Leap of Faith


Our summer so far has been very busy.  Compared to last year, though I’m not complaining, but when I envision summer, it seems like life should be moving slower, and it shouldn’t be so rush-rush- every day.

Someone once told me as your kids get older, life gets busier and that seems to be the case.  I’ve been working, juggling daycare, and trying to plan some fun activities for the boys.  I have also had to start looking around for a new place to live once the house we are living in sells.  There has been a re-organization at work, and it just doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in the day to get everything done that I have and want to get accomplished.  It is really overwhelming at times, realizing it is just me now.  I don’t have any safety nets- if I don’t succeed in balancing work, finances, time with the kids- Ryan and Cole will suffer.  The practical, over-planning part of me feels like I should work as many hours as I can, and then some. 

Recently a good friend, who is a single mom of four, told me what she regretted.  She said once she was divorced, she panicked about finances, and she made that her goal. She figured if she was okay financially, she wouldn’t be so stressed and it would mean security for her and her kids.  She says though she really missed a lot of time with her kids, and they all suffered.  She says she will never get that time back with her children, and the financial security came at way too high of a price.  She told me no matter how crazy things seem to get, keep my kids as a priority, and everything else will work out. 

So keeping that advice in mind, I am happy the boys and I have been able to do some fun things so far this summer.  We’ve been swimming a lot with my sister and her daughter- the boys’ cousin.  Last week when I was working and our childcare provider was on vacation, my sister took all the kids to the zoo, and they had a blast.  Yesterday I was able to take the boys to see a local production of The Music Man.  We have a camping trip with my dad, (Papa Dan), planned for July, and some vacation time planned.   

In less than two months, school will start and Ryan will be in school full-time.  Cole will be in preschool, and I will be working more hours.  It is the end of an era for us.  My kids and I will all be starting new chapters in life, and making adjustments.  I am very grateful it seems like it will be good timing for everyone.  

As I think about this last block of time we have- it really is a gift.  I have been so fortunate to be able to share the majority of these early years with my children.  With all the difficulties in the last year and a half, the highlight has been being able to have time with Ryan and Cole. 

There are a million things I should and could be doing this summer.  It is hard for me to not have every detail planned out. This is a very hard “leap of faith” I’m taking, but I believe it is the right step now for the boys and I. 

But for the next two months, I’m not going to worry or stress.  I’m going to get done what I need to, and enjoy the time with my children.  I’m believing as my friend advised, put the kids first, and everything else will fall into place. 

My friend, Steve, has a great blog- Fleur de Life.  He ends every post by tying in what he wrote about as the Fleur de Life-the important things that really matter.  I love the quote below, and to “borrow” from Steve- taking a leap of faith…-it is the Fleur de Life!

  “When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly.” –Barbara J. Winter 

The Iron Scooter Challenge

Ryan and Cole have been asking for scooters.  Their friends in the neighborhood all have scooters and they have been wanting to join them on their scooter rides.  I held off to make sure they really wanted them, and they have kept asking for them, so Wednesday night I got both boys a new scooter.    

Thursday after work was scooter inaugural day.  It was drizzling off and on, but they still wanted to try them out.  Ryan’s scooter popped out of the box.  There was a release lever I had to adjust, and his was ready to go.  He zipped around in the kitchen while I opened Cole’s. 

My palms turned sweaty, and my heart started beating fast, when I opened the box to Cole’s scooter and saw a bag of nuts, screws, washers, and other silver things, I had no name for.  There was also something that looked like a hybrid wrench, a piece of paper with a drawing of a scooter that looked like it was made by a 3-year old, the handle bars, and the front wheel.  It all clunked out of the box. 

I am NOT mechanical.  Assembling things together is one of the things I hate most.  There is ALWAYS a part missing, or part of the directions that don’t make sense.  If I had known I had to actually attempt to assemble Cole’s scooter, I would have waited until someone could help me.  But I was already too far in it.  I had my 6-year old zipping around in the kitchen on his scooter, and my almost 4-year old, with his big blue eyes looking at me, asking me when I would have his scooter together.  This is what “they” mean when “they” say parenting challenges you in ways you never imagine.

I picked up the directions, and the first step was:

Assemble back wheels with washers, axle, and spring washer 

What is a spring washer exactly? Are there summer and winter washers too?  The wheels were already on the deck.  Did this mean they weren’t really on securely, or someone nice from the factory did the first step for me?  I decided the latter, and moved on to step 2:

Insert axle through rear axle bearings

Uh-yea. I had no idea what that meant, so I hoped it was still a step I could skip thanks to the nice person in the factory in China.  Step 3:

Slide a plastic spacer and third washer onto axle bolt followed by second wheel

Yay- it was my lucky day. Clearly this step was also done too. Step 4:

More mumbo-jumbo about axels, washers, and nuts.  Then I noticed on the bottom of the directions, it said the assembly is for general use, and you may need to refer to the back side for more specific directions.  I knew it was too easy.   I read through the “specific” directions once, than twice, and then a third time.  They should have had a class in this mechanical language in school.  Step 1:

Slide metal washer down over the stem of the front forks.  Slide the stem of the front forks up into the main frame until it is seated on the metal washer at the base of the front forks stem.  Place the clamp bracket assembly over the stem of the front forks so that the nut and bolt face towards the foot deck.  Ensure the slot in the fork stem of the front forks faces towards the foot deck.

Dear God…what did I ever do to deserve this?  Forget Iron Chef- they should make a reality show on who can assemble kid’s stuff in under an hour.   

I won’t bore you with steps 3 and 4 of the instructions, but it got down to clamp nuts, 13mm spanners, and minimum / maximum heights.  Ryan was a great help- he held a lot of parts still for me while I twisted the hybrid wrench around the bolt. I just kept hoping,-somehow- when I was done, it would be a scooter. 

I finally had it together and had Cole get on it to try it out.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself, until he touched it, and the front handle bars, slid down all the way into the front pipe-thing.  If Cole was about 24 inches shorter, he would have had one cool scooter.  Instead he said, “I don’t think that is right Mommy.” 

So I took the damn scooter apart and started all over again.  Somehow the directions made just a little more sense, but that was probably because now I had read them fifty times, instead of just three times.  Half way through, I realized my error.  Silly me.  It was right there in step 1: Ensure the slot in the fork stem of the front forks faces towards the foot deck.  The small slot was not facing the foot deck- I had put it on backwards. 

I was humming “Hallelujah” as I screwed the final nut or bolt back on again.  My kids were not impressed.  Ryan was looking at me, and pointed to the front wheel. The handle bars were now turned backwards.  If Cole had Inspector Gadget arms, he would have had one cool scooter.

“They” say the third time is the charm.  I unscrewed all those fricking bolts, nuts, and autumn washers- again.  This time I had Ryan hold everything- the frame, the handle bars, and the front wheel while I assembled it.  Finally, when I was done, I kid you not, sun streamed in through the window, and I knew this was a sign.  The moment of truth came when he stepped on it.  Nothing fell down.  His arms worked with it.  Everything lined up right.  Cole had one cool scooter!

I am not going to go crazy and start buying stuff to assemble myself like bookcases, and desks, but I am glad I was able to figure it out. It only took three times, I had a slight headache when I was done, I had a washer left over- not sure if it was a spring or winter washer- but my son finally had his scooter.   

Pictures of the final products & the kids enjoying them:

Love his curled tongue

They found mud, and the scooters were now 4X drive scooters. Their first ride gets thumbs up 

My 20 Mile Running Week

This past week, I ran 20 miles!  If someone had told me in September, when I started running for one race,  I’d run 20 miles -ever- I would have laughed!

I ran two times this week under five miles, once at 6.2 miles (a 10K distance) and I ran the longest distance I have ever run, at 8 miles.  I was really happy with the 10K distance run.  My time on that was 1:01.  I ran this outside in a lot of mud at a park.  At first I didn’t want to get mud all over me, but after a mile I figured why not, and had fun running through the muck.  I have been wondering if I am going to be able to run my first 10K, the Bolder Boulder, in May sub 68 minutes, and it gave me a lot of confidence today that I will be able to.   

Physically, I’m a little tired but not as much as I thought I would be.  After Ryan was born, I had some funky hip pain that lasted for about 6 months.  I had an MRI done on it, and the doctor told me sometimes after pregnancy the muscles and ligaments never quite get back to “normal.”  He predicted the pain would go away, and few weeks later it did.  However, when I was running the 8 miles, I felt that exact same pain start.  I did a few stretches and used the foam roller on the spot and that seemed to help, but I still feel it slightly.  I am hoping it is a “running” pain and it will work itself out, as I keep running longer distances. 

This week I also got a Garmin Forerunner 405.  I used it today for the first time, and I think I am in love.  For the first time, I can see how fast I’m running each mile, my pacing, and I don’t have to worry about knowing the distances ahead of time.  Today I ran my fastest mile in mile 5, which was kind of a surprise for me.  I can download all the information to my computer to keep better track of my workouts.  I am going to be reviewing it shortly, after I have used it more. 

I am going to keep increasing my distances every week.   From what I have read, usually it is not recommended to increase distance by more than 10% at a time to avoid injuries.  I am really happy I had such a productive running week, and am hoping it will all pay off in April.  My dad has been training to run in a 5K with me, and we are going to do one mid-April.  I am so proud of how hard he has been working, and I know he will do great.  I am going to go for my personal best time for a 5K so that means under 27 minutes. 

This next month, I am going to run farther, run a little harder, and run a little faster.  I think if I do these things, I’ll be able to reach my goal.  I reached one this week I never imagined myself reaching, and it is just the start. 

Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors.
Try to be better than yourself.
–William Faulkner

Saying Good-Bye to My Mom

On Monday afternoon, my siblings and I found out that my mom was in the intensive care unit, in serious condition in Minnesota. We were told her condition was worsening, so my sister Mara and I decided to go to Minnesota.  We arrived on Wednesday. 

Three days later, I’m sitting next to my mom in her hospital room while she sleeps, writing this.  My mom is dying and is not going to recover. The only option available would extend her life by a maximum of 3 months, and she would be in the hospital, connected to machines. Yesterday my Aunt Laura (who is a nurse), Mara, my mom and myself talked.  My mom knows her condition but how do you just decide you are done?  How do you tell your children that you want to die?  Laura says it is very rare when someone can make that decision-fully conscious and aware like my mom is- she said it is normally just too difficult. 

Laura and my mom have been friends (not just sister-in-laws) for over 30 years.  Laura said the words that we could not- she spoke aloud what needed to be said, but we couldn’t say, “…you aren’t going to get better, and you are going to die.” 

After that Mara and I talked to my mom.  She was considering the alternative option that would give her a few more weeks, but would only be delaying the inevitable.  I don’t think anything has ever been as hard, as the conversation that followed that Mara and I had with my mom.

A bit later her doctor returned to tell her he could set up the treatment, and my mom, in a strong voice told him no.  She told him in the days she had left, she didn’t want to be on machines, with tubes in her body.  She wanted to be comfortable and pain free, surrounded by her family.  Her doctor agreed this was the best option, and she had made a wise decision. 

This afternoon my mom’s wishes will be carried out, and she is moving to a highly recommended hospice. We will be with her in the hospice.  They will allow us to bring her two cats in to visit my mom.  They will cook anything she likes, and she will be pain free, and comfortable.

The last few days have been mainly a blur.  I am so emotionally and mentally drained- I’m just in hospital mode.  My sister and I feel like we have been here for months- not days.  We knew “one day” this would happen, but I don’t think you can ever be prepared for this. 

All of my mom’s friends, and co-workers have been by to see her, and they are amazing.  They have told us how much they adore my mom, and what a wonderful and loving person she is.  They have brought my family much comfort and their kindness has touched us all. 

Our family and friends have been so wonderful as well- they step in when we can’t.  I honestly don’t know what we would have done if Laura hadn’t come.  We didn’t ask her- she just booked a ticket and came.   My sister-in-law, Kat, is taking care of us.  She makes sure we eat, she drives us where we need to go (directions are not Mara and I’s strong point), and she makes my mom laugh.  Our friends back home have sent fruit baskets, flowers, directions when we are lost, advice, and support.  One friend is coming in tonight to help Mara and I in these final days, when Laura has to go home.  My mom’s hospital roommate has bonded with our family, and she has said our mom is her hero.  Old friends of my mom that we haven’t heard from in years are calling and offering their support.  My mom has commented so many times in the last few days that she never knew so many people cared about her.  We are all so grateful for all of the love, support, and help all our family and friends have shown our family.

My mom has a few days left to live, and this time with her is precious and a gift.  We have had many good moments and conversations already.  She has talked to her grandchildren on the phone, and has been able to hear their voices one last time. 

We only get one chance to do this.  While the emotions are extremely difficult, I feel it will be a true blessing to be with my mom when the time comes for her to pass away.  I am very grateful I get this final block of time to love my mom, and say good-bye.

My Path Back to Running

“To get to the finish line, you’ll have to try lots of different paths.”
– Amby Burfoot

My shin pain has finally healed, but it hasn’t been easy or quick. Despite resting for most of November, I still had shin pain.  I was pretty much sick with bronchitis for most of the month of December, and I thought after a few weeks of rest, the shin pain would be gone.  But the opposite was happening.

The more I rested, the pain would go away for a day, but as soon as I went on a walk or a light jog the pain would return.  I have read so many articles on shin splints, shin pain, etc., I am like a walking encyclopedia on the subject now.   I tried countless stretches and different running techniques trying to heal them.  While some of these things helped, nothing really “cured” them for good or stopped the pain completely. 

My friend, Alison, recommended a foam roller to me in November, but I had been too busy to get around to ordering one.  I finally did a few weeks ago, and experienced pain using it on my shins that brings tears to my eyes, just thinking about it now. (She warned me it was going to hurt at first!)  But after using it for about five minutes (that was all I could stand), I noticed the deep muscle pain I had around my shins seemed a lot better.  The next morning the pain was almost gone.  That had been the most relief I had experienced up to that point.  

Another friend suggested a walking / light running plan after the shin pain had stopped, and I credit that plan with not only keeping me in the game so to speak, but helping me improve.  I was able to walk and run while I healed, and was doing the 5K distance faster than I had been able to run it previously.  It was really amazing to see that my body was capable of performing like that, but it hardly felt like any work at all.

About two weeks ago, after going for a run on my lunch hour, I had immediate shin pain- again.  I was frustrated why the pain seemed to be gone at times, only to return at other times.  I kept using the foam roller, and worked up to using it for 15 minutes at a time, and the pain was no longer deep- but just more on the surface.  After I was done with the roller, there was no pain at all in my shins.   I started to wonder if it had something to do more with my muscles being weak in my shins.

I came across a very short video a few days later, that has no medical backing whatsoever, but what the person was saying, seemed like it made sense.  They said shin splints and pain in the shins is simply a muscle imbalance.  In short, the shin muscles are not as strong as the calf muscles. They suggested a very simple stretch for five minutes a day, which would strengthen the shin muscles. I figured trying it once couldn’t hurt anything.

Like the foam roller, the stretch hurt!  I was hitting my pillow the last few minutes, but when I was done, there was no pain at all!  Not even light pain.  I was amazed.  I wondered if it was a fluke, but the next day my shins felt wonderful.  I tried the stretch again, and it didn’t hurt quite as bad, and I had the same results. Not only was the pain gone, it wasn’t coming back.  This was right around Christmas, and I have been doing the stretch every other day or so, and I haven’t had any shin pain at all!  Sometimes after running the muscles are tight around my shins, but a few minutes with the foam roller works the tightness out.   I know not everything works for everybody, but this simple stretch, along with the foam roller, really helped relieve my shin pain. 

I also started working with some visualization techniques and started doing more mental preparation.  I realized that I could be in the best physical shape, but if my outlook and thoughts weren’t “in shape,” too, my physical condition will only get me so far.  So much of running success is connected to my thoughts, as I am learning. 

After this work for the last two months, I have decided I am ready to try another 5K race and it is tomorrow.  Alison is going to run in it as well!  It is going to be cold.  It just snowed here, and there is likely to be ice and snow, but I’ve been running for the last few weeks in these conditions.  Yak Trax had been suggested to me several times, and I got a pair last week.  They work awesome on the snow and ice! 

I went on a pre-race run the other day, with the path almost completely covered in snow and ice- most of it wasn’t even plowed or shoveled.  It was impossible to get any kind of pacing down, because it was so uneven and rough.  I am pretty certain the actual race course won’t be this bad, because it is through a town, where most of the streets will at least be paved.  My time for the 5K distance on this run was 29:16. Other than the last 5K race I did this was my second best time ever! 

I have rested, I have rebuilt, and I found my path back.  Now it is time to put it all together and run!  

And I couldn’t be happier.