Wednesday, February 25, 2015

If You're Looking for Pollyanna, Keep on Looking

One of the things I love most about writing a blog is getting to hear so many different opinions. I love people who don't agree with me. How boring would it be if everyone did? Last week when I published a blog about how it was important for me to be true to things that mattered to me now that I'm a mom - including doing my hair and wearing real pants - I knew it would be controversial. I meant it only as a standard for myself, and I explicitly said in the blog that my rockstar mom role models make time for things that are important for them (which doesn't necessarily mean the same thing as it does to me). It wasn't about anyone else's behavior but rather what I think is important. I knew, however, that people would read it the way they wanted to. And that's okay - that's what creates thought provoking dialogue.

That blog popped into my head when I started thinking about the myriad things people would say would change once I had kids (and I say that at the beginning of the post). My husband and I waited 5½ years to have a child. During that time I would hear, "Well it must be nice to wear heels. Just wait until you have a baby." Or, "Well it must be nice to have time to do your hair and makeup. Just wait until you have a baby." All of those comments were delivered with the judgment and snark of people who would never imagine that someone would still find those things important once they have a child. What I would think during that time was, "Wow it must be nice to have a baby." And while I desperately, desperately, wanted a baby all those years, I knew I would try my hardest to still be myself once he or she arrived.

Last year I actually wrote a similar blog about how I hated being told, "Wait until you have kids. (fill in the blank) will change." What I imagine happened is that my friends who are parents read it then, laughed to themselves and thought I'd change my tune once I had a baby. Fast forward about a year, and I feel the same way. Now though I'm the judgey mom because it's still important for me to wear cute shoes and go for a run. 

Here's what I realized in my years of waiting to have a child: parents can be a-holes. Before I get the snarky comments let me say that 1) I'm including myself in this blanket statement, and 2) I'm was an a-hole before I had a child (at least I own it). So many people seem to think that their lives are so precious just because they have children. When we were childless our lives were so easy and meaningless right? We didn't have anything to worry about. I had someone recently tell me they couldn't wait until my ideals about what was important in my childless life "came crashing down" once I had a baby. I was told that marriage without children really isn't a serious relationship. I was told that my life wasn't as important because I wasn't raising a child. I got a comment on my blog last week that now that I have a child, I "have a life". Now that I'm writing these down I'm a little shocked at the audacity of people to say these things as if life doesn't matter unless you have children. The a-hole parents don't even try to hide this judgment toward childless people.

Here's the thing: I love my son so, so much. I will concede that I did not know this kind of overwhelming love existed in the world. But before we had him I had a marriage and a life that was valid too. Sure it was childless, but that doesn't make it less legit. My career, my running, my snarky blog...all of it was important. And it still is. 

Last week a friend texted me and asked why I couldn't just be a happy mom "without all the other sh*t". I knew what he meant, but I made him spell it out. Apparently if you're snarky or candid or willing to stand up for what's important to you, you're not a happy, proud mom. I love being a mom. I was worried at times before we had a baby that I wouldn't, and thankfully I was wrong. I think I'm pretty good at it, but I'm not giving up who I am. It would be a disservice to my son if I did.

Let me reiterate what I said last week that people chose not to read: I have so many friends who make time for what's important to them. It's different for every person. I don't care if you leave the house with wet hair. I don't care if you're wearing yoga pants. For ME and only me, it's important that I not do those things. That's part of how I remain true to myself. I wouldn't have done it before I had Will, and I'm committed to maintaining my sense of self through wearing cute shoes, fixing my hair and running. 

If you read this and think I'm judging you, I'm not. Honestly I think every mom should rock it out however she wants. But I think back to the 5 years of snarky comments about how easy and meaningless my life was or even the ones I'm getting now about how I didn't breastfeed or have to deal with hormones, and I think wow. Just wow. 

And a side tangent: I had two abdominal surgeries and a blood clot last year, but clearly I don't know what it's like to have your body feel like it's not your own. Also once pregnancy is over, it's over. Yes I know your body forever changes, but you're not continually sick. You don't have IV infusions every six weeks like I have for 13 years. I've had six abdominal surgeries, and I will likely have more in my lifetime. But you're right...I have no idea how awful it is to be pregnant. Sorry - I digress. Comments about how my life is easy because I didn't deal with pregnancy push me over the edge...but that can be another blog.

It's important for me to push through the hard stuff. That's who I am, remember? If you know me or you've read this blog for any length of time you know that. And if you're still reading it, then you know I'm not targeting you. I'm my own worst critic. I'm tougher on myself than anyone else could ever be. I'm constantly questioning whether I'm a good enough mom, wife, family member, friend, employee, runner, etc. I push through the hard stuff to be the best that I can. If wearing heels and a cute outfit and having a sassy haircut makes me feel like I'm more together to meet all the goals of my life, why do you feel like that means I'm judging you? This wasn't about judging you - it was about judging me. If that commentary bothers you, perhaps you should think about the sacrifices you've made that make my comments hit a nerve. It's not about what I think. If you think I'm judgmental to others, you don't want to be here in my head. It's an intense place.

Be true to yourself, friends, whatever that means. I'm a mom. I'm also snarky, brash, ambitious, Type A, and impatient. I'm loyal, can be loving, and I've learned through loving my son that I can sometimes even be sweet (although that ruins my rep). If having a baby is supposed to make me some kind of meek, altruistic shell of my former self, I guess I'm not doing it right. If you're looking for me to have turned into a Pollyanna, keep on looking. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

More Cow Bell

I moved to Michigan in 2006 right before the Winter Olympics. I'm not a fan of the winter games, and I didn't plan to watch them. I met a guy who is now my husband who not only loves the winter sports, but he loves curling the most. I know...how weird, right? I remember meeting at the bar one night when we were still pretending we didn't like one another romantically, and he was sitting there watching curling. It is like all of the other quirky things about my husband (including loving 40s music, old time radio shows, ventriloquists and reruns of "Night Court") that make him old fashioned and charming. Little did I know that nine years later I would've attended two national championship curling tournaments.No...I'm not kidding. 

Kalamazoo hosted the 2010 curling national championships, and I went with my husband and a friend. The day/night consisted mostly of double fisting Jack and Cokes and making loud snarky comments about curlers. Oh and the cowbell. That year we went for the preliminary rounds, and there were very few spectators. It was...something. We ended up having a really fun time though, and curling was more a special guest star than the reason for the fun.

2010: more cow bell.
This year the national championships were back in Kalamazoo (just over an hour from our house), so we decided we should take our son to his first curling tournament. I thought it would be a good way to get out of the house, do something my husband loves (and get cool wife points), and eat at Food Dance (my real motivation behind going to Kalamazoo). 

We were joined by good friends for their first curling event. Will slept through most of it. The women's national championship was in the morning. It was a close match, and I was entertained in spite of myself. The best part of the morning, however, was leaving the stadium to grab lunch at the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange. Their bar chips are one of the best appetizers I've ever had. Delicious.

A sleeping baby in a dinosaur hat at a curling tournament   

Curling models.

Will with the women's 2015 national championship team.

After checking into the hotel we headed back for the men's championship in the afternoon. The place was packed. There was nowhere to sit, so the baby and I ended up mostly doing laps in the stroller in the warmer annex. The men's match also had a climactic finish with Team Shuster (as in John Shuster, Olympian and object of my husband's man crush) winning in dramatic fashion.

We later ran into John Shuster in the hotel. My husband's weekend was complete.

We had reservations at Food Dance, so we walked down the street from the Radisson to the restaurant. I LOVE Food Dance. It's my favorite restaurant in Michigan. I have been known to set up meetings in Kalamazoo for the express purpose of going there to eat. The cocktails were amazing - in particular the Pimm's Cup. We started with mussels that were so delicious I could've stopped there. I had the special (the risotto), and I'll be honest I was slightly disappointed. If I'd gotten the dish in most restaurants it would've been great, but my Food Dance bar is absurdly high. It was good, but I have had better there. I guess that just means I've got to go there again soon so it has the opportunity to redeem itself.

Attending the curling championship with a baby means way fewer cocktails (no double fisting) and going to bed by 10 pm. Our son was vaccinated the day before the tournament, and he spent Saturday night up every two hours eating just a few ounces. It was a long night.

I had insisted that I would be running in Kalamazoo on Sunday morning. My outdoor runs have been few and far between, and I love running in Kalamazoo. I woke up at 6 am after having been up most of the night, and I knew it wasn't going to happen. Right now I guess "running these towns" means running on the treadmill and knocking out an outdoor run whenever I can (when the temps are not sub zero).

The apex of the trip was Sunday breakfast at Crow's Nest. It. Was. Amazing. It was the best breakfast I've had in recent memory. I love a good benedict, and the Baker's Benedict was insane - bacon, sauteed onion, garlic, gorgonzola cheese, two medium eggs, hollandaise, and fried leeks on sea salt fococcia. I mean. Wow. The leeks and sauteed onions were a delightful pairing. I didn't get to run off the calories, and I don't even care. It was totally worth it.

It was a fun and successful overnight baby outing. It certainly changes how we travel, and my arms are still sore from holding a fussy baby a lot of the weekend. But if we don't just do it, it'll be a lot easier to stay home. This weekend I resolve to get outdoors for a good, long run in advance of the upcoming (end of March) Ann Arbor Half Marathon. Hopefully the baby's overnight fussiness subsides in the very near future. Mama's got miles to log.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

High Heels and Snow Storms

Practical footwear isn't my jam. Despite my stubborn insistence on wearing heels at work (because I feel better in them), there are times where they are not the most pragmatic option. My challenge is twofold: 1) I don't really have flat shoes (and they're too cold in the winter) and 2) my warm winter boots are not business appropriate. I would rather stumble through the snow in heels than wear snow boots with my dress to a meeting. I would feel paranoid the whole time.

Last weekend I went on a two-night work trip to northern Michigan to attend the kickoff meetings for the 2015 round of our PlacePlans program (to help cities design innovative placemaking projects). Last year I got to spend lots of time in awesome cities like Marquette and Holland, and I am excited to get to spend some quality time in different communities.

Traveling this year is more challenging with the baby. On Sunday I was feeding him with tears in my eyes when thinking of leaving him for a few nights. My husband didn't get why I felt so sad, but for more two months Will and I have been together almost constantly. I've only been back to work for a few weeks. Now I'm supposed to leave the little guy for two nights? It was rough.

We headed north to Petoskey, Michigan where we spent the night. Our two northern Michigan projects are in Boyne City and Traverse City, but we stayed in Petoskey that first night. I love downtown Petoskey, so I was happy to be nearby. We had a fantastic dinner at Tap 30 downtown. I love their creative menu and cocktails. One can't go wrong with a good mac 'n cheese and a gaggle of delicious Moscow Mules.

The Mules weren't enough to keep me from running the next morning, and I hit the treadmill for an intense speed workout. I've been spending more time than ever on the treadmill this winter as a result of both the extreme cold and snow and my goal to kick the 5k's tail. It's just easier to do speed work on the treadmill, so my workouts have been concentrated indoors. 

On Monday morning we headed south to Boyne City. I'd never been there and was impressed by its charming downtown. Their project seeks to rework the waterfront into a more vibrant space. I started the day in Boyne City with a breakfast meeting at Cafe Sante. I could not get over this chic restaurant in a town of less than 4,000 people. The eggs benedict were ridiculously good. Everything about this place - the food, the atmosphere, the service - felt modern and trendy. The perfect way to start the day.

After an initial meeting we headed out for a walking tour of the site. It was 10 degrees out, and there was a lot of snow on the ground. I was wearing a skirt, blouse, tights and four-inch heels. I don't really wear flats, and in the winter I find flats harder than heels (snow gets in them, they aren't as warm...and I just hate wearing flats). So I stubbornly insisted on walking the project area in my heels (the only other option was getting running shoes out of the car...not going to happen.) This meant my chivalrous male coworkers occasionally had to help me climb over a snow pile, but I made it work. 

Me being practical.

We warmed up after the tour with a delicious lunch at Red Mesa. I marveled that a small town like Boyne City has trendier food than we have in downtown Lansing. We've got work to do. I also grabbed a cappuccino at a charming bookstore (another thing we don't have in downtown Lansing...but I'm not bitter) where I also picked up a few books for my son.

Following productive afternoon meetings we headed to Traverse City in advance of their project (redoing a park space on the west end of downtown). We stayed downtown and walked to Amical for dinner. I'd been there for brunch but not dinner, and dinner was a-mazing. We had wine and delicious food and shared a chocolate peanut butter dessert that was to die for. The culinary scene in Traverse City is legit (it even attracts renowned chef Mario Batali).  

I really wanted to get up an run in downtown Traverse City. I also REALLY wanted to get a solid night's sleep while my son was home with his dad. Sleep won over running, and I slept like I was in a coma for about 9 hours. It was glorious. I can run Traverse City on my next visit.

I had an early breakfast meeting with discuss future funding of the project, and in typical me fashion I wore a dress and heels (same 4-inch heels as the day before.) We walked to city hall for the Traverse City project meetings. It was about a quarter mile to city hall, and I didn't think that would be a big deal in heels. From city hall it was decided we would walk to check out the project site. I didn't really know how far it was, and I didn't know how hard it was snowing. We walked out into a snowstorm, and I walked a mile to check out the project site. I know it was impractical, and by the time we got there my feet were killing me.

Even on a sunny day a two-mile trek in high-heeled booties is a bit much. On a snowy day? It was rough. But I refused to complain because what extraordinarily stubborn person would give my company the satisfaction? Actually my feet weren't hurting so much as my face was from the cold. When I got home last night and finally took my shoes off it hurt to walk. I promised myself that today I'd wear flats and be kind to my feet. I'm not known for keeping promises.
 
My footwear today. Some people never learn.


It was great to get away for a few days and explore fantastic northern Michigan communities. I had great food, one good run (even though it was regrettably indoors) and learned a lot about good projects and communities. I've learned that sometimes wearing heels is impractical. I'm not ready to make changes, but just acknowledging it is a big step. I also learned that it's REALLY hard to be away from my little guy for a few days.

The face that greeted me when I got home.
 
 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Never Will I Ever

I remember in college playing the "never have I ever" drinking game. You remember the one? Someone proclaims something they've never done, and if you had done it, you would have to drink. I would generally end up drinking a lot. But that's neither here nor there.

I started thinking about this game as I have been thinking about the myriad things people have told me I will or won't do once I have a child. A few years ago I remember snarkily declaring on Facebook (as I am wont to do) that I don't understand people who leave their house with their hair wet. How hard is it to dry your hair? And I got the "just wait until you have children" answer. I left my house with wet hair exactly one time ever, and it was when we were leaving for vacation last summer. My hairdryer broke, and I ran to Meijer to get another one with wet hair. It was 7 am, and I was mortified. It won't happen again.  We all know my stance on comfy pants in public. Again I've been told that once I have a child I'll wear leggings in public too.

Here's the thing: I won't. I declare now that never will I ever leave the house with wet hair, wear comfy pants in public unless I'm working out or walking my dogs, or phone in a work outfit. As we all know my list of inexcusable transgressions is long, and having a child doesn't mean I just phone in life. Will is more than two months old, and I have showered every single day since he was born. I've dried my hair. Unless I was not leaving my house at all (which is unusual), I put on pants with a button. These things take two seconds to do. 

Last week I was teetering down the ramp while picking the baby up from daycare in 4-inch red patent heels. He's getting heavier in that car seat, and walking in the heels is a challenge. However it takes what, 30 seconds, to walk from the door to my car? I can walk slowly for that 30 seconds in order to fabulous shoes.

Being a mom is REALLY hard, and I only have one child. I know there will be varying levels of hard as my son gets older, and if we decide to have a second child life only gets more difficult. We make choices though. It would be so easy to let myself go, to always run late, to stop caring how I look and say it's because I have a child. Lots of people do it. 

Or I can wake up early on Saturday morning for the baby's first feeding, leave him with my husband for an hour and go for a 6-mile run like I did last weekend. Because that's critical to keeping me sane. I will take a shower every day because that makes me feel human. I will wear impractical high heels because they make my legs look great. I don't want my son to look at me someday and think 'wow, my mom really let herself go after she had me. It must've been too hard to take care of me and herself.' That, my friends, just is not going to happen. 

Most of my friends are talented, put together, rock star moms, so I have a lot of great role models. I'm not saying every one of them has to wear heels or run every day, but they make time for those things that are important to keep their sanity. Heels, running and showering just happen to be those things to me.

Being a mom is so awesome/hard/amazing/challenging...the list of superlatives is endless. Being myself is also critical to my being a good mom. Never will I ever forget that. And now drink.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Thinking Outside the Car

I adore walking to work and dinner and everywhere. But here's a little secret: I don't hate driving. I love to drive fast and aggressively on the freeway. I've been known to have a bit of road rage. Yesterday I may have driven 85 mph for most of my two-hour drive for a meeting. It was fabulous. I don't want to drive to work every day, but every now and then a drive is good for the soul.

I'm not anti-car or anti-driving, but I do think we need to have a serious conversation about how we get places. Cars reign supreme here in Michigan. The problem is that the talented milliennials we're looking to attract don't want to drive. They want to take public transit or walk or bike. As long as we continue to focus solely on the automobile as our only means of getting from Point A to Point B, we will continue to lose.

I've learned a lot being a frequent pedestrian, and the primary lesson is that a multimodal system only works when everybody is following the rules. I find myself very annoyed when a pedestrian is crossing somewhere other than the crosswalk or against the light. But I have infinite patience for the pedestrians/cyclists/drivers following the rules.

This morning I was walking to work, and I started crossing (with a stroller!) in the crosswalk. There were no cars coming. A car turned the corner onto unnecessarily wide Ottawa Street and came careening toward me. I should have had plenty of time to cross the street, but the driver was flying (in front of my daycare no less). One of the women who works at our daycare saw it and commented that she couldn't believe how fast that guy came out of nowhere and wouldn't even slow down for a stroller. Pedestrians in the crosswalk have the right of way. I've gotten to the point where I will walk in front of cars (when I don't have my baby or dogs along) and then glare at drivers who try to rush me. You're driving in a downtown. Slow the f*ck down. I'll risk you hitting me to make my point.

Walking alone and running present one type of challenge as a pedestrian. Walking with a stroller presents an entirely new perspective. Last week we got a foot of snow, and the entire city shut down for a day to clear it. We walk to daycare on most days, and traversing a foot of snow with a stroller is extremely difficult. Most considerate people clear their sidewalks quickly, but the problem area are those corners where the sidewalk meets the street. I get it - you shovel your walk, the city clears the streets, and the snow backs up on those corners. Here's the part where I don't care. Pick up your shovel and clear it. It's part of the responsibility of owning a property on a corner lot. Our house is on the corner, and you can freely walk with a stroller from the sidewalk to cross the street. It's been more than a week since the snow, and in our neighborhood there are huge chunks of ice you can barely walk across let alone push a stroller. 

Walking downtown on a snowy day (sans stroller obviously).

It's got me thinking a lot about people trying to walk in downtown. If you were in a wheelchair or elderly, you honestly would still find most of the corners walking to downtown impassable, and that is unacceptable. We can't expect people to stop relying on cars or attract people who want a carless commute unless we're making possible for them to do it.

Commuting on a snowy day.

In the last couple of weeks there are a lot of days that it would've been easier to give up and drive, but I won't give in. We moved to downtown to walk. We picked a daycare partly because it was on our walking route to work. I'm inspired by this Fast Company article that highlights 7 cities who are starting to go car free. Of course not one of them is in the United States. At this point I'll settle for passable curb cuts. Car free sounds like the impossible dream.

I've made my peace with Michigan winters overall, but now I need Michigan sidewalk shovelers to get on board. We need to make sure we're making it easier for people to walk or bike to work, and for the love of God please make it easier for me to push a stroller. Let's think outside the car, shall we?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Finding the "Me" in Mommy

My son is almost two months old. He was born in December (on our wedding anniversary!), and we were not able to publicly celebrate until we got through some legal proceedings last week. For the last two months I've tried to write blogs and post on social media like my life hasn't been completely upended in the most amazing yet overwhelming way.  After 5½ years of trying to have a child he has arrived, and just like that I'm somebody's mom.

We got the call a few weeks before he was born, and we were cautious. Last year we were linked with a birth mom who changed her mind. I refused to let myself believe that he was actually coming. People we told would ask me if I was excited. If I'm being honest I really wasn't. My overriding emotion was fear. I was terrified. 

On the day he was born I felt my heart beating erratically as we drove to the hospital. All of the "what ifs" were taking over. I was worried that our birth mom would change her mind. I was worried that the baby wouldn't be healthy. I was worried about 1,000 things. That all changed when the nurse walked into our room with a 2-minute old baby boy. I fell in love instantly, and our life changed forever.

Anxious in the hospital.
Perfection.
The first few weeks were honestly a blur. He was born right before the holidays, and we had a revolving door of visitors during that time. Then it was Christmas, and then my parents came to visit. It was after the first of the year when life started to come back into focus. I assumed that not giving birth would mean I'd have tons of time to work out, read books. I had a whole plan for how relaxing and awesome maternity leave would be. I'm an idiot.

Taking the ErgoBaby for a spin on a warm December day.

In the first month of Will's life I ran maybe twice. The sleep deprivation is legit. I'm not the kind of person who can sleep while the baby is sleeping, and I use that time to hone my Type A tendencies by organizing, cleaning, and making sure everything is perfect. You know...things that are very important when one has a child. We had friends over when the baby was a few weeks old, and I felt it very critical to have appetizers ready. My parents showed up on New Years Day, and I had prepared an entire turkey dinner. It is not easy to be Super Mom, and I may kill myself trying.

After a few weeks of trying to be perfect I realized that wasn't sustainable. I also realized that in order to be a good mom, I had to find time to recharge. The sleeplessness is so pervasive I found myself being temperamental and grouchy...not with the baby but my dogs and husband bear the brunt of it. I found that it was important to take the dogs for a walk when my husband gets home. It's important to find time to go for a run or meet my girlfriends for lunch. Even with my son being only eight weeks old I quickly it's important for me to hang onto me. It's important to retain the "me" in Mommy.

Small fry's first professional photos
I ran my first post baby race a few weeks ago, and it was challenging to force myself to get up when sleep is so precious. I have been doing yoga and cross training DVDs while the baby sleeps in the swing next to me. I sometimes don't get through the entire workout, but I am a happier person for what I can finish. I enjoy having a glass of wine at night. I am so tired that sometimes I can't even drink the entire glass, but it feels like a grown up thing to do to at least carry it around. 

I'm registered for a half marathon in six weeks and a 25k in May. I ran 4.5 miles last weekend, and I struggled to get through it. Continuing to run while parenting a newborn is hard. Forcing myself to get up at 3 am to feed the baby and again at 5:30 to get ready for work is hard. But anything worth doing is hard. Remember: the hard is what makes it great.

Post workout snuggles.

We are at the very beginning of this crazy journey that is parenthood. I've had a few moments of total meltdown, but they are forgotten in the moments of pure joy. Yesterday the baby laughed for the first time, and my husband and I laughed along with him with tears in our eyes. He was totally forgiven for the fussy hour that preceded that laughter. There are times where I'm rushing to get everything done, or I'm eating standing at the kitchen counter in a rush. I know this is just the beginning many rushed/crazy/insanely wonderful moments. I no longer come first, and I'm thrilled about that. I do know, however, that I'll be a better mom if I have moments to regroup. I'm lucky to have a great partner to help navigate the insanity.

It's 3 am. Do you know where your baby is?
After five and a half years of waiting to have a baby, it's everything I thought it would be and more. The exhaustion, the stress, the "what the f*ck am I doing?" moments are all trying. Then I find myself starring at him at 2 in the morning marveling at the fact that I get to be his mom. My best friend used to tell me that in the scheme of life the waiting was small, but it felt so huge at the time. I will never forget the heart wrenching years that led me here, and I don't want to. They all come together to help me appreciate this time in a way I don't think I would have otherwise. Welcome to the world, little one. Thanks for choosing us as your parents.   

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gratitude and the Resiliency of the Human Body

I am consistently amazed by the human body's capacity to handle adversity. I know people who perpetually endure physical and emotional challenges with grace that I could only hope to muster in the same situations. I regularly remind myself that the physical and emotional challenges I've faced are inconsequential in comparison to so many others. I am young. I am strong and strong willed. That doesn't mean I don't get frustrated, and it doesn't mean I don't indulge in the occasional pity party. I think pity parties are okay when the ultimate result is pulling oneself up, brushing off the dust and knowing that it could be worse. We all just have those moments of frustration.

Six months ago I had just gotten out of the hospital after a surprising month that included two abdominal surgeries, a blood clot and losing 20 pounds. The first surgery was to be relatively routine. I was frustrated by the bowel obstruction and subsequent surgery the following week. The blood clot, however, threw me for a loop. I remember wondering if this is how it all ended - my getting a blood clot and dying as a result at the age of 35. I  know it sounds dramatic, but I was so sick. I was also very still, a state that is very foreign to me. I would sit in my hospital room with the television off, not reading, just being. It was very strange. I felt very dispassionate and listless. That was what concerned me more than anything - the fact that I felt so detached from myself.

All smiles despite a blood clot.

I emerged from the hospital weak and skinny. I was wearing an abdominal compression bustier all of the time except when I was in the shower. My abdominal muscles were so weak (non existent really) that the only way I could sit up was to roll to my side and push myself up with my arms. I assumed recovery would be slow, and I am not emotionally able to handle slow. 

A week after being released from the hospital I went back to work to prove (to nobody but myself) that I was fine. I went on a work trip to Holland, Michigan less than two weeks after I had been released. I wasn't ready for it, but I pretended I was. The next day my incision unexpectedly split open, and that was a problem I dealt with for several weeks.

The next week I went on a scheduled work trip to Midland, Michigan. I remember putting on sky high red patent shoes for the meetings and feeling so weary. Show no signs of weakness, right? I felt like I had to prove that I hadn't missed a beat. That night I was out with my colleagues, and I ran out of energy. It was like all of the pretending just ended, and I was the first to leave and crawl into bed. 

A month post op I went for my first run which was a total disaster. It also made me realize how weak I really was. It made me sit back and take stock of how I was ignoring my body's need to recover. This is what I do - push and push and push. I don't know any other speed. This recovery was no exception.

In Atlanta one month after I got out of the hospital...like you do.

Over the next few months I made an effort to be physically and mentally kinder to myself. In the last six months I've run fewer miles than I am used to. I've slept in. I've made an effort to listen to my body more regularly (although I'm still not great at it). I've done a better job at avoiding those foods that I know will make me sick. Six months after my hospital stay I feel stronger than I did before my surgeries. 

Earlier this week I had an ultrasound that showed my blood clot was completely gone. My veins look great. I am going off the dreaded blood thinners than I've taken for months.  I've had six abdominal surgeries in the last 14 years, and given the severity of my Crohns I'll likely have more in my lifetime. I continue to marvel at the resiliency of my body knowing all the while that it's really been my mental fortitude that has gotten me to this healthier version of myself.

We all have the capacity to handle the arduousness life throws at us. Will it tear us down, or will we take the challenges thrown at us and use them to be stronger? I am healthier than I was seven months ago, but more importantly I'm appreciative of the negative experience that got me here. Those two surgeries, blood clot and hospital stay have made me stronger, and for that I am grateful.                  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Owning the 5k in 2015

Last month I resolved that I would focus on the 5k in 2015 and really work to be a speed demon following my fast (for me) times last year. I've been doing a lot of great speed workouts on the treadmill, and I have to be honest: being fast is way more fun than running long distance. No comparison. I am registered for two races that are longer than 13 miles this spring, but nothing is more fun right now than rocking out a pretty fast 3.1.

I haven't run a race since November, and I was itching to get outside and run hard. I registered for the Super Bowl 5k knowing that the weather might not permit a PR. I woke up on Sunday morning to light snow and warnings of blizzard conditions later in the day. Not exactly PR material, but it wasn't going to stop me from running hard.

The race was in Meridian Township and began at Chippewa Middle School. I picked up my packet easily before the race in the school's gymnasium. The snow was coming down more heavily at the start of the race, but the temperature actually felt great. I didn't realize when I left home how deep the snow actually was, and I was lamenting leaving my Yak Traks at home.

All smiles before the snowy start!

I took off like a shot at the beginning, full of energy and wanting to prove myself despite the snowy conditions. It only took a few hundred yards before I realized this wasn't going to be a fast race. We were running in the middle of the road in several inches of snow. My breathing was already labored a half a mile in. I used to run on the beach when I lived in Virginia, and the few inches of snow made it feel like we were running in sand. Very slippery sand.

When I reached the first mile clock, I had run an 8:20 mile. Not the 7:30 or less I was hoping for. I knew I was far from a PR, but it didn't mean I would quit pushing. The course twisted through a subdivision, but I ignored my surroundings and focused on breathing. It was difficult to do at that point. 

Around the 2½ mile point I got a second wind. I realized I could push harder, and I passed several people who I'd been letting pace me for most of the race. One woman was likely in my age group, and I had a momentary surge of adrenaline that let me fly by her.

I had side stitches as I crossed the finish line in 27:32 (1:42/mile off my goal pace), but I knew that a PR wasn't going to happen in that race. My legs were dead, and I knew it was way harder than running on the treadmill or on a snowless day.  I left quickly to run some errands before heading home. I was in the car at a light when I saw the text informing me that I'd won my age group.  That had only happened once before when I set my PR last May, and it motivates me to continue to push myself.

The snow accumulated throughout the day resulting in work cancellations and about a foot of snow in the area. I was able to enjoy it with a cup of coffee while nursing my sore legs in the afternoon. My first 5k in 2015 wasn't my best, but the year is off to a great and motivating start!

Snowy Lansing the day after the storm