Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Year Ago

It feels like it was yesterday and ages ago at the same time. A year ago today marked the beginning of a fun musical journey - the first reunion show of The Afghan Whigs, an amazing night at The Bowery Ballroom in NYC. It's a night I will never forget because it meant so much to me, especially as I worked through the pain of losing my Joe. 

I remember so clearly the excitement I felt as I drove north from Atlantic City where I was for a work conference to meet up with some other fans before the show. We were like kids on Christmas morning and what a Christmas it turned out to be! By the time it was all over and I was driving back down the Parkway, I could hardly believe what had happened. I had really just seen The Afghan Whigs live at The Bowery Ballroom. I had met Greg and John and Rick. I had felt so close to my Joe. And there was more to come.

What an adventure followed that first concert in NYC...

In 2012, I attended a total of 10 Afghan Whigs shows from Toronto to New Orleans, from Cincinnati to NYC.

I brought my little sister, my cousin, and several friends to their first AW shows and went with an old friend to our first one together since we saw them in a now defunct NJ dive bar during college.

I made more new friends than I can count including two amazing women with whom I have already run a half marathon (love you, Malinda & Melissa!).

I met Greg Dulli for the first time. And a second time. And then on one especially meaningful night I finally felt it right to tell him just how important his music has been to me.

I stood in the very front row, in the back, and basically everywhere in between.

I heard them play their cover of Band of Gold live.

I cried more than once when they played Faded and sang as loud as I could along with countless other songs. 

I got my very own playlist to take home on a very special night.

I rang in the New Year in Cincinnati with my sister, my best friends, and my favorite band wondering how in the world we could possibly top such an amazing year. 

Perhaps, just perhaps, sometime soon all of the Facebook and Twitter and Instagram teasing that the band has been up to recently will lead to another "Your Attention, Please..." In the meantime, though, pardon me if I happily bask in some memories from last year. I'm thankful that it led me to Malinda and Melissa, that it brought me some peace in the midst of missing Joe (thanks, Elissa!), and that it gave me my first meeting with GD. It was a fabulous night with wonderful people, making it truly unforgettable.

The Afghan Whigs on May 23, 2012 at The Bowery Ballroom

A not so great photo of GD from the show.
I was too absorbed in the show, didn't take many photos.

On cloud nine, meeting Greg Dulli for the 1st time after the show.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

From Brasil While Missing Him and Him

Before I left for Brasil, a friend of mine suggested that I needed to ask about the meaning of the word "saudade" while here. He assured me that whoever I asked would be more than happy to explain its meaning. At first I was suspicious, but he was so genuine in his conviction that it was a beautiful word that I decided I would wait for the appropriate moment and ask away.

I will admit that I did cheat slightly and ask my friend Ana about the word when we met last week over lunch for a tutorial about Brasil. Just as my friend had predicted would happen, her eyes lit up as she described what it meant. I thought I was prepared then, when I asked about the meaning of the word over dinner last night, but there was something about asking it here in Brasil that hit me like a ton of bricks.

As the knowing smile appeared and the answer came back, my mind immediately turned back to Joe. And, in this circumstance, back to Domani who I had at that point not seen for more than 2 days. You see, the simple response is that SAUDADE means missing someone deeply. I certainly know what that's like. As we talked about it more - about how this means both the pain of the separation and the joy of the happy memories - I felt the tears starting to come. Then there was a sweet and gentle embrace from my travel companion and a merciful change of the subject to how to say "love" and "lust" in Portuguese - connected to the topic certainly, but not likely to inspire the waterworks to spring a leak.

We took time over drinks later to re-visit SAUDADE in the context of losing a loved one and it was a truly meaningful conversation. I'm so thankful for those moments of spiritual exploration and the ability to share our humanity with each other. I also continue to marvel at the power of language to capture emotion and found this explanation of SAUDADE to be particularly intense:

"Saudade was once described as "the love that remains" after someone is gone. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. It can be described as an emptiness, like someone (e.g., one's children, parents, sibling, grandparents, friends, pets) or something (e.g., places, things one used to do in childhood, or other activities performed in the past) that should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence. It brings sad and happy feelings all together, sadness for missing and happiness for having experienced the feeling." (from Wikipedia - for the rest of the definition, click here.)

Thankfully, I'll get to give my little guy a big hug tomorrow. Somehow, once again I feel like the discovery of this word was yet another way for Joe to give me one too. There's always something special about being able to put a word to an emotion that's been sitting with you for so long - but it's even more special when it's a beautiful word from another language and even more special still when you are visiting in the country where that language is spoken.

Monday, May 13, 2013

When It Doesn't Feel Like Mother's Day

When I woke up this morning it was Mother's Day, but aside from the endless stream of posts when I logged onto Facebook you wouldn't have known it in my house. My little guy is still too little to make breakfast in bed or have a gift ready for his Mommy or even to know that he should run in and say "Happy Mother's Day". He would have been coached by his Dad on all those things and undoubtedly Joe would have been very good at it. Today is one of those days when his presence is really missed.
At my parents' house after my run.

Domani and I shared a tender moment this morning when he sensed my sadness and in an exchange we have had many times over the last year he asked if I was missing Daddy and I told him yes. He said that Daddy wasn't here, but was in heaven and that he missed him too. Then, he gave me a hug and kiss and used his fingers to "make me smile" by turning up the corners of my mouth. Really, who needs a present with a kid who takes care of his mom like that. 

There were two other thoughtful gestures which made my morning. Right in the midst of my tough time, I received a personalized Happy Mother's Day text message from two good friends. They were perfectly timed and while I'm sure these two amazing guys have no idea how important their texts were in inspiring me through my day, I'm thankful they came when they did because I was feeling alone and needed the boost.

Church was uneventful and afterwards, I decided to act on my overwhelming desire to go visit Joe's mom. I was missing him and just really wanted to see her and make sure that Domani got to see her too. So, we started the 1 hour and 20 minute drive which was only interrupted by a quick stop to pick up something for lunch and a bouquet of flowers. I knew she would be surprised by our visit, but I didn't realize until I read her most recent blog post before leaving the Stop & Shop parking lot just how poignant the scene of Domani bringing her the Mother's Day flowers would be for her. We both had some tears in our eyes. It was so good to see her on this day which is difficult for a million reasons.

On the way to Joe's mom's I was still feeling down. It seemed like everyone around me whether it was in real life or on Facebook was just having a grand old Mother's Day time. What I really wanted to do was post how sad it felt to be a single mom to a toddler who couldn't really interact with you on Mother's Day. Then, it was my iPhone shuffle to the rescue. Seasons of Love came on and I sang along as loud as I could, tears streaming. I let it repeat a few times. Later on, I used the lyrics as my status on Facebook. I thought it was a way to be honest about my feelings on this day without raining on everyone else's happiness.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strike

In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love.

(From Seasons of Love, RENT Soundtrack)

During our visit, Domani was his usual charming self. After their dog wagged his tail in Domani's face and I explained that means he is happy, Domani proceeded to stand up, shake his butt and tell us "I wagging my tail!" We all got a good laugh out of that one. He also rode the goose statue that is next to the fireplace and tried to sneak as many pretzels as he could out of Grandma's bag of pretzels. We had a lovely afternoon and as always happens it was time to go way before either of us were really ready to leave.
Riding the goose (or is that a swan?)

From Ocean County we traveled back up Route 539 to South Brunswick for some time with my parents, my grandparents, and my sister and her family. After a delicious dinner made by my Dad, I went for a 5 1/2 mile tempo run. It was refreshing and included a beautiful moment right around mile 4 when the song Seasons of Love came on my shuffle just as I was turning a corner to head downhill. The sky was open, blue, and gorgeous above me and I felt so connected to Joe that the tears just flowed as I was running down the hill. It was a wonderful release after what had been a very emotional day.

Measure in love indeed. Thankfully, I have a lot of it - both given and received.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nike Women's Half Marathon - Washington, DC

Today I went for my first run since I completed the Nike Women's Half Marathon a week and a half ago in Washington, DC. It's been a frustrating 9 days as I waited and waited and waited until my poor feet were back in a shape that would allow me to run again without pain. The main culprit was an infected toe, although  I also had a fair share of blisters and even my first lost toenail.Yes, I certainly earned my 7 minute PR on that race. My finish did not come without some physical sacrifice.

I may have only covered just over two miles in the early evening humidity today, but it felt like an awfully big deal. I was getting my groove back and jumping back into a training mode and it felt good. I used my playlist from the NWM half and each song I ran with brought me back to a wonderful weekend shared with family and friends.

Outside the Expotique with Malinda and Melissa
I was blessed to make the trip to DC with my son and my aunt and to meet up with my two Best Running Friends (BRFs) Malinda and Melissa. Malinda had convinced Melissa and I to sign up with her for the race back in December when it was announced. At that time I had just started training for my first half marathon. I'm so glad we registered for the lottery and gained entry because we had such a special weekend together. 

Malinda, Melissa and I kicked off our racing fever together at the Nike Georgetown store bright and early Saturday morning for a Q&A with Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson. The Q&A was followed by a short shakeout run with these two running greats. Since Malinda, Melissa and I don't live nearby each other, the three of us don't get to run together often so being able to run side by side with Shalane and Joan leading the pack was pretty much as cool as it gets. Afterwards, we were lucky enough to get photos with the ladies and I'll never forget that Joan told me she loved my "I Run Things" shirt.
With Shalane Flanagan and Joan Benoit Samuelson at Nike Georgetown

Our names were along the wall at the Nike store - Found MINE!
Sipping on our post-run Jamba Juice smoothies (a very nice touch) Melissa and I made our way towards packet pick up. Within minutes I had my race packet and Melissa had an easy time replacing hers which was accidentally left in a cab the night before. More kudos for the Nike race operation.

When I got back to the hotel my son was still in his PJs munching on his breakfast, meaning we had plenty of time to get to the zoo and enjoy a beautiful day in DC. The National Zoo brought back lots of memories for me and more than once the tears pooled up in my eyes. Joe and I had brought Domani there just before he turned 1 on a trip we made to DC for a Mets v. Nats game. We went to many of the same places and even took photos in some of the same spots. The little guy had a blast and especially enjoyed telling the lions to wake up, trying to eat the dirt like the orangutan, and naming all the parts of the elephant. I'm so glad we had time to do some sightseeing while we were in town for the race.
National Zoo - September 2011

National Zoo - April 2013

Saturday night found us out to a delicious Italian dinner with a good friend and her family. It was just the right amount of carb loading, great conversation, and crazy toddler antics to make for a wonderful evening. When it was all over, we even had our own little brush with unidentified fame as my friend's little charmer caught the attention of a couple leaving the White House Correspondents Dinner. It was the perfect lead in to my race, if only I had been able to fall asleep. I always have a problem sleeping the night before a race. Mostly, it's because I'm worried I will oversleep and miss the start.

This time I was awake and ready to go with no problem. There is always something special about pulling on my Team Sparkle skirt for a race and for this 13.1 I was decked out in my Another Mother Runner BAMR tank which adds a whole new layer of kick ass to my running gear. I gathered up my things, kissed my sleeping little guy goodbye and headed to the Metro. Call it fate, but as soon as I stepped out at the Federal Triangle stop, there was Malinda! I gave her a big hug and we spent some time exploring the starting area together - dropping off her bag, making a visit to the porta potties, taking some photos, and eventually making our way to the corrals. My favorite moment was when we were walking back to the corrals from the porta potties and I panicked thinking I had lost my Gu Chomps. My tweet recounting the moment: @MamaDeak: OH NO! Where are my Gu Chomps? Oh, they are in my boob." That just happened. @GUEnergyLabs #WeRunDC

Just before moving to my corral.
Malinda, Melissa, and I were each in different start corrals (in that order) but Melissa and I were planning on pacing together for at least the beginning of the race so she came back and joined me in the 10 minute corral. It was crowded but somehow we managed to find each other and even more amazing we managed to stay together for the first few miles of the race. It was crowded and didn't really start to space out until about mile 4. In fact, I missed the mat marking the first 5k because I was running up on the curb to pass around a crowd of runners. Rookie mistake, right?

At the 10k mat, I made sure to cross over it with gusto and knew from my Nike+ app that I was putting in a good pace. While my app was a little off on the miles, I knew that I was at least on pace to go sub 2 as I had dreamed, but I had no real idea how close I was to the goal. As it turns out I crossed the 10k mat at 56:56.

I felt really great running this race - that is until I hit miles 7-9. They were by far the hardest part of the course for me. The views were beautiful, but the heat was starting to set in and there was much less crowd support on that part of the course than there was anywhere else. My strongest shot of adrenaline came from the awesome sign "If Sarah Palin can run, so can you."  I literally said out loud "Touche!" and then picked up my pace. It's amazing what a little sign can do for you, but it was still a tough slog through those miles. I made quick work of my Gu Chomps and hydrated religiously - all of which I think helped push me through to the end. 

Once I came up on that 15k mark and could visualize running what was basically a 5k I felt another jolt of adrenaline. The crowd support was back - complete with a line of young people waiting to give high fives and all I wanted to do was cross that finish line and hug my little guy. There was one tunnel where the noise of the drums really made things uncomfortable for me, but otherwise the last 3 miles were just willing my body to not lose pace. I knew that if I just kept moving I would at least beat my time from Miami and given how much my feet were hurting and how hot my body was getting I would count that as a victory. Once the finish line was in sight it felt like it kept getting further and further away, but eventually there I was face to face with that blue Tiffany box trying to keep myself standing upright. It was wonderful. I knew I had beaten my time by a significant amount.

In the end, my official finish was 2:04:49, almost 7 minutes better than my 2:11:39 finish in Miami Beach less than 2 months earlier. I was tired and sweaty and I knew that I would have to nurse my feet back to health, but it was so worth it. After I got back to my hotel room, I tweeted: @MamaDeak: I've got blisters, bloody toes, a new PR, and a little blue box. I say I came out on top. #WeRunDC @runnikewomen

This was a truly special weekend. Family. Good friends. Running. A personal record. All in a very special city. It doesn't get much better than that. Except that somehow it did...because the postscript to my weekend is that my favorite running website asked me some questions and did a really lovely feature this past Thursday mentioning the NWM and my plans to run the NYC Marathon in November in an effort to raise money for The American Cancer Society. Through the feature, I connected with so many amazing Mother Runners and more than ever I feel blessed to be a member of this tribe of kick ass women.

With Malinda and Melissa at the We Run sign

Post-race with Melissa