September 11, 2014

My Joyful Manifesto

I know I've been absent from the blog for quite some time.  Like always, it's not that I have a lack of things to write about, or even the time (now that the kids are back in school, I do have lots of free time during the day). It's more of a lack of motivation...or, to be more specific, feeling too overwhelmed to just sit and put my thoughts down.

I feel like I am starting a new chapter of my life.  And in one sense, I am.  My mother died in February, and from here on out, things will always be dated in my mind as BEFORE MOM DIED and AFTER MOM DIED.  Just as with getting married, having kids, or any other major milestone, there's a before and after.  I am learning that I need to redefine myself as a person without a living mother.

I am also coming off of one of the most stressful 16-month periods of my life.  I've dealt with major stress before, most of which was in 2006.  That was the year my daughter was born and spent 3 months in the NICU, finally coming home  and leaving me to deal with a feeding tube and tracheostomy for 4 years, and also the year my husband got officially diagnosed with Young-Onset Parkinson's Disease.  Since 2006, many stressful life events happened, but things came to a crisis starting in 2012.  In a 16-month period, from October 2012 through February 2014, the following events occurred:
  • my daughter, age 6 at the time, broke her neck, requiring spinal fusion surgery and her wearing a halo screwed into her head for a few months
  • my mother got diagnosed with ovarian cancer
  • my husband had a stroke, as a side effect of a brain surgery designed to help his Parkinson's Disease
  • my daughter broke her ankle, necessitating use of a wheelchair while it healed
  • dealing with my mother's health decline, and flying back and forth to Houston to visit her
  • my husband had a heart attack
  • my mother died
This was all in addition to my everyday stress of dealing with my daughter's and husband's everyday health issues, plus regular parenting issues, schoolwork, friend drama, and everything else that can make life stressful.  Luckily, everything except for my mother ended up ok.  My husband totally recovered from both his stroke and heart attack, my daughter miraculously was unscathed from the neck break, her ankle healed, and I did end up with good closure with my mother before she died.

I've been thinking a lot since she died....about how I want to live my life.  Life is too damn short. She was only 68 when she died.   And while I'm only 44 today, I don't know where life is leading me. I can suddenly die tomorrow, or I can live until I'm 110.  But I want to be happy.  And truthfully, I'm not very happy at the moment.  I'm not depressed---I suffered from depression in my 20s and know what that feels like, and I KNOW I'm not clinically depressed.  But I'm not as happy as I'd like to be, and I'd like that to change. I'm tired of feeling just "ok".  I deserve more than that.

I'm declaring a joyful manifesto.

From here on out, I want to do things that make me happy.  Have meaning to me. Bring me joy.

Now I get that not everything I do needs to make me joyful.  For example, scrubbing toilets or driving the kids to all their activities don't exactly put a smile on my face all the time.  But, even those examples end up with me happy.  Having a clean house, or having active kids, bring me joy.

Here's a short list of what I've been thinking of doing in my life to create more joy.  It's short because I'm still working on it, and I'm sure it'll be a work in progress.  But here's what I've come up with so far:

  1. Be choosy who I spend time with.  I'm sick of making lunch dates and coffee dates with people who I'm not too close to.  I only want to socialize with people that I really care about. Yes, sometimes I need to suck it up and make chit-chat with acquaintances.  But most of the time, if I'm going to make plans with someone, it's going to be someone I consider to be a true friend.
  2. Say "no" more often.  I have the tendency to over-commit, and say "yes" when I should say "no".  This year? I will NOT be the room parent for either kids' class at school. I will NOT be the room parent for their religious school classes either. Been there, done that, and it's someone else's turn to step up.  Not that I won't help, of course I will---but I don't need to be in charge.  I am being very picky about what I am getting involved in with my school's Foundation, a Foundation that I myself started several years ago.  I am still active and involved with it, but I am choosing a fundraiser to chair that really speak to me.  I have dropped out of not one, but two, book clubs.  No more book clubs for me.
  3. Say "yes" to things that excite me.  I am getting more involved in Girl Scouts.  This year, not only am I my daughter's co-leader of Brownies, but I am taking a small role in our Service Unit.  Girl Scouts make me very happy.  I am helping a few friends train for athletic events that they are only dreaming of completing. 
  4. Purging my house.  I have a clutter problem with paperwork, especially stuff relating to the kids.  We just got our carpets upstairs replaced by hardwood, and everything had to come out of the rooms.  I am purging as I'm putting things back. I want to be a more clutter-free person. I do NOT like cleaning and de-cluttering, but when my house is freshly deep-cleaned, and things nicely organized, I am a much happier person in the end.
  5. Thinking about athletic goals. I have suddenly, as of this weekend, have thoughts of a full Ironman flitting around in my brain. I am seriously considering doing one, although IF I do, I won't be for several more years, not until the kids are teenagers. I have thoughts of Ironman Texas in 2020.  Even if I don't do it, the idea of completing it is making me happy. In the meantime, I want to sign up for more things that challenge me, scare me, and excite me.
 I am going to close out this post for now, but this is where I'm at right now.  I want deeper relationships, more meaning to my activities and time spent, and more challenges for myself. I'm hoping that in the end, more joy will arise.

August 14, 2014

Balboa Park 8 Mile Race Recap

When I sign up for a race, I usually do my due diligence. More often than not, it's a race I've heard of before, and know something about.  If it's a new race, or new-to-me race, I try to find out some essentials---course, elevation, etc---before shelling out money to sign up.  For some reason, though, I did none of this when it came to the Balboa Park 8 Miler.  I saw an ad on Facebook for this race, which is put on by the San Diego Track Club.  It was ridiculously cheap---only $35 for an 8 mile race, including a t-shirt and medal.  As I'd never done a race of that distance before, and love running in Balboa Park, I immediately signed up. 
After I paid, I did some research, and found a few bloggers that had recapped last year's race.  The salient features that people were writing about were the HILLS and the TRAILS.  What?  I used to run in Balboa Park quite frequently---in fact, I did much of my marathon training there in 2003--and never ran on hills that were THAT steep.  Or trails.  Turns out, I ran in the wrong part of the park.  Balboa Park has a lot of hills, and a lot of trails, and that was where the race was to be.  I had a brief moment of consideration to drop down to the 5k, but I knew I could do this race.  After all, a year and a half ago I did the Xterra Mission Gorge 15k, and THAT will always be my benchmark of how difficult trails and hills could be. If I could do that race, I could do this. Plus, this race wasn't even going to be entirely on trail, just part of it.  I consulted with my friend Mihael, who did the Xterra race with me, and he reminded me of the best way to get down hills, and basically boosted my confidence.  The Xterra Race, and frankly most of my recent athletic endeavors, including my two half -Ironman races, and my century ride---have given me a feeling of fearlessness,  that I could do anything. I may be one of the slowest, and it may not look pretty, but I can do anything I train to do.

packet pickup

Race day came and I made my way down to Balboa Park.  I easily found parking  I hadn't gone to packet pickup the day before, so I went to the registration table. It wasn't crowded, and the vibe was very low-key.  In a way, it reminded me of the Xterra race---just a chill vibe in the air, without the feeling of frenzy that often comes with the big races.  Because I had parked so close, I was able to go back to the car to put my t-shirt away, relax for a bit, then make my way to the port-o-potties and start line.  The 8 milers were to go first, followed by the 5k runners a while after that.

start line
The race started. I turned on my iPod and started out.  The weather was perfect---absolutely perfect for running.  While it was a bit muggy, the sun never made an appearance from behind the clouds. In fact, soon after the race ended it started to rain, which is odd for August in San Diego, but much needed. The first few miles were on a combination of pavement and groomed trails, nothing technical at all.  Soon we made our way into the depths of Balboa Park---and found the hills.

before the race

For anyone who is reading this and contemplating doing this run, let me assure you the hills aren't that bad. Yes, they are on trail. Yes, they are relatively steep.  But they are not THAT steep, and certainly not that long. Nowhere near some other hills I have done (I'm specifically thinking of not only the Xterra race, but the Washington hill during the San Diego Half, a big hill during the Hollywood Half, and Torrey Pines during the La Jolla Half). It was very doable. Now, I fully admit that I walked up and down every hill, which was in my plan (I have a hard time running hills, it usually irritates my sciatic nerve)....but I saw many people running them.  And, the best part for me was that although they were trail, they weren't slippery, meaning that I wasn't slipping and sliding on the descent.  Sadly, I didn't take pictures during the race, but really, they weren't bad.

After a few miles on the trails, we were on a back on a sidewalk, and then grass, heading toward the zoo for the turnaround.  Here we had to run in the zoo parking lot, which was partially blocked off, but not too much of a worry since it was so early.  Back to the trails, running back the same way we came, until the finish line, which was by the Air and Space Museum/Puppet Theater in Balboa Park.  They announced my name as I crossed, I received a medal, and was offered water and fruit. A very low-key ending to a very low-key race.  The course was a bit long---my Garmin measured 8.18, and believe me, I was muttering to myself  "where the heck is the finish line?"--but that was ok.  I was done.

bling bling medal
I was very proud of myself for a few reasons. Obviously, I was proud of myself for finishing---it was definitely on the tougher side, and I finished strong. I wasn't last by a long-shot, and even in my age group there were many women finishing after me. I don't care TOO much about my time, especially for a trail race at an unusual distance,  but I'd be lying if I said I didn't care if I was last.  But more important, I was proud of myself for starting the race in the first place. It would have been so easy for me to downgrade to the 5k, and not even see those hills.  I knew I could tackle them, and I did. 

While I don't know if I'd do this race again, I can definitely say I recommend it.  It's a great mixture of trail, concrete, grass and asphalt, which is fun.  The views are beautiful.  And I cannot say enough about the volunteers.  They were not only at aid stations, but sprinkled throughout the park, making sure we didn't get lost.  The trail was clearly marked, which was good because there were a few times no one was in front of me to follow.  The San Diego Track Club put on a great event.

July 31, 2014

Broadway Lovers

In March 2010 I took my son, D, to his first play. It was "Pippi Longstocking", a production put on by the local children's theater, the San Diego Junior Theatre.  He was almost 6 years old at the time. I saw an ad in one of those local free children's magazines, and thought it would be a fun thing to do with him.

Little did I know that 4 years later theater, especially musical theater, would be one of our great bonding experience.  For a few years, we would choose a few plays from the Junior Theatre to go to; last year I gave in and bought season tickets, as we had started to go to more and more of the shows.  While it's a children's theater, their caliber of execution is amazing----the acting, props, costume and choreography are simply amazing.  We have seen too many shows there to count, including "Beauty and the Beast", "Guys and Dolls", and "The Sound of Music".

In recent years we started to branch out to other theaters in San Diego; why limit ourselves just to the Junior Theatre? I "liked" the Facebook pages of most of the theaters all over town, from downtown to Coronado to Oceanside.  As a result, we have gotten to see some really neat productions, including "Cats", "Annie Get Your Gun", "Seussical the Musical", "Annie" and "Into the Woods". Actually we have seen so many shows over the past 4 years that I truly can't remember them all.  While I would love to take him to more shows at the magestic Civic Theatre, those tickets are very expensive and therefore we only see shows there that I feel we cannot miss (i.e. I'm trying to get tickets to take him to see "Wicked" there).

Musical theater is something I didn't expect to have in common with my son, but, like running and reading, it's something I delight in sharing.  A few weeks ago we were waiting to see "Thoroughly Modern Millie", and in the program was an ad for Les Miserables.  I asked him if he wanted to see it. He looked me in the eye, and said, "Mama, I want to see ALL the plays.".  A boy after my own heart.  We saw "Les Mis" last week.  We have also rented some musicals to watch on tv, and if I am able to rent the soundtrack from the library, we like to listen to the songs on the way home from the show.

Growing up, I didn't go to the theater too often, but the times I did really stick out in my mind. I remember my parents taking me to the big theaters in Los Angeles to see Cats, Pirates of Penzance and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  My mother furthered my love for musicals by renting movies such as "Carousel" and "Oklahoma!" for me and my sisters while I was in my teens.  These memories with my parents will always be with me---and I hope my son has the same warm memories when he gets older. 

I have taken my daughter to a few plays as well, and have tickets for some in the coming months, but she doesn't have the love for it (yet) that my son has.  If she develops that passion, I'll include her more as well.  In the meantime, I'm really enjoying my one-on-one time with my boy---and seeing some great live theater to boot!