Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Puff, DB, La La, and Ki Ki

When Beth and I went to Ohio, we had the pleasure of staying with her uncle, Dick Bill, and his wife Lynn. Dick is known as DB...even his kids and grandkids call him DB. It didn't take me long to start calling him by that either. Every once in awhile you come across people who make you feel incredibly comfortably right away. The Bill Family certainly has cornered this market. I immediately felt like I was visiting old friends.

Soon after we arrived DB began telling great family stories. I was immediately immersed in family folk lore and within a half hour I thought I could actually remember some of the memories. There is nothing like a great storyteller. Those with this impressive skill have the listener at the heart of their story, rather than themselves and what happened to them in the tale. DB reminded me of Tim's uncles...all are great storytellers. You find yourself leaning in to hang on every word and they lower their voices at just the right parts...and the stories all have these great morals or insightful punch lines that keep you thinking about them for days.

On the first night, Beth's cousin Laurie (La La) came over with her son Bam, who is about 7, and is a dead ringer for Harry Potter, right down to the round glasses, except he has blonde hair. He had that little munchkin voice (I'm such a sucker for little kid voices) and was thrilled to have an audience to read books with. Towards the end of the night DB pointed to Beth and asked Bam "What's her name?" He stalled a bit...not remembering her name..and to help him out, I whispered "Beth" in his ear. It was a great game of "telephone" because he yelled out "Puff! Her name is Puff!" We got quite a chuckle out of it but it didn't end there. The next day when he came over he walked in and said hello to everyone he passed. "Hi DB...Hi Nana Lynn...Hey Puff" From that moment on, Beth had a new name.

I heard a lot of great stories from Laurie of when Beth was younger and all the trouble they got into. They also had great stories of camping and riding horses, two things I absolutely love. When people treat you like an old friend, when in fact you are a stranger, it is so much easier to find the commonalities and have easy conversation. I have always stressed about going to work or personal functions where I don't know many people..."What will I talk about with these people?!" After this weekend, I realized conversation is easy when you welcome the other person into your world and instead of throwing questions at them, you just include them in your stories.

The stories continued the next night when Beth's cousin Kristi (Ki Ki) came over with her adorable little girls Frankie and Lexi. Beth was telling Kristi about my blog and we started discussing how we all are trying to take pleasure in the little moments...but first we are all trying to slow down to see the moments as they happen. When I started on this journey, I did feel like I was in the minority. That I was one of the only ones unable to see the moments when they presented themselves, that I was one of the few struggling to find simplicity in my life, and to really get back to basics and what truly mattered. What I have found out along the way is that everyone is in the same boat. We might all be at different points on the journey of figuring it out, but life is moving too fast for everyone and we are all struggling to stay true to what is important to us. I just decided not to hide my struggle anymore. And when I started talking openly about it, that's the point others felt comfortable to say "I feel the same way too."

I know I felt I was failing at my life because I couldn't do it all well. I'm a serious overachiever and don't like to fail at anything. Or I should say, I didn't like failing. I have uncovered a big piece of Little Kelly. I know I can't do it all anymore. And I'm okay with that. And I have figured out where I want to spend my time. I don't care that I haven't painted the second coat on my front door in a year or that I haven't organized my basement. But the other day, I picked the kids up from school and I handed them each a giant sprite and a full size candy bar. I told them to eat up...we were headed to a surprise. I took them mini golfing and we were the only ones there. We had such a great time. Admittedly, when the kids heard the word "surprise" they assumed I was taking them to get some teeth pulled without anesthesia. Clearly I haven't done enough of this in the past but they will remember that day for a long time...and there will be many more like it in the future.

On day three, we were invited to Kristi's house to watch the Ohio State game. Let me just tell you...out there they are SERIOUS about college football. 'Nuff said. Towards the end of the day, Kristi and I were chatting and she said "I woke up this morning with both girls snuggled in on each side of me, still sleeping. I heard the dog moving around downstairs...she needed to go out. I started to get up but then thought about our conversation and I just sat there enjoying the moment with the girls while they slept. It won't stay like this forever." Then she added quickly with a laugh "and then I got up and took the dog out." See? It's like it's viral....we are all starting to slow down and take advantage of the moments when they are presented to us. I love, love, love it!

On our final night we spent some time with DB in his office while he shared many more great stories. I learned that his father was a man of few words but was a great letter writer. DB has been going through his father's letters that he saved over the years and sending funny and inspirational quotes out to family members and friends via email each day. I loved this idea for so many reasons. It is clear that DB is a very thoughtful person and his emails show how much he cares about those he is writing to. Beyond that, it demonstrates how important his family is to him...both past and present. Above all, he is keeping the memories of those who have passed alive and well each and every day. To me, he epitomizes the person who lives in the moment, who has made family their focal point, and who truly knows what is important and where to spend his time. I bet he brightens the face of everyone he emails every day. I know he does this for his own enjoyment, but I hope he understands how much these little acts mean to people.

Who knew when I went to Ohio I would meet a La La, a Bam, a DB, and a Ki Ki...to name just a few? I just want to say thank you to the Bill Family for making me feel so welcome and for sharing their stories with me. And I was able to recognize that this trip was more than just about going to the Country Living Fair on a girlfriend trip with Puff. It was a great opportunity to see people who are living a life where those little moments are recognized and celebrated.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Old Days

First of all, my outfit is "stupit" today. Jenn wouldn't like it. It doesn't take long to slide right back into the same old, same old...

Moving on....On the last night of our trip, Beth went into our room early, got into our pj's, and attempted to read but instead started reminiscing about all the crazy times we had. By the time we were done we were giggling like school girls and I had to go tinkle. I thought I would share one of my all time favorite stories with you to cheer up your rainy day (well, it's raining here..).

We went out with two guy friends that Beth worked with. We went out pretty often with them and the best thing was we always went out just as friends. Fuzziness #1: we couldn't remember where we had been or who else was with us but we do remember that by the end of the night it was clear Beth and I couldn't go home by ourselves. We lived in opposite directions and we weren't close to either of our apartments. Dave suggested we sleep at his apartment...which he shared with a bunch of roommates. Fuzziness # 2....no idea what town his apartment was but we think it might have been Brighton. Wherever it was, we were just followed him home.

We get there and I immediately just assumed the fetal position and went night-night on the living room shag rug. In hindsight, I shudder to think what that looked like in the day light. Beth found an empty bedroom and crashed. She awoke to a very hairy man crawling into bed next to her. She wanted to get up but the room was spinning so she was forced to lay there and listen to him snore. Again, in hindsight, it's a good thing he didn't realize there was a strange girl in his bed.

Beth comes booking out of the room as the sun is coming up the next morning. "C'mon! We have to go!" Part of her urgency had to do with the fact that we had to get from a strange town back to my apartment in Wakefield to change and then all the way to downtown Boston to our jobs...and not be late. The other part is that she wanted to get out of dodge before Furry Guy saw her.

When I got up, I realized I had been sleeping on the phone cord that was strung across the floor. The cord had made a deep indent running diagonally across my face from my forehead to my chin that, in all honesty, took two days to go away. We didn't realize it until we got on the T.

We were just trying to hold our stomachs down and stop our heads from pounding as we made our way to work on planes, trains, and automobiles. We were approaching Government Center and this guy gets up...clearly wearing his suit from the night before and he heads for the door. He is pastey white, sweating, and swaying. The doors open and instead of getting off, he projectile vomited on the poor, unfortunate girl that was getting on the train, ready for work. I honestly don't know how we didn't projectile vomit ourselves. The poor girl...head to toe vomit. And Vomit Man just ran through the crowd leaving her drenched.

Fuzziness #3...we have no memories after that until about 1/2 hour into our workday. There I am...with my creased phone cord face, and Beth emails me to say that the girl sitting next to her is talking to her friend saying "Apparently, last night, Todd woke up to find some blonde girl in his bed! If I find out who that b@*$# was I am going to kick her a$$!" AAAAHHHH!!! What are the chances?! Of course nothing happened but this girl never would have believed that. I think Beth sweated that one out for about 2 months.

We barely made it to lunchtime. We needed grease and we needed it fast. We scurried along to Wendy's in Downtown Crossing...our favorite hangover spot. This particular Wendy's had tables upstairs and downstairs. Now, when you are hungover, you get the stupids and the dots take longer to connect than on an average day. This was true for us. We were in line waiting to order (me with my creased face and all...) and people are streaming up from downstairs. Instantly we thought we must have lapsed into a coma and somehow we had taken so long to walk that lunch hour was over. We looked at the clock and that wasn't the case. We shrugged and ordered our greasy burgers and salty fries and took our trays downstairs. We immediately dig into our lunch, ignoring the murmurings that are going on.....that is, until we hear some sort of whacking sound followed by a pig squeal. What the heck?! We continue to shovel the grease into our faces but we look around. There is confusion and fear on people's faces. All of a sudden, we hear "Watch out! It's coming this way!" and a Wendy's employee is chasing something with a shovel. The people at the table in front of us are screaming and we lift up our feet to see what is coming underneath us. Oh, let me tell you....it was a GIANT RAT the size of a small dog. It passed right underneath my chair. And the Wendy's employee finally cornered it and BEAT IT DEAD with a shovel right there in the dining room...while it squealed until the end.

We took our trays upstairs and I'm not going to lie to you....we did finish our meals before we left. Afterall, we were really hung over. Those were the days....

Hopefully this will make you think of a funny little story from your "old days" and make you laugh til you tinkle.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What Would Jenn Do?

I just got back from Columbus, Ohio with my friend Beth where we attended the 5th Annual Country Living Fair. It was an event filled with top of the line artisans, antique dealers, cooking demonstrations, and decorating seminars. We had bought the early bird tickets, allowing us into the event 1.5 hours prior to general admission and boy was it worth it! We never quite understood why everyone didn't come early....there are one of a kind gifts and goodies for sale that sell very quickly. At one of our favorite booths, Findings, we heard that the majority of their bracelet inventory was gone by mid morning. Between Beth and I, we bought 6 bracelets there within the first 20 minutes....they were to die for and the price was right.

Beth and I have gone to Brimfield together for the past 14 years. We know exactly where our favorite vendors are, where the great food stands can be found, and how to work around the crowds. With this fair, we had no idea what we were in for and had never met anyone that went before. We walked in dazed, confused, and woefully unprepared. Ladies were literally high tailing it down the main street, yet there was a village of booths to the left. We didn't know which way to go or what we might be missing when we made our decision. Beth stopped and said "Okay, we just need to think for a minute. Let's just look around and get our bearings." As we strolled through the first few booths, it was clear this was like nothing we had been to before. It was like Brimfield and an art show combined on steroids. Everywhere we looked there was amazing stuff created mainly by women entrepenaurs trying to make their mark on the world. We instantly went into an ADD frenzy, running from booth to booth. We heard a group of ladies say in their southern accent, "Oh my word, we only have a half hour before the doors open." My upper lip immediately grew a sweat mustache and as my daughter would say, my pits got "wet". We decided to hit the booths we knew would be swarmed when the main doors opened and we started buying like crazy. By noontime I think I had gone through almost half of the money I brought with me and if pressed, I don't think I could have named half of the items I had bought.

After refueling with lunch, we headed back out to conquer the rest of the fair. This is when I saw it. From across a courtyard, a main street, and hoards of people, I saw a pink and green booth...it was like coming home. I should mention I was rocking a super cute hot pink a-line skirt with my kelly green polo (collar up of course), my pearls (again, of course), and my Lilly Pulitzer pink and green oilcloth recyle bag. I looked just like me. I walked like a magnet to metal until I was in front of the booth. As I was taking it all in, the owner of the Tickled Pink booth came up to me and said "Oh my God, you belong here!" I know, I thought, as I got a little misty eyed. And I just have to mention that the owner was ADORABLE! She was a beautiful older lady with a twinkle in her eye...collar up, adorable outfit, and in pink and green herself. She had the same bag as me she said, we complimented each other on every bit of our outfits, and then she invited me to look around. She was an extremely creative lady, with one of a kind creations, and Beth pretty much had to pull me away.

I think it was at this point that I really began to shift my focus from the items for sale to looking around at the people at the fair. It was filled with very creative people who were bubbling with energy. There were so many cute outfits at this place! One girl had a grey silk halter top on...something you would wear with a dressy outfit...but it was paired with a white t-shirt underneath, cropped jeans with big cuffs, and adorable silver ballet flats. There was the woman with an ivory chemise on, worn over skinny jeans and a white t-shirt, topped by a cardigan with a big silk flower on it. I wished I had thought to be so creative and daring with my clothes.

Beth and I found an artist that we loved there named Jennifer Lanne www.jenniferlanne.com. Her paintings were beautiful and we made the mistake of deciding to go back later in the afternoon when we had more time to really look through her paintings. Unfortunately, when we went back, the ones we wanted had already sold. We quickly became enamored with Jenn and it took us awhile to figure out why. She was wearing an adorable summer dress over cropped jeans with a big cuff. She had paired black trouser socks with two toned high-heeled mary janes, and the trouser socks were scrunched down like bobby socks. She had an adorable yellow bow in hair and funky, big earrings. I am one who appreciates an adorable outfit, but I realized what I was feeling went beyond the outfit. Jenn felt free to be herself and show her confidence. She was clearly a risk taker and it made me want to take more risks and be more like the person I dreamed about. If I wore a dress over my jeans, I would look like I was trying too hard. And if I paired scrunched up trouser socks with high heeled shoes I would look like a crazy bag lady who only wore those two things together because it was the only pair of socks and shoes she had.

I began to wonder why some people can carry it off and others can't. First of all, and I'm being completely honest, you have to be skinny for these looks. (Note: I will soon be writing a post on how I don't want to be pudgy anymore). Beyond that though, you have to be comfortable with who you are and willing to put yourself out there. I have always been a creative person but as responsibilities grew and took up my time, I just buried my creative thoughts until I couldn't see them anymore. I was telling Beth that lately I just want to stay up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I have so many creative ideas that come to me that I want to try and fit it all in before I don't have time for it anymore. And Beth is an incredible artist, it was even her major in college. But marriage, kids, and the need to have a steady income, have prevailed over being creative and taking risks.

We decided right then that we would start being more creative again and take more risks. The confidence and outfits will surely come as a result. When decided if we found ourself wondering if a certain outfit looked good or if we should take a particular risk we would ask ourselves "What would Jenn do?" We even went back to her booth to take a picture of her outfit so we could send it to each other, when needed, and ask "What would Jenn do?" Well, I'll just be honest...taking her picture became weird. We loitered for a bit to wait for the right moment to snap a quick pic when she wasn't looking but then it felt like we were stalking her. Beth came up with the bright idea to pretend to take my picture and then snapped it just when Jenn came into view. By the way, Jennifer, if you ever read this, we really aren't creepy weirdos...although re-reading what I just wrote, is making me feel a little bit like one.

On day two, we didn't think we would have anything left to buy. We had seen it all, knew the vendors inside and out, but really went back because we wanted to attend a seminar at 11. Surprisingly, we bought more on the second day than the first! It seemed we had more time to really look in depth at the booths, and we saw so many things we hadn't seen the first day. We even ended up shipping stuff home. I came across a booth that we had passed several times on day one and didn't bother to go in. On day two, I decided to just take a closer look inside. I came across a vintage hair clip that I couldn't live without. I thought to myself, "What would Jenn do?" and I knew that it was something a creative, fun loving, confident person would wear. Sold!

As we were leaving, I stopped in to see my pink and green Tickled Pink friend. I disappointed her by wearing navy and light blue instead of pink and green....and she let me know how she felt about that. But we chatted for a good 10 minutes and Beth got a great picture of us. I'll post it once she sends along. Talk about someone exuding confidence and truly living the life she was meant to. She definitely took a risk with her creations and was so happy putting herself out there. Someday when I find the thing I was meant to do, I know what it will feel like because I saw it firsthand.

When we got back into the car, I immediately put my hair clip in and loved it. It was so unlike me....I'm not twelve so hair clips don't come easy to me...but I really liked how it made me feel. Beth would have told me if I looked like an ass but instead she told me how cute it looked, and so off we went, windows down, wind blowing in our hair, with my hair clip looking super cute.

There are so many elements of this trip that I need to comment on that it will come in several posts. But Lesson One for me is to stop being so afraid and start taking risks. They don't have to be big risks, just start small. What have you got to lose? All those women who are now doing what they had dreamed of had to start someplace, they had to take risks, and they all had failures along the way. I don't think it's the failure we fear most, but rather the fear of not knowing where to start. When you find yourself wondering if you should take a risk, whether it is with what you are wearing or even what decision you should make, just ask yourself, "What would Jenn do?"

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

6 Degrees of Girlfriends

I just love my girlfriends! I can honestly say that I have have the best friends anyone could ask for.

One thing that I was struggling with when I was working was having time to spend with my girlfriends. It's one of the things that unfortunately fell to the bottom of the list, because my assumption was, my girlfriends will understand that I don't have enough time. And we all do understand. But, the relationships we have with our girlfriends, are one of the most important things to keeping us happy and healthy.

One of the things on my sabbatical list was to make more of an effort to do things with my girlfriends. It's not that I didn't want to before...it's just that I would often feel guilty chosing to spend time with my friends over spending time with my kids because there just wasn't enough time to go around for everyone. When you don't have the time to spend with your friends though, you forget how great they make you feel, how you can cry at the drop of a hat just by sharing a story, or how quickly you can laugh so hard that you cry (when was the last time you did that?). You also realize it makes you a better mom, a better wife, and a better friend when you have those moments with your girlfriends.

And you have all different types of relationships with your girlfriends. There are those you talk to all the time, those you call when you really need to talk, and those you call when you just want to have a little fun. There are those you don't talk to for months or even a year, but when you do finally reconnect there aren't any hard feelings and it feels like just yesterday that you talked. And there is nothing wrong with having different relationships with your girlfriends. I recently made peace with the fact that some friends are never going to give me what I am looking for in a relationship. There are some friends I wanted more from and found myself perpetually disappointed because I didn't get what I was looking for. It hit me one day that it was okay to have a different type of relationship. That I could stop being disappointed by what I wasn't getting and just focus on what I was getting out of that friendship. Maybe I am the last one to realize this, but for me this was a big revelation.

In the last few months I have had a great time with my girlfriends. We have walked (and with some I have walked a marathon!), we have shopped, we have had coffee, breakfast, lunch, and dinner...and drinks (but not with breakfast...yet). We have talked about Dancing with the Stars and the Hoff, current events (and came to the conclusion that people are crazy), hollywood gossip, and local gossip. We have shared what is going on with our jobs, our families, and our plans for the future. We have cried over losses, supported each other through crisis', and checked in on each other when we have been sick or just feeling down. You have been a great sounding board for my thoughts on my future career plans and we've talked about our hopes to simplify our lives and find more meaning in what we do and the choices we make. We have emailed, texted, called, and caught up in person. We have gone to Boston, we've gone camping, we've danced, we've gone to the beach (and we have danced at the beach). We went to the Cape, Nantucket, and just stayed at home. We've planned trips, gone out to dinner in an impromptu moment, and even shown up one another's house unannounced with a bottle of wine. No matter what we talk about, whether our moment is planned or unplanned, no matter what we are wearing or what we look like, I have enjoyed every single second with each of you.

I recently got together with my friend Lynne who was visiting from North Carolina. I am always impressed with her trips "home". She truly makes every trip about seeing her friends and family. She was busy morning, noon, and night reconnecting with all her friends. I think because she is separated geographically and really misses her personal connections, she makes such an effort to see everyone. I can't imagine it is a relaxing trip for her because she is constantly on the go, but I know that she leaves here extremely happy. She has gained the understanding that girlfriends are what keep her going, and that these personal connections are key to being happy.

Tomorrow I am heading out on a girl's weekend with my great friend Beth. She is the one who introduced Timothy and I and for that I will be eternally grateful. We have known each other since college (she has known Tim since they were about 5!), have been in each other's weddings, and boy, do we have all kinds of stories!! We have similar interests and don't even need to talk...sometimes one of us will just look at the other and we immediately know what the other is thinking. Yet we have never gone on a girl's weekend together...just the two of us! We are headed to the Country Living Fair in Columbus, Ohio...and it just so happens that the town is celebrating Octoberfest. Steins o' beer, sauercraut balls and schnitzel, oh my! I know we will laugh a ton, share all kinds of stories, and yes, even learn something new about each other...we always do.

When I get back to "my real life" (which is rapidly approaching), I know I need to continue to make my friends a priority and find the time, even if it is just for a few minutes. I hope this post makes you think of the friends you want to reconnect with, inspires you to reach out and make plans or just drop by or call, and reminds you to take a few minutes to spend time with your girlfriends who make you so happy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Sitcom: Cubes

A night with my girlfriend Margaret inevitably ends up with her reminding me about the crazy people we worked with. We always wanted to write a pilot for a sitcom called "Cubes" and the crazy true life characters we encountered would be on the show. Our office was filled with row after row of office filled with nutty little characters. Quite frankly, most people can't believe these people existed but I am here to tell you, there are crazy people everywhere...but especially in the workplace.

Take Jim. Otherwise known as "Snaggle Tooth". He had one of those vampire teeth that grew above the other teeth. I know...unfortunate...but at some point you could have had some dental work to remove that puppy. But instead, he would attempt to hide it. The only time it would really make an appearance was when he laughed. He usually laughed with a "I have a stick up my butt and I'm very repressed" kind of chuckle. But occasionally he would let out a good belly laugh and instinctively he would use his index finger to hold down his lip so it wouldn't expose the vampire tooth. As though that wasn't calling attention to the tooth?! Snaggle's tooth wasn't his only issue. At one point, this guy was riding high. He managed a very large group, was a favorite of management, and strutted around in his Mr. Rodgers like outfits waving to everyone that walked by. But, just as he thought he was King of the Hill, in walked new management and they weren't a fan of Mr. Rodgers and his snaggle tooth. Jim was obviously nervous and quite frankly, did nothing to help himself. It seemed that he was screwing up at every turn. One day in our weekly 1-1 meeting, he decided to confide in me. Let me just remind you that I worked for him. He was slumped in his chair and said "Kelly, I'm not sure what is wrong but I can't seem to please anyone." He then proceeded to get weepy on me...and I mean, tears in the eyes, had to stop talking for a minute because he was choked up kind of weepy....and asked my advice on what he should do. Personally, I couldn't wait for Snaggle to move on so I just told him to keep doing what he was doing...in time they would see how hard he was trying. He was gone about 2 weeks later.

The person that took him down was George...otherwise known as Daddy Long Legs. This man was so tall....like 6'3 or so. Mind you, I am 5'2 so he could have been 5'7 and he would have seemed like Wilt Chamberlain to me. But I'm pretty sure he was really tall. He also weighed about 100 pounds. From the door to our office area to his personal office, it would take me at least 25 little leg strides to get to my desk, which was right outside his office. I watched Daddy Long Legs scale the hallway in 5 paces one day. He did this while eating an apple...which he literally ate in 4 complete bites. It was like watching a genetic freak on the Discovery Channel every day.

I also worked with a woman who was a swinger. A real life swinger. We had no name for her...I think because we still couldn't believe it was true. Now, let me just set this up. She thought she was super hot and although she was tall and thin, she had one of those leather faces and a voice like Marge Simpson's sister, from smoking too much. She also had an unfortunate dental situation happening....an overbite....which again, unfortunate but could have been fixed at some point. Anyways, she would come in on Monday mornings and be full of stories for everyone that wanted to ask and learn more about her escapades. Apparently there are swinger clubs that you pay a fee to get into. There is a "scoping out period" where you do some talking and "whatever else" at a bar and then if you decide you want to "move on" you can go to the group room...or your own room. What cracked me up was one of the rules if you were in the group room...everyone had to keep one foot on the floor. Imagine a big naked Twister game going on with a bunch of legs hanging off the bed. Not sure what that rule was doing, but I'm guessing having both feet on the bed was the least of the issues they would encounter with 10 people going at it. I can't even tell you the stories I have heard...they would make your ears bleed. I can only tell you that every time I heard her retelling one of her escapades, I had to remind myself that I wasn't watching tv...I was actually listening to this in person.

I started thinking about these characters as I started to gear up my job search. I can only wonder who I will encounter at my next job. Instead, I really should just write that sitcom pilot...I have enough stories to last a few seasons! Share with us the craziest person you ever worked with.

Note: "Crazy people you work with" are very different than crazy people in your family. We will save that for another day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oh My Aching Muscles!!

Yesterday I completed the Jimmy Fund 26.2 mile walk from Hopkinton to Boston to raise money to cure cancer and it was quite a challenge..but well worth it.

When I received donations many were made in memory of loved ones that had been lost to cancer. I started out my morning by writing the names of those loved ones on my t-shirt. Roberta Nealon, Tim's aunt, was above my heart. I knew I would need her encouragement to make it through the day. My grandparents, Emma and Charles O'Brien were just to the left of that. On my sleeves and the back of my shirt were Roseanne Messina, Anne Ranney, Charles Powers, and Evelyn Donovan. I felt it was important to honor them as I walked.

Team Weston Nurseries started off at 6:40 am from Center School in Hopkinton. We were all eager, bright-eyed, and had a spring in our step. Two members of the team had walked before and two of us hadn't so it was a good mix. I didn't realize it at the time but it was also a good mix of height...two tall people with natural long strides and two shorties with little legs. It was great to have a shortie pal throughout the walk because there were times we just couldn't keep up with the pace our daddy long legs pals were setting. We did stay together, at least in pairs, throughout the walk.

The night before, Tim asked me if I had assembled a list of things to talk about in case the conversation dried up...after all, it was going to be a long day. As you know, I am an avid list maker, but this had never even crossed my mind. I knew conversation would never be an issue nor would it feel awkward if there was silence.

And boy did we talk! We talked about my sabbatical and the lessons I have learned so far, our jobs, our kids and the challenges we were facing with them these days, friends and family, trips we would like to take, and home improvements we would like to make. We talked about the houses we walked past, how long both Natick and Wellesley were, how our feet and muscles felt, what kind of snack we would like to eat at the next station, and how often we were taking potty breaks. We caught up on our hollywood gossip and somehow Tanya Harding came up. It was at this point that a man behind us joined in the conversation. We learned that he was walking with a group of 120 people and they have been walking for years for a friend that has lukemia...and he was with them yesterday. He said his wife started the walk early, beginning at 9 pm the night before from Sutton to Hopkinton. She and a friend arrived at 5:30 am, took an hour break, and then started out again at 6:30. And she was ahead of us on the walk. She walked 52 miles to raise money for cancer. He seemed to enter our conversation just when our muscles were starting to ache and his wife's story was a great inspiration at that moment.

We kept the mood light by asking each other "Hey, when was the last time you walked to Framingham?" or "Hey, when was the last time you walked to a game at Fenway?" Also helping with the mood were the incredible volunteers that are stationed at each mile. When Karen told me you could actually gain weight on the walk I couldn't imagine how (and I really was hoping to look like a super model by the time I was done). There is so much food and at each station and they are staffed by people thanking you for walking and telling you what a great job you are doing. Around 11 am we hit Wellesley, had lunch, checked for blisters (none, thankfully!), and lubed our feet up again for the second leg. As we were waiting in line for the bathroom my friend Denise spotted a man wearing a t-shirt with the name and picture of Tim's aunt, Roberta Nealon, who passed away exactly a year ago yesterday. I didn't recognize him and went over to introduce myself. Turns out he worked from Tim's cousin and has been walking for Roberta for the past few years. It was as if Roberta was there with us..connecting us. It was a great moment.

It all sounds so wonderful and magical, doesn't it? Well, here comes the truth. There was some magical mixed in with a whole lot of pain. Around mile 7 it felt like someone was drilling a hole through my left hip bone with a dull drill. I walked it out around mile 10. Phew! Then, around mile 15 my muscles from my waist to my ankles began to rebel and became very tight. It was hard to walk. Every step hurt. I kept thinking I could just walk it out like the earlier hip pain but that didn't happen. I stopped at each mile station and tried to stretch out. It would feel good for a minute and then my muscles would say "Ah..you're kidding right? We aren't going any further...and we mean it." At one point I attempted to lie on a grassy patch to stretch and I was ONE MILLIMETER away from laying in dog poo. Honestly, that would have been a deal breaker for me. No way I would have walked with poo on my person. No. Way.

I started to hear murmurings of Heart Break Hill and immediately got sweaty like an italian sub. The girls looked me in the eye and said "Don't look up...just look at all the pretty houses. Got it?" In all honesty, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be although I think if you are running the marathon, it is 1,000 times worse than walking it. I was walking with Peter at the time and I told him that I didn't want to hold him back. He is so tall that one step for him equals two for me. I knew it must be tough for him to go so slow and I didn't want to impact his ability to scale the hill. But he said "I won't leave you, don't worry." Once we made it up, it did feel like a great accomplishment.

With 5 miles to go, I thought I would not be able to make it. I had to stop mid walk and stretch it out. We stopped in front of a stationary store and there were some beautiful calendars in the window. Denise said "Look at the pretty calendars...focus on them...pretty...pretty..." It was like something you would say to a 5-year old having a meltdown...and somehow it worked. At this point, my body began to shut down. "Low Battery: Glutous Maximus"...."Warning: Musclus behindus knee capus shutting down"....and "Powering Off: Ability to Lift Legs". I felt like I was lugging around two tree trunks. I had no ability to even lift them up on the curb. Do you know how many curbs there are in Boston??! You would think they would lower them for the day but no...I think they made them higher. With every step up I would grunt. I didn't mean to...it just came out.

It was at this point we decided to list Things That Would Be Worse Than This right Now. We came up with things like "Getting in a car accident and having my arm ripped off..." Yes, that would be worse. Or "having intestinal distress and not being able to get to a porta potty in time"..Again, yes, that would be worse. We did have a tie...we couldn't decide if it would be better to gnaw our own legs off or continue for the next 5 miles...that was a tough one to call. Then we see this little girl, about 5 or 6, obviously going through cancer treatment...and she is walking. Her Dad asked her if she was tired and she said "No, I'm going to keep walking." Clearly, fighting for your life and watching your child fight for their life was so much more worse than what we were going through. We were humbled by that and fell silent.

At mile 3 we decided to play the question game. "What was your favorite Christmas present ever?"..."What food could you not live without"..."What is your dream job?" That really helped pass the time and then before we knew it we were about a mile away. We could smell the finish line it was so close. It was at this point that we got giddy. There we were...walking stiffly, limping, dragging our limbs, and laughing like crazy loons. I imagine this is what happens to people when they get stuck in the dessert and think they see a mirage. We started talking about what we would do when we got there..."Have a soda!"..."Get some clam chowder!"..."Take our Tylenol!" It felt like we had been away from civilization for years.

We crossed the line at 3:00....8 1/2 hours after our start. We received our medals through a line of volunteers saying thank you and telling us what a great job we did. I, for one, could barely walk. We shuffled over to get a snack and then thankfully Denise's husband offered to drive all of us back to Hopkinton. While he went to get the car, because quite frankly, we couldn't walk another step, we waited on the curb. Peter dropped his backpack and the whole world stopped. Who was going to be able to pick that up? Luckily Karen had sat down so she wouldn't fall down so Peter kicked it to her and she was able to grab it. The bad news was Karen couldn't get back up but luckily Peter had it in him to pull her up. We got in the car and were basically silent except for an occassional groan when one of us moved. We got back to the school and Karen, Peter, and I had to get out of Denise's car to get into their car.

Peter attempted to roll out but landed on the ground. We couldn't help him. Partly because we were laughing so hard but mainly because none of us could move. It felt like it took us 10 minutes to shuffle to the car. Shuffle, shuffle, ouch, groan, shuffle, shuffle. They pulled up to my front walkway and Tim and the kids were waiting for me. Peter, Karen, and I were laughing so hard at my attempt to walk. I could barely move. Tim and the kids were both congratulatory and horrified at the same time. I know the kids were thinking "What happened to my mother...and will she stay like this forever?!" I half cried and half laughed my way to the front door.

And this is where you realize how great your family is. I shuffled to the kitchen and Tim pulled a chair out for me. The kids bent down and took my shoes off carefully. I wasn't sure what to expect...well, quite frankly, although my feet felt fine, I was afraid I would find bloody stumps. But they looked great...blister free! Jack carefully put slippers on my feet and then they gave me the signs they had made me. "Congradulations Mom! We are so proud of you!" and "Now you get a relaxing rest of the day with me waiting on you because you deserve it!" They went up and ran a nice hot bath for me, Tim got me a glass of wine and my book, and they left me alone. This is where some trouble started. I couldn't figure out how to get in the tub. It would require me to somehow lift my legs over the side. It took me a good 10 minutes to get my clothes off and then another 5 to get myself in the tub. But once there, it was wonderful! I felt pain free and wanted to stay there forever. I knew if I stayed too long though I was going to drown. Between the hot water, the few sips of wine I was able to take, and sheer exhaustion, I was about 5 minutes away from lapsing into a coma. It took me another 5 minutes to get out of the tub and I had to give up on drying off...I just couldn't even move my limbs. Getting pj's on was a miracle. I attempted to sit but couldn't bend my legs so they I tried laying down but couldn't figure out how to make that work either. I was out of breath by the time dinner was ready. Mmm...take out pizza.

I attempted to walk unassisted but it wasn't happening. I had Mimi walk in front of me like a train and pull me along. I shuffled like Ozzy Osbourne to the kitchen table. I ate some pizza and then said "I have to go to bed!" I thought I was going to fall asleep head first on the table. Mimi fired up the Ozzy train and off we went to my bedroom. I thought it would feel great to get in bed but my skin actually hurt when I laid on it. It was so uncomfortable. As I tried to get comfortable and turn I would just groan in pain. Finally, I just passed out.

Karen had told me all along that the day after the walk I just had to get up and move. I got up around 8:30 and attempted to get out of bed. Holy Tightness. Whatever muscle or ligament that is behind my kneecap felt like it was just going to snap like a bungee cord. I managed to roll onto the ground and do some stretching and then I crawled to my closet and put some clothes on to go for a walk. I decided to stay local and just walk my 'hood in case I had to crawl back. I didn't want to have to be crawling on the main road...too many people could see me. I walked with the speed of a one-hundred year old arthritic woman. And I'm not kidding. I did manage three laps and felt more like a 90-year old when I finally went home. I sat and had some cereal. BIG mistake. It became apparent that I should not sit for the remainder of the day otherwise my muscles became so stiff I was unable to move. I spent the day shuffling and puttering around and it worked. I feel pretty good now and am determined to get back to my usual 3 mile walk around town tomorrow.

As painful as this was in the end, I am amazed at this accomplishment. Besides labor, it was the most physically challenging thing I have ever been through. And I'll do it again, despite it all. I will do it because if I can help in any way to find a way to cure cancer, I will do it. I don't want to have to write any other names on my shirt next year and I don't want to have to see more children fighting for their lives walking next year. Thank you to everyone who sponsored me on the walk and who sent kind words of encouragement. I am lucky to have such great friends!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Peer Pressure

For years my friend Karen has been trying to get me to do the Jimmy Fund walk with her. There is no doubt that raising money for Dana Farber is a worthy cause, or that walking for those who have battled cancer isn't worth it. But I have always resisted because I just didn't feel I had the time...time to spend an entire day walking...and away from my family when all I was doing was working and spending time away from them. This year I had no excuse...I have the time. I purposely chose to take time to do more meaningful things in life and one of the top things on my sabbatical list was to volunteer more. So when Karen asked me to join her on the walk this year, you would probably be surprised that I resisted.

It was total fear that kept me from saying yes. What? Walk 26.2 miles?! What kind of condition would my body be in at the end? I do walk almost every day but the 3 miles I strut each morning is nothing compared to walking the marathon route. And let's be honest...I'm not as young as I used to be...I wondered how long it would take my body to recover. Recovering wouldn't be the tough part...but admitting that I am older now and can't bounce back so quick was really what was sticking in my mind. One night Karen and I went out to dinner and after a few glasses of wine, the walk sounded like a great idea. Karen also began to open up with honest answers. When I asked her what type of physical ailments she has had to endure over the years she uttered phrases like "once my toenail fell off and it took a year to grow back..." and "I could feel my blisters popping and oozing as I walked..." Hold the phone, Sister...wine or no wine...this was not sounding so good anymore!

It took me until a few days before the race to finally agree to walk on the team. I did give one last effort to back out when I told Karen that I hadn't done any fundraising and with the walk only a few days away, it didn't seem right to ask people for money on such short notice. She quickly responded with "You are in luck. The money isn't due until Nov. See you at 6 am on Sunday!"

I sent out an email to my friends and family that day and was pleasantly surprised how many people were willing to support me so quickly. It was an empowering feeling and one I have been living off of for the past few days. I need every little bit of encouragement I can get.

So, here I am tonight..the night before the walk...ready to take the plunge. In the days since I finally said yes to this, I have received tips from my fellow walkers. Things like "make sure you vaseline your feet really well..." and "you should vaseline your armpits...they tend to chaffe when you pump your arms"..."you'll want to get right up Monday morning, if you can, and start walking so you don't cramp up too much"...and "Pack your Advil". OMG.

I'm not sure what I have agreed to but it is much like going into labor with your first baby. You have no idea what to expect, what pain may lie before you. It is exciting and you can't wait to tackle the challenge. Tomorrow I will spend the day "in labor"...I suspect it won't be pretty at times, much like real labor. I am looking forward to it but I am also nervous. I hope I can make it without ending up wrapped up like a baked potato in one of those tinfoil blankets. I hope I don't end up with some sissy injury..."I was reaching for a banana, didn't see the curb, and sprained my ankle"...please, don't let that happen to me.

In the end it all came down to the fact that I do have the time. By that, I mean I am not battling cancer. I am not a loved one trying to stay strong for my family member who is suffering. I am not left alone by someone who was taken away from me by cancer. This is nothing compared to those who are fighting cancer, who are surviors, or those who have lost someone to cancer. I am proud to be able to have the opportunity to do something, however small, to help continue to fund cancer research.

I know tomorrow will be a truly inspirational day. I will walk in memory of Emma & Charles O'Brien, Roberta Nealon, Roseanne Messina, Anne Ranney, Charles Powers, and Evelyn Donovan. I am going to write their names on my shirt so that they give me the power to make it through the walk. Throughout the day I will be thinking of them and the loved ones they have left behind and miss them dearly.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Where is All Your Stuff?

I recently fed my neighbor's fish while she and her husband went on an impromptu trip. She has three children and didn't have much time to get them off to her mother in law's and pack for her trip. The first day I went over I stopped dead in my tracks. This did not look like the house of someone who left on a trip in a hurry. It was like a museum. Everything in it's place..and in fact, everything HAD a place.

My house looks like it threw up the camper's contents in the kitchen and dining room. The living room floor is coated with a light dusting of hay from carrying it out to the bunny cage. The playroom...well, there is no room to play in there. Now, we haven't been home much this summer so our house has become more of a transient hobo stop but even when my house is completely put together, I still have piles of stuff I don't know what to do with.

I began to notice as I went to other's people's houses, that all their stuff has a place. Did I just catch you all on a good day? I just want to know...where is all your stuff? If you don't keep the piles of books that you need to remember to give back to your friends on your dining room table, where do you keep them? Where is your pile of to-do stuff...thank you notes that need to be written, birthday gifts that need to be wrapped, stuff that needs to be returned to Target. Where is your stuff?? Honestly, how do you find time to put everything away nice and tidy ALL THE TIME? What's your secret, people?!