Dear Emily on your 11th Birthday

emilyjuneDear Emily,

This morning I woke with you in my arms.  “What time is it?” you asked me.  “Time for school, kiddo.”

You rolled over, all arms and legs, and groaned.  Moments later you sat down at the kitchen counter in running shorts and a hoodie.  “Casual day today, huh?” You smiled.

“So.  Being eleven has pretty much sucked so far, huh?”

You laughed and your eyes filled with tears.  I turned away and offered to make you some eggs for breakfast.  I don’t usually cook in the morning but I wanted to be busy and I couldn’t look at you.  I knew if you looked me in the eyes you would try to stay home with me today.  I can’t ever fool you.

“It’s just that everything we do all day will make us miss him even more, Mom.  It will really feel real when I get off the bus.  Even though it’s different now, like he doesn’t run down the driveway anymore, he still comes out…”

You stood and I wrapped you in my arms.  You have grown so tall.  And you have grown into this warm, compassionate, funny girl.  We held onto one another in the kitchen until Lucy barged in and broke up our sobfest.

Yesterday, after Fisher was gone, we were sitting in the living room, you and me and Dad.  I mentioned that I should probably throw out his dog bed before one of us was curled up in it, breathing in his scent and sobbing.  Dad broke the silence as he said “Yeah, Mom is really trying to help me save face here because I was just about to do that…” Your laughter was so perfectly right on time.


Not an hour before Fisher was gone you were eating an oatmeal raisin cookie and you broke off a little piece for him  You stopped and pulled your hand back “But the raisin….” and we all laughed.  You have my same horrible sense of humor.  But you have a quiet confidence that didn’t come from me.  I love it.

Em, I am sorry that this birthday will always be the day before Fisher died.  But I will never forget the gracious, loving, incredible young woman you turned into when you were only eleven years and one day old.  I asked you if you wanted to be in the room when Fish was put to sleep and you said that you did.  And then I asked you for a difficult favor.  “Baby, I am going to need to be there for Fish. And just kind of do everything I need to do for me to let him go, if you’re there, too, I am going to need you to just kind of take care of you for a minute and I feel awful even saying that…” You interrupted me to assure me that you knew that already and that you’d be fine.

The veterinary assistant was carrying Fisher to the front door when you sat down in my lap and put your head onto my chest.  “Oh, Mommy….” Together, we wept.

This morning the bus pulled up at the bottom of the driveway and I kissed you quickly and said “Don’t worry about me today.” You smiled back at me.  “Impossible.”

You’re incredible, Emily June.  I love you and your big puppy feet.



Fisher Banks: April 1, 2003 – September 19, 2016

I am almost always the first one out of bed.  There is a light on the kitchen counter and I turn it on and head towards the coffee maker.  Right about then there is usually a thump.  Fisher is jumping out of bed.  He heads into the kitchen and I say “Go back to bed, buddy.  It’s early.”

For years he would head straight to his dog bowl but recently he would sometimes head back to the bedroom.  I would return to the bedroom and help him back into bed.  Sometimes when I left in the morning I would fill his bowl and he would still be snoozing.

This morning I went out into the kitchen and wept.  He was gone.

Last week I took Fisher in for a check up.  The days that he decided not to eat had been outnumbering the days that he was eating.  Lab tests came back and indicated that something wasn’t quite right.  Our vet asked if we wanted to come back in later in the week for x-rays.  I explained that Emily would be turning eleven on Sunday and that I needed the weekend.  We started him on some antibiotics and hoped for the best.

On Saturday I almost called the vet to say that I felt like I had my old dog back.  On Sunday morning I fed him before I left for a run. I came home to discover that he had tricked Mike and the kids into feeding him again.  Old man was up to his old tricks. Emily’s birthday was the kind of day where we were all together and everything was just right. I went to bed Sunday evening with my girls upstairs and Fisher curled up on my feet.  If an ordinary day can be almost perfect than Sunday nearly was.

I struggle with Em’s birthdays.  She is getting older every day it seems and her independence is startling.  When I woke up just after midnight I was teary and struggled to go back to sleep.  I ran up the stairs and peeked in on each of the girls.  I let Fisher outside and sat on the couch to wait for him to come back and scratch at the door.  He was out longer than normal so I opened the door and called for him.  For a moment I thought “If that bastard went outside and died tonight I will never forgive him.”  It was dark and I really didn’t want to be out on my knees in the dirt sobbing.  Just then he came around the corner and he looked so tired.  We came back in and he went straight to the bedroom.  I tried to get him to come back out for some water but he didn’t want any.

I went back to the bedroom and patted his spot on the bed.  For weeks now I have helped him get the back legs up.  He would jump up into bed when nobody was home but if I was home he would whine until I helped him. “Come on, let’s go to bed.”  He curled up on the floor and he wouldn’t look at me.  I went back to bed and tossed and turned.  Eventually I joined him on the floor and listened to him snore, pressing my face against his ears as I have done so many times before.

In the morning I told Mike that I was worried about him.  He didn’t eat.  We joked that he was likely still full from Sunday’s double breakfast.  I admitted that I was possibly just being melodramatic what with Em’s birthday and Lucy sleeping in her own bed.  I was running out of babies to baby and was just focusing all of my attention on my old man.  We sat on the front porch and waited for the school bus.  Lucy and Fisher were slow to come back up the front steps.

In the morning I called the vet to schedule a time to take him back in.  They had an appointment in the late afternoon available.  I hung up and put it on the calendar and the phone rang.  “You can bring him in right now if you’d rather.”

When our vet came back in with the lab results she said that his hematocrit levels had dropped rapidly in the five days since they had seen him.  She said his anemia was likely the cause of his lethargy and that x-rays could give us some answers.  I said “I would rather be worried sick and here than worried sick and at home.  We can stay all day if we need to…”

Lucy and Fish and I just lay on the floor and goofed off.  Lucy is good company when I am worried.  She has a pretty black and white world view.  “We don’t even know what’s wrong yet, Mom!” So no tears from me!

When the vet came back in after his x-rays she said “Lucy do you want come up front and color a picture for a minute while we talk to your Mom?” I knew everything I needed to know right then.  “We just took one picture and that was all we needed to see.”

I am not much of a hugger but as she said “It’s cancer and it’s in his lungs,” I clung to her in the hopes that I would not slide to the floor.  “You don’t have to do anything right now.  But you will need to make some decisions soon.  He is one tough dog…”

I explained that I felt like I was crazy this morning but that I knew.  You read those stories about how people live until their grandchild is born and then they pass in their sleep.  Or a husband passes and days later the wife joins him.  He had given me one more weekend.  I had asked him for one more and he rallied.  But he was holding on just barely and I had to let him go.

Lucy was coloring calmly in the lobby.  “Come on, Lu, we are going to take Fish home.” In silence the three of us got back in the car.  It had been pouring down rain all morning, a perfectly gloomy morning. I had seven hours.  Seven more hours to make sure he knew that I loved him.

Mike came home quickly and picked up Em from school.  She knew right away when she saw him that it was Fisher. “Baby girl, Fish is sick…. we have to say goodbye and let him go…”

We spent the day on the floor in the living room.  Shortly before the vet came to the house we tried to take him for one last walk.  He peed on some mailboxes.  He was trotting along and making me doubt our choices and I was sobbing as I watched him.  And then not a quarter of a mile from our house he just sat down.  He was done.  Mike went back to the house for the car and we sat in the middle of the street and laughed at our stubborn old man.  One more car ride and we were all back assembled in the living room.

Fisher was my constant.  In a life of heartbreak and new houses and divorce and new love and marriage and babies and change he was my one thing that was unwavering.   I have been dreading this day since Emily was only a few months old.  When the vet looked at me yesterday and said “Are you ready?” I lowered my face into his chest and sobbed.

Fish, I brought my babies home to you.   I will take care of the babies… you, go.  I got this….


Long Run

To say that I did not have high hopes for this morning’s long run was an understatement. I am walking the fine line between being committed and over-trained.  Triathlon training is awesome when you do it right.  When you don’t and you just mishmash your training schedule together by marrying a bike race plan and a half marathon plan with your swimming program you wind up having a schedule with a shitload of double workouts.  That works for me for the most part since I have the time.  But the risk of injury increases as the volume increases.  And injury is something I fear with every part of my being.

Injury would mean I would surely burn my house down and my kids would show up to school looking like feral children – unfed, unwashed and filthy.  Training keeps me sane. So. The pressure is on to not get hurt.

I’ve been trying something new.  The long, slow run. I used to run every run, bike every ride, swim every lap like it should be faster than the last.  If my six-mile run today was slower than the one a few days ago than surely I was not showing improvement and I was doing something wrong.  But the truth is I just get super tired.  Because I don’t ever rest.

So.  I am trying.  This morning’s plan for a long, slow run should have been just fine.  But my stomach was not stoked on this idea.  Runners know.  The stomach rules the mind.  If you wake up and poop before you put your shoes on – you will surely have a super sweet run.  Wake up and poop many times before you put your shoes on – danger ahead.

shoesI decided to risk it.  Routed my run past some of my favorite bathroom stops (to avoid this situation) and off I went. Running slowly is tough when I listen to tunes so I opted for podcasts.  I am head over heels in love with Chris Gethard’s Beautiful Anonymous podcast.  I hit play on my phone in iTunes.  I hit go on my Garmin.  I erupted into laughter as I looked at the title. Hot Scoop.  56 minutes and 12 seconds of poop stories.

I love a poop story.  I do.  As I wound around downtown in and out of the Hog Day 5K I was chuckling.  Nothing makes you feel like a bigger fool than running in the middle of a 5K with four water bottles.  Ever see one of those kids wearing a jacket and gloves and a scarf on the first day that it is less than 70 degrees outside?  I felt like that kid.  Anyway… the miles and the poop stories were ticking by and I was settling into the slowest run in history.

I always, always run roads that I know.  I add up miles in my head and have a plan all of the time.  I am not sure exactly what came over me but I turned up a street and found myself on a road that I’ve never run before.  It just went up.  And up.  And up some more. All of a sudden I noticed a new feeling.  I didn’t care that I didn’t know where I was going. I didn’t care that it was all uphill.  I couldn’t see the end but I was content to just keep trucking along because I knew that eventually I could turn around and come back down.  The street name – Hill Avenue.  cemetery

Just as I got to thinking that I really should probably look at the map and make sure I wasn’t going to dump myself out on a highway I saw a cemetery, Rosewood Cemetery.

In the spring of 1990 I got a teeny tiny rose tattoo. It is one of only a couple of tattoos that I have ever picked off of a flash sheet.  This teeny little rose is quite possibly the most common tattoo in all of the world.  I have seen it on ankles and shoulders and wrists in my travels over the last twenty-six years more often than I count.  (Holy, shit I have a twenty-six year old tattoo!) The image on the Rosewood Cemetery sign – it was my red flower.  tattoo
I ran past the cemetery for another few minutes before I bumped into a highway and opted to turn around and enjoy the downhill ride.

I struggled with the downhill.  The data-driven psycho in me wanted to take advantage of the downhill to drop my average speed back down to something I would consider more respectable.  But I tried to keep it slow.  I focused on my breath.  I focused on everything around me.  And then like a gift from the universe I looked up and saw Occoneechee Mountain.  I live less than half a mile from there but rarely have an opportunity to really see it.

I stopped and took a picture and just looked.  I love where I live.  That’s kind of a big deal, guys.  Not everyone can say that. It’s hard to see it in the picture but in the background there…. that’s a mountain!


Just about here the poop stories were wrapping up and Chris Gethard moved on to chat with a young woman who was in what she described as “a cardboard boat.”  She was sinking, in spite of her best efforts to cobble together a life that was well-designed.  Was it just made of the wrong materials? Chris’ podcast is a beautiful opportunity to listen to people talk and an even more wonderful opportunity to hear Chris share the many tidbits of wisdom he has collected after a decade in therapy.  Here I was running down a road I have never run when he says something to the effect of “My therapist told me to never walk the same way home from work twice.  The easiest way to get a fresh perspective on things is to literally look at new shit.  Every day.”  flowers

I have these new orange running shoes that I am not sure if I hate.  They are so orange.  Traffic cone orange.  A woman asked me the other day “do those make you run faster?” I said “They damn sure better because they sure as shit don’t look good.”

Running along and thinking about looking at new things I saw three orange roses.  I would never plant orange roses.  But they were beautiful.  And it made me kind of like my shoes a little better.

Sometimes I write a blogpost in my mind and try to get it all down before it’s gone.  Today I just had a feeling… this perfectly unplanned feeling of being content.  I just wanted to remember it.  Slow down.  Go a different way. Let go of expectations. Listen to the poop stories.  Laugh.  Keep going. You have no idea what you might see.





Do moms bromance? Is that a thing?


Being an extroverted introvert makes some things difficult.  One of those things that is tricky is busting in on a group of people that are already established.  They have a rhythm and a routine.  I am kind of a big personality (shut up, I know that is an understatement.) And finding my place in a group of personalities that already have a vibe is delicate.  I don’t really know how to take a back seat.  

mom3But the back seat is exactly where you sit when you are the new kid that joins a group of people that regularly share a swim lane.  Treading water next to the lane line while you wait for your spot to grab the wall and try to think of something clever to say in the ten seconds you have before the next swim set starts is exhausting.  Never mind the swimming part.  I always feel like a 12-year-old kid in the back seat of a car.  I can kind of hear the conversation but the windows are down and the infinitely cooler teenage driver and their counterpart in the front seat are smiling and laughing and I am nodding along and treading water and trying to not look clueless.

5:30 a.m. Master’s swim practice is a strange animal. It’s not the retired folks from mid-morning or the work from home people from lunchtime. Both of those groups are happy to chat it up poolside.  These people are getting in and out and getting on with their lives.  They’re busy people or so it seems.  And nobody is particularly chatty when it is still practically the middle of the night.  So how do you get to know them?  How do you find a rapport?

You keep showing up.  Therein lies the problem.  I can think of a zillion reasons not to get up before five in the morning.  Add in a little social anxiety and I can convince myself to bail on practice.  Easy peasy.

But on Wednesday there was this lady that made me laugh.  Hard.  She said “I’m going to make an art film called Sounds From the Pool” as we were all gasping for breath in the cold water.  Later in the practice as the gasping had to turned to heavy breathing I said “If you started the film just with sounds – snapping of the swim cap, gasping and then creepy, heavy breathing – it would totally sound like a dirty movie.  Condoms and then hot and heavy humping…” She didn’t miss a beat, guys.  She immediately grabbed onto my ridiculousness.  She was my people.

This morning I considered sleeping through practice.  But I kinda sorta wanted to see her again.  She was funny.  At 5:30 in the morning.  She’s a rare breed.

mom2I make friends the way drunk girls in bathrooms make friends.  I like to go from “Hi, my name is…” to “OHMYGODYOUAREMYBESTFRIENDEVER” in about four minutes.  It doesn’t always work out well.  I am trying to play it cool.  I am.

But when I saw her this morning and she made me laugh again before I even had my goggles on – well, I was smitten.  While swimming this morning I was thinking about how stressful it must have been to have been a swimmer in high school.  Imagine sharing a lane with someone you are crushing on.  You’d spend the 200 yards you were swimming thinking of something clever to say in the ten seconds you might share at the wall.  And then when you said it there would be a 50% chance that it went unheard.  So if nobody laughs did they not hear you?  Do you try and say it again? Or would you then become that weird girl that repeats herself and thinks she is funny? (Again, shut up.  I know that is self-referential.)

This morning as we were climbing out of the pool and laughing I decided to just go out on a limb and ask “do you stay home with your kids?” There’s a certain camaraderie among people who might not talk to anyone else all day that is not biologically related to them.  Maybe it is a momentary “holyshitwebettermakethiscount” kind of feeling but whatever it is – she had it, I knew it.

We joked about how it is hard to MomFriend someone at swim practice when you only have ten seconds at a time to get your funny on.  I mentioned that I write stand up routines in my head while I swim/bike/run and sadly the only people who ever hear them are my peeps at the grocery store.

“Do you do stand up?” she asked.

And it took everything in my power to not crumble to the floor at her feet on the pool deck.  Only moments earlier she said something to the effect of  “that’s a sleeper that will make me laugh again and again all day” and I could feel myself stand up a little taller.  We’ve only just met.  She thinks I am funny.  That’s my in, y’all.  (Granted, my ten second schpiel on how sprinting breaststroke is like fast walking was pretty damn funny.) I know I get myself into trouble when I dive in prematurely – but I think I am making a new friend.


momSo.  Both kids will be back in school next week.  I will once again have that “what do I do now?” feeling.

Maybe I will write some stand up, huh?  Take this show on the road.  And by on the road I mean to the Harris Teeter.

And it’s not like I need to find things to do.  There’s new SnapChat filters on the daily, y’all.



Goals: Smashing them

I am not a super competitive person.  Not in my life, not in triathlon.  I am just not.  I really believe that hocus pocus about how you’re only competing against yourself.  It’s true.  I struggle with my training because I want each run to be faster than the last.  And improvement comes in incremental leaps not daily.

This month has been big for me.  In the middle of my fourth season of triathlon I have started to make some improvement.  I rode the bike leg of Ironman Raleigh 70.3 a few weeks ago and I didn’t ride my brakes downhill.  And I did not die.  At all.  I used my aerobars even though I still feel like I am going to crash because my hands aren’t even touching my brakes and I figured out what it feels like to blow your legs out on the bike.  (Awesome, by the way.)

racerThis last weekend I raced my first sprint with a pool swim in over a year and I passed a bunch of folks so apparently I hugely overestimated my swim time.  

And then I went all out on the bike and figured I would just see if I could run.  At all.  And I smashed my personal record for a 5K.  Not a 5K in a tri.  But at all.  It was crazy. I felt like George Jetson.  In my head I was all “Jane!  Stop this crazy thing!!!!” but my legs just kept moving.

Another fitness related accomplishment is as much about my head is it is the rest of me. I started running without my shirt on.  And it isn’t pretty. But I feel like a badass and it seems that people will not actually DIE if they see my stomach in motion.  Stretch marks don’t tan so they are just whiter and more bold than ever but I am over worrying about it. I stopped in the bathroom on a run recently and when I looked in the mirror I noted that I looked like a “runner.”  Intellectually I know that runners come in all shapes and sizes but I have always felt like a poser.  runner

The last accomplishment is one that I hesitate to speak about. It feels more personal.  You know, since I don’t get naked and stand on the bathroom scale in front of all of you.  But it feels good to be proud of yourself, and dammit, I am.  I have lost a good bit of weight this year in my “Get Your Shit Together Before You Turn 40!” plan and I have maintained it. I have had to change my race registrations from Athena to Age Group since I no longer qualify.  And it feels weird.  I have identified as a big kid for the last ten years. I actually enjoyed that moment when I told someone that I was just a little shy of 200 pounds and they raised an eyebrow and said “No fucking way!” But I am down almost 40 pounds and I run faster and sleep better and drink less alcohol and wear ALL OF MY CLOTHES because holy shit, they fit!!!

Silly that I had to go stand in a store and weigh myself and purchase three months of a diet program to put into practice the same dietary advice that my mother has been giving free of charge since I was a kid.  “Mom, I am hungry.”  “Eat an apple.”  “I don’t want an apple.”  “Well, then you’re not hungry.”

I don’t do low-fat food.  And I don’t do diet food.  But I started eating real food.  And a lot of it.  And I dropped weight.  And then I got faster. And then I stayed the same weight for two months and got faster still.   I can’t believe that those things are not connected.

I was eating an apple (from my purse because I carry snacks around like I am my own toddler) and thinking the other day as I walked into Target.  I eat like an athlete.  I am fueling my body and my workouts and caring for myself.  I’ll be damned.

shower beer

I didn’t turn into a different person.  I still drink cheap beers in the shower.  I just make better choices when I get out of the shower.  Another perk?  It seems that losing weight has made my boobs all but disappear so now I can share my shower beer pics with no boobs in sight unless I take them from the waist up! Long boobs, indeed!

I am not that competitive.  Not with other people.  But with myself?  I want to get there faster than I did last time.  Every single time. I spent ten years gaining and losing the same 40 pounds. But I can guarandamntee that I won’t do it again.  Because this feels so good.  I feel like me again.

Running last weekend I was thinking about how I am not normally motivated to speed up by other runners.  We are all in our own race, on our own journey.  But there was this kid in front of me.  Well, he was behind me at first but then he was in front of me.  And I couldn’t stand it. I gave it all I had to try and catch him.  The weekend before I was climbing up a hill on my bike and feeling strong when I heard that whirring sound of fancy wheels and “On your left!” I moved to the side and prepared to be passed.  Out of habit I looked at his calf to check his age.  64.  I dug deep and passed him on the next hill.

I guess I am a little competitive.  I don’t like to get passed by people I could have given birth to or people that could have given birth to me.  That’s my window of shame.  And I don’t want to feel like I live in a body that doesn’t feel like mine.    Eventually the triathletes I could have given birth to won’t be in elementary school and I will have to revise my plan.

But for now – I have goals.  And I am smashing them, friends.  Set some.  Aim high.  It feels so damn good.  It feels even better if those goals serve absolutely nobody but you.  Be selfish. Take care of yourself.  Take naps.  Take risks.  I triple dog dare you.


The Time My Boobs Scared Me

10400783_23189174818_6016_nIt was almost 25 years ago that I realized that my boobs had tremendous power.  My portrayal of Hippolyta in my high school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was nothing if not lackluster but the deep v of my black body suit meant that all I really had to do was stand there.  My boobs had the stage presence of an Amazonian Queen (albeit one with a possibly historically inaccurate complete set of knockers.)

My boobs and I went to college and found employment behind the bar.  My smart mouth and my perky young boobs made pretty stellar money for about a decade.  When my older daughter was born and I retired from tending bar I am betting my boobs thought they’d get a break.  Nope.  I put those boobs to work overtime.  I realized that these magical orbs were not only mama’s moneymakers but they were baby’s favorite, too.  200717_4339414818_6821_n

In breastfeeding I found my maternal confidence.  And when I had questions about how to feed my baby my boobs led me to finding my tribe.  Breastfeeding helped me stumble into attachment parenting and co-sleeping and a million labels that helped me to know that I absolutely knew how to be a mother to my baby.  I learned everything I could so that I could tell other new moms to just trust themselves.  Funny that we all need facts to tell us to trust our guts, such is the first of many things that make no sense about parenting.

As my hell-raising and breastfeeding days were behind me and my life settled into that of a newly single mother my boobs took a little hiatus.  I celebrated them both (both boobs as well as the hell-raising and the baby feeding) with this tattoo!10399078_14608134818_1575_n

When my youngest was born my boobs got back on board and played their part.  I imagine that they heaved a heavy sigh and got ready as they knew this time around that it was likely a long road.  Four years and three months later… Lucy has started sleeping through the night. Sometimes she even falls asleep without me.  And without “boobie.”  I can see the end of the road and it is bittersweet.  Nursing babies has been part of my life for nine of my almost eleven years as a mother. It has led me to yet another tribe of women.  Volunteering with Best for Babes has been a meaningful part of my life for several years.12985375_10154095684209819_2276035083554733050_n

As my 40th birthday approached I decided to go ahead and get a mammogram. I did my hair for the occasion.  Like you do.  No big deal, right?  mammoWhen the technician apologized for any discomfort I laughed and explained that my boobs barely belonged to me anymore. These “long boobs” can reach a kid in a car seat in the backseat while I am driving! I kid, I kid.  Sort of.   Think a few glass plates are going to bother me?  Pfft.

“Now most women will receive a call back since this is your baseline mammogram.  Don’t worry if we call you back in.”


So then they called.  And I worried.  And worried some more. Because everything is so…. ok. This last decade has been a bumpy ride, y’all.  But I am looking down the barrel of 40 and thinking that this is going to be my decade!  I was ready to coast into 40 with my smile bright, a husband that is crazy about me (most of the time,) two healthy kids, a ridiculous addiction to triathlon that keeps me healthy, my boobs in retirement and sleeping through the night!  Life was looking good.

“Well, I don’t really like what I am seeing on these images so we are going to need to do an ultrasound.”

And my stomach dropped.  I had that moment when your life is a Lifetime movie and suddenly you are Valerie Bertinelli and you are wearing so much mascara and you’re crying and there is shitty music playing and you know that absolutely nothing good is going to come of you wearing this unusually soft cape dress that opens in the front.sad

And so the ultrasound technician does that thing where they bite the inside of their mouth and go back and forth over the same place again and again and I tried to make jokes and she just kept taking pictures and typing illegible things on a screen I could not quite read.  “Now you just relax here and I will take these down to Radiology and be back in a few.”

“Sure,” I said, “I will just kick back and play on my phone and contemplate my imminent death. None of us get our of here alive anyway, right?”  I laughed.  And she closed the door and I let myself cry.

Five minutes later the radiologist came in (that can’t be a good sign, right?) and says “Everything is fine.  But I am going to show you what I am looking at so you don’t have to take my word for it.” She adjusted her dials and smiled at me with her warm face and said “When I was your age and my kids were small we didn’t have all of these fancy machines so we just had to wait and worry.  Since you’re still nursing I am guessing that what we saw before was maybe a milk duct that was full?”

And I started to laugh and cry and wipe snot on my arm since I had no sleeves.  Breastfeeding for longer than  a year can actually lower your risk of cancer.  But evidently it can increase your chances of being certain that you most definitely have it for the five minutes it takes for a radiologist to look at your pictures.

At the end of it all… Everything’s ok.  I will go back in six months when my milk ducts are dried up and my last baby has hopefully weaned and I will get another round of pictures.  And I will surely get called back in because we still don’t have a baseline of images to look at, really.

The other day in swim practice we got to dive off the block and do 25 yard sprints.  I have not dived off a swim block since I was 10 years old and I was petrified.  I told my coach “When something scares the snot out of me and my first instinct is to say No Way – that’s when I know I have to do it.” That has been my Life Plan these last few years.  So far, so good. I considered putting off my baseline mammogram because I wasn’t sure I was in a headspace that could stomach the potential worry.  But I was scared.  So I went all in.

In the last month I have had one of those roller coaster rides of the mind when you imagine that thing, the thing you fear the most.  And I am not saying that I fear breast cancer more than anything else, not at all.  In fact, in the five minutes I waited for the doctor this morning I let my mind go all the way there.  I would fight hard and I would be ok.  And I would get some brand new boobs as a present when it was all said and done and twenty-five years from now I would write another blog post about the twenty-five years I had spent embracing these new boobs.  Because I am in my heart of hearts an optimist.  I am a Lemonade maker.

The thing I fear the most is feeling Stupid.  I have been making lemonade from lemons for much of my adult life.  But in the last couple of years things have started to slow down and I have relaxed into a groove that feels so incredibly … ok.  And deep down I am scared that Life will start handing out something even worse than lemons… Sucker Punches? And I will feel stupid for relaxing and believing that maybe, just maybe, it was all going to turn out alright.

But for today…. I am relieved.  And I am grateful.  And I am bawling and sweaty in a co-op grocery store in a town that I adore while my kids are in schools that I am pleased with and my husband is at a job that he mostly likes after a run that I cut short because I kept crying.  And I am ok.  sweat

I hope you’re ok, too.  And I hope you do things that scare you.  Big ones and small ones.  Because this life is made up of choices, millions of choices. The moments that I have chosen to be brave I have never regretted.  





Dearly Beloved….

In the spring of 1997 I thought it would be a super idea to fill every single square in the entertainment center with an aquarium.  Much like the day that I decided to paint my entire living room including the molding and the windows dark green this decision went from thought to execution in about 45 minutes.  I was a lady of ACTION.  I made DECISIONS.  Not always good ones but my enthusiasm made up for my brilliance on occasion.

Operation Fill All of the Squares with Pets worked out pretty well.  At that time in my life my living room was headquarters to a half a dozen ne’er-do-wells and we would while away the wee hours of the morning watching surf videos.  I had a mouse.  And an angel fish.  And a big tree frog.  And a couple of tetras. And a teeny pair of frogs named Jack and Jill.  It is possible that there were a few other little creatures that didn’t hang around long but that was my gang over at 1362B Mt Vernon for a good long while.

And then on one spectacularly sad night we realized that Jack and Jill had passed away. So my roommate and I did the only thing that made any sense at all.  He put on the tightest black pants he owned and I teased my hair and pinned a black slip to my head like a veil and we grabbed a radio and we had a funeral.

We walked into the kitchen where we both worked with these two tiny frogs in a ziploc bag and we blared Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” Like you do.

“Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
2 get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that’s a mighty long time
But I’m here 2 tell u
There’s something else
The afterworld…..”

The glares from everyone in the kitchen made it clear that maybe it was not the best time to “go crazy” so we scooted on out of there and headed to “the Leafe” for a wake.  The Green Leafe was my Cheers.  It was my spot.  I turned 21 there after a few good years of partying.  It used to be that if you were in the restaurant business silly things like IDs and “being of age” didn’t seem to matter so much.

This last week I found out that my beloved college bar had closed its doors.  With my 40th birthday looming ahead I took a moment to look back. I spent some of my finest moments in college at the Leafe. I loved and laughed and cried and drank and smoked (good God, remember when you could chain smoke inside?  How crazy was that?) and then I guess somewhere along the way it had been almost ten years since I had been there.  How did that happen exactly? I guess I am getting older, huh?

‘Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You’re on your own”

But I haven’t been on my own and things are pretty a-ok and growing up hasn’t been awful.  Not awful at all, actually.

“And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor!

If you don’t like the world you’re living in
Take a look around you
At least you got friends”

I was going to sit down this afternoon and write a funny little something about how my mammogram was a breeze, y’all…. But I opened my laptop and all of a sudden…. Prince.  Everywhere.  Prince.

A lifetime ago “Let’s Go Crazy” was a funeral song for a pair of teeny, tiny fish and today I see it spreading across social media to mourn and celebrate the death of the one and only Prince.

I learned to roller skate backwards to “Darling Nikki.” I was trying so hard not to fall down I guess I never really thought too much about that funky time. Well, not until Tipper Gore told me it was filthy and then you can bet your ass I paid attention.

I imagined my life as a glamorous adult as I sang “Little Red Corvette” in my room in 1983.  I was seven years old and that album, 1999…. it blew my mind. Years later I would (along with the rest of the world) listen to “1999” during what was my absolute most terrible New Year’s Eve.  Ever.

His songs… I could tell you what I think about as I listen to each and every single of his tunes.  But I don’t want to.  I want you to go and listen.  Remember where you were.  Share them with your kids.  Because Prince represents some fabulously synthesized moments of all of our pasts, sure… but he can also play the shit out of the guitar, y’all.

Prince.  You were so, so cool.


16 days until…

I haven’t written about running skirts in years.  Or crotch sweat. All things have a season, I suppose.  Apparently running skirts are on their way out and short shorts are coming back with a vengeance. Who knew? Lucky for you crotch sweat never goes out of style.

Observations from the morning. Sixteen days until my 40th birthday….

legsThese legs and these comically large feet just ran a 5K in less time than I have in a few years. Possibly ever.

I’ve been busting my ass lately and decided to see if my favorite running skirt would let me run without lighting my thighs on fire. Applying BodyGlide to the thighs this morning (because they still touch y’all, even down 30 pounds) and Lucy asks “is that for when your vagina sweats?”

Umm. Something like that.

Today has already been amazing.  My vagina sweat was totally under control.  My legs carried me 3.1 miles with the swiftness.  I am totally over my stomach virus.  And in less than an hour I get to have my first mammogram.

What’s your Thursday look like?  May your vagina sweat be light, your legs fast and your mammogram technician gentle.

Driver of that Giant Truck, I salute you!

I am more than a tiny bit scared of riding my bike.  This wasn’t a huge problem as a kid.  But as a triathlete – it sort of sucks.  How do you conquer a fear?  Head on, friends.  So, I ride.  I ride in my living room on a bike trainer so that I can feel I have a mastery of my bike’s gears and my stupid (albeit useful) clipped in bike shoes.  I ride in groups so that I can learn more about how to ride safely on the road.  I ride with friends so that I can remember that going for a bike ride used to be something I did for fun.  And I ride in spin classes so that I can build muscles that will help me drag my ass up hills.

But until today I have not ridden alone.  There are a million reasons not to ride alone.  It’s not crazy to not ride by yourself.  But as a mostly stay at home mom I really want to train as much as I can during the week when the kids are in school.  Unfortunately that is when my bike riding sidekicks are at work.ICE  A friend that is sidelined with an injury mentioned that instead of joining me for our Thursday morning ride she’d be happy to have my back if I wanted to just go ahead and ride.  Mid morning on our almost empty country roads seemed like a perfect time to give it a go solo.

I wrote her phone number on an index card, put it in my shirt pocket and sent her a quick note that I was leaving before I chickened out.

The first mile is uphill.  I wasn’t particularly creeped out.  I was still so close to my house and going back and forth between being freezing and exhausted.  I hadn’t any time to freak out.  A few miles later I found my groove.  I stopped obsessing over every single noise that my bike made and started thinking that maybe I could stay over 16 mph on average in spite of the three fairly decent hills on my route.  I might even do a second loop.  By the fifth mile I passed the turn to Emily’s school and giggled at a bit at our plans to stop and eat lunch with the kids.  Nothing is more absurd than a person in head to toe spandex and bike shoes.  We just need to wait until it is warm enough to wear our matching tri-kits to go for maximum ridiculousness.

By the time I was just about two miles from home I had decided to stick with the single loop and call it a win.  Why tempt fate?  I was content.  I was warm.  I could run when I got home and go out and do this again soon.  I was a person that could ride her bike alone if need be.  I didn’t die!

As I was headed up the last big hill about a mile from my house a car slowed behind me.  There is no shoulder on this road (only a steep ditch) and I was riding the white line.  I couldn’t very well move over and I appreciated the driver behind me just taking his time.  I assume that the honking by the truck marked with a local HVAC company (that I shall not name only because it may very well have been an employee of this small company and not the owner so I am hard pressed to put you on blast) was to alert other drivers of my presence.  Surely you didn’t mean that the car that was giving me a little space should speed around me on this hill where they can’t see oncoming traffic.  Right?  I did check out your website when I got home, local HVAC company… all those stock photo images of happy families – yep.  You surely value the life of a mother of two so very much!  Thanks for honking as if to say “Hey, Drivers!  Take care near this cyclist!!” Jerk.

I shook it off.  I pulled over at the soonest available moment and let the truck pass by me. With less than half a mile before I was home I was determined to end this maiden voyage with a smile on my face.  There’s a killer downhill just before I turn into my neighborhood. I enjoyed it.  I was warm (finally) and I was unafraid.  I was a person that rides her bike!

I slowed down before I turned onto my street (because I am still not a person that is unafraid of the slightest bit of gravel) when a huge Dodge Ram sped around me, window rolled down, gave me the one finger salute and yelled “Get off the road, Bitch!!”

My eyes stung like I had been slapped.  I have been scared of falling. I have read race reports where experienced cyclists get injured.  I am always fearful of cars.  Recovery after an accident with a car could take months.   But it never dawned on me to be afraid of being yelled at by some asshole in a giant truck  (and yes, I realize that name calling is juvenile and two wrongs don’t make a right but this guy was an asshole!!) I could see my house from where I was located.

kellyBut I kept riding.  I rode right past my street with tears in my eyes and made one more single mile loop in the neighborhood next to mine.  Because I won’t let you ruin my good time Mister Big Truck.  I am only sorry that you momentarily knocked the wind out of me and I was unable to return your salute!

So.  You haven’t convinced me to get off the road, Mr Big Truck.  Nor have you really even made me think that I am a bitch. I assure you that I have done far more egregious things than ride my bike on the same stretch of road that you were enjoying.  As I rode that last mile I started to wonder.  Would you have yelled in my face if I stopped my cart in the middle of the aisle at Costco?  Because I do that sometimes.  What if I walked in front of you at a softball game to chase my four year old?  I am so super sorry I was in your space for a second, man.  I guess that never happens to you, huh?

I like to give each bike ride an anthem.  Riding without tunes is so weird to me so I sing in my head.  Today’s quick ten mile ride goes out to Matthew Wilder – Ain’t Nothing Gonna Break My Stride…

I will be back soon  with a race recap for Belews Lake Olympic Triathlon   that was a duathlon (click for last year’s race recap if you like!).  Quick summary: I nearly froze to death.  The runs were fast and awesome and the bike was cold and lonely.  Belews Lake theme song was an obvious choice! Love me some Eric Carmen: All By Myseeeelf…….

Roll With It

On the back of his chef coat was a design – black octagons in a line down the center of his spine.  He was laughing and smiling and everyone around him was smiling, too.  The first time I saw the design on his coat I had no idea what it was but I was still pretty green.  It was my first bartending gig and I was barely 21 years old.

By the time I saw the octagons on the back of his jacket a second time I had already gotten a few of my own on the knee of the jeans that I wore to work.  Dura_Chef_7_8_Action_Shot_2_LargeKneel down on a kitchen mat to get something off of a shelf and you, too, will have a greasy octagon on your pants.   That explained what they were.  But it didn’t tell me how they got there. Who in the hell would lie down on the floor in a kitchen?

I was working in a restaurant with an open kitchen.  From behind the bar I could see the boys in the kitchen and I would admire their fast hands and their furrowed brows as they made delicious magic happen on dinner plates.

I would look into the kitchen window often for a whole bunch of different reasons.  It was wise to take a peek into the window before you sent in a Sunday brunch ticket with a bazillion “Hold Food” special orders.  You were a fool to not check and see if the boys were busy before you ordered your favorite sandwich for your employee lunch (turkey club with boursin mayonnaise.) Eventually I would marry one of those boys on the line so I suppose I was frequently just trying to sneak a peek at that guy I had just met.

On a busy night in the middle of a dinner rush if you watched carefully you would see one of the most extraordinary things I have ever witnessed in a kitchen.  (Now you know if you have worked in the restaurant business that kitchens are like another planet and a lot of insane things go down back there.) But there is only one boy I have ever seen do a somersault on the line.  Perhaps more astounding than the somersault was that nobody ever looked irritated by this ridiculous display of bravery (stupidity?) in the midst of hot pans and high tempers.  And knives.

Nobody could roll with it like Skillet.  “My name is Skillet and I rooooolllll with it.” He would pop up from the floor with a fresh line of octagons down his chef coat and that smirk would spread across his face and no matter how slammed you were and no matter how much you hated every single person in your station or how outrageously hungover you were all of a sudden you were smiling.  And you were rolling with it, too.

In the last fifteen years I have seen Skillet less than a handful of times.  Some of those times were a little hazy and some of them were a lot hazy (I am looking at you, Urbanna Oyster Festival.) But each and every time I was laughing.

I might not have seen Skillet in ages… but I think of him when I take a deep breath and smile.  Sometimes the choice to remain calm and smiling in the midst of chaos is all it takes to make the people around you  just chill the fuck out.   So very many times I have thought to myself “My name is Skillet and I rooollll with it.”

There are times in your life when you must fight.  You must not back down and you must be willing to give every last shred of your being to a cause.  But sometimes, lots of times, you need to take a deep breath and roll with it.  Because it’s really not that bad.  And everyone around you is just way too serious.  And it will be over before you know it and you need to put a smile on your face and roll on.

Today I learned that that boy who so many of my old friends will remember is no longer with us.  To be honest, it hit me a little harder than I was expecting.  A lot harder.  But I am going to put a crooked smile on my face and roll with it, Skillet.

My deepest condolences to the Atwood family.