Thursday, January 11, 2018

I Survived Wearing Flats for 60 Days

It was touch and go for a while. I found myself wearing flat, black Puma shoes...half sneaker; half flat. I reasoned that flats are so terrible it didn't matter what I was wearing. And I found myself not caring about my shoes for the first time in my professional career. They were dark days indeed.

Seventy days ago I had surgery to repair my torn meniscus. I'm a runner. I also love heels. Going without these two things left me with an extraordinary identity crisis. People began to realize that I was only 5'4" tall instead of 5'7". I began to enjoy walking quickly and my feet feeling comfortable. Who was I without running? Who was I without the shoes?

On New Years Day I began wearing heels again. It was inauguration day for Lansing's new mayor (aka my boss). I wore my favorite three inch booties all day. My knee actually felt okay. In the coming days I've been back to myself culminating in wearing my favorite leopard print wedges today. I am back.

Inauguration day: wearing 3 inch heels and holding a sleeping toddler. Boom.
It was touch and go there for a while. Tonight at the end of four very long days of work, my knee is sore. I've taken more Ibuprofen than is recommended...particularly considering the glass of wine I'm currently enjoying. But even though I'm really exhausted, I feel like me again. I've begun working out again, and I'm hoping to talk my physical therapist into a run on the treadmill tomorrow at PT.

I am registered for a 5k, 10k and half marathon the first weekend in May. That's only three and a half short months away. My body is skinny (thanks not having time to eat!), but I don't feel strong. I will be starting nearly from scratch as a runner, and it's going to be scary.

But just like wearing heels again my body will adjust. I can't wait to feel strong once again. Wearing heels is the first step to being me. I am once again amazed at the resiliency of the human body. I'm working more hours a day than I'm not, and I am waking up on the middle of the night to do work because neither my mind nor my body will take a rest. Yet in this chaos I'm finding myself again. One heel inch at a time.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

To Those Who Believe

I never believed in Santa Claus. My parents didn't tell us he wasn't real, but Santa wasn't a big focus in our house. As a logical child I never found the idea plausible: a lone man flying all the way around the world in his flying sleigh leaving presents for all the children? Gimme a break.

That doesn't mean I didn't love Christmas or experience the joy and wonder of the season.  I would go with my dad to Joliff's Nursery to pick out our Christmas tree. Each year we'd try to get one bigger and better than the last. The biggest I remember had to have a rope tied around it and nailed to the wall to keep it upright. Classic Jones Christmas. My dad always decorated the tree with way too many icicles, and as a cat-loving family we'd often have cats regurgitating foil into the new year. 

I remember lying in bed on Christmas Eve, my eyes wide open and heart pounding, certain I'd never fall asleep. I'd wake with a start early in the morning and bound out of bed. We always celebrated Christmas absurdly early in my house. My parents were wonderful to indulge us at some ungodly hour, like 3 or 4 am, to open presents. My family wasn't rich, but I never remember wanting for anything on Christmas morning. 

Having a small child brings back that childlike Christmas joy. Will loves the trees and the decorations. Tonight on the way home from school he was quietly singing Jingle Bells in the back of the car. He has so many questions about Santa, and decided recently to change the gift he originally requested of Santa (naturally after "Santa" has ordered it and had it shipped to Grandma's for Christmas). 

Here with the big guy
Even with my son's Christmas spirit I've found the season whirling past me as it does in the busyness of adulthood. When my husband and I got married in December nine years ago, it never occurred to me that having a Christmas time wedding anniversary would skew the season. Couple that with my son's birthday on the same date, and I don't start really thinking of Christmas until the middle of the month. Add to that this year a new job, mayoral transition and inauguration looming on New Years Day, and I've still not finished shopping less than a week before the big day.

I found myself in the holiday spirit really early this year, but as the season got into full swing I've had a harder time keeping my grasp on the magic. I've let life and busy push away the holiday cheer despite my best efforts to hold on.

I've always been an early riser, and I remember as a kid sitting in our living room before the sun came up with only the tree lit. I've always loved that quiet time when it feels like I have the world to myself. When my son was two weeks old I sat by the tree with him, exhausted, elated, and grateful. In the three Christmases since I've not slowed down enough to do it. Here I am, a mere six days from Christmas, and the season is slipping away.

Yet six days is enough time. There's still enough time to have a glass of wine by the light of the tree. On Thursday we head to spend Christmas with my mom, my siblings and their kids. Will is thrilled to spend the holiday with his cousins. I can't wait to see him make cookies with my mom like we did. It appears likely that we will have a white Christmas.

I've never believed in Santa, but I believe in the magic. I believe that Christmas is an enchanting time that awakes the child in all of us. For the next six days I will listen for the bells. I will sing carols, wrap presents, and take in the silence by the light of my beautiful tree. I will believe.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Struggle of Perfection

Nearly two years ago I wrote a blog about my impossible quest to be perfect. I had just lost my dad and was desperately seeking perspective. Nearly two years later, in the busiest time I've ever had in my entire life, I am still desperately and elusively seeking perspective. And this time I don't have running to anchor me and keep me sane. So I can't find perspective and am a little bit crazy. It's a tenuous situation.

On December 1 I officially started my new job as Lansing's Mayor-Elect's Chief of Staff. It's been a whirlwind. People keep using the analogy "drinking from a fire hose" and frankly that'd be a lovely drink of water in comparison to what's really happening. It's been an absolute inundation of information and people. I'm working on two transitions: a public facing transition to engage as many Lansing residents as possible and an internal transition to actually get our team in city hall on January 1, 2018. It's been amazing and fascinating and fun for every single minute. And I'm exhausted.

For the first three years of my son's life I've had total flexibility in my job. I've worked from home for the last year and a half. Being in meetings or the office all day has been a big change, but my phone is the worst part. I leave an hour meeting with dozens of text messages and 4-5 missed calls. If you want to get in touch with me your best bet is to text or email. I will return calls, but I have to actually schedule them on my calendar. 

I adjusted pretty well to a work/life balance for the first three years of my son's life because I had it easy. Now I'm trying to figure out the new balance. I'm frankly less worried about work because work makes sense. I'm worried about giving the required attention to my family and my social life. I'm falling asleep at 8:30 pm and then sending certainly confused/surprised department heads texts when I wake up at 5 am to walk the dog. 

This face. Priority #1.
I thought I'd be running by mid-December, but here we are, almost six weeks after surgery. My knee is still very swollen. In addition to the torn meniscus my surgeon also removed some inflammation from behind my knee cap, and my physical therapist said it may swell significantly for months. MONTHS. C'mon knee. How am I going to handle this volume of life without running?!?

Daily icing like a boss.
None of this is meant to be a complaint. My life is a delightful, phenomenal hurricane of awesome. I now get to paid to love not just cities but MY city. My precious son turns three years old this week, and I'm still amazed that I am fortunate enough to be his mama. My husband is crazy supportive, and I have the best group of friends any girl could ever want. Sure maybe I'm slightly swamped, but I'm grateful for every moment of it. Last weekend I still found time to dance my face off (my knee was not amused) for hours at a Christmas party. We threw our son's third birthday party. My heart and my calendar are full. 

With my girlfriend at a Christmas party...tragically in flats.
Balance is a precarious thing. If it were easy it'd be called stability right? I don't expect the next four years to be easy, but I do expect them to be fun and rewarding. But making sure my family and my friends and my health and my sanity are priorities is going to be a challenge. I'm not going to stop being a perfectionist, so I've got to figure out how to balance perfection. Perhaps I'll find the answer in a cup of holiday cheer...

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Champions

I haven't blogged in a few weeks because life has been a whirlwind. My knee is healing well although I'm never a patient patient. I'm itching to run again, and given my progress I should be back to it in a month or so. I can't wait.

Until then I'm just hanging out...doing nothing. I'm being very sarcastic. A few weeks ago, less than a week after my surgery, my good friend Andy won his election to be the new Mayor of Lansing beginning in January. He asked me to be his Chief of Staff. It's a dream job to work for someone I know and true and believe in and to work for my city where I live and work and spend most of my time (in a ½ mile radius mostly). I am humbled by his faith in me and honored to join his team in January. But in order to manage the mental gymnastics this job will take, I need to be running again.

I'm so excited to get back into city government. I still don't know exactly how a (very) small town girl became a fervent urban core city supporter, but here we are. I worked for the Mayor of Norfolk, Virginia in my first job after law school, and I've worked on local government policy in different roles in the dozen years since. But working for a city, going to city hall every day and seeing the impact that can be made in people's lives...that's where it's at. I can't wait to get back to it.

I've been fortunate in my career to work with some stellar local officials, both elected and appointed. I have myriad people I can (and will) reach out to for advice and counsel and to whom I can vent. What I love most about local government is that these are the men and women spend every single day working to make their communities a better place. As one of my city manager friends said it's not a profession; it's a calling.

I was called a dozen years ago, and I've been hooked ever since. I love all cities, but I have a soft spot for those who have potential. For the gritty ones, the challenging ones, the underdogs. Here in the Lansing region so many of my friends leave the city. It's obviously their decision, but the last few years I have to admit I have started to take it personally. I know I need to get a handle on it, but love Lansing. This is the place I have chosen as my home. I've chosen to live and work and send my kid to daycare downtown. My life happens in a half mile radius, and I wouldn't trade it for any quiet cul de sac in the world. I have too much energy for the suburbs. I need the city.

I was in San Antonio last month at the International City Managers Association, and I talked to professionals from throughout Michigan and across the country about the great work they're doing in their communities. These people are passionate. They're driven. They take dwindling municipal resources and make sure our city services are stellar. These are my people. And now I am one of them again.

The people who work in my city and in cities everywhere are the champions. Their jobs are not as lucrative as the private sector. They work long hours and deal with tough political positions. But their passion is unrivaled, and they get me. They get me because they are me. They understand the importance of cities and the valuable work they do.

I'm so excited for January 1. I can't wait to walk from my house to city hall and jump in with both feet. I want to be part of making my city better. I look forward to the tough days, the challenging situations, and the fun we're going to have. Let's do this. #LoveLansing

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Scope of It

I've been under anesthesia approximately 30 times. That's as many times as I can remember, but in fairness all the anesthesia may have affected my memory. I had tubes in my ears three times as a kid, another ear surgery in high school, six Crohn's related abdominal surgeries, my wisdom teeth removed, an abscess drained, and more colonoscopies, sigmoidoscopies and endoscopies than I can count. Last week I added to the tally having a surgery to repair my torn meniscus. 

Not running has really zapped my creativity. I use running to think about blogs I'm going to write and to calm all the thoughts rattling around in my head. Instead the last few weeks I've felt anxious about my upcoming surgery. Despite the number of surgeries I've had, having knee surgery made me more anxious than usual. My knee has really been hurting, but what if made it worse? 

It turns out a knee scope is significantly less invasive than any of the Crohn's surgeries I've had. I spent three days on crutches and icing/elevating my knee almost 24/7. I was cautiously able to put weight on my knee a few days after surgery and a week later I am walking, albeit slowly and cautiously. 

I've tried really hard to take it easy and be cautious. I won't be able to wear heels for a few weeks, but I'm hoping to be back to running within six weeks. I'm also hoping to be back to blogging more creatively then too. I miss lacing up my shoes, taking off on a crisp fall morning and sorting through all the thoughts in my head. Five weeks until I'm back in action. Until then...sort of rest.

Wearing running clothes to the polls because real clothes won't fit over my knee.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Everyone is the Avon Lady These Days

Let me start by saying I don't begrudge anyone wanting to supplement their income. I get the appeal of working on sales from home because it's flexible and a convenient way to make more money. But for the love of God please, friends, stop trying to sell me things. It's out of control.

Growing up my mom was pretty anti sales parties. She didn't go to Avon or Tupperware parties (those were the big things back then). I remember her being annoyed by them, and I inherited that aversion to sales parties. I decided years ago that I wouldn't go to these parties. Over the years I've felt guilted by good friends to buy something because they were having a party, but I have very rarely actually attended any kind of sales party. (I've bought from a catalog or online). I cringe at the idea of sitting in a room full of women feeling like I have to buy some makeup/jewelry/cookware that I don't actually need and won't ever use. I'll pass. 

Now with social media it's EVERYWHERE. I can't pull up Facebook without being bombarded to buy LulaRoe, Rodan & Fields, Yunique, Pampered Chef or Beach Body (which out of all of these Beach Body is the only one I'm seriously morally opposed to and would ask now to please stop trying to sell that ridiculous protein shake garbage to me). Now there's also some kid's book one I've been invited to 47 times. It's not so much the actual act of each individual friend selling but the proliferation of it. On our drive home from West Virginia yesterday I stopped counting at 40 (YES 40!) Facebook friends who are selling something from one of these companies. It's out of control. 

Here's some advice from those of us being bombarded with sales requests (or just advice from me...I don't speak for anyone else): do NOT add me to a Facebook group without asking. I will either 1) promptly remove myself or 2) feel guilty because it's a good friend, not remove myself and feel resentful every single time I receive a notification. Also if you add me without asking there is a 100 percent chance I will never buy what you're selling.

I had a friend who did a Facebook LipSense party a few months ago. I tried LipSense in Austin this spring because a friend had it, and I loved it. I had no idea where to get it. My awesome friend simply posted that she was having a party, and to message her if you wanted in the group. I did, and I have since purchased 5 or 6 tubes of LipSense. The approach - not constantly pushing it at me or making it feel like an obligation - totally worked. I have never seen this friend post about LipSense again except in the group to which I voluntarily added myself. That is the only time I've seen it done this way.

I know a lot of people I really love and admire who are selling things, but with dozens of friends selling the same things, it's constant. It's all day, every day. Also it's only something women do to one another.  A few months ago I was at dinner with friends (both male and female) and I was complaining to a female friend about how the selling is constant. The guys were baffled because men aren't constantly selling each other shit. My husband has never, ever received a request to attend a party for some random thing he doesn't need. My favorite quote was my husband's when he said, "It's like everybody is the Avon lady now." It really is. If I'm being honest I feel like Facebook has become a place for me to witness all the pyramid schemes I could imagine. I've hidden a lot of it, but it keeps popping up.These companies are sucking in more people to bombard my social media feeds.

If I want what you're selling, I'll find a way to get it. But for real it's everywhere, and it's making me even more averse to buying anything. If you're selling something I hope you're doing well. I really do. But I'd really like to stop having friends constantly post what they're selling. Can we go back to cute pictures of kids and dogs? Hell at this point I prefer political posts to sales ones. And that's saying something. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

I'll Keep This World from Draggin' me Down

I love the smell of fall: the way the cooler weather, crisp mornings and fallen leaves come together to make a beautiful potpourri. This year's heat has made the arrival of autumn later, but it's still there. As much as I love the warmth of summer, I love the crispness of fall even more. The last few years, however, this time of year reminds me of my dad. It reminds me of emerging from long days in the hospital, my eyes blinking to adjust from florescent light to the brilliant autumn sky. It reminds me of the impossible pain of standing in my closet picking out clothes for my father's funeral. It reminds me that two years ago my son was only 10 months old, barely pulling himself up at Grandma and Pap Pap's house. It reminds me that my dad didn't get to see that amazing little baby turn into a wonderful little boy.

I'm typing this at 3:32 a.m. You you do. I've become a bit of an insomniac of late. My mind doesn't shut off like I need it to these days. And while I am tired during the day, it's actually not that bad. On mornings like this one when I can make myself get out of bed to do something instead of aimlessly tossing and turning I actually feel relatively productive.

About an hour ago my son woke up having peed through his bed. We let him drink too much milk at bed time. We know the culprit and haven't yet done anything to change it. I was almost back to sleep when I heard him laughing. I waited a minute and tiptoed back into his room to find him fast asleep. I do that too: laugh in my sleep. Sometimes I will wake myself up laughing. I'm reminded again that so much of parenting is nurture, and it helps alleviate the heaviness I feel this week.

I realize it's been a shit week on a much larger scale than my sadness. The nation's worst ever mass shooting, the death of a music legend. My dwelling on my sad anniversary and finding out I have a torn meniscus (I'll get back there in a second) is so small in the larger sense of the grief so many are feeling right now. I have so much for which I am thankful, but it's hard not to breathe in the autumn air and feel my chest constrict. 

I could've sworn at some point I wrote a blog titled "I Won't Back Down". Apparently I have not. Maybe it just rattled around in my head and I never actually wrote anything. I'm not a huge Tom Petty fan, but there are several songs of his that I love (that being one of them). Like my dad Petty was 66 when he died. I think of the way his family is feeling, and my heart hurts. I think of the more than 50 people who died in Las Vegas earlier this week. I hate that their families will associate the beautiful late autumn sun with the day their family members died. 

Through grief and loss my outlet has always been running. On this, the second anniversary of my father's death and a shitty week in America, I do not have my outlet. I got a call from my sports medicine doctor yesterday, and an MRI from last week shows I have a torn meniscus. Two months of PT did not do the trick, and I see an orthopedic surgeon next week. On one hand I'm happy to have an answer and ready to have a plan. On the other hand my body is full of pent up energy that is keeping me awake, pounding the keyboard at 3:44 a.m. The insomnia has definitely coincided with my inability to run. No form of low-impact exercise has been able to quiet the chaos in my mind.

I am so grateful for myriad blessings in this crazy life. I am grateful for the 38 years I got with my dad. I am grateful that in times of sadness my family deals with laughter. I am grateful to be so much like my father. I am grateful for perspective in sadness. 

This hurts my heart.
Sunday will be two years without my dad as the head of this family. In a week where so many families are wracked with grief, I hope they find laughter. I hope they find solace in the beauty of autumn. And in a world that keeps on pushing us around, I hope we all stand our ground.