My 12 New Things

Monday, May 31, 2010

New Thing #6- May 2010- Running in a Race

I did it. I ran in the Amy Thompson Run for Brain Injury race today. I went back and forth as to whether or not I'd do it. Ultimately, I couldn't not do it.

I was stoked to start running a while back and did really well for a while. Then I fell off the wagon due to some stress, chaos and general craziness.

I participated in the 2 mile run (there was also an 8k/ 5 mile run). I know. It's not hardcore. I am not hardcore. The good news is that the majority of those running a 2 mile race aren't necessarily hardcore either.

My strategy going into the race was to scope out an elderly bunch and lope alongside them and then, as I neared the end, I would pull out in front for a glorious sprint across the finish line, leaving my new blue-haired friends in the dust. Thus, I would not come in dead last. That was my plan. I also drank a Red Bull in preparation. Here's what the label claims, "Improves performance, especially during times of stress or strain. Increases concentration and improves reaction speed. Stimulates metabolism." Sweet. Sign me up.

There was an interesting mix of individuals running the race- young, old, really young, really old, pregnant women, folks pushing strollers, really fit and toned people, some not so fit and toned. Some of the more "fit and toned" category looked like they could have competed in the 8k, but were settling for this one so that they could do it with their kids. I overheard one dad leaning down and telling his son, "If we get separated, go towards the finish line." That's helpful. I made mental note to be ready to call Child Services if need be.

There was a Super Man.  I thought for sure I'd beat that dude. I didn't. He passed me after the 1 mile marker.

The race started with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. It's funny, I've had that song creep into my subconcious recently. If I'm thinking about a particulary challenging situation,  I somehow find myself humming that tune. It's very bizarre. The first time it happened, I just thought it was a weird happenstance. By the fourth time it happened, I thought it must be a sign. Today, I took it as my cue to think about the Big Picture.

(I do understand that the national anthem is sung prior to every type of sporting event and that this wasn't some weird coincidence. I might also remind you that I'm not a regular attender or participator of sporting events of any kind, so I don't often get a lot of exposure to that song.  I digress).

Ready. Set. Go! Off I went.

Thoughts that went through my head during the race, in chronological order:
  • I love that we just sang The Star Spangled Banner. I'm so thankful that people are willing to sacrifice for our freedom.
  • I think it's great that this race is on Memorial Day.  
  • This is so cool! Look at all these people running!
  • What a beautiful park and neighborhood.
  • This isn't so bad.
  • Where are my blue-haired friends?
  • Hmm. The one-mile marker has to be close.
  • I think I have a stomach cramp.
  • It's probably frowned upon to cut through people's yards.
  • Is this a runner's high? No, I don't think so. If it is, it sucks.
  • Thank God the last half mile is down hill.
  • Are those blue-hairs already done?
  • Holy crap, I have to go uphill to finish? That's cruel.
  • Thank you sweet 8 lb baby Jesus, I see the finish line.
  • Good thing I'm ahead of the pregnant lady.
  • That little kid ahead of me is going to ruin my finish line photo. I can't come sprinting in alongside a 9 year old. How embarassing. Have. To. Go. Faster.
  • Shew. I did it. I think I'm going to throw up.
  • Wahoo! I did it!
My husband was waiting for me at the finish line with water and camera in hand. He was very sweet to give up his "morning to sleep in" to come support me. We left the munchkin with his parents since they're visiting. Thanks, Ron and Barb!

After walking off the pain a little bit, I ran into someone I knew from my Professionally Speaking group. A little while later I saw my friend Kate. I heart her; she's one of my favorite friends even though we don't get to see each other as often as we'd like.

I learned a few things in my adventure today:
  • Underwear choice is important.
  • As is sock choice.
  • I should probably prepare a little bit more.

The Amy Thompson Run was a lot of fun. I highly recommend it! The course is beautiful and the staff puts on a great, well organized event!

Upon leaving the park this morning, I'd already decided on the next race I was going to run in. Believe it or not, but I'm actually looking forward to it!

Here are a few more pics:

Sunday, May 30, 2010

I Jog Slowly

I walk slowly, but I never walk backward. Abraham Lincoln

Well, I jog slowly, but I never jog backward. I posted last week that I wouldn’t be running a race as I had planned. That is true, I won't be running and competing in the race, but I’ve decided to still participate. I’m going to jog/ walk (and just walk if I need to), but would still like to be there to show my support for the cause that the event benefits. The annual Amy Thompson Run raises funds for the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City, an organization that one of my friends is associated with.

Don’t misinterpret my dedication for enthusiasm. I do not feel good about what I’m going to do tomorrow. I am ill-prepared at best. I’d really hoped that I would be excited and ready. I don’t feel either of those things. Instead, I'm full of dread and I hope that I can blend in and not make too big of a fool of myself. My goal prior to the beginning of the race will be to scope out some older folks that look like they may be walkers. I’ll jog/ walk/ jog near them. Hopefully there will be elderly walkers. 

My other goal tomorrow is to get a feel for how these races operate so that I know what I’m in for next time. You know, for when I’m a runner again.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Thing #5- April 2010- Discovering We're No Different

For my New Thing in April, I visited a local homeless shelter for women and children and volunteered to help with an upcoming event. The signficance- thus the New Thing- was that I discovered regardless of station in life, we all just operate the best we can in the circumstances we've been given. We all are really no different from one another.

When I first decided to volunteer with a homeless shelter as a New Thing, my idealism briefly shot into overdrive. However, as I drove through the neighborhoods to the inner city location of the shelter, I felt fear creep in and my walls go up with every street corner that was inhabited by a scary looking individual.

It reminded me of my days as a case manager for a teen pregnancy program. For two years right after college, I worked for an inner city organization that provided services to familes through home visits. I was straight off the farm (almost literally) and thought I'd go make a difference in the world. At the time I didn't really understand what I was signing up for or the depth to the challenges that my clients would need to overcome to be succesful. In hindsight, I also realize that my definition of success for them was off. I conveyed my definition of success on them, not knowing how difficult each individual circumstance would be.

I thought that I would be working with girls similar to myself, but that had just accidentally gotten pregnant. It was my only frame of reference as I'd never really been exposed to such extreme circumstances and poverty. My clients were girls ages 14 to 20 and I was only 21 myself when I started my internship (that later turned into a full time position). I was in no way prepared for the atrocities that many of the girls had endured. Many had been victimized in some way by the people that they were closest to.

The despair of some of the circumstances I witnessed was beyond my comprehension at times. My girls and their babies made me cry on the way home from work and their stories sometimes kept me up at night. I wanted to take them all home, take care of them, and let them know that everything was going to be all right. But, I couldn't do any of those things.

Little by little, I felt the walls go up. I wanted to help them all so badly, but it was too much for me- odds were completely stacked against them, the heartbreak of repeated setbacks was overwhelming and the definition of success for many of them was not too much past survival. I had no way of making the level of impact I wanted to make. I had to get out. Almost 2 years to the day of starting with the organization, I resigned and started graduate school. That same week, a home-visiting case manager from another organization in the community was stabbed to death by a client. That affirmed my decision to move on.

When I decided to visit a homeless shelter in April, I was truly out of my comfort zone. For years, I'd built walls around myself. It's incredibly overwhelming otherwise. There's too much in the world that needs saving.

Despite my brief interlude of idealistic optimism when first choosing the New Thing, my walls were up when I walked in the door at the shelter and I didn't know how willing I was to break them down.

One of the staff members graciously met with me, shared the history and goals of the shelter and then toured me around the fairly large, but humble facility. She introduced me to women and their children along the way. One was meeting with a staff therapist. Another was utilizing the computer lab. Another was picking up her toddler from the resident childcare area and another was in one of the shared kitchens making dinner for her kids. All the women were friendly and greeted me with a smile. Some shared with the staff member and I details from their day. I met a few children that were excited to tell me stories about their recent resident talent show. One little boy shared with me what what his routine for the show had been and how everyone cheered when he finished.

Throughout the course of conversations, I heard some of the struggles the women had been through, and it shocked me to realize that ultimately their goals were the same as mine. They all wanted a good life for their children and themselves. They wanted their children to be safe, be able to sleep in a bed, and have food in their stomachs. You can dress up survival into success with expensive houses, clothes, and college diplomas but at the end of the day doesn't every parent want the basic things for their children first? When I was pregnant, every night I would pray that my baby would grow to be happy, healthy and safe. I still do that. I am no different than the women I met at the shelter, I just happened to draw a different lot in life.

Sometimes it's hard to break through the walls and let people in. I hate the prospect of setting myself up for disappointment and therefore tend to shy away from situations. But, if you turn away from anything that could ever possibly disappoint you, you'll end up a shell of a human being.

Here's what you can do...

Learn more about Sheffield Place and how you can support them by making a monetary or supply donation by visiting this page on their website. Sheffield Place provides long-term shelter and comprehensive services to fifteen families. Their purpose is to help families increase their income and educational levels, obtain and retain permanent housing, and ultimately achieve greater self-determination, respect and happiness.

According to their website, more than 80 cents of every dollar raised for Sheffield Place is spent directly on program activities designed to help families become self-sufficient. They also always need a variety of linens, hygiene products, as well as office and cleaning supplies. Additionally, Sheffield Place conducts a Mother's Day Drive every year for small things to give the moms- lotions, cards, jewelry, slippers, etc.

Here's some information on homelessness from the Sheffield Place website:

The women and children that we serve are often victims of their environment. Many of the homeless women who come to live at Sheffield Place are undereducated, lack job skills, live in poverty and have been abused by a husband or boyfriend or other family member at some point in their lives. At Sheffield Place we help our mothers address and resolve these underlying issues so that they can become self-sufficient and create a home for their families. By helping the mothers, we help break the cycle of poverty, abuse and homelessness and give their children a chance. Below are some general statistics that establish the ever increasing need for our community to provide assistance to homeless mothers and their children.

The average age of a homeless person today is 9.

Each night in America, roughly half of all children seeking shelter do not find it.

Homeless children are twice as likely to be held back in school as non-homeless children.

Contributing Factors
Over 30% of homeless families have an open case for crimes such as child abuse, domestic violence, incest or neglect.

Nearly 50% of homeless children either have witnessed or have been subjected to violence in their home.

In 1998, 46% of cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors identified domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness.

I believe we all have a role to play in this world. What's yours?

*All photos in this post were taken off the Sheffield Place website at

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Speed bump

I've hit a speed bump. I have six different draft posts that I have yet to publish. I've been really down on myself for not being able to execute this little project of mine to the level of perfection and timeliness I was hoping for when I started. In the beginning I thought, "It will be fun. I'll do something different every month. I'll blog about it and I'll encounter a little self discovery along the way."

I have made a few discoveries:
  • Life doesn't slow down for me while I try to figure it all out.
  • There are always bigger things going on in the world than whatever it is that I'm stressed out about.
  • I don't have all the answers.
  • I've found myself praying for wisdom a lot lately.
I am disappointed in the amount of struggle I've had with accomplishing and writing about my New Things the past few weeks. I've had a few distracting circumstances, but my expectations of myself are high and I don't like it when I come in under the bar.

I wrote this last night:

I feel like I've barely been able to come up for air since the beginning of April. Life has been coming at me nonstop and I've struggled to have time to do anything more than the tasks that have to get done that day, let alone pursue any of my own interests.

In this, I've discovered my tendency to pile too much on my plate. More than that, I think I put too much emphasis on each of the individual things I'm responsible for in life and that just adds to the stress. I don't think I probably have more going on than anyone else; everyone is busy and stress is all relative. However there is only so much I can do in my 24 hours a day, regardless of how much I try to cram into it.

An acute episode of chest pain put me in the ER at the beginning of this week. I have some inflammation that the doctor said has been magnified by stress. Based on this and my existing (albeit minor) heart condition, I've decided to not go through with next week's race, what I'd planned for my May New Thing.

One tiny part of me is relieved since I don't feel very prepared for it. The other, much larger part of me is extremely disappointed in myself and wishes that I had the gumption to tell myself to suck it up and do it anyway. Truth be told, I've been so busy over the past few weeks I hadn't even gotten a chance to register for the race yet. Double loser.

Triple loser- I did my April New Thing on April 1st and I have yet to finish my post on it.

Quadruple loser- if I don't run the race next week, I'll have to come up with a new New Thing for May and I don't know yet what that would be. Sigh. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I'll be moving on. I'll be checking back in after I've finished giving myself a pep talk. Hopefully I'll come back jazzed and less loser-y.

I am a little more jazzed today and possibly slightly less loser-y.

Even though I'm struggling, I do really want my New Things to mean something. This project has morphed into a different kind of quest for me. I could do something small and trivial every month- visit a new museum, try my hand/ foot/ whatever at badminton (don't know what that even entails, but I'm sure it's a lovely sport). But in the grand scheme of things, what am I learning from the experience? That's my refined quest- finding deeper meaning in every New Thing that I do, whatever it may be. So, I'll keep plugging along and fill you in along the way.