Sunday, April 29, 2012

Miles To Go

One year ago exactly, I did the first day of Couch to 5k. I still remember huffing and puffing back and forth between stop signs, thinking that there was NO WAY this was going to work for me. Not at all. I was so slow and it was so hard to breathe. Each sixty second interval seemed like an eternity and I was gasping and red-faced after each one. The cool down couldn't come quickly enough, but I was still not convinced that it was going to work.

It did, obviously. It's been a year of highs and lows, in so many ways. I learned things that never would've crossed my mind a year ago: negative splits, hill repeats, over-pronation. A year ago, I would've blinked and smiled blankly at those terms, now I can add my own input. Now I can say that I've ran a half-marathon, that the girl who struggled through sixty second intervals ran for over two hours. TWO HOURS. That's a really long time.

I'd hoped to complete two half-marathons this month, the second being yesterday. After I drove home from my first, though, I realized that I was not going to be able to do the 2.5 hour drive home from the second one alone. I tried everything I could to find someone who could go with me, but it just wasn't going to work. I sucked it up, ate the registration fee, and found a ten mile race that two of my friends were doing. A ten mile race that just happened to be 15 minutes from my house.

I'm not going to lie... I'm not a big fan of pushing through the pain. I'm just not a big fan of pain in general, to be honest. When things start to hurt, I back off. Therefore, I prefer to choose races with courses that are described as "fast, flat, and easy." Now that's my language. If I found a course that was described as having a three mile slip and slide in the middle, I would be ALL OVER THAT. This course, however, was described as challenging. Challenging? Even those tiny inclines to make sidewalks wheelchair accessible are a challenge for me!

But I did it. And here's the crazy thing. I'd just come off of half-marathon training, so I didn't do a whole lot to train for this. I did one ten mile run and one eight mile run. I did a few days of hill repeats and miraculously, I started to feel a little better about hills (but I would still prefer sliding down one on a slip 'n slide). But here's the crazy thing, at least the crazy thing for me, I didn't stress about it. I knew I could run ten miles. I didn't really care about my time on this race, it was more about having fun and accomplishing something. I've always ran races alone and being the solo person at a race tends to get lonely, so I was super excited to run with Barb.

The day started out ominous, with thunder, wind, and rain. Fortunately, the rain stopped just before the race started, but the wind and the cold kept up.
Sarah, Barb, and I before the race. Photo taken by the awesome Bari who drove to down to spectate!

They did not lie when they said the course was challenging. The course consisted of seven miles on the road, then three miles on trails in Taltree Arboretum. The roads were country roads, which tend to be hilly. These were no exception. Miles 2.5-3.5 were somehow all uphill, with little to no downhill. I'm not sure how that worked, but we just kept going UP. Around mile six there was a hill that looked like it'd be impossible to climb, because it just seemed to go up. Yet, we did. I want to pat Barb and myself on the back and say that we ran every single hill for the first seven miles, even when we had to weave around people who weren't running them, even when we were huffing and puffing and cursing the very existence of said hills. A year ago, I couldn't have done that.

The transition from road to trail was a little rough! The first trail had long grass where I couldn't really find my footing. We transitioned onto mulch after that, which seemed easier, then they threw in some muddy and slippery hills. By this point, my hip was screaming at me, but we managed. I ended up with my slowest ten mile time, but I felt amazing about it. Our average pace for the first seven miles was somewhere around 10:30, which is great considering the hills and that we were chatting through most of it. Aside from the half-marathon, I've never felt so accomplished after a race. It helps that the race volunteers were some of the most genuinely cheery, happy to be there people I've ever encountered. They were COLD standing out there in the wind, but every single one had something supportive to say. I felt like I picked up the pace a little bit each time we encountered a volunteer, because they were so great.

The best part was cheering on Sarah as she received her age group award after the race (that girl is amazing!), except for the part where once we stopped moving, we got very, very cold.
Afterward, we went out to breakfast, where I proceeded to make a glutton of myself with stuffed french toast and house potatoes. It was worth it, very worth it, except for the part where my stomach was not too happy with me afterward. But seriously? WORTH IT.

It's strange to reflect on the past year and think of how far I've come, yet how far I still hope to go. I have no plans on running a marathon, mainly because I don't think I could handle the time commitment with training while working full-time with two young kids, but also because the thought of running 26.2 miles makes me want to stab myself in the eye. I do want to learn to push myself a little. I want an official sub-30 5k, and I'm going to have to learn to like pain just a tiny little bit to get myself comfortably there. After that? Who knows. I've ran 262 total miles this year so far, but something tells me I have many more to go.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tommy's Team

With each day that ticks by, I can't believe it's been so long since Tommy has had a seizure. Since early October. That's so many months, so many days. I could count them all, but I try not to because I don't want to let epilepsy be that much in charge.

We just took Luke to Kindergarten round-up. We had to fill out medical forms. Or rather, they gave us medical forms to fill out, but we had nothing to write. It made me realize that even if Tommy has no more seizures between now and Kindergarten, we're still going to have to write down that he has epilepsy because it doesn't just go away. Even if he outgrows it (and 2/3 of children do), he's still going to have a low seizure threshold and the likelihood of him having another is higher than it would be in a non-epileptic person. It's like the monster in the closet that goes away when you turn on the light. You swear it's there and you know it is, but you can't see it. That doesn't make it any less there.

The monster can't take away hope, though. And what I hope for is a seizure-free future. Did you know that epilepsy is historically one of the most under-researched diseases, even though it affects more people than multiple sclerosis, cerebal palsy, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson's disease combined. Not so many decades ago, people with epilepsy weren't given a normal life. They were institutionalized. They were thought to be possessed by the devil. In some countries and cultures, they still are. It makes me wonder where we'd be if epilepsy research received more funding. If instead of putting epileptics in institutions, we sought to find a way to stop their seizures.

We live in a different world now, and I am so grateful. Still. STILL, there are so many misconceptions about epilepsy. When Tommy was diagnosed, we had family members question it. We had family members act embarrassed and appalled and some of these family members still don't believe or admit that he has epilepsy, they still insist that he must not be having seizures and it breaks my heart and makes me so angry. It makes me wish they could be by our side when he's had a seizure and see what it's like and see that it's not embarrassing or appalling but scary and that when they question us, they belittle what this little boy has lived through in his small life. We once thought he was going to die, and we were so glad when the diagnosis was epilepsy and not something else. Why can't they feel this way, too?

So as I hope and pray for this seizure-free future that may never happen, I also hope and pray for education and understanding. For an end to the stigma surrounding this disease. As you know, we're working hard to raise every little bit we can for epilepsy research by walking in the Greater Chicago area epilepsy walk. Thanks to the absolute generosity of so many of you, we've already raised over $2000! It never ceases to amaze me what we're doing. As we're running down the month of April, I want to remind anyone who was thinking of joining the team to please do so soon. I'm going to be turning in final counts for t-shirts soon and don't want to miss anyone. I can't wait to reveal the t-shirt design, because I'm pretty excited! And as always, if you could offer any monetary support, we would love that, too.

Most of all, thank you for reading and following and supporting us in our journey.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I'll be 30 soon. Just a few weeks from now, my age rolls over into a new decade.

I'm not really one that fears getting older. My 8th grader students found me horribly old, even when I was only 23. Each year, they only find me older and more out of touch. I'm okay with that. I remember thinking my teachers were impossibly ancient, too. So it's not really that I'm afraid of getting older, going forward. It's just that I'm a little afraid of what I'll leave behind.

My 20s were big. They were busy and they seemed to last a very long time, which makes it even harder to believe that they're nearly over. I got engaged. I graduated college. Got married and settled into a house that didn't belong to my parents. I got my first real teaching job, with insurance and a 401k plan. We made a plan to have children. I got pregnant. Grew in so many ways and made decisions for someone other than me in a big, significant way. I had a baby, a son. I fell in love in ways that I never knew possible. I went back to work, made decisions about childcare and cried over missing someone in ways that I never knew possible. I watched a baby grow into a boy, then I had another baby.

Again, I grew and loved in ways I never knew possible. I learned what it was like to have a child with medical problems, to hold a child and pray that you get to see him grow into adult. I didn't like that part of my 20s, but like other dark parts of life, it shaped me. It made me into the person I am now. I cried a lot. I felt rock bottoms that I didn't know were there, but I climbed out of them. I started running. I ran a half marathon. I believed in myself in ways I never knew possible.

Still, I don't want to be one of those people who looks back and says, "My 20s were the best time of my life, everything was so big and real then." I guess that's what I'm afraid of, of everything just being status quo from here on out. I know that's silly, but how do you really top a decade that holds so much?

Linking up with Heather of the EO's Just Write

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I don't run fast. Sometimes I find myself wishing I'd been less defiant in middle and high school and actually tried running, instead of sneering and walking a 15 minute mile. I like to think about how fast I could've run if I'd tried running before birthing two kids. Like, maybe it's possible to run without feeling like your lady parts are going to fall off? I wonder what that's like.

Still, when I finished my first 5k and had enough left in me to really push across the finish line, I loved the feeling. That moment has surprised me at each race I've done, because I usually end up a run thinking, "I want to die. This is so dumb. Why do I run? My lungs hurt. I'm thirsty. My feet hurt. THIS IS DUMB." Yet somehow, I still reach down and find that push at the end. Sometimes I push faster than others, but I always push.

Normally when I run, I look like this.
Except that I don't normally run in sparkly skirts or with my name pinned to my shirt, but all the rest is the norm. I don't usually smile, either. This picture was taken somewhere between miles ten and eleven of the half and it's simply amazing that I was still moving forward, let alone faking a smile long enough for the photographer to take a picture. Aside from all of that, I think that's what I look like when I run. I never have those moments where both feet are off the ground, because I don't run fast enough for that. And also, I'm very uncoordinated, so I would probably trip and break my face. (And yes, I know. My running form is awful.)

So when I saw the picture of me crossing the finish line, I had to do a double take.
Hold on. Back foot in the air and a shadow under the front? I did it! Both feet off the ground. In the final tenth of a mile, I pushed up to what would've been a 7:54 mile if I'd maintained (which I think we all know would've resulted in my sudden death). I was so thankful to be done, but also so proud to finally, literally fly across the finish line.

Lately, my runs haven't been that good. I've had maybe one or two good runs since the half, otherwise they've all been struggled. I've felt a little burnt out and like I've lost my mojo. When I'm just not feeling it, I wonder why I keep running. Surely walking would be easier. So sometimes, I slow and walk. I think, How could I run most of 13.1 miles, yet feel my legs give out at 3 these days? It's not really my legs, though. It's more of my mind. I'm in a doubting myself phase--not the first time this has happened and surely not the last, but all I need to do to center and focus is look at this picture... and remember how it felt to briefly have both feet off the ground as I flew across the finish line.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

spring break favorites

Spring break was really pretty good to us. Once I recovered from the half, we settled into a nice groove of just hanging out and going on little adventures every day. One day, I took the boys to the McDonald's play place. Nothing big, but we rarely eat there, so going inside and playing? They loved it.

One of my favorite days was the afternoon we went to a local arboretum and hiked. It was a little cold and windy, but the boys had a blast. I love watching them run around and interact with each other. Tommy just follows Luke and does EVERYTHING he does. It's so cute.


When it started to get dark and even colder, we got in the car and went to Dairy Queen. It was such a good afternoon. I am hoping for many, many more like this over the summer!

Monday, April 9, 2012


I love Easter. It is my favorite of favorites and always has been. It's about hope. Life. Renewal. And also, candy and deviled eggs, both of which I love, amen.

Thanks to the unseasonably warm weather we've had this year, the lilacs are blooming. They don't usually bloom until May, so I took advantage and filled three centerpieces with lilacs. This one was my favorite.

My Easter also included these bad boys, which are just as delicious as they look.

We didn't get a family photo because guests showed up early and we ate during Tommy's nap time, meaning he was none too interested in photos. I did manage to snap these two photos of my favorite guys. We played outside for hours after we ate. Luke insisted on the world's longest game of tag, which is not so much fun when you have a stomach full of food, but we had an absolute blast all the same.


Linking up to You Capture!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Holding Our Breath

When Tommy first started having seizures a year and a half ago, we ended up meeting with the on-call pediatric neurologist at our local hospital. After breezing into the room and introducing herself, then talking briefly to Shane (I was with Tommy while he was having an EEG done), she announced that he wasn't having seizures. My heart soared and I hopefully said, "Oh?" thinking she was going to say he just had some sort of temporary sickness and we'd never have to go through that again. Instead, she said, "Yes! He's having temper tantrums and holding his breath." Just like that, my heart fell and the protective mother in me took over. I explained that while Luke did take away a toy from him shortly before one seizure, during the most recent one, he'd been walking toward me smiling and then he just fell and began seizing. I was angry. Hurt. Insulted. I couldn't believe that this complete stranger would think that I didn't KNOW what a temper tantrum looked like, that I'd somehow mistake that for a seizure.

Suffice to say, we made up our mind pretty quickly that Tommy would never be her patient. We left the hospital that night and the next morning, we took Tommy to University of Chicago. It was like night and day, comparing the two. Our appointment at University of Chicago lasted two hours. He'd already had all of the tests done at our local hospital, so none of this was testing. First we met with the resident, who went over a more comprehensive medial history than I've ever given. He examined Tommy. Then he took the test results from our hospital, his chartings, and conferenced with the pediatric neurologist. Then she came in and the first thing she said after introducing herself was, "Your son is definitely having seizures." I wanted to cry. Not because she said he was having seizures; I already knew this. Instead I wanted to cry because she LISTENED to us, because she took the time to care about my son and not just slap a blanket statement on him. I know that at a major hospital like U of C, she must see so many children who are far worse than Tommy, but she didn't blow us off and she understood that we are scared and looking for answers.

Sometimes with epilepsy, though, there are no answers. She couldn't tell us why he was having seizures or if and when he'd have another, but she gave us hope for a seizure-free future. These days, we're actually holding our breath (except for Tommy, who prefers to just yell at the top of his lungs), as he hasn't had a seizure since October. Since OCTOBER. We've never had such a long stretch. I don't know if this will be it. I'm afraid to even hope that this will be it, because epilepsy is such a tricky disease. There is still so much unknown about epilepsy.

This is why I'll be running for Tommy on May 12th. I'm choosing to run for the Greater Chicago Area Epilepsy Foundation for a few reasons. One, we don't have a very active local affiliate. Two, Tommy sees a doctor in Chicago, and I would like my money to go to research in that area. Three, I know a lot of awesome people in the greater Chicago area, some of whom are already signed up to walk or run for Team Tommy. How great is that?

Looking back on when Tommy first began having seizures, when I first opened up and blogged about it, I could not have gotten through that time without the support of this community. It was a scary, uncertain time for us, moreso than I could ever put into words. And so, as I was thinking about how I could bring more attention to epilepsy awareness, it hit me that I wanted to give back to the people who supported us, too.
With that said, I can't afford to give back to all of you; unfortunately, I did not have the winning PowerBall ticket, but I definitely want to give back to one of you.

With this post, I'm giving away a $30 gift card to one of these five awesome places: Starbucks, Sephora, iTunes, Amazon, or Dunkin' Donuts (winner's choice!). I thought to myself, Where would I like to spend someone else's $30 and these were the five that popped into my mind, so I hope you all think like I do.
What can you do to enter? Go to the epilepsy facts page and tell me something new you learned about epilepsy. That's it! Just learn something new and carry it with you.
For additional entries, you can do a few things. Join Team Tommy (Team Tommy will be walking on May 12th in Wheaton AND May 19th in Chicago and we will have t-shirts)! Don't live in the area? You can donate to support Team Tommy. Have you already joined or donated to Team Tommy? Awesome! You've already earned extra entries.
Finally, you can tweet or Facebook or blog about what we're doing. I would add up how many extra entries you can earn, but I don't teach Math.

Giveaway will close Monday, April 9th. Good luck--and THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts.

Monday, April 2, 2012



I'm not sure if I was smiling because I did it or if I was smiling because it was DONE. Running a half-marathon was equal parts what I expected and equal parts harder than I thought. I'd run 12 miles before, so I thought I would have this in the bag. But running 12 miles by myself is different from running 13 miles in a large group of people. I told myself to start out slow, and I swear to you, I did start out slow. People were passing me more often than not and I was telling myself to keep it slow. I started out with the 10:40 pacer, yet she was so far ahead of me by the end of mile one that I couldn't see her. I thought this meant that I was taking it slow, but I somehow ran that first mile in 9:07. Oops!

From miles 2-8, I settled into a fairly consistent pace with almost a negative split for each mile (mile splits: 11:09;10:48; 10:36;10:37;10:36;11:11;10:12). Mile seven included a water stop, where I walked to take a few shot bloks, so I lost some time there.
My average pace was 10:30, which felt good with a little push. Then I got caught up at a water stop at mile 9 where they had only Gatorade filled and I had to wait for water, because I didn't want to chance blue Gatorade upsetting my stomach. To compensate for the time I was stopped, I pushed it to a 9:57 minute mile and pushed myself right into a giant wall at mile 10. Mile 10 was HARD for a few reasons. First, because the race was mostly an out and back loop, I ran right past where my car was parked at mile 10.


I had my key in my SpiBelt and just kept thinking, I should just go get in my car. That sounds nice. I could just sit in my car and not finish and yeah, that sounds much better than running three miles. Three miles is going to take forever. I should've just signed up for a ten mile race, then I'd be done right now. Why am I still running? OH MY GOD, I CAN'T DO THIS.

I am not exaggerating. This was my actual train of thought. Right around this time, my ankle started to hurt. My ankle never hurts when I run, but my achilles started to feel very irritated (and still does), so I'm not sure what I did to make it angry. Then I forgot how to lift my feet up and down. No, seriously, I felt like I forgot how to properly make a running motion with my feet. It was rough. I stopped at the water stop around mile 11 and took three more shot bloks (thanks to a tip from Barb!), but I was dragging. I did intervals to the best of my ability to get through miles 10 (11:06) and 11 (10:57). I was disappointed in myself, because I really, really wanted to run the whole entire thing, but I couldn't do it at this point. The sign for mile 12 said, "Almost done!" and I wanted to punch the sign in the face, because one mile seemed like an impossible task. Usually my last mile is my fastest, but in this case, it was definitely my slowest (12:14). However, I ran the entire last mile, so after the suck that was miles 10 and 11, I felt good about this. What helped was that I noticed myself running next to an older man and I thought, if he can finish this running, so can I. We smiled at each other and pushed each other through that last mile. After a mostly flat course, there were suddenly three uphills at the very end. Most people were walking them, but this guy was running them and if he was, so was I. When we came around the corner to the mile 13 sign, I said, "I can't do a tenth of a mile!" and he laughed. I saw the finish line and took off. Well, it felt like taking off, but it was probably more of a fast hobble at this point.
When I got across the finish, I stopped and turned back to the guy who was my mile 12 partner. We both laughed, smiled, thanked each other and hugged. This was probably the coolest part of my race. I'm always amazed at how runners support each other and through most of the race, I was wishing that I had someone to run with, so it was awesome to find someone to run with when I MOST needed it.

Also awesome was the support from everyone online. Although I didn't have anyone on the course cheering me on or waving signs, I had constant tweets and text messages through the whole race. The best part was all the messages that poured in as I finished. You guys are awesome. The best came from Donya, who was watching my babies. Her tweets at mile 10 had me crying and pushing forward.

After the race, I hobbled to my car and managed to contort myself in such a way that I changed in my car in the parking garage. This was not easy to do with sore muscles, but I wanted to be as sweat-free as possible to go meet Julie and Martina for lunch! Even though Martina has been a blog reader for some time, this was the first time we met. I was so excited to finally meet her.
This was my reward to myself for finishing:

Oh, and a root beer float for dessert. YUM. I would like another root beer float right now.
And then I apologized to Martina for pressing my sweaty head against her face. Just keeping it classy.

The drive home was long. I just wanted to be home and showered and not wearing pants that it seemed to take forever. I brought home amazing cupcakes from Julie and beautiful flowers from Martina and I came home to a sign that Donya helped my boys make. This really made me smile!

Overall, I had a great time. The course was beautiful. I wish it'd been less of an out and back, but that's okay. The volunteers were great and really supportive. My favorite volunteer was around mile 8 with a box of Kleenex--I always have a runny nose when I run! Today I feel pretty sore, but proud of myself because I set out with a goal (cross the finish line) and I did just that. I think I would absolutely love to run a half with someone by my side, for those long miles toward the end where it seems so daunting. Yesterday, I kept thinking, "I will never run this far again, unless I'm getting chased by zombies," but something tells me I will. Hopefully minus the zombies.