The Grief Episode

This episode was difficult for me to record. Several times throughout, I had to stop, breathe, and collect myself before resuming. The point is, grief may not have an ending point. I’ve learned that that’s OK. I hope through listening to this episode, you’ll realize that, too. Especially in the Christian community, we have a tendency to think that it’s OK to grieve — but only for a time. After that time has lapsed, we better be better. If we’re not, sometimes the message to us is that our faith isn’t strong enough. If we really believed that we have eternal life and that we’ll see our loved ones again, why would we continue to grieve?

And yet we do.

Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Red Weather Christians: “S2E9: The Grief Episode”

runs

I wonder if everyone’s brain runs
while they run like mine does
rambling thoughts
my brain is a beehive buzzing
or a running reel as I’m running
I wonder

I’m starting to pass
the same people on the path
Pablo I’ve named the
mustached older guy
he always gives
a thumbs up
or a side clap to me
he doesn’t know me
but something in his
brain buzzes 
to tell him to tell me
good job keep it up keep going you got it
his mask is
down
and I can see kindness on his face

and then there’s — we’ll call him
Miguel — bearded biker with a clear
plastic face shield
and he was shielded the first few
times we passed
but since my mask is always
down
I smile one time and wave
because we’ve seen each other before
and before I know it
his entire face
breaks
into beautiful smile

even the shield
can’t shield
from that

I wonder if my friends
think thoughts like I do
I hope they think I’m encouraging too
and nice
because it’s nice
passing people who can take
the second
or two
to smile
or thumbs up
or side clap

I like it 
I do
and I wonder
if they think about me
too.

slow

i.
what luxury
time is
now
you have stopped
doing things
to read words
slowly
read them slowly
ink 
and 
page

and when I went
running this morning
I filled my lungs
with air
and time
and time told me
in a voice like water to
slow
down
and feeling full
I was overcome
with the gift
time is
now
slow
down
I told myself
running

when I was young
everything was a race
always in a hurry
fasterfasterfaster
of course
the course held
my competition
always
stopwatches spectators guns and
lines and lanes
a beginning
an end

pretend that’s what
life is
go ahead
exhausted before you begin
I’m not racing
anymore
slow
down

I tell myself
I’m not shaving seconds
off my time
I’m not
I’m slow
and observant
and thankful
thankful for the luxury of
time
now.

ii.
I
slowly 
embrace a certain somber mood
sometimes surrounded by city
people
yelling
selling
things
there are always
things to distract
from those thoughts
you know the ones I mean

once I was peeling
an orange
slowly
and
I was overcome
with the gift
time is
now
I sit
like Wordsworth
in vacant and in pensive mood
not pushing the pen
but allowing a 
slow and 
sad
thought
like a lonely
leaf
like a lovely
leaf
falling
slow
and sad
and somber

it’s ok to be sad
I tell my sons
there’s time for that
we have time
now
not everyone does
it was a sad thought
remember
that reminded you
you cared

and that’s worth
the time
now
running in the 
now
not worried to win
because
actually
we’re winning
already
albeit
slowly.

running

so I’m running again
and when my feet
hit pavement I turn
and wave at 
the fading woman
behind me
she’s there
but barely
I rarely turn
but today
I turned
feet facing forward
head craned back
she is still
and sad
and there
but barely
I turn the corner
and wonder if 
there will be anything
or any pieces
left
of
her
when I get back

back when I 
held the pen
again and again
she told me no
couldn’t
won’t
wait
for the right word
so I sat
pen in hand
couldn’t write
the right word
at the right time
I sat
still

and still 
she’s there
but barely
but now
looking back
I see her
sadness
and feel it
the sadness the stillness
unwillingness to
run and
unwillingness to
write and
even as I write now
right now
she is
fading
with
every
word.

5 Tips for Running at High Altitude (Read: Come Run with Me in Quito)

First of all, never did I ever think I’d write anything with this title. Moving to Quito, Ecuador was never in any plans I had. Running also was not. Running in Quito at 9,350 feet above sea level? Certainly not.

But here I am. And because I’ve been running for a few months now, I feel ready to impart some wisdom. OK, wisdom may be a touch hyperbolic, but I will share with you things that worked for me so far on this running journey of mine.

  1. Drink lots of water.

    OK, obviously. But at this altitude, the oxygen is thin, and you dehydrate easily. But here’s what’s tricky for me: I can’t glug the water right before I run or I’ll completely pee myself (see my last post about postpartum running). So I try to drink plenty of water during a day-to-day basis. I always bring water with me on my runs (one of the few times I’ll say it’s nice to push a jogging stroller on a run). And I can glug all the water I want when I finish my run. Fun!

  2. Wear sunscreen and sunglasses every day.

    Being here in Quito, the sun is like a blast burner (whatever that is, though I picture the sun shooting out rays of burning light like a machine gun and lighting everyone’s faces on fire and then everyone walking around with fire faces). I wear SPF 50 on my face every darn day, even if it’s cloudy. Weather here changes quickly, so you gotta be prepared. As for the rest of my exposed skin, I’m getting very brown. But if you burn easily, sunscreen on all the skin. Or long sleeves.

    Oh, and sunglasses. Every day. Find some that don’t slip around your whole face while you run.

  3. Begin slowly.

    For the love of everything good in this world, can you listen to your body, please. Take it easy as your lungs are adjusting to the scarcity of oxygen. Start with a shorter loop. Run very, very slowly. Check in with your body to see how it’s doing. (Example: “Hi, Body, just checking in to see how you are feeling. Do you need to rest? How about some water or a small snack? A little pee-pee break perhaps?”)

  4. Have confidence.

    And what I mean to say here is don’t feel like a failure if you need to stop running and take a break. A break is better than passing out. So, please, take a break. And if you feel like singing “Gimme a break! Gimme a break! Break me off a piece of that KitKat bar!” go right ahead.

  5. Run with a friend, or let someone know your route and when you leave.

    OK, I don’t do this anymore, but in the beginning, I’d run on a weekend when my husband was home. I guess if I wasn’t back in over an hour, he’d . . . maybe continue playing video games for another hour and then go hunt me down and find me slumped in a gutter somewhere.

So get going, my running friends. I can’t help but wonder how my running abilities are going to be when we visit the much lower altitude of Michigan this summer. Probably still slow. But maybe my lungs will be so strong I’ll be able to sing while I run! Who knows . . .

Seen on my run.

Oh, and hey! If you’re still reading and you actually live in Quito, I’ll see you on the outer loop of Parque Carolina most days between 10 and 11 in the morning. See you soon!

10 Tips on Postpartum Running (Read: How to Run Without Completely Peeing Your Pants and Hating Your Life)

People talk so openly about peeing your pants these days, and I can’t help but exclaim, What a time to be alive!! So I’m gonna jump on the pee-pee train and add my own two cents when it comes to getting back into running after having babies and miscarriages and all the things. I will walk you through the process that worked for me, and you can take and apply whichever tid-bits might be helpful for you. Similar to my various posts on reading and writing, the biggest step is simply to start — once you’ve been medically cleared to, of course. And then to continue. So let’s go!

  1. Stop caring what people think.

    I had to put this as my first step because all through my running career (running long distance track in high school, running a marathon and triathlon in college, competing in the Gate River Run 15K in my twenties), I cared so much about what people thought. This meant going at an “acceptably fast pace” at all times. What if someone looked up my time? What if someone saw me running not-fast? What if they thought I was a lesser athlete than I wanted to be? THE HORROR.

    The other part of the not-caring step is about pee. Yes, after 3 babies and 4 miscarriages, things down there are — ahem — a bit loose. So I had to be OK with peeing my pants a little bit here and there and people seeing that wet spot. But let’s be honest: who’s looking at my crotch while I’m running? Do not fear, though! My next steps do address how to improve that wet situation.

  2. Just start.

    Yeah, you gotta start. As I told my five-year-old at the time when he was climbing up a volcano, “one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other.” But here’s the thing with running, especially if you don’t have to push a jogging stroller with a balance bike hanging from the handlebar and a 30-pound monster babe-child (as I do every weekday): you can appreciate your surroundings. Look around and observe beautiful things. Listen to nature noises. Or city noises. Think about the wonderful things in your life. And if you’re still feeling particularly miserable (as my son surely did climbing the volcano), you can slow your pace. Annnnnd, step 3…

  3. Take it slow, and listen to your body.

    This was a game-changer for me. All my life, I thought running meant running to the point of almost-barfing. I thought that if I wasn’t hyperventilating at the end, I didn’t push myself hard enough. I thought that if I didn’t pace myself fast enough, people would think I wasn’t a real athlete.

    LIES! When I allowed myself to run slowly, everything changed. I ran so slowly that I wasn’t constantly thinking about the pain I was in or the side-ache or my sheer state of misery. And I found that I didn’t feel like I needed to stop. I realized that — wait for it — running could be enjoyable. For so long running was simply a means to exercise. I never saw running for what it could be: a time to appreciate your surroundings, your body, your spirituality, and your life. Whoa.

    I’m not so slow now that I’ve been running for a few months, but when I started, I’d describe my pace as slightly faster than a fast walk. It was slow. And it was great. And you know what else? No one yelled at me that I wasn’t a real athlete. No one scoffed. No one laughed at me. Or if they did, I didn’t care! I was out there, putting one foot in front of the other.

  4. Plan your route with bathrooms along the way.

    Especially on your very first runs, have contingency plans for bathroom needs. If you don’t have a loop with bathrooms along the way, perhaps run around your neighborhood, staying somewhat close to your house. But if you do need to stop to pee or poop, don’t end your run. Take care of your business, and get back out there. Have a route ahead of time as your goal, and do your best to complete it, even if it means a couple of bathroom breaks.

    My route that I’ve been doing for several weeks now is a lovely loop around a huge park here in Quito. It’s close to my apartment, so I run to it, run the loop, and run home. In total, it’s about 3.3 miles. There are several bathrooms in the park; I just need to make sure I bring the 20 cents it costs to use the bathroom and get toilet paper. Let’s just say I’m getting to know some of the ladies who run the bathrooms pretty well. They know me. I’m basically a celebrity.

  5. Wear period underwear.

    I hadn’t read to do this anywhere, so when the idea popped into my head, I felt like a genius! Listen, if you have major leakage, they’re not going to function like an adult diaper, but they definitely definitely help. Sometimes I get back from a run, and my shorts aren’t wet at all! I think that’s a combination of the underwear and my slow pace. Whatever. I’m always thrilled to have dry shorts. Or to have shorts that are wet from only sweat. It’s a wonderful life!

  6. Wear colors/patterns that hide wet spots.

    A light grey pair of shorts isn’t gonna cut it here (you know that awkward moment when you realize that when light grey gets wet, it turns BLACK). Black works well. Yoga pants with loose shorts over works well. Hopefully we can all get to a point when peeing our pants isn’t an issue. But until then, black for the win.

  7. Do some unilateral strength training.

    It’s important when getting back into running to take it slow. This isn’t just for morale but for your physical body, too. The last thing you want is an injury because you pushed yourself too hard at the beginning. With that in mind, when I started running again, I read articles and listened to podcasts, and I learned that doing unilateral exercises is very important. Because running is a unilateral exercise (one side at a time), doing unilateral strength training will help you become a better runner and help prevent injury.

    When my 3-year-old and I go for our run, we often stop at the playground for him to ride his balance bike, swing, and run around. While he plays, I do various strength-training exercises. Having the playground equipment is great — I’ll hang from the monkey bars, lift my knees to each side, and pull myself up for a flexed-arm hang. Lunges around the playground happen as well. The options are quite endless!

  8. Eat and drink before you run. And after.

    A tip here: I am a morning coffee drinker. I also like to run in the mornings when the weather here on the equator is typically at its best. I have found that I should wait an hour if possible after my last sip of coffee to avoid having to pee five minutes into my run.

    I have also found that I need to drink at least a little bit of water and eat something small but substantial before my run. Oatmeal or a piece of whole-wheat sourdough toast are my go-to’s. And I always bring water with me on my run (living in the second highest city in the world — 9,350 feet above sea level — water is necessary to have at all times).

    I read somewhere that what you eat in the hour after you finish your run is really important. What’s interesting for me is that after I run, fruit is always what I crave. I feel good about that! Perhaps you can have a healthy snack ready for you when you get back. I’m lazy about that, so an apple or strawberries or an orange is what I reach for. But hummus and veggies or a banana with peanut butter would be great.

  9. Listen to something that will motivate you.

    I do this sometimes before I run because as I run, I like to be very aware of my surroundings and the noises that come with them. I listened to a few hand-picked episodes of the podcast Run to the Top, and I quite enjoyed them. I learned some tips, and I felt more confident stepping out. Maybe you have a song that always pumps you up or a particular YouTube video. Find something you like!

  10. Do kegel exercises. And go to pelvic floor physical therapy if possible.

    Disclaimer: I didn’t do this. I mean, I do kegels once in a blue moon, but it’s not a regular habit. (It’s funny to me that I can be so disciplined with running, but flexing my pelvic muscles a few seconds every day? CAN’T BE BOTHERED.)

    And I’m the kind of person who avoids the doctor if at all possible. So I knew going to physical therapy wasn’t going to work in my life. But I’d suggest it for you! I’m sure it’s great!

And now, please enjoy some pictures along my running route here in beautiful Quito, Ecuador:

Heading to the park!
On the park path.
Playground stop!
Back on the path.
Heading home!

Thanks for reading, friends, and drop a comment if you have any other great advice for getting back into that running habit.

OK, gotta run!