Monday, November 21, 2016

What Happens in Vegas...

There are a lot of things I don't understand in this life: wearing pajamas in public, the existence of PT Cruisers, rooting for Pitt. And while I have places I've traveled that I love more than others, there are very few that I basically loathe. Las Vegas is at the top of the loathing list.

My husband had a conference in Vegas, and I decided to tag along. It seemed like a nice time for us to get away together and for me to give Vegas a do over. I've been once, more than seven years ago, for a wedding. At the time I did not enjoy it at all. I don't gamble, and while I love food and cocktails, I honestly found it boring. We were there for a long weekend, and it was probably two days too long. I thought this was an opportunity for me to reassess my thoughts about Vegas. It turns out my opinion did not change. At all.

My first time in Vegas in 2009. My hair is...fluffy.
We arrived Wednesday evening and stayed at the Paris. On our first trip our hotel wasn't great, so I hoped staying at a more central spot on the strip and a nicer hotel would be better. I was assaulted by smoke when we walked in, and I'd somehow forgotten that everyplace in Vegas smells super smokey. We checked in and had dinner. I was in bed by 9 pm local time (which felt like midnight) because I have a two-year-old and I'm perpetually exhausted.

Naturally we were up at 3 am on Thursday but managed to fall back asleep. My husband's conference and my workload took up much of the day Thursday, although I did manage to get in a good workout at the hotel gym. My husband and I had a quiet dinner at The Palm Thursday evening, and by 10 pm local time I was exhausted. When we got back to the hotel I looked at myself in the mirror in the elevator. I looked like a zombie, and I felt okay crashing. We are wild Vegas partiers.

Dinner at The Palm. I look absurdly tired.
On Friday I had a good bit of work to do too, but I managed to fit in some shopping at Caesars Palace before a conference call and a lunch meeting. Friday evening my husband's company hosted a dinner for legislators and staff attending the conference, and it was a beautiful night with a lot of people with whom I love working. Being in a marriage with two lobbyists means my husband's work events can be work for me too if I organize it right. It's not the worst thing.

I don't hate the sunshine
Early Saturday I hit the treadmill to walk which, by the way, seems to take forever. Last week I ran for the first time since my surgery last month, and while I was slow it felt pretty good. Later that evening, however, I realized I was not ready to run. I was in a lot of pain, and it was apparent that my body is still expending a lot of energy to rid itself of this massive infection. I ran for ten minutes on the treadmill my first morning in Vegas, and I paid for it all day. I have my next appointment with the surgeon next week, but I realized it's not worth it. It's not worth it to push myself to run again before my body is ready. My body has always cooperated and bounced back nicely, and if I push it here I may do irreparable harm. Even though it's hard I'm going to make myself wait. 

My disappointment in not running helped me appreciate day drinking (okay I always appreciate day drinking). We watched my Mountaineers get eviscerated by Oklahoma Saturday evening, and I may or may not have enjoyed a lot of champagne. By the time we got up to leave on Sunday I was more than ready to go.

Our last morning. I woke up with a wicked cold, and it shows.
I understand there are things to do in Vegas off the strip like going to the Hoover Dam or hiking. People go to shows, but there wasn't really anything we were excited to see. My husband and I travel to visit cities, and Vegas feels like a forced place. I don't mind crowds or busyness (as evidenced by my love of New York), but Las Vegas does not feel authentic. Add to that the fact that we don't gamble (other than my ill-fated bet for my Mountaineers), and Vegas is kind of boring. Sure there are lots of restaurants, but they all feel like they have the same menu. And don't get me started on the lack of walkability; having to take walkways over ten lanes of traffic below. It was nice to have quality alone time with my husband and get lots of sleep. Next time I propose we do it somewhere a little less shiny.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Things I Didn't Know

Four years ago I wrote a blog about how amazingly supportive my husband is of my running/traveling addiction. I've had friends remark that it must be nice to have my own paparazzo at the finish line (it is). When I wrote that blog we'd been married about four years, and up to that point things had been pretty easy for us.

When I wrote that blog there was a lot I didn't know about my husband. I didn't know that 2013 was going to be a shit year and test everything we thought we knew about one another. I didn't know that he'd shortly face the greatest pain of his life in losing his dad, and I still am unable to take that pain away. I didn't know that he'd patiently sit next to me as I sobbed when the vet was euthanizing my 15-year-old cat in the middle of the night. I didn't know that he'd be my rock when we had a birth mother change her mind after the baby was born. I didn't know that 2013 would contain all of that heartbreak and be a devastating year. There were times when we looked at each other, and I wondered if we'd get through it all. We're strong but how much can one couple take?

I didn't know that in the summer of 2014 I'd be hospitalized for a month, and he'd drop everything to be there for me. He never wavered in taking care of me and our life so I could focus on getting well. 

I didn't know (but suspected) that he would be the most amazing dad in the entire world. From the moment the nurse walked into the hospital room surprising us with the tiny bundle in her arms he has been a rockstar. I have had friends complain about their husbands not doing their share and leaving bottles in the sink and not getting up at night. I don't have those complaints. I am lucky. We are a true team, and we pick up the slack when the other one is busy. I hear him playing with Will in the other room and the happy giggles coming from our child, and sometimes I can't even breathe from the tears that surprise me. I think back to the dark year of 2013 and realize if it hadn't been for that dark year, I wouldn't be able to appreciate the light and joy in our lives now.

I didn't know that my husband would hold me when I collapsed onto the floor in tears while picking out clothes to wear to my father's funeral. He knew better than anyone the pain I was feeling, and he never wavered for an instant. 

I didn't know that 2015 would be my toughest Crohn's year in fifteen years including a week-long hospitalization and another surgery. He took care of our son and our pets and our house while working. When I feel unattractive and frustrated and sick he reminds me that I'm beautiful and patient and strong. 

He's still at the finish line of nearly all of my races, but it's a footnote to everything else in our life. I am so, so grateful to cross the finish line and see him there now with our son in tow. I always feel strong at the finish line, and I want my husband and son to see that side of me. I have finished way fewer races this year than in the past few, but I couldn't do any of it without my husband's support.

My all-time fav photo after a race - New York Marathon 2015
With my boys after shattering my PR in the Deckers Creek Half Marathon, June 2015
He doesn't make me happy 100 percent of the time, but every day he makes me happy. Some days are rougher than others, but every single day is worth it. While this year wasn't like 2013 in its brutality, 2016 has had some unexpected challenges. My husband has never, even for a second, doubted me or hesitated to have my back. As I count my blessings entering into Thanksgiving week, you can bet he's at the top of the list. 

There's nobody I'd rather have by my side.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Embracing the Chaos

Some days I feel one errand or one more obligation away from losing my mind. I sometimes don't know how we (the collective busy "we") do it all. Being a wife and mother plus having a career is a lot, but then there are those events on which I don't that take up time in a schedule already bursting at the seams. I got the oil changed in both of our cars last week, and in one of them they forgot to put the skid plate (whatever that is) back on properly. I unexpectedly had to go back to the garage to get it fixed early this morning before going to the gym and then working the rest of the day. We've had two sick dogs the last few weeks, and it's meant multiple vet visits, tears and lots of money. I woke up yesterday to our Izzy having peed all over our couch, and she was lying in it. She's on steroids which make her go to the bathroom more, and she was wearing the cone of shame, so she wouldn't move. Sunday morning started by waking up my husband for toddler duty while I bathed the dog and tried to figure out how to clean an insane amount of dog urine from my couch cushions (update: they cannot be salvaged.)

Oh we have cats too. They are largely ignored, but here they are at their annual checkup last week.
A regular day, with no unforeseen errands (if such a thing exists) means dropping my son off at 7:30, working out, tidying up the house (because I'm too anal to leave beds unmade and toys on the floor) working all day (including travel several days a week), picking up my son, dinner, playing, bath, books, bedtime, packing lunch for the next day. Somewhere in there I do laundry, walk the dogs, empty the dishwasher and any type of leisure activity. It makes life chaotic and crazy.

I will add to it the fact that my husband and I rarely spend weekends at home by design. We like to travel, and when we are home for a weekend we're not entirely sure what to do with ourselves (because catching up on all these mundane things seems bo-ring). We are heading to Las Vegas this weekend, heading to West Virginia for Thanksgiving (where I'm co-hosting my sister-in-law's baby shower), we are home for one weekend and then go on a cruise. We return on the day before our son's second birthday and our eighth wedding anniversary. We will likely have his birthday celebration on a Tuesday evening because we are hosting our annual holiday party the next weekend. Then it's Christmas. We don't know how to do down time.

I am not complaining because this is the only pace I know, and I love it. It's hard though when I have health issues and keep pushing. I am often admonished by family and friends for not slowing down, but I don't understand slow. Three weeks post surgery I'm feeling like myself with a few challenges from my surgery site. I'm both champing at the bit to be back at 100 percent and allowing myself the luxury of being a little slower. 

Yesterday, on a rare Sunday at home, my husband spent about five hours outside doing yard work and cleaning up the garage. My son and I played, watched Elf for the first time of what will be dozens this holiday season, and I did work inside during nap time. When my husband was done I headed to the grocery store for a rare toddlerless shopping session. While part of me wanted this alone time to last for hours, I was rushing through the store because that's what you do when you're a busy mom.

Watching Elf with my little man.
In one aisle I saw an older woman slowly putting things in her cart. I know nothing about this woman but made some assumptions. She seemed to be buying single serving things leading me to believe she lived alone. I watched her and had a light bulb moment where I realized my busy wouldn't last forever. It'll be a few years, but at some point I won't have my son's laundry to wash. At some point he will drive himself and not need us to shuttle him from Point A to Point B. There will come a time where it's just me and my husband again, and our lives will be quieter. God forbid there will be a time where it's just me, and the silence will be deafening.

I made a decision at that moment that while realistically I'm not going to slow down, I will embrace and enjoy the chaos. After getting everything I needed I leisurely walked back through the store looking at Christmas decorations and possible Christmas gifts. Life is loud and bustling and hurried, and that is how I want it. But I need to stop rushing through the chores and the errands and the moments. I need to be mindful. When my son wants to put on his Halloween costume and "help" with yard work, I will lend him my gardening gloves and head outside.  If the clean laundry sits in the basket for a day, the world will not end. If my Golden Retriever, who won't have much longer with us, wants me to play on the floor I'll do it. 

Our yard work helper
While I like my life to be busy, it doesn't mean I have to rush through it looking forward to the next thing. I am making a point of being more mindful and more joyful even in the midst of the chaos we've created.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Bob Dole for President!

Twenty years ago I cast my first ballot in a presidential election. I was 18 years old, idealistic, bright-eyed, bushy tailed and uninformed. It was perfect. I, like many teenagers, didn't know a lot about politics. Many kids get their political views from their parents. My parents voted but did not (at that time - it's changed) have extremely vocal political views. I made my political choices in 1996 to be antagonistic. I'm sure that's not surprising.

My high school brought all the members of my senior class (all 35 of us!) into the auditorium, and we were given the opportunity to register to vote. All of us but two registered as Democrats because that's what their parents were. Granted in a Dixiecrat state being a "Democrat" means being pro-life, pro-gun, pro-death know, a Republican. I talked one of my friends into registering as a Republican with me, because we didn't want to be like everybody else. That was really the extent of my thoughts. Well and that and I like argyle. I also grew up watching Family Ties with a huge crush on Alex P. Keaton. He taught me much about politics.

That year Bill Clinton was the incumbent and Democratic nominee. He was being challenged by Republican Senator Bob Dole. I decided to vote for Bob Dole for one main reason: decorum. This was actually before the Lewinsky scandal broke, but there were lots of rumors that painted Bill Clinton as a cad including the accusations by Paula Jones. My young, idealistic self didn't know what the truth was behind those allegations, but I knew one thing: I wanted my President to be steadfast, honest, and not someone who would have sexual relations with that woman. 

As I cast my ballot I talked my mom into voting for Senator Dole as well. One of my elementary school teachers was fighting a tough election for the WV House of Delegates, and I told my mom I wouldn't vote for him unless she voted for Bob Dole. My mom will learn for the first time in reading this blog that I always intended to vote for Mr. Pethtel but I wanted to get her to vote my way. I didn't know it then but it was my first time lobbying. It was certainly not the last time I played hardball to get the vote I want.

In 1998 my study abroad roommate in Germany was from College Station, Texas. Her parents were friends with Texas Governor George W. Bush. She had great things to say about him. She, being an opera singer, sang at his gubernatorial inauguration. In the 2000 Presidential election I voted for him because he seemed like a good dude. Also how often do you know someone who knows a Presidential candidate and vouches for him? 

I hated and still hate the Iraq war. I spent much of 2003 and 2004 being angry. I was alone at Fort Hood, Texas while the man in my life at that time was overseas fighting some enemy that we're still fighting (only now it's a different enemy?) Don't get my started on my feelings about the war. But even with that I stood by W. in 2004 and voted for him over John Kerry.

In 2004 I took a job working for the Mayor of Norfolk, Virginia. On my first day we were chatting in his office and started to walk to a meeting. He stopped me in the doorway and said, "Are you a Democrat or a Republican?" I told him I'd always identified as a Republican, and he told me to never tell anyone that as long as I worked for him. It was in that job that I learned how to be politically agnostic.

Fast forward two years and I've decided to upend my life by taking a job working for the Michigan House Republican Policy Office.  When Norfolk's Vice Mayor found out I was leaving she said incredulously, "Girl I cannot believe you're a Republican." I moved north, threw myself into partisan policy and learned a lot including that I'm not really very Republican. I also discovered I'm not a Democrat either. Neither label works for me. It turns out I really AM politically agnostic. 

In 2008 I looked at the ballot that held a one-term US Senator in Barack Obama and a grizzled veteran of both Congress and the military, Senator John McCain. I was unable to wrap my head around a one-term US Senator being President. Regardless of political views it seemed like he was not qualified. Even when McCain went with crazy town Sarah Palin as his running mate I voted for him.

I did not make the same mistake in 2012. At this point I'd been lobbying for five years. I have seen both the inside and outside of the political system, and I wasn't going to vote for Mitt Romney. You know what actually gets me about Romney? I think he was a good governor. He made some very moderate decisions as Governor of Massachusetts including universal health care. I loved that about him. But as he threw it all away and ran to the right, I cast my first ballot for a Democrat for President. You're welcome, Barry.

And then we come to the dumpster fire that is 2016. I am voting for the exact same reason I did in 1996: I cannot vote for someone who is a total cad and does not possess the decorum required by the Office of President of the United States. In retrospect I think Bill Clinton was an excellent President, but I stand by my 1996 vote. I haven't always been pro-Hillary. I read her book Living History when it came out 2003 and really disliked her. I felt like she spent the book making excuses for all of the challenges in their political life. 

Now I see it a little differently. One doesn't spend decades in public service without their every move being scrutinized. Hillary lived out the pain of marital infidelity in the press. Also Donald Trump needs to STOP comparing his behavior to Bill's. Bill is not running for President, and last time I checked I am not responsible for my husband's behavior any more than Hillary is responsible for hers. Even if Hillary's email situation gives one pause, there is zero comparison to the behavior of her opponent. 

The Access Hollywood tape is indefensible. Making fun of immigrants and people with disabilities is indefensible. I actually turned the TV off during Hillary's ad asking if this is what we want our children to see because I did not want my two-year-old seeing Donald Trump's behavior. My political views have evolved and will continue to evolve, but I remain committed that being President requires both experience and decorum. There's no room for racism, sexism and a running mate that is disturbingly homophobic. What scares me the most is that the widespread support for Donald Trump actually means that so many in our country believe in his tenants of hate and vilification. That is terrifying.

I'm voting because I shouldn't have to say "ear muffs"to him when our President is speaking.
Running for President on a whim doesn't work for me. It's got to be earned. Hillary has earned it. I could not possibly care less about what's happened with her emails, and if you're hung up on that take a watch of the other nominee blatantly mocking a disabled person and bragging about sexual assault.  I voted for Bob Dole for the same reasons I'm voting for Hillary Clinton: decorum and experience. Sometimes sticking with your designated party and usual political views just isn't good enough.  #Imwithher 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Marathon of Parenting

Being a parent is the hardest, most exhausting and most rewarding job ever. Everyone tells you how amazing parenting is, and there's really no way to know it until it happens to you. When our son was born I told a colleague I realize why everyone thinks their kid is perfect: because they all are to their parents. 

Parenting is also unequivocally the most exhausting thing I've ever done. When my son was a newborn I got through the sleep deprivation on adrenaline alone. That time is mostly a blur, but I remember being awake in the middle of the night and looking down at my wide awake newborn. I forced myself to take in the moment and remember it. It wouldn't last forever. When he was about 18 months old the sleep deprivation caught up with me, and I've been feeling like a zombie for nearly six months. Thank God for facials to help with the bags under my eyes.

I may tell humorous (and frustrating anecdotes) about my child, but I'll never complain about the crazy moments. I waited six long years to have our son, and even the frustrating moments are worth it. Take this morning, for example, when I asked him to come inside and he ran away from me into the yard. He stepped in dog poop, which I did not realize until I was carrying his kicking toddler body back inside and it was already all over my dress. This was at approximately 8 a.m., and I had to do an entire costume change before my 8:30 meeting.  Even though I was frustrated, I love seeing him challenging his boundaries and becoming his own little person.

Refusing to wear the hat for his Halloween costume. Sassy.
My son loves "feeding" baby dolls (or stuffed animals) shortly before he throws them on the ground and jumps on them (he's all boy energy). Yesterday I swaddled a baby doll and then he wanted me to swaddle him instead. I swaddled my little boy and carried him around like a baby which he found hilarious. I felt nostalgic back to a few years ago when he was a less than six pound newborn, and the world was so shiny. This time is way more fun, but I miss that helpless little human. 

Every few months we write a letter to our son's birth mom telling her about him. It's so hard to encompass on an 8½ x 11 piece of paper how wonderful this child is. I want to gush but it feels weird to gush too much because she made this incredible sacrifice so we can be his parents. He will be two in December. He has such a sassy personality. He loves asking "why", playing with cars, snuggling and milk. He likes to "help" around the house whether it's mowing, cooking, or doing laundry. He likes to dance, watch Sesame Street and loves trains. He loves our dogs but really loves our cat Archie who is so patient with him. He loves to jump and climb everything. He's fearless and will jump off of anything - toys, steps, you name it. He loves to push his boundaries, but as soon as he's startled he jumps right into mom's or dad's arms. He's a good sleeper, and it's only partially his fault that his mom no longer is. He attended his first race expo when he was only three months old, and he loves watching Mama run races. I would love it if he's a runner, but really I hope he's a happy and healthy little guy. 

When it's a beautiful day in Colorado and your son wants to sit on the ground and play trains, you oblige.
This ottoman is for climbing into, right?
"Helping" make cupcakes
He hates eating because that means he has to stop running/jumping/playing. He's really into licking things (my favorite was when he licked the dog's paw - gross). He's the love of our life, and I cannot imagine our world without him in it.

Running marathons is hard (the hard is what makes it great, remember?) In that blog I wrote a few years ago I said: Running is hard and amazing and terrible and gratifying all at once. Some days I feel like running ten miles is the easiest thing I've ever done, and the next day I struggle with running one or two. I've never, however, finished a run and regretted it. For all of the hard stuff mentioned above, running is my sanity. It clears my head and helps me focus. Every single run is a challenge, and it is the hard that makes it great.

As hard as running is, I've learned that parenting is even harder. Even on my hardest long runs I get to control the outcome, and as a control freak I like this. Raising a child means you're not in control. You're not in control of when they're sick, when they're sassy, when they're whiny. My son is on rather rigid schedule, and yet he has days where I have no idea why he's so tired or crabby (not unlike adults.) But like running parenting makes me a better person. It's hard and amazing and terrible and gratifying all at once. For nearly two years I've loved every single minute of being a mom. Even right before Easter Mass where my son projectile vomited on me. Even in the ER in the middle of the night with hand, foot and mouth disease. Even in the middle of the night when I hear, "Mama?" being yelled from his room. While I'd like to change the circumstances and never have him be sick or tired, I love being his mom 100% of the time. 

Seeing this smile is everything.
Running marathons is hard, but it doesn't compare to the marathon of parenting. Parenting is more of a life-long ultra race where you have to pace yourself and fuel appropriately (I'm convinced parenting is why coffee and wine exist). You have to balance 1,000 things including work, friends, family, exercise, a clean house and of course that marriage that led to the desire to have this adorable child.  The vomit, the poop and the tears are footnotes to the amazing story of my little boy and the absolute blessing it is to be his mother. Life is long and it is hard, but there is joy in every moment. My son doesn't know it, but he taught me that.  

Halloween's happiest skunk