Saturday, January 28, 2012

Arriving at peace with the things we lose.

Since I posted about losing my pendant a few months ago, I have been touched by all the people who inquired about how I was doing and how my hunt was going. You guys. Thank you. Seriously, for such a rough ride, it has truly been comforting to have people let me know they cared about something I was afraid people would find so materialistic and inconsequential. The stories people shared with me about their own touchstones and the things they've lost over the years will be carried in my heart.

My necklace.

My original relic pendant, photo taken several years ago.

As for my own journey, it has had its ups and downs. After I wrote the original post about losing the Padre Pio relic, I tried to brainstorm ideas that would help me cope with this thing I was not only grieving for, but felt embarrassed to be grieving for. I scoured the internet, set up all sorts of Google alerts and eBay alerts, contacted vintage jewelry and religious medal dealers. I genuinely feel I reached the end of the internet, which was both disappointing and weird.

(I thought the end of the internet would be like the end of the rainbow, only instead of a pot of gold it would probably have ended at 4chan. [If you know what 4chan is, I'm sorry. (If you DON'T know what 4chan is, don't google it. [Seriously, don't. (OMG, WHY DIDN'T YOU LISTEN TO ME?)])]).

In the beginning I only ever did find the two mates I mentioned, one belonging to the blogger who found one at a flea market last year and one on the "Sold" section of an obscure vintage jewelry website. I never heard back from the latter, but the former turned out to be a sweetheart who pitied my plight. She was even open to potentially taking her relic to a local jeweler if I was able to find one skilled enough to replicate it without harming the original.

El Hub was amazing during this time. Making a replica was even his idea, the smartie pants. And man oh man, he didn't even blink when I came to him after a few days and announced I thought I wanted to get a tattoo of my relic. He LOATHES tattoos, and his response was for me to do what I needed to do. Guys, that's HUGE. And back off, he's mine, I'm keeping him.

So I started researching tattoos alongside jewelers up where the blogger lives. The National Centre for Padre Pio was the only organization to even recognize the medal I was referring to, but said they had not seen one in several years. They even had their employees search their desks in case one was hidden away. It made sense since I received mine about 15 years ago, but it was still a blow to hear.

Then the next day I received another call from them, absolutely elated to tell me that the President of their organization searched his desk...and FOUND one. I was blown away. I squealed, I cried. The timing was amazing because I was on my way to a doctor's appointment, and it would have been the first one in 15 years that I hadn't worn my medal to. Call me superstitious, but that phone call made me feel like it was with me, in a way.

So they mailed it to me. I eagerly anticipated its arrival, checked the mail every day like a little kid waiting for birthday presents from distant relatives. It arrived...

Padre Pio relic, in honor of his beatification.

Someday, when I win the lottery, I'll get a macro lens. Until then, suffer my blurry faux-close-up photos.

...and it wasn't a match. It was incredibly similar - the image of Padre Pio on the one side is essentially the same, and the relic side (pictured) has a starburst effect of lines radiating out from the center. But instead of saying "relic," it has the date of Padre Pio's 1999 beatification, which makes it several years newer than my original pendant.

It was a letdown initially. I wore it, but it wasn't the same. But I knew going into my search for a replacement that any I found wouldn't be the original. It wouldn't be the one my mother gave me, the one that accompanied me on days of uncertainty, the one I pinned inside my wedding dress, the one I wore while I gave birth to my son. So I decided to make peace with the new one. To give it another 15 years, and by then I will probably feel similarly about it as I did about my original. Give it time to have a history.


Padre Pio relic, pre-canonization.


...a match showed up on eBay. A relic like my original relic. I thought about how much we had been willing to budget on a replica of the blogger's pendant, and decided to allocate that much money to bidding on an actual original as opposed to a copy. And it's a good thing I did, because someone had to nerve to bid against me. BACK OFF, ANONYMOUS EBAY BIDDER. IT'S MINE.

And it is mine. But when it arrived in the mail, here is the thing that surprised me, the thing I am grateful for - I didn't feel the burning need for it. The intensity of my grieving in the beginning was less raw now. Over the past few months, I had worked hard to begin healing, in my actions and my thoughts. And it was working. Am I grateful to have this relic? Yes. Again, give me another 15 years, and I imagine I will feel as strongly about this one as I did my first one. But I am also grateful for the lessons losing my touchstone has taught me.

The lesson I have learned from this is that I am stubborn. Oh wait, that's not a lesson, I totally knew that. Okay, so the lesson I have learned from this is that it is possible to carry a touchstone in your heart, even when it is no longer in your hands. For me, in order to find that find peace, I had to overcome the obstacles of putting in the work, and feeling content that I searched exhaustively before arriving at that place. Even if I had never found similar relics, I am convinced I would have reached peace from knowing I did everything I could. No one can ever take away the memories.

So that's my story. I started out with one relic, then none, and now two. I was sad, I was determined, and I am at peace. People who know me and people who don't know me cared enough about my story to speak to me about it, to search for me, and to brainstorm with me. Thank you.

Two Padre Pio relics.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Some things are genetic.

Rob says George has inherited my bitchface.

I showed El Hub this photo saying this is my new favorite photo of George, and he exclaimed, "THAT'S YOUR BITCHFACE."

Sorry for the profanity. Let us blame El Hub. In case you have never heard of it before, check out this handy-dandy illustration of life with this unfortunate condition.

Story of my life. People think I'm in a bad mood or angry when really, THAT'S JUST MY FACE. Poor George is in for future of annoying people asking him why he's so upset or sad when he is probably thinking about cupcakes or what book he would like to read next.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2012 Disney Family Fiesta 5k.

On Friday, I ran my first 5k race. And I cried when I got to the finish line. I really needed to finish that race, and I am beyond grateful that I did.

My body and I do not have the best relationship. As much as part of me would love to be a bare-it-all blogger when it comes to health issues, I am just not there yet. If I ever met Dooce or the Bloggess, I would high five them for helping to pave the way for other folks to speak more freely about mental illness, but there aren't many well known champions for chronic illness of the physical variety. Or...any that I can think of, actually. Health issues are viewed as weakness. And I admit, I do not like to be viewed as weak.

I am guilty of this perspective. It's not fun (or healthy or productive) to view yourself as weak. Which is why for the past several years I have seized control of the parts of my life that I can, exercising regularly and challenging my body to take on new activities. I experience a high when I think about how much more deeply I can now go into most yoga poses, how much higher an intensity I can work out on the elliptical, and how much more I can run around in my daily life because I have built up strength and stamina through working out.

At @TrackShack getting new running shoes.
Be smart when working out. Get cleared by your doctor first, get fitted for proper running shoes (Orlando folks, I recommend you go to Track Shack, those guys always fit me in the most comfy of shoes) or whatever gear you might need for your poison exercise of choice.

And then I popped out a baby and lost my ability to go to the gym whenever I wanted to exercise. Running is something I had tried in the past, but it was never the best fit for me...and I found it boring to boot. But thanks to a jogging stroller my mother picked up at a garage sale, it was now my best bet at exercising while easily keeping the kiddo entertained.

Completed week 1 of Couch to 5k. My running buddy slept most of the way.
Back when I completed week 1 of Couch to 5k. My running buddy slept most of the way.

Back in August, I started the Couch to 5k running plan. In the past, I had always stalled out around week five of this program, either from health issues, boredom, or a combination of both. I knew I needed a motivator to keep me persevering past that point, and the fitness blogs I keep up with were always extolling the virtues of racing. The cheering crowds! The pressure to keep up with the runners around! The scenic views! The support of the volunteers, water stops, and safe places to run! The money you have to pay to sign up that has you telling yourself, YOU BETTER RUN THAT RACE SO YOU'RE NOT OUT FIFTY BUCKS!

The 2012 Disney Family Fiesta 5k is the one I decided to sign up for (hi, have we met? I'm a Disney nut. Can't think of a better motivator for me than the chance to run through Epcot.). I expected my training to go more slowly than the nine weeks they say it takes to go from couch to 30 straight minutes of running, so I wanted the buffer of extra training time. And boy oh boy, did I need it. I essentially never progressed beyond day one of week five, which involves five minutes of running followed by three minutes of walking.

Obstacles are not unfamiliar to me. When coming up against one, it is necessary to decide if it is one to scale or one to walk around. Once I came to terms with not scaling this one since jogging longer than five minutes at a time wouldn't get me 5k-ready in time for Disney, I changed my training to increase the number of five minute intervals I could do. Walking around this obstacle would take longer, but it would get me much closer to my ultimate goal of crossing the finish line.

And it worked. I ran my first non-race 5k at the end of November. I was positively giddy, and I came straight home to give El Hub a sweaty hug. That was when I knew I had a shot at actually achieving this goal of mine.

Golf claps to me for not falling off the still moving treadmill while taking this photo. Apparently I have decidedly less physical common sense when giddy.

It was still a bumpy road. The latest stumbling block was so inane, a simple cold. But if the timing had been one week later, I would NOT have run this 5k. Thumbs up to folks who can run with a hacking cough and without the ability to breathe through their nose, but I am not one of them.

Packet pickup for the Disney 5k was smooth. My running buddy George was there to cheer me on.

My running buddy would be sleeping in on race day, but being the sweetheart that George is, he went with me to pick up my racing packet.

Sad @rshade is sad it's early and cold. #runDisney

El Hub did NOT sleep in, and instead hung out in the cold to give me a proper send-off and await my very first finish line crossing.

Wish me luck! #runDisney.

The three Caballeros are my favorite Disney characters after Figment. And this race? Was at Epcot, home of Figment. It could not be more perfect.

2012 Disney Family Fiesta 5k #runDisney starting line. could have been an hour later. That would have been a nice touch.

2012 Disney Family Fiesta 5k #runDisney running toward Spaceship Earth at Epcot.

According to my running app, it took me 46 minutes, which was about what I trained for since Disney requires a 16 minute mile or faster. I had 46 minutes to think.

I thought about all the training I did. I thought about El Hub at the finish line. I thought about how I want George to grow up feeling that exercise is fun and freeing and empowering. I thought about my body and how I wanted to own it.

The stars aligned. My training paid off.

2012 Disney Family Fiesta 5k #runDisney me and my medal.

I ran my first 5k. No one, not even my own health, can ever take that away from me.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ten months.

Ten months.

Dear Stranger,

Hey you. Yeah, you. Is your name George? I think maybe I knew you way back when, during a time when you were immobile and fairly quiet and had strong opinions but only about one or two things as opposed to, oh, EVERYTHING. It's those eyes of yours, that smile, that laugh too - they remind me of that baby I used to know.

We have moved into double digits. You are now ten months old. I so badly want to be snarky about this, but I am too awed (and tired). Your energy output is amazing to witness. You just do not stop moving. The need for babies to nap makes total sense to me now, because moving around this much and this fast requires recharging the batteries frequently.

Ninja teeth continue to pop through in your mouth. One day your dad and I were going, GAH WHY SO CRANKY GEORGE so for funsies, we felt around in your mouth (parents like to blame all crankiness on teething. It makes us feel inexplicably better to be able to name a baby's unnameable suffering). We felt not just one, but two new teeth. That brings you up to a total of six, with two on the top and four on the bottom.

That mouth has purposes other than sprouting teeth, of course. We think maaaaaybe you have a first word. In your nursery, your daddy likes to walk you around, pointing to objects while telling you their names. There is a stuffed duck on the armoire, and a painting of Donald Duck on the wall. Your daddy pointed to the painting while saying, "Duck." You then pointed to the stuffed animal, and said, "Duh." Which is different than your usual, which is "Dadadadadadadada." You have done it a couple of times since then, but not consistently. So. Maybe. Verdict's out.

The movement of your body fascinates you, and for good reason. You figured out how to do so much with your body this month. You started pulling up on us, on furniture, on the side of the tub, on anything you could get your hands on. In the beginning you preferred cupping your little hands in ours, to get a good grip before trusting your legs to lift and hold you. But you quickly branched out, and now you can pull up on the slippery metal of Baby Gate Jail (as we affectionately call the gate that keeps you out of the Kitchen of Doom and in the Living Room of Toy Explosions).

You also very gradually figured out how to sit up on your own. The first time you did it, you were having post-bath nekkid time hanging out on the living room floor, and your dad and I were sitting on the couch watching you exert that last bit of energy for the day. We held our breath as we watched your hips slo-o-o-owly move to the side in just the way they needed for you to sit up. We applauded you when you succeeded. In that moment I thought, man, this is why people have kids.

We had two more first holidays this past month, and one was the biggie - Christmas. Our first Christmas at our own home, and with a baby to boot, so thank you for helping us break in the house. New Year's Eve was thankfully not too exciting for you, despite our neighbors' partying (cue crotchety new parent complaints about how DARE people party while MAH BABY! is trying to sleep). You loved every minute of the past few weeks, in part because there were so many people around to shower you with love. Your daddy had a couple weeks off of work, your cousin Michelle stayed with us for the week before Christmas, and Momma's Super Awesome Friend Kelly was here the week after. As long as you got your quiet time for bottles and naps, this was the ideal life for you. Now everyone has gone back home and back to their offices, so it's just you and me, kid. Starting out a new year.

Love you, Butternut.


2011 holiday photo.

Who's that momma in the window?

Happy Friday, folks.

Pulling up.

My boys.

This is far more interesting than mere toys.


Swing, baby, swing.

George with Christmas lights, part 2.

Dad, George, and me.

George tackling wrapping paper.

Three generations on Christmas Eve.

Family of three at Christmas.

Om nom nom tasty ornament.

Rob and George laughing at lunch.

Me and George in the adirondack.

Crawling up the adirondack.

Holding Daddy's hand.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Goodbye and hello.

Goodbye, 2011.

Goodbye, 2011.

Time to put together my 2011 album as part of my annual tradition. I just need to narrow down my favorite photos from more than 600 down to 240... Wish me luck.

It has been quite the year - the year of George, to go by the collage. But there have been so many other parts I have not been able to photograph or willing to write, and those parts I am ready to kiss goodbye. This year, I am seeking a healthier and stronger year, for myself and my loved ones.

Hello, 2012.