If I already blogged about this, forgive me. I’m just pretty sure I didn’t, so you’re getting this report a month late.
So! In May Mindy’s Minions gathered again to walk 3.1 miles around the capitol city in support of everyone living with multiple sclerosis. This is such a fun and lighthearted event, but it also does so much good, seriously.
The National MS Society puts on this event, and I am always eager to support them because they have been such a huge support to me from the beginning. Even before I was diagnosed with MS in October 2009 they helped me. During that summer, I had this strange and painful itching in my right arm. I was googling on the interwebs to find out what could be causing it, and I stumbled on their website. What I found was a detailed description of my symptoms, one far more detailed than I could have written. In short, they nailed it. I remember the moment so clearly. I was on my lunch break, sitting in my cubicle, and I had to hide the tears that were rolling down my face. I knew at that moment what I had, and I was terrified.
I was later diagnosed, of course, and the Society helped direct me to support groups for people like me. The first group I walked into was probably 80% older folks who were confined to wheelchairs. So, again, I was terrified. I thought I was staring into my future. It wasn’t until I found a support group for people my age that I started to have some real hope. Our group is a little more dispersed now and doesn’t meet in person anymore, but we still offer each other regular support through a private Facebook group. We share our struggles and our victories, we talk about our changes in diet, exercise, and medications. We are there for each other when we feel like no one else can understand. It’s been a true gift to have these people in my life, and I wouldn’t have them if it weren’t for the National MS Society.
So I raise money to give back. I walk, WE walk, to show our support. It’s an exercise in solidarity. I am surrounded by amazing family and friends all year long, but this day is special to me. It’s a day for my family and some of my dearest friends to come together and show their official support of me and my battle with this awful disease. I could not fight this alone and I am truly grateful to have these people in my corner.
I’m doing some decluttering in my bedroom and I came across some gifts my kids made for me last year for Mother’s Day. You just can’t make this stuff up. Priceless.
Luke made a bunch of coupons for me and the one on top says he’ll make dinner for the whole family. “Even your vegan stuff.” Nice.
In this next one Natalie says I’m smart because I correct her grammar. Maybe. Or maybe that just makes me a major jackwad. Nobody likes a know-it-all, Right?
This last one really warms my heart. She says I crochet the softest cuddliest blankets ever! I tend to agree, and I hope all my nieces and nephews agree, because I’m working on making one for each and every one of them. The whole entire bunch! (see what I did there? Redundancy.)
So Friday night was just us girls, as the boys had a baseball tournament (post to follow). It was Staci (pictured above, left), me, and my daughter, Natalie. She will kill me when she finds out I posted the picture below, with her goofy smile and scraggly teeth.
Now when we got to the race Natalie decided to be a major grump because she was going to have to wait for us to finish running, and she had no friends there (so she thought) and she couldn’t even partake in the bounce house because she was too big (so she said). I refused to let her attitude frustrate me, and I told her that she could be grumpy, as long as she stayed nearby so I could find her after the race. (This was a small town race and we knew a lot of the people there so I wasn’t worried with leaving her alone.)
I told her that as soon as the race started they would be setting up a snack table at the finish line for the runners, and that she was welcome to grab a snack while she waited. This perked her up quite a bit. Then, she asked me if she could run with me at the end, and I explained she could watch for me near the finish line, and when she saw me coming up the hill, she could join me in crossing the finish line. Then Staci asked her if she wanted to run the race, because it was probably still early enough to sign her up. And guess what? She said YES, she wanted to run it! I couldn’t believe it! So we rushed over and got her a bib.
My original plan with this race was to shoot for a new PR, but when Natalie decided she was running, I thought for sure she would poop out like she did with the one mile run two years ago. But I was just so thrilled she was running with us that I gave that up. I would walk if she needed to, just so we could stay together.
And then as we were waiting for the countdown, Natalie saw that a friend of hers was running, so they paired up. We counted down, the gun went off, and so did Natalie and her friend! They left us in the dust. I saw her one more time at the turnaround, and then again at the finish. She was smiling the biggest smile, and waving her medal proudly. She was a 5k finisher.
I did beat my original PR, which is exciting, but it paled in comparison to Natalie’s achievement. She turned her attitude around and stepped out of her comfort zone. She didn’t know if she would be able to run the whole way, let alone run it in 34:32! Not bad for a beginner. The best news is that she had such a great time, she says she wants to run another 5k in the future, perhaps with her brother and me! This one proud momma right here.
Today is our official anniversary! I woke up this morning and Mike said to me “you know what today is?” And I kid you not, I said “uuum, Wednesday?” Because I legitimately drew a blank when it came to the day. We celebrated last weekend so in my mind, I had already moved on.
So just a little about our trip. We went to Traverse City because that’s where we honeymooned. Twenty years ago we stayed in what was then my grandpa’s future retirement home on Old Mission Peninsula. He and my grandma built the house intending to retire there some day, but my grandma passed away from breast cancer before they could realize their dream. Grandpa since sold the property, and the new owners tore down the house and built something bigger and more extravagant. (They kept the garage though!) We were able to snap a selfie with the house in the background, but we didn’t dare step too far onto the property for fear they would see us and think we were a couple of creepers. (I don’t know what a creeper is, I’m just making that a term.)
I mentioned that my grandma passed away from breast cancer. She was someone very special to all of us, and I miss her dearly. We had a special connection, but I feel like she had a bit of a special connection with all of us in the family. She had a magical way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the room. She truly loved her family, and gave her heart and soul to each of us, every second she had the opportunity. I was in high school when she passed away and I always wished she could have met Mike. I feel like they would have gotten along well. He would have loved her spunk. Anyway, so I was able to visit her grave stone, and kind of say a little hello and let her know I still miss her. It’s kind of sad but kind of sweet that she and grandpa will be together again – “retired” – on the peninsula. Sort of like they planned, but not really.
The entire weekend was very relaxing. We are a no frills kind of couple. Not much for romance. We just enjoy each other’s company and I suppose that’s how we’ve lasted this long. It was extremely refreshing to be able to have an entire weekend together, just the two of us. We ate good food, we saw beautiful sights, we took seriously solid naps, and we caught a beautiful sunrise over the West Bay. It was better than I could have hoped for, and I hope we don’t wait another 20 years to take another trip together.
Mike, I love you. You make me laugh, you make me cry, you make me stronger. These last 20 years have been quite a ride, but I wouldn’t have wanted to spend them with anyone else. You are my perfect partner in life, and I look forward to the next 20 years.
I’ll be honest, I’m not even sure where to start with this post. I had a lot of thoughts running through my head throughout the race and these couple days following.
I’ll start by setting the stage for this 10k race. It was cold and rainy, and by the end, snowy. Michigan weather at its finest. We had been watching the forecast so we knew what we were getting into, and none of us were swayed. We were committed to completing this race, no matter the weather.
I should back up. By “we” I mean myself, a friend from church, and two other friends of hers. So you could say this was kind of out of my comfort zone. I had asked Chris, my church friend, if I could tag along because it was an all female race, and it looked like a lot of fun. It was out of town and they already had plans to stay at a hotel the previous night and they welcomed me with open arms. The comradery among runners is incredible. I’m fairly new to running compared to a lot of others, but throughout this whole experience I was never tempted to feel like an outsider.
The race itself started out pretty smoothly. I was feeling strong and confident for the first few miles. However, about halfway through I was noticing my left foot dragging quite a bit. This “foot drop” is one of the symptoms of my MS. Running doesn’t cause new symptoms, but it can aggravate old nerve damage. I have been training for my half marathon this coming fall, and have done plenty of long runs with almost no foot drop, so the fact that it was happening so soon was disheartening. Maybe I was just being more affected because of the excitement and nerves for the race, I don’t know.
My friend Chris had agreed to run with me for the entire race, to be sure I was safe. She did a fabulous job pointing out all the potholes and manhole covers, and steering me away from other obstacles. Throughout the race I did not trip even one time! However, I would not have finished this race without her assistance.
I think it was around the end of mile 4 I was having serious trouble keeping my foot from dragging. I was also experiencing some side and shoulder pain, but I was afraid to slow down and walk. My balance is better when I’m running. Something about the motion, I guess. I have another friend with MS who says the same thing about running. Walking requires a different movement and different nerves, I suppose. I told Chris what I was experiencing and she urged me to walk to give my body a rest, and use her arm for balance. At this point I was pretty discouraged and frustrated with what was going on with my body. I had not expected this to happen so soon. When Chris explained to me that my pace at the beginning of the race was much faster than I had been training at, it all made sense. I had been training between a 14 and 15 minute mile, but I had been running closer to 12! So clearly I had made a mistake, and I was paying the consequences.
I tell myself I don’t care about times and personal records, but that’s a big fat lie. I do care. I am always competing with myself, and I feel a great sense of pride when I am able to see my pace improve. The problem is, I want it to happen sooner than is realistic. So now thanks to my prideful denial of my physical abilities, I hobbled the last two miles of the race mostly hanging for dear life on Chris’ arm. I felt ashamed, defeated. My ugly pride had taken a hit. I started off too fast and it hurt me in the end. This felt a lot like failure, because I feel like I should have known better.
But listen – this was NOT failure. I finished the race! And with a PR to boot! So I made it more challenging for myself by starting too fast, and I had to lean on a friend to accomplish my goal of finishing. So what? Can we all agree there’s nothing wrong with that? We all have challenges in our lives, and very often we have to lean on our friends for help. Friendships enrich our lives, make us stronger, make us better. This is good!
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 ESV “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”
There was a point in the race that I was feeling particularly angry. Not angry at myself, but angry at the multiple sclerosis that makes things so difficult. On most days I am able to function like a normal person and can almost forget I have this affliction. But then you run 6.2 miles and you are reminded. And that sucks, Big Time. So yes, I was angry. But then I was reminded that I hated running for most of my life. I didn’t start running until 2015, six years after I was diagnosed with MS. I run because I have MS. To show myself and others that it’s possible. MS doesn’t have to mean life in a wheelchair. This is what I believed when they first diagnosed me, and I know now that’s not the case.
I watched the following day as Worknesh Degefa dominated the Women’s Elite Race in the Boston Marathon. She ran the last 20 miles alone. Way ahead of the pack. Yes, it was cool that she was in the lead, but what was even cooler was that she was doing her thing. It didn’t seem to bother her one bit that she was surrounded by absolutely no one. The mental fortitude that must have taken is something I aspire to. If I can run these races and just zone out Degefa-style, then perhaps I can keep a steady pace and finish strong.
So I learned a few lessons with this race. I learned that you can’t rush the process. You have to pace yourself, and that requires patience and humility. There may be people zooming by you, but pay no attention. As Chris encouraged me I think during mile six – “you do you”. Forget about the other runners. Just keep moving toward the finish line. You’ll get there. Lesson #2: You want to change your pace? Do it in training. Don’t switch that up during a race. Sorry, I don’t know how that applies to life. It might pretty much just be applicable to running 😉 And lesson #3 was that friendships are invaluable gifts and not to be taken lightly.
My dad was able to join us to spectate this race, and it meant a lot to have family there rooting me on. He called me the following day and asked how I was feeling. He specifically asked if I was still planning on running a half marathon and I answered without hesitation – YES. No question. At this point in time I have no idea how I’ll physically manage it, but I’m choosing to trust in the training process. Four years ago I was barely walking, three years ago I ran my first 5k, and just 6 months ago I ran my first 10k. This body just keeps getting stronger. The more I push, little by little, the farther I can go. I don’t know how far MS will let me go with this running stuff, but I’m gonna keep pushing the line until she forces me to stop. And with God’s grace, I have hope that day will never come.
I’m constantly having to remind myself that it’s not my responsibility to ensure my kids are happy. My responsibility is to teach and train. I guide, I offer consequences and discipline, but I am not here to make them feel happy or entertained. So when it breaks my heart to see them upset, I need to put my big girl pants on and remind myself that I AM THE MOTHER.
I need this confidence more than ever as my son is a preteen and is questioning everything. EVERYTHING. Like, “Why do you set limits for us on screen time? And why do I have a bedtime even on the weekends or during spring break? NONE of my friends have these rules at home.”
Today I answered these questions for my son with renewed and miraculous confidence. “Because your brains are still developing and we believe, as your parents, that those limits are good for you. I can’t speak for your friends or even begin to explain why they might not have limits at home, but in our home, this is what we do.” (Also, I’m sure he’s exaggerating or hopefully mistaken, but whatever.)
My husband and I are the people in charge around here. “In charge” is not a role I’m all that great at or comfortable with, but I know I can do it. God allowed us to be parents and He cares about our children way more than we do, so I trust that He will give us the wisdom necessary to train them up right. I have to trust Him, stand firm in this role, and never stop seeking more wisdom. I must, or the monkeys will take over and then I’ll have no one to feed me or change my diapers when I’m 90.
Okay, I’ll be honest, I’ve been fighting a respiratory gunk all this week – spring break week for my kiddos – but I’m managing to not let it keep me down. I’ve been able to really enjoy some memorable times with my family that I think are worth mentioning.
Like the other night, when I chatted through Facebook messenger with my little brother. He was up late, per his usual, and he saw I was up too so he started a conversation. This is my dear brother who is 13 years younger, and yet we have a special sort of bond. He came to be part of our family as a 9 month old baby when I was still in school. I don’t remember how old he was when we adopted him, but it doesn’t matter because he was family long before it was court official.
When I was in high school, he was learning to walk and talk and play and the two of us were best buddies. We lost touch over the years but have recently been able to reconnect and it really is a miracle to me that it feels like no time has passed. We still seem to have that connection. So while it wasn’t anything unusual or extraordinary, chatting online with him, it was a memory I’ll cherish. I’m hoping and praying that there are many more opportunities like that for us down the road.
So that was happy family memory #1. Happy family memory #2 is that my mom came to visit from Oklahoma! She flew all the way out here and split her time between her three children: first my younger sister, then me, then my older brother. She was with us for three days and it was really great to have her here sharing life with us. We went roller skating with the kids. I don’t skate, as a rule because my balance is nonexistent, but she went for one round before she discovered it was a lot harder than she remembered. Skating is hard for us old folks, you know.
We also went on a ridiculously long walk to the Mediterranean restaurant up the road, and enjoyed some delicious chicken shawarma and falafel. (I’m sorry Mom, I honestly thought it was only a mile. I should have known better.) I’m just glad we survived the walk and it was still really nice to have that time to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.
Oh, and lastly was some bowling. We all pretty much suck at bowling except for my mom so of course she kicked our tails. We also did a lot of lounging around in between activities, and that was nice to have her sort of blend into our rhythms. We never know when we’ll be able to visit again so we like to make the most of the time we do get.
We had such a full week it’s hard to believe it’s only Friday and the weekend is just beginning! My big plan for tomorrow is to go for a long run first thing in the morning (so I don’t spend all day making excuses like I did today) and then I don’t know. Kids are still technically on spring break so maybe we’ll find something fun to do. I kicked my son’s tail in Monopoly today, so maybe tomorrow I’ll give him a rematch. Or not. Monopoly is an exhausting game.
Anyhoo, I hope y’all enjoyed your week and have a fabulous weekend! Love on your family today, will you?
I may be deaf and half-blind, but I am and will always be… still Mindy