Monday, April 30, 2012

The Story of My Body: Allison

The Story of My Body series is currently published on Mondays and Fridays here at Contentedly Crunchy.  Would you like to participate in this series? Email me your words and pictures!


This body is barely 32 years old and it’s already been pretty beat up.  But it’s also had some pretty amazing, could-jog-all-day times too (which, fyi, is exactly what happens when you follow someone else who clearly doesn’t know the course during a half marathon in a teeny town in Belgium that, in my defense, was very poorly marked). 

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the past few years lying on the couch wishing I could get up and go for a long run, when the reality was more like being pushed in a wheelchair by my mom.  That does wonders for putting things into perspective.  And there have been other times where I’ve kept running even after feeling like I couldn’t go another step, wishing I was still at home on the couch. 

The past decade or so has been filled with a push-pull of wanting to exercise and not being able to, or exercising and wishing I could stop.  And it’s given me a few scars—some directly a result of my own doing, some just bad luck of the draw.

The worst visible scar I have is one that I can’t really see.  After I had back surgery for the first time in 2002, that scar haunted me—I couldn’t see it in mirrors very well, didn’t really want to, but could feel the divot where they had removed bone, knew you could see it when I wore a bathing suit, worried about what my boyfriend thought.  Worried it was hideous. 

By the time I needed surgery again on the same area in 2010, I had stopped caring—I realized that chances were, it really wasn’t the worst thing if people focused on that 4 in. scar when I was in a bathing suit instead of on all of the things I was far more insecure about.  Which was good, considering the next 2 surgeries made that scar a whole lot worse.

The knowledge that degenerative disc disease will ultimately result in more scars up and down my spine doesn’t bother me anymore.  When I had surgery again last year, but on my neck, I finally had a scar that everyone can easily see all the time.  Part of me doesn’t mind that, either, and when people stare, it lets me give them snide looks in return (except for the lady in whole foods who rejoiced in the fact that my suicide attempt had failed, amen.  There wasn’t really anything I could do with her). I could probably have someone take a picture of them, but they’re pretty boring as scars go.

Because of the back issues, and some other autoimmune problems like type 1 diabetes, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with living in a pretty crap body while wanting to be an athlete.  I grew up wanting to go to the Olympics (I know, I know), and even when my interests changed, it was hard for my body to completely forget the habit of 6-hour swim practices everyday. I realized it was more how being active makes me feel that’s important, not what I’m doing to be active. 

When I lived in France after we got married, I threw myself back into long distance running, something I hadn’t done in a loooong time, to combat boredom and loneliness.  It was the healthiest I’ve ever been, for a time.  But the best part was using running to feel so victorious over running itself.

Running has resulted in some not-so-fantastic things a number of times over the past 18 years, so it felt amazing to kind of kick running’s ass.  I’m convinced there have been times where I could actually feel my shins crumbling into tiny stress fractures up and down my legs while I jogged on with the skeletal strength of an 85-year-old. (Though I’m pretty sure my grandma was stronger at 85 than this osteoporitic body has been at times.)  Sometimes it hasn’t always been so easy for me to say "maybe it would be okay if I stopped now." 

For me, running is tied up with a number of scars—some visible and others not at all.  In general, I secretly hate to exercise, which some people who know me would find hard to believe.  But I started exercising one day in 1995 and could not stop.  After years of being teased by students at a Catholic school where the faculty sang the praises of being good Christians—but who did nothing to stop the relentless taunting—I gave up and stopped eating.  And started running.  Outside.  In my bedroom.  Anywhere. 

In 1995, after losing over 50 lbs, I found out I was being taken out of school for a hospital program.  That Sunday, after already running twice that day, I decided I needed “one more chance” to exercise before leaving the next morning, not knowing that everyone there would tell me how to do jumping jacks in the bathroom, and which stairwell was always unlocked.  So I headed out in the darkness and ran.  And was assaulted.  At the time, it kind of seemed appropriate to me.  It somehow made sense.  And I packed up the next morning and didn’t look back. 

By the time I got to college it had started to hit me, and to deal with how terrified I was in retrospect, I started running at night again just to prove to myself I wasn’t afraid.  Even though I was.  In grad school, every time I got an email from campus security saying a woman had been mugged running at 5 am, I would wonder if they were out there for a reason, or if it was simply because they hadn’t realized it was dangerous.

I’m a very different person now.  I don’t tell new friends about “that time in high school (and college) (and grad school)” because it changes how they think about you and you lose a lot of the privileges “normal” people have. And now usually when I say "thanks but I already ate," I actually mean it, so I’d rather not feel like I have to convince you (no really, I ATE).  My weight still goes up and down sometimes, is still hard to deal with sometimes.  But I’ve gained over 60 pounds from that worst point, and I think I have a better understanding of why I’m having a bad week now, what the underlying reasons might be, and I worry now when I realize that I’m in trouble. 

This spring, in the midst of some major stressors, it snuck back up on me very quickly, and it was terrifying.  There is still that brief moment of exhilaration, (I’ve lost 20 lbs! I didn’t even notice!) but then there is heart-pounding doom (please do not let this happen again) followed by doing what it takes to make that slip not become a relapse.  I know that I was wrong when I was 16 and thought I was invincible.  My crumbling shins know that too.  I have a different relationship now with exercise and eating and not eating.  I exercise now because I know it makes me feel strong and healthy, not because I have to (because I spend plenty of days watching horrible tv, too).  I eat when I’m hungry, but I also don’t eat to make other people feel better (except my mother-in-law, because that’s just too complicated). 

There are very few photographs of me from the hardest points; or at least I’m well-camouflaged in them, wearing enough layers to look totally normal.  I say photos of me, but there really aren’t pictures of that.  There are, though - or were - pictures of arms and ribs and thighs and collar bones and hips.  But never with my face.  Anorexia is lonely, and isolating, and terrifying.  And in the thick of it, the only ones you think will understand you, how sad you are, who will congratulate you on how fantastic you look even when everything else is crumbling around you, are girls in the same spot. 

Even in the late '90s and early 2000s, the internet was already home to many, many girls in this position, and the photos that are being banned now on pinterest and tumblr are not new.  And I’m embarrassed to say some of them were mine.  I never used my real name, never showed my face.  I wasn’t bragging, I was searching for some sort of approval.  Not encouragement exactly, but maybe support?  But soon after that time, even though I continued to struggle, I completely turned away from all things eating disorder on the internet—I deleted all my “bodyshots.”

It wasn’t until around 2005 or 2006, while I was reading an article on the growing problem of “thinspiration” photos (a phrase I hate), that I realized how much sicker I must have been than I ever thought.  The article discussed the posting and subsequent glorification of horrifying images of very malnourished girls, the same types of girls whose pictures I (as an indication of what trouble I was in) had seen on bulletin boards and lifted up to saintly proportions—they had reached levels of starvation that I couldn’t ever imagine; I would never be that thin. 

But the thing about the internet is, nothing ever dies.  At the end of the article, several photos were included that had been reposted on numerous websites, and circulated across chat rooms, some apparently for years.  One was mine.  It had been taken by a friend for a senior project in a photography class, and was definitely not the worst, as those pictures went.  It doesn’t have the raw, painful quality that the others had, and seems softer and less scary when taken out of context.  At the time, I had exacted a promise from my friend of fancy techniques and development that wouldn’t make me look fat.  What I saw in the mirror at the time that photo was taken was not just layers of shameful fat, but the body of a girl who wasn’t even human anymore, no matter how fast or long she ran.  I was living a very split life—perfectly together on the outside, but completely cracked on the inside, and I didn’t know how to make those polar opposites into one girl anymore.

10 years later, that same torso is a bit (ok, a lot) plumper.  Rounder.  Um, Rubenesque?  Healthier maybe?  I don’t know what the “average” woman really looks like, I don’t really think there is one.  But maybe it’s more like this?  And now my insulin pump usually lives there—I know people stick them on their arms etc, but I walk into stuff way too often for that to be practical…  Under fitted clothes, it does sometimes look like I have some sort of very strange tumor, but at the end of the day it keeps me alive without me dragging out insulin and syringes 10 times a day (are you sensing my laziness yet?), so stare on, folks. 

It is very hard for me to see these two photos together and think that they are of the same person.  Are they?  Am I 100% cured and totally okay?  And do I love the way I look, do I love this current body? No.  Definitely not.  But do I feel compelled to get up off this sofa and run up and down the stairs 100 times right now?  Definitely not. (the dogs would start howling, and the husband would wake up, and I’d have to explain a lot. But mostly, I’m too tired and it just sounds awful.)  This is the way it is.  I know in the future my weight will change, my lifestyle or habits or abilities will change, at times better or worse.  But everything in life changes.  And sometimes those changes are good, right?  I am learning that the best I can do each day really just is whatever my best happens to be on any given day.  Realizing that has made me kinder, more grateful, and a whole lot happier.

Would you like to participate in this series? Email me your words and pictures!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Story of My Body: Kelly

The Story of My Body series is currently published on Mondays and Fridays here at Contentedly Crunchy.  Would you like to participate in this series? Email me your words and pictures!

I am your average athlete. I’ve never won a half Ironman or finished first in my age group in a full Ironman. I don’t have a tattoo plastered on my calf displaying my triumphs as a badass triathlete. I’m not a pro, setting records, racing the marathon in little over three hours. My wattages on the bike don’t double my weight. I can’t even do a pull-up. My noodle-y arms struggle to pump up my bike on good days. I haven’t master the technique of holding my tongue quite right while heaving my entire body down on the pump as I hold the valve. I’m rather ungraceful. 

So what would possibly compel a person, like myself, to suffer through this insane endeavor of an Ironman distance of 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile swim? My decision to make that trek began three-and-a-half years ago.

I contracted meningitis in the summer of 2008. My son lovingly refers to that as “the time Mommy almost died.”  Not really, but what did he know at age 6?  My life changed that day as I lay writhing in pain, infection ravaging my brain and spinal cord.  Little did I know the damage being done by this pesky infection.  The storm brewing inside my brain unleashed in all its fury many months later, revealed an opponent beyond my ability to master or beat. I was broken.

Searching for answers and meeting with specialists filled my waking hours. Plagued by this never-ending hammering migraine of pain.  Classified as “post-meningitis migraines,” a clinical anti-septic term by the medical community. Debilitating, daily migraines that don’t respond to medical treatments for 40% of patients who contract meningitis. Ringing in my ears are the words “there is no cure, you can live with this for the next 10 years of your life.”  No cure.  Typical medications are ineffective. Offerings of narcotic medications come plenty, but I had no intentions of being a drug addict.

I am falling. Darkness. I can’t breathe. This can’t be possible. No one can live this way. I’m in hell. My dreams fill with sledge hammers, ice picks jamming into my brain, my head shoved into a vice grip slowly being tightened.  I wake up to this pain, reminded of those words ringing in my ears, “there is no cure.”  Betrayed and forgotten, I am lost. I search for others only to find them: lost souls. Shells of individuals that once lived vibrant lives now disabled, debilitated, unemployed, divorced, depressed: alone.

What am I to do? Everyday I wake up in pain squeezing my every breath. Suffering. I refuse to ask the question why, it serves no purpose other than self-pity.  Passively waiting for my brain to heal itself, which may take 10 years. No thanks. I lie in bed listening to the laughter of my children below.  I can’t passively wait. I don’t sit on the sidelines of my life watching everything flash by. Urgency surges through my every fiber of being. Do something.

Exhausted from being a patient. Suffering showed me my soul. I witnessed the abyss.  Suffering  calls seductively to me, “ give up, quit, let go.” Pain has a way of causing a person to re-examine, doubt, and question everything.  I will not quit.  The black darkness of abyss has got nothing on me. I feel steel forming in my spine; will in my heart. I have boys to raise, a life to live. I will mend my brokenness. How? 

I decided to do an Ironman. We all have reasons. Mine was to mend my brokenness and overcome. An impossible goal, I realize, as  I found it difficult to walk around the block. I transformed when I swam, biked, and ran. Training made me feel alive again. Fleeting moments when I forgot that I was a patient.  My eyes bright, my body alive and strong. I feel God’s presence surround me out in nature. Feeling invincible as I ran, able to overcome this disease, no longer a lab rat being poked and prodded. My suffering now had a purpose, training gave me a goal. Channeling my pain into training unleashed a direction. I suffered daily with this pain, quietly alone. Ironman provided an outlet to mend my brokenness.

Movement. 5AM wake up calls became my norm. I relished them, feeling empowered by the focus. Dark days of training were faced numerous times. My body objected to the regime, vomiting, dizzy, unable to function. There were many days that I was physically unable to perform the task. Dark days made me all the more thankful and joyful for the days I was able to move. Smiling and welcoming a run or bike.

Ironman mirrored my journey: a rather impossible dream. It was unlikely that I would make it to the starting line, let alone the finish. My body would quite possibly not endure the training. Reaching the start line would mean I might overcome this chronic illness; mend my brokenness. No longer sitting and suffering, but accomplishing a goal beyond being sick. It gave me a reason to continue fighting. To get up every morning, not succumbing to the pain. Heroic feat just to train for an Ironman, let alone finish. My boys became my inspiration, their smiling faces and bright brown eyes. Something forcing me out of the abyss of pain and into life. The start line might possibly be the beginning in my healing.

On August 31, I had the honor to race the Louisville Ironman with my amazing family and friends watching. I promised should I make it to the start line, I would finish. A little over thirteen hours later I crossed the finish line as an Ironman. I am forever grateful to my family, training partners, and Husband.  I am forever grateful. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Race Report: Bean's first finisher's medal!

Yesterday was the spring iteration of the same race Bean attempted in the fall.  We all got up and ate breakfast.  Bean told me, "I'm not sure I can trust my body.  I'm not sure I can trust it not to throw up.  I might have eaten too much."  I have no idea where this phrase or concept came from, but The Beast and I think he was trying tell us he was nervous.  He also told me he thought he was getting another cold and felt himself "getting sicker and sicker."  I asked him if he didn't want to run the race and he told me "I think I can run it, as long as I run it really fast so nobody else gets sick."

We were swirling about the house in various states of almost-readiness when a friend, L, and her son (A-Train's age) came by to walk over to the race.  The plan was for me to watch her son and A-Train while she ran the 10K and Bean ran the kids' fun run.

She and I walked the toddlers over and The Beast and Bean walked over a little later.  I realized pretty quickly that we had really failed to take care of Bean the same way I do myself before a race.  I should have packed him a little bag with a water bottle, his race bib, and the camera...but, instead, we forgot all three!  So no pictures from the race, but that's ok; he wore a track suit rather than the awesome superhero get-up he wore in the fall.  The Kodak moments just weren't as abundant.
The Superhero Get-up

We got there and I saw my friend off in her race, taking the toddlers around to see her a quarter mile in, and then heading down the course for the fun run.  Bean had already gone to the bathroom (we were really hoping to avoid a repeat of the fall run!) and was excited to take off.

Off they went, and I took the toddlers through the middle of the loop to catch the preschoolers along the way.  I saw Bean and cheered him on, then went back up the hill to the finish...pushing a double stroller with at least 55 pounds of toddler in it!

Bean finished in 12:45 and then waited around (im)patiently for his medal and certificate.  Really all he wanted was the medal - I'm pretty sure that the promise of a medal was the only reason he ran it.  He had become enamored of the medal I got for taking third in my age group in the Reindeer Romp.

While The Beast had our kids and hung out until Bean got his medal, I took my L's son out onto the 10K course to cheer on his mom (incidentally, he always says "mama" like a question and it is the cutest!).  We caught her about a mile from the finish and then I ran back (only 30 pounds of toddler in the double jogger!) to catch her at the finish.  I got decent workout, pushing that thing and wearing my moccasins!

The timing all worked out perfectly.  I said goodbye to L and walked back down the hill to see that Bean had received his medal.  He was pumped.
We got home and Bean hung his medal from his chair at lunch, and then ran off to play with it doing who-knows-what.  He declared it was a coin when the ribbon came off ("I was playing with it too rough.  I like it better this way.").  It was worth $89.  He had The Beast affix it to one side of his shirt and declared "I'm Stoick the Vast!!!"  He also said he wanted to run the race again because he needed a second giant medallion to really look like Stoick.

That's Stoick the Vast from How to Train Your Dragon.  Bean picks up on details like those giant medallions on his shoulders, affixing his fur cape to his shirt.

Bedtime came and Bean still hadn't let that medallion out of his sight.  He fell asleep clutching it.

Melts my running mom heart!

The Story of My Body: Pam

The Story of My Body series is currently published on Mondays and Fridays here at Contentedly Crunchy.  Would you like to participate in this series? Email me your words and pictures!
For the longest time, I was one of those that everyone was jealous of: I could eat anything I wanted and not gain a pound. But that doesn’t mean I was healthy. I never exercised; I was a cheerleader in 9th grade, but that was the extent of it. I smoked, drank like every teenager did and ate the most unhealthy foods. But yet, I stayed skinny and never reached much over 100 lbs. until I moved in with my now husband. He was an awesome cook, but he still cooked fatty things. I gained 15 lbs. within months because I was eating regularly, but still was considered very skinny.
Fast forward 15 years, and I am now almost 40, have had 2 kids, and was at the highest I’ve ever weighed except for at full term pregnancy. I weighed 140 lbs. While for some that may not seem a lot, for me it was definitely unacceptable, and to top it off I wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t smoking anymore, but I didn’t exercise regularly and I ate extremely fatty foods. My hubby is an awesome cook; just doesn’t always cook the healthiest of things. I definitely needed a change.
I started out walking; I would read my book as I walked the treadmill. This wasn’t enough of a challenge for me. I had a friend who ran, and I thought, what the heck, why don’t I give it a try. To be honest, I really didn’t like running at first. It was hard, and I sucked at it. But I kept at it, and it started getting a bit easier.

Then, I signed up for my first race. After that you could say the rest is history.  I was hooked!  One 5k turned into multiple 5k’s and that turned into a 10k, and then my first half marathon – which I have to say really sucked!! I thought I was going to die. I hadn’t trained properly due an injury, and I definitely wasn’t prepared. I promised myself the next one would be better, and it was. I finished 15 minutes faster than my first! So now I’m hooked on half marathons; it’s the perfect distance, and you get a nice shiny medal at the end.
This healthy obsession with races has motivated me to keep training, which has helped with my weight loss. But I learned that even though I was running, I’d only lost a few pounds. So I started the monotonous task of calorie counting. While it opened my eyes to how many calories are really in certain foods, it didn’t really work for me. I just had to train my body to get used to eating smaller portions, and I had to strengthen my self-control for goodies.
I now am down 15 lbs. and have reached my goal weight of 125 lbs. My next goal is to tone, and strengthen my muscles. But, I can honestly say I am truly happy with my body for the first time in years. I can’t wait for bathing suit season so I can show off what I have worked so hard to achieve. Thank you, running!!!!

The Story of My Body series is currently published on Mondays and Fridays here at Contentedly Crunchy.  Would you like to participate in this series? Email me your words and pictures!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

This will blow your mind!

Tangentially related.  Prepare to have your mind blown!

Bean, holding a Duplo creation:  "This dragon's spikes can shoot off."

Me:  "Really?"

Bean: "It's related to the Nadderhead."

Me:  "Oooooh."

Bean:  "It is called the Great 59 Nadder because it's so big."

Me:  "Is it bigger than a regular Nadder?"

Bean:  "Um.  Well.  This will probably blow your mind.  Are you ready?  It is actually bigger than the Big. Leader. Dragon."

Me:  "Whoah!  ::gestures explosively at head:: Kaboom! Mind. Blown!"

Bean:  "And???  This will blow your mind again.  This spike on its nose also shoots off!"

Me:  "WOW!"

Bean:  "And this will blow your mind again! Its spike comes back!"

Me:  "It comes back? grows back?  Or it comes back like a boomerang?"

Bean:  "Like a boomerang!  And - are you ready?  This will also blow your mind! These spikes are so strong that they will puncture the Big Leader Dragon's armor!"

(If you need to know more about the dragons Bean was discussing, you should watch his favorite movie!  Or read the book!)

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Story of My Body: Krista

I have never been connected to my body.  Since early childhood, I’ve had a distorted image of my body and its capabilities.  The dishonesty about our family reality made me question what they told me about my body. 
My mom frequently uttered the phrase, “Don’t eat that, you don’t want to be fat like me.”  She said it with the best of intentions, but I started to believe those school bullies who picked on me because my mom was fat.  I swore to myself I would never let her down and turn into the fat girl she desperately didn’t want me to be.  Imagine my devastation in the sixth grade when I heard THOSE words, “You’re fat just like your Mom.” 
I couldn’t believe it; I had let her down. Immediately I embarked on yet another “diet” which quickly turned into anorexia. I ate nothing but dinner to throw my parents off the trail.  My “diet” coupled with hours of workouts as a school athlete worked for a while.  Friends forced me to choke down lunch and a teacher reported my eating habits to my parents, who took me to the doctor and scared me into eating again.
I didn’t realize that while my number on the scale was bigger than my friends’, it didn’t mean I was fat.  My body had more curves than the average 11-year-old, and I didn’t know how to embrace that.  Unlike my friends, I had boobs, a butt and hips.  I had a J-Lo booty before it was fashionable – or spoken about for that matter. 
Large portions of these experiences were emotionally difficult.  Things that were a success physically felt like a massive emotional failure.  People felt the need to protect my feelings by lowering expectations or  so that my athletic sister didn’t feel threatened.  I tried out for the volleyball and basketball teams just to see if I would make it, and I did. Mission accomplished. To this day, my family –  mom dad and sister – claim my presence on these teams was due to butt-kissing and not ability.  The preferred context of these comments goes something like this:  “Even you must admit that your sister is better than you.” 
It hurts to have your few physical accomplishments minimized and disregarded, but I don’t care anymore.  I know what I am capable of doing because I HAVE DONE IT.  I have lost 40 inches off my body in 3 months.  I have made athletic teams that my own family didn’t think would be possible. 
I have been an emotional eater since middle school.  I have gained 8 pounds in a day.  I have been diagnosed with binge eating disorder.  I have tried every “diet” known to man.  I’ve auditioned for The Biggest Loser and The Revolution.  I have even investigated the possibility of having gastric bypass or lap band surgery.  Just for the record, I don’t feel like these surgeries are an easy way out, they just aren’t right for me with my blood clotting disorder and the fact that I have 3 children I need to be around to raise, and dying due to a blood clot to my lungs or brain just doesn’t fit into my already jam-packed schedule.   
My body has carried my 3 beautiful children to term.  It has also betrayed me, by allowing my precious Henry to die in my womb, and having to go through 24 hours of labor without an epidural to have him.  (Remember that clotting disorder?  Well, the drugs to prevent clots also mean an epidural can paralyze you, so no epidural it was.)  While I feel like my body betrayed me, I also know that all of this was for a purpose known only to God. 
I have spent years being afraid of my body, and feeling like life was just unfair because of what my body does with food.  I am afraid of compliments, and question their veracity.  I question the vision and the sincerity of the people that offer them.  I have been friends with “those” women; you know the ones, the girls that complain about not being able to gain weight.  In all honesty, I married into a family of healthy weight people.  I go out to dinner with my sister-in-law and her husband, and my husband.  I ask for a box to take home my leftovers, and the waitress looks at me as if to ask, “How are you the fat one?”  You see, my husband and his family look like they have licked their plates clean and are all healthy weights, if not bordering on skinny.  I have recently realized that whether it is fair or not, my body processes food differently than many of my friends.  It may be because of my year or so of anorexia slowing my metabolism down to a crawl.  It may be that my family history has reared its ugly head, and I am genetically pre-disposed to be a bigger girl with a lot of curves.  Regardless of those possibilities, I refuse to accept them as my only option, and my destiny.  I am going to be embarking on a training plan to run a half marathon this November in preparation for the Princess half Marathon at Disney World next February.  I attempted it this year, but due to a foot and ankle injury and because I don’t have a history of health and fitness, I didn’t even begin to realize what I needed to do to be ready for a half marathon.  Now, the idea of a full marathon is eating away at my psyche. 
The interesting thing about this is that the mind can play such horrible tricks on us.  I have been told that I am beautiful.  I have had folks claim I couldn’t possibly weigh what I do, because I don’t look like it.  When I auditioned for The Biggest Loser, numerous people told me that I didn’t get on the show because I’m not heavy enough.  I even remember being in college, deciding to tell the truth about my weight on my driver’s license, and having the DMV employee tell me that wasn’t possible, so SHE lied about my weight on my license, even though I told HER the truth.  But I just DON’T see it!  I don’t see beautiful.  I don’t see myself in the mirror the way that others apparently see me.  My mind has spent the last 25 years telling me that my worth was determined by the number on the scale, not by who I am as a woman.  I think the simplest explanation for this is that very early on my mind became hyper-sensitive to weight, and thus, I have since looked at myself in the mirror, through a pair of weight-centric glasses.  Doing so has made me spend too much time focusing on the number on the scale, rather than the reality of who I am as a person.  We all live in such a superficial world, where people talk about our looks and we are bombarded with unrealistic, airbrushed images of women who themselves don’t look like the ads we compare ourselves to.
I think we ALL need to learn that who we are as people has nothing to do with the number that is on the scale.  The circumstances of our lives do NOT determine our value or our worthiness.  The fact that I was raped at a party in college is irrelevant.  The fact that my first husband found it entertaining to call me degrading and disgusting names and threaten my life doesn’t matter.  What others think of the image they see when I walk toward them means nothing.    More importantly, the image I see looking back at me in the mirror and the size of that image doesn’t mean a hill of beans about the kind of woman that I am.  I have put this body of mine through the wringer.  I have been anorexic, and double my ideal weight.  I have carried 4 babies, and have 3 amazing children to show for it. I have had 3 cesarean sections to deliver my amazing children, and one “natural” delivery to have my angel that now lives in heaven.  I have gained weight, and I have lost weight.  I have a college degree which I busted my butt for.  I was a teacher until I decided not to be anymore.  I am a loving and generous woman.  I love to dance and I try to sing, even though I know I can’t.  I am a girly girl who loves sports, and would take a night at a sports bar with beer and wings over a mani and pedi any day.  I am a walking contradiction, but I am who God made me to be.  I have the exact body that God intended me to have.  My refusal to accept this body and be a good steward of the gift God has given me has been irresponsible at best.  Love me or don’t, take me or leave me, I am who I am.  Those are the things that really matter, not the number on the tag in the waistband of my pants. 
The Story of My Body series is currently published on Mondays and Fridays here at Contentedly Crunchy.  Would you like to participate in this series? Email me your words and pictures!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thankfully, this is not our typical bedtime routine

Bean, exhausted, did not want to go to sleep tonight. So here's what things looked like about 30 or 45 minutes after I had tucked him in...

Bean (animated):  "I'm just so excited that I can't sleep!  I'm just so excited that C is coming over tomorrow!"

Me:  "You have never even met C..."

Bean: "It doesn't matter if I've met someone, I just always want them to come over and I'm so excited."

Me:  "Ok.  Go back to bed and lay down."

......5 minutes later.....

Bean (apologetically):  "There is a fly in my room and it's really bothering me and i wondered if you could please come kill it?"

Me:  "Turn off your light.  Then you won't be able to see it.  Or turn away from it and close your eyes."

.....5 minutes later.....

Bean (to The Beast):  "But I really need someone to snuggle me."

The Beast:  "Mom already snuggled you."

Me:  "Yeah.  And then you told me to go away.  Now Dad and I are having grown-up time.  Go back to bed."


The Beast:  "You don't have to sleep.  You just have to stay in your room and be quiet."

Bean (sobbing hard and sooooo pathetic):  "BUT I'M NEVER GOING TO SLEEP!  NEVER!"

Me:  "That's ok.  You can just lay there and we will see you in the morning."

The Beast:  "Come one, buddy.  Hold my hand and I will walk you back to your room."

Bean:  ::still sobbing, unintelligible::

The Beast:  "I am being very patient right now, but A-Train is sleeping.  If you wake up A-Train, I am going to be very angry."

.....5 minutes later.....


Monday, April 16, 2012

The Story of My Body: Lizzie

I was born with an extremely rare genetic condition known as X-Linked Dominant Hypophosphatemic Rickets (XLH). From the XLH-network website: In XLH, the body's mechanisms to make and maintain bones and teeth do not work correctly. One of the things needed for good bone growth is the mineral phosphorus. The key characteristic of XLH -- low phosphorus in the blood, also known as hypophosphatemia -- is the result of a mutation that essentially inactivates one of the genes on the X chromosome. When this gene, called the PHEX gene, has the XLH mutation, a protein circulating in the bloodstream called FGF23 increases, causing the kidneys to waste phosphorus and suppresses complete activation of vitamin D to a form the body can use.  The loss of phosphate from the kidneys prevents the body from maintaining the proper level of phosphorus in the blood. Symptoms of XLH can be bowed knees, short stature, spontaneous tooth abscesses, and bone pain

From looking at me, you can not tell I have XLH: I do not have bowed legs, my spine is straight, I’m not overly-short, and I have great teeth. Going to our yearly endocrinologist appointments at Yale University Hospital, our doctor always showed my sister and I off to residents and other doctors. All were amazed we could play varsity level sports in High School. We were both put on medicine (a strict regimen of K-Phos, taken 3-4 times daily, and Calcitriol, taken twice daily) early, which I think is why we do not have outward evidence of our “disease."

I did, however, have bone pain growing up...knee and ankle pain mainly. I did play sports (lacrosse, field hockey, and swimming), but wore knee braces on both legs...they were blue, which matched our school colors, so I was called “Blue Legs” by my teammates on the field hockey field. While I enjoyed the team atmosphere of the sports, I never enjoyed the running. It hurt too much. After high school, I stopped playing all sports. My sister recently told me that she also hated running and playing sports because she was made fun of for “the way she ran”.

Yes, I run wicked pigeon toed as does my sister!
When I was in my mid-20s, I went to my annual exam and my blood pressure was too high. This confused the doctors because I wasn’t overweight, I ate properly, etc. The only thing I wasn’t doing was exercising. So, I joined my husband’s (boyfriend at the time) gym and we went every morning together. I began to lift weights and do different cardio exercises. In the end, the reason my blood pressure was elevated was due to “the pill," but this motivated me to be more active and I quickly became a “gym rat.” I even worked-out up until the day I delivered my son.

My 5 year old son, Simon, was also born with XLH. He is the first male in my family to have the “disease.” While XLH affects everyone differently, XLH usually affects males worse than females. This has definitely been the case for my son. While, like me, you can’t tell by looking at his legs  that he has XLH, he has had his own share of issues. The obvious is that he is short...he has always been in the < 3rd percentile for height. The not obvious is that he required surgery at the age of 2 for sagittal craniosynostosis (the premature closure of the sagittal suture) and also had a spontaneous abscess in a perfectly healthy tooth at age 4.

Before surgery

After surgery
 While I used my disease as an excuse not to do certain things growing up, I am striving to be a role model for my children. After the birth of both of my children, I stopped going to a gym, but tried to stay active. I started by walking and then eventually running short distances around the neighborhood. When my daughter was almost a year old, I heard about a local event, the Ramblin’ Rose Triathlon, on the news. I thought, what a fun, and doable, idea! I eventually talked my sister-in-law into it and we both registered for the inaugural, Raleigh event, in May 2010. My endocrinologist at Yale, was very impressed that I was going to compete in it, but also seemed weary of me doing it. While it down poured the entire time,  we had a great time! 

After that, I met a parent of one of my daughter’s friends at daycare and she eventually talked me into training for my first half marathon. This idea was also met with skepticism from my doctors and family. I once again proved them wrong and completed my first half marathon in early October 2010.

Me, on the left, and my “running partner in crime”, Kim, after my first half marathon

 Since then, I’ve competed in numerous 5Ks, 8Ks, 10Ks, and 2 more half marathons before I was sidelined in the Fall of 2011 with a hip injury. After doing almost three months of physical therapy, my therapist told me I’d probably never be able to run a half-marathon again, but could “Galloway” it (do a run:walk ratio). While I respect the Galloway method, and people that use the Galloway method, I did not want to do it. I took my “come back” slowly...had some set backs/pain...but muddled through and continued to do my PT exercises, stretches, foam rolling, icing, and taking it slow on my runs. I just completed my first half-marathon since physical therapy and beat my previous PR by almost 5 minutes. Most importantly, I completed it pain-free and with a smile on my face.

I may not have the perfect body, inside or out, but I will not let that keep me from achieving my goals and showing my children that they can do anything they set their mind to.

Finishing my most recent half marathon w/my son...and my daughter in the background trying to keep up ;)
The Story of My Body series is currently published on Mondays and Fridays here at Contentedly Crunchy.  Would you like to participate in this series? Email me your words and pictures!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Red Light/Green Light

Much like Bean's Orange Box, this was something we created to solve a problem. 

Bean was not always napping during naptime, so I instated "Quiet Time."  Also known as "if you don't leave me alone for an hour, I'm going to lose my shit."

We finally solved the problem of him coming out to ask if Quiet Time was over by telling him "don't worry.  We'll tell you."  And then he started falling asleep within that hour and we had no way of telling him immediately upon waking that he could come out.  It was kind of sad!  He would come out drowsily, go pee, and head back to his room.  At which point we would tell him "Quiet Time is over!  You fell asleep!  You don't have to go back in your room!"

Then I made the mistake of telling him "if you fall asleep, it's pretty safe to assume that Quiet Time is over when you wake up."

Bean does not know when he has slept or have any concept of time.  He would close his eyes, pretend to sleep, and then insist that he took a nap and now Quiet Time is over.


So, finally, I made him this incredibly simple but highly effective red light/green light!  We turn it around to red at the beginning of Quiet Time, and we go in and turn it to green when Quiet Time is over.  If he wakes up and finds the sign is green - he can come out.

This took me 5 minutes!  And he was so excited about it that he asked me to make him one for the outside of his door that he got to control. 

1) a piece of white card stock - it only has to be blank on one side...I actually used scrap paper!
2) a piece of green construction paper (again...I used scrap paper - just need enough to cut a "green light" circle)
3) a piece of red construction paper (scrap paper! Just need enough to cut a "red light" circle)
4) a glue stick
5) a pair of scissors
6) a binder clip or a paper clip (paper clip makes it possible for a younger child to change the sign themselves - which was the aim for the sign on the outside of Bean's door...but definitely not the one on the inside!)
7) some sort of adhesive to put the whole thing on the wall (I used one of these poster strips from 3M)

1) Place the red and green construction papers on top of each other and cut a circle out of both at the same time.
2) Glue them together with the glue stick.
3) Cut the white card stock into a square so that the red/green circle fits nicely on top of it.
4) Affix the card stock to the wall.
5) Clip the circle to the card stock using the binder or paper clip.  The color facing out indicates "stop" or "go."

Done!  We have been using this for 6 months.  Because Bean has been interested in words, he asked me to write "STOP" and "GO" on the appropriate sides.  That is the only change I've made, aside from the location of the binder clip.

These days, the clip is on the bottom, but this thing has lasted 6 months!

Red on one side, green on the other.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Story of My Body: Frances

Well my body story is not glorious, or even as fulfilling as some others you will read.  But here it is. 

I have always struggled with my weight.  Partially from not caring, and partially from environmental things like family trouble.  I was always the heavy girl in school, and pretty much anywhere I went.  I have had a lot of ups and downs in my life.  I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder when I was 15 years old.  That was the same year my parents were getting divorced.  It drove me to eat, and eat a lot.  But some good has come out of it: I have a passion for food. 

So my self-esteem has always been rather low.  Maybe it is because I was the big girl, or maybe it was that I couldn’t face my disorder.  I’m not really sure, but until very recently they have both followed me around like weights. 

After high school my life spiraled down for several years.  Until the year my father passed away.  I realized that I did need medication and that I would be “better” with it.  From that point on my disorder didn’t rule my life. 

After several years of getting stable I came to another realization.  I need to get healthy for me and any future I want to have.  I am legally disabled from my bipolar illness, but I am working on a plan to move past this hardship and become an active member in whatever I choose to do.  So in December 2011, I started this journey of losing weight and becoming healthy.  I have lost 30 lbs. since then and I am continuing on this journey until I get where I want to be. 

My goal is to be able to run a mile.  Right now I can walk about half a mile and I think that is pretty good, considering I have been a smoker for 15 years.  Also something I am giving up for my health.  My heaviest was about 330 lbs.  I’m on this journey for the long haul and every day I feel a little better about myself and that I am going to accomplish all these things.  Cheers to us, ladies. We all have struggles but it’s how we turn those struggles into successes. 

Would you like to participate in this series? Email me your words and pictures!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Story of My Body: Jenny

Last fall I went to an informational session on bariatric surgery. At nearly 260 lbs. I was a candidate for it and my insurance would cover it around June of 2012. I had "tried" - according to me - everything and the weight just wasn't going to come off. I was large chested and with a 48 DDD bra size, I could hardly stand up straight and was always hunched over. A breast reduction was in my future for 2012.

In November of 2011 I took my daughter to Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America, an indoor amusement park. She desperately wanted to go on the barnyard roller coaster. I was excited to go with her and stood in line. It was finally our turn and we sat down in the car. I quickly realized... There was no way I was going to fit...

The teenage worker came over and tried to push with all of his might to get this safety bar into place, it just wasn't going to happen. I apologized got off of the roller coaster, gave my daughter a hug, told my husband I needed to use the restroom and I started to cry.

How did I get here? A size 24, not fitting in rides with my daughter, struggling to make it up the flight of stairs without wheezing. I have always struggled with my weight and in college I made some poor eating choices and ended up very unhealthily getting myself down to a size 10. I was a size 16 when I became pregnant with my now 4-year old-daughter. I was 217 lbs. I got VERY VERY sick during that pregnancy. Full time undergrad coursework, a busy extra-curricular load and a biological father to my unborn child who was not supportive.

The day that I went in to be induced I weight 217 lbs. The same as when I started my pregnancy. My beautiful daughter was born, Olivia Cathleen. Olivia was a happy and healthy baby. When she was 5 1/2 months old her biological father shook her, rocking our world. Life wasn't the same, could it ever be the same again? Would my beautiful baby be able to walk, talk, be able to feed herself? The answers were unsure. I started to eat myself through the pain and uncertainty.

My now-husband was my rock for me during this time and was an amazing father to Olivia. We were married in 2009 and the weight just kept going up. In April of 2010 my husband officially adopted my daughter, it was a very happy moment for our family. In June of 2010 after six months of trying we found out we were pregnant with our son, Matthew. He was born in March of 2011 and we are so blessed to have him in our lives. My weight just kept going up, that whole year. Bringing me to the Mall of America and not fitting in the roller coaster..

Something inside of me snapped. In December I started watching what I ate. I did a juice detox, juicing fresh veggies and fruits for ten days, cut out meat, and started walking. In January we joined a new gym, and I started a Couch to 5K program. Running became my "me" time. Something I didn't have before. Am I a great runner? No.. But I am trying really hard. My first race is on Mothers day 2012.

Since December I have lost 50 lbs, my chest has gone from a whopping 48 DDD to a 38 C. I now wear size 14 pants.  A few weeks ago I visited the Mall of America again and guess what.. I COULD fit in that ride with my daughter.

They told me I couldn't do it, they told me gastric bypass was my only option to get healthy. They told me to schedule a breast reduction because there was no way I was going to lose the weight on my own.

I have about 30 lbs to go until my goal weight, but I learned something very strong the past four months.


December 2011 and April 2012

Would you like to participate in this series? Email me your words and pictures!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Story of My Body: Bethany

I can’t remember a time when my body belonged to me. For years, I have battled over territory that should have been mine from the beginning. Some conflicts were lost; others won. It is only within the last year that my body has truly become my own.

My earliest memory of body awareness is when I was eight years old, fell off my bike, and knocked out my left front tooth. Before that moment, I had the vague sense of invincibility, unaware that pain and injury were even possibilities.

What’s funny is what I don’t focus on from that accident: I had amazing presence of mind for such a young child. I gave my name, address, and various phone numbers. I didn’t cry when they reinserted my tooth without anesthetic. I possessed an inner strength, but the impression I received was the world was dangerous and my body was a fragile thing in its clutches.

This feeling followed me throughout my life and bad experiences blinded me from my strengths. At boot camp, not only was my body not mine, the army drill sergeants told me it belonged to them and Uncle Sam. “Property of the United States,” they joked. I graduated boot camp but it was hard to feel pride in the accomplishment. I was not my own.

Then I sat sobbing in a hospital, trying to convince the nurse to not report my rape, and once again, my body wasn’t mine. It belonged to the people who were invading and humiliating me all over again in order to obtain evidence. It belonged to my rapist, who had taken my virginity. It belonged to the cop who told me to think carefully because I “might ruin some guy’s life.” It belonged to every guy I slept with in an attempt to gain control over a body that didn’t seem like mine.

Trapped in alcoholism and an abusive marriage, I tattooed my body as a defense. The tattoos were a symbol of inner strength I did not possess. I hoped they would give the impression of strength as I stumbled through the bars and dodged my then-husband’s verbal blows. I look at these faded images now—permanent reminders of a girl struggling to take control of the body that others took for granted. Permanent reminders of inner strength I possessed in order to survive.

 Survival was crucial when I became a mother. During both of my pregnancies, but especially the second one, my body was not my own. Breastfeeding my daughter made me feel like I was in even less control. My body belonged to this small person who constantly needed me and it was traumatic. Even though, for the first time, my body was needed for a positive reason, I felt like I was again being used. In an attempt to take back my body, I shaved my head.

It was around that time that I started yoga. I was a runner but an injury had set me back. I felt betrayed by my body and furious that it was not working the way it was supposed to. Running had shown me what my body could do but it was yoga that made me love myself. As my body, broken and abused, healed and grew stronger, I began to master the difficult poses. I realized that I was beautiful; that no matter what my body had been through, no matter what others wanted it to look like, I was capable of strength and beauty.

I am now twenty-eight years old and, for the first time, my body belongs to me. I am married to a man who loves and respects me. I am able to look at myself in the mirror with love and recognize all of the things that I have accomplished: pregnancy, breastfeeding, a marathon, a triathlon, difficult yoga poses, and above all—survival. My body bears the marks and scars of battle and it is beautiful. My body is mine.

Would you like to participate in this series? Email me your words and pictures!

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Story of My Body: Sandra

Sandra around her heaviest.

A few years ago I hit my highest weight of all. 177lbs. On my 5’4 petite body that was a lot. I had been thin all my life. (about 120/125). I had my daughter at 19 and within 8 months was almost back to where I had started with little to no effort! Right after that I got pregnant with our son. I gained about the same amount of weight but it took longer and more effort to lose that weight as well. But I did it!!

Around 2008 I quit smoking, working out and caring about what I ate. Bad choice. That is when I got up to 177lbs. I felt sick. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to play with the kids. I didn’t want to do anything but eat and sleep. I thought I was sick.

I went to the doctor who ran a series of blood tests. She pretty much told me I was fine, needed to lose weight and that I was showing signs of becoming diabetic if I didn’t start doing SOMETHING. That was my HUGE wakeup call. HUGE.

I got a book about eating whole foods and did that for a little over a month. I started walking/jogging at that time also. I was determined. Or so I thought. I lost about 15lbs quite easily and felt SO much better. But I knew I needed to lose more. I wanted to feel good about myself again.

I stayed at around 165 for awhile. I got into running. I did my first race (a 10k) in January of 2010. It was rough, but I DID IT!! I followed that with a 4 mile race and another 10k! Around that time my husband and I decided to TTC. So I hit it hard again. I knew I wanted to lose as much weight as I could before getting pregnant.

It took us 6 months to conceive and by that time I was down to 152. I was running quite a bit (compared to before) and my longest run to date was 8.89. I felt good. I ran and worked out for a couple of months after I found out I was pregnant. Then I got morning sickness so bad (they should really call it all day sickness!!) that I stopped.

Once I started feeling better I was so out of the routine, I gave up. I tried to eat healthy food while pregnant and did pretty well. I was 185 the day I went into labor. The first time I weighed myself after having the baby I was 171. (April 2011)  I knew what I needed to do.

I waited a couple of months before I started to really hit it hard but it was always in the back of my mind! I started Weight Watchers at this time to help with portion control. I was running in the mornings with the baby and then walking/jogging with friends in the evenings with the kids. By the time he was 5 months old (Sept 2011) I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight of 152. I was proud. But I knew I was still not done.

I went back to work part time at this point, and that was hard because I was used to working out twice a day. A luxury I could no longer afford. Somewhere around this point I decided to run a half marathon. I thought it would keep me motivated to keep running and I love having a goal. So I started really training. I would run in the mornings before work or run on my lunch break.

So in November I ran my very first half marathon. (2hrs 33 minutes!!) 4 months after going back to work (January) I had reached 131 lbs. I had gone from a size 10/12 (12/14 before I had Eli) to a size 4. After my half marathon I continued to run and build my mileage up. I was at a point in my running where I thought, "Huh…I think I should do a full marathon."

I had encouragement from friends (RMM) and I went for it. I ran my first full marathon in March of 2012. (4hrs 54 minutes). Not even a year after I had my 3rd child. THAT felt AMAZING!!!

I am proud of what I have accomplished. Because I chose to take care of myself I am where I am. I am a healthier, happier, better mom who enjoys life now. It wasn’t easy. None of it was or continues to be. But it is SO WORTH IT!!!!

My older kids (8 and 9) have always been active but they have been running with me and doing the smaller races, placing in almost every run they do!!!(Elise was running with me before I became pregnant).  They always ask me about my longer runs and always seem to have a bit of awe in their voice when they repeat it back to me. “Really Mom, 15 miles!!!” That makes me smile. I continue to run and continue to set goals for myself to achieve. I still run quite a bit and am trying to incorporate more exercises into my routine. It is hard trying to fit it all in with 3 kids, a husband and working full time, but I manage. I don’t think I’ll ever be “done,” but I am starting to really appreciate what my body can do! There is always another race to do!
From L-R:  May 2012, Jan 2012, June 2011 (about 2 months postpartum)

Would you like to participate in this series? Email me your words and pictures!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Story of My Body

Somehow this seemed appropriate.
Over the past few weeks there seems to be an uptick in my friends' talk of a need to lose weight, the status of their muffin top, their desire for larger breasts, and any number of other statements of body-dislike (or even hating).  Perhaps this is because it is spring and body scrutiny bathing suit season is fast approaching?

It makes me sad and angry to hear women complain about their bodies.  We are accepting and trying to fulfill the expectations of an insane culture.  This is a culture where the bodies of girls - young teens - are the standard of beauty, and the marks of adulthood (cellulite, wrinkles, stretch marks, ...hands..?) are removed from photos.

Yesterday my Facebook news feed was awash in pictures of women's mid-sections as my Running Moms group undertook an ab challenge and everyone posted a "before" picture as a way of committing themselves.  There was a range in shape, size, goals, and journeys-thus-far.  The captions ranged from bits about c-section scars, number of pregnancies, and what the owner of that body thought they could do about the look of their "baby home," as one called it.  Each and every one of us was insecure in some way. 

I am still on a high from my half marathon, and I am feeling tremendously awesome about my body right now.  I don't really care what it looks like!  When I saw a photo of my own midriff, I actually found I was happy with what I saw.  It could be more toned and defined, blah blah blah.  But I wasn't embarrassed to post it on the internet. Yet still hesitated.

I hesitated because I didn't want to seem like I was bragging, I didn't want to hurt anyone else...and I also felt like that picture - and a body in general - simply cannot tell the whole story. 

This all became clear to me on my run this morning.  And I decided I would like to run a series on this here blog in an attempt to combat this problem, and bring another aspect of some of our private struggles out into the light.  This will require your participation!

Here's the deal:  I would love to have submissions of pictures of and stories - stories told by the owners of those bodies pictured, about what that body has been through.  This could be perhaps the story of a scar kept hidden, the story of your stretch marks, the story of invisible wounds and survival.  I want to know what you and your bodies have accomplished - not necessarily weight goals met, but life goals achieved and obstacles overcome.  What is your body capable of?  What story does it tell?  Or perhaps you want to tell us what story is not - perhaps cannot ever be - evident on your body?  As I said in my running group:  "You cannot Photoshop a marathon onto a body." There is just no way to know what someone is capable of or what they have done just by looking at them!

Pictures can be with or without faces.  They can be revealing, or they can be covered in a tent.  Posts can be anonymous or I can link to your blog, use your name and location, etc.  Just let me know.  I want this to speak to the fact that our bodies do not define any of us or speak to the full worth, wisdom, or experience of any of us!

The pictures could be something you love or hate, old or new, whatever you want.

And there is to be no standard format - you can write a poem, submit photos with very few words, one photo and one word, etc.

I welcome your submissions via email and will try to edit/format them very minimally.  I'm willing to do drastic editing, but would require that you 1) start it and 2) approve it before it is posted.  And yes, you can have someone else write it for you if you don't feel like a writer!

I'm excited!  And here is the story of my body to kick this thing off!

That's me at 1 year old.  My sister apparently called me "Bear Ears."
The Story of My Body

There are a few stories my body can tell you.  First off, there is a scar in my cleavage.  When I was in 6th grade I had a large, dark birth mark removed because it was changing.  It was a flat birth mark, but developing bumps.  It was tested and called "benign."

There is also scar on the inside of my right foot.  I had a bone removed and the tendon re-attached.  I was in 5th grade.  The doctor gave me the bone to take home with me and it sat on my desk next to my baby teeth.

The most freakish thing:  I have had stitches in my ears for about 25 years!  They were pinned back when I was about 5 years old.  Somewhere there are pictures of me with a giant bandage around my head.  I was most excited because I had my ears pierced while I was under general anesthesia.  I think Mom had it done because I was a sensitive and teased child - even at 5 years old.  But, truly, the stitches are still there, and there is a lump behind each ear where the knot is.  Perhaps I should have a picture taken - I have never actually seen the stitches, but I know they are visible under my skin.

The stitches hurt when a comb hits them during a haircut.  They are sensitive in general, but I'm embarrassed to call attention to the fact that I have 25-year-old stitches in my ears and ask that people be careful.  I have looked into having them removed.  There is a chance my ears would pop back out, but I don't really care at this point.  I just can't afford the surgery.

Mostly, though, I look normal.  I don't have belly stretch marks.  I am thin.  And yet...

I have inner scars of grief and turmoil...of things I will not write about on this blog (maybe someday...).  And I have an unseen physical illness.  I have grown to love this body, but it is upsetting to be asked by a nurse "you still have high blood pressure?  Even with all that running?" Variations on this question are not uncommon.  Someday I will have the nerve to answer, "Yes.  Even with all that running, my body fails to meet your expectations."

I spent 5 years going to the nephrologist hoping this would be the appointment where I was told I was in remission.  I spent 5 years being told there was still a 30% chance. The five-year window of 30% chances has long since closed.  I just hope for no change, and I keep seeing what this funky body can do.  Sometimes this funky body swells its eyes shut.  But it can run 13.1 miles!!!

My boobs are not the perky orbs they once were  My hips are wider now, causing some of my pants to be ill-fitting.  I wonder if I'll ever have a completely flat stomach again, but I figure it must not be in the cards if all the running and exercising and good eating hasn't done the trick.  (I'm completely unwilling to give up chocolate or any of the other treats I occasionally indulge in.)

Nothing seems to be in the same place anymore, anywhere on my body! But dang this body is amazing!  Two healthy, happy babies.  Hundreds (thousands?) of miles run.  It has endured incredible pain, it has cradled babies, it has enjoyed some fabulous chocolate cake and a few glasses of wine...(this body eats a lot.)

My accomplishments:
-My body and I once played the flute really fricka-frackin' well.
-My body and I have somehow managed to carry two babies to term, despite freaking out a few doctors along the way.
-My body can take some long-term, intense pain.  Like whoa.
-My body came through a terrifying birth experience to become the snuggly safe haven of a little boy.
-My body did this?!?  Are you kidding me?!?  And then became the snuggly safe haven of a second little boy.
-And only a year later, it did this, and a little while later this, and then bam!  I placed in my age group at two separate races and my body said, "screw you, Brea.  You underestimate me!"  Suddenly I had run a 5K in six minutes less than my goal.
-Dearest Body, you have been stable for 5 years in the kidney department.  It's ok to be quirky.  Thanks for not going off the deep end!  And, you know, for working with me on the whole "pregnancy" thing.

And now, Dear Body, can we do a pull-up?  Less than 9 months to go...

Bean took this.

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