From Couch to Runner

standard August 3, 2012 5 responses

I started the Couch 2 5k program a few times. Each time I got to week 6 or so, the first “long” run weeks, and I stalled. I hurt my back. My shoes would die. It would start to rain. The kids would get sick. Work would pile up.

Whatever the reason, I stopped for a day, two days, three days, a week, two weeks… until I really couldn’t claim to be running any more.

This time I almost stopped again. The moment came when I was out running one day and dislocated a rib a good twenty minutes from the house. Now, dislocating ribs is something I do with somewhat distressing frequency. It’s something two pregnancies left as a souvenir. Usually I know just how to pop the rib back and then I know to take it easy for a few days. This time I was a good 20 minutes away from the house and I had to walk back holding my arm against my chest in an effort to keep my rib stable.

It hurt.

And it scared me.

Because while I was fine a few days later, the memory of that excruciating walk home stayed with me.

But it bugged me that I’d done so well again with the Couch 2 5k program and that I was once again on the way to abandoning the training part of the way through. And I missed running. Missed the high. Missed feeling strong. Missed knowing that I was doing something great for my heart and my head.

I tentatively started walking again, even running a bit. I stayed to ‘safe’ spots, running tight loops around the neighborhood so I wouldn’t be far from home if I hurt myself again. I even started to relax a bit.

Which is when Summer rolled around, dumping the children at home, leaving me somewhat stuck there, unable to go out for 45 minutes by myself.

I did the only thing I could think of. I joined the YMCA.

The thought of running indoors made me sad, but not as sad as the thought of not working out all summer.

Isn’t it funny how life sometimes throws you a bone?

Because running on a treadmill is my new crack.

Seriously. I can’t get enough.

The treadmill offers a much softer surface for running. My knees and back are thanking me. And even though I run daily, I never go anywhere, so that fear of being stranded far from home and hurting myself has completely vanished. Heck, should anything happen, there are even trainers and physical therapists a few feet away who could come to my rescue.

With the fear gone my inhibitions about running have vanished.

And it feels so good to watch the miles tick by on the screen. So good to see how much faster and farther I can go every day. So good to know I’m getting stronger.

This week I woke up early four days so I could go run before M had to leave for work. Yesterday I slept in and took the kids with me to the YMCA so I could get in my daily run.

By now I’m running fast enough and far enough that I could have easily published a cheery “I just completed day 3 of week 9 of the Couch 2 5k app!” to my Facebook wall. The only thing keeping me from doing that is the Y’s 30 minute limit on the treadmill. (With the 5 minute warm-up and the 5 minute cool-down the last run in the program is a full 40 minutes long.) I’m OK with that. In my heart I know I’ve reached the goal. And more importantly, I know that I’m not giving up any time soon.

And that, my friends, is the only thing that matters. Maybe they should rename the app ‘Couch to Runner.” Because I doubt anyone reaches week 9 without being hooked for life.

The day I fell into a box

standard March 13, 2012 4 responses

It was a box. A silly box. One of the many still littered around our brand new home. This was one of the plastic bin kind that come 5 to a pack at Costco. The day before it had been filled with socks needing to be matched. (Lots of socks.)

So it was an empty box, discarded in the dining room.

I don’t know how I didn’t see it when I entered the room yesterday. I don’t know how my leg bumped up against it. And I really don’t know how I lost my balance so disastrously.

I went down hard, butt first, arm set to catch my fall. But the box, yes, that little innocuous box, caught my arm instead.  It took every last ab muscle I have to not crash down onto the arm that was now trapped between my plummeting body and the damn box.

I didn’t break my arm, but I’m not quite ready to laugh about how I ended up trapped in the box, feet and arms flailing, like a turtle turned onto its back. I had to be pried out of the thing. 

I’m sore today. My arm hurts and I have a blossoming bruise all down my thigh. Worse, I feel shaken, like a homeowner feels shaken after a break-in.

I am tough. Through everything we’ve been through I’ve had my strength to rely on. It’s been the one constant. No matter what happened, I knew I could power through it.

Today I just feel weak and fragile.

It’s silly, I know. I fell and got banged up. Big whoop, happens to everyone at some point or another. In a day I might have a bruise or two, but I won’t be sore any more. I wonder though, how long it will take for me to stop being wary, to start moving with my usual confidence again.

It’s not a bad thing to be reminded, once in a while, that we’re not as invincible as we’d like to believe. It would be nice however, if it didn’t come with bruises, sore muscles, and a good dose of ridicule.

Goodnight Susan; rest in peace

standard February 6, 2012 10 responses

At a conference a few summers ago, in the middle of the chaos that are all blogger events, I was invited up to Susan’s room to chat. Despite brutal chemo treatments she was there, scheduled to speak and determined to be there no matter what.

When I got to her room I found her in bed, sitting up, eyes bright with excitement. She, Leticia, another one of their roommates, and I chatted for a while, randomly having an animated discussion about Judaism. After a bit the conversation turned to the reason I’d been invited up to their room.

They wanted my professional help.

Since Tiny Prints had just started doing personalized greeting cards, the girls were hopeful that they’d be interested in working with the American Cancer Society to create special cards based on the designs already being used as eCards on the More Birthdays site.

I had my doubts about how that project would go. I had my doubts about how far my personal influence would take it. But I looked into Susan’s shining hopeful face, and I didn’t have the heart to quash her dreams.

There she was, sitting in bed, too tired to go be part of the conference hoopla, and still, she was thinking about others.

That was Susan. 

When she got cancer she started campaigning to inform and educate others about Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  Then she started a site aimed at offering support and a voice to moms fighting cancer.

When her lymphedema got bad, she worked to support Cricket’s Answer an organization that helps women fighting cancer get wigs, lymphedema sleeves, and other things they need day to day during their fight, and yet can’t always afford. She also ardently supported LympheDIVAS, the company that makes pretty lymphedema sleeves so the women wearing them can keep feeling beautiful.

That was Susan. 

Last Summer, between treatments she came to Asheville, NC to accept a Bloganthropy award and to speak, once again, to a room packed with bloggers.

I’m so grateful that she was able to come despite being so tired. I got to hug her that weekend — gently of course so as to not hurt her — but at least I got to hug her.

Little did I know it would be the last time I saw her.

A few days ago, knowing full well that she was in hospice and that her days were numbered, I had a dream about Susan. I had arrived at some event, and she was there, sitting at a table, looking her usual radiant, beautiful self. “You’re here!” I stammered. But inside I thought “You look so serene, so peaceful!”

I woke up, convinced that she had passed away, and was relieved to hear that she had not.

Today Susan finally did pass away. I’m typing this through my tears. This morning the world lost an amazing soul when she took her last breath.

I’m so sad that I’ll never hug her again. I’m so sad that I’ll never hear another one of her fabulous ideas for how to make things better for others. I’m so sad for her husband and her two little boys. And I’m so sad for those of you who never got to meet her or got to be touched by her infectious desire to do good.

I’m not sad that she’s no longer in pain.

Rest in peace Susan. We will continue the work you started. You will live on in all of our hearts and all of our efforts. 

After that bedroom meeting with Susan and Leticia I went home and sat down with the business development team at Tiny Prints. “This is really important to me and it’s really important to my friend,” I told them. And miracle of all miracles… they listened. It took many, many months of planning and discussion, but today Susan’s American Cancer Society cards can be found on the Tiny Prints site. May they hopefully lead to more birthdays for more moms.

On Loss, Love, and Connections

standard January 23, 2012 5 responses

I went to a small high school. I had a handful of close friends and a handful of people I knew, but that was pretty much it. Other than the dude who would drink a 6-pack before homeroom and the guy with the drug problem, everyone was pretty much healthy and average.

I went to a huge university and attended two programs at once. Overnight the number of people I encountered on a daily basis grew exponentially. Suddenly I knew people, lots and lots of people. People with health issues, people with mental issues, people with family issues, and people who were absolutely totally average.

I finished school and went to work for a synagogue. Suddenly, I didn’t just know people, I was actively involved in their day to day lives. I was the front line for every health or family crisis. And it was a big synagogue, so there were many, many crises.

And then, because apparently, I can’t get enough of being in the thick of people’s lives, I got addicted to the internet, where millions of people share snippets of their lives every day, weaving webs that entangle you in their ups and downs.

It’s a wondrous thing being constantly surrounded by people. It means that you always have someone to pump you up when you’re down, or someone to chat with when you need a sounding board. It means that you have friends all over the world. It means that no matter what you’re going through, there’s someone out there who can relate.

What it also means is that you know a million more people who are going through tough times.

When I had a handful of friends my life was pretty sheltered. I knew about the usual, run of the mill challenges that people face. As my social and professional circles have grown I’ve seen more and more of the horrors that life can bring.

Most days I love being hyper connected. I thrive on all that connectedness.

Other days the weight of what my friends face makes me want to shut off the world, curl up under a blanket, and never come out.

It was easier when I hardly knew anyone.

My friend Susan is struggling today. I’ve known Susan, first virtually and finally in the flesh, for over 5 years now. She’s the only rocket scientist I can claim to actually know. She’s wise, funny, caring, and a pillar of strength. She’s fought not one, not two, not even three, but four cancers over the last four years. FOUR cancers. She has two little boys and loving husband. She has friends all over the globe. She’s changed how I see science and how I want my daughters to see it. She’s touched my life and improved it. And no matter what happens over the next few weeks, there will always be a little Susan shaped part of my heart. It’ll glow when I show my kids a cool science trick or help them learn about a woman who has changed the world of science.

I know a million people (give or take a couple thousand) and in putting myself out there I’ve opened up my heart to a million heartaches. My heart breaks daily, but if I weren’t putting myself out there, weren’t opening myself to the possibility of sadness and horror, I wouldn’t be opening myself to the possibility of meeting people like Susan.

And if I hadn’t met Susan? Well my life would most definitely be poorer for it.

(One of my favorite posts by Susan:, demonstrating that strength and wisdom I mentioned above.)