Quick and Dirty Me

I don’t consider myself terribly clever, hipster snarky or cool. I’m not always up on the latest fads, TV shows, movies, novels or YouTube sensations because they come and go. I started playing Angry Birds…2 months ago. Words with Friends, maybe next year.

My love for fashion can be overwhelming. I am a fervent, thrifty fashionista mama. Fashion week, the shows, first row, someday. My style is my own.

I follow people on Twitter and Facebook who interest me, make me laugh or share some commonality, but mostly because they make me laugh. I’ve never met a stranger. I am a total smart ass, flirtatious to the core and love to talk.

I’ve lived through tragedy and come out the other side still smiling. My family is my whole world, my friends my life blood. My dogs are furry children.

I read novels about history, the South, or by authors long dead. I’m a classics snob, a traditionalist. I daydream…a lot, which is where my story ideas begin. I write all day long but only publish 25% of my content. I could wander an old house, castle or ancient gardens and be perfectly content.

I dream in technicolor with music, lots of music. Sometimes I change outfits several times a day to mix it up. I break out into spontaneous song and dance in my house and on runs. I have wanderlust at least once a week. I’m afraid of flying but want to travel the world.

I love bacon…even if it’s just turkey. I haven’t eaten red meat or pork for 20 years. I love the smell of coffee but drink tea. Wine, wine, wine me.

I speak before I think which makes me inclined to say really stupid things, by accident. It bothers me immensely if I feel I’ve hurt someone. I always hug it out after an argument, disagreement, just because. I’ve only knowingly lost one friendship. My Faith is what drives me.

I am a rule follower, love details to a fault. I like to be in control but not in charge. Conformity is boring.

I have my own style of writing. I love dramatic pauses. I love a good slow clap. Basic grammar is important like when to use commas, semi-colons, colons and the proper use of prepositions. I hate diagramming sentences. Math scares me.

I’m addicted to being happy and shoes. I draw my energy from people, laughing, smiling hard and the sunshine. I couldn’t live in cloudy climates.

I’ve been called a Pollyanna, silly, hyper, supportive, funny, quirky, the life of the party, a good listener, incredibly foolish and naïve.

I am an extrovert, a writer, a wife, a mother, a woman, me, me, me.

Advertisements

I’m a Sexy Short Pear

My latest blog for skirt.com.

I love my Facebook friends, those I’ve met IRL (in real life) and those I’m still waiting to meet. The discussions are always interesting, funny and sometimes downright controversial. But what I’ve found, at least with my set of 200+ carefully chosen followers, is that we all seem to have a mutual respect for one another’s opinions regardless of what side of the political divide we choose to occupy. Recently a thread began with the simple sharing of a life affirmation. You know the ones I’m talking about? Like the “Hang in There” poster from the 80’s with the cat dangling from a ledge by two paws or the ones that populate Pinterest doling out positivity for pinners needing a pick-me-up. They are meant to inspire and motivate. The latest inspirational mantra came from one of my newest friends, a kick-ass, yoga-instructing, straight-shooting mom living in the wildly beautiful land of Alaska. She battled a heart condition and told me her only motivation to stay fit is to live healthy and love her body to keep up with her children not to be super model thin. The result, a confident, sexy woman who feels that fit is beautiful from the inside out. It bothers her greatly to see women succumb to unrealistic societal pressures to be a certain type of beautiful. And so she posted the following to Facebook: “Skinny girls look good in clothes. Fit girls look good naked.”

But what is fit? What does this statement really mean? Is this about being healthy, one’s body image or both? When I first saw it I thought, wow, how true! I run and work out six days a week, eat relatively healthy and try to take care of my aging body as I slide into 40 next year. Those heroin chic, stick thin models were the poster children of sexy and beautiful just a few short years ago. But no more! Women are embracing their curves, stretch marks and imperfect breasts and saying I’m beautiful the way I am. At least that’s the message we hope is being sent to women everywhere. I run for many reasons: my heart, my colon, my fitness level, staying trim, my children, my husband, the ability to eat real food, to drink wine, not to mention the fact that I actually enjoy running. As I get older, I know it will be harder to keep my body in shape and I will have to adapt my running accordingly. But that’s ok, I know I want to be active until my body tells me to stop. Even then I will be the crazy old lady doing hand exercises in my chair.

Being fit is more than physical. Your physical health leads to a healthy self image and overall good attitude. The mind and body are intricately connected to one another. For many of my friends and family, running and being active is a life-saver, it literally keeps them sane as they deal with their daily battle with Depression. The balance they have to strike between being physically fit and emotionally healthy is delicate. For women in general, this balance also includes having a healthy self-image. It seems that women have been dealing with body image issues since the beginning of time. Look at artists’ renderings of women throughout history; the pre-magazine cover, Vogue 6-page spread era. These paintings depicted what was considered a “beautiful” woman of the day. From the curvaceous Botticelli lovelies to Renoir’s sensually fleshy Victorian vixens to artsy photos of the waifish models of the 60s like Twiggy and Peggy Moffitt. It seems that women have been looking at themselves in the mirror for centuries striving to achieve a body that maybe they were never physically meant to have in the first place.

My friend’s thread immediately prompted a discussion on what it means to be “fit”. Someone mentioned the “thick” girls or if you’re unfamiliar with that term, full-figured gals. Are they not fit? I have been totally flamed in road races by women 10, even 20 years older than me and by women who were much larger and at first glance you would assume might not be able to run as fast or far. Just because someone isn’t a size 2 and rail thin doesn’t mean they aren’t healthy, happy or sexy. I am by NO means stick thin. I have curves, curves in the usual places, the hips for sure. My husband tells me all the time how much he loves my curves, how feminine they are. He thinks it’s beautiful, that I’m beautiful. I am not 5’10”. I am not super thin. I do not have big breasts. I do not have abs of steel. I am a 5′ tall, petite, curvy, freckled, small-chested little lady. In other words, I am a short pear. Not your “ideal” body type by society’s standards. I also know that being thin doesn’t mean healthy. My Nana is a slender 5’6” woman who can eat whatever she wants and not gain weight. You know the woman everyone hates. BUT, in the late 80’s my Nana was diagnosed with high cholesterol. She never worked out, walked or did anything to keep herself fit. She was just blessed with a fast metabolism. So is THIS the ideal body? You can eat whatever you want, never work out, be thin but become sick with preventable diseases? My Nana would tell you no.

Fitness is internal and has to do with the health of your vital organs, your attitude toward your body as well as how you feel about yourself. Confidence is sexy. Thick, skinny, fit, curvy, athletic, pear, apple are all relative terms society uses to describe women’s body types. We all fall into the trap of categorizing ourselves. For instance, if you go online to most women’s clothing stores, you can read reviews of each item by people who have already purchased and worn it. These reviews always helps me decide what to buy. Some sites have bought into body-typing with categories like athletic, slender, curvy, full-figured, tall, petite to describe a woman’s build. You then can search by body type, even height to see what other people of similar builds are saying about how these items fit them. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. I mean who wants to wear clothing that doesn’t look good on them? I don’t. I want clothing that fits my curves properly and accentuates the positives. But these words permeate almost every aspect of our society now. It’s hard for women to avoid body-typing themselves. We all have things we don’t like about our body. Frankly, I’ve always wished I was 4” taller. I guess that’s why I wear platforms and pumps. Other than wearing 4” inch heels, I can’t change this aspect of my physical being. However, I can be a confident, sexy woman despite my petite stature. Between running, eating right and being confident in what God gave me, I feel taller, despite the heels. My confidence translates to the outside, and that makes me sexy, makes any woman sexy.

Taking your body into your own hands and becoming active for the most important reason, your health, is what should concern women. Not if you’re a size 2, you have a J Lo booty or the boobs of a supermodel. Walking daily, yoga, pilates, running, swimming, weight training, Zumba or running errands every day on your bike, it’s whatever works for you to keep you healthy and happy. Sure, you will probably slim down and fit into your clothing better but what will really begin to transform is how you feel about yourself. You may not get rid of the hips, the jelly in the belly, the junk in the trunk or the cottage cheese but believe me, you’re still sexy, you’re still beautiful, you’re still a woman. So I do believe the statement, “skinny girls look good in clothes but FIT girls look good naked.” Fit: body, mind and soul. I own my body, all 60 inches of freckled me with my hard-earned stretch marks, cottage cheese on the thighs and small chest. The confidence I have in myself shows. To be fit is to be: size 0 to whatever, blonde, brunette, red-head, curvy, slender, buff, soft, fleshy, boobs, no boobs, tall, petite…healthy, confident…sexy.

The Metallica Moment

My latest blog for skirt.com about Mom, Metallica, MTV and the moment when she became cool.

My Mom is a classically trained singer and organist.  I grew up listening to her practice for hours the various arias, art songs and master works she was paid to perform around the area.  I tagged along to New York City on occasion when she lessoned with a famed tenor, the cassette tapes to which she still warms up to in the morning.  I was there when she performed at the opera, charity events or concerts. I was also fortunate enough to sing duets with her as well as be in the chorus or small group when she was the soloist. Now with her solo career behind her, she teaches voice at the Lovett School, a private school in Atlanta. She loves to teach. She loves her kids. And after nearly 15 years, many of her “kids” come back to sing with her at a local church in Midtown.  “I sang with Mrs. Soper!”, they say giddily.  I should make up tee shirts or something. They know her as Mrs. Soper, the kind, gentle lady who doesn’t always get the joke the first time you tell it.  A fun-loving, charming yet modest woman, unaware of her enormous talent. What these kids don’t know is what a musical badass my Mom really is and how fortunate they are to have trained under her. And what’s more, she knows it. But like them, I didn’t understand how much my Mom really had to teach me.  I mean, she’s my Mom. Mom’s are annoying and tell you things you don’t want hear like clean your room, don’t date that boy or some day you’re going to have kids just like you! Really Mom? Wait…ok true.

In the 60s, she listened to bands like Jefferson Airplane with its trippy, drug-induced melodies and white rabbit rock and roll. Then there was Joan Baez and Ravi Shankar, two vastly different sounds. There were so many albums in our home, jazz, blues, gospel, classical, rock, and broadway. Any one of these could be playing during the evening. I listened to these records incessantly as a teen trying to figure out my Mom’s musical tastes. I guess I needed to relate to her somehow and music was one thing she and I had in common. She once told me that to truly appreciate music, you have to be willing to get beyond the top layer to really HEAR the complexity or simplicity of the chord progressions and phrasing. The real music is what you don’t hear naturally. The music behind the music.  You have to turn off the filter and hone in on that one note that holds it all together, that repeated phrase that allows you to tie into the next chord, even the dissonance. Just be alone with the music. Well, I thought she was nuts. Who wants to work at listening to music?! And thus, the Metallica moment.  

During the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, Metallica was up for an award with their new single Enter Sandman. They had crossed over into the mainstream with their latest album.  I wasn’t a fan, I was watching for other acts and of course, the fashions. But it was this moment that made me realize how badass my Mom, the musician, the master craftsman, really was not to mention the fact that she was watching MTV with her teenage daughter and enjoying it! As the repetitive opening chords of Enter Sandman began, my Mom stopped talking, turned her head toward the TV and listened.  Something caught her attention. Something in the music.  I’ve seen her do this before. Then without hesitation she said, “I do believe that is a classical guitar rift in there and someone is trained, listen, do you hear that progression? The chords? It’s beautiful. I like this song. They’re really good.”  I was like, WAH? All I heard was noise and the guttural vocals of James Hetfield. But no, my Mom heard music, she heard the classical renderings of a trained musician. It turns out she was right. Cliff Burton, an original member of the band in the 80s, was a classically trained guitarist who eventually turned to jazz and then rock. His classical guitar stylings heavily influenced the band’s sound. How could she pick out that one small layer of music amongst all of drum pounding, bass strumming and heavy baritone vocals? I mean, it’s heavy metal not Mozart! She turned and smiled at me as if to say, see, I’m not nuts. I told you so. Dammit, Mom! I hated when she was right.

I remember telling my friends about the conversation with my Mom the next day. “Your Mom likes Metallica!? That’s totally cool!” was the response I got. I knew they had missed the point of what my Mom was actually trying to tell me.  In one brief moment, my Mom had not only related to me on my level but I in turn began to relate to her on a much deeper level than ever before. A new-found respect for one another was forged that day.  I mean, I always knew she was cool. Wasn’t the Jefferson Airplane album proof of that? 

Life Designed Not Defined

 

My latest blog can be found on skirt.com

http://skirt.com/node/124489 — Life Designed Not Defined

So I’ve seen the whole RHOBH season that dealt with Taylor Armstrong’s struggles with her now deceased husband.  Yes, I watch that crappy show. Why? Because as an intelligent human being with very little time for herself, constantly working, raising two ADHD children, my running, etc, etc, I need to turn my brain off at the end of the day and watch mindless TV. Come on, admit it, you do too. Anyway, back to the crappy show. This season actually struck a chord with me. I could relate to one of the characters.  I wasn’t sure if I should be ashamed or afraid. Taylor was me minus the big lips, Botox and crazy skinny body, oh and the extremely lavish lifestyle with the Bravo paycheck. You see her husband committed suicide and so did mine. He left her with a very small child to raise.  Mine left me with two small children. Taylor’s husband left her with a mound of debt, legal fees and secrets revealed.  My husband left me with the same thing. She is struggling to take back her life and find herself again.  I’ve been there, done that. Let me give you a little background.

My late husband was many things, charming, funny, intelligent, a good dad, a give-you-the-shirt-off-my-back kind of guy. However, he was also very sick: bipolar. I never knew what I was going to wake up to each day.  Would he be lucent? Would he be on a high and accomplish the laundry list of things that needed to be done around the house, at work, with the kids, etc? Would he start yet another project that would be left unfinished in the basement; another brilliant idea half realized? You see, I lived in constant chaos. I was his lover and his caretaker.  I was his verbal punching bag and his therapist. I was trapped. Thankfully my late husband never physically abused me.  He was too kind-hearted.  But when you become trapped or your reality is altered, you can’t see clearly.  You know that you’re living a lie but you try to wrap it up in pretty bows and sugared frosting so people don’t realize what is really going on inside your home.  And then you begin to believe the lie and deny reality because it’s just easier.

I was trying to give my children a “normal” life with a nice home, the mini van and the suburban dream. In reality, our family was falling apart.  My husband had lost his job three times in three years and had been out of work for nearly 10 months. I was working part-time to support the family but also be at home with the children because frankly I couldn’t afford daycare and didn’t trust my husband around the children. He was popping sleeping pills like candy and drinking a 24-pack of beer every two days.  We were bleeding money.  We were losing our home.  Our cars were eventually both repoed.  How did this happen to me?! I came from a wonderful, loving family.  I was a college graduate.  I was organized, efficient and good with money. What the hell was going on here? I was living a BIG lie. I was not a suburban housewife by nature, I hated mini-vans, I didn’t want to live in a big house. This was not the man I married, this was not the life I signed up for! However, I convinced myself I was providing my children with a good home. They had all of the creature comforts that their friends had. They didn’t stick out like sore thumbs in the homogenized world in which we lived. I was breaking my back to make sure our “perfect” life was intact. By the time our marriage had reached its 10thyear, I had completely devolved from what I was, a lover of life, fashion, the city, writing and history to a frumpy, sad, angry, lobotomized version of myself. I was in survival mode, hunkering down, my children under each arm.

New Year’s Eve 2008  My husband promised me 2009 was going to be different.  It was going to be a year of new beginnings.  The end of all of this nonsense. We went to dinner with the kids that evening.  It was full of fun but I noticed my husband was giddier than usual.  He was almost in an euphoric state.  It was troubling and annoying.  I couldn’t get him to focus on anything, like helping me get my 5 year old ADHD son in the car who was running around the parking lot. Once we got home, the kids were bathed and readied for bed.  My husband read them stories, kissed them goodnight and told them he loved them as he always did.  There is no doubt in my mind how much he loved his children. Afterwards we sat on the couch watching Dick Clark.  We rarely talked to one another anymore.  There was nothing to say.  Frankly, by the end of the day, I was too tired to think anymore. The energy it took to keep up with him, the kids and everything he did or didn’t do consumed me.  He retreated to his cave in the basement.  This was his realm. A dark, eery place that gave me the creeps. I didn’t go down there. 

At midnight, I shouted down the basement stairs that I was going to bed and would really like him to join me this time. We didn’t sleep together often. He was a night owl and was up until 3am most evenings. He would make it to bed if he didn’t fall asleep on the couch in the basement.  He promised me he would come to bed soon.  That was the last time I heard his voice. The next morning I woke up alone, furious.  He was always breaking his promises! The night before he had promised the children he would make them pancakes.  Oh no, mister, I thought! You aren’t letting them down again! Storming downstairs I was set to give him hell. It was too late.  He had already taken his life in the night. I found him in the basement. The place I hated; his retreat. No note was left, no apology uttered, no explanation given, just dark silence. 

Over the course of several months, I questioned what I could have done to save him.  I went through all the emotions, anger, grief, denial, but anger was the one that seemed to stick around the longest.  Acceptance was not going to be easy. I blamed him for leaving me with two children to raise, not a dime to my name, a foreclosed house. I blamed him for slowly chipping away at my true self until only the shell of me remained. However, in the midst of all of my anger, I was finding myself again. I was becoming stronger. I lost the 20lbs I had gained in the three tumultuous years leading up to his death. I began to run again. My clothing was revealing the tale I had to tell. My love for all things shoes finally expressing itself again. My way of making lemonade out of the sourest of lemons returning. Laughing all the time. Enjoying life to the fullest. Loving my children the way they were meant to be loved. It was the road to acceptance. The road to letting go. The road that lead me to realize he was not to blame, but was very sick. The road that would eventually lead to me.

I have learned many things over the last three years, this truth being the most important, I can’t live my life for other people, not even my own children. The old adage, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is so true. I was not going to let his death destroy us. I was determined to be the Rocky of our family and make a triumphant run up those stairs of life, carrying my children on my back all the way up to the top. Counseling, a supportive family, fantastic friends, church, and a positive attitude have allowed me to regain who I was and bring my children into the light with me. And although 2009 was one of the hardest years of my life, it was also the year that brought me back to center. Don’t get me wrong, I am not making light of my late husband’s death. But I can’t change that reality. I chose to respond to his death by finding myself again. Teaching my children life is for the living and to never apologize for who you are. My children are my proudest accomplishment, my greatest creation.

New Year’s Eve 2009 I sat in the mountain cabin my Mom and I had rented watching Dick Clark while the kids slept in the next room. My Dad, who had been my rock throughout the first 6 months following my late husband’s death, passed away suddenly of complications from a stroke in June. Here we were, two widows, mother and daughter. Drinking our wine, we talked of how our lives had changed over the course of the year, she still grieving her partner of 39 years. I told my Mom I was ready to forgive. I was ready to move on to the next chapter in my life. She smiled and nodded, affirming my decision with motherly acceptance. And with that, it was midnight, 2010, another year, the year that set in motion the rest of my life, the year I met my soulmate. In May of 2010 I met the man I would eventually marry 7 months later. I told myself, when we began dating that I was going to let our relationship evolve organically. I wasn’t going to allow myself to be sucked back in to societal rules on how a widow should or shouldn’t behave. I wanted to experience every moment of this new life I was leading. I make no apologies for how fast or slow our relationship developed. It is what it is, pure and simple; love.

New Year’s Eve 2010 I danced with my new husband, Paul, at a local bar. Happy, healthy, healed. A year that saw the completion of my evolution back to self. A year of discoveries and truths revealed. My marriage only three weeks old, I reveled in the friendship I respected, a love I cherished. 

New Year’s Eve 2011 I happily sipped champagne with Paul by my side watching the ball drop with now Ryan Seacrest. He’s no Dick Clark, but life moves on. You can’t help but evolve. Paul always says, the minute you stop evolving, you die. That was true for me for a long time. I stopped evolving, forgot who I was and slowly died inside. But my tragedy doesn’t define me, it designed me. I was given a second chance in life and in love and chose to transform rather than disappear. Now I am living in the city in a small home with my 4-door sedan and loving every moment of my active, vibrant life. I am in the Spring of my life. I am writing again, living simply, a fashionista to the core and enjoying the excitement of making a go of my writing career. My children are happier than they have ever been and have grown to love and accept Paul as their Dad.

So to of all the Taylor Armstrongs out there, grasping for any semblance of themselves, have faith, I was once where you are. An end is just a beginning. Don’t let tragedy, life’s hard knocks, whatever is holding you back from being yourself define you, let it design you. Let it evolve you. Let it bring you into yourself.

 

Know When to Say When

Today started out just like any other day.  Woke up, put my eyes in, washed my face, brushed my teeth, got my running clothes on.  While I did my morning routine, I could hear the arguing billowing up from below as Paul desperately tried to get both kids upstairs for breakfast.  This is also part of the routine now…the arguing about getting dressed, how long it’s taking to get dressed, whining about getting dressed, etc.  Then begins the battle to eat breakfast before we have to leave for school.  Not sitting still, laughing about everything, not listening.  As the medicine settles in, we start to see the kids slowly calm their reved engines down and begin to listen.  By this time, nerves are fried. I have found that keeping calm during the morning routine and finding ways to quiet their minds (in combination with the medicine) has aided them in having successful days at school (especially for my son).  But sometimes, well, you just lose it!

When your kids have ADD/ADHD, mornings and evenings can be very tough.  Routine is key. We have a set morning routine but you are dealing with raw brains.  No meds, no renforcements, no therapy.  Just 10 hours of sleep and a brain that has seemingly forgotten everything you taught it the day before.  It’s a constant battle that ALL parents of children with this disorder face daily. What’s worse, every day is different.  Sometimes the disorder is almost dormant and they act as if they don’t need any medicine or intervention and then some days, like today, you wonder if ANYTHING you are doing is actually working.  The inconsistency of both ADD and ADHD is maddening at times.  Two steps forward, giant feet backwards.  There are days you want to throw your hands up and just quit. But then I look into their faces and realize, they are just as frustrated by their disorder as I am.  Imagine being trapped in a brain that is going at Ferrari speed but WANTS to go at the speed of a Ford Tempo. Hearing your child tell you, “Mommy, sometimes my brain hurts” is heartbreaking.  But still you have days like today where you forget that they too are coping with this disorder and frankly are looking to you to help them because they are children.  Today I completely lost it with my daughter.  The buttons were all pushed (have been for 3 weeks now).  She crossed the line, and I’m not even sure I drew that line.

After 30 minutes of arguing, talking back, sassing I finally lost my mind and yelled at her. Not yelling like “clean your room, young lady”.  No.  This was primal.  Very primal.  As if in self-defense.  Fight or flight.  I could feel it coming.  I could feel myself beginning to shake.  The pressure cooker that was building steam these last few weeks was finally going to explode.  As it exploded my daughter’s face turned from sassy to complete and utter fear.  She knew she had touched a nerve, pushed the wrong button.  She knew this was the time to be quiet and listen. And all the while I vomited words.  Telling her how ungrateful she was.  How completely disrespectful she was becoming.  That being 10 years old she is entering a new phase in her life where this behavior would no longer be excused but despised and not tolerated.  I knew I was hurting her.  I knew I was making her cry.  I hated myself for doing it.  I don’t want to hurt my children. But sometimes you forget you’re a parent and your primal self is unleashed. We all have the ability to become enraged.  It’s not something we like to admit about ourselves.  Thankfully this part of me doesn’t come out often but when it does, it is not only a wake up call for whoever is the unlucky recipient but for me as well.  Today I raged at my daughter and scared her into submission.  Some parents would say good, she knows who’s boss.  However, this is NOT how I want to parent.  I agree, a little fear of God is good for children.  Children need to fear disappointing their parents, fear hurting them.  My parents taught me who was boss through love, kindness, respect and a little fear.  I still to this day fear disappointing my parents because I love them so much.

After all of us had calmed down, I finally explained to her why she had made me so upset. She quietly listened through tears.  Like me, crying is not something she likes to share. I told her that I didn’t hate her, that I loved her very much and just wanted to help her be a happy, successful person.  If I didn’t love her, I wouldn’t have cared enough to get upset (as sick as that sounds) or explain to her now why I was so bothered by her behavior.  If I didn’t love her, I wouldn’t TRY to understand that she is dealing with a disorder that sometimes clouds her judgement. If I didn’t love her, I wouldn’t have apologized for my behavior.  Yes, parents, when you lose it like that, you NEED to apologize.  I hope by my apologizing for the way I handled myself this morning, she will see that I do respect and love her.  I too make mistakes and am still learning, and just like that, turned this into a teaching moment for both myself and the children.

As we arrived at school, I could see that she was still upset.  We hugged it out, said our “I love yous” and I received a SINCERE apology.  Again, I reinforced to my daughter that I didn’t hate her but loved her very much and just wanted her to be happy.  “I know mom.  I know you are doing the best you can and sometimes I don’t make it easy on you.  I’m sorry.” was the response I got as she left the car.  It broke my heart but also left me with some hope that my daughter IS listening to the lessons we are teaching her as parents (as frustrating and pointless as they may seem at times).

Girls on the Run 5K

I was supposed to park the car and go for a run this morning.  But this wasn’t a “just run it out” kind of feeling.  This was a “I’m totally exhausted and want to go back to bed” feeling.  I have learned when to say when.  Today was it.  I needed to give in, say “Uncle”.  Running this morning would have done nothing but make me more exhausted.  I knew what had to be done.  I knew I just needed to take time for myself and write; something I have been neglecting due to crazy schedules and a multitude of activities.  Writing isn’t just my “job”, it’s my release.  I run and write for the same reasons, release, sanity, health, and yes, so I can eat! But today I realized something, I can’t do one without the other.   I can’t be all running and no writing or vice versa.  These two outlets balance me.  Even as I write this blog post, I am reflecting over this morning’s events and how I can do better next time along with how I can help my daughter work through whatever seems to be bothering her. I know some of this is the ADD but frankly, I think she is growing up and all of those confusing feelings that come with it are really challenging her.  My job is to help her figure that out.  Parenting is by far my most rewarding yet difficult job but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, not even for a quiet morning.  And so the journey begins to strike a cordial balance between running and writing and knowing when to say when.

What I Learned Today

A piece I wrote for an educational project called edu180Atlanta.  180 people will write 180 points of view in 250 words or less on learning.  This is my experience…

Biggin Church Ruins-Moncks Corner, SC

The conversation started with, “Mommy, I can’t decide what I want to be when I grow up.  I love SO many things.”

I simply replied, “You don’t have to settle on just one thing. Do whatever makes you happy.” But then I realized, am I taking my own advice?  Up until recently, yes and no.

I love being a writer but do not always love the content I am asked to produce. I had always written for corporations, and while I was doing what I loved, I wasn’t enjoying it to the fullest.  The content was very dry and full of staunch parameters.  It was time for a change. So I began to freelance again.  And although it’s been tough, I am slowly crawling my way back into this world and learning from each experience along the way, from rejection, critique, or joyful acceptance.

Life is full of risks.  Sometimes you have to dabble before you dive in. I too love many things. You don’t have to settle on one career path.  Sometimes your passions converge into a powerful force in your life.  This is what I learned today from my 10 year old daughter’s question and simple realization; do what it is you love, never settle, and this will make you truly successful. My goal: to get my Master’s Degree in Historic Preservation and share my passion for design, old buildings and history with my readers. I might stumble, but I am on my way.

http://edu180atl.org/

My Right Foot, My Left Shoe

Classic runner’s story, maybe the injury is in a different location but it generally goes something like this:

You’re training for the next big race.  It’s still about 3 months away but you’re beginning to increase your mileage and work on your pace. Over the last few weeks you’ve had some of your best runs in a long time.  Everything is aligning perfectly into your training schedule…feeling great is just a bonus.  About 2 weeks ago you notice a twinge, it’s seems ok after a couple of miles and stretching but you take note.  The last long run was FANTASTIC!  The pace was comfortable, you felt strong, that twinge went away by mile 2.  However, something’s different this time after the run.  The twinge begins to ache. You apply the ever faithful cure, RICE.  But by morning, you know it’s not a strained tendon. You can barely walk the pain is so great.  The twinge is now something much more sinister. Confirmed by a doctor…stress fracture…the race-ender.

This is now my story.  A stress fracture in my right foot just above my second toe.  I had some of my best runs in late July and early August.  Including my last long run a week ago, 9 miles in 1:18:21. Not bad for a real shorty of a girl…all 5′ of me.  The run was very comfortable, I felt great, that “twinge” was gone around mile 2 or 3.  But after the run a few hours later, my foot began to ache more and more.  I iced it, elevated it, whatever it took.  By morning, I couldn’t put any weight on it without cringing.  It was swollen and sore.  I knew it wasn’t a tendon anymore but I would have to wait to confirm my worst fear. My appointment to see Dr. Julien, a local foot guru for runners in Atlanta, was set for Tuesday morning.  In my mind I knew what he was going to say.  I prepared myself for the diagnosis.  But I held out hope that I was just paranoid and reading WAY too many running forums on the interwebs.   Tuesday morning’s appointment finally arrived! I sat quietly tweeting on my phone waiting for Dr. Julien…I think I hear him! “Hello, Beth! I’m Dr. Julien.  What seems to be the problem?”  I explained my situation, he felt the area I had described, I cringed and he looked at me and said, “I know you know what I’m about to tell you.  I believe you have a stress fracture but we’re going to X ray it to make sure.”  The X ray further confirmed his suspicions. Then he gave me his Rx: 8 weeks absolutely NO running.  For the next 4 weeks:  Walking boot.  No weight bearing exercises. No swimming without a pull buoy to immobilize my legs.  No walking or stairs more than necessary. No carrying heavy objects or small children. Wear the boot at all times except when driving, sleeping or showering. My heart sank.   My world had just collapsed around me with one click of the X ray machine.  Now what?

Then the questions hit me all at once.  How am I going to run this race in November? What will this do to my fitness level?  How am I going to burn all those calories and stay in shape without running or being able to cross train?  But before I could begin to answer them, Dr. Julien began to tell me of yet another little issue I needed to be aware of…my bone density looked low in my X ray.  SAY WHAT?!  I’m 38 years old.  I am in good shape.  I run. I’m thin. I eat healthy. I get enough sleep.  I take calcium supplements (and have been for 5 years).  How did this happen?!  My Mother has Osteoporosis so I knew I had to be careful.  But I thought if I did all of these things it would stave it off until I was much older or maybe even eliminate the problem all together.  I was in shock. So now I can’t run for 8 weeks and I might have the bones of an old lady!  The next question hit me with the force of mack truck…what if this means I can’t run anymore?  I pondered that question all the way home, occasionally glancing over at the newest passenger in my car…the boot. I wanted to throw it out the window onto 285.  I see shoes on the road all the time and wonder how they get there…maybe this is how.  Someone gets totally frustrated or angry about a bit of news they just received and decide to toss a random shoe out the window.  Some people break plates, others throw shoes out the window while driving…it makes perfect sense to me now.

As I slipped into my newest fashion accessory , I began to feel defeated.  Here I was in the middle of my greatest running streak, in the best shape I’ve been in for a long time, enjoying the fruits of my running labor and now I’m stuck wearing the albatross of shoes…a clunky, hot, ugly, hospital grey ski boot!  It screams, “look at me…look how stupid I was for running on a stress fracture”!  This was my punishment.  Like Jacob Marley carrying the weight of his sins around in the afterlife. The boot symbolized my failure as a runner and left me wondering about the most trivial question of all…what the hell do you wear with this thing!  All that night I stared at the boot.  Maybe I can just run it over with my car.  Drop it off the deck.  Let the dogs tear it apart. It was as accident, officer, I swear!  But no matter how much I tried to be angry at the boot and what it meant for me, I couldn’t make it go away.  It was here to stay and I had to make the best of it.

The next morning after a good night’s sleep and a self-induced kick in the pants, I began my recovery workouts.  Upper body, core, hamstrings, and quads.  I ordered some swim gear for my pool workouts and began plotting out my 4-week regime.  I had a plan.  I just needed to watch my calories, take it easy and strength train.  I also began my calcium overhaul.  I want to strengthen my bones.  I read up on what I should and shouldn’t be eating, changed my supplement (which I found out was worthless) and began redesigning my diet. Everything was falling into place. I felt positive I would run again. The boot wasn’t that bad.  I would have a routine, a diet plan, and begin my road to recovery. However, when it came time to get dressed for the day, I stared at all of my shoes, then my boot, then my outfit and sank into the chair.  What am I supposed to wear with this ugly thing?  It’s about 2 inches of sole and a really dull, cloudy grey.  I am not a sneaker kinda girl, only when working out or running.  So I knew that was out.  I can’t wear flats or I’d walk like I have a stick up my butt.  My heels were all too high.  I had 2 pairs of shoes and a pair of boots that would work.  That was it.  But they wouldn’t go with everything.  Great.  Wait!  I need to go shoe shopping!  I just needed to find shoes with a kitten heel or a thicker sole.  I kept thinking, God, I hope I don’t have to wear ortho shoes!  You know the ones, the really thick rubber soles.  Like the shoes you would see nurses wearing back in the 70s and 80s.  The kiss of death for those of us who are complete shoe addicts.  To me, shoes make the outfit.

After ordering 3 pairs of fun, comfortable shoes, I knew the boot and I could come to some sort of arrangement for the next few weeks.  I had a heart to heart with it, a Come to Jesus of sorts.  I wouldn’t mess with it, if it didn’t mess with me.  My children are thrilled because they plan to decorate it with sparkles and stickers.  A boot makeover.  It’s going to stand out anyway, why not make it fashion forward!  I felt a sense of relief.  I think the boot did too.  It knew it wasn’t going to be the victim of a random window tossing, deck drop, car back over, or dog mauling.  I began to relax into recovery.

Today my 3 new pairs of shoes arrived!  I am so excited to try them all on and ponder the fashion possibilities.  It’s like Christmas!  SHOES!  I’ve never apologized for my addiction. They look great with the boot, or as good as they can look.  I feel a sense of balance beginning to return to my crumbled world.  My workouts are going well, my recovery is moving along, I’m getting used to wearing the boot, walking is a bit easier after some practice and I am at peace with my running and the fact that most likely I will not be running my half marathon in November.  The shoes are a reminder to me that even the ugliest situation can be made beautiful or at least more enjoyable.  These shoes aren’t flashy.  They have personality and lend themselves nicely to most of my wardrobe.  A pair of casual mary janes in a fun blue green with a slight heel.  A pair of kitten heels in a pebble grey for a night out with my man.  A pair of buck-like ankle boots to keep me on trend.  I’m sure there will be a few more pairs bought as I recover and transition from boot to “rigid soled” shoes. Another shoe journey.  And once that begins, my boot will go into the closet with the other shoes.  I think it will be happy in there amongst the wedges, boots, pumps, peep toes, and flats.  I hope I never have to wear it again but it will be there for me if I need it, just like all of my other shoes.

Now I could never think of tossing my passenger out the car window onto 285.  My boot has helped me realize that I need to take better care of myself.  It has allowed me to continue making positives out of negatives.  The boot has reminded me that I am human and sometimes we break.  This boot is walking me towards running again. Its purpose is far less fashion forward and more forward thinking. The shoes we walk in are a reflection of how we feel, who we are and are so much more than just a necessary accessory.  They can change your entire mood, make you feel taller, make you feel stronger, make you feel beautiful.  Shoes such as this boot and its new companions give me hope.  The shoes we walk in today lead us to the paths we run tomorrow.

I Run Because…

GOT MY T-SHIRT!

Well, I did it!  I ran the Peachtree Road Race on July 4th, 2011!  It wasn’t a stellar race for me considering it was my FIRST PRR, my FIRST 10k in years, and my FIRST race with a HUGE crowd of runners to dodge.  However, even with all of that I managed to run a 9:43 pace (with dead stops due to slower “runners”) and finish in 1:00:20.  I tried very hard not to dwell on that 20 seconds or the fact that my goal was to finish under an hour.  21 seconds shy of my goal!  It burned me for 24 hours after the race.  I am a competitive person and when I set a goal, I expect to reach or beat it!  Then I remembered why I run. I run because I love it!  I love getting out there and moving my body as many miles as I feel like I can do that day.  I love pushing my body to new limits, adding mileage every 2 weeks to my longer runs. I love the challenge of besting my own times and improving.  I love the solitude it affords me in my day with no children fighting or needing or interrupting me…a chance to think, make decisions, consider options, whatever I need to wrap my brain around at the time.  Running is a release for me. Running is my own personal competition.  Running is more than just a way to keep those pounds off as I skid into 40. So I began to dwell on the positives of the race.

I RAN the Peachtree and FINISHED!  This may seem like a silly thing to say but to many people who run this race, finishing is all they really care to accomplish.  This is 6.2 hot, hilly miles in Atlanta during July.  Even the best trained runners have been overcome by the heat during the Peachtree.  You will see all types of fitness levels too.  Some people simply walking for fun, some who have been losing weight all year just to run the PRR, some who are highly trained running machines.  I think it is the variety of people running that makes the Peachtree so much fun and frankly unique.  It is the largest 10k race in the world with nearly 60,000 people participating, and I was one of them this year!

I RAN a 10k! I proved to myself that I could do it and still yield a respectable time with many challenges facing me.  I kept saying to myself, imagine what you could have done if some of those challenging issues were removed. No heat, no huge crowds to dodge, no fear.  That made me feel so much better about my time.  I knew I could have done better had the race been a simple 10k…but the Peachtree is more than just a 10k…so much more.

I RAN in the heat!  The heat has been my mortal enemy for as long as I can remember.  I never tolerated it…becoming sick or weak as the summer sun rose higher in the sky.  My training for this race involved acclimating to the heat that Atlanta generates during the Summer months.  All of that hard work and sweaty morning runs paid off in a big way for me Monday.  I ran without feeling overcome by the heat, listened to my body, and felt great throughout the race.  This was a HUGE accomplishment.

I RAN up Cardiac Hill!  Yes, it’s a punisher at mile 3 – 3.5.  You are feeling so great at that point.  Flat course, shaded by buildings and then the hill from hell! It never seems to end. BUT, I trained in some of the hilliest parts of Atlanta.  I managed to move my body up that hill and didn’t feel like I needed to stop at the top at Piedmont Hospital for the defibrillator!  I remember a big smile forming on my face as I reached the top of Cardiac. It’s all downhill to the finish line from here…well, mostly.

I RAN with huge crowds!  It was a sea of people lumbering down Peachtree Street.  You couldn’t avoid anyone.  There were very few pockets to squeeze through.  The pack surrounded you at all times. It was literally a game of dodge and weave. BUT, although not trained for this, I tried to enjoy the people on the course and those in the crowds cheering us on.  Many in silly costumes or running for someone or a cause or simply enjoying a stroll down the busiest street in Atlanta with a few friends just to get that all-important t-shirt. It’s all about the t-shirt in this race. I think the crowds both running and cheering are what I will remember most about the Peachtree.  It is a jovial mood created by 60k runners and thousands of cheering fans.  Those “fans” come out to support friends, family, and total strangers.  They bring music, food, beer, wine, costumes and the spirit of America.  You can’t help but smile while you are running.

I RAN…period!  I used to run all the time when I was younger.  I ran Cross Country in High School, I ran a bit in college.  I ran a bit before my children were born.  However, due to numerous knee injuries, I was told by an Orthopedic Surgeon to stop running all together or I would be looking at surgery before I was 40.  So I stopped running.  Fear of injuring myself was so powerful.  I missed it.  After the death of my first husband, I began to realize, life is short.  Fear can’t rule your life.  If I want to run, I WILL run!  I began my training by walking and working out my legs on those dreaded leg machines at the gym.  I knew if I just strengthened my muscles and got my endurance up, I could run eventually.  I worked out 5 times a week, walking for 9 months (as fast as I could) on the treadmill.  Walking soon turned into walking for 5 minutes, running for 5 minutes, then walking 5 minutes, running 15 minutes, and so on and so forth.  I felt strong.  The real test would come when I put on my shoes and ran outside.  Could I do it?  Would I be ok?  The answer, yes! I had patiently and carefully trained my body for this moment and it all paid off.  And while I still have aches and pains and a chronic IT band issue, I know how to stretch it all out and listen to my body.  So running this race was not only a FIRST but also vindication that I can still RUN!

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind at this point that I will reach my next goal…to run and finish my first half marathon.  13.1 miles in hilly Atlanta.  It will take place Thanksgiving day.  I am so excited to run this race.  This will truly be a first for me.  I have never run this distance before.  My husband and children will be there to cheer me on.  The best part, eating all that turkey and PIE afterwards and not feeling an ounce of guilt!  As many have said before, running is my addiction.  Is there a marathon in my future?  Who knows. One goal at a time.

My biggest fan, Paul!

I RUN because…it’s challenging, it’s competitive, it keeps me fit, it helps me think, it keeps me sane but most of all because I LOVE IT!

Some Risks are Just Worth Taking

When people think of me, risk-taker would not be the first adjective that comes to mind.  Funny, extrovert, talkative, worrier, careful, cautious (emphasis on the words worrier and cautious), those are what I am known for amongst family and friends.  So when I told people I was marrying the man I had only met 2 months prior, SHOCK (to say the least) was the adjective to describe everyone’s reaction.  I was only 1.5 years widowed with 2 young children.  What was I thinking!  Well, for once I actually took a risk.  I, for a lack of a better cliche’, let go and let God…literally.

Paul was introduced to me by my mother…yes…my mother!  We met at a concert they had just performed at what is now my church in Atlanta.  She felt we would have a lot in common and would at least develop a nice friendship.  She knew I was lonely.  She knew I was scared to enter the world of dating again after being with the same man for nearly 20 years.  Paul was recently divorced, a nice, “regular guy” as my mother described him.  He was a singer (like me), smart, and had a good job; all of the things a mother would like for her daughter.  But would he spark my interest.  Would he light that fire a girl always dreams of when she dreams of the perfect man?

So here we were in a church with my mother, sister and a few friends in the center aisle of the gothic sanctuary after the concert.  I am about to meet this man my mother says is “nice” and a “regular guy”.  Those words are the kiss of death!  I’m nervous, lord knows what he must be feeling.  My first sight of him was in his BRIGHT red robe he still had on from the concert.  He came walking down the aisle, hugged my mother, turned to me and said, “Hi. I’m Paul.  Nice to meet you.”  He was cute!  After a bit of small talk my mother suggests that he join us (my mother, sister and 4 of our friends) for drinks.  I was shocked he said yes.  How awkward for him to be surrounded by these curious onlookers who were obviously sizing him up. That was my first glimpse into the man I would fall in love with and marry.  He was confident with who he was as a person.

Drinks went as expected…my sister grilled him, small talk abounded, pleasantries exchanged.  I enjoyed his company even amidst the awkwardness.  As we left the restaurant and were saying goodbye, I walked toward him to shake his hand and asked if he would like to be friends on Facebook, to which he replied yes.  It was my first real risk.  I felt it in my heart that this was right.  We began to “talk” through Facebook and eventually Skype every day up until our first official date.  Paul and I really got to know one another through those conversations.  Would we have anything to talk about on our first date?

I remember dropping my kids off at my mother’s for the night and driving down to the restaurant feeling nervous.  Do I look ok?  Will he like my outfit? Is my hair in place?  What am I going to say when I see him for the first time?  Should I hug him, shake his hand, what?  It was like I was a teenager again, except this time I was 36 with two kids and a hell of lot of baggage.  What if he just decides I’m not worth the trouble?  All of those fears went away in an instant the moment I saw him standing in front of the restaurant.  He had a sweet smile on his face and gave me a great big hug.  The night continued to be as smooth, relaxing and right.  We talked all through dinner and found we had a lot in common…more than superficial things like politics, running and music.  We connected on a deeper level.  I felt comfortable with him. It was like we had known each other for years.  We were so comfortable with each other that our date that began at 7pm finally ended at 1am.  I felt that spark, that fire.  This was what every girl dreams of and here I was living the dream!  I knew Paul was THE “one”.  How after just one meeting and a date did I know this…I was leading with my heart for the first time and not reason.

Reason ruled my life and after what I had just been through over the last 3 years, I decided life was too short to live by reason alone.  I wasn’t living before, just existing.  Existing was not what I wanted my children to learn from me.  They needed to see me living and enjoying my life so they could do the same.  Oddly enough, with what Paul endured during his divorce, he had come to the very same conclusion.  We had met just at the right time…our very own “God moment”.  So long story short, after many, many dates, Skype conversations, texting, talking and a wonderful vacation on Saint Simons, Paul asked me to marry him.  I said yes of course and although people were initially shocked, it soon turned to joy as they saw both of us deeply in love with one another, happy and already one.  My children were thrilled.  They took an instant shine to Paul.  He was gentle, kind and curious and they responded to that.

On December 12, 2010 in Virginia Highlands, I married the love of my life in a small ceremony surrounded by our family and closest friends.  Each day that goes by, my love for him grows deeper.  It has transformed me.  I am happier and healthier than I have ever been.  My children are finally feeling stable and part of a functioning nuclear family.  Neither Paul and I regret our pasts nor have we forgotten them.  How can you?  We have embraced our pasts and made them part of our future.  We have learned and grown from our pasts.  The past is what has shaped who we are today.  The past has allowed us to transform.  The past is what allowed me to take a risk and find the love of my life.

Life is full of risks.  Sometimes you need to listen to your heart and leap.  Fear is a dangerous thing, it can rule your life.  I let it rule mine for years.  Today I am still fearful of things but am more willing to take a risk and try something new even if I fail.  Fear of failure is huge for me.  So what if I fail, I’m human.  We all fail at times.  Failure is part of life.  As Paul always says, we need to continue to grow as people.  The minute you stop growing, you die inside. My choice to risk my heart and be left again was the biggest risk I have ever taken.  I had no idea where it would lead but I had hope and faith that it would lead to something wonderful.  Love.  I was right.  The risk was worth taking.  My next “risk” is graduate school.  I am terrified to make this leap.  Again, what if I fail?  But, I am coming to terms with that.  I need to do this for myself.  I need to continue growing and evolving.  Is this risk worth taking? You bet it is!  I’m diving in head first.

Thank you, Paul, my love, for loving me for me and being by my side holding my hand when I leap.  You are my precious miracle from God.  I love you!