Running for St. Jude

We’ve all heard about St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, but have you really taken the time to learn about their mission and about all of the great things they do? If I didn’t have a personal connection, I can’t say that I would have taken the time to learn. Oh, I’d have been brought to tears by their commercials, and donated a dollar here and there when I was shopping, but if it weren’t for my great friend, Katie Weyer, I would not have had the opportunity to really know St. Jude, and to meet not only families impacted by the hospital, but also incredible doctors, nurses, and other staff whose mission is to save kids.

The following is Katie’s story, the reason we run for St. Jude.

The doctors and nurses at Jude – Simply amazing people. I text/call/email them constantly and they still put up with me. They are the reason I am here today, and I can’t even put into words how important they are to me. Even through non-cancer issues, they are my people. I am fairly certain that not many people get wedding gifts from their oncologists, or messages from their radiation oncologists on their birthdays, or countless texts and phone calls from their nurse practitioners.

Let’s start at the beginning of my journey…

I first knew something was wrong my senior year at Belmont University where I was a cross country runner. I went from being able to run 13-14 miles without a problem to not being able to run five minutes without feeling as though I was suffocating. I had two knee surgeries that year, so I don’t think the problem presented itself as obvious at the time. Looking back on it, it was my chest, not my knees, that kept me from running. I was going to the doctor at Vanderbilt at least once, if not twice, a week; and I was seeing the Vandy doc in the training room ever single time he was there. He even uttered the words to me, “it is nothing serious – not like lymphoma or leukemia or anything.” Needless to say, that doctor from Vanderbilt called me after my diagnosis to apologize and tell me he totally misinterpreted my symptoms.

I had my second knee surgery in May of 2005 at Vanderbilt, but they never did a chest x-ray as a pre-op test because I was a healthy college athlete. Looking back, my heart rate was about 140 on the morning of my surgery; they told me it was just nerves. I know now it was a cancer symptom. St. Jude said I was lucky I came out of regular anesthesia, and honestly I remember sleeping for three days straight after the knee surgery – another sign from my body.

I was doing my first round of student teaching that semester, and I had a fever over 100 degrees every single day. Every. Single. Day. I was in bed for two weeks over Easter. Every day that I went to student teaching was a day I lied to my professors about what my fever really was.

Looking back, my body gave me so many signs: I lost 25 pounds; my hair was falling out; and I really looked like death.

Hodgkin’s Stage IIB

Diagnosed Date 6/22/2005

Relapse Date 9/2006

I went on vacation to Fort Walton with Brian and Mary Jane Beckort early that June. I remember feeling so terrible during that week, and all I wanted to do was sleep. We got home the weekend of the Glen Ress Golf Tournament, and I woke up that Saturday with a HUGE lump in my neck. HUGE. My mom was out of town at a wedding in Indianapolis, so I showed it to Dr. Ress in passing at the golf tournament. He told me then to come in Monday. The rest is history.

Dr. Ress figured out just by looking at me and talking to me that I had cancer. He said it was either lymphoma or leukemia. We followed up with some doctors here at Perry County Memorial Hospital, and then at St. Mary’s in Evansville. When I told my friend Kristin about the diagnosis, her dad – a doctor at St. Jude – called my dad and said get to St. Jude in Memphis. He said he had a friend, Melissa, who could save my life. This was on a Friday I believe. We loaded up (Mom, Dad, and me) in my Aunt Julie’s van and went to Memphis. We arrived at St. Jude on a Sunday afternoon. My college teammates and great friends Kristin and Lindsay (both from Memphis) met us at the hospital. Did I mention a person has to be 21 or younger to be admitted to St. Jude? I was turning 22 that coming Thursday. Monday, June 20, I began a gamut of tests at St. Jude, which ultimately gave me a diagnosis of Stage IIB Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

1923313_505923877672_8664_n

I remember this day well. Our family was on vacation and on the beach at Virginia Beach when Katie’s dad called my husband and gave him the news. You know how you can remember where you were when you received some type of life-changing news? This was one of those days. ~ Joyce

I signed all of the consent papers on Wednesday, June 22, the night before my 22nd birthday. I can remember sitting in the consult room and they read all kinds of things to me. After the first two sentences, I didn’t hear anything else. “You’re daughter, Katie, has Stage IIB Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Left untreated, this is fatal.” It didn’t matter to me, or my mom and dad what they said after that because we were doing whatever it took to beat this cancer. My doctor, Melissa Hudson, lined out everything. I had 12 weeks of chemo (that I could do in Evansville with the help of Dr. Tony Stephens), and then 3.5 weeks of radiation that had to be done in Memphis.

They let me have the day off of my birthday, so I started chemo on my first full day of being 22, June 24. Thinking back on it, so many fun things come to mind to do on your first day of being 22, and chemo is definitely not one that comes to mind.

That Friday night we went to dinner with Kristin and her parents, and another doctor from St. Jude. I really didn’t feel any different. The next day, Kristin’s dad took my dad golfing and I seriously hibernated for the next 72 hours. My mom said it was like I was a baby again, just sleeping all day, waking to go to the bathroom and that was it.

On top of all of this, my twin sister Kelly was getting married on July 2 and St. Jude couldn’t promise I would be able to be there. Can you imagine missing your sister’s wedding? I was able to go to the wedding and all went well. My 12 weeks of chemo and 3.5 weeks of radiation went as well as can be expected. I student taught with Mary Jane on the days I wasn’t getting chemo, and then moved to Memphis for radiation. I finished treatment up in late October 2005.

Fast forward to September 2006. I had just been hired for my first teaching job at Tell City Junior High School, was helping with cross country, and just bought my first car. I went to the North Harrison cross country race on a Thursday night and left from there to head to Memphis. We arrived in Memphis at 1am, and had a PET scan the next morning. It was then we received the news that something had popped up. We came home for Labor Day Weekend, and went back to Jude on Tuesday to confirm relapse.

I honestly don’t remember a lot of this because I was numb and furious. Two weeks into school year and wham-o – I’m back in the cancer world. The good news was they had been following up with me every 3 months, so it hadn’t had that long to grow. However, they had suspected something in July, but couldn’t get it to come positive on a needle biopsy that summer. I should’ve known it was going to come back, but it really just shocked me.

The treatment plan this time was “salvage therapy” and “off protocol” meaning that they weren’t interested in putting me on a clinical trial, but rather just saving my life. Three intensive inpatient treatments (hadn’t ever been inpatient up until now) consisting of four to five days of being in a hospital bed because the chemo was so harsh. Three weeks in between, and then autologous (from my own cells, because they were cancer free) stem cell transplant. This stretch of the fall was terrible. I got so sick from the chemo. The thing that pulled me through it was cross country and getting to come home for some of the meets. Getting to make an impact with the girls gave me a purpose.

Worst day of this treatment cycle: The week of cross country semi-state, my mom and I were making plans to come home so I could go to Semi-state in Bloomington with the team. We had a very good chance to win the whole thing, which is a huge accomplishment for an unclassed sport in Indiana. There were only 4 semi-states in the whole state; I had to be there. We called my doc (Hudson) on her cell and she said to swing by clinic, get my labs drawn just for safe measure, and then hit the road. We packed, went to clinic for the draw and waited. When they called me back to A clinic, I was ecstatic to be leaving. My happiness didn’t last long. They told me that I had a platelet count of zero and that traveling was out of the question. I broke down right there in clinic. I was simply devastated.

After that I remember talking to Coach Beckort on the phone and just being devastated about not being able to come. He said “you’ll be here” and I told him he was nuts. Long story short, Claire Tuggle’s dad, Bob Tuggle had Zac Hartz make a life-size cut-out of me so that I could, in fact, be there for semi-state. The girls carried that cut out around at the meet, and that meet was one for the history books. I did get to go to the state meet, and how fun that was.

1927734_505923772882_2639_n

After the three hellacious chemo rounds inpatient, it was time to begin preparing for the transplant. I was lucky because I could get my own cells, but also that I had an identical twin sister, Kelly, who could also give me cells. They took my stem cells out between my 2nd and 3rd chemo rounds and froze them. I had to sit still in a chair for nearly six hours hooked up through my central line and an IV to syphon out all the cells. They then seriously tested EVERY SINGLE thing in my body to get baselines for transplant. We went home for Thanksgiving, and then Jeanie DeSpain drove us down to Memphis the Sunday after Thanksgiving so I could go to inpatient on the fourth floor, the bone marrow transplant floor. I wouldn’t leave that room for over three weeks.

1923313_505923892642_9250_n

I got some very toxic chemo for transplant. The goal was to wipe my blood of all blood cells – red cells, white cells, platelets, neutrophils, etc. When they would run my labs, they would read 0’s across the board. They count everything in transplant around your actual transplant day. For me, this day was December 4, 2006. So the days leading up were known as Day -3 , -2, -1, etc. with December 4 being Day Zero. Then day +1, +2, etc. I don’t remember much of this time, as I spent most time sleeping or puking. The goal every day was just to take a bath and change pajamas. it is really hard to describe it really. My mom and I were together in a very small space for almost four weeks. Physical Therapy would come and beg me to just stand up. I – a collegiate athlete – then considered the simple act of standing hard work.

Kelly, her husband Chris and and his parents Tony and Rhonda came down the weekend of the St. Jude Marathon. Kelly ran the 5k, Chris the half, and Tony the full. I could watch the race out my transplant window. Mom went down for the races to watch; it gave her a nice break from dealing with me🙂

I got out of the transplant unit about a week before Christmas, but we had to stay very close to the hospital. We had to come to the hospital every day for blood counts and other various tests. We didn’t know if we would be home for Christmas or not. We got home December 23 about 8 pm. I had to be back at Jude just a few days after Christmas to start radiation.

I finally finished radiation in late January 2007 and have been cancer free ever since!

Throughout this whole experience, there were also many positives, such as the friends I met. The world of cancer is one that I don’t wish on anyone, but unfortunately everyone is confronted with it at some point. The world of pediatric cancer is something even more indescribable. I was lucky enough to make friends with several other patients and their families. I met a girl, a lot like me my very first week at St. Jude – Kristen Whitlow. She is six years younger than I, but we were diagnosed with the exact same thing and went through treatment together. She relapsed three months before I did, meaning that we can still compare battle scars to this day. She is the one person in the world that understands my cancer experience at the very core. She lived it too – and still lives with it just like I do. If I am having a problem or worried, she is my first contact.

I met two boys during transplant: Westin Dietz and Jay Rogers. Westin had neuroblastoma and Jay had Ewing’s Sarcoma. My mom networked with their moms, and Westin’s little sister Emma spent a lot of time in my room. She helped make me smile every single day no matter what. Unfortunately, both of these brave guys aren’t around anymore. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of them. It’s hard to wonder why I am here and they aren’t. That’s tough. I got to see Jay not long before he passed when I was in Memphis for a checkup. We were able to snap a picture together before he got called back by imaging for his appointment. Jay was a fifth or sixth grader during transplant. Westin was 22 months old. A baby.

1931291_528046853052_8691_n

I have countless other Jude friends. Kevin had AML and was a patient at Tulane in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. He, along with countless others, relocated to St. Jude when their medical records were destroyed by the hurricane. He just celebrated ten years post transplant. His wife, Hannah, is a Hodgkin’s survivor, who was treated at St. Jude. My good pal Tommy was four at diagnosis and had non-hodgkin’s lymphoma. I keep up with him and his family via facebook. My friend, Thad, who was closer to my age at diagnosis, had Hodgkin’s, but luckily he never relapsed. The same is true for Caroline from Louisiana. There are countless others as well. Kelly was down visiting once and Tommy went running to her arms as he thought she was me. That goes to show you that kids don’t see a person by how much hair they have on their head. I was bald as can be, and Kelly had a full head of hair. Not even noticing, he jumped into her arms.

My mom. My mom was there with me through the entire process. She took care of me without complaining on my good days, and more importantly on my bad days. She remembers way more of the story than I do, as I slept through a lot of the terrible times.

My sister Kelly dealt with the brunt of the storm here at home. She answered the question after question from everyone she saw. All the while, one can only imagine the questions and fear that she had as her twin faced this deadly disease.

The Furmans opened their house and hearts to us from the first minute we stepped in Memphis. I called Jane once from being inpatient and told her I needed a pound of shaved ham from the Kroger deli. She delivered about 30 minutes later, and I am fairly certain I ate the entire thing.

All of my extended family and friends went into protective and helpful mode. It was awesome.

I could rattle off 1000 more stories. I’ve compared it to college, with mom as my roommate and a terrible class load. The bottom line is that I wouldn’t change my cancer experience for anything. Yes, it was terrible and horrible at times, but it has shaped me to be who I am today. Do I wish I could run 13.1 miles without walking? Sure. Do I wish I didn’t have to go to the doctor more than my peers? Sure. Do I like myself better after cancer? Absolutely. I have a greater appreciation for what is important and I feel like I have a good sense of how to live life to the fullest.

Fortunately, Katie’s story goes on. She is a seventh grade science teacher, cross country and track coach, wife, and most importantly, the mother of Jack. She was given her life, and she uses that gift to make a difference in students’ lives every single day. Because of St. Jude, she is able to mentor the youth of our community. St. Jude didn’t just make a difference in Katie’s life; it made a difference in the lives of her family, friends, and our students.

My friends and I will be running the St. Jude Half Marathon around the tenth anniversary of transplant – the day I got a second chance at life. What better way to celebrate than spending the weekend at St. Jude with friends, raising money for the families who are still fighting the good fight, and appreciating my health as together we cover 13.1 miles. – Katie Weyer, St. Jude Survivor

There are so many reasons runners sign up for races. We want to see what we can do, improve our times, run with friends, earn a cool medal, and the list goes on. This race is different. As we were running the Memphis streets last year, we commented that there was no way we could not run again this year. Running down those streets hearing kids and parents thank us for raising money that would help in their fight was so humbling. Running through the St. Jude Campus was perhaps the hardest and best part of the run. Young patients who were able to be outside cheered us on as we trotted by; it should have been us cheering them on as they were deep into the hardest fight of all. Over the next three months, our team will be asking – and sometimes begging – for your donations. We have seen first-hand what your money does. We have our friend because people just like you gave. Cancer knows no boundaries, and can strike any of our children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. Let’s help St. Jude families so that as they are fighting this disease, they don’t have to worry about their finances.

Here’s the link to my fundraising page. After you make your donation, please consider sharing this link with your friends!

http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR?px=2902756&fr_id=59186&pg=personal

 

 

Back To School Already?

This summer zipped by at record speed. We have had a decent summer, but other than a quick trip to Chicago, we didn’t vacation, we weren’t involved in a summer musical, and I didn’t quite meet all of my summer goals. I’m not quite sure where the time went. With school beginning next week, I find my emotions in turmoil. I’m not ready to give up my time at home, but I am excited about the upcoming school year, as each new year brings with it a new crop of students, renewed hope for a successful year for everyone, and new opportunities to impact the young people of our community. As I’ve spent time in my classroom preparing, I’ve thought about what advice I could give parents, from an eighth grade teacher’s perspective. Here it goes!

  • Set routines early. So many students stay up really late on their phones or playing video games (after you go to sleep – they tell me!). They then struggle to stay awake in class. Set some limits. I know I have difficulty focusing when I am tired, and I can see that my students do, too. #phoneproblems
  • That routine goes for homework as well. Whether you agree with your child having homework or not, chances are it’s going to happen. I know…your child is in school ALL day; why should he or she have homework? We simply can’t get it all in at school; students need practice on skills; and it is preparing them for the future when they will have to know how to manage their time. Many students procrastinate on longer assignments, and then have a lot to do the night before it is due. Please ask your child when it was assigned rather than assuming the teacher just assigned it that day. #homeworkhelps
  • Make school attendance a priority. Believe it or not, if you let your child miss school for every little ache, he or she will develop a habit of poor attendance. This could carry over into adult life, and guess what. Businesses fire employees who don’t show up. Aside from that, missing classes means missing lessons and explanations. No teacher has time to thoroughly reteach a missed class. Your child will get a condensed version, which might not be enough. My younger two daughters still give me a hard time because if they weren’t vomiting or running a fever, they went to school. Period. I told them they would have many days when they wouldn’t feel perfect, and they had to learn to suck it up. Now they are punctual, responsible employees. #parentwin #sometimesimright
  • Be on time. When a student comes in late, even just ten minutes, the day is started on a bad note. He or she is behind before ever starting, and then spends the rest of class trying to catch up. At the junior senior high, classes are 45 minutes, so we start as soon as the bell rings. That few minutes can make a substantial difference. #earlymornings
  • Support your child’s teacher. Your attitude toward your child’s teacher will be reflected in your child’s attitude toward class. In thirteen years of schooling, it’s likely your child will have a teacher that either you or the child won’t really like, or you might not agree with that teacher’s methods. Trust me, it isn’t the end of the world. If you complain about the teacher in front of your child, he or she will learn to disrespect the teacher. Use it as a teaching point. Some day your child will work with a boss or coworkers he or she might not like. Learning to get along with others and respecting authority are such important life-skills. I can assure you that no teacher is out to get your child. We don’t make much money compared to others with bachelor’s or master’s degrees, so we did not go into teaching for the financial rewards. We went into teaching because we care about kids, and because we chose to make a difference rather than a large paycheck. We want your child to be successful. #weloveourjobsandyourkids
  • That being said, we can’t do it alone. I have done everything but back flips to try to motivate some kids, and it didn’t work. If education isn’t a priority in the family, or parents don’t care about behavior and grades, sometimes we struggle to reach the student. Do we give up? Nope. Do we get frustrated at the lack of effort? Sure. It takes the teacher, the family, and the student to succeed. If your child is failing, talk to your child and talk to the teacher. Don’t automatically blame the teacher. I can be the best teacher in Indiana, but if your child does no work, misses school a lot, or fails to pay attention in class, it is his or her responsibility. Hold him or her accountable. I will do anything I can to help a student, but that student also has to want to help himself or herself. #cantdobackflipsanymore
  • This brings me to my next point. Make sure your child is getting the help that is available if he or she doesn’t understand material. I continually tell my students that I am at school early every morning and will help them with any assignments or concepts they don’t feel comfortable with. I will stay after school. There is free tutoring every day after school. We want to help. Heck, we love to help! I enjoy that quiet one-on-one time. #freetutoringrocks
  • If your child comes home telling about something that happened in class, and it’s something that you don’t agree with, please talk to the teacher before assuming the story is accurate. Some kids leave out details or take things out of context, or just don’t want to get in trouble. Ask about it. Don’t blast us on social media before knowing the truth. We do see those things, and we do have feelings, and it hurts. Work with us; we want to work with you. #weshouldallgetalong
  • These years will go very quickly; enjoy them with your kids! My daughters are all grown and out of school (besides one still in college), and I can’t believe those days are behind us. They were blessed to be well-prepared for life beyond high school. Attend those conferences, go to their events at school, ask them what they are learning. #howdidIgetsoold

I sincerely hope that your child has a fantastic school year! I hope I have a fantastic school year! Let’s work together to make this year rock.

 

Just Kidding About That Empty Nest

Not too long ago, I wrote a blog about being a semi-empty nester, and my enjoyment of this new lot in life. A quiet home that stays somewhat clean for a couple of days, being able to come and go as I please, no more carpools or car seats…it’s a great life. I wrote about not really understanding the parents who lament their children leaving for college. Remember? Did you read that blog? If you did, please know that God has a sense of humor. Why else would He give us orangutan butts to laugh at? Or possums? Those creatures are just plain ugly. And why would God, after I had written such a well-received blog, manage to bring all of my daughters back to the nest, along with a couple extras?

mygirls

Bethany lives here. She’s beginning her new career as an elementary teacher, and is staying here while she gets on her financial feet. Addie is home from college for the summer. And now, Morgan and her two young sons are camping out for awhile. How long you ask? I do not know. Her family is in transition, moving from South Carolina back to Tell City. They are waiting to close on the sale of their home, and will then wait to close on the sale of their new home. The timing of everything has been less than optimal, which means Morgan and the boys needed a place to stay until everything goes through. That place is here. For the first time in ten years, all three of my girls are under my roof. Empty nest? Hell no. This nest is overflowing!

My car seats are back in the car; my home is fr from quiet; and it’s unlikely it will stay clean for more than five minutes. Dirty diapers, messy faces, fighting sisters. It should be an interesting summer ‘vacation’. We are happy we can provide shelter and love to our kids and grandkids; I just hope I have the energy to keep up with everyone. I’ve given the “I will not be providing maid service this summer” speech. Maybe they’ll even help me wash the windows, clean the cabinets, and price yard sale items. Maybe they’ll wash my car, cook the meals, and deadhead my flowers. Maybe?

So, parents, just when you think you’ve gotten your children raised and you and your spouse can have an extended honeymoon in the privacy of your own home, your grown children could return to your nest with little birdies of their own. You have some choices.

  1. Run! Move away. My mother used to say she was going to move to Arizona. Now I get it, Mom!
  2. Get a one-bedroom apartment. Don’t own a couch or any other piece of furniture that could become a bed.
  3. Make out with your spouse every chance you get. It totally grosses out your grown kids. They won’t stay long.
  4. Tell your kids you’ve taken up a nudist lifestyle when at home. They’ll run.
  5. Keep minimal amounts of food in the house. They like to be fed.
  6. Or, you could just embrace the fact that your kids enjoy being with you, and that you are able to help them. You could enjoy the time you have with your grandkids, and know that you are making memories that they’ll come to cherish. You could put those car seats in your backseat, the playpen in your bedroom, and pull out the sofa-bed. You could know that you are blessed to have healthy, happy kids and grandkids, and that there are plenty of empty-nesters who would love to be in your situation. And you could invest in wine coolers.

 

Don’t Be A Jerk

My main rule in my classroom of eighth graders is ‘Don’t be a jerk.’ This simple statement covers a lot of ground: Don’t be a jerk when choosing groups; Don’t be a jerk when someone is speaking; Don’t be a jerk and refuse to do any work (and then blame me when you are failing)…I wish people would use that little rule when posting on social media. Don’t be a jerk and air your family problems. Don’t be a jerk and post about issues upon which you are clearly uneducated. Don’t be a jerk and just join in a conversation because it’s the topic of the day. And please, do not be a mean-ass jerk.

As you can infer by now, this is not going to be my normal post about running or fitness. Some recent posts on Facebook have left me both disappointed and angry, and since this is my blog, I can state my opinion freely, and you can choose to read or not, but please, don’t be a jerk; I’m really tired of jerks. If you disagree with me, write your own blog. If you agree, please share.

A friend of my posted a meme recently that stated, “Being gay is like being left-handed. Some people are, most people aren’t, and nobody really knows why. It’s not right or wrong. It’s just the way things are.” I love this! I am left-handed, which some people seem to think is a great oddity, and my daughter is gay. This meme makes perfect sense to me. Of course, someone had to be a jerk, and he commented, “I’m not condoning them. Used to B called queers.” This person also sits in a church pew nearly every Sunday. I was furious, so I commented “What a Christian thing to post. No one had better call my daughter a queer. I’d take her over a hypocrite any day.” While he certainly has a right to his beliefs, he has no right to resort to name-calling. He and those like him are the reason so many avoid church. Even though most Christians I know are nothing like him, people like him are loud, and often the only ones heard. If someone has not been around many Christians and that is his or her only experience with Christians, it doesn’t look very inviting, does it?

The next topic I’ve grown weary of is the transgendered bathroom issue. People are being really ignorant about this. So many have posted that their little girls are now in danger when they enter a public restroom. Yes, they are. But it isn’t because of trangendered people. I am far more afraid of and disgusted by all the people who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. Seriously. This presents a much higher chance of something happening to your daughters than a transgendered woman peeing in the next stall. And what about those people who dribble on the seat and don’t wipe it up? Gross. Those germs are way more dangerous and can actually cause harm.

Out of 1000 Americans, three are transgendered. If you assume that half are women transitioning to men, then less than two out of 1000 Americans will be sharing the bathroom with you. And the chances of them being in the bathroom at the same time are pretty slim, so do you really think this will be an issue in your life? Do you really think that’s the place a pervert will be looking for his/her target? No. Responsible parents accompany their children to a public restroom, and stay very near them. I would presume your children are in much more danger in the aisles of Target or at the playground where parents tend to let their guard down. Thirty percent of sexual abusers are family members, which leads me to believe that your children are in more danger at a family gathering than in the bathroom at Target.

What do you know about transgendered people? Some of the posts I’ve read make me assume that some people are confusing transgendered with transvestite. They’ve stated things about men dressing up as women and entering the bathroom. It’s not the same thing. I know two trans people who are transitioning from being a woman to a man. It is something they have struggled with their entire lives. A person posted on Facebook that God doesn’t make mistakes, and if someone is born a girl, she should stay a girl. I am a Christian, and I believe that God doesn’t make mistakes, but nature does. If we lived by what this poster said, should we not correct deformities that children are born with? Afterall, God doesn’t make mistakes. Should my beautiful niece who was born with a cleft lip have been denied surgery to correct it because God doesn’t make mistakes? Should a child born with a heart defect forego surgery to repair the defect because God doesn’t make mistakes? Really, what is the difference? I cannot imagine going through life knowing I was in the wrong body. I cannot imagine the depression and lack of worth that would bring. I cannot imagine having to spend my life with others judging me when they don’t even bother to know me. Is that really what Jesus would do? Is that who you want to be?

My daughter has a wonderful friend from college who is transgendered. He is transitioning from a female to a male. Guess what? He has spent weekends at our house. We love his company, respect his loving personality, and empathize with his situation. We judge him based upon his ethics, how he treats others, and his personality; we do not judge him over something over which he has no control. Who are we to say he should remain a female? His own mother will not let him stay at her house, nor will she help him with college. While I also cannot imagine giving birth to a daughter, and that daughter becoming a son, I do know I would never turn my child away because I was worried about what others would say or think. God calls us to love. Above everything else in the Bible, we are to love – no conditions, no exceptions, no excuses. To not love your own child? To me, there is no bigger sin.

It seems some people seem to equate transgendered or gay with pervert or sexual deviant. This simply is not the case. Homosexuals are no more likely to commit crimes against children than heterosexuals, and many reports say they are less likely. My daughter is gay, but she is in no way a pervert. That’s just ignorant. Please do not assume that people from the LGBT community are any more likely than your hetero friends and acquaintances to harm a child. It simply isn’t true. They just want to love and be loved; they deserve to love and be loved.

Just because you don’t understand something, does not mean you have to be a jerk. Your children are not in danger just because a transgendered woman has to pee. Would you really rather a person who appears to be a woman enter the men’s bathroom? Would you rather Addie’s friend, who certainly looks male, come into the woman’s restroom? Can you even imagine the stress trans people feel just because they have to use the restroom? Could you not be a jerk and try, instead, to learn about the transgendered community? Could you please just show some compassion and try to understand the constant struggle some of our friends face every single day? And for God’s sake, don’t be a mean-ass jerk.

Running Newbies

Friday evening, I needed to do a long run, and I had to do it by myself. Most of my running friends would be running the Kentucky Derby Half or Full Marathon the next morning; I would not. I had accompany a group of students to Academic Bowl, so I had to opt out of the race. Given the rainy weather that morning and that my team placed 2nd, I was happy to be at the academic competition.

After working all day, I didn’t really feel like listening to music as I ran, and didn’t really want to listen to a podcast, which is usually what gets me through solo runs, so I had plenty of time to think. I spent some time thinking about…running. I thought about what advice I would give new runners, even though some days I still – after seven years – feel like a new runner. It was then I decided my next blog would be an advice blog. This advice has absolutely no medical or professional standing; it’s based upon my personal experience, and on the stupid mistakes I’ve made over the years. So, below you’ll find my advice, or in most cases just random thoughts, on running.

  1. Running sucks. But then it’s great, and then it’ll suck again. Seriously. I’ve heard many people who try running say that they just don’t enjoy it. I hated running for the first six months, but when I finished a run or met another goal, I loved it. I felt accomplished. I felt invincible. I still have runs that are really hard, and I don’t enjoy the run itself. When I push through and finish the run, I feel proud that I stuck it out despite how difficult it was. My favorite mantra is ‘If it were easy, everyone would do it.’ Running is not easy. Stick with it and it will be worth it!
  2. Body parts are going to hurt. When I began running, my youngest daughter was young enough that she was happy to massage my legs and feet – thank goodness! I was sore for months. I don’t have any running friends who haven’t had some sort of running-related injury. I’ve had knee issues that led to surgery, but I still run. Those friends who have had injuries? They still run. Runners are pissed that they can’t run when they are injured, but they don’t give up. Take care of yourself, and take a break if necessary, but don’t give up. And the chiropractor will be your friend. Find a good one!
  3. Don’t be apprehensive about signing up for a race. I’ve run nine half marathons, a few 10Ks, and a whole bunch of 5Ks. My first race was a 5K, and my goal was to not be last. It was in July, and it was hilly; I was prepared for neither. I ran that race, and I was not last. I wasn’t fast, but I finished. When you run in a race, no matter the distance, you will see people of all shapes, sizes, and speeds. No one cares how fast or slow you go, as long as you keep going. You need to walk? No one cares. You cross the finish line last? No one cares. Think about how many people never cross a finish line in their lives. The support and camaraderie of the running community is amazing. We all started somewhere, and everyone appreciates the effort it takes just to get out there. And races are fun! Spending time with a group of people with a similar interest is very rewarding. Some of my best running memories are of races that were particularly hard. I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon with my niece Erin, and it was 15 degrees at the start (and finish if I remember correctly). We were cold, but running my niece’s first half with her was so worth it. This past month I ran the Hoosier Half Marathon in Bloomington with another niece, Emily; it was her first half. And, despite it being April, there was about a 20 degree windchill that day. It was miserably cold. Again, sharing my niece’s first half marathon with her was worth freezing my tush off (but I did begin to wonder if I should stop running with my nieces).
  4. When my husband and I began running, we thought it would be a cheap form of exercise. Do not fool yourself. Running is not cheap. Plan on spending at least $100 on shoes, which will need to be replaced every few months. One thing we decided early on was that we had to take care of our feet. I’m very picky about what I wear. I have to be completely comfortable or I will obsess when I run. Chafing is serious, so the right shorts, shirt, and bra matters. I’ve chafed when wearing certain shirts. On that recent Friday run, I actually chafed on my inner thighs, and I was wearing my favorite running shorts. The only reason for chafing that I could come up with is that I’ve gained a few pounds, and now my inner thighs rub. What the hell?! Rather than lose that weight, I bought new shorts. It was easier. Socks. Good running socks are expensive, but gosh, they are worth it. My husband kind of scoffed when I first told him he should get some better socks. He didn’t think socks mattered. Once he tried them, he found out I was right (duh).
  5. The benefits you’ll reap from running go far deeper than health and weight loss. Of course, any type of exercise will help you get healthier, and running torches calories. But the mental impact of running is even better. Running makes me happy. I can have a terribly stressful day at school (I do teach eighth graders), and when I go out for a run, that stress seems to leave my body in the form of sweat. I can process my problems, think about my students, plan lessons, or just think about my blessings. Running has given my confidence in every area of my life. If, in my forties, I can run 13.1 miles, I can pretty much do anything I work for, or at least I’m willing to try.
  6. While running, I have laughed, talked out problems, listened to friends’ joys and trials, and cried. I have run when I am celebrating, and I have run when I am mourning. I’ve run when I needed to be alone, and I’ve run when I needed the comfort of my friends. I’ve run to see how fast I can go, and I’ve run to raise money for St. Jude. I’ve run for myself, and I’ve run for others. Finding your reason, even if that reason changes, is critical. If you don’t have a ‘why’, you won’t have the will. When I started running, it was because I was out of shape and needed to get fit. Now I run to stay in shape, and because it’s become who I am.
  7. Running friends are the best friends! Just about all of the friends I spend time with are runners. I have wonderful non-running friends, but we don’t really spend time together. I’m not one to just go out with friends for an evening, but I will go for a run with my friends. On a run, we can talk about anything. We can share our most embarrassing stories, our heartaches, and our joys. Or we can fall into cadence side-by-side and not talk at all (that really doesn’t happen very much). I truly love my running friends, and value their love and support. I’m proud of their accomplishments, and hope I can always be a source of support for them. They keep me accountable. Even when I don’t feel like running, a text from one of them can get me out the door.
  8. Read running materials. Subscribe to Runner’s World or Women’s Running, order books about running. They are very motivational and can offer some super advice. Ask lots of questions. Runners LOVE to talk about running! But be sure you have lots of time because we have lots to say!

Empty Nest?

As my friends and I work our way through middle age, I often hear the term ’empty nest’ tossed around. As children approach high school graduation and move on to college, many parents post their tear-filled moments on social media, bringing on a barrage of dismal responses. I, myself, posted a few photos last spring as my youngest daughter went through the rite of high school graduation. I was to be an empty nester.

And I was excited about it! After years of being a chauffeur, maid, laundress, cook (or drive-thru driver), I was finally finished! Seriously, folks, why get so upset? You’re getting your life back…your life. Not the life that is solely dedicated to making certain you don’t end up on Dr. Phil with your kid telling the world how you screwed him or her up, but the life where you can actually watch Dr. Phil uninterrupted if you choose. You can eat cereal for supper every night if you want. You can make dinner plans without checking your kid’s schedule. No more parent-teacher conferences, sleep-overs (I managed to avoid these. My kids didn’t want their friends to see me when I was tired and cranky. Bummer.), prom dress shopping (Is that hell or what?)…And you think you’ll miss that?

And then there’s this…

IMG_4659

It’s clean, and it will remain that way until my young college student comes home. I had no idea there was carpet in that room. And that quilt has several shades of blue that haven’t seen the light of day in months. I’ve heard some parents say they would miss the messes once their kids were gone. Really? Not this momma.

Full disclosure…I am not totally an empty nester. Did you know they sometimes come back? It’s like this cruel joke. You finally get rids of all of your kids, and you make plans with your spouse to do all the exciting things you’ve sacrificed for years (and years and years), and then someone returns to the nest. With the cost of college, and subsequent loan payments, starting out in a new career is hard, and sometimes not very well compensated. Our middle daughter is in that situation. She has a bachelor’s degree, landed a job in her chosen field of education, and now she is poor. Financially, living with us just makes sense. Dammit. We have told her that we are going to sell our house and move into a one-bedroom apartment. She just smiles. Every time she buys something, I say, “You’re going to live with us forever, aren’t you?” “Yes.”

As I analyze my feelings about the potential to have an empty nest, I wonder why I am not saddened like my friends. Am I that heartless? Do I suck as a mom? Do my children hate me? Do I hate them? Without a doubt, I know that the answer to two of those questions is no. I’m afraid to ask my daughters the other two questions. I became a mom when I was 21. At that time in my life, I thought I was so old and so mature. I was a child. For the next 27 years, my priority was my daughters. I attended all of their many activities no matter how boring (golf); I encouraged, supported, disciplined, cared for, and loved with all my heart. I laughed, cried, screamed, and cheered. For 27 years.

Now that they are grown, I can enjoy them as adults. I can cuss in front of them  (It was a struggle to control that for 27 years), tell them inappropriate jokes, and act as their friend instead of their mom. There is a difference (although some parents don’t seem to get that concept). Do I still worry about each of them? Absolutely. Do I still want to boss them around? Yup. Always will.

I think my situation is a little different because I am a teacher. I am still around kids all the time, and I still attend numerous school events and ballgames. I do miss Addie. When activities that she was involved in at school take place, I miss seeing her there. Then I just come home and look at her clean room, and I’m okay again. I also have a lot of hobbies and jobs. Between school and working out and coaching cheer and an academic team and real estate and the gym…I don’t have time to get all weepy.

So, parents of the Class of 2016, do not be sad. Make plans. Move that kid of yours to college and reclaim your life. They visit. Clean his or her room and then just sit there and bask in the lack of smelly, dirty clothes, dishes that have been in there for weeks, and piles of clothes that could be clean or dirty – who knows? You’ve done your job. If you did it well, your child is ready to be independent. Be proud of that. Isn’t our goal to raise strong, independent, successful, and kind people? And someday you’ll have grandkids, and let me tell you, they are way cooler than kids!

Running Life

Once again, time has gotten away from me, and I haven’t written for entirely too long. This week is spring break, and while my friends are in Florida on the beach or at Disney, or in Georgia enjoying the warmer temps, I’ve been home. Honestly, I don’t mind. I’ve redone our living room while scoring some deals online shopping (Wayfair? Wow…a new favorite! My husband is not so happy I’ve discovered this plethora of everything for the home!). I’ve also cleaned my frig, which is in my top five of most detested household jobs. Seriously, there was more moldy food than edible. Since my mother is coming for Easter, I figured I’d better not risk her disappointment in finding I’m not the clean freak she is. The woman still scares me.

Today I shampooed our family room carpet, which I do on a pretty regular basis. This also makes the top five just because I am so disgusted when I empty the water and see how filthy our carpet was. I can’t imagine what it would look like if I didn’t clean it so often. We don’t even have small children or large dogs. Just big kids and a little wiener. .

So, about running. After seven years, I still haven’t quit, which completely amazes me. There have been times when I wasn’t running as often as I should, and times I felt invincible. I am currently training for the Hoosier Half Marathon, which is April 9; it will be my ninth half marathon. My niece Emily, who is a student at Indiana University, hasn’t run a half and asked me to run it with her. How could I say no? I had the honor of running my niece Erin’s first half with her, and am excited to share this experience with Emily.

I am not very excited about the hills. The website describes rolling hills, and Bloomington is quite hilly. I’ve worked pretty hard the past couple of months to prepare. I’ve incorporated challenging, make-me-swear hills into every long run, and have been going to my husband’s Spinning classes in addition to teaching Tabata classes. Gary has taught Spinning for a couple of years, but it was never a class I enjoyed. I thought the hill work my improve my running, so I sucked it up and went (and I dragged my daughter with me). It was tough. If you’re a girl and you’ve never taken Spinning, you should know that your girls parts (undercarriage) will hurt. I mean really hurt. But after a couple classes, it doesn’t really hurt anymore. Thank God. I’ve come to enjoy the class. Gary plays great music, which can seriously make the class. There’s typically at least one or two points during class that I don’t like my husband. When he instructs us to turn up the tension more when I can hardly turn the pedals with my already-burning legs, I want to yell at him to shut the hell up. But then when the class comes to an end, I feel pretty amazing. And I love him again.

My running has gone well. I’ve run more miles on my long runs than usual. My last three long runs have all been 10 miles, and I’ll run 11 or 12 this weekend. My knee has done pretty well, but I take Aleve and some homeopathic joint meds before heading out. I’ve been very lucky to have some friends run with me. When I do a long run alone, I listen to podcasts; they seem to keep my mind occupied and the time goes quicker. I really don’t know what to expect come race day. Considering Emily’s literally a foot taller than I, I just hope to be able to keep up with her long, young legs. I also hope I don’t die on a hill because that’d probably ruin Emily’s first half marathon.

In May Gary and I are registered for a 10-mile race that goes across a bridge over the Ohio River. We’ve always talked about running this race, but usually had kid activities that day. Now that the girls are grown, we don’t have to plan our weekends around their activities, which is reason #101 why I don’t have empty nest syndrome. Don’t judge. I became a mom at 21, and I did my time and enjoyed it. It’s time for Momma now.

One of our goals when we began this whole fitness thing was to get our kids and grandkids interested in exercise and living a healthier lifestyle. We have had some success. As I said, the upcoming race will be with my niece, and I’ve run several races with Erin. I’ve run a 5k with my oldest daughter, and Gary has run one with his granddaughter, Molly. Two weeks ago I ran a 5k with my middle daughter Bethany. She is 23 and teaches 5th grade. This school year she has begun to make time for exercise and has started running. She is learning that it isn’t easy, and that it takes dedication. She is now seeing the results, not only on the scale, but in her attitude. Running and many other types of exercise cause one’s endorphins to just create a happier disposition. I’ve always said that running is as good for me mentally as it is physically. Bethany has committed to running the Schweizer Fest 6 mile race and a half marathon this fall. Of course, that means I’m running both with her, which will be pretty amazing. I’m thrilled to see her so excited about her running, and to see the confidence she’s gaining. Since we are all on break this week, Bethany and I made Addie go to Spinning last night. Addie said she couldn’t wait to tell her friends that the one thing we did as a family on spring break was a Spinning class. We know how to have fun!

I cannot fail to mention that the Hoosier Half is also my friend, fellow English teacher, and fellow cheer coach, Amanda’s first half marathon. She has been working hard and also going to Spinning. I am so excited to see her cross that finish line! I know the pride and satisfaction she’ll feel, and hope she is hooked.

If you actually read all of this, thank you. I tend to go on and on about nothing. I need to take time to write more often so my posts won’t be novel-length. Spring is here – set some goals and make every day count! Love completely, keep criticism to yourself, and build others up. The world doesn’t need any more negativity. As I tell my students, don’t be a jerk. That covers it all.

Previous Older Entries