A sticker and a bird …

So I had another stranger encounter. It really shook me up. First, I want to say that they were just fine but when I initially came upon the situation I wasn’t sure. And it REALLY freaked me out. The details are unnecessary. Let’s just say I was really concerned and I was ready to jump in and help if it was necessary. I’m still thanking God that it wasn’t. But the whole thing stuck with me.

I am usually the type of person who allows God and the universe to speak to me, especially in times of stress. Nooooo, not audibly. It’s more of a spiritual comforting and it can come in many forms. Even the smallest “signs” give me tremendous relief. But every once in a while when I’m REALLY stressed out or IN IT, I can’t “hear”, “see” or feel that comfort in the little things. I guess some stressful situations call for a TON of comforting bricks, HA! And today I experienced one of those situations.

Well, I hope you all have day where you don’t need more than an inspirational car sticker and a white bird to calm you!!!

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A survivor (times 2) …

One year ago today I woke up early and headed for the gym. I did some speed-work and clocked my fastest 1/4 mile (7:13). Not to shabby! I went home and continued on with my typical morning routine. Then I headed to my dental cleaning. This would be that last time I would feel like myself for months.

Later that day I would find myself in an ER with symptoms I was all to familiar with. I was sick. And despite the fact that no one believed me I knew my body. I had meningitis. Again.

Today is the one year anniversary of my second round of meningitis. Still with so many questions left unanswered. That alone is a demon I must face every day. I have become obsessed with Facebook memories. Trying to find some clue as to how I got so sick so fast. Again. There is nothing there. Nothing. I finished a week of 100,000 logged on my Fitbit. I mention twitchy legs, crazy fast speed-work and a rest weekend. It was to be a well deserved break from my training that was going better than I ever could have hoped for. I was strong and healthy. Race ready. There was nothing in those memories that would indicate that I would become so sick in just mere hours. How can anyone’s brain be that swollen and they not show any signs or symptoms?!?! It’s baffling. Utterly.

There are days that I still feel like a ticking time-tomb. I’m not sure if that feeling will ever go away. The memory of this experience and the fall-out afterward will always be unsettling. The “unknowns” are worrisome at best. But I refuse to cave into fear and let it immobilize me. Life is too precious for that. I thought battling meningitis once was bad enough. Twice, just seems insulting. But I truly believe that life gives us lessons for reasons. Reasons we might not ever understand. And THAT gives me my peace. Trust me, I can easily focus on all the things that this illness has robbed me of. How disruptive it was to, not just my life, but my family’s and friends’ lives as well. I can resent the fact that I still don’t feel like myself and that I fear it happening all over again. I can focus on the anger I feel when I see my precious kids worrying about my smallest of ailments. Children shouldn’t have to worry like that! OH, if meningitis was a person I would have punched it in the throat long ago!

Anyway, as I see it I have two options. I can choose the road paved with anxiety, fear and bitterness … OR … I can be thankful that I even had a road in the first place.

Let’s face it, life is not always easy. Crap happens through no fault of our own. But life can still be beautiful. I’d be lying if I said this illness hasn’t changed me. It has. I am not the same woman who woke up on this day a year ago. I am, for better or worse, the Jennifer I was supposed to be on this day and in this moment. Meningitis helped shaped me. And I’m OK with that. I am an ever-evolving woman who accepts that change and defeat and pain are an acceptable way to form me into the woman I am meant to be. Meningitis was a pit stop. OK fine, TWO. But it wasn’t my final destination. God and the universe clearly are not done with me yet and that’s good … because I still have dreams. And as long as I have breath, scared or not, I will chase them.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you are a survivor (times 2)!!!

A story about faith, love and believing in miracles …

I post these words every year. I don't think I will ever be able to change them. To do so would be an injustice to her. To me. And to all our family and friends who stood by us then and who continue to share this life with us now. This story is about our beginning together. It is a story of faith and love … and believing in miracles.

We were told when I was about 11 weeks pregnant that she did not look quite so “typical” … I didn’t care. I loved our baby. And I prayed.

A few weeks later we were told that not only was our baby “not typical”, but that there was a chance I would be delivering her still born … I wanted our baby even more fiercely than I had before. And I prayed.

Several weeks later, we almost lost our baby … to which I screamed an adamant and angry “NO!” And I prayed.

A month later we were told that our baby had a “very large hole in her heart” … to which I said, “I don’t believe you.“ And I prayed.

Two months later we were told, “Your baby is small” … to which I laughed and said, “Of all the things that you have told us, this seems pretty manageable.” And I prayed.

Two weeks later, on what was supposed to be a brief doctor’s visit before we headed to our local water park, we were told that our baby was not growing, that she was too small and that she was not acting the way she should be. We were told that I would be given another amniocentesis to see if her lungs were developed. If they were, my doctor wanted to take her right away … I felt like my body was failing her. And I prayed.

My doctor gave me a drug to speed up our baby’s lung development. The results of the amniocentesis were not what we had hoped for. My doctor told us that our baby’s lungs were not developed, our baby could not breath on her own. Now we had a team of medical professionals. They hoped nothing would go wrong for the next 48 hours so that the steroid they had given me would have time to help our baby’s lungs grow … to which I said, “OK”. And I prayed.

Less than 24 hours later I had a hospital room full of people wearing blue who were running around and pumping my body full of fluids and drugs. We were told that we could no longer wait. We were told that our baby would not be breathing and that she would be very small and weak … to which I cried in her father’s arms and said, “I’m scared.” And I prayed.

Minutes later I was strapped to a table. I had refused anything that would alter my mental state. I wanted to be there for our baby. It took a long time to get her out. I was told that she was so small that she kept slipping through the doctor’s hands. I kept screaming, “Is she out?!?!” And I prayed.

Then, I heard a cry … to which I thought, “That is a loud cry for a baby who is supposed to be weak, small and not breathing.” And I prayed.

A few minutes later our baby was brought over to me, warmly swaddled, pink as could be, breathing on her own and with no hole in her heart. (Sure, she has some extra chromosomes, but who cares about that?) And when I saw her I thought, “You are my miracle and I love you.” And then, I praised God for our beautiful daughter.

Eight years ago today, through God’s amazing grace, Reese Lindsey Grace was born by emergency cesarean section. She was 6 weeks early. She weighed 2lbs 15oz and was 15 ½ inches long. My world has not been quite the same since … and I would have it no other way.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you celebrate a miracle … and always remember to pray!!!

Ready for the next BIG thing …

We were all over the place yesterday. We started off with a relaxing morning at our hotel. Then we picked up some more things for George's dorm room and went to a nice lunch. We later headed into San Francisco to drop off some things at Sidney's new place and also for some fun. After an unusually late dinner we headed back to our hotel. We were all pretty tired from our day and George fell asleep on the way home. I was glad. He has a HUGE day tomorrow. It's not every day that you move into your first college dorm room.

Anyway, I realized that he fell asleep about 30 minutes into our drive back when his breathing changed. It caught my attention and I looked over at him. He was sound asleep and I was suddenly stuck with more emotions than my heart could handle. It was like my entire being was flooded with 18 years of memories. Memories of my precious baby boy who has now GROWN into an incredible young man. A man about to start his new life at college. A man about to chase his dreams. And it all seems to have happened in the blink of an eye. It overwhelms me. All of it. I couldn't be prouder of my son. Or happier. But I am sad for me. I am going to miss this kid. A lot.

I reached over and touched George's face as he slept. It has changed so much. HE has changed so much. I guess I startled him as he woke long enough to grab ahold of my hand. His hands are not the little boy's hands who held my mine all those years ago. They are a man's LARGE hands. My hearts wanted to scream out, "Who's hands are these? Where are my baby boy's hands?" But I didn't. I know who's hands they are. And it's all just so hard to believe.

George held my hand briefly before falling back to sleep. I continued our drive back to the hotel thinking about the years that have passed and the years that lie ahead. All that newness. But knowing in my heart that it's time. It's time for all this TREMENDOUS change. Life has brought us here. And this is where we must part (at least temporarily) and trust where God is going to lead us. Son and mom. Mom and son. Son. Mom. Wherever life takes us. THIS is where we let go.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you are ready for the next BIG thing!!!

Proud … 

If I had to describe this past school year I would describe it as CHALLENGING. It started off as any other year had … and then craziness ensued. Getting sick is one of the most selfish things I could have ever done to my kids, my family and my friends. It derailed all of us.

Do I really believe it was my fault?

No. Of course not. But I still feel a tremendous sense of guilt especially when it comes to my kids. They needed me and there were days when I could hardly lift my head. My heart broke each time I couldn’t do something for them. I was angry when they had to struggle without me. They had to step it up and do so much on their own. Things that I normally would do for them or with them. They missed out on our talks. Moments that they used to deflate from their day or share their excitements. They handled stress and problems without me. Again. It broke me.

Today my son George graduates from high school. Goodness I love this kid of mine! He is gentle, kind, compassionate and brilliant. And throughout this past school year he grew into so much more. He matured naturally but also because he had to. He didn’t fight it. He never acted out. He wasn’t bitter. He just went with it. He helped so much. He took on so much. And he accomplished so much. As painful (and wonderful) as it is to admit this, my baby boy grew up in what seems like a few short months. He had to.

Today feels surreal. I want to cry because it’s over and cry from a sense of relief. This was a tough school year but George did it. He finished despite the curve balls life threw at us. And he somehow managed to thrive.

If we are lucky, as parents, sometimes we get a glimpse of reassurance that our kids are READY to take on the world. They get it. They can do this. Those moments when we see clearly that they are exactly what God meant them to be in this time and in this place. I gratefully had many of these moments this school year. They came as a result of time and nature but also out of pain and need. I don’t believe anything happens by chance so I cannot look back on this school year bitterly. All the events that unfolded have delivered us to this day. My baby boy’s graduation day. He got here precisely how he needed to and in a way that has left him better and more capable. What an amazing young man he has become. Indeed.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you are proud!!!

Doing it anyway …

Yesterday I got into a discussion about running and working out. Particularly about the numerous times I’ve been asked if I’ll ever stop.

That’s always such a strange question to me. 

I’ve been working out since I was 12 years old. It’s part of who I am and who I’ve always been. I don’t know anything different. Even the two years post back injury I did anything and everything my doctors would let me do (which wasn’t much, but I did it anyway).

I get hurt A LOT. I have A TON of setbacks. But I’d like to believe it’s because I’ve never stopped pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I love learning about the body God has gifted me with. I like figuring out what it’s capable of. This body of mine never ceases to amaze me. Seriously, WHOA! It’s also about chasing down dreams. I have a lot of them. Still.

Some days come easier but overall, it is NEVER easy to keep up this lifestyle. Trust me, it’s nicer to sleep in. What I do and how I do it is a choice I have to make every day. I choose to keep trying, fighting and living. This is how I am … and despite the pain, blood, fractures, sprains and tears it’s always been worth it.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you do it anyway!!!

Happily and gratefully sitting this one out …

I’ve been quiet about this but here goes. About 10 days ago I got sciatica on my left side (now about 95% resolved). It threw my walking off onto my “bad” foot. The one I broke twice and sprained more times than I can count. Did I mention the arthritis? Oh yeah, that too. Anyway, it worried me because I’ve been warned that that foot can easily break again, even if compromised just a little.

Unfortunately, as a result of the uneven walking I had some pain in that foot by my 5th metatarsal along the outside of my foot. I also had traveling pain that occurred next to the arthritis in my 1st metatarsal and in the ball of my foot. I described it as a lava lamp of pain. It was never constant or in the same place. Well, early Monday morning I woke up with what felt like the beginning of a foot cramp. I jerked my foot up and then felt a horrible pain shoot through my second and third toes and up the 3rd metatarsal (where my old break was). I immediately thought the worst. I broke my foot. AGAIN.

With my race less than a week away I went in for x-rays. When the first image of my foot went up on the screen, I said, “There it is!” Like a beacon of light, I could see the problem staring back at me. A break. The tech couldn’t confirm the break but asked how long I had had pain there. I told her since 3 am that morning.

I didn’t receive the official results until the next day and spoke with my ortho. I was confused because my results stated “no acute fracture” but a new stress fracture was also clearly noted. The medical social worker in me likes all these details answered. It comforts me. But what I was told shocked me beyond belief … and then gave me a clarity, I never knew I needed.

My ortho said that the reason my results stated “no acute fracture” was because I didn’t break my foot Monday. In his estimate, I broke it 2-3 months ago.

SAY WHAT?!?!

I was utterly baffled and so was he. Up until the sciatica I had only some pain in my feet on my long run days. By the next morning I was fine. I’ve told my family and friends repeatedly that this has been my least painful marathon training EVER. I definitely did not push myself nearly as hard has I normally do. Don’t get me wrong. Anytime you run 18 and 20 miles, you are pushing yourself, HA! But trust me, I let a lot go this training. I was just happy and thankful to be healthy enough to run distance again.

I’ve had some doozies in my life. Many things I cannot explain. Experiences I like to call GOD MOMENTS. This is one of them.

After the getting meningitis in October and the terrible drug reaction that followed I knew that I needed this training. And not just to help me get stronger physically. I needed it to heal me mentally. I was scared I’d never feel like myself again. I was scared of getting meningitis a third time! And what would it rob me of then?!?! I wanted my kids to have their mom back. Their healthy, happy, active mom. Heck, I WANTED HER BACK! And the only way I knew how to find her again was to literally run back to her. So after clearing it with all my doctors, I did. I began marathon training in late January.

Almost every training day I was forced to face my fears and I had to fight through a brutal fatigue. There were days when I straight up questioned my judgment. And sanity. There were days when I wondered if I was doing more harm than good. But I ran anyway. I honestly couldn’t have done it without the love and support of my family and friends. I finished a training that I never thought I could finish and was able to put my demons to rest. And God was with me the whole time. I truly believe that He protected me from the pain of the initial break to give me exactly what I needed to fight the thoughts in my head. I believe He revealed the break to me now to show me that He’s been healing and protecting me more than I ever knew. That He is capable of more than I can ever understand in my humanness. He humbles me with these gifts. And I am so thankful.

So the big question that now remains is, “Will I run my ninth marathon on Sunday?” The answer is, “Probably NOT”. Despite there being no medical reason I cannot run Sunday I think I want to pass on this one. My foot still hurts, in my opinion, too much to run a full marathon. And after everything that has been revealed to me over the past 24 hours I think that I discovered that the race itself was never the real lesson. God was all about teaching me and growing me through the journey. That’s just how He rolls.

Well, I hope you all have a day where you happily and gratefully sit this one out!!!