Tag Archives: Gratitude

Come Hell or High Water

What a week this has been.  This time last week, the winds of Sandy were just starting to really pick up, causing a branch the size of a tree to fall right next to the chapel.  I was lamenting the fact that I had missed my pre-marathon massage–something that had been on my training plan for months.  I had no idea how trivial and selfish my lament would seem just a few hours later, as I watched the Hudson River creep up past the West Side Highway, past 11th and 10th Avenues, nearing the gates of the seminary.  Oh.  Right.  This is big.  The lights went out in Chelsea (and all of Lower Manhattan) around 9pm.  They didn’t come back on for 4 days.  Some are still waiting in the dark.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Meanwhile, Jay was working “wall-to-wall” as they say in the newsroom.  Because his work needed him to be accessible at all times, they reserved a block of rooms at a hotel across the street from the station.  We never knew what to expect from one day to the next, but I found myself overwhelmed with gratitude again and again for a warm bed, a hot shower, a charged phone, a meal shared with a friend, and an occasional siting of my sweet husband.  Not to mention our community back at the seminary caring for our dog–she is a warm snuggler when you’re living without heat!

Tuesday afternoon, we were waiting for a decision about the NYC Marathon.  Being all too aware of the devastation around us, Jay didn’t see how it could go on–but he seemed to think it would anyway.  Sure enough, the mayor announced that the marathon was a GO.  Alrighty then.  We’ll stick to the plan.

As days went on, it became abundantly clear that the marathon was pissing a good deal of people off.  I was unhealthily glued to facebook, taking every negative comment to heart.  I knew we were doing something good–heck, we raised over $6,000 to fight colon cancer!  But how was I supposed to feel good about starting a race with my back to the war zone of Staten Island?  And why were people taking out their anger on the runners?  Why weren’t they upset with the mayor for making a bad call?  People who think this sport is a narcissistic one should come to one of my speed workouts.  If anything, my experience of training for this marathon (and shorter races before it) has been a) humbling, and b) camaraderie building.  Narcissism is judging others for doing something you know nothing about.

Friday morning, John and Katie (the husband and youngest daughter of my friend Aimee who died of colon cancer in March) arrived to their hotel–ready to catch some shows and cheer me on.  Friday afternoon, my mom arrived with encouraging words, knowing I’d had nightmares about people protesting the race.  Friday night, NYRR announced the marathon was cancelled.  As much as I have have looked forward to running the legendary NYC Marathon, I breathed a sigh of relief when I received Jay’s text saying, “it’s cancelled.”  He knew I was on my way to church and would not be watching the announcement on TV.  He was steps away from Mary Wittenburg as she told the world that this race was meant to bring people together, not to divide them–and given the divisive nature of the controversy the marathon posed, it could not go on.

While I was in church with my mom for an All Saints service, remembering departed saints in our own lives as well as all who had lost their lives in Sandy’s wreckage, my husband and friends were already thinking of ways to support me, coming up with Plan B.  Jay emailed his contact at the Philly Marathon to see if he could switch his elite entry over to me–he was told no.  Our friends Tanya and Josh (the same two who ran in men’s underwear with me back in June to raise awareness for colon cancer) had found a marathon in PA set to take place on Nov. 4–same day NYC had been scheduled.  Jay immediately registered me for the race, worried it would fill up before I got out of church (it did).  He, Josh and Tanya were ready to drive me to PA and take turns running with me through the whole race.  I was touched when I met Jay for dinner and he told me the news.  But my heart had already decided on another race: Charlotte’s Thunder Road.

I’ve got to say, I never would have thought to sign up for Thunder Road as my “one” marathon to run.  (It’s looking less and less likely that I’ll only run one).  I’ve run the TR half-marathon, and loved it!  And I love Charlotte!  But I only started this journey after getting into NYC via the lottery.  Pure chance.  It’s like the decision wasn’t even mine.  Once it was made, I was stoked because of the cause that fueled me and the opportunity to run in the world’s largest (?) marathon.  2 million spectators are no small potatoes!  But now that my registration for TR is in the mail, and my plane ticket to CLT is purchased, I can honestly say I am as excited if not MORE excited to be running in Charlotte Nov. 17.

Our goal going into this race was to finish, have fun, and honor Aimee.  My training has been such that I’m a little faster than we anticipated, and it was fun to go into the NYC Marathon with a possibility of running 3:50 or faster.  My teammates thought I should be shooting for 3:45 or 3:40.  And maybe if everything on race day had been picture-perfect, I could have.  It won’t be the case in Charlotte.  I’m ready for the hills (thank God for all those Harlem hill workouts!!) but tapering, picking up my mileage, and then tapering again just isn’t ideal.  Jay’s concerned I’ll be more prone to injury.  So running TR brings my original goals back into focus–finish, have fun, honor Aimee.  We toasted Aimee Friday night after making the decision, shedding a few tears.

And that’s it!  I can’t imagine a more perfect place to finish this race than in Aimee’s town, surrounded by people who miss her as much as I do.  To run on the very streets she and I used to drive together–it was Aimee who first drove me around Charlotte, picking me up from the hotel when I interviewed at Christ Church.

There is a good chance Jay won’t be there since he is scheduled to work that weekend (and every weekend).  But Jay’s closest friends will be there, and I know I’ll feel him with me every step of the way.  Julie, Brian and Mom won’t be there, but their presence this weekend cheered Jay and I up (Pepper too) after a long and difficult week.

And as for NYC (and many other areas hit so hard), send us your prayers and your donations.  It’s a long road to recovery.  If Sunday is any indication, the running community will be a significant presence in restoration.  Thousands of runners went to Staten Island, Breezy Point, Rockaway, and Lower Manhattan to lend a hand.  Thousands of runners met in Central Park to donate goods and “Run Anyway” for the various causes they’d been supporting all along.  And thousands of non-running New Yorkers also met in Central Park to support those running–cheering for people, handing out water and Gatorade.

Despite the marathon being cancelled, or because of the marathon being cancelled, or because it just needed to happen, people are coming together.  “I sing a song of the saints of God… God help me to be one too.”

Tagged , , , , , ,

13.1 thank you’s

a while back i got this wild idea to run a half marathon (i think it started on the cruise with my girlfriends this summer, when i read an article about endurance training, and thought, huh… i’ve been training for things all year… but endurance… that’s something new…) everyone kept telling me it’s a mental challenge as much as a physical one. my girlfriend jocelita said, “maybe just think of a different person at every mile…” so i filed that little nugget away.

a month before the race, i made a list. i was going to run 13.1 miles, so i chose 13 people that had made the biggest impact on my first year in town. here’s the run-down…

From 2009 Fall

mile 1: aimeesita. 7.48. this was my fastest mile (downhill and pumped up). aimeesita is so many things to me, but she is always my designated hug for the day. without her, i could go a whole week hugless!

mile 2: anniebananie. 8:47. anniebananie shares my office and therefore my craziness. she listens to me whether she wants to or not. sometimes she acts like my mom, but she never gets upset with me. love!

mile 3: chip dinero. 8:42. chip dinero is my mentor. he’s been there for lots of up’s and down’s this year. i look up to him muchisimo.

mile 4: danimal. 9:12 (pace is slowing… uphill). not only did danimal introduce me to sweet pepper bear, but he also taught me to rake leaves and he manages my fantasy football team… which is winning. most generous guy i know!

mile 5: farrellita. 8:40. farrellita intimidated me when i first met her because she is so cool. now she, her hubby and her baby are like family to me. her back porch (with a glass of wine in my hand) is probably my favorite place in town.

mile 6: hi-mey. 9:24. i met hi-mey up at farrellita’s cabin last spring. we hit it off immediately. i love him so much, i introduced him to the best girl i know. and he asked her to marry him. she said yes. and there was much rejoicing.

mile 7: jocelita. 9:13. jocelita is one of the biggest cheer leaders i know. she was biking all over the course on her stylin’ yellow wheels, cheering peeps on left and right. she inspires me!

mile 8: juan. 9:12. juan is my boss. i often say i want to be like all the priests i work for when i grow up, but i especially want to be like juan. he’s got more wisdom and insight than peeps twice his age. and he’s a tree hugger.

mile 9: julia. 9:37. julia was one of my first real girlfriends here. she taught me to ride with clipless pedals, and was there for my first fall. she later told me she was hoping to be the mile that includes the toughest hill on the course, and she was… well… half way…

mile 10: latissimus. 9:55. my slowest mile on the course. in part because it included the other half of the toughest hill, but also because i had to stop and hug hi-mey and wave to anniebananie, who were waiting on the course, cheering for me. YES! latissimus introduced me to 1/3 of the peeps i know here, drove me around the first 3 car-less months i lived here, and then taught me to drive stick when i finally did buy a car. other than dating, he’s pretty much awesome

mile 11: lindensita. 9:37. lindensita’s stretch of the race was actually perfect, as it’s the same stretch we “speed walked” the day i told her i wanted to be a priest. she was the first friend i told… the guinea pig. and she didn’t freak out! linden gets the mountain girl in me.

mile 12: maria carolina. 9:52. mi amor, mc! this chica started the monday night girls’ group that has become my sacred space each week. we have some crazy similarities, meaning she makes me feel understood in a way few people can.

mile 13: sloandawg. i don’t know that i actually stopped my watch when i crossed the finish. sloandawg, i think, has put up with my very worst, and she’s been there for some of my best moments too. she ran my first 10k and my first triathlon with me. she lets me repeat stories over and over, and she put up with the bulk of my culture shock when i moved here. i love her. she’s also engaged to hi-mey.

From 2009 Fall

in the end, i finished the race in 2:00:11. my goal was to get as close to 2 hours as possible, so 11 seconds over is pretty stinkin’ close! i was very pleased. and dad was standing at the finish line waiting for me with a great big hug. as were jocelita and jota.

jota is someone else i need to thank. he has made running fun, as has the whole running club.

sarita also gets a shout-out for biking all over the course to cheer me (and others) on!

lorita too, who could not be there, as she was cheering on her hubby in his first ironman race, but who coached me through every one of my long runs leading up to the race… she’s one of my new favorite people. and her watch, which usually beeps at us when we run uphills, was beeping in my head, reminding me to slow up a little on those uphill stretches.

all in all, it was an epic day, i finally earned a real medal (YAY!!!), and we closed out the festivities with a dinner party for the 13 and their dates. thanks to chef dad.

thank you, thank you, thank you for all who encouraged me along the way, and especially for all who have made this town HOME to me.

Tagged , , , ,

study in contrasts

i was driving up to virginia earlier this week (where i am now, visiting family) and i couldn’t help but contemplate the differences in this thanksgiving and the last. for one, my whole family (including both divorced parents) came together for the first holiday in almost 3 years. that was definitely cool. and easy. and natural, even?

but really, what got me thinking, was listening to african music while driving a car (something i didn’t have last year) by myself (versus a jam packed bush taxi) on very smooth paved roads (no pot holes) through the mountains (not the beach) on a cool fall day (no 60% humidity here)!!

the music took me back to a very different place and time. the always present feeling of sand between your toes. the never very cold beer. the lost sense of time. but what was it that made it feel so very different? not these details… something less tangible.

finally it occurred to me. i think it was this feeling of being in a forgotten land. kinda feeling like you don’t matter. not in a bad way. just in a all-that-matters-is-this-moment-and-how-i-live-it kind of way. here, it’s always what’s leading to the next thing. there, the next thing won’t come along till you’re finished with what you’re doing now. it’s very very different. and so distant. like you’re not just in a different geographic location, but a different time altogether.

sometimes i really miss it.

which isn’t to say i don’t appreciate the paved roads and time spent alone thinking in the car, fully equipped with a seatbelt.

just different.

Tagged , ,

merry christmas!

Christmas day!!! I woke up with the rest of the Mitton crowd to open presents and eat cinnamon rolls, just like Christmas back home! The Mitton family spoiled me with tupperware, ice cube trays, candy and Tuareg leather gifts. Tuaregs are a particular tribe of people from Niger that do very nice leather work (frames, boxes, etc.) and jewelry. It’s the quintessential West African gift, so I was excited to finally have some Tuareg items of my own.

We went to our friend Anne’s house for a late lunch/early dinner. What a feast! Salad, bread, turkey, ham, broccoli, macaroni and cheese, “calorie corn,” pumpkin pie, cheese cake, pecan pie, homemade chocolate peanut butter cups (I helped make those), peanut butter cookies, I could go on and on. Lots of these things are hard to come by here (like peanut butter, turkey and broccoli), so it was a real treat to eat so well.

As if we hadn’t done enough singing already, we sang some MORE! I think I’ve sung more Christmas carols this year than ever. I guess you have to sing more to make up for the hot weather. But, oddly enough, today was the coolest day in Benin since I arrived. I hear it dipped below 80 early this morning! And sitting in Anne’s air conditioned living room, I had to sport a hooded sweatshirt to keep from catching a cold. That helped get me in the Christmas spirit!

Tagged , , ,

best thanksgiving ever

okay… maybe that seems like an overstatement. i mean, i am millions (it feels like) miles away from my friends and family. i have even been admittedly miserable this entire week, wanting to cry about everything, and yet finding no tears.

and perhaps that is why today was the best thanksgiving ever.

just when i thought thanksgiving was going to be dreadful, it was awesome. just when i thought i’d have to make do with chicken, a platter of TURKEY and stuffing and gravy appears! and mashed potatoes! and pumpkin pie!

the only food items missing were pecan pie and duke of windsor sandwiches (made from leftover turkey, cheddar cheese and chutney… yum).

and while there’s no substitute for my family back home (i love you guys!) i did get to dine with a room full of really bright, really caring, really interesting people… including my adopted family.

and speaking of my adopted family… in true american fashion (even though my fam here is canadian), i went shopping this morning with kim. and bought Christmas presents. and wrapped them in Christmas paper. and listened to Christmas music.

AND my real family sent me a paper “Christmas tree in a box” that now stands about 2 feet tall in my borrowed apartment!

see… best thanksgiving ever. for real.

Tagged , , ,