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Friday, February 10, 2017

On Questioning my own beliefs on the patriarchy

My son turns 5 this week, which means he is able to start Kindergarten in the fall. We (hubby and I) have been a little anxious about this for a number of reasons. Some of which are that he is my baby and I will miss him like crazy when he is in school more, we of course want to make sure he gets a good education, we are concerned about the transition (3 days a week 2.5 hours to next year all day every day which seems to be the norm) and we want it to be a good fit for our family.

It is not a secret that we are a religious/spiritual family. So we are also looking into some private schools. We took a tour of one recently, which seemed like a lovely school, and perhaps it is. But I had to ask about specific denominational affiliation and its beliefs. I then looked into it more at home.

Some core tenants to this church are love and hope and faith, but also emphasizes things that make me really uncomfortable. Like only men are capable of leading and a woman should never be in a leadership position over a man. It also teaches itself to be "against" an awful lot of things. Anyway, lets just say that it will not be a good fit for our family.

The thing that bugs me, that really has always bugged me, is this notion about women not being leaders. As a rule. Not a "some women with the gift of leadership" which I could almost stomach. And then often there are affiliated beliefs like how women should "submit" to met, yada yada yada.

I remember having a visceral reaction to these ideas as young as second grade. I went to Catholic School and I was a kid who liked to participate. When it came time to learn about being an alter server, I was told, "no, because girls can't be alter servers." And no one could give me a logical reason why except "that is  just how it is." And I remember crying to my mom at home that night about it. Now, times have changed and the Catholic Church has let up on some things, but IMHO, still has a long way to go.

And dears, I am sorry if you have a conservative view on these things. You have the right to it. I need to explain why I am NOT ok with it. Which is what my thought process is about this week. I want to understand my own etiology on a strong reaction I had to school or a belief, more specifically. I often question myself on my beliefs. WHY do I think this? Does it need to change? I go out in search of articles about things I disagree with so that I can learn about other view points and learn and try to keep an open mind.

And it comes to this. Who knows if maybe there is just this second born child natural defiant  inclination to want to be different or buck the system or do the opposite of what I am told. God knows I see it in my daughter already (who is a second born).
But maybe it comes down to more of my experience. And we all have different life experiences, right. But how do you tell a little girl, or a grown woman at that, who's daddy left them, told them they weren't ever good enough, always chose the easy way out and has anger issues (amongst other things) that men are heads of the household, that men are better leaders, that "God made them that way." It seems that God did not make this man that way. The main "man" I had in my life And the periphery ones were barely a step above in different regards.

The leader in my life was a woman. God made her tougher than shit. She led a family all by herself (with a brain injury at that)after dad bailed. Worked 2 and sometimes 3 jobs. Volunteered, taught CCD, encouraged, loved ceaselessly and annoyed the crap out of me with it, but that is a parents job! Taught me what I needed to know about spirituality, how to love others and accept those who are different than me and to do the right thing.
Now she wasn't perfect, but no leader is without faults. But it seems to me she did a damn fine job. And, wait, she was a WOMAN.
If I was to follow that example of the male "leaders" in my life, because, you know, only men are able to lead apparently, then I would be hurting my spouse, telling my kids that they can do nothing right, I would have probably left by now or have at least cheated a few times at this point. But you know, men have needs.

Do I hate men? Nope. Not one bit. I have fantastic male colleagues in the field, friends, pastors whom I respect greatly. I am so fortunate to have a male partner in my life who is a good, kind, generous, faithful, intelligent man to walk beside and do life with. Sometimes in areas he leads, and sometimes in areas I lead. But we work together, acquiesce to each other, and consider carefully the wants and needs and values of our family. We are a team. Not a patriarchy.

I feel that as a society we are moving in this direction (for the most past). Whatever your thoughts on it, you are entitled to. But I for one, am glad of it. I do not want anyone, based on gender or class or race or religion to be pigeonholed. "this is your role". I don't buy it. We were all created unique and as masterpieces.

My faith is still my faith, which is a relationship with a God who loves. All. Equal.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Chicago Marathon: part 1

This is to be a writing on my recent running of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon this weekend on October 9, 2017. However I'm not sure where to start this. Because the race itself and my motivations for running it are 2 completely separate entities. So perhaps I should make this 2 separate posts.

I'll start by telling you that I was really lucky to have 2 people with me on this day, Sandra, my sister Beth and I all met up downtown on Saturday late afternoon so that we could head down to the Marathon Expo at McCormick place so I could pick up my bib number, shirt and all of the rest of the free goodies. I was so incredibly bummed that we just missed seeing my recent life hero, Meb Keflezighi, Olympic Marathoner, war refugee and inspirational human being, appear and speak at the expo. But I'm enough of a stalker that I'm sure that I will meet him someday.

(my personal cheering section/crew. Beth and Sandra)

We made it back to the hotel where we ate, got final preparations in order, race plan and attempted sleep. Its really hard to get to sleep when there is so much to think about. Due to the craziness of the day I knew that I hadn't eaten a ton, which is unusual for me, but knew I'd get some more fuel in the morning (foreshadowing, yes).

Bright and early Sandra set her alarm for 5am and we slowly rolled out of bed, got dressed, stuffed my pocked and gear check bag with almost anything I could need for after the race. As we left, it was still dark and we marched toward the race and the Congress hotel where we would meet the rest of my fundraising team for the 12 Oaks Foundation, use the bathroom, eat some breakfast and meet some fellow runners. Along the way we met some international runners who were trying to find people to follow, and its fun conversation at 6am to learn where people are from, one guy was from China, and this was his 16th marathon but still felt nervous. Another from California who was freezing in the ideallic Chicago running temps. Runners are a friendly and interesting crowd.

After hotel time, Sandra walked myself and the team to the race entrance and wished us luck and gave one final hug. One girl on my team, Marisella was in the same corral as I was and were talking bout some similar goals so decided to try to give it a go together.

The race started at 7am with the elites. However there are 40,000 participants all broken down into waves and "corrals". I was in the very last corral. And we didn't actually start until about 8:40am. It was a long time waiting.

We crossed the start and immediately it was so energizing. We were here. Running the epic Chicago Marathon. It was so easy to just take off. But 26.2 is a long way and I had a plan that I knew I needed to stick to to perform well so I slowed my pace down away from what the crowd was doing. In doing so I lost Maricella almost immediately. So I was in it alone.

It should be noted that Sandra has run the marathon twice herself and has spectated even more times. Call her a professional at this point. So Sandra gave me some great pointers to begin with, including that the city skyscrapers would mess with my GPS on my running watch and she was right. I could see immediately at mile 1 that time and GPS did not mesh. But thats why we have a plan, right. I knew where I was because of the plan and what my actual pace was and felt great.

Those first several miles I felt awesome. There was so much to see. Take in the beautiful city that I love so much. The spectators and their amusing and inspirational signs. The other runners. I had music and headphones with me just in case, but I felt no need to pull them out because there was so much happening. also monitoring my pace and goals was a full time job that captured my attention much of the time.

Photo from Sandra Wimer
(Feeling great!)

I was so excited to see so many things that first half, as it goes through the loop and north side, which are the areas I'm most famliar with. We ran past the Lincoln Park Zoo and Lincoln Park Conservatory and Nature museum, all which I just brought the kids to about a month before. We ran by a nursing home with all of the seniors waving to us and every runner waving back. We ran by Lake Shore Drive before we turned to head south through Boys Town, always a hoot, and some nice family neighborhoods. Many spectators were handing things out to runners, pretzels, Kleenex (which I so needed!). I avoided many of the water stations as I had my own water, but eventually found someone every few spots to refill it from a jug. I grabbed zero Gatorade that first half, which was probably a mistake.

Around mile 11 I accidentally dropped my pace sheet. I had mile by mile what I wanted each pace to be and where I wanted to be overall time wise. I wrote a few basics on my arm, like those goals, but every 5 miles. So when I realized I dropped it, I panicked a little, but realized that I'd be ok as long as I didn't mind occupying my mind with math. Not my favorite. But whatever. You do what you gotta do.

I was able to see my cheering squad of Sandra and Beth at a few points, mile 1.5, but missed them at the next stop. Saw them again at 12 where Sandra grabbed my arm sleeves, recorded me babbling some nonsense about not tripping over cups and gave me love and hugs.  I was feeling great, hitting all of my paces. THey said they'd see me again around 16.5.

(I get the feeling Sissy had a lot of fun making these signs.)

It was around the halfway mark that I grabbed some extra fuel. But didn't eat it until 14. Until that point, besides breakfast, I'd eaten the dried fruit I had with me and some spectator pretzels. We were headed out to the United Center, which was starting to get into unfamiliar territory for me, and you can't see it because its low to the ground. When it was time to turn around and head back to the city I was still feeling fine and could see the skyscrapers looming before me. I knew those buildings and it created a bit of comfort. Once back near the loop I saw Sandra again who yelled "run faster!". Funny girl.

Around 19 I started to feel weird. A little light headed and some muscle twinges I had never felt before in my legs. It was like little electrical shocks in my upper inner thigh, almost groin area. I knew that was not a good thing. So I backed off my pace a little. I also found a bathroom with almost no line and stopped to use it, since I hadn't used one since before we started. I felt a little better but the twinges came back if I tried to pick up the pace too much. So I tried walking for a short time, then returning to the running.

This is when it became a pure mental game. After 20. I knew I could run 6 miles. I did that regularly during training. But at this point I was tired, but body was acting wiggy, but nothing I couldn't handle, but also visually I was in very unfamiliar territory. Running south, in an area I didn't recognize, away from what I did know. There were some great crowds here with music, energy, and runners I recognized after being at a similar pace with them for a while. I remember clearly one moment where I wanted to walk so bad, but someone's sign was perfectly timed. "Run because you can" which has been one of my things. I can run. I have 2 healthy legs. I have a healthy body. It is not something I ever want to take for granted. So I ran. Another girl recognized my charity, which only 7 of us were running for, because she went to school in Grayslake, where its located. Its funny these little things that keep you going.

I also revamped my goals and plan at this point. I realized I would not get to my A or B goals. but if I still maintained a semi decent walking pace during some walk run intervals I would still be very happy with my finish. So around 21 or 22 I began running for a half a mile then walking fast for .25. Then back on and kept running if I passed a photographer or saw a timing mat that marked your time and reported it to the world.

Strangely I still chose to not start my music. It was all headspace here. And I was also texting Beth and Sandra at this point to let them know what was going on and where I was.

Finally as we turned to head back north and were on Michigan Avenue I felt safe. I knew I would finish. Even if I'd never been this far south on it, I knew it was the homestretch. Everything in me screamed to walk all of it. And I wanted to. But I wanted to finish and be satisfied more.

There was a significant moment with less than a mile left as I just stopped to walk, that I saw that bright pink jacket and Sandras face telling me to move my ass. So I ran. She ran with me for as far as she could before she knew she was going to get kicked off the course. And then the crowd cheers rose up. While there were thousands of people, I saw no one. Only the number signs counting down the meters (which as an American, mean nothing to me. I don't know what a meter is. Only that those numbers were going down). And I knew Beth would be near the final corner and I ran right up next to the barrier until I could make out her loud voice and smiling face and sign. She gave me a high five which pushed me up that final hill.

Photo from Sandra Wimer

I turned, and there it was. The mighty finish line.

For the record. I would like to thank the organizers of the Chicago Marathon for not extending that final stretch. I mean, they could have made it so long and dramatic, changing the course, to run half mile in the heart of the downtown and in Grant park. But no. It was right there. I could taste that medal in my mouth right away. It was the most glorious sight.

And I crossed the finish line.

People told me I would cry. I didn't. I have a problem where I'm not one to cry for myself. However if I see others crying, I will cry to the point of being a hot mess. That long walk back to where you get your stuff and meet your people, I cried with some others. I congratulated everyone. I thanked volunteers I got teary as I imagined the number of people who gave up their time and energy to help with such an epic event. I get teary at the idea that this event brings together people from all over the world to cheer each other on and compete together in the  most friendly of ways. And I LOVE the idea that this is the only sport in the world, where a peon like me is on the same field as the elite professionals (even if they finish 3 hours earlier).

And as an added bonus, I saw my old old College friend Stephen in the finishers area as he was there giving massages with Cortiva.

I never doubted that I would finish. But wondered in the how.

What would the plan be. How well could I stick to the plan. How distracted would I be. What was the self talk going to be. Was I going to give it less than my best effort.

And while I didn't meet my A or B goal, I met goals. I did something hard. I tried hard. I listened to myself. I changed plans. I remained flexible. I never doubted. I had support.

I joke with Sandra how 4 years ago I said "never" to a marathon. And here I am, finishing my second.

Never say never, my friends.

Remain open. Remain flexible. Ask for help and support.

I don't know whats next. I have lots of ideas and plans and goals I would like to achieve. Perhaps some I'm not even aware of yet. But one at a time.

This one is in the books.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why I no longer comment on weight

The other day I was out to dinner with a group of wonderful interesting and very active women. We chatted about work and running and pets and hometowns. 

During the conversation, one very fit lady commented on how she was "fat". Whether or not she can be considered "fat" isn't even relevant to what I want to say here. But do you know what I said in response?

Nothing. I didn't say a word. No. "Oh you're not fat" or "what are you talking about" etc. I pretended that comment never existed in that moment. Why? Because it never should have existed in that moment. 

Some might say that she was looking for reassurance. For support. For someone to say the opposite of what that voice in her head says. And quite frankly all of that is most likely true. 

I have battled that demon myself. The never good enough one. I've been the one in the past to make such comments about myself. About my body. In hopes that someone would tell me that what I believed about myself wasn't true. 

I was raised, that whenever I visited my dad, I was weighed. We literally called it "fat camp" when we hopped on the plane, my sisters and I. So much value and importance was put on what that number said. How we looked. What we ate.  Even now in that relationship there is always commentary on "how you look". It's the first thing said. 

And it has always made me uncomfortable. Not in a creepy way. But in a "this is not who I am" kind of way. I wished always to have been commended om my heart or brain or efforts or ideas or laugh or ANYTHING else. 

But you see, this is how it is with women in this world. We are judged on looks. That is what we first see in each other. See in others. How we judge ourselves. 

Never mind that the above mentioned person is a doctor. Or runs 8:00 miles. Or trains dogs. Or is kind and helpful. No. All she sees is thighs. (Thighs that help her run 8:00 miles!) For that is what the world wants us to see and value. 

One of my biggest fears in having children was this: that I would gain too much weight, not lose it and then be unlovable. 
Reading this now, it seems the most ridiculous thing in the world. But I believed it then. 

And then somewhere in between having 2 kids, and maybe after looking in the face of my daughter, who will likely face some similar battles, I stopped. I stopped caring what I weighed. I stopped weighing myself 4, yes,  4 times a day. I stopped worrying about stretch marks. I stopped giving a shit about what anyone else thought. 

And I started putting the effort of my thoughts into other things. Into playing with my kids and encouraging them in areas I thought were important. I started new goals for myself. I started embracing my messiness and imperfections. I started running even more and being ok with whatever my times were and accepting my efforts. I am investing in opportunities I find fulfilling. Including myself. 

I wish I could draw a map on how I got here. And then hand it to you. I have some ideas, cannot fully trace them. But I think it started somewhere in the ballpark of struggle and then gratitude. Gratitude changes a lot of things. And it changes your focus. 

For In the scheme of things. My bra or butt size means nothing. Nothing. Not one thing. It will not be mentioned in any epitaph or obituary. I never saw a tombstone that said "pleasantly plump". And so I will not address it. I will not entertain self-deprecating thoughts in myself or others. They (the thoughts)will be tossed out like the garbage. 

I will not ask you if you lost weight. I will not ask you how. I don't care nor will I comment on if you "should" eat ice cream or carrots or how much of it. I will not correct you if you put your looks down. I will not joke about my baby pooch. (That pooch gave me my 2 greatest accomplishments). 

Instead I will use that energy to address that which has value to me. Everything else. Who you and I are. Who you and I want to be. Our visions. Our accomplishments. Our character. Funny stories. Laughs. Drink coffee with lots of sugar in it. 

That matters. 
That I will discuss with you all day long. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Missing momma

It used to drive me crazy, how even as an adult, whether in greeting or saying goodbye, she would kiss me on my lips. Never a cheek or forehead. Always the lips. 

Now I would give anything for a sweet momma peck on the lips. 

Sometimes I think I miss her more now that I am a momma myself. I feel like I understand her more. I get some of the quirks and the ways she would annoy me. I also enjoy annoying my babies. 

I think what I really miss, is having someone I can call or ask questions to when I start wondering about my own infancy or milestones or experiences. 

Was I a good sleeper?
Did she nurse, bottle feed or both? 
Did she experience ppd after birth. Or after weaning like I did? Or at all?
Did she and dad argue about names?
Did she miss having her own momma to share these thoughts/feelings/ experienced with?
Did she ever just stare at her babies in wonder too?
What was is like when she had 2 miscarriages? How did she cope?
Was she scared during labor? Was anyone with her?
What did she do when a fever went up?
How did she discipline early on?
What did she do for self care with 3 little littles?
Did she feel guilt over calling a babysitter?

With 1,001 questions, I want to dial up heaven. Have some coffee and a mom to mom chat session. 

I wish she were here to criticize my parenting. 
Or tell me that I will get through the terrible 3's
To compare notes
To beam with pride at my babies. 
The babies she used to harrass me to have. My daughter, who bears her name, has tiny tiny feet like she did. My sons hair is blonde, just like hers. I wish she could see them. Hold them. 

Mother's Day can be bittersweet. It symbolizes both my greatest gift and accomplishment. Yet also my greatest loss. 

It does me little good to linger over what I do not have. I do acknowledge my grief. It seeps into the littles cracks of every day life. It cannot be helped. And sometimes I am sad about it. 

But I must also trust who she raised me to be.  And accept what is. I think she she did well. 

Her legacy lives on in 2 precious faces. 

Until we meet again. 

(From my wedding 10 years ago)

Monday, May 4, 2015

In this moment

Tonight I stood holding my infant in her dark room, rocking her back and forth. Willing her to go to sleep. 

It was my third attempt to put her down for the night. The poor dear has a top tooth that is ready to emerge at any given moment. It also didn't help that my 3 year old was fussing mightily about going to bed. Ah, bed time. There are no words. 

In the midst of it, while patting her back, a moment of clarity emerged. What the experts might call an exercise in mindfulness. An appreciation for the moment. 

I recalled how 4 years ago, I would have lied, stolen or sold my soul for this very moment. To hold a precious one of my own. And to have another the next room over would have been considered above and beyond a blessing. Anything for the right now. 

I thought about how in 10 years my babies will be too cool and too big for this, to be held and rocked to sleep. And 10 years beyond that they will most likely not be under this roof. How in those future times, I would do anything for this very moment again. I will wonder where the time went. 

And so we rocked. A little bit longer. A few more pats on the back. Sniff of the hair. Trying to imprint this feeling, this picture, in my memory. 

To be in this chaos, this home, this very action, this moment is a gift. 

If only I could remember this tomorrow 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Recreating an Audrey Classic

A few days before Christmas, Bill had something lying under the tree for me. This was highly unusual because A. It was wrapped before Christmas Eve and B. We had an almost 3 year old who believed that all wrapped presents were for him. 

My hubby handed me the gift after our son went to bed and stated that I needed to open it early. 

So with curiousity and trepidation I started to unwrap what looked like a clothing box. I was desperately hoping it wasn't a sweater. Bless his heart, he tries with the sweater thing every year. Tries. 

Instead what I found was an office clip board. Attached were about 6 pieces of white printer paper. 

Each page read the following:

1. London?
2. Paris?
3. Rome?
4. Istanbul?
5. 2015
6. You choose

I was rendered speechless. Hubby of course was recording this with his phone. About 5,000 thoughts went through my head at once. 

I finally decided on a "how?" Question. 
I couldn't quite figure out what was happening. How we could afford this. Why this wasn't Ireland, which we have been holding out for one day. 

He put the camera down and explained. Apparantly the week before he was home with the kids watching PBS (not out of the ordinary at all) and they were having a pledge drive. We've been avid PBS viewers for quite some time but have never donated. Bill considered this a good time, plus he'd get some Rick Steve's DVDs to give me as a Christmas present (which I LOVE Rick Steve's and his nerdy little cargo pants and fanny pack)

And by doing so his name was put into a drawing to win a trip through Rick Steve's travel company. 

And a few days later. They drew his name. My husbands name. For a free Flipping trip to flipping Europe!!!!

Ok to one of 4 cities in Europe. The above mentioned ones. 

The urgency was to get the paperwork in for tax purposes done by the end of the year. The paperwork required a notarization of my signature. 


So back to how I am going to Europe for free. I mean taxes I guess. But it's all expenses paid. Airfare. Most meals. Lodging. And fully guided by a Rick Steve's approved guide. 

I have never left North America. I always regretted my lack of courage and lack of finances in my younger years to dive in and explore foreign lands. 

As you can imagine, I am losing my mind with excitement. 

And after very thorough research on my part, I made a decision. 

We chose Rome, Italy. 

It will be my "Roman Holiday". Just like Audrey Hepburn. Without the being a princess and getting a pixie haircut. 

We go this fall. Without children. After baby turns one. 

Bill wins every argument for the next 5 years. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ben and the big guy

Much to my chagrin, the closest and most convenient store to where we live is Walmart. I'm not getting into why I dislike Walmart, but alas, I'm a hypocrite because I find myself there regularly. 

Luckily Ben listens to me pretty well while we are there. It may or may not have anything to do with a Dunkin Donuts bribe. But I let my now 3 year old run free because he always stays in my sight. He loves to look at people and run fast and giggle and point of every Batman or other thing of interest he sees. 

This pointing things out is usually adorable and makes me laugh a little. Until the inevitable little guy observation that mortifies parents and stops them in their tracks. Ok. It did for me. 

There was a gentleman at Walmart the other day who was rather large in size. I don't mean 7 feet tall, but morbidly obese. Walking was obviously difficult for him. I heard other customers commenting under their breath. Judgemental things. I felt bad for him. 

Then my son stops his running and points at this gentleman and yells "big guy!!!" Twice. The "big guy" obviously heard him. The entire store must have heard him. My heart stopped and I was the most embarrassed parent in the world for a split second. Internally I was panicking. "Oh my God! What has he done!" 

It's amazing how fast your brain can flow through approximately 1 million thoughts in the matter of  2 seconds. Luckily One thought included remembering that my son was only 2 and just making one of his observations. This brought my blood pressure down a little. 

And I responded with the first somewhat not horrible thing to say. 

I asked Ben to "say 'hi' to the guy"

And Ben said "hi guy"

And the guys face, whose looked equally as mortified, perked up a little, and waved and said "hi" back to my son. We smiled at each other, the big guy and I, and moved on. 

I have no idea what the guy thought of this interaction. Or how many people remind him of his size on a regular basis. My heart hurt for him afterwards. 

I don't know that I can fully explain why I chose the response that I did. 
I can think of a few intelligent counselor-y answers to explain myself in retrospect. Like I didn't want to shame Ben or didn't want big guy to feel worse or sometimes people feel invisible and want to be "seen" as a person, not just a "big guy". 

But that would not be honest.

In a situation sometimes, you just respond. 

But as I ponder what happened, it does make me more thoughtful of other future such encounters. Ben is 3 now and still very observant. Baby will be doing the same things before I can even blink my eye. 

How do I teach them in simple ways to be themselves, be honest but also honor other peoples existence and feelings. 

These little moments mean something. Even if I don't know how yet. 

My Lord, parenting is a trip.