Friday, November 29, 2013

Post Thanksgiving Thanks-giving: This I do in remembrance of you.

Dear Sissy,

Yesterday was Thanksgiving day. Admittedly, as far as missing you goes, it wasn't any worse than other days. And I guess it feels weird to say that the missing you part of my life has shifted from that acutely throbbing way to this dull steady sensation. I've learned to not only live with it but also try my best to channel it for something good. Like you would, you know?

Anyways. I told you after the Army 10 miler that I'd finally tackled what seemed like a far-fetched goal and how seeing your face and hearing your voice pushed me to even try in the first place. This morning I was reflecting on this past year and this whole running adventure that I've been on. I realized that one of the best things about all of it is how it makes me feel connected to you. And that has propelled me, you know? It has.

When that heart attack took you away from us, I felt so cheated. Wait. A lot of days I still do. So I made up my mind to find some way to start fighting and raging against heart disease. And, of course, genetics is genetics but still. I wasn't always as great as JoLai or Daddy about getting that 150 minutes or more per week of cardiovascular exercise. So first, I committed myself to that part. But somehow this idea of running and you looking up from your crocheting to tell me at the kitchen table that day that I could be a runner stayed in my head. It did.

So initially I'd set this goal back in January of 2013 to run a half marathon in your honor. And it was important to me that it be done in 2013 because that was the year of our beloved sorority's centennial and I knew how much this year meant to you. So 2013 it would be. But then came a stress fracture and some set backs so my original plan of running the Chicago Women's Half for the American Heart Association faded into the shadows.

Of course, other goals were realized, so I didn't fret long. I shifted my focus to the Army 10 miler since you had personally encouraged me to do that one. And that race felt like we were holding hands. It really did. That might have been the very best part. And is the very best part of when I run.

This I do in remembrance of you. And sure, perhaps that's mostly spoken in reference to taking communion in churches but for me and running nothing could feel more holy than feeling my beating heart intertwining with yours. I look at my feet and feel my arms pumping and imagine that we are of the same DNA which means we are always, always together. So it always feels good and is, in part, as religious an experience as any for me. 

Sigh. Yeah. So on Thanksgiving morning I can say I was as thankful for you as I always am which is a lot. And with that I am super-thankful for JoLai and Will more than ever because they, too, know what I feel when it comes to us and our blended souls. You'd be happy to know that mom and dad have been mostly great and they found smiles and laughter yesterday and have been finding them more and more. But the other thing that happened yesterday was this:

I ran a half marathon. In 2013. Yes. In 2013, Deanna!

And let me tell you about it, okay? It was cold. Like, super cold that morning. 24 degrees to be exact and blistering-blistering on my cheeks and hands. But I double-gloved with mittens on top and a pair of dainty satin Delta gloves on bottom. And I know the dainty Delta gloves is kind of funny but I needed to have something from you on my person.

Ha ha. Goofy, I know.

Anyways. I got stuck in a crap-ton of traffic on my way there and OMG I mean a CRAP-TON. It turns out that a lot of Atlantans were half-crazy that morning and wanted to start their turkey day off with a half marathon or a 5K, too.

I was in Corral D so was supposed to start at 7:45 a.m.  Well. By the time I parked and used the potty, it was nearly 8:00 a.m.  I was TOTALLY freaking out. TOTALLY. Fortunately, the Profesora in Pittsburgh talked me directly off of the ledge and kept telling me that it would work out no matter what. That this was going to happen and that it would be good because it was connected to you.

She was right.

I literally sprinted from the car to the potty and from the potty to the start and straight into the race. I was already behind and a little freaked out. That made me run overly fast (for me) for the first two miles. Fortunately that caught me up to several of my friends like Frieda and Coach B and Ishan and Tamika and Jennifer. So I'd say that was a good thing.

I did my mile dedications. Most of them were for you but I did dedicate miles to JoLai, Will, Mommy and Daddy, Grandma, the boys, my Ruths and CJ. This past week was the fifth year since CJ made his heavenly transition. I thought of him and of Davina and Ced a lot this week. I remembered how affected you were by their loss back in 2008. I liked knowing I had some angels on my side, too.

The race was tough and a bit hilly but mostly, it was great. I felt strong and able. It kept making me think of that t-shirt JoLai gave me that said "Today I can do anything." She gave me that right around the time that I first started running. So I kept hearing that in my head yesterday while I was running which connected me to JoLai, too.

Yeah. So I kept a decent pace and felt good. And you know? When I got to mile 8 I started feeling a slump coming on. My legs felt tired and I was starting to run out of gas. And you know what I did? I said, "Hey CJ! I need you to loan me your wings for about a mile or so." Sure, I said it under my breath but still, I said it. And you know what? That gave me a second wind. At least for miles 8 and 9, it did.

When I got to mile 10, my legs were very tired. My wind was fine but my legs! Uggh. So there I was trucking under the interstate 85 bridge and chanting to myself "Today I can do anything" over and over again. That or "Come on, Mommy. Come on, Mommy." I wish I could say that it was working. But then the most interesting thing happened. A homeless man who clearly lived under that bridge was standing on the side of the road cheering people on. And he yelled out loud, "JUST THREE MORE MILES!"

And I'm not sure what it was about that, Dee. Like, was it seeing him with that blanket over his shoulders and imagining him having to sleep in that searing cold? Was it the thought of him walking miles and miles just to find a dry and safe-ish place? Was it me thinking of how many miles he'd need to walk to get to a shelter only to find out that it is already full? Maybe. But also it was that number he yelled out.


Three. Three. Your number. And also a doable task. "I can run three miles," I said. I said that out loud. In fact, I said it very loud. "I can TOTALLY run three miles!" But my legs were protesting. They were saying, "No. No, we can't. We've never run more than ten miles, remember? You are tripping." But then? Then I heard that Drill Sergeant woman from the Army 10 miler with her big, booming voice yelling in my ear.


And that? That did it. That right there. And, of course, just the thought of that woman yelling out your name and it making me feel immediately stronger made me cry. No, not immediately. I was okay until I reached the mile 12 marker. But something about seeing that told me that I was going to make it. That it was 2013 and I was going to complete a half marathon. Me.

I'm so glad I saved her voice on my mental iPod that day. I knew I'd need it again. And probably again.

Damn. I couldn't stop crying. Like, literally, I cried for a solid half of that mile and I didn't even care who saw me. Fortunately, I wasn't running with another person and most folks were so dog tired and cold that they could focus on nothing but themselves by that point instead of some randomly hysterical crying black woman next to them.


And you know what? I crossed that finish line and felt elated. Because honestly, I felt like I had just presented you with a very precious gift that I'd been working on for an entire year. And that you'd just opened it before me and said, "I love it! I love it!" And that? That was super awesome. Super, duper awesome.

"Today I can do anything."

And even better is the fact that it was a gift to me and all of the rest of our family, too. Which is so amazing, isn't it? I even made it in under my goal time of 2 hours and 30 minutes. My official time ended up being 2:27:51 which, I'm now certain, I can beat in the future. And I will.

One of the first people I saw when I finished was my Tuskegee chapter soror, Ishan. And she's run lots of races but understood what all of this has meant to me. So she hugged my neck and congratulated me in the most sincere and sisterly way. I'm really thankful that she was the first one I saw because she got where I was. She did. She knew of this journey and the look in her eyes told me so.

with Ishan M.

Then I saw my sweet Free-Free but somehow in our excitement neglected to take an iPhone picture. (It was a lot colder than it was at the Peachtree Road Race below.) But that's okay because Frieda and I have more races on our horizon so there will be more to see in the future.

But then, this:

The BHE (who refused to be photographed) braved the cold to wait at the finish line. And I cannot even begin to describe how amazing it feels to see your children hooping and hollering right after you just finished running the furthest you've ever run in your life. Especially for this reason.

Zachary was probably the most excited. He wanted me to run some more so that he could run with me. And, of course, he promptly put on my medal and the warmer as soon as he could get it off of me. 

That part was awesome. Really, really awesome. 

Oh! And you'd love that my other Tuskegee chapter soror Tamika and I had shirts made that said, "TUSKEGEE GIRLS RULE." Which, I'm sure you'd agree, is totally true. We also have hops.

Tamika and I have decided to make a tradition of the post race jumping photos. 

Ha ha. Tamika's an awesome sport. I'm hoping to have a giant collection of dorky jumping pictures after a while. Still haven't succeeded at getting your buddy Crystal in on the jumping. What can I say? It's a process. Ha ha.

Later that evening, we had a wonderful dinner that included Grandma Shugsie and lots of very good friends, too. The food was amazing and the fellowship even more so. I am sure that you would have been right in the thick of it and probably at the table trashtalking and playing cards, too. 

Yeah. So Thanksgiving was perfect. It was filled with thoughts of you. But also filled with moments that reminded me of how blessed this life is. I take not a moment of it for granted. Not a moment.

And every chance I get to live my life with more intention. . . .now I know that just like running. . . this I do in remembrance of you.

Today? I can do anything. It's 2013. I just ran a half marathon. And life is very, very good.


Love and miss you to the moon,


P.S. Thought you'd like this: I routed my long training runs on the weekends so that I'd run past Will's clinic. That always gave me a little charge at the midpoint of my run.  (It also gave me a place to use the bathroom and have some water. LOL.)

Happy Belated Thanksgiving everybody. I hope you know that today you can do anything, too.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . my running power song!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Racing Day!

Racing day, it's racing day
Racing day, it's racing day
It's not picture-tracing day
Today's the day we race!

~ The Backyardigans


Here's the song that my kids have been playing for me leading up to my first half marathon. They run in place the whole time it's on which is as hilarious as it is adorable. They made me promise to listen to it when I woke up in the morning to "get me even more excited." I kept my promise. And they were right. I am rather hyped after listening to that. (Well as hyped as one can be in the five o'clock hour.)

Come back for highlights, okay? And wish us all luck 'cause it's racing day--not to be confused with picture-tracing or doily-lacing day. ;)

Happy Thanksgiving/Atlanta Half Marathon Day

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Secret of Being Grown: The 98 to 99% rule.

 Warning: Random rambling ahead. Proceed at your own risk.

"If you like it, I love it."

~ Deanna Draper

I'm a huge fan of grown people finding the things that make them happy and doing them. Like defining their own happiness and carefully going after some version of that happiness regardless of what someone else thinks. Yeah. I'm a fan of that. A huge fan, in fact. That is, if said grown person is able to do at least 98% of whatever that is without great inconvenience, dependence or cost to some other unwilling party.

Maybe even like 99% of it.

And let's be clear about something --  I said without depending upon some UNWILLING party. I raise my glass to you if you have somebody in your corner poised and ready to put their money or time or whatever on the line for you to get a little closer to your dreams. There sure have been points where I've had those people in my corner. But, see, those cheers turn into jeers when big epiphanies that cost money and sacrifice aren't made with careful consideration of every person who will be either affected or expected to do something different.

That is, once we are GROWN.

My willing parties

Let me explain with an example. A grown person who has a fantastic job has become disgruntled with their career. That person decides that he or she wants to scrap it and give some other dream job a go. Which is fine and actually kind of bad ass if you ask me. So far, so good, right? And it stays good as long as a couple of things happen. First, if said grown person has money saved up and they're prepared to live a little skinny off of their own savings until things get right? Beautiful! The second option would be if the person is fortunate enough to have supportive loved ones who are willing to financially back what is likely to be a costly pursuit. And sometimes it's a combination of these things--which is cool.

You with me? Good.

But here's what isn't cool: Deciding to make a pivotal decision without those two things clearly in place. And just assuming that asking for forgiveness instead of permission or better yet forgiveness instead of at least help up front is the better way to go. It's not. That approach is fine when you're like. . .I don't know . . .ten years old. Otherwise, as the Grady elders say, "That dog don't hunt."

No, it don't.

It's not always financial stuff either. Sometimes it's time. Like a person deciding to take on an activity that will take them out of the house a lot or demand more time or even something like expanding a family -- and assuming that a grandparent will man the kids to make that happen. And the key word there is assume. Because many, many grandparents would be DELIGHTED to help with grandkids but from my experience with my own (amazing) parents and my (wonderful) mother-in-law it has to be on their terms. And those terms should always, always be laid out before any trigger gets pulled.

Unless, of course, the person is fully prepared to adequately manage 98% (or even 99%) of it without the assistance of someone else. At which point they can do whatever the hell they want.

This is how grown people can keep other grown people out of their business. Simple. By being able to manage 98 to 99% of it yourself. You feel me?

See, the older I get, the more I realize that managing your OWN 98 to 99% is pretty exhausting. So exhausting actually that by the time you finish doing the stuff you need to do for your own 98 to 99%, you don't have time to be worried about what somebody else is doing. Especially if it makes them happy and it isn't wreaking havoc somewhere.

So yeah. Like, if someone likes to drink whiskey from sun up to sun down but they get arrested, get the lights turned off and become violent, that doesn't work so well, now does it? Because that affects somebody else and starts to push beyond the limits of the 98 to 99%. But if that person instead has decided to eat a raw food diet and sleep standing up and only wear UGG boots everywhere they go? So long as I am not the one having to eat raw food every day with them or the one sleeping with them? Chile please. Have at it. And as for the UGG boots, as long as they aren't a medical student or a resident taking care of patients with me in the hospital? I say go for that, too.

Or as Deanna used to say, "If you like it, I love it."

Which was her way of saying, it's your life and you have to manage the majority of it. And if that works for you in your life and doesn't affect mine too much? Have your way, Pookie.


And, of course, it can't be, like, some horrible injustice that someone is committing in the privacy of their own home like intimate partner violence or abusing children or neglecting an elder. In those instances, it's all of our business.

In those instances. Not all instances.

See, the more people rely on others to navigate their 98 to 99% the more say those people get in their affairs. Like the twenty eight year old who lives with his mama and is screaming in her face to "get out of his damn business?" Yeah, Pookie. Move out. Get your own house. Manage your own 98 to 99% with your own money and guess what? You can do whatever you want. And your "damn business" will be yours to protect. But until then? You have opened the door to let somebody have some say. And that person is probably yo' mama.

Mmmm hmmm.

I say it's kind of like shareholders. When a company goes public and parcels out pieces? Those folks who buy those pieces get to say what they think. That's just how it works. Life if pretty similar. Don't you think?


So, to me, the 98 to 99% rule is also one of the secrets (if not the main secret) of happy marriages. Recognizing that, once you're part of a committed duo, it is impossible or unfair to unilaterally apply the 98 to 99% rule in your decisions. Unilaterally. The first jolt of marriage is understanding that nearly everything you do will affect the person you married, too. Even tiny things. Which makes me think of something my late grandmother, Ernestine, once told us on the eve of our wedding day:

"Marriages fail for one reason and one reason only: Selfishness. Not helping out with things? Selfish. Spending all the money without regard for how the other person feels or is affected? Selfish. Not participating with the chil'ren? Selfish. Not wanting to make love? Selfish. Doing whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it? Selfish." 

And yes. That was one of MANY times that my grandmother advised me about the importance of "making love" and not withholding the hanky panky. Which is a whole 'nother blog post for whole 'nother time.


So yeah. I think when you're married or otherwise boo-ed up, the 98 to 99% of life kind of blends together. That doesn't mean you don't get to still be your own person and pursue the things that your heart desires. But it does mean that you can't do those things like you're an island. You just can't.

The key is to find someone who loves and respects you enough to make room for you to pursue some individual interests and be yourself.

Whew. I'm getting warmed up now. Let me just unpack this a little more.

I recall in my first few weeks of marriage that I beat Harry home one day. He walked into our home (which we'd just begun sharing) and had some take out from a soul food restaurant. I looked completely puzzled when I saw him with those bags.

"What you got there, Mr. Manning?" I asked.

"I stopped and got us some rosemary chicken from that spot you like. I was trying to call you to see if you had something here but I knew you were on service at Grady."

"Oh. Okay. I actually ate something already. I wish I'd gotten your call."

"What'd you have?"

"I brought home some Mediterranean Grill that was left over from our conference today. You know how much I love that place."

He nodded his head and smiled. "Cool. Then I can just save this for tomorrow. What did you bring? Chicken kabobs or what?"

That's when I froze and realized that he was referring to me as if I was a wife who'd thought about bringing home some falafel, chicken kabobs and hummus for more than just one. Turns out I was not that wife. At least, not on that day.

"Oh shoot. I wasn't . . .errr. . . I didn't think. . ..umm. . . I thought maybe you'd grab something."

"So you had Med Grill and didn't bring enough for two?"

And all I could do was drop my head. The sad trombone music played simultaneously in my ear.


Dude. That's when it dawned on me that with even the tiniest things like grabbing leftovers from a luncheon, somebody had now been folded into my 98 to 99%. And that someone had already inserted me into theirs.

And so. That's it. That's the secret. To being grown and being (mostly) okay. And probably to being in a happy marriage. Figuring out what the necessary elements are for your happiness and figuring out a way to manage 98 to 99% of it without completely upsetting somebody else' apple cart. Also, as couples, the same applies to big decisions. They need to be manageable mostly by y'all. Unless help has been clearly, willingly defined up front.


Deanna always put it so plainly. "If you like it, I love it." Nothing could be more true. If everybody would focus on managing their own 98 to 99%, they'd be left with no time to jump out of their lane to render opinions (or pain) on somebody else' decisions or life. This would also work beautifully for our politicians who spend far too much of their 98 to 99% worrying about aspects of others' personal lives that WON'T AFFECT THEM OR ANYONE ELSE. But would instead make them happier and more productive citizens.

I'm just sayin'.

I guess my point is that the old adage "live and let live" is more than just a cliche. It's a doctrine for grown folks like us to try our best to follow. It's a goal for us to get our children to reach ultimately and I know for certain was always one that my parents had for us. The more we can successfully and independently manage our own "live" -- as couples or individuals -- the easier it is for those around us to let us.


That's all I got this morning. What y'all got?

Happy Wednesday. Hump DAAAAAAY!

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . .

Monday, November 25, 2013

All the difference.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

~ Robert Frost

I saw this image sprawling before me on a recent early morning run. A path literally diverging in a yellow wood, its endpoints disappearing into a murky fog. The path to the left was obvious and clear. The one to the right hidden behind overgrown bushes but still there. Instead of pausing to ponder which direction to take, I stood in my place just marveling the moment. That moment. The sun had just risen. The surroundings were still stretching their metaphorical arms. It was still. It was quiet. So me? I chose to be the same.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I waited. First, I heard birds chirping and a few leaves rustling. And then? In that quiet I heard my sister Deanna's laughter. Loud and jovial like always. I heard her voice calling me "Pookie" and saying that she was proud. But I didn't feel sad. Not at all. Because I also heard JoLai and Will and Mommy and Daddy and all of my Ruths, too. I felt them, too. Each standing beside me with heads turned sideways saying, "Yes, that is beautiful. And so are you." Then I thought about where all of these blessings came from and felt this joy stirring inside of me. . . like a fire shut up in my bones. Yes, like that.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

And so. I took a deep drag of that moist atmosphere. I let myself feel that cool air on my face and that warm energy in my soul and I started back on my run. And I felt good and strong and able. I did. Like I could do anything I set my mind to doing.


Frost pondered which way to go and took the path that others chose to forgo. Perhaps that does make all of the difference in the long run. But I also think it's good to just stop long enough to see the path and to listen long enough to realize that you're never alone.


These days, that's what makes all the difference for me. That.

Happy Monday.

I've always loved this poem. I have it laminated and hanging on the door in my office for me to see every single day. Enjoy.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

~ Robert Frost

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Team S.J.G.R. Thursday Huddle #20: No day but today.

The heart may freeze or it can burn
The pain will ease if I can learn

There is no future
There is no past

Thank God this moment's not the last

There's only us
There's only this

Forget regret-- 
or life is yours to miss.

No other road
No other way

No day but today

There's only yes
Only tonight

We must let go
To know what is right

No other course

No other way
No day but today

 I can't control
My destiny

I trust my soul

My only hope
is just to be

There's only now
There's only here

Give in to love
Or live in fear

No other path

No other way

No day but today

No day but today

No day but today

No day but today 

~ from the Broadway musical "RENT" by Jonathan Larson


Here's what I do when I don't feel like being kind to my body. I inventory all of the reasons that I have to live. And when I do I feel motivated to at least try. 

You know? The musical "RENT" had so many great songs but this one was always my favorite. Even more than Seasons of Love and La Vie Boheme.  I've heard it playing on my mental iPod many times since I first saw the show -- and have heard it even more since November 15, 2012. 

I can't fully control my destiny. But there are some things that I can at least work at. And I while I am working at being my best me, I can also recognize that this life that I have right now is a good one. Like, I won't spend so much time trying to revise myself that I forget to live. But I also don't want to squander the life I've been given by ignoring what I know can make my life healthier and better. 

Does that even make sense?

Maybe. Maybe not. You know. You know how much I miss my sister and how much it hurts sometimes to even look at her photograph. But then I think about our time together and feel so glad that I have not a single regret. Not one. At least, not about the "us" part. We made those days count. We did. And I'm so, so glad for that. But now I've changed. Like. . .now I am a person who has not only a father who has had heart disease but a person who lost her 44 year old sister to heart disease, too. I can't not fight cardiovascular disease with all of my might every day. I can't. I can't be fair to my boys and my BHE and my patients and my students and mySELF if I just keep on chugging along like nothing has changed. Things have changed. So I keep living my life with zeal, yes. But also with my eyes wide open and aware of the fact that shit just got real. And then I go harder. 

Tonight I was watching Zachary dance in the bathroom and was tickling Isaiah at the same time. Harry was at the sink brushing his teeth and all of it was so mundane and right. And so. I quietly said to myself, "There's only us. There's only this. Forget regret--or life is yours to miss. No other road, no other way--no day but today."

It grounded me in that moment. And you know? I immediately wanted to run or do something kind for my body. Because I want as many moments like this as I can possibly have. And no, I don't know my appointed hour but I also know that there are some things I can do to not nudge the process along.

Sigh. I'm rambling, I know. 

But whenever you feel denial setting in and hear those excuses rising up mighty, just say it to yourself over and over again. . . "No day but today." 

No day but today. To start over. To keep going. To congratulate yourself. To cut yourself some slack. To be honest with yourself. To be kinder to yourself. To do better. To be better. To live better. To love better. To recognize the realness and operate accordingly.

No day but today.

That's all I got, team. You know your excuses. Fight them with all of your might. Because even if you don't,  shit is still realer than real.


Happy Everyday.
 Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . the original movie soundtrack version. . . .

And this one, too. I love this peaceful acoustic version by Idina Menzel from the Original Broadway Cast. Even though it makes me cry.