Another goal achieved, so many more to go!

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Yesterday I exceeded a goal I had set for myself.  Although I have been running for a while, I had not really been tracking my mileage past the week to week or month at the most.  That was before I got involved with some Facebook running groups, and one had a challenge in September of 2014 to run 90 miles in the 9th month.  At the time I was clocking in between 75-85 miles a month most of the time, and I completed the challenge with 110+ miles.  I had just been cleared to run because in July I had major surgery to repair ripping open my midline incision from emergency surgery the August before.  I ran a 1/2 marathon the next month, and from September 1, 2014 until August 28, 2015 I ran 1000.4 miles.

This year has not been easy.  The repair surgery was involved and painful, and included mesh, screws, opening my incision at the top and 13 ‘poke holes’ for the laparoscope.  My recovery from the 10+ lb tumor the summer before was hard and long… This year I also had a small injury to my foot, had to deal with the flare of an achilles tendon injury, and in early August had a bad muscle sprain to by back and shoulder.  I continued on, and exceeded my goal.  August is not up yet, and I suspect there may be a few more miles on the total before the month is over.  And it was an absolute honor to have my friends celebrate meeting my goal with me via Facebook and other social media.  I was shocked when folks shared my picture to their feeds and said such lovely things.  I am simply honored that these folks are in my life.

Being somewhat introverted and introspective, I thought about the things I want to achieve.  I have struggled this summer with finding work/life balance, not a new issue for me, but one nevertheless.  I know this is a temporary issue, but it has prevented me from preparing for a full marathon as I hoped, and I did not get to participate in a obstacle/mud race like I wanted to.  I will most likely run a 1/2 again before the winter hits, and I might still try for the Marathon in November, but that will take some serious training and serious luck since it is 9 1/2 weeks out.  I more realistically will try for a marathon in the spring, and will do a Mudderella next summer.  I have had to revise goals before, and this is no exception.  I want to do a Spartan before I turn 50, which will happen a little less than 4 years from now.  Onward and upward I go.

Most of you know runners, and have them in your life.  And no matter the speed or level of runner, we all LOVE TO POST AND TALK ABOUT RUNNING!  I have been humbled and amazed by folks who have shared that watching me go after my running goals has inspired them.  In my thirties I had gained a lot of weight for a multitude of reasons, and over a four and a half period of time I took off 130+ lbs.  Running was a big part of that, as was changing my eating plan.  I have had folks tell me in the most touching and heartfelt way that I have been an inspiration to them… And my reaction?  Predictably if you know me… Awkward.  I am always shocked that folks find anything I do all that noteworthy or interesting, because that is not why I do it.  It humbles me, it is an honor, and it (frankly) freaks me out a bit.  I have had several friends tell me they have started or resumed running and I am to thank for it.  I was always at a loss for words, when a simple ‘thank you’ would have worked.  This happened a few times yesterday.  I looked back at the challenges I have faced over the years, and realized that my way is to put my head down, get tunnel vision in a good way, and just DO IT.  And that has taken me through many challenges in my life, physical, emotional, and others.  I also thought about the effect someone telling me ‘it cannot be done’ has on me.  I become hell-bent on meeting my goal.  I was told I would not ever be able to run… the reasons from doctors included:

  • The previous injuries and surgeries to my knees and the fact I have EDS
  • Advanced spinal degeneration and loss of some disks in my neck and back
  • The adhesions, scar tissue, and surgical ‘rerouting’ that occurred after the removal of the fallopian tumor that nearly took my life

And I did it anyway.  And I realize that some day, I may pay a high price for this.  But not today.  My old doctors were shocked.  I now have new doctors that treat me like an athlete, and work with me to get me up and running post ‘whoops’ as soon as possible.  I am also willing to push beyond what I ever thought possible.  Six years ago if you told me I would be running 6 days a week, and a bitty run for me is 3-6 miles, I would have laughed hysterically.  If you would have told me how I choose to eat now, mostly plant-based, organic, etc.  I would have also disbelieved you.  But I took things in small chunks, because most of my family is dead.  Of those remaining, their health is horrible.  I do not want that, and I woke up one day at my heaviest and most out of shape, and realized I did not want to feel that way anymore.  I needed to find the right doctors to assist with the underlying issues, and I began my journey.  I continue to struggle with my weight and body image every day, and my focus is on how I feel and how my clothes fit, not numbers on a scale.  Dropping to under 100 lbs after the tumor surgery helped me realize that if you do not have health, you actually have very little.  So my journey continues.  I love the active lifestyle I have now.  I jumped out of a plane in June and it was everything I thought it would be, and more.  I plan to do it soon.  I have little time or little to say to those who want to caution me about the physical horrors of running.  They have no idea that every step I take running is often painful.  I doubt I will ever see a sub-8 minute mile again, but I frequently see a sub-10 minute mile.  On long runs I am more in the 11 to 12 minute mile range, and I am fine with being a slower runner.  The only person I am competing with is me.  I do not need to place in my age group, or win the race.

Running is my meditative, healing, restorative space.  And sometimes it is agonizing.  I wonder if that is what it feels like to be born…

Some day I will not be able to run.  Today is not that day.

Thank you for reading!

The Divergent Online Experiences of Women from Men

Today I had reason to check the ‘other’ message tab on a Facebook account that I have.  I, in all honesty, had forgotten I had an ‘other’ folder (since about 2013 or so).  I was shocked to see over a hundred unread messages, and upon closer inspection, they were all from different FB user profiles, and they all had common themes… Calling me ‘beautiful’, talking about my smile, talking about their vision of an ideal relationship with me, demanding I contact them, and some were disgustingly sexually explicit right off at initial contact.  Many had been censured or removed in some form by FB, but I could see enough in the preview.

It was disturbing and I am, quite bluntly, disgusted.  I keep my FB profile buttoned down on privacy levels, so all the folks could see was my name and my profile picture.  That was apparently enough information for them to decide to approach me in a medium that is not a primarily dating oriented site.  I am not ‘out there’ in that way, and the messages spanned two years.  I imagine many are scammers and bots, but it all comes back to unwanted attention and the strategy to engage in this way.  I understand that with any online presence, with any public presence, you are at some level running the risk of unwanted attention.  You set your privacy controls, realize their limitations, and simply do your best to live your life at what you consider ‘full volume’.

Ironically, earlier this week I was talking with a male friend the other day about his frustrations in regards to online dating, and having an online presence, and the unwanted and often abusive interaction that occurs that sours the experience for the women he contacts.  He was absolutely shocked to realize that my experiences are very similar to many women, and others have had much worse interactions and have been targeted, threatened, stalked.  A light bulb came on for him when we had the discussion when he expressed that many men are just concerned about rejection or meeting someone incompatible… and I shared that many women are concerned that they will be physically hurt or killed.

Recently there have been many discussions in public forums about privilege, and especially male privilege, how it is invisible to those who have it, and how the strategies of oppression focus on depersonalizing those who operate outside of the dominant group, how insidiously experiences are minimized, invalidated, gaslighted.  Being called out on behavior is not comfortable…  but learning about one’s privilege, and using it for elevating those who do not have it and advocating, being an ally, and least of all … NOT BEING PART OF THE PROBLEM… is all part of what it will take to end domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, and all forms of abuse of power and control.

I am sure those who are thinking… “Well so what?  You got some disturbing emails, some pictures of male genitalia and folks find you attractive, you should be flattered…”  To those who are saying that… you miss the point at best, and are contributing to the problem worst case scenario.  It is not about a potentially mutual and reciprocal attraction communicated in a respectful way via a mutually understood social media venue.  It is not about a respectful request to interact to get to know me better.  It was from the same place that emboldens those who are acting out their male privilege so the person fells justified to tell women to ‘smile’.  It is the face of benevolent sexism and anger at being ‘friend zoned’. It comes from the same oppressive place that attempts to enforce response to unwanted contact as a response is the man’s entitlement.  It comes from the place of women are objects to be acted upon, and should respond in a prescriptive and defined way.  It comes from the terrible place that acts as a flashpoint for online shaming, threatening, and trolling.

If you are in the ‘so what?’ group discussed above… Congratulations- until you examine your privilege or internalized misogyny, you are being acted upon by patriarchy, and are buying into society’s polarizing and over simplified binary.  And if you do not actively engage in the behavior, your silence is often viewed by the offender as tacit agreement.

My call to action?  Speak up.  Confront this behavior, and any of the related micro-agressions.  This is not okay, and no one should open their email to this.  Or experience this on the street, the train, at their workplace or school.

Compassion and Leelah Alcorn

So bloody sad.  The horrific and sad death of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old Kings Mills, Ohio young woman who committed suicide this past weekend by walking into the path of a truck to end a life that had so much promise, and a life that had already known so much misery.  Leelah could no longer take the rejection and cruelty that was parsed out to her … Cruelty masquerading as parental love and Christian-based intervention.  Leelah was a young woman born into the physical body of a male, and born into a home that religious choices were placed at higher priority than acceptance of their daughter’s physical reality.  You can read more about this at http://www.buzzfeed.com/jobarrow/a-transgender-17-year-old-left-a-suicide-note-on-tumblr-plea and Carla Alcorn’s continued mis-gendering and denial of Leelah’s reality for religious reasons here at http://jezebel.com/mom-on-suicide-of-trans-teen-i-loved-my-son-but-we-do-1676986147

Much is already known and has been discussed about this.  Leelah’s damning and heart wrenching suicide posting, her mother’s demonstrated lack of acceptance for her daughter and the many calls to action by LGBTQQIIAA allies and advocates.  There is little I can add to the dialogue, other than these observations as follows…

1- Leelah urged in her note that her death mean something, to ‘fix society’ I am hopeful that the petitions to outlaw debunked ‘conversion therapy’ and other cruel, ignorant practices outside of good science move forward and become law.  Enough of this cruelty, bigotry and false science.

2-That any mental health practitioner, or Christian therapist that was involved in Leelah’s ‘care’ is investigated by and appropriately (and strongly) sanctioned any and every applicable state licensing board, funding source, etc.  There should be professional consequences for those who harmed Leelah (and other folks) in this manner.  We as advocates are good at identifying these folks and educating on the harm they do.

3-That the parents of Leelah are investigated by Children’s Protective Services and appropriate action is taken if their abusive actions are indicated/founded via Ohio’s Child Protective Services Law.  If CPSL does not have a threshold that defines this type of isolation, attempts to initiate ‘conversion therapy’ and the other tactics utilized to isolate and bully this young woman, that meaningful legislation be drafted, adopted and enacted.

4- Speaking of the parents…As culpable and disgusting as their behavior to Leelah was, and still is, harassing them is not the answer.  They have lost a child, and they have had their fears, their secrets, and all laid bare in the glare of the media attention following Leelah’s death.  As we are appalled by their amazing continued lack of compassion for their daughter, we cannot become the next level of bullies.  We can be activists, we can be advocates, but we must always take the high road.  Any less, and we are not much different from what we struggle to overcome.

5- We must challenge ourselves, and others to educate themselves about issues such as LGBTQQIIAA youth, the impact of these issues on them, how depression, suicide, etc. are all too common.  I have seen disgusting ‘discussions’ on comment sections twisting Leelah’s depression as the reason she was identifying as female, and equating this to a selfish, attention seeking act of acting out.

Bringing me to my final point…

6- We cannot allow our limited perspectives and ‘personal truths’ to impair our ability to see outside our own viewpoint.  More clearly stated, we cannot allow our biases, our beliefs, our privilege to paint us into a figurative corner where we are unable or unwilling to see any point of view or reality that differs from our own.  If we fail, we lose the ability for compassion and/or empathy… and we remain willfully ignorant.

Religion is a choice.

How one observes their spiritual path is a choice.

If your religion or observation is threatened by viewpoints or information from outside, especially ones supported by best practices that are based in evidence and valid, weighted, scientific research, then there are significant issues with that belief system.

How one treats others is a choice.

How one exerts the privilege, the power and control that one has in a relationship, especially a parenting relationship, is a choice.

The inability, the refusal to see another person’s reality because your view of the world differs is a choice.  Just because you ‘don’t believe in it’ does not mean that it is not so… all you are doing is working to engage in erasure, a form of silencing.

Gender identity, sexual orientation, and many other parameters is NOT A CHOICE.  If you think it is… Answer the following questions… When did you decide you were male, female, or did not fit on the gender binary?  How old were you?  When did you ‘choose’ your sexual orientation?  Why did you ‘choose’ that?

How is this relevant?  When you can see someone else’s reality, their perspective… that is empathy/compassion.  When you cannot, that is the foundation for oppression and the misuse of power and control.  I submit that is what happened to Leelah.

May Leelah find the peace in death she was denied in life.  Her final words in her suicide posting have already had a huge impact.  The next steps go beyond just talking, commenting or blogging.  We all need to be interventionists and advocates, not merely bystanders.  The lives of many depend on it.

Turkey Trot and Children’s Miracle Network 5K- I am getting faster… and stronger.

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I am so elated about my progress with running. I was thrilled to beat my goal on my first 1/2 marathon in late October, and I am now preparing for a full marathon, and running outside in the inclement weather, something I used to NEVER do. It was other cardio or the deadmill… But I rallied, bought the cold weather gear (thank you Columbia and Athletica!) and have been running outside regardless of the weather. And I LOVE IT.

I ran the Turkey trot the day after a snow/ice storm, and ran my fastest time overall at that point, and ran a 9 minute mile and and a 10 minute miles, the long drag up the hill killing my final time, and it was COLD. But it was great. I simply LOVED it. I ran a Snowflake race two weeks ago in upper 30’s/lower 40’s and driving rain. I was soaked, but again, I ran a more consistent time, and a 10 minute mile the whole time. Not fast I know, but for me that is progress, and a PR. Next week I am running a 5K, and and I am starting to ramp up to train for a full in April.

I also had an epiphany this week. It came from a misadventure I had… I fell running this past week, and HARD. Backside over teakettle, and almost did a somersault. What is remarkable for me is I jumped up, and kept going. I ran another 2 miles. Now, in the past, this would have been a big deal, and the outcome would have been very different. I would have most likely been really injured, and down for the count. Of course, a few years ago I would not have been running at all.

The 1/2 was a HUGE deal to me because I had almost negative talked myself into not trying, thinking I was not ready, berating myself for overtraining in September, not taking off the 8 pounds I wanted to lose to be in prime running shape… And I realized that was a quick slide to failure. So I stopped the self talk of that nature, and I got my headspace right the day before, and I went for it. And I finished with a 12 minute mile… And I proudly have a 13.1 sticker now, not to brag, but as a reminder of how far I have come on this journey. The same with the fall. I rolled up into a ball, took the brunt of the force on my knee and hip, a bit on my shoulder, and was up and going again with just torn gear and a bruised and bloody knee to show. No big deal. I contemplated this a bit when I ran into one of my previous orthopedic surgeons in the grocery store, and he was simply amazed. He tapped my forehead and stated “this is why you are running.” He went on to say with EDS, spinal degeneration and knee issues it should be physically impossible for me to run, (not to mention the pelvic damage from the tumor). We talked a bit, and I walked on, thinking about something one of my friends said earlier, that she could either get busy doing it or get busy making excuses, but the time would pass and it would all come down to active or passive choices.

I choose to give it all I have. I will never win a Master’s, and I will never place in my age category, however I will finish mid-pack, and for me, that is like placing first.

I can. I will. I want. I do.

Thank you for reading!

13.1… I did it! 2:44:10 on 10/26/2014

Half Marathon Medal Terri running the half

Dear Abby’s Weight Bigotry and Misogyny… All in One Article!

Just in case you missed Dear Abby’s judgmental response to a young woman who signed her letter as ‘Offended in Chicago’. The link is here and will open in a separate window.

I am not sure why I read advice columns, since many make me angry… Dear Prudence and her consistent victim blaming and rape apologia, and Dear Abby often operates from a place of privilege and internalized misogyny. Once in a while one of these columnists will get it right and restore my hope that they can use their platforms for good. I will ignore the trolling and willful ignorance in the comments section… That is a rant for another day.

Cruelty and bullying is never okay.  Bigotry and oppression flourish in the dark, in silence of those who could speak out.  Please join me in speaking out.  This is not okay.

Dear Abby:

I cannot describe the absolute disgust and sadness that flooded me when I read your response to ‘Offended Daughter in Chicago’. This young woman’s mother was not the only one that was harsh. Your response went to a place of absolute brutality, cruelty, and sizeism… a form of bigotry. This young woman stated she was comfortable in her own skin, and reported that she felt attractive and comfortable dressing in shorts and a bikini top at her mothers. You went on the attack, making a number of assumptions that could include… (notice I say ‘could’ because I cannot attribute intent, however I can analyze the observable, which you printed):
-This young woman is unhealthy. You know her blood pressure, her cholesterol, her triglycerides, her overall physical conditioning and muscle to body fat ratio, and not just a calculated one based on a flawed formula.
-This young woman is making choices to be ‘obese’. PCOS, endocrine issues, and other health issues make losing weight very difficult for some.
-This young woman obviously has some misguided sense of pride to be accepting of herself, and accepting despite her mother’s judgement and cruelty masked as propriety, fat shaming, and concern trolling.
-Fat shaming is one of the last acceptable fronts in which to be a bully. Which you are.
-Society is obviously not telling this woman that she is outside what all women should ascribe to be… so you had to cut in and give another level of condemnation.
-Correlating this woman’s weight to her mother’s opinion/pride/regard? On what planet would anyone make a sweeping generalization of that nature on the little bit of information provided, but even the most ‘tone deaf’ as far as sensitivity can see that this relationship between mother and child is fraught with complexity.

I again, cannot assume your true intent, and I honestly do not want to. There are so many levels of internalized oppression and misogyny imbedded in these issues…

Abby, you have a powerful (figuratively) podium to do a lot of good, or harm. On August 10, you were intentionally cruel. Unacceptable It was not just limited to that young woman. A formerly battered woman who was still living with her abuser, who, unsurprisingly, was still using abusing power and control. This woman asked you for guidance, and you did not even Google resources for the domestic violence center in her region, and you stated that there was an expectation of financial reciprocity. I call BULL. She has a right to be safe, to be happy, to be respected, and to have her children grow in a home where she is not treated in the way that she is. In recent weeks you have given advice to others that basically, sex is a right of marriage without discussing power and control, consent, and other important issues. That in itself is internalized misogyny expressed.

Dear Abby, please use your column for good, as you have in the past. You can do better than this.

-Terri

Life is meant to be lived at full volume… 3 days post op.

Last Thursday I had surgery to repair my badly herniated incision from last August. As I write this from the comfort of my favorite chair, my geriatric kitty on my lap, I am thinking of this most recent medical journey and lessons I can learn, integrate, and use so I do not have to keep learning this particular message.

Now, three days out, I can reflect back on my experiences of the past month or so.  My surgical consult happened rather quickly after I was shaken out of denial-land on the 18th.  I saw the surgeon on the 27th, and the recommendation was surgery, sooner rather than later.  A date of 3rd was offered, and I had to decline due to needing time to prep a few things at home and at work, so the next date available was July 10th.  And how quickly did that date arrive!  State budget crisis, financial threat and all other deadlines be damned, it seems.  My best friend’s mother arrived at my place at 5:30am to have me at the hospital at 6am for my 7:25am surgery.  Check in was uneventful, and all the surgical appointment discussions were reiterated.  They were going to do their best to do this laparoscopically so my recovery time would be shorter, etc.  If scar tissue was too much an issue, then I would awake to the reopening on my mid-line incision, and instead of a short/overnight hospitalization I would be in 3-4 days and off 6-8 weeks instead of two.

I awoke in the Recovery Department with little pain in my midsection, the nursing staff told me I had 13 ‘poke holes’ or access/scope sites and my incision had been opened at the top by about 3 inches or so.  That was good news.  The not-s0-great-news was I was getting horrific migraine, with sound and light sensitivity.  The bad news was there were no hospital beds available, and I would have to wait in recovery until they found one.  The first time I awoke that I remember was just before 10am, and I was in Recovery until after 4pm.  Dr. Page stopped by to dash my hopes of just going home… since the surgery was a bit more extensive, I was definitely there overnight.  Fabulous!  They finally got my migraine managed… and not for lack of trying on their part… it was a bad one.  I was sent up to my room, and they pulled my Foley before I left recovery.  I did tell them that getting my bladder to wake up had been a problem with my hysterectomy in 2007 resulting in a re-catheterization, and after my tumor removal last August, resulting in a subsequent catheterization.  I was sent up to the room, to a semi private room.  Then the real fun began!

Although this surgery was no where as invasive or life saving as the previous one, it is extremely painful.  I asked to get up my first night, and I set no personal records, bent over shuffling along.  I think the nursing staff were sick of my requests to 1- shower and 2- walk.  I had lots of lovely visitors my first day, and the first morning.  The overnight was tough.  Narcotics do little to nothing for my pain, and I am allergic to almost all non narcotic and NSAIDs, so pain was an issue, and feeling sick was an issue.  I would stop taking pain meds for a 12 hour shot, then be a mess.  It was a cycle I experienced the last hospitalization.  The first night they used a straight catheter and drained my bladder.  My bladder was so full, and I was in so much pain, the poke was a walk in the park.  I also was in roommate hell.  She was a sweet lady, and I suspect she would have been most upset to know how miserable I was because of her noisy guests who stayed until after 12 midnight (newsflash stage whispers and kisses are LOUD) and her use of her TV at audible volume all night.  I did not sleep any.  I could have said something, but my feeling was this… I was uncomfortable, cranky, and most likely not going to sleep anyway… if she derived comfort from these things, and could sleep (and sleep she did as evidenced by the sleep talking and snoring) then one of us could have a decent night.  The next morning, I was informed that my lack or urination more than likely would result in an extended stay.  They drained me again with a straight cath (OUCH) and I asked to walk, and to shower.  I knew that walking and the hot water would wake my sleepy bladder, but I was getting a bit of resistance.  The other thing was, the surgeon who saw me at 6am said I could shower, and I could go home as soon as I peed.  I was on a mission…  and that mission was to pee at all costs…

<Cue the mission impossible music…>

I walked or sat in my chair every moment I was not examined by any nursing or medical staff in the local area…  I repeatedly requested a shower, then very directly let my nursing staff know that a shower was happening, and they could assist with capping off my IV or I could do it myself (phebotomy training, no matter how remote, is a dangerous thing for Terri to have, BTW!) so they did, and I happily showered… and sweet relief… IN THE SHOWER!  OH MY GOD NO!  I peed, but I was so embarrassed I cried… it happened in the shower, and there was no proof of me peeing.  I finished my shower and cleaned the shower as best I could, and let the staff know.  They gave one another knowing looks like ‘SURE you did’ and did a scan to see how full my bladder was.  700.  Damn.  I peed again, and emptied over half.  They wanted to have me wait for a urologist, and wanted me to start a horrible medicine I took when I had the tumor related kidney stone.  Um NO.  I saw 3 doctors in the short time I was there prior to leaving (I had fully dressed and packed…I was going!) and explained that with the size of the Fallopian tumor (nearly 11lbs and from pelvic floor to past my umbilicus) that things worked different now, and although this was alarming to them, it was 11 month and counting old news to me.

My friend took me home, and I am so glad I made the decision to allow folks to stay with me, do things for me, and help me.  Getting in bed was not easy, and alone was a 30 minute and painful maneuver.   As the few days have passed, and I have completely stopped all oral narcotics I am doing so much better.  The nausea, the body aches and chills, etc. are all gone.  My midsection hurts.  It is very hard and swollen.  And this will be a bit of a process, but this has been just a bump in the road.

I am so grateful for my health, for my friends, and for my decision to be a healthy and physically active person.  I did myself some major favors by being in the best physical shape of my life before this, and I am confident I will be running again soon in 3 weeks or so.  I will follow doctor’s orders, but I refuse to live a life of excuses or to live on the safe side of the street.  I say it often… life is meant to be lived at full volume.  No one says this is easy, but I promise in the end, it will all be worth it.

Have a great week.  Thank you for reading, and I hope to be blogging about social justice, cats, and running before long!

13 'poke holes' and a small section of original incision reopened.  Very swollen belly!

13 ‘poke holes’ and a small section of original incision reopened. Very swollen belly!

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