Sunday, August 13, 2017

To Philadelphia with Love

Finding a new city is up there with my favorite things. It's like reading a book you love and discovering the author has a dozen other books you haven't read. It surpasses wonderful things like a good race medal or a delicious glass of Pinot Noir. Discovering the joy of a new city is magical.

My husband attends a lot of conferences, and sometimes I tag along. For months I'd planned to join him in Philadelphia, and he found out more recently he had a conference in Austin immediately before Philly. Given that my best friend (and my son's godmother) lives in Austin, there was no question that we'd join him in Austin as well. 

I loved visiting my bestie, but as I opined back in April Austin does nothing for my cityphile heart. A bartender in my hotel who was new to Austin complained to me that downtown Austin felt "corporate". I couldn't agree more. Given that temps were hovering around 100 degrees the entire time we were there our options were 1) swim or 2) do something inside. 

We visited the Texas Capitol, a civic institution I'd never visited despite my many times in Austin. When I lived in Texas we would often go to Cisco's for breakfast after a raucous night on the town. I talked my husband into going, and it was as divey and delicious as I remember.

We did swim a few times including visiting fantastic Barton Springs. The natural spring fed pool has a natural rocky bottom and cold water (68-70 degrees) that was perfect on a 100 degree day.  

Skyline in the background. I love an urban park.
I was able to find fun in Austin, but the city does not resonate with me at all. Its downtown is mediocre at best. And even the neighborhoods that have cool stores and restaurants like South Congress have five lanes separating each side of the street. I really don't get it. 

Austin was also one of the toughest trips we've ever had with our son. At one point I seriously considered canceling the second part of the trip for my son and me and going home. He has never, ever been that challenging, and I wasn't sure I could do more of it.

Thankfully in Philadelphia he was back to his normal easygoing self (with a few exceptions). As much as I love historic east coast cities, Philadelphia has never been on my list. To be honest if it weren't for my husband's conference I don't think I would've gone there at all. I've never heard much about it either positive or negative.

Someone is not a fan of history.
Philadelphia was an extraordinary surprise, and I absolutely love everything about it. Traveling with a toddler is different, so we found some really cool playgrounds including one of the original eight public spaces designed by William Penn complete with a carousel. My son and I walked a mile and a half to Markward playground one day only to find a really vibrant urban space with dog parks, fitness trails and the playground. I was in love. 

Our hotel was across the street from the Reading Terminal Market which is, I will declare, the best public market we've been to. We make it a point to visit markets in cities we visit, and we've been to some fantastic ones. One of the disappointing things about visiting markets as a tourist is that there's usually no way to take advantage of the delicious produce, meats and seafood on display. Many markets have eateries, but Reading Terminal Market took the cake. There were so many different and interesting restaurants. We ate there for breakfast and lunch every day on our trip. I had delicious gumbo, cornbread and sweet iced tea. I had a huge turkey deli sandwich. I had shrimp and grits benedict (insane). The market was extraordinary, and I could visit it every day and not tire of it. 

Speaking of extraordinary we wandered over to Rittenhouse Square one day to find a dynamic square with people everywhere. There was a farmers market lining the square on Saturday morning. Kids were running around. People were sunbathing or just reading on one of the many benches. Adjectives fail me to describe how much I loved this park.

Rittenhouse Square. Amazing.
As is usually the case we visited some great places to eat and drink in addition to the market. We had dinner at Jones, a cool restaurant decorated like it's 1975 complete with shag carpet in the sunken part of the restaurant. We had authentic tasting poutine and sliders at Shoo Fry. We spent my son's nap time (he was in the stroller) at McGillin's Olde Ale House, the oldest continually operating tavern in Philadelphia. It boasts that it opened the year Lincoln was elected (1860). 

We did the obligatory touristy things like see the Liberty Bell and the square where Independence Hall lives (our testy toddler made a tour a bad idea). We stayed right near Philadelphia's city hall which is phenomenal. It's everything a public building should be and more. There was a splash pad outside city hall in Dilworth Park where my son darted through the water with kids from all over the city. 

It's not a secret that I don't like cities that have it figured out. Philadelphia is gritty. There's a significant homeless population. It's not extremely clean. But I love that. I love that it's got moxie and personality. It doesn't hide its imperfections but rather lives with them and tries to make them work. 

Vacation was a wonderful reset made even more wonderful by my complete adoration for the city. Thank you, Philly, for the parks, the history, and the grit. Thank you, Philly, for being wonderful you. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Parenting is Bipolar

Parenting is a bipolar job. It includes extreme highs and extreme lows and lots of moments in the middle. I mostly think I'm a pretty good mom, but I would be lying if I didn't tell you I second guess myself about something every day. Every single day at some point I wonder if I'm actually failing miserably as a mom.

I don't read parenting books or websites or generally listen to advice from others because every kid is different. Every parenting style is different. I truly think moms should scrap the advice and do whatever works for them. My kid is two and a half and still loves his pacifier. He won't forever. I'm not sweating that. 

I do sweat the fact that he's not a great eater. It's been the bane of my existence since we switched to solid foods. It's getting better after we saw a pediatric nutritionist. But I hate when people give me advice about feeding my kid. We've talked to the pediatrician. He's healthy. We've talked to the nutritionist. We're on a strict feeding schedule, and some days he eats like a champ. Some days he barely eats at all. And every day he still drinks a bottle of milk before bed. I look forward to the days when we're done with that bottle. I know it won't be forever. Sometimes it stresses me out, but it won't be like this for long. 

My kid is super talkative, he's a great traveler, he's funny, energetic, and sweet. Those are all part of the extreme highs. Then there are the lows. Every single day he fights me to get dressed, and by the time I get out the door some days I am desperate to crawl back into bed. He loves to be naked, and putting on clothes is our biggest fight. Sometimes he hits me when I make him do things he doesn't want to do. He watches more TV than I'd like. He rarely eats fruit or vegetables. Every single day these things worry me at some point. I think about one or a combination of these things and think I'm doing nothing right. 

Will is very active and loves running. I obviously encourage this interest because running is amazing. I ran a 5k on the 4th of July, and he was so excited to cheer on the runners. Last weekend I ran the Run for Fame 5k in downtown Lansing, a race we can walk to from our house. I've run it before, and it's a small and fun out and back course on the Lansing River Trail. 

It was my third 5k in as many weeks, and it was another really hot and humid race. I was faster than I was in Chicago (27:39) but still slow. But again I'm feeling like I'm getting back to myself. As I rounded the corner to the finish I saw my husband and son. My son was so excited, and he jumped onto the (basically empty) course to run to the finish with me. He was so excited and loved it so much. As we walked the 3/4 of a mile home he kept running and saying, "I'm so fast. You can't catch me Mom!" I love his passion for running. I don't always think I'm getting everything right, but on that moment in that day I felt like I was an amazing mom. Those highs make it all worth it. 

Post 5k running
We will screw our kid up like every parent does, and I will continue to doubt myself on a regular basis. But this job, even though it's bipolar, is the best job I've ever had. It's magical, and I wouldn't trade a moment (even the daily fights to get dressed). I waited a long time for this job, and the hard moments just make me appreciate the easier ones even more. Who knew the lows would be so sweet?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How Slow Can you Go?

This year my blog has been less about running and cities and more about Crohn's and mommyhood. I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, but it has meant I'm off my game a bit. Given my extreme focus on both running and cities over the last few years, it was probably good to take a break; gain a little perspective. My break wasn't intentional, but I finally got to the place where I realized it was necessary. Now I'm slowly getting back into running, and I really had no idea just how slow the process would be. I've been working out a lot over the last eight months, but it's been a lot of yoga and cross training. Running is a different animal, and I was kidding myself to think I could simply jump right back into it. Falling in love again with my favorite cities, however, remains really easy.

Last week my husband had a conference in Chicago, so I decided to join for a few days. In my last job I traveled overnight relatively frequently, but the last year I've been home quite a bit. I've gotten used to being home all the time with our small human, so leaving him for three nights left me feeling pretty vulnerable even though he loves being at Grandma's house. It was made easier by the fact that I love Chicago (it's my third favorite city after the two Portlands, Maine and Oregon, tie for first). I also decided to register for a 5k and run every day I was there. No excuses. I was looking for me again.

We flew out of Detroit's Metro airport late on Wednesday evening after a several hour delay. We spent the time drinking cocktails and then drank more when upgraded to first class. I slept until 7:45 local time on Thursday morning (I never sleep that late) and felt like myself again getting up to go for a run. I walked out the door and into a wall of humidity. It was nearly 90 degrees and nearly 100 percent humidity, but I didn't let that stop me. I ran onto the river trail and admired the quaint restaurants along the river. I turned onto the trail near the marina and enjoyed the view. It was muggy, but it was a gorgeous morning for a run.

A beautiful view on a muggy morning
My husband and I walked to breakfast at Yolk where I had the best corned beef hash I've ever eaten. It was necessary to replace all those calories I burned running in humidity. As we walked back I was reminded why I love Chicago so much. Despite it being the nation's third largest city, it feels intimate. I told my husband, "I love it here. A good city should feel like it's giving you a hug." Three to four lanes of traffic are framed by large buildings and charming storefronts. Chicago feels like an old lover. 

I shopped a lot of the day before we met friends for drinks at Three Dots and a Dash, an underground tiki bar. It was weird and amazing. We followed it with more drinks at Untitled (I highly recommend The First Word) before dinner at Siena Tavern

The next morning I hit the streets to run off the cocktail induced cobwebs. I ran down Michigan Avenue to Millennium Park and Grant Park, two of my favorite places in the city. I ran by the infamous Cloud Gate statue (aka the Bean), as always awed by the way this fantastic piece of art engages the community - both residents and visitors. 

My husband ended up busy for lunch, so I read a book and enjoyed a pastrami sandwich and Sauvignon Blanc at SideDoor a block from the hotel. The sandwich and wine were both phenomenal. My husband was finished shortly after my late lunch, so we ventured to the Tortoise Supper Club where I decided it would be a great idea to switch to champagne. We had fun bartenders and were later joined by several friends. It was pretty easy to fall in love with Chicago again. 

Afternoon cocktail selfies at the Tortoise Supper Club
We headed to Navy Pier for my husband's work reception and then ambled through Exhibitionism, a great Rolling Stones exhibit the company my husband works for is sponsoring. Our final evening in Chicago concluded with dinner at Riva on Navy Pier. As we walked the mile back to the hotel (naturally I was in four inch wedges), I found myself wavering on running the 5k in the morning. It wasn't necessary right? 

I rallied, waking up at 5:45 am to prep for the race. I had yogurt and a cappuccino in the hotel lobby and then walked 1.5 miles to Grant Park to join thousands of others running the Rock 'n Roll 5k. Much like the week before I ran in hot weather with very little shade. The view, however, was amazing. At different points we looked at the marina with Navy Pier in the background. The city skyline stood at attention behind the entire race. And I moved at a snail's pace. Last year I set my PR at 23:04. On Saturday I ran 29 minutes even, my slowest 5k in years. The worst part was that I had very little left. I comforted myself a bit by the narrow path and large crowd, making it hard to break away and get much faster. But really my body is learning to trust itself again, and I'm going to be slow for a while. 

Pre-race with the Willis Tower in the background

Post race at the Bean
A few hours later I was upgraded to first class again, and I sat reading and drinking a cocktail in first class reflecting on how much I felt like me again. I missed our son madly, but I loved having time alone with his dad. I loved exploring one of my favorite cities and running even if I was slower than I'm used to. I've missed myself. It's nice to be back. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Heat of the 1,675 Moments

I have run three 5ks this year. I'm used to running multiple half marathons and lots of 5ks and 10ks, but this year has been a challenge. Back in March I ran the Run for the House. I won my age group and thought I was back on track to begin running again. But my body had other plans, and I decided that in order to heal I needed to take a serious running hiatus. 

It's been weird both physically and mentally. I'm used to logging lots of miles and as a result eating and drinking whatever I want without gaining weight. It turns out running burns lots of calories, so if I want delicious things like ice cream and wine I've got to burn it off. I'm at my heaviest weight ever, and it's all settled in my butt. Thankfully people are into that. 

Mentally not running means I've lost my biggest way to relieve stress and a huge part of my identity. It's weird sleeping in on the weekends instead of lacing up my shoes and hitting the river trail. I see social media posts of friends running races, and I feel wistful. Usually that's me, and it's been an adjustment.

Thanks to new meds I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel that is this absurd infection. I've slowly started running again...emphasis on the slowly. I ran my usual three mile route several times before deciding I was back in 5k shape. A year ago I could run a 5k in my sleep. This would be easy right? 

My husband and I traditionally travel the week of July 4th. We've been to Mt. Rushmore on Independence Day. We've traveled to Maine, the mountains of West Virginia, Quebec City, and Jamaica. Now my husband's job makes traveling this week a bit of a challenge, so we decided to do a quick overnight in one of Michigan's tourist trap towns, Frankenmuth, where I'd run the Volkslaufe 5k on the 4th of July.

We arrived in Frankenmuth late Monday afternoon and walked around downtown. We headed to the hotel pool which is the only thing our toddler is interested in seeing. We had dinner at Frankenmuth Brewery and went to pick up my race packet. It was a pretty relaxing evening getaway.

This kid loves a good cutout 
The 5k race didn't start until 10 am. Our toddler is fond of waking up before 6 am in hotels which meant we had several hours to kill. We ate breakfast, walked around downtown again and headed over to the start. The 10k and 20k were already underway. I've done a lot of races, and I can unequivocally say I've never seen a less enthusiastic group of spectators anywhere. People weren't even cheering. The 5k start was next to where the 10k and 20k races were heading to the finish, and nobody was cheering for them. At all. I stood there and cheered because they deserve it people. It was so weird.

The race started on time and we were off. Here's the thing about a 10 am start on July 4th: it's too late. It's too hot, and it's miserable. There was very little shade, and by mile two I felt like I was going to pass out from heat. I ran through a hose in the neighborhood and under water being sprayed by a fire truck, but it didn't help. For the first time ever I walked during a 5k - for about 20 seconds. I needed a few seconds because I felt so overheated. 

Love seeing my boys at the start
I rounded the corner to the finish with absolutely nothing left. Usually I can sprint to the finish, but I was done. I saw my husband and son as I rounded the corner, and that gave me motivation to at least smile. I crossed the finish line in 27:55, nearly five minutes slower than the PR I set last year. I grabbed an ice soaked rag and a bottle of water and walked back to my boys. My son immediately exclaimed, "Mommy I run just like you!" Worth the 1,675 seconds of heat for that statement.

My goal is at least a 5k every month for rest of the year and pushing to get myself back into half marathon shape for the new year. I turn 40(!) in 2018, so I've got some big running plans. For now it's back into running shape and maybe fitting into my pants a little better. And still eating lots of ice cream. 

All smiles once it's done

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Best Day Ever

This week we were out to dinner with friends, and one of them was telling us a funny story from college. He quipped, "It was the best day ever." When his wife looked over she asked to what he was referring, and I said it was the day he married her. She rolled her eyes knowing that's not what he'd said, but it raised a question. My husband asks the group, "Remove the big ones - weddings, birth of children - but what is your best day?"

Nobody had a ready answer because that's a huge question. I've been thinking about it in the days since wondering, other than those huge life events, what is my best day? It turns out I don't have a best day, a single best 24 hours in my life. I have a series of moments that, when woven together, make up my best day.

Take our wedding as an example. I loved our wedding, and I had so much fun. But to be honest it wasn't the best day of my life. It's stressful. It's expensive. It flies by in a blur, and you don't really get to spend time with your family or friends. I barely saw my brand new husband that day. It was a fun day, but it wasn't the best day of my life. 

My best day includes the moment the nurse walked into the hospital room with a tiny bundle and my husband and I were confused and elated to realize this was our son. It includes the first night my husband kissed at me, and we made out in my car at a park 'n ride for 45 minutes at 2 am. On my best day I watched a University of Arizona football game and drank coffee with my dad in his hospital room during the last evening I'd ever spent with him. I was in the delivery room when my beautiful niece was born. It's two days before our wedding and I'm laughing hysterically in my living room with my parents and siblings, I think the last time just the six of us were together without significant others or children. I'm finishing my first marathon. I'm hearing my husband's amazing laugh across a room. I'm brave enough to do a back handspring on the hard gym floor for the first time. I'm rocking Will in the middle of the night. Murphy is licking me with his puppy breath. I'm in the middle of a five hour brunch with some of our best friends. I'm sitting on the screened in porch on our Maine vacation reading during a thunderstorm. I'm drinking a bottle of Veuve with our neighbors on a random Tuesday. My husband is handing me a cup of coffee prepared exactly the way he knows I like it. I'm reading The Bridges of Madison County. Will is snuggled on my lap watching a movie. I'm eating a grilled chicken salad from the Boston Beanery. I'm in high school and my mom is buying me my own little Christmas tree to put in the basement because I'd been feeling down. I'm lying in bed chatting with my best friend who's pregnant with baby number two. My dad is running ahead of us on a hiking trail climbing every rock with a "do not climb" sign. My husband is holding my hand in the car and singing Randy Travis's Forever and Ever, Amen to me. I'm singing one of my favorite hymns with Mom in church. I'm taking Izzy on a long walk. I'm 16 years old and riding the escalator to street level in DC and falling in love with cities for the first time. I'm running a half marathon with my friend Nikki. I'm drinking with my sister in the gazebo at Duck-In in Virginia Beach. I'm riding my bike to my grandparents' house with my brother. I'm drinking a pina colada on the beach in Mexico. I'm falling in love with winter in a -11 degree day in Marquette, Michigan. I'm sitting on the porch swing at our house in Hundred. I'm eating duck confit at Richmond Station in Toronto. I can see mountains. My best day smells like lilacs. 

When I think of those moments I love the most, they're rarely a big event or a vacation. They're those instants that happen every day, and if you aren't paying attention you could miss them. My best day was amazing, and it's not over. It's barely begun.     

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Perspective Damn It!

I am constantly searching for lasting perspective. Some major, life changing event will happen, and I will think this is it! This is the event that will help me gain major life perspective. I'll slow down. I'll take life in. I'll be kind to myself. And then there's the competing side of that: I can slow down when I'm old. Life is too short. There's too much to do/see/experience that I don't want to miss any of it! Say yes to every single social opportunity!

When I lost my dad a little more than a year and a half ago I thought the deep perspective I'd gained would be permanent. Six months later I was blogging about my complete exhaustion. I think back now to how I felt last March when I wrote that blog, and I had so much energy compared to now. When will I listen to my body? I think we all know the answer is never. The question then becomes how will I balance a busy life and a chronic illness without sacrificing the things I don't want to miss?

The last few weeks have been crazy. My husband has taken several work trips. We went to Richmond, Virginia a few weeks ago and returned late on Monday evening. On Tuesday I was in Ann Arbor (an hour away). On Wednesday I fought metro Detroit traffic on both ends of the day, spending four hours in the car to go to meetings. On Thursday evening we threw a fundraiser for our friend at our house. By 8 am Friday morning we were in the car driving north three hours to Traverse City for my work. We spent the weekend and upon returning on Sunday my husband drove almost directly to the airport to leave again. Yes we've scheduled all these things, and at the time they get added to the calendar it seems manageable. But then that time gets here and it's brutal. This week we have something every evening but one, and I have no idea when we will do small things like yard work or have the plumber out (something we've needed to do for weeks). 

I'm not complaining. Honestly I don't know any other pace. But this weekend I've warned my husband to plan nothing. NOTHING. If you want to see us too bad. We are making zero plans, and I will not budge. I am unavailable not because we have plans but because I refuse to have plans. It's 48 hours with nothing on the calendar. Then next week it starts again: a wedding, an overnight getaway, college friends in town, a trip to Chicago. And then there's August. Don't get me started on August. And I don't want to miss a second of it; not an instant because we have a lot of fun things planned. But that does mean that sometimes I'm going to bed at 9 pm (and by sometimes I mean pretty much every night that we're home with no plans). 

Last week I was sitting in stopped traffic on the way to Detroit having left my house at 6:30 am. I was feeling really overwhelmed and started crying in the car. I was desperately seeking that perspective that I sometimes feel can be elusive. Then I started thinking of my friend John who we lost last month so abruptly. Life is just flying by and I'm pissed sitting in traffic, and then it's just gone. It's so fleeting. I think about him frequently, and I had this moment where I realized in the scheme of life it's just traffic. I've created this busy, stressful environment, and it's mine to manage. And the only person who will notice my lack of perfection is me. I felt John's presence as surely as he was sitting beside me saying, "Relax little buddy." 

Running has been a stress reliever for me for years, and my abbreviated running schedule over the last eight months has presented quite the challenge to my psyche. I had iron infusions last week and this week, and next week we switch my medication again because the latest didn't cut it. I'm hoping in the next month or so to be back to running, and to encourage myself have registered for two races in July. 

I'll be running again soon! But first iron.
I will never be a calm or relaxed person. My schedule will never be clear, and I will always want to be in the middle of all the excitement. But every now and then I need a little smack in the head to be reminded of the perspective. Life is supposed to be perfect. It's messy and fluid and I, more than perhaps anyone I know, need that reminder. Today, right this very minute I feel calm and have so much perspective. Tomorrow is a different day, but I'll hearken back to this moment. These words. I will still feel stressed, but I'll embrace it. I'll remind myself to relax little buddy.

Trying to spend more time at the pool this summer with my little dude.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Joining the Team

I didn't read any parenting books before we had our son. Parenting advice is varied and nobody disagrees on the same parenting style. Plus parenting books mostly just stress me out. We're smart, educated adults. Sure we're going to screw up our kid (because that's part of the gig), but we'll figure it out. Lots of people with less resources than us have. 

When my son was two months old I wrote what may be my most controversial blog about how parents have to prioritize what's best for them. I declared that I wouldn't leave the house with my hair wet or phone in my work attire. It wasn't intended to be judgmental. My point is that these types of things were important before I had kids and would remain so after I had a child. Two and a half years later what I wrote in that blog remains true to me. And it also goes to follow that even once you have children you prioritize what's important to you, whatever that may be. I think people use children as an excuse to not do things (which I will admit that I've intentionally done to get out of things.) But if something is really important to you, having a child may make it harder. Because as in all things the hard is what makes it great, right?

I'm currently reading a magical book that has made me seriously reflect on my own parenting style. It's called Bringing Up Bebe, written by an American journalist raising her child in Paris with her British husband. She noticed things about French children that she wanted to research including they are well behaved, they eat anything, they play among themselves without interrupting adults. The book is phenomenal and has me wanting to raise my child like the French. It's the one book I really wish I'd read before my son's birth. 

I would say we are already about 50 percent on board with French parenting, although now I desperately want to raise my kid 100 percent like a French mom. One thing my husband and I decided early on is to focus on our life as a family. Sure having a child changes your life, but our life would not entirely revolve around our child. It would revolve around our family. That includes putting time into our marriage and focusing on ourselves. I adore my son. I'd throw myself in front of a train to save him without hesitation. But on a daily basis our life revolves around our entire family. We love to travel. We love to eat at restaurants. We love to have lengthy brunches with friends. It is a requirement that our child fit into this lifestyle. 

I couldn't get him to eat sushi, but he ate all the rice and loved chopsticks!
One thing the author discovers is that French parents don't throw their children in 14,000 activities and act as chauffeurs constantly shuttling their kids to the next place. I LOVE this. We had our son enrolled in tumbling on Saturday mornings, and then football season came. We are a football family, so Saturday morning anything doesn't work. He can do another activity. I won't say that there won't be a time when Will won't love a sport or activity so much that we find ourselves up to our eyeballs in practices, games and travel. But it's going to be when he's old enough to make that choice. And there will always be a family balance.*

When I was a kid I was involved in sports and academic endeavors. But those things revolved around school. There was no travel team that took up the entire weekend. As one French mom quips, "We go away on the weekends." YES. YES. YES. I want Will to have activities he loves, but we will still travel. We will still go out and have dinner. When we had our son he joined our team. He's one of the three MVPs, but he's got to go along with us. 

We were in Richmond, Virginia two weekends ago. We were home for three days, threw a political fundraiser and then headed to Traverse City, Michigan for three days. My son has flown three times this year. Kid's got frequent flier miles. Being on our team means being social, being busy, and going with the flow. He's a pro. 

Racking up miles in the Richmond Airport
Enjoying the bay in Traverse City, MI

In less than 16 years Will is going to graduate from high school. I don't want to look back on this precious time and think our family left anything in the tank. My husband and I have careers we value. We have a marriage we cherish. We have a son we love with a fervent passion and to whom we want to give every opportunity. Maybe he will decide he wants to play baseball or hockey (please no) or some other sport, and discovers he loves it so much. Maybe it will upend our lives, but we won't push him there. We have high expectations of achievement (particularly academic), but he also needs to be a kid. We travel a lot and seek out playgrounds and children's museums. Life is about experiences, and we want him to have so many of them.  

Testing the water in the James River at Richmond's Belle Isle Park
Vacay includes giant cookies
There's a lot we won't get right, and maybe someday Will will get tired of the blistering pace of the life we lead. But for now he's on the team whether he wants to be or not. He seems to like it. Hotels are his favorite. He loves room service. He loves airplanes and pilots. He appreciates travel and being social. He invites everyone at his daycare over to his house and to ride his boat (for what it's worth we do not have a boat. It belongs to my husband's grandmother.) But for our family life is meant to be busy and social. We won't have it any other way.

These days I'm channeling my inner French mom in a lot of ways.  No parenting style is perfect, but I I expect my son to be well behaved, social and a rock star traveler. There really isn't an option. That's part of what being on our team is about. There's also copious amounts of love. I think we're a pretty good team. 

*For the record I am not judging those who spend their weekends and more doing sports. That's totally fine. I'm simply saying it's not what we envision for our family, and we don't want to give up travel and other social family time. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Am I Still a Runner?

I've been hospitalized three times in the last twelve months. I have to let you in on a little secret: I'm over it. For the first time in nearly 20 years of suffering with Crohn's Disease, Crohn's has defeated my attitude. People have always told me I'm so positive, and they don't know how I deal with it. The answer is you just deal with it. What's the alternative? But the last year and in particular the last eight months has wreaked havoc on my body and my positive psyche, and I'm not amused.

I had an abscess drained in October, and the plan was to keep it draining until the abscess was healed. It's now June, nearly eight months since that procedure, and the abscess is still draining. It's as delightful as you might imagine. I've discovered things I never thought I'd know, like the best gauze for my constant abscess bandage is the 4x4 squares at Meijer. Tuck that away for future reference in case you need a constant supply of gauze.

Funny side story: a few months ago I wrote down a store list, and my husband went to the grocery store. On the list I wrote "4x4 gauze". My husband came back with four boxes of small trash bags wondering why I'd put that on the list. I laughed really hard. In his defense I do have the handwriting of a serial killer.

Despite hilarious grocery store mishaps, the abscess is discouraging. It's not getting better. I'm under the care of two doctors: a colorectal surgeon in Lansing and my gastroenterologist in Ann Arbor. The consensus is that it's best if the abscess gets cleared up with medication. Surgical options have been casually tossed around, like we're dipping our toe in the water of the surgery conversation. My surgeon said options include having an illeostomy for a few months to let the abscess heal or filling the fistula tract that's causing the abscess. Neither surgical options are ideal. The problem with surgery is that each surgery adds new scar tissue and possible future complications.

For now we've doubled my dose of Humira (weekly injectibles), and I'm taking antibiotics indefinitely. And I'm frustrated because what if it doesn't work? What if this is my new normal? 

Back in January I had hopes that I'd start running again. I've run two 5ks this year, not the running year I'd planned for. Maybe it sounds silly to miss running when it's so challenging and aggravates the abscess, but I miss it. It's my stress relief and such a part of who I am. Not running makes me feel like I'm missing a limb. Maybe more like an internal organ (ha! Crohn's joke!) 

I started swimming again a few weeks ago, and it turns out even that is an uncomfortable form of exercise. The problem is the movement rubs against the abscess despite the lower impact of the exercise. Barely working out means my body has changed. I haven't really gained much weight, but my body is different. I don't feel strong. I feel very frustrated.

I know it could be worse. I have friends struggling with cancer and other terrible illnesses, and they do it with a grace that I could only hope to possess. Being physically sick the last eight months has been rough. Letting my frustration get the best of me is even tougher.

Maybe I won't be able to run again in any real way for a while. Maybe I'll have to learn who I am without a rigid exercise routine. Right now I feel so much guilt for not being at the fitness level I'm used to, and I know I need to let that go. I need to heal. 

If I'm being totally honest for the first time I'm scared. I'm worried that it won't heal. I'm worried about other complications like kidney failure. I'm worried that this is the beginning of Crohn's Disease winning, and I can't fix it. I don't know how to make it better. I'm worried that my son will think of me as a sick mom. I'm worried that my husband will grow weary of having a sick wife. These things have been keeping me up at night.

Right now I can't fix anything except my attitude. I'm making a conscious effort to think about my broken body in a more positive light. I'm trying to give myself a break if I don't look exactly the way I want to. This is still a runner's body, but right now it needs that energy and focus I've put into running for so many years to go into healing. The miles will be there when my body is ready.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Wedding Crashers

In eleven years of togetherness my husband and I have been invited to 47 weddings. This includes five weddings this year. We've already received three invitations and two save the dates. We have attended 33 of the weddings to which we've been invited, and we plan to attend all five this year, taking us to having attended a grand total of 38 weddings by the end of the year. I've attended more weddings than most caterers. I also decided for purposes of this blog to try to find photos from all the weddings we've attended. I mostly succeeded, and I've discovered 1) my hair has really evolved over the last dozen years and 2) I have several dresses that were really fan favorites.

I've been thinking a lot about weddings lately mainly because we continue to be invited to so many of them. In 2008 we attended six weddings, the last of which was our own in December. I've learned a lot about what makes weddings good (or average. The goal is to leave thinking it didn't suck). But I really know what makes them bad. When I reflect back on all of these weddings there have been a lot of fun times, but the bad ones stand out the most.

Let me start by saying I love weddings. We have a lot of beautiful people in our lives, and if I didn't love them so much I wouldn't attend all of these blessed events. But when you've been so many of them you have very strong opinions about how weddings are supposed to go. To my friends getting married this year and beyond the number one most important thing that will kill your wedding, even more than food or booze, is timing. We left a wedding once that had great food, good booze, and I imagine a promising deejay. But when we didn't finish dinner until 9 pm I was over it. Keep it moving. 

Obviously next on the list are food, booze and entertainment. I don't care how you serve your food (although I am partial to family style and it's a rarity), but make sure it's decent. In all honesty in 33 weddings I can think right this minute of one whose food stands out for being amazing. It was a casual outdoor wedding with a small reception at a delicious cajun restaurant in Northern Michigan. Perfection. I can think of the bad ones, but for the most part in my experience wedding food is average. Just make sure it doesn't suck.

Then there's booze. Go all out people. A cash bar is obviously verboten, and I don't think I've been to a wedding with one. Have an open bar with good booze and don't cheap out here. 

I don't care if you have a deejay or band, but either way it's got to be good. I went to a wedding recently where the band was so out of tune it was laughable. They couldn't remember words to the songs. I think the wedding was fine otherwise, but the only thing I remember was that terrible band. It overshadowed all else. 

Then there are the bad weddings. The worst ever was one we attended a few months after we'd been dating. It was a friend of my husband's who had a full mass ceremony at 10 am. We drove to Sandusky, Ohio for the wedding which ended promptly at 11 am. The "reception" was at a museum where there wasn't enough seating and the food was basically cheese and crackers. Oh and did I mention it was a dry wedding? Nothing says I hate my friends more than a dry wedding. Nothing.

I'm not sure who took this at the worst wedding ever, but it's hilarious. I was so annoyed. And blonde. Also we were babies.
We've had so many fun times at these weddings, but I don't remember details. It leads me to believe that again, unless the details are just awful, nobody really cares. 

Some more memorable moments:
  • 2006: my BFFs wedding reception on a boat in the Potomac River with the climax being fireworks over the river. Gorgeous.
At my BFF's wedding in 2006. Holy eyeshadow and hair on both of us (also my most worn dress).
  • 2007: my husband and friends deciding to "ruin" a guy's wedding (they're jerks). We double fisted drinks and played "wedding bingo", checking off cliche wedding events. We got the deejay in on the game. I was in line for the dollar dance (check bingo square...also please don't do a dollar dance), and the deejay announces, "This one goes out to the troops". I proceeded to shout: "Bingo motherf#ckers!" and run around the room getting high fives. It was the most fun wedding ever despite its ridiculousness. This wedding was also the first of four consecutive wedding weekends. I hated life by the last one.
My eyes are not even close to focused. Also wear #2 of the dress.
  • 2008: I married my great love in a Christmas wedding with snow on the ground and my heart exploding. Also my husband loves old music and I let him be in charge of the deejay. At one point nobody was dancing, and I told our deejay to ignore my husband and play whatever he wanted. Later I noticed the dance floor was packed, and everyone was dancing to Britney Spears' Womanizer. Whatever works.

  • 2009: attending two weddings in one night in West Virginia. My cousin and old friend/college roommate got married in the same town on the same day. Fortuitous.
With my family before my cousin's wedding
  • 2012: being a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding and drinking so much champagne I took of my shoes (I think taking off shoes at a wedding is a cardinal sin and have only ever done it after consuming copious amounts of alcohol). I may have also thrown up in my mother-in-law's yard. I'm not sure if she reads my blog, but if she does, I'm sorry.
Before the wedding
After the shoes came off.
  • 2014: heading to Northern Michigan for a good friend's wedding. We rented a house with three couples and danced our tails off. Hands down best deejay of any wedding we've ever attended. Also my husband ran to the dance floor and grabbed my hand only for me to lose my footing at the same time. It appeared to all that he'd thrown me across the dance floor, and we still laugh about it. 

Weddings can be super fun and momentous occasion. Keep the event moving, have at least decent food, good booze, and awesome tunes. I found photos from nearly every wedding we've attended, but I'm missing a few. Looking for the pictures has reminded me of what an amazing adventure this is: this life my husband and I share. Thank you friends for including us in your beautiful days and for letting us drink your booze. It should go without saying that we'll drink a lot of it. Cheers!

Pontoni wedding 2007 in  Northern Michigan. Best food ever. Also only time I've ever kissed the bride on the lips.

Bratney wedding 2007 in Plymouth, MI. This purple dress is also a repeat offender.
Raha wedding 2008 in Grand Rapids. Super fun dancing.
Curry wedding 2008 in Morgantown, WV. My husband may or may not have gotten into an argument at the bar during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Weishart wedding 2008 in Philippi, West Virginia.

Nobis wedding in 2008 in Southeast Michigan
Little/Johnson wedding in Las Vegas in 2009. Is it wrong to still refer to it as the "Little Johnson" wedding? I think not.
Herron wedding in Detroit, fall of 2009
Sweeney wedding, fall 2009 in Southeast Michigan
My brother's wedding in Norfolk, VA in June 2010
Chris as a groomsman in a college buddy's wedding, 2010 in Grosse Pointe, MI
Espinoza wedding, Howell, MI in July 2013. My husband's cousin. I was still hungover from a work conference and dance off the night before.
Mann/Perschetz reception in Detroit, 2014. I may have taken my shoes off on this night. I may have also walked barefoot on the streets in Detroit. 
Awesome dancing at the Turco wedding. I may have just groped the bride in this shot.
Mulchay wedding, Detroit in May 2015. When I learned babies and weddings are a tough combo.
O'Meara wedding in July 2015. A Friday night reception at Spartan Stadium
Will's first wedding in Manistee. Also our first weddings on back to back days.
There are no photos of Chris and me from this wedding last summer, so this one of my girlfriend and me will substitute!
Before my sister-in-law's wedding last October