If there ever comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart, I'll stay there forever. Winnie the Pooh

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jai Ho! Dios Mio!

What does Slumdog Millionare, "brown" bread and running all have in common? I'll do my best to weave it all together....

We are a 'mixed' family. Chris' mom is Japanese and my mom is Mexican-American. Our dads are gringos (what? they are!). On any given day of the week you'll hear our kids asking for more seaweed for their sushi rice or asking for more of Nana's yummy enchiladas. I love it. Once a lady stopped me when Claire was a baby and asked, What is she? People are curious, still, I love it. Claire has asked me: Why isn't my hair yellow? and What color is my skin? I love explaining our heritage to her. I never wanted them to feel self-conscious about being different, so from the get go I've tried to build their fragile egos to be confident and proud of who they are. I thought I had done a great job, that is, until Claire started kindergarten.

One day she came home wearing a different clip. I found the bow I put in her hair that morning stuffed inconspicuously into the bottom of her backpack. Another day I noticed her favorite meal: sticky rice and tonkatsu hadn't been touched. She asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I made it and the next day that too came home untouched. Finally she confessed: I want white bread. I don't like brown bread.

Let me pause here. My kids have never even had white bread. Claire has a quasi-health nut of a mom (cough cough, quasi because I just confessed to a friend that for the last week every night I've been eating ice cream and M&Ms, don't want her to call me out on that) so I was a bit taken aback when I heard her saying that. Now either Claire is noticing what other kids are eating and wearing and doesn't want to be different or someone is pointing out her differences. I suspect it's a mix of the two.

This has been weighing on my mind and heart. I didn't want her to cave to peer pressure or want to be the same as everyone else, and yet I found myself caving to 3rd party peer pressure when I went to the store on a Thursday night to buy white bread. Pleasantly surprised and relieved when that too came home untouched. Fine. No more PB&Js and no more white bread. And yet still, I have a daughter who is worried about being, well, different.

So Sunday morning I set out for my 19 mile run. The perfect time for me to reflect, think and pray. Yes, it's just a small issue of bread and hair bows now, but what would this issue snowball into when she gets into junior high? High School? I figured I'd have about 3 hours to run this issue out.

Within the first quarter mile of running a song that a friend recommended came on my playlist: Jai Ho by A.R. Rahman, you know, from that great movie Slumdog Millionaire. I have a confession. When it's come on in the past, I've listened to the beginning and then skipped over to the next song. Why? Because it's, well....different. I don't speak Hindi. So I erroneously assumed I wouldn't like the song. It was then I had a moment of clarity. Why not give it a shot. Listen to the whole song and then decide if I liked it or not. So I wasn't even a full mile into the run when the singer didn't so much as chant Jai Ho but sang it. Whooo-eeee, I felt him singing from his heart. It touched me. The next thing I know I'm crying. No, crying would be tears trickling down my face. I was sobbing. I had a hard time catching my breath. (I'm sure I looked like an idiot to the two walkers I passed, chest heaving and sobs wailing from me as I ran like a blubbering fool). I was getting His message. Just because something is different, doesn't mean you can't enjoy or appreciate it's beauty. I swore I heard Spanish lyrics in the song. In a Hindi song? Surely I must be mistaken. And yet when I looked up the lyrics there were indeed a section of Spanish words. I felt like I could see how we are all tied together somehow, by this invisible thread, be it through something as a simple word like Baila! or Jai Ho (which ironically, loosely translates to hallelujah).

My words are getting muddled and I'm afraid I'm not expressing my thoughts as clearly as I should be, so I'll end this blog with the realization that I had during my long run: Be careful of being open to trying new things. Whether it be music, food, whatever...you likely have little eyes watching every move you make. And with that, I finished my run and as soon as I got home I blasted Jai Ho for my whole family to hear. We love dancing and singing to it, try it out, you might too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Chris and I had one of our music nights recently. Get your mind out of the gutter, not that kind of night ;). We sit on the back porch while listening to mellow music and talk about life: our kids, our worries, our hopes, our joys and sorrows.

He told me how difficult it is for him to drop Claire off every morning for school. I wasn't quite on the same page because I immediately interrupted him to say I could drop her off if it's an issue for him getting to work on time. I'm sure he'll deny it, but my guy teared up. Ahhhhhh, that kind of difficult. Seeing Claire in her new role as a Kindergarten student, sitting in the cafeteria with her too-big backpack, big girl hair cut and serious face, has made him realize how fast she is growing up and how little time we have left with her as a kid who still thinks her mom and dad are the universe. I've been telling him for quite a while how fast time is going and he didn't quite get it until this past week. While I was sniveling like a baby on her first day of school, he was still a solid rock. But it eventually hit him. It hit him hard and nearly knocked his breath away: Claire is growing up.

It was my turn to be the strong parent. I told him how I have to approach this thing called parenthood. Yes, I miss rocking Claire to sleep as a baby. But now, I get to enjoy cuddling with her in bed as she tells me funny stories or shares with me her worries. Yes, I miss spending my days from beginning to end with her. But now, I truly cherish that quiet time where it's just her and me, doing whatever it may be, while the twins are taking their afternoon nap. Yes, I miss taking Claire for for long walks in the stroller, talking about all the things we would see. But now, I look forward to finding Claire Love Notes; little sticky notes she leaves me all over the house, pictures of the two of us with hearts fluttering above our stick figures. Yes, I miss the mornings where we used to walk Chris out and wave and wave until his car disappeared around the bend, holding hands while we walked back into the house. But now, I get to wave, and Claire and I have a new game where we take turns shouting "LOVE YOU!!!" over and over until we can no longer hear each other (I'm sure our neighbors love that;)).

Chris pointed out that on the weekends, while the twins are sleeping in, Claire likes to cuddle with us in our bed. She won't want to do that in few years, he worried. Yes, but in a few years we'll be able to enjoy her in a new way, I explained. We have to tuck away these special memories The Way Claire Was When and not mourn them but cherish them and look forward to The Way Claire Will Be.

Claire has these little boxes that she tucks her treasures into: shells, flowers, dress up rings. I have my own little box in my heart that I tuck my Claire Treasures into: Claire sleeping in her purple 'coming home' outfit, Claire toddling towards me taking her first steps, Claire trying to blow out her candles at her 'purple party', Claire chasing a duck at the petting zoo, Claire snuggling with me in my bed with her cold feet, Claire's nervous smile on the first day of kindergarten...these are my treasures. And I have plenty of room for the treasures to come.

Treasure: Chris and Claire dancing on Father's Day 2008

Friday, September 2, 2011

Smile and Get a Grip

It's been a bit of a roller coaster for me these last two weeks. My 'baby' girl started kindergarten. I didn't realize how stressed I was about that until I woke up one morning scratching at my face and feeling like my jaw had been punched a few times. Chris told me I had been grinding my teeth all.night.long. I took one look in the mirror and it looked like I had caught the leprosy. (Do people still get that or was it just in Biblical times?). My eczema had flared up. It usually only makes an appearance now due to cold/dry weather. I hadn't seen a stress-flare up since college.

Sigh. Changes.

So, we made it through the first week of Kindergarten. Relatively unscathed (well, except the new and not so improved Leprosy-Me). The following Monday rolls around and I had an appointment at my local running store. It was for a free injury screening with a physical therapist. Free? Sure, why not! My knee had been bugging me for about 3 weeks. Nothing major but just annoying me for my first 1-2 miles out of a run. But I figured I should get it checked out (did I mention it was free?!;)) because I'm not a runner who usually gets any sort of aches or pains. Lucky me.

I loaded the twins up with some snacks (ie bribery lollipops) to keep them occupied while I hopped up on the table in some sort of makeshift exam room/storage room at the running store. The PT was a very nice lady with kind eyes. She poked at my leg a bit, had me lie on my back as she tested the strength in my legs. My right was obviously weaker than my left. She hmmmmed and uhhhhhhed and said she wanted to try 'one more thing'. That one more thing was a tipping point. I think if she never would have done that 'one more thing', I wouldn't be writing about this. I'd be blogging about Claire and kindergarten (I'll get to that next week). But the tipping point happened. She had me try to push against her hand with my knee while on my back. Zap. I felt instant pain in my lower right back.

As she pulled me into a sitting position, the PT with the kind eyes told me she was sorry. It's what she suspected. I have a nerve-disc injury. She was so confident in her diagnosis, I was dumbfounded. Nerves? Disc? Back?!? I felt like I was watching this show from far away. Surely she wasn't diagnosing me!!! with a back injury!!! I shushed the twins as they starting getting antsy for more 'nack'. She had another patient waiting and was gently pushing me out the door as I continued throwing out questions. The last thing I remember asking was I still get to run, right?? She shook her head and with her now sympathetic, kind eyes, said "Oh no...definitely no running".

I was numb. Shocked.

And then it hit me. No running. I started pushing the twins out of the store as the inevitable tears started filling my eyes. My 'tech guy', who sold me my garmin(s) and chats run talk with me every time I come into the store, came jogging over holding a new gadget in his hands. "Hey, Nicole, wai----". He took one look at my face. "What's wrong??" I had to hold back a choked sob as I answered in a whisper, "She said, no running. I can't run". He looked crestfallen for me. "I'm sorry". And I kept walking out of the store. I sat in my car and tried to process what had just happened. My mind couldn't wrap itself around those last words I heard "definitely no running"....

I went to the gym. No running. Fine. I'll work out. I got on the stepper. Put my headphones on and heard the song Clementine:

All that time. Wasted.
I wish I was a little more delicate.

Tears were streaming down my face. And when I heard those words it was too much. I choked back a sob and I felt like I was hyperventilating. I wanted to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Crying. About running. It's just running!!! Yes, it's 'just' running. Had I let it become too much to me? Was all that time I've spent running wasted? Why couldn't I be more delicate? More 'mom-like' and have a normal hobby like scrap booking or cooking. Something that couldn't be taken away from me.

I spent the next two nights tossing and turning. No sleep for me. I prayed. I worried. I prayed some more. Not for my knee. Not for my back. But for God to help me accept what I was told. That it would be OK. And I knew, deep down in my heart, that it would be OK. Life isn't about running. Life is about living and enjoying what I have: my health, my kids, my husband: Barbara LeGere Photography

There would be something else out there for me besides running. Just like the song lyrics in The Climb: keep on moving.....so I did.

But I decided I wasn't going down without a fight. With the encouragement of friends and family, I made an appointment to see an orthopedic sports doctor. He laughed when I ranked my pain a 2 and yet told him I limp the first 1-2 miles of a run. You women sure are tough. A man would rank pain that makes him limp an 8-9. I was so nervous during the exam my palms were sweating. Though I had come to terms with 'no running', I knew it would be a blow to hear it a second time. But, what? What was I hearing? It's not a disc issue?!

On Wednesday, I was diagnosed with something called sacroiliac dysfunction. Dr. S reassured me that not only could I run, I could continue running throughout the physical therapy that I would need to help rehabilitate this condition. If I wasn't married, I would have grabbed him and kissed him right there on the spot. Maybe I'll have to deal with this condition for the rest of my life. Who knows. But I'm going to learn how to manage it: without meds. I'm going to learn how to strengthen myself from the inside out. Like he said, women are tough. If I have to run the rest of my life with a twinge of pain in the back of my knee, I'll gladly do it. I get to run. I'm thankful, I get to run!

My brother shared this song with me called, Smile. Every time I hear it I think of him (my hope is: you start moving, you're too young not to fully enjoy life) and the lyrics remind me of my relationship with running:

Nothing can compare to where
You send me, lets me know that it's okay
Yeah, it's okay

Definitely on a roller coaster these past two weeks. I'm getting off this ride. But no matter what, it's OK.