Monday, April 29, 2013

3rd Annual Relay and Running with Mowgli

Now that the cat is out of the bag, I'll tell you about Mowgli. Mowgli, dubbed by "Jungle Book" fan Silas, is our unborn child. Mowgli is of course the interim name for our third addition, as we're obviously not allowing our toddler to name our baby. He or she is due December 19, giving us the greatest Christmas gift we've ever had! BJ and I are thrilled; we wanted three children and we wanted them close together, and so far we've been extremely lucky! Sharing the news about Mowgli seems appropriate in the timing of our marathon relay run yesterday in order to explain the large discrepancy between my publicly-stated running goals and my ultimate contentment with my actual performance. In this post dated February 19, I proclaimed that I would run my 5K leg of the relay in 29:59 or less, and I have to defend myself by saying that I was most definitely on track to make this goal. I had picked up my turtle-like pace and was easily clocking nine-minute miles in early April, which was exactly where I needed to be. My biggest accomplishment was jogging 2.5 miles in about 23 minutes, and I knew for certain that with race-day adrenaline and sideline support, my goal would be accomplished.

Then on April 11, I found out I was pregnant. Joyous news for our family! Within a few days of that, utter fatigue had set in. I, a girl who literally takes a nap about once a year, was so exhausted that I was napping about every other day and crying on the days when my schedule wouldn't allow it. My usual running routine went from being easy to being a horrendous debacle; if I could even drag myself out there, I could only go a mile and that was with some major self-encouragement! In the last two weeks before the marathon, I ran only three times...a slow two miles with Chanda, and then two one-mile runs on my own, each with the strong belief that I might perish somewhere around the fourth minute. My running goals for yesterday went from "finish in less than half an hour" to "get out of bed, make it to the race, and run/walk your leg in whatever time need be." Melodrama is my middle name.

The race itself was wonderful, as always. There is just something magical about the OKC Memorial Marathon, and I am always so proud to run in a race that day, even a short one. The relay is particularly fun because you have teammates depending on you and likewise for you to cheer for; shuttle buses take you from stop to stop so that you can see various hand-offs and hang out with each other in the meantime. The sideline support is absolutely unbelievable and makes me proud to be an Oklahoman.  Supporters range from high-fivers to shouters to holders of signs, both motivational ("You can do it!") and hilarious ("Don't look now, but there's a zombie behind you!", "Shut up, legs!", and "Smile if you're not wearing underwear!" were among our favorites.). BJ's favorite supporter was an older gentleman sitting on his lawn in an historic neighborhood, reclining in a lawn chair near the curb, clad in a suit and fancy hat while smoking a cigar and sipping a martini. I always notice that there are times when I'm running and the support in an area is so overwhelming and loud that I actually forget what I'm doing, which is sweating and grunting my way through a running course with 26,000 other runners.

The runners and supporters alike know that there is an underlying cause for the enthusiasm on the morning of the race. It's impossible to forget that we're running in remembrance of 168 lives lost to the act of terrorists in 1995, including the lives of many children; the target was originally chosen because of the "collateral damage," as McVeigh defined it, namely a daycare center on the second floor that was alongside the street where McVeigh parked the truck. I don't need to remind anyone of the heartbreak; it is still felt among Oklahomans, especially in April and especially on the day of the race. Imagine the meaning that the Boston Marathon will take on for its city next year and the coming years, and you can imagine what this race means to this city. 168 seconds of silence are always observed before the start, and many runners choose a person, whether angel, survivor, or rescue worker, to run for. This year I chose Anthony Cooper, this precious two-year-old who was in the daycare with his mother at the time of the explosion. They both lost their lives. I chose Anthony because I have a two-year-old also, and it really hits home.

This is the first of the three years that I have dedicated my run to an angel, and I didn't consider tying my race bib onto his memorial chair until we had already gotten in the car and left. I have decided to now though, so we'll head back downtown in the next couple of months so that I can find Anthony's chair and leave my bib for him with a note on it, in case that kind of stuff makes it to his father.

 Race day was sunny and beautiful this year. I ran in my tennis skirt and a thin hoodie, but by the end of my leg I was down to a yoga tank top. Absolutely lovely weather. My leg was second, and it began not well to say the least, which is what I expected. I struggled so much in the first ten minutes; it was only the shame of walking within single-digit minutes of my start that compelled me to not stop jogging. By the time I was partway through Lady Gaga's "Just Dance," which was the third song on my playlist, I had definitely found my groove though. The downhills seemed more noticeable than the uphills, my songs felt like friends to me, the support was strong, and the sights of this leg were all new to me. Before I even really realized it, I was 2.1 miles in, and at that point I knew I could make it. At 2.5 miles, nothing besides a torn muscle or a sign from Mowgli that we were done would have stopped me. My leg was 3.3 miles and I finished it in roughly 36 minutes, not a step of it walking. In honor of Anthony and Silas.

After my leg, I took the bus to Chanda's end point, which was Matthew's beginning point, and hung out with Matthew and BJ until Chanda arrived. We were at the mile-20 mark, and I served as sideline support for the marathoners that were running by. Watching them is so very interesting to me. During the period of time that I was at mile 20, we were watching the pacers of 3:50 to roughly 4:15 go by, and those people were hooked. We recognized some of them as neighbors, coworkers, and even the Lt. Governor. I thought then and there, I have to do more sometime. Not next year, since Mowgli will still be young and the exhaustion of newborn times will undoubtedly be seeping into those critical spring training months, but the year after that I am making it official: I'll be joining the ranks of the Half Marathon. I think I can do it. I had at least 10 friends that did it this year, plus many in years past, and I think if they can do it then I can do it too. I really want to, and I feel that same sense of determination coming on that I have felt with every hard thing I have ever done and accomplished: graduate school, breastfeeding on a no-dairy/no soy diet, and pretending to like the horrendous meal "ship on the shingles" for years so as not to hurt my mom's feelings (sorry, Mom).

In memory of the 168. We'll be back next year.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Riding in the wake of a post that illustrated some recent conversations with Silas, here is another story that left me shaking my head with a smile. On Monday, the boys and I were enjoying the warm weather on the deck and I was cleaning Tex's ears. Silas approached me with a concerned look on his face and said, "Mommy, only doctors should do that." I replied to him, hand on hip, "Well, I AM a doctor." The kid responds by dissolving into laughter and exclaiming, "No, you're not!"
I said back to him, "I am too. I'm a sort-of doctor. I'm the kind of doctor that helps people by listening to their problems. When I go to work on the days that you stay with Natalie and Grammy, all the kids there call me Dr. Potter." Silas considered this for a minute; he had an amused smile on his face, eyes narrowed with suspicion and glued to mine, and he carefully weighed this information to determine if it was the truth or if I was feeding him a crock of crap. Ultimately, he decided the latter because he busted a huge grin, as if to say, 'You didn't get me this time!' and emphatically said, "No, you're not!"

I couldn't help but laugh and realize, of course he can't understand this. He doesn't see me as anyone other than his mother, and he can't imagine the different roles that I play in life. It's like when you're a young kid and you happen to spot your teacher shopping in the produce aisles at the grocery store, and it suddenly hits you that your teacher is a person, a real one that eats groceries! And who is that kid with her? She has a kid?! She's a MOM?!

So, there you have it. Slammed by a two-year-old. Womp womp womp.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Conversations with Silas

Isn't it funny what two-year-olds say? Just when I think I've heard it all from my little boy in his cute little toddler voice, here comes another harebrained scheme ("Let's go to Grammy's house today. Doesn't that sound good, Mommy? I think it does. Okay, we will.") or hilarious exclamation ("Are you serious?" and "Amazing!" preceded by the most melodramatic of gasps). Every day BJ and I shake our heads and compare our stories of what our older little guy had to say or do that day that the other might not have seen. Here are a few examples of recent conversations with Silas.

(Silas and I are looking at a golf club)
Silas: Mommy, is that an indoor toy or an outdoor toy?
Me: It's an outdoor toy.
Silas: Is it an indoor toy or an outdoor toy? One or the other. Those are your options.

BJ: So, Silas, what did you guys do today?
Silas: Well, hmmm. I requested that we go to the library.

(Silas, George, and I just pulled into the Qdoba parking lot to meet BJ for dinner.)
Me: Well, guys, should we wait for daddy inside the restaurant or should we wait out here in the car?
Silas: Out here in the car.
George: (begins to wail)
Me: I think George wants to go inside. So there's our decision.
Silas: (turns to George) Georgie, you really can't go inside Qdoba by yourself.

Silas: Mommy, how many construction vehicles do I have?
Me: Honestly? Probably about 40.
Silas: No, not 40. I have hundreds.

(Driving past a construction site)
Silas: (screaming in excitement) Look, mommy! It's a construction vehicle with a bumpy steamroller attachment!

 Looking fly at The Home Depot

Partaking in Ellie's legwarmers. He loved them so much that I have since bought him a pair with soccer balls on them, and he typically accessorizes them with a T-shirt, shorts, and the fedora pictured above.

Chilling with his lucky mommy one afternoon in the hammock at the edge of the woods out back

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Nature of Us

There are some opinions that I hold that are indisputably true in my mind: Ketchup does not belong on hot dogs. Ross and Rachel should not have ended up together. Mosquitoes and wasps should all die fiery deaths. Betty White simply must host another SNL Mother's Day episode. And Anne Frank and I have at least one major thought in common; in her eloquent words, "...I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart."

I realize that I probably stand in the minority with this viewpoint, particularly among many Christian friends who believe that people are inherently wicked and sinful. Through my years on this planet though, I just can't help but come to a different conclusion: evil does exist in this world, but by and large the vast majority of people are inherently good. One might argue that the recent tragedy in Boston is a direct contradiction to this statement, but I see the tragedy in Boston as a confirmation of my belief actually. Let me expound.

Have you ever read the book Lord of the Flies? Classic though it may be, I hope for your sake that you have spared yourself because it is such a depressing read. In the book, William Golding creates a situation in which several boys are stranded on an island and left to fend for themselves. What follows is an increasingly awful disaster in which a sort of dictator takes hold of the group, and what psychologists term groupthink takes over, resulting in the bullying and death of a child and the utter unraveling of order and structure. The argument is what many people think would happen to a group of people left to their own devices, with no established government to keep them in check: they would go flippin' hog wild and kill each other and become monsters. But let's think about this for a minute, really. If the island in this setting is a microcosm, then let's just consider this whole planet a macrocosm of the same sort of project. Here we all are, all 6.9 billion of us, floating around on this planet called Earth in our various little places with our unique cultures and languages and customs. The planet really is an island in the middle of nowhere, and we are the boys who are stuck on it. What can be said of us? Are we savages, running around and killing people? Well I'm not! Are you? Of course not! No one that I know is. In fact, nearly all people that I know, and I think I have encountered thousands of them, are people that hold doors for struggling people, that wave hello to their neighbors, that smile when a loved one walks in the room, and that feel sadness and a sense of wanting to help when they see a tragedy occur like the one on Monday. People who are actually IN the situation like the one on Monday typically react like heroes, pinching off a stranger's artery like the cowboy pictured below to save a life they have never met, stepping in as emergency personnel to help however they can, donating blood and time and money, and sharing positive thoughts and prayers. THESE are the people that I see in this world. Yes, one deranged individual, or perhaps a small group of them, orchestrated an event that demonstrated the presence of evil...but the response of love from this entire country, from ground zero all the way to California, has far surpassed the evil and has shown the true nature of people in general: that is, they are good, and they want to help other people. For every bomber out there, there are 100,000 working against him.

So, returning to William Golding's story: we are a floating island of little boys. As a group of people  sharing this planet, what have we turned this place into?  When I look around me, I don't see a world of utter chaos, with evil, self-serving individuals being the norm. I'm not blind; of course I see violence, rapes, mistreatment of people and animals, dictatorships that threaten basic freedoms. Apart from some isolated places and people in turmoil, I by and large see humanity working together. We have established ourselves into civilized societies out of some inner need for structure and peace. I just can't believe that we are destined to become savages if left to our own devices because we have been put to the test, and so far we haven't! Look around you, and you'll find gentle vet techs, compassionate chemo nurses, hard-working plumbers, patient schoolteachers, weather-beaten crossing guards, and enthusiastic volunteers. You'll see librarians smiling at children, motorists pulling over for funeral processions, and subway operators re-opening doors for tardy arrivals. You'll see strangers chatting for hours on airplanes, people asking if you're okay when you trip, neighbors pulling stray trash cans back up to houses, kind Home Depot employees passing out suckers to children, and people returning lost wallets and purses to store clerks. These are not forced actions; they are chosen ones. This world is not filled with bad people. We were born and created with the breath of goodness.

I have seen floating around my Facebook newsfeed this image of Mister Rogers with his quote beneath it. I know that the helpers are always there because I grew up with one of them. As the daughter of an emergency rescue worker at the Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City, I can recount the horror done to my city and my terror knowing that my dad was in that collapsing building, doing all he could to save others. I also saw an outpouring from my city that I never imagined possible, and felt the love just as strongly as I felt the grief. Each year, BJ and I run in the Memorial Marathon Relay in honor of our city, those who lost their lives, and those who stepped forward and gave back. If your perception of the world is of evil and irreparable horror, I challenge you to reconsider your position, if only for a moment. The news will portray the world in this manner because it focuses on the violent and the scary; the stories about the goodness and the helpers often only get airtime when the anchors have run out of the gory narrations, because goodness and helpers are the norm, not the aberration. As I raise my children, I will tell them to focus on the helpers; they will run the children's version of the marathon with us, and they will see the outpouring of love that comes from Oklahomans so many years after the fact. I will help them to focus on the good in this world and celebrate love, so that they may become helpers themselves when they are boys and men.

God bless us all, and God bless Boston.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

They Don't Know Us

Two friends shared this article about body image by Mary Martin Wiens on Facebook today, and I loved reading it. I think it was the best essay on body image that I've ever read, and I'll be honest and say this right now: if you only have time to read one blog post today, please read hers and not mine. My post is Chips Ahoy compared to her Sweet Martha's cookies, and my Minnesota friends know exactly how big of a difference in quality I'm talking about.

Despite this, I'm riding on the coattails of Ms. Wiens' post because I loved how validating it felt to read it. I understand that people in this society, particularly women, are indoctrinated by our culture to view our bodies as imperfect, or worse, ugly, if they don't look like what the media glorifies. Normal on magazine covers is not normal in your real life or in mine; the people that we spend our time with frequently sport what we may call normal, but what the media finds disdainful: days with no-makeup, Target clothes, zits, stray grey hairs (or in my case, increasingly large numbers of grey hairs), and love handles that hang over the waists of their jeans. They want to tell us that we're not pretty enough, and they want us to laugh at others who are just like us. It is somehow found acceptable when Seth MacFarlane jokes about Adele's weight right in front of her at the Academy Awards, despite her ass-kicking voice, song-writing, nine Grammies, Golden Globe, and Academy Award. Every time I see People's 100 Most Beautiful People Ever List, I scoff at them, because in my opinion the most physically beautiful person I've ever seen is my friend Heidi W., and she'll NEVER make that list because she's living out her life in a place other than Hollywood or New York City. I'm telling you though, Angelina Jolie has nothing on Heidi W.

Let me tell you about my body: it has changed quite a bit in the last three and a half years. I've seen myself in all shapes and sizes, and seen both pleased and aghast expressions on my face in the mirror at times as I brushed my teeth and headed to bed. I started off at a weight I had been for a long time, gained 35 pounds with my pregnancy with Silas, lost every pound of that but then put ten carefree pounds back on right before I got pregnant with George. Then I gained 40 pounds in my pregnancy with George, and during our ensuing breastfeeding/no dairy/no soy adventure I lost 65 pounds. I have stabilized now at just a couple of pounds over that, but have seen a 65 pound swing in the last 15 months alone. I'm currently eight pounds under what I was before I ever got pregnant with Silas, and yet many of my clothes from before my first pregnancy either don't fit or don't quite look right on my frame. How that happens I have no idea, but the growing Goodwill pile is evidence.

My boobs are a whole different story. These working boobs have seen bra sizes from A to D in the past three and a half years. They've leaked milk all over the place and at times become so engorged that I cried in pain ("boulder boob"). I remember that Silas had extreme problems latching with my right side (he had problems on both sides, really, which is why I switched to exclusive pumping when he was only two months old), and so I was ridiculously lop-sided for a while. My mother-in-law Susan and I nicknamed my right breast "the bad boob" because it was always the one that Silas rejected. I thought the size of my boobs might never even out! After I'm all done nursing all the children we'd like to have, there is not a doubt in my mind that these working boobs will "hang like pancakes," as my friend Laurie and I laughingly joke. Images conjure in my mind of natives in National Geographic who have never seen the likes of a bra, and I don't think the reality will be far off.

My body is mine, though. It has stretch marks and freckles and a strange-sounding voice (at least I think so), totally wicked scars all along my gum lines from a facial reconstruction I had when I was 16 because of severe TMJ, and the remnants of a gash on my hand from a jubilant celebration over a winning hand of poker in my childhood (that light fixture was lower than I anticipated). My body has served me so well through 32 years of life, and I just have to give it more credit than Cosmopolitan and Glamour tell me to. I mean, no offense to beautiful, glossy magazines, but they don't really know me; they only see me when I stand in the grocery store check-out line, so they can't really judge what kind of friend, mother, wife, sister, daughter, and therapist I am. And they can't tell me that Angelina Jolie is more beautiful than Heidi W. I have to laugh that they even really try to tell me what to think about me, my life, and my naive, those silly little magazines. The danger, though, is when we forget that these magazines don't really know us or our bodies, or our experiences and what our bodies have been through, and we accidentally listen for a minute or two or a lifetime. We as women can end up feeling awfully imperfect, depressed, and jealous if we listen to those magazines and believe. I think it really is time to stop listening to magazines and people like Joan Rivers that don't know us, and instead start deciding for ourselves what is important to focus on in our bodies: feeling good and realizing we are damned fine no matter what we weigh. Hold your heads high, ladies! May YOU set your own bar, not someone else!
Living large in December 2011

November 2012 at a Thunder game

Pictured three days before giving birth to George

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Double Standard That Makes Me Sick!

A year ago I wrote a post entitled "An Equal Voice," an entry about which I was particularly passionate. I have long been discouraged about the state of gender inequality in this country, and the Equal Voice post was a condensation about the portrayal of women in the media, and how the media negatively reinforces women's inferior roles in society by undermining their achievements and instead exploiting them as sexual and subservient beings. Media is just one part of society, but it's a big one in western culture. The post lamented that women hold a slight majority in the country but still don't have an equal voice. Most of the comments that I received from readers agreed with this, although a couple disagreed, citing me statistics about the rising income of women, etc. Nice try, but my position hasn't changed!

Sadly, gender inequality isn't the only problem that this culture has yet to conquer, as there is plenty of subversion going around. Minorities in terms of racial background and sexual orientation, not to mention those with a lower SES, disabled individuals, and senior citizens, all have barriers to overcome...but it shouldn't be all up to them to do it. My beloved professors in graduate school made sure that each psychologist graduating from our program knew that white people in this country are born into privilege (although white people who are GLBTQ, disabled, or poor still face opposition); this being the case, it is the responsibility of people enjoying privilege (that is, white people) to actively live out lives dedicated to ending racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, inequality in all of its forms.  Standing by and doing nothing is a passive form of racism. (If you want to read more about this, I highly recommend Beverly Tatum's Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?) There are certainly many individuals, communities, companies, and universities that are playing their part and making life better for the human condition; then, of course, there are people who aren't. BJ ran across one such illustration yesterday. I heard him muttering unhappy things from the next room and went to check on him in case he was cleaning up dog vomit or breaking his hand from flipping a mattress (!). Nope; he was reading this article about an insane situation at the University of Texas.

Basically, what's going on here is that two coaches at UT in Austin were involved in consensual sexual relationships with students. Both admitted to having sex with a student when questioned directly, and both apologized for the inappropriate nature of the relationships. One of the coaches garnered six national championships in track and cross-country. Her name is Bev Kearney, and she has three things going against her in terms of her social status: She is a woman. She is African-American. She is also a lesbian. Need I even mention that she was paralyzed from the waist down in a motor vehicle accident, regained enough functioning to walk with a cane, and now is technically what you and I might consider disabled? The second coach was, at the time, the running backs coach for the football team. His name is Major Applewhite. He is a beloved former quarterback for the team; he is white, male, heterosexual, and able-bodied. Bev Kearney was unmarried at time of her intimate student-athlete relationship; Major Applewhite was married (still is) and his wife gave birth to their child in the same month that he had sex with a female trainer.

Bev Kearney was informed in January 2013 that she would be fired if she didn't resign as a result of her inappropriate relationship. Major Applewhite received an 11-month salary freeze and underwent mandatory counseling, at the end of which he received a raise and was promoted to co-offensive coordinator.  He'll be calling plays next season from the sidelines and will earn well over $500,000.

I hope you're at least half as disgusted by this double standard as I am. Let's get one thing straight: I am NOT arguing that Bev Kearney should retain her position. I can see that the inherent power differential between a coach and a student is an icky situation, and I can understand why UT asked for her resignation. What I can't understand is why they didn't demand the same of Major Applewhite. His relationship was with a student-trainer, who also directly reported to him and was on the bottom side of the power differential as well. I have so few words to speak because this situation is so freaking unbelievable. Under what circumstances must the university think this double standard is acceptable? I have no idea what is going through these people's heads! Is it because it's football, and a bunch of crusty old white alums are slipping money to keep Applewhite on the team, dishing subversiveness along with their thousand-dollar bills? Is it the media with its foot in the door, angling for Applewhite to stay because he helps Longhorn viewer ratings? Is it because the decision-makers are homophobic and they view Kearney's relationship as 'super wrong?' Is it because they think women's sports don't matter anyway? Is it because they view the student-athlete as a victim, but the student-trainer as 'asking for it?' I don't care if Major Applewhite puts in 20-hour days, buys donuts for the team, and has the unbridled enthusiasm of Billy Mumphrey---you CAN'T keep him if you fire Bev Kearney for the same indiscretion. That's discrimination, no matter how you cut it.

Friends, we've got to play our parts, because we obviously can't count on some bigger institutions to do theirs.