Monday, September 23, 2013

7 Things I Learned About Running

A bunch of us at work are doing a “Biggest Loser” competition. We each paid $10 to join and we’re weighing in once a week. At the end of the first quarter, the person who has lost the biggest percentage of weight, takes the pot. When that happens, I’ll be using my money to shop for new clothes. Yes, it’s a forgone conclusion that I’ll win. I may hate exercising, but I hate losing a contest even more. 

 I can be found on the football field every night from 6:00 – 8:00, watching my kids practice. A few weeks ago, however, it hit me that I don’t exactly watch them per se. Truth be told, it’s really more of a glancing up at them now and then while I talk to my friends. When I admitted that, I realized I had 2 hours of time that I could use to do something a little more productive. I grabbed my friend who has been doing an amazing job losing weight, and said, “Come on, we’re walking!”

We took off and headed toward the West Orange Trail, a multipurpose, paved greenway that spans 22 miles. We walked at a pace that was fast enough to make it cardiovascular exercise, but not so fast that we couldn’t converse. As we walked and talked, I noticed the other people using the trails. We saw some folks walking their dogs, some people skating, and several bicycling. But most of the people we saw were running.

I kept thinking of the Nike commercial that Helen Hunt came up with in the movie What Women Want. She’s running. It’s early, it’s quiet. Just the sound of her feet on the asphalt. She likes to run alone. No pressure, no stress. This is the one place she can be herself. Look any way she wants, dress, think any way she wants. Nike. No games. Just sports. The ad makes it sound so attractive. It makes me want to be a runner. It makes me want to feel that freedom. But in reality, I can’t comprehend why running is so appealing. I just don’t get it. I don’t understand the allure. I watched the runners on the trail, arms pumping, feet pounding the asphalt, breathing labored, looks of grim determination plastered to their faces along with sweat-covered hair. I tried to gasp the fact that there are so many people who like to run, but I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it. I mean, I don’t run unless someone’s chasing me. With a chainsaw. I just don’t think I want to do anything that makes me look like I’m being tortured. Seriously, look at a runner’s face sometime. They don’t smile. They don’t look happy. They look like they’re enduring bamboo shoved under their nails.

Still, I thought – there has to be something to running. I’m not sure what it is, but there has to be some amazing pay-off that is worth the mask of pain on every runner’s face. Yesterday, instead of my brisk 5-mile walk, I decided to run. I just had to see what it was all about. This is what I learned.

Running Hurts

I’m pretty sure my knees are broken. My back isn't doing too well either.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

There's no Crying in Baseball!

Everyone knows the scene in A League of Their Own where Tom Hanks’s character bellows to Evelyn, “Are you crying? Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There's no crying! THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! Roger Hornsby was my manager, and he called me a talking pile of pigshit. And that was when my parents drove all the way down from Michigan to see me play the game. And did I cry? NO. And do you know why? Because there's no crying in baseball. THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL! No crying!”

 Many years ago, I used to cry often. Things would upset me and the tears would flow. It happened regularly. After I got divorced, I stopped crying. I refused to allow myself the luxury. Crying is for the weak and I’m not weak. I’m strong. Strong people don’t cry. That’s what I told myself. Strong people suck it up, rub some dirt on it, and plow through whatever adversity faces them. I wasn’t about to let my kids know that I was scared half to death about carrying on as a single mother. I didn’t let them know I had major doubts about my ability to do everything. I didn’t express how overwhelmed I was with the massive responsibility of caring for my kids 24/7 without an ounce of help from their father, or how I was pretty sure I’d never be able to make enough to support everyone.

No, there was no crying. I put on my game face, turned my baseball cap around and rallied because I flat-out refused to let my kids become a statistic of a broken home. I vowed to be strong and to continue making them my priority. I intended to show them I was bulletproof. But here’s the thing – when you take a sensitive, highly emotional person and put a cork in them, preventing them from expressing those emotions, something happens. The stressors are still there, the emotions are still piling up inside – the letters from lawyers over bills, the foreclosure notices, the medical issues you can’t solve because you only have 20 minutes a day in which to make phone calls and you’ve never been on hold for less than half an hour – it’s all still there. Then one day, over something as silly as someone not changing the empty roll of toilet paper or someone unfriending you on Facebook or someone leaving a nasty comment on your blog, you lose it. The tears flow for hours. Great sobs wrack your entire body. You use an whole box of tissues. Your head pounds, your eyes swell shut, your nose becomes so congested you can’t breathe. And every time you start to pull yourself together, another wave hits you and you’re back to sobbing uncontrollably until you feel like nothing but a hollow shell.

Then the next day when I’m applying makeup with a spatula in an attempt to disguise the swollen eyelids and bags, no scratch that – the suitcases under my eyes, my kids will look at me and ask, “Are you okay? Are you sick? What’s wrong with your eyes?”

I’ll answer, “I think I’m getting a cold,” lest they discover I’m human and I sometimes feel down because there’s no crying in baseball.

But for some reason, today when my kids looked at my face in horror and asked, “What’s wrong with your eyes, Mom?” I answered, “I was crying.”

Their jaws dropped a little and they asked, “You were crying???”

“Yeah,” I admitted.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d still rather be bulletproof, but maybe, just maybe, it’s better to teach my kids that everyone gets overwhelmed now and then. Maybe, just occasionally, there is crying in baseball. And I guess that’s okay as long as you suck it up, rub some dirt on it, turn that cap around and go hit a homerun when you’re done sniffling.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Is Getting a “Fat Letter” from Your Kid’s School So Terrible?

A recent article on HLN asks, “Are schools fat-shaming kids with these letters?” A school in Massachusetts is catching flack for sending home letters with the results of a BMI screening, much like they would for a vision, hearing, or scoliosis screening. They’re learning that it's okay to send home a notice alerting parents that their child failed the hearing screening which may indicate a problem and should receive further evaluation, but it’s not okay to let a parent know that their child’s BMI falls into the overweight or obese category which may indicate a problem and warrants further evaluation. Because that may be insulting. It may hurt the child’s feelings. You can’t go around alerting parents to their child’s potentially increased risks of diabetes, heart disease, etc. that come with being overweight. It might damage Junior’s precious self-esteem if he thinks he’s fat.

Please, look at a copy of the so-called “fat letter” HERE. Note the wording. Yet, according to the article, Tracy Watson, mother of a 10-year-boy whose BMI fell into the 95% percentile, complained that they were “offended by the letter, and bothered that a number of children went to bed that night not feeling great about themselves.” She claims her son is athletic (football, martial arts, wrestling) and that BMI is not an accurate picture of his health. Gee, it’s a good thing she actually READ the letter, especially this part: BMI may not tell the whole story about your child’s weight. Other things can affect your child’s BMI. For example, BMI cannot tell the difference between muscle and fat. An athletic child with a lot of muscle may have a high BMI but not be overweight.

I think she’s right. Schools shouldn’t offend families by showing concern over potential health problems. That’s crazy! Instead, they should send home letters to Mom and Dad stating that their child is perfect in every way. Children should be made to invite the entire class to their birthday party lest anyone feel left out. If one child is given and award or a trophy for an achievement, then each and every child should receive an award or a trophy so they don’t feel bad about themselves. A child with Ds and Fs on his report card shouldn’t feel any less amazing than the child who worked for and earned straight As. In fact, I think schools should completely change the way they issue report cards too. It’s horrible when Junior comes home with anything less than an A. Kids all over the country go to bed not feeling great about themselves when they bring home bad grades. It’s a travesty, really. Kids shouldn’t bring home the grades that they earn. They should all be given As to protect their feelings and make sure they feel good about their mediocrity.

And for those who say that schools shouldn’t be involved in any health screenings to begin with, I think you’re right. The fact that numerous kids in my school (and many schools across the nation) don’t receive adequate health  care for a variety of reasons doesn’t matter. If Mom and Dad can’t afford to take Junior to the doctor, too bad. If Mom works 3 jobs to make ends meet because Dad is in jail so she doesn’t have time to take Junior to the doctor, tough luck. Each man for himself, is what I say. No one should be responsible for anyone else, and schools need to stick to teaching, not looking out for the well-being of its students.

Or maybe, just maybe, we can stop complaining about every damn thing. Maybe we can learn to take constructive criticism in the vein in which it’s intended. Maybe we can stop worrying so much about Junior’s fragile self-esteem and we can teach Junior that for every action there is a consequence. Just a thought.

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