I do it, and I do it big. Here's to not forgetting about it.

Archive for the ‘Reflection’ Category

Small Victories: Not all is gained

I’ve been holding off on weighing myself, since the CDC didn’t release any guidance on when that would be safe again. Because I do not live under a rock, I’ve been pretty perturbed and occasionally depressed by an accumulation of events. I thought to myself, well, it can’t get any worse – may as well step on the scale!

I didn’t regain all of my weight from July! Only 70% of it, hah! I’ve never been so elated to have gained 15 pounds! Not gonna even front though – it’s been fun. I got permission to start introducing run intervals today from my PT, so hopefully the scale will start moving in the opposite direction shortly but I love some domesticated Lady J.

Almond and Apricot Biscotti
Buttermilk Bread
Curry Shrimp

I’m cooking and baking tonight after my walk! Life is short!

Normal: Part 1 of 3

“You’re not normal.” – Mommy

Life on earth for the past few months has been weird, and according to my mother, I am no different. Her reaction was to my attitude as I described loving time at home, going to doctors’ appointments via telehealth, only venturing out for groceries. I’ve had happy hour with my besties on Zoom and celebrated my Aunt’s 75th birthday in the same manner. Frankly, the only thing I can’t wait to do is hugging my 100 year old Grandma, which I cannot bring myself to feel safe doing.

Yes, I understand that I am blessed to have a job (for now!) that has enabled me to work remotely. Though my husband is not working at the moment, I expect that he will return within a month. I don’t take for granted that my situation is among the rosier caused by Covid-19.

Can we finally admit though, that normal is kinda overrated?

For my home – normal is being home one full day together out of seven to see each other – and that day is filled with the things that help prepare us for another cycle of work. In 6 of those other days, we are driving over 50 miles – each – to and from our respective jobs. As much as I enjoy my work, it takes a lot of emotional and physical energy to keep doing it. While I do have what I feel is a robust life outside of work, my fitness pastime also takes work. It’s called WORKING. OUT. It’s in the name. 🙂 Who among us thinks they are paid enough for what they do? As an educator, I’ll have that fight with just about anyone aside from a nurse (thank you, thank you!).

It wasn’t just my mother that called me out, though – my priest did. I’ve been worshipping via Livestream on Sunday mornings and he was lamenting how he missed communion. “People can worship from anywhere, but communion is something done in person.” He got me. People take energy – whether it’s the ones in your house, or the ones on the street. Covid has quieted the most tiring part of life for me – and the indictment from my couch via the pulpit didn’t feel good. “Now I can donate my money and learn and not deal with humanity!” I’ve written here previously about how much effort it is to interact with others, but not quite badly enough to wipe out over 100,000 of my fellow American citizens, not to mention the other million or so in the rest of the world.

Reverend A.R. Bernard says we are to develop our strengths and manage our weaknesses. I would like to say I’ve been using this time for both, but in truth, I’ve just been enjoying the relative quiet. What could be more normal than that?

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She Ran Her Best, and I Can, Too.

I’ve never been more excited to vote than I was to vote for Elizabeth Warren.

If you know me, this may not seem like much. I am what people in politics call a “supervoter,” in that since I  pre-registered to vote when I was 17, I have NEVER missed an election. I even voted in the 2008 Florida presidential primary, when my vote literally did not count because apparently Florida violated the rules by moving the primary. I have been fascinated by the process since the Supreme Court decided the election in 2000. My mother once told me I was talking in my sleep about Bush tax cuts as a high schooler.

However.

There has never been a candidate that has moved me in such a personal, literal way. When E Dubs took out Bloomberg in that first debate, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. I have been struggling with knee pain ever since I took on the Clearwater Causeway on January 28 and I thought to myself, “Dammit, if Warren G can take on a billionaire, I can handle a few miles!” I have never felt so inspired by someone to whom I have zero personal connection. Her plans. Her wisdom. Her wit. Her determination.

I have admired Senator Warren since the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Her work marks the first time that I have seen the national political process make a difference in my every day life. When she entered the presidential race, I knew I would have to give her careful consideration. Everyone likes to pretend that their political decisions are 100% rational, but here’s the thing about me and Liz – my heart AND my brain believe she has more to give America than anyone else running right now.

Nobody can tell me God isn’t real – I got my campaign t-shirt in the mail today and I’m wearing it as I sip my rum and cola and type. I love that I voted for a woman whom I believe will continue to fight for me, even if it looks different than I had hoped. I love that I voted for someone who was the best candidate, without paying attention to worthless polls. I love that I voted for a genuine, human being – one who is perfectly imperfect. I love that I voted for another teacher!! If only she had a plan for me submitting my lesson plans on time…

I have been mad as hell as I’ve watched the corporate media erase her from the narrative. I am confident that if she were Edgar Warren with the same credentials, she would have the nomination LOCKED. UP. RIGHT. NOW. I wish I could blame my ups and downs with running on misogyny and the corporate media. MSNBC or Fox doesn’t want me to foam roll and stretch to avoid injury, amirite? I know she wants me to check my cart at Amazon.com because I added her book in both hardback and paperback and she would want me to just choose one because that’s prudent. But dammit I know Elizabeth Warren hopes I wrap up this post really quickly so I can go to bed, dream big, and fight hard another day. Believing in her helps me believe in myself. What greater gift can a person give another?

I stan a legend. I will NEVER regret voting for her and I am thankful for the opportunity. I made my voice heard and I will continue to do so.  I will vote for the Democratic nominee, but I stan only one. This is my race day shirt for the rest of the year. I hope Liz and I have a lot of races ahead to run – and win. ❤

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Fabruary: Awaiting Results

Day 1 of the new month – which I am proclaiming as fabulous, by the way – with my mountain of student loan debt comes the ability to spell all of the months in English properly – has got me nervous. I know I literally JUST said it is going to be fabulous but please, hear me out. I have successfully wrapped up my workouts for the week but my legs are not happy about it. I did a good job in Shamuary of consistently getting in my miles, but if I do not start stretching and adding strength regularly, I’m not going to make it. Stretching daily and full ass yoga and strength routines twice a week, each. Periodt, as my Lil One would say.

I believe that every runner loves results, but I also think that results mean different things to different people. When I started running in 2013, I was not thinking that I would ever become addicted to entering races. I was just a girl trying to continue my habit of working out 3 times a week to lose weight and Couch to 5k was a free, structured way for me to do so. What a blessing that I was able to maintain the discipline to finish the program, enter a race, and have one of the happiest moments of my life as I crossed my first finish line. While I still care about my weight loss, the purpose has now flipped – rather than running to lose weight, I want to lose weight so I can be the most efficient runner possible.

At this point in my life, I am determined to show myself that my best still awaits me. Last night, I started updating the calendar page of my blog to fill in gaps and detail all of my awesome activities and race results. I used the site coolrunning.com, which I have been using for years to check where I’ve placed in my age groups. Would you believe that as of today, February 1, coolrunning.com is NO. MORE?! Had I waited one more day, it might have been impossible to find any of my races prior to my purchasing a Garmin. I am beyond thankful that God moved me to update my calendar and I hope I can bless others as I increase in fearlessness. If you want to do something, people, just grab life by the ovaries! You never know!

About those ovaries.

It was interesting seeing my race times in black and white, all together. There is a distinct before and after marriage line. I have been tempted to make new goals based on Mrs. J rather Ms. J but I am not that old yet! I refuse to accept that the result of getting married is to be slower. That being said, the result of being older and more experienced requires that I do not neglect things like stretching and strength training – when I was at my best I was getting regular massages and not missing boot camp. That girl was great, and this one can be too. THAT being said, I’m no longer mad at Mrs. J for being slower. I am coming to realize that life is like training and it is simply not feasible for me to be in peak condition all of the time. Garmin knows, look at this chart:

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The last year three years have frustrated me as I cannot seem to break the pattern of setting goals and missing them, but check out that calendar – I haven’t been exactly sedentary. I would argue that I have toggled between maintaining, recovery, and overreaching as a married woman. I hope that I am able to become more productive so that I can truly peak! Here’s to good decision making and not being mean to myself when I make not so good ones!

 

 

The Lesson: Race Report

The only time I’m ever wrong is when I think I am wrong. That’s the lesson.

It was Friday night and my body was hurting. When I don’t feel like running, I feel sad about not feeling like running, and it quickly becomes a twisted spiral. I had been looking forward to both my speed repeats and my long run all week – perhaps because I was going to allow myself to have Culver’s. I work really hard to avoid going more than 2 days without a run because obviously, if you don’t do something for 3 days in a row, you just don’t do that thing. For example, I am no longer a pianist. I did the most logical thing I could think of: I whipped out my credit card and registered for a 5 miler on Sunday.

As soon as my transaction cleared, I checked the forecast. 40s! I looked at the course more closely. Big ass bridge! Twice! I had been texting my friend and I told her I needed to pay for a race because I would be less likely to skip out on a run I had paid for and boy was I regretting making that choice, even though I was right!

I spent most of Saturday on the couch, lamenting my hurting leg. Briefly got up to go to Culver’s despite not running. I went to bed with my 5 am wake up call in mind. Upon awaking, I prepared myself a delicious egg sandwich, a double espresso, and filled my carafe with a lovely brew of Ethiopian Longberry. If I drink like they do, I’ll be fast like they are, amirite?

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For someone filled with so much doubt, I’m pretty cute. As cold as I was, I couldn’t help but enjoy the beautiful view of the bay from Clearwater and feel God’s glory as the sun rose. There is nothing like seeing the sun rise and feeling the hope of the possibilities at the starting line. I danced, stretched, and browsed as I waited for the race to begin. My plan was to run for 1 minute and walk for 30 seconds. While I wanted to finish in under an hour, I tried not to allow myself to get too attached to that goal.

The first time I had run over this bridge, I was with my mother, who cursed the fact that there was a hill so early in the race. “That’s not fair,” she insisted. Thankfully, I not only knew to expect the unfairness, but I had been practicing hill repeats. For the first time, the Clearwater Causeway did not feel like death. I just kept doing my intervals and I was able to do so steadily. As each mile passed, I pointed to the sky, recognizing the source of my strength. I never felt tired. I made the turn to go over the bridge once more and felt like I could conquer the world before me. I made sure to run on the road where it wasn’t pitched so I didn’t have angry knees and hips later. I was crushing this bad boy.

Look! I did it!

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I am on track RIGHT NOW to meet my goal of running 10k in 1:10. If I were to do it today, I would probably be a bit uncomfortable, but that’s okay! I have to keep showing up and remember the real lesson – things are typically not as bad as I think they are. Shamuary is ending strongly!

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(P)Re-Epiphany: Race Report

I’ve fallen, and I’m conflicted as to whether or not to get up.

I groaned as I woke up yesterday to check the weather. Cold, cold, cold. I personally do not care to be outside when it dips below 55 in Florida, and it definitely was in the 40s. On the way to the race, I asked myself – why do I bother registering for January races? It feels this way damn near every. year. What is my compulsion?

My mood did not improve upon my arrival at the race site. I saw several people I know, and quite well, but they either didn’t recognize me or chose to ignore me. Sometimes, as a black woman, I feel like a chameleon – a change to my hair and I am a totally different person. Perhaps I simply have a forgettable face, or both! Anyhow, this introvert didn’t feel like talking anyway. I saw a student and his family and I turned the other direction and went back to my car to stay warm.

My word, January 1 was filled with such hope and here I am, the 5th, fallen from my glory. My shiny new Garmin glimmers on my wrist and I feel unworthy of the tool in which I’ve invested. It’s the same old body! Same old weakness, same imperfection, same doubts, but now with Spotify and Bluetooth. I worked to set up my playlist, which I named for my mood.

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Sigh. Why am I here?

I exited my car about 5 minutes prior to the race start. I will admit that my music made me dance and smile, as sour as I had been feeling. Like running, it is primal; moreover, it also elicits my feelings of inadequacy, but the only performance ahead of me was this 3.1 miles, so I’m gonna jam. I hear someone shout go and I walk toward the start line, without the hope that I had had just 4 days prior.

I knew that I was capable of running the race in its entirety, but I did not know how fast I would be. I told myself I would just run comfortably. A couple – each with a stroller! – passed me, and I sighed once more. Those babies are winning in every way, I thought to myself – they don’t have student loans! My twisted sense of humor made me smile as I ran.

My watch beeped as I passed the first mile marker. Under 12 minutes?! Whose legs are these? Can I maintain this? I enjoyed my music as I took each step, thankful for what seemed to be a steady pace. This race was in a very familiar area, which – I cannot say I find positive. I know exactly what it feels like to drive on these roads and because I do so fairly often, it made me very impatient to finish the race. By the time the final turn came, I no longer regretted having registered – but I’m not doing this one again!

There was so much food at the finish line but I still just wanted to get the hell out of there. Why does it still feel like a divine revelation that I enjoy completing races, even when I start the day reluctantly? Why am I so hard-headed that it still surprises me a bit when God brings me to another finish line? What will it take for me to feel like I just want to run and not run and hide?

Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion! Ecclesiastes 9:4 (NIV)

You hear that, y’all? I am better than a dead lion! Apparently, there’s hope for me, even when I am down in the dumps…20200105_080055

One More Time

I amuse my students in rehearsals by telling them the only time they shouldn’t take me literally is when I tell them, “One more time!” This is a “lie” that all music teachers tell, I say. They groan, but they know that doing it one more time will bring them closer to a result they can appreciate. One more time can be the difference between a confident performance and a reluctant one, or it can be the space between a solid, harmonic ending and a stumble across the finish line of our song.

As 2019 concludes, I find myself making resolutions – one more time. Like my students, I groan because I am tired. I wish I could have it all right in this moment, but I don’t. There are many who scoff at new year’s resolutions because of the natural tendency to allow ourselves to lapse, but that is not the fault of the calendar. Why would we fault each other for trying to be the best versions of ourselves? This is a difficult thing to do, all year long!

Even when my students need to play one more time, I make a conscious effort to tell them what they are doing well. I want them to know that celebrating their strengths and managing their weaknesses can happen concurrently AND that I love and appreciate them and their effort. I deserve the same for myself, do I not?

I am thankful that at the end of 2019 I am a tad less cynical than I was at the end of 2018. This is despite not meeting my goal of running 1019 KM, or running a 10 miler with the best Mentor ever, and still being fat. I definitely have to work on this healthy human thing one more time. Look at my 2018 running stats:

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Compare them to my 2019 stats:

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Look how much better I did! Yay, me! Yes, I’m still fat, but I did lose 20 pounds and managed to only gain one pound in November and December – no small feat, between a trip to Jamaica, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Garmin gave me this badge today:

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I am stoked that I have finished the year strongly. I tell my babies all the time that even if we have a rough start, we can have a strong ending and that counts for a whole lot. I love that Garmin has marked this badge as repeatable, for Lord willing, I will have another strong finish. The tricky bit, as you can tell from 2 years of training logs, is the middle. I want to approach 2020 fearlessly – unafraid to set new goals, but perhaps more importantly, unafraid to RESET old goals.

Happy New Year! One more time.

Miss and Hit: Race Report

The Christmas season may start in earnest after Thanksgiving for civilians, but for music teachers like Lady J, I’ve been professionally preparing since prior to Halloween. Holiday concert number one was on Friday, the 6th, and I had been so stressed and so not running that I thought I would skip out on a 5k for which I registered months ago on Saturday. The Mentor said it would make me feel better, though, and I had the best of intentions to do it.

Womp! Didn’t happen. I made it to bed around 11 and set my alarm to 4:30, but when the husband came into bed late, I was unable to get to back to sleep. I was more scared of the hour long drive each way than I was of the running, and so by 5:30 am, I fell asleep again.

I really hate skipping races for which I’ve registered (unless they are triathlons, no regrets). The only other time I can think of that I’ve missed a running race is when my mother-in-law was literally on her deathbed. 2019 has been a great one, no? 🤦🏾‍♀️ While I think I made the best choice, it still bummed me out. The Mentor texted me to ask how it went because she’s the best, but I waited to reply until…

I showed up and registered for another race today!

Here I am, one of my favorite places in the whole, wide world. The starting line. I’ve been mostly doing intervals since September, if I’ve been doing anything at all. I simply wanted to see where I am right now and how I felt. Run and see what happens!

I chose my Gospel music running playlist. I need supernatural help every day, but today I thought it would be especially helpful. 3.1 miles is a long way! I didn’t have high hopes that I would be able to make it all the way through a song without a walk break, much less a whole mile, but after I saw the first mile mark and I was still trucking along, I started to get some confidence.

Step after step was given to me. I kept marveling at how the body works. The gift of being able to move forward – to walk – much less run – was making me smile as I worked my way toward the finish. Less than 40 minutes before I started, I found myself with Santa!

I. Was. So. Happy!

As I wrapped up some shopping, I heard the awards start and didn’t think anything of it at first. Then I heard some of the times and thought…maybeeeee…and maybe came true!

5th place AG! Not bad for a girl who set her alarm for 4 am this morning and swiped her card to sign up 15 minutes before the start!

I wish my running were more hits and fewer misses, but I am thankful for today! Here’s hoping my next hit drops sooner rather than later…

Front Row Seat

Yaya’s funeral was today.

I know. That was fast, right?

A timeline:

April 9 – discovery of tumors in lungs, pancreas, and liver after complaint of pain in sides.

April 12 – PET scan to determine if tumors are benign or cancerous.

April 15 – return to PCP who confirms she has cancer.

April 22 – meeting with oncologist who says the average life expectancy is 3 to 4 months, but he has seen as long as 1 year and as short as 2 weeks.

May 6 – last breath taken.

I have never experienced anything like this, and while there have been many nights with little sleep, I have seen God working in many beautiful ways. She was lucid the entire time. She only complained of nausea 2 days before she died and we solved that with stool softener, as opposed to the excruciating, debilitating pain that often comes with cancer. I didn’t anticipate that I would spend my birthday writing an obituary, but I wouldn’t have it any other way – it was truly a pleasure to ensure that she was recognized properly. Moreover, when I needed love the most, people in my life were already primed to give it to me because it was my birthday. God spared her by not allowing her to suffer and spared me the additional sorrow of having to share the day of her death with the day of my birth.

We spent her last weekend making sure all of her needs were met, summoning hospice nurses when needed. On Friday, Yaya had said to her regular nurse, “See you Monday – if I am still here.” She insisted that Pete not leave my brother-in-law alone because she felt she was going to die soon. I went back home and brought enough things for us to stay for the weekend. I will never forget the angel of a nurse that God sent both on Saturday and Sunday, who warned us that her death was imminent. Yaya was ready. She had spent the previous weekend giving us her things. She had told me she was tired and that we were going to be okay.

Pete and I each had one of her hands as her breathing slowed to a full stop at 4:10 AM. She was peacefully in her bed, just as she had wished. She knew we loved her and we knew she loved us. I stared in disbelief, as I had been in and out of her presence all week, checking for the rise and fall of her chest as she appeared to sleep. She still looked like she was only sleeping, but now she had achieved full healing.

I knew church today would be strange. I have had many family members die, but this is the closest I have been to the deceased – both for her death and in terms of relation. I always think of Gerard Manley Hopkins Spring and Fall to a Young Child at funerals – with each passing day, and indeed with each passing, my own is closer. In the busy-ness of life, it is easy to forget that we are mortal and one day will take our last breath. I hope not only to honor my mother-in-law’s life, but her death as well.

I will always cherish this ring she gave me.

No Regrets!

Mommy has no choice but to shake her head and smile when I do something, like eat a plate of food that she has obviously set aside for herself, and she calls me out. My response is inevitably, “No regrets!” It’s not like I am going to lose her love, right? The food was calling my name.

I feel similarly about life at times. The world is my Mom’s plate for the taking. I write from about 10,000 feet, on my way to see The Mentor and run a race with her in her current home city of Washington, DC – one of my favorite places in the world.  I am insanely blessed to 1) have an amazing friend like her, 2) have the means to visit her, and 3) have a job from which I am able to take time to visit her. As I gaze out of the window and see God’s beautiful creation, I am made to smile.

Of course, since I am myself, I am unable to feel pure joy. We COULD crash any minute, you know. Also – am I working hard enough? Do I really have any discretionary income – you know, considering? Have I had all of my fun? Live update: we have made it to the gate and as long as I make it back (seriously, Lord, I’m kidding) my loan payment is still due. I will say this – my student loan debt has made me less afraid to die. But I digress, however slightly.

Am I living a life that brings the Lord glory? What am I doing? Is God happy when I am traveling and being the tax and spend Democrat that my Daddy says I am? Perhaps even more importantly, am I using my working days in a manner that pleases Him? What if I am doing everything wrong? How can I be sure that I won’t face Him some day and be greeted by a divine face palm?

At work, I seek to inspire others to tap into their capabilities. I want them to feel comfortable exploring, excited about creating, and willing to collaborate with their classmates to do so. I suppose God could find my desire to facilitate such things pleasing, though I feel I fall short often.

Sadly, my money goes to church with more frequency and predictability than I do. I was baptized in a white evangelical church where I received (and do receive, when I go) solid teaching, but it is difficult for me to cope with the fact that this demographic is the one that is MOST supportive of – well, you know. To be fair, I haven’t really been afraid in the last few years to schedule a race on a Sunday or train or just sleep in. Can I really not afford to give God a concentrated few hours a week? If what we value is reflected in our finances, how much more so with our time?

How much would it suck to be having a good ole time down here like an idiot and being doing it wrong? How can I know I am okay, so to speak? I want to nourish my relationships, professional and personal. I want to challenge myself to grow. I want to see things I’ve never seen before, but I want to do it all in a way that pleases Him. This is the only way I will surely have no regrets. I wish I knew exactly how to do it.

 

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