New York City – Part 3 – Packet Pick-Up, Central Park, and the TS Alliance Gathering

November 3 we were all in better humor…to begin with. We slept well after being put through tourist Boot Camp the day before and were eager to hit the streets and see stuff. After breakfast at the hotel, the first order of business was to pick up Allen’s race packet and our passes for the bleacher seating along the home stretch of the race.

Look at that moxie!

Allen agreed to try the Subway again. So, of course, we found out that the Subway line that runs from the station one block from our hotel was down for maintenance for the weekend. But not before standing on the platform for several minutes, wondering why the station was so empty. We eventually walked down to the station at 50th and Broadway, also very close to our hotel, and rode the subway downtown.

Subway Station. Courtesy of Ariana

We were only able to get so far and then hoofed it the rest of the way. The air was cool, but not uncomfortable and there was lots to see so I don’t think anyone minded.

Look at that face! She’s already planning her move to the city.
Almost to the Expo. The sign behind him said something about the marathon but changed as I took the picture. Lame.

Big races have huge expos in the days preceding the event. The TCS New York City Marathon held theirs at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The building was sprawling and a separate event was taking place in the suite we passed on our way to the race expo. When we came in, we saw a long line of people standing behind a sign I didn’t take the time to read. On the way out, I was curious, and read it. “America’s Got Talent.”

 

Woah
On our way upstairs to the Expo

At the expos there are vendors for every type of running gear, gadget, device, training, and food. There are designated areas to pick up the necessary “packet” containing the race number that carries the timing chip, other important race day info, and often goodies like Biofreeze samples and lip balm.

One of many magical moments on this journey
Allen signing the Marathon year sculpture.

We also had to make a stop at a separate booth for the passes Allen got for Ariana and me to sit in the bleachers to see him make his final charge toward the finish. We walked around for a bit and then went back to the hotel to drop off his packet.

If you think we didn’t wave these around (like Wayne and Garth at the Alice Cooper concert) at every check point on the way to the grand stands, you’d be wrong.

 

 

The TS Alliance was catering a luncheon for all the runners on their team with a time frame of 1 – 4, near Madison Ave and 89th street. This was the farthest Uptown we went during the trip. I planned to use this large window to squeeze in seeing The Dakota, Strawberry Fields and anything else we could fit in, all while making our way uptown and across Central Park. We rode the Subway, without incident, from 50th to 72nd and then headed Eastish, toward Central Park.

When we exited the Subway at 72nd, this was the view.

As a teenager, I developed a love of The Beatles and more specifically, John Lennon. His lyrics and sometimes haunting voice, touched my teenage soul in a way I’d come to seek out in other music. I even did an extensive, huge part of my grade, paper on him my Junior year. I wanted to see the looming Gothic apartment building where he and Yoko had lived, and where, on December 8, 1980, he was shot to death by Mark David Chapman.

The Dakota
The Dakota

As we approached it, the desire grew to cross the street and touch the sidewalks where he walked, and ultimately fell. I can’t really explain the reverence I felt for this man I never met, and never had the opportunity to even share the same air on this planet. I suppose it was that way for the millions who cherished him.

The Dakota sits across the street from Central Park, and can be seen from the Lennon memorial part of the park, Strawberry Fields. It took some hiking around and frustration before we found the mosaic memorial. Allen was starting to get stick-up-the-buttish even though we still had plenty of time to get to the luncheon. As we climbed the path to the mosaic, I could feel both positive energy and solemnness. I was awestruck by the respect everyone gave to the art on the ground and how everyone made their way to the front of the line, slowly, took their pictures, had their moment, and then moved aside for others to move forward.

Imagine Mosaic in Strawberry Fields
Imagine Mosaic in Strawberry Fields

I would’ve liked to soak those feelings in but no sooner had we gotten to the Imagine mosaic and snapped a few pictures, Allen was heading back down the hill.

I take most of the blame for not getting all the time I wanted since I scheduled our visit before his event. But he is not without responsibility. He told me the window of time and I planned accordingly. If I’d known he wanted to get there at the top of that time frame, I would have obliged. Communication, people. It’s key.

Bethesda Terrace and Fountain in Central Park
Bethesda Terrace in Central Park
Bow Bridge in Central Park
Central Park. Courtesy of Ariana
Central Park. Courtesy of Ariana
Central Park. Courtesy of Ariana
Central Park. Courtesy of Ariana

As we made our way through the park, growing more and more certain that it would never end, I started wanting to pull the stick out of Allen’s butt and beat him with it. He was power-walking ahead of us the entire time and didn’t stop, even when we did to take pictures, unless we yelled for him.

Allen speeding away from us in Central Park. Courtesy of Ariana

When we go back, I will give Central Park the time it deserves. This wasn’t the trip, however.

We got to the luncheon, being held on the top floor of a beautiful apartment building, and there was still plenty of food, though they had started to put it away. The view was spectacular.

 

TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view. Courtesy of Ariana
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view. Courtesy of Ariana

We ate and met the Regional Program Manager, Shelly . She told us that she had two children with TS and how the Alliance was close to her heart, her passion. She talked about her own family’s struggle with the disease as well as the advancements in treatment and working toward a cure.

Allen with Shelly, the Regional Program Manager for the TS Alliance.

As she talked, I thought about *d* and all she and her family had gone through with Aiden. My heart swelled, excited and feeling so grateful that there was an organization so set on helping her and Aiden and other families just like them. There was gratitude for being able to be there, in that amazing city, supporting Allen as he ran a race not just for himself, but for Aiden, for the cure. I wished so much that *d* could have made the trip to meet Shelly and the others running for the cause. She deserved to feel that same rush of excitement, and hope, but circumstances wouldn’t allow it. I know Allen wanted her there as well, and because she couldn’t be, it made the race that much more meaningful. It was never JUST about the race, but by the time we stood in that meeting room at the top of that skyscraper, we were definitely feeling the significance of the journey.

Shelly thanked Allen for running for the Alliance and us for supporting him. She gave him a gift to be opened after the race as well as some TS Alliance visors and we began the trip Downtown.

One amazing thing about Manhattan is that you really can’t walk anywhere without seeing something iconic and we paused for some pictures of Radio City Music Hall before we arrived “home.”

Radio City Music Hall. (Not sure why I look photoshopped here. I’d like to think I’d do a better job if I was going to do that…)
Radio City Music Hall. Not a great shot of the Hall, but Ariana’s face made the pic worth it.

Once back at the hotel, Allen planned to do nothing but relax as he prepared himself mentally for the race the next morning. Ariana and I strolled over a block to 9th Ave and hit a couple thrift stores. I’d planned many more, but as it does, the day got away from us and we were working with limited daylight and time before supper. We went to Housing Works Thrift Store at 730-732 9th Ave. Things were fairly priced and all the proceeds help the homeless and those with AIDS so I made sure I bought something. Spoiler alert! It was a BOOK. We wandered down 9th Ave a bit farther and stopped at 602 9th Ave, Thrift and New. This place was more pricey and carried mostly antiques so we left empty handed. By that time, it was getting dark so we moseyed back to the hotel. Thrift shopping is something else I want to go back and give the proper attention.

On our adventure down 9th Ave, we saw an Italian place that happened to be on my list of possible pre-race supper restaurants. So, we returned to 9th Ave with Allen and had some fabulous carbs at Bocca Di Bacco.

Bocca Di Bacco (not my picture)

The wait was long, despite making a reservation with Open Table, and it was very loud. The food was good, but I’m not sure it was worth the wait. At least not what I got.

Bocca Di Bacco homemade pasta with meat sauce

But it was a Saturday night, in NYC, really close to Times Square, so…

We went back to the hotel and Allen completed his pre-race ritual of laying out his race outfit and number and going over the plan for the morning for the 100th time.

This picture was taken at home, which should give you some insight into the method AND the madness.

Then, it was off to bed where visions of tennis shoes, sweaty brows, and finisher medals likely danced in his head.

~L~

Drive It Like Your Insurance Rates Will Go Up If You Ding It

In what can only be described as “winning at adulting,” I purchased new tires for my car. And not the cheap ones. The nicest ones I was quoted. And all four, not just two. I’ll give you a moment to appreciate my awesomeness.

 

 

 

 

 

Ok.

So, I went through the SVG Chevrolet dealership in our area and in order to get my service completed quickly, they offered me a loaner. I was surprised, partly because I haven’t been offered a loaner in years, and have just had to play musical cars to get mine dropped off and then picked up once it was finished. But mostly because I still feel like an irresponsible kid. Like, on the inside. I don’t know when I’m supposed to feel “grown-up” but it ain’t happened yet. I briefly thought, “Are you crazy?” Then I gladly accepted.

I dropped my car off and gave my proof of insurance, ID, debit card, some hair from my head, and a urine sample and waited for them to point me to the mini-van or Fiesta from the 90’s they planned to loan me.

The very nice service man walked me over, not to a dated jalopy with a tape deck (I actually consider that a win), but to a 2019 black Chevy Traverse. As I realized this is what they intended to let me drive out of the lot, I thought again, “ARE YOU CRAZY?”

Then I realized this is what it feels like to be a grown-up. I’m old and posed no threat to this awesome ride. The fleeting image of me peeling out of the service area, doing 80 down a back road with the stereo thumping, and turning corners on two wheels dissolved as quickly as it manifested. In it’s place, I imagined what would happen if I damaged this new car in any way and what it would do to my insurance rates.

I left the lot carefully, and thought everyone was out to get me all the way home. I knew my luck and wondered how long I’d have this beautiful machine before it got scratched, dinged, or smashed up in an accident. I touched it like I could break it with my bare hand.

I felt like the Secret Service.

I imagined what it would be like to own it, hauling all my friends everywhere just because I had third row seating and I could, filling the back with garage sale finds in the summer, and jamming to the XM radio.

Ah, Hell yeah

But then, in the glove box, I found the sheet that shows all the features, gas mileage, and most importantly the price.

I just about peed myself but remembered I was in the Traverse and how that “damage” would come across on my insurance claim…”Urine stain/odor removal”

So, as much fun as it was to drive, and comfortable, and super techy, and downright sexy, I was glad to return it 24 hours later and hop back in my 2011 Malibu that’s paid off and fits me like a worn out pair of sweat pants with elastic that gave up years ago. And besides, with my knew tires, taking those turns on two wheels will be much easier.

~L~

New York City – Part 2 – Getting There

When I began planning this trip, in April of 2018, I realized almost immediately that this wasn’t going to be like every other city we’d gone to for a race. The magnitude of NYC is well known, but until we were actually planning on going there, I hadn’t wrapped my head around just how overwhelming and quite frankly, scary it was going to be.

At every race I attend with Allen, there is always some amount of alone time while he’s being herded toward the start, while he’s running the race, and up until we find each other in the crowd. Normally, I’m ok with that and will retreat to my car to nap or read. The idea of killing time wandering the streets of a city that has about 1.6 million people living in Manhattan alone, was terrifying. Add to that the thousands of people in town for the race (over 50,000 running) and the unfamiliarity of the city, and I’m about six months out from the trip and already having a freak out.

“But, L,” you say, “Aren’t you a 37-year-old, grown-ass woman?”

Yes. Yes, I am. But I’m also a nervous wreck on any given day and I live in a one-stop-light, dinky village nestled amongst the corn, bean and wheat fields. My “big city” exposure is minimal and nearly always with another person. And even then, because I’m a grown-ass woman, I never feel safe.  I’ll save that wonderful topic for another day though.

So, Allen agreed that we should ask a friend to go with us. I chose our friend, Ariana. She has no kids, plenty of vacation time, minimal obligations, and she’s awesome—just like me. But unlike me, she’s pretty chill. And balance is important.

Me on the left, Ariana on the right. Looks like the chillest person you know, right?

By the time we left on the morning of November 2, I’d logged hours upon hours of research time and felt as prepared as I was ever going to be. Google Maps and YouTube proved to be indispensable resources in learning the ropes before actually setting foot in New York. I shudder to think what it would have been like to go blindly into this. Kudos to past generations who survived without the internet.

In all my efforts to make sure we were prepared, wouldn’t be douchey tourists, and maximized every day were in the city without feeling rushed, I made myself SICK. It happens anytime I have a stressful event to plan for, whether the event is fun or not. I have IBS for a reason. So, I had successfully riled up my gut and spent a good portion of the week or two before we left, in the bathroom. On the 2+ hour drive to the airport, I was in a great mood, but still feeling nauseated and hoping it wouldn’t last the entire trip.

To my chagrin, our first minor faux pas happened when we got to the airport. We boarded a shuttle bus, each of us lugging a 40+ pound suitcase and a carry-on, and me with the cross-body messenger bag “purse” I planned to carry as we moved throughout the city. We were the only ones on board and in a rush to get seated, we just grabbed seats, our giant suitcases between our knees. Instead of explaining how stupid I felt when the bus began to fill up and me and my bedroom on wheels took up at least 4 seats, blocking the seats on either side of me, I’ll say, we learned our first lessons.

  1. If there is a luggage rack on the bus, use it.
  2. Always move to the back to allow newly boarding passengers to fill in the space ahead of you. (which, I actually knew, but in the haste of the moment, completely forgot)

It sounds stupid to have to say that, NOW, but maybe that gives you an idea of just how out of our element we were. This was just the first of so, so many stressful incidents before we were safely behind the door of our hotel room that first day.

Before we could board the plane, we checked our bags, which was frustrating, confusing, and stressful on its own (and all my fault, I’m sure), and then we had to go through security.

This sums up the anxiety pretty well, even if it was completely unfounded.

Every effort was made to pack correctly for this situation, we had plenty of time before we got up to the TSA agent to watch everyone else going through the line, and I’d watched plenty of videos on the TSA website. But maybe, if you suffer from raging anxiety like I do, you get why I was tweaking out on the inside. Definitely not on the outside. I wasn’t looking to get tackled by security for looking threatening! A nice pat-down, sure. But not wrestled to the ground for looking crazy. I fumbled my way through pulling off my shoes and all but dumping the contents of my purse and carry-on into the plastic bins. I didn’t want to hold up the line!  It wasn’t until I had my shoes back on and we were walking toward our gate that I relaxed.

We flew out of Indianapolis. It’s a nice airport. How nice wouldn’t register until we’d both landed and boarded at LaGuardia. I hadn’t been on a plane since I was a first grader, Allen since high school and Ariana since her early 20’s. Allen and I suffer from motion sickness and I was worried we would both be utilizing those back-of-the-seat paper bags. In an odd turn of events, once we were seated and buckled in on the plane, I felt euphoric. My stomach felt fine and I was turning cartwheels in my head! I made sure to point out the bag to Allen but he assured me he would be okay.

Take off was super exciting and I withheld (or maybe I whispered) an excited “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” as the plane lurched forward on the runway, pinning us to our seats. We’d made it. I’d gotten us this far! We settled in but there was terrible turbulence.  As we began to descend, I noticed Allen looking rather pale. He started to sweat. I thrust my barf bag at him and was pretty sure he’d have to use it. He surprised me by successfully holding it in. However, once we deplaned, the first thing he did on New York soil was find a bathroom and throw-up. While terrible at the time, it’s going to provide us with a laugh for years to come. Right, Allen? Right?

Yeah. It was definitely him. (not my pic. Obviously.)

 

As we walked through the airport, we saw who we thought was Nik Dodani from Netflix’s Atypical. 

 

After we moved away we realized it PROBABLY WAS HIM, since we were, after all, in NEW YORK CITY.

 

 

 

 

(not my pic)

Our first stop, after the bathroom, was at a MetroCard machine. We each got an unlimited, 7-day card for $33 ($32 + $1 for the card) just like the YouTubers advised.

Then we got really confused by the bus ticket situation (again, I had studied, but failed to remember how to accomplish this). Luckily some nice fellows helped us out.

Bus Seating (not my pic)

We got on the bus and Allen’s motion sickness came back quickly. There’s something about riding sideways through rush hour traffic in Queens, on roads that feel like they’re made entirely out of pot holes that might have gotten to him.

 

 

Then came the Subway. I capitalize Subway because it definitely deserves it. It’s a beast that even New Yorkers on YouTube admitted had bested them at one time or another. I felt like I’d trained all my life for this moment. Okay, that’s being dramatic. Plus, even with all the research, I began second guessing myself (it’s my thing, it’s what I do) as soon as we had to figure out where to go. So much for my life’s work! I’d even come prepared with a couple different apps on my phone, MyTransit  NYC Subway, Bus, Rail (MTA) and New York Subway – MTA map and routes. The second one proved to be a lifesaver once I got the hang of it.

 

 

 

 

One thing I did manage to retain from all my research was that anytime we needed to stop to regroup, we moved toward the buildings and out of the way of people bustling down the busy sidewalks. I know that alone saved us from a great many nasty glares and “HEY, I’M WALKIN’ HERE”s, and possibly being trampled.  We saw it happen enough with other tourists who clearly didn’t have an anal retentive, OCD, perfectionist planning their trip.

Being confused about which train to get on wouldn’t have been so bad (and believe me, it happened more than the first day) but the Subway, in case you didn’t know, is underground. There are multiple flights of stairs sometimes. And we were all still lugging a good 50-60 pounds of luggage each. Down SO. MANY. STEPS.  And up. And down. We finally got on the right train and were only certain of that after a kind woman, clearly on her way home from work, confirmed it.

We rode from the Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Ave station to the 50 St/8th Ave station a block from our hotel, with our suitcases between our legs, a couple of us hanging on the center poles because there were no seats at first, an trying not to make eye contact or idle conversation with the natives despite our Midwestern urges to do so.

There was more starting and stopping and starting again and Allen was still very woozy. When we finally climbed back to the surface, our arms aching, me sweating, Allen ready to vomit, he said he would NOT be riding the Subway again.

That attitude*, coupled with all the stress of getting to that intersection in Manhattan, had me fuming. I planned for six months to make this trip as fun, streamlined, and budget friendly as possible.  I replied that I guess we’d have a great time sitting in our hotel room for most of the trip since taking a taxi everywhere would blow our trip funds in a day or two. I also suggested that he should get some rest before writing off Subway travel. Ariana, of course, was chill.

Allen, down for the count and clearly not remembering how beds work.
Ariana, showing Allen how it’s done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We checked into the Hampton Inn Manhattan Times Square North on 8th Ave between 51st and 52nd streets. A first for the day, the check-in was quick and easy (I can hear Allen saying, “Your mom is quick and easy.”  Damn it, Allen). After throwing up again, Allen hit the bed. It wasn’t quite 5:30pm.

The “view” out our hotel window.

After we all rested for about an hour, Allen felt better and was ready to eat. He still refused to get on the Subway so we looked for a place within walking distance. Another tip from my research had us using Open Table to make reservations and feeling super fancy. I make all that sound easy, when in fact, it too was ridiculous. I made the mistake of leaving the choice for supper unplanned. We kept running into long wait times on the reservation app for every place that sounded appealing  and were seemingly never going to make a decision. Allen finally picked Ceci Italian Restaurant, despite a long wait time, and I said fine, because I was tired of trying to figure out our best option.

We enjoyed the walk to the restaurant as it took us through Times Square and down Broadway. It’s easy to roll your eyes at the film industry’s depiction of the country bumpkin coming to “The Big City” but it rings true. It’s hard not to stare upward at the skyscrapers and the bright lights. It’s amazing, captivating, inspiring. The movies get that part right. Something else they get right is the traffic, which we noticed early on. I was glad every day that we were there that I had not decided to try to drive. NO. EFFING. WAY.

very cozy, a little pricey, a lot delicious (not my pic)

The restaurant was very dark and intimate, with many tables in a rather small space.

The food was amazing. I got the Lasagna Della Nonna…and Allen had his plate plus several bites of mine. He was clearly on the mend.

Lasagna Della Nonna
I don’t remember what Ariana ordered, but this is it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back “home,” we stopped at the Rite Aid by the Subway station near our hotel and bought lots of snacks and a 2.5 gallon jug of water with a tap. We didn’t have a fridge or microwave, which kind of sucked, to be honest, but we were close to the ice machine and had plenty of paper cups.

When we got back to the hotel around 9pm, Allen wanted to do a light “3-mile shakeout” run on the treadmill. I filmed him for his Marathon Facebook page and because I was in awe of the fancy treadmills.

And day 1 ended with us all a little sore, a lot tired, and happy to pass out by 11.

*I should mention that Allen gets a stick up his butt before any big race where a personal goal is on the line. Afterward, he’s fine. But leading up to it…uuugh.

 

~L~

Mr. “What If”

Almost everyone’s life story has a chapter titled “The One That Got Away”. The story line is almost always the same, someone amazing comes into the picture, but for some reason, doesn’t stay. The reasons for separation make up the climax of the chapter. The desire to stay with this person clashes with unforeseen events that change the course of the relationship forever. The end of the relationship writes itself a cruel paradox.

Sometimes both parties know why it ended, they were in two different places in life, one or both could not meet expectations of the relationship, or maybe there was too much distance between them. Sometimes the reason is unknown. Nevertheless, that person seems to leave a hole in the other’s life or a thought that never truly diminishes. Life goes on, other relationships come and go, but what about that “one that got away”?

I was seventeen when I met my “what if”. I had just left a relationship with who I’ll call Mr. Rebound.

(me at seventeen)

I came off of a bad breakup and ran into Mr. Rebound while out with friends. He was all wrong for me but I just had my heart broke. I wasn’t attracted to Mr. Rebound, but he made it known that he was interested in me. I felt a desperation to find someone who wouldn’t hurt me in the way I was hurt in my previous relationship and Mr. Rebound said all the right things. We dated for a while but something was missing, there was no spark and I couldn’t think of a relationship with him in the long term, so I ended it.

Some time after my break-up, Mr. What If and I were spending time together. I was a bit apprehensive because I had met him before, he was friends with my heartbreak. Spending time with him didn’t concern me, but the more time I spent with him, the more I felt a change in the way I felt with him.

When I started to have feelings, I began to overanalyze everything. Did his friend talk to him about me? Could I allow myself to be vulnerable again? Would I get hurt all over again?

His friend was my first intense relationship. I was very young and I had a hard time picking myself up after the breakup. Life for me was complicated beyond this breakup, so I decided to take everything very slow. I was afraid.

I was afraid of the feelings I was developing. I was afraid of getting hurt. I think he needed more than I was willing to give. As great as it felt to feel that spark with someone, it ended rather abruptly. He told me he decided to pursue a relationship with someone else. I was disappointed. I felt like it had ended before I allowed myself the opportunity to let go.

Of course Mr. Rebound was waiting with his promises not to hurt me. And because I believed all my fears had manifested, I went back to Mr. Rebound. The truth was, I was vulnerable and he interjected himself back into my life.

I gave up the passion I felt with Mr. What If for the promises of Mr. Rebound. I didn’t have to be afraid of my feelings when I wasn’t overrun by them. Sometimes control is lost in the moment and I tried to control too much with Mr. What If.

Many describe a good romance as a “whirlwind romance”. They get caught up in the emotions like the turbulent wind of a tornado, exhilaration and fear lift in unison. I have wondered what it would have been like if I would have just let go and let myself be taken in the updraft. I know I missed out on a passionate experience that could have broken my heart but that’s always a part of falling in love. Falling in love means letting go and losing that control. Why didn’t I see that great highs always come with the possibilities of crushing lows?

That’s essentially the mantra of a good life, live it as well as possible without fear. Fear kept me from experiencing the fullness of this relationship. Fear made me go back to a relationship that broke me emotionally and eventually ended four years later.

Staying or getting into a relationship out of fear is never a good idea because when a relationship isn’t pursued for the right reasons, red flags can be missed.

I missed lots of red flags with Mr. Rebound. I missed out on what I could have had with Mr. What If. Instead I was going through the motions, trying to convince myself that the “spark” didn’t matter. Relationships are worth going all in for, but with the right person and for the right reasons.

Once I realized I may have missed out on an opportunity to fall in love, I didn’t want to miss it again. This meant my first marriage ultimately ended in divorce. I was single for several months and I never had the opportunity to try again with him, so this chapter of my life closed when I remarried almost fourteen years ago.

Life has a way of using each experience for growth. Although I wish I could have changed some things in my past, my past helped shape who I am.

Every one of us has a story in our book of life that makes us ask, “What if I made a different choice?”

“What if I took the wrong job?”

“What if I moved to the wrong location?”

“What if it could have been wonderful?”

I don’t think the “what if” is as important as living life to the fullest to eliminate as many “what ifs” as possible.

Love without fear of heartbreak because a broken heart means one loved with all of their heart.

Live each moment to the fullest because you may not get a second chance.

So this is my chapter entitled “The One That Got Away”. Thank goodness it’s not where my story ends. There were still great things to come.

*d*

Mean Girls?

I ran into a classmate I hadn’t seen in maybe 15 years at the pet store where I was stocking up on cat food prior to an impending snow/ice storm. The last thing you want to do is run out of food and be snowed in with your cats. They love you, but if push comes to shove, they’ll eat you. Don’t let their cute little faces fool you.

That’s hunger in her eyes.

So, anyway, I’ve been planning our 20th Class Reunion for this year and trying to track down current addresses for class members. When I saw her, I was super excited because I didn’t know how to reach her easily since she wasn’t on social media (good for her, BTW).

When I asked her if she had any interest in coming to the reunion, she immediately said, “NO. I don’t do anything with that school. NO…no.”

I laughed a little and with my hands up defensively said, “Ok! Understood.”

I went to turn my cart around and she said, “Nobody liked me then so I don’t have any desire to hang out with them now.”

To which I replied, “Oh, I get it. Definitely. Nobody liked me either. You too, for that matter.” All of this was said with a grin and no attack in my voice. But it was true.

“Oh! That’s not true! I just didn’t really talk to anybody,” she said, laughing.

When we checked out, she teased me for holding up the line fumbling for my debit card and I told her to let me know if she changed her mind about the reunion. That was it.

But as I drove home, I thought about our high school experience and how they had apparently been similar. What was very odd to me was that she wasn’t nice to me in school. While she might not have talked to me much, the only things I ever heard come out of her mouth were snide, snarky and intimidating. I always saw her as one of the many “mean girls” who made my day-to-day struggle through school so nerve racking. It turns out that she might have felt just as I had and her defense was to come off bitchy and mean, while mine was to cower and stay silent. It made me wonder if all the people who were nasty to me in school, and seemingly nasty to this pet-store-shopping classmate, were only that way because they had someone above them making them feel just as terrible. I’d say the answer is probably yes.

 

Does it make any of it right? No, absolutely not. Is it indicative of the age group we’re talking about? Yeah, unfortunately. But that doesn’t have to be the case either. There were plenty of good people in our class, and plenty that didn’t feel like they had to lash out to keep from getting shoved to the bottom, some of which I chose to ask for help in planning this reunion.

As to why I was able to put aside my memories of torment and my long-lost classmate was not, I feel like that is a personal choice. It takes effort and an unpacking of some yucky baggage. I totally get why she feels the way she does, and why she might have opted to NOT forgive the way she was treated by our peers. I choose to believe that everyone should be given the opportunity to prove that they’ve grown up. As for adults who still behave like they’re in high school, ain’t nobody got time for that.

~L~

Filling Out

I usually don’t openly complain about my own body issues but I have them. I recently got a little annoyed while doing some online browsing.

I’m small busted. Not just small busted, I’m “God forgot to give me boobs” small busted. It’s been an issue with my self-confidence since middle school. As we all know, kids can be mean, downright jerks. To their defense, a lot of growing is about trial and error. Sometimes, that trial and error comes at the cost of others.

For me, I noticeably didn’t mature like the other girls in my class. I didn’t reach “maturity” so to speak until I was almost fifteen. It was too late for my new surge of hormones to grow the necessary parts to be attractive to most boys jacked-up on hormones my age. By that time, they had noticed all of the other girls were growing and I soon became an easy target for humiliation from a biological process I had no control over.

Memories of my awkward years are as muddled as my complexion at fourteen, but I will never forget boys wading up paper and throwing it down the front of their shirts to humiliate me. I was called names and reminded how unattractive I was because I didn’t have breasts at fourteen.

Middle school is an awful experience for most. Most kids in their early teens are experiencing surging hormones that suddenly make classmates they’ve known since the age of five attractive, voices shaky, and body parts stuck somewhere between the little kid you thought you were and the adult you would be some day. Emotions were confusing and relationships didn’t seem as simple as they were once.

Nothing screamed awkward like the full page close up of fifteen year old me in the yearbook. I was the cheerleader that no one anticipated making the squad. My face was broke out and my insecurities seeped right through my crooked smile. Thankfully I didn’t find that gem until I was looking at yearbooks during study hall in the library my senior year.

If I had anything, I had hope. That hope came from the summer between middle school and high school. That happened to be the year I discovered padded bras. It worked. I got off the bus on my first day of freshman year and the change was noticeable. A boy in my class said, “Looks like you finally grew some”. The appearance of breasts are the only thing I felt that got me noticed. It wasn’t my face, I struggled with acne so bad that I had to see a dermatologist, it wasn’t my body, I was teased and called “monkey arms” in middle school, and it wasn’t my personality, boys didn’t want to get to know “that” girl.

Yes I was “that” girl. In eighth grade, I dated one boy. I really thought he liked me. He was on the football and basketball team and I was a cheerleader. I broke-up with him after I found out his teammates were making fun of him for being my boyfriend. He was too immature to stand-up to them and I was too insecure to see my own worth.

I’m 38 and I have never been able to see myself as beautiful because of my cup size. I thought once I graduated, I would leave the judgemental world of body shaming behind but that hasn’t been the case. Some women would use passive-aggressive tactics to tear me down using their obviously bigger bust size as leverage. In my head, I was not only unattractive to men, but to other women as well.

I have never really felt like a woman. I came close while nursing my children. While nursing I could fill out a size B cup. I at least looked like woman physically. I could put on a dress and not worry about the front falling forward because of the lack of assumed physical form, I could wear a bra without it riding up over the lack of breast tissue. I had confidence because I felt like I was the woman I was supposed to be. Nursing had it’s perks. Obviously for a woman who naturally had little breast tissue but for my children as well. I didn’t read the fine print when researching breastfeeding, “once nursing is finished, expect to loose breast volume”.

I finished nursing my last child in 2015. The fine print didn’t lie.

The years of teasing compiled on top of my own distorted view of beauty, has led me to where I am today. I am unable to see myself as feminine and beautiful.

I am aware that I have to be the change agent in how I view myself because years of reassurance has not helped my frame of mind. I just want to feel like other women feel. I want to be able to wear something beautiful and not have to worry if I will be able to fill it out.

This leads me to my annoyance. Valentine’s Day is approaching and although my husband and I never celebrate the holiday, I thought I would browse lingerie, specifically “lingerie for small busted women”. My search led me to several articles and every article recommended lingerie modeled by women who had average sized breasts.

“Nevermind.”

I want to wear something nice for my husband but nothing “fits” me. One piece lingerie is out of the question because the bottom half needs to be smaller than the top half. I can’t fill out even the smallest bras because there is always a fold where breast tissue is supposed to be. Nothing fits me. Nothing…..

In my desperation, I went to Victoria’s Secret to be fitted. The level of anxiety in someone else even coming close to seeing my upper half is overwhelming. I sucked it up because I was told they can find something for almost anyone. Guess who left without a bra? This girl. They couldn’t fit me. I was too small.

After that, I began to research breast augmentation. I made an appointment with a surgeon who had excellent reviews. I thought there would be hope for me to feel whole. Unfortunately, hope comes with a price tag. My appointment also came with humiliation. They take a photo so they can have a before prior to surgery (if you decide to go that route). I didn’t expect to have to stare at it during my consultation. I finally had to ask him to take it down.

I still hope I can pursue surgery but I also know I need to figure out how to change my frame of mind. It’s hard to do when I can’t even feel comfortable in a bathing suit. It’s hard to do when you’ve been made to believe one’s beauty depends on a natural process my body seemingly forgot to finish. It’s hard to see myself as beautiful when I feel like I have come short of expectations. How could anyone look at me and be satisfied knowing I will never look like a woman?

I may never figure it out. I hope I do, or I hope I can at least figure out how to feel better about myself.

Some women dream of fame, I dream of a “B” cup!

– D

New York City – Part 1 – Why We Went

New York City has always been one of those far-off, bucket list trips for me. Husband (Allen) and I talked about it numerous times when we discussed where we’d like to go on vacation down the road. But it remained a dream, an enigma of a city to a couple of folks who grew up among the cows, corn, and beans.

Manhattan and the Manhattan Bridge

We knew “of” each other in high school and I remembered him as “That guy who runs all the time.”  That’s how everyone seemed to know him.  Even in the years where he’d given it up, gained weight, and all but lost who he really was to a crummy marriage, people always asked him, “You still runnin’?” The answer was a reluctant “No.”

Allen circa 2011 and our recently departed “Princess” Onyx.

Then we got together and though it was definitely not overnight, he started to remember who he was, and what he was passionate about, and he began hitting the pavement again.

5King with friends is the best way to 5K.

 

 

 

2015

In his younger years of running, he had qualified for Boston, more than once, but he never went. So, that has become his goal: to qualify and actually run the race.

2015 YOLO Half-Marathon.
YOLO Half-Marathon 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With all the training, we talked of other Marathons that could be good to run to try to qualify for Boston. The New York City Marathon came up quite a bit, but in the end, we decided to wait another year before diving into that race and the immense culture shock we knew we were in for. I imagine that was mostly me, since I was going to have to mentally prepare my-super-mega-ultra-introverted-self like never before, as well as plan most of the trip.

YOLO Half-Marathon 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Then, *d* shared a link on Facebook that the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance was looking to fill some spots on its NYC Marathon team. If you’ve read any of the blogs she’s written here, you know that her youngest son has Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. We’ve always felt helpless when it comes to saying the right thing or offering the right help to her. Suddenly, there was a way to help the Alliance, draw attention to this terrible disease, and honor one tough little boy and his family.

YOLO Half-Marathon 2018, used as a “training race” for the impending NYC Marathon

So, Allen contacted the Alliance and got a place on the team. The Alliance set a goal of $5,000 to be raised by each runner and set up individual donation pages. I set up a Facebook page where his training progress could be followed by friends, family, and fellow athletes, and the donation page easily found.

 

After being interviewed by the local paper, multiple people sharing the donation link, contributing to the cause, rooting him on, and a year of diligent training, it was time to fly.

Literally. We took a plane to NYC.

On our way!

 

 

 

View of the city from the plane. (Photo courtesy of Ariana)

 

 

 

 

 

 

And our adventure began.

~L~

A 3-Hour Nap

Just a quick shout-out to holidays that fall in the middle of the week. Thanks for making me feel like I’m going through Sunday all over again. The laziness. The dread of the following day of work. The one perk is that there are only TWO more days of work to follow this “Sunday.”

Husband and I took a 3-hour nap today. While awesome, I have a feeling I won’t be sleeping well tonight and that’s a bummer. I love sleep. LOVE IT.

On the up-side, I woke up feeling like I could sit down and write another 700 page novel. Like, in one afternoon. Instead, I added a page to this blog about the writing project *d* and I are working on. Check it out! Join in!  It’ll make ya feel gooood.

Not like that. Unless writing letters gets your motor running. Wait…that might be why I’m doing this…hmmmm.

At any rate, it’s a feel-good project about helping others feel good. What’s better than that?

~L~

Evening Ponderings

After several hours of clinching my hands in restlessness in the emergency room this morning, I began to cry. The pain finally overcame my will and I broke down. It was the same news I usually hear during my seldom trips to the emergency room for pain. The majority of the pain was from a flare but now I have additional issues that have no immediate treatment. I opted for the steroid injection and walked out in equal pain as when I walked in. My tears were more of frustration rather than my inability to handle the pain. I have learned to deal with chronic pain and I was frustrated because of my resistance to treatment. 

I just came off of Humira. The benefits were not out weighing the risks. Risk versus benefit is something I have heard often in the last nine years. The goal with my son’s anti-epileptic medication is to take the smallest dose with the best possible results and the benefits need to outweigh the risks. While thinking of my disappointment today, I thought about the numerous times I have experienced this same feeling when I weigh the benefits and risks associated with my own choices. Do I make reasonable choices concerning my life and relationships? Am I doing what is right in accordance with my beliefs, or am I acting in accordance with what is acceptable to the world? Should I put my needs before the needs of others and do I really need to be liked as much as I think I do? What will it really cost me?

My grandma has a big heart and like many of us, she has a desire to be liked by those around her, so it has been particularly hard for her since a close relative chose to terminate their relationship. Even after an apology, they chose not to forgive. It’s been years and she is still very hurt. Her son and husband (my uncle and grandfather) have both passed away and it hasn’t been enough of a reason for her estranged relative to heal these once very close relationships. If death didn’t make her relative chose to forgive and heal their once close relationship, what will?

I once believed that the worse case scenarios were rare, but life will eventually prove the contrary for us all. Bad things happen to everyone and they can happen more frequently than desired. Relationships erode to the point of disrepair, health deteriorates, promises aren’t kept, people will disappoint……. The only guarantee we have in life is the ability to control and change our own actions in situations, even those that are out of our control. Others will certainly remember how we react when life gets rough. What kind of person do our actions make us out to be and what kind of an imprint do our actions leave on the hearts of others? The best view of ourselves maybe through our relationships with others.

I don’t have a life conducive of healthy relationships. I have complexities others don’t and it takes a special person to remain patient enough with me to be my friend. Although I have few close relationships, I deeply value the ones I have. I know all too well how much a minute can change the course of life. I am thankful for today because I’m not guaranteed another. I have learned that the hard way. I lay awake thinking my baby boy could have a life threatening seizure when we are all asleep. I wonder how long my body will hold out when I am literally falling apart. I don’t understand why so many people choose to threaten a relationship over petty things. Each day is a gift and should be treated as such. I can’t understand why so many people can let the sun set on things that should be rectified.

Relationships are the medicine of life. There will be those who don’t value a relationship with you so you have to ask, are the side effects that come with relationships doing more harm than good? When it comes to my health, I have to consider how much I am willing to suffer for a desired result. In the end, it’s my body and I have to make the choices that are right for my health. I have to be willing to make changes to better my life, even if they are scary. It boils down to me. The only person I can control is me. I cannot always control the future but I can change the way I view it.

Fruitful change has come through the difficult circumstances and how I handle them is influenced by my faith, but it has been hard to handle each situation as I should during times of depression. Until I truly began making an effort to rely on the only thing that can promise real change, depression dictated. Once I began to discover how to live according to my own values and beliefs, the promises of peace came with it. My depression hasn’t disappeared, but I have more hope putting my faith in something other than myself. I was broken and unable to handle what I had been given. I was constantly overwhelmed by circumstances beyond my control, including the actions of others. I made a choice to pick up the yoke of the Lord so he could fulfill his promise to me in the book of Matthew, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

The Lord has went through great lengths to get my attention and I’m glad he has, because I realized I couldn’t change anyone but me and I needed to change! I began reading the Bible regularly and learned so much about myself in a short period of time. Maybe what I learned can help you too.

Life is too short to spend time hurting others with words. More often, making the right choices regarding what we say is a battle because falling into temptation is easy. Words said behind closed doors will eventually be brought into the light (“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be know.” Matthew 10:26) and a choice to pursue hurtful actions against others will cause harm to onself. The bible speaks candidly about the hurt that comes from words. He’s especially asking believers in the following verse not to bless him in worship and curse another, because we are speaking against others who were made in his image. It’s hurtful and not congruent with Christian behavior. 

“… but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness if God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” James 3: 8-10

More simply put, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers…” James 4:11

Along with a venomous tongue, we ought not to do fall into additional temptation and judge one another. Judgement hurts relationships. By taking time to pass judgement, time is taken away from working on nurturing healthy and supportive relationships. Taking time to study the word and work on our own downfalls is a more productive use of time. We gain strength, learn how to live a fruitful life, and grow closer to God, who is the only one true judge. 

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7: 1-5. 

There is a clear warning about judgement in this verse, but it is still summed up  by helping another.

“..For in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice such things. We know that the judgement of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.” Romans 2:2

All can be summed up here, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned: forgive,and you will be forgiven, give, and it will be given to you.” Luke 6: 37-38. 

But even as I worked in this piece, I felt the anger and hurt in my heart toward those who have wronged me. I am reminded again of how this discovery is about me and my journey in obedience to God. 

“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full if mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” James 3: 14-18. 

Change doesn’t happen overnight and I still worry about how I’m living my life and how I can truly let go of the anger and hurt brought on by the people and circumstances I cannot control. 

“… do not be anxious about your life… But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousnes, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6: 25, 33-34.

Obedience isn’t always easy, especially when he tells is not to be anxious but He is a God who understands the conflict taking place in the heart of man. 

And I cannot forget when I have failed at all things, God is forgiving and merciful and those who have true salvation are as well. The following footnote on Matthew 18: 21-35 summed up how salvation should change a sinner’s heart.

“The central points of the parable are: first, that the gift of salvation is immeasurably great and, second, that unless a person is comparably merciful to others, mercy has not had a saving effect upon him and will be liable to pay the consequences himself….. A transformed heart must result in a changed life that offers the same mercy and forgiveness as has been received from God. Someone who does not grant forgiveness to others shows that his own heart has not experienced 
God’s forgiveness.” Foote note on Matthew 18: 21-35 from ESV study bible by Crossway.

I forgive because he has changed my heart, I will not be fearful of those who hurt me or anxious about my life, because I trust in Him.

“..I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to he brought low, and I know hot to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4: 11-13

If you remember anything from this message remember this verse:
“So whatever you wish that others do to you, do also to them…” Matthew 7:12

*d*

Purposefully 

Yesterday the extent of my hair loss reached out from behind the mirror and smacked me in the face. “Could who I’m looking at possibly be me?” Yep, it was. The open empty, thinning spaces seemed like a good representation my life, empty space and barren in some places and holding on for dear life in others. But then today I was reminded of something miraculous. My boys and I read “The Purpose Driven Life” every morning and we are readung the chapter titled “God’s Power in Your Weakness”. I was so excited to start this chapter because I haven’t felt more weak in my life than I do right now. After we began to read the first chapter I was sure the words were meant for our family.

“Your weaknesses are no accident. God deliberately allows them in your life for the purpose of demonstrating his power through you.” It goes on to say, “That God uses imperfect people is encouraging news for all of us.” Then it hit home. “A weakness, or ‘thorn’ as Paul called it, is not a sin or vice or a character defect that you can change, such as overeating or impatience. A weakness is any limitation that you inherited or have no power to change.  It may be a physical limitation, like a handicap, a chronic illness, naturally low energy, or disability. It may be an emotional limitation, such as a trauma scar, a hurtful memory, a personality quirk, or heredity disposition. Or it may be a talent or intellectual limitation. We’re all not super bright or talented. When you think of the limitation in your life, you may be tempted to conclude, ‘God could never use me.’ But God is never limited by our limitations. In fact, he enjoys putting his great power into ordinary containers.” 
Yesterday I was looking into the mirror wondering what purpose I even serve. I wondered if my husband could ever find me attractive after all the changes I am going through. Yesterday I looked in the mirror and thought of all the reasons I am useless, worthless, and served no real purpose in the world. My life is thin and barren of so many things because I have made so many mistakes in my life and surely I deserve the pain. It’s easier to believe the awful things I tell myself and it isn’t that hard to find reasons why I feel like I deserve it.
About a year ago I was submitting a lot of stories to The Mighty. I liked the idea behind the site, finding hope through disability and the stories were mostly submitted. I had good luck and a few of my stories got picked up, one even made its way to Yahoo Health. It was a very personal story that included photos of my life with chronic illness. This piece was in opposition to my personality. I am not someone who likes to open myself up to public scrutiny and putting this post up on Yahoo Health did just that. I told myself not to read the comments but curiosity eventually got to me and I did. There were kind comments but the trolls came out as well. The comment that stung the most stated that I was a waste because I had a chronic illness. He validated all the horrible things I have believed about myself.  I am chronically ill so I am worthless, I serve no purpose, and my family is better off without me. You would think I would have been happy after my work was being recognized, but shortly after I sank into a dark depression. My health was slowly getting worse, my son was going to have neurosurgery soon for his out of control seizures, and the depression made me feel very alone. Medication changes, depression, and stress are a bad combination. At my most desperate, I asked my husband to leave me. I negotiated and gave him every reason why he deserved more than what I could offer. Thankfully he could still see me under it all and reminded me of how much he loved me. I thought everyone else saw me as I saw myself. I didn’t allow my husband to see me as he wanted to see me. It turns out, he still saw me as the woman he married. He still does. I don’t know how he can see past what I see in the mirror every morning but he does and so does our Creator. Love is funny like that.
Contrary to what others have said about me or what I have said about myself, I have a purpose. My broken vessel can still carry a something precious. I don’t need to have a full head of hair, the perfect job or perfect family to serve my intended purpose. In fact, perfection isn’t part of the message God wants to share. He wants to share a perfect message through imperfect people. Those are the best kinds of messages, aren’t they?
When our son was diagnosed years ago, I found a lot of support online. When I searched for a group, I didn’t search for a diabetes support group, he doesn’t have diabetes. I searched for groups pertaining to his disease because I needed to talk to those who have personal knowledge of it. Experience is a useful tool, it also makes for a pretty powerful message. I have made friendships with people who understand  when others may not. I have realized, the more God allows me to suffer, the more useful I am to his message and to the service of others. Assuming I have no purpose is questioning God’s own purpose in making me. I don’t need need a full head if hair to minister to others, just because I now have some physical limitations doesn’t mean I don’t have spiritual strength, and useless to the world never means useless to God. 
I have spent the last eight years since my son was diagnosed pushing others away. I already hurt so much, I didn’t want any more hurt. It was easier for me to be alone than it was to take a chance and get hurt by someone else.The truth is, I was the one doing the most damage. I was isolating myself with the one person who had the most hateful opinion of me….. me. God is constantly challenging me in unexpected ways. Sometimes it’s through a sermon, sometimes it’s through a book, and sometimes it’s through those who won’t let me push them away. I am thankful God still had a purpose for me when I made some big mistakes but then again, he knows me better than I know myself, he is my creator. It may be about time I started looking at myself through His eyes, I may start to like what He created.

*d*