Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015...A year of sadness and unexpected blessings

2015 will be the year of many things. I knew going into it that it would be the year one of the most important people in my life would be called home. I can't help but sit here and think back to this night a year ago and having to come to terms with that. But I also can't help but sit here and remember all the NYEs before that in happier times with my parents, especially all the ones where they would come over and ring in the new year with me, Paul, and the boys.

Cherished memories.

It's hard to not miss Papa D tonight and I know there are several friends who are thinking about their year and had to say goodbye to someone they loved in 2015, too. My thoughts are with each and every one of you. While 2015 will go down in the books of a year of an ultimate sadness, it will also go down as a year of unexpected happiness because although I knew it would be the year my dad's battle would end, never in a million years would I have ever guessed that it would be the year that God would bless us with another family member, my sweet daughter-in-law. Tears of sadness exchanged with tears of joy.

I am not sure what 2016 will bring and quite frankly, I'm not letting my mind go there. What I am sure of, though, is whatever happens in 2016, there will be an unexpected blessing waiting when I least expect it.

Happy New Year's Eve everyone.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Race Report: Run Santa Run 5K 12.13.15

On Sunday, my husband, son, and I ran Lake Health Running Series' Run Santa Run 5K. This was the first time the three of us have done a race together since June so I was excited it was going to be a family affair. Once again, I went into this race with very low expectations on the account I've been sick the last two weeks and once again, I surprised myself and finished my last race for 2015 with a smile on my face. And not because I was still able to keep my husband at bay. LOL In all honesty, I really thought this was going to be the race he finally took the lead but apparently that wasn't meant to be, not this race anyway.
We're famous: paparazzi caught us pre-race
Since I had to forego my goal of running a sub 25:00 5K by the end of the year when I got sick, I decided my three goals for this race would be:

1. To do better than I did at Thanksgiving's Trot to Stop Trafficking 5K. My time for that race was 27:30 but the course had a monster hill at the end (and I don't have much experience when it comes to running hills because my training runs are all relatively flat), it was cold, and it was extremely windy so I'd like to think those factors came into play for my 2nd worse time of the year.

2. To beat my time from last year's Run Santa Run which was 26:34.

3. To finish sub 26:00.

Considering this race had two things going for it; it was flat and the weather was warm, I had a pretty good feeling I'd at least meet goal #1. If I didn't, I was in trouble.

The weather was in the low 60's, so atypical of December in Cleveland, a freak of nature literally! When I heard how warm it was supposed to be on race day, I realized I was going to be waaay too hot in my get up from last year so on Saturday, I hit up the thrift stores, the party stores, any place I could find in a desperate search to find something festive. Not so easy to do when everything in the stores is geared toward freezing temps. Luckily Walmart and Target saved the day and after adding a couple of other items, my race outfit was complete.

The race was crowded with 1,005 in attendance, almost twice as many runners as last year. I'm not sure if it was the warm weather, the race swag (which included a Brooks long-sleeve tech shirt, a pint glass and Christmas Ale, and a Santa hat), the flat course, or a combination that made it so popular this year. Lots of kids from the XC team were there so shortly after we arrived, our son went to find his friends. People were already starting to line up when my husband and I were finished with our warm up so we decided we better find our places. Several yards from the starting line seemed like a good spot. We were packed in like sardines and with the crazy warm weather, it actually felt almost TOO warm but thankfully we were only standing there for about five minutes before the race began.
Our son at the starting line with some of his XC teammates
For the first mile or so, I really thought my husband was going to out run me. I'm not sure at what point I passed him but every time I looked over my shoulder after that and would see a red shirt, I fully expected it to be him. I finally decided if it happened, it happened, I just needed focus on running and keep moving.

This was only my second race using my Garmin watch and I found it to be both a blessing and a curse. Having the ability to set high and low pace alerts is really nice but I was feeling so unmotivated during this race that I was more concerned with where I was mileage-wise and dreading that I had only gone "so far" and still had "so much farther" to go rather than what my pace was. One thing that really helped this race was having my music. I know a lot of people find running with music to be a hindrance but for me, I don't think I would have done as well as I did had it not been for the carefully selected songs on my playlist to keep me motivated.

Around mile 2, I started getting a side stitch. I've never had one racing before so I was a little concerned it would get to the point I would have to stop running but it was also at this time I noticed the official blogger of the Lake Health Running Series, whom I follow but have never personally met, had just passed me. She's not only an experience runner but also a running coach and six years younger than me so I decided I was going to try to keep up with her as best I could. Timing couldn't have been any more perfect because my focus shifted from side stitch to her.

At 2.5 miles, we went around the last turn and it was a straight shot to the finish. By this time, I was exhausted but determined to keep up with my "pacer." It just so happened the strategically placed song "Push It" by Static X came on and that's exactly what I did and was actually was able to get ahead of her. When I saw the clock at 25:45, I pushed myself as hard as I could because I was determined to finish sub 26:00. I crossed just as the clock reached 26:01. Dang it! Feeling defeated, I went to save the race in my watch only to find my time read 25:49. I completely forgot there was a timing mat at the start and we crossed it several seconds after the race began so it was just quite possible that I DID finish sub 26:00! I went over to check the live results and sure enough, 25:49 was my time. Whoohooo! I did it! Goals #1 and #2 were both met. Now it was time to check my time from last year's race. Sure enough, I met that goal, too! I didn't get any AG, as a matter of fact, I was 12 of 85 but I met all three of my goals and that was good enough for me. Negative splits, too! (8:33, 8:27, and 8:24). The icing on the cake was with a time of 25:49, I was only 13 seconds shy of my PR! Happy dance all around!

So thus ends a year with many races, as well as AG awards, under my belt. 2015 was a great year and I can't wait to see what 2016 brings!
A family affair to end a great racing year!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A family that gets tattooed together, stays together: honoring Papa D's birthday

After I got my "hope" tattoo on the one month anniversary of my dad's home going, I decided I was going to get another one on the six month anniversary. When the date snuck up on me and I realized I had to forego that idea, I decided I would honor my dad's birthday by getting a tattoo then. Shortly before Thanksgiving, I made my appointment that would honor both of his birthdays by scheduling it for December 8 at 6 pm.

When my middle sister, Janna, found out I had made the appointment, she decided she would go to North Coast Body Mods with me and talk to them about a design. She figured she'd meet with one of the artists and then go back at a later date. My son, Kelly, talked about coming just to give me moral support. Perhaps it was divine intervention or just a strange twist of fate, but by the end of our visit, the three of us would walk out with tattoos.
I'm not sure what possessed Kelly to get one too, perhaps it was the just the day or perhaps it's the way tattoos are addicting, but before I knew it, he was getting something drawn up. His tattoos are the Chinese symbols for "faith" and "eternity." If you've read any of my other blog or Facebook posts, it's pretty obvious why these two words are significant.

Janna wanted a cross tattoo to signify her faith that incorporated her children's names as well as my parent's initials in a creative way but wasn’t sure how exactly she wanted it to look. The artist came back with a drawing that captured her idea in a way better than I think either she or I imagined so when he said he was available to do it right then and there, she figured why not go for it!

My tattoo signifies many things but I'm sure if you know me, you wouldn't expect anything less. LOL  It as a whole represents the faith my parents instilled in me. A heart with the infinity symbol signifies that love never ends, that this life is not the end, and that one day we will be reunited to live forever together in Glory. Purple is the color of hope and purple fading to black is a reference to one of my brother's favorite Metallica songs (a song my mom says she likes to listen to at "warped speed" now). I guess you can say since we are quickly approaching Rick's 20 year angel anniversary on the 19th of next month and I’m not sure I'll know what I want for my next tattoo by then, this tattoo is in honor/memory of him, too. Lastly, at my dad's celebration of life service, I closed with the line "until we meet again" so I wanted to include those words as well.

So what started out as a somber day ended with unexpected surprises and blessings. Funny how it works out like that sometimes. I kind of like to think we have my dad to thank for that. =)
Post tattoo Jaegermeister shots for Papa D
* * * *
Earlier in the day, I spent several hours with my mom and older sister, Nadine. We went to lunch, signed the paperwork for my dad's headstone, and went to the cemetery. My dad had made a pine cross for Rick's grave years ago and it managed to survive the housefire of 2011. We placed it on my dad's grave. We also took two of the pew bows from Kelly and Jaime's wedding and put them at both his and Rick's grave. The headstone won't be ready until the spring but at least we are able to add our own "markers" until then. Even when we are doing things that are sad, we are still able to laugh and enjoy each other's company. My dad and my brother wouldn't want it any other way.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The 2nd of 1sts..December 8, 2015

Happy 1st 2nd birthday to my dad in heaven. Papa D was a faithful servant in many ways but one that was especially close to his heart was being a leader in the AWANA program at our church. The annual Grand Prix at the end of the year was one of his favorite events. He proudly displayed the cars he made long after the races were over and luckily the ones he kept survived the house fire and we still have them today. My dad was a quiet man but he had a great sense of humor, as you can see by this attempt at a "gangsta pose" he made at church during a race in 2004. It is an honor and privilege to have such a wonderful man to call my dad and I'm thankful I will get to see him again one day. Love and miss you, Papa D.

The 1st of 1sts...December 6, 2015

December 8 was always thought to be my dad's birthday. It wasn't until he retired that he learned that his actual birthday was December 6. Today, he would've been 72 years old. On this first of firsts, he is now with our Heavenly Father, my brother, and the love ones who have gone before us. Love and miss you always, Papa D. Until we meet again....
April 2012, the day our childhood home was
leveled after the fire of December 2011

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Just Keep Swimming: Three Years Later

This has been a tough couple of weeks. Between all the firsts without my dad (Thanksgiving, my son's wedding, going on our annual Christmas tree hunt today, and his birthdays which are this Sunday and Tuesday), finding out a dear friend's sister's battle with breast cancer has taken an unexpected turn, the sudden death of someone close to another dear friend, and then being sick on top of it, I am not really "feeling it" today so on this three year anniversary of being cancer free, I thought I would post something I wrote on my Just Keep Swimming Facebook page on this date in 2012.  The words are just as true today as they were the day I wrote them...

There are several dates in my life that I will never forget. December 5, 2012 is one of them. After reading through everything I have posted over the last year, rather than trying to come up with something completely different, I have decided to expand on words already “spoken.”

I'll never forget what it was like a year ago today... driving to the hospital with Paul in the morning, so afraid of the unknown; enduring some pretty painful “pre-tests” without anything to dull the pain; holding hands with my family as Papa D prayed right before they came to take me to surgery; saying “goodbye” to my loved ones as the hospital staff wheeled me down the hallway; joking with the staff in the OR as they got me situated; waking up in the recovery room and the first face I remember seeing was my sister who came to check in on me (having a sister who is a nurse at the hospital has its advantages); and "waking up" again afterward as I was being wheeled into my hospital room and seeing so many of my loved ones there waiting for me. Hard to believe that was a year ago today. I remember that day as though it was yesterday and I still remember the days that followed; those who came to visit and those who expressed their love and support in other ways. I have every card I received, every email, and every message. Over the last year, I have read them several times. They are constant reminders of how lucky I am to have such wonderful people in my life.

Today I am a survivor but I know my journey will never really be over. I know this disease could rear its ugly head at any moment, in any form, or that God may have another trial for me to face. But rather than dwell on the “what ifs”, I choose to enjoy each day and live each one with no regrets. I thank God for the days He has given me thus far and for the days He will give me tomorrow. I thank Him daily for my husband, my boys, and the strong support system I have in my family and friends. Regardless of what my future holds, I know I will never be alone. I am truly blessed.