Thursday, October 31, 2013

Team S.J.G.R. Thursday Huddle #18: RUN TELL DAT.


When I went to my primary doctor for my annual check up recently she asked me an interesting question.

"What are your goals for the next year? That is, health-related goals?"

Okay. I have to admit that I'm kind of glad that she clarified that question since it probably wouldn't have meant very much to her to hear about how I am determined to keep my home tidier and empty out the junk drawers. (Which, depending on which day it is, could totally be a major health-related hazard.)

But I digress.

The point is that my doctor--and many others like her--recognize the importance of getting the patient as involved as possible in their own outcomes. Goal-setting is a big part of that. And so. She asked me about any goals that I might have and I just sort of sat there with this puzzled look on my face because I wanted to give a solid answer.

Crazy, I know. (It's the lifelong medical student in me, I suppose.) I guess I was thinking about things like setting a quit smoking date or losing like ten pounds and felt like since I didn't really have a goal like that, I was drawing a blank. And since she saw that, she clarified once again.

"The goal can be anything related to your health. Anything that you haven't done but hope to attain and that you wish to work toward."

I still wasn't sure this counted but I went ahead and shared about the Army Ten Miler. "Well. I registered for the Army Ten Miler in Washington D.C. That's coming up in October. I'm not sure if this fits what you're asking."

"Have you ever run a ten mile race?" she asked.

"Never. I'm a new runner, actually."

And smiled big and nodded hard. Then she typed my goal straight into her electronic medical record. "That's great! What are you doing to prepare?"

And so I explained my training program. I told her about my supportive friends and this whole world of runner girls that I'd come to know better. And then I mentioned the part about being inspired by Deanna and how this whole idea of heart health, in a way, is something I do to honor her as well as try to prolong my life. The look on her face told me that she didn't know. She didn't know about my sissy leaving us.

"I didn't know, Kim. I'm so, so sorry." And when I looked at my doctor I could tell that she meant that. She touched my hand and didn't say much more at first. I told her what happened and she was thoughtful and empathic and understanding. I cried a little and that was okay, too.

"So what is the date for the 10 miler?" she asked.

"October 20."

"Maybe you can get some kind of neat shirt or something. I can't wait to hear how it goes. Any other goals?"

"I did sign up for another 10 miler here in Atlanta that happens to be the following week. If I feel good on the first one, I am going to go for that one, too. But since I had the stress fracture before I want to listen to my body."

"That's awesome, Kimberly," she responded again. "Just take your time and don't over do it. You should be fine based on what I see here." And that went into my record, too.

Well. As you know, I did that Army 10 miler. And you know what? Last weekend, I was out there with quite a few of our other Team S.J.G.R. people running the Atlanta 10 miler that following week. I felt strong and proud at the end. I loved that I had set a goal -- wait, GOALS -- and achieved them. It was really encouraging.

And you know? Something about putting it into the atmosphere by writing about that first goal on this blog and even telling my doctor motivated me more. It put my feet to the fire because now I knew someone would ask. "How was your race? How is the training coming along?" And no, it wasn't a goal to fit into skinny jeans or to blow somebody's mind at homecoming. We know that that isn't really sustainable and it also makes us do crazy things to get there like trying liquid-only diets or other extreme things that don't feel logical while we're doing them. This goal was different. It was something that I was doing for my heart as well as my overall mental health. And something that I knew would make me feel connected even more to my sister. . . if that even makes sense.

I don't know.

I just thought of something. Saying those goals out loud put them into the universe. And we all know that there is truly something significant about that. What I just thought of is that it goes for our positive goals and affirmations as well as those negative ones. You've heard me say it here before:

"Leave the hating to the professionals."

Saying negative things about yourself or your ability to attain your best life can become a self-fulfilled prophecy. Uttering that you just "can't" ever quit smoking or that you just "give up" on whatever it is you're doing or trying is a sure fire way to make that the case. And guess what? When you take a deep breath, quiet that little voice and decide to dream big and out loud, it ignites something inside of you.

And others.

And others! You inspire people. You motivate them. No, not just by weight loss. But by achievements. Intestinal fortitude. Stick-with-itness. Does that make sense?

Here is my next goal for myself: 

Yep. I put it on my vision board and, as of Tuesday, have officially registered to run 13.1 miles on Thanksgiving morning. Talk about earning your turkey and dressing! Dude. I am more than slightly terrified of the thought but also extremely excited about knowing that this goal awaits me. I may have told you guys but when I first started running, I originally wanted to run a half marathon in Deanna's memory. I had set my sights on the Chicago Women's Half in June 2013 because the proceeds went to the American Heart Association. But then I had that fibular stress fracture which set me back bigtime and that? Man, that was super discouraging. 

But I had some goals in mind. A goal to run. A goal to challenge my body and give a gift to my cardiovascular health by tackling some yet unattainable distance. So once I healed, I started back at it. Slow at first. And kind to myself the entire way. I reworked my goals. I picked something meaningful and realistic. And then I said it out loud.

Sure did.

What I don't think I said was that a lot of these goals were things I wanted to achieve in 2013. This is a significant calendar year for us. 2013 is the centennial of our sorority, and Deanna would have celebrated all year long. So getting this done in 2013 is huge for me. 

And is just the beginning. 

You know what else? November 15 will mark one year since Deanna made her heavenly transition. And instead of focusing my energy on that, I will think about how many of you are doing things for your hearts and your minds and your lives. And how much Deanna would have loved having that kind of impact. Just the thought of how many people she has touched who never met her in person is so comforting and it somehow feels. . . .I don't know. . . divine in a sense. 


So that's it. I've made it public so now it's on. My eyes are set firmly on that prize. I will complete a half marathon in 2013. That is my goal. Put out into the universe. I will train my body so that I can run strong for 13.1 miles in November of 2013. Every pant and every hill will be a celebration of my heart, my life and my love for my unforgettable sister. It will also serve to remind me of what we can do when we make up our minds. And for this one? All 13.1 will be for her. Which in the end, is for me, too.

And you know what? I think I will do something similar every August (Deanna's birth month) and every November (Deanna's transition month) from here forward as long as my body allows. Yes. That is my GOAL. And you can feel free to ask me about it to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Okay. So what are your goals? I want to hear them. Put them in the atmosphere. Share it here. Tell it. Say it. Own it. And then? Do it. 

And after you have? Set new ones. Dream bigger. Reach higher. And even if it scares the hell out of you--don't keep it to yourself. Don't. It is not "a jinx" to put it out there. Or any other ridiculous thing that stops you from owning your loftiest goals. Yeah, I said it. So tell somebody. Say it out loud.

Or like the kids in the neighborhood used to say: 


Which for those of you who aren't from around the way means "I DON'T CARE WHO YOU TELL! GO TELL EVERYBODY WHAT I SAID!"

Or better yet, as the Grady elders say:


Which is kind of a more biblical way to say RUN TELL DAT. (Hmmm. Now that I think of it, "run tell dat" usually preceded somebody getting into a fist fight after the school bell rang so I take that part back.)

Uhh yeah.

Wait. What was my point again?

Always the Deanna mile--the last one.

Oh yeah. Goals. Set them. Tell them. Do them. It's good for your hearts. Figuratively and literally.

That's all I got. What you got? What's your goals? Big or small. Come on. You GOT this. You DO. So go ahead. Go tell it on the mountain, people. And while you're at it--once you've told 'em, tell them this:  



Happy Thursday. The realness don't stop--even on Trick o' Treat Day.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . .y'all don't know nothing 'bout no Mahalia Jackson! Don't nobody tell it on the mountain like Mahalia. Shooooot.

and this is sure to get your feet stomping and your hands clapping. . .Run and Tell That!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Random acts of kindness.

I always ask the patients on my service about the residents and medical students assisting in their care on our team.

"Is everyone taking good care of you?" I ask. "Are they attentive? Do they answer your questions?"

And, of course, that "they" includes me but it also allows me to get the real scoop on what happens when I'm not watching. 

The other day I was talking to a patient who almost became tearful when I asked her that question. A warm smile erupted over her cheeks and she gladly shared her thoughts about my intern--her doctor--Ajay K.

"My doctor," she started out, "my doctor is just. . . .so. . . ." Her voice trailed off and then she sighed. "He's just kind. He just has the kindest eyes and whenever I see him I feel more calm. That doctor is a kind, kind man." And I looked her in her eye when she said that, too. I could tell that  she wasn't just talking but that she meant every single word.


So not only is this intern a kind man with kind eyes. He is kind-kind.Which could quite possibly be one of the best things I've heard someone say about someone in a very long time.

Yesterday when we were rounding, I covertly captured the image above. And I love this image because in it I can see everything that his patient was speaking of. His body language is relaxed. And his eyes? Kind. Kind-kind even.

He's spending the month with us on Internal Medicine although his future career is in Emergency Medicine. Something about knowing that there will be a person like him waiting in a trauma bay or a procedure room for scared and vulnerable patients gives me great solace about the future.

I have said it before and I will say it again. The future of medicine is bright. I know this for sure because  I see glimpses of it every single day.


Happy Tuesday.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Heart of a Champion.

Zachary on Saturday after his game

Everybody wants to be a winner
and take their place at the top
Everyone wants their name up in lights
for the good times never stop

Sometimes the bad luck
will creep up and catch you by surprise
Your mind's confused
You feel misused
You've got to leave those troubles behind

Sometimes you win
Sometimes you lose
Sometimes you want to cry
Sometimes you play the fool

You gotta hold on
a little longer
You try to be
a little stronger
and you can win
you can win
and everything
is gonna be yours

~ Anita Baker


Last year his team was undefeated. We played ten football games and not a single one ended with us doing anything other than victory dances. And that? That was a great experience. It was not only Zachary's introduction to football but really mine, too. So cheering for a winning team on your first go around the block was pretty darn awesome.

Yeah, it was.

Last year, Zachary was still learning the game. He was confused on plays more often than not and, though he eventually got the hang of it, wasn't necessarily a star on the team. But this year? This year has been different. He's older and stronger. He's smarter and faster. And this time? He's one of the team leaders. One of the "bigger boys" who sets the tone and often makes the touchdowns and winning tackles. In other words, he's a pacesetter and part of the climate-control for team morale much like the seven year-olds were on his team last year.

Zachary's team has been very good this year. But no, they aren't undefeated like last year. And I can tell that he truly expects to win always. That doesn't bother me so much. It makes him go harder and give more of himself. And usually it pays off.  That said, he had to learn some hard lessons at his last game. Harry and I found out fast that our son had to understand how to handle failure.

Yeah, man.

When his team fell behind, I could tell he was getting frustrated. Even in full pads, I could see it in his body language. His shoulders slumped and his feet shuffled. With each play, he went into it with less and less zeal. And you know what happened? Many of the other kids followed his lead.

His team lost. And not only did they lose, they lost big. To a team that they'd blown out just three weeks before. Zachary was devastated.

We talked a lot about it after the game. I asked him about his feelings and admitted that it surprised me to see him give up. He immediately started crying. I gave him a big hug and kissed him on the top of his head. "You're a leader, son. Remember that. Leaders take losses and learn from them."

"We should have beat that team."

"Okay. Maybe so, Zachary. But what did you learn?"

"I don't know, Mom."

"Zachary, you have to have the heart of a champion even if you're losing. If you are giving your best effort, then you have nothing to be sad about. You can't drop your head. You have to run hard to the end no matter what. Does that make sense?" He just stared at me with wet eyelashes. "Z? Do you think you gave your best for the whole game today?"

"At first I did. But then I didn't."

"You won't always win every game. But that doesn't mean you're not always a winner."

"Dad said I'm a leader so I can't do things I did last year."

"Dad is right."

"Your favorite player Ray Lewis lost a lot of big games before winning the Super Bowl. And one time? This one guy named Michael Strahan was in the Super Bowl and his team was losing by a touch down. It was the very, very end of the game, too. Everybody thought the other team was going to win, too. But since he was a team leader he got in everybody's face and told them really loud, 'The final score will be 17 -14! Believe it and it will happen!'"

His eyes widened. "Did they win?"

"Yep. And the final score was 17 -14! Crazy right?"

"Is it on a YouTube video?"


"The 17 -14 thing. And the Ray Lewis thing. Can you show me on YouTube?"

And seeing as everything is on YouTube I gave him this answer. "Probably."

And you know what happened next? I sat with my boy and we watched YouTube clips exemplifying the heart of a champion. And we talked and explored and reflected on what it all meant. We also came up with ideas for what you should do when you lose or you're losing.

"You gotta stay pumped up like Ray Lewis!" Zachary said with new found excitement. "And you have to keep on trying for the next time if you lose. You gotta believe you can win it, too."

"Yep. You have to take the loss and make yourself go even harder. That's how the heart of a champion gets strong."

"Ray Lewis lost a lot?"

"Did he? Oh man, he did. Some really disappointing losses, too. And not just him. A lot of champions lost before they won. Or they won and lost and went harder until they won again."

"I'm gonna go harder."

"You know what, son? Me, too."

After that, I showed him one more YouTube video--and I realized that it was just as much for me as it was for him:

Here's what I know for sure: Everything can't be victory and roses. And even the most beautiful rose gardens need a little dirt and failure to grow.


Happy Sunday. And I want you to know that Zachary has been doing the Ray Lewis dance ALL DAY.

Here's the videos we watched in addition to the one above. . . . 

This one was our favorite:

At the end of this one is the actual footage of Strahan pumping up his losing team in Super Bowl 42. (Ignore the weird part about Tony Romo that lasts 2 seconds.)

And lastly this song has been on my mental iPod. . . I also played for Zachary today and he liked it. It was one of Auntie Deanna's favorite songs.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Team S.J.G.R. Belated Thursday Huddle #17: Three quickies.

What's up, Team? I'm super-exhausted on the wards so forgive the late huddle. This one will be short and sweet. Three quick things you should know if you want to prevent heart disease that you may or may not have known.

Like to hear them? Here they go.

#1:  Bad teeth can mean bad news for your heart.

Yup. Did you know that the inflammation related to periodontal disease and gingivitis is linked to heart disease? Like, for real, it is. So people on our team need to be seeing not only their dentists but their dental hygienist on a regular.


And let me just go right ahead and say I had a schedule conflict and cancelled my last dental cleaning. So I am like three months overdue. And seeing as I have historically had more cavities than every person reading this blog combined, that's a fail. So really, I'm writing this for me more than just about anyone else.

Why haven't I gone yet? Well. My hygienist recently left. And I have sensitivity issues with my gums and teeth so finding her was like finding the BHE. I am secretly afraid to see a new hygienist because I am certain that she (or he) will dig one of those instruments in the exact wrong place and cause me to yelp out loud (which HAS happened to me before.)


But since I am aware of the link between yuck mouth and coronary disease, I need to quit tripping. I'll be calling my dentist's office TO-morrow.

Take home: People who want to prevent heart disease see their dentists regularly for good oral health maintenance.

#2:  Tilapia isn't as great as people think.

Awwww damn! I can hear y'all already. But don't kill the messenger, people. Don't!

So check it. The word on seafood is that it is good for the ol' ticker. And in a lot of instances that's true. So here's what you need to know:

The best fish you can eat? WILD fish caught in cold waters like Pacific salmon, for example. WILD caught fish means that it wasn't in a farm and that it was just living in, well, the wild. What that translates to is fish that gets fattened up on things other than corn or chicken poop.

Uhhh, yeah.

Okay, so there's two issues here as it relates specifically to tilapia. First, the tilapia we enjoy here in the states is almost always imported. Buy it frozen? Likely from China. And non-frozen? Probably from Latin America. And all of those start with ginormous fish farms. Think chicken factories but fish. So they feed them as cheaply as possible and what's in some of the feeds is so disgusting that I won't even say. It's kind of hard to find wild caught tilapia. Okay, so that's the first thing.

The second and more significant one as it relates to heart disease is the fact that tilapia doesn't have much of the heart disease fighting omega 3 fatty acids but what it does have is its not so heart-smart cousin omega 6 fatty acids. It should be called omega 666 fatty acids because it's kind of the devil.

Wait. Did I say that out loud?

So should you never eat tilapia? Hmm, I wouldn't say that. But since I've known this, I don't eat it often. Plus word on the street is that tilapia will eat ANYTHING. And folks that are trying to make money might feed them whatever is the easiest thing they can. Such as chicken poop.


Take home:  Like fish? Take a walk on the WILD side. Learn to like WILD caught Pacific or Alaskan Salmon. Or some other fatty cold water WILD non-farm raised fish.

#3:  Broken hearts can lead to broken hearts. Especially when left untreated.

Feeling blue? Can't sleep? Don't want to do the things you used to enjoy doing? You might want to get that checked out. For real.

There is excellent data that directly links depression to heart disease. Yes.

Take home: Stop tripping if you are feeling like Eeyore. Get to your doctor. Get screened. And if you are depressed? Let go of the idea that accepting that as a diagnosis means you're weak or broken. Depression is treatable.

So there it is. Three quickies.

Here's the recap for the busy people or the ones with ADD:

  1. Shut yo' mouth! Yo' teeth are related to yo' heart. So better yet, OPEN yo' mouth.
  2. Tilapia should probably not be your every day go-to fish. Sorry. Just remember omega 666. And them being fed chicken poop and living with 55,000 other fish in a cage who are also pooping. (Just sayin'.)
  3. If it's more than the blues it could be hazardous to your heart health. If you are depressed, quit tripping and get treated. For real.

So there you go.  Yes, people. The shit just got real all over again.

Aaaaand I'm out.

Happy Thursday-really-Friday-now.

Just you and I.

My colleague, Stacie S., caught spending time one on one with her patient.

"Just you and I--we can trust each other."

~ Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle


It was mostly logistical that I saw him alone at first. Me having to be in one place while he was in another. Or him off the floor in a test when I came by with the whole team in tow on rounds. And, for whatever reason, that's how it ended up being for the first few days he was on my hospital service. So much of our initial bond was forged one on one.

It was a prolonged hospital stay, so I saw him a lot. And though those initial days were just one-on-one, on most of the others I was able to see him with the team. That said, even when there weren't updates or he was just waiting around for results, I always found myself returning to his room for another encounter with just the two of us.

He was a Grady elder so I knew that this was part of it. Some kind of magnetic pull always lulls me in their direction but his even more. I liked his smile and the fuzzy grey beard that he had growing in since he wasn't keen on hospital razors. I loved his laugh and his wisdom. I soaked it all up every afternoon like a sponge.

"I never was big on crowds," he said to me the other day.

"Sir?" I replied.

"Groups. You know, a whole lot of folks talking all at once. Especially about personal things. I bet you it's a lot of patients that feel like that."

I paused for a few moments and thought about that. I was sitting beside his bed in a chair. Nothing was really going on so I was leaned back with my arms folded. It was comfortable, familiar, unhurried. I squinted one eye which let him know I needed more information.

"When y'all march in here with all them people -- 'specially at the beginning -- it's kind of nerve-wracking. I did like your style, though. You held my hand. You looked right at me and talked to me like we was old friends."


"But then you always came on back by yourself. That's when I felt more comfortable telling you stuff. And asking my questions and getting things off my chest, you know?"

"Yes, sir."

"I jest like that you come back. I hope you do that for a lot of folks. 'Specially the really sick ones like me. We need somebody that come on back and pull up a chair. Even when it ain't bad news, you know? Jest pull up a chair and sit down and say, 'How you doin'? What you know good?'" And we both chuckled when he said that last part because it had become a part of my daily greeting.

"That's a good word, sir."

"Yeah. That's my advice for you to give to them young doctors you got traipsin' in behind you. Tell 'em to come on back by theyself. To sit on down in a chair and relax. Even if they do it for only a few minutes. It make a whole lot of difference. You get way more from your patient like that."

I nodded hard and let him know I was getting it. Hearing it and getting it and feeling it, too.

"Can I admit that at the beginning, I saw you alone because I think I was kind of busy? And came back to get more details since I couldn't get them all on rounds? I just don't want you thinking I got all this figured out." I laughed at myself softly.

"You got something figured out, Miss Manning. You a people person. That I knew from the first day. And people persons just sort of know. They pays attention and they ask you about things like how many brothers and sisters you got or whether or not you think okra taste good in collards or not." He smiled when he said that. "That don't got nothin' to do with why I'm here. But I tell you it's the reason I agreed to a lot of stuff. I feel like a got me a friend in this hospital. So even if you didn't mean to, you made me feel special."

"You've made me feel the same."

"So I say just do that on purpose. Go on and doubleback and see about your patients one-on-one without no crowd. 'Cause a lot of folks don't like a crowd. And people like me like when the doctor with the most experience come on in and have a seat. Look to me like the whole operation is good when that happen."

"Does that happen much?"

"No, it don't. That's why I'm telling you this."

I nodded once more. Then I stuck it on a mental post it note for later. I sure did.

And that was the gist of that visit. The exam wasn't dramatically different from the day before. But the new resolve this wise elder had just given me changed my outlook and provided me with a new way to be even more intentional about my patient interactions.

And this? This, my friends, is Grady. The Grady Memorial Hospital that doesn't make the news channels. . . .but should.


Happy Day after Zachary's Birthday.

A little old school country and western for your listening pleasure. Hear this in a non-intimate way. . . . .because that's what's been playing on my mental iPod ever since that day. Y'all don't know nothin' 'bout Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal "Crazy Rapunzel Hair-Lady" Gayle. Ha ha ha.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Happy 7th Birthday, Zachary!

I've always liked the number seven. I like that it's a number that can't be divided by anything.


Today my baby boy turned seven. And, like always, he faced this day with the same energy and determination as he does all 364 other ones each year. I love that about him.

I broke away from Grady and met him in the school cafeteria today for a hot date over some hot lunch. And really, all I mostly did was sit and listen to the conversation of first grade boys which, if you haven't heard it, consists of like three or four subjects. In between discussions of Minecraft, Pokemon and football, Zachary would periodically lean over and wrap his arms around me and hug me super hard. Then he'd pucker his lips and let me plant one on him right there in front of his friends.Without even flinching.


Now that? That is so Zachary. The furthest thing from his mind was what those other boys would say about him canoodling with his mother over pineapple cubes and sweet potatoes. He's the same kid who as a kindergartner -- in response to being chided about his lavender shirt being a "girl shirt" -- cocked his head sideways, narrowed his eyes and said this:

"What? I'm a boy. And this is my shirt. So how can it be a girl shirt? That's a dumb thing to say."

And that? That was the end of that. Surely was.

Some other kid said that Pokemon cards are for little kids not big kids like people in first grade. That was today while we had lunch. And Zachary shrugged and said, "I still like Pokemon cards. I like the show, too. And I'm in first grade so that's kind of dumb to say." And the kid said, "But it's a baby show." And Zachary said, "Not to me. I like Pokemon. And I just play with what I like to play with." Then he changed the subject.

So, yeah, that was the end of that, too.

I've not met too many people as confident as he. And not in that conceited way either. He's just one of those kids that knew who he was from the start and never needed anyone to remind him. Or maybe we remind him without knowing? I don't know.

Either way, his swagger is on a thousand-trillion.

But. Despite that uber-confidence, he is always happy to look up to his big brother. He wants to be with him and hear his thoughts. And he works hard at being his friend. And he is his friend. His very best one, actually.

I love that about him, too.

He's a tough guy--no question. Zachary can mean mug with the best of them. But so far he's never too tough to seek a post-game snuggle from his mother.

No matter who is looking.

You know? He's just a leader and not a follower. And I watch him and learn from him every single day. I really do. I am in constant awe of his self image.


Happy birthday, my strong baby boy. On this, your seventh birthday, I resolve to do all in my power to keep you whole and, just like the number seven, divisible by nothing but the number one.


Happy Wednesday.

Every year on Zachary's birthday I revisit this post--the birth story of Zachary's arrival in 2006. Enjoy it if you haven't before. And hey--revisit it if you don't feel like folding laundry yet. :)

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Army Ten-Miler: A run for your life.

Feel it comin' in the air
And the screams from everywhere
I'm addicted to the thrill
It's a dangerous love affair
Can't be scared when it goes down
Got a problem, tell me now
Only thing that's on my mind
Is who's gonna run this town tonight?

~ from Jay Z feat. Rihanna "Run This Town"


A letter to Deanna:

Dear Sissy,

Remember that day that we were sitting at my kitchen table and I told you that I wanted to be a runner? And then I started laughing and you said, "Why are you laughing? You can totally be a runner, Kimberly!"

Do you remember that?

Well, I do.

I do because on that same day I told you that I hoped to one day run the Peachtree Roadrace and also how it was sort of on my pie-in-the-sky bucket list to someday run The Army Ten-Miler. And I laughed hard at myself again for even daring to utter those words "ten-miler" because we both knew that while I have always exercised, running always seemed to elude me.

"Crystal H. runs a bunch. Let me reach out to her to see what she says." That's what you said to me and then, of course, like you always do, you made sure that we got in contact with one another. And by "we" I mean "she" (who is just as much of a follow-througher as you) texted and emailed me promptly with all sorts of permutations of running groups and gatherings.

Sure did.

I can't say that really did the trick but I am thankful to you for that. And Crystal, too, for trying back then. Yeah. So even though I publicly professed my desire to be a runner girl, I guess I never had anything to nudge me hard enough to get over the hump of . . . well. . . running. 

Mmm hmmm.

Well. When you left? Man. It was literally the darkest time of my life. But what's crazy is--because you were always so full of light--even at the times where things felt pitch black, I could always see your light shining in the midst. And the crazy thing is that instead of shining out of you in the living, it started shining out of all kinds of other people. Including me.


So guess what, Sissy? You'd be so, so proud of what I'm going to tell you. That's what did it. Remembering you saying to me that I could and wanting to focus my energy and pain into something meaningful. So yes. I actually started running. Like, for real, Sissy. Can you even believe it? I know, I know. You're going to say, "I knew you could do it, Pookie!" But see I didn't. I really didn't know for sure that I could. But knowing that you always believed I could do anything I put my mind to doing motivated me. It did.

So I ran the Peachtree Road Race. Sure did! On the 4th of July with Frieda. Yes, I know it's hard to get in that race. And no, I didn't have my act together enough to get a number, but our favorite brother Will let me have his. Woot! So, yep, I ran that race with a big ol' sign that said "WILLIAM" across my waist. Which was actually sort of cool, right?

And guess what else? Crystal and I ran a race on your birthday weekend. Lisa was there and so was Sonya from our chapter. And Sonya and Crystal were all Delta-tastic in their Delta gear which you totally would have loved. Totally. That AKA girl Lisa, of course, came in head-to-toe pink--including a little skirt.  

Mmm hmmm.

We still love her though. Pink get up and all. Hee hee!

But what I really want to tell you about is what I did yesterday morning. . . . .

Yes, Sissy. I made a plan to do the 2013 Army Ten-Miler. Just like you told me I could.

Man. I can't even tell you how amazed I am that I actually went through with it.

So how was it? Well. In a word: Awesome. 

Guess who met me in D.C. to run the race, too?

C.J.'s mommy Davina!  Please tell him that his mommy was getting after it. She sure was.

We both stayed with Shannon and Michelle on the eve of the race--and you know since Shannon has run the ATM a zillion times, he had to start coaching us on all the things we needed to do for race day. He whipped up some kind of electrolyte concoction that Davina and I affectionately referred to as "go-go juice" that we sipped like cocktails all evening long. He made us have another bottle of it that morning, too.

Coach Shannon dropped us off at the corrals and since we had our go-go juice on board, we were ready to rock and roll.

It was kind of cold that morning, but since both of us had our favorite angels on our minds, our warm hearts kept us going. And guess what? Even though Davina came all AKA pink-and-greened up, you'd be proud to know that I was all Delta-tastic since you were my inspiration for making this dream a reality.

People kept saying, "Go Delta girls!" to us and Davina would promptly throw up her little dainty AKA pinky and squeal that squeaky little sound that those girls in that pink-and-green sorority make.

*eye roll*

Hee hee. Juuuust kidding, Davina.

But seriously, though, Davina definitely repped for the AKA girls and, Dee, I want you to know I held it down for us Delta girls. I sure did. Davina is actually Lt. Colonel Davina and her hubby Ced is Lt. Colonel Ced -- so you know they are automatically bad ass runners in that ol' military house of theirs. Yeah, so I couldn't even really hit her with any jokes about being too prissy to run because she's NO JOKE.

(Although now that I'm looking at these photos I'm noticing that she ran with pearl earrings on. Really Lt. Colonel Davina? Hee hee.)

And I think you may remember, but I'm not sure--you know that Davina and our Lisa pledged AKA together at Hampton in 1990? Isn't it crazy how God orchestrates peoples' lives? Who'd have ever thought that my best friend's linesister would marry one of my husband's best friends. . . .and then become like a sister to me in so many ways?

I love those girls. Wrong sorority choice and all. Maybe I can make an exception for the ones who pledged the Gamma Theta chapter at Hampton. Uuuuh. . .okay.

Tee hee hee.

Well the race. It was so great. I felt challenged but definitely good. Just as you suggested, Crystal came through and TOTALLY helped me get ready. She has been my major guru with all sorts of tips and encouragement and such. The go-go juice plus the preparation was a mighty combo. And my Delta-tastic shirt was a super hit. (Purchased after a tip from Crystal, too--go figure.) Dee, people on the streets and behind me kept shouting out:


The Delta girls I saw on the streets saw that shirt and started oo-ooping SUPER loud Delta calls my way and pumping their fists in the air cheering. Which really hyped me up. Mostly because I knew it would have really hyped YOU up.

And man, on like mile seven this one woman pointed in my face while running next to me and said in this SUPER BOOMING drill sergeant voice:


 And when she said that, I immediately started crying but I kept on running and she just gave me two big thumbs up that somehow felt exactly like a big hug. And man, I didn't know that lady from anybody but damn, did I appreciate that. Damn, I did.

I saved her voice to my mental iPod to play back to myself later. I did.

And then this other woman ran up behind me and said, "You went to Tuskegee! You're Deanna's Sister! You're Deanna Draper's sister!!!" And you know what? She didn't even know you personally, but she knew OF you and your legacy from some mutual friends. And she hugged my neck real quick and said she was a proud Tuskegee alum just like us. And that part was cool, too.

Super cool.

I even ran into her at the finish line and we took this picture as proof that Tuskegee was in the house! Running strong. And yet another opportunity for photographic proof of me being Delta-tastic in my shirt.


Guess what? I finished with a personal record. Or a "P.R." as all the runny babbits call it. Ha. Look at me using all the lingo of the runny babbit people. Ha ha ha. That's 'cause I'm a runner now.

Mmmm hmmm.

So the P.R., you ask? My shmancy Garmin watch (bought second hand from one of our sorority sisters that Crystal hooked me up with) said I did 10.27 miles in 1:43 minutes. But my official time on the Army Ten-Miler website reported me at like 1:48 minutes. Either way, it's roughly a 10 and 1/2 minute mile average which, for me, is AW-SHUMMMMMM!

So yeah, they gave us these really cool medal-coin-thingies. And just now while writing this to you, I realized that it's in the shape of the Pentagon. Which is kind of rad, right?

So really the Army Ten-Miler weekend was all around rad. It was. Being with Davina. Talking about you and C.J. Reminiscing. Me and Davina crashing a party the night before with Shannon and Michelle. Laughing out loud. Drinking Shannon's go-go juice concoction instead of adult beverages. Seeing Colin and Paige (Shannon and Michelle's kids.) Meeting Davina's sister Toya. Catching up. Cracking Delta/AKA jokes nonstop. Man. All of it. All of it was so, so awesome.


The BHE as an Army officer

It might sound corny, but let me just say that running along side America's heroes was surreal. It was. And yes, I meant to say "America's heroes" because it was made very, very clear to me yesterday that this is exactly who our military families are. I read peoples' shirts and saw up close and personal the countless human sacrifices that families just like ours make to protect us. And the strength, sis. It was unreal. And eye-opening for sure. One man had a shirt on with his son's picture. Underneath it said something like:

"Because you can't be here. I run for your life."

And then it had the day he lost his life in combat. Because people -- real effing people -- a whole, whole lot of them, actually, have either lost their lives or gotten seriously injured during these wars. And just like I'm loving you and missing you, there are people feeling the same way about their loved ones or the pre-injury lives they used to have, you know?


There were scores of "wounded warriors" out there running strong. Heads up and shoulders back feeding me their DUST, do you hear me?  Wow, Sis. It inspired me in ways I can hardly explain.


On the way out of the race, Davina and I were walking the two mile convoluted trek back to where Michelle was planning to pick us up. So we're just walking and talking and all of a sudden Davina looks like she just saw a ghost. She gasped. "Oh. My. Goodness." She froze in her tracks. She saw an old friend--a soldier from her husband Cedric's batallion during his last deployment to Afghanistan. A youngish brother who could be any of our friends, husbands or brothers. He was being pushed in a wheelchair by a soldier friend as his wife walked beside him holding his prosthetic running blades.


All of the color washed out of Davina's face. This was someone who'd fought right beside Ced. Dang. And seeing him now amputated affected her deeply, I could tell. And the resolve in his face. . .it was just. . . man. All I could say about that moment was this:

Damn. Shit just got real.

Man, it did. Davina wasn't the only one affected. I was, too. I couldn't help but think that this man literally lost his legs protecting me and my family. I swear I wanted to run and hug him and every single man or woman who has ever put themselves in harm's way for people they don't even know.

I refrained from saying something awkward like, "Thank you for . . .uhh. . your service." Instead I just shook his hand hard and told him how nice it was to meet him. Because it was nice and I meant that. I shook his lovely wife's hand, too, and told her the same. And when she switched one of those prostheses out of her arm to the other just to reach for my hand, shit got real all over again. I did my best to act regular about that chance encounter but it was hard because honestly I didn't feel regular. I felt conflicted. . . and. . . I don't know. . .just indebted, man.

For real.

You know what, Deanna? Now I know. This race was about way more than me and my personal goal or my pie-in-the-sky bucket list. Way more. It was a celebration of human life. And human sacrifice. And love. And safety. And security. Which is really apropos since I associate all of those things with you, too.

Harry Skyping with Shannon during his YEAR AWAY FROM HIS FAMILY in Baghdad.


On a lighter note--how cute is this? When I got home, Isaiah and Zachary ran and gave me HUGE hugs. Isaiah said, "Mommy, I'm soooo proud of you!" Then he asked to see my medal. And Zachary saw it and immediately asked me if I won. And you know what I told him?

"Yes. Mommy DID win." Because I did.

And that made him and Isaiah just hug me even tighter. Which felt even better than getting that medal.

So yes, Sissy. I did it. I ran strong with you on my mind the whole time -- and I plan to keep on doing just that. And I promise to always dedicate mile three--and the final mile--to you. You bet I will.

Thanks for flying beside me yesterday and always. Guess now I need to revise my Vision Board and dream bigger, right?

Alright, Sis. I promise to write you again after the next race milestone--whatever it may be. (Counting on you to join me for that one, too.)

I love and miss you terribly every single day. We all do.

Hug Grandma and C.J. for us, okay? And hug yourself while you're at it.

In Delta and sisterly love always,


P.S. I'm now plotting to get JoLai to run with me in 2014. I've already scouted out the cool races in cool places we'll go to . . . . can you say wine country? Hee hee.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . .this video clip of Amber Riley from GLEE covering The Pretender's "I'll Stand By You" -- the song that unexpectedly broke me down in Kroger that day. JoLai saw this and immediately sent it my way since this song makes me think of you. This version broke me ALL THE WAY down all over again. . .but mostly it made me think of you in the most loving, perfect way. And seeing this beautiful, full-figured brown girl singing it with all of her heart to me touches me all the more. Thanks for sending this to me, JoLai.

And this was playing on my mental iPod during the race. . . . . . we RAN that town, baby!