Happy Mother's Day 2011

On my second Mother's Day, I woke up early and left the family in bed to run my first ever race. It felt awesome to do something for myself, but at the same time to set a healthy example for my daughter. As I was running, I thought about how Julianna is the best gift I've ever been given. She truly is the meaning in my life, and I hope that I can live that life with intention, earning the beautiful title, "mother".

Thank you Julianna, my little shadow, for allowing me the opportunity to teach you what I know about the challenges and beauty of life.

It's an honor.

Recently a friend of mine forwarded an essay to me which evidently has been moving around the "internet world" for a while now. It was the first time I had read it. A beautiful tribute to Motherhood, it's eloquently and wisely written, and I'd like to share it with you.

An essay by Anna Quindlen, worth reading again and again....
All my babies are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past. 
Everything in all the books I once poured over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, have all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories. What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me, was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all. 
Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout. One child is toilet trained at 3, his sibling at 2. 
When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow. I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month old who did not walk. Was there some thing wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China . Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk, too. 

Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the, 'Remember-When- Mom-Did Hall of Fame.' The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pick up. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, 'What did you get wrong?'. (She insisted I include that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I include that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking? 
But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them, sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get onto the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less. 
Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be. The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me. I was bound and determined to learn from the experts. It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were. 


Running | My Story


Since I began running, this has been my flood of emotions. However, despite the roller coaster, in the last ten weeks, I've run four times per week without fail. According to what I've logged on Dailymile.com, I have covered 133 miles and have burned 112.23 doughnuts. Technically, I could say I've never eaten a doughnut in my life (of course, then I'd have to admit to the few extra glasses of red wine and Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups I've enjoyed recently)!

My journey thus far reminds me of a tip given by my parents when I was in middle school. "The people you associate yourself with quickly define who you are and who you will become." It's a lesson that is even more poignant to me now than it was then. I joined Stroller Strides last October merely hoping to get into better shape. Little did I know, I was surrounding myself with inspirational women who weren't afraid of a challenge. When the topic of joining Running Club (with a race in mind) arose, I distinctly remember one of them saying, "I'll do it, if you do it." To which I responded, "I'm really not excited about running, and there is no part of me that wants to run a half marathon." Dare say I was a bit negative? But the truth was, there has always been a small part of me that wished I was a runner. So I signed up with the 5k race as my goal. And before I knew it, the runner's high began to kick in. I was proud of myself. Proud to be there, rather than on my couch.

We started out easy, running 60 seconds, walking 90 seconds for 20 minutes. Honestly, even that was a challenge at the time. But I showed up, despite the few days there was snow and ice on the ground, and the other days when it was pouring rain.

The weather conditions actually proved to be invigorating; I was doing something I would have called crazy just a month prior.

I've never been much of a team sports player. I prefer to challenge myself when no one else is watching or comparing. But Running Club has provided the perfect opportunity to push myself while building commoraderie. I have two buddies who consistently run with me, both beginners. But we've worked through the dread, we've motivated through the breathlessness and we've built pride through our accomplishments.

Six weeks into the program, we were still doing a run/walk mix, and that Saturday we were scheduled to run 2.5 miles straight with no stops. Anxious about our upcoming challenge, we even "celebrated" our last "walk period", savoring it with pride and a fair bit of apprehension. I remember that last run/walk day more than the actual 2.5 mile run. We were still in disbelief that we could do it, even though we had been able to follow the training schedule thus far. Two and a half miles sounded RIDICULOUS. And now, only three weeks later, we have completed a 6 mile run!

Needless to say, I skipped the 5k race and signed up for the 10k (6.2 miles).

All of this progress has not come without complication. I'm struggling with a fair amount of knee pain and a few other aches here and there. It's disappointing to put in so much effort, to resist inertia, to show up and then have set backs. But that is part of life, right? I might not appreciate the ups without a few downs along the way. And in the process, I'm becoming more educated. I'm learning that to be an athlete (dare I call myself that) requires maintenance. And that may be a blessing in disguise, because maintenance involves self awareness, honesty, knowledge and attention. It's not just about driving the car, it's about valuing it.

(Had to include a couple cute pics of my running partner... discovering the awesomeness of having her own personal music player.)

This weekend, on Mother's Day, I'll awake around 5am, drink water, eat oatmeal, prep, and drive to Everett, WA to run my first race. It will mark the beginning of what I hope will be my running career. Certainly an accomplishment, but I already know it's well within reach. It even sounds, dare I say it, easy, because I'm already looking forward to the next commitment. On June 25, I'll be participating in the Seattle Rock N' Roll, a half marathon (13.1 miles). Insert that list of words I mentioned at the beginning of this post, because I'll be feeling them all over again over the next two months!

Stay tuned...
"Your biggest challenge isn't someone else. It's the ache in your lungs and the burning in your legs, and the voice inside you that yells "CAN'T", but you don't listen. You just push harder. And then you hear the voice whisper "can". And you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are."  
(A quote from the Facebook group, I <3 to run)