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.

My 50th Year

How in the hell did that happen? This past Saturday I celebrated (I use that term quite loosely) my 49th birthday, and am now in my 50th year of life. This has caused me to contemplate this whole aging thing. It’s an odd process, but I truly believe that age is a state of mind, and my mind says I’m not old.

Seriously, in my head I still feel the same as I did 20 years ago. Oh, I am wiser, and some of my opinions have evolved. I used to really care what people thought of me, but now I don’t care so much. I am who I am, and I’m not likely to change at this point. I care deeply about people, and will help anyone who needs it, but I also learned not to waste my time with negativity or drama. Yuck. I don’t like mean people, and won’t pretend to. I can’t stand when people lie, and won’t be friends with people who do. I stand up for what I believe in, and am not afraid to voice those beliefs. On the flip side, I will also listen to the opposing views, as long as the opposition isn’t a jerk or a bigot.

I still set goals. I believe when I stop setting goals, I will stop living. Always having something to work for gives me motivation and purpose. I still strive to be a better person. I am working to improve my fitness level and my financial management. For this – my 50th year – I hope to begin digging out of some debt. I also agreed to run a very hilly half marathon with my niece, so it’s quite necessary to strengthen my legs and core so I don’t cuss at her the entire race. She is 21 with long legs; she’s almost a foot taller than I! Maybe I should invest in a stretching machine or some growth hormones.

Let’s talk the physical aspects of aging. They suck. I mean really suck. Although my mind says I’m not old, my body doesn’t seem to agree. Because I feel sort of young on the inside, when I look at my hands and see the same hands I used to see on my grandmother, it’s just shocking. They’re getting vainy and boney and just ugly. I used to play with that loose skin on my grandma, and now I’m that grandma. And then there’s the skin on my legs. I think I’d get a skin lift on my legs before I’d get a face lift. My legs are one of my better assets because of running; they aren’t chubby or too flabby. The skin, however, is really old looking (and please don’t message me trying to sell your expensive, magical lotion).

Eyebrows. Did anyone ever tell you what happens to your eyebrows when you get old? No one told me. I think those ahead of me on this journey just wanted to sit back and laugh as my eyebrows disappeared. The first phase was when they began to grow wildly. I’d get these long, hag-like eyebrows that needed to be trimmed. That phase lasted a couple of years. Now I’m in the lose-a-few-more-every-single-day phase. Those suckers are now disappearing. I always wondered who bought eyebrow pencils (besides the people whom I thought plucked them all out only to draw them back on – but now I’m not so sure). True confession: I now own – and use – an eyebrow pencil. I try to take it easy so it isn’t obvious, but if I didn’t use it, good Lord, it would not be pretty.

Bushy eyebrows

Gray hair is something to be expected, but that doesn’t make it cool. I actually started getting gray hair when I was in my 20s. How unfair is that? Thankfully, I was a hairdresser for 17 years, and could take care of that at work. It’s now so prevalent that I have to color my hair every three weeks. I am about 90% gray in the front, but don’t tell anyone. I am very grateful for the creator of hair color…Mr. Clairol? Ms. Loreal? Mrs. Wella?  My husband has asked me (several times) how long I’m going to continue to color my hair. Duh. Until the day they put my cold, dead body in the ground. That’s how long. And there’d better not be any gray roots showing at my visitation. And someone had better draw some eyebrows on my face. Julie Bishop, take note.

hair color

Lips. Those also fade out into oblivion. Those once red lips that appeared so kissable become virtually non-existent. Lipstick will be your friend; you won’t leave home without it. Of course, you also have to be careful with that lipstick so it doesn’t ‘feather’ into the wrinkles that are now surrounding the area where your lips used to be. Of course you’ll have wrinkles there; you can’t just have them surrounding your eyes and criss-crossing your forehead. That would look ridiculous! You should try to figure out where your lips meet your skin; drawing your lipstick on the outside of this area looks a little silly. This is valuable information; you’ll thank me someday.

dark-lips

granny kiss s

Another side effect of aging is weight gain. Oh, it doesn’t have to happen. If you don’t eat any complete meals ever, exercise every single stinkin’ day, and stay the hell away from dessert, you can maintain your pre-middle age weight. Each year, it gets more difficult to maintain a sensible weight. Each year, I can eat a little less. Shouldn’t this work in the opposite way? When we are young and feel like exercising, we struggle with keeping it off, but when we are older and just don’t have the energy, the weight just stays away? Shouldn’t there be a time in our lives when we don’t have to worry about calories? My mother is 82 and still watches everything she eats. She actually said these words: I’ve found that if I don’t eat bread all week, on the weekend I can have a slice of bread, and I won’t gain weight! Seriously, Mother! You’re in your 80s! Eat the damn bread! Her plate at the holidays is almost comical. One bite of each thing. It’s Christmas! Eat the turkey! Bask in the joy of mashed potatoes. Smother your tastebuds in pumpkin pie. I’m thankful that my mother is healthy and takes pride in her appearance, but I wish she’d let loose once in awhile and just enjoy some dessert.

dessert-for-dinner

Another unexpected aspect of this aging process is that I get up early. I have never been a morning person. I really enjoy sleeping. A lot. When I have a cold, I look forward to a Nyquil sleep all day long. Surgery? Sure. That’s the best sleep ever. I even trained my daughters to sleep in when they were small (that back-fired). Now I get up three mornings a week at 4:30 A M – that’s in the morning – to teach classes at the gym. Yes, I get up and exercise before school. Before I go to work, I workout. And the really scary thing is I enjoy it. I love my early-morning crew, and waking up to their cheerful smiles. I like starting my day out by sweating. Sometimes I still cuss as I am driving into town, but as soon as class starts, I’m glad to be there. Of course, getting up so flippin’ early means I also go to bed pretty early. I like to head to bed at 9:00, read a little, and lights out by 9:30. My mother goes to bed at 6:00 and is up when I am. I hope I never get to that point. Many evenings we aren’t even home by that time.

All-in-all, I plan to attack this 50th year of life by continuing to set goals, working to improve myself, and loving the little moments with family, friends, and students. I hope to set a positive example for my 8th graders, and teach them that one is never too old to grow, learn, or set goals. I plan to laugh, be silly, and tell- sometimes inappropriate – jokes (hopefully at appropriate times) (and parents, never to your kids). I figure I’ve got one shot at this life, and I’ve always tried to live with no regrets. When making a decision, I always imagine what I’d be most likely to regret. It generally works (and has failed me terribly a few times). So, this nana is going to be a super-cool, super-fun nana. I’m going to run and play until my body no longer allows me to do so. I’m going to enjoy every moment I have with my husband, even if it’s just sitting side-by-side scrolling through Facebook while watching Criminal Minds. Live with no regrets, Folks! Be glad you get to experience the little annoyances of aging; it means you’ve been blessed to stay on this earth a little longer. Take the gray hair, crazy eyebrows, wrinkly skin, and extra pounds and know that you’ve earned them. And for goodness sake, EAT DESSERT!

 

St. Jude Half Marathon

This blog is so long overdue, but with December came holiday preparations, and then came company. It’s a little difficult to write with a two year old and four year old running around. And so, it’s January and I’m writing what should have been written in early December.

On December 4, my friends Katie, Kelly, Jennifer, Mary Jane, and I traveled to Memphis for the St. Jude Half Marathon. We had been planning for months, and were anxious to begin what would be a pretty incredible experience. Our weekend began with a tour of St. Jude. We have all seen the children of St. Jude in the heart-wrenching commercials, but to see these kids and their families in person is indescribable. Katie is a St. Jude survivor, and is still a patient for follow-up tests. Seeing where she has spent so many hours – certainly the worst hours of her life – was both moving and inspiring. Witnessing her return to the place that has come to mean so very much to her was a privilege.

Touring St. Jude Jennifer, Mary Jane, Kelly, Me, and Katie

Touring St. Jude
Jennifer, Mary Jane, Kelly, Me, and Katie

The hospital itself was an amazing place. They have thought of everything to make the children as comfortable as possible. Their artwork lines the hallways; the reception desks are at a child’s level; the colors and murals are bright and cheerful. The doctors, nurses, and all staff members are truly heroes. To go to work each day knowing that their patients are young and cancer-stricken must be so trying. To spend their days comforting families must be exhausting. They build true, loving relationships with the kids, which was evident by the joy in their faces as they saw Katie walk in. It was like a member of their family had come home, and truly she had. No wonder she loves that place.

Long before race day, we five had decided that we were sticking together no matter what. Katie cannot run far distances because of the damage done to her lungs, so we had planned to walk all hills and to stop often for photos. I have to say, this race was the best race I have ever run. We had fun the whole way, even when moments of tears crept in, and the weather was perfect. There were spectators along the whole course, and many were parents of St. Jude kids. Because those of us who raised money for St. Jude wore special shirts, and the spectators were aware of that, many people thanked us as we ran by. That was so humbling.

At one point in the race, the course winds through the St. Jude Campus. I knew this would be difficult and emotional, and it was. Just nine years before, Katie had an autologous stem cell transplant and had watched the race from her hospital window. Now, she was running the race. She had fought back and won! How could we not shed a few tears at that moment? How could she not? Determined to have fun and not get caught up in emotions, we regrouped once we passed through. And then…and then…at mile six they had doughnuts! I wasn’t interested (I would have vomited), but the others had just said they were hungry, so they were thrilled.

At each mile marker, we stopped and had someone take a picture of us. They turned out great and are a wonderful reminder that we completed that journey together, one mile at a time.

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While each race I’ve run has been special for one reason or another, I can’t imagine anything topping our St. Jude experience. It was fun while being solemn at times; it was rewarding; it was humbling. Running it and spending the weekend with my four friends could not have gone better. We ate, we talked, Kelly and Katie rapped (seriously), we shopped, and we worked as a team for a greater cause.

At the finish

At the finish

The St. Jude race was my eighth half marathon, but more importantly, is was my best half marathon. No, I didn’t run fast. I didn’t place in the top 20%, but I finished with my friends and gained so much more than a PR. It was an experience I will never forget.

Again, thanks to all who donated to our team! Start saving your pennies as we will be collecting donations again this year!

Why you should donate to St. Jude: Katie’s Story

One of the best people I know is my co-worker and friend, Katie Weyer. Katie is the reason we are running the St. Jude Half Marathon on December 5. She is a St. Jude survivor, and we are so appreciative of the life-saving care she received, that we want to complete this race for her and with her, and to raise much-needed funds for the families of St. Jude. Below is Katie’s story.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 on the day after my ninth 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.

Please consider donating to this very worthy cause. The five of us want to make a difference in the lives of St. Jude families. Use this link to make your donation. Please remember that every dollar matters. Our team would also greatly appreciate if you’d share this blog.

http://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR?px=2902756&fr_id=40881&pg=personal

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Jumping Out of My Comfort Zone

Just me (hoping my deodorant is working) and Gary (wondering what the heck I'm going to say)

Just me (hoping my deodorant is working) and Gary (wondering what the heck I’m going to say)

A few weeks ago I received a text from my friend Lagina, who is the executive director of the Perry County Chamber of Commerce, asking me to speak at their upcoming quarterly breakfast. Never having done anything like that, I put her off. I knew it was something I should do, but I had no idea where to begin. And why me? After speaking with my husband, I decided to do it. How can I ask my eighth graders or people in my classes at the gym to step out of their comfort zones if I’m not willing to do the same?

We decided on the topic of setting goals. Okay…I had a topic – now what? After a few days of stressing out, I decided I would write it as a blog, and then somehow turn it into a talk. It wasn’t difficult to write, so this seemed to be the perfect approach. As the date approached, I became more and more nervous. Lagina sent me texts of encouragement; she really seemed to have much more confidence in me than I had in myself.

This morning was the breakfast. I had a stomach ache for the 24 hours prior to the engagement, but still arose before dawn to teach at the gym, and then readied myself for the big event. Thankfully, some of my friends from school were there, along with my husband – always my faithful supporter. Once I started speaking, I was fine. I had six pages of notes, but didn’t even use them. Afterward I realized I had left a lot out, which was probably for the best because it might have been too long (and people might have thrown hard-boiled eggs at me!). Below I pasted the full text.

In the end, I was really glad that Lagina thought enough of me to have me speak. I don’t know that I necessarily inspired anyone, but I did it. And I didn’t throw up, say anything ridiculous, talk in my Northern Indiana speed talk, or embarrass my family or employer. I’d say that’s a successful day. Hold on to your hat…this is really long!

Setting and Achieving Goals

When Lagina asked me to speak, my first thought was what do I have to offer chamber members? Clearly it isn’t business advice; I’ve had one successful business, and one flop. However, I’ve achieved many of the goals I set for myself through determination (sometimes stubbornness) and hard work; the support of others has also played a role in my meeting goals. All I can do is share my experiences, and if that inspires one of you to achieve more, I’ve met my goal for this morning.

My goals can be divided into three categories: professional goals, personal goals, and community goals. I have a lot of little goals throughout the week, such as actually getting all of the laundry finished and put away rather than leaving that one load in the washer until it has to be rewashed, but today we will focus on larger goals.

My professional goals have evolved over the years. I have always been ambitious, and am always thinking about what else I can do – what more I can achieve. As many of you know, I started as a hairdresser many years ago. I tried college, but at that time had no direction or goals, therefore no motivation. I had a lot of fun in that semester, and then it was back home. I decided to go to school to be a hairdresser. Once I had worked for a few years, a friend and I decided to open our own salon, Hair Razors (that’s the successful one). After a few years of owning that business, I decided I wanted more. I wanted a college degree. When I was 32, had three young daughters, and worked full-time, I enrolled at Brescia in the education program. I was terrified. Although it had been years since I’d been in the classroom, it didn’t take long to realize that I loved learning. I graduated with honors, and began teaching, first at the prison, and then at Wm. Tell. I have since earned a master’s degree, and extended my license so that I can teach English at any level. Three years ago I moved from the elementary school to Tell City Jr. Sr. High School. I am so honored to work in a corporation that that has set goals to maintain high standards while at the same time nurturing our students. It’s a thrill to work at the school from which I graduated. It took many steps and many smaller goals to get here, but meeting each of those goals brought another level of satisfaction. Next on my agenda – I am currently enrolled in a real estate course, and have set a goal of earning my license by the beginning of 2016.

I have had failures along the way. Remember the Magnolia Tree? That was a great idea, but we didn’t have the time or money to keep sinking into it until it became profitable. I have some regrets about opening a gift shop, but I also remember Dr. Rudolph telling me (probably while she had her fingers in my mouth) it wasn’t a failure because between Hair Razors and the Magnolia Tree, we had been instrumental in developing that corner of 12th Street. She helped me see the positive in failing to meet that goal.

Setting personal goals makes my life so much more rewarding. Honestly, I can’t imagine not having something I am working toward. A few years ago, Gary and I realized how out of shape we were. Our evenings consisted of sitting on the couch watching Law and Order, and our diet consisted of anything that tasted good. Although we weren’t overweight by today’s standards, we certainly were not in good shape, and the simplest of activities left us out of breath. We talked for several months about making changes, but change is difficult. And what if we failed? I couldn’t decide what type of exercise to embark upon because in past years I would get really into something, and then just quit. I was working, raising kids, and going to school; I obviously had no time. As I was trying to make my decision, Gary began to run. It was winter; he is 16 years older than I am; and he has an artificial knee. Why the heck did he have to choose running? If he could do it, I had no valid excuse to not try. I wasn’t very happy with him. But we ran. At ages 42 and 58, we decided to become runners. We ran on our gravel road because it was secluded and we certainly didn’t want anyone to see us huffing and puffing down the road. We then set goals to run the 2-mile Schweizer Fest run. That goal seemed insurmountable! Two miles seemed like a marathon to us.

To meet that first goal, we set smaller goals. Gary worked to run to one more telephone pole with each run. We both worked toward being able to run one mile, which we could do on our road. Once we’d reached that goal, we began to run in town. That’s really intimidating for a new runner, especially when we see the likes of Tony Hollinden and Eric Kehl out running, and they’re just chatting away while we’re trying not to pass out. I ended up meeting my two-mile goal early, so I decided to sign up for a 5K, and then another. At this point in my running, I hated it. My legs ached that entire summer, and running in the heat was pure torture. But I didn’t stop. I had such an immense feeling of accomplishment each time I completed a run, that I soon craved more. My goals became to run further distances and to get faster. In the past six years, I’ve run lots of 5Ks, a few 10Ks, and seven half marathons (that’s 13.1 miles!). With each race I’ve set goals; sometimes that involved time, and sometimes it was just to get it over with. Have I always met my race goals? No, but I never stopped trying. I am so thankful to have the support of my husband and our five kids. Without it, I’d have stopped a long time ago.

Sometimes our goals are out of our control. While I have the drive to run more half marathons, I don’t know that my knees will allow me to. I’ve already had surgery, and am still not where I’d like to be. And so I must adjust those goals. I won’t throw in the towel; I might just have to set aside my ego and walk during longer races. That won’t be easy; I’m slightly competitive. The point of all of this is that setting goals gives me incentive to train. It gives me motivation to get up every morning. When I don’t have something I’m working toward, I tend to slack off in everything.

My next personal goal is to complete the St. Jude Half Marathon in December. This race is not about times, or even running the whole race. My friends and I are participating with and for our friend Katie Weyer, a St. Jude survivor. Our goal is to support and love Katie, and to raise a lot of money for St. Jude. Sometimes personal goals aren’t about ourselves at all.

My final category of goals is community goals. That means something different to each of us. I hate meetings, so I am not one to join clubs or organizations. I’ve been in Tri Kappa and the Optimist Club, and I’ve gone through Leadership Perry County, but between my work obligations, teaching at Everbody’s, and taking a class, I have no time to sit in meetings. I’m far too antsy for that. So, how do I contribute to Perry County? This year it has been through Mary Poppins. As soon as I heard that there would once again be a Schweizer Fest Musical, and that it would be Mary Poppins, I was hooked. I set a goal to be in the show, as did our daughter Addison. To my husband’s dismay, that also meant he would be in the show. As it turned out, he – who had major reservations about making such a huge commitment – got a lead role, while I – who was so excited to spend my summer singing and dancing – got the role of a statue. (New goal – workout a lot so I could wear a unitard on stage in front of a couple thousand people). I actually had four roles, two of which involved some pretty difficult dancing. I worked my tail off all summer learning to tap dance and how to spell SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS, and do the hand motions. My goal was to not look foolish on stage. Ironically, I get the most compliments on my ability to stand still for five minutes, not my dancing that I had worked so diligently on.

This group – this amazing group – came together this summer to bring our community a fantastic show. We literally laughed together, sweated together, cried together, and practiced together to make Mary Poppins come to life. Without commitment to our goals, teamwork, and countless hours spent together, we would not have pulled it off. We practiced as an ensemble five nights a week for three to four hours. Besides that time, many of us met throughout the day or before regular rehearsal to work together on particular scenes. The teamwork was incredible.

It wasn’t just those you saw on stage who went above and beyond; it was also the set construction crew, the make-up, hair and wardrobe group, the ticket sellers, the donors, the director, and numerous others. I have never been associated with a better group of people. We came together as friends and acquaintances, and left as family, which meant we had a hard time leaving. When a group of people puts that much time and that much heart into a project, and then sees their goals met and appreciated by our community, it’s difficult to let go. This was evident in the weeks following the musical as we still stay in touch daily through Facebook, and look for reasons to get together.

And we aren’t finished. Our next community goal is to keep the momentum going, promote the arts in our area, and to that end, form a theater group. As a team, we will continue to set goals and do our part for the betterment of our community.

My challenge to each of you is to set some goals. Set a professional goal. It might be to generate more business, learn to use social media for marketing purposes, learn more about your field, or to find a way to enhance our community through your business. Set a personal goal; it can be to get in shape, eat healthier foods, spend more time with those you love, or to take time for yourself without feeling guilty. And set a community goal. We all have different gifts. Not everyone is cut out for committees and clubs, but you can spend time with a child who has no role models; you can spread the joy of music; or you can visit an elderly person who can no longer get out. Maybe you do prefer to use your skills on a board or committee. Choose one that you feel passionate about. Once you’ve set your goals, come up with a plan. What steps will you take to attain them? Who will you need on your team? If we all set professional, personal, and community goals, think what a wonderful home we will create for future generations.

Post-Musical Depression

Step In Time

Step In Time

As my friends and family know, my family’s summer was consumed by “Mary Poppins”. In April, Gary, Addie, and I all decided to participate in the Schweizer Fest production, knowing that there’d be little time for anything else; we weren’t disappointed. For those of you who don’t really know what it means to commit to the summer musical, I thought I’d fill you in.

Despite Gary’s reluctance to try out, he landed the role of George Banks, which was a big one. When the musical was first announced, the girls and I just knew he’d make the perfect Mr. Banks, and boy were we right! From the moment Gary received his script, he studied. Any spare moment was spent memorizing the multitude of lines and the songs. He put his heart and soul into that role, and as many can attest, it showed on stage this past weekend. He was fabulous!

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Addie and I were in all the same scenes in a variety of roles. We had music to memorize and dances (including tap) to learn. The choreography for this show was pretty tough for amateurs, so we spent lots of time at home practicing, and meeting friends so we could get some extra practice time in. Anytime I was alone in my car, I had my music on and practiced the songs.

In June we had rehearsals four nights a week for about three hours a night. In July we stepped it up to five nights a week, and a minimum of three hours (usually more like four). The final fifteen-day stretch, we had one day off. While many of our cast members worked during the day, I was fortunate to be off. I spent much of that time helping with tickets, writing the programs, organizing the ushers, and working on some other behind-the-scenes tasks.

I tell you this because I want you to know the time that is spent putting on a production of this magnitude. My time doesn’t even compare to the lead actors, set construction crew, artistic director, technical director, music director, or the head honcho, Tammy. But do you know what’s really neat about it? We all loved (almost) every minute of it. I never dreaded going to practice because I grew to love my fellow cast members and we enjoyed our time together. Even after a difficult rehearsal, I was ready to go back and try it again the next night. We laughed together, cried together, and helped one another. We teased, encouraged, and supported. We became family.

One moment that stands out was a ‘Coby’ moment (Coby played Michael Banks). The cast was standing in a circle before a performance preparing for our prayer, and Coby had something to say. This 13 year old boy said that he wanted us all to know that he loved us, and that this had been the best summer of his life. There was hardly a dry eye in the room. That’s what it’s all about. Together our cast had several of those beautiful moments, but they are far too special to share.

“Mary Poppins” was an outstanding show! Over 2100 tickets were sold, and in a town of 7292, that’s really impressive – 29% of our population! I realize some family members went more than once, and we had some people from out of town, but it still speaks well for our community. This was the first time we had social media with which to market, and I believe it made a huge difference. After opening night, Facebook blew up with great reviews, which resulted in more sales. We so appreciate the community support. Without it, there might not be a next time, and from what I’ve read, the community would like to see this continue.

And then came the ‘after’. Our final performance was Sunday. I awoke feeling a little down. I knew it would be my last time on stage with this beautiful group of people. It was such a privilege to just stand in a room and sing with such talented people. I love to sing, but don’t have the best voice. Somehow when I sang with the cast, I felt better about my own singing (maybe they were drowning me out!). Even standing in the wings watching my friends perform was an honor. After seeing the same scenes over and over, I still laughed because each time it was so much better. The performers were top-notch. Knowing Sunday we would take our final bows had me on the verge of tears most of the day. At times, those tears overflowed.

I was definitely not the only one. As we prepared for our final curtain call, many were near tears. I’m sure our audience had no idea how difficult it was for many of us to hold it together well enough to sing. As we began to disassemble the set, that had been so carefully constructed, and then beautifully painted by Sam, there was a knot in my stomach. All that work, and within two hours, it was gone. Costumes were boxed up and prepared for shipping; our backstage hangout was returned to a classroom; and the sets became a pile of colorful lumber.

And then came the cast party. One of our cast members, Ashley, compiled a wonderful slide show that showcased our summer’s work. We talked about the memories that were made, the friendships that developed, and about working together again someday. Saying good-bye was awful. As hard as I tried not to cry (again), I couldn’t help myself. As we hugged and promised to stay in touch, many tears flowed. I’ve never seen a group of people – young and not-so-young – have so much trouble saying good-bye. I’ve never witnessed such love among a group that size.

Monday was not much better. I could tell that I was not the only one struggling with separation anxiety the moment I opened Facebook. We have a private page and it was filled with emotional posts stating the we just weren’t ready to be finished. The children and teens weren’t ready to let go of the adults who came to love and care for them. The adults weren’t ready to let go of our kids or each other.

If you ever wondered what it’s like to be part of community theater, know that it is like nothing else. We come together as amateurs – some with a lot of experience and some with absolutely no experience – and we learn and practice and cuss and cry and laugh and complain…and out comes an amazing production. We do it with dedication, hope, and love. Along the way we all grow as individuals. It’s so much more than ‘being in a play’; It’s being part of a theater family. And I truly miss my family.

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Soft Drinks, Runs, and Other Stuff

First, I should update you on my challenge to not drink soft drinks after a life-long love affair with Diet Mountain Dew and Diet Pepsi. I lasted 12 days with no soft drinks. And then I caved. I knew that the first few days would be rough, and that I would have headaches from the lack of caffeine, but even after 12 days, I still felt bad. Had I stuck it out, it might have gotten better, but I have been too busy to feel crappy. I was combining late-night musical practices with early-morning Tabata and HIIT classes, and I was wiped out. Adding a headache to my already worn-out body was not cutting it. The day I caved, I hadn’t planned to have a soft drink. We were at our local Mexican restaurant for our weekly Wednesday teacher lunch, and when our server asked what I WANTED to drink, after a few seconds of hesitation, I said I wanted a Diet Pepsi. It was true – I desperately wanted a diet soft drink. While some of my friends have said that after giving up soft drinks they no longer liked the taste, I loved it. It tasted delicious…that little fizz as it trickled down my throat was a welcome treat.

I think part of the problem with my giving up soft drinks altogether is that I had nothing to substitute with. I hate coffee and tea, and milk and juices have too many calories (and no caffeine). I enjoy a soft drink; I don’t enjoy water. I like water when I am working out, but to sit down to relax and drink a glass of water? Nope. I enjoy wine coolers, but I can’t really drink those daily. I don’t feel that I failed in this experiment. I am now limiting myself to one or two soft drinks a day, and am drinking a lot more water. Having musical practice every night has helped because one shouldn’t drink soft drinks when singing, so I only drink water in the late afternoons and evenings.

Another first this summer: I joined the high school’s corporate challenge team for the Biggest Loser. I have coached teams before, but have never participated. I have had about five to seven pounds that I’ve wanted to lose since the beginning of the year, but have had no success. Because I have to wear a unitard – a SILVER unitard – in the musical, I have incentive to get rid of my gut. Since I am only five feet tall, five pounds makes a big difference. I gain weight only in my gut, so picture five pounds of ground beef pasted to my middle; it is not attractive!  Picture that ground beef in shiny silver spandex, and it’s just gross. The week before our initial weigh-in my family went on vacation. Typically, I gain weight on vacation, but I was determined to control myself this time. I ended up losing three pounds (after not being able to lose a pound all summer). While that’s great, I’d rather have lost it during the corporate challenge so it would help my team. My youngest daughter started Paleo this week. She has done it before, and it gives her a good jump start on losing weight. She bought her own groceries, so there are a lot of foods in our frig marked ‘NO’ – we are not to touch her food. I don’t have that kind of discipline to give up bread and sweets (or the candy that’s backstage when we’re rehearsing).

Running has been a huge challenge this summer. I am not training for anything, which is what usually keeps me motivated. Last summer Gary and I ran several 5Ks, so I worked on my speed all summer, and was actually pretty fast by the end of the summer. This summer I suck. Every run has become a run/walk; the heat has just kicked my butt. This morning I ran 2.3 miles with no walking, and it was under a 10:00 pace, so that was a great run (it used to be a warm-up). It’s frustrating, but I hope to improve once the musical is over.

In the next 14 days, I have one day with no musical practice or performance. Today we begin getting my daughter’s first classroom ready for the new school year, and this week we need to really begin to get my youngest daughter ready to move to college. And there’s my classroom to spruce up, and I am taking a class that is much harder than I anticipated. Next week my oldest daughter and her boys will arrive, and we are hopeful that Gary’s son and his wife will be here. With all of this excitement, do you see why I need Diet Pepsi? Though we are crazy busy, I wouldn’t trade it. My life is filled with beautiful people whom I enjoy spending time with; I am physically able to exercise and to perform; our kids are all doing well and meeting their goals; and we have jobs that allow us to help others.

Do something healthy today. We all spend too much time looking forward: we can’t wait for the weekend, for fall, for football season, for Christmas, for spring, for summer break, etc, etc. We only have today. Don’t let it pass you by without making someone else’s day a little brighter, or without letting your family and friends know that you value them. Value yourself. Take a moment to appreciate who you are.

Peace and Love…

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