Transition Day

Yesterday we experienced our first difficult transition day of the school year. I am thankful to have had a few weeks reprieve to get into the school year. With any luck, this is a one-time thing.

It was a busy day (as most of ours tend to be). He had hockey almost immediately after school and it was his first time on the ice this season. I was a forgetful Mom and I did not give him a snack after school. He needs a snack on a normal day, never mind going to hockey practice before supper.

While at hockey he felt like he was not good enough, and was confused by some of the new drills. As all kids do, he thought he was the only one struggling.

After practice, he was taking off his skates and one of the coaches asked what grade he was in. When I told him fourth grade, he commented that he’s a big kid. He complimented my son on how well he did out there and I shared that he felt like he did not perform very well.

I could have kissed both coaches, “Aww man, it’s your first time on skates this year. You looked like you were actually trying out there. I guarantee that you worked a lot harder than many of those kids. Those kids who weren’t trying, you improved today way more than they will all year because they don’t think they have to try. Isn’t your mom the coach that says you have to get good before you get fast? Trust me, being fast means nothing at this age.”

I got the obligatory eye roll when he mentioned that his mom might actually know a thing or two on the ice…LOL

But my boy calmed down.

When we came home, his dad was waiting to pick him up…and the attitude returned. I won’t share the entire scenario, just that he ended up not going to his dad’s last night. He stayed home with me.

After some cuddle time watching a movie and eating supper, he sat down and did all his homework with no arguments, had a bedtime snack while we finished the movie and went to bed like a champ.

He thanked me this morning for, “…having my back…” and I assured him that I would…every time.

Lord,

I thank you for giving that young boy a heart of a warrior and the fight of a lion. As he learns himself, help him feel encouraged to fight for justice. Continue to give him the courage to keep speaking out. As he learns how to manage his words and put feelings into action, surround him with an army of love and acceptance.
Continue to give my boy the strength he needs, and me the patience to get through it all.

Amen

 

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Now I’ve Done It

Now that inline skating season is almost over, it is time for Katie and our friend Katherine to resume their Thursday evening workouts. Good for them, right? Wrong. They brought their weights and video over to my house and we will be doing it together.

Trust me, I tried everything to get out of this. I am not a workout kinda girl. I skated my butt of this summer and I am quite happy seeing how much better I will be next summer with a full spring/summer of training.

Well, this is where Katie pushes back apparently. She knows I want to be on a podium of at least one race next year and there is only one way to get there…hard work.

So last Thursday we worked out…the three of us. I have not even LOOKED at weights for 30 years…never mind lifted them. They asked if I wanted to start with 3 lbs or 5 lbs. Well, here’s where my thinking gets me in trouble. I figure if I’m going to work out, I might as well make it worth my time and ache. I pick 5 lbs with the idea that if it does become too much, I can reduce to three.

Ya, we all know that never happened…oh wait, ya, for one of the exercises I picked the lighter weights…but only for one.

Friday my body must have still been in shock, because it didn’t hurt too bad. I knew I had worked out but could still walk up and down stairs without cussing at these two women.

Saturday came and Katie and I went for a quick five mile skate (not sure when that became quick…or normal…but it has). While doing some one legged glides, I lost my balance and fell.

I tore a hole in my only pair of sweatpants, I figured there must have been some road rash but didn’t bother looking as we were not even a half mile into our skate and there was nothing I was going to do. I could not feel blood dripping so it’s all good.

We enjoyed the first 2.5 miles just skating along on some new pavement by my house. Then we turned around…into a 10+mph headwind.

The conversation came to a dead stop.

The next two and a half miles was full of “This is stupid” and “We should have parked a vehicle at one end and just drove back” kind of comments. “Are we there yet” has taken on a whole new level of understanding.

I did notice that the strong headwind was great for my form though. I struggle with leaning forward and a proper, slow stride when I have no resistance. I was much better at putting my hands behind my back, leaning forward and a proper stride.

Silver linings, I guess.

Then off to watch the older boy start his bowling season…sitting for an hour.

Then I had to get up…HOLY HANNA…WHAT THE…

Ya, my body was letting me know what it thought of not only the fall, but the entire workout silliness now. I was nearly in tears when Katie dropped me off a sweatshirt (because I got the skate shivers while at bowling). I was telling her that now I had to go sit for another hour to watch football…oh my aching muscles.

By Saturday evening I could not even lift my arms to brush my hair without my triceps screaming at me. I screamed back…much to the enjoyment of the boys.

Now it’s Monday and my body seems to have forgiven me. I don’t yet have the nerve to tell it we are working out on Tuesday this week because we are leaving town for the weekend Friday morning to attend a women’s conference.

But…makes me wonder if we shouldn’t be working out twice a week…just when our body is not hating us…do it again. In theory it sounds like a good plan. Wait…what?

My legs have some serious work to do when it comes to strength. I also know that with that strength I will likely try to save enough money to spend on a skate coach for a couple of hours to work on my technique. The closest one I know of is down in the cities so will likely try to fit it in during a Rochester trip.

I am already looking forward to next summer…something I could not do just a few months ago.

Before healing, I could not think beyond the next month, or the one after that. Now, I’m back to planning a future, living my life as if I had never heard those ugly words, “I”m not going to lie, it’s not good.”

I am so thankful for the ability to work out and hurt like I’ve been hit by a tank. The ache reminds me of all those who cannot workout due to treatments, side effects, and those who have graduated from earth…I workout because they can’t. I hurt by choice…I remember when I hurt just because I was breathing…

How blessed am I.

Dear Lord,

This last week has sure been a roller coaster of living, to put it mildly. I am so thankful to be buckled in and eyes open to enjoy the ride.
As this week moves forward and we say good bye to a dear friend, help me serve his family as they have served others for so long.
I need help discerning the work situation as well, this is a tough one.

Amen

Normal

Life is beginning to feel almost normal again. For us, normal is busy, loud, and often disorganized. Normal is running fast and running behind. Normal is lots of love and little money.

It is our normal. It is how the boys and I do life.

It is amazing just how different we can all be yet still have so much in common. My youngest son plays hockey. The prevailing thought in this town (and many others) is that only rich families can afford hockey and when you go to the rink, it sort of looks that way.

Mom and dad both drive new vehicles, the family goes on vacation every year and never misses a college hockey game an hour away. They live in a mini-mansion with 2.3 kids and a Dog named Spike. Junior has the newest gear, a cool bag, and a $200 stick.

And then we walk in. Mom is divorced, drives a minivan with over 230,000 miles on it that sounds like it might die any second with two huge dents from accidents and because she cannot afford collision insurance, neither of them will ever be fixed. We rent, we have used gear that fits and his hockey stick from last year. Two cats, and have not been on a vacation beyond a trip to my parents house since before the divorce proceedings started 6 years ago.

On the ice, they all look the same with helmets and matching jersey’s.

What is normal for our family is only normal for our family. What is normal for each of the other families, is normal for them. It does not make one family better than the other. It does not ensure one child is loved more than the other.

What is normal for us, now may not be normal for you or anybody else. It may not even be normal for us in a year or two.

As we run through life with our hockey gear rolling behind, our iPad in our hand, our phone in our back pocket what you will see, is love. We love each other and we love our life.

I love that I do not drive a new vehicle, I have no financial debt and will do anything and everything to keep it that way. Yes, I would like something that I don’t have to worry about when I drive to see my family and that doesn’t need new tires; I also know that God has provided this long, He’s not going to stop now. When this vehicle is finished, where some people would be panicked, I see another opportunity to trust Him.

As much fun as it would be to take the boys on a week long vacation somewhere totally amazing, the memories we make each and every day are enough for me. I am not going to give up my everyday life (by working two jobs or otherwise) to have a week worth of memories.

I love our life. I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love my kids, my family, my friends, and my church family. I love that life is simple for us. I love that we love.

Matching Shirts

Part two from my very first guest blogger, Katie. She sent both of these writings Sunday as I was getting ready for church. I have since read them over and over again.
 
Last night it hit me; we were only 27 minutes slower than Katie’s BEST time at NSIM. Here is our exchange:
 

Me:I keep rereading that we were 27 minutes slower than your best time…
Dang…I really killed it, didn’t I??

Katie:Heck yeah you did. You so did. And honestly, I kinda feel like a crappy friend cause I don’t think I’ve truly given you the credit you earned for this. I thought I did. But until Friday and Saturday, I didn’t understand how hard you actually worked to do what you did. Like I saw you put in the effort and I knew you did it, but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t feel it. And what I felt and understand now is still probably nothing compared to what you did.

M:You did more than enough…and I had actually forgot that more than half my training was injured…lol

K:Still, I have a different understanding now.

And it was a stick. There was a stick in my skate, I couldn’t see it until I took the wheel off. It wore almost all the writing off the side of my wheel.

Debbie: 😖

Part 2
Between June 19th and NSIM, I didn’t go more than 3 days without skating. Friday (yesterday) was my first day back on skates since the marathon. It was a 5 day stretch with out. It’s gonna be a long winter. 
Luke got home on Friday in time for me to skate, so I texted Debbie to let her know I was heading out and aiming for 10 miles in under an hour. I didn’t expect her to be able to join me, but it feels weird at this point to go for a skate and not at least let her know I’m going. Between a nasty sinus cold thing and my timing being just as kids were getting home from school, I just figured it wasn’t gonna work for her to join me. I was wrong. She responded with so much enthusiasm about going, I half expected her to beat me there. We made it one lap around Greenwood before we found ourselves doing hills of course. But after two consecutive laps of hills and a second lap around Greenwood, Debbie’s cold caught up with her and she was done. She left, disappointed like she gets when her body doesn’t do what her head says it should be able to do.
I stayed and reset my runkeeper so I could smash my 10 miles in under an hour. I was so ready for it! I got going and I wasn’t 2 miles in before my legs were on fire. Everything in my legs hurt. Muscles I didn’t even know were things hurt. I tried to stop for water at 3 miles and didn’t have the strength or functionality to brake (when the heck was the last time I needed water at mile three?? Like for real. How stupid is this?!) I slammed into my mirror and spun half way around the front of my van before I could hobble back for water. My skates felt like lead weights with every stride, but I managed to finish in 58:32. My 15th fastest. 
Saturday. I had high hopes of redeeming myself today. I got back on the pavement and it was deja vu. Only this time, it was my lower back that was throwing a fit and it was screaming. I stopped at mile three again (at least I could brake this time) for water and ibuprofen with dismal hope that maybe it would do something. Of course it didn’t. My feet were like led weights again and it took all of my concentration to make a decent stride. On mile 5 as I rounded the corner from the woodsy area into the wind, I was done.
 “Forget this, I’m done. This is stupid and I’m going home. I can be satisfied with 5 miles.” I said, out loud.  
“Once you quit once, then quitting always becomes an option…” Came the reply in my head.
Crap. I couldn’t quit. Well, actually I could. I, mean I wanted to. So bad. Who was there to stop me? Who would have really known the difference? And Luke would be happy to have me home earlier than planned.
“Debbie went from 0 to marathon in 88 days. Half them on skates with crappy wheels and shamefully awful bearings. And with a crappy knee. And a busted finger. And hip pain that made her count strides to keep going. A marathon in skates that hadn’t fit right from the beginning and she never complained about that until after the race…” My thoughts continued to argue me, some of them out loud.
“Nope. You don’t get to quit today. Not for this. You don’t get to make podium goals one day and then quit later just because your back hurts. Shut-up and skate.” So I didn’t quit. It sucked. But I finished my 10 miles and I did it in 57:55. My 12th fastest.
The me that used to skate by myself would have quit today. I would have quit and I would have missed the opportunity to shave almost a minute off my time from yesterday. I would have missed gaining the strength that comes from pushing myself. I would have missed learning I can still do it, even when it hurts like hell. That is why a friend with a matching finisher shirt isn’t a small thing for me. That is what I get from finishing in 2:52:30 together. 

We, Not I

Guest Post by Katie. She sent this to me this morning in two parts and it needs to be shared. 

Reading it brought me to tears as we have pushed each other harder than anybody has ever pushed us. 

Part 1
A week ago, we skated the marathon. We did it. 
Skating marathons is not new to me. I’ve done 4 of them officially, and one unofficially,  timed on my own at Greenwood Trails. NSIM 2017 was marathon number 5 for me and the third time on this course. But this was the first one I didn’t skate alone. Finally, I can say I have a friend with a matching finisher shirt. It’s a little thing, but sometimes little things can actually kinda be big things. And that is a big thing to me. 
The skate itself last weekend was- if I’m honest- not super challenging for me. The pavement was wet, so that added a little challenge, but not what it once was for me. This summer, we skated in rain and even through mud. Whatever fear I had of skating in the rain, that disappeared of this summer. I almost feel like we could skate through anything. I may have used my brake once or twice on a hill, but literally once or twice. Significantly less than I expected to, so that’s a win.
Our time was 2:52:30. We finished together. I’ve never shared a finish with anyone. But 2:52:30 is 27 minutes slower than my best time for NSIM. If I’m honest again, a little part of me was a bit disappointed in my time. I was surprised I felt that way, but to say I didn’t would be a lie. I know I could have gone faster. After all the skating I’ve done this summer, part of me wanted to know if I could have beaten my old time and by how much. It really kills me to admit that, even though it’s true. But we were there to do this skate together. If together meant 4 hours and crawling up every hill on our hands and knees, then so be it. Sign. Me. Up. Because finishing this together is what actually mattered. And that’s what we did. I don’t see 2:52:30 as “my” time or Debbie’s time. It’s our finish time.

I DID IT

Not only did I kick Dorothy to the curb with a relentless barrage of drugs, surgery, radiation, hockey, and good looks…I finished my very first inline skating marathon on Saturday.

I was not the fastest nor do I have the best technique, and there were certainly times when my body was determined I should just get over myself and quit. Thankfully I am not known for always listening to my inner voice; even when it is crying like a four year old who just had their blankie put in the washing machine.

There I was just 1091 days from hearing, “I’m not going to lie, it’s not good” as I walked out of my very first mammogram. Just 88 days after that first time Katie took me skating.  I had no idea how I was going to finish, I just knew that I would.

My official time was 2:52:30. The fastest times of the day were 1:03:xx. Those are professional skaters on the best of the best skates. Here I was, just me…and not quite two hours off the fastest pace.

Around mile marker 23 I began to have an emotional breakdown. I knew I was going to finish, I knew I was almost done, I knew I had conquered breast cancer for once and for all.

I did a few Facebook Live videos during the race…expressing the beauty of the view, the wow of the experience, and my final one before the finish…bawling my eyes out because we did it.

Then I stopped crying…I knew I did not have the energy to waste. I knew I needed to focus on finishing. Katie and I came around that last corner before the finish line, we joined hands, we skated as hard as I could, and we raised them HIGH as we crossed the finish line together.

The names of 50 women (myself included) that belong to a Facebook group who all endured chemo and beyond together donned my shirt along with the names of my sister, my grandfather, and other friends of ours. We had 66 warriors on our shirts…they raced with us; I raced for them.

Every time my body was done, my heart and my brain knew I was stronger than that.

So there I was in skates that are a size and a half too big (they were a great internet find at $10) and I finished strong. That last blast was probably my fastest of the entire day…and it was worth it!

One lesson I learned just before I was diagnosed with cancer was that my body was much stronger than my brain would have me think. I had read the book Lone Survivor  written by Marcus Luttrell about his life as a Navy SEAL and enduring Operation Red Wing which took the lives of 19 service members in 2005.

Throughout a firefight, which took the life of three of his teammates, they kept reminding each other they were “Never Out Of The Fight.”

During Mr. Luttrell’s BUD/S training, he could never understand when trainees would ring out (quit) when they were at the end of an exercise. His thought was that they were not giving themselves a chance to succeed; they were on their way to lunch…and guys were ringing out. They were not even giving themselves a chance to finish.

I wish I could quote the book, but he talks about how breaks such as meal time were an opportunity to get your feet back under you and carry on; quitting at break times was difficult for him to understand.

Little did I know that only a few months later I would be having the same conversations in my head. After the chemo sickness would begin to ravage my body, I would remind myself that all I had to do was get through the next few days and it would start to get better.

When I was counting my breaths…telling myself I was 20 (or sometimes 5) breaths closer to feeling better; I was never out of the fight. When I was too weak to pull my covers over myself when I returned from a trip to the bathroom…I was never quitting.

On the tough days of skate training, one amazingly grueling day I remember counting my strides, forcing myself to do five more after I wanted to quit. Then I was doing ten more or twenty more passed when my body was ready to be done. I remember nothing else about that workout, only that I was counting strides over and over again and each time, I did it. I completed the number I had decided on.

When Mr. Luttrell talked about the men who rang out of BUD/SEAL training, he talked to one of the instructors whom he had seen trying to get one of them to not quit yet…to keep trying. The instructor told him that once guys ring out, even if they can be convinced to try again, they inevitably do not complete the training because quitting is already an option.

Last Saturday as my legs decided they were no longer enjoying all this nonsense, I never once stopped moving my feet…sometimes slower than a toddler walks…but I was still moving forward. I refused to quit. I was never out of the fight.

 

 

Emotions

Our shirts are finished. Team Kiss My Skates is ready for business. We have matching shirts, pants, helmets, and wrist guards. The front of shirts are adorned with 66 names of people who have or have had cancer. Some are in remission or NED (No Evidence of Disease), others are dealing with recurrence, and unfortunately we have lost a few.

Seeing my own name on the shirt along with my grandpa and my baby sister is killing me. I had no idea that seeing us together on this shirt would hit me so hard. It was a pure gut-check moment for me.

There was a brief moment when our shirts almost did not get made. Katie’s was finished and there just was not going to be enough time to get mine done. I told the friend of ours who was doing the shirts that it was ok. He had already gone above and beyond for us and the time he had taken to just get hers done was already more than I could ask for.

I told him it was fine if I did not have a shirt.

After he left, Katie asked if I was really okay with not having a shirt and try as I might; I could not hide my sadness. We started to brainstorm for ways to make me a shirt.

Little did we know, our friend had gone home and printed out a new sheet of vinyl letters for my shirt; saving the day.

When I skate with those names…I cannot even describe the power, the feelings, the drive. I have pushed myself so hard physically. Although I would like to say I have never pushed myself as hard before, it would be a lie. I would like to say this is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. That would also be a lie.

While I was doing chemo, I fought this hard (and harder) every day just to get through the day. I had to will myself to breathe when I did not think I had any strength left in me. I had to will myself to move my legs so I did not develop blood clots. I had to trust God when I was not sure I would make it, that I would wake up from a nap.

That fight makes all this skating look like child’s play. It also reminds me that I can overcome any obstacles. I have already proven to myself just how strong I am.

My biggest task right now is to not expect too much of myself on race day. It is my first marathon, my first time ever on this course. I truly have no idea what I am up against. I have told myself (over and over again) that my goal is just to finish the race. Anything above and beyond that will just be icing on the cake.

I would like to work myself up to eventually skate in one of the advanced waves; just for the fun of it. That may take a couple years, but it would be so worth it. Next year I want to skate more than one marathon.

I was bitten by the inline skating bug…and I like it.

Seeing the reactions of my friends in the chemo group has been so humbling and inspiring. I am skating not only for myself, I am skating for each one of them and they are all skating with me. Just as chemo would have been unbearable without them, I could not finish this marathon without their support. When I cross that finish line with Katie, we will be crossing with 66 warriors. We are each of those warriors, they are with us.

Lord,

As I focus on bringing the glory to You, wrap all these warriors in your loving embrace as they skate with me in heart.

Amen