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!

The Great Soft Drink Experiment

Last summer I challenged myself to complete a running streak; it began with a 40 day streak, and then I stretched it out to 80 days. Once I hit 80 days, I decided to make it 100 days. I ended up running at least one mile every day for 100 days. It was a challenge that reminded me I had to stay dedicated to my goal, avoid whining, and run no matter how tired I felt.

This summer I am taking on a somewhat different challenge. My entire adult life, I have drank soft drinks. When I was young and didn’t need to worry about my weight I drank Coke and Mountain Dew. After a couple of babies and some post-baby chub, I began my long-term relationship with diet soft drinks. Diet Mountain Dew has been a favorite for many years, but I also like Diet Pepsi (in a bottle) and McDonald’s Diet Coke. After a great run, I wanted a diet drink. When I needed to wake up, I wanted that caffeine boost. Mealtime? Diet Mountain Dew. I’ve drank as many as six or seven a day, but probably averaged four to five. I would read all of the research about how bad it is for me, but justified my addiction (it truly is an addiction) with the fact that I work out, I drink little alcohol, and I needed that one vice. And I love it. I craved it. And dammit, I needed it.

7-bad-side-effects-of-drinking-diet-soda

I decided that this summer my challenge would be to at least cut back. I tend to drink more water in the summer, so it seemed to be the right time. The first couple of weeks, I would cut down to one or two a few days, and then I’d be back up to three or four. Last week it was time to get serious. I read more articles that stated diet soft drinks can cause me to retain belly fat (who wants that?), causes my teeth to erode (eww!), gives me belly issues (I don’t need help with that). Diet soft drinks are just not good for us. I was ready.

I began by allowing myself only one soft drink per day. That helped me to avoid the caffeine withdrawal and accompanying headaches. I would drink my one treat sometime in the morning, so by that evening a headache would set in. I took Aleve and the headaches were tolerable. Friday I decide to wait until lunch to have my one drink. Guess what! I didn’t want one. So I decided to wait until supper. By dinnertime, I realized that if I’d made it that long, I could make it the rest of the day without my beloved Diet Mountain Dew.

Friday was literally the first day in my adult life that I didn’t drink a soft drink. I was pretty proud – that is a huge accomplishment! I haven’t had a soft drink since; today will be day four. As I was pondering this challenge, I remembered the things I’ve learned through attending AA meetings with my husband. ‘One day at a time’ is one of their mantras, and though my addiction is not as strong as one’s addiction to alcohol or drugs, the mantra surely fits my situation. I can only worry about today. It isn’t easy. Saturday night my husband and I went out for our anniversary, and I craved that fizz and deliciousness of an ice-cold Diet Coke. When I pass the coolers at the grocery store or Walmart, I long to reach in for a Diet Pepsi. As I drive past Circle S, my arms twitch wanting to turn in and purchase my bottle of caffeine.

Besides all of the health benefits this change will provide, I think of the money I will save. Not only do I buy cases of Diet Mountain Dew at the store, but I stop in Circle S once or twice a day to get a Diet Pepsi, which costs $1.74. If I buy 10 a week, that’s $17.40 a week, and over $64 a month! That’s just stupid. I can get two pedicures with that. I can get an outfit with that.

I cannot promise I will be successful with this challenge. My hope is that I can avoid diet drinks long enough that if I do try one, it will taste awful (although I really don’t know if that’s possible). If I can finally begin to lose these few pounds I’ve been at war with, it will certainly give me more incentive to stick with it. If you see me grabbing a soft drink, please feel free to remind me that my teeth will rot and it will add belly fat. Or just rip it out of my hand and throw it far, far away. And then run.

On another completely different note, I’d like to say Happy Father’s Day to my husband and my ex-husband. Together, we three have raised some pretty spectacular kids. I am so blessed that my husband chose to love my daughters when he married me. He has always been there for them, supported them, and helped me with the running, homework, and daily stress. I am also blessed to have a great relationship with their dad. He and I have always made decisions based upon what is best for the girls. We have truly had a successful partnership in parenting. I have witnessed far too many divorced parents who spend so much time hating one another that they forget that at one time they chose to have children together. I have seen the suffering of the kids. My ex-husband and I did not criticize each other in front of the girls, even when others did. We never tried to keep track of time spent with one parent; the girls were free to spend as much time as they chose with each of us. We’ve sat together through matches, graduations, and contests so that the girls didn’t have to decide who’d they would sit with. I know that my girls’ father loves them and I respect that love. Now that our daughters are adults, they have told us how much they appreciate that they’re divorced parents get along so well; after all, they didn’t choose to be in a divorced family. Thank you, Randy, for being a great dad! Thank you, Gary, for loving all of us!