Whoa Mama

Friday, April 29, 2011


It is 4 weeks and 1 day until the half marathon. I exceeded my goal to support Roswell Park thanks to very generous family, friend and co-workers, and am happy to exceed it further should you want to support. After today, I feel really ready to do this thing. It was rainy, cold and very windy today and with that working against me, I still did:

I ran ELEVEN miles. **11**

It took forever. I am not winning any races, least of all one that requires that I run for over 2 hours. Part of what happens out there is after you get over the hurdle of convincing your body that you are going to be doing this for a little while, at least for me, is that your brain 1. shuts off or 2. occupies itself in odd ways like long divisions. Typically, I am the latter. Today, there was just an assemblage of observations.

I did about 6 miles on the street, during which multiple people honked. To all of them, I say, please don't do that! Unless I'm wearing a number, this isn't a spectator sport. I'm not dressed like I'm on the cover of Lucy so the act of being out there sweaty, slogging along shouldn't evoke any acknowledgement. If I don't know you and have don't express knowledge of the car you drive, I'm not waving back. Move along. If you DO know me, please stop with water and/or a tissue.

Knowing that I was facing a new personal record, I tried a new route which included really quiet, safe place to loop off the road for about a mile. It comes out on the back side of the senior center and is on city property. I ran into some city worked doing, I think, what the posted signed said, which was "abating nuisance animals". I guess that means don't let your dog eat anything back there AND wear florescent. They must have been taking a break when I came upon them because they were attempting pull ups on one of the workout bars along the path. I'm not typically a smart ass, but I couldn't resist and called out, "99! 100!" They were good natured about it, because really, who is the girl trotting 20 minute miles to poke fun.

I headed over to the track at the high school, where I found the engineering genius that is the manufactured track surface. As I was approaching the school, I shuttered at the thought of the miniscule gravel that used to shoot up and burrow into my socks during gym class, soccer sprints and marching band practice. I weighed it against more pounding on a road and decided it was worth the trade off. When I hit this new stuff, my legs were gleeful! It was buoyant! The track was clearly set up for track & field practice with hurdles that were much more like limbo bars. Seriously, I could more easily vertical jump one of my six-year olds than get over one of these things. Sadly I got chased off the track and its dreamy, mousse-like surface when a gym class came pouring out.

Slogging up a viscous hill at 8 miles, I thought about being pregnant. The first time around wasn't bad. Starting to run at six weeks postpartum was hard. I was uncoordinated, sore in strange places and giggly everywhere. Sam was an easy pregnancy, easy birth and all told, easy recovery. Then I carried twins for 35 weeks. I remember being 30 weeks along, way to early to give birth and just unfathomably large, with Sammy walking through the Wegmans parking lot. I was so slow and ungainly. A woman easily three times my age blew past me and I vowed to never take advantage of my healthy body again.

That was a very easy, soap opera-like statement was frosted in hyperbole! Time, effort, energy, desire easily overshadow the desperate promise of the pregnant mother. However I thought of that tired, slow mama and reminded myself there was no reason not to keep going today.
With eight miles behind me and three to go, I ran home, got the dog and finished what will stand, at most for four weeks, as my personal record. I ran ELEVEN MILES!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

no such thing as a simple story

Junie B. Jones, for those of you unfamiliar, is a sassy, tell-it-like-it-is kindergartener/1st grader. One my my personal favorites is how she refers to her kindergarten teacher as Mrs. "She has another name, but I like just Mrs. and that's all"

Junie B. is about to loose a tooth and is hoping for some sort of honor for being the first kid in Room 9 to do so. She has a tete-a-tete with her teacher about this and he delivers the blow that he doesn't really have any prize. She instructs him to check his desk "because teachers always have things in their desks"

The boys loved this idea and jumped in with a query about the purpose of goodies in the teacher's desk. I said, "I keep goodies in my desk too. On my desk too." Of course they needed details. I had to share about the mug of treats on my desk. M&Ms, jelly beans, whatever seems seasonally fun.

Aidan wanted to know why I had treats so I told him that I have to have something for when my boys are in the office. Also there are lots of people who walk by my office and when I have treats they stop and say hi. Noah added that he would also like some treats before they go to Pop Camp. This is what they call days they spend with my dad in the summer. Pop camp always opens with cocoa and munchkins, so of course stopping by my office for a fistful of M&Ms is necessary.

This was on page 2 of Junie B. It took us nearly 1/2 hour to read 8 pages, including deep thoughts on the use of Junie B.'s prolific use of bad words including "dumb bunny", "hate", "meanie" (as in Meanie Jim), and the mother of all 1st grade bad words "Stupid".

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter

In honor of Spring/Break/ Easter, this dapper young fellow had his first lunch outside today.

We had some seriously **fancy** egg decorations this year, quite by accident. The boys were thoroughly inspired.

We went through 2 dozen and then had to call Grandma for permission to steal hers.

Scary how much these two can still look alike! I am only confident that they are two different boys from this angle because of the jammies.

Anyone who has been following along will be surprised to know that the "grow your own Easter grass" project was a success.

Aidan: Mommy, How does the Easter Bunny get all over the world? He can't fly over the ocean.
Me: Maybe he takes a fast boat.
Aidan: That would wake the people up.

Happy Easter!!

Now if you'll excuse me I have some egg salad to make....

Friday, April 22, 2011

Dyngus Day with the the Irish

If you've ever read my blog or seen a Facebook status in the past year, then you know that I have deep-seated love of Wegmans. There are many many reasons for the inappropriate love of a supermarket.

  • Biweekly Friday Kids Movie Nights
  • WKids - free child care for while you are in the store
  • Fresh Sushi
  • Divine Salad Bar - one of the great luxuries in my life has always been someone else chopping fresh vegetables and providing me with any manner of delicious protein
  • Bulk - set the bar for bulk food, closely tracked by Whole Foods, but the original is still the best
  • Any any any thing you need - wonton wrappers, peppers in adobe, fresh scallops, extraordinarily affordable dye/fragrance free laundry detergent, delightfully dark coffee, awesome fresh muffins (French Vanilla and Morning Glory are divine! I've tried to replicate them and cannot respectfully close)
  • An olive bar - I know! Why would you need/want/think of such a thing. TRUST ME! It has fresh hummus and baba ghanoush and makes you find reasons to use the olive.
  • Open 24 hours - parents??? haven't we all either had a sick child and needed meds and other supplies and/or had time at 11pm to pick up some necessities.
  • They have a small, manageable little toy section. Odd you think? It is perfect for birthday party shopping when you a) have to do it the day of, and b) do NOT want to deal with the aisles of Toys R Us or Target, and c) enjoy the opportunity to get in and out with the latest gallon of milk.
  • 40 products on which they are not raising prices in 2011. Seriously, I do not care if they make up for it on other prices. On these 40, I can fill 85% of my weekly necessities. Strike that, I just checked the list. Probably 95% of my weekly necessities.
  • Affordable holiday goodies - muffin cups, sprinkles, decorations and other things that make it easy and practical to really enjoy all the holidays. Let's face it. I do not want to have to think twice about buying St. Patrick's Day muffin cups, heart-shaped cake pans, all things Christmas. I love doing all the holidays all the way.
We embrace maaaaany holidays. The large and the small. One of the few on the fray of holidays we don't rise up to is Dyngus Day. If my defense there are no cookie cutter shapes to celebrate Easter Monday. Nope, I cannot explain better than Wikipedia as I learned long ago that things like the Broadway Market, the Butter Lamb and family gatherings to make perogies are unique to not only the Eastern European cultures, but deeply entrenched in Western New York. Eastern European cultures are intensely woven into WNY. If you haven't ever lived in WNY, do you know anyone who identifies themselves as Polish, Croatian, Slavic? At age 4, my sister rolled her "R's" like the Croatian nuns who ran her pre-K. I'm not going to pretend like I'm deeply enmeshed. I'm Irish from South Buffalo-ish. Again, something that only holds water if Western New York means anything to you. But I loved it today when I went into Wegmans and the "seasonal" section was piping out polka music.

Necessary information here is also that Sammy sings in the episcopal cathedral choir. He is really bright and has a frightening
aptitude for almost anything.

Today in Wegmans, breezing through for milk (always), eggs (for more dying) and dish washer tablets, Noah bopped up and down to the Polka music, clearly in honor of Dyngus Day. I said, "you like this, huh?". "yes! what is this?" Sammy jumped to the rescue of the query. "It's.....I know this!" We continued walking. Noah continued to shake his money maker.

Sammy continues to struggle with the name of the music (polka). "oooooooh. I **know** this!" He is practically chanting it.

Finally, Sammy announced, " I KNOW! This music is OLD FOLKS MUSIC!"


Saturday, April 16, 2011

7 Weeks and Counting

The half marathon is 7 weeks away. So I layered up this morning, despite the high wind warning and drizzle, which devolved into driving rain circa mile 4. Spring brings any number of predictable signs on my preferred route: the bright green of the golf course, shoots of daffodils, any manner of poo to dodge, all ages, sizes and modes of transportation, even this morning, the lights of the local ball field! Spring is here!

It is a lovely park surrounded by woods from which loads of creepy types emerge, including a freaky wolf/dog thing and some equally hairy things that usually carry brown bags. It is largely safe despite the time there was a masked man trailing us. No I'm not kidding. After passing us multiple times in the early hours, this creeper drove by with a bandana over his face. Thankfully the police wasted no time getting there.

Anyway, the weather kept most everyone away, save for the minivan driving the wrong way in the bike lane. I plowed through 5 miles almost entirely alone in the park. I was ready to go further, but duty called. I've got to get in at least an eight mile run, though I was hoping to do nine, this weekend to stay on track for the half marathon. Tomorrow promises to be a bit warmer and should be much drier.

The really newsworthy part is the I managed over 2 nine-minute miles! Fueled by G.Love, Black Keys and Joss Stone, as well as a couple bites on Noah's pancake wrapped around brown sugar, I flew! Finally the wind and wet took hold a little and I had to slow down. It is not a pace that I typically achieve so it was really gratifying. Whether it was the music, the food,the pressure to get home so that boys could get to rehearsal or the encouragement of the very generous donations to the Team Cure Challenge, it came together today and I've got the sweat to prove it.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brave beyond words

I have been reflecting an awful lot about mental illnesses after the NPR piece last week. Thinking about the stigma, the unspeakable challenges, the silent struggle that so many people face every day with mental illnesses.

Mental illness does come in so very many forms. It seems that most of what people generally know of mental illness is from films and some books. There are the dramatized, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" types, the stereotypical and grossly misrepresented, ridiculous horror movie types. But those just make good entertainment and don't represent the vast majority of people with any form of mental illness.

Bipolar disorder has as the name implies, two sides: the manic and the depressive. Depression is also in my opinion wildly misinterpreted with a romantic notion of tortured souls and artistic temperaments. The biography of poet Ann Sexton "Searching for Mercy Street" is a raw account of bipolar disorder from the eyes of her daughter. Her descriptions of the highs and lows are remarkable and heart wrenching. Nonetheless, the common perception is that depression is just pretty sad. Anyone with any experience with it will assure you that it is far from glamorous. So when it was released that Catherine Zeta-Jones was being treated for bipolar disorder, it was obvious that hers was the manic kind, not the easily spin-able, alluring (by Hollywood standards) depressive kind.

My first thought was simply awe. This stunning, successful woman with the world before her has just announced to the world that she has a mental illness! She has built a career, managed an extraordinarily public life, including very open struggles and had a family while also managing what has very likely been a life long demon. I am so impressed and cannot applaud loud enough for her brave decision to come forward with her very personal illness. I hope that her public position and this beginning of informed dialogue brings about better understanding and acceptance. I also wish that by acknowledging her diagnosis helps others seek treatment.

OK - cute stories to resume....

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Clothes make the (wo)man

Clothes make the (wo)man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. ~Mark Twain

Admittedly there is a wide range of acceptable in professional dress for women.

There is the basic issue of profession.
The corporate attorney and graphic design artist would rarely have to worry about wearing the same outfit.

A small office typically has a more relaxed standard than a large firm.

Miami vs. NYC vs. Buffalo -ha! to say nothing of London, Paris, Tokyo. You get the idea. Even geography is a factor.

Throw in stockings (yes/no/color), skirt length, shoe choice, hair, make-up: the permutations are innumerable. The potential offenses are astronomical.

A few basic rules go a very long way. We all need to find our own. Many of mine are outlined by my good friend Ann (Taylor).

My cousin and I enjoy comparing notes on personal experiences. She recently shared this blog
It's just one of many places to find loads of good tips. Yet still so much tacky, fashion impaired, bad judgements out there! There is an attorney in my building who needs to meet some low lights and a flat iron on her hair which should easily be 8 inches shorter, manages to belt everything, shimmers and routinely manages to screw up even a black suit. Couple that with a very junior intern and I've got loads of material for my mental makeovers.

Clearly I also want to be polished and present well. Something I believe I typically achieve. I have a great stock of go-to dresses with any number of shoes and several jackets without looking at all. I can put myself together pretty well and clean up if necessary like today when I dribbled coffee down my cream sweater in my car and promptly wrote all over myself in Tide pen only to arrive shiny clean, if fragrant.

I have no excuse or explanation however for yesterday when I wore my dress backwards all day.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Nothing cute about this

For two years I worked directly with people with serious mental illnesses. It was a meaningful, shaping, challenging and rewarding job. At the end of the day, it was a job. When I ultimately left to get my master degrees, I left believing that direct care work should be an experience everyone should have. I saw how people were stricken with mental illness and taken from happy, productive, loving lives, trapped in a cavern of paralyzing psychosis with voices or emotions driving your actions.

I once heard an accomplished professional with a PhD and schizophrenia talk about having to "go in for an oil change" every few years when her body chemistry or some less defined factor decreased the efficacy of her meds. That is to say, she started hearing voices again. She knew enough to self-monitor and typically was able to check herself into a psychiatric unit, most of which are locked by design for every one's safety. She recounted a story about how people's behavior changes by virtue of being locked up. She said she was waiting for an orderly to take her to an appointment on a different floor. She was waiting on a bench by herself when a wave of crisp lucidity came over her and she realized that she had her finger up her nose! "Now I know if you have to pick your nose, you do it in your car by yourself! Yet here I was seeped in the illness coupled with the anonymity of the hospital PICKING MY NOSE". Ultimately she again got herself balance and drove off to consulting jobs picking her nose in a better car than I've ever had.

She has stayed with me, her success with mental illness, the horrible challenges and injustice of life with mental illness. She is undoubtedly a success story. For every one like her, there are thousands whose illnesses are far to profound to ever hope to live with the freedom of driving a car and picking your nose. Yet you all know someone with a mental illness of some form. They probably mask it well and you likely don't know it. Sadly they may not know it either. Mental illness is far far far more prevalent than is commonly believed and it is NOT always violent. Some violent criminals may have mental illnesses, but a mental illness does not assign someone to a life of violence.

I don't intend to get too preachy about the system and treatment methodologies and politics and doctrine du jour. I want to say that I had the honor of working with some incredibly dedicated, inspirational, strong, creative, brilliant people in direct care. Truly amazing people devoted to helping this population thrive in whatever ways were possible within the parameters of their lives.

And in one year alone, I can think of three serious acts of violence in our population of 12 against our staff of 8. Mine was the least serious with a punch in the head by a woman who weighed about a 94 lbs soaking wet. Fueled by CRAY-ZAY voices in her head, over tired, undermedicated, over caffeinated and just generally pissed at me, she packed a whallop as I rounded the corner on a staircase. [Incidentally she was pissed at me because I was young, blond and drove a red car and she had just had a "break through" on her meds and was more lucid than she'd been in 15 years and realized that she wasn't young anymore, didn't have blond hair and would never drive a red car. All of which she documented in her journal.] Anyway, I was stunned and it showed. She wanted to hurt me and when I didn't react with hurt she wound up again. Trained in non-violent restraint and realizing it was coming this time, I took her down on the stairs and called for help. It was over. I was fine. That also stayed with me. When I got my mandatory counseling after it all, my manager said that anyone with violence in their past is prone to flashback and other effects of reliving their own trauma. That wasn't me, so what I ended up feeling was just sad for this woman. It was her last chance in a halfway house and she got sent back to the hell of which Ken Kesey only scratched the surface.

Today I listened to a piece on NPR about an incredible spike in violence in mental hospitals in California. I thought back to that night that the voices took Anita back to them. I thought about the fundamental issue of safety while providing even the most basic services for this extraordinarily risky and challenging and needy population. And I teared up in traffic when the audio played picketing workers chanting, "what do we want? safety!" I hope they get all get it because they sure as hell aren't getting paid well, surfing the web on their lunch, chatting whimsically with their coworkers, bringing sick kids to the office in a pinch, cutting out a few minutes early to make sure their elderly parent gets their meds or or or or