When the student is ready…

I actually had the nerve to google training for a marathon last night! I know, crazy… Right?? It was a pretty bold act because to even entertain the thought of running 26.2 miles with only an 11 mile long run seems absurd even to me! But much to my surprise, after looking at the training I humbly and apprehensively thought, Hmm. I couldn’t help thinking about my marathon running neighbor telling me that if you finish a marathon you are automatically a 1%-er. I’m not exactly sure what that meant but I liked it immediately. Stay tuned :)

Still thinking about my gutsy google search over my morning coffee today, I had a funny high school flashback. I was 15 or 16 years old and my friend and I decided to try out for cross country. Our reasoning for doing this escapes me. Here we were, girly girls with zero experience in any sport other than cheer leading, huffing and puffing down Maple Avenue, dead last behind a pack of runners that had become black specks in the distance. I vividly remember the coach driving by as we happened to be resting by a tree asking each other why the heck we were doing this.

“Come on ladies,” he shouted. “Move it! At the very least walk”.

Man did that piss me off! I remember thinking, who the heck is this pudgy little man driving in his teenie tiny compact car to tell me to move it? So we did what any other teenage girls would do. One of us watched for him and we hid & rested behind random parked cars when we saw him circling by as we made our way down Maple Avenue back to Notre Dame. And that marked my first and last time running for 25 years.

Today I started wondering why something I hated as a kid suddenly became so meaningful to me 25 years later. I decided the answer might be in a quote I had heard a long time ago…

“When the student is ready the teacher will appear”

So at 41, I’m finally laced up and ready to learn! And as shallow as it may be I secretly wish my past skeptics and even my pudgy little cross country coach would drive by and see me now! I wouldn’t hide behind a parked car today. I have 41 years of maturity and wisdom behind me.

In the spirit of the wise quote….

Sometimes when the skeptic or pudgy shouting teacher appears the student is ready. To give him the bird and shout back, take a look at me now, buddy! Happy Monday!


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Putting the pieces together

puzzlepieceblogjpg

Isn’t it strange the way it seems we are already surrounded with all that we need? The missing component is using our unique creativity to put the pieces of what we love together and define our own success.

It struck me this afternoon on a rainy dreary Monday that it may be just that simple. I was having a tough time getting motivated to work. So I took a piece of advice that a decorator and friend from the community kitchen told me yesterday. I saw her at TJ Maxx and we talked about her doing some decorating for me. We joked that she would come over and decorate for me for drinks! She said all you have to do is pull out 5 of your favorite things and then we play. It all starts and revolves around surrounding yourself with what you love and what brings you comfort. It was a simple 5 minute impromptu conversation.

Today feeling in a funk I decided I would try some much needed self care. I did some short meditation before going to the gym. I remembered thinking on my long run yesterday that meditation is the space between thoughts. I almost always find that space toward the end of my long run. My mind is clear of clutter in the 9th, 10th, and 11th mile. It’s just me and my breathing and the drive to finish. I decided I should try to recreate that feeling today while being still. I logged a good 10 minutes which is great for me! I went to the gym and by lunch I was ready to get to work. Work. I have been searching for something new and more reflective of the person I have become to infuse into my business and I’ve been really stuck lately.

So this afternoon I decided to set up shop on the couch. I pulled out my laptop and thought of my decorator friend and grabbed something I loved. I immediately went to this candle. Its a heavy glass hand painted scented candle I made a long time ago. I love the look and the feel and the smell. So I lit it and felt instantly soothed. And then a spark came. My neighbor was just telling me of a candle she has that she loves and keeps on her desk. And it struck me. She is inspired by her candle. If I am soothed and inspired by this and I love this, maybe someone else will too.

So I snapped a picture and I put it on Facebook asking the question, Do you like this? A fleeting thought went through my head, what if no one likes it? But my new stronger runner-self replied, who cares? You love it! So I made the choice to be brave and I posted it.

Today’s puzzle pieces took me all day to put together… Running reflections, a community kitchen friend, something I created and love, confidence to get out of my comfort zone thanks to running, and now writing about it. All the pieces of this puzzle are things that I love. I can’t wait to see the picture that the pieces create down the road. Maybe going with the flow of life and simply loving what you love is the first step. Maybe success really is just using your creativity to recognize and put the pieces of all you love together. I think it’s worth a shot anyway :)


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Projections to gratitude

I was at the beginning of a long evening run this past week on my favorite lake route kind of lost in my mind and dreaming as I looked at the beautiful homes I passed. I think I was in the process of fantasizing which house suited me best as I planned my upcoming imaginary move to the neighborhood :) I used to do this all the time as a little girl. Fantasizing out my bedroom window was one of my favorite things to do!

Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that it was a beautiful hot evening and I hadn’t seen one person out on their dock or sitting on their porch. Weird. It struck me as incredibly weird. So I started making a point of noticing and counting how many people I saw. I spent over an hour running and only saw 3 groups of 3 or 4 people enjoying the beauty literally right in their backyard. My first thought was immediately how odd it was and my second thought was a bit self righteous. When I live here I will be appreciating the beauty and enjoying it every single day! I will never take it for granted. I will be grateful. Hold that thought!

The run got increasingly harder several miles later and I found myself struggling by mile 6. I started to feel light headed in the extreme humidity and my right upper thigh started aching. I hung in there until mile 8. Crap. This sucks, I thought to myself. Today was supposed to be the week I bumped up to 11 miles and here I was unable to do 10. And then I stopped running. Yup. I quit and decided to start the shame walk home after cutting the run short. Now let me add that walking really isn’t shameful. Well, except for me! I just hate having to walk! If I walk once, I will walk a million times so I rarely walk.

So during my shame walk I ruminated about how much this sucked. I had really been struggling lately. I hadn’t lost any weight in 3 months. I started trying all sorts of things to get it going again. I tried Crossfit, lifting, supplements. Nothing helped until I started the Paleo diet. I restricted my carbs and I lost 4 pounds in one week. Great, right? Nope. I felt dizzy and light headed all the time and my running suffered. I couldn’t sustain the mileage I had gotten up to on the diet. I had become a training gypsy subscribing to too many training plans.

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was so focused on losing “more weight” and getting “more fit” that I hadn’t at all been grateful for how far I had come. Gratitude. The exact same judgement I had projected on all the folks not appreciating the lake applied to me. In my mind I started to realize that I had a choice right then. I could stop the nonsense. Stop the beating myself up over not finishing 2 more miles this week. Stop checking the scale every single day. I could make the decision to be grateful I had legs to run, a heart that beats strongly in spite of having some cracks and breaks over the years. I could take the time to listen to and learn what my body needs. I could find the balance in striving for a goal in a way that is enjoyable and fulfilling.

I don’t know if the folks living on the lake were out to dinner during my run Saturday night or if they really aren’t grateful for the beauty they have right in their back yard. And in truth it isn’t even my place to know or make the determination! Either way, tonight I was reminded how often it is that we project our own thoughts and feelings about ourselves on others. Tonight I was reminded of the importance of staying grateful for what I have and what I have accomplished. God I love running!


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My White “Cottage-ey” Window

My eyes opened at 5:30 this morning to my tiny white “cottage-ey” window on the wall next to me. No sun peeking through the slats yet. My mind wanders as it does every morning as I gaze up and out. Today my thoughts lull me into what I call my perfect sleep. On a good day when I wake up this early and I can’t sleep, I lay there thinking, lost in a mix of reality and fantasy. Today I am lucky, I doze off while in the perfect mix for a brief period of time. And for a few moments I’m lost in the land of the perfect dream. The waking is bittersweet.

I decide today when I wake for the second time that I will try out a sunrise run on the lake. I hop out of bed and throw on my running clothes. My running inspiration has pretty much taken over my thoughts and I know in that place deep inside of me getting out there and doing my long run is the best cure.

I’m out the door and as soon as I turn off my street onto Main St I can see the lake in the distance. I am instantly motivated by the sight of it. It’s a little cloudy this morning but the sun manages to peek through and parts of the lake shimmer the sun’s rays in the most beautiful way you can imagine. The storefronts are all closed and there isn’t another person in sight. Canandaigua is still asleep for the most part and I suddenly find myself starting to feel at home in this sleepy little town.

West Lake Rd in the early morning certainly didn’t disappoint when I arrived there. Spectacular homes sat along the water’s edge. The gentle breeze felt amazing. I started to see people waking up and getting their newspapers. The sun continued to push up and peek out of the clouds as I hit miles 3 and 4. The run out was so peaceful and really effective in clearing my head of my thoughts. The journey back was equally peaceful but painful at points. I found myself struggling by mile 7ish. My right leg was cramping and my mind started questioning if I would make it. It is with a sheer determination that I never knew I had until I started running, that I silence the voices that doubt me. I replace them with simply, yes you can. You can do this. Keep going. These are the points I always think of my mom and our talks. Today I remember our drive on Seneca Lake again. I had asked her if she thought I would ever achieve my dream of living on the lake. Her reply was one only your mom has the credibility to say, as she is the one person that has known you the longest of anyone in the whole wide world. It was not only her words saying something like, “You? Of course. Keep working hard and I know you can do anything you set your mind to” But it was also the perfect convincing mix of pride and confidence in her tone that only your mom ever has. She believes in you in such a way that you don’t even question it, and you are wrapped snuggly in the comfort of her knowing you.

Lost in my thoughts it suddenly starts to occur to me that my feet alone have brought me 10 miles away from my bed today to this absolutely beautiful place. I am surrounded by beautiful homes and breathtaking views. And I arrived here all by myself, by first of all, working hard, but also by dreaming I could get here in the first place. If I can achieve this distance in running and arrive here it suddenly starts to seem possible that I could one day have this view everyday out of my own bedroom window. My pace picks up again as I start to make the connection. It could be as simple as acquiring another business account. And then another. And another. I know my business. I love my business. I’ve spent 11 years believing in it and growing it. And like my feet that have gotten me here today, by simply taking one step at a time, my business can also get me to this place.

I am driven by a deep inspiring unexplainable love. I don’t know how, or when or from where, as one of my favorite sonnets goes. And I have found somewhere in the space between running the easy miles and the painful miles, the deep breathes and the short breaths, the beauty and the pain; the courage to dream. The rest of my run back continued to be hard. But I ran back with a new glimmer of hope that started from gazing out of my little white “cottage-ey” window and took me on a run miles and miles away, further than I had ever dared dream. Until now.


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All will be well

What’s really important? I’ve been asking myself that question since the moment I found myself lying in a dimly lit room looking at a computer screen displaying a 2 cm mass in my right breast. My mind only half hears the doctor talking to the technician, and occasionally to me. 11:00 left quadrant. Mark that. I think we need to biopsy this. Well, the borders are smooth, that’s a good sign.

I am staring at the screen, in disbelief really. This isn’t happening to me. I’m the youngest. I’m the baby. My mind is racing down a street I don’t want to be on as I think of my daughters and my husband. Suddenly I am bombarded with random thoughts. I wish I had laid down with Olivia last night when she asked me to. How am I going to keep this from Elizabeth so she isn’t afraid? They have both endured so much in their short little lives. I shouldn’t have been so hard on my mom. I thought about the fear my mom must have had. I thought about my friend, Marcelle who died of breast cancer and Mrs B. The fear in my throat made it hard to breathe so I stared blankly at the green blinking dot of the machine next to me. On off. On off. On off. The quick rhythm mimicked the speed with which life had went from normal to this all in a split second.

I laid there alone, consciously focused on biting my lip determined not to cry. I felt like my lip was a dam and biting it somehow kept tears from bursting out. But the dam couldn’t seem to stop the involuntary trembling of my left arm and leg exposed from beneath my gown . I focused all my energy on trying to stop the shaking while they prepped me for the biopsy. I hated having a visible sign of the fear I was feeling inside. My body felt like a traitor, betraying the denial my brain was trying so hard to maintain. The shaking made the terror real. I finally gave up fighting it. Maybe if the shaking stopped the tears would explode out. I was more determined not to cry. So fear and I made nice on the table. I numbly watched and involuntarily trembled as if I were 10 years old again as they prepped needles and scalpels and other instruments they would soon be using on my body.

The procedure was painful and included placing a titanium marker on the mass so even in the best case scenario if it weren’t cancerous, it would be something they would need to follow from now on.  That was one of the hardest parts for me. I could live with waiting a few days for the results of the test. But I didn’t want to live with a foreign object in my body and a question mark in my brain indefinitely. I like things clear. I like knowing. Yes you have cancer. No you don’t. I like definitive answers. I have a very hard time with ambiguity, waiting, and imperfection. Patience is not a virtue I possess.

After the biopsy and a fourth or fifth mammogram, I had lost count at that point, I was able to leave. I walked out to my car and the sun was shining. My legs felt weak and my eyes suddenly filled with the tears I had been holding in. I couldn’t get to my car quick enough and I sat there and cried before calling Josh. Josh, I thought to myself. In the end he is always there when I am alone and really need someone. I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me.

The drive home felt like it would never end. I started thinking about my life and the choices that I had made up to this point. I was finally getting healthy. At 40 years old I was finally in the best shape of my life. How could this be happening to me now? I was listening to music and having a pity party as I drove down I90. I was all alone. I had so many questions swirling in my head. I wondered why this had to happen today? Why did the appointment have to be rescheduled from last Thursday? I wouldn’t have had to be as alone last Thursday. People were thinking of me. But it was Monday and life had went on making the ever growing distance even greater. I had to rely on myself.

I came home and got into bed with my sadness and fear. As I laid there I suddenly remembered I had told my new trainer at the gym I would be there tonight. But I couldn’t lift weights with the stitches. Then I started thinking about a couple quotes he shared with me the last time we talked and how motivated he made me feel. Even though I couldn’t lift weights tonight I decided I would find a way to run tomorrow.

So the next day rather than waiting and wallowing I did a 6 mile run. It started out awful. My breathing was wildly out of control much in the same way my brain felt. I couldn’t focus. I started approaching the turn and third portion of my run and I questioned why the heck I had chosen this route. The right turn on Andrews Rd was long and in the middle of nowhere but the only way to get back to route 21. As soon as I made the turn the wind direction was pounding at me and I could feel anger swell up inside. Cars were getting too close because the road was so narrow. I felt profoundly alone and like I would never get back to Rt 21. Rt 21 meant I was on the last leg. Straight ahead and I would be back on a familiar path. I felt like I would never get there because I was barely moving forward. The wind was fighting every step forward I took. It was grueling.

When I finally got to Rt 21 and turned right I felt like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. My pace picked up and I realized I had made it to the home stretch. I could do this. I knew the route like the back of my hand. My confidence started to soar and I put all thoughts of Andrews Rd, my sadness, my anger and my fear behind me. I got this, I thought to myself. I will be okay no matter what happens. And to quote a new friend, “All will be well.”

I turned the corner to my street and came to our house greeted by my blonde haired beauty running up to me and my handsome husband waiting for me on the porch. I sat down on my mom’s glider proud of the strength I had just found even in the middle of things being so imperfect. The rocking on the glider in the sun soothed me as I remembered sitting silently on that very piece of furniture with my mom in the sunshine. The breeze was cool but the warmth of the sun on my body made it feel like she was right there with me hugging me. My phone rang minutes later as I sat rocking with my family. The doctor called and shared the news that the tumor was benign but they would have to follow it closely for 2 years. In that moment I felt a sense of relief and gratitude I cannot even describe. I focused on being okay today, right now. It didn’t matter as much as I had thought it would that I had to be followed. It wasn’t perfect but I had learned I could still be okay and happy and grateful with imperfect. In my heart I held on tightly to my new mantra, all will be well.

 


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The Dance

Pablo Picasso "Le Danse"

Mother in law called. Check. Ran 6 miles. Check. Work. Check. Elizabeth spur of the moment dental appointment. Check. Piano lessons. Check. The rest of today? Dinner, homework, more work, lunches, showers, bedtime routines. Somewhere in there I’m supposed to meet with a trainer at the gym. Hmm. That will be tricky. And wouldn’t it be nice to have some time to relax and get in a better frame of mind for my tests tomorrow?

Days like today feel like I’m moving way too fast. Everyone has these kinds of days I suppose. But I’m so tired that I don’t feel like I will really enjoy any of it. Do I cut something out? Or do I merely change my outlook?

I’m most looking forward to piano today. Elizabeth has such a talent and I love listening to her play. She taught herself (by writing on the keys of our piano!) before we moved. She has a natural gift. She took lessons for only 4 or 5 months before we moved and she had to stop, but she was playing pieces like Fanfare, Swans on the Lake, Ode to Joy, and Allegro in C. I am so proud of her. I’ve been determined since we arrived here to get her back in lessons, and start Liv too. And I finally did it! Today is their first lesson. I’m so grateful I have the business so I can do things like this for them.

So running today was awesome. I had the best splits I’ve ever had. 6 miles with splits of 9.14, 9.40, 9.00, 9.21, 10.2, 8.40, 7.50. It felt so good to be running out in the country. I actually found myself dreaming of living out there. It was so peaceful. Between that and all the country songs I’ve been drawn to lately I can’t help but wonder if there’s a country girl somewhere inside me waiting to get out :) I listened to a new song on my run today, The Dance. It may be an old song but it was new to me! My mind wandered listening to some of the lyrics. “Glad I didn’t know, the way it all would end. The way it had to go. Our lives, are better left to chance. I coulda missed the pain. But I’d of had to miss the dance.”

The song really made me think. Would I skip the dance if I knew the pain? People die. People say goodbye. People break your heart. I decided that for me life is all about the dance. Life is short and the dance makes it worth living even when you know eventually the song will end. And then? Well then I guess I have to have faith and wait for the next song to start. It was a good run today.


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Life lessons from my Dad

I always dread today so this year I decided to try to change my attitude. My dad left me to go to heaven at exactly 11pm, 9 years ago today. And although he isn’t here anymore physically, the lessons he taught me by the simple ways he lived his life will stay with me always…..

Live simply & appreciate the little things life has to offer. In the end you will miss them the most. Be independent. Be generous. Keep some money in your pocket even if you don’t have much & give it away freely. Maintain your pride. Work hard. You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to. Love your mother. You only have one mother. Don’t be a piss pot :) Stay current. Watch the news & read. Drink beer :) Be kind. Forgive and forget. Never hold a grudge. Love your kids unconditionally. Drink more beer :) Laugh. Life is short. Value people, not things, because in the end you can’t take your money or your “stuff” with you when you leave this world.

And I think the biggest lesson he ever taught me was to always choose forgiveness. His love & forgiveness allowed me to become the person I am today.

My wedding picture illustrates my relationship with my dad the best. Everyone was looking at the camera with huge smiles on their faces; everyone except my dad. My dad was looking at me.

Thank you dad for always seeing the best in me, recognizing my spirit, & laughing at all my crazy antics & corny jokes. Thank you for your forgiveness & loving me unconditionally. I still miss you. Until we meet again…..

All my love, Your favorite daughter :) Inside joke. Just kidding Jackie, Pam, John! Love you guys!

This is an excerpt from my memoir and my blog, http://www.lizzycandles.com/blog/?p=228

My Dad

My wedding picture illustrates my relationship with my Dad best. The photographer took a picture of Josh and me with my whole family. Everyone, including myself, was looking at the camera with huge smiles on our faces; everyone except my Dad. My Dad was looking at me.

The death of my father was one of the hardest pieces of my adult life. No one loved me like my Dad. He smiled the widest when he looked at me and he laughed the hardest at all my jokes. He was always there. He could always find me even when I didn’t know I was lost and I certainly didn’t want to be found. From the car shop I sat in as a teenager with no money having my car fixed to unhealthy relationships I had gotten myself in. My Dad was always there to help me get up, dust myself off and try again.

He was a pretty simple guy. And by the world’s standards he was probably just an average guy. He didn’t talk much but when he did people listened. I wish I could say that that he told me some profound truth about life and living. But he didn’t. He just loved me. I made mistakes. And he loved me. And I made another. And he loved me. He almost always had a smile for me whenever we were together. Somehow he gave me what I needed just by the joy and smile he had when he saw me. He loved me and he changed my life just doing that.

My Dad had a stroke in May of 2001 a week before I delivered my daughter, Elizabeth. So, in May, I gave birth to my first born child and my father. My Dad could no longer care for himself. His needs became increasingly harder to meet. His mental abilities diminished before my very eyes. I struggled to celebrate my daughter’s first year of life while watching my Dad’s life as he once knew it slowly slip away before my eyes.

Elizabeth and I spent hours with my Dad in 2 hospitals, 2 nursing homes, and 2 adult care homes over the course of  2 and a half years. I pushed my Dad in front of me in his wheelchair as I pulled Elizabeth in her stroller behind me. Their needs were the same in many ways and yet I found myself continually conflicted and choosing between them. Minute by minute the clock continued to tick losing time I could never get back with either of them, the beginning of Elizabeth’s life and the end of my Dad’s.

I remember my Dad’s first day in the nursing home he would eventually die in. I was busying myself, setting him up for dinner with all the other residents. In the background you could hear residents calling out for help. I tried to make the pureed food in front of him look as appetizing as I could in spite of the smell of feces permeating the room.

“Dad”, I began, “I have to go but look I have your dinner all set. I will be back in the morning”. I had prolonged leaving long enough. My husband and daughter had been waiting patiently for me to go. They had finally left frustrated to go down to the car and wait. They were hungry. But my Dad was hungry, too. And I suppose I was hungry, but I don’t think I knew it at the time.

“Dad,” I continued. Elizabeth and I will be back tomorrow morning. Do you want me to sneak anything in for you?”  I used to sneak all kinds of goodies in for him, from chocolates to suckers to fried egg sandwiches, all his favorites.

And then came the moment I will never forget. As I leaned to kiss him goodbye he gently grabbed a hold of my arm. Quietly, he whispered in my ear, “I can’t live like this.” Tears streamed down my face. Quietly, again, he said, “Honey I can’t live like this.” I was sobbing at this point and I replied, “Dad what do you want me to do?” And recognizing this moment of lucidity as they were so few and far between he looked at me with his big blue eyes and said, “Please. Just leave some pills by my bed.”  I went home and cried myself to sleep. Josh and Elizabeth ate alone.

Goodbyes

Elizabeth was 2 and we were planning our annual trip to Myrtle Beach. The evening we were to leave Elizabeth and I went to the nursing home to see my Dad. We got off the elevator on the 6th floor to find my Dad propelling himself by his feet down the hall. I stopped for a moment to watch him. He would go a few feet and stop as he intently sucked on the lollipops we had left for the nurses to give him. He looked at the signs on the wall as if he were reading them. My mind wandered back to the nights as a teenager I would come home to his apartment as he sat in his favorite chair reading. He loved autobiographies and current events. I wondered if he missed those times too or if his mind was now content with reading the names on the doors that lined the halls like unopened books on a bookshelf. I wondered if his imagination formed his own stories for those names as he studied them so carefully making his way down the long hall.

“Hi Dad”, I said and he turned to look at me. It was a good day. I could tell by the smile that greeted me. He quickly took the sucker out of his mouth and looked past me at Elizabeth. “And how’s my little Geraldine?” he asked.

“Geraldine?” I replied. To that we both burst into laughter. He knew he had said the wrong name again. He had called her this before and I often wondered why. As far as I knew he never knew a Geraldine.

He quickly corrected himself and said, “I mean Queen Elizabeth!”

We had a laugh at this as he ooed and ahhed over Elizabeth as he usually did. Elizabeth loved to try to push his wheelchair and hand him different items she would find. He seemed to take much delight in this.

We took out my cell phone and called my sister Jackie. He talked with her and told her he loved her. She was also leaving for Myrtle Beach. Soon Cindy stopped in and all of us were talking as Pam came in. Pam was going to Myrtle Beach with us and she had been tanning at the tanning booth. Dad took one look at Pam, tanned as could be in preparation for the beach, and she gave him a gleaming smile. He looked at her and then looked at me and said, “Why are her teeth so white?”

We all had a good laugh and great visit. When it was time to go I wheeled him to the dinner room. Everyone had been brought in and a nurse was sitting next to his place at the table feeding another resident. I pushed him up to the table, dreading the goodbye. The nurse said, “John, who’s this?” as she looked at the 2 of us. I will never forget the last words he said. He looked at her with a smile and look of pride that could light up the night sky and replied, “That’s my daughter, I have 6 of them you know!” Oh how I cherished those moments that proved he knew me. I kissed him goodbye and told him I loved him. He told me he loved me too and to be good. Those were the last words he said to me.

The trip to Myrtle Beach was long. We left that night when I got home from the nursing home. Josh had the van packed. We went to breakfast in the morning when we arrived in South Carolina. I had left my cell phone in the car. There were over 30 missed calls on it when we went out to the van to leave. My heart stopped. What could it be? As I was trying to listen to voicemails my sister called the phone. Through her crying she managed to say that Dad had another stroke and it wasn’t good. I called my sister who was with him. She told me that this stroke had left his whole body paralyzed and he was unable to speak. The doctors had said that if he did not regain use of his body in the next 24 hours, he would never regain it. I felt as if someone had taken the air out of my lungs. I couldn’t breathe and I could barely speak. Tears streamed down my face as I found the words to ask her to put the phone up to my Dad’s ear. I was sobbing as I told him everything would be okay. I was on my way. My sister told me that a tear streamed down his face as I spoke to him. I knew he had heard me.

The drive home from Myrtle Beach seemed like an eternity even though Josh made record time. Elizabeth was approaching her 24th hour in the car over the course of 2 days. I have never cried so long and so hard in my whole life. I would pull myself together for a moment or two only to burst uncontrollably into tears again.

We pulled into the nursing home at about 11pm. I went immediately up to the 6th floor. I dried my tears as best I could. I needed to be the strong one this time. I went in and I was greeted by the big blue eyes that I had known my entire life. He laid there in the bed unable to move his hands or his feet or his legs. His whole body was paralyzed. He couldn’t even swallow. The only part of him he could move or use to communicate were his eyes. It was in that moment, when I saw his pale blue eyes, tired and helpless looking directly at me that I knew it was time. He had given the good fight and it was time to let him go. I knew this in my head. But it didn’t get to my heart for 8 days.

Day after day went by. People came and went. My sister Jackie and I stayed. We basically moved in the room. We slept in chairs and we laid on his bed next to him day and night. I remember singing, “Let there be Peace on Earth” and “Here I am Lord” to him hundreds of times. I remember vividly when my daughter Elizabeth came in to say goodbye. Her life had been turned upside down. Mommy was never home. Uncle Larry and Aunt Jackie had temporarily moved in with us. She was with many different babysitters. There was always commotion. Mommy was always crying. She stood by the side of his bed and the nurse rolled him to his side. She looked at him eye to eye and said, “Papa, my head is spinning around and around and around!” Just that one simple statement and my Dad let out this small noise as if to laugh. She kissed him and said “I love you Papa” and went home with Josh.

The nurses kept telling us it wouldn’t be much longer. He hadn’t had any food or water in over a week. We all knew what his wishes would be and as painful as it was, tried to carry them out. He just kept holding on. He was such a fighter all his life. Everyone came, his brother Vincent and his sisters. All 8 of us kids had said our goodbyes. My Mom had said goodbye. But he just held on.

I will never forget the eighth night. The nurses told us that his systems were shutting down and that it wouldn’t be much longer. We had all heard this before. Jackie and I were exhausted. Neither of us had really slept more than a few hours at a clip. Everyone went home except the 2 of us- the oldest and the youngest- the “bookends” as they called us. Jackie was on his right and I was on his left. We tried all over again saying it’s okay Dad. We’ll be ok. You can let go. We tried to pray with him. We told him that his Mom was waiting for him. Just let go. He didn’t.  Jackie asked him if he wanted to be alone. Maybe that was the problem. We wanted to be there but maybe he wanted to be alone. A tear streamed down his face and we knew he didn’t want to be alone.

We finally decided that I should try to step out of the room. Maybe he just couldn’t leave me. He had spent his whole life taking care of me. I was the youngest, his baby. So I stepped out. I was exhausted and drained. I felt ready to explode when I left the room. I went into the meal room. It was a glass rectangular room full of tables overlooking the Chemung River. This was the very room where my Dad had told me 3 years earlier to please leave some pills by his bed. I had to let him go. In that moment, I dropped to my knees in front of the window and I sobbed. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I prayed. And I prayed. And I prayed. I repeated over and over the same thing out loud. “Please God. Please take him. Please God. Just take him. Fucking take him.”

I dried my eyes, and went back into the room. I quietly walked over to the bed and put my head on his chest. And I cried. I told him how much I loved him but it was time to go now. Jackie did the same. Within minutes he was gone.

After a moment I stopped crying. It was done. He was gone. He had been there and now he was gone. The energy in the room had changed. Up to that point the room seemed stifling. Even though it was just Jackie and I, I remember feeling crowded and overwhelmed with emotion and energy. When he died it just all vanished. The room immediately felt empty and cold and I suddenly felt this intense urge to get out. My brothers and sisters came after he had passed. I don’t think they ever understood why I wasn’t crying and why I was in such a rush to leave. I don’t know if I fully understand. I felt defeated. I felt alone. I felt empty. I felt lost. He was there. And then he wasn’t. I needed to go home.

Jackie and I drove home silent. We came in the house and both of our husbands met us in the kitchen and we both fell apart. I got myself together and went to bed only to cry myself to sleep again. This was the first of many nights of crying myself to sleep.



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The bikini

So I have been working really hard at getting healthy and fit. It’s been a really long road. Shedding the pounds continues to feel like I am taking off layers of myself I’ve put on throughout my life. Each layer seems to bring something new and unexpected and I learn something about myself with each layer I peel off. Sometimes it feels refreshing and sometimes it feels scary and I feel pretty vulnerable. My weight was almost a protection for me. It kept me safe from having to face certain pieces of my past as well as certain aspects of who I am. It smothered my confidence and kept it so well hidden that I often didn’t believe any existed.

My weight loss journey has required a bravery buried deep inside of me that I haven’t tapped into since I was really young and my parents were divorcing. Running is taking me to my bravery. Running is getting me strong. I hated running as a child. I was painfully shy and I would often run away and hide afraid. Today I’m running for very different reasons. I’m not running away anymore or to hide, but to remember who I am and finally be me.

So today, feeling strong and lean and confident, I went to the store and tried on a bikini. Well, more like 10 to be exact! I was certain someone would look at me and tell me I had no business looking at bikinis and politely usher me to the “mom” bathing suits nearby. But no, no one seemed to care other than me. I went to the dressing room unbelievably nervous. I put on the first and I slowly and cautiously turned around to peek in the mirror. It was quite a moment. Not because I thought I looked spectacular. Nope. I just stood there. I was amazed at my reflection because I couldn’t believe I had found the courage not only to put a bikini on, but also to get my body fit again and in many ways, my life back.

If the bikini could have spoken, I imagine in my mind it would have said, “It was never your fault. It’s okay to look beautiful. It’s okay to look sexy. It’s okay to be thin and fit.”

So today is a landmark day for me. Today I made the decision to leave my shame behind in the dressing room. Today I came home stronger and with the bikini!

*April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. SAAM is a national campaign that commits to raising awareness and promoting the prevention of sexual violence through public education. If you are someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, help is out there. RAINN, Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE in partnership with over 1,100 local rape crisis centers nationwide. RAINN also runs the National Assault Online Hotline (online.rainn.org). Reach out for help.


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6 miles

The voice on my new app said “6 miles” when I hit the top of Main St hill and I thought I might cry right there on the sidewalk with cars whizzing by. I made it back to the mileage I was at before I went off track! It’s amazing how history has a way of repeating itself. And it’s interesting how running is always the mirror. I had built up to 6 miles when I started back up running in the fall and winter. I had hit 6 miles, my furthest distance of all time, and I felt great. I felt strong and empowered. And then life took an unexpected turn. Physically, my running became sporadic and less consistent. I was distracted and stopped focusing on my running goals. Running had forced me to put my energy in myself. I had to count on myself to go the distance. I began to repeat old unhealthy behaviors and I broke one of my cardinal rules in running. I looked back.

I feel fortunate to have the lens of running with which I view so much of my life. It’s a great lens because as I look at the hard stuff, I am moving forward and building confidence and strength. It’s a safe place to be while I look at the stuff I would rather not see at all. The roads I travel running allow my subconscious mind to translate the roads I have taken in my life and give them some sort of meaning. Most importantly, getting back my 6 miles reminds me that even when things go wrong there is always hope. If I can push forward and get back the mileage, there is hope that in the case of my life, I can get back who I am and the path I am meant to be on. 6 miles never felt so good.

 

 


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Shaking it off

“It’s always darkest before the dawn. I’ve been a fool and I’ve been blind. I can never leave the past behind. I can see no way, I can see no way. I’m always dragging that horse around…. Tonight I’m going to bury that horse in the ground…. Shake it out. Shake it out. Shake it out. And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back…. And given half the chance would I take any of it back? I am done with my graceless heart. Tonight I’m going to cut it out and then restart….Shake it out. Shake it out. Shake it out…. Lookin for heaven I found the devil in me.”

Even with good music blasting as I drive solo on 490, it’s still an, “I miss my mom morning.” I contemplated facebooking that earlier but decided, Nah. Inevitably one of my “friends” with the luxury of still having parents alive will sit back thinking how I need to just get over it already. Tell me about it. My mom has been dead three years June 22nd and my dad 9 years in just a couple weeks on April 15th. I wish I were over it. I’m starting to think there isn’t really an, over it.

The mornings that I cry are far and few between. This was one of those mornings. It comes out of no where really. Today was intended to be a “me day”. I was excited to be going to Rochester to Trader Joe’s. The kids are off for spring break starting tomorrow so it made sense to do something for myself to energize for a week of entertaining the kiddos.

As I was driving I started feeling like something was missing. I felt like I should be on my way to pick up my sister Mary and my mom like I used to. We used to get together on my “me days” and I would take Mary to work and my mom and I would would do errands together and go shopping for the day. I don’t think it was the company while shopping that I missed. It was the comfort of being with her. It was our dance. She would distract me from my worries and anxieties because I would focus on hers. I could tell her anything. She wouldn’t always understand. But I could tell her and the burden would be off me. If she disagreed with me, I could gain strength in my position by “convincing” her I was right. Thus, the “Corkins disposition” she always told everyone I had. I think I used her as a way to get strong. Which probably explains why I feel weak without her. And it probably explains why I run. As old as I am, running is my new attempt to get strong without my mom.

Wow. Revelations while blogging in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s :) It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back. Shaking him off; for today at least.


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