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Thursday, January 19, 2017

On birthdays and life....

I don't know if I've ever really gone into Alex's story before....

My divorce from Ex1 had been final for several months when I met Alex's father. We were introduced by a mutual friend at a bar one night - I was being hit on by a really skanky guy (oh my hell was he skanky) and a friend of mine was the bartender. She came out from around the bar, grabbed me, shoved me into this group of guys and said "this is my friend - take care of her" and then went back to her post. As it turned out, one of the guys in this group was her cousin.

Long story short, we started dating. One thing led to another, and boom - I was pregnant.

As soon as I told him the news, he "needed space".

I was at work one night when I started having sharp pains in the left side of my abdomen. I tried to ignore them, but they got more and more intense as the night progressed. When my relief showed up at midnight, I split and drove myself to the hospital as fast as I could. I was only about 7 weeks along, so I hadn't actually seen my OB/GYN yet, but I knew something was wrong. I got to the ER, went through the preliminary BS, and could tell from the looks of the nurses' faces that it was bad. So I called him.

He showed up. But that was about it. I was in a panic, knowing that I was going to lose the baby. After hours of testing, the ER doctor informed me that I had a sub-chorionic hemorrhage and I was more than likely going to lose the baby. I never felt so alone in my life, even though my baby's father was in the room with me.

I was eventually sent home and told to schedule a follow up with my OB/GYN. As I sat in his office and he told me that I had less than a 50% chance of carrying this baby to term, I freaked. I knew that realistically, my life was a mess. I was a newly single mother with 3 very young kids, and the last thing that I needed was another one, but suddenly I knew that no matter what, I wanted this baby to make it. I didn't look to this baby as a way to get his/her father back into my life, but I looked to it as another reason for me to live.

I was in such a deep, dark hole at the time that I didn't know where to turn. I knew that if something happened to me, my 3 kids could go and live with their father and everything would be fine. But this baby - this little being who only had me to count on - I knew that he/she only had me. And that thought kept me going. This baby gave me a reason to be strong and to do what needed to be done.

When I found out just a few weeks later that this baby was going to have a sibling who would only be a few weeks younger than he was - I didn't have a very kind reaction. In fact, I was downright hateful, nasty, and mean. Realistically, those reactions did nothing to benefit me. I knew that I was going to be raising this baby on my own - and finding out that there was another woman pregnant by the same man at the same time did nothing but cement the fact that I was truly on my own at this point.

At one point during the pregnancy, Ex1 actually took me to court to try to gain full custody of the older 3 kids. He used the reasoning that my previous pregnancies had been so hard on me (they hadn't) that an unplanned one would just be too much stress and the kids would be better off with him than they were with me. Luckily, I made it through that ordeal with no changes to our custody arrangement - and it gave me more motivation to power through all of it and show just how strong I could actually be.

Alex decided to make his appearance almost 3 weeks earlier than he should have. I wasn't prepared for his arrival - even though I was already at the hospital with a sick kid when I went into labor. But his birth showed me that no matter what, something wonderful and beautiful will always come out of the storm.

He's been challenging. He's been difficult. He's had more health issues than the other 4 kids combined. But he's the most loving, most compassionate, most loving little being on this earth - and his hugs are enough to make the worst days seem just a little bit brighter. He's had to put up with me 24/7 but at the same time he's shown me that no matter what, he still loves me - and occasionally he even likes to hang out with me. And those moments are my favorites.

Happy 11th, Alex.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

It's been a while...

I've been seriously neglecting this old blog of mine, and it's really been bothering me lately. But the thing is, when I think of something that I want to say I usually just spout it off in a long-winded facebook post instead of taking the time to sit down and actually write about it.

I'm hoping to change that. But like anything else, I have to make time for it to happen.

I asked for suggestions as to write about the other night, and my running seemed to be a pretty common theme - which is interesting considering that the last time I blogged anything, it was about running.

I generally don't think of my running as anything special. It's something that I started doing maybe 7 years ago, and mainly because I had people tell me that I was too fat and lazy to ever do it (no, those people are not in my life anymore). I didn't really take it seriously until about the last 2-3 years or so - and now it's something that is more important to me than I ever realized it could be.

Back in 2011, when I was just starting to get into running, I did my first half-marathon. I walked most of it, but I did it. And later that summer, I looked something like this.....

This picture actually just surfaced. The kids and I had gone on TMOART:11 (back before The Dude existed) and one of them snapped this picture of me coming down the steps from the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. They were using disposable cameras, and we just got them developed the other day - so seeing this picture was a shock.

Even though I've seen numerous pictures of me in a less than stellar light, my size still shocks me at times. I never really thought that I had gained that much weight, but I had.

I don't talk about my depression much (if ever) but if I'm being totally honest, my weight gain was a direct result of it. The stress of two failed marriages, being a single mother of 5 kids, and not having any clue how I was going to pay my bills got to me. I didn't do anything to stay active, and as anyone who has ever been poor knows - crappy food is way cheaper than healthy stuff. So I ate the cheap crap and tried to feed my kids the better stuff.

Eventually, the funk started to lift. I started walking more. And then I started running a little bit. I'd walk a block, then run a block, walk a block, run a block. And then I'd walk a block and run two blocks, then three, then four. Soon, I was running more than I was walking, but I still wasn't picking up speed. But eventually, I got to the point that I started getting faster.

And then I started really enjoying the races. The adrenaline rush is like no other. And the running community is fantastic - it doesn't matter if you're the first runner or the last walker to cross the line - someone will be there waiting for you and cheering for you as you cross the finish.

One of my favorite things about running is that it doesn't have to cost a fortune. When I started, I wore my normal shorts and tshirts and cheap running shoes. I used a free app on my phone to track my distance (RunKeeper - and I still use it to this day) and I didn't even have anything to play music. I just ran.

As time went on and I started getting more into it, I did buy some specific clothes - mostly tights and compression shorts because face it  - unless you have a thigh gap, chafing is real. And it hurts. And it makes you walk funny for days until it heals. (FYI - diaper rash ointment helps. You're welcome.)

Good shoes were my next major purchase - but it still took me a while to work up the guts to pay more than $50 for a pair of sneakers. So far my favorite pair is my current pair - the Brooks Ghosts that I bought after running the Nebraska State Fair Half Marathon last fall. But I know that I'm going to need to replace them soon, and the cost of a new pair scares me. Because I'm cheap.

I did splurge this year and I bought a membership to the Y. I didn't really want to spend the money, but with the crazy Kansas weather, I need a way to train indoors. The kids can go with me and they can swim or shoot hoops or play ping pong or do whatever they want to do to keep themselves amused while I pound out some miles on the treadmill or the elliptical or whatever other torture device I decide to use that day. Emily and I have a goal right now to run every day - even if it's just a mile - and so far we've been able to stick to it (and I have this nifty calendar on my bedroom wall to track my progress toward that goal).

As of right now, I think I'm only signed up for 3 races this year - both of the Prairie Fire Half Marathons in Wichita (one in April and one in October) because those are my traditional races that I will always always do until I can't do them anymore, and the Stupid Cupid 2 mile run in Wichita that is in just a few weeks. I haven't signed up for any more yet because, let's face it - the races get expensive. There are several more that I plan to do, but they haven't opened up registration yet so I have to wait and see what happens financially between now and then.

I'm trying to work up the guts to do a full marathon, but I'm just not there yet.....

For the last couple of months of 2016, I all but gave up on running. I slipped into a downward spiral, and I struggled a lot more than I'd like to admit. I didn't do much of anything unless I had to do it for survival and I gained a bunch of weight back. It took a lot of soul-searching and willpower and sheer stubbornness to get me back out there again to do a run on New Year's Eve, but I did it. I think Emily and I did a mile. And then we set our goal to run daily. There have been days when she's had to almost literally drag me out of bed to go, but we've gone. And if she's over at her father's house she runs over there and I run here and we compare notes. Now there is a challenge going on here in our town and I'm participating in that - and so my competitive side is coming out and I'm starting to really enjoy it again. And thankfully the scale is starting to show it too.

I think that the thing that amazes me the most is that at several points in my life, I had people telling me that I was too fat and lazy to ever run - and now people tell me that I have inspired them to run.

It's really kind of surreal.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Post-race thoughts

Well, I did it.

I managed to finish another half-marathon this morning.

I had a goal when I started out, and I was determined. It was cold and damp and dreary and windy, which made it hard to get going, but once we got moving my psycho running partner and I had a good pace going. We both wanted to hit that 3 hour mark, and we wanted it bad.

We kept it up more than halfway through, and then I started to struggle. I had a shooting pain going down into my knee that thankfully didn't last long, but it was enough to knock me out of my groove. Then I just got tired. And I had to pee - lord, did I have to pee. I debated stopping at the next jiffy john but I knew that if I stopped, I'd be screwed time-wise.

I kept watching our pace, even as she pulled ahead of me a bit, and as a not-quite-second wind hit I was able to make up some time. With about 3 miles to go, I knew that I had a shot - albeit a slim one - of making my 3 hour goal. So I kept pushing. I found myself having to walk a few times a bunch but I just kept going.

I knew going into the last mile that I wasn't going to make it, but it was going to be close. As frustrated and angry as I was, I kept going and managed to pull out one last strong run for the last 100 yards or so to the finish line.

Long story short, I didn't make it. I missed it by less than 2 minutes. Looking back at how things played out, I know that it was more of a mental loss than a physical one. The mental battles that I continue to fight every time I run, whether it's for training or for a race - those battles are the hardest.

So for now, the sticker will not go on my van. It had gotten mixed up with some stuff that I was carrying outside yesterday, and so I just stuck it in the trim beside the door in the laundry room so that it wouldn't get lost. And that's where it's going to stay until I can get under that 3 hour mark. And it's in a place where I'm going to see it every single day. It's a visual reminder not only of how far I've come, but also of how far I have to go.

I'm disappointed, yes. No doubt about it. But at the same time, I did get another PR by about 3-4 minutes. I'm still improving, and that's a good thing. I know the things that I need to work on, and I have a plan - it's just a matter of making it all happen.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sticky Goal

I'm doing another half-marathon tomorrow. I had to go pick up my race packet this afternoon, and while I was there I looked around at the booths with various running paraphernalia. I found a really cute t-shirt (for $5!) so I grabbed that and then looked at the stickers.

You know the stickers. The ones with the various mileages on them for races that people have run. I bought one of those today.


Many people have a love/hate relationship with the stickers. Some look at it as showing off or bragging, while those who have the stickers are simply proud of the effort that it took to get one (yes, anyone can just go and buy one, but that's not the point).

Tomorrow will be my 10th half-marathon.

For the last 6 of those, my time has improved every time. I'm still not a fast runner, but I've managed to improve from just over 3 1/2 hours to just over 3 hours. My ultimate goal right now is to complete a half-marathon in under 3 hours.

I'm honestly not sure that I can do it tomorrow. I want to, but my head has been in a weird place for the last couple of weeks and I haven't put in the effort that I really should have done in order to better prepare for this one. But I'm going to try.

That sticker - that silly little sticker - is my goal for tomorrow. Because it's not going on my van until I do 13.1 miles in less than 3 hours. If it doesn't happen tomorrow, it'll have to wait until October - and I don't want to wait that long.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Juggling

Ever since I became a parent, I've had to juggle.

Schedules. Transportation. Money. Priorities. Childcare.

When I became a single parent, I had to add holidays to that list.

Ex1 and I split just before Thanksgiving, so we immediately had to decide who got the kids for the holiday and who got to spend the day alone. Then Christmas, then New Years....on and on it went until all of the paperwork was signed and dated and we got into a routine.

Even when we did have a routine, things always changed. He has local family and I don't - so I've always tried to be flexible so that the kids didn't miss holiday celebrations with their extended families. Then other kids came along, and ultimately other schedules - and for me, trying to keep all of my kids together for holidays became a huge juggling act no matter what day we actually celebrated whatever holiday it was.

I admit that I tried to be difficult about it at times. Sometimes I got my way, and sometimes I didn't. But somehow I always managed to squeeze some sort of holiday celebration into whatever time the 6 of us had together.

Yesterday, The Dude and I had to make another crazy road trip to Kansas City, and at some point during the drive it suddenly dawned on me that Easter is this weekend. EASTER IS THIS WEEKEND. How did that happen?

My brain went into overdrive while I tried to figure out how to make Easter happen within the walls of the house since it was obviously going to happen in the real world no matter what. I already know that I have no chance of having the older 3 kids at all during the weekend because Ex1 and his wife are returning from a weeklong missions trip out of the country and her parents are in town, so they're going to want the kids. Alex's father already made plans to take him for at least a day or two and I'm not going to stand in the way of that. So maybe we can do Easter the following weekend - but I'm running a half-marathon that Saturday, so I'm going to be useless for the rest of the weekend. So maybe we can do it during the week instead and who am I trying to kid because that would just be insane.

Then suddenly it dawned on me......wait a second. Friday. The kids don't have school. They'll all be here until about noonish when the older 3 have to head back to Ex1's.

The solution was as simple as breakfast. We'll have a huge breakfast Friday morning, like a big Good Friday/Easter breakfast, and they can get their Easter baskets and we can be pigs and eat junk all morning and then the older 3 can go where they need to go and we got our time together for the holiday (and then realistically, I don't have to cook a big dinner because we had a big breakfast so I'm actually getting off easy here) and it's all good.

So while I was in the kitchen prepping cinnamon rolls for tomorrow's breakfast feast, Emily teamed up with the Easter Bunny to fill the baskets (including the eggs that we dyed earlier tonight) and then I got the kitchen cleaned up and ready for morning - including loading up the coffee pot so that it's ready to go.

The constant juggling is hard. There have been times when I've felt as though I've had 87 different things up in the air all at once - some of them were on fire, some of them came at me like bricks while others floated around like feathers, some of them crumbled into dust as soon as I touched them, and some of them slammed to the ground and shattered because I didn't have enough hands to catch them all.

I think that the most important thing that I've learned over the past decade+ of single parenting is that no matter what, everything is going to work out in the end. We might not get exactly what we want but sometimes the best gift we can give our kids is to show them that we can be flexible and make the most out of any situation. We might not get our big Easter dinner as a family, but we're going to have a hell of a breakfast together before they go off in different directions.

And then I'm going to sit back with a giant cup of coffee and relax for a little bit. Just because.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Too Close to Home

This came up on my calendar today, and the timing of it couldn't have been better.

If you've been following the news (or my page) you know that there was a mass shooting very close to here just a few days ago.

So close that the cops tore past my house so fast that I couldn't even tell what color the cars were.

So close that I raced around town, picking my kids up from various places to make sure that they were home and safe.

So close that we locked our doors - something that we never do - until we knew for a fact that the shooter acted alone and was down.

So close that I couldn't tear myself away from the media coverage, my eyes searching the crowds on TV, trying to spot anyone that I knew to make sure that they were safe.

So close that one of my acquaintances was among the injured, and I recognized the name of one of those killed.

So close that I had no choice but to explain to my kids what had actually happened.

Too close.  Entirely too close.

The day after the shooting, it was revealed that the shooter had been served a PFA (Protection From Abuse order, AKA a restraining order) about 90 minutes before he went on his rampage. His former girlfriend filed it on him, alleging that he had physically abused her on at least one occasion.

As soon as that information was released, the discussion of domestic violence began. And of course it's impossible not to read the comments when articles like that are posted. And of course the discussions and the resulting comments and arguments and victim blaming brought back all sorts of not-so-fun stuff from my past - and it's been eating me alive for days now.

For the most part, I'm over it. Yes, I was a victim of domestic violence. Yes, it was horrible. But my life doesn't revolve around it. It is a part of my past, but it doesn't define me, because I won't allow it to do that. It's not something that I normally talk about on a daily basis - but every now and then, something brings it back to the surface and it eats at me. I think back to all of the reasons why I stayed for so long, and I relive certain moments and I feel the pain and the heartache all over again. And then I look at where I am now and realize that no matter how bleak things appeared to be at the time, I'm in such a good place now. But it's a constant battle in my head - between remembering the horrible times in the past and appreciating the good ones now.

And I know that as a community, we are strong. We are so incredibly strong. The outpouring of support from surrounding areas has been amazing and humbling. Our little rural area of Kansas has been thrust into the national spotlight, and we are shining through the darkness.

At the same time that all of this was happening, probably even within the same 24-hour period, I found out that not only is one of my friends dying from cancer - but so is another one. I knew about the first one. At least I knew that he was sick, but to receive the news that it had progressed so far so fast hit me like a freight train. The second one? I had no clue. I totally missed the posts about her condition until I went looking for her to ask her a question, and found out that she's dying. The freight train backed up and hit me a second time. Once again, I'm standing here questioning everything. Why do these things happen? Why is it always the good guys? Why can't we all just get along and why can't everyone live long and healthy and happy lives? Why does life have to be so damned hard?

It's been a rough few days, to say the least. I've been forcing myself to go out and run even when I didn't want to - because I know if I don't, I'll just sit here and eat everything and be lazy and be miserable and slide down into that hole that I try so hard to avoid. But luckily I have my Sole Sis/Slave Driver who keeps me going. She keeps forcing me to run, but that's what I need right now - because I know that if I don't get out and run, I'll feel like crap from sitting around like a lump. If I do run, I still feel like crap, but it's a good kind of crap (if that makes any sense at all). And the running is getting easier, and I do feel better - and that helps so much with the mental stuff right now.

One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. That's all that any of us can do. Keep going, don't stop, and eventually we'll get through all of the crap.

At least that's what I keep telling myself.

#HesstonStrong



Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bloggy Stuff

I got an email a few days ago, and the more I think about it, the more I want to talk about it.

It included phrases like "revolutionary video summit", "video event", "active community", and "win-win with our existing community". I usually ignore these emails because my life is chaotic enough without having to schedule stuff around my blog, but this one was so happy and upbeat that I thought "oh, what the heck" and I emailed her back and said ok, tell me more.

I got an email back a little while later telling me what I'd need to do to participate in this "revolutionary video summit" as a so-called expert (an expert on what? I don't know.) and there was a list of requirements. A pre-recorded interview. Sending out some emails. Sending out a newsletter. Oh, and did we mention that you have to have at least 5000 people in your email database, but that doesn't count anything that you do on social media?

At this point (after I got done laughing) I sent her an email back saying that while I appreciated the opportunity I would have to pass, as I don't have an email database and everything that I do is on social media. What I didn't say was that even if I did have an email database, the last thing that I'd want to do is spam 5000+ people to beg them to watch me on video. No one wants to see that shiz.

When I started this blog, it was at the urging of one of my friends who at that point said something to the effect of "I bet you could have at least 30 people following you!" - I never expected it to get this far. But thanks to that silly letter, it's gotten way bigger than I anticipated.

In the early days, I went out looking for people to read my stuff. I promoted myself in so many ways that it was downright exhausting. I celebrated each milestone and did everything that I could to get to the next one. The blog that I wrote about food stamps put me on the map, and then the Tooth Fairy blew it out of the water.

The Tooth Fairy letter has been stolen and reposted without being credited back to my page approximately eleventy and a half bajillion times now, and people criticize me for pointing out that it came from my page and asking to be credited for it. "If you don't want the numbers, why do you insist on pointing out that it's yours, you big fat hypocrite?" Well, to be honest, I don't want the numbers - but at the same time I believe in this little thing called intellectual property, and if something isn't your creation, then don't post it as if it is. If the whole Tooth Fairy letter debacle has done anything, it's proven just how fast something can be stolen and spread out of control.

So why am I blogging about how I don't care about how many people read my blog?

Because sometimes I need to remind myself why I even started this thing in the first place. Because when it started, it was just a place to express myself, whether it was to journal about things that we had done that day, to rant about something that pissed me off, to express my feelings over a difficult situation, or to post a dumb picture or story that I felt like sharing. There was no purpose, no rhyme or reason. It was for me, and for whoever decided that they wanted to read it. Period.

Then I started to get worried about what people would think. And so I'd censor myself. I wouldn't write about a certain topic because it might offend someone. Or I wouldn't ramble on about my day because no one would really care about it anyway. But then I went back and I read some of my older posts - posts where I just rambled about the normal day-to-day crap in our lives - and I realized that while it might not be interesting to other people, it was fun for me to go back and read it and remember things.....which is why I started this in the first place. So while I can't guarantee that I'll blog about something fun and exciting every single day, I'm going to make much more of an effort to blog something more regularly.

I mean seriously - I have some fun and exciting stuff (to me, anyway) going on in my life. Between shenanigans with The Dude and/or the kids, getting Mom Cave Designs up and running as a legitimate business, getting myself up and running in a bunch of races, and just life in general - my mind goes a million miles an hour. It's time to stop worrying about what people think and actually put some of these thoughts down in writing so that I can look back at them later.

And if people don't like it, screw 'em.

Random moon photo by Emily, taken when she
snatched my phone while on the way to town
to pick up pizzas and movies.