre-race dinner, Whole Wheat Fettuccini Alfredo with garlic bread. I didn’t feel guilty about the pasta sauce, made with Greek yogurt, and the garlic bread was just too delicious to resist. After all, I’d be burning a lot of calories the following morning, so three pieces wouldn’t kill me. Right?
Following dinner I made sure that all materials for the hydration stations were in Gus’ hands. All documentation about the route was printed for the team, the race paraphernalia I planned to carry was laid out on the kitchen counter, the box of tee-shirts placed in the car and my alarm clock set for 4:30 am.
Time to hit the hay.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
We just returned from our first family Disney Vacation. I’m melting into the couch this evening while I watch the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals, alone. The hubbs is at a buddy’s house and Ava is sleeping. I’m melting into the couch for two reasons: 1). I’m at the tail end of my second Zen-tini and 2). this couch literally eats people alive.
Together with Aunt Drew (part time) we covered four parks, one water park, lots of sunscreen, Mickey Water and long lines. We ate shit park food and got minimal sleep. Most of this was done with smiles on our faces; smiles for the little princess Ava.
Throughout the week I made numerous observations and kept most comments to myself…until now. The following list is in no particular order. It’s not meant to offend anyone… Please feel free to comment as you’d like.
1). There’s something magical about seeing your daughter spot the Castle for the first time.
2). Everything is virtually perfect in the Magic Kingdom. I’m almost convinced that the clouds are manufactured along with the scent of baked goods that’s pumped in the air on Main Street, U.S.A. (fact…look it up).
3). There are some snotty kids out there. They’ve been raised by snotty parents.
4). Most people have no freakin’ clue how to walk in crowds.
5). Some parents have too many kids.
6). If your child is screaming for something and you just give it to them, they quickly learn that you can be manipulated. Duh.
7). A lot of people love/adore their kids so much that their names are tattooed all over their bodies. (not that there’s anything wrong w/ that).
8). There are some ugly sandals out there…so ugly that I can see other feet being offended.
9). Having your three year old daughter walk around Hollywood Studios without a shirt is, in my mind, inappropriate.
10). It’s enlightening to see hundreds of children reach out for a ‘phantom’ object during a 3D show. Made me want to reach out, too.
11). I admire the marketing technique of having a gift shop as the exit of every attraction/ride/whatever you want to call it.
12). God bless the ‘cast’ in the Disney Parks, especially the janitorial staff. The bathrooms are a pleasure to walk into.
13). No matter how much I do not like thrill rides, such as coasters, etc. I will participate in an attraction if I have a personal stake in it. For example, I’m a huge fan of the Twilight Zone…had to do the Tower of Terror (that I did about 15 years ago), had to do the Aerosmith Rockin’ Roller Coaster…great band…great music.
14). Continuation of #13: You know you’ve got a set of pipes when your husband can hear you screaming on a roller coaster…OVER the loud music that’s being blasted through speakers mounted behind EACH rider.
15). Crazy ladies, inquiring about thorough plane checks, should not ride airplanes.
16). After going to Blizzard Beach, I’m not sure why I’m self conscious about my body in a tankini.
17). Fireworks are awesome.
18). It’s all about the kids. Even the kids meals are better than the adult options.
19). Can’t believe that I paid close to $10 for some of the salads that I ate.
20). The ice cream, chili fries, pizza, cheese burgers, iced cappuccinos, egg/bacon/cheese sandwiches and the chicken nuggets WERE worth it.
21). And on the other hand, I’m fearful to weigh myself and run the Jim Thorpe 10K on Memorial Day.
22). Everyone yells at their kids; even if they are princes and princesses.
23). There are a lot of special needs people in the world. Some, unfortunately, appear to abuse the benefits.
24). The Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) is a joke.
25). Yes, we ate at Joe’s Crab Shack & yes, we ‘stole’ the tool they gave us. After all it said, ‘Stolen from Joe’s Crab Shack’.
26). The ‘prince wave’ is weird. It’s not a wave…it’s like they’re petting a horse, or dog.
27). Ava was not a fan of the team boat water ride. Neither was Mom.
28). I can’t believe that the Flyers are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Madeline hitched a ride with Sam and her unpleasant stepmother, Cammie, after band practice. Dropped off at the edge of the driveway Madeline shuffled to the front door with her shoulders slumped forward, hair in her eyes.
As she unlocked the door Madeline was blasted with the deafening volume of the television. Another cheesy mystery on A&E filled the empty family room along with the smell of Chicken Surprise. The door slammed shut and Madeline tossed her school bag over the arm of the love seat.
“Madeline, please double lock the door!”, shouted her mother from the kitchen. With a roll of the eyes Madeline complied, grabbed her journal from her bag and walked into the kitchen.
On a typical school evening, dinner was ready sometime after seven, Madeline’s younger brother managed to annoy her at least once and their father didn’t stroll in until sometime after eight-thirty. Madeline would retire to her room around nine where she assumed her usual routine, but tonight would be different.
“How was school?” her mother, uninterested, asked. “I made chicken something. You hungry?”
“School was okay,” as Madeline painfully reflected on the day’s events. “I’m not hungry. Cammie took me and Sam to get something after practice,” she said as her stomach growled.
Madeline observed the disappointed look on her mom’s face and took the silence as an opportunity to head right to her room for the rest of the night. She bolted up the stairs, two-by-two, swung open her door and carefully closed it right behind her. With the click of the door and a sigh of relief Madeline tossed her journal on the bed and kicked off her shoes.
The phone rang before Madeline had the opportunity to turn on her stereo. The fragile girl grabbed the receiver near the end of the first ring. It was Sam. Madeline already knew this. They briefly discussed their plan for the evening and within five minutes the girls said their goodbyes.
Madeline unwound the phone cord from her arm and reached for her journal. The black and white checked cover, worn around it’s edges, provided comfort to her. These pages captured her deepest thoughts; thoughts she did not share with her closest friends; thoughts that sometimes made her uncomfortable to write. She opened the journal to the next blank page, set her pen in the binding and pressed play on her stereo remote.
The base from the speakers vibrated the room as the words vibrated the soul. Madeline brushed a salty tear from her cheek and picked up the pen. She violently wrote of her day: continued verbal harassment from Warren, a botched flirting attempt with Steve and another encounter with Steph. Steph’s a bitch anyway, Madeline thought, she deserved it.
Just then, the flow of the pen was disrupted by the faint sound of the garage door opening. The hum of her father’s car grew louder as he pulled into the garage. Madeline immediately hid her journal under the mattress and proceeded to get into her pajamas. She opened her bedroom door to head to the bathroom for the usual post-bedtime hygiene regimen.
Madeline tied her dark locks back before splashing cold water on her face. Eyes closed, the water shocked her skin. She took another palm full and threw it over her face. Her head lifted as her eyes opened, immediately fixating them on her reflection in the mirror. She studied the contours of her face while the water continued to run down the drain. After drying her face, she turned off the faucet only to shift her gaze back to the mirror.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed. Her father was standing right behind her.
“Hi, little girl,” he said through a smile as he leaned in to kiss her cheek.
“Geeze, Dad, you scared me. Hi.” Madeline angled her cheek to his lips and accepted the kiss. She quickly remarked at how tired she was and headed back to her room. She needed to get in a little nap before the evening started.
Friday, April 16, 2010
“Madeline!!!!!! Let’s MOO-ve it!”
Madeline sleepily rolled over and dampened the shrieking with her pillow. She took a deep breath while stretching her arms to hold on to the iron head board. She rolled over again, throwing the pillow on the floor, and reached for her stereo remote. Just like the night before, track number eight picked up where it left off in it’s obscure repeat.
In the distance Madeline could hear her mother’s feet pounding up the stairs. The stomping grew louder until her mom threw open the door and flipped the light switch.
“You’re going to miss the bus and I am NOT driving you to school today,” her Mom protested.
“Jesus, Ma. I’m getting up; now, get out of my room,” Madeline mumbled.
As her mother left the room, Madeline sat up and swung her legs off the side of her bed. They dangled for a few moments before she reached her toes to the cool floor. The dazed teenager danced on her toes across the hardwood floor to the even colder tiled bathroom floor. Attempting to blast herself into reality, Madeline jumped into the cold shower and shivered as the water ran off her goose bumped body. She closed her eyes. After what seemed like ten minutes, she quickly lathered her body and washed her hair.
“MAD-e-LINNNNN! Are you coming downstairs for breakfast?”
Ignoring her mother’s cry Madeline rustled her long locks with the towel and dropped it on the bathroom floor. She quickly outlined her eyes with a smoky pencil, brushed her lashes in black and ran back to the bedroom where she threw on a Co-Naked Lacrosse shirt paired with a green and brown flannel. The outfit was made complete with shredded jeans and black army boots.
“Madelinnnnneeeee! The bus is coming!!!!!”
“Jesus, Mom, I’m coming,” Madeline whispered as she ran down the stairs two at a time. She barreled through the foyer and towards the kitchen. Madeline saw the cheese wagon, through the family room window, screaming down the hill towards her home. She grabbed her lunch money, held a dry piece of toast between her teeth and ran out the door with school bag in hand.
April, Madeline’s bus driver for years, was already waiting at the edge of the driveway with the door opened. April was one of the ‘cool drivers’; Marty was cool, too. They both rocked a permed fem-mullet, smelled of cigarette smoke and freely yelled at the kids. Definitely cool.
Madeline was the first stop for bus number 56. She hopped the steps and headed to the back while her younger brother sat towards the front. The book bag slammed against the window as she plopped herself on the edge of the seat waiting for her girlfriend to get picked up at the next stop.
During the forty-five minute trip, Madeline spent the time gossiping with Sam and yelling at the younger kids. By the time they got to school, Madeline was wide awake thanks to the Vivarin Sam brought with her. The two pals, with near-matching flannel shirts, shuffled down the hallway to their home room: The Auditorium.
As they passed the threshold they both glanced up about four feet to see a two week old salami sandwich slowly rotting away. They glanced at each other, giggled, and returned down the ramp to the front of the room.
Monday, March 29, 2010
I typically use this blog as a foundation for publically bragging about myself, or mildly complaining about my job and hectic life. Today, I will use this blog as an open invitation for you to laugh at me. Well, I’m laughing, too, so maybe all’s not lost. Maybe there’s a little bragging…
About twenty or so people at work threw in ten bucks to participate in a ‘Biggest Loser’-type competition. Initial weigh-in occurred on Day 1 and all body fat percentages were captured. Six weeks later (coming up on April 8th) we weigh in again and the ‘Biggest Loser’ gets the pot. A few of us in the group are VERY competitive…not winning isn’t an option, so we’re taking this to extremes.
Blah blah…I’m down about ten pounds. Prior to this weight loss, I was already in need of smaller pants. A few people, including my Mom, consistently remarked about how ridiculous my clothing looked, particularly my pants. I didn’t mind one bit; I felt comfortable in bigger clothing. It’s just more snuggly.
A lovely girl I work with, we’ll call her Jan to protect the innocent, works part time at a clothing store and urged me to go shopping. I’m not a fan of shopping, especially clothing shopping. I strongly dislike changing rooms, taking my shoes off and on, staring at myself in a ‘fat’ mirror under fluorescent lights, etc. All the typical complaints that a woman complains of; yup, I’m part of that crew.
Jan gave me a few decent coupons and reminded me of her weekend hours. Oh, hell. Sure, I’ll go. I phoned my Mom and we had decided to leave for the mall on a Saturday morning at 11 am with my beautiful Ava in tow. We were on a mission. Parking turned out to be a non-issue and we headed right to Jan’s store. So far, so good.
I felt weird walking into the shop; the club-ish music pounded in the background and I was instantly ignored by most of the teeny boppers. I’m only thirty-three, but boy, did I feel old. The girls did not seem to appreciate that I was in there with my Mom and a two year old girl. Maybe my dress didn’t help the situation: hair in loose ponytail, ripped jeans, baggy sweatshirt, minimal make-up; ya know, typical ‘me’ on a weekend.
I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Those girls will regret it because I plan on dropping some real cash.
The selection of clothing appeared a little limited, but I made it this far. There’s no backing out now; I have engaged in the mission. A few items jumped out at me and I started piling the stroller with jackets, shirts, pants, more shirts and a skirt – about 15 pieces, total. Suddenly, Miss Sunshine appeared out of nowhere and immediately escorted me to a changing room. Ugh. Changing.
Sunshine waited on me until I tried on the correct sizes and was satisfied with more than three quarters of the items. She made goo-goo faces at Ava, exclaiming ‘How Cute!’ She asked if I had a store credit card, to which I answered ‘no’, but my Mom was willing to open one just for the additional discount. Sunshine, with a spring in her step, escorted us to the registers where she bid us good-bye and went about her merry way.
Metro Mike, with his headset, swaggered over to the register and asked if we were opening a charge. My Mom started the paper work and I dropped the coupon on the counter asking if the card discount could be used in conjunction with the coupon. Metro grabbed the coupon and gave it a suspecting look. ‘Um, like, we aren’t affiliated with this store anymore. I can, like, check if we’ll take it, but I’m thinking, um, no.’ It was then that I realized I had gone to the wrong store.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
The house is quiet. While I sit here at the kitchen table, the rising sun is blazing through the bay window, reflecting off the cayenne-colored walls and warming the room. I haven’t yet had a cup of coffee. It’s actually been two weeks since I had one. It’s not really missed…anymore.
I wrote that paragraph on Sunday morning…it’s now Tuesday night. As soon as I typed that last period, I heard the upstairs toilet flush while Ava started to sing ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’. The silence was over.
So…Tuesday night: the house is quiet. I’m slowly sinking into my couch while the glow of a muted hockey game fills the room. I’m sinking into the couch because it’s a terrible couch; it’s not comfortable. Not at all. I actually despise the couch. It’s a sore spot in my back, a flare in my sciatic and a kink in my neck. It literally sucks me in between the cushions and holds me there. This is the true description of ‘the couch of doom’ (1).
I have my aching feet propped up on the ottoperson (a.k.a. ottoman); I spent roughly eight hours on my feet. For some reason I can take the joint pounding of running for two and a half hours, but if I stand for one hour, I need to start stretching. This couch isn’t helping.
This week will be a test in my strength. Long days, on my feet, while trying to maintain a modified eating plan (for the office ‘Biggest Loser’ competition) and increasing my mileage to appropriately train for the Lehigh Valley Half Marathon at the end of April. Oddly enough, both yesterday and today didn’t try my patience. Maybe it’s the change in weather.
Have I been so down in the dumps with the day-to-day because of the weather, and not for the actual day-to-day? Yesterday, I worked ten hours and only saw Ava for forty-five minutes before bed time. Did the weather make this tolerable?
Today, after work, I drove with my windows opened. The fresh air was a welcomed change. Maybe this is what I needed. Maybe this is making my body aches tolerable and easing my resistance to this damn couch. After all, I am sitting on it.
The thought of this dreadful week has shifted to positive thoughts: I can start eating some lean meats tomorrow, so I better get propane for the grill, gotta pick up daffodils for the table, maybe I’ll brush off the deck’s chairs so I can enjoy my tea outside in the morning.
Oh, what? Wait. Never mind. It’s going to rain on my springtime parade.
(1) Walker, Steve (alias Runner, Steve). Phedippidations Podcast. http://steverunner.com/
Steve Runner often references ‘the couch of doom’ as the piece of furniture in a person’s home responsible for destroying their fitness goals. It’s almost described as an alternate dimension that is difficult to free oneself from. Just check out he podcast. Steve posts weekly. Phedippidies, a herald in Ancient Greece, ran twenty-five miles to announce Greek victory in the Battle of Marathon. He collapsed on the spot, dying of exhaustion. Guess he wouldn’t have done well in the ultra-marathons.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
It bothers me that I’ve, again, gotten so busy that I don’t have time for some of my personal pleasures. I have grown fond of listening to a weekly runner podcast, reading my anatomy books and of course, blogging. This busy activity creates a whirlwind of chaos. Now, I have weeks of podcasts to listen to, I’m not exactly sure where my anatomy book is physically located and I’m worried that my two regular readers are disappointed that I haven’t generated some meaningful words in a while. I’m sorry.
Another day of work…another morning of rushing around getting things in order and getting me, and the little girl, out the door so I can make an 8 am meeting…on time AND prepared. Whew. Tough feat, but I continue to deliver. Perhaps I’m an Olympian when it comes to this type of thing.
One of my superiors took a few moments out of their busy morning to speak to me about my job. To put it mildly, I’ve been a little frustrated. I was told that I ‘throw myself’ into the responsibility, but I need to find some balance and walk away at the end of the day. Easier said than done.
Since I am working overnight…tonight into tomorrow morning, I left today at noon. I had one agenda item – hit the gym. I wasn’t in the mood to run on a treadmill, so I donned a suit, cap and goggles to swim a few laps. Hardly anyone occupied the pool which meant that I had a lane all to myself. The cool, blue water rolled over my cap as I started my first lap. The only sounds were my nasal bubbles and the pounding of my heart in my head. I think I started to relax a little…I know, I know…yes, the yoga instructor has some trouble relaxing.
I switched between freestyle and backstroke, not my favorites, but definitely the easier of the four strokes for me. I probably continued for about thirty minutes and headed to the hot tub. I think I zoned out in there. I started to reflect on the morning’s conversation and my mental state. I tucked myself into a corner, between two powerful jets and stared through the steam. I must have lost about ten minutes of my life; when I came to I was walking out of the tub and into the sauna.
I laid down on the cedar plank and zoned out again. Fearful that I’d spend too much time in the sauna I grabbed my stuff and got changed. I’m not entirely sure what I thought about, but I definitely know what I didn’t think about. It felt good.
I made a dash to my car (ugh, the weather today) and headed to the nearest grocery store for a quick lunch and a few items. I arrived home around 3 pm and started dinner, while listening to a podcast from January. I should probably take a nap right now, considering I’ll be up for at least 5 1/2 more hours, but I’m more concerned about finding my anatomy book and finishing this blog.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
Well, the free beer is just a ploy to get you to read this post. There was no free beer and will be no free beer. I lied.
Yesterday morning I ran the LVRR Super Bowl 10K. The previous day’s snow was not a deterrent for the couple hundred of runners who joined me. I started the day by rising early with some grapefruit juice and my power breakfast. What’s a power breakfast? Whole wheat toast, with peanut butter and thin slices of banana topped off with a drizzle of honey. Delicious. Oh, coffee, too…can’t forget the coffee.
I ran the race in 2009 with approximately 10 more pounds on my frame and less running experience under my belt. I was confident that I’d reach my personal record which was somewhere under 1 hour. I also remembered from the year before that parking was a nightmare. Since I was driving myself, by myself, I stressed a little about the parking situation. I left my house around 9:30 am for the 10:30 am start time. I am infamous for letting my gas tank run on empty, so I took the hubbs car.
When it comes to the radio I’m a compulsive channel changer. As expected, nothing satisfied, and I immediately checked the status of the CD player. Woohoo! Jackpot. Bang Camaro offered some awesome arena rock riffs that I was jammin’ out to. “Push, Push Lady Lightning.” Delicious.
I actually found a great parking spot approximately 1/8th of a mile from the starting line. I put the car key in my mini fanny pack, slid my already frigid hands in my gloves and hit the ground.
I’m a loner. I train alone. I stand alone…at another starting line. Again.
I wander off to find a quiet spot for some stretching and reflection. Although the temperature was hovering around 20 degrees the shining sun and blue sky warmed my face and made me dream of spring. The sharp, rolling water looked enticing enough for a little dip, but I was pulled back to reality by a small pile of snow that fell on my head from a tree high above. After some standing yoga poses I walked back over to the starting line.
Within ten minutes we were off. The masses started the steady climb out of the Parkway. We were running the same route as last year and I mentally approached each climb and turn before it actually happened. I continued with a steady pace and slowly pulled ahead from the slower group, but by no means did I even touch the elite runners. Let’s just be clear about that.
Some of the roads were packed with snow as a result of the previous day’s storm, but they were still fairly easy to navigate. I felt great. Until that last climb. It must have been around 4 1/2 miles into the race when we made a great descent. I tried to pace myself and not build up too much speed. But that last climb. Whew! I almost stopped running. I can’t run six miles. I’m never going to be able to run another half marathon. Never. I hit the wall. Well, almost.
My mind instantly went clear and I was briefly taken back to the starting line. As I was standing there – by myself – I noticed a young girl with a track tee-shirt on. The back of the shirt sported her school logo with the following quote: “Feet, don’t fail me now.”
“Feet, don’t fail me now.” This was my mantra. I repeated it over and over in my head. Don’t fail me now. This pulled me through the finish line at 58 minutes – six minutes under my previous time.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Have you ever put yourself in someone else’s shoes and actually felt what they were going through? I do this occasionally. Sometimes it’s with the woman I see in the pasta aisle at Weis - ‘should I go with the penne or the fettuccini’?; other times it’s with a familiar face. I feel their emotion. It’s just the weirdest thing. There’s a word for it…you’re almost switching your soul with someone else. Can’t remember the word, but I’ve done it.
Why? I have no idea. Maybe it’s a curiosity to experience another life’s battle or maybe it’s just out of sheer boredom.
I started reading an amazing story about a young man named Brian Boyle: high school athlete, drug free, honor roll student gets in a traumatic auto crash post graduation. He winds up losing sixty percent of his blood, breaking numerous bones (including his pelvis), punctures his lungs, loses his spleen and gallbladder and needs kidney dialysis. His heart jumped three inches across his chest as a result of the impact from a speeding dump truck. After surviving numerous surgeries, including open heart, a few cardiac arrests and being in a medically induced coma Brian made it out of the woods. Brian walked again. Brian swam again. Brian finished an Iron Man Triathlon three years after his accident. Miracles do happen.
I had another shit day. So, the saying goes…(insert cliché here). When things don’t go as you’d like it’s difficult to find the positives. I try to take a deep breath and do just this. Sometimes I forget to breathe. Yes, the yoga instructor forgot to breathe.
Late start today…work…inhaled lunch…quick, gotta leave to pick up Ava for a sick appointment…wait 30 minutes for doctor (that’s another story for another time)…drive to hospital…drop off script, ‘that’ll be thirty minutes’…visit Grandpa…pick up script…head home…make quick dinner for Ava…
Whew! As I’m settling down with a glass of wine, Ava decides to throw the rest of her dinner in a playful way. The look on her face is pure enjoyment, but this just pisses me off. It’s not appropriate and I take her plate away. After a stand off she and I go upstairs to prepare the tubby.
The big man gets ready for his hockey game and Ava gets in the tub. I’m like a machine getting her bathed. After the process part of the tubby I let her play. I sit back on the toilet lid and take a deep breath. I carefully observe Ava splashing water, rubbing her belly with the washcloth and just smiling while having a good time. It melts my heart.
I think of Brian Boyle…and his parents. My mind subconsciously puts me in his Mom’s shoes. Tears instantly fall from my eyes. I cannot imagine the pain that she endured after hearing the news of her son’s accident. Her baby. Her only baby. Heartbreaking.
Immediately my mind shifts to a friend. Her daughter passed away April 2009 after a short, but painful battle with cancer. I saw the pain in her eyes and I still couldn’t imagine what she was going through. Each evening that I put Ava to bed I asked her to think of that strong girl who was fighting for her life and the family surrounding her, holding on to hope. As I laid the blanket over my daughter’s tiny body I silently sobbed, hoping to never be in that situation. I can’t ever imagine seeing my baby girl suffer all that pain with no remedy. I see images of a broken mother holding the hand of her baby girl as her soul slips away.
We take so much for granted; in an instant it can all be destroyed. Or perhaps, put into perspective.
It’s 10 pm…Ava’s been sleeping for about 1 1/2 hours. I just want to hold her hand and give her a hug. I want her to know that I will ALWAYS be there for her. I am her rock. And she is mine.
Don’t have kids? Put yourself in my shoes.