I (heart) to run

Oakleys and silly runners 09-12-13
Me and some of the gang after a riverside run on Sept. 12, 2013, just 5 days before my heart surgery.

Apparently my cardiologist likes me. And for some reason he thinks I’m at least passably “intelligent and articulate.”

That’s what the Baptist Health folks asked for when they were looking for people to be in their next ad campaign, “Keep on Amazing.” They were looking for “success stories” – fairly well-spoken people who had been treated by Baptist Health and lived to tell about it.

Well, you know – not only survived but thrived.

Apparently the facts that I’ve gained 10 pounds since my heart-valve surgery and that I’m not yet back to my normal race pace didn’t deter the PR people from thinking I’m a “success story.”

(We won’t tell them about the 9 mini Tootsie Rolls I just ate while writing this.)

(Wait a minute. Make that 10.)

Apparently the mere fact that I was so eager to get back into running (that I talk about it every time I visit the heart doctor) is enough for them to think I have some atypical story to tell. Or at least the doc thinks so. He’s the one who told them about me when they were lookin’ for folks.

So they’re coming to town next weekend to film me telling my story. And running. With a bunch of my crazy friends.

Running buddies, I need you to help me tell the story (because you’re a crucial part of it), but first let me back up and give a bit of the history of this heart thing. I’ve told it in a little bit of detail on the White River Roadrunners’ Facebook page and on the Roadrunners website, but haven’t told it here. So grab a cup of coffee – I’m going into detail. (If you’re a running buddy and only want to know where you come in on the aforementioned “help,” skip to the bottom. Otherwise please indulge me because I haven’t told the whole story in one place, and some people have been wanting to hear it.) Here goes:

I was diagnosed in 2008 with “mitral valve prolapse with mitral regurgitation.” Basically, the valve didn’t close properly and puked blood back into the chamber where it wasn’t supposed to. I visited Dr. Conley in North Little Rock once a year to check it. (We lived in North Little Rock for the first couple of years, and we moved to Batesville in 2010.)

Until this year, in July, no one was too concerned as long as I didn’t do anything crazy, things like what the doc called “burst activity” – such as the time back in May when I sprinted to the finish line to try to beat that guy who came up behind me at the Rock Run 8K in Little Rock. That would be considered burst activity, a big a no-no. Plus the dude beat me by 0.42 seconds. Not worth how my heart pounded later that night. (I’d ask you not to tell my mom, but I’ve had the thing fixed since then so it’s OK.)

So in July, some criteria for deciding whether to do surgery changed, and Dr. Conley sent me to a cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Beyer, for his opinion. I saw Dr. Beyer on Aug. 1. He told me I’d definitely need surgery, but he wasn’t sure how soon. He asked me to keep a diary for a week. The diary included things like lethargy, lack of motivation to run, mild symptoms of depression, a relapse into “stress eating” …

Once he read the diary, his nurse called and scheduled me for surgery.

I had already been scheduled for LASIK surgery on the day they wanted to fix my heart, so we put off the mitral valve repair a week. (I was later able to move up the eye surgery so that the surgeries wouldn’t be seven days apart. Wish I could say the LASIK was as successful as the valve surgery, but that’s a post for another day. Or not.)

I had the mitral valve repaired on Sept. 17 at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock. With the top-notch surgeon and some newfangled equipment, they were able to do a “minimally invasive” operation. In other words, they didn’t have to hack through my sternum to get to my heart and then bind the bones back together with twist ties like some people get.

Instead, the doc made an incision under my right breast (plus a bunch of other holes in my torso that I wouldn’t know about until I woke up – I still don’t know what one of them was for) and went across under there to the valve on the left side of my chest.

I watched an open-heart surgery on YouTube a few weeks earlier, and I’m really glad mine was “minimally invasive,” despite all the extra holes. However, the doc said this to me a couple of days after my surgery: “No one has ever proved to me that this surgery is any less painful [than open-heart].” I told him I was glad he didn’t mention that before I went under the knife! Because, friends, it was plenty painful.

But at least I won’t have twist ties in my chest for the rest of my life.

So. Over the next few weeks I had follow-up visits – one with Dr. Beyer and two with Dr. Conley.

Dr. Conley, the cardiologist I see every year, and who hears me talk about running every year (and who gave me a thumbs-up – literally, although my mom didn’t believe me – when I said I was going to run a half-marathon to raise money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in 2012), and who always tells me the same two stories about his other mitral-valve patients (one who nearly died showing off in front of his kids and the other who’s practically a superhero), said at my October checkup that if I was concerned about what going “all out” in running would do to my heart, he’d do a stress test.

A few weeks later, in mid-November, they did an ultrasound and then stuck a bunch of electrodes to my chest and put me on a treadmill. At first it was too slow, but they wanted to build me up gradually. They didn’t want me to jog; I just needed to walk fast. And then a little faster. And a little faster. (By then I was jogging.) They kept upping the incline and I kept muttering, “I hate hills,” but they weren’t really listening. They were just watching their little machines. Eventually, when I was at, like, 10 miles per hour (just kidding), the doc asked me how I was doing.

“Not bored anymore,” I said. I was out of breath and he said I could stop. My heart rate was high enough for him to know what he needed to know. So the tech quickly did another ultrasound – while my heart rate was still up – and let me get dressed.

Side note: Earlier, when I was changing into my paper gown, the tech told me that Bruce wouldn’t be allowed in for the testing because they were having to use a smaller room than usual and there wasn’t room for him. I told her that he was skinny and wouldn’t take up much room, and that he gives really good feedback, makes good observations and really needed to be there. (What I didn’t say out loud was that there was no way he wasn’t going to be there for this running test. I won.)

Also? She wasn’t going to let me keep my sports bra on for the treadmill test. I said there was no way I could run without wearing that support system. “We may not get you up to a run,” she said. I told her the entire point of my visit was to see how I would do RUNNING. I would definitely be running on the treadmill, and I definitely could not do it without my industrial-strength bra, especially since my right boob was still sore from the surgery. Bouncing would only make it worse. (I won.)

When the bra conversation was repeated to Dr. Conley, I told him, “If no one else has ever balked at having to take her bra off to run on the treadmill, all your previous patients must be really flat-chested.”

“Or mild-mannered,” he smirked.

I love my heart doctor!

So after all the melodrama of the stress test, during which time the doc called me grumpy (it’s OK – I got to return the favor), he asked whether I’d be interested in helping the marketing people by telling my story.

I was so hoping he meant by writing a short testimonial or something. So I gave him my card with phone and email on it. A few days later the “brand marketing coordinator,” Dana, called me and conferenced in the ad agency person.

I said I’m fairly good at telling stories on paper, not so good with my lips. I lose my train of thought, ramble and forget words.

Nevertheless, after a 30-minute phone conversation about my life, they still wanted me.

So next weekend, I get to tell my story. On camera.

I just hope I don’t do a Cindy Brady and freeze up the minute the cameras roll.

But I’ll have Bruce at my side during the talky parts and my other buddies at my side for the running parts. We’ll do the interviews Friday afternoon and the running stuff Saturday.

That’s where you come in, faithful friends.

They want you to run with us Saturday, on camera. Many times.

There are a few tricky parts. Here’s the scoop:

They’d like to air the commercials (ours will be one of five stories) throughout the year in 2014, which means they want it not to look like dead of winter in every single shot. They’re looking for areas that aren’t covered with snow and maybe have some green trees. Also, they want all of us to show up with 2 or 3 different jackets so that we can change our appearance slightly as we change locations. Also, the extra jackets are in case too many people show up wearing the same color. They’d like variety – and the brighter the better. But no plaids or “busy” patterns. (No problem, right?) Also, no glaringly obvious logos – they don’t want to deal with unintentional product endorsements. A small logo is OK, just not a huge statement across your chest, OK?

This part is a little more difficult: The schedule is to shoot us fake-running between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday. We film the first footage at 9 a.m. on Main Street, but they want us in a couple more locations and I’m not sure what those times (or exact places) will be. So we’ll have to be somewhat flexible.

It doesn’t have to be the exact same group in each location, but if any of you has a flexible schedule next Saturday (and multiple jacket colors!) we’d love for you to be at as many of the locations as possible – but especially on Main Street by 9 a.m. They also want to film us running “across the bridge on Main Street,” and I can only assume they mean on the Golden Overpass after we turn off Main. The person telling me this was not one of the ones who came up here last week scouting locations, unbeknown to me. (Why they didn’t ask us for suggestions is beyond me. They have us filming Friday’s interview portion in some retreat place in Locust Grove.)

They’ll also film all of us fake-running on Chaney Drive where there’s a gazebo. Since they don’t want Christmas lights and probably don’t mean Riverside Park, I wondered if they meant the cemetery. Dana wasn’t sure.

I’m not sure whether there’s a third fake-running location, but they also want to film us in front of “storefronts,” and I don’t believe that involves running. Therefore I’m not sure whether it involves the running group or just the Oakleys. I’ll find out early next week and let you know.

I guess we will all get an education as to how big-time commercials are filmed. The key is to be patient and flexible. We can do that, right?

So, basically, I’d love for you all to be there, and I think I’ve covered as many of the details as I possess at the moment. Except this:

The ad campaign will debut during the 2014 Super Bowl.

Pretty cool, eh?

To let us know whether you’re available to run with us on Saturday, Dec. 14, please post a comment below, text me or email me (if you have my info). You may also post a comment on Facebook, but I would rather that be the last place you reply. Thanks to all of you who can come out and help us.

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Rainy days and Mondays always get me upside-down

“Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day.
“Monday, Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way.”

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx“Monday, Monday” – the Mamas and the Papas

There’s a reason Mondays are the stuff of hit songs the world over.

It’s a universally known fact: Mondays suck.

Well, maybe not all Mondays, but some of them stand out so prominently that they skew the statistics in their favor. Mondays sometimes have a mind of their own.

Today was such a day.

For starters, I had possibly the most disturbing dream I’ve ever had. It was worse than any of the dreams I used to have after my dad died. Those were just emotionally draining and made me sad for a while after I woke up. This morning’s dream made me wonder, “What in the world made me come up with that?” and “What is my subconscious mind trying to tell me?” I’m not even going to tell you what the dream was about, because I don’t want you to call the police. Or the men in white coats.

I don’t sleep well in general, but this dream interrupted my early morning sleep in a whole new way. So I got up really tired.

I didn’t get up until 6 a.m. because my leg is injured and I haven’t been able to run in nearly two weeks (except for two feeble attempts that sent me back to the heating pad and the ibuprofen). I’m training for a half-marathon and trying not to freak out that I’m in Week 6 of my plan and haven’t done a “long” run of more than 5 miles. If this weren’t a fundraising half-marathon (to try to cure my husband’s disease), I could blow it off (which, who are we kidding, really isn’t in my nature). But I can’t.

So I didn’t get up until 6 – my first mistake. (Or maybe the mere fact that I got out of bed was the first mistake.)

The next thing I had to do (besides putting in my contacts and then putting on my reading glasses) was clean up Pepper’s tiny poop in the kitchen. But that’s nothing; I pick up tiny dog poop in the kitchen every morning, and it shouldn’t even be worth mentioning. Except that it’s kind of symbolic of my Monday.

Then, while the microwave was reheating my coffee (I prefer day-old to fresh – I know, weird), I checked on the washing machine, which is a computerized front-loader with a mind of its own. (Remember HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey”? Kind of like that. Except HAL had a more extensive vocabulary. And a creepier voice.)

The washer has had its own issue with poop smells lately. I had put off calling a repairman because I was able to make it limp along and continue to wash clothes, although not without a lot of cussing (from me, not “HAL 2,” which merely whined). But last Sunday night, all HAL broke loose. The #*&@%^ bucket of bolts refused to complete a cycle without taking multiple coffee breaks (or maybe they were Snuggle breaks), refused to spin the water out of my load of bathroom rugs, and refused to let me OPEN THE DOOR. (“Open the pod bay door, HAL.” Remember?)

I couldn’t get rid of the “Door Locked” message on the control panel. Translation: “You’re just out of luck, sister. Love, HAL 2.” So I left it alone and decided to try to relax for the last little smidgen of my Sunday evening. (I think I heard it chuckling as I exited the laundry room.)

For the next few days, I attempted to make it spin water out of the rugs. HAL 2 would give it a try, make its usual clicking sound (“Tsk, tsk” or “Cough, cough,” I don’t know) and give up.

And then I got busy and forgot about it until Friday evening. I tried again, but still no luck. That’s when I decided I couldn’t put off calling a repairman any longer. I let Mom know I needed to bring my mountain to her house to wash. No problem, she said. And it wasn’t. Saturday, we sorted piles and put her machine to work. (Got one of our white bathroom rugs clean and back in place Saturday evening, and Sunday morning there were two Pepper peepee spots on it. Pepper has survived as long as she has because she’s cute – in a tiny dog sort of way. She has a lot of people fooled.)

I’m about to leave out a lot of detail from the next 36 hours (you’re welcome), but bottom line is, by the time I forced myself to deal with the load of rugs in the undrained washer (after having to leave the machine unplugged overnight, to show HAL 2 who’s boss), I got the door open this morning, the water smelled like untreated sewage, and I probably will end up throwing the rugs away. I was going to pump out the rancid water but had to leave it for Bruce. Even leaving that task undone, I was five minutes late for work.

OK, so. That was the washing machine.

I also had been enduring a disintegrated pipe under my bathroom sink (I stood over the tub to brush my teeth every day for a week) and finally called a plumber to come out and fix it. Why? Because Bruce and I are both weaklings. The pipes were so old, they apparently had transmogrified into one unyielding mass of metal, and we couldn’t even turn the valves to get the water off. Recalling a similar experience trying to loosen old plumbing in our previous house, which caused us to miss the entire first half of a Notre Dame football game, I didn’t let it get that far this time. After I spent a final 15 minutes wrestling with it, and Bruce spent another 10, I said, “Nevermind; I’ll call Charley tomorrow morning.”

Those Oakleys – they need professional help.

So this afternoon, the plumber fixed the bathroom sink, the appliance guy replaced the pump in the washer (I guess I won’t be using Shout Color Catcher sheets anymore), extracted the old icemaker from our fridge (would cost more to fix or replace than it’s worth) and gave opinions on why our dishwasher isn’t cleaning the dishes (maybe because it’s really old), and we were back in business. At least with the plumbing.

Take that, HAL 2.

Meanwhile, I had run out the door in the morning without breakfast, so I stopped at Sonic for a gallon of tea (which saves me from committing crimes on stressful days) and a breakfast burrito. With bacon.

(You know my stress level is high when I allow myself to eat bacon. But it was good. Normally I wouldn’t have stopped for breakfast when I knew it would make me late for work, but this was a particularly special morning. I needed bacon.)

At work, I texted my eye doctor about my latest trial pair of SUCK EGG contact lenses. We’ve been fussing with prescriptions, lens types and fuzzy eye-charts for weeks.

I told the doc my story of woe – how with my new distance-only lenses (vs. the multifocals my tired ol’ eyes had been wearing) I couldn’t see anything closer than 5 feet from my face, thus making mascara application a tragicomic event; how I had nearly strangled myself in the car trying to untangle the cords of my reading glasses and my sunglasses; how a second opinion on laser surgery was probably a waste of time; how he probably shouldn’t bother ordering the next trial pair of contacts if he hadn’t already; how I was afraid I might go blind or die within the next 5 minutes if he didn’t calm me down; and how the only bright side to these new lenses was that I no longer saw the dog hair covering evMondayText071513ery surface in our house.

He texted back, in part:

“I can’t quit laughing.”

So much for moral support from your trusted medical professional.

It’s a good thing I didn’t die in the next 5 minutes. The good doctor might have been held responsible by my heirs, who surely would have used the texted conversation as evidence in court. (I’m archiving it just in case.)

He saved himself by calling and talking me down. (But not before laughing at me again.)

And then?

I spilled tea on my khakis. And my blouse.

At that point I figured I might as well go back to bed, but then I remembered I was at work and they frown on naps between 8 and 5. It wasn’t even 9 a.m.

So I decided to tackle a file I needed to image. After restarting my computer four times (yes, four), I got the file imaged. At 12:04 p.m.

(Don’t tell my boss I spent three hours imaging one 59-page file. Because, unlike HAL 2, he is my boss. So just don’t tell him.)

During this time, my officemate proceeded to tell me about a TV show called “1,000 Ways to Die,” helpfully sharing examples. Thanks, Ben.

Eventually 5 p.m. came, and I innocently assumed I would make an uneventful trip home.

I headed for my car, got ready to unlock it and noticed that most of the remote was missing. The side that attaches to the key ring was in my hand, but the circuit board and the rubber skin that protects the circuitry were gone. I began to retrace my steps but then thought to look in the side pocket of my tote bag. There was the circuit board. I dug around some more and found the rubber thingie. Whew! For a minute I thought I was going to have to open my car door manually. (Life can be cruel.) At least the car was still there. I bet you thought I was going to say it had been stolen.

Ten minutes later, I was home safe, and I immediately locked the door behind me. So far I’ve been afraid to make eye contact with HAL 2 or the dishwasher, although I have washed my hands at the bathroom sink. I’m waiting for Bruce to get home so I’ll have backup. If the appliances go all HAL-9000 on me, Pepper is not big enough to stick up for me. Except for the extremely loud barking – which she has perfected – but I don’t think HAL 2 would be intimidated. Salsa, on the other hand, could do some damage. Her hair alone could jam its circuitry. But even that might not be enough. After all, HAL killed everyone on the ship except Dave.

I bet it was a Monday.

“Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.”
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxHAL the computer – “2001: A Space Odyssey”

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Donate: Help us wipe out Crohn’s and colitis

Friends, I’m training to run my second half-marathon for Team Challenge, the fundraising and endurance-training program of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. I ran my first half-marathon (and survived!) last fall in honor of my husband, Bruce, and my cousin Spencer. They both have Crohn’s disease, and I’d like to kick the crap out of Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and every other disease like them.

We’d be honored and very appreciative if you’d donate to my half-marathon efforts. Your donation is tax deductible and will go toward CCFA research, education and support programs. If you donated to the cause last year, a huge thanks to you, but we need your help again.

Here are ways to donate:

1. Click here to go to my official Team Challenge fundraising page.
2. Mail me a check, made payable to CCFA or the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. (Leave a comment, which will provide me with your email address. Then I’ll email you my mailing address. You have the option of making your comment private, too. In that case, I’ll be the only one to see it.)
3. If you prefer to donate to our Take Steps Be Heard walks in Arkansas, click here. Bruce and I volunteer each year at both of Arkansas’ walks (in Little Rock and in NW Arkansas).

And if you’re a runner or walker and want more information on Team Challenge, please post a comment, email me, text me or post on my Facebook page. Or simply click here to visit the Team Challenge site and browse the info for yourself.

We appreciate your support more than we can say. And when we find a cure, you can say you were a part of it.

THANK YOU!
Suzy Taylor Oakley (and Bruce)

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A simple Christmas

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10, NASB

Christmases in the Oakley house are pretty simple. I would characterize them as more sentimental than material, and for that I’m grateful. Being “poor” in worldly wealth (but not in spirit) has its advantages!

These are some of the things that have allowed me to feel abundantly blessed this Christmas:

SHOPPING

Heavenly Treasures global market at our church. I bought gifts for all the women on the Taylor side of our family (immediately family, that is). All the proceeds go to small-business owners (which may simply mean one artisan struggling to feed her family somewhere in Cambodia, Vietnam or another area where poverty is the norm). Blessings: 1) We bought these gifts for a fraction of what we would have paid in stores; 2) they are handcrafted; 3) most of all, we helped someone who’s hurting in another part of the world.

I also took advantage of a clearance sale online and bought seven copies of a book I read years ago – a book I wish I could give to every woman I know: $5 apiece, one for each woman in the Taylor-Oakley clan.

My stepson, Courtney, who lives in Oklahoma, was blessed recently with a promotion and a good raise, and because one of my main missions in life is to help people be good stewards of their God-given blessings, instead of buying him a gift he doesn’t necessarily need, or writing him a check like we often do at Christmastime, we put money into his savings account at the bank where I work.

When I turned 50 last month, Bruce pooled his money with birthday money from my mom, and he took me to the jewelry store. (This is the type of splurge I rarely indulge in, but I figured a half-century was a special enough occasion.) He helped me pick out a beautiful opal ring. I’ve always loved opal, and this ring is so special to me.

So because we splurged at birthday time, we kept it simple for Christmas, although keeping it simple has always been our norm. We have such abundant blessings throughout the year, we don’t buy much for each other at Christmastime. We also have our anniversary coming up next week, so Bruce suggested we combine the occasions and buy a house gift for ourselves. We really don’t know what that might be, but while we were shopping Saturday for my brother and his stepson, we ran across a DVD copy of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” (Bruce is a mixture of realist and sentimentalist, and often the sentimental side wins – he loves the idealism of this movie, and so do I, although I fall closer to the realist side of the fence. And we both love old movies and the great Jimmy Stewart.) So here’s a recap of our conversation in the store when I picked up the movie:

Me: “Do we have this on DVD?”
Bruce: “I don’t think we have it on DVD or anything else.”
Me: “Household gift. Ten dollars.”
Bruce: “Great.”

End of conversation. End of Christmas shopping for Bruzy. Simple.

This type of Christmas spirit allows me to breathe during the holidays, because I hate shopping. It’s a little easier at Christmas because then I’m shopping for others, but I still would rather sit near a sunny window with a good book than fight the crowds at the shopping center.

MUSIC

I could listen to Amy Grant’s Christmas albums year-round. Oh, what am I saying – I do listen to Amy Grant’s Christmas albums year-round. You might hear “Tennessee Christmas,” “Breath of Heaven” or “Welcome to our World” in my car during the blazing heat of July. To me, these songs and albums are timeless and always a breath of fresh air. Each album is better than the last, and she includes some incredibly beautiful pieces in the mix. The last album, “A Christmas to Remember,” is especially full of pieces that cause me to stop what I’m doing (unless I’m driving), close my eyes and savor every note. I also tend to wear out my Christmas albums by: Collin Raye, Andrea Bocelli, The Carpenters, and John Denver & the Muppets. Heck, even the classically trained Bocelli sings with Miss Piggy on his album. My favorite Christmas song? “Oh Holy Night,” especially Martina McBride’s beautiful rendition. Bruce’s favorite? “Silent Night” – and John and the Muppets do a pretty good job of that, singing it first in German (the language it was written in), then English. Bocelli sings it in three languages.

MOVIES/TV SPECIALS

Since we canceled our satellite service in August, I didn’t get to watch wall-to-wall Food Network like I love to do between October and December, and I didn’t get to OD on the sappy movies on Hallmark Channel, but we still have the good ol’ standbys on VHS (taped from TV in the mid-1980s) and a few on DVD. Another challenge this year: Bruce and I had about four weeks to pull together the White River Christmas Half-Marathon & Relay (long story), and my only Christmas-special “viewing” would fall more into the category of background noise. Nevertheless, I got to listen to these as I did my half-marathon work or cooked for family: Rudolph, Frosty, Charlie Brown (I love Linus’ soliloquy on “what Christmas is all about”), and my favorite, the Grinch (another lesson on the true meaning of Christmas, plus it rhymes!). I also had these movies in the VCR: “Christmas in Connecticut” (my favorite Christmas movie, but only the Barbara Stanwyck version) and “White Christmas” – “snow, snow, snow, snow!” I think I even listened to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” early in the season. Oh, I almost forgot: I did get to sit and watch an entire movie, start to finish, when Bruce and I spent Dec. 23 with Mom watching the remake of “Miracle on 34th Street.” (The 1994 version isn’t quite as good as the original, but the cute little girl and the beautiful scenery [and wardrobe] make up for it.) Movies I didn’t get to watch: “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story.” (There’s still time, right?)

FAMILY (FURRY AND FOUR-LEGGED)

Our two fur-babies are … well, my babies. I have a stepson, but I never gave birth to children of my own, and Salsa and Pepper warm my heart every day, even 30 seconds after they’ve infuriated me by wetting the carpet, barking incessantly or begging for snacks. We call our girls The Spice Dogs, and when I created this blog in 2007, they were part of the inspiration for the name (I was also baking spice cookies that evening). They’re good help around the kitchen, too: When I drop a bit of food while chopping, mincing or mixing, they rush to help me clean it up.

FAMILY (HUMAN)

I’m writing this on Christmas morning, 10 a.m. (savoring a steamy and wonderful cup of coffee with my favorite flavored creamer). We’ve spoken to some family members by phone today but haven’t gathered for the big celebration yet. We’ll go to Mom’s later for a feast of food and fellowship (more on the food below). I look forward to seeing those I rarely see throughout the year because of busyness, physical distance or, dare I say, apathy (on my part as much as anyone’s).

Bruce has been sick the past couple of weeks, and I’ve been trying to figure out why this cold/sinus junk has caused me more worry than other recent minor ailments. And why I might have seemed to overreact yesterday when he wanted to run a longer distance than I thought he should. Could it be that we’re “overdue” for a Crohn’s flare-up? The average for Crohn’s patients is 5 years, and his latest flare-up started in 2007 (and I did not marry an “average” guy!). I realize that it’s insane to worry – God has us covered. I suppose it’s just an opportunity to flex my trust muscles; after all, He is the Great Physician.

On Christmas Eve, Bruce got an opportunity to be the social guy that he is. We started with an afternoon run with some dear friends, the Tuckers; a family member, Bill, from out of town whom we had never had the opportunity to run with before; an awesome running buddy, Rita – who is growing to be a great running partner for me because, even though she’s a lot faster, she is sweetly willing to hang back with me, the slow one. She and I have had some great conversations, and she’s really fun (yesterday, we conspired to pretend we ran up a crazy hill when we saw Bruce and Shane – and I swear it was her idea! Unfortunately, we topped the hill and the guys hadn’t paid a bit of attention to us!).

I should have a separate category called Family (Running), because our running family is really precious to us. No space today to count all the ways, but in the spirit of Christmas, I’ll mention the great run last Tuesday night before our Roadrunners club Christmas party. Again, the speedsters took off without Slow Suzy, but Rita stayed behind with me. (She has a good heart.) On another note, I loved being able to attend a Christmas party in my sweaty leggings, running shirt and sports watch. (That’s just the way we roll!) This was only three days after my work Christmas party, which was beautiful and wonderful (except for the slightly inebriated Santa), but for which I made a most unfortunate choice of shoes, one of which had to come off before the party was over because my left foot was killing me!

But back to the main topic: Family (Human). After our run, I rushed to get clean and start the pecan pies, which needed to be out of the oven by 4:45 so we could attend the Christmas Eve service at Mom’s church. This church service has become a bit of a tradition for Bruce and me, starting even before we moved here in 2010. West Baptist always has a beautiful Christmas Eve service (which could also fall under the Music category). As I was whipping up the filling for the pies, I realized that someone had put the vanilla extract bottle into the cupboard with about three drops of extract remaining. (Seriously, who would do that?) Mom – on speed dial – to the rescue. Fortunately she’s less than a mile away. I sent Bruce over there, told him not to stop by our church to make sure the bathrooms were clean (part of his job), not to pass Go, not to collect $200. Just get back here with the vanilla. And he did.

The pies? Well, let’s just say the jury’s still out. I had to leave them in the oven (turned off) and put them back on to bake after all the evening’s festivities. I’m still not sure they’re quite right. But I’m also pretty sure no one will leave the table hungry this afternoon, pecan pies or no.

But wait! There’s more! (Isn’t there always?)

After the service at West, we went to my Aunt Pat’s across the street from our house. Her son-in-law, the aforementioned Bill (running buddy from out of town), had requested a family get-together in the spirit of the old days (the old days of our family, that is). Aunt Pat’s relatives from both sides gathered in her kitchen, which is only cramped when lots of relatives visit. Strange, she noted, we have all this space in the rest of the house, but everyone congregates in the kitchen and dining room. Not strange to me at all – Aunt Pat makes some of the best holiday treats west of the Mississippi. Can you say peanut butter fudge?

And then … we left that party to go to our church, Fellowship Bible Church in the old Landers Theater on Main Street. Whereas the West Baptist celebration was bright, colorful and upbeat, the Fellowship service was quiet, candlelit and reverent. Both services were full of beautiful music, and each was unique and meaningful in its own way. Each service fed my spirit and focused light on the One whose birth we celebrate, and whose Light takes away the darkness.

The Oakleys ended the evening together quietly – mama in her kerchief (OK, a red plaid flannel PJ shirt) and papa in his cap (his ubiquitous hooded sweatshirt), with one of the fur-children nestled under her bed down the hall and the other one begging for belly rubs. Both two-legged Oakleys spent the next hour reading, growing sleepy and sipping … okay, people, I’m not gonna lie. I wasn’t sipping a picture-perfect mug of steamy hot chocolate. I was indulging in a 10 p.m. glass of diet Coke, which I rarely drink after 3 p.m. And Bruce was sipping apple juice or water or something.

Now back to our fantasy.

FOOD

Three things I almost insist on having at Thanksgiving and Christmas are pecan pie, Cranberry Salad (made with red gelatin, apples, oranges, pineapple and pecans) and Aunt Pearl’s Potatoes. (As I’ve mentioned before, we don’t have an Aunt Pearl and have no idea who she is, but we loooove her hash-brown casserole!) And because I’m the one who has a strong need for these three dishes, I’ve become the designated maker of them. How else am I going to be sure it happens? The pies … we’ll see. (Dec. 29 update: Let’s just call them “pie soup” and be done with it.) The cranberry stuff is ready, and the potatoes will go into the oven soon.

I also have a year-round craving to bake, but my schedule doesn’t allow it very often anymore, so the holidays are when I get to indulge in that. Even when I’m tired, baking sweet treats, breads, even pizza dough, makes me very, very happy.

And then there are the dirty dishes. But since this is a post about counting blessings, being with family and remembering our Savior’s birth, we’ll skip over that part.

Post-script: leftovers (lots of them)

Have you ever eaten mashed potatoes for breakfast? Yeah, me, too.

REMEMBRANCES

My dad died 15 years ago this week. Every Dec. 23, I think about the day he died. That was a day full of pain and sadness, but knowing that my dad knew Jesus makes it so much easier. Even on that day, we had a measure of indescribable peace knowing he was no longer in pain (the pain my brother and I had known him to have our entire lives) and he is with Jesus now. Dad had told a relative just that morning that he was ready to go and was not afraid to die. None of us knew then that this would be his last day on earth. But we have the hope that surpasses all human ability to understand, and that’s because we know the Savior he rests with now.

Dad died 11 days before my wedding. In the ICU, when we weren’t sure whether he could hear us or not, as I held his hand I told him he needed to stick around and give me away next week, that I wasn’t ready to let go of him. But the Father had other plans, and Dad was gone within a couple of hours. That’s OK. My plans aren’t necessarily God’s plans, and His ways are not always my ways. He is sovereign, He is wise and He is, above all, GOOD. He takes care of us, even when we don’t always like how He goes about it. But even amid the not-liking, we had blessings: My Uncle Charles and Aunt Pat, who had just arrived at their daughter Kathy’s house in South Carolina when they got the news of Dad’s death in the evening, turned right around the next morning and drove back to Arkansas. They were here in time for his funeral. Now, that’s family.

God has blessed me with good family, good friends, a good job, an abundance of physical comforts (too much sometimes) and an ever-increasing awareness of just how good He really is. I thank Him for everyone He has put into my life, whether it’s to teach me, to reach me or just to bless me with caring and warmth.

As we celebrate His incarnate presence on the earth, may each of you feel His love, remember His sacrifice and give your life to Him.

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6, NKJV

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How to buy a sports bra

Several months ago, I updated my blog-hosting software and lost a BUNCH of posts. Starting with this one (written in the summer of 2011), I’m going to republish my favorites. Keep in mind that this one was funnier when I originally posted it because I do a lot of editing between the time I write my posts in Word and finally hit Publish on the tweaked version. But I’m not going to go back and edit this one. Much.

If you’re the type of woman who takes sports bras with spaghetti straps seriously, stop reading this now and race to the nearest stick-thin-supermodel website (I have no clue what site that might be).

I mean it! Stop reading now! You obviously do not need a sports bra, because you are flat chested and will not be able to relate to the rest of this post.

Go ahead; move along.

Okay, now that they’re gone, I can talk to the rest of you ladies, who know what it’s like to stuff your girls into a real undergarment:

In November [2010] I took up the “sport” (some might call it “exercise in self-torture”) of running. I hadn’t run in a few years, and I had exactly three leftover athletic bras in the bottom of a spare dresser drawer: two black, from 10 years ago – the first time I tried to be a “serious” runner – and a white one from a few years later. All three have shrunk over the years of bouncing, sweating and washing (but hanging to dry), and my body has gone the other direction. (I now refer to myself as full figured, with homage to the recently departed Jane Russell.)

I had been complaining about the old, uncomfortable bras for weeks, so when Bruce and I went to North Little Rock recently for my annual cardiologist checkup, we went on a quest for a sports bra or two (I had tried to find my old brand online and in local stores but couldn’t find my size in the style I need).

Let me tell you, there are gazillions of sports bras out there, but, for one reason or another, most of them do not work for full-figured women. Let me count the ways:

1. Most of them nowadays go over your head rather than hooking in the back or the front. I wish you could have seen me in the first dressing room, trying to pull one slightly stretchy (not too stretchy or it won’t support) contraption over my head and down into place without causing major tissue damage (or under-my-breath swearing).

On second thought, I don’t wish you could have seen (or heard) me. It wasn’t pretty. At all.

I didn’t even get the thing all the way on before I knew (with that sick feeling a small furry creature gets right before the snake eats it for lunch) that it just wasn’t going to work. It would have been stupid to continue trying.

But you know what was even stupider? In another store, I tried another over-the-head contraption. Same result: Back over my head before it was fully in place.

(Why do they think pullover bras should even exist, anyway? The only thing I can think of is, they’re a fashion statement. For the women who are no longer reading this post.)

2. Most sports bras are too stretchy and not supportive enough. You know, for full-figured gals. The entire point (no pun intended) of a sports bra is to smash you flat so as to prevent bouncing – or so I thought, until I met the sports-bra saleswoman of my dreams (more on that later).

Don’t the sports-bra designers know that the women who really and truly need sports bras are those of us who weigh more than 80 pounds soaking wet? Last time I weighed 80 pounds, I hadn’t hit puberty and running hadn’t even been invented.

3. Sports bras for full-figured women come in exactly two colors: White and black. You could bust me (no pun intended, really) right here for being a hypocrite because of the whole spaghetti-strap thing, but we full-figured gals do like a little variety  in our fabric choices every now and then. While I do not believe in wearing your underwear on the outside – as a fashion statement or, poor you, because it’s just so darned hot you have to take your tiny little shirt off when you run – it is nice to have more than two colors to choose from. I personally think white underwear is boring, and I like to have a rainbow of colors to choose from. (And, as far as the lack of variety in big-girl-sports-bra colors goes, thin women do not even realize this is an issue.)

(Apologies to those who think the preceding paragraph was TMI [Mom, that means “too much information”].)

So, by the second pullover-bra fiasco, I had learned my lesson, meaning I had exhausted all hope of finding an appropriate bra in my new hometown and would have to go to my old, larger hometown to shop. (Do you know how much I hate to shop? Probably not, but that’s a topic for another day.)

So off to central Arkansas we went.

Bruce and I, intrepid explorers that we were (on that particular day, at least), went to two big-chain sports superstores and two locally owned running stores (we like the latter better, but the two big multipurpose stores were closer – plus we were also looking for bowling balls – so we went there first).

At the first store created exclusively for runners, a new place in the Heights called Go! Running, we found not only a brand I had never heard of (Moving Comfort) but some of the best customer service you could ask for. The owner, Erin, won me over with her knowledge, friendliness and willingness to serve, even though I left the store without making a purchase. She did order a bra for me, after I had tried on one that was close to my size. She explained that a sports bra shouldn’t just mash you flat and that this particular bra had features that made running more comfortable (I’m trying to spare you the details). She also told me I had several colors to choose from!

She had to take a phone call, so she told an employee what bra should be ordered for me (in a nice bluish-purple) and sent me to the front of the store to leave my contact information. (That evening when I got home, the employee called to say she was about to order the bra but that I would need to pick another color. My size comes only in two colors – you guessed it: black and white.)

After we left Go! Running, we went to Easy Runner, an older, more established store well known to Arkansas runners. (It has moved to the upscale Pleasant Ridge Town Center on west Cantrell Road.) There, they had the Moving Comfort brand in my size (but not the same model), so at least I know that this particular brand runs true to my size. I did not buy anything there but left convinced that the bra I ordered at Go! Running would work for me.

Afterward I wrote a thank-you note to Erin for her outstanding customer service. When she received it, she left a message on my answering machine to thank me for the thank-you note and said it was going up in her office.

I may not be rich, but I am willing to pay a few dollars more for an item (especially an item that is as much sought-after as this bra was to me) when I am treated with the respect, courtesy and friendly service that Erin showed me that day. (I got good service at Easy Runner, too.)

Tomorrow we go back to North Little Rock to finish painting the house and to plant some spring flowers, and I’ll go pick up my black Moving Comfort bra at Go! Running. I hope Erin is there so I can thank her again, in person, for treating this full-figured gal as though I were as fit and thin as a triathlete.

Ladies, that is how to buy a sports bra.

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Kicking the crap out of Crohn’s disease

“Go out there and run to the best of your ability,” he replied. “Don’t run with your legs. Run with your heart.” On some level, even as a high school freshman, I got his meaning: the human body has limitations; the human spirit is boundless.

Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes

Mom and me, post-race.

I ran my first half-marathon yesterday morning (yes, it was still morning when I finished!)

In case you don’t know, a half-marathon is 13.1 miles. This was the longest I had ever run (12 miles was my longest training run in prep for the race.)

But this wasn’t just any run, and it wasn’t just any half-marathon. It was the one and only, inaugural (for me) half-marathon I chose because of what it supports: the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA).

Many of you know that my husband, Bruce, has suffered from Crohn’s disease since just before our first wedding anniversary. He spent that first Christmas in the hospital, and he was so sick I wasn’t sure he was going to make it. (Among other things, his entire digestive tract, from mouth to anus, was full of ulcers. Sorry for the butt talk, but part of raising awareness is getting people used to talking about unpleasant things – and helping people understand how hideous the disease can be. I’m actually sparing you the grossest details.)

Nearly 14 years and two more ugly flare-ups later, he’s dealing with what is our “new normal”: functioning, but at a diminished capacity from what my once very-active husband had been used to. (He’s the one who taught me to love running.)

And three years ago, my cousin’s then-10-year-old son, Spencer, was diagnosed with Crohn’s. And we have a teenage friend at our church, also named Spencer, who has Crohn’s. And an adult at church with Crohn’s. Get the picture? I want to kick the crap out of Crohn’s disease, and I want to do it, like, yesterday.

So that’s why I ran 13.1 miles yesterday.

I never intended to run a half-marathon. Six months ago it wasn’t even on my radar. But when some of the crazy-running-chick friends I hang with started talking about running a Half in October, naturally my thoughts turned to, “Could I?” I had certainly gotten addicted to running in the past couple of years (as I’ve said before, it’s like crack). I credit my friends’ ambitions with getting me on the road, so to speak, to my decision – to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where Suzy has never gone before (sorry – couldn’t resist the Star Trek reference).

Despite the grand illusions (delusions?), I had more or less decided that I wouldn’t run such a long-distance race. I have a mild heart condition, which worries my mother but not my cardiologist so much, and I had knee surgery 13 months ago, so I thought I’d just be kind to my body and stick with shorter races.

But in mid-June, when my new love of running supercollided with a cause I believe in with all my heart, the decision was practically made. The day after I got the email about Team Challenge, CCFA’s half-marathon training program to raise money for research and awareness, I signed up. (I would have signed up the same day, but you know me: I can’t do anything big without thoroughly researching it first. I left voice mails and emails for the Arkansas and the national people in the know; I texted; I read all the info online, etc. Next thing I knew, I was a Team Challenge member!)

I want to tell you all about Team Challenge in more detail, but today’s post is more about yesterday’s event and what got me there. I’ll cheerlead for the Team Challenge program in a post very soon.

The main thing I want to say about yesterday’s race has more to do with what came before it than with the actual event.

I want to say THANK YOU to all of you who supported me. For some that meant donations of money, for others donations of your time, talents and effort, and for still others it meant prayers, words of encouragement and general moral support. Some of you donated money out of your abundance (wallets and hearts), and some of you scraped up donations sacrificially because you believed in the cause, or maybe you just believed in me – or in a gracious God who has blessed you and you wanted to bless others.

I get teary-eyed just thinking about all of you.

My race shirt, bib and “top fundraiser” tag.

And, yes, I thought about each and every one of you as I ran, walked, sweated and even endured a brief bout of stomach cramps and nausea yesterday. I prayed for you; thanked God for such incredibly generous (of heart and wallet) friends, co-workers, church members and family who helped me get to the finish line (heck, you helped me get to the start line); and celebrated how generous God has been in putting you in my life. You will never know how much you mean to me. (By the way, you helped me take fifth-place honors in the fundraising.) And special shout-outs to Bruce, who jogged shortcuts to particular mile markers to take pictures of me, snapped me crossing the finish line and was my main cheerleader, even though he really wanted to be out there with me, running the whole race; to Mom, who traveled with us to Nashville so she could watch her baby cross the finish line (alive!); and to our sweet friends the Tuckers – Betsy dropped by my workplace Thursday morning to bring me a surprise: a great card about “amazing women” and a package of pre- and post-race energy goodies (Betsy has been my second-biggest cheerleader along the way, always telling me how proud she is of my accomplishments, and Tommy has offered his share of encouraging words).

I wish I could say the finish line of yesterday’s race was the finish line of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome and every other ugly disease we watch our loved ones suffer through, but for me it was just the renewing of my commitment to raise awareness and funds for CCFA.

Next month, Bruce and I will sit in the Mission tent of CCFA’s Take Steps Walk in northwest Arkansas, as we have done for the past three years. We were on the ground floor of helping establish a CCFA chapter in Arkansas in 2010. Many of you helped us with that, for the Little Rock walks and the NWA walks (thank you).

But this year in our Mission tent will be a huge poster of Suzy’s first Team Challenge half-marathon, because next year I plan to return to Nashville with an Arkansas team! (This year I and the only other Team Challenge participant from Arkansas were placed on the National Team. But we’re gonna change that!) And since my official half-marathon coaching this year was “virtual” (our training sessions were in the form of emails and a weekly conference call from Coach Dave, and we had mentors and other support for the fundraising part), next year I’ll have the benefit of a real-live, local running coach. You know who I’m talking about, don’t you? (His name starts with B and ends with “ruce.”)

So, look out, Team Challenge: Suzy’s on a mission!

__________________________________

I still haven’t reached my fundraising goal and have a few weeks left. If you’d like to be a part of curing Crohn’s disease, click here to make a donation.

Arkansas had 42 participants in Saturday’s race, including two of us from Batesville. To view the official results, visit Nashville Women’s Half Marathon

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Can’t do the Gu, and other lessons from running

I learned a few things during my 8-mile run this morning:

Gu is nasty. Gu is not for people, like me, who have a strong gag reflex.

Several running friends had told me about the taste/texture of Gu (an energy gel) when I inquired on Facebook a few weeks ago. Colyn summed it up when he said: “Gu makes me want to hurl.” (Or something like that.)

Now I get it. One swallow, one reaction: Yuck. (No, I didn’t hurl, but I had a psychedelic flashback to a 2008 medical procedure in which I had to swallow a thick, numbing gel so they could stick a scope down my throat. As I said in a previous post, there’s a reason they don’t want you to eat before these procedures.)

For sale: 1½ packets of Gu (one slightly used). Call me if you’re interested.

Watching Olympians isn’t just fun – it inspires you to do more, and better.

I watched the last 8 miles of the Women’s Olympic Marathon yesterday morning. I tell ya, those skinny chicks can run! And, no matter how many hills they encounter, they don’t slow down to a walk. Only in my wildest dreams can I imagine not walking a step during a 26.2-mile race. But today I can imagine jogging 13.1 miles without walking. (Hey, I can dream, can’t I?)

Here’s what watching 8 miles of Olympic women did for me:

Last week had turned out to be kind of an off week in my half-marathon training. Because of some unanticipated circumstances (and a dash of poor planning), I didn’t get in a long run Saturday or Sunday – both days I usually go long – so I was feeling kind of lazy.

I’m taking a vacation day today, so I had talked my night-owl husband and our young friend Sam into doing their early-Monday workout even earlier – with me – and then I kinda flaked out on them. We were going to meet at the high school at 6:30, and Sam wanted to do speed work on the trail instead of the track. Well, I can’t do speed work with Bruce and Sam (they’re much faster than I am), so I decided to do my long run by jogging to BHS instead of driving there with Bruce. It’s about 8 miles round trip, so I left at 6 a.m. (I figured Bruce would be late, anyway.)

The only time I saw either of them is when Bruce passed me in the car on his way to meet Sam. He slowed down to ask if I needed anything and then drove on.

I was going uphill when he saw me, and I was jogging, not walking. Score!

In fact, I jogged more uphills than I have in a really long time, and it was easier this time. I had gotten quite lazy in my workouts since adding distance. I told myself it was the distance or the time out there that mattered – not the actual miles per hour. So I hadn’t been increasing my speed much.

I had gotten really lazy.

The difference this morning? Determination. Inspiration. Low humidity.

I had been thinking about those Olympic chicks for 24 hours. Their perseverance really stuck with me. And then there was this Nike commercial last night during the Olympics. Did you see it?

There’s a voice-over that’s talking about “finding your greatness.” In the distance you see a jogger. As he gets closer and closer and as the voice-over continues, you realize this jogger is an overweight kid. He’s huffing and puffing, sweaty and red-faced, but he never slows down.

No, he’s not fast. But he’s not walking, either. He’s persevering. (His name is Nathan. Read about him here.)

I didn’t consciously think about that overweight boy while I ran this morning, but he must have been in the back of my mind. And I definitely thought a lot about the Olympic women. I told myself, “If they can run 26.2 miles without walking, surely I can jog up some of these little ol’ hills of Batesville.”

So I did. I jogged up several of the hills, including the Golden Overpass and the Baja. (If you don’t live in or near Batesville, Ark., let me just tell you, there’s a reason the back of our women’s running clinic shirt says “Got Hills?” We have our fair share of hills, thank you very much.)

And here’s the crazy thing: Around Mile 7, I started realizing that it was getting easier, not harder. I felt as though I could go another 3-4 miles. (I didn’t.) And in those last couple of miles before home, I kept jogging up the hills.

I was actually having fun. (Well, sort of. It is running, after all.)

Funny what an attitude adjustment can do for a person.

Having one off-week doesn’t have to derail an entire training program. I already knew that, but because the half-marathon is only seven weeks away, I got a little scared. It made me afraid I wouldn’t be able to build up to my really long run before the event. I want to do a 13.1-mile workout before I get to Nashville, and it needs to be a couple of weeks before the race. (You’re supposed to ease off on the mileage as you get close to race day.) So I’ll be cutting it close, but I’ll get there. And if I don’t get in a 13.1-mile run before race day, it’ll be okay. I know I’ll be able to finish strong, even if I don’t finish fast.

I love that my coach is also my sweetheart. Bruce has been so encouraging as I’ve journeyed through weight loss and learning to love running. Today when he got home from his workout, he said I looked thin as he drove up behind me while I jogged. I’ve learned so much from him about running, but I also revel in the fact that he loved me even before I loved running. He’s a keeper.

Running isn’t everything, but it has taught me many lessons about life. An important lesson I’ve learned, and that I will continue to learn, is that I am capable of things I never thought possible just a couple of years ago. Just look at me – I’m training for a half-marathon! I’ve always known that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13), but never had I related that to physical activity before now.

I serve a big God, and He is continually teaching me. It’s neat that He chooses to use things like running to teach me life lessons. The trick is to open my ears, eyes and heart and pay attention. There are many lessons to be learned.

My fundraising deadline for the Nashville Women’s Half Marathon, which supports the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America, is only 30 days away. Please consider supporting my efforts to wipe out Crohn’s disease in Bruce’s lifetime. Click here to donate. That page also provides a link to Team Challenge – just in case you’d like to join me in my next half-marathon for CCFA. 🙂

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Correction about Crohn’s donations

I found out today that I’ve been giving people incorrect info about where to mail checks for my half-marathon fundraising efforts.

To recap: I’m running my first half-marathon on Sept. 22 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. My goal is $4,000, and I have to raise $800 of it by Monday, July 23.

I had said that checks could be mailed to the processing center in Washington, D.C. That’s wrong. The fastest way to donate is by clicking here, but if you’d prefer to pay by check, write it to “CCFA” or “Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America” and mail or hand-deliver it to me.

If you leave a comment below, I’ll email you my address, or if you have my email address or phone number, feel free to contact me that way. If you live, work or attend church near me and would prefer to hand me a check, we can work out the details when you contact me.

I’m updating my previous two blog posts in which I gave the bad information. Sorry about that, everyone!

And thank you for any way you are able to support me as I run for a cure for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

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On running and things

Sometimes I ask myself why I love running.

Actually, it’s a love-hate relationship.

A decade ago, I most definitely did not have a love-hate relationship with running. It was a hate-hate relationship – more like a chore, one that I was eager to escape when I grew up and could do whatever I darn-well pleased.

Trouble is, I was already grown up – and out. I was overweight and needed to run, or at least to do something that would burn lots of calories and whip my sorry behind into shape. I needed to run.

But, like many of the non-running people I talk to nowadays – now that the hate-hate has turned to love-hate – I didn’t think of myself as a runner. To be a runner means you’re fast. It means you endure, you suffer, you look good in athletic shorts and tank tops and you wear an expensive GPS thingie strapped to your arm.

I wasn’t any of those.

Running was a chore. And, after a season or two, I gave up.

My very fast husband thinks he was born to be fast. (Being sidelined by a crummy, gut-wrenching disease for five years never once dampened his longing to be out there, being fast, even when he couldn’t walk from the bed to the toilet without assistance.) I would go running with him, but only when he was going to the high school track down the hill from our house, because that’s the only place he wouldn’t lose me. We’d “jog” down there, where I could keep up with him because we weren’t going off into the wild blue yonder, we were only going around and around a never-ending oval. When he was finished with his workout, I could finally take my sweaty self home – up the hill. Bleh.

The entire thing was a chore – something I “had” to do, some penance for letting myself get overweight, I suppose.

That was then. This is now.

Now we live in a new town. (Well, not so new to me, but sort of new because until 2010 I hadn’t lived here in 25 years.)

And something has changed.

The hate-hate running is now love-hate running.

Or maybe instead of love-hate it’s hate-love, because I always joke that I love it when I’m done (but not until). Bruce always gives me a funny look when I say that.

My crowd understands.

My crowd – the Crazy Ladies of Running [my strictly unofficial nickname for us] – is Bruce’s crowd, too, but most of us are female and haven’t been running for nearly four decades (in fact, one of the Crazy Ladies is just 6 years old). Bruce is male and has been running for three-quarters of his 52 years.

Some of us Crazy Ladies developed our running addiction together. We met at the Women Can Run/Walk clinic last year. As with everything like that, some participants fell away early and some stuck with it. Those who stuck with it have become a small hard-core crowd of Crazy Ladies, who’ve been together through two clinics and feel we’re not complete without a group run at least two or three times a week. (It’s like crack – I told you we’re addicted.) Along the way, we’ve picked up extra Crazy Ladies – those we didn’t know in last year’s clinic but who moved into the crack house this year.

Bruce is our coach/mother-hen/enabler. We’re his baby chicks, his Brupies, his co-dependents – at least some of us. A few of the ladies have been running long enough that they don’t need a mother hen, but we all take advice from Coach Bruce. He’s fun to have around. And frequently useful. He’ll jog back and give me a drink of Gatorade sometimes because he knows I don’t like to be overloaded with stuff when I run (hey, it’s hard enough just doing it).

Bruce is always checking on his chicks. He wants to make sure we’re all OK. I love him for that.

When I think about why I now love running, I realize that there are lots of reasons, and many of them have to do with the other Crazy Ladies, Plus Bruce.

And there are crazy guys, too, but mostly I see them at races or the monthly roadrunners club meetings. They’re my crowd, too, but a different crowd with a different dynamic. We don’t run together much – just on race days, and usually then I’m eating their dust and congratulating them on their trophies.

I love to win, but I certainly don’t run for the trophies. I can count my running awards on one hand. And none of them had anything to do with being fast, but merely showing up. Once, early last year, I took second place in my age group in a 5k. (How many women were in my age group that day? Two. But I got a medal because I showed up.)

My two other top honors have nothing to do with being fast but with guessing. Our local race-timing masters, Ken and Michelle, came up with a New Year’s Day prediction run, and since I’ve had nothing better to do on the two New Year’s mornings that I’ve lived here, I entered.

(Actually, the first time it was a fluke. I took Bruce to the event, book in hand, prepared to sit in the car and read while he ran, and, 10 minutes before the race, a couple of ladies I knew talked me into entering. I had just taken up running again about six weeks earlier and knew I wasn’t going to be fast, but I entered. And won the women’s title. How? By guessing within 17 seconds how long it would take me to “run” nearly 4 miles. The second time, I was coming off knee surgery and hadn’t run in five months, so I predicted the exact same time I had predicted last year – 50 minutes – and was off by 18 seconds. I am nothing if not consistent.)

I’m still slow, but I’m getting faster, slowly but surely.

In some areas of life, I’m impatient. In running, I have no choice but to be patient. There’s no magic wand, no flux capacitor to propel me forward in time, to a faster me.

I just have to keep showing up.

And, lest you discount just showing up, let me assure you that just showing up is 90 percent of the battle. At least for me.

For people like Bruce, who have a love-love-love relationship with running – for whom dying in a race would not be an unwelcome thing – just showing up isn’t a struggle. Showing up is life.

For people like me, it’s a struggle. I daily have to remind myself that I always – always – feel better once I’m out there. But that “always” doesn’t come until about the second mile. Every morning, when I look into the mirror and say, “I really don’t want to go out there,” I have to reply, “But you always feel this way, and you always feel better once you’ve started.”

And it’s true. Once I’m out there (after the first mile or two), I feel better. I can count on two fingers the times I’ve gone out there and not felt better once I started.

I don’t necessarily need a scientific answer for why running works for me now. Some days I search for a scientific answer, and some days I tell Bruce that I don’t need his scientific brain to help me come up with the answer. I just like running (when I’m finished). And Bruce is enough of a running freak that this is one of the rare instances for which he doesn’t have to have a scientific explanation. He just loves to run.

I don’t necessarily need a philosophical reason for why it works for me now. This hate-love relationship sometimes defies explanation, and sometimes it makes perfect sense. It depends on when you ask.

Sometimes I ask myself why I love running.

And sometimes I just go out and run.

___________________________________

I’m running my first half-marathon on Sept. 22 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. My goal is $4,000, and I have to raise $800 of it by July 23. If you’d like to donate, click here or mail me a check. Write your check to “CCFA” or “Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America.” If you leave a comment, I’ll email you my address, or if you have my email address or phone number, feel free to contact me that way.

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Running for a cure

I’m about to run the race of my life.

In a few months, two of my worlds will collide: running and Crohn’s disease. On Sept. 22 in Nashville, Tenn., I will run my very first half-marathon, about three times as long as I’ve ever run in competition.

13.1 miles – woohoo!

(Pray for my mother.)

If you’ve read my blog much, you know that I’ve been on “my journey to fitness” for more than a year. In November 2010 – about a decade after I first tried to become “a runner” – I caught the running bug for real. I started walking/running with my sister-in-law, and when her life got too busy to continue, I did it without her. It was harder to motivate myself without a buddy, but I knew I needed to do it for my health. Next thing I knew, two opportunities came along that would help me stay committed: a weight-loss competition at work, and the local women’s running clinic. I lost 28 of the 206 pounds that I started with. (In August 2011, a pesky surgeon had to operate on my knee, sidelining me for a few months, but on Dec. 31 I got back on track with the running. It took longer to get back to healthy eating.)

One of the reasons – no, dozens of the reasons – that I now love running has to do with the people.

First, there’s Bruce.

Besides Jesus, Bruce is the love of my life. He loved running way before he met me, and he has taught me so much about it. I used to go to races and watch him be fast. Whether I competed in those races or not, I was always watching Bruce be fast. God just made him that way.

And I was slow.

But not long ago, the tables turned and Bruce had to see running from my perspective. He took a five-year sabbatical from running, but it was not self-imposed. He was sidelined by Crohn’s disease. He had a flare-up that began in early 2007, and this one hung on for a very long time.

My very fast husband had to learn to stand on the sidelines and cheer while I competed in races, dragging my slow butt across the finish line from near the back of the pack. Witnessing this spectacle has been a lot less fun for him than it was for me, I can tell you. But he has kept a smile on his face, cheering and encouraging me at every opportunity.

Meanwhile, he has become quite the ladies’ man. (My husband, the chick magnet.)

At last year’s running clinic, we were short on coaches, and one evening I roped Bruce into volunteering. (It didn’t take much convincing.) When the clinic ended in mid-May, he was still volunteering and his love of running had rubbed off on the rest of us. Some of the ladies didn’t want to lose their momentum and suggested we keep going throughout the summer. Coach Bruce to the rescue!

We ladies – young and old, tall and short, plump and thin, brown and pasty-white – kept running. And running. And running.

We ran when it was 101 degrees and humid, the sun causing sweat to blind us. Sunshine or rain, we ran. We ran when we didn’t feel like running. We ran up hills – we love hills! (inside joke) – across bridges and overpasses, around tracks, through neighborhoods and even in the middle of the woods. Before long, we were running when it was cold again and our legs were so frozen they never warmed up, even after we ran 3 miles. (Anyone remember that 12-degree February morning at the river? Or the day it was a balmy 19 degrees?)

One hot day in early spring, a bunch of us even ran two races in one day. (I call us The Crazy Ladies of Running, Plus Bruce.)

And, all the while we ran, Coach Bruce was trotting along, doubling back, making sure his baby chicks were OK.

We were OK – mostly because we had a coach who cared about the slowest of the slow as much as he cared about the leaders of the pack.

No wonder the ladies love him.

Bruce has started being able to enter races again, although he will never get back the stamina he once had. Crohn’s disease has just taken too much out of him over the years. But he is our Coach Bruce. (He even has Brupies – get it? Bruce-groupies!)

Coach Bruce, pretty in pink.

And what’s great about it is that he makes it fun. His enthusiasm for running is infectious. For him, it is play, not work. (If you still don’t understand this, listen up: This man refers to hills as “speed bumps” or “extended passing zones.” He’s the crazy one!) At our women’s clinic pre-graduation pasta party this year, his Brupies presented him with a pink and black wig to match his clinic shirt. He wore it proudly, saying he hadn’t had that much hair in years!

At our running club’s Christmas party last year, Bruce won the Spirit Award, voted on by club members. He might not have been able to run in races, but he volunteered and he supported the club and the sport and the runners. (And since I was busy with work and school and never got around to writing the post I wanted to write about that, I guess this is that post.)

Bruce’s love of running and his enthusiasm for helping others to love it … this inspires me.

And so I will run the Nashville Women’s Half Marathon – my very first long-distance race – not for my love of running, which is strong, but for my love of Bruce, which is even stronger.

Crohn’s disease and its companion, ulcerative colitis (collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD), are hideously devastating diseases. If you would like to help find a cure for this demon that plagues more than 1.4 million adults and children in the United States, please support me with monetary donations, encouragement or simply your prayers. I have to raise at least $3,200 before the race in order for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America to pay my travel expenses (at least 75 percent of the money I raise will go to research and education).

I said I was going to run the race of my life, but it’s really the race for Bruce’s life. He needs a cure for Crohn’s disease. We all do.

Let’s race together toward that goal.

Here are the ways to make a tax-deductible donation:

  • To donate online, click here.
  • To pay by check: Leave a comment here, email me, find me on Facebook or call me and I’ll give you my address or arrange to pick up the check from you.

To learn more about the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation’s work, visit the CCFA website.

 

Thank you in advance for any way you are able to help. Together we can do this.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

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