Monday, February 15, 2016

Choose Love and Waterproof Mascara

I’ve never seen anyone with Stevens Johnson before. It’s horrible. Any RN who’s ever had a patient with it knows what I’m saying. It’s the saddest, scariest, most traumatic thing I’ve ever encountered outside a burn unit. It made me feel like a horrible nurse. (non-medical peeps, don’t google that. Seriously. you don’t want to)

Damn, I was tired when I got home last night. It was Valentines Day and I worked. The heaviness of the prior days settled over me like a mantle of sadness, and I once again wondered why I had chosen such a hard profession.  I could have gone back to school to be anything. Anything at all... and I chose THIS? On PURPOSE? 

Then I pictured myself doing anything else, and I could not. In every imaginable reality I can conjure, I wear waterproof mascara and a stethoscope, and I work with people who cannot talk for themselves.

I wonder ~ do I work for them, or with them?, I thought as I popped the cork off a bottle of red.
I filled my glass past the point of convention, and then added a bit more. My first gulp was too big. It was not satisfying and it burned all the way down to my stomach. The warmth does nothing to quench my thirst, nor does it satisfy my need for mindlessness. It would take far more than a few glasses of wine to erase the pain of this weekend.

Not that I want to forget. Exactly. But the pain part of this weekend was that harsh raw pain that leaves a scar.

This weekend was a celebration of love and pain. And that shit wore me the fuck out. Not in the way I prefer.

I recently came to the conclusion that falling in love is something that happens to us. Being in love is something we choose.

So love is a choice. Choosing to look at the person beside you every day for 365 days, or 19,710 days in a row, and say to yourself, “I choose this person” is what it takes to BE in love. From my point of view, love is about acceptance, understanding, and grace.

And if Love looks like a choice, well Grace probably looks like something different to every person who wields it. It is a shield to protect your love, a sword to defend it, a pen to write it a letter, an offering in sacrifice, a song to celebrate it, a poem to express it, or maybe, just maybe, it’s much simpler than that.

Maybe, sometimes, grace looks like a three word question. This weekend I watched a dying man ask his wife, “are you OK?”

She turned around, surprised that he’d said anything. He’d been quiet for days. He had no strength for words, no air for them.

She said “yeah. Yeah, Matt. I’m OK.”

She was across the room, and I was at the bedside. He turned to me slightly and I asked if he was in pain, and he whispered yes.  The strength of his speech was fading. I offered him morphine, and he mouthed yes.

If you’ve ever seen a patient suffering from this illness, then you know that asking if he was in pain was the most redundant question in the world. No one could be in anything less than excruciating pain when in this condition. (again, non medical peeps, don’t google it)

And I knew. So I said, “later – if you can’t talk – can you show me if you have pain and want more morphine?”

And he reached up, searching for something, with his left hand. I took his palm in mine. His fingers were cool, puffy, and tight. My little fingers were dwarfed by the size of his. I felt a squeeze, and I looked in his pain-laden eyes and nodded. We had a plan. If he wanted morphine, and was in his right mind, he would find my hand and squeeze it.

Nothing I did could really help though. It was a gruesome sight. I did anything I could to offer comfort, but nothing I did could possibly help. And that haunted me.

The day went slow.
It dragged on.
Click. Click. Click. Went the minutes on the clock.

And suddenly it sped up. We were running out of time. Hurry, Hurry! Places everyone!

She was laying across his body sobbing and he knew he had to go. He couldn’t stay with her any longer. I felt a little helpless for her and a little hopeful for him that it would be quick. Please, I prayed to my God, please let it be quick for his man who suffers so much.
Please, I prayed, Let her forgive us all for telling her it’s OK to let him go.

And then, her ragged breathing was the only sound in the room. The muffled whir of the oxygen bubbling faded away and we realized he wasn’t straining for air anymore. He was quiet and at peace, with his love stretched over his body.

There would be no more searching gestures, no more hand squeezes and no more three word questions for his wife.

“He left me”, she turned on me with a broken angry voice.
“He waited until you said you were ok”, I replied in my most confident tone. “It was his choice. Don’t take that from him. He chose when. He chose and he waited for you to be 'ok'.”

Silence came over the room. I felt the gaze of all the family settle on me, though I did not break from looking at her. 

I watched her face crumble as understanding dawned...


Love is a choice. You get to choose to keep it, or let it go, and it is a choice you make for you. No one can choose for another.

Love is a choice.

And after it was over and the tears, the accusations, and the anger began to fade from the room, the great love this couple shared began to fill it. It filled it so full that I could see there wasn’t room for anyone else to squeeze in, and at the same time, I wanted to press myself inside the walls and soak in it a little. Forgiveness was offered, hugs were exchanged, and compliments were made.

“You were a godsend, I’m so glad you were our Nurse. You showed us such compassion, even when we were angry.”

And to that I said, and meant, “I think you all were put here in my path to show me something, too.”

Today I am less raw. I drank. I slept. I cried. 

I look at this couple, this family, and I wonder if they could ever possibly know how their love and pain brought understanding to this nurse on Valentine’s Day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Caution: Runner NOT Running

As the support crew for a runner, you know the inherent hazards of the sport. The chafing, the dehydration, and the ~ahem~ bathroom issues that many runners experience on occasion are all things that the support crew experiences second hand. Never is a situation more perilous, however, than when one is the support crew for the injured runner. Here are some important rules adopted from Chez Moi with the intention of promoting safety.

Be as Prepared as a Scout preparing for an Academy Award.  The first thing to realize when talking with the injured runner is that they are dying to tell you about their badassery. They cannot wait to explain how they injured their (xyz) running (xyz) distance on (xyz) date. Furthermore, be prepared to provide an appropriate response or wince when they go into great detail about how they ran 4 miles on a broken foot, or had fluid drained via a 6' needle, or my personal favorite - share how the bones crunched against each other for a few days. We've discussed this before, runners are weird. And gross. And weird.

The Importance of Math.  The injured runner is a delicate creature, vulnerable and prone to wild mood swings rivaling that of a 15 year old girl. The injured runner frequently believes at any given time that he or she is speaking in a sane rational voice about his or her return to running, when in fact, they are talking like a drunk frat boy on a Saturday night. Like a marathoner at the end of a race, the non-running runner cannot perform simple math. Gibberish about Couch to 5K plans and how well Physical Therapy is going can quickly dissolve into Fall Marathon plans. Oh the non-running runner is laughable with their plans to add miles in increments of 10% when the current base mileage rests solidly on a big fat ZERO.  Last I checked, 10% of 0 is 0.

the family holiday photo of 2015

The Approach.  When approaching an injured runner, it’s important to move in slow non-threatening steps, preferably while wearing sensible flats. Running shoes are a no go, as are heels or dress shoes. The injured runner needs no reminding that they are injured, and assuredly, they know exactly what kind of Brooks you have laced onto your feet. If they, like me, have a broken foot and are relegated to a boot, the dress shoes are just a further reminder of how “non-cute” their Christmas wardrobe has been thus far this year.

On Staying Grounded.  The Non-Running Runner who has been sentenced to a month or more of “Spinning Easy on a Spin Bike” is particularly prone to illusions of grandeur regarding their bike fitness. Suddenly they are planning Century rides and contemplating two-day charity events. This is typically experienced by the budding cyclist before their workout du jour, as at the conclusion of a 30 minute spin, they are usually more grounded in reality. In this case, “reality” is comparable to a deep dark hole in the ground where running doesn’t live.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell. One of the trickiest questions posed by the non-running runner is in regards to someone else's running plans. If asked what your race plans are for 2016, it's imperative to change the subject quickly and subtly. Equally dangerous is asking the injured runner when their MD says they can run again. Remember, dates are numbers, numbers are like math, and the non runner has limited math ability at this time.

Finally, Beware the Cookie. Never ever take the last cookie from a non-running runner, unless you have a death wish or are pregnant.

~ savor the boot ~

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Winter Break

Whoops, I suck at the blog.

Ok suck is a strong word.

I am lapsed writer. Quick recap...

Ran 19 miles of the marathon, quit, got an X-ray, went back to work, contemplated amputating my foot during my shift... And got a second opinion on Thursday of that week.

She started with an ultrasound.
That hurt like a ... Lot.
And then she turned her screen toward me and said something neither of us was really expecting.

"See how this bone isn't connected?"

So, that happened.
And a boot.
How super fun is that? Especially  at Christmas!

It'll be healed soon (she says in a super optimistic voice).

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Richmond marathon recap 2015

An update on the race is called for I suppose.

It was a perfect day. I was Calm and relaxed. Met Karasmatic at the Y to catch a ride down to the race at an ungodly hour. We had breakfast with all the coaches. I saw ShanZ, hugged Coach Black, and said "Hi" to some of my favorite people.

Hit the capital for a snapshot, the porta-potty lines, took a few pics, checked bags... Hit line again... And I stepped into the corral. I crossed the start line with the back of the 2nd wave.

Running a lot of miles alone this season made me think I would want people to run with on race day, but that wasn't it. I like running alone, apparently. I started and ran 1-5 a few meters behind Coach BikingV. Her pace group felt fast to me. So I ran between a 900 - 908 avg for the first 5 miles.

Walked and drank at every water stop. Salt at 2. Gu at 4.

My fastest mile was 7 - oops I ran an 841. It's a lot of down hill. I corrected and relaxed.

My strategy was "Run the mile you're in". So I didn't worry about anything except the moment. I tried to stay focused. Each mile marker was a reminder to relax and run that mile. I took a cup of something at every stop, alternating Powerade & water. I had a handheld too, with straight water. I drank early and often.

9:11 - 8
8:57 - 9 - gu + h2o
9:05 - 10
9:12 - 11
9:06 - 12
9:13 - 13 - salt, gu, h2o
9:12 - 14
9:23 - 15
 I walked a few steps at the end of this mile to adjust a GU that was rubbing through my pocket.  I wasn't worried about it. The PR was in play and I had a shot at the ├╝ber goal. I was conservative. I figured if I failed because I followed my plan, at least I knew I had not gone out too hard.

I started running again, hit the bridge running about a 9even, and I looked up to admire the beautiful city. I saw the bridge seam/grate in front of me, looked down as I stepped and shrieked in pain as my foot made contact with the "teeth".  I hopped and stumbled to a walk. Runners near me turned to ask if I was ok as they ran by, but I waved them on. In the first few minutes I thought- it's going to feel better in a minute. Keep walking. You will have to run a fast finish. It's ok.
And I started hopping and jogging through the pain. I can get there.

Coaches stepped in and out of the picture to help distract and encourage me. But nothing could get through the pain. I was nauseous. Every step hurt. I could run on the inside of my foot but that was going to jack the rest of my body...

On Main St I saw two women spectators and asked one if she could text my love to wait for me at mile 20. If he was there I'd have the choice to get off the course or walk. If he wasn't there, I had fewer choices...

I contemplated walking it in, but two things were certain by mile 18:
It hurt to bear any weight.
I needed an X-ray.

I saw DeNiece and BigDog at mile 19.15 and collapsed into his arms. They bundled me in their clothes and carried me to a side parking lot...

The day was long and short at the same time. I'm so proud of the runners who competed yesterday. It was a beautiful day.

My X-ray revealed its not broken- yay!
It's a bad sprain- boo.
Crutches and no weight bearing for a few days. Rest and ice. NSAIDs. No running until it's 100%.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Marathon Takes Dedication '15

Tomorrow is Nov 14. 
holy f*ck.  Tomorrow is Nov 14?

It is the day I have been waiting for FOR SIX MONTHS. I can't believe it took so long to get here, and yet, I cant believe it's tomorrow already.

Runners are athletes, and athletes are slave to rituals. So today I'll drink Lime NUUN and cranberry all day, I'll have tomato soup for lunch (generic brand, loaded with sodium) and I'll take a nap... Ok, so I already did that.
And tonight I'll eat dinner from the restaurant I always eat at the night before the race. I'll order the same boring meal and I'll pick at it until I feel full enough. I'll lay out my clothes and go to bed.

I am a slave.

That said, I've never run a marathon without a dedication before, and I'm not going to start now.

I used to rattle off my dedication mile by mile, but that limits me to "about" 26.2 people, so I'm not doing that this time.

I dedicate this marathon to My Wives

T - because you're always here with wisdom, soothing words, and the gentle reminder of BadAssery. #AndAllthethingsUnsaid.
DeNiece - thanks for pushing me on these mid week runs for month after month. I would be a different runner without you beside me. #DamnYouMiriam
Ann - who's never run even a step with me.
SpeeDee - whether we run together or not, no matter where our feet take us, I love knowing you are out there on the same roads I run.
Giulia - just cos I love you babe.

I dedicate this marathon to The Support Crew

Gentlemen British- I don't even have words. If I could pick one I would choose "wholehearted", and hope that conveys all the gratitude I feel.
3R, TheProfessor, and the other GOTR -you guys are with me when I run, whether you know it or not. After all, my mantra to keep running when sh*t gets real is "Tom's tire. Beer."
Shanz - it's the little things in life. I sure am glad our paths crossed.
The rest of The Support Crew who encourage me, read my blog, send messages, inspire me, share your success and your failure, whether near or far, in "Chicago", WA, DC, MD, CA, FL, or three streets away - I love you - Thank You.

I dedicate this marathon to My Coaches.... Ah my lovely wonderful beautiful sexy coaches... I could never do any of this without you.

Karasmatic - the most beautiful coach ever, Thank you for hanging with me for nearly every Sportbackers MTT mile.... You made those miles fly! Thank you for pushing me, making me laugh, and inspiring me to believe in myself. I've never had as much fun at MTT as I did this year. #waiting #TPfromHeaven #Chafing. 
You are a rockstar.
Burch - mmm... Maybe just a simple "Thanks" for reminding me of why I do this the way I do. #TX
Coach Black - you're kinda like the Jedi Master... Or the Sith Lord, you choose. I hear your voice in my head when the miles get tough. And it sucks, but I run anyway. #YouPeople
Q - always on the side lines, and always appreciated. And no matter how much time passes- I love that we still finish each others sentences.
Harry Potter - Gah. Where to start? Maybe we have to go back to last December when you smacked me in the forehead for shelving my own dreams for someone else. Yes. That. Thank You. The handprint lasted all season, and I love you for it.

I dedicate this marathon to My Kids.. 
The three of you together are an unstoppable team with three different strengths combined. You always remind me that our combined efforts are better than our individual endeavors. 
B'nut- thanks for imagining I'm "The Best".
Gfly- thanks for reminding me that "there is no charge for awesomeness".
Charlie Foxtrot- thanks for tucking me in at night when I'm tired and cranky. 

And finally, I dedicate this marathon to The Big Dog... to you I am beyond grateful. I appreciate you, and all that you do for me. I love you. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

40 days till RVA

With 40 days till the marathon we are in the big miles and the marathon is starting to permeate my thoughts both day and night.

Now start the marathon dreams - last nights dream didn't allow for me to get to the start on time, although my typical dream is "I'll never get to the finish".  Perhaps this is progress?

Perhaps not.

I'm still neurotic.

~happy running~

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lost and Found 16+ miles

So, that happened.

At less than 100 days till the Richmond Marathon I thought maybe an update would be warranted.  The last time I posted I casually announced that I (foolishly) signed up for a marathon.

Since then I’ve run, slacked off, run, gotten sick, gone on vacation, run some more.  And now I’m back.
Well, back running that is.... as a writer I’m sadly lacking much writing time these days. I have plenty to write, but I’m not making the time.

You know what I thought on my run today?

Training to run a marathon is just like riding a bike ~ it’ll all just come back to you.

Oh, except that riding a bike is fun and training to run a marathon is a lot like running 800 miles in a season that is unbearably warm in most states, and definitely dangerously hot in Virginia.
And let’s be brutally honest: that doesn’t sound fun at all.

Seriously though, I had the following internal monologue today on my run... actually my running companion du jour would likely point out that it wasn’t an internal monologue so much as a loud vocal diatribe against The Run, but let’s not bicker about the details.

“I hate running.”
“Running sucks.”
“Why am I out here?”

We were totally NOT lost. I knew exactly where we were.
I just wasn't 100% sure how to get to where we were going.
At least once a mile I hated running. For a minute. But I had to push through the suck and you know what?
At least ONCE a mile I loved running.

I knocked back 12 miles with a moving average of about 930, which was my plan, and then we really kicked it for the last 4 and ran just around a 9. Mile 16 was an 8:40...

Now, the actual average was slower than all that, because our coaches are all really uptight and don’t want us running through intersections and dodging cars but whatever. So yeah, we stopped to drink and we stopped for cars, and at one point we stopped because I knew that we were off course and I needed to get us turned back in the right direction. Turning L to turn R only works in Disney movies.

But today didn’t suck, even when it did because Runurse & I completely kicked ass for 16 16.5 miles. And maybe that’s because I was kinda cavalier about it. I didn't plan. I didn't worry. I didn’t over think it. 

I just did it like a NIKE commercial.

~ savor the run ~