What defines you

What defines you? Are you someone people know for aesthetic features? For impeccable taste in clothes, scotch, or architecture?  How would you want to be defined?

I was a young, single mom at one point in my life. I’d dropped out of college because daycare and tuition are quite challenging for a 19-year-old with jobs that were just above minimum wage. I lived with my parents and shared a bedroom with my young daughter. I worked in a grocery store video department and started picking up hours in the floral department and general merchandise to make more money. I loved my coworkers and the job was sometimes fun to do. I learned how to arrange and care for flowers and houseplants. I learned some tricks of the trade like spraying shiny stuff on the leaves of peace lilies before sending them to the funeral home (the most common place for those to be sent).

By 22, I was the proud owner of a 3 bedroom condo in a neighborhood that had other kids my daughter’s age. I loved my neighbors. I ran for and was awarded a place on the homeowner’s board. I was responsible for a credit union branch location inside of the executive building of a multinational conglomerate’s world headquarters. Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? I was really just a lone teller/personal banker for the people in that building. My neighbors voted me onto the board to block someone else from getting voted in. The retirees in the neighborhood would go out and campaign for me while I was at work.

I had an off and on boyfriend at that time in my life. I was naive and believed that he’d help me with the bills and we’d live there together happily. He was never around. He was too busy going out and partying all night and sleeping wherever he landed. He’d be gone for weeks sometime. He didn’t have a steady job or contribute to expenses. I actually turned off the cable tv at one point because I didn’t even use it and he was the one on the bill. One of my neighbors was an employee where I worked and we’d talk about my boyfriend. She convinced me to stand up for myself and I’d seen a therapist who echoed these sentiments. Unfortunately, I’d already co-signed on a car loan for him from one of those double digit percentage rate lenders. The collection calls were overwhelming after I’d taken all of his things and placed them in a cardboard box in the driveway of his sister’s home.

At 24, I’d had a mole removed that turned out to be malignant melanoma. I had an excision of the surrounding skin and it was over. No more cancer. The car went back into collections even though we weren’t together anymore. I got a new job that paid more and was closer to home. I had to take steps to get a key and repossess the car myself. The lender wouldn’t take it back no matter how hard I tried to surrender. In order to save my home and my car that I needed for my daughter and myself, I filed bankruptcy.

At 25, I’d been dating the man who would become my husband. We moved in together in a house we looked for together. Within a year, we broke up and I moved back to the neighborhood with the condos as a renter. I barely qualified for section 8 housing. After six months, we’d reconciled and my daughter and I moved back to the house we’d lived in together.

On his 29th birthday (I was 27), he asked me to marry him standing in our bedroom telling me that if I said yes, it would make his birthday perfect. We went to a hockey game that weekend and won their weekly mortgage relief contest, which got us a few months of our house payment paid in full. We married when I was 28 on Easter weekend. It was the most beautiful day in April and the very next morning, there was snow on the ground.

We went to Ireland on our honeymoon and explored castles and towns. We went to a farm where we saw sheep herded and I got to pet one of the border collies and feed one of the sheep. We hiked the national forest and stood upon the Cliffs of Moher. It was awesome. I hope to return one day and see more.

The following year, my daughter was almost 10 when my chubby little boy was born. He was an almost 10 pound baby. I began my life as a stay at home mom. I’d been working full-time for so long, I wasn’t sure what I was expected to do. I just knew that I loved having the time to see my daughter after school for longer and that I got to spend the day seeing my son and having this experience of being with him instead of thinking about it all day at work.

When he was 7 months old, despite me nursing him and being on a low dose birth control, I was pregnant again. Just as soon as I’d found out, something went wrong. That Easter weekend, I started bleeding and despite my efforts to be calm, I was incredibly sad that I’d lost it.

Imagine my surprise when he was 9 months old and I was pregnant again. This time, the dr put me on a gel medication delivered directly into my cervix and I was paranoid the entire pregnancy that it wouldn’t work out. I had a tiny baby girl who was only in the 7 pound range. She was my smallest baby and she seemed fragile to me.

During that pregnancy, we moved 200 miles from our home for my husband’s job. I was 36 weeks pregnant when we made the big move. I had one day where I went to the dr thinking I was going into early labor. That’s how I ended up meeting my new OB in my new town. Me being a frightened mommy.

Now I’ve lived here (a week short of) 5 years. My youngest is in pre-k and will be starting school in the fall. My oldest is a sophomore in high school. My son is in kindergarten. I’m a stay at home mom still. I have run 5 half marathons and will be training for my first marathon. I’ve taken up swimming laps to cross train on my non running days.

I’ve redefined myself many times. Most people do. What part do I think is important? I’ve had so many different experiences and I’ve been afraid and I’ve been vulnerable. I’ve been naive. From those, I’ve learned new things. I’ve experienced. Not everything has been pleasant, but it forms an aggregate of the person that I am today and the person I will be tomorrow. I often tell people that they see strength in me where I see a person who just doesn’t know how to give up. I really don’t know how to just cash in my chips and call it a day. I know when I have to put off my own goals until the time arrives to try again.

So, while someone might try to discount my success as a person to my level of education or my career, I have accomplished the things that I set out to do as they were important. I have stood up for myself when it counted and I’ve taken the falls when I needed to. I’ve asked for help when I needed it. I’ve given help when I’ve seen myself needed. I haven’t stood by and watched life while too afraid to live it. I intend to continue that. That is what drives me and what will continue to. I define who I am at any given time. I make the best of what I have and if I can’t, I admit it.

I’ve been running a few days a week on the treadmill and one outside. I’ve been swimming on my non-running days. I lift weights in the gym. I’m trying to get back to eating less junk food. My meals are healthy and my snacks usually aren’t. I’m not perfect. I’d never claim to be. I just am willing to accept that this is who I am right now and what I need to do to become who I want to be. It requires strength of body and resolve. I’ll still do it. I might not always be happy about the things going on in my life, but I’m not ashamed of where I am or where I’ve been.

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This glass is actually half empty because I drank the other half, but….its refillable and I have more wine. That’s the point.

Blog 19 January 2017

I sat here in front of my laptop for awhile trying to come up with a title and I just can’t. My mind is mush. I am trying to just make heads or tails of what exactly I’m supposed to do to make things less difficult. I’m exhausted. I need to get in my workouts. I can’t get much out of them when I’m exhausted. So goes the cycle.

I went for a run over the weekend and I went back home after getting to the top of my street because I needed something to cover my face from the air. I got that and I left the house again. I ran a different direction and started mentally planning my route. I saw a thick patch of ice coming from a yard onto the sidewalk, so I ran a little into the grass. My shoe was sucked off of my foot into the muddy grass. I tried to hop back, but I can’t actually hop on my ‘bad ankle’ on an uneven surface without some pain. So I walked to my shoe and slid it back on. I saw that two kids on bikes were watching me, so I mumbled “what a day,” and continued my run. Needing to pause to walk a few times and feeling like I wasn’t quite loosening up to run made me decide to take the turn toward home instead of the trail. I was mad that I didn’t finish the run. I’d gone a little over 1.25 mile. I was thinking about just quitting running altogether. I even tried to think of ways I could get out of the marathon I’d signed up for in October.

The kids were home Monday, so I didn’t get to the gym until Tuesday. I walked in and started up the treadmill. I had a wrap on my ankle and the part around my foot was slightly uncomfortable, so I paused the machine and I went to take my shoe off. I pulled the emergency thing that made the program completely stop. Ugh. I got back on and reset the program, but my hips, knees, and ankles were all hurting with each stride even when I slowed to a jog. I changed the program again. I tried to go on a low setting for difficulty and I walked the first minute before picking up to a jog. I just couldn’t get my cadence down and I felt like I was just stomping on the belt. I reset the machine and walked to a stationary bike and rode for 20 minutes of the 30 minute session I programmed. I just wasn’t feeling it, so I walked around the weight area looking around at the machines and trying to decide on what to do. I did a weighted crunch machine and decided my body wasn’t into it. I changed and went home slightly bummed out that I had 2 bad workouts in a row.

Home life last night was extremely difficult to deal with. I have a teenager with bipolar disorder and she was in a volatile mood. We have a brand new hole kicked into one of our walls courtesy of that rage. I wish I could go into it more because I’m sure there are people out there who have been through or are going through this, but I just can’t. We’ll be visiting a mental health professional today. I’ve discussed appropriate behavior with my younger children (4 and 6 years old) who were here to witness it all. My husband missed his group training run for his first half marathon, which I felt bad for him. He was able to wake early today and run, which I’m glad he was able to do.

I feel like I should have some positive note to go on with this. I didn’t quit running. I plan to try to run sometime today if I get time. I’m going to try to slowly increase my outdoor runs distances for now so I can at least run a 10k by April for a challenge I’m signed up for to run a 5k one day and a 10k the next as part of a challenge. I want to run a marathon this October and I want it to be Chicago like I’d planned. I started making handmade crafts and plans for some fundraiser events. I’m nervous that I won’t raise enough money, but I am going to keep pushing forward.

I’m going to try to make things happen so that I have more positive news for you next time I write. I hope the January freeze doesn’t have you too affected in your mood or your workouts. If you want to donate to my fundraising page for running the Chicago Marathon to support Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, my link is:  http://online.ccfa.org/goto/MomJennGoal262

Thanks for reading!!!

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I made these wine bottle decorations just slip onto the bottle neck to give it personality and style!

Winter racing

Hi, I’m probably a little goofy. Why? Because, I signed up to run a challenge race that consisted of a 1700 meter, a 5km, and a 10km race all in one day. A race in January, in the windy city of Chicago. Why would I do that? So many reasons come to mind, but mostly because I was on the high of training for a marathon back in October when I’d signed up for this race. Since I’d already missed my marathon that I paid for, I couldn’t miss another race simply because my silly body wasn’t behaving ideally. It doesn’t mean I didn’t question my sanity a few times, though.

I ran twice in the week leading up to the race. Finishing 3 miles on a cold night gave me the confidence I needed going into the challenge.

I was to stay with my friends, Jane and Barb. Barb was spending time with her sister who was dying from multiple myeloma. Cancer is a real bastard and takes some pretty great people from us. Anyway, Jane and I headed to Chicago on a train. We walked from Union Station stopping for photos by a large sculpture called “The Flamingo” and on to eat at a place called Artists’ Restaurant. They had spiked coffee and delicious food. We were finally warmed from the cold walk from the train, and took a brief walk to the Art Institute of Chicago, where Jane is a member. We checked our heavy baggage and walked around.

Jane is an artist and teaches art at a local college. This made the tour of the Institute more educational and helped me understand many of the “what am I looking at” and “where do I go” questions I mostly likely would have had on my own. I also had a really good time talking about the art and getting a different perspective on some pieces. Jane had to tolerate my comments about the art. We went to Millennium Park, where I saw many sculptures including the famous “Cloud Gate” referred to as “The Giant Bean”. This reflective sculpture was fun to look at from many angles and to try out some photography tricks with the reflective properties of the sculpture.

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My backside reflected….lol

Jane found two people to share the room with us the first night in Chicago since Barb didn’t make the trip. Bree and Wendy weren’t strangers to me, but I haven’t been around the running group as often since my injury and illness. We got to the hotel as they’d completed their check-in. Our friend Cindy had picked up our race packets and goodies and given them to Bree. They went to pick up Wendy’s race packet and go to the place they’d made dinner reservations. We went up to the room to check out our race gear that included an adorable Yeti hat and a fleece jacket. We posed for a few pictures before we settled on a place to eat.

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Jane and I found an Irish pub online and walked outside a bit, but I’d incorrectly remembered the location. We had walked the wrong way, but we found another pub by just skimming the fronts of the buildings around us and rushing to the first eatery that looked like they served alcoholic beverages. It was my birthday weekend, after all. I was there to have fun. The place was Exchequer Restaurant & Pub. It was an upbeat atmosphere and they had a bunch of draft beer options, including one of my favorite amber ales, Elliott Ness. I had a reuben sandwich that was quite tasty. On the walk to return to the hotel, we dropped into a convenience store for wine and drinking water.

The next morning was race day and there were 4 women in one hotel room trying to bundle up for braving temps in the single digits. We were hoping would the temperature would reach the teens at some time. I opted for putting my sports bra and running undies on in the bathroom and coming out into the room to finish dressing. I’d bought brand new compression pants just for this event to use as my base layer. This would be a good idea had I actually worn them a few times before race day. They are designed to compress and they were snug since they were brand new. I’d stopped struggling with them once I got the waistband around the top of my thighs and just under my tush. I let out a loud grunt and sigh, which drew attention to my struggle. We all had a good laugh that I wanted to give up on the pants but I’d already worked really hard to get them over my thighs. Once my first layer was on, I’d broken a sweat, but proceeded to put on the rest of my running clothes layers.

Outside of the hotel, the doorman laughed as we discussed our plans to go run 3 races back to back (to back) in one day in the cold. We hopped into the car and started to talk to our driver. We joked and laughed from our hotel to the parking lot at Soldier Field where the race event was to happen. We gathered in a tent on the lot and met up with other people we knew before heading back out into the cold to start the 10k. I programmed my watch to run intervals of 5 minutes running and walk 1 minute for the entire race. Before I made it to mile 1, I’d gotten separated from the people I knew. The water cup I was given was actually a cup of slush. I couldn’t feel the toes on one foot and the ones on the other felt like they had been frozen solid. I was feeling tired, stiff, and unsure of myself. I wanted to give up. I knew that I wasn’t quitting because I couldn’t physically do it. It was because I didn’t want to push through the tough part and that was not a good enough reason. It was a humbling experience to know that I couldn’t run any faster than I was and that I still had to finish. I saw people I knew (Heather, Kristen, and Tom) ahead and I caught up with them. They were doing the same interval pattern as I was. The halfway point was our turnaround and I’d finally felt like I’d warmed up and didn’t want to quit anymore. I drank sports drink, which doesn’t freeze as quickly, at the next water stop. I felt renewed. I mean, there was ice on the ground through the water stations and there were icy spots on the trail, but I didn’t want to quit anymore. Heather and I took a selfie with the cityscape behind us across Lake Michigan. I shoved Tom to prevent him from slipping on ice (because shouting a warning wouldn’t have been fast enough). We kept each other on the intervals and from slipping on the icy spots. With running buddies surrounding me, I finished my longest run in months and my first race since October. I still had a 1700 meter and a 5k race to complete the series, though.

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Right after the 10k finish line

Heather took this selfie with Chicago in the background.

Heather took this selfie with Chicago in the background.

Setting out for the 1.7k, I felt mentally confident. Confidence doesn’t mean the same thing as feeling physically able, though. I walked most of the rest of the race with Kristen and told her that I wasn’t going to run the 5k, but I’d do it walking to finish the challenge. The time limit on the 5k was an hour and having a time that averages around 30 minutes even, I thought it wouldn’t be a problem. Kristen walked the 5k with me. Despite it being freezing cold outside and that we probably could have gotten out of the cold faster by running, we did a 5k in 53 minutes. That’s a personal worst for me. I finished that darn challenge, I got my 4 participation medals, and I took my first trip to Chicago on my birthday weekend. Everything I’d set out to do, I’d checked off of my list.

I was not proud or celebratory when I got the email with my results. I felt disappointed that my time was so much longer than I’d thought I was capable of. That said, I had a great experience and people were there to support me and encourage me. It felt good to know I had a good run in me for the 10k and that I’m taking steps to get back into running.

The return trip to the hotel was a quick ride once we found our friend Louis’s car. The other women I was with went up to the room while I stopped in at Starbucks. I bought a green tea latte that I spilled all over the marble-like entry of the hotel room without getting one sip.  Bummer. After all of us showered and changed out of our running clothes, we headed out for lunch.

We found the Irish pub that Jane and I intended to go to the night before called Kitty O’Sheas.  It was inside of a hotel in the opposite direction where we’d gone the previous night.  I had amazing fish and chips and a pint of Smithwicks. We had a great time. The other two women with us headed back home, so Jane and I were on our own the second night.

We each climbed into a bed and snoozed a little before dinner time. I put on my Yeti hat and we walked to the nearest Panera to have soup and a sandwich for dinner.  Once we finished, we headed back to the hotel. The temps were again reaching single digits and negative wind chills. We opted for pj’s and wine in the hotel room since we’d stopped to get the wine the evening before. We had a good time sharing fundraising ideas and quite unique race award ideas.

Heading back to Union Station, we felt like we had plenty of time to catch our 9:45 am train back home. Except when we got there, we discovered the train was actually a 9:25am train back home and it was 9:15am. We fast walked to the train and found the last seats in the last car to sit in. The ride was bumpy, hot, and seemingly took a long time. My birthday weekend was over and I was on my way home to see my family.

Today, I opened a Facebook page for the fundraiser that I’m doing for the Chicago Marathon in October. My goal is $2000 and I’m raising for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. So far, this is what I have:

@MomJennGoal26point2 (Link will take you to the Facebook page)
Please consider donating and stay tuned for my adventures of getting back into running. My first planned race of 2017 so far will be a mini challenge at the Illinois Marathon in Champaign.  I’ll be doing a 5k on a Friday and a 10k that Saturday. It likely won’t be freezing at that time of year, so I have that to look forward to.
Thanks for reading! I hope you are listening to your body when you need to and pushing yourself when it isn’t your body doing the complaining.