Monday, February 17, 2014

Some epic pieces of This American Life.

ep·ic (ˈepik/) : (adj) particularly impressive or remarkable.

Life has been busy. Life has been good. Here are some epic pieces of this little life of mine.

Isaiah was teaching Zachary how to effectively ride his dirt bike uphill. He coached him over and over and over again telling him, "Stand up! Right now! Right now! Pedal hard!"

Zachary kept on toppling over half way to the top of the driveway hill. But they stayed out there and kept at it until finally. . . .

He did it.

Sure, it was an everyday moment captured through the window. But still it was epic.

Can you believe that this photo was taken the very next day after the ones above?

We survived the second round of snowmageddon here in Atlanta. The ice part was terrifying. Especially for those of us who live in areas filled with trees. We had power the whole time, thank goodness. For our neighborhood filled with old homes, that's a miracle. Epic, even.

Hey. And this:

This was on "Go Red for Women" day. The American Heart Association asks the whole world to wear red in honor of women who have been affected by heart disease. I ran three miles that day since 3 was Deanna's favorite number. No music, no pomp, no circumstance. Just me running and thinking of my beautiful sister the whole time. Doing something kind for my heart and missing her terribly the entire time.

I also went red with my friend Frieda that evening. We had a lovely girlfriend dinner to which I wore my favorite red dress. We also drank some red wine which, since we are both medicine nerds, we agreed was appropriately heart-healthy.

Walking through the School of Medicine on Friday, I witnessed this:

This is Wen. She's one of my Small Group Delta advisees and Thursday was her birthday. We didn't have small group that morning, but I was there for a meeting and caught a glimpse of her classmates surprising her with balloons and cupcakes.

They all sang Happy Birthday to her and it rang throughout the entire lobby. It was really, really sweet. But she is, so it makes sense.

I'm glad I saw that moment. Because, to me, showing people you care and putting the attention into little details like minicupcakes with candles on top is epic. That is, particularly impressive and remarkable.


Speaking of which.

My dear friend the Profesora in Pittsburgh was passing through town recently. We met up for invisible coffee and real conversation. Oh--invisible coffee is when you are sitting outside of Alon's Bakery in their chairs for their patrons but not really eating or drinking coffee. Just sitting and talking and hoping that for all of the times that you have actually had coffee or food there that they'd just cut you some slack. Which they did.

I miss her very much so any time I get to spend with her is epic.

Hmmm. What else?

Oh, yes. This.

Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin?

We initially started out with "Martin-in-the-preacher-robe" but my eight year old son decided that he "felt more comfortable" being "Martin-in-a-suit." 

Which was fine with me. 

Because you know that I'm the first to admit that when you look good (and how you want to look) you feel good. And in turn, you do good. Or rather, well. You get the picture.

And how dare I leave out Zachary as James Weldon Johnson--the man who wrote the epic (sorry to beat the word to death) song "Lift Every Voice and Sing?" Zack settled on a purple velvet bow tie for his presentation. He found a few pictures of James Weldon Johnson rocking bow ties and was sold once Harry pulled out this velvet number from his personal collection.

Oh yeah, baby. Kind of retro-chic, yes?

So what was all of this about? On Saturday, the boys participated in a "Living Black History Museum" for our Jack and Jill Chapter's Black History Celebration. It was kind of like a science fair but instead of telling about your science experiment, you told them all about your life as a famous African American. 


This was a lot of work. But the very moment I witnessed them presenting to the first people to visit their project boards, I knew that it was worth every single second that we'd put into getting it together.

I can't say enough about those boys. They got it. They did. And they honored those American heroes and did their mama proud. 

Very, very proud.

It was epic.

Oh. And please tell me if it gets more epic than this:

So, check it.

I really wanted to run the Atlanta Publix Half Marathon in March. But I will be out of town that weekend so can't do it. Bummer, right? Well. I set my sights on another nearby half to keep myself training. (Which I've learned is very necessary for me.) My good friend and soror, Crystal H., suggested that I look into the Mercedes Benz Half Marathon in Birmingham, Alabama. She said it was a good race and thought I should check it out. And so I did. 

I saw that it was on February 16, 2014. Which is my mother's birthday. And since we generally gather in the evening for her birthday, I kicked the thought around a bit. But mostly didn't think I'd do it. There was the whole driving there and driving back in time for mom's dinner. It was all going to be too much. Right?

Well. Check out this hair-brained scheme:

Poopdeck (my dad) is from Birmingham, Alabama. Did I mention that my dad and JoLai were coming to town that weekend already for my mom's birthday? Okay, well they were. 

So a few weeks ago I'm talking to Poopdeck on the phone. I tell him about sort of wanting to run the race. Next he, okay we, come up with this crazy, epic plan to have him DRIVE me to Birmingham that morning, drop me off at the start line, visit with his brother during the race, and then pick me up from the finish and drive back to Atlanta. All in time for us to make Mom's birthday dinner. And if you knew my dad like I know my dad, you'd know that this crazy, epic plan isn't as far-fetched as it sounds. And so. He not only agreed to do it--he said he was excited about it, too.


And, if you think this can't get better, it does. I asked my best friend to join me. My best friend who runs, yes, but who had never run a half marathon. We'd just run a 15K together at the end of January and I asked if she'd be willing to train for this and do it with me. 

She said yes. 

And if you still think it can't get even BETTER, then keep reading. 

Fold into that equation not just two sleepy runners being picked up by Poopdeck at 4:30 a.m. but some rambunctious little boys, too.

Oh. Did I mention that it wasn't just two of them? There were three of them. Yes. Poopdeck managed Isaiah, Zachary and my three year-old godson, Jackson, too. Packed them all right up with us and rolled us into his hometown. And he loved every second of it--as did they. Sort of like a mini version of Camp Papa.

Sure did.

Lisa and I had a blast. The weather yesterday was perfect and the energy in Birmingham was amazing. I kind of think we were in an awesome mood just being together and knowing our kids were in for some fun, too.

One of my favorite sorors, Tamika, was kind enough to pick up both of our race packets the day before at the expo in Birmingham. Without her, this plan would have been an epic fail. And what's sweeter is that she pledged at my chapter, Gamma Tau, which makes her even more special to me.


My legs felt good and my heart felt strong. I did my mile dedications like always and they really, really helped this time. I literally study the list before I start and then imagine each person running beside me or helping me for that whole mile. I'm not even kidding. So here's my list for this one:

  1. Me
  2. Harry
  3. Deanna
  4. Francoise and Juliette (Fran, my sister-in-law, Jules, her baby sister who is in heaven.)
  5. My Grady patients
  6. Will
  7. Zachary, age 7
  8. Isaiah, age 8
  9. Delta Sigma Theta and all of my sorors
  10. JoLai
  11. C.J.
  12. Mommy and Daddy (Happy birthday, Tounces!)
  13. Deanna!
The last 0.1 was for ME. I highly recommend the mile dedications. That makes every race feel more personal. But be warned--you may be subject to crying on certain miles.

Lisa and I separated around mile 4. But that was cool because we agreed that each of us would "run our own race." Man--for her first half? Wow, she did AWESOME. So, so very awesome. I was so proud of her.

The hardest miles for me were the Francoise and Juliette mile (4), the Isaiah mile (8) and the JoLai mile (10.) The CJ mile was tough, too, but he loaned me his angel wings, which helped me float for a bit. I think I chanted "come on, CJ" for the whole mile and before I knew it, it was over.

When I was on the JoLai mile (10), something awesome happened. My legs were screaming and I felt so tired. I kept picturing my sweet baby sister and then imagined me, her and Deanna together. It gave me a second wind for a few seconds but I still wanted to just stop and walk the rest of the way. Then-- I kid you not--blaring on a giant speaker system I heard some music. It was one of Deanna's absolute favorite songs of all time: Fighter by Christina Aguilera.

Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter!
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter!

And that? That did it. I sang and ran and ran and sang. And man! I felt like a fighter. I did.

I also really, really felt like I was with both of my original Ruths holding me on my right and left arms as I ran. Kind of like we were all running together to that song which, to me, felt kind of like a religious experience, man. Might sound corny, but it's true.


So anyways. On the way back, Poopdeck was driving and mostly everyone was asleep. And we were just talking and I told him that the reason I love these races is because they make me feel strong. Physically and emotionally. Kind of like I can do anything if I just work really hard in little increments and build myself up. And something about knowing that the only way to run a long distance is to strengthen your stamina until you can run a long distance makes me feel very proud. Especially since, by nature, I am a crammer and a procrastinator.

But. There is no cramming for a half marathon. Nope.

Which feels like such a solid metaphor for other things in life that require time over time and can't be crammed in. Like strengthening relationships with the people you love or having a parent that also feels like a friend. Or keeping a best friend for more than twenty years and still enjoying each other enough to act like you're still first year medical students no matter how much time passes. That happens with little increments being stacked over a lengthy period of time.

This race was a personal record for me. Or rather "PR" as the runny babbit people say. 2 hours and 23 minutes. Five minutes faster than my first half. (Pardon while I take a bow.) Yeah. So that made me feel kind of proud. You know? I'm mostly proud to just finish. That's the truth--but still. . . . the perpetual "gunner" medical student in me always wants to at least aim for a slightly better end result than the last time.

2:20 next time, maybe? Maybe so. Maybe no. We'll see.

Oh yeah. In B'ham my "big" cousin Shari Lynn met us near the finish line and took Lisa and me to breakfast. Hadn't seen her in over a year. And she's smart and awesome and funny and inspiring. So that part was really good.

Her dad is my Uncle Skeeter--whose God given name is Hiawatha. His God given name being Hiawatha has nothing to do with anything, but the fact that this is his real, true, on-his-birth-certificate name is kind of epic so I couldn't not say that.

Anyways. Dad and the kids visited with him while we ran and had breakfast. When it was time to leave, my uncle asked me to grab his mail for him. And I looked at him like he was going senile because it was a Sunday. "It's Sunday, Uncle Skeeter." And he said, "I haven't checked it in a few days. Go on out there and grab it, hear?"

And what are you supposed to say to that? To your seventy-seven year old uncle? So I go out to the mailbox on a Sunday and open it to grab his three-day-old mail. And here's what was in there:

Yaaaaaah!!! Of course I screamed when I saw it.

And this is Uncle Skeeter laughing at his witty little prank. Sigh. Did I mention that he's seventy- seven? I did, didn't I?

Uh, yeah.

Turns out that I made his week by startling when I opened that door, though. He'd just ordered Isaiah out to check the mailbox an hour earlier and what a disappointment Uncle Skeeter had when his great-nephew came strolling back in looking very confused. "There's no mail in there," Isaiah said with a shrug of his shoulders. "Just some rubber snake or something. But no mail."

Bwah ha ha.

After we'd returned to Atlanta and dad was preparing to go back to my mom's house, I thanked him for the twelve thousandth time. Then I told him how very, very, very fortunate and blessed I feel to have him not just as my father but as my children's grandfather. And then I just dropped my head and wept on his shoulder. And muffled into his neck I told him how much I deeply appreciate him--and I said that because it's just so true. Thinking about what he'd just done for me that day was something to cry about. But really? I was crying mostly because yesterday really wasn't any different than all of the other countless things he has done for me for over my entire lifetime. Things involving sacrifice and energy and. . . time over time.

I've said it before and I will say it again: This is not something to take lightly, having a father like the one I have. It isn't and I don't. And some days? Some days I just cannot get my mind wrapped around how much favor God had upon me when he entrusted me and my siblings to that man. And please know that this takes NOTHING from my amazing and matchless mother. I guess my point is that I think having a really great father is like. . . I don't know. . . like taking a hard ass test and getting chance to see the answer key in giant print beforehand. Sure. Without it, it's possible to pass and even do fairly well if you're lucky. But don't you think you'd have a hell of an easier way to go and a much greater chance of knocking it out of the park with that advantage? I certainly do.

So that man? My father? HE is epic. Particularly impressive and remarkable, he is.

Uggh. This is supposed to be a light post. My eyes are getting leaky.

*fans face and pats eyes*

Okay. Composure regained. Just in time to share some snaps from our family's favorite holiday--my mom's birthday! Loving Grandma Shugsie aka Tounces aka Mommy is the thing everyone can agree upon. So any gathering in her honor is always, always well attended. This year we were at Rivals on Five--the sports pub my brother owns.

Here's Shug with my nephew and her first grandchild, David. Officially a head taller than his grandmother. And below with all of the grandchildren plus one of the many Mom has adopted.

Of course no birthday is complete without being photobombed by a grandkid.  This one courtesy of Isaiah. Ha.

 JoLai and Daddy in from Los Angeles. Woo hoo!

So yeah. This year's birthday was totally awesome. Epic, even. But getting together for my mom's birthday is always epic since it reminds us of the one we had when she turned sixty five. That was the last one that included Deanna. But more than that, it was just a perfect celebration of family and love. And ever since, I think we all sort of see her birthday that way. Like this day that should always ground us and remind us that family is everything.

Here's the post from that day. Most of you have read it before, but for those who haven't or who want to revisit it, this is an opportunity. Those who remember that know how epic it was--and why Mom's birthday will always be a love day for us.


Lastly, I'll leave you with this:

Zachary also did a presentation to his class on James Weldon Johnson just the week before the snowmageddon. (Which is what inspired him choosing the same for the "Living Black History Museum.") And while he was preparing it, he decided that it would be better if he actually let the class hear the song since most first graders wouldn't know it.

That morphed into him deciding to learn and SING the first stanza of "Lift Every Voice and Sing." And when he sang it to his grandpa over Skype, my dad told him that the song was special and that in encouraged people during very tough times. And I talked to him about his grandpa growing up in Birmingham, Alabama in the fifties and how that was a part of the "dark past" that taught us so much faith, as the song says.


So he decided to wear a tie and treat the whole thing with some amount of seriousness. He sure did. His "night before" dress rehearsal (in which he insisted that he wear a shirt and tie) will always be one of my favorite clips ever.

Uggh. For whatever reason, Blogger won't let me upload it. I'll get that up once I figure it out-- along with one of Isaiah as MLK.

That way you can answer "yes" the next time anyone asks you if you've seen their old friend Martin.


That's all I got. Thanks for reading all that. Night night, y'all. Epic dreams.

 Happy Monday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . .

Miss Christina Aguilera singing "Fighter". So gonna add this to my run play list. Right up there with "Get up offa that thang." For reals.

And also THIS amazing sermon from Andy Stanley about "Time Over Time." I don't attend his church, but thanks to podcasts I never miss any of his messages. (Love technology for that!) Okay, so this? This is a good word no matter what you believe. Very applicable to any life of any person who is trying to make wise decisions with their time. Some things just can't be crammed in or squared up in a lump sum. Our job is to figure out which things must involve time over time to work. Check it out.


  1. You are REALLY something else! Epic indeed!

  2. What a great post. I was smiling a huge smile back at your boys, then, sniffling tears at the mile dedication list,and more again with the part about your dad, and the wonderful celebration for your mom. I love your boys, your family and you. You inspire me in ways you can't imagine.

    Congratulations on that personal best, you're just going to keep getting better and stronger because that's who you are.

  3. What a life! And you are present and aware for every second of it. You inspire in so many ways.
    And I love your family. them all.

  4. Dr. Manning,
    Thank you so much for sharing your epic life with us! You are so inspiring! This post made my day :)

  5. Loved. This.
    Thanks so much for sharing! What a wonderfully blessed life full of love!


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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