Monday, September 24, 2012

The Weather is Getting Crisper - A Dear Joe Letter

Dear Joe,

The weather is getting crisper and the leaves are slowly starting to turn those beautiful shades of orange and yellow and red. Soon, those huge trees in our front lawn will have their release and there will be lots and lots of raking to do. I explained to Domani today what it would be like and told him that he would probably enjoy playing in the leaves. Thinking about the falling leaves and the raking that comes with it makes the tears come. I don't have to tell you that raking the leaves was always something you would do.

The weather is getting crisper and the Afghan Whigs are on a North American tour. Greg Dulli curated the ATP I'll Be Your Mirror Festival in NYC this weekend and it was wonderful. As if it wasn't enough that he was hanging around most of the weekend enjoying the bands, chatting with fans, and taking photos, he also brought Marcy Mays out on the stage during the AW set to perform My Curse. It was epic. But I don't have to explain that to you. Once again, seeing the Afghan Whigs in concert, was like a spiritual highway leading straight to you and it was definitely a fun trip (my May 23 AW trip). It culminated in the Bulletproof to Summer's Kiss to Faded trilogy with a little Where Did Our Love Go thrown in... which did nothing short of sending me over the moon wishing you were in my arms again.

The Afghan Whigs playing What Jail is Like
Marcy Mays on lead vocals for My Curse
Greg watching Charles Bradley's performance.

The weather is getting crisper and I'm remembering what our life was like this time last year. We had recently taken Domani to his first MLB game - a Mets v. Nats matchup in DC and we saw Keith Hernandez and R.A. Dickey hanging out at our hotel and Domani had a blast exploring the mall attached to the hotel and miraculously the Mets actually won our little guy's first game. A year ago this week we took Domani to his first game at Citifield and took a family photo with Mr. Met and you bought him his very own Mr. Met from the Team Store and amazingly enough the Mets won that day too. Last year this time we took Domani to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden and Pirate Day at the Princeton Shopping Center and then we celebrated his first birthday at a party packed with family and friends. But you were sick. And I can't help but remember that too.
Domani's first game at Citifield, gripping that Mr. Met from his Daddy

Pirate Day - September 17, 2011

Joe & Domani at Adventure Aquarium
The weather is getting crisper and there's a new iPhone out. You missed the 4s and now you're missing the 5. I can't help but remember our trips to the Apple Store in Freehold Mall and how I was VERY pregnant while we waited to get the iPhone 4. Some friendly folks in line found a chair for me while you were waiting in the other line, but mall security made us return it to the Starbucks. I *almost* put my organizing skills into action, but we were so close to getting our phones that I let it slide and convinced everyone around me that they didn't need to start a protest on my behalf. I would buy you a new iPhone (and a new car) every year if I could just have you back here with us. But, of course, if there's anything these past few years have taught me it's that life is not about iPhones or cars.

The weather is getting crisper and Domani has already picked out his Halloween costume. He wants to be a football player. Specifically, he wants to be a Giants football player. You would be proud of this little guy and how much he already knows about sports. He also can't watch a baseball game without raising his fist and yelling "Mets!" Someone should probably tell him that once the weather gets crisper, there is usually no need to be cheering for the Mets, but that probably won't be me. I guess I should be happy that he chose to be a Giants player - at least we can tag that choice with the word "CHAMPION".

The weather is getting crisper and I just signed up for my first half marathon. I'm sure that would surprise you since this time last year I would have struggled to run a mile. Let's just say I've been inspired. Running to raise money for the fight against cancer has helped, (see Running the Undy 5000) but feeling healthier and having some time to think and just BE are what have really gotten me hooked. I know you would be proud of what I've accomplished so far and happy at how I'm fighting to be healthier.

The weather is getting crisper and I have to get the oil tank filled and the cars washed and the rose bushes pruned and I have to complete the application to refinance the mortgage and sort through your clothes and write some thank yous and yes, eventually rake the leaves. There's just no easy way to say that I miss you in both the everyday tasks and the lofty life moments.

Yes, the weather is getting crisper and it does make me miss you, but it also reminds me how this season in particular is full of sweet memories and the warmth of our love. And it always will be.

With Love,

Got another chance to meet Greg. Friday 9/21 at IBYM Festival.

Friday, September 14, 2012

10 Running-Related Personal Questions

WARNING: I'm a new #MotherRunner although not new to running. Prior to conquering my first ever 5k this year, it was the high school track team and occasional runs with my boyfriend turned fiance turned husband. My husband passed away in December after nearly 2 years battling colon cancer. I took up running this past spring and got really serious about it over the summer. 

So, here's my version of the 10 Running-Related Personal Questions going around among the Mother Runners I follow on Twitter.

1. Best run ever: 
Undy 5000 Race in Philadelphia
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Since I only have two races so far to choose from, this was an easy one. This one was the best because I ran it in memory of my husband Joe. Everything about the race was special from my running outfit (Superman because Joe was a big fan and he was my Superman) to the fundraising I was able to do for the Colon Cancer Alliance. I've written a separate post about running the Undy 5000, but one of the most important parts for me about the race was how connected I felt to Joe while I ran - and, of course, it didn't hurt that I met my personal time goal, improving on my 1st 5k time by almost 5 minutes.

2. Three words that describe my running:
(Yes, it's energizing AND relaxing at the same time. It energizes my body and relaxes my mind.)

3. My go-to running outfit:
I'm still in search of something I love, especially a good sports bra, so I've enjoyed reading everyone else's answers and am planning on trying out a few of the mentions. Maybe by next year I will have my very own go-to running outfit!

4. Quirky habit while running:
Every once in awhile I find myself talking to my Joe. It's usually after the "perfect" song has come on my #randomshuffle and I thank him for the added encouragement.

5. Morning, midday, evening:
So far always evening although see #6 for why that will probably change once daylight savings is gone. As a single mom, it just seems to work out best to run in the evening. I usually go for a run after work, but before I bring my son home for the night, which means I often find myself racing the sunset (see #6).

6. I won't run outside when it's:
Dark! I'm just not at the point where I feel safe doing it.

7. Worst injury - and how I got over it:
While I was trying to get in shape for my first 5k I hurt my knee to the point that it hurt even walking on it. It wasn't anything big, but the doctor had me immobilize it for a little while and after some rest I was good to go again. 

8. I felt most like a badass mother runner when:
After crossing the finish line - Hugs for Brady 5k
April 28, 2012 
I saw my 2 year old son cheering for me as I approached the finish line of that first 5k. He was so happy to see that it was me running towards him and I was just overcome with emotion at how awesome it was to finish with my little man looking on. In that moment, I felt like I could do anything. Literally. So began my growing addiction to running.

9. Next race is:
Racing Toward 2.jpg

I'm not registered for it yet, but I plan on running in the Race for the Cure at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, NJ on Sunday, September 30. I also have at least 2 other 5k races I plan to do this fall.

10. Potential running goal for 2013:
I'm working my way up so I'd like to run a 10k in 2013.

For the original post that got me started on the 10 questions visit the Another Mother Runner site!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Running the Undy 5000

With the little guy after the race
Last night, the night before the Undy 5000 in Philadelphia, I watched the Stand Up To Cancer special. The last time SU2C had a television special my Joe was still here with me. He didn't watch the show (choosing instead to watch something else downstairs), but I remember it being an uplifting show, I remember making a donation in his honor, and I remember crying a lot.

While a lot has changed since then, the tears were one thing that did not. I was glad to have a box of tissues within reach as I watched. However, in addition to those inevitable tears (I mean really, did you HEAR that Taylor Swift song?!), I had some other strange bodily activity going on too. For the first time in a long time, I started to get some pre-race butterflies wrecking havoc on my tummy. I hadn't felt butterflies like that before a run since I was in high school on the girls track team. I didn't get them when I ran my first 5k in May, but something about this time was definitely different. This was the Undy 5000. I had set a goal to improve on my previous time and I had run more than 28 miles over the past month to prepare. I had raised over $1,200 for the Colon Cancer Alliance in support of this run. And this run was deeply personal.

After all, it was colon cancer that took my Joe, that left our Domani without a Dad, and that cut short an endless stream of hopes and dreams. I hate colon cancer and long for the day when no family has to go through what my family did.

Domani entering the giant inflatable colon
For that reason, I knew today's race would be an emotional one for me. There were powerful survivor stories and survivors who ran faster times than I did. There was the devastating news that one of the teams (Bob's Battlers) had lost their namesake to this horrible disease just this past Monday. There was my little man who alternated between watching the Star Wars episode of Family Guy on what was his Dad's iPad and walking in and out of the giant inflatable colon, being sure to touch whatever polyps he could reach. And then there was the starting line and the Afghan Whigs tunes that came up at the beginning and end on random shuffle and the guy holding the sign that let Stacey know she is his hero. So many touching moments, but by the end of the first mile (on a 9'22" pace) I just felt gratitude for the ability to be there and run and celebrate my Joe.

Beating my last 5k time by almost 5 minutes!
When I finally crossed the finish line and realized I had achieved my goal, I felt relief and happiness and gratitude. After all, I did improve my time by almost 5 minutes (and by more than 5 minutes if you count that I started way back from the start line) and I did get to hug a good friend and my little guy at the end. But, I also felt a hole as I wondered what it would have been like to finish that race and be greeted with a hug from my husband, my very own Superman. It's been 9 months, and I have realized that what I miss most is that deep bond of marriage and the sharing of life that comes with it. Domani and I have a very full life and we share it with each other, but it is still painfully obvious that there is a piece missing for both of us and I think it's moments like today when I feel it most.

"No photos, please. I'm busy checking out this colon."
I know that Joe would have been proud of me today and happy that Domani and I are finding so many special moments to share together. I also know that he would be overjoyed to see all the people who have come around me and Domani to offer support. From my parents and sisters and other family members who have helped with babysitting while I train to Leanne who stayed with the little guy while I ran the 5k today. From the many donors who helped me exceed my  fundraising goal to all my tweeps and FB friends who always seem to offer encouraging words just when I need them most. If he could, I know that Joe would thank each of you for loving us and being there at those moments when the grief becomes overwhelming.

I do feel Joe's presence on days like today and especially when I am running. That in itself is special and encouraging. The one thing though that I would most want to share with him about today was the reply tweet Malinda and I got from The Afghan Whigs twitter account.  All the fundraising and goal-breaking is cool, but I just know that he would have been most impressed by that.

Honoring survivors and the family and friends of those affected by colon cancer.
Domani and I are hiding somewhere behind the crew in orange.
You can still make a donation to the Colon Cancer Alliance through my personal fundraising page if you are so inclined:

Monday, September 3, 2012

A Beach Vacation in Sandbridge, Virginia

Last week my family, the little guy, and I went to Sandbridge Beach in Virginia for a week-long vacation. I needed the time away. Work was becoming overwhelming. There was too much to be done around the house. And the little guy and I were not getting the quality time together that I knew we needed.  The vacation was long overdue, but it wasn't easy.

Last year, we also did a family vacation at the beach. It was at LBI in New Jersey and it included Joe and his siblings and parents and even for a short time one of his friends. I wrote about that vacation here. There were many times during this past week that reminded me of that vacation at LBI and how wonderful it was and the joy of sharing it with our families. There were even times when I thought about how much Joe would have enjoyed this vacation at Sandbridge. In the end though, I know that he would have most liked the fact that the little guy and I were getting some good quality time together away from work and away from the pressures of maintaining the house.

And just as we created very special memories last year, we created many more this year too.

We visited the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach and I know that Joe would have enjoyed seeing all the planes and cars and reading about the history of them.

We took the kids to Hunt Club Farm so they could see some animals up close. Little guy took his first ever pony ride and was especially fond of hanging out with the poultry. He basically refused to leave the chicken coop not once, but twice.

We went to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center where we posed with a shark, saw a snapping turtle and a snake eating a mouse, and gazed at thousands of fish.

The little guy discovered the Star Wars episode of Family Guy and would have watched it many times on repeat if we let him. His Daddy would have gotten a kick out of that one.

We had lots of fun at the beach including flying a kite with Aunt Naomi and Grandpop, chasing the birds and sand crabs, and watching a beautiful sunrise replace the Blue Moon.

Perhaps Domani's favorite thing to do on vacation, however, was EAT. His Aunt Naomi even had a conversation with him at breakfast one morning that went like this:

Naomi: Do you want to go to the beach today, Domani?
Domani: No!
Naomi: Do you want to go in the pool?
Domani: No!
Naomi: Well, what do you want to do?
Domani: Eat, Eat, Eat!

And eat, he did - the whole week we were there. Shown below is perhaps his most impressive feat, an oversized bowl of pasta at Flip Flops Grill & Chill which all but disappeared. He even managed to save some room for dessert which he split with Grandpop. (Flip Flops, by the way, was a GREAT restaurant and was featured earlier this year on the show Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives. Credit goes to my Dad for choosing that one. As you can tell, Domani approved!)

While the little guy and I were waiting for the sunrise on the day we left, a nice young woman took our photo while we were standing on the beach. I'm so happy to have this memory of our morning there together and thought it was a nice way to wrap up this post.