Tuesday, September 27, 2011

And She Races!

On September 24, 2011, we celebrated the life of my husband's nephew, K, who was killed last year after being struck by a car leaving school. Over the last year, my sister-in-law's friend worked tirelessly to organize a 5k/10k race in the memory of K, with all the proceeds to be donated to a scholarship fund set up in his name, and to be distributed to a high school senior through the year 2021 (when Cheese's nephew would have graduated high school).

Almost as if K put in a special request to the Big Guy, the day was incredibly beautiful. slightly brisk, with a brilliant blue sky and minimal wind. We gathered early to get settled, visit with the 1000+ people registered for the race, watch the 1-mile children's race, and get ready to sweat in the memory of K.

Me, Cheese, and his family.

(His hand is not actually on my butt - turns out, my ass has widened to the point of being unrecognizable - thanks pregnancy!)

At the start - Cheese is in front of me (126), and I am slightly behind, in white sunglasses, looking down as I cross the mat.

I ended up running with another runner who was 17 weeks pregnant,and who later commented like three times, "That was the slowest 5k I ever ran!" I wasn't sure if that was an insult to me or not, but I am pretty sure that no one forced her to stay with me the whole run. AND I am also pretty sure that I heard her weezing over that last hill, right around the time that her ability to verbally communicate me ceased. So I guess if you choose to run a 5k with a chick that's 7-months pregnant, well, then, you probably have to get over the fact that you're not going to win the darn thing.

Me. in the white glasses to the left. Yeah, I was tugging my shorts out of my thighs. Apparently the thighs got super hungry during the race and decided to eat them (Joys of Pregnancy #211).

So here I am, coming up the finish line, bring it in at 31:50 (not too shabby for a chick who is sporting an extra 30+ pounds and a human in her stomach). And I really did try to race it as much as possible - I was able to maintain a conversation the whole time, but I was also pushing my limits a bit because I felt like - hey - if I am doing this in the name of K, then I need to try to do my best. And at 7-months preggo, a 31:50 was pretty darn close to my best.



Bringing it home strong!

Me and Cheese later that night at an appreciation dinner for the volunteers.

The following day, my husband participated in a golf tourney in K's memory, which was also incredibly well-supported. The weekend was wrapped up with me and Cheese, laying on the floor of my sister-in-law's living room with the rest of the family, reflecting on the awesomeness of the weekend, and laughing until I peed my pants. Over four days, there was not a single moment absent of love and appreciation. In the last year, I have been incredibly amazed to see how strong Cheese's family has been through this tragedy. It's nothing short of an honor to be consider part of this family.

So here's to another 10 years of celebrating K's life. May they be just as wonderful as this weekend.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Third (as in trimesters and number of fudgicles consumed tonight)

Ah, yes. Time keeps just ticking away.

How far I've come from counting my weeks off by training blocks towards a race, to counting my weeks off by fetal development towards a little bambino. A life once organized around four week-blocks of swim, bikes and runs in progressively growing hours/miles, to a life now organized around trimesters in a progressively growing belly, hips, boobies and butt.

And so it goes.

At most recent count, I am days away from being seven months. I see that my last post had me at 6 1/2 months, so I guess my posting is getting a little more regular, right?

And since I don't have a picture of what I look like at this moment (which you wouldn't want to see anyways, because I look like a massive slob sitting here in a lounger busting out of a race shirt from a race done exactly one year ago and boxer shorts with an elastic waistband at it's breaking point), I will post a picture of what I looked like at the last post at 6 1/2 months.

(p.s. I know this goes against everything I have said previously about posting belly pics, but I feel these are not completely offensive - oh, and ignore my messy bed in the background - I don't make it when my husband is on the road, which he has been for a month):

The clothing version (taken the morning of Ironman Madison):

The "going to the gym" version (taken the day before Ironman Madison):

I can't completely account for why the one picture makes the bump looks smaller, despite the fact they were taken only 24 hours apart, but oh well. Some mornings I wake up and the little guy looks small, and some days - like the gym day - I wake up and it looks ENORMOUS.

Speaking of the gym, here's the skinny on the fitness at (now) almost seven months.

So remember how I mentioned I was training with my sister for the marathon? Well, that was awesome, and I loved it, but my doctor put the kabash on that last week. Specifically, she said I need to knock it off with the 10-milers, and that really anything over 5-6 is pushing it. I think part of the reason is that the baby is pretty low, and really pushing against my pelvis, so (if I'm being honest) it's actually starting to hurt a little.

I wasn't all that surprised or even disappointed to hear it because my last long run was 11 with my sister, and I could have sworn I heard little Baby D screaming, "Momma, no more! Please stop or I'll fall out!"

And I did five on Sunday while sherpa-ing my sister's 20-miler and it felt fine. So five miles it is for the time being.

And next up on the running schedule is a race! This weekend I am going to Kansas for the 5k/10k memorial race for Cheese's nephew who was killed last year at this time. Saturday is the race, and Sunday is a big golf outing (which I will not be participating in, but rather will be supporting everyone in my fancy new maternity jeans and wedge sandals, thankyouverymuch). I probably won't "race" the race, but rather will just try to do my best and enjoy the day with the family. Shoo, I'm happy to just slap a race number on and see an actual finish line. Holla!

Speaking of Cheese - have I mentioned I haven't seen my husband in a month? Yikes. Won't he be surprised to come home to a newly rounded out wife! Lemme tell you - not like he can really do anything for me, but it kinda sucks having him gone for most of this pregnancy. It's just...hard. I miss him like mad and I know it sucks for him too.

And you know what I look forward to most when he comes home? Well, besides someone to actually cook me dinner so I can stop going to Chipotle all the time? Seeing his face when he feels his kid punch and kick his way out of my belly. And when he sees my belly jump around because the kid is rolling around and stretching his muscles. I know how much it makes me smile, so I can only imagine what Cheese's smile will be like. I am proud to be carrying this man's child. Proud, I tell ya.

So, I have a lot more to talk about, but I my bladder is SCREAMING and I need another fudgicle, so I will wrap it up for tonight.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Where I Was

That morning, I was just a waitress working the breakfast shift at a quirky little restaurant in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago. I was in graduate school at the time, and my biggest concern was making my rent that month – seemed like I was forever living penny to penny that year.

I remember it was a bit slow that morning. But that slowness ended the moment the head chef emerged from the kitchen to tell us a radio report said a plane hit the World Trade Center. I remember standing by the juice bar, wondering what to do with the news. It seemed like just another moment later he reemerged to tell us a second plane hit, and that the word “terrorism” was being used.

I mad-dashed to my phone to call my then-boyfriend, who worked for a local paper – surely he would know what was happening. He confirmed the chef’s reports, but said they were trying to find a tv to figure it out. He would call back.

And he did – when the first tower fell.

Over the course of the next few hours, time was both stopped and blurred. Me and my coworkers struggled to get whatever information we could, and grabbed onto the snippets of information coming from the radio and updates from my boyfriend. But it was hard to make sense of it all. The restaurant stood empty as people undoubtedly were glued in front of their tvs at home.

By noon, however, the place was packed – downtown Chicago was evacuated, and thousands of office dwellers were sent home, many of whom stopped in to grab a bite, share a story, and just feel a connection to total strangers who shared their same fear and anxiety.

In between taking sandwich orders, I hovered close to tables, trying to eavesdrop on conversations to get any information I could about what was happening. As I filled coffee cups, I ached to go home, to see the news, to witness myself what was happening. Being in the restaurant for those first few hours of the worst attack this country has ever seen sort of kept me at an arm’s distance from the horror of what was unfolding out East, and I needed to understand it myself. Simply hearing about was just too much to believe.

When I finally made it home around 330, I turned on the television in my Wrigleyville apartment. Alone and sitting on the couch, I froze at what I saw. I sat still like that for - heck, who knows how long – truly unable to wrap my mind around what my eyes were seeing. Nothing I heard during that day could prepare me for the images I now watched. Even typing this now, it’s hard to push back the tears – I still see it all – blow by blow – in my mind’s eye.

I left the house only twice in the next several days – once to go home and sit with my dad at my family’s home just to be around some comfort and cry, and then once to go to my internship, where I worked with adolescents substance abusers who were looking to us to explain things we ourselves didn’t understand.

Within 12 hours, news had reached me that the younger sister of a close high school friend was missing – she was in the second tower that was hit. And for however surreal those first 12 hours were, the next several days – with this news – knocked me down. This girl – whose house I spent many a night in, and who I drove to school for several years - was fresh out of college, literally brilliant and beautiful and recently employed at a financial firm in New York. She had called her mom after the first tower was hit to say she was okay, and that she was being evacuated. And that was the last time her voice was ever heard.

On subsequent television broadcast of Ground Zero, news cameras often showed the walls of photos of missing persons, and several times this girl’s face appeared on my screen, almost like a yearbook photo, but…not. About a year later, my father received a commemorative 9-11 book, which we had on our coffee table, and there she was again – peering out at me from the pages of this book.

Ten years later, and the images of that day – the feelings, the video, the pictures – still bring tears to my eyes. No matter where I am or what I am doing, I stop and reflect when I see those images. I can't turn away - I won't turn away. In some ways, I may still be trying to understand the enormity of it all - the loss, the devestation, the horror, the grief. I used to think that, like any type of grief, this would eventually get better – and to some degree, it has. But then there are the days when a photo or some video footage can make it feel as raw as it did ten years ago. And every time I choke up, I am surprised at how much it still impacts me.

Perhaps that’s my mind’s way of never forgetting. And that’s fine with me.

Upon reflection yesterday, I also realized something else about that day – prior to it, I was blissfully ignorant of the world outside of the United States. I was proud of my country and thought that others viewed us as the pinnacle of strength and success. While I knew we certainly have our own issues within this country, it never occurred to me that people not only didn’t like us, but hated us. Hated us enough to kill thousands of us. Yeah, I know that sounds stupid, but up to that point, at my age of 25, when would I have ever seen anything that would give me that idea? I would be hard pressed to tell you a time I heard the word “terrorist” prior to that day, much less be able to identify a credible terrorist threat to this country. My ignorance was corrected that day.

I’ve heard a couple times over the last few years, and especially as we neared the 10th anniversary, that we just need to get over this – that we, as a country, just need to move on. And to some degree, I think our country has moved forward – we’ve returned to daily life, we’ve returned to jobs, attended ball games, held elections, stimulated the economy – we haven’t let the terrorists stall or destroy us.

But it disheartens me when I hear things like my 11-year old niece ask the family during a card game at Christmas “What is 9-11?” and then tell us that she has never learned about it in school. This stuns me. It stuns me because, yes, while our country needs to move forward, I don’t think we should ever forget, or we should bury the events from future generations. While so much horror happened that day, it is a part of our country’s history now. Moreover, however bad it was, it was also the one time in my lifetime that I recall our country being completely united. I’ve never witnessed so much country pride as I did in the months following 9-11.

I know we all have our stories, our response to “Where were you that day?” and these are just a few of mine. They are my memories, and they will always be my memories that I hope I never forget. Parts of me will forever be different - especially the part that woke up to the reality of the world around us, and the part that took on a new sense of pride in being an American and all that it means. And I know there is so much more to say - the aftermath, the war, the war heros, the lives lost, the recovery - but I'll leave it at my memories of that specific day.

As Rodney Atkins sings, “We may not always get it all right, but there’s no place else I’d rather live my life – in America.”

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thoughts To Distract From The Fact That, Under Other Circumstances, I Would Be Doing Ironman Madison This Weekend

1.It’s probably a good thing that "Rescue Me" is ending the series. I hate saying that, but shit – the wheels done fell off that wagon about two seasons ago. I adored this series, especially because I watched it off of dvd while I rode my bike on a trainer all winter in prep for IM AZ and feel a special connection to it. But it’s not the same. It’s not funny – it’s just kinda silly. Of course, I say this as I am about to watch the series finale, and, when coupled with my raging hormones, will probably bawl my eyes out. ‘Cause that’s how my mood swings these days.

2.Speaking of raging hormones – holy effing maternity meltdown tonight. It started at Gap Maternity (where I was lured into thinking it held the treasures of cute maternity jeans – spoiler alert – it didn’t). For the first time in my 6 ½ months, I tried on maternity clothes that were not hand-me-downs from my sister’s closet. Long story short - it didn’t go well. Looking at myself in the mirror in my bedroom is not the same ballgame as checking out the new, rounder M in the three-way mirror of the Gap. Couple that with the last few weeks of noticing how – in general – I just look different, older, balder, chalkier and ugly – and I lost it. In a way that you just can’t come back from to resume happy shopping. It’s not a fat versus skinny thing – it’s a getting-older-frumpier-in-need-of-a-haricut-and-makeover-and-holy-shit-nice-eye-bags-and-double-chin thing.

3.I think I have finally spanned the spectrum of pregnancy experiences. From the uber sick to the super tired, and now into the “holy-shit-where-did-this-energy-come-from-did-someone-slip-me-meth?” I can barely wind down enough to go to sleep at night, I can’t read enough books, and I want to run all the time. And when I start running, I don’t want to stop. And my mind starts thinking crazy thoughts like “I could do a half-marathon!” and I need to be talked off of that ledge. Right? Right?!?!?

4.Speaking of running, I have been helping my sister Ellen prepare for her first marathon. I’ve been meeting her on the weekends to keep her company on long runs. Now, I don’t do all of the miles – like, if she has 14, I meet her halfway and do 7, or if she has 10, I can do that – but nothing quite yet over 10. This past weekend, she had 18 – so I did the middle 11-ish (was supposed to be 10 but I slightly miscalculated). Now you can see why the idea of a half-marathon doesn’t seem so crazy, right? Again, right?!?!?

5.I feel I need to qualify the last two points with this: I don’t mention this running stuff because I need/want people to tell me all sorts of validating things. In my last post, I mentioned that girl who always posts the blow-by-blow of her pregnancy on Facebook because she needs people to tell her how awesome she is that she kept running up to her third trimester, yada yada

(Side bar #1 - man,can I just reiterate how much she bugs that SHIT out of me – seriously, how many more half-nekkid growing belly pics or videos of her baby moving around in her belly do I need to see? Dang, I get that you’re excited, but come one – it’s the Internets - how about emailing that shit to your family instead of posting it for the world to see? No offense but the LAST thing I am going to do is post half-nakkid pics or belly videos on Facebook so that shady kid I sat next to in the second grade and who tortured me with his wet boogers and haven’t’ heard from since until he Friended me and who may or may not be an ex-con can see. Uh, no thanks.)

Now where was I? Oh right. For the record, I haven’t maintained my running for bragging rights or praise – I run so I can feel like I’m not a big fat slob, and so the mountain I will need to climb comes January isn’t so, well, enormous. And I write it here because this is like my journal, and that’s what you do in a journal – keep track of the good (running and poptarts) and the bad (body image and celulite). So that’s that.

(Side bar #2 - My above rant about Facebook posting does not apply to those that have documented their pregnancies on their blogs - which I read, enjoy and benefit from - especially posts from active triathlete bloggers who post about workout clothes tips and how to survive these crazy thoughts triggered by this 9-month mess. Yeah, I know - it's a double standard that I have no problem with blog posts but I get annoyed by the Facebook girl. And maybe it's not really about the Facebook posts at all, but more about that girl herself and all her annoyingness. Or maybe I just appreciate the stories/tips as opposed to the status updates. Or maybe I'm just a bitch. Yeah, that might be it.)

6.Speaking of body image, at my niece’s birthday party the other day, my mom told me that she is now convinced I am having a boy. When I asked her why, she stated, “Because when I had a boy, my ass got big like that too.” And in case I wasn’t sure what she was referring to, she pointed to my ass, and held out her hands about two feet wide. Just for a visual perspective. Fuck it - I ate the cake anyways.

7.Speaking of baby, mine’s still growing. Like I mentioned, I am 6 ½ months (although according to my husband and his mad mathmatic skills, I’m 5 months – hmmm…guess when the baby pops out a month ahead of his personal schedule, I’ll feign surprise). Kicking like a maniac, trying to punch out my belly button. And although we have opted not to find out, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if a baby girl doesn't fall out of my lady bits in the next few months.

8.Totally unrelated - I’m always surprised when I watch a Sex in the City that I haven’t seen before. Especially the super early ones in which Carrie actually looks at and talks to the camera. That’s weird – I’m glad they stopped that.

9.Getting back to point 6, this pregnancy is a big mind fuck – especially for chicks like me who have a history of screwy eating and body-image issues. I didn’t realize how much I think or worry about my weight and appearance until last week, when I saw a friend for the first time in a while, and I spent way too much time lamenting about my new – ahem – proportions. Man, I sounded so shallow – and even said that a time or two. I am embarrassed that I care so much. I am keeping my fingers crossed that all this shit will become insignificant once this kid arrives – because that’s what everyone keeps telling me. I wonder if this kid realizes how much pressure she's under - what with all the responsibility of giving me a new personality and world view. Shoo - and she probably thinks all she needs to do is look cute and drink some boobie milk. Dear Baby: This is your wake up call. Momma needs a new perspective.