Friday, December 30, 2011

I, State Your Name... The Year in Review

January 1, 20111 I went for a run .  For the new year.  For my new year.  It was absolutely freezing.  As in bone-chilling cold.  But, I made a decision.  A decision that 2011 would not suck.  It would NOT suck like 2010 had.  A year when my grandma died.  The person who loved me most in this world.  What made my life.... stop.  Still. 

It stopped.  Sure.  But, it also gave me the ability to reflect on the fact that I would NOT let 2011 suck me in.  It would not win.  I would win.

So, mid morning, January 1, 2011.  I went for a run on my running trail.  And, I logged my very first workout on Daily Mile.  I was just recording it for me.  I had no friends there.  Had absolutely no intention of having friends there.  I just wanted a place to keep track of my runs.  To be accountable. To me.  

To not let 2011 beat me.  This year was going to be all about me.  Finally.  Not anybody else.  Just me.  I was going to be less selfless and more selfish.  I was going to say no more.  I was going to say yes to the adventurous spirit in me.  I was going to take risks.  I was going to step out of my box.  Skydive out of the box.  I was going to live.  My life. 

I had resolutions.  A little eclectic perhaps, but resolutions.  I was going to do my best to attack them too.  Because after all.... why be the person of old.  The person of 2011.  I was ready.  Ready for a new me.  A different me.  A better me.

Running was at the root of it all.  It would give me the mind, body, and spirit to be the me I wanted to be.  Needed to be.  Hoped to be.  

That New Year's day was so cold.  I remember one mile in I was convinced I might get frostbite.  The wind was just howling.  I literally could barely run as the headwinds were that strong.  But, I was NOT going to give up.  Give in.  On day one. No way.   By the end of the 5.5 mile run I was warm and shedding layers.  I finished my first run.  I felt awesome.  

I was going to do this. I was going to do 2012.  But, I was NOT going to do this alone.  You were coming with me.  I surely didn't know that when I started that cold January 1st run.  I had NO idea that I would have company.  So much company on the reinvention of me.

Somehow friends trickled in on Daily Mile.  One here.  One there.  People motivated me.  Made me laugh.  Suddenly I was texting people, talking to these people.  Becoming friends with these people.  How did this happen?    Who are YOU?  And why are YOU here? 

YOU met me for a little blizzard run along the Chicago lakefront.  YOU were nice.  YOU were fun.  YOU were inspiring.  YOU made me believe I could run a marathon.  YOU giggled at me when I ran four miles through truck tracks in the post twenty two inch snow Blizzardpalooza. 

I watched you run 100 miles.  Who are YOU?  And, why are you doing such crazy things?  I didn't know. I didn't know YOU.  But, I couldn't stop watching.  I was amazed.  

YOU stayed up with me until 2 am to register for the Chicago Marathon.  YOU started running with me on my runs.  YOU made me laugh. We talked about our fear of pooping during the marathon.  We talked about work.  We talked about our worries.  YOU talked with me about how we would do this race.  We ran. 

St. Maarten Greenhouse 10K
YOU made me run the  St. Maarten Greenhouse 10k.  After three weeks of sun and fun YOU told me it would be an easy 5K.  It turned out to be a brutal, hot 10K!  I hated YOU.  But, I also giggled at YOU when I received my age group medal.  First place baby!  

YOU ran The Chicago Shamrock Shuffle with me.  YOU hung out with me afterwards on a most glorious Chicago day and drank beers.  Lots and lots of beers.  YOU agreed we would continue to have college girls weekends revolve around a kewl race.  YOU texted me all day when I was with my girls.  YOU asked how the race was,  how the day was. 

Shamrock Shuffle
I watched YOU try for your first 100 mile race.  I stayed up all night worrying about you.  I talked with another YOU about how proud we were for what YOU did.  It may not have been 100, but it was a worthy accomplishment indeed.  I was proud of YOU. 

YOU started Chicago Marathon training with me.  YOU commiserated with me when I told you how I was dripping wet from a hot ass run.  YOU told me how it sucked too.  It was YOU I lifted my skirt up to show my disgusting raw meat thigh chaffing. It was YOU who screamed in horror.  

YOU ran again with me, or let ME run with YOU to Do Life along the Chicago lakefront again.  This time no blizzard.  Just sun, fun, and some really amazing people. 

It was you who came to Chicago to run the Chicago Rock n Roll Half Marathon with me.  It was YOU who held my hand as we crossed the finish.  It was YOU who was incredibly generous to me and my stranger friends, offering us an unbelievable weekend.  It was YOU who screamed out the window on the cab ride.  I watched YOU do a really incredible thing. I watched YOU impress me.   It was YOU who hung out on the balcony, looking at the gorgeous city skyline, talking about life, our lives.  It was YOU who cried with me, hugged me, laughed with me. It was YOU who made me grateful I had such dear old friends.  I was so grateful for finally meeting YOU in person.  It was YOU who stayed out way into the night with me, doing silly, stoopid things.  It was YOU who I didn't want to say goodbye to. 

YOU ran into me at the RnR medal engraving.  I could not stop talking to YOU.  We shared something.  We got each other.  YOU were me.  I was YOU.  YOU inspired me.  So much so I had to come cheer you on when you ran your half.  And reward you with a #DES gift. 

It was YOU I texted the night before I was to do my longest run ever, 15 miles.  It was YOU who texted me at 5:30 the next morning to tell me to get my run on.  YOU kept texting me all along the way to keep me going.  I texted YOU back when I struggled.  It was YOU I texted when I was done to celebrate my accomplishment.  It was YOU who made me feel proud. 

It was YOU who tweeted to me to stfu and get out there for my 18 mile run.  YOU who told me to stop chatting and start running.  It was because of YOU I tried.   I texted YOU three miles in crying because my body and mind were failing me.   YOU  told me to go home.  Try again.  YOU made me giggle for the next half hour until I felt better.  It was because of YOU I tried again. I ran another five miles.  It was YOU I tweeted a picture of my legs on a bench and said #epicfail  It was YOU who let me cry.  It was then YOU who told me to get up. Walk home.  Try again.

However, it was not to be.  I would not run again.  Really. 

YOU were injured too.  YOU and I spent time talking about our injuries.  About our sadness that we couldn't run. I watched you get YOUR run back on.  I watched you RUN.  Again.  I was happy for YOU. 

YOU  finally convinced me to go to the doctor.  It was YOU who talked to me during my appointment because I was nervous.  YOU were there for me when I had the bone scan.  The MRI.  It was YOU who told me to hang in there. YOU  told me to keep my chin up.

I still did cartwheels.  YOU did cartwheels. 

YOU sent me encouraging messages.  YOU told me that I would get better.  YOU made me feel better that I was NOT running.  YOU also told me to be strong.  

I saw YOU on Oprah.  I saw YOU on the cover of Runner's World.  YOU will be on a national commercial on New Year's Eve.  Seriously?  Who are YOU people?  And, how could you possibly me MY friends? 

YOU woke me up early in the mornings and chatted with me before work.  YOU made me giggle all day when I should have been working.  YOU stayed up late at night with me talking about life. YOU shared your struggles.  YOU listened to mine.  YOU told me your secrets.  I told YOU mine.  YOU encouraged me to blog.  YOU were my biggest cheerleader.

IRC - ti no trid emos bur

YOU sent me kewl stuff.  YOU played with me on Twitter.  YOU crept into my phone.  YOU made me #giggle when I didn't think the day would allow.  YOU made me feel good about myself when I didn't think I deserved it.  YOU made me feel worthy.  Of loving myself.  Of allowing others to love me.  YOU made me BELIEVE.  I am YOU and YOU are me. 

YOU got me out of my little box.  YOU made me see another side of me.  YOU scared the crap out of me sometimes.  But, YOU also made me laugh. 

YOU taught me to #DoEpicShit.  To rub some dirt on it. To Whooooo!!xBeatCancer 

YOU made me feel okay when I couldn't run The Chicago Marathon.  So, instead I watched YOU run.  I cheered YOU on.  I held my #DoEpicShit sign for YOU.  YOU screamed my name when you ran by.  YOU smiled at me.  YOU came back and gave me the most awesome schweddy hug.  I watched  YOU finish.  I cried tears for YOUR accomplishment.  I was proud of YOU. 

I watched YOU complete your first 100 mile race.  I stayed up all night cheering YOU from afar.   I updated WHOever I could so that they could come along for YOUR ride.  I paced the floor when things looked grim.  I jumped for joy when things looked promising.  I nearly lost my mind when YOU texted me after you finished.  I was so proud of YOU. So very proud of YOU.

YOU ran your first half marathon.  I was there at the start in spirit.  For YOU.  But, YOU wouldn't answer YOUR phone.  Because you are silly like that.  But, I was there for YOU.  I was proud of YOU.  I was running a little 5k that day too.  But, I was thinking about YOU.  Because, YOU, my dear, are amazing.  Inside and out.  

When life socked me in the gut out of the blue it was YOU who kept me calm when I vomited out of fear as I tried to ride my bike away.  From the pain.  YOU made sure I got home.  Not only in one piece. But, while holding my hand.  And, my heart. My soul.   

I read YOUR blog. YOUR words touched me. Hit me in the heart.  In the stomach. YOU made me think.  Cry. Be.  Better.  Stronger.  Wiser.  

Without running it was YOU who kept me sane.  It was YOU who talked to me more. It was YOU I listened to when things got bad.  It was YOU I celebrated when things got better.  It was YOU who let me lean on your shoulder. It was my shoulder that let YOU lean back.  

And, somehow, I made it to the finish line of 2011.  I may not be running over it.  It's certainly is more of a hobble.  But, over the finish line I still go.  

However, there is no way I would get anywhere close to the finish line if it weren't for the amazing people in my life who I met this year.  People a year ago I didn't know existed.  People who I cannot even imagine not in my life. They are the air I breathe.  

My year started off with a bang.  My running was on fire.  I felt amazing.  My life was kind of fun and exciting.  I was meeting some really amazing new people who enriched my every day.  It was all good.  Great in fact.  Then, I couldn't run.  And, the awesomeness of 2011 faded away quickly.  I no longer felt good.  I no longer felt like me.  The new me anyway.  I was drifting back into the awfulness of 2010.  And, the years before.  But, each time I started to fall back, a friend would pick me up.  Lift me up.  

YOU became my closest friend.  YOU became more than a friend. YOU were there when I needed someone.  I was there when you needed someone.  YOU made me worry.  YOU made me care. YOU gave me someone to cheer for.  YOU cheered for me. YOU made me laugh.  YOU made me giggle.  YOU cared about me.  I cared deeply about YOU.  YOU made me believe.  In myself. 

YOU made my year.  YOU.  

Yes.  YOU.

Who will YOU be to me for 2012?  I cannot wait to find out. 

* I love the fact that in many of these YOU's it can refer to SO many people.  Each one thinking it's them.  And, they are all correct.  Yes, YOU are. :D

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's Not About the Bling. It's About the Pierogi.

Merry Christmas. I'm not giving you a present.  Sorry. No soup for you.  It's not that you are on my naughty list.  Because, quite frankly, most of you that I know certainly are.  But, I'm not buying gifts this year.  

I am making the pierogies.

I'm a giver.  Giving of myself.  My time. My heart.  My soul. And, during the one time we all give, I'm just all out of giving.  It's not that I don't care. I do.  It's not that I don't love.  I do.  It's just that I no longer think that putting something in a box will show that I care about you. I'd rather just show you that I care about you.

Christmas memories for me were my grandmother making her home made pierogies.  She would grind the meat.  She would roll out the dough.  She would stuff dozens of pierogies.  My grandfather would be right by her side.  Her sous chef.  Listening to her orders.  Helping her wherever he could.  That's what he did.  He was a helper.  A giver.  On Christmas.  In life. 

My sister and I would head over to grandma's late afternoon and do a somewhat ceremonial assisting in the pierogi making.  Really all we did was stuff the last of the pierogies, boil, and place in the dish.  We weren't there for the hours of work before.  But, we still felt like we helped grandma in some way.  Really, it was about dipping a hand in the tradition.  If only just barely.

As grandma got older (She died at 102 1/2 years) I started to think about how someday we wouldn't have these pierogies awaiting us for Christmas dinner.  Because, someday, grandma would no longer be around.  The thought saddened me.  No grandma?  No tradition passed on? How could this be? So, I was determined. Determined to learn from grandma her art of pierogi making.  So, in her late 90's I started shadowing her on Christmas.  Watching her.  Helping her.  Asking for the recipe.  Never getting the recipe.  You see, grandma's don't have the actual recipe for their signature dishes.

It's all in their head.  Years and years and years of making it.  It doesn't need to be written down.  It's tattoo'd inside their brain.

However, I bugged her for years to give me the exact recipe.  I told her that I needed it to to pass along.  For the future generations.

Finally, one year she gave in.  She wrote it down.  Kind of.  I still think she left some things out.  I would have also added : plus a little sprinkle of grandma's love.

**** Here's a tip for anyone with family recipe's >>>>>  Have your relative write the recipe in their handwriting.  Attach it to the back of a printout of the same recipe.  Laminate.  Each time you make this recipe you can see the person's handwriting who passed it onto you.  It'll make you smile each time.  I guarantee it.

So, from that year forward, the Christmas pierogi making was MY JOB.  The first year I thought I was going to die. Three days. ALL day.  Grinding meat.  Rolling dough.  Stuffing pierogies.  Boiling pierogies. Frying pierogies.   Wanting to nap.  For hours.  I have NO idea how my grandma did it all those years.  It's hard.  It's time consuming.  It's been a bit better over the years.  Some modern tools (manual pasta machine grinder instead of rolling, for one) have helped. But, it's still hard.  Lot's of hours.  By myself.  No help.  Each year I question why I'm doing it.  Does anybody really care. But, then I remember, that, yes, it's worth it.

That first year I was SO nervous about what grandma would say.  I was waiting for her to take her first bite.  Second bite.  Third bite.  No comment.  What?!?!  Finally, she says, "The dough is a little thick, Andrea, but very good"  I had to giggle at her comment about my imperfection because it was SO my grandma to not realize she was making backhanded compliments.  But, I took it as a full on compliment all the way.  In my eyes I passed Grandma's Pierogi Making 101. Yeah me. 

I was an over giver.  I buy good presents.  But, then I keep grazing.  Keep buying.  Over buy.  My family received excellent gifts from me.  But, really, in the end, did they care what I bought them? Did they even remember what I bought them?  I doubt it. But, they do remember now that  I make the pierogies.  We don't give these puppies up easily.  We even have to divide up the leftovers.  Nobody gets more than someone else.  We eat them for the next week.  If you don't eat them someone else will.  So, it's your call.  So, we eat them!

I don't remember any Christmas gifts I received as a child.  But, I do remember my grandma and grandpa at their kitchen table, working hard at making the pierogies.  Grandpa being the helper elf.  Grandma the ultimate Santa. That's what it's about.  The family.  The time.  The love. Not the sweater from The Gap.

I have several friends dreading the upcoming holidays.  Whether it's that it's never a good time with family or friends.  Or that this year is different.  They have lost a special loved one in the last year.  There are troubles in the family.  Someone is ill. It's the dark cloud hanging over the holiday.  I don't know what to tell you.  Except that love the ones you're with.  Even if it hurts.  Because they may not be there next Christmas.  For whatever reason.  And, if it's too painful to do that get out there with someone who can give you that deep breath, that hug you need, the shoulder you need.  A friend.  A neighbor.  A running partner.  And, if you know someone who is in need of that special love this year, call them,  talk to them.  Tell them you care about them.   Give them an extra hug.  Invite them over for Christmas dinner.  Just because.  Because it's not something you can put in a box.  It's so much more.   

I'm in the middle of Day #3 of Pierogipalooza. I'm tired.  Tomorrow, I will head out to buy little stocking stuffers. Yeah, because I just can not have a little something, something.  I know, I know....I can't help it. It's who I am.  

But, still, you won't be receiving any gifts from me this year.  I am a bit sad about that because I have met some really amazing people this year who are certainly gift worthy.  However, I hope that my friendship.  My ear.  My shoulder.  Me.  Everything I have given you throughout the year is better than anything I could ever put in a box and tie with a bow.

However, if you are really, really,  nice,  you just may get a pierogi.