Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Greatest Thing




A few weeks ago, around Mother's Day, I saw a quote that has been bouncing around in my head ever since. I can't tell you where I saw it or who said it. I don't even know where it came from. But, I can't stop thinking about it:

"Being a mother is the greatest thing a woman will ever do."

As you can imagine, I have a few problems with this statement. I'm not here to say that mothers aren't amazing, wonderful, selfless, amazing human beings. They are. Like you, I have a mother. And she's truly an amazing lady. She put her career on hold to raise four children and I am forever grateful for all of the many, many selfless things she has done for me and each of my siblings. I'm know my father is pretty appreciative of her, too. I have no beef with the moms, trust me.

But, is motherhood the only thing that defines us as women?

For me, it's just a bit hurtful to think that we are so defined by something that we sometimes cannot choose. What about the women who can't have children? What about the ones who will never be mothers--either by choice or by circumstance? Can someone without children still be the greatest in her own way?

I think about this a lot, particularly when I think about my body. I hear women say their bodies were "built" or "made" to carry children. And then I wonder what, exactly, my body was built to do. Run? Be lanky and awkward? I don't know, really. But I do know this: I can still be pretty great without motherhood.

At the root of the term, what is greatness, really? Being a good person? Giving to those in need? Going to church every week? Achieving your goals? What about being a good human being, sister, wife, aunt, and daughter? Who gets to decide what is great and what is not?

I ask a litany of questions that have no real answers for a reason: I don't believe it's up to you and I to decide. Let's be honest, no one walks around telling everyone how great they are. And if they did, you'd probably think they were trying to sell you something you'd rather not buy. Isn't the point of greatness to just live your life to the best of your given ability?

I think every person and their body was built for something very specific. We all have our talents--for some, there are things come easily and naturally. Still others need to work and sweat tirelessly for the things they want. We all have a destiny, if you will, that defines our lives in the most amazing of ways. And I can't help but think our physical bodies are tied closely into that equation.

So, what's the greatest thing I will ever do? I say it's too early to know the answer to that particular question. And really, I don't think it's up to me to decide. Sometimes, it feels like the lack of something like motherhood makes me greater. Other times, it feels like it makes me broken in some way. My feelings rise and fall like a seesaw.

UP
I'm better without motherhood.

DOWN
I've been denied something wonderful.

UP
Things are perfect just the way they are.

DOWN
Maybe I will look back and regret my choices.

It's enough to drive the sanest person to the brink of insanity, I think. But the fact of the matter is this: I'm smart enough to realize that just about everything I see, hear and feel is filtered through a thick screen that is composed entirely of skewed emotions. Whether I like it or not, everything always seem to go back to that place---even when I don't want things to be that way.

Perhaps greatness is more easily defined by something less tangible. Doing the best with the hand you're dealt. Or, letting your worst day become your greatest teacher.

It's always up to you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Diagnosis



I've been having some major digestion/GI issues over the last several months. So much so, that I finally broke down and visited the doctor. And I hate the doctor. Mostly because it feels like I spent years of my life laying on stupid sea foam green crunchy white paper-covered tables, being asked a litany of blush-inducing intimate questions and having wands and instruments shoved up my lady parts.

You can see how this might breed a sense of hatred, no?

But my issues--oh, my issues. I won't go into details. (You're welcome.) But something was clearly wrong with my body and I've been losing weight (that I did not have to lose in the first place) and my appetite. I also have very itchy patches of Eczema all over my hands and have just been generally exhausted. Going through all those stupid doctor visits to find out what was wrong with the baby making portions of my body actually made me more aware of how my body works. Or doesn't work, in that particular case.

It felt like I would consume things like bread, cookies, pretzels, chips and beer and then "pay for it" a few days later with the currency known as personal misery. The conversion rate is way off, in case you were wondering. I think it has something to do with the strength of the Yen. I can't be sure.

After some discussions, inspections, and questions I was told what I already expected: I have a gluten intolerance. Well, saying it's an allergy seems easier to explain why I'm saying no to that doughnut. And that coffee cake. And those cookies. And that beer. My God, the beer!

It's a bit confusing, because there are some twists to a gluten intolerance diagnosis. There's Celiac Disease, which is a (typically hereditary) autoimmune disease that causes damage to the body and can result in malnutrition and serious damage due to the body's inability to absorb nutrients.

Then, there's just plain old gluten intolerance, which it seems is my particular issue. The symptoms are the same, but it's more similar to an allergy than anything else. The body is unable to digest and process gluten, but it does not have the autoimmune issues attached. This article does a good job of explaining the difference.

It makes sense, but it feels a bit overwhelming: have you ever searched online for a list of foods containing gluten? Beer. Bread. Salad dressing. Cereal. Croutons. Soy sauce. Licorice. (huh?) Pasta. Pizza crust. Pretzels. Stuffing. Baked Goods.

In simple terms, it's the entire bottom portion of the food pyramid. You know, the big part that holds up the rest of the pyramid and keeps it from falling into a jumbled mess?

In all honesty, there are more options than ever for people who cannot have gluten. There are products on the market like bread, pretzels and even beer that do not contain gluten. It's just a matter of reading labels, being careful and spending a bit more money on what is often considered a specialty product.

For now, it's frustrating and a bit confusing. Also, it feels inconvenient. So much so, that I had a few beers over the weekend out of frustration. And today I am a hot mess.

But you can eat lean meats, vegetables, and fruits, the doctor remarked.

Yes, there is that.

Then, as the nurse was drawing my blood she asked what every nurse asks:

"Are you OK with needles and blood?"

I am, actually. Mostly because it simply doesn't bother me and also because I'm fairly certain I've been through enough blood draws to give the entire state of Ohio a transfusion. I'm only slightly exaggerating: I was on Accutane about five years ago, which required monthly blood work. Then, there was the litany of tests to regulate my hormones (ha!) that required weekly draws for months on end.

So, it's not a big deal.

Then the conversation turned to Accutane. And how it has been documented to cause GI problems. But I don't have acne any longer, so there's that. Good job, Accutane!

Even if I don't like the diagnosis, I'm just happy to finally have one. As I sipped my hot coffee and drove in to work this morning as the sun rose, all I could think about was how much I'm going to miss beer.

Because let's be honest: I will miss it dearly.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Fighter



We've all got something in our lives that tests us or has the potential to break us entirely. A sink or swim moment, if you will. If we're fortunate enough, I think we will all have the opportunity to fall on our knees, wondering why some terrible thing is happening to us. It builds character. It makes us more compassionate. It teaches humility. But more than anything, it allows us to see the strength in those who are fighting battles of their own. There's just something about enduring something terrible that allows you to relate to the trials of others--it's easy to recognize what that feels like.

I think that's the one thing that unites us all, regardless of what has shattered our sense of hope and promise---we're all fighting something. Maybe it's the loss of someone we love. The lack of something we desperately want. Perhaps it's a terrible illness that has the potential to take away someone we love. It doesn't matter, really. What matters is that we have the chance to fight for something we love--something we want--whether it's for our life or simply making sense of a shattered dream.

The world loves a fighter, you see. Every movie about sports is the same basic concept: an underdog group of people or an individual who fought their way to the top in a heroic way. We love heroes. We adore people who are seemingly average, normal, and also able to achieve something big. It goes back to that instinct we have to fight---it's expanded by our own fight and it's brought out by seeing that admirable quality in someone else.

It feels, sometimes, as though we have to spend every last moment fighting. Sometimes it's easy--normal, even. Other times it feels like a heavy load to carry on our shoulders. It can be exhausting. It can try us more than we'd care to endure. But, it never stops being a worthy endeavor. The fight is sometimes the best part of the experience, because not everyone is willing to fight. There are options, of course. You can allow your circumstances to break you and live the rest of your live wallowing in pity, hatred and anger. People do this--if you think hard enough, I'm sure you know someone who lives in that place.

But those who are willing to fight can fight their way back to a better place. A place that was better than where they stood before, honestly. It's the difficult choice. The one that requires confidence, perseverance and really a strong sense of self. Anyone can fall, but not everyone is willing to pick themselves up. There is always a choice to be made.

There will be obstacles along the way. Setbacks. Pain. Scars. Tragedy. Hurt. It's not easy to spend your energy and heart on fighting for something that seems impossible. I like to think of those things as markers---breadcrumbs spread along the way to remind you of where you used to exist. Sometimes, it takes years to get there. Other times, it takes a lifetime.

The point is this: never stop working to make sense of your life. Never stop reaching, scratching, working, striving, and risking it all for your fight. It might not be popular. It probably won't be easy. But it will always be worth it.

What are YOU fighting?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thirty.



Yesterday was my husband's 30th birthday. I would say that I'm fairly terrible at giving gifts for a few key reasons: I hate waiting. I am terrible at keeping secrets & I am unable to contain my excitement. So, I gave him his birthday gift a few weeks ago: a Blu-ray player and the first three seasons of Mad Men. Mostly because I was excited, but partly because I really wanted to have access to his birthday gift. Such a great wife, I am.

The funny thing about this birthday is that he often says things like, "When we're thirty..." and I have to remind him every time that I will not be turning 30 this year---I'm turning 29. And I will milk my twenties for all they are worth, thankyouverymuch.



In addition to his willingness to tolerate me on a daily basis, here are a few other things that are pretty great about him:

He's thoughtful; he quietly notices little things and remembers just about everything.

He always takes out the trash, because he know how much I hate doing it.

He's generous. He dedicates himself to giving time and resources to others--and inspires me to do the same.

He's calm and level-headed, especially when things are crazy.

He is an amazing cook. He enjoys cooking (I don't) and makes amazing meals.

He can build (and repair) just about anything.

He is frugal. Sometimes to a fault, but he is very smart with his (our) money.

He is incredibly low maintenance. So much so, that the only thing he wanted to do on his birthday was yard work. So, we spent 8 hours outside. And drank beer and watched Mad Men afterwards, of course.

He's patient. Really, really patient.

But more than anything, he's a good friend and an amazing husband. He's patient and kind and I really don't know what I would do in this world without him by my side.

And when I say he tolerates me, I mean it: I'm not exactly the easiest person to spend the rest of your life with--but he does it with grace and kindness.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Comfort vs. Crazy

I have reached a point in my life where I realize something very, very important: it is nearly impossible to be fashionable and comfortable at the same time. I'm being serious here.



See these shoes? Adorable, right?

Those bows? I die. They were on mega super extreme clearance at Kohl's and I snapped them up without a second thought this winter.



I wore them for the first time today and let me tell you something: they are SO F-ING UNCOMFORTABLE. They pinch. They squeeze. I cannot walk properly. They are completely and utterly terrible.

But the cute? Ahh, the cute. I can't resist it. Which is why these shoes are removed from my feet each time I sit down.

Oh, and beyond being SO cute and SO painful, the peep toes also allow me to show off my black, dying runner's toenails. I'm so fabulous.



Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Palm Freckle Situation



I have mentioned it before, but I have a freckle on the palm of my right hand. I have a lot of freckles, actually. All over the place: my palm, the bottoms of my feet, my scalp, inside my ears--they are literally everywhere on my body.

The freckle on my palm, however, has been there since I was little. I remember being on the playground in elementary school with my best friend, who also had a freckle on the palm of her hand. We would pretend our palms were maps and the freckles represented our houses. We would give one another directions using our hand freckles.

Having all these freckles isn't necessarily out of the ordinary, but it turns out the one on my palm is rare. So much so, that every dermatologist I have ever visited tells me about my good fortune. As though my freckle is some sort of divine marking or something. It makes me unique, apparently.

Turns out a lot of people search the Internet for palm freckles, too: my Blogger stats tell me that at least 5 people a day are directed to my blog based upon search terms like:

Freckle on the palm of a hand

Can I have a freckle on the palm of my hand?

Pictures of palm freckles

It always makes me laugh. I've always wanted to be known for something.

However, I never anticipated it would be for a freckle.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The line



In life, there are a lot of lines. When someone takes things too far, we like to say they have crossed the line. Whether real or imagined, there are countless lines we draw for ourselves and even those lines we impose upon others.

All throughout my half marathon on Saturday, I thought about lines over and over again. The lines of tens of thousands of people trying to get into their letter-coded (A-Z, that's how many people there were) corrals. The people waiting in line to just get across the start line (it took us 20 minutes to get there, for reference). Then, of course, the race toward the finish line.



But more than anything, I saw people crossing their own personal lines in the worst way possible. It was hot. It was humid. And people were dropping to the ground from exhaustion. People who looked young and in shape were in very rough shape on the ground, the sidewalk and the sidelines. Some were passed out. Others were vomiting. It was scary.

Saturday was hot by running standards, already in the mid-70's by 7:30 when the race began. To add fuel to the temperature, the humidity a stifling 90%. The air was thick and the dew point was high, making it difficult to breathe and for many people it was nearly impossible to simply function and sweat through all 13.1 miles.

Amidst the crowds of 35,000+ runners and their families and supporters, I was unable to find my running partner before the race began. The one I had trained with for months. The one who had been telling me all along that we were going to cross the finish line together, holding hands. I cried. I cried because I knew she would have to run by herself. After waiting and searching, we had to give up on trying to find her. It felt like I was letting her down--and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I prayed to St. Anthony, the Patron Saint of lost articles and people. I prayed over and over again nearly the entire race.

My husband and I ran together for the bulk of the race, and wasted a lot of time (and energy) passing people. I cursed myself for putting down a finish time of 2 hours, which put us toward the back of the group. I would guess we ran an extra quarter of a mile, or more, by just running around people. But, when you run the largest half marathon in the United States of America, that's the way the cookie crumbles.

At mile 12, we readjusted our goal: we were going to finish in 1:54. We picked up our pace to what felt like a lofty goal of an 8:30 mile and pushed through. Just as we approached the 13 mile marker, it happened: I found Julie. Amidst the crowds of tens of thousands of runners. We were wearing matching shirts and I did a double take when I saw her back, with that familiar shade of pink which said the same thing mine did:

SUCK
IT
UP

I took one look at her face and realized she was struggling. Big time. My husband quickly took off without saying goodbye (it's every runner for themselves in this family) and I joined my long lost running partner. She had crossed her line--the line that told her she couldn't do it. It was clear to me that I found her at the right time, which was no coincidence. She told me to go on without her. Several times. She even told me she couldn't finish. But I didn't listen. We stayed together until we found our line.

I have always thought that running was about improving and getting faster and stronger. But I think it's about friendship, too. We finish when we finish, and they are going to give us a medal no matter what the clock says.

Oh, and we did finish together, holding hands.



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Review: Simone France Skincare



I was recently contacted by the lovely people at Simone France to review their unique line of skincare products. I filled out a very in-depth skin analysis on their website and was given personalized feedback regarding my individual skin problems based upon my answers.

I have oily skin on my face with some patches of dry skin here and there and experience monthly breakouts. The problem with having oily skin is that you tend to use a lot of makeup products in an effort to cover up the shine, rather than trying to get to the root of the problem. For example, I have always used a liquid foundation, two types of powder and then touched up my face with powder throughout the day. This leads to breakouts, which means more products to cover up the blemishes. It's a vicious cycle.

The main issues that came up in my analysis: I am currently using a cleanser that is overly drying; I'm using both foundation and powder on my face (in an attempt to cover issues & combat oil), and I'm using chemical exfoliation products, which can be very harsh.



Simone France recommended I use The Sandwich® which is their signature skin care treatment line. I received the Normal to Oily Skin kit.

This included:

Gentle Toner
Light Milk
Refining Scrub
A bar of Soap
30 Disposable Cleansing Cloths

Here's what Simone France says about The Sandwich®:

"The Sandwich® is the Simone France signature skin care treatment, developed by Simone over 45 years of hands-on experience giving her famous facials. It's an anti-aging, skin firming treatment that works in harmony with the natural needs of the skin and the longer you use it, the better and better your skin will become. It is definitely the best skin care routine you will find.


The Sandwich® is a unique combination of products each specially formulated to work together in this unusual way, along with disposable cleansing cloths that are positively addicting. Don’t worry about using soap – the special Sandwich method allows you to get the cleansing benefits of soap with absolutely none of the dryness.

The Sandwich® for blemishes and rosacea includes cleansing, moisturizing and healing products. For all other skin types. The Sandwich includes cleansing, moisturizing and gentle exfoliant.

The Sandwich® daily skin care routine requires only a few minutes each morning and will leave your skin fresh and glowing. You will see and feel the results the very first time you use it. You may even join the thousands of women who have given up foundation after using The Sandwich® regularly for just a few months."

The kit also came with very detailed and easy to follow instructions on how to use the kit each morning, evening and on a weekly basis. While it seemed complicated at first, it was quite simple: start with applying moisturizer, add the Refining Scrub, lather the soap and apply onto the face, mixing together all three products. Remove all the products with the Disposable Cleaning Cloths (must be warm & wet) then apply 15 splashes of warm water and 15 splashes of cold water.

I have been using the Simone France kit for 1 month and I will say I am happy with the results. I like the very basic and straightforward approach to skincare the company has adopted---it's a refreshing break from every other company on the market that seems to almost constantly change their formula. Rather than adding a new twist or ingredient to the way we cleanse our faces, Simone France has simplified the experience.

As far as results go, I have noticed an improvement in the overall tone and texture of my skin. It feels and looks healthier and I feel the products work very well--and it's clear they are high quality. I still combat oil throughout the day, but the main source of my oily skin is hormonal. Rather than applying more powder or makeup products to my face, I instead use a tissue to blot oil away, which has helped with blemishes and breakouts.

Interested in trying Simone France products for yourself? Simone France is offering 10% off your entire first purchase for new customers! Just use the promo code FT108 at checkout.


I received a complimentary kit, The Sandwich® for Normal to Oily Skin, from Simone France to try. All opinions expressed are my own. All photos courtesty of Simone France. For more information on Simone France, please visit their website.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Still in love



I'm running the largest half marathon in the United States of America on Saturday morning. With 35,000 of my closest friends. This will be my fifth half marathon. For some reason, I'm feeling just the slightest bit nervous about it. I am more prepared and more comfortable in my abilities this time around than ever before--but I still feel the butterflies.

I'm the kind of person that needs to get to the bottom of things. I think a lot about why I feel nervous. Or anxious. Or seemingly afraid of something that is completely within the realm of my abilities. Why do I care so much? Why am I so on edge?

The more I dwell on it, the more I think has something to do with the opportunity to experience the fruits of my labor. As a runner, you are constantly working--pushing yourself, adding miles each week, dealing with pesky injuries, trying to race against yourself (and the clock)--and it's only when you stop and think about it that you realize how far you've come. Running a timed event is an opportunity to record the fruits of your labor in a more permanent manner.

I find that people who don't run tend to be overly impressed with runners, saying they "Could never do that" or they "Wish they had the motivation/willpower to run." I always tell people the same thing: You could do this if you wanted--and it's never to late to start.

I don't think highly of myself because I run. And I don't think I'm better than people who don't run. I run because it makes me happy. I run because it's cheaper than therapy. I run because it makes a bad day tolerable. And thankfully, I have dear friends that make even the worst runs an enjoyable experience. At this point in my life, I'm more miserable without running than I am with it.

But more than anything, I think I feel those butterflies because I'm still in love with running. I get that teenager-y, flustered feeling about it because it means something to me. And it's beyond thrilling to be surrounded by thousands of people that feel the same love that you do--that's what races like marathons and half marathons are really all about. A group of people, with the same deeply seeded love, all in the same place together. It's an exciting experience.

Plus, it looks like it has the potential to be a scorcher in Indianapolis on Saturday. Which is not exciting.

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