My Friend, Michelle

My friend, Michelle, died yesterday while riding her bike.  She was hit by a car while out enjoying the day and doing something she loved.  I have been at a loss for words since I heard the news.  Please bear with me, because I think I may have found a few words tonight.

Michelle was an amazing athlete, person, mother, wife and friend.  Our boys (her youngest son is 2 years older than my son) started swimming together 8 years ago.  I had an 8 year old, 5 year old and 2 year old.  That season, we chatted a few times, cheered on each other’s son on in his respective events, and had a good time.  Shortly after the season ended, Meredith was diagnosed with type1 diabetes.  By the time the next season started, I was a complete wreck.  At the first meet of the season, I traveled 3 hours alone with the kids (now 9, 6, and almost 3) and was a little nervous how the meet would play out.  I was worried about blood sugar dropping, not being able to care for the older kids while I was caring for Meredith and missing Holden’s events.

When I saw Michelle at the meet, I smiled and avoided eye contact, as was my norm since diagnosis.  An hour or so in to the meet, Michelle came over to me, told me she knew about Meredith’s diagnosis, and offered to help if she could.  Michelle was a nurse.  And she seemed to understand this disease that had taken over our lives more than I did.  I thanked her with tears in my eyes (I was really trying not to cry…again), and knew for the first time since diagnosis, that I was not alone.

Throughout the years, Michelle always encouraged my kids at swim meets, cheered on all of the kids, and was “the swim mom.”  She always talked to Sydney and Meredith and always asked me how Meredith was doing.  She supported our JDRF efforts as well.

Michelle was an avid athlete…often seen running, biking, or swimming.  So, when she heard that I had decided to take on my first JDRF Ride to Cure, she texted me and offered encouragement.  She told me about the Monday night women’s rides that she coordinated and encouraged me to come along.  I was nervous and felt out of place at my first ride, and Michelle hung back with me and chatted and helped me and was there for me.

The day after one particularly difficult training ride with my JDRF team on a Sunday, she sent me a text and asked if I was coming to the Monday ride.  I told her how awful I did on the ride the day before and wasn’t sure I wanted to go.  She had her way, and I showed up at the ride.  The route was hilly….I’d been on it before and had to walk up a few of the hills.  I was not looking forward to doing this ride after having a hard ride the day before.  But I did the ride.  And for the first time in my life, I made it up those hills without having to walk.  And Michelle was at the top cheering me on and crying tears of joy with me when I conquered the last one.

Last year, when I told her I was riding in Death Valley for JDRF and I was terrified, she was so excited for me.  She told me it would be the experience of a lifetime…and she was right. She was happy to hear that I am going back this year.  And she sent me a text a week or so ago telling me how excited she was to get out and ride this spring.  I was too and we messaged back about our Monday night rides and getting back in the saddle.

Michelle was my riding mentor, my friend, my encouragement, and a smile whenever anyone needed it.  I’m sure she meant more to me than I to her.  But she was my friend, and she will be there with me whenever I am on my bike, taking on a new challenge, or helping someone in need.  Michelle touched more lives that I can even imagine.  I am proud to say that I knew her, and I hope someday,she will feel the same about me.

Rest in peace.

The Evolution of Shopping With my Mom

As a teenager, my Mom and I loved shopping at the Fox River Mall in Appleton.  We would wake up on a Saturday morning, drive through McDonalds for her Egg McMuffin and coffee and whatever it was that I got (I seriously don’t remember), and hit the road for the 90 mile drive to our favorite mall.  When we got there, we would hit the bathroom by the shoe department in Dayton’s (now Macy’s), look at the shoes, and commence to a day filled with sales, dressing rooms, and decisions.

I don’t specifically remember much that we ever bought, but I remember the time we spent together.  Trying on clothes and shoes, window shopping, people watching…what ever it was, it brought a teenage girl and her mom together.  Our last stop in the mall would again be at Dayton’s…in the Marketplace for Frango Chocolates and then another stop at the bathroom before heading home.

I even remember one day, I got a message in school to call my mom at work.  So, I went to the office and called her.  She asked if I wanted to skip the rest of the day of school and go to the Fox River Mall with her.  Really for no special reason, just for a girls’ shopping day.  Of course I said yes, so I handed the phone to the secretary and my mom told her something and I got a pass for the rest of the day.  Again, 25 years later, I don’t remember the specifics of the trip, just that it happened and it was great time with my mom.

As a teenager, and I’m sure she might even call me a moody teenager (but I wasn’t, really, I remember), we didn’t always see eye to eye.  But whatever the issue at hand, we could always put it aside for a shopping trip.  Even when I was in college, newly married, and with young children.  Our shopping trips changed, though.  When we had my kids, I felt that they were more stressful, and the day was spent managing chaos.  We scaled down the trips to malls, and rarely got away by ourselves.  I was always so exhausted by the end of the day I started to feel that the trips were never going to be the same.  And, our focus was usually on buying clothes or shoes for the kids, so it was really different.

Today, I was able to get away, ALONE, with my mom.  When I texted her asking if she wanted to take a trip with just me to Appleton, she responded, “I’ll pick you up in 45 minutes.”  I took that as a resounding YES!  And I could not have been happier.  My girls were a little unhappy about not going with grandma, but I explained that I needed a day with my mom.  And then I left.

The trip was a little different today.  We went to Wheel and Sprocket to pick up a VivoActive for Holden.  And did a little shopping for me.  I found a pair of cycling gloves that matches my bike, and it my heart was soaring.  I LOVE my bike.  And I really love the bike shop, too.  Everyone is so friendly and helpful.  When we were done at Wheel and Sprocket, we headed to the Fox River Mall.

We shopped and talked, tried on clothes and talked, walked the mall and talked.  It was glorious.  I got a few things at the mall, but what I got from the time with my Mom was priceless.  Time….her undivided attention….bonding in the very place we did when we were the mom-of-a-teenager and a teenager.  Except now, we are the grandma-of-a-teenager and the mom-of-a-teenager.  We have evolved.  Our trip has evolved.  But our love and bond has grown stronger.  And we always have the best time at the Fox River Mall.

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Lessons at the Training Hub

Today, I finished a 10 week spin class at the Training Hub at Wheel and Sprocket in Appleton.  For the last 10 Sundays (minus the one I missed), I have gotten up at 6am, put my riding gear on, and left my house at 7am.  I had a 90 minute drive to get to Wheel and Sprocket and there were a few times that I was convinced that I was absolutely crazy for leaving my warm house when the temperatures were subzero.  I arrived and the spin class was 2 hours of spinning followed by 30 minutes of yoga.  Then lunch and the 90 minute drive home.

There is just something I can’t explain (yet, here I am, trying to explain) about the feeling I get when I am riding.  And, better yet, the feeling I get when I am done.  The 10 week class was a progression in endurance.  Each class was harder than the one before.  There were times every single week that I wanted to give up.  It was HARD.  But nothing worth the while is ever easy, so I put my head down and pedaled on.  Remembering that no one was making me do this and I was there because I wanted to be there helped me to keep going.  At the end of each class, I was so very glad I didn’t give up.

Because, you see, I accomplished something that I didn’t think that I ever would.  Or ever could for that matter.  When I first started to consider this class, I was afraid.  And at the same time, I was intrigued.  I kept talking myself out of the idea, but the idea would not go away.  I have some cycling goals that I want to achieve this year, and I knew that this class would help me get there.  After the 4th time I talked myself out of it, my husband told me to just do it and that I wouldn’t regret it.  He told me that I would regret it if I didn’t do it, so I should just go.  Taking time away from my home and family does not come easy to me.  Knowing I have his support helps ease the guilt of being gone the better part of a Sunday.

I was so terrified at my first class.  I knew one person and I was by far the most inexperienced rider.  Wearing a heart rate monitor with my heart racing was interesting to watch.  But once I got into it, I settled down and began to enjoy myself.  I realized that my leg was not as strong as I had hoped it to be 8 months after knee surgery.  And I learned that I was stronger than I thought I was.  There were times I felt like I absolutely did not belong there.  Everyone else was doing so much better than I was.  And everyone else was a better cyclist than I was.  But I was there…and I was doing it.  And even if I wasn’t as strong or had a fast cadence, I was improving.  I was making changes within myself that could not be seen in my pedal strokes, either.  I was becoming more confident on my bike.

One nice thing about being in a class as opposed to being on the road, was that I knew I could not get dropped from the group.  I think that is my biggest fear…not being able to keep up.  It stems from all of those years of being overweight and feeling like a failure.  On a trainer, I could not be dropped from the group.  Even if I wasn’t riding as fast or as well as the others, I was still part of their group.  And that made me realize that my fear is one of my biggest obstacles on the road.

During last weeks’ class, I had a feeling that I have never felt.  I felt like a cyclist.  The Training Hub made that possible.  I learned so much about biking at the Training Hub.  But I learned more about myself.  Now, as I wait for spring, I am hoping that all of this new found knowledge will translate into an awesome season on the road.  Here in Wisconsin, the temps are warming up and the snow is melting.  As soon as we get a good rain and the roads are clear of salt and sand, I will be on my bike on the road.  I owe a better level of fitness to my coaches and fellow cyclists at the Training Hub.  I hope if I am lucky enough to ride with them this summer, they will see a more confident rider who is tackling her fear and getting better one pedal stroke at a time.

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Progress

For a while, I have been pushing myself in the workout arena.  I haven’t really been feeling like it has been making much of a difference.  I rarely miss a workout, and when I do, I try to make up for it the next day.  But, alas, the scale has not been my friend.

I have been trying to be more conscious of my eating.  Cutting down on everything processed and increasing my protein intake.  It’s getting a little better, but I have still been feeling defeated.  In my head, I should be making more progress.  However, I do not have a concrete definition of what that progress should look like.  Should progress be a number on the scale?  A level of fitness that I have never seen before?  Should progress be better fitting clothes?  I cannot answer that.  I just know that I feel like I should be making more progress.

A few days ago, I decided to come up with a clear picture of what I am trying to achieve.  Hoping that will be what I need to feel like I am accomplishing something.  I am also trying NOT to compare myself to other people (key word…trying).  About 6 months ago, I was encouraged to take my measurements on a regular basis.  Taking a tape measure to my body was not anything I was looking forward to making part of my routine, but I did it anyway.  So, in a rare moment of courage, I grabbed my tape measure and wrote down my numbers.  In comparing them to previous numbers, I discovered….progress!  Inches are gone where inches used to be.  I can live with that.

The very next day, I decided to switch things up with my workout.  I went to the gym for the first time in over a month.  I have been working out at home with a mix of strength training, yoga, and the dreadmill (aka treadmill).  In physical therapy after my knee surgery, I was encouraged to run on the elliptical.  I really do not care for the elliptical, so I have not done any running.  I decided that I could suck up my dislike of the machine for at least 30 minutes so I gave it a try.

I have never been a seasoned runner.  I really only ran for a few months before my surgery stopped me.  And I certainly was never very fast.  10 months ago, when I last ran, I could do about a 14 minute mile.  Now, that may seem slow, but my very first mile was 17 minutes.  So I was making progress.  I hopped on the elliptical and talked myself into thinking I was having fun.  I just about fell off the darn thing when I hit a mile in 12.33 minutes!  Holy Shit.  I have never, in my entire life, ran that fast.  Granted it was on a machine in the gym, but I’ve never done that either.  I almost shouted out loud when I hit 2 miles at 25.10.  This could be considered progress.

So why am I rambling on about all of these events that I consider progress?  Because I think I have defined that word…at least for myself.  You see, progress is different for everyone.  For me, it was realizing that all of my hard work is paying off, even if it is in different ways that I thought it should.  Just like every individual person, progress is what you make it.  And sometimes, you have to look out of the box to see just how far you have come.

Pushing on

Today we had spin class.  The day starts early.  Up at 6:15am (on a Sunday!) to have time to grab some peanut butter toast and coffee and get ready to hit the road by 7:15am.  Then we have a 90 minute drive (not much traffic that early on a Sunday morning) to get to spin class.  But what a better way to start the day.

Today’s class was intense.  I know the classes get progressively more difficult and push harder each week.  That’s one of the reasons I like the class.  I need to be pushed.  And I really need to get ready for bike season 2016.  But today’s class was hard.

We did a series of intervals where we had to hold a higher heart rate for extended periods of time (like 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes) and then have a recovery time.  I was ok with the 1 minute and 2 minute intervals, but the 3 minute one was killing me.  I really wanted to throw in the towel.  But I didn’t want to admit to the others at the class that I was struggling.  That’s a theme for me, but more on that later.  I have a goal for the end of the ride season, and I am determined to accomplish it.

So this is what was going on in my head during the first 3 minute interval. I decided to close my eyes and picture myself accomplishing my goal.  Eyes closed, I’m gonna do this for 3 minutes….ok….that’s got to be about 3 minutes, right?  1 minute down.  Ok…reassess.  You can do this, don’t be such a big baby.  Close your eyes, you only have 2 more minutes.  But I really want to quit.  Ok.  So now I am picturing myself reaching my goal and I’m picturing Meredith.  Meredith who can never give up on taking care of her diabetes.  Ok…are we done yet???  2 minutes down and 1 more to go.  Are you kidding????  I really want to quit.  I really don’t know that I can do this.  Really…what’s the big deal if I stop?  It won’t really mean anything.  I can still accomplish my goal and I don’t have to tell Meredith I gave up.  Holden won’t really know I quit because he’s not paying any attention to me.  So, just stop already.  15 seconds left.  WTF? I can do it for 15 more seconds, right??  Hell yes…I did it!

I think we ended up doing 3 of those intervals…it really could have been more.  I was half dead by the end of the 2nd one.  But I was also a little proud of myself for pushing on.  I am glad that I didn’t give up.  It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but if I had given up, I think I would have beat myself up for it and that would not have been pretty either.  I stuck through a really hard work out.  I am sore and I am tired.  I am also pretty satisfied. I did something that I don’t know that every one can do…I pushed through the hard part.

The Spirit of Adventure

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“Let the spirit of adventure set the tone.”  This was the message on my desk calendar on Wednesday.  It really couldn’t be more fitting for that very day.  Wednesday, January 20 was the day that registration opened for the 2016 JDRF Ride to Cure events.

This year, I will be riding in 2 JDRF Ride to Cure rides.  The first will be in La Crosse, WI in August.  It will be my 3rd year riding La Crosse, and it is an incredible ride.  In October, Holden and I will be riding in Death Valley, CA for the second time.  Death Valley is an amazing place.

Both of these rides have been life changing for me.  The spirit of Ride weekend is really like no other.  You see, JDRF rides are fundraising rides.  Each rider has a minimum dollar amount to raise and the money goes to further JDRF’s mission and…

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365 Days of 41

Last year, I wrote a clever little blog about the 40 lessons I learned during the 365 days that I was 40.  Here it is, one year later, and I’m reflecting on my 41st year.  I was mentally making a list of 41 lessons to blog about when it hit me…I’m not getting any younger.  If I do this, I will have to learn more every year.  My daughter is turning 10 in a few weeks.  She only would have 9 lessons to reflect upon.

And while aging does bring its privileges, learning more lessons each year is not a bad thing.  I hope I will always be able to come up with the new things that I have learned as each year passes.  I’m not sure I will hit 41, but here goes…

  1. Parenting isn’t easy.  I’ve known this since my first child was an infant.  But I keep learning it as they get older.  Especially when there is a strong-willed pre-teen girl in the house.
  2. As hard as parenting is with that pre-teen girl, it is even more rewarding.
  3. If you do your job as a parent even when it is so terribly hard and you want to give up, you just might get a pretty decent human adult out of the deal.
  4. When your child tells you that you are the worst parent in the world, it is a compliment.
  5. The child that tells you that you are the worst parent in the world will also tell you that you are the BEST.MOM.EVER.
  6. No matter how many times I cover up my grey hairs, I am proud that I have earned them.
  7. Watching your children in sporting events takes more out of you than it does of the athlete.
  8. It’s good to make plans and lay out steps to achieve your goals.
  9. It’s also good to have goals that you never thought you could ever achieve, but are willing to give it a try.
  10. Death Valley is one of the most beautiful places on this planet.
  11. La Crosse, WI in August can be miserably hot…hotter than Death Valley in October.
  12. It’s ok to drink more than 1 beer at the finish line of a JDRF Ride To Cure.
  13. Life throws curve balls.
  14. You can duck away from the curve balls.
  15. Or you can hit the suckers out of the park.
  16. Curve balls can take a long time to get over.
  17. Your goals can still be achieved even if it’s not the way you had planned (hence the curve ball).
  18. Using crutches is hell.
  19. 6 weeks using crutches feels like an eternity.
  20. A blood clot in your calf feels like a perpetual Charlie Horse.
  21. If you ever feel like you have a perpetual Charlie Horse, you need to see your doctor.
  22. If you have a blood clot in your leg (or anywhere else, I’m sure), medical personnel fit you in and give you the VIP treatment.
  23. You don’t have to wait at an Emergency Room when you are having chest discomfort while you have a blood clot (even if you are convinced that you pulled a muscle while waving your hands above your head on Splash Mountain).
  24. The Celebration, FL is one of the nicest I’ve ever been in.
  25. You may not always like your friends’ behavior, but you can still like your friends.
  26. I love to ride my new bike.
  27. I love to ride my new bike even more after 6 weeks on crutches.
  28. I have the most amazing co-workers in the world.
  29. No matter how old you are, you can learn to swim.  I’m not talking about me.  I was the teacher…I taught someone ELSE how to swim.
  30. Training rides are better when you are riding with friends.
  31. You meet the most amazing people while riding your bike.
  32. My children never, ever cease to amaze me.
  33. Desert rains can cause lots of damage.  And flash flooding is nothing to laugh about.
  34. I need to have more confidence in myself.
  35. I can still get “hit on.”  Even though it takes me a VERY long time to figure out that that is what is actually going on.
  36. I laugh out LOUD when a guy tells me I look like I’m 25…26 at the most!
  37. Being active and living healthy make me look young (not exactly 25, but really, who am I to argue??).
  38. Accomplishing a goal leaves you glowing.
  39. You never know who you are inspiring or for what reasons.
  40. The back gate of a mini-van can do a LOT of damage to a person’s head.
  41. My life isn’t as boring as I think it is…

Here’s to 365 more days of lessons!

 

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