Thankful anyway

Thanksgiving eve, and I’m sick. Raging sore throat, vise-grip headache, achey swollen lymph nodes, sour stomach, and a whole lotta no mojo. Haven’t grocery shopped for the big meal once, unless you count the frantic grocery list text to the husband (every day for the past three). I am unorganized for this year’s super-simple menu, and I’m going on three days with no meaningful sweating, so my superpowers are much reduced. I’m confessing right here and now that I’m actually making instant mashed potatoes tomorrow, yes ma’am. A few years ago, that would’ve been a near kitchen crime, but no longer! My mashed potato connoisseur child likes them just fine, and I cry uncle to trying to plan out the made from scratch real deal meal. We’ll add a few easy veggie side dishes. And, I’m still a little sad to say there will be no pumpkin or apple pie. Just brownies. The family voted. Whatever – I’m sick. We’re trying Cornish hens this year. Some part of me thought they’d be easier because they’re smaller. I know, I know – we do need more than one teeny hen for our entire family, but wouldn’t that have been nice?! There will be easier years coming when I can make Thanksgiving look the way I think it should, RIGHT?! For now, it is what it is. I’ll just pretend I didn’t see the pictures of all my friends’ elaborate table settings. Who am I kidding? That’s not me even on a good day!

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The whole fam road-tripped it to Virginia Beach this past weekend for the 8 year-old’s travel lacrosse tournament. Yes, I’m the one who said we weren’t doing travel sports. We had a great time, dashing back and forth to games, talking with friends new and old on the sidelines, and taking super-short exploratory trips from the hotel. Like 15 minute trips. During one such foray, the middle kid got pooped on by the seagulls after running in their midst. One of these birds ate the oldest one’s sandwich, which I am quite certain he planned. My picky child does not much care for my on the cheap lunch plan for 5. It consists of one jar of peanut butter and one loaf of bread. Slather and go. Lunch. Add a few apples and a bag of sorta healthy chips. We did eat a few near normal meals too.

IMG_2648Our hotel was filled with all of the lacrosse players from our city and their families, five of which were from our street! Usually a solo runner, I had the chance to run along the Boardwalk with an acquaintance from home. Nice and slow with lots of conversation. The Christmas lights along the way made for a magical backdrop, and the therapeutic conversation was a gift.

(Pardon the fuzzy phone photos. Santa says a new camera is coming.)

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We’ve had several family visits this fall. Mom came up twice, once with grand-nana. That was a treat since we don’t get 4 generations together very often! Sure do miss seeing my nana regularly (she’s grand-nana to my kids). Confusing, eh? I got to spend a nice weekend away with both of my sisters; we’re hoping to make it a regular tradition. And the Patterson clan from Chattanooga came up for a weekend also for a great time of biking, eating, a little shopping and just hanging out. We count our blessings, really. Gratitude dissolves disappointment, and what’s a little sickness when you’re sinking in so much good all around? Thanks be to God. Now off to bed for me. I gotta rest up for the big day!

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In response to my sister’s question, “So, do you still have that blog??”

Well, yes. Yes, I do. Here it is. See?

No, you weren’t kicked off of the auto-generated email for said blog posts. It’s just that it’s been – count ’em – TEN months since I’ve posted. Geez. I could post a bunch of pictures, but let’s just dig right in to the deep stuff, shall we?

Back in February I grabbed a few friends and we took off to the IF:Gathering conference. Well, sort of. We scooted out of town (just out of earshot, really) for a weekend to watch the livecast together. Sometime during comes a quote that keeps flapping around upstairs: “The root of anxiety is a sense of unfulfilled responsibility,” said Viktor Frankl. Actually Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, has been dead for almost 20 years. In her talk at IF, Rebekah Lyons  quoted him as she recounted her own struggle in finding her life’s purpose.

Good ol’ head-hanging shame was my first reaction. Makes perfect sense – I’m stressed, overwhelmed & anxious because I’m shirking some wife/mom/daughter/sister/friend/church/community responsibility. This performance-driven, first-born is quick to feel guilty. Then, incredulity. Is she really saying that all manner of anxiety, including those nightmarish panic attacks that many of my friends have experienced happen because someone didn’t DO something she was supposed to? Surely not. So, now it’s nearly June, and 3 months later I’ve come to this: My feelings of anxiety, total overwhelm, or mega-stress DO come from that feeling that there is SOMEthing (ok, a lot of somethings) that I still haven’t done yet. Is this why I can’t seem to get to bed at a reasonable hour? I think I’m doing necessary tasks, but it’s really this generalized sense of having “stuff” to do, and so I find stuff to do. Now, here’s the thing. Either these anxiety-producing responsibilities are MINE, and I’ve procrastinated or shrugged them off entirely OR I am perceiving that I have a bunch of responsibilities that really aren’t mine at all. For me, there’s some of both.

A few weeks later I came upon Storyline by Donald Miller. He’s written several books I’ve enjoyed over the past 10 years or so. This one is different – it’s a workbook helping to create a life plan that gives personal vision and clarity, focussing on a meaningful life rather than just a productive life. Hmm. My bible study girls know I’m not a lover of workbooks,  but I ordered it anyway. Glad I did. Turns out Viktor Frankl was a huge influence on Donald Miller’s Storyline, too. Back when Freud was teaching that man most wants pleasure in life, Frankl disagreed. Frankl says that more than pleasure, man is looking for a deep sense of meaning. Hmm. Yes, this resonates with me.

With Storyline, the reader is told that in every good story, there is a character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. We are all a part of God’s big Story. Through prayer, reflection and direction from the book, I’ve charted the positive and negative turns of my life, and then stepped back to look at it as a whole. I think I can see a few themes emerging. The idea here is that our lives have shaped us and prepared us to fill a needed role TODAY. My story matters. Your story matters. We all have something to give RIGHT NOW. And by the way, if your theme or “life purpose” doesn’t scare you a little bit, if it doesn’t sound almost audacious and you aren’t nearly scoffing at yourself for thinking you could really play this meaningful role, you probably need to dream bigger and look deeper. God’s plans for us and the roles and purposes He will have us fill are often much bigger than what we think we can handle. Identifying this life theme and purpose is critical later when it comes to looking at my primary roles in life, my goals for those roles, anticipating the conflicts that will arise and how I will deal with them, and making decisions for how I will spend my time to reach those goals.

Circle back around to that quote about unfulfilled responsibilities. If I want to lose the anxiety, I need a clear understanding of what my responsibilities are and a plan to fulfill them. In my role as wife, mom, friend, mentor, spiritual being, and athlete (ok, the last one is a stretch!), what do I most want to achieve? What awesome things does God want me to do in those roles? And what steps will I take to move toward those goals? I’m hypothesizing that anxiety diminishes when I’m intentionally moving toward my goals within these important roles I play.

In looking at your life story so far, what have you endured or suffered through that can be fully redeemed? Again, it was Frankl who stated ‘In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.’

How exciting to dream about our great stories, consider what we REALLY want to give and get in this life, and make a plan to do just that?!

So for me today this looks like putting on my cycling kit at 8 am or so to ride but putting it off to work through some of this stuff instead. And  then, when 4pm comes and I’m still dressed in lycra while I write, pray & plan, I’m gonna call it success because I chose the higher priority item for this day.

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Photos. AND my loose thoughts…

130603_0035 130603_0065 130603_0094 130603_0111 130603_0147 130603_0173 130603_0175 130603_0195 130603_0218 130603_0232Hmmm. This was supposed to publish back in August? Looks like it stayed as a draft? My apologies if you’re seeing it twice….

We made it to the beach this summer! The babe turned one. The middle one turned four. The big one is about to be seven. Whew!

Lots of thoughts rolling around in my head as ever — thinking about this life. And the next. Thinking about surrender – the courage it takes to do it. The fear that gets in the way.

Thinking about rejection – how even perceived rejection still hurts this 36 year old – just like I’m back in high school. Thinking about getting some thicker skin, please!

Feeling like all of this social exposure – facebook and the like, texting, emailing, messaging, ahem blogging is just TOO. MUCH. sometimes. Much of the time. How easy it is to be misunderstood when we so rarely SPEAK to each other anymore. And, I’m not saying I’ve got extra time for phone calls, either. These lightning fast texts and the like are crazy convenient, sure – and I LIKE convenience – but I don’t think all of the communication goes very far toward building relationships. Not for me, really. And I’ve never really gotten worked up about my lack of privacy before, but these past few months – heck, the past year – I don’t know… It just feels like social overexposure and major technology overkill. I’m longing for simple again. But, it’s true, checking out of all this technology means I’d lose almost all contact with a lot of friends and even some family. So, I remain plugged in.

Thinking about priorities and making sure mine are in the right place. A quick check on how I spend my time each day shows me that mine often aren’t. Thankful that God isn’t an angry dictator in the sky come to give me a guilt trip, but rather to send persistent conviction my way so that I see what I need to. Oh love that will not let me go. Thankful for forgiveness. For grace. I need both. The little eyes around me need to see me giving and receiving both.

I’m grateful for rough training weeks and an unintended day to sleep in when I know I need it. Humility is a good thing. Wish there were more of it in today’s sports and fitness world.

So very much to be thankful for. Too much, really. Oh, but I’ll take all the blessings I’ve got and still beg for more. God is a giver like that.

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A big pain in the you know what

I was going to title this one “I gave up running for Lent”, except that’s not exactly true. “Gave up” implies that I had some choice in the matter, and to those who know me would paint me up to look quite saintly. I can see me now. Halo. Big wings. Calm, pleasant smile. Gently placing those running shoes in the donation bin. Not.

Over the years I’ve paid more and more attention to Lent, though Ash Wednesday does still catch me by surprise sometimes. I’m the girl who more than once (!!) nicely told an unsuspecting soul that she had just a little bit of “dirt” right here, just a smudge. Once I reached up and rubbed it off. Cringe. I know. I was trying to help!

Back in February thinking through the list of things I could eschew for a season in order to refocus my priorities and – yes – suffer a bit, running did cross my mind. I quickly banished the thought. I’ll tell you I threw it out because I knew surely Jesus wouldn’t want me to stop running! Don’t be silly now, girl. It’s a good thing you do, this fitness stuff. It’s you in your element; it’s even worshipful, heck!

However, the truth is…No running for 6 weeks scares me to death. And maybe it shouldn’t. I also had the thought something like this, “Pfft. The day I can just willy nilly give up running for 6 weeks, I’ll know I’m mature  emotionally stable and spiritually on track.”

So, about a week after Lent begins, so does my familiar pain in the rear. Literally, it is. Ischial bursitis. Right where I sit. Over that week, it got progressively worse as I continued to ignore it. Of course. So now, a month later, it really hurts to sit (hallmark sign), hurts to run, hurts to bike (but less than running), hurts to swim (only a teeny bit!), blah blah. It’s been a chronic problem since, oh 2004. Off and on. Off and on. It’s a nasty little bugger. The first time it hit was during a rough patch anyway, but let’s just say my inability to access my usual coping mechanism made it one of the hardest years of my life. I took months off from running and then after that, months off from running AND everything else active to no avail. It resolved eventually, but it took almost a year. Since then, I get it once or twice a year, and it lasts months each time. Sometimes I see a therapist; most times I don’t. I’ve had 2 or 3 MRIs. Nothing exciting. I just had another MRI yesterday – nothing exciting as far as I can tell.

Why do I get this? I really don’t think there’s a good reason. I’ve tried strengthening, stretching and balancing every muscle I’ve got. I’ve added in major cross-training by adding in biking & swimming a couple of years ago. I’ve tried “doing less”, cutting running to 3 times per week. No doubt, I’m busy on my legs, and my activity level could play a role, but the pain doesn’t seem to coincide with periods of higher intensity or volume. There is research linking autoimmune disease with inflammation, of course, and bursitis in particular. We know I have colitis, but there is reason to believe I’ve got something else going on, too.

All that to say I have, in fact, given up running for Lent, like it or not. Easter is on March 31st, and I’ve found myself hoping – please, oh, please? – that even as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, so may I too celebrate my healed rear? Oh, I mean no disrespect! Get this straight: Jesus’ rising from the dead and bringing me new life – forgiveness – is a giant, big deal. The biggest deal. ‘Cos I’m a big ol’ sinner and I know it.

Skipping out on one of my favorite activities (admittedly, not by choice) HAS been good for me. Not a path I chose myself, and herein lies the truth: The path I choose often isn’t the richest one. The easiest (most familiar) route won’t challenge me much, won’t change me much. These last few weeks I’ve been looking around a little harder and taking note of – appreciating – all of the other good things in my life. And there are so many.

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It’s always something!

Well, lookee here! I remembered my password to login and write another post. Quite a shock since it’s been so long. Well, that and the fact that all of the darned passwords one has to remember these days makes it easy to forget when I changed it by adding that one “mandatory numeric character” or whatever. So, I was relieved to see that I last blogged in September. Whew! I really thought it was back when the baby arrived. Still, pathetic! Except maybe not…because while most of me itches to record our days, no, take the time to think, reflect, muse around on various happenings in blog form, I’ve also decided to ignore that compulsive part of me (the “must write everything down” part) that would feel panicky when too many life events pass by with nary a blog post. *Now, let me just put aside my daily training journal and my – yes- rest journal.* Ideally, I’d live out each day fully engaged with whatever adventure comes – or doesn’t – and have plenty of time in the evenings to sit back, ponder and tip-tap up a little thoughtful commentary on said such. However, real life says no way right now! So the blog will have to wait. Until a time such as this – when I’ve been blogging in my head for months, and the thoughts must. get. out. Onto paper or screen, no matter. So, bear with me, here is the past six months in review. Pardon if there is overlap, since I DID actually write 2, no 3 (!) times in that period. Without further ado, here it is with no more than 3 sentences about each topic minimal rambling. Just to take the pressure off of myself. Because it’s 1 am, and my whole house has the flu. Yes, really!

→You’ll never hear this again from me: “Yeah, we just don’t really get sick very often.” I mean, we’re not sick every other week or anything, but now here we are, illnesses staggered by a few days so that by the time we all get it and get over it, it will have lasted a week and a half. I’ve been humbled. This virus laughed at my vitamin protocol.

→The sweetest thing about nursing a baby: those sweet little scritch-scratch fingernails on my neck and arms. Just priceless.

→I am perfectly happy to shop for my own Christmas stocking. When else can I justify pricey bath bombs and the like? Filling the CCP’s stocking, on the other hand, feels less rewarding. This year, there are the obligatory boxer shorts, some small apparatus for cooking while camping out (I think it’s a fork – we’ll let him figure it out), a gift card for more camping supplies, and perhaps some chocolate. There are usually a few lame-o gifts too. In that category this year: chewable “tooth tabs”. I think it’s toothpaste? And, shoot – I think he just read this. He actually likes surprises!

→ I think my 6 year old still truly believes in Santa?! I know multiple kids have told him it’s a farce, but he staunchly refuses to consider their explanations. I’m not sure how I feel about this — I’m glad the 3 year-old’s dreams haven’t been dashed, but I wonder…does the elder REALLY believe, or is he going along for our sake? We go visit the old guy tomorrow. For the 3 year-old, I say.

→I got bitten by a dog while running 2 weeks ago. If you don’t know about all this already, suffice it to say it was practically my second job for a week to discover the identity of the dog and its owner. Luckily, the dog is still alive which means it’s not rabid, and his shots were current. The owner was a bit of a jerk, and I’m not looking forward to seeing them again.

→My oldest turned six a few months ago. I still don’t really feel ok with this. Five was fine: six feels “old.”

→A sick, coughing, whimpering baby makes me feel really helpless.

→I haven’t exercised in 3 days. Seems like common sense when one has a fever and is a coughing mess, but every day has been a battle. I’m trying to be smart here. I’m also going crazy here. Good article by Matt Dixon of Purplepatch Fitness.

→I think I’m enjoying some of my post-partum fitness boost right now. I ran my  half-marathon PR in November 1:37:32 and missed my 5K PR by 16 seconds and ran 20:46 a few weeks ago. Interestingly, in November’s Drumstick Dash, I was tapped as the overall female champion in a time of 14:57. “What’s that?” you say. Yeah, me too. Apparently, my chip malfunctioned (really!?), shaving oh, 4 minutes off of my time. I’m protesting as they’re putting the medal ’round my neck, still shocked and surprised since I thought I was getting my age group award. And, I’m still awaiting word on how to get the medal to the real winner! And the course was crazy short – about 2.87 miles or so. Yes, I kept running to the full 3.1 – I was on pace to PR! I really HATE short courses! **Oops – 11 sentences.

→Three kids means there’s not time for much else. The baby gets a lot of attention, right?  Because only I can feed her, and I can’t exactly tell her to go put a puzzle together. Plus, she’s a sweet little snuggle nugget. So, when she is sleeping, I’ve got to take a few minutes for time alone with #2. I can’t help but think of him as the potentially lost middle child. Then when #1 gets home from school, he needs a little bit of time too. Of course, I still make time for workouts (many of them in pre-dawn darkness, hence the dadgum dogbite) because I need to and I want to. Oh, and naps. They make my world go around. If you’re looking for me around 2 or 3 o’clock, just stop right there: I’m out of this world. But aside from these things, my response time is slow or lacking entirely. Doesn’t mean I’m not interested – just that I’m not getting very far down the priority list these days. Phone calls, emails, etc.? I’m just not as snappy as I’d like to be on the return. On the topic of kids, I think its tempting to get all caught up in them and sort of forget about the spouse that created them with me in the first place. This is a mistake! The current culture makes us feel like bad parents if we’re not all wrapped up in our kids 24/7. Pfft. Fight that! What did we call a woman who stayed home with her family in the 50s/60s? Housewife. What do we call her now? Stay at home MOM. See?  **WAY more than 3 sentences. My rules. I break them.

→I got to assist with coaching Varsity & Junior Varsity Cross Country this past fall.  Besides the fact that I altered my own workouts *not one bit* despite participating in theirs, and I was 8 weeks post-partum when our season began (fatigue, anyone?), I loved helping to push the team onward and upward. Our team is large, and with only one coach, running logistics had been difficult. Only on a track could you visualize everyone, and even then, we have to split the group, and timing gets tricky. Enter me, and now we can keep tabs on many more runners during our training runs. I’m not sure they all liked this! Many of the young, excited JV runners enjoyed the challenges we cooked up for them. Some of the Varsity runners really pushed back, and their efforts fell off toward the end of the season. I don’t expect all of them to love the training right now. I “ran” cross country in high school, too. My group would walk as soon as Coach Fifield’s truck disappeared around the corner… It took me a good five years after high school before I really cared about giving my best. This coaching gig could be a “calling” for me. How else can you explain my willing skip of the sacred nap AND paying a sitter to watch my kids for 2 hours during a practice for which I volunteer?

→Both boys are still swimming, though we’ve only made one “meet” this year. It was the Christmas gift exchange “fun meet”. Here’s a few swim videos:

H (age 3) swims in his first meet. I think most of these kids were ages 4-5?

J (age 6) swims Freestyle. Pardon the grainy video, but enjoy H’s preoccupation with the gift portion of the meet. I think J ties for 2nd in this one:

→And now it’s the next day. Thank God this day is done. Day 6 of the big nasty sickness with CCP at work all. day. long. I’ve about had it. My smarts ran out today as well when I layered up to tackle 10 miles in the blustery, gale-force winds. Another day of do nothing I could not take. I probably should have tried. Of course I felt like crap, Advil and Robitussin notwithstanding. For some reason I decided this would be a partial tempo run. I should be unsurprised that I couldn’t hold pace. No big fret. I’m chalking it up to the crud. Training has been going really well. May it continue if I can just keep myself away from silly shenanigans like this one. Just a trail race for fun on the schedule in early January and maybe a 10-miler in February…

→Sleep tight, little ones! Oh please, dearest Lord!

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Birthday camping

J turned six and celebrated during an overnight campout with a few friends and their brave fathers! Highlights: hiking a mile and a half to the campsite with all of the boys; catching toads; hot dogs and S’mores; stories by the campfire, and a pancake breakfast! Mom showed up for the meal before heading home with baby sister while all three Patterson guys spent the night in the woods.

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She’s got a ticket to ride (and swim, and run), but she don’t care!

Waaay back in August of last year, I qualifed for the USAT World Championship in Auckland, New Zealand! I’d been competing in triathlons for only a few months but decided to travel up to the National Championship race in Burlington, Vermont last August with some local training friends. A great time was had by me, and I set my sights toward New Zealand upon qualifying. And, then…I got pregnant! Baby due in June and race in October? No problem. We’d been trying for another baby, and the timing was ideal, really. I didn’t expect to be in top shape of course, but I figured I could be about 80% at least, and that’s good enough for a little very long trip around the world with a triathlon thrown in! I last swam and biked the day F was born, and by the time she was a week old I was ready to run again. According to Dr. James Clapp’s book Exercising Through Your Pregnancy, “women who maintain a higher volume training program throughout pregnancy (40-60 minutes, five times a week, at a moderately hard level of perceived exertion) demonstrate about a 10-percent improvement in their maximal aerobic capacity when we test them six weeks after the delivery.” Who would’ve thunk pregnancy a training edge, yet as Clapp’s research also shows “continuing to exercise during and after pregnancy has a training effect that is greater than what nonpregnant women attain with training alone over the same time interval (Clapp and Capeless).” I had experienced this phenomenon with both boys to some degree – feeling more fit between 3-12 months post-partum than in the year prior to pregnancy. And now, at eleven weeks post-partum again, I’m feeling the same edge.

One of my biggest draws to the race, truth be told, was the chance for my CCP (and me) to see some of the Lord of the Rings scenery. He’s been a huge fan since childhood. Never mind, that LOTR-land is on the south island and Auckland is on the north island. We’d just hop down there, I figured. It all made sense to me. We’d plan for a week or so to fit in the race and some sightseeing, taking the baby along with lest she be without her food supply, and leaving the boys home with Nana – once we talked her into a week plus! We thought about taking them along with us, but at about $2300 per plane ticket, we quickly thought again!

We determined we’d need twelve days to participate in all of the triathlon hoopla and fit in all that we wanted to do in New Zealand, and that meant the CCP would have to take 9 days off of work. Argh – storm clouds brewing on my plan’s horizon. That’s nearly half of his yearly allotment, and all of a sudden it didn’t feel right to take half of his vacation and apply it to a trip for only half of our family. Did we really want to be apart from the boys for that long? I don’t think we’ve been away from them for more than three days to date. We had always reasoned that there would be time for long vacations alone later – when they’re grown and their absence has left us with time on our hands. What about Christmas time with our families? What about the beach vacation next summer? Fourth of July in Atlanta with the fams? All of those trips would have to be compressed – or eliminated.

Oh, I went back and forth all through this winter and spring about whether to go or not. I got a wonderful deal on a hotel suite in Auckland. I think it was a mistake actually, but the advertised price was honored. The next day, I noticed that the rate jumped tremendously! I’d spend time planning our excursion to the south island and searching for gluten-free eateries. By the way, New Zealand seems to be the gluten-free capital of the world!

I think I needed all ten months of this pregnancy to decide and in the end, I feel good about skipping it. This from one who often bulldozes her way along the original path, refusing to consider good reasons for changing course. Call this decision progress. I know I won’t regret it, and just maybe I’ll get the chance to go to another World Championship race that’s not quite so far away? While my friends will be having an incredible experience in Auckland, we’ll be taking a little weekend excursion to one of our favorite places. With so many good things going on at home, I’m happy to stay close by.

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