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

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Letter To You

Dear You,

I needed to write this letter to you. I was hoping to run out the feelings I had but God decided to use that last race for pure love. Only love was in my heart that day. Funny how that Guy is all about Goodness.

I'm still angry, hurt, shocked, sad and so many more emotions that I have a difficult time knowing exactly how I feel about what you did that day.

The police officer called it a crime of opportunity. I stupidly left my purse on my passenger seat. My twins are learning to share but when they hold on to something that they want to keep, they will shout out "MINES!". Yes, I thought 'mines' when I left my purse on my seat. Not yours.

The officer also said you likely watched me go into the gym. He said People Like You will target women. Knowing a woman going into a gym empty handed likely left her purse in the car. I have strong feelings about this. How dare you watch me?! How dare you watch me as I held my daughter's hand. I remember smiling down at her as she asked me if I was going to run fast. How dare you look at US?! If there is one moment in life I could take back, it would be that one. I'd rewind the clock and as we walked by you, I would scream get your eyes off of MY kid!

You made me feel like a victim. Helpless. Stupid. Weak. But I will not let you define who I am. I am not any of those things. I still tear up every time I think of that day, but that doesn't make you the winner. If anything, it is you who is helpless, stupid and weak.

What kind of man shatters a car window to steal something that doesn't belong to him? A weak one.

I wonder what you felt, as your body was hanging in my driver side window, reaching frantically across to the passenger seat to go through my purse. Surely you must have felt ashamed. No pride left in you. Stupid.

I wonder what you felt when you certainly saw the pictures on the dashboard of MY family and Jesus as you reached for my GPS.

Did you feel helpless by the decision you made that day to steal from me? Or did you feel powerful and thank me for being so blindingly trusting. Mines. You stole my things. You broke my car. But you didn't break me.

When I walked out to my car and saw the glass on the ground. My window shattered into thousands of pieces, it took me a second to process what had happened. I grabbed my daughter and ran back to the gym.

I remember the girl at the counter talking but I couldn't hear her. I needed to talk to my husband. But of course, you took my phone. It took me a while to figure out how to track him down, and when I finally heard his voice. The voice of a GOOD man. All I heard was "I'll be right there". I never even had to ask him to come.

The girl handed me a form but I couldn't read the words. I stood there staring at the paper with the pen in my shaking hand. At that moment, the manager walked up and took the paper from me, telling me he would fill it out. The girl called the police. All the while I just stood there.


My daugter came up and I felt her tug on my hand "Why are you crying, Mommy?" Oh. What? I hadn't realized I was crying.

When the officer on the phone started asking me questions, I had a hard time retrieving the answers. What kind of car? A honda. What kind? I....what? I don't know. I can't remember. I know those answers. But what you did temporarily made my brain feel like it was on slow-motion. I hated that you had that power over me.

I recently read a story about a man who invited the thief who attempted to steal his wallet to lunch. To talk. He wanted to mentor him and show him good. The thief went with him and eventually, when it was time to pay, he gave the victim his wallet back. A good, heart warming story. Maybe my heart is hard. But I won't be inviting you out to lunch. If I was so lucky to hear that you were caught, I'd hope you'd go to jail. Enjoy your lunch there.

But there is good from this. Lots of good.

You didn't enter my mind. Not once, on my race last Sunday. I'm grateful to God that he allowed my heart to feel only love that day for the people I was running for and that there was no room for the blackness I feel when I think of you.

When I spoke with Chris that day and tried to tell him what happened on the phone, I wasn't even able to speak in coherent sentences. I remember saying: The gym....window is broken...my things are gone. Hearing the words: I'll be right there made me realize I married the best man.

The police officer who came out was so patient and kind with me. He tried to make me smile. I knew from the moment he looked at the car that he knew he wouldn't be able to get any fingerprints. And yet he patiently took the time to try to find something. Anything to catch you.

The custodian who brought a broom out so that I could sweep the glass off my seat, ignored my request for the broom. I'll do it for you, he told me quietly. When I told him that wasn't necessary, he ignored me and took the time to sweep the glass and put down a towel on my seat. Apologizing for not being able to get the tiniest of pieces.

As for me? Well, I walked away from this experience a slightly different person. You made me realize people like you are out there. Parasites in a community of good people. I'll be more cautious and a little less trusting because of you.

And will I pray for you? Oh yes. I'll pray you are caught.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Racing With My Heart On My Sleeve

When Chris signed me up for the Livestrong Austin Half-Marathon, I inwardly groaned. I had just committed to running the 3M half marathon on January 29th and the thought of running another half-mary 3 weeks later wasn't really this runner's idea of a good time. I felt like my body had been asking for a break. I pushed myself especially hard on the 3M race, to the point that my whole body ached for a few days after. I never get sore after a 13.1 mile run, so I knew I gave it my all that day, when I woke up the next morning moving like a 90 year old lady. But all that pain was rewarded with a PR (personal record) and I was happy to float on that runner's high for a while.

So when Chris told me he signed us up for the Austin half, I wasn't too happy. I knew the hills were brutal. My new positive thinking is to not limit what I can do by saying it's impossible, but my practical side knew it was impossible to beat the PR I had just set 3 weeks earlier. My running coach said to expect to add 10 minutes to my 3M time. That's how much harder Austin is for runners. So why run the race? I wasn't sure. But I knew once the fee was paid, I was running it. And though I said I would "take it easy" on this one, I knew once the gun went off, I'd be running with all heart.

Sometimes I don't see the big picture. But when He turns on the light for me, it's the best A-HA moment ever. During the race I could clearly see why this race was chosen for me.

Chris and I were in the chute, nervously adjusting our music, bibs, shoelaces and just channeling the positive energy that is buzzing through runners getting ready to start a race. That's when I first noticed him. A few feet ahead of me there was a man with a mask around his neck. I noticed his arms, legs and head were completely hairless. It looked like he had gone through chemotherapy. His shirt said Cancer Survivor. As the runners started walking towards the start line, he adjusted his mask over his mouth and took deep breaths. Humbling.

When the gun went off, Chris and I gave each other a farewell kiss and hug. We'd see each other at the finish line. As I turned back to the front, that's when I noticed a group of women. Proudly wearing pink. On their backs were pictures of the loved ones they lost to Cancer. They were all smiling, laughing and their energy was contagious. Amazing.

After a few downhills, the pack I was in, headed up Congress. I say up because it's just about 3 miles of uphill. I noticed the man running directly in front of me. He had an Ironman tattoo on the back of his calf and he didn't let the hill slow him down. His shirt read, I beat Cancer. Inspiring.

If you ever want to know why someone runs, they may give you a list of reasons. This race reminded me of one of the reasons I run. For me. My health. My life. A year after Claire was born, I had a routine checkup with my doctor. A few weeks later I got a call. I remember hearing the words: Abnormal cells. It's probably nothing. Biopsy to rule out something. It shook me to my very core. I went back to the doctor who, with kind eyes, reassured me there could be a million reasons for abnormal test results. He never said it, but I knew there could only be one reason for what he wanted to rule out. That big, ugly C word. Cancer. I had a biopsy done. The doctor wanted to show me: See? It's nothing. But a few days later I got another call. Come in. That nothing was indeed something. I remember the doctor being much less light hearted this time. He sketched out a diagram that looked like a flowchart Stage 1. Stage 2. Stage 3. Stage 4. The last word he wrote was Cancer. He circled Stage 4. The words he spoke next will forever be ingrained in my head: You have stage 4 precancerous cells. We need to remove them. As soon as possible.

That memory replayed in my head as I barrelled through the toughest of the hills. I appreciated the pain I felt as I ran up those hills. It was a reminder: I'm alive. I'm healthy. The race I ran on Sunday was for me. For loved ones lost to Cancer. For those who beat Cancer. For those who are at this very moment, fighting Cancer. For those who are at risk of Cancer. It was a race of pure love. I prayed and thanked God during the race. Thank you for allowing me to run. Thank you for this wonderful gift. I went back every 4 months for 2 years to make sure my precancerous cells didn't come back. I thanked God for giving me good news 6 times in a row. Grateful. I prayed I will continue to be healthy. I prayed for the health of those running by my side. And I prayed for the hearts of those who lost loved ones.

I didn't beat my 3M time. And it didn't matter. I ran with pure heart and enjoyed every step. Grateful. Thankful. Humbled. Inspired.
For my Grandpa Vincent. A true example of endurance and strength.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Marriage Is...

Run the mile that you're in. Especially for longer races (but even for short ones, like 5-Ks), it can be tempting to dwell on the total distance or on how far you are from the finish line. Try not to. Instead, focus on the mile you're running at that particular moment. Be mindful of the full distance, of course; mentally and physically, you should be aware of how far you've got to go. Primarily, though, keep your head in the here and now. That's a nice metaphor for life, too, by the way. In case you were looking for one. -Mark Remy

Recently a friend blogged about running and her 'aha' moment when she realized that running was more than a sport. Because I'm not athletic at all, I've never even considered running a sport. Instead, I have always seen it as my outlet to ponder through my worries, prayers, joys and sorrows; and I just happen to be running. I have used it as my 'me time'. The rare time I have alone to just be me. My running coach, Gilbert has said "running is my freedom. Running is my therapy." Those words are truth to me.

So when Chris and I set out for our Valentine's Date 10 mile trail run on the Greenbelt, it should be of no surprise that I saw that run as more than a run. But a metaphor for our relationship.

The first few miles were easy. I fell into a relaxed pace and chatted about running, the trail, the kids. Whatever popped into my head. Our marriage was like that at the beginning. Marriage can and should have it's moments of being: Easy. Light. Fun.

We headed out for that long trail run on a very cold day. Chris warned me that the trail would get rough and we would have to do some climbing. He took the lead but I quickly realized, that wasn't going to work for me. Because he is taller than me, I couldn't see what was coming ahead which made it dangerous. So after a mile, he let me take over, even though I knew he would have preferred the lead position. Marriage is about Give and Take.

Chris took over when we got to the 3rd mile. It got very rocky and narrow. It was hard to see which way we were supposed to go on the path. As we traversed a narrow path on a cliff, our pace slowed down to a 17 minute mile as we had to mostly walk for safety. I didn't like this mile. The pace was too slow. It wasn't easy. I wanted to turn around and go back to the fork and veer right instead of the way we came. Chris encouraged me to continue on. He was certain if we continued on, we would find an open path again. And we did. Marriage is persevering through the toughest times and having Faith even when you can't see what lies ahead.

Throughout the run, Chris stayed behind me. Knowing he was there, even when I couldn't see him, made me feel safe. Every so often, I would turn around and run back to him, encouraging him to continue on to the next checkpoint. Often times, my feet would slip out from under me because it had started snowing and we would reach out to steady each other. Marriage can be so fragile. But marriage is also about two people who are there to support and encourage each other. That is how it will withstand even the toughest times.

As we rounded the corner, we saw the mile marker showing us we were in the last mile. I wanted to push the pace and sprint to the finish and yet I knew Chris wanted the exact opposite. So I slowed down and we eventually fell in step, side by side as the trail widened and we could see more of what was coming ahead. I smiled. He smiled. Our marriage still has it's moments of being easy.light.fun. But it also has more depth to it because of the life moments and growing pains that have made us stronger. During those tough moments we have realized that one or both of us must say: I'm sorry. And we must ask ourselves and each other what we can do to make the other person happy. Marriage is about Giving, Grace and Forgiveness.

We occasionally hit rough patches in our marriage. Without fail, we always, always work things out. Our 'full distance' is being in it for the long haul...you know, forever. But focusing on the here and now is what will get us to the finish line.

Kay Harmon Photography

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Spaghetti Arms

The very thing that we resist is the thing we must be compelled to investigate or address. ~Kristin Armstrong

For Christmas, Chris surprised me with an amazing gift: four personal training sessions with a running coach. Not just any running coach. But somewhat of a local legend here in Austin, Gilbert Tuhabonye.
If you haven't heard of him, read his biography and you too will likely be as awed and inspired as I was.....

He leads a local running club: Gilbert's Gazelles. I had dabbled in the thought of joining a running group a few months back but realized the schedule just wouldn't work for me unless I wanted to take Madeline and Max to my workouts. So when Christmas came and I opened up a gift certificate for my own personal coaching sessions (no need to work around group session schedule, yay!) I cried like a baby at the thoughtfulness of the gift.

But I have to confess: I.was.scared. For about a month Chris asked me every day, Did you call to set up your coaching sessions with Gilbert (who in my head I call Mr. Gazelle)? I had a million excuses why I didn't call each day: I forgot... I had to go to the grocery store... I folded laundry today... I decided to alphabetize our books...What? A phone? What's that? I don't think I know how to use one.... But here is what it really came down to: running with a coach would put me so far out of my comfort zone, the thought made me want to chew my nails to stubs while running in circles chasing my non-existent tail. It would keep me up at night as I tried to talk myself into just making the call and setting up the sessions.
I knew I needed to do this to become a better runner and yet fear was holding me back.

Eventually, I called. Rather, emailed.

As I drove over to meet with Gilbert for our first session, I was so nervous I wasn't sure whether I wanted to puke or poop myself. Maybe both. All that nervousness was washed away when I met him and realized I had worked myself into a frenzy over nothing. 1. He is very nice. 2. He didn't even realize he was supposed to be meeting with me that morning.

So after an awkward start, we got down to business. He took me to the lake path to watch me run. Little did I know he was going to videotape me and then painfully make me watch it over and over and over (OK, really it was only one time, but it felt like forever!). Now, I already knew that I have bad posture and somewhat of a funny looking run. Thanks to modern day technology you can see yourself running because race photographers have videos set up at the finish line to catch you crossing the tape in all your glory. So I had already seen my floppy fish arms. It's like they have a mind of their own. Remember this picture from the San Francisco Marathon? Well, I totally lied to you. I wasn't just doing the peace sign, I do run like Phoebe Buffay!

See, this?:

Pretty similar to this:

As you can see from both of our faces, this style of running makes for a happy runner!

As he played the video back, he mumbled to himself, "I wonder why you run that way?" I answered in a half-truth, "I don't know, it feels comfortable." The truth is, it does feel natural to run like Phoebe, and if I was honest with him, I wouldn't have said, I don't know, but: Two reasons...1. years of growing up feeling like the Ugly Duckling and wanting to hide in my own skin equals horrible posture and 2. years of running and listening to 'horrible' lyrics like this:

Now wait a minute, y'all
This dance ain't for everybody
Only the sexy people
So all you fly mothers, get on out there and dance
Dance, I said!

I dare you to listen to a classic like Salt N Peppa's Push It and run while keeping perfect form! Any time someone calls you a "Fly Mother" you can't help but get a little wiggly and drop it like you're hot. Fo' realz.

Anyway, we walked back to the training room and he put me through a series of torture err exercises like step ups, forward and backward lunges, sprinting with my hands locked behind my back (?!). All the while I couldn't help but feel like we were acting out our own scene from Dirty Dancing. Remember how Johnny yells at Baby to keep her spaghetti arms in place? Well, yeah, I got to be Baby. Gilbert played an admirably nice Johnny. He already instructed me to keep my floppy fish arms from crossing my mid line and it's like those fishies had a mind of their own! Lunge-flop-lunge-flop. He'd patiently grab my arm to steady it and reposition them into the correct running form. "I'm surprised. Doesn't your back hurt you after a long run with all the wiggling you do". Me, "No (pant pant), no back pain...how many more lunges?"

Later as I was sprinting in the parking lot with my hands behind my back and got the go ahead to start using my arms, Gilbert shouted, "Arms down! No, don't keep them still, just keep them down! You can pump them!" Now as much as I'd like to say we made it to the final scene, where Johnny lifts Baby into the air in a beautifully graceful lift, we're not quite there yet. Because I still have a lot to learn as his student. I still have floppy fish arms and I'm working on correcting my form(keeping those fishies in check is taking my smile away but I have faith it'll come back).

And when we to get to that final 'lift scene', I'd be lying if I'd say I deserve to keep the part as Baby. Because I outweigh Gilbert by a good 20 pounds (OK OK, if I'm truly honest, closer to 40 pounds). If anyone gets to be Johnny in the final scene, it's me. And I guess that would make Gilbert, Baby.

I'm glad I made the call (email). Stepping out of the safety of my comfort zone has been painful, both physically, mentally and emotionally, but I have faith that confronting what I had been resisting will make me a better runner.

Here's to stepping out of our comfort zones and growing.
Happy Running.