Convicted by the Blades

January 6, 2015

Seven weeks ago, I was laying on my sofa, contemplating spending the next six weeks on crutches. Initially, the pink cushioned crutches seemed like a bit of a novelty, however, the reality of my limitations (and the strain it caused my body) quickly became evident. Within the first week, I had experience a plethora of negative, nasty emotions and caused my husband to question ‘in sickness and in health’ multiple times.

Tonight I reflected on my previous seven weeks while sitting in a board meeting for the local non-profit organization Amputee Blade Runners. Our newest Blade Runner, Brooklyn, who was born with an arm and leg defect, delightfully tells me that her new running blade will be glow-in-the-dark pink (much like my despised crutches). April, mom to ABR athlete Tyler, who lost his leg to cancer at age 2, shares with us the camps she has found that support amputee children. Via conference call, Elliott, an Afghanistan veteran who lost a leg in combat, shares his goal of running his 2nd half marathon while raising money for ABR.

I had six weeks of limitations that caused me anger, pity, sadness. Six weeks. 42 days. 1,008 hours. Literally, a flicker in life. Brooklyn, Elliott and Tyler have a lifetime of limitations. Although I will not tell them that. They would not agree.

Ending the year on crutches has created some pretty easy resolutions.

  • Run again.
  • Lose the 5 pounds gained the past few weeks.
  • Regain the muscle tone in my right leg.
  • Retain the muscle tone gained in my upper body from being on crutches.

But there are more difficult, soul searching resolutions.

  • Recognize how blessed I am to have two legs. Two knees. Two ankles. Two feet.
  • Complain less.
  • Give thanks more.
  • Look for opportunities around me to serve others. Not out of pity. But out of a desire to love and to do for someone other than myself.

2015……….I am ready for you!

One of the first questions I ask my PT was what types of exercises could I do while waiting for surgery. The first one out of his mouth is biking (non-weight bearing exercises are key). I look up the YMCA spin class schedules and head to the Y later that day.

When I enter the room, I find the instructor to inform her that I was not a lame-o, but I was temporarily sidelined with a knee injury, and I would be staying seated during the class. If you have never had the pleasure of a spin class, often times while on the bike you will “stand” as you peddle or you do “jumps” which is where you quickly pop out of the seat holding the handlebars. While I was cleared to spin, I could not stand and risk putting extra strain on my weary right knee.

The instructor asks what happened, and when I answer “well, I was running at the time….” she immediately cuts me off to tell me something I would have preferred to not hear.

“Do you know what runners are?”

Um, yeah, pretty cool people. “What?”

“They are future cyclists.”

Really? You just told me that? That was not what I want to hear.

I pick out a bike on the front row near a fan, get the seat adjusted accordingly, and away I spin, delirious to be sweating and burning calories for the first time in a few weeks.

Towards the end of class, the instructor’s bike falters on her, so she comes over and gets on the bike next to me. As we complete a series of 30 seconds sprints, she says (into the mic), “wow, you are really fast!”

Yes, that’s because I am a runner.

My Flat Life

December 1, 2014

About six or seven years ago, I went downtown Nashville with a group of girls for a GNO (Girl’s Night Out). We were all dolled up in boots and denim and belt buckles and big hair. I happened to be sporting denim shorts paired with tall wedge heeled sandals…along with big hair. Around 2:00 am, after honky tonkin’, bull riding and picture-taking, we headed back to the car. Strolling up Commerce Avenue, my friend Jenn suddenly says “Tammy, you look like you came out of the womb wearing heels.”

Best compliment I have ever received. Ever. Pretty much.

Fast forward to this fall when I splurged on a pair of name brand black suede wedge booties (supposedly all the trend although I had to google how to wear them!) However, with a bum knee, heels, even comfy wedges, are the WORST thing I can put on my feet. Stubbornness caused me to wear heels to work for two short hours before walking out the door of my office without saying a word to anyone and driving straight to Off Broadway Shoes. As a sales girl greeted me, I removed my heinous heels and 20 minutes later, walked out with a new pair of ballet flats on my feet and two more pancake flat fabulous pairs in my hand.

Oh, heels, how I will miss you.

Observations of a Crutch Life

November 22, 2014

Six weeks, NWB (non-weight bearing) in a straight legged brace will give you more life lessons than you probably want. Here are a few observations after week one:

Removing your toenail polish the day before surgery so you would have something to do post-op backfires when you can not bend your knee to reach your toes.

Ditto when it comes to putting on socks and shoes. The last time someone put on my socks and shoes for me? Kindergarten.

Just because your good friend gives you hot pink armpit and hand covers for your crutches does not make the crutches any cooler. Especially if you are not a pink person.

Hanging a bag around your neck is an easy way to transport items from point A to point B while crutching, even though you feel like a pack mule.

Hopping on the good leg to get from point A to point B will cause some serious knots in the calf of the good leg. Pretty sure the body will be lopsided in six weeks….

While NWB, physical activities are limited to lifting the leg up on the stack of pillows while icing and lifting it down again after 20 minutes. Repeat 3-4 times a day. That has to be at least 30 calories burned. Total.

Baths are suddenly much more fun (& safer) than showers.

Realizing the knee high boots you finally found that fit perfectly won’t fit over the brace seems terribly cruel.

Almost as cruel is six weeks on crutches while living in a three story condo.

Navigating crutches and a straight legged brace in a bathroom can cause your new iPhone to fall in the toilet. Hoping the Apple store will take pity on a woman on crutches.

Wearing a sign around your neck that says “knee surgery due to being such a bad ass” might be the better solution than answering every person who asks what happened.

Back of the Pack

July 17, 2013

For more than a year, I have met a group of runners at a nearby trail, and we run the same 8 mile loop every Wednesday. We typically will start out slow, and gradually pick up our pace which we hold until the final mile when all hell breaks loose, and we see who has the most guts until the end. For the most part, I can easily hang with this group of fasties, and sometimes even manage to have the most guts (although I usually wanted to spew my guts) at the end.

Over the past few months, life has gotten in the way of my running. This morning was my first time to join my group in over a month. I knew and warned the group that I would not be running fast and would most likely cut the run short. For two and a half miles, I did my best to hang with the group, only to watch them stay just far enough ahead of me to make me feel like a complete loser. When we stopped for water at the 2.5 mile marker, I told them I was turning around, but encouraged everyone to continue their workout (I hate to feel I am holding anyone back and somewhat wanted to sulk on my own).

Once I turned around and started back solo, although I am very much a co-dependent runner, I felt so much better about myself and my running. I did not have to watch the backs of my buddies growing faint in the distance. I had no one to compare myself to other than myself. I actually felt better, less pressured, more relaxed, and I even added on an extra mile before heading back to the parking lot. Along the way, I stopped and marveled at a snapping turtle (do NOT try to save that species of turtle….they bite!), stopped twice to stretch, stopped to chat with a biker I knew, and basically finished my workout feeling hopeful that one day, my fast legs will return, and I will be able to hang with my Wednesday morning group.

But even if that day never comes, I can still run and for that, I am thankful.

 

The Heroes

April 17, 2013

As soon as I turned my computer on at work, I pulled up the Boston Marathon website to watch the race streaming live. Having run the marathon in 2011, sat in the grandstands at the finish line in 2012, and qualified to run in the 2013 race, my heart was in Boston that morning. I had worn a Boston Marathon shirt to work. I periodically walked through the Fleet Feet store giving my co-workers the latest updates of our store owner and another co-worker who were running the race. I posted good luck wishes on Facebook to my friends running. As the day continued, I decided I wanted to go back and run that marathon again. The pride of that race and the pride of the city consumes you, and you cannot help but want to be a part of it.

Once the bombs exploded and reports were streaming in with news of the unbelievable, the first reaction seemed to be “oh my gosh, the RUNNERS!” The reality soon became that no runners were physically hurt by the bombs. Who were the victims?

The victims were innocent bystanders who on April 15, 2013, came to watch the runners. The victims were our cheerleaders, our fan club, our support crew. The victims might not be runners or might not understand why someone would purposely run 26 miles. But their feelings about running did not matter that day because they wanted to support us. They are the heroes. They are the ones who died or lost limbs and are forever physically and emotionally scarred.

For us runners, we can go back to the starting line in Hopkinton and run to the Bolyston Street finish line. And the next time, I will make sure I thank my cheerleaders along the way.

While visiting my parents last week, I helped my mom redecorate a bathroom. In the process of making paint selections, I suggested an updated light fixture to complete the new look. Little did I know that I would be the one to install the new light.

Although I grew up the child of a master electrician, I have never changed anything electrically related, other than a light bulb. My plan was to have my dad talk me through step by step in changing out the vanity light.

However, in my haste of getting the bathroom completed while my parents were running errands, I decided I really wanted to suprise them by not only finishing up the painting, but by going ahead and replacing the fixture.

As I opened the box and pulled out the instructions, a wave of panic and fear spread over me. What if I electrocute myself? What if I set their house on fire? What if I set someone else on fire?

“Do something every day that scares you.”

That quote is on a motivational poster in my closet, and I look at it daily. I usually ignore that suggestion, unless I am faced with a scary situation such as hearing footsteps behind me in a dark alley late at night while I am walking home alone (ok, that seldom, if ever, happens). Seriously, I am not a risk taker. I do not go tempting fate purposely. I will never be a contestant on Fear Factor. But here I was, faced with the scary thought of shocking myself, or worse, burning down my parent’s home.

As I gathered the necessary tools (what do I do with wire strippers??) and verified all the parts were included, I decided to put on my big girl pants and change this light.

Remembering the #1 rule (Turn Off Power Source), I found the breaker box and flipped the bathroom breaker. Lights out. Fabulous start. The fear of electrocution was lessening.

As I disassembled the old fixture, my confidence increased that I could do this. I matched up the white wires, the black wires, the cooper wires, and capped them off with bright yellow caps I always had seen strewn across the garage floor, or on the floor of my dad’s truck, or better yet, in the penny jar.

Time to test the new fixture.

As I stood in front of the breaker box, ready to flip the switch back on to restore power to the bathroom, I held my breath, said a prayer and braced for a volt of electrical current to surge through my body.

Instead, a gorgeous ray of light beamed from the one lone test bulb. No smoke. No burning smell. No flames. With the confidence of a master electrician, I flipped the breaker back off, completed mounting the oil-rubbed bronze vanity light to the wall, and screwed in all three light bulbs.

One last flip of the breaker to restore power, and I immediately felt like Clarke Griswald, standing in his snow-covered front yard wearing his robe, having finally gotten the Christmas lights to work, illuminating the entire neighborhood.

I had done something that scared me. I conquered the fear of electrocution. And I won.

Time to skydive.

 

 

My Baby Girl

March 7, 2013

Seven years ago, my older daughter Maggie decided she wanted to play lacrosse because the uniforms were cute. The combination of royal blue skirts and white fitted tanks was a nice reprieve from baggy shorts, loose jerseys or booty shorts like all the other sports. It wasn’t until we showed up at her first game and saw her black mandatory mouth guard and face mask that I had to question the cuteness. Regardless, she played the sport her final four years of high school and influenced her baby sister Reagan to take up the sport.

At the beginning of Reagan’s seventh grade year, she realized that the goalie did not have to run during the game, and she immediately volunteered for the position. (My youngest DESPISES running!) I can still remember watching her play the first game in her new position, nervous and questioning the ability of a child who has severe vision loss in one eye and a birth defect in one arm which limits her range of motion. Yet, she perservered and became the starting goalie for the middle school team as a seventh grader.

Tonight was Reagan’s first game of her final middle school season. She discovered at yesterday’s practice that she would not only be the starting goalie, but the only goalie for the game. As we drove home, she expressed frustration at having to play the entire game, with very little goalie practice due to bad weather cancelling most of the practices the past few weeks. I reminded her that she is a part of a team, and that involved having to do what is best for the team. She had to suck it up.

For some ridiculous reason, we always play the best team in Nashville for our very first game of the season. I am not sure if this is to get a sure loss out of the way first, or to warm us up for a tough season. Regardless, it is a tough game and tonight’s crazy cold temperatures did not help!

Reagan rode to the game with her best friend and teammate, so I did not get to talk to her before the game (to remind her to be a team player). As the game started, I braced myself for the bloodbath that was to begin. Within a few minutes, I was surprised and pleased to see that Reagan was prepared to fight. Like a seasoned goalie, she fought off ball after ball, deflecting many, catching and stopping potential goals. While she did let balls through, her percentage of blocked balls was insanely high. For 50 minutes, she gave 100% of herself to her team, which is all I had asked of her to do.

As the game ended (we lost, but by a much closer margin than in the past), she was floating across the field to meet us. The temperatures had dipped into the low 30s, but she was oblivious, as she was welcomed with a chorus of “good job” and “way to go” by the coaches, parents and players on our team and the opposing team.

This is going to be a good season!

Diet & Debt

February 27, 2013

Today, I followed up with a couple of girlfriends that I am encouraging to get fit and healthy. Ok, the end goal is for them to look amazing at their twenty year reunion, so if they also get healthy and fit, it’s a win/win for everyone involved.

As I typed my unsolicited motivational email, so many of my words sounded familiar.

Day at a time….

You did not get where you are overnight….

This is a lifestyle change….

All of the sudden it hit me. These words do not just apply to diet and exercise (ok, there I said the “D” word).

These words apply to anyone’s achilles heel. Thorn in the side. Ball and chain. Personal angst. You know, trials, troubles and tribulations.

For nearly three years, I have been working my tail off to get completely 100% out of debt, have an emergency fund and an IRA. Enough tears have been shed over this goal that I should never be able to cry again. Yet, I feel certain, I will. This is a huge goal for me, one that has taken sacrifice, humility, integrity, listening to Dave Ramsey, and selling material goods I did not want to sell.

I now take every day a day at a time. I did not get here overnight. I am making a complete lifestyle change.

Sound familiar, my beautiful friends?

And heads up….the last ten pounds (or dollars) are the hardest to tackle!

But aren’t we worth it?

 

 

The Mom Challenge

February 20, 2013

Last night while sorting through old photos from college, I came across a classic picture a girlfriend sent me while spending a summer in Hawaii taking classes. The picure is of “Sarah” at a Chippendale’s show and the photographer managed to capture a moment of a scantily clad, buffed and tanned male right in the face of my friend who is attempting to put money in his waistband. Part of the reason this picture is so funny to me is Sarah is one of the most conservative friends I know. I have documented evidence that she has a fun, crazy side.

So, I sent the picture to Sarah with the threat to post it on Facebook (I would never but I loved the thought of causing temporary panic). Instead, the photo caused Sarah to wish she looked like that again.

When I started running, my kids were 12, 10 and 5. Up to that point, my exercise regime included taking the kids to the gym with me while I spent an hour burning calories in a spin class or step aerobics, only to leave the gym and stop by Skinny’s for a 64 ounce coke (777 calories….way more than I had just burned!) I could manage keeping up with them on a playground, but was usually left winded. Our nightly dinners included mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, or when I felt inspired by my southern roots, fried chicken or some casserole full of soups and cheeses and all sorts of yummy, calorie filled fats.

In the past ten years since getting active, without realizing it, I have been a role model to my children of good healthy choices. My younger two children have not drank carbonated beverages in over four years. My oldest rides her bicyle to work (4.8 miles one way) and has discovered a passion for yoga and kale. My middle child recently gave up sweets and was amazed to drop ten pounds. My youngest loves carrots and veggie burgers.

The transformation from a fast food inactive family did not happen over night. This process takes intentional effort every single day.

Many moms that I talk to put more effort into hosting the perfect birthday party, or posing the kids for the perfect Christmas card photo, or being the perfect room mom. While I did all of those things at some point, that is not what my kids remember about me. They remember when mom ran her first full marathon, and how mom went from a size 14 to a size 6. Recently, my youngest told me that she was glad I was an active mom. She told me this on the way home from the hour long bootcamp I had hosted for her middle school lacrosse team.

My challenge to moms is put yourself first for just a little while. Find what activity your body can handle and what motivates you to get out of bed. Maybe it’s a walk with the kids while they ride their bikes. Or perhaps it’s swimming laps at the local Y or rec center. Your kids will be okay for an hour while mom is exercising. I can guarantee, you will be a better mother, a better wife, a better friend.

And in the meantime, find the pictures from your past when you looked your best. Post them on your mirror and remind yourself every single day that you (& your kids) are worth it.