Hold On Hope

Habits are hard to break, aren’t they? I’ve bitten my nails for my whole life and I’ve finally stopped doing that…mostly. But now I tear at my nails instead. It’s marginally better? I drink coffee each morning before I do much of anything else. It’s not really the best habit because I use sugar and creamer. I’ve cut my sugar in half, but I can’t seem to get any further than that. Honestly, it’s a habit I don’t want to break.

What do you do when your habits seriously hurt your health? Smoking, drinking excessively, eating fatty or sugary foods–not to mention addiction to illegal drugs or pain medication–are all activities many of us participate in, but when your health is deteriorating due to these habits, how do you stop?

What if you are the partner, friend or child of the person with these harmful habits? How do you help the person? When is the time you step back…or turn your back?

In August of last year, I wrote this: “But…shouldn’t there be a time when we finally say, ‘I will no longer take care of you. I will remain your partner until death, but I can no longer help you if you refuse to help yourself.'”

I’ve discovered that there is indeed a time when I will say these sentences and that time is now.

After a recent hospital stay for my husband due to a medication failure, a diagnosis of congestive heart failure and a disastrous and degrading (to me) doctor’s appointment, I am stepping back. It is now up to my husband to take control of his life. He knows all of this now. We’ve had a “come to Jesus” meeting as my old boss, Bill, used to say. I won’t attend any more of his appointments unless he is physically unable to drive. When he asked if I would go to an appointment if he asked me specifically to go, I told him I’d have to answer that later. Right now, the answer is “no.” I have a list of his medications, but it’ll be up to him to let me know if anything changes. When he asked me yesterday if he should pick up canned hash to have for breakfast the next day, I told him I wasn’t answering those questions anymore. He could make that decision, that choice. And he did.

Does all of this seem too personal to put out into the universe? It is. It’s also really difficult. I know I have at least one friend who understands everything I’m feeling right now, and maybe there are more people out there who get it, too. You’re not alone.

Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. Parenting is hard. Co-parenting is even harder. Watching someone hurt themselves when you know it affects more than just themselves, is rage-inducing.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself falling back into that bad habit of emotional eating. I’ve always done that when I’m angry, and these past 2 weeks certainly proved that. Fortunately, I’ve been able to attempt running once more, and that has helped my moods tremendously. I wish it could help everyone, but at least I’m able to find patience as the result of my exercise and can listen to my son and husband when they need me. At this point I’m not sure I can do much else.

I know for a fact that some people will read this and think I’m heartless or selfish and should do more to support my partner. “You’ve been married for 25 years! You don’t just sit back while their health is in jeopardy!” But what if your own health, albeit mental health, is in jeopardy? What about your child’s? The old man can do this. He is completely capable of making good choices. I don’t care if you think I’m heartless or selfish. I know I’m not. I love my husband. I will until I die. I am still here. But right now, he is the only one who can help himself. Will I give him a pat on the back when he does well? Absolutely! But will I criticize him when he doesn’t? Nope. I’ll do my damnedest to just nod my head and say “ok.”

These changes will be damn difficult for everyone in our household. I will hope for the best, but expect the worst, which is my usual M.O. 😉 Now enjoy this song about trying to find some hope in a messy situation. Hugs to you all.

Thanks, Y’all

Tomorrow morning at 8:40am, a surgeon in Portland, Maine will be removing the tail of my pancreas along with those nasty precancerous tumors that are attached to it. He may also be removing my spleen, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed that won’t happen.

Having a distal pancreatectomy has been frightening to think about, but I’ve felt quite calm about it since yesterday. There’s nothing more I can do now, right? I have my workplace as settled as I can, I finished the password book for my family, and yesterday I ran my last 5K in what I expect to be at least 3 months.

Pretty happy to get the run in.

So as they’re prepping me tomorrow, I will pretend I’m back in that sensory deprivation tank I tried out a few weeks ago at Float 207. It was really lovely. I chose the purple light and I’m so glad I did.

But after imagining this calm space, I know I’ll be thinking of my boy, my family, my friends and all the incredibly kind words and thoughts you’ve sent my way. Thank you.

I’ll see you on the other side. ❤

Running Through My Head

Picture this: You’re running through the quiet streets of rural Maine. You can hear the occasional bird chattering in the distance, a snowmobile driving through a nearby field, your footfalls on the pavement or splashing in the slush and puddles. Now picture your neighbor out puttering in their yard or shoveling their walkway as they hear snippets of “Mein Herr” from Cabaret or Pink telling them to “Raise Your Glass” or maybe even Rihanna & Eminem talking about the monsters and voices in their heads. Then they see this giant bumblebee of a woman running by, possibly smiling, possibly gasping, with that music emitting from her body. It’s a glorious image, isn’t it? 😉

Saturday was very warm for central Maine–in the low 50s on a February morning. The sun wasn’t shining throughout my 10K run, but it still felt like spring. I was able to wear my orange running shoes instead of my trail runners I have to wear on the snow and ice-covered roads, and I felt so light with those beauties on my feet. Yesterday it was either bare road or mud puddles, and I loved them both.

During the first few miles of my run, I just enjoyed each moment. My music made me smile, there was little traffic, I felt strong and swift. My thoughts started to drift towards home, towards my son who was getting ready for his first date as I pounded the pavement. He was nervous but excited. My husband was having a good morning with no body pain. It was a good morning.

I started to think about my therapy appointment from the day before. How overwhelmed I’ve felt this week. My need to prioritize my workload, yet how stuck I’ve felt all week. I got the call on Monday that I’ll need to have a distal pancreatectomy–removal of the tail of my pancreas. The cysts that are present are precancerous, so it’s time to take care of them. I’ve done so much of my own research that I feel like I know what’s ahead of me, yet I feel like I am completely clueless all at the same time. I meet with the surgeon in a few weeks with my long list of questions (thank you friends!) and I think I’ll feel better at that point. Or I’ll feel worse.

I know for a fact that the recovery will be awful. Hell, the removal of an internal organ or part of one is no easy thing for your body to heal from. It’ll take time. There’ll be a lot of pain and fatigue and who knows what else? Probably loss of weight, which normally I’d say “Alright!” Maybe I can look at the weight loss as a positive?

Yeah…maybe not. That’s my eating disorders and poor body image talking.

These thoughts flitted in and out as I kept running. The Beatles’ “All Together Now” came up on my playlist and I focused on the song and nodded along. I thought of my brother who introduced me to this song. I thought about the library and my work and how long would I need to be out for this operation and recovery? I love what I do but I also feel a lot of pressure to continually justify the library’s existence. We do great work and we provide MANY services to our patrons and residents, but sometimes it feels like too much, especially with just a handful of staff.

I had to push all of that out of my head and keep running, placing one foot in front of the other. Jon Batiste’s “I Need You” started to play and I could feel my face light up with that happy, fun music–just like my friend, Denise–this is her song and I love it! It makes me want to dance or run faster, which I did. It helped push me up a small hill and past the cemetery where my Grammy is buried. I blew her a kiss like I do most days and couldn’t help but think of Mom. If she were here, she’d be sick with worry about my upcoming operation. And Dad would reassure me that all would be well but worry as soon as I left the room.

As I neared home, I thought about what will happen during my recovery. What will I be able to do at home? I’m fortunate that my son is a teen and could do nearly anything we need him to. I worry that my husband will not be well enough, but currently he’s ok. And like many women I know, I currently do WAY too much of the work at my house. That will all have to change.

And I’m going to have to let some things go. I absolutely hate losing control over anything, and this all feels like a damned tornado ripping through every aspect of my life. Yet if I don’t go through with it? Pancreatic cancer will surely rear its ugly head at some point in my future.

So….yeah. I think I’ll take my chances with the tornado.

When I arrived at my house and tiptoed up my icy driveway, I was still in the same good mood I was in when I left. Actually, much more so. Even with all of my worries unraveling, I didn’t need to deal with them right then and there. I just finished running 6.2 miles at a much faster pace than I had run in weeks and with my body still feeling decent. I was smiling as I started to stretch on my front steps, and I asked my husband to take my picture. I wanted a record of how I looked, while I felt as good as I did.

I looked good. Happy. Satisfied.

It was a good day.

The future is uncertain, but isn’t it for all of us? Let’s just try to celebrate those good moments and good days right now.

Tomorrow I’ll work on my plans on how to control the universe.

Surviving

Today is my 3-year anniversary as the director of a small public library. I’ve worked at the library for over 16 years, but was given the gift of leading the library for the past three years. It’s no secret that I love what I do, and as much as I don’t believe in “things happen for a reason” or “soul mates” or even “destiny,” I think being a rural public librarian is the absolute perfect profession for me. Do I still dream of becoming a writer and actually making a living from it? Of course! But I know my writing isn’t good enough for that to happen, not without a lot more effort and practice and education. Right now, though, my heart is with librarianship.

As I talked to my husband today about everything that’s happened since I became director, I couldn’t help but choke back a sob. How did I make it through it all? Let me give you the timeline:

February 2019: Become director of the library. This was 2 months after my husband had been laid off. He was unemployed when I got this job. It was 18 1/2 months after my brother died. That may not seem relevant, but his life and death impact me in ways most people cannot understand.

March 2019: My funny, sweet, lovely father dies on St. Patrick’s Day.

May 2019: My husband gets a new job. Yes!

June 2019: I break my arm while walking with my son. I break it so badly that a plate and nine screws had to be implanted in my upper arm.

September 2019: My mother becomes ill and I make the choice to place her in hospice care.

October 2019: My loving, supportive, bad-ass mom dies on October 4th. She left this planet five minutes after I left her bedside.

January 2020: After the difficulties of 2019, we decide to plan a fabulous Florida vacation with a cruise.

February 2020: Husband goes into the hospital with pneumonia and the flu, then ends up on a ventilator and in a coma. Both our son and I have the flu, too, and for two weeks we wait. I answer questions from the doctors because they cannot wake him up from the comatose state they put him into. Questions about kidney failure and brain damage are thrown around. Yet on Valentine’s Day, he finally wakes up. ❤

March 2020: While my husband continues to recover at home, I manage pancreatitis at home. I know if I go to the hospital, there won’t be anyone to take care of my husband or son. So I drink fluids, get blood drawn every other day for my doctor to keep tabs on me, and I go to work to keep us all afloat. Then COVID-19 hits the U.S. and I close the library on the evening of March 16th and we cancel our dream vacation.

April 2020: We celebrate our son becoming a teenager with a family party via Zoom. Not quite what we had planned.

May 2020: While working from home, I go for a lunchtime walk and am bitten by the neighbor’s dog. My husband rushes me to the doctor for stitches and to check out all the puncture wounds on my legs. We re-open the library this month for curbside services.

June 2020: We re-open the library doors.

August 2020: I run a half-marathon because I can.

September 2020: I run another half-marathon on Mom’s birthday in memory of her bad-assery.

January/February 2021: I start training for a marathon. Just weeks later I get a stress fracture in my right leg. We watch our beloved cat, Miso, have a seizure and die in front of our eyes as my husband calls the vet and my son and I cry and try to comfort the sweetest cat that ever lived. We all hold him in our arms afterwards and cry until bedtime.

March/April 2021: I start taking walks and short runs again. My sanity is somewhat restored.

June 2021: Our son “graduates” from 8th grade. My husband has a widow maker of a heart attack on June 15th. He only survives because he was near a university medical center.

August 2021: The boy enters high school.

September 2021: Husband goes back to work.

Late October 2021: Husband told by doctor to stop working until he has another heart surgery.

November 2021: Two stents placed in husband’s heart. His energy improves dramatically!

January 2022: I have a procedure on my pancreas to determine if I have cancerous tumors or the possibility of cancer forming on said tumors. Still waiting for the results.

And there you have it. There were MANY activities and emotions not mentioned, and a lot of those were fabulous. I smiled every day, I think. They weren’t all real, but many of them were. I laughed nearly every day. I, like so many of you, juggled lots of other crap we don’t talk about because it’s life—flat tires, sick pets, stress from work and COVID and paying bills and EVERYTHING.

But…I’ve also read over 800 books since I became director. (Many of them middle-school novels.) I’ve written blog posts and poems and reports and letters. I’ve made new friends, some of them being my library patrons. I’ve created new connections at the library, both personally and professionally. I’m trying to lead the library into being the center of the community, and with the amazing support from the Board, the volunteers, and the residents, I think we can do it.

Yes, WE.

If I’ve learned anything from these past three years, it’s that I can’t do my work by myself. I can’t succeed alone. I have an incredible staff, support system and library users that makes the library a wonderful place to be a part of.

But I also know that I would never have survived these three years without my family and friends. Never. I received gift cards and meals when my husband was in the hospital. People sent me cards when my parents died and gave me hugs when I needed them. They were also there to just listen. I have friends all around the country and so many of them reached out in various ways over the past few years. Sometimes just listening is all I needed. And that’s why you reading this blog has also helped me. Tremendously.

So…thank you. I think that’s really all I’m trying to say tonight. Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for supporting me in however you know how. Thanks for being you.

Now go to your local library. They need your support even more these days. And remember, keep reading. It doesn’t matter what it is. I am not a judgy librarian! Read what you want and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If they do, tell them your librarian said to screw off. ❤

In Limbo

Two weeks ago, I underwent exploratory surgery to identify why I continually get pancreatitis. The first time I had it was 7 years ago, at a time when I was running more than I am now, was thinner and rarely drank alcohol. I was hospitalized for it then, and again two years later. The third time was in March of 2020. I refused to go to the hospital because I knew what was wrong with me, COVID had just hit the U.S. and my husband had just been released from the hospital after being in a coma and on a ventilator. There was no way in hell I was going to leave my family. I sipped broth and Gatorade and water for 2 weeks, had blood drawn nearly every day during that time until my doctor said I could eat a smidgen.

But since then, I’ve had minor bouts of pancreatitis. I could feel the pain coming on and then I’d stop eating for a few days and eventually it would go away. I was tired of living that way, so my doc referred me to the Portland Gastroenterology Center. There are a few specialists there, surgeons in particular, who are kick-ass and are the only ones in the state who do a few things they do. After blood tests and scans, they decided I should have an endoscopic ultrasound where they can get a better look (and sample) of the cysts I have on the tail of my pancreas.

And that’s what they did on January 3rd. It was an outpatient procedure, no biggie, and I went home a few hours afterwards. They did say that 10% of patients develop pancreatitis afterwards, and I joked that I needed to lose 5 pounds anyway, so no worries!

If only I could have eaten those words. I did, indeed, contract pancreatitis, and lost 7 pounds. I finally started to feel better nearly 10 days after the procedure and was able to eat regular meals…for 2 days. Then one night I became tremendously ill for an hour, slept, and was in pain for another few days and ate little. I *think* I’m back on track as of today. I even went for a run on my treadmill, the first run since New Year’s Day. It was very slow and a bit painful, but I felt a huge sense of accomplishment.

Throughout these past two weeks, I started to get my test results. Do you know of MyChart? Many hospitals use it as an online portal and patients have access to all of the notes from the nurses and doctors, as well as the test results. If you read all of what is available to you, you’re getting your results before your doctor interprets them for you. This, my friends, can be dangerous for your mental health.

I read all of my results and, of course, did my own research of what everything meant. Thankfully, the first thing I read was NO CANCER. Yay! Then I read bits about my cysts probably being mucinous cysts and what does that mean? I sent one of the reports that my PCP didn’t get to him and asked him to explain some of it. I already had my interpretation–the cysts can cause pancreatic cancer if not taken care of. Maybe not now, but within the next decade. My PCP admitted that this was not his specialty, but he had the same interpretation. Then he told me to NOT panic and bug the shit out of my gastro doctors.

And I did.

My surgeon, Dr. Rolshud, seems to be a lovely person. We played phone tag one day and finally he explained that he was waiting for one more test to see if I was a high-risk individual for getting pancreatic cancer. (We won’t get those results for at least another week or two.) He did say, though, that because of my history of pancreatitis at such a young age (see what I said about him being lovely?!?), I am more than likely high-risk.

What does all of this mean? It means that if my results come back high-risk, he will remove the tail of my pancreas (distal pancreatectomy). He says there is no question about the surgery if that’s what the test results show. If it comes back low-risk, we have a discussion and figure out what’s best.

I have questions. My first instinct is to remove the tail of the pancreas. My grandfather died from pancreatic cancer, as did some of dearest friends’ parents. I know what happens and it’s certainly not my first choice of how to die. (Although I suppose we don’t usually get a choice, do we?) But will I still be able to get cancer in the rest of my pancreas? And my research showed that more than likely they’ll have to remove my spleen–which is a whole other ball of wax! I have a friend and colleague that doesn’t have a spleen and she has to be extremely careful about everything because she’s immunocompromised. (Your spleen is a huge part of your immune system, but you can live without it.)

What about running? I started to do more research today and some people stop running because it’s not good for their pancreas–yet others do fine. And the recovery? Oy. It’s a 6-8 week recovery process. Sometimes people develop diabetes because the rest of their pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Others have to take enzymes (like supplements) forever because they continuously have diarrhea otherwise. After surgery, sometimes you can have stomach leakage.

Oh. My. God.

But…I don’t want to have cancer. I realize this doesn’t stop it from other areas of my body, but maybe we could stop it in one place? I also don’t want to have pancreatitis episodes for the rest of my life. The pain is exhausting and draining and infuriating. Typically, I don’t know what triggered it and then I beat myself up because I figure it’s my fault somehow. After surgery, I’m sure I’ll have to live on a low-fat diet forever and possibly give up any kind of alcohol, but that’s ok. I’ll whine about it plenty, but you’re used to that, aren’t you? 😉

For now, I wait. I try to eat healthy, small meals, and hopefully I can keep up my running routine. I’ll try to throw in more yoga and try to be good to myself. Since the procedure, I’ve definitely become a bit more needy for hugs and love, and long for comfort from both of my parents. Although in this type of situation, I can imagine the worry on both of their faces, then hear their reassurance that all would be well. ❤

Here’s hoping 2022 will look brighter in the upcoming months. Now go eat some ice cream for me!

Just Me

There was a lot of hope for 2021–vaccines, life going back to normal, I was training for a marathon, and my family was just grateful that my husband survived his sickness and came out of a coma in February of 2020.

Some of what we hoped for happened–we got the vaccines, life got better. Then the variants came and so many more people have died and so many people refuse vaccines and life will always be different. I was able to fly to a conference in Nevada and to see a dear friend in Kentucky in the fall, but now many flights are canceled around the globe due to COVID and quarantine times. I had a stress fracture and stopped training for a marathon but was able to run again later in the year. My husband had a widow maker of a heart attack on June 15th and has had several surgeries since. Things got better, then worse. Two steps forward and life looked good, then another setback. Like Anne Lamott says in her book Dusk Night Dawn, “It’s like tucking an octopus into bed at night: new arms keep popping out.”

Now a new year is coming. 2022 is nearly here. I honestly haven’t talked to anyone who is hopeful about it. Everyone is exhausted and burnt out and just tries to get through each day without losing their shit.

We have to find something to look forward to. SOMETHING. As I’ve said many times before, I usually love the new year. I like clean slates, fresh starts, new beginnings, and every other cliche you can think of. Sometimes I think of a new year as a New You (or rather new me). I often have resolutions, but they’re really more like goals. I’ll be disappointed if I don’t reach them, but I try. I’ll survive if they don’t come to fruition.

I’m going to try again to train for a marathon, although I can’t say I’m super positive about it. My body has hurt a lot lately and I’m mostly running to maintain some kind of fitness level until I can figure out what’s what. If I can’t train right away, I’ll work on that 15 pounds I want/need to lose (depending on the moment). And keep going to therapy to deal with that incessant want/need to lose the 15 pounds.

These are things, though, that are just part of my current life–running, losing weight, trying to be healthy. My real goal for 2022? I really, really want to do something new each month. I’ve wanted to LEARN something new each month before, but that doesn’t always happen. That can still be included, but I want to DO something I’ve never done every month. Just once a month. Sometimes it may just be making a new dessert because I just don’t have the money or resources to do what I’d like. But other times?

Here’s a short list of activities I’d like to do in 2022 that seem feasible:

  1. Try out a sensory deprivation tank at Float 207.
  2. Watch all the films that are nominated for Best Picture with my son and watch the Oscars on March 27th with him. Make pizza or nachos with him, too. I suppose I want to try and recreate what my brother and I used to do (although I think I only watched every film for the Oscars once).
  3. Zip line
  4. Get a monthly massage (I suppose this isn’t really trying something new yet making time to take care of myself seems new. I’ve had so few massages in my life but when I do, I always think “why don’t I do this more?!?”)
  5. Find something to be grateful for each day. This is a tough one for me. It shouldn’t be but sometimes I am so Eeyore-like that I can’t get out of my own way, you know?
  6. Get my passport!
  7. Visit new places, especially state parks
  8. Run somewhere new. I’d like to run in a new place each month, even just a new trail or a different road. Maybe that can be my running goal for the year if the marathon doesn’t work out.
  9. Ride on a snowmobile

I have other pursuits, but many I might not be able to do. I’d like to work on my writing, come up with a few goals. Maybe write a few poems again. I’m not sure about that yet, but I do know that writing often brings me joy…or sometimes relief, like a deep breath that I didn’t know I needed. I’d also like to organize and digitize my photos. I have so many pictures of my own and from my parents and it seems pretty overwhelming, although I think it’s the emotional piece that is what seems insurmountable. Sometimes I can face grief head on, and other times I just avoid situations that make me remember. Like so many other things in life, it just depends on the day.

My family and I have joked and said “2022 is our year!” Then we immediately roll our eyes and knock on wood and tell each other to not say that anymore since we said that about 2019, 2020 AND 2021 and look how those friggin’ years turned out! Perhaps our resolution or goal for 2022 should just be to survive. It’s something that many were not able to do in 2021.

Maybe surviving and thriving? I don’t know, friends. I just don’t know anymore.

Nonetheless, I will keep shooting for my “new activity” each month and if that starts to feel like too much, I’ll just shoot for reading a new book each month. That one, as long as I’m living, I know I can achieve.

Good luck to all of you. Be safe. I’d love to hear your goals and resolutions and wishes for the future.

Happy New Year and may you feel loved and appreciated in 2022.

Dad’s Day

My “long” run today was more of a trudge. It was a warm and sunny 36 degrees, but the wind was gusting at 30mph and cut right through my clothes. I took breaths through my scarf because my chest started to hurt from the cold. I wanted to do 5 miles and since this was going to be a rough one, I let my mind wander as much as possible to distract me from the wind and the heavy legs. I thought of the visit I had yesterday with a few of my lovely friends and how it truly lifted my spirits. I thought of the upcoming family Christmas party and how wonderful it will be to host it again since we couldn’t get together last year. Then I realized I hadn’t invited my stepmom yet…which led me to thoughts of my dad.

Today is December 12th. On this day in 1987, my father took his last drink. He had been a drinker his whole life, and looking back, he figured he was an alcoholic by the age of 15. His grandparents often gave him sips or actual drinks of beer from the time he was just a toddler. Eventually the addiction destroyed many of his relationships, including his marriage to my mother. He was such a different person when he drank.

This photo of my parents showed Dad in his favorite chair, wearing his typical outfit of a white t-shirt and suspenders. Looks like he was grooving to the music on the headphones. I’m pretty sure he was tipsy in this picture, but I could be wrong. Usually when he started drinking, he was ok. Sometimes fun-loving, a good time. But in the later years, he became angry and violent and it was a shit show.

But on this day in 1987, that all changed. I found out who my father really was. And he was the most incredibly kind man, who loved to laugh and loved his family fiercely. He spent the next 30 years of his life trying to make amends to those he hurt while drinking. Even on his deathbed, he regretted so many of his decisions and thought he had not done enough to apologize. But that wasn’t true. I believe he went above and beyond to reform, to admit wrong doing and to apologize. We tried to reassure him of this fact as he lay dying, and I truly hope he heard and believed us.

I don’t want this to be a sad post today. This is to celebrate my father and his courage and hard work to make his life better. While I thought of him on my run, I thought maybe of visiting his grave. But I don’t really feel him there. Not usually. Instead, I thought of the conversations we had on our Sunday visits during the last year of his life. While I trudged along on the dirt road, I thought of all the times Dad called to ask how the road was to see if he should drive to my house that way or the long way. Or the stories he told about that exact road and how when my parents were married, they got stuck on that road a few times while visiting my grandmother.

I just thought about Dad most of the day. Were there tears? Of course. But I also laughed out loud, thinking about my Papa and his silliness. I miss him. Tremendously. And I’m so, so proud of him.

I love you, Dad. ❤

Finding Community

Let me begin with thanking so many of you for sending your good thoughts, vibes and prayers my family’s way last week. My husband got through his heart surgery and everything looks great. Two stents were placed in his arteries instead of one, since they found a clogged artery they didn’t know about, but now blood is actually getting to a majority of his heart. His energy has skyrocketed and I think he may be on his way back to the living. Now he just needs to clean up his act by eating right and exercising. Not everyone gets a second chance, so hopefully with encouragement he’ll be ok and take advantage of this rare opportunity.

And now…back to running. 😉

Sundays are typically my long run days. I was up to 10 miles a few weeks ago, but ratcheted it down to just 4, then have slowly been building back up again. Today was a 10K (6.2 miles) day, and although I felt good and ready when I left my house, the feeling didn’t last. I had a hot flash around mile 1, which is a weird thing to have when you’re already sweating. I felt completely depleted by the end of mile 2. I almost called my husband to ask him to bring me a banana or maybe drive me back home, but then in my head I heard my friend Heather say, “I take walking breaks. It’s really ok!” So I stopped beating myself up and walked for a few minutes and sipped from my electrolyte drink that tasted awful. But the combo gave me a bit of energy and I pushed on. By 2.5 miles, I started to feel better. I was tremendously slow and walked up nearly every hill (except the giant hill I tried to run up and then realized I was so hunched over that I could touch the ground), but the run was finally feeling good.

I was ok with being slow today, but I wanted to feel good. I wanted those endorphins to kick in. Hell, I just wanted to feel like myself. I’ve had so many moments in the past few years when I don’t feel like me. Do you ever have that? Like you feel out of sorts, like something isn’t right but you don’t know what that is? Now that I’m perimenopausal, I certainly feel like that more and more. It’s not just the physical–the hot flashes, the 15-20 pound weight gain since 2017, the occasional lethargy. But also the mental and emotional changes and challenges that are not necessarily due to perimenopause–the occasional emotional outburst, the grief, the anger, the stress of so much loss–and trying to find a way to not only take care of myself (which admittedly I’ve been pretty bad at), but also to take care of my son and husband AND to be a support for my friends and the rest of my family.

After living through the deaths of my brother and parents, watching my husband nearly die twice and supporting a stressed and grieving child, then managing to get through (and currently going through) all the logistical shit people don’t tell you about (burials, funerals, wills, estates, financial loss while recovering from illness), I have learned a lot. But I also received a HUGE load of emotional support from my friends and family. And I want to give that back in spades. I know I still don’t have the right words to say to someone after a loved one dies, but I often say that I’m here if you need anything and often suggest a meal or time together or even $20 if I have it. I don’t say any of that unless I mean it. Occasionally someone will take me up on it and ask for help. And I’m grateful. When I was desperate, I did reach out to my friends and asked for help. Nearly every time they were more than happy to lend a hand or an ear. That’s what being a friend is. (And more than once I did NOT ask for any assistance, yet some friends helped me anyway. Because they are that awesome.)

Reach out to your friends and family this week. Contact the ones you want to. I give you permission to not bother with those folks who continually disappoint or hurt you. I know that the holidays can mean being forced to spend time with people you might not want to. Admittedly, I had a great family and loved to spend time with them. Not all the time, mind you, but enough. I know our family was lucky that way. But if you don’t have that kind of family but one that is toxic and treats you badly, I hope you get to have dinner with your chosen family this week. If you can’t do that, then please find SOMETHING that makes you happy this week, ok? Preferably nothing that can harm you. Go for a hike, pet a cat, read a great book, have a glass of good wine, walk a dog, eat pie, bake a pie, have sex, go for a run, buy new shoes–whatever makes you feel good!

And if you need a hand or an ear, I’ll do my best to lend you one or the other. I’ll try to be here for you, as you’ve been there for me.

Until then, I’ll try to keep running amidst hot flashes and cold mornings. You’d think they’d cancel each other, right? Sadly, no, but at least your voices in my head will keep me going. (I’m standing up straight, Sonya!)

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all. ❤

Power of Positive Thinking

On my run today, I started working on my posture. It’s truly awful. I’ve always been a sloucher. When you’re over 6 feet tall and a majority of your friends are “average” height, you find yourself hunching your shoulders and slouching to try and shorten yourself. My brother was 6’6″ and his posture was just as horrible. He had a little hump near the end of his life and I can see that happening to me, too. (As I’m typing this, I’m sitting ramrod straight just thinking about it!)

Since I was trying to relax my shoulders and run tall, I didn’t worry about my pace this morning. But the route I took included a long, steep hill, and normally that’s when I feel my shoulders meeting my ears and my gaze aiming at the ground. Not today! I kept thinking, “Ok, you can do this. Don’t worry about your pace, just keep those shoulders back and look straight ahead. And relax, damn it!” So I talked to myself in my head for a few minutes, then started to think about the week ahead.

Tomorrow, five months to the day since his “widow maker” of a heart attack, this guy is undergoing another cardiac catherization and a stent inserted into a 100% clogged artery.

As I was slowly ascending that hill, I thought about this blog and the outpouring of support I’ve received because of it. When my husband was on a ventilator and in a coma in 2020, people around the country were sending him healing thoughts and prayers. I’m not exaggerating. We know a lot of folks between the two of us and they’re all over the place. And due to this blog and at least one dear friend’s move, we now know folks all over the world. So, once again, I am asking for those positive thoughts sent this way.

When Husband had his heart attack in June (the day after my birthday), he was told he might need this upcoming surgery. But he didn’t really remember that. I did. He was a little surprised in the fall when his doctor told him he’s need this stent fairly soon. And then in October, what little energy my husband had, he was losing quickly. He wasn’t (and isn’t) well. Then one day, while I was away at a conference, both his doctor and his boss told him he needed to take a break from work. His boss’ words were, “You’re not having another heart attack on my watch.” Our family doctor has been concerned and thought he might need to stop working…possibly for good. But Husband said “no.” He’ll stop working until after the surgery, but he’s too young to stop all together. We hope! (Meanwhile, he’s been getting shots in his eyes due to his diabetes…and those shots have advanced his tiny cataracts into full-blown cataracts. So that surgery will be next month!)

Tomorrow morning, we will head, once again, to the hospital. This time, though, they won’t have to save his life while quickly putting a stent in. This time, the operation will take three hours and the surgeons can take their time, look around, do what they need to do. Hopefully it will extend my husband’s life. Hopefully his energy will improve and he’ll be able to do things again. Maybe he can do yard work without having heart palpitations or take a walk with me without having to nap afterwards. I thought those things would happen this summer or fall, but they didn’t.

So let’s get this shit fixed, ok? Let’s raise my husband’s quality of life.

Let’s get him living again.

Love to you all. Thank you in advance for sending those good vibes our way. ❤

Runner’s High?

I’ve only been running for 11 years now, but very often I feel this sense of strength and determination during my run. It’s not endorphins, just this single-mindedness to keep going. Today I ran 10 miles for various reasons. I thought I’d do a 15K (9.3 miles) as I continue to train for a marathon. But with my upcoming work schedule, a long run will not be in the cards for 2 weeks, so I figured I’d push it today. It was 59 degrees, cloudy, a cool breeze–perfect for a long run.

Maine is beautiful most of the time, but the autumn in Maine is glorious. The leaves are all changing but after the rain this weekend, many have fallen. It’s getting near the end of the gorgeous season, so I’ve been trying to get out and run while I can to enjoy the colors.

During the last few miles of my 10 miler, my body was starting to hurt. My hips, my right calf, my hamstrings, everything. But I pulled my shoulders back, looked straight ahead and just kept moving. Once I was finished, I guzzled chocolate milk, took ibuprofren, closed the door to my home library so my cat wouldn’t attack my feet (he loves those compression stockings!), and slowly got my body to the carpeted floor. As I lay on my back, I pulled my right knee to my chest…and started to giggle….and giggle….and laugh until I cried.

It. Was. AWESOME!

Apparently, this isn’t necessarily endorphins, or the runner’s high, but this euphoria was due to endocannabinoids. These are biochemical substances that are similar to cannabis and can give you that sense of calm. Typically, I feel very serene after a run and am able to deal with stress a bit easier, but today was something different entirely. It’s like a laughing orgasm! Something that felt so intensely good, in this case the relaxing then stretching of my muscles, that my body felt the need to release pressure and it came out as hysterical laughter. It was so friggin’ cool! 🙂 It was so much better than crying, which is what my body usually does after anything too intense.

Of course, after I stretched and showered, I wanted to eat everything…so I did. I literally cleaned out my fridge and threw everything into a bowl and ate it–lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, canned peas, leftover pork loin and cooked egg yolks. It was absolutely delicious. And weird.

And now that evening is here, I will rub my legs with a muscle salve, eat some candy, and hopefully sleep a truly restful, pain-free sleep.

Good night, y’all.

May you have sweet dreams that make you smile or laugh out loud.