When Elephants Fly

About ten days ago I hit the street to run to the YMCA. I figured it would be a good warm-up. It’s a little over a mile if I run back a few extra blocks.

So I’m cruising along, not really pushing, but not lolly-gagging either. And the Map My Run app goes off.

“Time, six minutes, fifty-two seconds. Distance, one mile.”


I laughed it off at first. I am not physically capable of running a mile in under seven minutes.

I kept running. But curiosity got the better of me. I slowed down to a walk and took a look at my phone. Yep, I heard it correctly. So it must not have been a mile then.

But I mean, how do I know I can’t run a mile in under seven minutes? Maybe I totally can… I never run an uninterrupted mile since I do interval training. I took a screen shot and sent it to two people: a friend who works out a ton, and my sister. And I waked into the YMCA feeling like the strongest woman alive.

As I started my workout, I got my first response. It was from my friend- a dude I might add- and he was totally impressed. It didn’t occur to him for one second that it was inaccurate. (Or more likely, he knew better than to say so…) The more we chatted about how I was totally insanely fast, the more encouraged I felt in my work-out. I tried harder. I felt less intimidated in the weight room. I was probably the fastest person in the room. These guys should be intimidated by me.

Then as I was cooling down the texts came from my loving little sister. “Yeah, that’s wrong.”

Ok. That’s not exactly what she said. But it was along those lines.

“I mean, it’s possible I guess. But that’s like what grown men who train really hard do. If it’s right, you should start entering races for money.”


I knew all along that it takes training (and talent…) to run that fast. So I wasn’t at all surprised when I got home and mapped my distance with a different app. Definitely not a mile. So I’m just as slow as ever.

A few days later I ran in the Riverside Run. Three miles through one of the wealthier communities in Greenwich. (Which is one of the wealthiest towns in the country. And when I say “one of…” I mean single wealthiest…) It’s a gorgeous run past beautiful houses and water and trees and smiling neighbors. I felt pretty good about myself for finishing. It is the furthest I’ve ever run without a stop at all. (During the Disney Princess 5k I walked the length of the two water tables, and during my 10k training, as I mentioned, I run ten-minute intervals.) I was also highly entertained by my playlist, which I set on random. It played “Eat the Rich” by Aerosmith. Twice. My iPhone is hilarious. Nothing like running and laughing.

But as much as I can list the positives, I still really struggled that day with the negative voices. I was one of the few runners not wearing designer running gear. I was getting passed by people who should not have been passing me. I came in 41st out of the 48 in my age group. Ouch. (In my defense, the age group was 30-39. FYI, 30-year-old bodies have very little in common with 39-year-old bodies. So I compared my time with the 40-49 group. I would not have placed much better. Seriously OUCH.)

So I thought about singing.

I sing, like, really really well. I reminded myself that if we were to stop the race and have a sing-off, I would likely win the whole damn thing. And you know how I got that ability? I earned it. I was not born with a golden voice. I was born with a crazy ear and a gift for understanding music. The voice did not come with it. I WORKED. Really, really hard. For years. And you know how I feel when people assume singing is just something you can do naturally?

I get pissed off and frustrated.

Is it possible, then, that these runners who are kicking my ass have been working at it as long as I’ve been working at my voice?

Ugh. Yeah, probably.

And am I being obnoxious and disrespectful to assume I can step into their world and take over?

Boooooo. Yep.

Of course there are those natural talents. People who just run fast. People who just sing beautifully. But once they realize they have talent, you know what they do? They work. And they train.

Man. Being emotionally healthy is exhausting.

Which takes me back to that mile I ran in less than seven minutes. The one that totally wasn’t a mile at all. It wasn’t the running I was interested in. It was the way I worked out when I thought I had run that fast. The sub-seven-minute-mile was my magic feather. It never really existed at all. But I still had a great work-out. It’s so hard to keep things positive without concrete positive reinforcement. For less than an hour I thought I could run really fast. It was the magic feather that helped me feel strong. But if I keep working, and keep reminding myself that I’m doing great things for my body, I bet I can fly without it.


We Interrupt This Self-Improvement Project to Deal With A Family Crisis…

An Open Letter to “Anonymous:”

You’re not, of course. Anonymous that is. Many things in the report you filed point directly to you. And you’re the only one of all of our neighbors who can no longer look us in the eye. Your embarrassment is warranted. But I wonder- are you waiting for a reaction? We’ve decided not to give you one. Not in person anyway. We are responding to your hate with love, because that’s how we live as a family.

But since your action has caused me to disappear from writing for a week, and because let’s face it, I need to get my response out somewhere and some of the report suggests that perhaps you read my blog, I offer you this.

I forgive you.

I am praying for you.

And I thank you.

I forgive you for the feeling in my stomach when I opened the door and saw the badge. I forgive you for the way my body ran cold when he asked me if I knew what his department does. Yes, of course I knew. I’m a teacher. I didn’t know why he was at my door, but I knew what he does.

I forgive you for the few moments when I feared something had happened at school. Because obviously nothing had happened at home that warranted a visit from child services.

I forgive you for the way I felt as he read the accusations you had slung. The suggestion that we weren’t proper parents. That we were dirty, stinky people. That you feared we were hoarders. That you didn’t think we knew how to take care of African-American hair. That we had no discipline or control over our child.

I forgive you for the sore throat and swollen eyes from crying, and the sleepless nights. I forgive you for the way you made me question myself. For making us walk on egg shells for three weeks. I forgive you for the old wounds you opened.

And it’s really difficult, but I forgive you for what you did to my child. The way you hurt her feelings by saying she was still in diapers. She has been potty-trained for years. Accusing a big girl of being a baby- those are fighting words. And I forgive you for scaring her and confusing her. How she’s afraid all the time that someone is going to call the police on her. I forgive you for making my beautiful child think she did something wrong.

I forgive you for taking over my thoughts and feelings and actions for the past several weeks. I forgive you, because forgiveness is an action, not a feeling. My heart remains angry and sad. But I choose to forgive you.

I’m praying for you. I know you’ve suffered major loss, this year in particular. I know you’re lonely. I know you must long to have the love we have as a family. I know the feeling of seeing others around you be happy while your heart’s desire goes unfulfilled. So I’m praying for you. Praying that your heart be healed, and that you find love. But most importantly I’m praying that you seek a relationship with God. That’s where our love comes from, you know. It’s not because we are without trials. You provided a trial in our life after all. But as a family we get through difficult times because we trust God. We trust His plan. We’ve seen our prayers answered. And I pray the same for you.

And it is with those prayers in mind that I thank you.

I thank you for giving us a worst-case scenario. You brought to reality something all parents worry about on some level. What if someone turns me in for being a bad parent?

And so the authorities came.

And you know what they discovered?

That we’re really good parents of a really great kid who happens to have a really nasty neighbor. Not everyone gets that kind of validation. So I thank you.

I thank you for our new apartment. The one that is $100 a month less than we currently pay. The one with the giant back yard right down by the park. The one with a huge attic. The one that gets us away from you. Without your phone call we wouldn’t have been looking. But now we move to a better situation in one month. So I thank you.

And I thank you for giving me such a concrete example of God using trial to bring rewards. I hope our story is able to inspire others. And it’s all because you didn’t want us living next door. So I thank you. And others who will hear our story thank you.

Last summer my daughter set up a free lemonade stand for her neighbors. She did it because she loves them. So I thank you for giving us the opportunity to talk to her about the actions of others. How sometimes people do things that aren’t nice, and we can’t really understand why. You turned her lemonade into lemons. So I thank you for the lesson.

I also thank you for the opportunity to use the phrase “lemonade into lemons.”

With forgiveness, prayer, and thanks,
The Person Who Won’t Be Your Neighbor Much Longer

Now that the case has been closed (because there was never a case, only an accusation…) I no longer have to focus on preparing for an inspection that never should have happened.

And so. I now return you to our regularly-scheduled Project 40.

Tough Mother/ It’s About Time

I’m a busy Mom. But finding time to work out is easy as long as I make it a priority and set a schedule. For example, the schedule for the last seven days of the 4-week summer challenge looked like this:

Tuesday: Run early in the morning
Wednesday: Hit the gym before 9:30 meeting
Thursday: Run early in the morning in my sister’s neighborhood, where I was taking care of my nephews for the weekend. As long as I was back by 8- in time for their Dad to leave for work, I was golden.
Friday: Take a yoga class at my sister’s YMCA in Alabama.
Saturday: Work out at YMCA while boys are at child watch.
Sunday: Rest
Monday: Run in my friend’s neighborhood. She lives a bit north of Nashville and I was visiting her overnight before flying out Monday afternoon.

If everything went according to plan, I’d complete the workout schedule in my free time. No one would be put out, and I’d be on schedule, ready to start Week 2.

In our family things go according to plan as often as four or five times a month.

My actual schedule looked like this:

Tuesday: Ryan needed to go to work early leaving me to do school prep and drop-off. I set my alarm for 6 AM. But didn’t actually turn it on. Woke up at 10. Lily, who doesn’t do well out of routine, spiraled into a fit that lasted a few hours. I took her to school at noon, losing the entire morning.

Wednesday: After a late night up with a girl still recovering from her Tuesday morning fit, I decided I needed to sleep in a bit. I missed my meeting.

Thursday: Weather-related flight delays meant getting into bed at my sister’s around 3 AM. Less than five hours later it was time to get up with the boys. Only one had school, leaving me home with the little one. I briefly entertained the notion of getting out the jogging stroller. The idea was quickly dismissed.

Friday: I decided to run during the few hours I had to myself while both boys were at school. I made it about thirty minutes before succumbing to sunburn and nausea. Did you know it is hotter in Alabama than it is in Connecticut? And that brand new housing developments don’t have trees?

Saturday: I took the boys to the YMCA as planned. I worked out while they played at child watch. Success.

Sunday: I am happy to report that I followed through with my plan of not working out on Sunday. Yay me!

Monday: I visited with a friend overnight on Sunday. We were up drinking tea and sharing stories until nearly 3 AM. I would not trade this time. But running on Monday morning was certainly not an option. A Bloody Mary on the plane ruled out running once I got back home. Looks like another day of rest.

The best laid plans, eh?

The thing is, I really did complete all of the workouts for Week 1. Quite successfully, in fact. Tuesday. I ran in the evening instead of the morning. Following Week 9, Day 1 of the 10k training program (5 minute warm up, run for 10 minutes/ walk for 1 minute, repeat for total of 4 times, 5 minute cool down) I ran 4.3 miles. This is the further I have ever run. I felt like a rock star. My husband reacted as if I had finished a marathon.

Wednesday I completed the arm workout during the time when I was scheduled to be at a meeting. I only had time for 2 sets of each exercise instead of 3. But I did it.

Thursday I did the stretches planned for Friday, and Friday I did the cardio scheduled for Thursday.

And Saturday and Sunday went as planned. Two days out of seven. Bam.

When I look at it all laid out like that, I’m really proud of myself. I’m 1/4 of the way through the four week program. I’m totally doing it! But I have these persistent naggy thoughts.

“Ryan shouldn’t have had to be home with Lily for an hour after working all day, just so I could run. I’m being selfish.”

“I only did 2 reps instead of 3. So I didn’t really finish the workouts.”

“I should have gone to that meeting instead of working out. There I go being selfish again.”

“I had to stop early on Thursday because of the heat. It was not a successful run.”

As I look at these thoughts now, rationally they seem absolutely false. Emotionally, they seem absolutely true.

It takes a lot of work to override emotional lies. Fortunately, I have a lot of practice.

So. To my emotional lies, I counter with the following:

I have a husband who supports me. He supports my writing. And he supports my healthy decisions. I have friends and readers who look to me for inspiration. And I have friends to whom I can turn for inspiration and guidance. (And for help determining what some of the exercises in the plan are supposed to be!) This year is important. I am becoming a healthier version of myself. I am doing the best that I can. I am flexible with my time and plans, and I am making healthy decisions about priorities. And. I am succeeding.

And then there’s this little girl.


She wants to go running with Mommy. We usually make it once around our complex. It’s about a third of a mile. She thinks I’m fast. And she thinks I’m strong. And she wants to be like me.

And that is motivation enough.

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