Friday, January 22, 2016

Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches.

I noticed something after I wrote my last post.  As I skimmed my labels to decide what category my story about running would fall, I realized that almost every single label had to do with my sons.  I wasn't really surprised by this as I began blogging in order to document my new life as a mother, but I realized that I really enjoyed, and hoped to continue, to write about me.  In a way, as my boys are getting older and more independent, my life as myself is beginning to return.

So I also noticed that I hadn't written much about my job(s) in the last few years.  In the beginning of 2014, I left the agency where I spent nearly 8 years developing as a person, a professional, and as a mother.  LBZ was 2 at the time, and the new job had promise as a perfect fit with my family because of where it was the same building as their preschool.

When I began to seek employment outside of that job, I always looked at the website of the Community Center where the boys' preschool was.  Certainly I could do just about any job as long as I was that close to them. Throw in a 50% discount off of their daycare cost (what what??), a free family membership to the center and you have what appeared to be the perfect fit for my family.

Except for one wasn't.

The first 6 months were tough.  I wavered between hating it and needing to give it at least a year for a full chance.  Then one of the main staff left.  I knew I couldn't leave then.  I needed to see the program through this huge transition.  So I stayed.  As the first year went on I still felt unhappy and started to think about looking around.  Then, another major staff person left.  Surely I couldn't leave then.  So I stuck it out and actually figured out how to be really good at this job.

That was a little over a year ago.  I do not hate my job.  In fact, I actually really like it now that I have a full staff of really good quality people on my team.  The problem is, it is a very high demand job.  My staff call me as early as 5am and as late as 11pm and I am charged with finding staff coverage, cancelling program details in bad weather, having my phone with me at all times to manage any program issues, and of course, making all of the really hard decisions and communicating them with families.

It's a high energy, fast paced, high demand job.  And I am really good at it.  I can manage people, and participants, and staff, and drivers and temp agencies beginning at 5am and still work until 7pm rocking it out.  I'm like a non-profit business-running rock star.  I think the discomfort I felt during the first year was because I was growing and learning so much.  It's hard for me to not feel like a master at everything.  I learned all aspects of this job and rocked it.

But it's just not working for me anymore.

I expend so much emotional energy on this job, that I am left with less than I need to provide for my family.  The demands are just too high for me during this season of my life, and it is time for a change.  My boys need me more now than they ever have.  I thought the baby stage was going to be the most emotionally demanding part of raising children, but for me it's not.  BBZ is in grade school now, and he is developing into the person he is going to become.  I need to be present with him all the time.  I need to know that at dinner when he is telling me about a conflict at school, I will not be interrupted by a work related phone call.

I have accepted a new job at an agency that I think will be a great fit.  The hours are set, I will not supervise anyone, and there is still a level of professional challenge that I really look forward to.  It's hard to admit when something has to give, and I think I will miss the fast pace business-like world, but I know this is the right choice for me.

I was telling a friend that it feels very much like moving from the city to the country.  The city is a fast paced active part of town where some people thrive.  Others prefer the quiet solitude of the country life.

So that's me.  I'm moving to the country.  I can't wait to smell the fresh air and breath the sigh of relief.  I know I will miss the city life, and maybe one day, when my boys are older and off on their own, I'll move back.

Until then, I am looking forward to the new pace.  Maybe I'll even buy a hammock.

Friday, January 1, 2016


While I am not one for resolutions, I did actually set some goals for 2015.  It was a great thing for me, and I am so glad I did it.  I didn't meet all of them, and I surpassed others.  It was a great tool for me to keep myself on track, not because I wanted to change this big thing about myself, but rather because I wanted to see what I could accomplish when I set my mind to it.

Much of this mindset comes from my love of running.  Way back in January of 2014, 2 years ago today, actually, I decided to walk a certain number of miles each month.  I wasn't looking to lose weight, but I wanted to be in better shape and health and I was in the midst of a huge career change, and I think I was looking for something steady and predicable.

I walked almost every single day and hoped to complete anywhere between 40-55 miles in the month. About 3 weeks in, I began to feel the desire to run some of my miles.  I would run for about 45 seconds and have to stop to catch my breath.  It was ridiculous!  But it felt amazing.  I set my app on my phone to tell me every single minute, so I would run for one, and walk for 2-3.  Before long I was running 2-3 minutes and only walking one.

Sometime in February or March of 2014 I decided to sign up for a 5k race.  I went for a non-competitive one at the Botanical Garden because I wanted to non-competition part and also the opportunity to run in the beautiful garden.  I did a run-walk approach to most of the race and ended up timing at about 30:06.  I was so proud of myself!

At that point I decided that I really wanted to be able to run for at least 30 minutes without stopping.  I also wanted to do one 5k race each month.  Each month I completed one, and each month I improved.  In September 2014 I got first place in my age group with a time of 26:51, and I ran the whole time.

It was about this time that my running friends began to ask me when I would step it up to a 10k race.  I liked the idea of that, but I also wanted to take my time and not rush my body.  I was running 3-4 miles 4-5 times/week and I didn't want to increase that much to train for a longer road race.  I was having so much fun, I didn't want to change too much too fast.

In January 2015, my friend wanted to run a race, and asked me to run one with her.  We found one to run together, and I got a PR time of 25:34!

I was so happy!  I shaved over 4 minutes off of my 5k race time in less than 1 year.  My friend was super fast!  I could barely keep up with  her pace, and I was so grateful for her.  There's no way I would have finished with this time if I hadn't been trying to keep up with her.  It was such a fun race.

What happened afterwards I didn't anticipate.  I lost some motivation for 5k races now that I felt pretty certain that I couldn't top my new PR, and I didn't want to try and improve my time with speed training.  I was still running 3-4 miles 4-5 days/week, which I loved.

It was around February of 2015 that my brother-in-law asked me if I was interested in doing some trail running.  He has been a runner in the past, but because of health issues he had been sidelined for the past few years.  He was ready to get back into it, and I was ready to try running not only with a partner, but also off-road.

He and I started running on trails on the weekends.  We stuck to pretty easy trails that were either paved or gravel since the cold weather and melting ice kept the trails around town pretty wet.  We decided to sign up to run a 10k trail race in March.  It would not only be my first 10k race, but also on a trail!  I was nervous, and it was awesome.

Shaw Nature Reserve 10k Race

I was hooked.  Trail running was something I didn't' even know I was missing.  Running outside on a trail is like nothing I have ever done before.  My BIL and I went on to run multiple trail races ranging from 3.5 miles to 10 miles.

Alpine Shop Spring Trail Series Castlewood State Park

Alpine Shop Spring Trail Series Castlewood State Park

Flint Ridge 10 Mile Trail Race

I stretched myself farther than I ever have before, and learned things about myself I never knew were there.  I found a sense of adventure and exploration I never knew existed inside of me.  Running not only became the way I dealt with my heath and wellness, but is becoming synonymous with the way I live my life.

It has sparked a light it me that is hard to explain.  Most recently, on 12/12/15, I completed what is considered to be the most challenging trail run in the area.

Pere Marquette 7.8 mile Trail Race

In addition to the many races I completed this year, I also set a goal for mileage for the year at 936 miles, which I completed with a few days to spare.

Before I put on those walking shoes in January of 2014, I hadn't ran at all since I played soccer in high school.  I feel amazing, have a new rush for being outdoors, and am already signed up for a 15k trail race in February, a 20k trail race in March, the spring trail series of 4 races in the month of May and a HALF MARATHON TRAIL RACE in September!!  (Yikes!)  And last, a goal to run 1008 in 2016.

One of the most important things I learned this year is this:

It really did take nearly 2 years for me to learn this very important point.  The races I do are not about winning my age group, or setting a time record.  The races I do are about looking at a challenge, staring it in the face, and killing it.  The other runners truly do not matter.  Besides the kind and encouraging words we throw around at each other particularly after a ridiculous climb up what feels like the side of a mountain when we can finally exhale and realize what we all just accomplished!

This brings me to my word for 2016...ADVENTURE!

I want to stretch myself farther than I ever have before.  I want to set goals and watch myself crush them.  I want to try something new that I have never done.  I want to explore nature and bring myself and my family closer to each other and to the earth.

Bring on 2016.  Let's do this!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Anna's World

I was sitting with BBZ at the kitchen table recently while he was doing his homework.  I picked up a grown up coloring book hoping to find some peace and meditation in coloring.  After he finished his homework, he began coloring with me.  He noticed that I was coloring all of the leaves on the flowers on the paper green, and encouraged me to think creatively and not feel the pressure to make the picture the way it looks in the real world.

I dismissed this initially, then I decided to challenge myself and do just what he suggested.  It's amazing what can be accomplished internally by simply looking at something with a creative eye vs. what one would expect to see.

Going a step further, BBZ continued to encourage me to access my creativity and gave me a blank piece of paper.  He instructed me to write "Anna's World" on the top, and to draw pictures on the paper of things that I find in my world.

Deep.  Seriously deep.  This exercise proved to be much harder than it should have been.

How does one first define their world, and then draw it on a 8"x 11" sheet of paper?  As I struggled to begin with an obvious awkwardness, BBZ continued to encourage me to simply draw my world.

"Seriously mom", he said, "just draw."

So I did.  And this is the result:

I think what I love most about this exercise, is that BBZ knew what each of these things was.  I don't mean that as a testament to my drawing, but rather that he really knows me well enough to know the things that would be in my world.  So from left to right you'll see: N and the 2 boys, sleeping/snuggling in bed, running in the woods, donuts, yoga, dancing on a blanket outside, working and the sunrise/sunset.

I was pretty proud of my little world!  Feeling proud, I figured my work was done, but oh no.  Not even close!

BBZ has been very into writing comics lately.  He loves to read them, and lately he has been writing comic strips, which typically involve superheros and supercows (he's really into cows right now.  It's a little odd and totally adorable!)

So he tells me my next task is to draw a comic strip based on my world.  Geez,  This was really going to be hard!  I was so incredibly impressed by BBZ's ability to create a complete story on a blank sheet of paper.  I don't know that I am necessarily NOT creative, but this exercise definitely helped me see how VERY creative BBZ is.  And it inspired me to tap into this piece of myself now and then.

So this is what transpired from my "Anna's World" drawing into my comic strip story line:

From left to right: Wake up early, while the moon and stars are still out.  Run and watch the sunrise (BBZ asked where I run around here in the mountains and I reminded him that this is a pretend story).  Feed my smiling boys donuts.  Drive them in the car and listen to music.  Drop them off at school.  Put on my super woman cape and "Save the Day"!  (BBZ also reminded me that I don't have a cape.  I asked him how he can be so sure :) )  Get back in my car, pick up the boys from school, listen to music, feed my family a delicious dinner, watch the sunset and go to sleep next to my husband.

The End.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reminiscing - My Early Career Days

I spent most of my run this morning reminiscing about my college years, and my very first years in a real job (as in something besides fast food and retail).

I had just turned 20, and was in my junior year of college.  My friend and I wanted to get part-time jobs, and he found an ad in the paper for a part-time, $10/hour job with no benefits helping people with developmental disabilities at the 150-year-old state institution that stood on the outskirts of our small Missouri college town.

They provided 3-4 weeks of training before we ever spend time with the people we were hired to support.  They taught us non-violent crisis intervention, how to restrain people, how to communicate with people who don't use speech, and how to clock in/out and request time off.  Even with this long training, nothing could have prepared me for the work I would be expected to do.

Many of the people who lived in this institution had been there for most of their lives.  Many of the people who worked there did so after following the footsteps of their family members before them.  Here I was, a young college student tasked with the job of keeping myself and the people living there, safe from themselves and from others.

I was terrified.  I imagine they were required to prepare us for the times when the people living there would have behavior problems, and from the intense training we had to prepare us for that, I figured we would be in an unsafe situation the whole shift, every shift.

That, of course, wasn't true.  While we did need to address some behavioral issues at times, most shifts were geared toward supporting the people who lived there with all aspects of daily living.  I worked in the evenings, so we would prepare dinner, serve the meal, do showers, help with the bedtime routine and do data collection for programs.  My title was a DCA, or Direct Care Assistant.  There were often 2 full-time staff in each group home who were assigned 4 people each, then when I was assigned to a home, I would be responsible for 2-3 of the people on their lists, and would complete all of the tasks related to those people each shift.

There are so many stories I could tell about working in this environment.  Some great, some not so great.  I saw a lot there, and either in spite of or because of this job, I have dedicated my career to working with people with disabilities in a variety of settings.

The memory that came to mind today is a funny one.  Typically there would be 1 DCA in a group home with 2 full-time, and very experienced, direct care staff.  One day, I was assigned to group home 38 on unit 2.  I walked into the home, and found 2 other staff, but they were both DCAs like me.  We muddled through figuring out who would do what and thought we had it all covered.  Then we realized that we needed to cook dinner.  Here we were, 3 young and very inexperienced staff tasked with the chore of cooking a 2-course meal for 8 hungry men.  We froze up.

Not one of us knew how to cook for ourselves, let alone for a group of 8!  The kitchen sent up a box full of all of the ingredients we needed to cook the meal.  I cannot seem to remember what the meal was, but it included ground beef.  Somehow I ended up having to figure out this meal, so I did the best I could and remember serving a plate of bread with this ground beef concoction poured over the top of it.  I think the best part of this story is that one of the men who lived in this house rarely ate anything the staff cooked.  It was something the team had to address at each mealtime.  Not that night though.  He ate every bite!  I remember recounting this story the next time I worked with the full-time staff of group home 38 on unit 2, and they were not so happy to hear that he actually ate our ground beef whatever-it-was.

Reminiscence therapy is a tactic we use in my current work with people who experience memory loss.  It may seem odd to use reminiscence, or memories, as therapy for people with memory loss, but often a person experiencing memory loss cannot remember what happened yesterday, but can access memories in their long-term memory bank.  We use various items or materials to trigger memories, and it is very therapeutic not only for our participants, but also for those of us leading the activity.

I think that is why I wanted to write this out.  This was just one day, over 16 years ago, that has made a lasting impression on me.  I enjoyed thinking back to this day, which then led my memory to recall other memories from this time in my life.  It was like a small time travel machine took me back to those early days in my career.  I still have so much to learn, and have also come pretty far.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Chicken Pox + Chiggers = "Chicken Tenders"

Lu has a rash on his body from what I figured was something he got into while on our hike yesterday (it is). His teachers felt strongly that it was chicken pox (it's not) and insisted we see a doctor. While in the office waiting, Lu had the following conversation with Nate on the room phone:

"Hi daddy! What time will you be home? Well, I'm at the doctor right now. You know those mosquito bites on my body? Well, they're not mosquito bites actually. They're chicken tenders."

Saturday, August 1, 2015

He swims. He skips.

I am not typically one for new years resolutions, but this year I made a few.  One was to blog once/month.  Yeah, that hasn't happened.

I do miss blogging.  I know that this time with our boys is so precious, and the days months and years are just flying by.  I will look back and wish I had documented it more.  I'll wish I held onto these moments in more ways than juts my mind.  I know my mind can't hold them all!

These boys bring such light into my life.  We haven't done too many extraordinary things since my last post.  We're just living our lives, spending time in nature, nurturing our relationships with each other and growing together as a family.

BBZ has lost so many teeth!  His permanent teeth are growing in, and he seems to look so much more like a big boy than he has in the past.  He seems like a teenager in some ways, yet still a little boy in others.  He had an accident at camp that required 3 staples in the back of his head.  He was so nervous about it, but he stayed clam and handled it much better than I thought he would.

He is loving camp, and loving reading!  We're not as good about ensuring his summer reading as we should be, but he reads in his natural environment so well!  He reads the signs all around, and is interested in how words are spelled.  He was invited to be in the gifted program at his school, which will start in August when he starts 1st grade.  I'm so glad that he will have some extra support to use his mind and explore new ideas.

He insisted on doing sports camp this year, which I was a little concerned about because of his lack of interest in sports overall, but this has been wonderful for him.  He has tried lots of new activities that I don't know that he would have tried before.  He is taking more chances, and learning more things about himself and about who he wants to be in his life.  It's an adventure and a ride that I am so happy to be along with.  Plus, he's starting to tell me that he can go off on his own without me (he's right) and I'm learning when to back off and support his independence.  I love each time he reminds me that he can do it, that he is in charge of his life, and that he can make many of his own decisions.  I just love being a part of his growing up.

And he continues to LOVE to swim!

BBZ at the JCC pool 6/2015

Then there is my sweet littlest boy, LBZ.  I know that all parents think their children are amazing, and I am no different, but I have this strong sense that there is something quite special about my youngest son.  It seems that everything he touches turns to gold.  He loves music and can play the guitar and drums and sing better than most 3-year-olds I know.  He loves to draw, he loves to swim, he loves to play and listen to music, he loves to read words and sound out what words start with and end with.

And he loves to skip.

For the last few weeks or so, he skips everywhere.  Imagine for a moment what it is like to be with a little person who skips everywhere he goes.  He exudes happiness and light.  He has his moments like all of us of crabbiness or unhappiness, but overall, he is a ray of sunshine in what can sometimes be a dark and sad world.

LBZ's drawing, 7/1/2015

Like his big brother, LBZ also likes to swim.  He loves all sports and has excelled at every one he has tried.  If he had to choose, I think he would choose baseball, but he also loves soccer.  He has 2 metals for the sports he's tried so far (soccer and baseball) and he keeps talking about when he will get one for football and basketball.  He tries just about anything with gusto, and doesn't seem too concerned about how good/not good he is.  He is out to have fun and enjoy life, and it is beautifully contagious to all of us around him.

So I'm just checking in to say that we are here, we are doing well, and we are enjoying life.  We are taking a nice little vacation this week before the school year starts, so hopefully I'll have some fun photos to share when we return.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Dentist woes, and hope.

In 4/2014, I took BBZ, who was 5, to a popular and busy pediatric dentist office because one of his teeth looked broken. It turned out to be abscessed and needed to be pulled. He also had issues with his teeth in all 5 sections as they define them.  They created a treatment plan that included baby tooth root canals, silver crowns and fillings that would take 5 different visits.   (side note, why don’t doctors explain when a child should go to the dentist for the first time? I follow most recommendations, and the early dental visit was not on my radar, apparently)

This was our first experience with a dentist for one of our boys, so I took their word on basically everything. We did 3 of the 5 visits, and then he just couldn't do anymore. He fell apart during a visit and refused the treatment. I felt the dentist was not patient, and did not give him the respect to be involved in his care. Yes he is a child, but once I asked when he began to cry if she could give him a break, and she said that if she did he would learn that if he cried she would stop, and she didn’t want him to learn that. To me it felt as though she needed to stay on her schedule. They pressed me to have the final 2 areas of his mouth addressed, and finally talked me into doing general anesthesia to address the rest of the decay all at once. I researched it and contacted my insurance company, and determined that this would cost our family more than $1000.

Feeling apprehensive, I decided to wait. In the mean time, I took LBZ who was 2 for his first cleaning without x-rays and they found no cavities.  Then in 11/2014, when I took LBZ for his second visit, they did x-rays and found decay between the teeth and wrote a treatment plan for crowns and fillings, which would happen over 2 visits.  I made the appointments, then cancelled them out of fear of creating the same kind of dental fear my oldest experienced.

I went for the follow-up to LBZ’s visit and they were very pushy about treating the cavities. I held my ground, but they were clearly questioning my choices for my child, and adamant that I schedule the appointments to place the crowns and fill the cavities. It reminded me of the fear mongering that happened in the hospital when I was making my own choices about birthing them.  I made the appointments for the work again to avoid the issue, and then I canceled them.  Frustrated and hoping for another option, I asked around to some friends who recommended a small private dental office that had treated their child since he was small.

I went to that office with BBZ today, and brought the entire file, which included x-rays, treatment plans, behavior notes and all.  This new dentist did the cleaning herself, and they also did their own x-rays. She used a tool to check the teeth for cavities, rather than relying on the x-ray alone. She said that the cavity on the tooth that they hadn't treated yet did not change much since the original x-ray last year, so she wants to watch it and wait. She did not mention fluoride treatment, and said we could talk more about the recommended sealants as he gets more comfortable with her. The whole experience felt calm, and patient, and comfortable.

I do not think that the original office I went to was necessarily wrong, but they treated me as though their plan was the only option, and anything besides that was basically me neglecting the dental needs of my child. The other dentist was not a naturally-minded dentist necessarily, but she was a second opinion, and one that I feel much more comfortable with.

She also has a more laid back approach to meals and snacks. We have avoided juice and fruit snacks and candy since his first appointment over a year ago. When I told her this, she said that people are exposed to naturally occurring as well as processed sugar when they eat meals, so limiting the frequency of snacks in between meals can make a big difference in the longevity of the exposure.  That makes so much sense!  My boys are snackers, too.

I feel so much better about the state of their teeth.  Sure, they will both likely need some kind of treatment in the future, and I hope that she is patient with them when that is necessary.  I have a strong feeling that she will give them the time they need to feel comfortable, which is what personalized care looks like to me. Even if they don’t have fancy TVs in the lobby or cartoons on the ceiling.