Blog Jump Start: Week 6

This week's Blog Jump Start hosted by Donna at What if God Says No is rerun of Week 3 asking us to clean up an item from our draft folder.

Before I get to this post - there are some new posts on the private blog and after I finish this one, I'm heading over there to add another one. (And if for some reason you asked for one, but didn't get an invite, please let me know. Or if you'd like one.)

I've been slowly making progress on getting my draft folder to actually be a draft folder and moving not-for-publishing journal entries into a folder in my Google Drive.

The post that follows is a topic I've tried to write on a few times since Sugarbeet was 6 weeks old and I laced up my running shoes for the first time after giving birth. It doesn't work to just tweak it and publish the most recent draft because so much time has passed since I last worked on it. But the topic of running after having a baby, and really just my running journey in general is one I've been coming back to off and on without quite getting it right for more than 2 years now. I'm going to, once again, write in more of a stream of consciousness and not work for polished at this point. In hopes of finally getting this out.

Let's recap my running journey a bit.

January 2010 - realize that if I'm going to buy new jeans, it would be in a size I refuse to be. Face the fact that I either need to eat less or move more. I like to eat, so move more it is. I decide I'm going to run - something I've never really done and when I've tried I haven't enjoyed. At the same time, my BFF Sara, who was a runner in high school and college, decides she wants to lace up her shoes again too and has discovered the Couch to 5K app. So, we start it. The first time out I feel like I'm gonna die running for 60 seconds.

May 2010 - run my first ever 5K! Get a taste of the finish line.

September 2010 - start TTC - this is related to running because if you've been around here for 5 minutes you know that running has been a necessity for my mental and spiritual health. For most of 4 years, it was running that kept me from hating my body. It wouldn't make a baby, but it would run distances I never dreamed of and often my mantra as my feet would hit the pavement was 'strong and powerful' when I felt weak and helpless.

Fall 2010 - October 2013 - fall in love with running. Break all of my own "I'll never do thats" with the purchase of a fuel belt, running in the rain, running in 8 degree weather, running in the snow, running more than 6 miles, buy a Garmin watch, run a marathon and probably a few more I'm forgetting. I learn to find peace in the miles and my heart craves it as much as my legs do. Both my Dad and Sara are diagnosed with cancer. I miss my running buddy and my dad cheering me on.

October 2013 - run the Marine Corps Marathon. Two weeks before Sara runs her first marathon. My Dad comes and cheers me on for 5.5 hours as I run all over DC. Experience major marathon hangover afterwards, only made worse by knowing I face another surgery and its mandatory 6 - 8 weeks off afterwards in the Spring.

April - December 2014 - run on again and off again. Find solace in the miles as TTC comes to end and so does my marriage. Find out I'm pregnant in December.

January 2014 - October 2015 - no running :(. I knew enough to know that it is not advised to start an exercise program while pregnant, and so I walk a lot and look forward to running again.

And that's where I want to pick up and share what running has looked like for these past 2 years or so.

The 'magic' number for being cleared to return to physical activity is typically 6 weeks postpartum, and asking if I could start running again was definitely on my list of questions for my 6 week appointment. I got the go ahead and headed out that afternoon. While it felt good, it was different. My body felt different. I was nursing, so I had to be very careful to take care of my breasts wearing by wearing 2 bras and I could tell my joints still weren't quite tightened back up after the high levels of progesterone that pregnancy brings.

And so, for a few months I started and stopped. My heart and legs longed to go, but my body was screaming at me that it wasn't ready. I read an article saying that it can take up to a year post partum to really start feeling like yourself again as far as exercise goes. While I was seeing plenty of other new moms out there, my body was telling me clearly it wasn't ready.

May 2016 when Sugarbeet was about 9 months old, I bit the bullet and bought a jogging stroller. With R back to work it was hard to get the alone runs in, and so Sugarbeet became my sidekick and off we went. I started out too fast, registered for a half marathon just 7 weeks away and ended up injuring myself. While it felt good for most of me, my left knee just wasn't ready for that much that fast.

At the end of the summer, after Sugarbeet's first birthday, I started from scratch. Revisiting the Couch to 5K. I remember the day I set out to run 20 minutes without stopping. It was like the first time I had done it. So much anticipation and worry that I wasn't ready. But, just like that first time, I made it. I was finally feeling better about running and signed up for the Pittsburgh half marathon in May 2017.

In the meantime, Sugarbeet self-weaned at 16 months (December 2016) and a month later, I remember it so clearly, I looked at myself in the mirror and I saw *my* body again. It had more weight on it than I like, but it looked more like me. It's hard to explain exactly. My body shows the evidence of pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing, but I was no longer actively doing any of those and my body visibly showed that. My feel during runs changed, as well. It's hard to explain.

My training was a bit hit or miss and by the time the half marathon rolled around my goal was a slow 12:00 min/mile pace and to finish without injury. Thanks to a friend with a similar goal, I had a running buddy for the first 10 miles and enjoyed every step of the race. I wish I could say I stayed consistent through the summer. I was working hard to not let my running interfere with our daily life nor ask R to pick up any additional responsibilities so I could run. I knew he would, I just felt like I was being selfish if I did so.

After having to drop from the half marathon to the 8K here in Morgantown in the fall AND inching closer to that pants size after Christmas, I realized I was right back where I started - move more or eat less. I still like to eat, so moving more it had to be.

R and I chatted and he, as I knew he would, was completely supportive of doing whatever I needed him to do in order to commit to and keep a regular training schedule. So, on January 2 faced with a weather forecast that made me want to cry, I joined Planet Fitness and embraced the dreadmill. I think I've logged more dreadmill miles than street miles so far this year. Snow and ice will do that to you.

Despite all of my on again off again, I am continually amazed at muscle memory. At how my legs seem to say "we got this" when I start again. I have an ambitious but achievable race schedule for this year, culminating in another full marathon in September. This time on my streets, in my town. Part of the route is even visible from where my Dad is buried, so for that stretch, it will be like he is cheering me on once again. I'm starting slow and I can already see the fruits of doing so - though I will not be sad at all when 2 mile runs are no longer a weekly thing. Especially in the cold weather - there is barely enough time to get warmed up and then I'm done. Ugh. But necessary at this point.

Almost five years ago, Sara gifted me the necklace above with all of the multiple meanings you can imagine tied into those two words. You'll notice it is well worn. I haven't always honored it perfectly, but I have also never taken it off. It has served as a reminder to keep putting one foot in front of the other and I am so glad that I have.

Running was the sport I never wanted to do. I always thought it was boring. I had no mental ability to overcome the challenges. Sometime over the past 8 years that changed and I fell in love with it. I find my footing with each step. I pray, I cry, I process, I listen to loud {mostly inappropriate} music, and I zone out. I've learned to love the miles with my sidekick and I love that she loves to put on her 'running clothes' and 'running shoes' to get strapped into her stroller. Toddler trots may just be the cutest thing going.

Postpartum running really had me questioning if I'd ever find this peace again; if I would ever really feel like I was answering the call of the miles. I am so grateful that I have.


Blog Jump Start: Week 5

This week's Blog Jump Start hosted by Donna at What if God Says No asks: If you had to evacuate quickly and everyone was safe, what things would you grab?

Donna didn't give us any parameters regarding how much space we have to take things and/or how much time we would have. In my head, I was thinking what can fit in the car and be grabbed within 15  minutes or so. I also decided to limit myself to 10 items/groups of items. In no particular order (and assuming my phone and purse are considered part of me being safe):

  1. Sugarbeet's lovey and favorite blanket.
  2. The external hard drive with all of my photos and important files backed up on to it.
  3. The bin of items from my and R's childhoods and Sugarbeet's bin.
  4. The icon of Mary that hangs above me when I sleep.
  5. A few items of seasonally appropriate clothing and footwear for each of us, all to fit in one carry on size suitcase.
  6. My dad's high school class ring.
  7. Sugarbeet's baptismal gown.
  8. A bag of bath toiletries.
  9. Snacks and water.
  10. The icon of St. Michael that hangs in Sugarbeet's room above her crib.
Prior to my divorce, I think I would have had a much harder time with this. Everything would have seemed important, with a memory attached to it. While I had more time than 15 minutes (a few hours), I didn't have a ton of space and I had to make decisions quickly as to what things I wanted. Only once or twice have I looked back and wished I'd taken something I left, and honestly, it has always been more  a matter of convenience than something sentimental.

[Unrelated: There is a new post on the private blog.]


Blog Jump Start: Week 4

This week's Blog Jump Start, hosted by Donna at What if God Says No, asks: "Guess who's coming to dinner? Living or dead, who would you invite?"

My very initial reaction to this prompt was "ugh. I hate this writing prompt/ice breaker/whatever question." (Sorry, Donna! Keep reading though, I thank you at the end!) The pressure to answer with the right person, on the spot usually, it just stresses me out. I'm always left thinking "aw man, that was a great answer, why didn't I think of that person?" So, I honestly didn't think I'd join in for this week's link up.

However, while I was running on the dreadmill (dreaded treadmill) I found myself thinking about it. My initial gut response was 'my Dad.' I mean, of course I'd love to have him over for dinner - let him have a chat with Sugarbeet and revel over her as she uses real silverware and eats pretty much whatever is put in front of her; hear him tell "lighten' up Becca" after correcting her; and just watch him, watch her.

I started to wonder, hmmm, does this prompt include the proviso that all of the awkwardness would be gone? Or that all past hurts would be forgiven? Because honestly, as much as I'd love to sit down to dinner with my Dad one more time, I can't say it would be a perfectly stress-free affair. Would it be worth it? Absolutely.

That led me to think beyond my initial response (and outside of family members who have died). What other person would I want to have dinner with? Jesus? Of course. Mary? Yes, please! Saints? Yes! Famous people? Maybe. Depends on the person.

My thoughts morphed from who would I want to come to dinner to just the ritual of dinner itself. Growing up, I honestly have zero memories of my immediate family (mom, dad, brother, and me) sitting down at the dinner table together. I am sure it happened, but I do not remember it. I'm sure some of that is due to that my parents divorced when I was eight. I do have memories of dinners growing up, but dinner time was never really a central focus in our lives. As my brother and I grew older and involved in more activities, family dinners became nearly nonexistent. In my prior marriage, we tried to have dinner together often but in the course of the marriage more often than not we did not sit down at the table together for meals. It wasn't until January, 2015 that a set dinner time became a regular routine in my life.

First, it was just R and me, then along came Sugarbeet, and for the past three years, dinner time has become central to our family. I look forward to this time every day - the preparation and the sitting down to eat together. While I cook, R and Sugarbeet will play and I listen to music or a podcast or I watch something on my iPad. Then we sit down together, pray, and eat dinner. We catch up on our days and talk about what is coming up. They are my most cherished moments of each day.

When I worked in marriage ministry, specifically marriage prep, I would share statistics about the small percentage of families who eat meals together. I would talk about how this contributes to the breakdown of the family because it is so often at the family table where we get to know one another. It is how so many relationships begin - over a shared meal - and yet when life gets busy it is often one of the first things to go. There was a time where families ate 2 - 3 meals per day (14 - 21 meals per week) together; today many families are lucky to share 2 or 3 meals per week together. Our lives face outward instead of inward in so many ways. Many good. Some not.

All of this led me to my answer for this prompt. Who would I invite to dinner? R and Sugarbeet.

Yes, a guest is nice and there are so many people who I'd love to chat with over dinner, but there is a hole in my memories where family dinners are not. It is a gaping hole where the work of family life was never really done; a hole that I intend to fill up full to overflowing for Sugarbeet. It is where each day our family reconnects, shares our joys and our struggles; our success and our failings. While we are far from perfect, this is one area that we have done things well and this prompt reminded me of that. Ironically, it wasn't something we set out to do well. It was just the rhythm of life we settled into. So, while I wasn't thrilled with this prompt, I am grateful to and I thank Donna for asking the question. It certainly gave me a lot to consider.


Blog Jump Start: Week 3

This week's topic for the Blog Jump Start, hosted by Donna at What if God Says No, is: Draft Folder Clean Up. We all have those unfinished post that hide out in our draft folder, on scrap pieces of paper, or in Word documents. Finish one up, now.

I have 107 posts categorized as "drafts" in my blogger dashboard. Not all of them really qualify as drafts of the pre-published, just need a few edits or finished type. Many of them are more private posts that are more like personal journal entries that were never intended to be public. I hadn't given much thought to what to do with them other than just leave them where they are  until going through the draft category. I realized that I think I need to copy/paste them into another format so that I still have them, but that they aren't sitting in a draft category. I'll have to do that and report back with how many actual drafts I had sitting there. It would actually be helpful to do this before week 6 of the jump start rolls around, it was a bit challenging to weed through it all.

For today I want to revisit a draft I have intended to finish but just haven't taken the time to do. As it sits before this writing it is titled "Welcome in My Home"and the text includes only: my uncle's words - God the father - always welcome in his home

I know, you are jealous of my way with words.


So, what was I meaning? About what was I writing the simplest outline? I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was shortly after Christmas 2015 when R, Sugarbeet and I had spent Christmas Day at my uncle's home. An usual place for me to be spending Christmas Day - at my dad's brother's house. Since my freshman year of college (the second Christmas after my dad's mother died) Christmas day had not been spent with my extended family on my dad's side (as it had all the years prior) and was instead celebrated at my dad's house with him, my stepmom, my little brother, and my stepmom's parents - technically my step-grandparents I suppose, but I only have ever referred to them as Mr. And Mrs. {last name} so calling them 'grandparents' of any sort seems odd. I digress. Anyway, Christmas 2015 - not at my dad's but at my uncle's.

Why? Well, because at that point, my stepmom had decided I was not welcome in their home and my dad had agreed to that. I could write a whole other post about this - and perhaps I will, but for now, that's the very short version. I was not welcome in their home.

My heart was essentially broken. My dad missing Sugarbeet's first Christmas (and what would turn out to be the only Christmas for which he would be alive) was a heavy cross to bear, and the reasons for it an even more bitter pill to swallow.

And so, as we arrived at my uncle's home and greeted one another and he asked if we would be seeing my dad (he had been invited, as well, as he was every year) the tears threatened to spill out of my eyes. I, somehow without crying or letting on how hurt and angry I was, pulled together that we wouldn't be seeing them and that we were not invited to their home at all.

My uncle then hugged me close and whispered in my ear "you are always welcome in my home."

The tears escaped a bit then and I told him he would probably never know how much those words meant to me.

As I considered the day later, I realized just how much I had been clinging to that sentiment from God. That no matter what, I was always welcome in His home. Specifically, welcome in His Church.

That was something with which I struggled mightily - the feeling of not feeling welcome in my own faith family. As I watched person after person remove themselves from my life and took note of my blog being taken off of blog roll after blog roll, it became very hard to distinguish the Church herself from the people within the Church. Added to that a very real fear of meeting new people at church and not even knowing where to begin in answering general 'getting to know you' types of questions.

Through my uncle's words I was reminded that no matter the voices of other humans, I was and am always welcome in His home. Just like my home where there are house rules (for example, a current rule is: we don't throw wise men, we throw balls), and I expect those who enter to follow those rules or there are consequences (for example, if you insist on throwing wise men, I will remove the wise men from your reach and offer you a ball to throw or an opportunity to do something else), so too are there rules and consequences in God's house. For a time, a {freely accepted} consequence was that I abstained from receiving Eucharist when attending Mass. I was still welcomed with open arms at Mass (and still had an obligation to attend), but because of my choices I was asked to abstain from Eucharist. As time moved on, my heart was pierced and softened, I accepted a different consequence of abstaining from physical intimacy and I was invited to return to the sacraments of penance and Eucharist. In either case, which ever actions and consequences I chose to do and accept I was and am always welcome in God's home here on earth - the church.

It was knowing this and being reminded of it through my uncle's words, and in other ways, that kept me steadfast in my prayer life and Mass attendance. A good dose of stubbornness helped, too. It was through that continued prayer life and participation in the Mass that ultimately led me to the sanctuary of the confessional and the Eucharistic table.

That Christmas Day, my uncle spoke God's words to my wounded heart. He provided a day of family and memories that my own father would not and he also provided an example of the unfailing love of God. He didn't say he approved of my choices. He didn't roll out the red carpet and celebrate my sins. He provided unconditional love and a place to allow the wounds caused by my sins to continue to heal.