Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I'm sure it was a miracle, complete with sparkles

I really ought to start carrying my phone during my runs so when I come across the scene of a miracle I can take a picture as proof. Unfortunately today you'll just have to take my word for it.

This morning, 6:30ish, I was about a mile and a half into my 8 miler when there by the side of the sidewalk I saw evidence of a spontaneous healing. Two crutches, abandoned in the weeds, no houses or businesses all that nearby. I can only assume that some lucky soul was crutching along, perhaps feeling down about their plight, when suddenly they found themselves levitating, rotating in the air and engulfed in sparkles (for some reason I envision a miraculous healing as something like the Beast's transformation at the end of Beauty and the Beast). When the shiny light gently placed this person on the ground they found their pain had disappeared, their need for walking aids completely gone. The crutches are still lying forgotten where they fell as he or she skipped off in happiness and disbelief, no doubt trailing residual sparkles.

That's what I like to think happened.

Or perhaps those crutches are there in the event that some unlucky person suddenly comes up lame (probably no sparkles involved in this case). We've already established that I don't run with my phone so it's nice to think that if I strained a calf muscle or something mid-run I could just look off to the side and find a handy means of hauling my injured body home.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The creepiest children's book ever

Anyone else out there think the children's book Love You Forever by Robert Munsch is totally creepy? I had never read or even heard of this book prior to receiving it as a gift at my baby shower (and thank goodness for that because it probably would have scarred me for life if I'd read it as a child). It was given to me and the little peanut pie by my friend Erin who admitted that she only picked it because she remembered having it when she was young.

Throughout my pregnancy I'd periodically pick out a book we'd been given and read it. I have to say that when I got around to Love You Forever I was a little horrified. Apparently it's one of the best selling children's books of all time, ranked 4th by Publisher's Weekly back in 2001, according to Wikipedia. And Maria Shriver can't read it without crying (also Wikipedia), so maybe it's just me.

If you're not familiar with the story it begins with a mother holding her newborn baby while singing a lullaby:

"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be."

Not such a bad start. Quite sweet actually. But then the crawling across the room starts. Now I've tiptoed into the little guy's room to watch him sleep a time or two, but I've never felt the need to crawl across the room, pick him up out of his crib and rock him back and forth (doesn't this lady know you're supposed to let sleeping babies SLEEP?). I'm quite sure I won't be doing it when he's 2 years old, or 9 years old, or a teenager. And I'm sure as shit not going to drive across town, sneak into my grown son's bedroom window, crawl across the floor and pick him up to rock him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.

Now each time the mother is rocking her increasingly older son back and forth, back and forth, she sings the lullaby. But before each new trek across her kid's floor she's basically talking about what a horrible child he is. He runs around the house, he flushes her watch down the toilet, he never wants to take a bath, he swears like a sailor when grandma is around, he has strange friends and listens to strange music. She never has anything good to say about him. He drives her crazy! He belongs in a zoo! But she loves him anyway and across his floor she goes. And then he up and leaves her. Grows up and moves all the way across town. How dare he?! I feel sorry for whoever this poor sap marries. Talk about the helicopter mother-in-law from hell.

And then this poor guy, probably in therapy because he keeps waking up to find his mother crawling across his bedroom floor, gets a call from her one day. She says, "You better come and see me because I'm very old and sick." So now she's totally guilt-tripping him. He goes over, dutiful son that he is, and it's supposed to be all poignant because this time he's the one rocking her back and forth, back and forth, and singing his version of the lullaby. And then she dies. Or it's at least implied that she dies. SERIOUSLY? Like I'm going to read my young son a book about his mother (ME!) dying? I don't think so.

The son returns home only to pick up his newborn daughter, rock her back and forth, yadda yadda, singing his mother's lullaby and the twisted cycle starts all over again. At least he doesn't crawl across the floor.

Before I started this post I did a little research into the book, which according to the author's website is very popular with the retirement community set. It turns out that Love You Forever was inspired by the author's two stillborn babies. Now that made me feel a little bad about what I was planning to write about it, but I can't help it. IT CREEPS ME OUT!

Incidentally, I also saw on Wikipedia that Love You Forever was featured in a Friends episode in which Joey does a dramatic reading of it. I must have missed that one but I bet is was hilarious.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

I'm bringing Gingerbread back

So I'm a little wistful and sad this weekend because for the third year in a row I'm missing the Great Lakes Relay. GLR, only the greatest weekend of running in Michigan, or anywhere really, is a 3-day, 300 (or thereabouts) mile relay race across northern Michigan. 10 person teams leapfrog across the state from Lake Huron (more or less, even less these past 2 years since the start has been at Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula) to Lake Michigan (always Lake Michigan, no more or less about it, right on the beach in Empire, MI). 

I met my husband and two of my best friends at GLR so it means a lot more to me than just the running. 2008, 2009 and 2010 I ran on a coed team with Leo in which we won the Mixed Division all three years. I took 2011 off by choice and came back in 2012 with an absolutely stellar all-girl Open team, the Gingerbread Girls, made up of sub-three hour marathoners, including two 2012 Olympic Trials qualifiers, wicked fast college/just post-college girls, and sick masters runners (Peggy, over 50 and running sub-20 5Ks, gives us mad handicap). We finished in second place (after handicap), thirty seconds ahead of Leo's all-guy team (oh how they wept!). I couldn't run in 2013 because I had stupidly listened to my doctor when he said I'd have an easier time getting pregnant if I backed off my running, which I did and then promptly got hurt. Yes, I know that sounds backwards, people normally get hurt when suddenly boosting their training, but I'm also the one who managed to get the horrible anti-depressant side effect that only 1% of people on it get (still can't wait to tell that story). So that year I was hurt and out of shape. In 2014 I was pregnant and out of shape and this year I'm just plain out of shape. Plus, with Leo running (he lives for GLR weekend) someone had to stay home with the little schnitzel fritz (I have no idea what that means, but my mom said that's what her (not the slightest bit German) mother called babies and I think it's cute. [pause for googling] Ah! Apparently it's a German restaurant in Colorado. Somehow I don't think that's what my grandmother had in mind).

I've just now decided that I want to run one more Great Lakes Relay, but there's only two ways I'll be happy doing it. First choice would be with the Gingerbread Girls, but only if it's actually ALL GIRLS. They've had to add some guys the past two years because it's really really really really REALLY really hard to find ten fit and healthy runner girls, all willing and available that weekend and not already committed to a coed team. It's a very popular wedding weekend; Leo lost one of his best guys to a wedding this year. Apparently it's also a very popular family vacation weekend (talking to you, Tammy). Or I'd be happy running on a coed team with Leo, but I know there's no way he's going to leave his 2013 & 2014 champion all-guys team (he just called as they finished Day 1 and his team was first across the line, one minute and 40 seconds ahead of the second place team, which happens to have his brother on it).

So now I'm on a mission to return the Gingerbread Girls (none of this Gingerbread People crap like this year, no offense to the guys on the team. I'm sure you're very nice gentlemen, I just don't want you on my team) back to their original glory. My friend Erin swears this is her last year (she said that last year too) but I refuse to let her retire from relay. I can't imagine running GLR without her. Yes, I know, she's run it 3 times without me, but she's a stronger, much less co-dependent person than I am. I would love it if we could put together the fastest, strongest team possible for one final killer GLR. And by then I'll probably be emotionally able to leave the little angel pikey (that one's my mom's) with my parents for a weekend. I think.    

The original Gingerbread Girls, 2012  

Monday, July 13, 2015

On the gender inequality of diaper character licensing

So this is the type of thing I think about now that I'm a mom.

The little pipsqueak and I watch Sesame Street together nearly every weekday as he winds down for his morning nap and maybe sometimes I keep watching, or at least have it on in the background, while he's sleeping. I've become quite a fan of "Abby's Flying Fairy School" and you never know what random guest stars will show up and have to act with puppet chickens.

What I want to know is when is Abby Cadabby going to make it onto Pampers Little Swaddlers or Cruisers? Or Zoe? Or Rosita? I think the folks over at Proctor & Gamble need to have themselves a serious *twinkle think* about the gender inequality represented in their diapers. I refuse to believe that these kid-loving ladies turned down the endorsement deal. I'm guessing they were never even given the offer, unlike their male counterparts on Sesame Street. Maybe the makers of Pampers are worried that parents won't want to put their little boys in diapers with girly characters on them. Well, why the heck not? Lots of little girls wear diapers with Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch on them.

Just me?

Puppet ladies represent!
(photo courtesy of Muppet Wiki)
Update (July 17, 2015): As it turns out, Zoe does appear on Pampers Baby Dry diapers (we hadn't tried these yet). I promise more thorough research the next time I decide to accuse folks in the diaper industry of raging sexism.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Race Report: Bastille Day 5K

Apparently I'm just going to race myself back into shape. This was another last minute, day before game race day decision. I kind of like this spur-of-the-moment, whimsical, sure why not, what the heck method of race planning. That, combined with my wretched state of fitness, make for race mornings completely free of pre-race jitters and a wonderfully nonchalant attitude towards my actual performance. It's those races you plan for months in advance and actually train for that can really gut you.

My lackadaisical attitude was a good one for today since the course was all kinds of messed up. Evidently lots of tinkering with the course to work around construction in downtown Fenton, MI caused some incorrectly placed mile markers. Or since there is also an art festival in town today, perhaps they were going for an abstract or post-modern 5K. Either way it made for some very amusing mile splits.

6:14 for mile one. I would love to say I was running that fast but I am very aware that I wasn't. I purposely started out slower than last week (6:24 or so for that first mile) because I knew it was a hillier course, I hadn't done much of a warm up, and I just plain didn't feel like trying to run that fast. I wasn't wearing my Garmin but there is no way that mile wasn't short. 

That's okay because the second mile was long. Really long. Possibly the longest mile I've ever run. That split was 8:39. Mile two was basically one long climb so I know I slowed down, but I didn't slow down that much. I didn't suddenly lose a limb. I was not attacked by sloths. 

Have no fear though because I was about to come raging back with a 6:09 third mile. Yes, this did have a nice downhill finish but, again, I just wasn't running that fast. Another short mile. Or something. Add in the final .1reallyitcouldhavebeenanything and I finished in 21:52. 

Now that was a little depressing. After all, I ran last weekend's 5K in 20:38. Yes, this course was hillier and it was a hotter morning and I wasn't trying as hard, but really? Barely breaking 22:00? I haven't run a 5K that slowly since high school. Come to think of it I haven't run a 5K over 20 minutes since high school, but I'd really rather not pull on that thread right now. However, before I could hang my head in shame, my friend who won the race, bearer of happy news, told me that her Garmin measured the course a quarter mile long and that made me feel loads better. Phew. I didn't have to retire on the spot.

Leo ran the 15K and he said those mile markers were equally art deco. Unless he really did run that 5:02 ninth mile and was just being modest. All in all it was a fun morning. We both won our age groups. I think I was 5th female overall but I'm not sure. Leo took 3rd overall. 

The best part of everything was that my 13 year old niece ran her first official road race. She's getting ready to start high school in the fall, will be running cross county, and has so much potential it's sick. She ran just under 25 minutes (remember the course was .25 long), finished with a smile on her face and loved the hills. She didn't even break a sweat! Imagine what she could do if she actually worked at it a little bit!! She did tell me she knows that she could run faster. Up until now, and mostly evident during her one year of middle school cross country, she hasn't had a competitive bone in her body. I think that's changing. And it won't hurt that today she snuck in her first age group win. By a week! Her age group today was 13 and under and she turns 14 this coming Friday. I am kicking myself now for not getting a post-race picture of the two of us, but hopefully there will be lots of opportunities for those in the future. Preferably ones where she's sweating a bit too. 

The little monkey had a blast at his second race (read: he did not cry once).   

Monday, July 6, 2015

Drowning in a puddle

I'll never forget the feelings I experienced after my son was born. It was this overwhelming mixture of love and awe and pride. I couldn't believe that in my arms (after he got through a scary, difficult transition) was this incredible little life that I had brought into the world. And yes, I know my husband had a hand in things, but I carried him for nine months and I gave birth to him and I could go into everything that those two things entail, but we all know it's just not the same. I didn't sleep a wink that first night after he was born, totally wired from what I'd been through that day and now instantly hypersensitive to every sound the little bundle of snorts made.

The first couple weeks at home weren't much different. I was completely sleep deprived, making it through those early days on sheer bliss alone. But as the days progressed and the pure need of a newborn began to take its toll that euphoria started to fade, and something much sinister started creeping in in its place. I started a gradual downward spiral that became less and less something I had any control over. By the time my son was two months old I knew it was time to get some help, that this was more than just the baby blues, that it wasn't something I could just snap myself out of. I think that was the day my husband came home from work to find me rocking the baby with, as he put it, a thousand yard stare on my face.

I had slipped into a whopping case of postpartum depression and anxiety. I'd find myself swinging between the two with brief passes through, for lack of a better term, my normal self. The depression was centered around my inability to let go of my old life. I mourned my freedom. I grieved for it. I could no longer go for a run whenever I wanted. I couldn't nest on the couch all Sunday afternoon with the cats and a book. I couldn't even go out to get the mail. I had this little being who needed me all the time. He needed to be fed every two hours, his diapers changed regularly, and though he was always a pretty good sleeper at night he would only nap in my arms. I had sworn up and down I wouldn't be one of those mothers who never put her baby down, but he wouldn't have it any other way. All newborns are are reflex and need. And that need is a 24 hour job. And the days were so long. He was born in January and all winter long I was cooped up in a small condo. I longed for spring so we could at least get outside. But inside, I could feel my identity slipping away. I was a mom now. I kept telling myself my life was about him now. I needed to let go of who I had become over the 38 years before he was born. But it was so hard. When things started to get really bad my husband told me that he missed the person he'd married and he wanted her back. But I knew she didn't exist anymore. She was gone forever. I was a mom now. I kept telling myself that I needed to snap out of my funk. And I tried. I truly did. But it didn't work and there were times when all I wanted to do was curl up under the covers and shut the world away.

And then there was the anxiety. I just could not understand how I was supposed to do it all. Take care of the baby, keep the condo clean, get dinner on the table, go back to work, eventually start running again. Everything else. I knew there were moms out there who did it all the time, but it all seemed so insurmountable to me. I would obsess over smaller things, like getting him out of the Rock n Play and into his crib, getting him on a good schedule, and his torticollis, which I blamed myself for even though our pediatrician said it wasn't my fault. I stressed about breastfeeding, which was rarely easy or relaxing for either me or the baby. To be completely honest, I hated it. When I finally chose to call it quits (after agonizing over the decision) I then stressed about the amount of fluoride in our water. It was always something and I envisioned a lifetime full of somethings stacked up one after the other in my future. The anxiety was eating me alive.

The depression and anxiety were exacerbated by a whole host of things. Crazy hormones, sleep deprivation. There were times I had a really difficult time not resenting my husband. He got to leave every day and go to work. He got to run. It always seemed that when he was home and had the baby I was either washing dishes or cooking dinner or doing laundry whereas if I had the baby he was on the internet or reading or watching TV. His life had hardly changed at all, or so it seemed to me at the time. He was always willing to help with the baby and never questioned anything I asked him to do, even getting up in the middle of the night. But I always had to ask and that started to get to me. He's lucky I didn't take his head off the day he was playing with the baby after getting home from work and made the comment, "This parenting stuff isn't so tough." I would get jealous of my sister (whose youngest is 14) if she mentioned she slept in one morning. I envied my mom for being able to go to a movie with friends.

I began to think I had made a huge mistake, that I had ruined my life. And of course that added intense feelings of guilt and hypocrisy to the pile weighing me down. After all, we'd tried for over a year and a half to get pregnant. We'd been told our chances weren't good. I'd cried over negative pregnancy tests, hysterically balled my eyes out when my sister-in-law got pregnant pretty much on their first try (or so I heard). I deactivated my Facebook account in order to avoid pregnancy announcements. And now here I was, with this beautiful miracle baby that I was having a hard time not regretting having.  

At one point my mom told me she wished she'd taken a picture of my face after he was born, so she could remind me of the joy I had felt. And that was the worst part of it all. She didn't need to remind me, with a picture or otherwise. I remembered. I remembered it all. The joy, the awe, the pride. I remembered and it was killing me that I'd lost it. Because of course everything I was feeling was effecting how I felt about him. There were times I would look at him and see my little guy, the beautiful little boy I'd wanted so much, that I'd created out of love and hope with my husband and brought into this world and named after my father. But other times it was like a fog descended between us and all I could see was a baby. A baby who needed to be fed again. Or was wet again. Or crying again.

My mom told me I hadn't lost those feelings of love and awe, that they were still there, just buried underneath all of the sadness and fear that had spun so wildly out of my control. Indeed, I felt as if I was in completely over my head, struggling to stay afloat, barely able to come up for air.

I look back now, only four months later, and I can see that I was drowning in a puddle.

The day of the thousand yard stare I handed the baby to my husband, drove over to my parents' house a few miles away and cried my eyes out. I knew I needed help. I needed to be healthy and completely present for my little boy and my husband. Two days later my mom, husband, baby and I all trooped into my doctor's office and I laid it all out. We walked out with a prescription for an anti-depressant and the mindset that I was going to beat this. I could not have asked for a stronger support system. My mom basically shut down her life to be with me every day for two weeks, until Leo got home from work, while I tried to adjust to a medication that was completely wrong for me until I took the steps to get it changed (that hellish two weeks is a sidebar I'll share on another day). My sister and dad were there for me. Leo's parents were there to help in any way they could. And Leo? Leo was incredible. He was incredibly patient and supportive and I know that couldn't have been easy for him. After all, I was going through something he not only couldn't possibly understand in anything but the vaguest sense, but it was also scaring the crap out of him. I never told him this, and at the time I certainly didn't recognize it, but looking back I've never felt as loved by him as I did in those few weeks. He stood by me through it all. He just wanted me to get better.

And I did. I got on the right medication, which of course helped, but my recovery stemmed from so much more than chemistry. By this time the snow was melting and the days were getting nicer. We were able to get out for walks. I eventually started running again, which was huge for me. But the biggest factor in my recovery was the little one himself. The fog lifted just in time for him to start laughing. I could see his smiles for the incredible gifts they were. I was back to looking at him, seeing my little guy, and melting into a pile of goo. The love and awe and pride were back, this time joined by confidence and strength and joy, and they all continue to grow stronger every day.

I said above that when I look back, it's as if I was drowning in a puddle. Why? All that ALL I was so stressed out about? Well, guess what, I'm doing it. I'm taking care of the baby (and loving every minute of it). I'm working. I'm training. I'm cooking dinner. I'm keeping the condo clean. I'm even getting ready to move (we found a house!). Granted I might not get a run in every day, I'm only working three half days a week, I might let the bathrooms go a little longer between cleanings, and, yes, Leo and I still sometimes have cereal for dinner. But for the most part, shit gets done! Those smaller stresses? He's been sleeping in his crib since he was 11 weeks old (HERE). That schedule I agonized about getting him on he basically just fell into himself, and my once nap-resistant baby now naps like a pro. In his crib. He's in physical therapy for his torticollis and it's slowly but surely getting better.

I stopped missing the life I had before the little peanut and started living the life I have now. And before I knew it I was getting pieces of myself back, and little freedoms began to return. First it was getting a run in here and there. Now for the first time I had to schedule a day off today because I've run 8 days in a row, including a race, and I'm still trying to come back slowly. There's time now to watch a TV show or movie if Leo and I feel like it, which we rarely do, though that has more to do with wanting an early bedtime ourselves. I don't get jealous anymore when I hear of other people sleeping in. Some mornings I'm even up BEFORE the little slugabed. I'm not blowing through two books a week anymore, but I'm getting plenty of time to read before I go to bed myself. Or during the little snoozer's naps when I'm not doing other things like packing or blogging or cleaning (and I certainly didn't write this post in one sitting). I no longer see the little scamp as taking away from my life but for what he adds to it. The things that were important to me to have back in my life, I've gotten back in my life. Other things I've let go of for the time being. There might be time for those things later on, but for now I don't miss them. Now I get to fill my time with things like making the little guy laugh, bath time, playtime, soothing him when he's upset, and trying new foods (we start Stage 2 this week!). I've watched him master rolling over and sitting on his own. Crawling, walking and talking are all still to come, along with so much more. I can't wait for the first time he lunges into my arms.

Any resentment I had for Leo faded away as we settled back into a routine. And it means the world to me that he has never thrown what I went through back in my face. He's an incredible husband and father and I'm thankful for him every day.

I knew I would one day want to write about my struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety but I didn't particularly enjoy revisiting that dark time. It's hard to think about it and not get angry at myself for letting it happen, even though I know it wasn't anything I had any control over. It's hard not to beat myself up for the time that I lost, even if it was just a matter of weeks that the little stinker will  never remember anyway. I will remember. I won't ever forget that time. I wish I hadn't had to go through it. I wish I hadn't scared my husband and family like that. But, as cliche as this sounds, I'm probably a better and stronger mother now for having gone through it.

When things were bad I once asked Leo if he thought we'd made a mistake. He said absolutely not, that the little guy was the best thing we'd ever done. He was right. He is the best thing we've ever done. The best thing I've ever done. The world is an infinitely better place with him in it and I can no longer imagine my life without him. I don't want to.

We're terrible at selfies. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Race Report: Volkslaufe 5K

I wasn't going to race until the first weekend in August. Today I was just going to chill at home with the little man while my husband went up to Frankenmuth, MI for the Volkslaufe 20K. Always held on the Fourth of July, Volkslaufe is a favorite race of ours because we get to see lots of friends and they give out great beer steins as age group awards. I missed it last year because I was pregnant and the year prior to that due to injury and I was all set to miss it this year as well. But then yesterday Leo talked me into going. Honestly, it didn't take that much arm twisting. I wouldn't have wanted to take the little squirt if it was going to be one of those notoriously hot Volkslaufe days, especially since with awards not being handed out until noon it makes for a longer than average race morning. But the forecast called for  beautiful weather, with temps no higher than 80 degrees. So in the spirit of getting out of the baby bubble I happily agreed to go. And I figured, what the hell, why not hop into the 5K? Since the 20K goes off at 8:10 and the 5K isn't until 10:00, both of us racing wasn't an issue.

The biggest challenge of the day for me was less about running the race and more about going to a race with a baby in tow for the first time. And I have to say that everything went just about as perfectly as could be hoped for. No screaming demon baby! No diaper blow outs! Nothing important forgotten at home (I was ridiculously over packed--we may have needed 3 outfit changes!). The only time he got a little cranky was when we were waiting to watch the start of Leo's race and he was ready for a bottle (Oh, and apparently he didn't want to go back into the stroller during my race after his dad had gotten him out. He also wasn't enthused about a return to the stroller while we were waiting for awards, but once he realized he was going in there so I could feed him his apples and cereal he was all "I can work with this."). So anyway, long, rambling, rather unnecessarily detailed story short, things went well.  

As for the race, that went about as well as could be expected. No, that's selling myself a little short. It went quite well, but in a bittersweet kind of way. I ran 20:38, with mile splits at about 6:26 (oh that's gonna come back and bite my ass), 6:25 (somehow still hanging on) and 6:40 (and there it goes, but thanks to a downhill finish I didn't fall off pace nearly as much as I could have). No clue what my last .1 was and someone was saying that the course was long, not that it matters. On one hand I'm all "Sub-7:00 pace 5K for my first race in 19 months, 6 months post baby, on some really minimal training? Hot DAMN, Go me!" But on the other hand it's a pretty harsh reminder of how far I have left to go to get back to, or at least close to, the kind of fitness and speed I've enjoyed in the past. But it is a start. And it felt so good mentally to be racing again. And knowing my little cheerleader was waiting for me at the finish made it all the sweeter. The stein I got for my 2nd place age group finish is nice too, but he is the best award imaginable.