Thursday, March 25, 2010

Grateful Woman Walking

I'm in my second week of training for the walk (and I promise that not every blog for the next 10 weeks will be about this). It's going pretty well, though I am realizing how much I'd been neglecting my exercise routine lately. Walking five days a week and cross-training on the other two is a huge step up from where I'd been on the exercise spectrum for the last several months, so it's definitely been a challenge -- from a time management perspective, if nothing else.

But, it does allow me more time for one of life's little luxuries: listening to audiobooks. I just toss my rickety old click-wheel ipod into the stroller pocket, and we're off to another world while my feet keep the beat and MLM coos and points at the scenery.

I just finished The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault (which was at least superficially intriguing, if somewhat unsatisfying) and I'm now working my way into A Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin. I've really enjoyed Helprin in the past: his novels demonstrate amazing historical thoroughness combined with subtle and imaginative plots. It's been slow going so far, but since I've "read" two previous books of his and really enjoyed them, I'm willing to be patient while the exposition gets off the ground.

Meanwhile, the donations continue to steadily trickle in, and I'm continually awed by the love and generosity of my friends and family. Even though I was a professional fundraiser for years in Austin, I never cease to be amazed by how generous people can be when they feel inspired to help out with something important. Even though times are hard right now, people have given much more generously than I would've expected.

And even those who haven't been able to contribute as much as they'd like financially have offered me incredible emotional support, just by telling me that they're proud of me or support what I'm doing. So as I walk the trail almost every day, I'm kept company not just by a gurgling baby and a narrated novel, but by the encouraging spirit of everyone who has reached out to me in this daunting (but worthwhile) venture. I feel really fortunate to have so much that is positive and encouraging in my life. So, thanks!!

Monday, March 15, 2010

First Steps (Mine, Not the Baby's)

I felt I needed to clarify the title, to keep people from getting all excited that MLM might be walking and read on, hoping for adorable "Bambi-on-the-ice"-type video ending with my son falling on his adorable little baby butt. Well, sorry. Not yet, anyway.

Now that you've presumably recovered from the disappointment that this is just a blog about me walking, I can tell you that I start training this week for my big walk for breast cancer in June. I'm doing the prescribed program to prepare for my marathon-and-a-half in twelve weeks, a big uphill from where I am now.

One notable part of this process is that the training walks -- pretty mild for the first couple of weeks -- are certainly a benchmark for comparing my pre- and post-pregnancy fitness levels. Before MLM came into my life, I was managing 12- to 14- minute miles with a combination of running and walking nearly every time I covered a 5K distance. Today that number is closer to 20 minutes per mile [even after I discovered that the flat tires on the stroller were creating way more resistance than I realized, which has sped me up substantially].

Now, I know it may be dangerous territory to start comparing myself to my past abilities (hardly fair since my body has undergone one of the most difficult tasks of the human experience). I am where I am, and all that matters is that I keep taking the next step. Right?

And if I shouldn't compare myself to myself, I certainly shouldn't compare myself to other people. I've always tried to maintain this philosophy over the years, since comparing myself to others inevitably leads me down an unpleasant road, particularly if I'm working out in a college gym where half the girls on the treadmills are approximately the size of my pinky finger.

Still, it's hard not to take note when I see other stroller-wranglers out on the trail. I always look to see who's pushing which stroller, how old the little one appears to be, how fast they're going, etc. Naturally, some of this is just a natural affinity for and interest in people who are experiencing the same stage of life that I am. It's also partly because we made a big investment in our completely badass stroller and looking around affirms that we made the right choice.

But I'll own it, part of me can't resist comparing myself to women who are around my age and have babies around the same age and how well they seem to be "bouncing back." Of course, I would probably do well to remind myself that the women at the trail aren't exactly a representative sample of the entire new-mom population, but anyway...

Today, my first official day in the long journey to June, this particular sensitivity really came back to bite me. I was rounding mile 1.5 when I began to hear the distinctive sound stroller wheels coming up behind me. A few short moments later, they were definitely closer, calling attention to the fact that my pace had slackened. So, I sped up and turned my attention back to my audiobook.

But it wasn't long before I heard the stroller wheels creeping up on me again, and I began taking longer, quicker strides to stay in front of them. Soon I was working pretty hard at it, and still losing ground. In my peripheral vision, I saw the wobbly little plastic wheels of a typical all-purpose stroller coming up behind me. I was kind of annoyed -- I don't mind getting passed by cyclists and joggers and walkers who are unencumbered by little wheeled companions, but by another stroller mom? Me, with my super-duper running stroller with the bike tires, getting passed by transportation designed for the mall?!?

I fought it for as long as I could, but just before the 1.75 mile mark, she cruised past me. Already feeling a little defeated, I was even more annoyed when the woman turned to chat with me, and to comment sweetly how my adorable little boy looked so much like her grandson. Yep, that's right. Outclassed by the grandmother with the mall stroller.

So, unless I get passed by an actual turtle next time, it seems I have nowhere to go but up.

I think it's good to be humbled by this type of experience, but I really am trying not to be terribly hard on myself. It's so easy to get injured after having a baby, and pushing myself too hard has only backfired in recent months. This really is one of those situations in which I simply have to set my pride aside and just focus on putting one foot in front of the other.

Of course, keeping in mind the larger reasons for doing this really helps, too. Thanks so much to everyone who's supported my walk with a donation or encouragement or both, (and to those who were planning to donate and just needed this blog as a reminder)!

And to stroller-granny, watch out -- I'm coming for you!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Breast Blog of the Year - Part Two

You know you want to. You do. You're going to do it.

You're going to click this link and make a donation to the Avon Foundation for Breast Cancer in support of my 39.3-mile walk in Chicago this summer. The fact that you're going to give isn't in dispute. What might be up for discussion is how much.

It's so hard to know what amount is appropriate to give for something like this; and having been in that dark and indecisive place myself, I decided to create some suggestions for you. Aren't I helpful? I know, I am!

Here are some options:
  • Contribute $12 in honor of Madonna -- Queen of the Cone Bra. That's $1 for each Number One hit.
  • Give $1 each for all the healthy, wonderful women you're grateful to have in your life. In fact, since this is all about good things that come in pairs, better make that $2 each.
  • You could go with the classic $1 per mile. An oldie but a goodie. That's $26.20 for the marathon on Saturday, $13.10 for the half-marathon Sunday, or $39.30 for the whole sha-bang.
  • In the Jewish tradition, the number 18 symbolizes life - so give life by giving $18. If you choose this method, you should toast a glass of your favorite beverage and say "L'Chaim" as you click the donation button. Or, give $36 and toast twice. At $54, make sure you have a designated driver!
  • How about $1 for each year we've known each other? I'm quite blessed to say this could get expensive for some people!
  • Give a penny for each number in the year your all-time favorite movie was released. So Casablanca would be $19.42; Pulp Fiction $19.94; The Godfather $19.72; LOTR Return of the King $20.03..... (Personally, I wouldn't put Tombstone on this list, but who am I to judge? And I'll be happy to take the $19.93 anyway).
  • Count the number of women in your Facebook friends list and give 10 cents for each of them. If you've ever wondered why there's no "cents" key on the modern keyboard, add an extra dollar.
Whatever you decide to donate, or even if you just decide to contribute encouragement, please know that I deeply appreciate your support -- both of my personal undertaking and the cause of breast cancer awareness & treatment. As always, thanks for reading!!

The Breast Blog of the Year - Part One

Boobies. Ta-tas. The Girls. Cleveland. The Good China....

Our affectionate nicknames for them are endless and often hilarious. And our breasts serve many purposes in our lives: from that awkward moment when they signal the onset of puberty and we try on our first training bra, to trying desperately to direct the attention of men in our lives up to our eyes (ahem), to breastfeeding and nurturing our children, and finally to that stage of life where our constant companions are less like perky balloons and more like fried eggs hanging on nails. It seems that no other part of our anatomy is such an obvious barometer for where we are in life, and to some extent, how we perceive ourselves and even our sexual identity.

There's probably an entire essay that could be written (maybe even a book) about breasts, social norms, and the psychosocial development of women. You'll be relieved to hear that I am not planning to write said essay. Or, at least -- this isn't it.

But I have noticed in recent years that breasts serve another purpose for modern women -- they are a rallying point around which we have organized ourselves for battle: for the fight against breast cancer. As a caveat, let me say that I'm aware both that (a) men also get breast cancer (though in far, far smaller numbers); and (b) that many more women actually die of lung cancer than breast cancer -- making it just as worthy of our collective attention.

That said, it's amazing what the fight against breast cancer has done for our community and our collective awareness of women's health issues. You can't swing a cat in October without hitting a store display of pink items designed specially to raise money and awareness [we'll talk later about why you're swinging a cat in a store]. Sometimes just the commercials of women running, walking and bonding in search of a cure leave me teary-eyed.

It has also brought men and women together in a way that I find really touching: seeing professional athletes in every major sport wearing pink in honor of the women in their lives, for example, is a gesture I find amazing and beautiful even outside of the good it does for the cause of breast cancer awareness.

The breast cancer bit matters, too, of course. I think pretty much everyone knows someone who has been impacted by this scary and (too often) deadly disease. For me personally, I've lost two wonderful former colleagues to breast cancer in the past two years -- one of whom died very suddenly just last week. I've also had friends who lost mothers and sisters to breast cancer far, far too young.

All this exposition is to say that, this summer, I've decided to get off the sidelines and be a part of the solution. My dear friend Dara and I are lacing up our walking shoes (and of course, the requisite sports bra) to walk 39.3 miles in 2 days this June in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago.

It's going to be quite an undertaking for me. I've been struggling to get back into shape since my little man came along, and the thought of walking a marathon one day and a half-marathon the next.... well, it's pretty darn daunting. The training schedule itself looks pretty grueling, particularly when you consider that I'll be pushing 40+ lbs of stroller and baby on all the endurance walks.

And of course, there's the fundraising requirement, which is substantial. but at least with that part, I know you'll be able to help me. More on that in Part Two....