Friday, January 01, 2010
As mentioned in my previous blog entry, 2009 opened with a tidal wave of uncertainties. I didn't know if or how I was going to lose weight, I didn't know the direction my career (or my husband's) was taking. I was concerned about my son's developmental delays. We were struggling under the burden of family disputes and spiritual "homelessness."
2010 opens with many of these questions resolved, or at least partially resolved. I enter the new year feeling less like a lost sheep and more like a girl on a mission. I'm not one to make New Year's Resolutions. It's just not in my nature. When I want to accomplish something, I tend to make a resolution to do it then and there, whatever day of the year it is. For example, losing weight and kicking off my journey to a healthy lifestyle? That happened on June 9. My decision to accept a job in IT and make that my career path? Sometime in March. My resolution to become a runner? August 13. You get the picture.
Nonetheless, there's no time like January 1 to reflect on a year's worth of accomplishments and challenges, and to consider how they will carry over into the new year. Is there an accomplishment I want to build on? Is there a milestone I'm anticipating? Is there a new goal to achieve or item to add to the "bucket list"? Is there some new, creative way I'd like to handle a challenge I'm facing or attempt to overcome a weakness? What would I like to do this year?
So maybe I am making New Year's Resolutions. Call it what you want :)
Running. One of the most significant things on my radar. I never would have thought, given that twelve months ago, I sort of turned my nose up at running. (Why would I want to screw up my joints like that? It looks so painful and awful. I can't run anyway...) But, here I am, not able to get enough. As I've publicized to most of SparkPeople, my primary goal for 2010 is to run the Madison Mini Marathon, a half marathon, on August 21. To elaborate, I would like to train properly and SAFELY for this race, and as Jeff Galloway would suggest, I hope to finish in the upright position, with a smile on my face, and wanting to do it again. I have chosen a conservative training plan based on his run/walk/run method and do not have a time goal, other than to avoid getting booted off the course at the 3:30 mark. In the months leading up to the race, I will run at least one 10K and a at least a 5K or two. My hope is that I'll meet and get to know some of my Spark running buddies, particularly my Madison teammates!
I have hopes for my running unrelated to racing. My biggest wish is that I will enjoy running on January 1, 2011 just as much if not more than I enjoy it today. While I understand that every runner has days that she just doesn’t want to run, I hope that most of my running days will bring me joy, inner peace, and a sense of accomplishment. When I read my running journal, particularly from those first weeks of Couch to 5K, the sheer happiness I felt after those workouts just bubbled off of the page. If only I could bottle this feeling up and carry it with me for those darker days! I hope to never lose this feeling, as it’s probably my favorite benefit that I receive from running. Additionally, I hope to continue my training safely and without injury. Obviously, there are no guarantees in life, and of course there is nothing to say that I won’t end up with an injury (running-related or not). However, I have been reading up on running and making efforts to do it as safely as possible. In 2009, mainly when I was just starting out, I wasn’t always so great about avoiding running on consecutive days, or I’d run too many times in one week. I had tons of enthusiasm and went on the premise that more is MORE! However, the wisdom of many experienced runner Sparkers and other experts made me realize that I wasn’t doing myself any favors. A couple of months into my efforts, I cut myself to a strict 3 day/week running schedule with no consecutive days. I am monitoring my mileage to make sure it doesn’t increase by more than 10% per week. And much as I loathe strength training, as many of my Spark buddies know (as I can be quite vocal about it!), I am making an effort to include some ST in my weekly workouts, as it can help with that pesky “avoid injury” goal. I don’t suspect that you’ll be spotting me at any yoga classes anytime soon, as that’s really not my speed, but I can live with some Pilates, core exercises, and weight training. And of course, I never thought I’d be a runner, so perhaps this time next year, I’ll be a yoga enthusiast? And finally, I’d really love to try some new cross-training methods, perhaps ones I can do with my family and friends. Lately I’m somewhat intrigued with the idea of taking up swimming again. In high school I was actually pretty good at swimming and almost even joined the swim team (gasp!) but then kind of let it drop after that. Some other options I’d like to explore include hiking and biking, especially once my son starts to get older and more to a point where he can participate. Do I see a triathlon in my future?
Moving onto other things, I also hope to maintain my weight throughout the year, through vacations, parties, family events, holidays, you name it. Last time I lost weight, I struggled when I hit the maintenance phase. I quickly became complacent, which ultimately led to the packing on of the pounds. Previously, I had to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t “supposed” to eat certain favorite foods ever again, and I didn’t take it well...and the rebel in me said NO! I have high hopes for being successful this time. Why? I chose a weight loss/healthy lifestyle program which is much more in tune with what I want and need. I also have much more support this time around. I have my Weight Watchers meetings, which I intend to attend faithfully as a lifetime member. I have my friends. And I have all the wonderful buddies I’ve met on Spark People! Every person who cares about my journey, everyone who cheers me on or encourages me when I have a rough day makes this challenge 1000% easier. All of you, and you know who you are, mean the world to me. With your support, I can do this.
I feel like I made some very healthy transitions in my diet during 2009. I integrated more fruits and vegetables into my daily menu. I used to abhor pretty much all fresh fruits and vegetables, but now I can safely say that I enjoy broccoli, spinach, carrots, corn, asparagus, apples, oranges, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries...and probably a few others. I haven’t always gotten my five a day, and I’d like to become more consistent with it this year. I just feel so much better when I get them in! I’ve slowly started weaning myself off of the processed foods I used to live on, and have made an effort to integrate more whole foods into my diet. When I started Weight Watchers, I relied heavily on 100 Calorie snack packs, pre-packaged bars, and frozen meals. Now, my typical day includes lean meats, whole grains, fruits and veggies, and other treats. I’m not saying I’ll never eat any of that prefab stuff again. I’m not even saying it’s “bad.” But whole foods just satisfy me for, and I think we can all admit that they’re probably a little higher quality and “better for you.” I hope to experiment with new foods I’ve never tried before, and I hope to add to that list of fruits and veggies. I’d like to expand my recipe repertoire to include a larger variety of go-to recipes. I get bored with food very easily, so a larger rotation will do me good.
And I have some personal goals which have nothing to do with weight loss (or maintenance), diet, or fitness. One is to get my son set up with the therapy he needs. The process is in the works, but there are lots of hoops to jump through, and it isn’t as simple as just signing him up! I look forward to seeing him continue to grow and thrive this year. Another goal is to take steps to heal my ailing marriage. It’s been a difficult year, and to call my marriage “rocky” would be putting it nicely. We have been going to marriage counseling and did a marriage retreat last spring, but it’s looking like it’s time to step up our efforts even more. Painful as it is to wade through all the emotional baggage, giving up on it just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. A third goal is to continue to press on with my chosen career path. At work, I’d like to continue to improve my dealings with my clients and take on some more challenging projects. I still feel very much like I’m proving myself, and I hope to show my company that I’m worth the investment. And a fourth goal is to settle into a spiritual home, get involved, and reconnect with my somewhat shaky faith. Without that line to God, I just don’t feel grounded, and I’ve felt out of sorts, spiritually speaking, since we moved to Wisconsin. It’s time to actively do something about that. Finally, a less lofty goal, I hope to get to Disney World at least once this year, perhaps at Christmastime. I don’t like to go too long without my Disney fix.
So there you have it. These are the hopes, dreams, goals, and challenges on my mind as 2010 begins. I pray that New Year’s Day 2011 will find me in a good place, and that I will have grown and evolved in many positive ways. Happy New Year, and I wish you many blessings in 2010.
Friday, January 01, 2010
(Written yesterday morning...)
2009 kicked off with a clear lack of resolution. It’s traditional to start a new year with a set of defined goals, such as losing x pounds, quitting smoking, or picking up an exercise routine. According to this morning’s news feature on The Weather Channel, these three are the most popular resolutions. However, on January 1, 2009, my world was full of unanswered questions, big and small. I was carrying 30 extra pounds, and didn’t have any vision on when I’d lose it or how. I’d been carrying the extra weight since I delivered my son, and gained a bit more when I started my new job, thanks to the rich desserts and decadent entrees served at the office cafeteria, coupled with a complete lack of physical exercise. My son, just shy of two years old, was exhibiting “global” developmental delays, most notably a complete lack of speech, and we didn’t yet have any clue as to what was causing them, other than wondering if it was possibly the “dreaded A word.” Bruce was in the process of applying to an electrician’s apprenticeship program, and we had no clue if he would get accepted and, if so, when. The word on the street was that he could sit on the waiting list for up to two years before beginning work…if he ever did at all. We were feeling spiritually lost. We did attend a church in town semi-regularly, but if we were honest with ourselves, we really went because the parish had a school with a good reputation and not because we felt at home there or connected to its community of believers. Meanwhile, I was struggling as a new employee at my company. I had passed my certification tests in time for the six month deadline, but there were many moments when I felt ill-prepared to handle the responsibility of supporting a large hospital’s inpatient software. I had recently switched supervisors, and I was in the uncomfortable position of not knowing what he thought of my job performance, if anything. Family relations had taken a sharp downturn in mid-2008, and the ripple effects of all the “bad blood” remained to be seen.
It was shaping up to be a rather murky year.
I would not describe 2009 as an easy year. It wasn’t a horrible year, but there were quite a few shake-ups. Some changed our lives for the better. Some represented significant transformation, victory, and personal growth. Others were more challenging, but in their own way, brought feelings of peace and resolution to our family. It was most certainly an eventful year.
The weight. Ohhhh, the weight. I don’t know if there was an “Aha!” moment that set things in motion. It was more like a drawn out sequence of small events, inner murmurings, and signs that drove my journey. Every month, my company holds an all-staff meeting, and the CEO speaks about a variety of topics, mainly about the company’s performance but also about subjects which she may find insightful or helpful to her employees. At one of these meetings, early in the year, she showed us how to calculate our BMI. Now, we can debate whether or not the BMI is really a useful measure of someone’s health, and I tend to think it must be taken with a grain of salt. However, the little “aha” I got out of this talk was that I was too ashamed to even calculate my BMI. Why? I was 99% certain I’d see the number, compare it to the Power Point chart, and find out that I fell into the “FAT” category. There was the small matter that, with my child about to turn two, I had not a prayer of fitting into any pre-pregnancy clothing, not even shirts, which tend to be much more forgiving than jeans. And then, many of my online mom friends started having their second babies and fitting into their pre (first) pregnancy clothes again, and I thought to myself, “Get it together Christina! You’re still not fitting into those clothes, and you haven’t even had a second baby!” I had joined Gold’s Gym in January, when they had a $19/month special, but as June approached, it dawned on me that I had darkened their doorstep a grand total of one time. I turned thirty-one feeling chubby, depressed, and somewhat out-of-control.
I thought back to a time when I had tried to lose weight before, shortly after Bruce and I got married. I didn’t have much to lose, but had gained about 15 extra pounds since the wedding, and wanted to see them gone. My father was using the South Beach Diet, and after researching it, I decided to give it a shot. From November 2005 until the middle of 2006, I diligently followed the program and participated actively in two South Beach Diet online chat boards. Between the dieting and regular Walk Away the Pounds workouts, I shed the weight and Bruce declared that I had a “slammin’” body. I fit into the “million dollar white shirt” that I had “outgrown” during those first months of marriage, and also was able to zip my skinny jeans again. I was feeling good! My weight was stable for quite a bit, but then I made the mistake of becoming complacent. Some of the “bad” foods started sneaking into my diet again, and exercise became somewhat hit-or-miss. I had a lot going on, between finishing up my Ph.D. and making my plans for after. My dissertation defense was scheduled for June 26, 2006. My mother and I made a special trip to the mall to pick out the outfit I had already planned – classic black suit (with a skirt, not pants), pink shirt, and black heels. As I started to put the finishing touches on my dissertation, my nerves started to come into play more and more. One morning, about a week before the big day, I was eating breakfast at Einstein’s Bagels, one of my favorite morning hangouts, and noticed that the cream cheese tasted funny. Was there something wrong with it? I was there again the next morning, same thing. And there was a heavy, queasy feeling in my stomach that just wasn’t going away. Could it be? On June 22, 2006, the day I would have been due with a baby I miscarried in 2005, I had a positive pregnancy test.
My emotions were all over the map…excited about the pregnancy, terrified about the pregnancy, excited about graduating, terrified about graduating, you get the picture. My healthy habits went flying out the window. I ate anything that comforted me, with bonus points for any food that I could actually keep down. My go-to foods were baked potatoes with butter and sour cream, mashed potatoes, fruit juice, and chicken. The taste of anything tomato-based made me want to hurl. I was instructed not to drink diet soda, and even if I could have, the taste of it made me queasy. Instead of swapping the diet soda with water or something, I replaced it with regular soda. It wasn’t any small wonder that, by the time I got to my first prenatal visit, I was up to 140 pounds. And by my second visit, a month or so later, my weight was up another five pounds. I won’t reveal my pregnancy weight gain. I never tell it to anyone. However, I can tell you that when I stepped on the scale at my six week postpartum checkup, it said 160. When Timmy was about six months old, I made a half-hearted attempt at South Beach Diet again, but didn’t get very far. Honestly, the thought of giving up certain foods forever wasn’t sitting right with me. So I lost a bit of weight, and then after I relocated for my job, shortly after Timmy’s first birthday, I started eating pretty much whatever I wanted…and we all know how that can go! It all culminated in a sobfest on the evening of June 9, 2009. Even my fat jeans were feeling tight. I loathed the thought of having to go out and spend perfectly good money on bigger jeans. I’m not sure what prompted it, other than a buildup of shame and anger at myself, but I told myself that evening, “If I am even a pound overweight – which would have been anything above 160 – I am joining Weight Watchers tomorrow.” Why Weight Watchers? Several of my friends had great success with it, it wouldn’t make me permanently give up anything, and I felt that it would be more flexible for my busy lifestyle than something like South Beach. It was worth a shot. I was starting to feel like a lost cause, and I needed help.
I hadn’t weighed myself since that check-up. I had been too ashamed. I didn’t want to know how out of shape I had gotten. So I feared that I was facing a rude awakening. I slipped off my shoes, stepped on the digital scale and closed my eyes. When I opened them, I saw the digital readout. 173. It was time to get it together.
There was a Weight Watchers meeting near my work the next evening, and I resolved to attend. I remember feeling nervous as I sat in the parking lot outside the center. Would I fit in there? Was it silly to join Weight Watchers when I was “only” 13 pounds overweight? Would this work? Would it be worth the money and time? At the same time I was excited about the opportunity to re-learn those healthy habits I had lost, and to get the support and accountability I desperately needed. I took a deep breath, walked in, and almost seven months later, I haven’t looked back.
I’ve heard that Weight Watchers meetings can be very hit or miss. The leader, and the group of people attending with you truly can make or break the experience. I was very fortunate with the meeting I chose. The leader is very dynamic and personable, and always has down-to-earth, practical advice. The attendees do come and go, but there is a core group which I seem to see every time I attend. Once I learned the program and started tracking my food and activity every day, I saw the pounds start to slide off. Three pounds the first week. It wasn’t long before I earned a star for losing 5%. Even the time I had to travel for work, I carefully planned ahead to stay on program and even made use of the hotel gym. Only two weeks into it, I was already starting to feel like a different person. It wasn’t long before I hit 10%, and then I set my goal weight of 140. Fall 2009 was marked by reaching the goal and then, six weeks later, earning my lifetime membership. My journey from 170 to 140 (and ultimately the 130s) was fairly fast and uneventful, but I was proud to reach the end of it. The outfit I wore when I weighed-in on June 10, my first night at Weight Watchers, no longer fits me.
I feel optimistic about my long-term success. The knowledge I have gained from Weight Watchers is practical, flexible, and satisfying. It’s not about giving up food or being too restrictive on myself, and I’ve adapted it to vacation, business travel, holidays, parties, weddings, you name it. I am continuing to attend meetings as a lifetime member, and feel grateful that I can keep connected with my support network. In August I joined the SparkPeople website with the hope of finding like-minded friends to help me stay motivated. SparkPeople has done all that…and more. Between my meetings and “sparking” I don’t feel at all like I’m going it alone, and (for me) the sense of community is key to successfully maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Weight Watchers helped me get a handle on my overeating and poor decision-making, but another important piece of the “healthy lifestyle” puzzle, physical activity, fell into place for me this year in a way I really didn’t expect. I have never been athletically inclined. Ever. I was the poor kid who got picked last for kickball, softball, soccer, pretty much any team sport. When the meanie-faced gym coach made the class run a mile in junior high school, I wasn’t able to finish. You get the picture. Once I settled into my Weight Watchers routine, I knew I would need to add physical activity to enhance my weight loss, and also to keep myself healthy long-term. Previously, I had kept my exercise mainly limited to walking, using an elliptical machine, and light weight-lifting. My initial instinct was to go to these familiar activities, which I did. It didn’t take long, however, before I realized I was getting bored. By late July, I was at the gym regularly and using workout videos when I wasn’t at the gym, but I needed more. I wasn’t feeling challenged in the way that I craved…but I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. Working with a personal trainer just didn’t appeal to me. The classes my gym offered, with exception of Zumba, didn’t inspire me.
One of my online friends had recently started a program called “Couch to 5K.” This program essentially transitions you from walking (or in theory, doing nothing) to running for 30 minutes. My friend blogged about her experience, and as I read about her progress, I became increasingly intrigued. Even though I had never met her in person, I felt like her running accomplishments were giving her a sense of confidence, self-worth, and freedom that I just wasn’t getting from my current workouts. I was thrilled when she ran her very first 5K! In August, even though I had, up until that point, resisted even considering running, I made the semi-impulsive decision to give Couch to 5K a try. I scheduled my first workout for August 14. When I arrived at the gym that evening, I was incredibly nervous. What if I looked silly when I ran? What if I chose a speed that was too fast and went flying off the back of the treadmill? What if I was huffing and puffing even at the end of the little one-minute running intervals? I made the decision to run in the Cardio Cinema, a darkened room (think movie theater), so I wouldn’t have to worry as much about the stares. As I warmed up by walking for five minutes, I felt butterflies in my stomach and almost couldn’t set the treadmill speed to 4.8 for my very first jog. But I did, and I jogged, and I didn’t fall, and I made it through the one minute. I felt such a rush at the end of that short amount of time. I didn’t care if people were looking at me, I didn’t care about anything, I just felt good. One simple workout turned into two, and then three, and then I found myself registering for the Henry Vilas Zoo Run Run 5K, my very first, to take place on September 20. I certainly didn’t expect to run the whole thing, but just hoped to show up, walk a little, jog a little, soak in the atmosphere, and learn how these races really worked. After only a couple of workouts, I could feel it. I was addicted. I was on my way to becoming a runner.
September 20, 2009. It was a warm Saturday, clear and sunny. The perfect day for a race. I had registered as a walker because the idea of wearing a timing chip intimidated me just a bit too much…but I secretly hoped to squeeze in a little jogging. The day before, I had arrived nervously at the local running store to pick up my race bib and packet. I couldn’t believe I, Christina the non-runner, was going to pin a race number to my shirt…which would make me like a runner? It was almost too much to process. I woke up bright and early the next morning, heart racing and nerves on fire. When I arrived at the zoo, crowds of runners in sleek shorts and singlets surrounded me, and I felt like a bit of an imposter. I nervously skulked into a corner and watched my counterparts warming up, drinking bottles of water, and talking amongst themselves. I cheered as the 10K racers took off, and then it was time to line up for the 5K. A siren went off and we were off and running. Bebo Norman tunes were pumping through my MP3 player, and I couldn’t believe I was running in this mob of people! What a rush! I was swept up in the moment and soaked up the enthusiasm. By the time I walked and jogged the entire course, I knew I was ready to go home and troll the internet to add more races to my calendar. And I did. First, I did Gilda’s Run, a two mile race, on a chilly October morning. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, I completed the Berbee Derby 5K (as a timed runner!) in 33:41. And, most recently, I ran the Jingle Bell Run 5K for Arthritis on a very chilly, snowy December morning. And somewhere along the way, I graduated Couch to 5K with flying colors, adopted Jeff Galloway’s run/walk/run training method, and set my sights on my very first half marathon. I knew that my new blue Nike running shoes and I had many, many more miles to go in 2010…and I can’t wait for the journey.
In my last Weight Watchers meeting of 2009, the leader asked us to name our most significant accomplishments of 2009. Without hesitation, I mentioned Couch to 5K and making it through my first 5K race (and others to boot). The leader listened to me for a moment and said, “you did a very big thing. In 2009 you became a runner.” I became a runner. I did. I went from the girl who could barely make it around the school track to one who runs three miles routinely, who craves the challenge of 13.1 miles…maybe even 26.2 one day. (The marathon distance isn’t something I’m ready to contemplate yet…) Earlier in the year, as part of a challenge laid out by a running Spark Team, I elaborated on why I run. To recap...
I run because I was looking to challenge myself in new ways during my workouts…
I run because, well, it’s just FUN!
I run because it really boosts my confidence…
I run because it’s my favorite way to de-stress after a difficult day or celebrate a GREAT day…
I run because it gets me in the great outdoors…
I run because running feels like flying.
I run because it just feels good.
I run because…I am a runner. Running has become part of who I am, part of what I do. When people ask me what I like to do in my free time, one of my first answers is always, “I like to run.” Me, a runner. Twelve months ago, I never would have imagined it, but here I am. I can’t wait to see where my two feet take me in 2010.
As for the other unanswered questions, 2009 provided some sense of closure, although there are many mysteries still to solve. On December 10, after many doctor's visits, therapy sessions, wrong turns, and dead ends, my son's team at the developmental clinic diagnosed him with PDD-NOS, a condition on the autism spectrum. We are now in the process of signing him up for therapy and acquiring additional help through our local school district. While the diagnosis hasn't changed who he is, it has been, emotionally speaking, somewhat of a hard pill to swallow. The major blessing that comes from the "label" though is having access to therapy and resources that weren't open to us before. In the coming year, we look forward to watching our little boy, the light of our lives, continue to grow and thrive. As for the spiritual side of things, we still somewhat feel like "strangers in a strange land" in this town, but we're making headway. We have been receiving pastoral counseling at a local church, and it is helping us connect with God and the Word in ways we never have. We also have been introduced to a new church community which is potentially a better fit for our beliefs (than the one we had been attending) and which appears to have a friendly vibe and many interesting opportunities for fellowship and community outreach. We're hopeful that we'll be able to call it our home. As for family relations, they're still on the rocky side, but, especially in light of our son's diagnosis, we're beginning to mend a few fences and look towards healing all the hurt. It will take time, but at the beginning of the year, I had NO hope, but now I actually do have some. My husband did win a position in the electrician's union and is almost halfway through the first year (of five) of his apprenticeship. He feels confident that he has chosen a career path that will work very well for him. And as for my job...the place I spend 45 hours a week. I'm feeling very doubtful that this will be my "forever" job. I don't see it being a good fit long-term. But, FOR NOW, I can make a good go of it, do my best, and give my resume a good solid start. On the up side, I have gotten a better grasp on supporting my clients and contributing to my team in meaningful ways, and I can see myself staying in the industry until I retire...just in a different capacity. My hope is that once my hubs finishes his apprenticeship in a few years, we'll be good and ready to pursue new opportunities.
And that is 2009 in a nutshell. I most certainly don't feel as lost as I did at the end of 2008. I still face some difficult challenges and unaswered questions. My hope is that 2010 will bring more resolution, more closure, and more personal growth. I've traveled a long way in this life journey, but I still have far to go.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Two days until...the BIG day! It's Christmas Eve Eve. We don't have a lot going on, other than relaxing at home for a four day weekend. There's supposed to be a hideous snow/ice storm coming our way so it's a good excuse to just kick back and "let it snow, let it snow, let it snow." It will be nice to decompress from all the stresses we've faced over the last few weeks.
I've been a bit of a slacker on my eating the last week or so. I took a bit of liberty with my tracking...as in I didn't do it every day, and tracking is one of those tools I use HEAVILY to keep myself accountable. And I gave in to a few extra sweets, desserts, etc. Not too bad though. A year ago I might have eaten SIX cookies at a party (seriously) and this year I kept it to 1-2 at each party I went to. I've also been keeping up with my workouts pretty well, so it's all good. And my weight hasn't really gone up. Luckily all the holiday-related food challenges are behind us now since we're done with parties and don't have any family dinners or events.
Not much else to say about my week, but I do want to wish all of my friends a MERRY CHRISTMAS! I hope it's a good one!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Six simple letters, but they mean so much. I never thought they would apply to anyone I knew, much less my own son. Last Thursday, my son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. This is on the autism spectrum. Needless to say, it's been an overwhelmingly emotional week.
This diagnosis has been a long time coming. As early as six months old, my son demonstrated some "quirky" behaviors that just didn't seem typical of other babies. And at nine months, it became clear that he was delayed in communication skills and social interactions, and also exhibited some sensory issues, most notably problems eating foods of different textures. His twelve month well baby visit kicked off a laundry list of consultations with a long string of healthcare professionals: speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, an audiologist, early education teachers, social workers, nutritionists, and a developmental pediatrician. Almost two years later, it came to this.
The diagnosis fired up a flurry of emotional response. How did this happen? Was it something I did? Something I failed to do? How do we help him? What do we do next? I was in a blind panic for several days just trying to process everything his team had thrown at me. However, the wisdom of one of the speech therapists, who was present when the team delivered the news, brought me great peace and remains with me. At the moment he was diagnosed, my son was still the same sweet, gentle little boy that walked into the clinic with me that morning. PDD-NOS does not change who he fundamentally is, but instead unites all of the pieces of the puzzle we were struggling to fit together into a "big picture" that will allow us to better understand him and help him grow and mature.
I also strongly believe that God is at work here. Every week, my husband and I meet for Bible study at a local church. Each week, we are tasked with "homework," which typically involves reading Scripture and performing some kind of exercise or task to enhance our spiritual growth or marital bond. Incidentally, this week's task was to write each other letters explaining how we believed God was at work in each other's lives. Given that we had just been hit with the big news, this one was initially challenging to me. I ended up writing to him:
"I'm at a point in my life where I just want to shake my fist at the sky and scream, 'WHERE IS GOD?!' Day after day, I wake up reluctantly, don't really want to get out of bed, and am overwhelmed with the suspicion that God (if he is even out there) has thrown more on my plate that I can realistically handle...
Whether we put God into the picture or not, I firmly believe that from the despair and confusion over T's condition, we BOTH have the potential to do amazing things. We are called to engage in one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, tasks any parent can undertake. That is to LOVE our child. This may seem like a strange and oversimplistic insight, but think about what I'm saying. We can easily say that we LOVE T to anyone who's listening, and it is fantastically easy to love him when he's in a sunny mood or charming a room full of women with his radiant smile. But then think about the times when he's challenged us, which seem to be frustratingly frequent these days? The moments he screams because he doesn't want to go to bed. The times he slaps or pushes his classmates and we have to answer for him. The mealtimes when the only way to get him to try a bite of food is to physically restrain him. The constant visits to the doctor which don't result in the answers we're hoping for. The money we spend on him. The days when we're cleaning up the piles of toys he scattered all over the living room, washing smelly diapers, or hauling him in and out of the car seat for the umpteenth time. I think we'd BOTH be lying if we said that loving T wasn't difficult in moments like these. Haven't we BOTH had bad days when we have stated quite frankly that we just don't what business we have being parents?
Especially in light of T's diagnosis, I believe that loving him is the ultimate exercise in regarding others as more important than ourselves, glorifying God, and modeling Christ-like behavior. We will face a difficult road, what with the process of making dozens of phone calls, seeking out therapy that we can afford (or for which we can get funding), managing T's behavior, and keeping him in good health. We don't know what the future holds for him, and the weight of hundreds of unanswered questions will burden us. It will feel like an endurance test at times, I am sure. But it's something I know that we have to do, and I feel that we are up for the challenge.
When I see the way T looks at you, the way he cries out 'Daddy! Daddy' with such a smile on his face sometimes, I know that he loves you, as much as a preschooler can. You may worry that he doesn't listen to you or that you can't discipline him, but you have the potential to do so much for our little boy. It may be something small like sharing your favorite songs or letting him eat a bite of your pizza, or something a little bigger like modeling good manners or taking him to church. Even though this PDD-NOS may feel like a 'wall' that we can't push through to get through to him, he will learn from you, and I have great hope that you can be a positive role model for T. On those frustrating days when you feel like you can't reach him, just remember that there are so many times when you can. Think of all the opportunities you have to teach him about God's way, about life, about how to treat other people. You/we have this amazing chance to bring into the world a strong, hard-working, honest, considerate, Christian man, a servant of God, and I strongly believe that we can do this together."
Scary and overwhelming as this diagnosis is, and as uncertain as his future seems, what I do know is this: T is the light of our lives and we will do everything in our power to help him succeed in life. God has blessed us richly with such a gorgeous little boy, and we are grateful for his presence in our lives. We have faith that this journey will strengthen us, teach us, and bless us in ways we could never have even imagined.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
After a very long week, thanks to the snowstorm and a very emotional day at one of UW's medical clinics, I was grateful for the weekend and the opportunity to run my last race of 2009. Today I ran the Jingle Bell Run 5K for the Arthritis Foundation, and I am very happy that I did.
I was a bit apprehensive about the race conditions thanks to the 17" of snow, which is still mostly sitting on the ground, and was also intrigued/nervous to see how running 5K in 20 degree weather would go. We arrived at Henry Vilas Park at about 8:30 this morning, very early, so thankfully we had no trouble parking. It was a glorious sunny morning, and the blue sky against the pristine white snow was a sight to behold! I felt thankful that I would get to run my race in such gorgeous conditions, even though I might be freezing. In the time we had, we wandered around the park, took some photos, and people watched. Many of the runners and walkers had on Santa hats, antlers, or candy-cane striped socks and we even saw some folks in full costumes, like a team that dressed up like elves!
At 10:15 the crowds were coming in, about 1200 people between the 5K and 10K events, I believe. I have to say that the organizers REALLY had it together. The 10K took off right at 10:30, and immediately they started lining up the 5K participants, runners first and walkers in a separate area, to follow the runners. As I waited in the energetic crowd, I fired up my iPod to my Straight No Chaser Christmas playlist. (Ever heard these guys sing? If you haven't, you MUST check them out!) At 10:45, the gun went off and the mob pushed forward. I heard a chorus of jingle bells, which just about all of us had attached to our shoes or clothing. Festive, right? When I felt my feet touch the starting mat, I started my Garmin and off we went!
The first mile was very slow-going, mainly because the course was very crowded, and the paths were very narrow. I think people were also running a bit cautiously because there was a lot of snow on the path and some stray patches of ice. I fell nicely into a rhythm of run three minutes, walk one minute, the same technique I've been using in my training. I wasn't conscious of my distance until I looked at my watch and saw I had gone about 1.4 miles. Apparently I missed the first mile marker! The runners were all in good cheer, and the nice volunteers were standing on street corners freezing their tails off, ringing bells, and cheering us on. The course was almost the EXACT same course as September's Zoo Run Run, just a bit more slippery! Because of the congestion in the first mile and the snowy conditions, I pretty much figured within the first three or four minutes that this race wouldn't be a PR (personal record). I would just use it as an opportunity to enjoy some Christmas cheer, take in my scenic surroundings, and practice my running technique.
I wasn't closely tracking my time and distance for most of the race, just using my Garmin as a stopwatch to keep track of my intervals. I did well with the hills, except for one particularly large one which I walked partway (but some of more the hard-core runners seemed to be doing the same!) I had a few "whoa whoa whoa" moments when I felt my feet starting to skid out on the ice or snow, but no falls or even near-falls. When we ran down to the final turn of the course, which would take us by the hospital and back into the park, I was starting to feel tired and a bit overrun with the cold. I kept telling myself, I'm ON the home stretch, the finish line is on THIS street, and thankfully there were plenty of volunteers stationed along the course cheering us on and shouting "Keep going! You're almost there!" I then saw the 6 mile marker for the 10K, which shared our finish line, and then our 3 mile marker. Those last 0.2 miles felt sooooooooo looooooooooong. When I felt my foot hit the finish mat, I nearly collapsed with relief! I went up to my husband, who was there supporting me, and talked to him for a few seconds, then realized my Garmin was still running - and showing a time of 35:52 - so I shut it off. I guessed at the time that I'd probably come in around 35:32, barely scraping by to make my 36 minute goal. We walked to the food tent, where I got a half a bagel and some rice. My chip time ended up being 35:32. Overall rank was 125/160, division rank was 13/20, and among females 57/85. (The reason for the small numbers is that a lot of the runners didn't pay the extra $5 to be chip-timed. So although there were hundreds of 5K runners, the rankings were only for the 160 chip-timed...)
I feel good about my performance. I definitely qualified to join this club:
But it's all good! I was proud of myself for keeping my 3:1 going the whole way and for managing most of the hills without breaking stride, except for that really huge one! I had a BLAST and really felt like I was running through a fantasyland. I would TOTALLY do this race again next winter. Maybe I'll dress up as a festive Christmas penguin.
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