Friday, June 24, 2011

Wannabe Runner

“Don’t try to be something you’re not!”  Good advice, right?  Well I am not a runner, but I am ignoring the wise advice and trying to be one anyway.  I know I won’t ever be an “official” runner (although I don’t know what the qualifications would be for me to be official) but I do have a goal of running a half marathon before 2011 is over, so for now I am pretending to be a runner, though it doesn’t take much to see through this charade.

My sister, Jen, is a runner.  She hasn’t always run consistently, but when she wants to be a runner it seems far easier for her to step into the role .    Right now she is training for a marathon, her second, this time to honor Anna and raise money for cancer research.  We are touched that she is running for Anna and to make a difference, and I admire her determination and hard work more than I can say!  (Keep that in mind if I say anything that sounds critical of her in the sentences to come!) 

Jen has a blog with her training progress – check it out and support her!  She offered to let me be a guest writer on her blog, if I would like, but there are major differences between her training and mine which I wasn’t sure I should put up for such close comparison.  As sisters, there is a lot we have in common, but we are quite different in many ways!  She subscribes to Runner's World; I subscribe to TV Guide.  Side by side, our blog post for a week would look something like this:

Jen:  “My goal was to run 12 miles today, but I was really tired from a busy weekend and I only made it 11.5.  I know I can do better next time!”
Me:  “My goal was to get out of bed and run today, but I was really tired from a busy weekend, so that didn’t happen.  I’m quite proud of myself for even thinking about running!”

Jen:  “It’s amazing how good I’ve felt running lately!  Even on my sluggish days, I’m making personal bests for time and distance!”
Me:  “It’s amazing that I ever thought I should try to be a runner!  Why did I tell everyone I wanted to run a half-marathon?  Now I have to keep training for it or I’ll look like a loser!”

Jen:  “Today was a scheduled short run (5 miles) so I decided to see how fast I could run it.  I thought I’d be able to sustain a 9 minute mile, but, WOW, my Garmin showed that I maintained an 8 minute mile pace!”
Me:  “What’s a Garmin?”

Jen:  “Today was a scheduled off day, but I felt so good I got up at 4 a.m. anyhow and went for a quick 6 mile run!”
Me:  “I was hoping to run 3 miles today, but it started sprinkling after a half mile so I turned around and went back.  WooHoo!  1 mile done!!!  Half marathon, Here I Come!”

Jen:  “Today I ran 12 miles.  It was easier than I expected!  I maintained just under a 10 minute mile pace.”
Me:  “Great run today!  I had a steady 10 minute mile pace – for the first half mile!”

Jen:  “Wow!  I thought I could run forever today!  Feeling great even after an intense week of training!”
Me:  “Wow!  Great week!  I ran three days, so today I took a well-deserved break from running!” 

You get the idea.  My goal is not to mock my sister (really!!!), but only to point out some of these differences between us when it comes to running!

But I have asked myself WHY she is so much better at this than I am.  (I’m sure it has nothing to do with our choice of magazine subscriptions!)  And I have concluded that I have some very legitimate excuses reasons why I don’t do as well as she does. 

1:  I think I’ve got a good 25-30 pounds on her.  It has to be easier to run when you don’t have as much weight to carry around! 
2:  Bugs.  She runs in Nevada, where she doesn’t need to swat flies and mosquitoes throughout her entire run.
3:  Humidity.  Again, much harder here in the Midwest when the air is so wet you can barely breathe.
4:  Animals.  Yeah, I know, there are animals in Nevada, but only things like rattlesnakes, coyotes, and mountain lions.  They are more scared of her than she is of them!  I’ve got to be on the lookout for the definitely-not-more-scared-of-me-than-I-am-of-them vicious and overprotective farm dogs.  Plus the raccoons, and the skunks, which even when I don’t see them I often smell them, and it’s not easy to run while holding my breath!

So I think that Jen needs to try this.  She should first put on a sauna suit, like this one,

then strap three ten pound weights to her body, and run while holding her breath and continuously and vigorously waving her hands around her face and head.  We’ll see what pace/distance she can do then!!! 

Jen might try to respond and come up with a few things that make running where she lives more difficult.  All I would say to that is “Excuses, excuses!!!!”

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Who do you connect with?  I connect with different people for different reasons, which is true for everyone I am sure.  Last week I had the opportunity to connect with people in a really neat way.

Truth be told, though, I wish I would never have met them, and I’m sure they wish they had never met me!  For what brought us together was the common bond that each of us had outlived one (or more) of our children. 

Our family spent some time last week at Faith’s Lodge, in the NW woods of Wisconsin.  Faith’s parents created this amazing place in her memory.  In some ways a visit there is similar to other vacations, with opportunities to hike, canoe, sit around a campfire, see wildlife, sleep in, read, relax, etc. 

But what made this time more special for us were the opportunities to remember Anna.  We were able to paint a memorial rock for her, and place it among the other tribute rocks.  As a family, we painted a birdhouse and included her name and the dates she lived.  I decorated a journal that I can use as I think of her. 

Even more than the projects and the relaxation and the fun, it was those connections that were made that made the time most memorable.  Early on, the parents shared the stories of the lives their children lived.  It makes a difference to be able to introduce yourself to people who understand that in order to know you, they have to know the story of your child, because it is a HUGE part of who we are.  It is awful to have to share such a story, and wonderful to know that those hearing it “get it.” 

There is immense relief in being asked questions that many people feel they shouldn’t ask.  There is similar relief in feeling comfortable being the asker, because even though the questions are difficult to answer, additional healing comes with each opportunity to talk about each child and the circumstances that led us to a bereavement retreat. 

I do not want to minimize the support we have received from those who have not experienced the death of a child.  Far from it.  I am forever grateful for the many ways that people have reached out and showed they care in abundant ways.

There is just something – an amazing connection – that comes with this huge shared experience.  Not a surprise that there is, really, but still I am thankful for those I met and talked with at Faith’s Lodge, for understanding and being understood.

It’s not often that farewells are so difficult after so short a time, but it was far from easy to say goodbye to those we met.  It makes me wish that more people would really “get it,” but then again, I’m very thankful that they don’t.  I wish that no one would have need of such a bereavement retreat.

We do feel blessed and grateful for the connections we made!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Picture speaks a thousand words…and lack of a photo leaves the story seemingly incomplete.

After Anna was diagnosed with cancer, I started taking a lot more pictures than was my norm.  Especially of Anna.  Deep inside, but always unspoken, lay the reason for doing this, the “just in case” photos are all I’d have someday, but covered with the rationalization that I could use these pictures to show Anna, when she was older and exceptionally healthy, all she had been through as a toddler.

So I’d snap away, and order my prints online, realizing when they’d arrive at our home that the number of photos of Anna was far greater than the number of photos of anyone or anything else.  It seemed like we had so many pictures of her!

At least it seemed that way until lately. 

I look at our photos of Anna regularly, though usually with a specific purpose, and only occasionally do I allow myself to deeply feel (i.e. fall apart) while studying these frozen moments of the past.  I’ve recently concluded that there are not enough pictures of Anna! 
Though many of her expressions were captured, though much of her attitude is obvious in many of these photographs, much is missing.  I have more in my memory than was ever captured on film, yet I long for the concrete evidence to be certain that those memories will never fade.  I mourn that the limited bits that have been captured will likely be all that her brother’s memories include.  I’m frustrated that anyone who has never met Anna but would like to know about her can never know her completely. 

I search the photos I have for just the right one for this project or that, and too often the one I am looking for doesn’t exist.  I know that sometimes this is because we were too busy enjoying her and treasuring every moment to be bothered with cameras, especially in her last months. 

So I treasure each photo we have.  I continually thank God for those who took photos of Anna and shared them with us.  What a treasured gift!!

Thought I'd share a sampling of those treasured Anna photos:

Finally, a quote I recently saw on the blog of a mom who recently lost a little boy.  The author is unknown.

The mention of my child’s name
May bring tears to my eyes,
But it never fails to bring
Music to my ears.
If you are really my friend,
Let me hear the beautiful music of his name.
It soothes my broken heart
And sings to my soul.