Rex Greenland 1932-1974

June 7, 1974. I awoke that morning at my Grandma Allen’s house. My sister’s graduation was the night before, and afterward I spent the night with Grandma because we were moving from Hammond to Hobart to be closer to my dad’s business, the R. W. Greenland Co. His business made tiny colored gravel for aquariums.

After breakfast, the old, black rotary phone at Grandma’s rang. By the tone of Grandma’s voice, I could tell something was wrong. As she replaced the receiver, she turned to me and said words I’ll never forget, “Honey, lay yourself across the bed and cry; your daddy just died.” As a seven year old, I don’t think the words truly registered. How could my dad have died? We were moving that day. We needed him. I needed my dad.

My dad had been up in the attic getting things down for the movers when he suffered a major heart attack; he was 42. My sister was 18, my brother 14, and I was seven. That moment in time changed the course of our lives. The rest of the day was a whirlwind. We were very active in Southside Christian Church, as my dad was an elder and an organist. I remember church members just showing up to help us complete our move. Our neighbors, the Rectors (who are more like family), welcomed us into their home and helped take care of us kids. We made the move to Hobart, but only stayed there about six months before moving back to Munster, which was closer to friends, family, and church.

I remember thinking I was having a bad dream and would eventually wake up and Dad would still be there. I thought that for a very long time. I would talk to dad as if I were praying. I just didn’t understand how God could take such a good man away from us. I still don’t.

In the seventies, therapy wasn’t something ‘normal’ people took advantage of. Our family was expected to just move on. My mother told me that not long after Dad died, she was having a bad day, afterall, she was a 41 year old stay-at-home mom who was suddenly left alone to raise three children. She went to my Grandma’s house in tears, and Grandma told her she needed to stop crying and get over it. We never talked about Dad. I believe that family friends avoided talking about him around us because they were afraid it would just upset us. On the contrary, it’s much more upsetting to not remember him because we never talked about him. I still love to visit with our friends, the Rectors, because they will tell me stories about my dad.

Living life without my dad has been difficult. Even now, at 50 years old, I miss him tremendously. I see daughters and fathers, and feel the loss of never having had that special relationship. As I graduated, married, and had children, there was always an empty space. What kind of grandfather would he have been? Would he be proud of the things I’ve accomplished? What advice would he have for me? What would it feel like to have my father hold me when I’m sad?

I believe that all life’s events – good and bad – are part of our path, and that has helped. Had my dad have lived, our lives would be so different. We would not have moved to Tell City (this is where my step-dad is from), so I wouldn’t have my girls, and I would not have met Gary. I have a great life, and I have wonderful people whom I love. For that I am grateful. I can’t help but wonder, though, what my career would have been. Would dad’s company have continued to grow? Dad was pretty ambitious, so I wonder what else he would have tried. He was also a great musician and wrote music. I wonder what traits of my dad’s I carry. I feel that my youngest daughter, Addie, got dad’s musical ability. She has taught herself to play the piano, and has worked on some of the songs Dad wrote. She even looks like my dad, so I can catch glimpses of him.

When I turned 42, I struggled. All I had ever associated with that number was my dad’s death. As my birthday approached, I became more depressed. I had to do something, or my husband had threatened he would put me in therapy. That’s when I began to run. I decided I needed to be proactive and take care of my heart. I didn’t know if I would keep up with the running; I had never been able to keep up with any type of exercise prior to that. It’s been eight years now, and I have my dad to thank for my running. I still run for him, and because of running, I am a happier, more confident person. It has changed my life.

It’s been 43 years since I lost my dad…that’s a lifetime. I will never stop missing him or wondering what life would’ve been, but I am content in knowing that I have made the best of this life, worked hard to accomplish my goals, and have tried to use my experience to help kids who have lost parents. Dad, I love you.

Half Marathon #12 Training

In eight days I will be running my 12th half marathon. The Indy 500 Mini Marathon has been on my bucket list for a few years, but it usually falls the same weekend we take our eighth graders to Washington, DC. This year our trip is the week after the mini, so my daughter Bethany and I signed up. We actually signed up when we were at the expo for the Monumental Half Marathon in November. Bethany was a little freaked out that she signed up for her second half marathon before she’d run her first. But hey, we got $5 off and a free tech shirt, so how could we go wrong?

Bethany and I have been training for a couple months. Now that I am 50, I’ve found my long runs just keep getting slower. However, last weekend we ran our longest run of 11 miles, and our pace was a respectable 10:35 (respectable for me, but maybe not for Bethany). Sunday I ran five miles with my fast friends. They make running look so effortless while I am about 15 feet behind struggling to breathe. They were chatting away, and would occasionally ask me a question, but I had no idea what they were even talking about. So why do I run with them? Because I love them, and because it pushes me. Sometimes I get comfortable just getting my miles in, but I don’t really push myself out of that comfort zone. If I want to run well, I have to be willing to be uncomfortable. We ran those five miles at a 9:45 pace, which at this point is super fast for me. Jennifer had already run five miles, and then added another 3.1 after our five…at an 8:15 pace. Geez.

Fast. Something I’ve never been, nor will I ever be. When I talk to my eighth graders about my running, they don’t get that concept. When I told them I was running the Indy Mini, some asked if I thought I would win. Sure, Kids. I’m confident that out of the 30-35,000 runners, I will win. I told them that really isn’t the goal of most runners. But it’s a race. Why would you enter a race if you don’t think you can win, Mrs. Stath? I tried to explain the age groups, and how my goal is usually to place in the top 20% of my age group. But why would you run over 13 miles for that? Ummm…because we get really cool medals and a shirt. I guess from a 13 year old’s perspective, the fact that a 50 year old teacher would run 13.1 miles to get a medal doesn’t make much sense. It made me ask myself why I really do it.

There are so many reasons to run a half marathon. First, there is no other feeling like crossing that finish line, knowing I did something that not many people do. I have done the work – and it is work – and accomplished my goal. Running it with my daughter? That is a pleasure that not many moms get to experience. Running this distance has been life-changing for me. I didn’t begin running until I was 42, and I ran my first half almost seven years ago at 43. I never dreamed I could run 13 miles; I thought it was silly to even want to run for over two hours. But I did it. It taught me that even as a middle-aged mom and grandmother, I could still meet new challenges. It gave me confidence to take risks. I love the camaraderie of the running community. When we go to Indianapolis next weekend, I will enjoy being surrounded by other runners at the hotel, expo, and restaurants. There’s just a different type of energy in the air.

Running long distance doesn’t come without sacrifice and sometimes discomfort. My hip began hurting a couple weeks ago. It was fine when I ran, but hurt after. It is better after a couple trips to the chiropractor, and I have three more appointments scheduled for next week, including one right before we leave for Indy. Runners also sacrifice time. Long runs take time away from family, not only during the run itself, but when I am crashed on the couch afterward. Thankfully my husband is supportive since he was also a runner. Knowing he will be there when I finish makes me look forward to the finish line even more.

Bethany, thank you for taking time to train with me and to commit to this race. There really is something special about pounding the pavement with you. I am so incredibly proud of you. Let’s rock this race! Do you think we can win?

Turns Out 50 Isn’t Just a Number

I have been 50 for just over a month. It’s been a busy month, but I’ve still had time to analyze this next phase of my life. What I’ve come to learn is that a lot of people lied to me. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard 50? It’s just a number!  You’re 50? Oh, don’t worry about that; it’s just a number. You are all liars.

Guess what. It is not just a number. Not at all. 50 is hot flashes. 50 is wrinkly skin and baggy eyes. 50 is weight gain that can’t be explained. 50 is going to bed at 9:00. 50 is running slower even when one is training harder. 50 is craving chocolate. 50 is not just a number.

I’ve always known I wouldn’t age gracefully; I would fight it every step of the way. Some things I can’t really do much about. The hot flashes hit this past fall. I suppose it was nature’s way of getting me ready to turn 50. I remember my mother having them; it wasn’t pretty. And God forbid we tease her. That was not allowed. I thought I had hot flashes when I was pregnant, but I was really just hot all the time. These menopausal hot flashes are a different beast. They begin at my core and within three seconds consume my body. When I am at home, I start fanning, moving clothes, throwing off blankets, and sometimes go out to the garage where it’s cool. At night in bed, sometimes I just strip. In my younger years, that meant a completely different thing. At 50, it just means I am on fire. Flannel sheets? Hell no. I cannot even imagine how miserable those things – that I once loved – would feel. Heavy sweaters for work? Nope.

Weight gain. This is a real issue for me, and one I am not handling well. Until my late 30s, weight was never an issue. I could eat whatever I wanted (burgers, candy, donuts, chips, and on and on), and I still maintained my petite size. In my forties, this all changed. Suddenly I had to exercise, run miles and miles, and I had to be more conscientious about what I consumed. Still, an occasional cookie – or sleeve of Girl Scout cookies – didn’t hurt me; I just ran it off. Oreos and milk were still on my menu. My favorite post-run snack was a Diet Pepsi and Nutty Bars. I could not eat what I did in my earlier years, but I could eat smaller portions of what I liked.

Fast forward to the last year. I can’t eat shit. As of today, I am at my highest weight (besides when I was carrying another human inside of me). I know that it’s not awful, but on my five foot frame, those little fat cells are just accumulating around my middle. Heck, my workout clothes are too tight. I put my age, weight, and goal weight into the Lose It app a couple weeks ago, and to lose one pound a week, I can only eat 1049 calories a day! Seriously. As I was going through the McDonald’s drive-through today (Don’t judge – I got a Diet Coke and grilled chicken), I saw that one of those mint shakes has 680 calories. That’s over half of my daily allowance. That, my friends, sucks.

And if you watch television, you’ve seen that food, really fattening food, is marketed constantly. We have always joked about how little my mother eats at holiday gatherings. She literally has a teaspoonful of each item. Now I get it. If I eat a normal meal, I see it on the scale. I listened to a podcast while I was running today, and a doctor was talking about fat. She learned that she has to stop eating at 4:00 p.m., and doesn’t eat again until 10:00 a.m. She is a scientist and learned that there is something that happens at night that gets rid of fat, and if she gives it more time to work, she can maintain her weight. I would starve. And my family would make me move out because I’d be mean.

So, what’s the answer? I have not yet figured it out. I have begun to drink more water, and I can already tell a difference in how I feel. I was up to about five diet soft drinks a day. My belly felt bloated all the time, and I knew it was just bad for me. I am going to work on my diet, but it’s a struggle. I truly don’t like most veggies. I can’t even force them down. My daughters are all working at losing weight and getting in better shape, so that will help.

Skin. There are all kind of anti-aging products out there, but geez, they are expensive! Nerium and Rodan and Fields are constantly on my Facebook feed, and some good friends sell them, but I just cannot afford them. I found something less expensive that I am going to try. As strange as it sounds, I ordered Robin McGraw’s skincare (you know, Dr. Phil’s wife). I watched her pitch at the end of one of his shows (Don’t judge; there isn’t much on at that time), and since it was affordable, I thought I’d try it. I’ll keep you posted (it hasn’t arrived yet).

There are a few positives about being 50. I can tell people I am wiser; I’m really still learning, but because I am old, it seems like I should be wiser. I really worried about my wardrobe for awhile, but then I decided that I am 50; I can wear whatever I want. I also feel bolder in standing up for what is right and good. What the heck – I don’t have that many years left to say what I think.

I often think about what my mom was like at my age. She exercised and worked to maintain her health, but she did nothing outside of caring for her house and for me. Now, that’s not a bad thing, but I would be so bored. I am on the other extreme. I work full-time as an eighth grade teacher, teach Tabata classes, sell real estate, run, direct the high school play with my daughter, coach an academic team, and I just finished coaching the JV cheer team. It’s a busy life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I find rewards in all I do. For me, at 50, I still have a lot to give. I get really tired on some of my busy days, but if I am making a difference in a kids’ life, helping someone else get more fit, or helping someone find his dream home, it’s worth it.

50 isn’t just a number. It’s a large number that means life is passing by quickly. It’s a number that means I probably should spend less time obsessing over the negatives and more time appreciating what I can do. I ran nine miles today. I ran slower than I used to, but I ran nine miles on a Sunday afternoon just because I could. This body that is carrying several extra pounds carried me nine miles. This body, that some days I really dislike, can still do squats, burpees, pushups, and more. This body can climb up to my classroom several times a day to teach thirteen year olds to write, to read well, and to be kind to one another. This 50 year old body can run and climb with my grandkids and kayak with my husband. This 50 year old slightly chubby body can laugh and cry and encourage and scream and love.

50? It’s not just a number.

 

 

We Did It!!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of running 13.1 miles with my middle daughter, Bethany, at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. It was truly a memorable weekend. We took off for Indy Friday afternoon, checked into our hotel, and then walked a few blocks to the Convention Center for the expo. Bethany had been to an expo with me, but not as a runner. While there, we got a little caught up in the excitement and signed up for another half marathon, the Indy 500 Mini in May. We got a free tech tee for signing up early, and who doesn’t want a free shirt? It was fun just to explore the booths, but it was more fun to carb load afterward. We chose Scotty’s Brewhouse for our last big pre-race meal. While most runners would choose a healthy, carb-filled meal (Is that an oxymoron?), I wanted to try something different: a grilled cheese with pulled pork and mac and cheese on it. Yup. It was messy, but delicious. And on the side? Cottage fries with cheese, bacon, and sour cream. Hey…I was going to be running over 13 miles the next morning; I needed energy. Bethany chose grilled chicken. Boring. But that might be one of the reasons she beat me!

indyprerace

When running a long-distance race, there is so much that can go wrong, starting with the weather. Two years ago when my niece, my husband, and I ran the Monumental, it was 15 degrees. It was miserable. Yesterday the weather was perfect. It was chilly while we were waiting to start, but not unbearable. Once we began running, it was gorgeous. Indy is a beautiful city in which to run, and on a sunny day, it’s even more brilliant. Another obstacle to a successful race is stomach issues. Without going into gross detail, yesterday went well. Even my playlist was put together perfectly, which was a total fluke. I had tried to put ‘Living on a Prayer…Halfway there’ at about the 6.5 mile mark, and it landed exactly where I wanted it to.

Bethany seemed to enjoy every moment of the race, which is what I had hoped she would do. I told her ahead of time to take it all in.I didn’t want her to worry about her time or about whether or not she’d finish; I knew she would. The joy of the race comes not only from achieving a monumental goal, but also from enjoying the small moments, the cheers from the spectators (who were amazing yesterday), the sounds of music along the course, the funny signs, and the other runners who all have stories about why they are there. The joy comes from the scenery, the gorgeous neighborhoods, and the pounding of thousands of feet, all working toward the same goal. The joy comes when you see a firefighter in full gear, including his tank, running a marathon, runners with pictures of loved ones ironed on their shirts, and children along the route offering high fives. A few miles into our run, Bethany said, “This is so much fun!” And at mile eight she said, “Mom, I think it’s so cool that you run. If you didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.” That was my favorite moment in the race. I don’t know if she even knows how much that meant to me. We, as parents, never know what our children will learn from us. Knowing that I had a small part in her achieving something she never thought possible, and that gave her so much confidence, was indescribable.

bethanyrunning

As the race went on, I could tell that Bethany could run faster. I was settling into about a 10:35 pace, which was fine with me, but she kept easing a little ahead. At mile 9, I told her to go. I did not want to hold her back if she could go faster. She hesitated, but then a lady running near us also encouraged her to go. She told her that it would make it harder for me if I knew she was waiting, and that if she felt good, she should take advantage of it because it might not happen again. She took off, and I relaxed knowing she was running her race. I was tired those last few miles, but kept a steady pace. Crazy things can run through a runner’s mind when exhaustion sets in. At one point I thought maybe I’ll get a 13.1 tattoo after this. It’s my tenth half marathon, and geez, this is hard. I deserve to have a tattoo. When I told my husband that had run through my mind, he just rolled his eyes. At mile 11, I reminded myself that I was NEVER going to run a full marathon. I couldn’t imagine having another 15 miles to go.

Bethany ended up finishing about five minutes before I did. I am so proud of her! Running is hard work. It takes dedication and determination, and it’s physically demanding. It takes time to train, and with our busy lives, carving that time out isn’t always easy. Completing a race can be life-changing; it gives us confidence in all areas of our lives. I am so thrilled to have shared this journey with my daughter. Congratulations, Bethany!

bethanymomrace

Half Marathon #10

On November 5 I will run my tenth half marathon, the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. It’s been two years since I ran an entire 13.1 miles; the last three I worked some walking in for various reasons. I need to know I can still run the whole route – that my knee can endure 13.1 miles of pounding.

However, accomplishing that goal is not the most important aspect of the race. This race is special because I will be running it with my daughter Bethany. She began running in January of this year, and has since run a couple 5Ks and a 5-miler. She decided this summer that she was ready to take on the challenge of running her first half marathon, and I agreed to train and run with her. When Gary and I began running almost eight years ago, our hope was that we would be a positive example for our kids and grandkids. We wanted to show them that it is never too late to live a healthier lifestyle; it is never too late to set and achieve goals. Since that time, all of the girls have worked fitness into their lives. Gary’s daughter Tamara and her girls have participated in Girls on the Run; Morgan has run a few races and was recently certified to teach yoga; and the youngest, Addie, has now begun running and hopes to work up to a half marathon. Gary’s son Bryce has always been active. He and his wife run, ski, and climb. I don’t know how much we have influenced our children’s choices, but I hope we’ve had at least a little impact.

bethanymom

Training for this race has been interesting. I haven’t worked as hard as I should. It stayed hot so long that my runs suffered. Our long runs have been slower than I would like, but we’ve kept running. This past Saturday we ran 11 miles, our longest training run. It went better than our previous long runs, and I feel that Bethany is ready for this race and will run well. I feel that I had better quit eating junk for the next two weeks and increase my water intake or I’m going to struggle. No matter what, I wouldn’t trade these past weeks of sharing this experience with my daughter. I cannot wait for her to experience crossing that finish line because I know it can be life-changing. I know she will gain a confidence she’s never experienced. I know she will feel a sense of pride that is unlike any other. I know she’ll want to sign up for another!

I have had the unique pleasure of running two of my nieces’ first half marathons with them, and felt so blessed that they wanted to share that time with me. After running a couple 5Ks and a 10K together, Erin and I ran the Monumental two years ago – it was 15 degrees that day. Emily and I ran the Hoosier Half Marathon in Bloomington. Despite being held April 9, it was 20 degrees at the start, and it did not warm up (I won’t even get into the hills). Now I have the honor of running 13.1 with Bethany, which I hope will take place on a perfect 55 degree day. There is something special about running a longer race with someone. If you run, you know that some of the best, most honest conversations take place when we are drenched in sweat, our muscles are aching, and yet we carry on…together.

I’ve written before that sometimes a race is about so much more than a PR or personal goals. My best runs have been when I’ve run for a greater cause, whether it was to help someone complete her first half, or to raise money and awareness for St. Jude. The medals earned represent time spent training and sharing in a common goal. The medals represent not giving up, even when it hurts. They represent achieving something that a few years ago seemed impossible.

Bethany, I am so proud of you! You’ve accomplished so much this year, and it is truly my honor to run with you. I pray for clear skies, perfect temps, strong legs, and settled bellies. Heck, maybe someday you, Morgan, Addie, and I can run one together. That would really be a miracle! Let’s eat healthy foods the next two weeks, okay? Good Luck, Bethany! Thank you for allowing me to be your running partner. Thank you for loving yourself enough to take on such a monumental challenge. Now go #BeMonumental!

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!

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