Kool-Aid

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9 weeks ago I stepped into Crossfit completely terrified. I had never done anything like Crossfit in my life. A little over two years ago, I started running, which was really the first fitness related activity I’d ever taken on. I did it as a reaction to the sudden death of a friend of mine, and along the way I learned a lot about myself. I ran two half marathons, a few 5k races, and a half marathon relay. I felt better and ate better while I was running, and experienced fewer migraines and lowered my cholesterol.

But after the second half marathon, something was missing. I couldn’t get motivated to run anymore. I chose sleep over early morning runs. Even with the treadmill in the house, running just didn’t excite me the way it used to.

I’d thought about Crossfit off and on for a few years. I never felt comfortable enough to try it. Friends would push me to check it out, but I knew I could never be strong like them. I didn’t think I was hard-core enough for Crossfit. I didn’t like group fitness classes. And I certainly didn’t want to be yelled at through a workout like I thought would happen at a Crossfit box.

But I was ready for something to change. I couldn’t keep promising myself I’d go running and then not do it. I couldn’t keep wishing I was stronger and healthier and then not do anything about it. So at the urging of more than a few friends, I walked into Westbound in the shadow of a member who kept promising me that I would love it.

That first workout was really hard. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember that it was nothing like I thought, and harder than I ever imagined. But something told me I needed to be there. So even though I could barely lift the empty barbell (35 lbs) over my head more than once, I promised to show up at least three times a week and work.

In 9 weeks there have been struggles and triumphs (double unders!), bruises, and frustrations. I’ve increased the weight on the bar, managed to get toes to bar more than once, and completed two of the benchmark “Girls” workouts (Karen and Elizabeth). I’ve never been yelled at, ridiculed, or made to feel badly for scaling a workout.

Today I walked into the box to find a “bear complex” workout. Basically, if you aren’t familiar with Crossfit, a bear complex is a series of movements with weights where multiple movements together create one round. This particular complex had 7 cycles of the series to create a round, to be repeated 5 times, gradually increasing the weight each time. The coaches promised it would be one of the hardest workouts we’d ever done.

I had intended to start with just the bar, and add weight each round, but by the time I got to round three I was struggling. I decided to do rounds four and five with the same weight, feeling like three more rounds of 7 was at least remotely achievable by staying there. Very remotely.

In the second cycle of round four I could not get the push press over my head and dropped the bar. I could feel myself get to that point of giving up. I told myself that even getting through four rounds was respectable and I had worked hard. I’d finish the fourth round and call it a day. I restarted the second cycle and slowly moved through the round, already haven given myself permission to give into the discomfort.

I finished the round and asked Lisa, who was in front of me, how many more cycles she had, and she said two. She asked how many I had. And for the life of me I couldn’t believe what was coming out of my mouth as I said it – “I still have the last round to do.”

Around me, everyone was finished, or like Lisa, on their last one or two reps. I still had to get through 7. 7 power cleans, 7 front squats, 7 push presses, 7 back squats, and 7 more push presses. There was no way. I was spent. I believed myself when I said I couldn’t go any further.

The thing is, nobody around me believed it. Maddy, who’d arrived for the 6 o’clock, was on the rower behind me and I could hear her cheering me on. Tom and Lisa, long done and ready to head home, telling me I could make it through. And Janae, who sat on the floor and counted down for me, telling me to just make it through the next one. The coaches watching me, making sure I was ok, and telling me I could do it.

You know what happened? I finished it. I was dead last, but I finished it. And it wasn’t because I thought I could. Because by then, I’d given up. But something happens when the people around you believe in you more than you believe in yourself – you start to realize what’s truly possible.

I’ve had more than a few friends ask me about Crossfit. The problem is, it’s difficult to put into words how something that most people see as “going to the gym” is much more than that. I know Crossfit isn’t the only place where the person who finishes last gets cheered for the loudest. I’ve seen that play out in marathons and swim meets and baseball tournaments. I won’t pretend that Crossfit is the only place where you learn about what it feels like to have people believe in you. What I will tell you is that my Crossfit box is as good as it gets when it comes to this ideal. Being there makes me want to try harder, be better, and more importantly, it makes me want to support each and every person who shows up the way I get supported. One of the things I love is that my kids get to see me and lots of other people of all sizes and fitness levels working hard to be strong and fit, and cheer each other on the same way we teach them to support their teammates and competitors in their respective sports.

I don’t know what the magic ingredient in the Crossfit Kool-aid actually is, but I suspect it has a lot more to do with the community than it does the workouts. And as long as they’re serving it up, I’ll keep coming back for more.

First Pitch

I’ve talked about the friendship between my son and his friend R before. “Brothers in baseball” N called them. Together for two years, plus a fantastic season of soccer, both our families kept our fingers crossed they’d be together again this year for baseball.

But it wasn’t meant to be. This is the first level where the kids have to do a skills assessment and be drafted based on those skills. We knew that the coach we were hoping to get had every intention of drafting both the boys, but he only had so much control over it. We joked that the boys should throw the skills assessment, despite knowing we’d never actually ask them to. We just wanted to keep our kids together.

The day of the draft came, and we waited. Coach didn’t even get a shot at R. Another coach picked him up before it was his turn to choose. And that was that. He took N and the “brothers” were now competitors.

We were all heartbroken. The families, the kids. Telling each of the boys was awful. They both cried. We all cried. It sounds so silly, but I think there was a part of us that believed the two of them would just always be together on the same team. They were so close, and played so well together. They read each other, trusted each other, and rarely did a ball thrown from one to the other go sideways.

Practices started and it just became the new reality. Obviously it wasn’t the end of the world, and the boys both just love to play, so they settled in to their teams. Today was the second game of the season (and the week for that matter), and the first chance for N and R to face each other.

When R’s family got there, we sat together on one side of the field, and we cheered for both teams as they took their places. R’s sister and J sat and drew pictures together while the adults joked we needed shirts with both teams’ logos on them. R made a great play in the infield, getting one of our kids out and H and I cheered as hard for him as his own parents. At one point, N hit the ball, and one of the kids on the other team threw the ball to R who was attempting to tag N out at second, and we all held our breath because we literally wanted them both to get it – R to get the tag and N to beat the tag. N beat the tag – this time.

N had started out playing 2nd base, and then between innings I heard his coach say, “N, you’re pitching.” As he threw a few practice pitches to prepare to pitch his first official inning of the season, we realized it was R who was coming up to bat first.

N’s first real pitch in a game would be thrown to R. I couldn’t see anything more fitting than that.

I scrambled to find a place where I could somehow get a picture of both of them in the same frame. There was something about this that felt like it would mean something – later, maybe – if not right away, and I wanted to make sure I had it captured.

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At this level, if they get to a pitch count of 4 balls, they don’t walk the kids, they let them take as many pitches as they have strikes left off the pitching machine. N had R at 4 balls and 1 strike, so R got two off the machine, and struck out. I looked at N as R dropped his head a little and started to walk away and I could tell he was having a hard time not running over to R to give him that high five he’d always give him after every at-bat.

“Great at-bat, R!” N yelled after him. I don’t know if R heard it, or really if anyone other than me saw or heard him say it. My eyes filled up.

I don’t know honestly if either boy will remember today as anything more than another game in a long history of hundreds of games they’ll have played over the years. They may not. But I will. Baseball is such a metaphor for life in so many ways. From the moment R came up to bat against N to the moment N called after him as he walked to the dugout, we were witnesses to a life lesson. That even though things don’t always go your way and you don’t always land on the same side as your best friend, when push comes to shove, you always have each other’s backs. And the truth is, it wasn’t the boys who needed to learn the lesson, it was the adults.

You don’t have to wear the same jersey to be on the same team.

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No Time to Sneeze

We’re a month into the New Year now, and the schedule changes that took place with the dawn of 2014 have now become routine. J is in the gym 6 hours a week, which puts us home after 8pm three nights a week. N has basketball on Fridays that puts him home around 9pm. Tuesdays and Thursdays we have no activities, so we play catch up on things like laundry and cleaning. H works Tuesday nights, so by the time I get home and we eat dinner, she has to leave and I’m on solo nighttime duty. Saturdays N has basketball games, anywhere between 10am and 3pm, and so far J’s gymnastics meets have all had her competing on Sunday. In another month, baseball will start, and it will blow this schedule out of the water again.

Yesterday, my friend L asked when I have time to sneeze.

The reality is, some things have suffered. I haven’t run in months. I haven’t knit in longer. The only thing I’m keeping up with right now is posting to my photography page. And I’ll tell you a secret, not every photo is actually taken on the day it goes up. I will often load up on images over the weekend and spread them out through the week. Other days, it’s a shot from my iphone as I’ve gone through the day. But, for the most part, I’m happy with all of the images I’ve posted and I’ve learned a lot in the time I’ve been working on it. While I’m still committed to posting every day, I do wish some days I’d taken on a 52 week challenge rather than a 365. The pressure to be creative every day with the schedule I’m keeping is difficult.

I am now having my second cycle post-ablation. So far, they’ve been no better than they were pre-ablation. In fact, last month’s was horrendous. This month has been more in keeping with how they were pre-ablation, but I’m incredibly disappointed with the lack of improvement. I emailed my doctor last month and asked what I was supposed to think, and she asked me to wait three cycles and then we could talk. I’m petrified of a hysterectomy, so my guess is I just have to shut up and deal with it. I don’t want to go on birth control, because I’d rather deal with the pain and bleeding than the risks of being on birth control as a woman (almost) over 40 and as a migraine sufferer.

Not to mention the emotional side effects of having given up what was left of my fertility only to have my body continue to taunt me month after month.

What’s been difficult the past two months or so is allowing myself the space to say “I don’t have time for ‘x’” and having that be ok. Currently, it’s been running that I’ve had to find the space to be ok with cutting out. And trust me, there’s an enormous amount of guilt and feeling like a failure over that. But at the end of the day, I am making a choice not to get on the treadmill at 10pm after everything else that has needed to get done gets done (or hasn’t, as the case may be). I know it won’t always be like this, but right now I’m getting more from photography than I am from running, and I’m using the limited amount of time I have for the activity that’s providing me the most fulfillment. But it’s really hard not to feel like I’m letting myself and a bunch of other people down by choosing one over the other. The friend who bought me a race entry; the people who send me motivational pins on pinterest, the people who’ve told me I motivated them to start running.

It’s just difficult not to feel like I’m failing at SOMETHING right now, and truly it often feels like I’m failing at more than I’m not. Mornings are still often very frustrating getting the kids out the door for school, I’ve taken to dropping them off rather than walking with them every day, work has been total insanity, running is non-existent, eating has been crap, H and I never see each other – the list goes on.

And yet, there are days – when N has a basketball game and everything goes just the way he wants and I capture a shot of him with that smile on his face that says all is right with his world. Or when J comes home after gym and says “I think I had a good day at practice today.” Or on the rare Sunday morning when J gets up and I’m still in bed and she comes into my room and curls up with me and nobody has anywhere to be. Or when N throws his arms around me unprompted and says, “I love you SOOOOO much, Mommy.” Or when all four of us are in the car together and the radio is blaring and we’re all singing at the tops of our lungs and laughing at how we must look to the cars around us.

I know I’ve been relatively absent from this particular space. I’m sorry. I’d love it if you could go over to my 365 page and check things out there. I have some stuff I’m incredibly proud of. Truly.

I hope you all are well.

Finding Enough

Today I posted my 51st blog posted on my photography site. H had taken the kids to a birthday party and I got to spend a couple of hours exploring spots to take pictures. It really wasn’t the best time of day for shots, and of course there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, but it was the time I had, and I got a few things I’m pretty proud of.

Over the course of the last 51 days, I’ve learned more about what I can do with my camera than I have in the year that I’ve owned it. I’ve become pretty comfortable in Lightroom for my editing, and I’ve taken some shots that make me feel like I really am a photographer. I even did a portrait sitting, which I haven’t done in a number of years.

But tonight. Tonight I took a print from a shot I’m really proud of, matted it, signed the mat, labeled the mat with the name of the print, and framed it. And there’s something about the act of setting your work up for display, especially for display in someone else’s home, that makes it feel like you’ve done something worthy of being called art. Something that was good enough to be framed.

I’m struggling though, with finding balance. I’ve had three migraines in a week and haven’t run at all. Because I’ve felt like crap, I haven’t been eating the way I should. Hello, vicious cycle. I told my friend JG today that I need 48 hours in a day to get everything done I want to get done.

One of the things I’ve started to do, is to start reading fewer and fewer infertility related blogs and more and more photography blogs (I already have quite a few running ones I keep up with). There are a few infertility bloggers that I will continue to read for various reasons, but I’m definitely pulling back. There’s no more “that could be me” and it’s really hard to continue to read them. But I can’t focus on moving forward if all I’m doing is losing myself in other people’s baby making or TTC stories. I just can’t. And I feel like I should apologize to people for that, but I can’t.

Facebook is a constant minefield. Even my own house can be at times, like coming home on Friday to our roommate and her girlfriend talking about having maternity portraits done and asking if I had done them and what did we use them for and whether they would be doing them when they have kids. It had been a long week and nobody seemed to notice that maybe THAT wasn’t the conversation I wanted to be having.

Or the friend who was one of only a handful of people who knew about the ablation and one of 5 outside of my wife who knew the true implications of what the ablation were, that not only forgot about it, but failed to say anything other than stock platitudes on Facebook once I made her aware of it and never once connected with me personally about it.

I guess, right now, what I’m looking for is that place, that groove, that you get into when you know you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. Where you feel like you’re doing enough to be who you need to be for you and for the people that need you. Instead I feel like I’m mopping up the remains of what used to be to make room for what is and what will be and still trying to figure out where it all goes.

For now, I’m going to go finish the laundry and climb into bed and have that be enough for tonight.

Closing 2013

2013 draws to a close. I feel like I’m in a weird space right now. This year was a mixed bag for me in many ways. Negative cycles, the decision to let TTC go, culminating with an ablation that permanently closed that door for me, all while watching others “get there” has been exceedingly difficult. The actual ablation itself was physically fairly easy, albeit extremely painful on the day of the procedure. Emotionally, I know I haven’t managed to process it all yet.

Yet, 2013 was pretty amazing in its own right. I started and finished two half marathons, and ran my second 5k. While I haven’t been running much since the second half marathon in October, I’m gearing up to get back on the treadmill in January to hopefully be ready to run my third in March. The kids started 2nd grade, and J started gymnastics and even had her first competition. N played his first season of soccer and loved it as much as he loves all things sports.

Probably the biggest shift for me occurred at the end of the year when I made the decision to take on a 365 Photo project. Photography has always been something I’ve enjoyed. I think I was 10 the year I got my first camera, a little Vivitar 110. For a while my mom was really into SLR photography, and there’s an old Canon AE-1 floating around in my garage somewhere with a broken hotshoe. I really wanted to work on the yearbook in high school, but I was already in too many things and there were only so many hours in the day. Photography fell by the wayside with swim team and a host of other things I loved but couldn’t fit into my packed high school schedule.

When I met my first girlfriend, I helped her build her photography business. I acted as investor, assistant, light meter reader, dog wrangler (she specialized in animal photography), and business manager. I started taking classes at the same community college where she was taking them, and used her camera equipment since I didn’t really have my own other than the AE-1. I learned to process black and white film and print in the darkroom.

As soon as I started to photograph again, I started to realize where my creativity has been. I’ve always loved film but digital photography and the editing process and that feeling you get when you nail a shot has made me realize I’m a fool for ever putting the camera down. There’s so much to learn and I feel so far behind. The internet has made learning new things about my camera so much easier, and I could spend hours and days just tinkering with settings, trying them out, and then trying again. Being behind the camera gives me insight into who I am, what moves me, and maybe gives others a glimpse of how I see the world.

My goals for next year? Photograph. As much as possible. And by the end of the year have a portfolio of things I’m proud of.

Run. To run. Not necessarily for anything other than health and the occasional race.

Eat better. Less crap, more real food.

Be the best I can be for my family. Yell less, hug more. Savor, even through frustration. Say “hurry up” less often. Never go to bed without “I love you.”

Find beauty. In every space, in every face, in every day. Capture it. Teach my kids to see it. And to breathe it in.

I’m ready to say goodbye to 2013, and walk my path for 2014. Happy New Year to you and yours.

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Brave

My girl

7 months ago, I finally relented and signed J up for gymnastics classes at the gym closest to our house. One night a week, 50 minutes. After a few weeks she attended a birthday party at the gym for a neighbor, and the coach for the party approached me and said J didn’t belong in the beginner class and would I bring J to her intermediate class? Once a week, an hour and a half. No problem – I was thrilled that someone other than me recognized that J was ready for more. Two weeks after starting the new class, the coach approached me about the Xcel team. 3 days a week, two hours a day. Holy cow.

Now, you have to realize, J was loving every last second in the gym. She was progressing and begging for more time in the gym. Even though three days a week sounded like a lot, I knew she would love it. The clincher was, she’d be competing. Mention the word “competition” and my girl sort of shrunk into herself. When she played soccer last year, she loved soccer practice. Games, not so much. When we talked about her moving up to Xcel she was extremely uncertain about the competitive aspect. Her coaches and I assured her that it would be ok – that it was a performance just like the dance recitals she’d done. We tiptoed around the word “competition,” replacing it with the word “performance” for the first few months of practices.

Then, she started to use the word. And her routines starting coming together. She’d made friends on the team, and most of them hadn’t competed the previous year so she wasn’t alone in her anxiety, and they were all there to support each other. As the first competition got closer, she expressed only excitement about it.

This last week, J was sick and missed the Wednesday night practice. Friday morning, I received an email letting me know that one of the things J missed Wednesday night was an announcement from Coach Mariah that she was leaving the team to start nursing school. My heart sank. Not only is J extremely attached to both of her coaches, she’s also the kid who is completely thrown by having a sub at school, so I knew this wasn’t going to go well. I let her coach know that I wouldn’t have a chance to talk to J before gym, and could she take a moment to talk to her so she didn’t hear it from one of the other girls.

When we got home from gymnastics Friday night, she fell apart. She’d done a great job of holding it together at gym, but when she finally settled, the tears came. The combination of the nervousness and losing her coach came out. We talked for a half hour and she seemed to settle.

This morning, she was back to being excited about things. She got dressed, gave me a thumbs up in her photo by the fireplace, and off we went to the gym. As I started the car, I asked her what song she wanted to hear.

“Brave,” she says, without hesitation. It took all I had not to cry. We cranked up Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” and sang at the top of our lungs. Next she wanted to hear our current favorite car song, “Mama’s Broken Heart” by Miranda Lambert. And just like that, the beginnings of a pre-competition routine was born.

We got out of the car and as we walked up to the gym she said, “I have butterflies in my stomach.” I said, “Well, that’s ok, it means you care. And you know what’s interesting about butterflies is one wave of your hand and they’re gone.” We got inside and she took off with her friends. After her floor routine, the first event, she cried. She’d done really, really well. But I think the adrenaline hit her and she wasn’t sure how to process it. She sailed through the other events, even taking a fall off the beam in stride like a pro.

After it was over, she was starving, and trying to figure out how to deal with what she was feeling – having been so scared of something and making it through – that she was a major bear. She was so emotional. I let her pick where to go for lunch and promised ice cream afterwards. She slowly relaxed. She refused to take off her newly purchased sweatshirt sporting her gym’s logo and name all day long. She was hooked, she just didn’t know quite how to deal with all of the emotions. It will take some time for her to figure out that being scared comes hand in hand with the pride she feels at the end of doing the very thing she’s scared about.

But she has so much to be proud of herself for. And I’m so proud of her for getting out there and doing it. I know she’ll be nervous again come January, especially since it won’t be in her gym. I’ve already decided we’ll take a little field trip just so she can see what the inside of the gym looks like because it’s local to us. But for now, I’m going to encourage her just to remember what a brave girl she is.

Focus

Remember how I talked about filling in the gaps?  (Link to previous post).  Well, some of this is that, and a bigger part of this is finally taking on something years and years in the making.

When I moved to my current city, I helped my now-ex set up her photography business.  In the process, I took some classes at the community college.  Using her camera equipment, I learned the ins and outs of f-stops, shutter speeds, depth of field, and darkroom chemicals.  Photography had always been a love of mine, and I’d been taking pictures since I was 8, but I’d never had the time to explore it more.  I was always too busy 10 other activities. 

When I moved here, when I was with her, I was incredibly isolated.  Partly by the simple fact I was in a new city in which I knew nobody, and partly because she was incredibly controlling.  So I did what she did, and photographed.  And I truly loved it.  But my time was mostly centered around setting things up for her – getting the business side of things going. 

When we split, I lost access to the camera equipment, and in gaining my independence I also gained a mortgage and related bills that kept me spent to the last penny.  It was all I could do to buy a point-and-shoot, and the idea of buying an SLR or a digital SLR was so far outside the realm of possibility it wasn’t even funny. 

When H and I got together, we moved fairly quickly into family building (or more accurately, trying to build a family).  So all of our available funds and time went into that.  Technology around digital photography changed rapidly, and I was incredibly behind. 

To make a long story short(er), I’m finally in a place where I can focus on photography.  I’m throwing myself into a new project, which will hopefully provide me ample opportunity to learn new techniques, and to hone and refine my skills. 

I’ve launched a new site, solely for images, called KAPturing My 365, the KAP being my initials.  I’ll be doing the 365 challenge, which means a photo a day gets posted to the site, taken that day.  I will allow myself the flexibility to use my iPhone for images on days when things are particularly busy, as well as allowing myself to ‘catch up’ on posting, as long as I’m taking pictures every day.

I’m not sure yet how to balance giving time to all the things I have on my plate – work, the kids’ activities, running, photography.  But my goal is to not beat myself up when something falls behind. 

I’m still going to post here, of course, and that’s one more thing on my list of commitments.  So I hope you’ll all join me over at KAPturing My 365 and watch the images start to pile up.