How Not to Spend My Birthday

For three years in a row, I’ve ruined my own birthday by being mopey and melancholy. Part of the problem is that I feel pressure to pack in as many fun things as possible so that it feels like I’ve celebrated the heck out of the thing. The other part is that I do not like getting older. I am 100% aware that both of these things are ridiculous and that I am capable of not doing these things, and yet–sigh.

One of my goals for next year is not to do this, but it isn’t the only long term plan I’m making.

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Minutes before the Philadelphia Ugly Sweater Run on Saturday. Go me!

Last year, when I turned another year older, I was more than a little depressed. I’ve  recently begun to feel like I am running out of time. There are so many things I want to do, and I am afraid that I won’t have a chance to complete them. With each new birthday, I feel like I am watching the years race by me, and all of a sudden, I can’t bear to watch them go. It’s all very disconcerting.

A dear friend and colleague of mine passed away this summer, two months after her fortieth birthday and a year-and-a-half after being diagnosed with colon cancer, leaving behind two sweet sons, ages six and four. I didn’t write about it here because I didn’t want to make it about me, but her illness and subsequent passing have intensified the feelings I mentioned in the above paragraph.  It strikes me that my friend had no idea that she was middle-aged at twenty. And, it scares me.

Around the time of my last birthday, I decided to make a bunch of goals for myself as a way to counteract my apprehension. I had just finished my first improv class, and I loved it. I had just started my novel, and I wanted to finish it. Almost everyone I knew was running, and I hadn’t ever really broken anything more than a quick stride. I just wanted something more, and I decided that I was going to make it happen.

And I did. I took three more improv classes, and I finished the rough draft of my novel, and I ran in three 5ks. I started going to a local story slam, and I even got up there and told one of my own. I joined a writer’s group. I made new friendships and reconnected with old friends.

It felt great, so much so, that I want to up the ante in the year ahead.

I have never been a confident person, and if we’re being honest, I’ve never felt particularly good about myself. I am not saying this because I want anyone to rush in and tell me positive things about myself. This is no pity party. It is an acknowledgment that I am way too hard on myself, and it has gotten to the point where I feel the need to change it.

Like now.

Even though I set out to accomplish my goals and felt good about myself in the process, it was not without setbacks. The last improv class I took was a CHALLENGE. I often felt like I wasn’t very good at it, and on some nights, I drove home in tears, convinced that I was just embarrassing myself in front of a room full of more talented strangers. My revisions on my novel are not going great, and I am overwhelmed and confused (and suffocating in about seven working drafts). I never get enough time to run anymore, and I feel like I am slower than when I started. I ran in my third 5k on Saturday morning despite the fact that it was freezing and early and all I wanted to do is sleep in and stuff warm, buttered biscuits in my gullet instead.

I could focus on all these negatives and then decide to give up on every single one of the things I set out to do, but one of my new goals for the year to come is to stop letting the things that don’t go perfectly–or that don’t even go well–seep into my brain and prevent me from wanting to keep trying. I am not going to tell myself that I am not good at things or that I’m not lovable or any of that other static noise that buzzes around my head. I am quite tired of feeling bad about myself, and here’s what I’m going to do about it:

Give myself a big, unrelenting, all-loving and accepting break.

And I’m going to allow myself to start feeling proud of myself.

And awesome.

I don’t think it’ll be easy, and I’m sure I’ll still struggle, but I want to work really, really hard on it, because I think it’s one of the most important things I could ever do for myself and for my Jude.

How do you build up your confidence?

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Bear Hugs

While we were in Western PA over the holiday weekend, we came across this in one of the stores we visited:

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(Don’t ask.)

Upon seeing these two bears in mock-action, Jude turned to me and said:

“Look, Mommy. Those bears are hugging.”

“They sure are,” I said.

“That one is crying,” he said, pointing to the one on the left.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Sure, the animal has a pained look on it’s face, and who knows, maybe it is crying, but not for the reason Jude might imagine. I can’t be sure, but I believe that in Jude’s mind, Bear B is comforting a saddened Bear A with a firm hug. And why not? This is what happens in his own world. Jude gets hurt or feels bad, and Mommy gives him a hug. Boom. All better.

I love his reasoning and his sweet little imagination. It might be naive, but he’ll have plenty of time to learn that the world is not always ready to greet him with a hug when things aren’t working in his favor. Though it might not have the same therapeutic powers for him later in life, I do want him to know that I’ll always, always keep my arms out and open for him.

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Thanksgiving with My Mini-Me

When I was pregnant, I worried about how I would feel about my baby after he arrived.

“What if I don’t love him?” I said to my mom in confidence.

“You’ll love him. You’ll see,” she said.

“How do you know?”

“Because he’s you.”

I tried to find comfort in these words, but I just couldn’t picture what she meant by “he’s you“.

Now that Jude is almost two-and-a-half, I am still shocked by how much I love my dear, little boy, and I am amazed at just how much he really is me.

This week, at Jude’s school, they celebrated Thanksgiving with a feast. When I inquired about whether I should bring a separate lunch on the day of the meal, his teacher said:

“For Jude, you may want to do that.”

She was trying to be diplomatic about the fact that Jude is not an adventurous eater, and I wasn’t offended in the slightest. I get it.

The teacher told me that she would offer him the turkey and sides, and if he refused, he’d have an alternative. I was hopeful that he’d try the bird and the apple pie, but when I pulled out his daily progress report, I found the following note:

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As someone who grew up eating pasta on Thanksgiving and has never been a in to the traditional holiday fare, I found this hilarious.

Even if he had none of my traits, I’d love Jude like crazy, but the fact that he is so much like me makes it even sweeter.

Jude and I wish all of you a happy, happy Thanksgiving.

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Zombie Run Recap

On Saturday, my running buddy Karin and I took part in the Phoenixville Zombie Run. It was my second 5k this year–and ever–and it was crazy fun. Before last January, I was NOT a runner. I ran out of necessity (I’m late!) or (This Presidential Fitness Test sucks!), but I would have never considered being a purposeful runner. I love to walk and would not be afraid to take on long distances that way, but putting a little lead in it always seemed daunting to me. I didn’t think I could do it.

My blog-to-real-life-friend Lauren has talked quite a bit about running on her blogs over the years. I’ve always admired her for it, and when she decided to do thirty runs to celebrate her thirtieth birthday this past year, I felt inspired. I sent her an email asking her how I could start learning how to run, and she so graciously sent me a long, helpful email filled with advice that I took. I began the Couch to 5k program a couple of days later, and in July, I ran my first 5k, The Color Run, with Lauren and Karin at my side. It felt amazing.

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It was so great, in fact, that when Karin and I found the information for the Zombie Run, we were all in. I’m not afraid of Zombies per se, but I was a little anxious about whether or not they would (a) chase us or (b) jump out at us. Survivor belts (think flag football belts) were given out to each runner. The object was for Zombies to steal our “lives,” meaning, to capture our flags. I wasn’t sure about participating in this aspect of the race, but when we arrived and saw small kids wearing them, we decided to be brave. It turned out to be fun, and once our “lives” were gone–mine were in the first ten minutes–the zombies left us alone. This year was the first time that Phoenixville was hosting this race, and they fully admitted that there would be a learning curve. It is cool that they want to make it better and better every year, and the fact that the organizers were committed to making this an ongoing event made it an overall good experience.

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The Good:

1. The organizers were great about sending out emails with detailed information with everything from parking information to packet pick-up, etc., etc. Also, packet pick-up could not have been easier.

2. The energy at the park on race day was awesome. Everyone was super friendly and helpful, and all the runners were enthusiastic and smiling, eager to run from the undead.

3. The zombie make-up was CRAZY good. They were really convincing, and for the most part, they were good sports. We even got a few of them to pose for pictures with us along the way.

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4. It was surprisingly low-stress. I thought that the presence of zombies might make me tense, but I ended up laughing through most of the course. There were a few super-star runners who were way ahead of the pack, but it was good to see everyone working at their own pace and enjoying themselves.

5. Perfect running weather! Sunny and warm in November? I’ll take it.

6. Karin! She is a super-fantastic run partner. We have similar pacing, and she’s so easy-going. If you are going to run your first or your 100th 5k, you want a Karin by your side. She’s the best!

The Not-So-Good:

1. It was a hilly course, which was tough for a novice like me. I wasn’t as sore as I thought I might be the next day, but it was a killer during the race, especially after the turn-around.

2. No water stations. Booooo! They gave us a water bottle at the end of the race, but I would have appreciated some hydration along the course.

3. Aggressive zombies. Some of the younger zombies got a little too into the game. Karin and I saw a young runner–probably around ten or so–take a bad fall while trying to get away from one of the undead. She was scraped up and shaken up, and there were no emergency vehicles to take her back to the park. Luckily, her mom was running with her, and after some TLC, she seemed bent on finishing the course despite her setback.

4. Cars on the course (and angry, beeping drivers at that). Boooooo! This was especially precarious when in the presence of aggressive zombies.

Overall, we had an awesome time, and I am so happy I participated in this event. I will always remember it, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do something similar again. For a new runner, fun runs rock because they are low on pressure and high on energy. I left both the Color Run and the Zombie Run feeling incredible, so much so that I have already signed up for the Ugly Sweater Run in December with Karin. Go us!

photo 4Post-run hug from my future running buddy

Have you recently run in a 5k or another event? What is your favorite kind of race? 

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Run for Your Life

Tomorrow, this is happening:

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I kind of can’t wait to talk about it.

Wish me luck.

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So Much Cuteness: Halloween Edition

Despite his love for Mickey Mouse, Jude was so uninterested in trying on his costume for Halloween this year that I was sure he would refuse to wear it at his school’s parade. I waited by the fence with all the other parents, wondering if they would convince him to wear the body suit.

He’ll be a deconstructed Mickey, I told myself.

So when he walked out fully dressed as his favorite mouse, smiling, waving, and holding his teacher’s hand, my heart melted.

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It was so much cuteness, I could barely stand it.

Later, after dinner, we visited a few neighbors on our block to collect candy. It was precious, watching him make his way to each front door, not-quite-getting the whole trick-or-treat thing but still eager to drop the candy into his bag and to point out all the jack-o-lanterns along the way.

“Let’s go to that house,” he would say before we were off the porch of the last one, just like he was born ready.

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I loved it so much that I wished I could hold onto it just a little while longer, and then some more after that.

At bedtime, I asked Jude what he liked best about today, and he said, clutching his Mickey Mouse stuffed animal:

“Mickey.”

I could not agree more.

What did you like best about Halloween this year?

Hope it was happy!

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All Together Now

Today, when I dropped Jude off at school, the teachers and the other kids were enjoying circle time on the carpet. The lead teacher had just finished reading a book, and the little ones were requesting songs. Jude dutifully took his place amongst his friends while I hung up his coat.

One little boy asked if they could sing the “truck song”. When the teacher seemed confused, indicating that she didn’t have such a song in her repertoire, I laughed and told her she could just do what Jude likes, which is to insert whichever object he wants to sing about inside Old MacDonald. For example, “Old MacDonald had a truck, e-i-e-i-o”.

“You could go on like that for hours,” I said.

She smiled, but I’m thinking that was the last thing she felt like doing. With your own kids? Sure. Old MacDonald all the Old MacDay. But with a group of rambunctious toddlers? Probably not.

As this was going on, one of Jude’s classmates–we’ll call him Tom–stood up and started walking towards me. He has scoliosis and wears a pretty large brace, so things like this require him to use a bit of effort. Wordlessly, he held out his hand for mine, and then he lead me back over to the circle, sitting on the carpet in front of me, looking for me to do the same.

“Tom, do you want Jude’s mommy to join the group?” The other teacher said.

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There was no way I could refuse, and thus, I sat through the “Bumblebee Song” and “Twinkle Twinkle” before I made my quiet exit, kissing Jude on the top of the head on my way out the door.

I was so touched by Tom’s willingness to include me that I forgot to drop off Jude’s lunch in the fridge and had to turn around and bring it back to the school half-way into my drive home. But, it got me to thinking. Isn’t that all we need as human beings? Someone to take our hand and to invite us into the circle? It was such a small gesture, but it was also a dear one, and once again, I was reminded that sometimes (most times) kids get it better than any adult ever could.

Happy Friday!

What made your Friday awesome? 

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