Thursday, October 25, 2012

He's Here and He's Fantastic

I just wanted to take a second to give a shout out to anyone who has taken the time to read my blog. After months of not feeling so hot...guess what? Baby boy arrived. Only a few days early but in fully surprising fashion. And in a manner completely the opposite of his big brother.

One of my absolute favorite blogs in the whole wide world is "Enjoying the Small Things" authored by Kelle Hampton. She's basically a wonder woman writer/ photographer/ philosopher/ postive thinker. And she did something few women take the time to do. She wrote "birth stories". She sat down and wrote, start to finish, the labor and delivery process for her two girls, Lainey and Nella. She's expecting her third baby this winter and I can't wait to read his birth story as well.

So sometime later this week, I'm going to write you a story about how little Nicholas Robert arrived. In very very speedy fashion. And then someday, even though it's almost 4 years later, I'm going to write everything I can about what I remember from Eliot. If strong feelings and memories evoke powerful writing...then hopefully my words can possibly convey the absolute overwhelming love and happiness I feel right now. I'm honest to goodness drunk off the love I feel for my kids. And every time I look at Nicholas, I just shake my head. So unbelievably beautiful.

Pure bliss and love and just plain old joy.

Proud daddy with his fresh and squeaky clean little mini-me.

Nicholas Robert. His first car seat experience. Pacifier. Check. Blankie. Check. Unneccessary but ridiculously adorable chapeau. Check and check.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

QOTD: Goals

A goal without a just a wish.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Thank you pinterest for not only SUCKING my productivity but making me stop and think once in a while. Oh Pinterest...the time I would spend with you if time were not an issue.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It Takes a (Running) Village

My house is on the full marathon course for the Prairie Fire Marathon and for the first time ever, I got to host a big marathon watch party.  I created a silly and fun playlist; my husband hooked up a giant stereo system; my neighbors made pancakes and bacon and we had a killer block party.

The runners came through our neighborhood at mile 9 and we greeted them with signs, cowbells, bloody mary's and cheer. I sometimes struggle with spectating as opposed to participating...but today I just LOVED it. I sang and danced and high fived a bunch of strangers, all pushing themselves to achieve more, be more. And the smiles and love and thankfulness I got in return were simply amazing. It's hard to describe the positivity you experience in being a part of a marathon, whether as a spectator, runner or volunteer. But it is tangible and magical. It's why people spend months preparing for something that only last a few hours.

As I watched everyone today smile and embrace their challenge, I felt such motivation and inspiration and as While some runners are crazy and some competitive and some cuthroat...they are the vast minority. Almost every runner you meet is just excited to share that part of themselves with another runner.  Our little group of running friends we refer to as our "running family". We all just love and support each other and go to each other's events and help each other plan our next adventures...all the while solving each other's life problems at 5am and often times wearing matching shirts.  Today, many of my friends ran the full or the half marathon.  My only regret was I couldn't be at the finish line to watch all of them revel in the sweet victory of completing their events!

On Saturday, I worked a booth at the marathon expo for our local running club, Run Wichita. In that time, I met four specific runners that touched me and whose stories I don't want to forget.

Paul Shimon: This guy is the only person who has run every single Wichita marathon since the race's inception. A kind personality, a quiet guy in his 60's, Paul came over and caught up with a couple old friends while he picked up his race packet. I had heard of him but never met him and enjoyed speaking with him.  In his 33rd Wichita marathon, he was as excited as ever to take on the 26.2 miles. He laughed at himself and his "old man" aches and pains but was very excited for the projected beautiful weather. I told him to look for me at mile 9 and he did! During the race, I got a big high five and smile.  He then proceeded to crank out a 4:19.  Now, in his heyday (and because I stalked him), Paul's marathon PR was right around 2:30 so he clearly is a gifted runner with amazing credentials. You'd never know it passing him on the street or even at the race expo. Paul exhibited one of the things I love the most about runners. Humility. It often seems like the more a runner has accomplished, the more understated the runner's acknowledgement of their own achievements.

Inspirational weight loss half-marathon lady: A lady's whose name I don't know came over and asked me what Run Wichita was. We started talking and I of course, asked her what race she was running the next day. She shyly looked up and said "just the half marathon." I told her that was wonderful and was excited for her, as it was obviously her first foray into running. She then told me about how she signed up because October 14 was the anniversary of her new life.  On October 14, 2010, she started walking. Her goal had been to walk an hour a day and there were many times she said she had to sit on the curb and just wait to catch her breath. After being told by her doctor to "start walking or prepare for the worst" (she had a heart attack at a young age), she started walking. She said she eventually ran a little to help the monotony of the walks.

In the last two years, she lost over 100 pounds. She looked trim and like any other 50 something. But then I looked closer. She had on jeans that were a way too big, belted tightly to not fall off. Her face had extra skin. And in her misty eyes, she clearly had some history. I was sort of overcome. She started asking me questions and as we talked she seemed to gain a little confidence. She had ran/walked 12 miles and wanted to know if I thought she'd finish the next day. I couldn't help myself. I came across the table, gave her a big hug and said she would absolutely finish. She said she didn't care about her time and that the race had been very expensive and a bit of a hardship for her to pay for but it was an important gift for herself. By this point, I am tearing up and telling her, it was worth every penny and it was really a good deal because she's going to get two shirts and a big necklace out of her race registration. Warm fuzzy quota for the day was met, in about 5 minutes of speaking with this stranger whose name I will never know.

Montana man: Another runner whose name I cannot be sure of came up to our booth and just talked to me for a bit. He was nice guy with long grey hair and a full beard, one might venture to say...a hippy. As we chatted, he told me he was from Montana and it was his first time in Kansas. He was excited to see the town and run the race tomorrow.

When I saw him during mile 9 at my house, he was running with the 3:45 pace group. His long grey hair was flowing freely and he was wearing some old school short shorts and a beat up tshirt. He had a truly beautiful running stride and I imagine in his hey day was probably a very fast runner. He was very excited to see me and yelled "Kansas is so beautiful. I love your trees and your parks and your sky is just so huge!!!" For someone from a state known for its scenery, I was proud and a little tingly that he loved his trip and his run through our town.

Really fast guy from Boulder: Finally, during the expo, a younger runner approached our booth and started asking questions. He was very clearly, a fast guy. He was thin, wiry, all muscle. A little sunburnt wrinkled face but he just had that body. You know, the one that just posts ridiculously fast times. His girlfriend was very cute and soft spoken. He asked first for hotel recommendations and then restaurant recommendations. And then, some frank advice.

When we asked what race he planned to run, he said he hadn't decided between the full or half. And that...get this....he was there because he wanted to win prize money. (Can you even imagine??? Running for some easy cash?) Again, almost embarassed and very humble, this very elite runner was asking our thoughts on what a winning time would be for either race the next day. He told us his anticipated finish times and we said he had a very solid chance of winning either race. In fact, we said "unless someone else like you shows up tomorrow, someone from out of state who is here for prize money, your time should win the marathon." He decided, just like that, he would run the full.

And to my best estimation, in checking the results, he took second. He finished 6 minutes after another guy, also from Colorado. The local newspaper quoted the 2nd place marathon finisher as saying "He [the winner] shows up to any race, he wins." In a blazing fast time of 2:23:26, the winner was probably only using our marathon as a "training run". And sadly, the guy looking to score some "easy cash" finished exactly where he thought he would 2:29:40, a finishing time that any other year would have easily won the event for him. I felt a twinge of guilt for giving him shaky advice...but who knew? Our little marathon is now attracting some pretty elite runners. Again though, perhaps the funniest part of all of this was this guy's humility and flat out embarassment at discussing whether he could win with a couple local strangers.

So why is it that running creates such humility within most? Why is it that instead of beating your chest like a preening peacock on Jersey Shore, these runners look down, smile shyly and discuss their goals and times and best case scenario's? No one needs to tell me Mr. Sub 2:30 marathon is something special and works very hard. I know this. His humility was evident and I truly wanted him to win so he could get a little money for his efforts.  Why is it that the woman who lost 100 pounds over the last two years wasn't wearing tight clothes to show off that new body? I think it's because in sweating and suffering and fending off injuries and earning your stripes, you recognize the power of your body to conquer but also the fragility of your body to falter at any time.  The happy hippy from Montana ran for the joy of it--it was so clear in his huge smile. Everyone runs for a reason but most runners know it can't last forever. Cherish it while you can. And in recognizing the fleeting time you have to run, you gotta make it count.

And it all brought it back to my own goals for my body and for running. I may not be elite but I am part of the running community. And next year, I am running the Chicago marathon. It will be my return to the 26.2 distance and probably the first time I leave my new baby behind. I am planning to go with a giant group of friends. This weekend made me want to start a Chicago calendar countdown!!! Days til my next marathon finish line: 353.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

QOTD: Daring Greatly

This seems our current political culture, where all anyone does is hate hate hate, rather than come up with solutions. That plus I generally love this quote and try to be someone whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. Makes life MUCH more interesting and in turn, rewarding.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly...who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
-Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, October 8, 2012

Say Cheese

Self portraits are all over the place. With the invention of camera phones and social media, they are inescapable. And almost every random self-portrait out there makes me smile. I have a friend that is taking a picture of herself and her 5 year old daughter as they wait for the school bus and posting it to facebook daily. The pictures are completely adorable and hilarious. I have friends that do self-portraits to ensure wardrobe choices are appropriate and people who just take their own picture just for the heck of it. And yet, I completely and totally hate my own.

I don't know what angles I look best at or how to smile or what exactly I should do to ensure my pictures are cute and show my "best" side. I'm bad at self-portrait hair and angles. I feel awkward about any photo of me, that is me by myself. I don't mind having my picture taken with friends or family or maybe in front of a landmark. But I feel incredibly awkward about a photograph of me, by myself, for 'no reason'. Does not matter the circumstances, I won't like it. And as a result, I have failed to document either of my pregnancies at all. And I hate that.

Some people (mostly women) despise being photographed at all. This article broke my heart because luckily, I've never let the self-criticism go this far but I know so many women that do. My mother, in fact, has never seen a photo of herself that she likes. She hates them all. And like the 5 year old son in the Huff Po piece, I don't see my mom's flaws in her pictures, I see her warm smile and twinkly eyes.

As I've mentioned before, I am done having babies after my newest arrival gets here. In just a few weeks, I will never be pregnant again. And somehow, despite how privileged I am and how excited I have been for these babies...I have almost no pictures of me pregnant. I'm not even sure how that happened but both times, I've just been too "busy" to document my pregnancies. And I have never stopped to take pictures of this very amazing chapter in my life.

I haven't had formal (professional) maternity shots taken. I haven't taken weekly belly profile pictures. I haven't even snapped informally funny pictures with my funny belly . And sadly, I think it's all because I am not particularly comfortable with pictures of me by myself for 'no reason'. And so the amazing and beautiful progression and transition of my body is something I will have to rely on from a few scattered photos and memories.  I have enormous regret that I have not put my own issues with self-portraits on hold and just made a point of creating some type of journal of this amazing transition of my body.

And so, at 35 weeks pregnant (never mind that I'll be lucky to make 38 or 39 weeks, let alone 40), I decided, no time like the present. And I decided if anything I could get the last 4-5 weeks. See if there was any noticeable difference between week 35 and week 39. And so with the lovely instagram's help, I present to you weeks 35, 36 and 37.

Self-image issues placed on hold. I'm throwing it all out there. And for anyone newly pregnant or not so newly pregnant, DO SOMETHING to document this. You will not remember what it looked like or how your body supported the squirmy little person inside.  And you cannot know what your body looks like by looking down at your shoes a couple times a day. Honor your beautiful changing body and the miracle within by capturing it and its changes. Do it naked, clothed, weekly, monthly, daily, I don't care. Just do it. And here's my final rule: absolutely, positively no criticism of yourself or comparison to someone else. You are creating new life and you are blessed and lucky to be doing so.  Now is not the time to complain about your hair not cooperating like you'd like or asking why someone else's stretch marks are less visible than your own. Share with the world or share with no one, just don't fail to document the beauty. It's why God created camera phones. And photo filters.

Week 35. I call this look "business baby". I argued 4 motions in court this day.

A little fuzzy but I had to add because of how cute Eliot is peeking in on the picture.

Eliot, getting his picture "with MY baby."

37 weeks. Full Term. Doctor says all systems are "go". Holy cow. This is really happening.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

QOTD: "Big Stuff"

I am addicted to my iPhone. I am obsessed with Facebook. I adore Instagram.  I have a full schedule and a demanding career. I have 101 things to be doing, all the time. In this day and age of 5 million distractions, added to just the incessant background noise of life, I stumbled on this quote on pinterest (another glorious distraction).

It was a very humbling reminder of the need to be a good listener and to be present in our conversations with our children. Not distracted, saying 'mm hmm' while we check our work email on our smart phone. Frankly, there isn't any person in our life we shouldn't really give 100% focus and attention to. But when your kiddo (or coworker or mother or anyone really) is telling you something that maybe seems a bit mundane and unimportant, solid reminder, right here.

Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what.  If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big. Because to them all of it has always been the big stuff.

-Catherine M. Wallace

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

QOTD: "Do It Anyway"

I love hearing wise people's words. I decided to share words that inspire me when I stumble on them...that way they are at least easy for me to find later. Hopefully, anyone reading will find some good stuff in them as well.

People are often unreasonable, irrational and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend year creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and peace, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

-Mother Teresa

Monday, October 1, 2012

Lemons, Lemonade, Lemons, Lemonade

One of my favorite expressions has always been "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade."  There are definitely times you have to shake yourself off, dust yourself off, slap on some lipgloss and carry on.  I can't possibly count how many times in my life I have cried tears of anger/ frustration/ helplessness/ hurt, wiped away misplaced mascara, and then greeted whatever part of my day comes next.  Follow up the bad by salvaging good from that day, that moment. 

A week ago my father-in-law was in surgery...getting some plumbing reworked in his heart...also known as quadruple bypass. Two known heart attacks and one massive surgery to repair the damage and all I kept thinking about was that 50 years ago, he would not have made it. The first REAL brush with death for any of my husband or I's parents. And I can say, it was as rough as I had imagined it might be.

The good news is that after a 5+ hour surgery, several days of very slow recovery and whispers of the worst possible outcomes, he took a big turn in the right direction. We are so unbelievably blessed and thankful as every day brings a new milestone. Recovery is a realistic word.  And lots of "if's" are now "when's". WHEN you get out of this ICU room. WHEN you finish building that clock you're working on. WHEN we watch that next football game at our house. WHEN you hold your new grandson. But there is so much work for him to do. Luckily he's stubborn and strong and is not the type to throw in the towel just because it hurts to move or hurts to quit smoking or hurts to make changes.  He's just stubborn enough to turn himself around and get on that road to recovery. He just retired and he has things to do and projects to work on and he'll be damned if he lets a few heart attacks stop him.  I see in him the strength I see and love in my husband and often times the stubborn determination that leads someone to live their life the way my husband lives his (future blog post foreshadowing).

So trying to find the silver lining. Trying to find the lemonade. This particular lemon posed a very difficult challenge for me. Where in the HELL is the sugar I need to make my lemonade? The entire last week, we had lots of family stay with us as they are all out of town and the hospitals and specialists he needed were in our town. Schedules were upside down. The last few weeks of pregnancy are supposed to be quiet and peaceful. And we moved Plan B. Everyone was in crisis mode. We did not know what the next hour held for anyone, let alone the next day.

All week I kept trying to make lemonade from the lemons and I realized that sometimes there isn't any lemonade to be made. There is nothing GOOD to be made out of nearly losing an immediate family member. There is not anything POSITIVE to take from the clutch in your gut and the tears burning at the back of your eyes for days on end. There is not anything happy to LEARN from someone almost leaving with lots of unfinishined business and life to live on earth. People leave all the time before they have finished all their business and the truth is, it is never okay. 

So rather than make lemonade out of the bitterest, nastiest of lemons, I decided to make my own lemonade, perhaps from a powder, without sugar or real lemon juice. I didn't even try to make lemonade until Friday. And by then, I was so frazzled, so spent, so upset with this lemon, that I almost did not make it at all.

So I boxed up the nasty lemons.  I found good in other areas of my life and I focused as hard as I could on the amazing beautiful support and friendship and love that popped up in expected and unexpected places.

Without really even asking, I had dinner every night, delivered from people who have hectic crazy lives. We had bottled water and cokes and chocolate cake and lasagna and just about everything we could possibly want or need. All I had to do was answer an email that said "What time do you want dinner?" Family, co-workers, running friends. The love just kept pouring in. I had more offers than I could possibly accept for more food and support. If half the people on facebook actually prayed for him that said they did, well, we know why he made it.  I have never been more grateful for basically everyone in my life. The bitter lemons were in garbage disposal.

Friday my little three year old has his field trip to the fire station. Due to all the crazy circumstances, our four year old nephew tagged along. I got to oversee these little cousins make memories while they travelled through the fire station, inspecting big fireman boots, going inside a fire engine, running through the "stop, drop and roll" drill. It would have been wonderful to take my little boy to a field trip on a normal day and get a little time away from the office. But taking both he and his cousin made for some hilarious moments. They live two hours apart, don't get to see each other all that often but make the most of every minute together. Between playing ring-around-the-rosie around my legs to sharing juice boxes after the trip was over to Eliot proudly introducing his cousin to every one of his classmates, I saw it! There it was! My lemonade pitcher.

Then I dropped the boys off, made a mad dash downtown, completed a brief on a case, filed it in federal court and a few hours later was somehow giving the two monkeys a bath. I silently observed them splashing each other, making up rules to various games, filling bath toys up with water and squirting them at each other. They posed for me in their bath towels and I captured what may be the cutest picture in the history of the world. And then suddenly my pitcher had some pre-made generic brand lemonade mix in the bottom.

Saturday morning I spent a quiet few hours with just the little man and I, of all places in Target and Barnes and Noble. Target provided us a solid 90 minutes of entertainment as we slowly, very slowly pilfered through every aisle of Halloween decorations, scoured the candy selections, picked up a few groceries and just giggled and laughed and discussed everything in the Halloween section. And then Eliot helped me find pajamas that fit. They are Hello Kitty and they are awesome. We followed it up with story time at Barnes and Noble, where the lovely B&N employee read multiple fall themed books about leaves and raking and scarecrows, and then Eliot had an M&M brownie. It was a perfect morning. Someone actually measured the water for me and added it to my pitcher.

The rest of the weekend was busy, hosting family, pulling together meals for the people who were in town visiting our patient, shuffling various bodies here and there. But huge progress was made, medically, for dad. And suddenly he was out of his bed walking. And discussions shifted so noticeably that everyone was smiling. Thoughts were positive and the lemonade was being stirred.

Finally, Sunday night, he was moved to a non-ICU room. We took our little guy up with a poster that says "get well PAPA! <3 Eliot" and despite some initial hesitancy because Papa looks much different...pretty soon he was telling his grandpa all about his match box car and star wars and everything else that matters when you're a three year old boy. And when I told him to give papa a kiss on his hand and he happily obliged with a sweet little kiss and I got to hug him again and know he was on the right path...sigh, sweet relief.

Glass filled with ice, lemonade poured. It might just be generic powdered mix, but honestly, lemonade has never been quite so delicious.