Friday, September 28, 2012

My Dear John Letter...

Oh, sweet boy.
You have no idea.
Somehow, the crazy messages we put out there have reached you.  At not-quite-four, they've gotten to you. 

I did my best to shield you from it.  Truly, I did.  Every carefully chosen show, every iPad app, every time I stood in my closet trying to find an outfit that didn't make me break my rule of never letting you hear me say disparaging things about my body.  None of it mattered, did it?  Because they've gotten to you.

Mommy tried, love.  And I am so sorry I've failed you.

You are too young to say the words "I'm exercising to lose weight."  What you don't understand about those words is the power that they have.  The power we as a society have mistakenly given them.  Somehow, I doubt you understood what you were saying, but hearing my precious, beautiful boy implying that something is wrong with the body God gave him - even just thoughtlessly, and in passing - no.  No, John.

Here are the things you need to know:

We are all given bodies.  They are perfectly and wonderfully made.  They are all different, but not one of them is less beautiful than another.  It's our responsibility to take care of our bodies, to keep them healthy and strong.  This is why we talk about healthy food choices and moving our bodies and treating them kindly.  We put good things into our bodies so that our bodies will be there for us when we need and want them.  Sometimes people don't do that, but in truth, that isn't any of our business.  It isn't our place to tear them down or belittle them, because doing that can hurt them for a very, very long time.  As you grow up, you'll have opportunities to be an example of someone who makes healthy choices, and I hope you'll always choose to do that.  Daddy and I try to be that kind of example to you. 

Your body is preschooler perfection.  It runs, it swims, it climbs.  You may not be the tallest kid you know, but your height is just perfect for you.  You love to tell me how you weigh 32 pounds now, and how someday you'll weigh ONE HUNDRED pounds.  When you get there, your body will still be running and swimming and who knows what else...and it will still be perfection.  I look at you, and I see the ease and comfort you seem to feel in your own skin when you are swinging so high, shouting "Mommy, I'm touching the sky with my feet", and my heart swells with pride.  At least until I remember that there are messages are out there that will tell you you are less than, not enough, and God forbid, FAT.  And then my heart shatters.

Fat is something that's part of food.  Our bodies need it.  It's part of our healthy diet, in the almond butter and salmon (and yes, cookies) that we eat.  It isn't a feeling, nor is it a character flaw.  It's not a word to throw around lightly, either.  Somehow, we've gotten so turned around in this world that we've made the way we look far more important than who we are inside.  The word "fat" has become an insult, a judgement, an ugliness.  Losing weight has become some ridiculous holy grail.  It makes me sad.

Someday you'll know about my struggle with anorexia and the way it's shaped how I view a lot of things, for better or worse.  Now's not the time for that, though.  For today, I want you to remember this, if nothing else:

To me, you are beautiful.  You will always be beautiful, inside and out.  You are everything I dreamed of in a little boy, and so incredibly much more.  There is nothing to change, because if you were to change, you wouldn't be my Snoog, and I don't think I could bear that.  Please, John, love yourself, starting now.  Find joy in who you are, and anchor yourself there.  Be brave enough to tell society to shove it when the messages that you need to bemoredomorehavemore come flooding in. 

You are a miracle, just as you are.  No weight loss required. 

Mommy loves you, forever.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

If You Just Smile

People are kind and good, checking in with me the way they have lately.  Continuing to do that even though there isn't any sort of guarantee that the person they invited for a playdate or dinner is going to be the person who shows up.  I'm still prone to sobbing with little provocation.  Trying to hide grief from a very sensitive Turkey often leaves me cranky and exhausted and weeping in the shower.  Lord knows I despise the phrase, but I've been told "it is what it is."  So I smile a lot.  It's easier than trying to explain.

We went home the day after Christmas to visit, and honestly, to scope out the situation with Dad - to get a sense of his physical state and state of mind.  The Hubs and I had done some video interviews with his parents at Thanksgiving, and as you might imagine, there was quite a sense of urgency surrounding getting my own Dad on camera.  Fortunately, Dad wasn't a particularly reticent guy.  Despite the undercurrent of "we may not have another opportunity to hear you tell your own story", he was a cheerfully willing participant.  I'm glad.  We used a list of fairly standard questions at first, the typical "where were you born" and "what was your first job" and "of what achievements are you most proud", but because Dad was the subject and it was what Dad was prone to doing, we ended up veering off topic into places we found we enjoyed more than we could've imagined.  Just so you know, he was proudest of his wife and daughters and grandbabies.

I was thinking about smiling today.  I've been thinking about smiling a lot, ever since a friend posted the chorus to this beautiful song as her Facebook status.  In thinking about smiling, my thoughts wandered to all the times my Mom has said she only heard Dad complain once in the seven months he knew of his illness.  That complaint went only so far as to say he was tired.  He must have done a lot of smiling too, and it drew me to a whole new list of questions.

So, Dad...

What was it like for you, hearing the doctor tell you you had cancer?  That the kind of cancer you had wasn't one that a surgery or some drugs would cure?  How did you feel when you knew your prognosis was essentially five percent survival rate at one year, and zero at five years out?  Did you begin to say goodbye right then?  Remembering what both your parents experienced in their own losing battles with cancer, did you get angry with God?  How did you find the strength to endure seven months of treatment, knowing what was sure to be the end result?  You said you were ready, that you had reconciled yourself to your death and were right with your faith - how did you come to that reconciliation?  And how did it feel once you had?  Is there anything you left unsaid?  If you did, was it purposeful?

When you left the house that last time, you knew, didn't you?  How did it feel to say goodbye?  Did you know we were with you when you breathed your last?  Did you stay with me in that room, in spirit, as I helped the nurses take the tape and jewelry from your body?  Did you know I was with you when the neurologist pronounced you dead? 

Do you miss us?

And just like you smiled for seven months knowing the answer, I have to smile knowing I don't.  I'll never know how you did it.  As if you didn't already have it, you earned my undying admiration.

So thank you, Nat King Cole, for this beautiful song and these words I've grown to live by:

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying?
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Just Doing My Part, Folks.

Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea, the running gurus at Another Mother Runner ( have put up a list of 10 Running-Related Personal Questions with the idea that we take this party viral.  Feel free to answer them for yourselves, and pass it along.

1. Best run ever: Probably a 10-miler around my in-laws' neighborhood in suburban Philly.  There's a post about it here, somewhere.  What amused me about it was that my in-laws were flabbergasted by the idea that someone supposedly in her right mind would drag it out of bed before the sun to run TEN MILES.  And more so that I was keen on the idea.  And even more so that I did it and walked back in the house upright as if I'd done nothing more than get the paper.  Lots of old-school Red Hot Chili Peppers on that run, and my nose kept running at a pace approximating the one of my feet.  Only someone who runs would get why this was a good morning.

2. Three words that describe my running:  Mid-pack.  Good-humored.  Solo.  Oh hell, that's 5 words.

3. My go-to running outfit is:  Black capris (Must. Have. Drawstring.), dri-fit running top, visor.  You shut your mouth about my stinky dirty visor.  I know it makes me look ridiculous, but sunglasses are a bad idea with a sweaty face, and baseball caps make my head feel like it's going to spontaneously combust.  Visor.

4. Quirky habit while running: I leap over puddles like Baryshnikov.  Ok, maybe not with that much grace and aplomb, but I have a horror of getting blisters from wet feet, so you won't catch me stomping through standing water.

5. Morning, midday, evening: Morning, whenever possible.  Recently, I've rediscovered the joys of running in first light, sans iPod, alone.  The change in my attitude toward running has been startling ever since.  I'll run on a treadmill when it's necessary, but please, may it not be necessary.

6. I won’t run outside when it’s:  too hot.  HAHA!  You'd think I never run outside at all!  In all seriousness, it's inhumane to run in 90-plus degree/100% humidity weather.  Nothing says "Here, have a migraine!" quite like that.  It's off to the treadmill.

7. Worst injury—and how I got over it: The injury train stops here fairly often, but the worst of the lot has been the stress reaction in 2010 right before the Jazz Half.  There must be some sort of law that significant injuries must occur during really, really good runs.  Thank goodness My Better Half was able to get me a bone stimulator to coerce my fibula into healing itself. 

8. I felt most like a badass mother runner when: I ran the Jazz Half despite that damned fibula. Which in retrospect probably made me a stupid-ass mother runner.  A close second would be the first time I ever ran 10 miles.  Oddly, 10 miles doesn't seem so long to me now, sitting here typing this.  10 bucks it would feel every bit of the 10 miles if I were to strap those shoes on right now....

9. Next race is: Serious race?  I have no idea.  I'm running the Tap'n'Run 4K in November, and The Color Run in December, but those are for fun.  Should you feel the need to put some money down, go ahead and put it on the St. Pete Beach Classic 10K in January.  One of these days I'll get around to running Gasparilla, but I just can't wrap my head around paying to run where I run for free.

10. Potential running goal for 2013:  There will be 13.1 in 2013.  Where and when is still TBD.  If I were to say I have no plans to ever run 26.2, I'd be a liar.  Hmmmm.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Closing Time

Argh. My 30s are over. This is something I've been obsessing/stressing/complaining about for some time now, with the obvious result being "time waits for no man - or woman." So here I am. 40. The big Four-Oh. A new check box, and if memory serves me, my max heart rate during cardio gets to be lower now. Whatever, like I'm not still going to kill it at the gym. Because I can. Which is a story in and of itself, and another post.

This song came out in 1999. Technically, it isn't part of my 30s, but it's one of those autobiographical diary nostalgia songs that reminds me of all things good. I was still living in Houston and was largely invincible. You know how that is. A good job and a little disposable income tends to turn health care professionals into drinky party freaks (and I laugh as I think that this blog links to Facebook and as such may be read by some of my fellow drinky party freaks from the late 1990s, you know who you are, you parked illegally in Rice Village to go to the Gingerman like the rest of us and hit up Solero and the Jones Bar and U-Gropa (ahem, Club Uropa) so go on and let's have a moment of silence for our collective lost youth, I can wait), and I have plenty of stories to tell. Good times, my friends. Good times.

  But I digress. Closing Time came on my iPod today while I was in the car and I started thinking about how much things have changed since the days I blasted Semisonic in the car, Saturday afternoons shopping with my best friend, sitting on her front porch with a bottle of wine...somehow, more was crammed into these past 10 years than in the previous 3 decades.

  I met my husband. Yes, at work. Yes, he is one of those people I invited to wax nostalgic with me earlier. We don't tend to marry outside the family. No one else gets the jokes. I think attorneys do the same thing. No, I couldn't pronounce his name properly at first, and in fact, refused to try. I remember just shoving a chart in his face and informing him I needed a note signed. He complied, and that was probably the beginning of a lifetime of me informing him things need to be done. LOL? From him, I've learned the value of prudency, of constancy, of steadfastness.

I left the city I thought I'd spend my life in, and followed The Man to Florida. A state I never thought I'd set foot in. So far, we're doing allright.

We got married and had Turkis Maximus. Possibly the most astounding thing I've ever done, and absolutely worth me no longer using that Master's degree I worked so hard to earn. From him, I've learned the joys of unconditional love, the beauty of those first-light moments wrapped in blankets, and the joy of sharing the way a child laughs with abandon and hugs with his whole body and loves with his whole spirit.

I've been on locked units and struggled mightily to maintain some semblance of sanity and a reasonable adult human weight. This remains some days more successful than others. On the whole, I try. From this, I've learned that I need not worry what others are thinking of me, mostly because they aren't. That beauty isn't about what's on the pages of a magazine. That we are all beautiful in our own right.

I stood with my hero as he took his last breath. From him, I learned more about bravery and selflessness and integrity and the brevity of life than I realized I needed to know. I experienced a grief that knocked me to my knees, and I am only now beginning to stand upright again, coherently.

I've watched my Mom struggle to navigate the ice-cold waters of widowhood. From her, I've learned - again - how a strong woman stands on her own, and how the bend is more advantageous than the complete break.

I've learned that - to paraphrase one of my favorite Pinterest pins - everything I've experienced in my life has brought me to the now, and that now is right on time. Goodbye, 30s. Forty is right on time.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.