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.
My friend Stephanie and I went to Ikea today and we had a blast! She is due to have a baby girl in July and she needed a few things for the baby’s room. Of course I found a few things for our home as well. And in between the shopping we had a delicious lunch. Did you know Ikea served food? They have a whole cafeteria up on the second floor. It’s wild, people. The prices are decent, and the food is actually really delicious!
I had only been to Ikea a couple times and I think both times it was with our kids. Those trips were not ideal. The kids got bored and wanted to keep touching everything. It was so frustrating. If I had known they had soft serve ice cream at the check out area we could have used that to bribe them into good behavior! Lesson learned, I guess.
This store has so much of everything you can think of for the home. I did not go with a list or anything, but I knew once we got there I would find there were things I “needed” that I just didn’t realize before. I exercised some serious restraint and was able to leave with a haul of just over $30. Not too bad!
We talked about stopping at Trader Joe’s after Ikea but we were both pretty tuckered out from all the walking. All in all I would call the trip a success. Steph found her curtains for the baby’s room and I have a new salad spinner to play around with. That and we had a lot of great conversation on the long drive there and back. I’m hoping we can make the trip again later on in the year!
It’s been that kind of week. I’ve been confused about the day all week. But, all for good reason. None of it is because I’m drunk, so I’ve got that going for me. Not being drunk is always a plus.
But also, I’ve just had a lot of great things going on! My son’s baseball season is in full swing (excuse my accidental pun), I was able to visit with several really great friends this past week, and the weather is warming up so we leave the doors and windows open and the breeze and the birds chirping is it’s own kind of intoxicating. Let me just note here how truly grateful I am to be able to hear those things, the breeze and the birds. Cochlear implants for the win.
My son had some friends over for a sleepover last night to celebrate his birthday (he’s 12!!) and that was fun and not terribly crazy. He has some really great friends. It’s funny to think back on previous year’s birthday parties and how much anxiety I felt leading up to each one. Overwhelming anxiety. This time? None. Zilch. Nada. And I don’t know if that’s because the kids are older or if I’m in a better state of mental health but I suspect it’s a bit of both. I know it’s a lot of the latter though, because I can’t even remember the last time I had an anxiety attack. And that there is another reason to be grateful.
I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. Tons. It might not seem like it because it doesn’t always make it here on the blog but my mind is constantly in a state of gathering ideas and formulating posts in my head. I just finished a book about writing by Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, and I’m convinced now more than ever that deep down, I am A Writer. It’s what I long to do, nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I wake up and think, “what did I just dream about? I could write about it.” I want to keep writing, whether anyone is reading or not, because maybe one day I will write something that touches someone in a good way and makes their life a little better than the day before. I can only hope.
So. Today is Saturday. Most of the day has been extremely relaxing. A lot of cleaning up from the slumber party and then just your regular putzing around. I took a wicked nap, ended abruptly by the dog barking her head off when hubby came home from an afternoon at the shooting range. I’m pretty sure I jumped a couple feet straight up from the bed.
I did go for a run yesterday with a friend, but my knee started hurting in the 3rd mile, so I know I still have some healing to do from when I messed it up a week or so ago. I’m pretty confident it’s IT Band Syndrome, but I think it might be a good idea to see a sports therapist to check it out and give me some pointers on my running form. Also, I need more strength training if I’m really going to do this half marathon without damaging myself, so I’m looking at getting back to CrossFit. I had sort of slithered out of going a few months ago so I’m in contact with the trainer to see if she’ll forgive me for going dark on her and let me come back.
Tomorrow is Sunday! Back to church, and this week we’re working in the kids’ church so I get to play with the little ones. I miss hearing the sermons but I do love the babies. I can never understand what they are saying but a couple of them know some basic ASL so that helps a lot.
I was going to sign off but then I was looking through my pictures and see that so much happened and I totally forgot to blog about it! Like the Walk MS, and maybe other things. I’ll get to it. Pinky promise. Let’s talk again soon.
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.
So I’ve been making some pretty casual prayers for the last couple months about wanting direction from God, where does He want to use me, that kind of thing. But then this past week I made a much more intentional prayer, telling Him I really had a strong desire to be an encouragement to other people and to share with them how I got through such rough times, with God’s help, and how they can too. So I told Him that’s what I was feeling, and asked that He show me where He wants me, where He can use me for His glory. How can I be an encouragement to others when I’m “stuck” here at home most days?
Then I was at my weekly Bible study on Wednesday morning and the leader of the program approached me and asked if I would consider being a group leader next year. What?! I mean, YES! She said I should go home and pray about it, but I explained to her what I had already been praying for, and that this sounded like it was the answer to my prayer. And God is just so cool like that. She and I talked again today, more in depth about what the responsibility entails, and I have to say I’m even more excited. This is going to open up so many more opportunities to build relationships with other women and I get to share my heart, my Jesus, with them.
So that’s going on, and I’m super geeked. Also, I’m still committed to working this ItWorks business even through some bumpy starts. I was replenishing some of my own products and ordering some advertising bling (blender bottle, new purse) and they sent me the wrong stuff and duplicate items and I was tempted to regret the whole decision to be a distributor. BUT, it gave me a chance to interact with their customer service, which was mostly awesome and extremely helpful. And while I’ll never be the gung-ho marketer trying to get you to buy stuff you don’t need, I think this is gonna work. Because I truly love all the products I’ve tried and I’ll be honest and open with anyone who shows interest. So when people come to me with questions – which they have! – I’m happy to point them in my direction. As in – wait for it, here’s my shameless plug – “You can check out my website at stillmindy.itworks.com! Some of my favorites are the Chocolate Greens and the Keto Energy. And I’m a huge fan of the loyal customer program!” – End of shameless plug, moving on…
The other thing I’m excited about is tomorrow I’m running another 5k race! It’s the Mason 5k, and this was my first ever race back in 2016. My son has run it with me every year, but this year he has a baseball tournament so I’m on my own this time. No worries! My friend Staci, who I believe has also run this race every year with me, is joining me again. So fun to run with friends. My 5k PR is 38:34 and I would like to beat that, but given the knee pain I’ve been having, I’m not sure if that’s realistic. I learned the other day that runners over 40 are called “masters athletes”, and that we need longer recovery times, which I haven’t been exactly doing, so I may have screwed my chances by pushing too hard. I’m just going to try and have fun and do my best.
And that, my friends, is your Thursday recap. Hug someone today!
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.
You guys. I’ve been sick for all of two and a half days and I’m trying sooo hard not to be a baby about it, but geesh. I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, I just want to snuggle up in a cozy blanket and let people wait on me. The first part works alright but the second one, not so much. Because folks, I’m the mom. And mom doesn’t take sick days. Which is only kind of true. My family is really great about helping out and giving me my space. No one’s even complained that the laundry is piling up while I’m downstairs nursing myself back to health. It’ll get done, eventually.
Anyhoo. Since I’ve been out of commission all I can do is sit around thinking about how little I’ve blogged lately. Not cuz my life is boring (though it is a little) but because I just haven’t been in the mood for blogging. It happens every now and then. Whatevs.
What’s going on lately, you ask? Well, the son has been busy wrestling, both for the local club and the middle school. This is exciting stuff folks. Now that he’s on the middle school team he practices every day right after school. He does not seem to be tired out by this, thankfully, and it’s been a huge load off for our resident chauffeur, my hubby. Now he doesn’t have to drop him off, then go back and pick him up. Just one trip per day, and he’s home by dinnertime. Which means we all get to eat as a family again. Every day!
The daughter is not in sports. Has no interest really, at least for now. That could change down the road but I don’t think that’s likely. Her two loves right now are art and animals. Since it’s -38 degrees outside these days, she did not want to go for more horseback riding lessons, so we found her an outlet for her art. A gentleman from our church is willing to give her weekly lessons and teach her whatever she wants to know. Right now she’s on a big Bob Ross nature scene kick, and it’s friggin’ amazing what she is able to create just after watching a few YouTube videos. I know I’m a tad biased because I’m her mother, but there’s no denying that she has some serious talent that will only get better with more training and practice.
It’s kind of weird but I’ve had zero motivation to write that book I had been talking about. I still want to tell my stories, just maybe not in that format. Maybe we’ll just keep them here on the blog for now. I could do some kind of kooky flashback series where I tell short stories about what happened to me five years ago. Or maybe I’ll get the hankering again to write the book. Who knows?
I’m just really happy doing the things I’m doing now that I don’t really feel like going back to that time. It feels too heavy. Right now good things are happening. My kids are growing and changing, and I’m able to be a part of that. I’m slowing down and trying to be more focused on the most important things. Spending time with God, family, friends. It’s been a good change.
And speaking of slow, I set myself a new goal: to run a half marathon in the fall (it’s speaking of slow cuz I’m a slow runner, get it?). I have a race picked out and a friend to run it with me. I have a training plan picked out on my Runkeeper app, and it doesn’t start until March 5th. So I have time to warm up to running regularly again. I’ve not been running since before the holidays so my legs are a little rusty.
I even spoke to my neurologist about how to train safely, and was reassured that this was not too big a goal for someone with MS. If I take it slow and am careful, it’s totally possible. In fact, she said regular exercise is just as crucial to my health as is my disease-modifying therapy. So as far as priorities, I need to bump it way back up to the top. She said that running will not cause me to relapse, but will only help to keep me from relapsing. When I run, certain symptoms flare up, like foot drop and difficulty seeing, but she said that’s because those are nerves that are already damaged. As long as I’m being safe about it, I should be fine. Which is why I always run these races with friends who can be a good set of eyes and ears for me and keep me safe. So that’s on the docket. 13.1 miles. In a row!
And that folks, is all I have for an update right now. I had a funny thought earlier and I was going to post it, but now I can’t remember it. So I apologize for my foggy memory keeping me from leaving you on a humorous note. Oh wait! I can leave you with a pun… this one I choose because we bought new winter gloves for my son today…
“I got a new pair of gloves today, but they’re both ‘lefts’ which, on the one hand, is great, but on the other, it’s just not right.”
I may be deaf and half-blind, but I am and will always be… still Mindy