Sunday, November 28, 2010

Give Thanks, with a Grateful Heart

It's that time of year when we are reminded to be thankful. I love how we take a holiday to remember who and what we're thankful for and really embrace it, but we should always be thankful. However, I'm just as guilty as the next person for not taking the time during my every day life to really be grateful. Instead of a New Year's resolution, I think I'll make a Thanksgiving resolution; to always remember to be thankful and appreciative of what I have. For now, here's a list of a few things I am thankful for, in no particular order.

My health. The unfortunate thing is that I even have to be thankful for this. In my perfect fantasy world, there would be no disease, sickness, and especially cancer. When knocked back to reality by hearing someone's story, I find myself more and more grateful for a life without disease. It seems like so many people struggle with health issues, many of them life threatening, or maybe their children or loved one is suffering. I'm not sure if it's pure luck or God's amazing grace but I've never had any of these issues. My kids and I both are very healthy. I see kids all around me literally fighting for their lives and watch their parents hang on to hope.

Our military. We recently celebrated Veteran's Day which is another one of those holidays that I love that we have a designated day, but think it's something we could and should appreciate every day. Men and women risk their lives every single day so we can live our lives. Their spouses and children say goodbye to them and pray that they will return to them safe and sound.

Solid upbringing. I was raised in the middle of nowhere in a fairly large family, where we all worked and had chores. We didn't have a lot of money, but we had parents who loved and respected us enough to discpline us and instill solid values in their children. We didn't get away with anything, we knew how to act right, and we were shown from an early age to work hard for what we wanted.

My ex husband. And his wife. Strange? Probably according to a lot of people. While it hasn't always been roses, I can honestly say that I am blessed that I have them in my life. My ex and his wife loves our children and make plenty of sacrifices for them. We do our best to raise our children while apart. I do know that if it weren't for my ex husband and his wife my life would be much more difficult.

Chocolate. Ask my co-workers. I'm pretty sure they're thankful I have it too!

My right to speak. I may not always say the right thing, or make statements that everyone agrees with it, but that's the beauty of it. In our great country, we are able to exercise our right to speak freely. Citizens of other countries all over the world don't have this simple thing that we often take for granted.

My cell phone. My gateway to the outside world. Good grief, I am ashamedly attached to the device. I feel lost without it, but so thankful that it provides an outlet for me to communicate with those I love most. The advantage is that you can almost always reach me. Almost.

Positive Reinforcement. Some days, you just feel like you can't keep going. It's those positive reinforcements who pick you up when you feel like you are at the end of the road.

My sweet children. Kassidy is 7 and Kayden is 4. I'm not a perfect mom and I make mistakes. I try to teach them values and manners. I make them say "ma'am" and "sir." I'm not afraid to spank but I give them the same respect I expect from them. I'm teaching them not everything is free, that they aren't going to get everything in this world that they want, and sometimes there's going to be disappointment. I do feel, though, like there's a fine line between the sweet innocence of a child and teaching them that sometimes life just isn't fair. But their constant strength and resilience with the ignorance of the bad things in this world make childhood beautiful.

Working for a company I love. I don't wake up every morning before work and think, "Whoo-hoo, I get to go to work today!" but I don't wake up dreading going in. I work for a company who really values their employees. They know that everyone's position is important and they really care about us. I hope I have a long career with Churchill Mortgage. They've been such a blessing in my life; some of the people there I just can't imagine life without.

Good music. Enough said.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Saving Lives One Mile at a Time

It's now been a full year since I started half marathon training with Team in Training, and what a year it has been. It feels like the time has slipped through my fingers like sand in a seemingly endless hourglass. Reflecting over the last year is almost like I am stuck behind a pane of glass while watching the activity rush in front of me and not being able to soak it all in like I want. This is precisely why I continue to train and push myself to see what I can do. I want to be able to jump in that activity and pursue it, to be in the middle of the action.

The beautiful thing about Team in Training is that it is about so much more than just me, the participants, or the people who donate. It's about everyone working together as a team for one common goal; to cure blood cancers, and to enhance the quality of life for those affected by them. Having never had a blood cancer or having a direct loved one diagnosed, I know that my empathy is nowhere close to an accurate measure of what those people endure. I read blogs. I hear stories. I see people break down. I cry because their stories break my heart. But i still don't know. I still don't get it. What I can comprehend and grasp is the emotional pain of seeing someone you love suffer and then ultimately lose their battle to cancer. Cancer is an evil, horrible thing.

I've had several people question and even criticize my decision to be with Team in Training for consecutive seasons. It is because of these people that are enduring absolute hell that I do this. I can train for 5 months, raise some money, and walk away. Can you look at child in the eye with leukemia and tell them that they will have treatment for 5 months, take a few pills, and walk away? No, you can't, because the standard treatment for a girl diagnosed with leukemia is 2.5 years, and 3.5 years for boys. Just because my race is over doesn't mean someone's battle is. In fact, every 10 minutes someone dies from a blood cancer. I want to see that number decrease and hopefully one day be completely wiped off. Until then, I will continue to do what I can to raise funds for vital research.

When I started with TNT, I knew a lot of children with leukemia. Now that I've become more involved, it seems like I hear so many stories of people that I know whose lives have been affected by these horrible diseases. Everyone with TNT is here for the same reason; to train for an endurance event and raise funds to help end blood cancer. The Team in Training experience is one of the most memorable experiences I've had in my life, and by far the most memorable as a runner. The feelings are indescribable that you will only realize once you run or walk a race with them and cross the finish line. When people you have never met in your life are cheering so hard for you because you're wearing that purple jersey you know they've been affected.

I'm now signed up to do the adidas Dublin Marathon on October 31, 2011 in Dublin, Ireland. I am excited and privileged to be part of such a great organization that uses endurance sports as a catalyst to raise over $1 billion to date for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. While the fundraising is going to be a new challenge, I can't wait to be able to raise the funds to help save lives. With your help, we can save lives, one mile at a time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

If I Die Young...

The Band Perry - "If I Die Young"
So, maybe you've seen this video or heard this song. If not, I hope you'll take a listen. I think the title to the song says it all. While being a delightful song to sing along with, it really started turning the wheels in my head. I began to think about what would happen if I would die now (which to me is still young). The thought, although simple reality may really scare some people. To me, it just seems like a part of life.

I grew up in a Christian home, so I believe that God has a plan for everything. I believe that there's a time and season for all things good and bad. I believe that difficult times will often mold a person into something greater that prepares them for situations down the road. I believe that it is completely unfair for bad things to happen to good people, but it's also a fact of life. Lastly, I believe that at 27, I have lived a really full life. By no means does this mean I have accomplished or experienced everything in my life that I'd like to, because I haven't. I have a to do list a mile long and am too busy to slow down to think about dying. But, I'm also at peace with what I've done.

I've lived, laughed, and loved. I have experienced the greatest love possible; the unconditional love when holding your child in your arms. I've been able to travel and see some beautiful sights. I have seen the light in a sick child's eyes when you tell them their "wish" is coming true. I've felt emotion, be it anger, happiness, anguish, sadness, elation, excitement, or nervousness. Every night I have a full stomach and warm bed. I have clothes to wear and shoes to put on my feet. I've seen people achieve things they never thought possible. I have two parents who love me. I have some of the best friends a girl could desire. I have my health. I have two children who think I'm the best mom in the world.

This all sounds merry and rosy. My life hasn't just been one great big happy bubble, it's been laced with difficulty and moments of despair, but whose life hasn't? Some are harder than others. I do feel like a lucky one, but I'm confident that it's been those difficult moments that have made me who I am today. Sounds cliche, but it really is true. I am not even close to the same person I was 5 years ago. I've even changed a lot in the last year, and I imagine that while the world changes around me, I will continue to change, even if it is in small measure. As long as you stay true to yourself and you can look at yourself in the mirror every day and still believe in yourself, change is okay.

Life isn't always going to be easy. I just hope that I can always live a fulfilled life, each and every day. There's a lot of things I want to do, a lot of places I want to see, and a lot of people I hope I can meet, but at the end of the day, I feel like I'm doing my best to do that every day. I honestly try to live with little regret and to always be positive. While I hope I live to be a very old and wrinkly woman, I would hope that if I die young, people would be able to still say, "She lived a great life..." because I feel so blessed. I love the words below...

"People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered; Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may just never be enough; Give the world the best you have anyway."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat.

This past weekend I experienced something, well, different. Now that I've had a little bit of time to reflect on it, I thought I'd write a bit about it.

Let me start off by explaining what a Ragnar Relay is. Basically, you get 11 of your friends (or 5 if you are super cool) and start running. You will each run 3 different legs varying in length and difficulty. The catch? It's 200 miles (ish). Sounds a little insane but like an interesting challenge. Healthways approached the Ragnar people about doing a Tennessee relay, and Ragnar Relay Tennessee was born. 195 miles of terrain, backroads, beauty, weather, and asphalt from Chattanooga to Nashville. Some 30 + hours getting to know the other people in your van. And by getting to know them, I mean, realllllly know them.

I had heard about Ragnar and thought it would be neat but I knew I didn't have the resources or the people in order to put my own team together. So I kind of tucked it into the back of my mind to remember next year. Then, about a week before the event, a friend of mine asked if I would be interested in filling a position for her team. Ummm, let me think about that for half a second... YES, PLEASE! Where do I sign? I had to figure out some logistics for work and the kids, but soon I was on my way to being a member of the Holes and Poles team.

Because I am me, and a constant worrier, I immediately became aware of the fact that my pace was much slower than that of my teammates. After several people assured me that the H+P team was not out to win, rather to have fun and finish I felt comfortable that this would be a good fit for me. I became very excited but towards the end of the week the excitement faded and the nerves set in. What if someone in the van had gas? What if I got car sick? What if they all got angry at me for being slower than them? What if what if what if? Am I really going to do this? Are we really going to run 195 freaking miles? Did you see that weather forecast with below freezing temperatures? Have you completely lost all of your senses, AND your marbles? After a couple of freak out sessions (mainly calmed by my friend Melanie), I decided to HTFU and get on with it.

Thursday, 6 p.m. Van 1, consisting of Ben, Bert, Genny, Stacy, Mark and myself took off to head to Chattanooga. We had an 8 a.m. Friday start time. We decided to have the carb loading of champions and had some mediocre pizza and beer at some restaurant in Chattanooga. Except Bert, of course, who has Carraba's for every single meal before a major race. But Bert's special. I spent the night with 2 women that for all intents and purposes I had just met. They were nice but I was still freaking out inside. Sound suspicious?

Friday, 6:30 a.m. Van 1 heads to the start line. It is cold. We gather our snacks, sleeping bags, bags of clothes, Imodium, coffee, and the last bit of sanity we can muster. When we arrive, it's still dark. And still cold. We roam around a bit picking up the necessary items, show them our safety gear, and listen to a short safety briefing. All of us nearly freezing to death decide to head back to the van for a bit of warmth. We hang out there until it's time to almost start.

Friday, 8 a.m. Runner 1, Mark, starts Team Holes + Poles. Van 1 hadn't really grasped the concept of "runner" support and instead headed to a gas station, where we waited around for awhile, got some coffee, watched some other runners go by, and studied our own course legs. We headed to the exchange. When Mark finished, he informed us that we really needed to leapfrog to offer support to the runners. Sorry, Mark. Epic fail. We then got the hang of it and would stop at various points along each runner's course to offer them moral support and water.

Friday, noonish? My team is more than welcome to correct me, because I was so nervous I don't think I knew what way was up. For all those who know me, they know that once I start talking I rarely shutup. On this trip up to this point, I hadn't hardly spoken. I was a nervous wreck to say the least. Still absolutely petrified of what they would say, or worse do (such as leave me in them there hills in Chattanooga) to me and my slow pace. They insisted it was okay and sent me off on my way. Rhonda, in Van #2, kept texting me encouraging things assuring me I would not be heckled. So, off I went. I hadn't trained like I should, but I was going to give it my best shot. Right around a half to three-quarter miles in, I started to feel really sick. I thought I could just push through it, and kept trudging along. Soon, my good 'ol teammates came by to check on me. I waved them on, said I was good. No sooner than they drove around the corner did I lose my nerves. Literally. I felt so much better after that, and looking down at Bert's HTFU bracelet, went along with my merry self and finished out the last couple of miles with a smile. At then end of this leg, I got to see the rest of the team. Van 2, consisting of Johnna, Rhonda, Heather, Hope, Shayne and Craig had arrived to relieve us.

The remainder of the day was spent going to Cracker Barrel, driving to the next exchange and waiting for Van #2 to finish their legs. We started running again sometime Friday evening sometime. My last leg was in the middle of nowhere, and it was pitch black outside. I ran with an iPod most of the leg, and that is my biggest regret of the entire weekend. When I decided to take out my earbuds, I realized how serene and wonderful it was to run on a road I've never been before, in the pitch black, where it was quiet. Don't knock it until you've tried it, either.

Saturday, 1 a.m. By this time, everyone is tired and probably somewhat grumpy, although everyone seemed to still be having a good time. We were able to stop at the Unionville High School to rest for a bit. We had packed sleeping bags in anticipation of having to sleep outside, but much to our delight the school gymnasium was open. It was a hard surface but we didn't care. It was warm, and we were able to stretch out.

We stayed here for 2 to 2.5 hours, when we had to pack up and get going again. This would be our 3rd and final legs of the race. I can't remember a whole lot of what happened, but by this time our van officially stunk like a boy's high school locker room and we were all somewhat deliriously tired (maybe that was just me?) but all still smiling.

Once we got back into civilization i.e., near Franklin, we went to Starbuck's while Stacy was on her last leg. On our way back, Stacy called us to let us know she was waiting for us. So, Bert shoved me out of the van while still driving (just kidding) and off I went on my last run. I know I'm slow, but good grief I'm pretty sure my grandmother could have beat me on this leg. I was dragging. I managed to pass 2 people though, and I'm pretty sure it was one of the highlights of the weekend. It doesn't matter that one was walking due to an injury and the other was twice my age, I still passed them! I was back in my home, Franklin, and it was soooooo good to see it. I passed off to Rhonda at Healthways, and Van #1 was done.

I've waited nearly too long to write about it because I know I've forgotten things, mainly because I feel like I almost was drunk towards the end of it, even though I hadn't had a sip of alcohol. Not getting any sleep, being in a mini van with 5 other people, running, and being in and out of the freezing cold weather is apparently has very similar effects to that of drinking an entire bottle of wine. What I do remember is making new friends, having a ton of fun, realizing I need to watch Airplane while drinking coffee and eating Krystals, becoming more educated about my identity, and that taking part of something like this is just plain awesome.
I can't wait to do it again. Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Fear of Being Alone

October of this year marked 5 years since I had filed for divorce. January will be 5 years I've been separated, and next April 5 years since my divorce has been final. In these 5 years, my life has been drastically changed in every way imaginable.

I make every effort to live now with no regrets; live like there's no tomorrow, and to take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. Since I've done this, I've met incredible, amazing people. I've learned so much about myself. I've been able to travel, and completed things I never thought I could do, especially considerate of 5 years ago when it seemed as though my world was falling apart. I love my life. Sometimes I think I really am so lucky, and wonder if I deserve it. But, sometimes there feels like something is missing. (Note I said sometimes.)

Divorce, even when it's the best thing for you, isn't easy. It's hard. It sucks. It makes you cry. It makes you scream. It makes you regret. It makes you hurt. I don't regret making the decision, however. I think my ex and I are both much better people because of it. I know it's hard to understand for people, especially those who have never been married, and beyond that, those who have never been divorced. Every situation is different, every situation unique. Trust me, though. It was the best decision for both of us.

Today I saw a couple walking into Target, holding hands. They were probably late 20's or early 30's. I have no idea if they were married or dating, but they were looking at each other laughing. Now, I'm always joking that I'll be the crazy cat lady, 80 years old, single, with my 10 cats. I think the people who know me for me know that I really don't want that. On the contrary, I don't think I'm anywhere near ready for marriage. But sometimes, I do wonder, will I be alone forever? I saw that couple today and it made me want what they had. Mainly I want that best friend; someone I can call when I have a crappy day just to talk; someone that will hug me at the end of the crappy day. Someone who wants to share their sorrows and happiness with me, someone who will laugh and cry with me. Someone to call my own. Someone I can enjoy life with.

People constantly tell me that I'm young, that it'll come. While I realize that 27 is still young, I also know that I am not your typical 27 year old. I have 2 young children. That changes the dating field dramatically. Most guys within a 5 mile radius of my age turn the other direction and sprint away when they figure that out. Then people say, well you don't want to be with them anyway. Is that true? It is, because in order for me to have any sort of relationship with someone, they have to be accepting of my kids as well. We are a package deal. You don't get just me, you get Kassidy and Kayden too. I understand that it'll take a special type of person to understand and accept that. Sometimes, though, I get a twinge of fear of always being alone. I certainly hope that I can share my life with someone. Even though I wouldn't want to be with someone who isn't accepting of my situation, it doesn't make it any easier to sometimes wonder.

I haven't had a "boyfriend" in nearly a year now. And it's really been a wonderful year. I've been able to concentrate on the kids and myself. I think I'm a better person now, which makes me a better mother. I've found out so much about me and what I am about. It sounds cheesy and cliche, but I really took the time to find myself. I know before I can love someone else, I have to love me. I'm getting there. I have been in good relationships and bad. I've learned that I deserve someone who is going to be good to me, and I've learned not to put up with any crap. While I still don't know exactly what I want in a man, I think I have a fairly good idea. I know that out there somewhere, when the time is right, I will find someone who will complement me well. Someone who will love me for me, and not ask me to change; someone who I can love for who he is, and not ask him to change. In the meantime, every once in awhile, I still get that small fear; that small fear of always being alone.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Having the "Talk"

Tonight, I had one of the most dreaded talks I ever anticipate having with my daughter. No, this wasn't the birds and bees (at 7, I think we'd have issues if that were the case). It was a talk on divorce. Not an easy subject to explain to a 7 year old, even though she is far mature for her age. Let me give you a little background on how this all came about.

The kids' father and I have always tried to "co-parent" as best as we could. It's slightly difficult having two separate households, which means two separate everythings. Beds, pillows, toys, rules, food, clothes, routines, and toilet paper (which I am reminded of). However, when one kid has gotten in a fair amount of trouble, we communicate with the other so the punishment can be enforced on both ends. Tonight, I got one of those phone calls. Kassidy, our angel child, had been in trouble at daddy's house. She has been going through some clothing issues and apparently had a total fit, which details I will not reveal, as an attempt to keep her perfect angel persona intact. Regardless, she had a punishment, which I will now have to enforce at my home as well. Their dad had mentioned I may want to chat with her about it. Kassidy and I have always had a special bond which I suppose could come from both being female, her being my first born, or the fact that both of us are princesses. I'm not sure, but pretty sure all 3 combined is the adhesive that coheres our bond.

I took Kassidy into my bedroom and we both laid on our bed and started talking. Tears started welling up in her eyes immediately and now writing this, I am having the same effects. She managed to hold back, but for me, when finally separated from having to be the well put together one, I can't say the same. She told me about getting in trouble and decided it was time to call dad and stepmom and apologize. She did so, and felt better. Afterwards, we continued chatting and somewhere in the conversation, we managed to visit how their dad and I are divorced and she and her brother are bounced around between two houses. She said to me words which will be etched in stone in my heart forever, "Mama, it's hard. Having two houses and all. All the travelling and back and forth." Talk about a dagger to the heart. My response was, "I know, sissy. But your daddy and I did all we could, and sometimes things just don't work." She looked up at me with those sweet brown eyes and said, "I know mama, I know."

After I tucked them both in, I sat down and cried. Is it fair that my children have to go through having two everythings? No. Did I do everything I could? I'd like to think so. Do I really know that it's hard? No. I didn't have divorced parents. Do we try our best to do what's best? Yes. Is it the ideal situation? No. Is it reality? Sadly, yes.

Now, I know that there are millions of children and parents who go through this situation every day. In no way am I saying that our situation is special (well, my kids are) because it's not. But I think any good parent has a certain amount of guilt that they carry with them when they're divorced. Trying to find the right words to say that are both truthful and soothing to a 7 year old is not easy. And when they tell you something is hard that YOU have done to them, you cannot help but feel guilty. Even though they're kids and they're resilient, it's not ideal. Both of my children are keenly aware of their surroundings and the fact that not all children have two homes. I've always tried to sell it that they were special because not every kids had two houses. My kids have outgrown that now, and it's time to face the truth. You don't have two houses because you're special, you have two houses because your parents couldn't make it work. While their dad and I don't blame one another, speak highly of one another to the kids, and respect each other, we still failed our children in a round-about way. Now, all I can do is continue to work with their dad to raise the best children we can, while apart.