A Few Fears Before my First MRI

In random order:

  • Last year at this time, I was training for my first marathon and completing twenty-mile runs. Now, I can’t even walk around the block.
  • I have one half remaining to complete this year’s Rhode Masters series. I know that I couldn’t even walk it.
  • I need to accept that the New York City Marathon is not going to happen. They’re (maybe) going to send a medal I never got close to earning. And that sucks.
  • Remember that time in 1998 when you tried to go tanning in a tanning bed, freaked out, and pulled the emergency stop after three minutes? Yeah, you can’t do that this time.
  • How can I possibly stay still for thirty minutes?
  • Will I have to take out my nose ring? I hope I don’t have to take out my nose ring. I can’t get it back in by myself.
  • What if my running and November Project friends forget about me?
  • What if they find something terrible?
  • What if they can’t find anything wrong with my knee and cannot find a reason why my kneecap moves in all directions, and I can barely walk Banjo around the block?
  • My knee has popped every time I’ve bent it for the past two weeks; why did it stop popping the day of my MRI?
  • What if I can’t work out for months, and I gain weight?
  • If I need to have surgery, Mike will have to do so much around the house, and he already does so much. This is going to suck for him.
  • Will I ever be able to run again?
  • Will I ever be able to work out again?
  • At least I have an excuse to skip PR day when November Project resumes.
  • If I need surgery, I hope I can get it done soon. I know Covid is backing up non-emergency procedures.
  • At least this is happening during Covid, so I can teach from home and not have to worry about being out of work for four-twelve weeks. There’s no way I could trek up and down three flights of stairs multiple times a day!
  • Poor Liam already does so much; he’s going to have to do even more.
  • Poor Banjo misses long walks. I miss long walks, too.

2019 Goals

Teachers enjoy two “new year” beginnings, one in January and one in September. So far, I have done a nice job maintaining several of my school year resolutions.  I have been going to bed early and getting lots of sleep. I have been meal planning.  I pick up the house a little bit each day and have been doing a good job of keeping up with laundry, avoiding the need to spend most of Saturday morning cleaning.

Where I am slacking is when it comes to working out. I have not gone for a single run after school.  The main reason for this is being in a new school with a new curriculum.  Because I stay at school a lot later than I did last year, I head home to pick up Liam and avoid spending even more on after-school care than we already do. Liam has promised to start running with Banjo and me in the afternoon. While the runs aren’t long or fast, they include bonding and watching Liam set goals.

This start to the new year has me thinking about my goals. I have my students email weekly goals.  When they ask why they need to email me their goals and create a plan to reach them, I explain that a goal without a plan is nothing more than a wish. Sharing them makes them real.

When I first decided to sign up for a half-marathon, my husband told everyone. I was not as excited to share the goal, mostly for fear I would fail and everyone would know. Once everyone knew I was planning to run two half- marathons in 2018, I had to make sure I was able to achieve this goal.

Setting these goals makes me think a lot about what I want to achieve next year.

So here, in random order, are my 2019 goals:

Run a thirty-five minute 5K.  I just finished reading Deena Kastor’s Let Your Mind Run. She talks about her goal of running a fifteen minute 5K. I’m focusing on my own goals. Cutting a minute off of my 5K PR would put me in the thirty-five-minute range. I would be happy with that.

*In the time between my first draft of this and when I got back to editing it, I shaved forty seconds off my 5K, putting me at 35:59. Next goal is to make it to 34:59!

Cut a minute and a half off my half-marathon PR: I know that isn’t a lot over 13.1 miles, but it would put me in a 12:29 pace. For some reason, dropping down a ten-second increment sounds likes an awesome goal!

 

Do a handstand: I’ve been able to do a headstand for a  few years and want to transition to a full headstand. I think a lot of it is mind over matter; I need to get over my fear and make it happen.

Random Things Making Me Happy

Baseball is back!

We look like babies in this picture!

I love baseball! Loving the Red Sox was a non-negotiable while Mike and I began dating.  We can compromise in other areas, but the man I married needed to be a Sox fan. Baseball played a huge part in our dating. One of our first dates was to Fenway; we’ve been countless times since. Mike and I even had Red Sox undertones at our wedding. We took Liam to his first game when he was only a few months old. While he appreciates the excitement, fanfare, and $5 hotdogs more than the game itself, Liam enjoys visiting Fenway. Opening Day signifies that summer, with her long, warm days, is quickly approaching. We are attending our first game of the season this weekend. I am beyond excited to continue our Fenway traditions, even if we are supposed to get some snow that morning.

Assumptions are never a good idea!

Yes, Liam did line up the garbage cans

Through my years of teaching, I’ve learned to meet students where they are and help them fill any gaps in their learning. I’ve also learned not to make assumptions about what they know, as backgrounds and learning experiences vary. Wednesday afternoon, Liam, Banjo, and I walked home from school. As we walked into our house, I asked Liam to grab the trash bins from the curb and line them up by our house. He lined up the trash bins, just as I asked. I giggled, reminded the importance of explicit directions. As I finalize my last project of the year, I am reminded to not only be clear with my expectations but also to remember the importance of modeling and support each step of the way to help my students achieve.

Rainbow clouds!

While I was pregnant, Mike’s Aunt Char was very sick. She tried to hold on long enough to meet Liam but passed away when I was six months pregnant. After her funeral, I saw rainbow clouds for the first time. It seemed like a sign. Since then, I have only witnessed rainbow clouds a handful of times. Once was at Mackerel Cove while we were all playing on the beach. Once as I drove to Target to get Liam new pajamas the night before he had to have his ear tubes surgically removed (I was a nervous wreck), and once the other morning while driving to school.  I am a big believer in signs but cannot figure out why I saw rainbow clouds at that moment. I know about science and such, obviously, but I just like to think of such occurrences as signs.

I learned to make GIFs!

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Banjo manages to sit moving just his tail. It is the cutest thing to watch. I managed to get it on video and loved it so much that I downloaded a GIF-making app and made him a GIF.

Half-Marathon and Banjo Training

It’s been two weeks since Banjo joined our family. It feels like he’s been with us forever. We are learning each other’s ques and setting in nicely. He’s a happy dog, eager to learn, please, and rid the world of squirrels.

Last week, Banjo and I went for our first run. We did okay, but he pulled quite a bit. We made it about a mile and a half before we were both done. Two days later, my shoulder was still sore. I saw someone running with their dog using a belt leash. After scouring reviews on Amazon, I ordered one designed for large dogs.  We took a quick walk, following our usual route. It was so much more comfortable than pulling him on his leash! Yesterday, he and I set out using the belt leash. I love that it has pockets. I was able to fill one with animal crackers (his incentive of choice), one with waste bags and my phone, and one for my water bottle. (I don’t know how people run without water.)

 

Banjo was very attentive when he discovered my pocket full of crackers!

 

We had a great run! We went a longer route than we usually do during our walks, covered over two miles. We definitely could have gone longer, but I didn’t want to push it and I needed to pick up Liam. I turned on my interval timer but didn’t need since Banjo kept stopping to smell and mark things. He and I kept a 12:33 pace, right where I aim to be during short solo runs.  Best of all, I could truly be “hands-free” while running; everything fit in the belt!

 

While running with Banjo requires adjustment, I’m glad he and I settled into the routine that works for both of us.  I will miss afternoon runs on the Boulevard, but it is nice to have a running buddy for my short, weekday runs!

We Are on a Break!

I recently decided to break up with cheese.  Well, Mike convinced me to give up cheese for a little while and see how I felt.  I had already decided to give up my small cup of ice cream each night.  (I’m working out like crazy and gaining weight, but that is another story.)

We spent ten days together stuck inside a tiny house hiding from frigid temperatures.  The weekend before Christmas, I made two delicious mac and cheese recipes for different sets of guests.  The first used cheddar cheeses and Sriracha, the other asked for sharp cheeses and pancetta.  I made pulled pork to top the cheddar mac and cheese.  Because I am terrible at math and following recipes, I gathered the ingredients based on their pre-shredded amounts. Once I ran them through my shredder, I had a ridiculous amount of cheese, which led to ridiculous amounts of mac and cheese.

Mike and I spent the following week eating mac and cheese, refusing to spend money going out to eat or grocery shopping when there was a fridge full of perfectly good leftovers. At night, we snacked on meats and cheeses after Liam went to bed.  We were on vacation! We could live it up!

My indulging caught up with me.  I gained five pounds.  This brought my weight right past my “Oh Crap” weight.  (Does anyone else have a weight hierarchy?  I imagine mine like the threat pyramid the government uses. It consists of Yay!, Good/Okay, Watch it Now/Reel It In, and Oh Crap.)

I also noticed that my face, which has been pretty clear, started to look like it belonged to a teenager.  More like, it belonged to an awkward teenager who had both pimples and laugh lines.  My biggest issues involved my stomach.  I won’t get into the details, but Liam and Mike became fearful of sitting near me.

While Mike and I were getting ready for bed, he mentioned the amount of cheese I had been consuming and asked if I had ever considered giving up dairy.

Anyone who knows me knows this would normally be laughed off.  I love cheese!  (By the way, there is a name for someone who loves cheese; we are known as turophiles.) However, I had read quite a few articles about the benefits of eliminating dairy, including improvements to skin, stomach, and sinuses.  My sinuses have been throbbing, causing me pain under my eyes and into my jaw.  Netti pots, Claritin, hot compresses, and nasal sprays are no longer helping.  I was planning to use the ENT referral my primary care doctor gave me at my physical.  I really try to avoid taking medications.  If giving up dairy would help me breath better and be pain-free, it’s worth a shot!

Now comes the difficult part, actually giving up cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products.  I use almond milk in my morning smoothies.  I can use that when having cereal and scrambled eggs. I purchased a plant-based butter type spread and soy-based yogurt.

I am now seven days into my breakup with dairy.  So far, it isn’t as bad as I feared.  It might be the placebo effect, but I swear that I am already breathing easier. I can breath deeper than I previously could. During my run Tuesday, I slowed down because my legs were tired, not because of breathing difficulties.  Today, I ran my longest run! However, I know the cheese fit will kick in soon.  While it is a bit too early to say whether it has helped clear my skin, I have noticed no new breakouts in the past few days.

This news is bittersweet.  I am glad that I am experiencing excellent results from giving up dairy.  Honestly, I was hoping that it would not work and I could go back to being my awesome, cheese-loving self.

What am I Thankful for this Year?

I know, it’s a totally clique prompt, but I’m going with it.

Mike

Right at the top!

Mike supports me in every possible way.  While I didn’t need his permission, he gave me his blessing to sign up for BRG and take a class at Bryant this spring.  Some weeks, I was out of the house four nights.  He never complained.  A year ago, we spent four days in the hospital while he recovered from an appendectomy. We laughed through much of it, confusing the nurses.  We left the hospital thankful not only for his health, but that we were able to get through a scary, stressful time.

He’s funny.  I genuinely love spending time with him.  He is a great father.  I am thankful for him and our great marriage.

Liam was in my tummy in this picture; I wouldn’t know that for another week

My In-laws

My in-laws are amazing!  My father in law is one of my favorite people in the world!  They are supportive and involved.  They are fantastic grandparents.  My mother in law will play with Liam for hours.  They both give great advice.  When I am thankful for my husband, I am also thankful for the two people who raised him.  They are the reason he is so wonderful!

My Friends (old and new!)

The few years after having Liam were so lonely.  Facebook exacerbated the situation by informing me everytime people went out without me.  Over the years, I’ve made some life-changing friends.  They support me and challenge me to try new things.  They offer different perspectives.  They allow me to vent when needed put push me when it is time to move on. Most importantly, they make me laugh!  Whether we are running, doing yoga, putting together an event at Liam’s school, or sitting around a fire in someone’s backyard, laughter is always a significant part of the festivities.  I think about where I am right now, fully aware that my friends helped me more than they’ll ever know.

Booba!

My kid is amazing!  I know, every mom has to say that.  I love this little seven-year-old child of mine!  He’s smart, funny, and observant.  He is kind, even when he doesn’t realize I’m watching.

Teaching

My work is challenging but rewarding.  My kids are amazing and make excellent observations about their world. I am also blessed with fantastic coworkers and a lot of autonomy.  I spend more time with my colleagues than I do with my family.  I’m thankful to spend my days with great people.

My Health

I often complain about my body, fully aware that I need to change my diet to change my body.  However, my body is healthy and allows me to run and practice yoga.  It allows me to take walks with Liam and Mike.  It may be bigger and softer than I’d like it to be, but I am thankful to possess a healthy, able body.

“Good Start!”

While doing research for his I-Search paper, a student asked me to look at his research organizer.  He had one bit of information for each of his five research questions.  Knowing he needed at least two to three answers for each of his questions to formulate a valid, well-rounded response, I told him, “Good start” and began asking clarifying questions to gather more information.

“Really?  I thought I was done,” he told me as we wrapped up the check-in.

From across the room, another student chimed in, “Don’t you hate when she does that?  ‘Good start.’ ‘No, I’m showing her because I’m done and she always says ‘Good start.'” There is nothing more humbling than learning about an annoying quirk from a group of teenagers.

It wasn’t until he called me on it that I realized how often I use the term “Good start,” in both verbal check-ins and while communicating via Google Docs.  I often joke with my students about a magical place called “Done.”  They all want to be there.  For them, “Done” is place that means they can relax for a minute and exhale before moving onto their next goal.

It makes me wonder, when are we “Done?”  In yoga, we are never “done.”  That’s why it’s called practice.  In the ten plus years of practicing yoga, I’ve never been bored; there’s always something new and another challenge.  Running and weightlifting have changed my yoga practice.  While my legs are stronger than they’ve ever been, I’m aware that I am not as flexible as I used to be.  I was close to being able to do a split; that went away when I began running three times a week.  While some flexibility fled, I find I get more from my sessions now.  My body craves the stretching and movement.

When it comes to running, I am aware that I will also never be “done.”  I’m inspired by progress to become faster and stronger. It is such a great feeling to feel better while running or to go a little faster than you’re used to running.

With both my students and Liam, I spend a lot of time talking about growth mindset, a term coined by Carol Dweck.  She talks about the power of the word “yet,” as in, “I can’t do that yet.”  Because I loop with my students, we can talk about progress and how far they’ve come in the months and years we’ve known each other.  When he gets frustrated with a new concept, I remind Liam of his progress in ninja skills classes and elementary school.  “Remember when borrowing numbers in subtraction was tough?  Now, you can do it without any problems.  You’ll get this!’

My running friends and I often remind ourselves of our progress.  We remember when the thought of running four minutes was terrifying.  Now, we regularly run three miles without stopping.

So this makes me wonder when I will be “done” when it comes to running, weightlifting and yoga.  In my weightlifting, my goal is to do a pull-up.  I can deadlift 200 pounds but can’t do a pull-up.  I signed up for a 10K next September.  There is talk about a half marathon next summer.  How far will go?  I have a plan to reach these goals?  What’s next?

If Your Kid Does Something Cool and You Forget to Take Pictures, Did It Really Happen?

So I am the mom who didn’t take a single picture of Halloween.

There was a rush to get ready and out the door to meet at our neighbor’s house for a few games before trick or treating.  Because Liam’s school didn’t have power and was canceled, he went to work with Mike for the day and didn’t get home until after 5:00.  We were convincing Liam to eat so he wouldn’t get tired and grumpy while walking around with his friends.  There was Liam’s sudden request for me to wear my Pikachu costume with him.  I was going to try to avoid dressing up.  He asked me.  At seven, he’s not going to ask his mama to dress up with him much longer.

The boys played a few games, a donut eating contest and bobbing for marshmallows, and were on their way. Liam said “Thank you” at every house, even when he didn’t think I was listening.  He really is a polite kid!  After about an hour in, he started to get hungry and whiny.  Because he ate a huge lunch, he wasn’t hungry at dinner and ignored our request to “just eat a little something.”  He made the decision to power through.  The kids had a blast!  We are so fortunate for fantastic neighbors and a neighborhood that really gets into the Halloween spirit!  Houses are decorated, and people are friendly.


It wasn’t until we got home and I checked my Facebook that I realized I hadn’t taken a single picture of Liam in his costume.  We were so busy having fun that I forgot to capture it!  I love looking through my Timehop pictures on Halloween to see how much Liam has grown.  Next year will have a year missing.  It is what it is.  We have a picture of him wearing his costume at a trunk or treat event at the school last Friday night.

Somewhere out there are pictures of my sister and me on Halloween.  I know that we don’t have photos from every year.  My dad has moved a handful of times since my mom passed away; I don’t even know how many pictures he has left.  I love our cheesy photos in front of the fireplace wear quintessential 80’s Halloween costumes.  There was one year I was Strawberry Shortcake, and she was a Monchichi.

When I realized I had forgotten to take pictures, I felt a pang of disappointment.  There have been plenty of moments that didn’t make it to the camera.  I’m thankful for a night that was so fun, we were too busy enjoying it to stop and take pictures! Honestly, my only regret of the evening is telling Mike to take the remaining Halloween candy with him to his office.  I know I cannot trust myself with copious amounts of candy, but I wish I had saved a handful of Milky Way bars before banishing them from our house!

 

How Writing is Helping Me Deal With Anxiety

Like many others, I struggle to balance anxiety and worry.  One of my favorite insomnia and Shavasana activities is worrying.  I worry like a champ!  When I have nothing to worry about, I dig into my worrying archives.  Nothing completes an hour of productive yoga practice quite like replaying an incident that happened ten years ago instead of emptying my mind and relaxing.

I’ve managed to learn my triggers and adapt.  I no longer find issue politely declining social invitations that don’t interest me.  I find that I feel better when I work out and eat a healthy(ish) diet.  I feel calmer when my world around me is neat and organized.  Mike understands this and helps so much with housekeeping and household maintenance.  I need to make time for Mike and Liam.  This is not a chore; rather it is something I need to be conscious of when planning our week.  When something happens that might cause an anxious reaction, I’ve learned to breathe and rationalize as best I can.  These tricks make being me much easier.

I’ve managed to find friends who get me.  We all have our own pasts and issues and understand each other.  That being said, we also push each other.  During the past few years, I’ve done so many things I would never do without a gentle push: traveling solo to California for a week to facilitate for Summit, jumping into the ocean during winter, cutting my hair shorter than it’s been in years, joining the Beginner Runners Group, signing up for BoldRDash, running over the Newport Bridge.  I’m thankful to people who challenge me to try new things. Many of these events have helped my anxiety and confidence.

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The first time I jumped into a perfectly cold ocean in the winter!

 

That time I went to California by myself for a week but ran by myself every night

This summer, I began writing again for the first time in years.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to share my thoughts.  If I decided to share, I wasn’t sure how to begin that process.  Once I had some vulnerabilities on the internet, I wasn’t ready to just share the blog link on my Facebook page.  While running last week, I mentioned that I had been writing about my process of becoming a runner and agreed to share my blog with my friend.  The feedback was so positive, I shared it with a few more friends.

 

What started as a document of my journal to become a “real runner” has become one of my most powerful tools for managing my mind and quelling anxiety.  Writing helps me sort out my thoughts to find positivity and growth.  Writing adjusts my perspective of the world.  I find myself looking at the world differently, examining daily aspects of my life for inspiration.

 

 

Did She Smoke?

Seven and a half years ago, my mother lost her battle with COPD.  She had been sick all of my adult life, managing to hang on through my wedding and pregnancy.  After refusing my offer to postpone, she passed away on the evening we held Liam’s blessing.


The transition of being someone whose mother was sick, whose mother had just passed, and someone who lost their mother years ago was a difficult one.  Liam doesn’t remember anything about his nana.  I make myself remember the sound of her voice.


In a recent interview, Prince William discussed his mother, stating that he was fairly certain that his late mother would have been a grandmother who drove him nuts, the type who would stop by at bathtime, get the kids wired, and leave.  I love that he admitted that he didn’t always look at his mother with rose-colored glasses; deceased parents aren’t always perfect.  It makes me wonder about the relationship Liam would have had with my mom.  She loved kids.  I know Liam would have loved her.  Being 1,500 miles away, they wouldn’t see each other as often as they’d like, but I know she would’ve talked to him as much as they could.  When she was sick, she used to listen to him take bottles, happy and content just to hear the slurping noise.

Whenever I have to tell someone that my mom passed away when Liam was four months old, I always get a sympathetic, “poor baby” look.  There are always three follow-up questions:

“How old was she?”    (58)

“Was she sick?” (Yes, she had COPD and was on dialysis.)

“Did she smoke?”

When I confirm this, there is always a knowing sigh, almost in relief, as if to say “that explains everything.”

Yes, my mom smoked.  Yes, she knew it was bad for her.  Yes, she tried to quit, once managing to go almost a year without a cigarette.  She struggled with depression, most of which went under-diagnosed and mostly untreated.  After her death, I learned that things about her childhood that she never disclosed, reminding me that she was much stronger than I realized.  She was the person who would do anything for anyone.  She was the mom all of my friends when to when they had issues with their own mothers or boyfriends.  While she was sometimes simple and naive, she found the best in everyone.

There are many debates about healthcare costs and how much the companies should pay for people who do not take care of themselves.  I totally understand the need for that argument.   That being said the fact that my mom smoked doesn’t make losing her any easier for those who knew and loved her.