All Banged Up – Wait..nope…ran a half marathon :)

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Yesterday I ran (and walked some at the end) the Diva’s Half Marathon in St. Augustine Beach.  Today, I’m pretty sure that I was really involved in a NASCAR style, high speed, thirteen car pile up instead of a half marathon!

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Blisters.

Sore, protesting muscles.

Hateful cramps in my quads and calves.

All feelings I welcome because it’s a reminder that I did something yesterday that has been a long time coming.  A goal that I originally wanted to check off my list in October 2014 but my doctors said nope, as did my diseased body.  Instead, in October of 2014 I was having major surgery.  F U Graves Disease!  F U Cancer!  You can’t stop me; but I’d like to see you try!

I was so grateful to be standing there in that corral, surrounded by other excited and eager women (and a few men) as the sun rose on our 7am start.  I didn’t have the training I needed (circumstances of my job and Hurricane Matthew) and I was nervous that my body would betray me.  All I could do was pray.  My only goals were to finish and hopefully under 3 hours.

The run started out beautifully.  I had a great playlist.  Lots of praise and prayers.  Determination.

And a bright pink tutu ūüėÄ

As the miles tick by, and you’re alone with your thoughts, you start to notice things.  Or at least I do.

Some of my thoughts during the half:

Someone’s pink visor.  How do you lose that before mile 3?

A lost tube of Carmex.  That reminds me, I need to apply more lip balm.  Pucker up.

Ewwww, a flattened raccoon (thank God it doesn’t smell) yuck!

An empty pack of cigarettes…so glad I dropped that nasty habit over 4 years ago (go me!) and never looked back.

Oh look, a palm frond.

Gee, look at all the hurricane damage…still.

Litter.  Whats wrong with people, use a trash can!  Pigs.

These are just some of the things that were going through my mind during the half marathon, and all before mile 8.

Arriving at the mile 6 marker I was on pace to finish in 2:45.  I was feeling strong.  I was feeling positive.

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Between miles 6 and 7 there was a mother/daughter running together.  The Mom just completely folded and fell down.  I ran toward them.  Pulling Gu out of my pouch and stopping to help. Making sure she was okay.  She was disoriented;  no memory of falling down.  I was scared for her.  I stayed with them for a few minutes to make sure she was stable enough and then continued on as help arrived to attend to her.

A little while later I met the dinosaur, just after mile 9.  Stopped for a quick picture, because why not, it’s a dinosaur dude!  And dinosaurs are cool.  RAAAAWWWWRRRR!

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Then I arrived at mile 10 and it was all over.  I was cooked.  I wasn’t bonking; but I was truly hurting.

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I became acutely aware that my hands and arms were completely swollen and it was difficult to even clench my hands to find some relief from a brief stretch while on the move.  Was I going to fall down like that lady at mile 6.5?  Was I having an edema?

I was pretty sure the third toe in on my left foot was experiencing the beginning of the nail separating and ultimately defecting from said toe.

It was so hot now.  The sun was brutal.  I was thinking about that runner who lost their pink visor.  I bet they wish they had it now.  And why do I wear a black ball cap?!?  I should know better!  It’s Florida.  It’s hot as Hades here.  Even in December!

My calves were on fire and experiencing full on cramps and I was so hungry I’m pretty sure I was considering eating the runner to my right (the one on the left was too skinny);  I needed PROTEIN.  Ya dig?

I was doing my best to run in intervals at this point.  I felt like I was wearing concrete shoes, but I just wanted to  make it to the finish.  I knew my work was almost done.

Almost.

And then…hello Mile 12.  Just a few minutes of work left.  My friend Melissa was waiting at the finish line and texting me with words of encouragement.

“Just keep swimming”, “Woohoo!  Look at you go!”, and my fave, “You can do it beautiful!!!  You got this!!! ‚̧ <3”.  All perfectly timed.  It was like having her right next to me.

As I came around the corner and saw the Boa and Tiara Station at Mile 13 and heard the music and the runners in front of me being announced as they crossed the finish I pushed just a little harder.

And then I was in the shoot.  I felt like I was being lifted off the ground.  Floating.  I was ready to cross the mat, my angels were with me.

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I didn’t care about my finish time anymore.  I just wanted to be on the other side of my goal.  To be a finisher.

And then I heard Melissa calling out to me.  Yelling in excitement and happiness.  And then she was there hugging me.  And I cried like a baby.  Grateful.  Thankful.  Happy.  Exhausted.  Hungry.

Blessed.

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3:06 later, with my medal.

Coincidence that my bib number was 1306?  My “1”st half marathon and I finished in 3:06…

…and I placed 111 out of 136 in my age group?

I think not ‚̧

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What do you do after this?

You go to the opera and start thinking about your next half marathon ūüôā

Until next time…

Love, Jeni ‚̧

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How Do You Know You’re Alive?

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How do you know you’re alive?

Do you know you’re alive because you woke up this morning? ¬†Or because you’re breathing? ¬†Because you feel pain? ¬†Or joy?

This was the very question that was asked at church last week during Father’s homily.

I was immediately curious.

There were quite a few responses from the congregation that seemed to make sense, like this one, “because I’m here” (like the other 400 of us at 10am mass) that was chirped from somewhere in the back pews.

How about this answer…

You know you’re alive because you perceive and experience change happening all around you.

I can’t take credit for this answer, that was all Father.

But it makes such perfect sense!  We are always experiencing change, whether we want to or not.

It’s constant. ¬†It’s necessary. ¬†It’s inevitable.

And you cannot make it stop.

Some people are okay with change and some just can’t stand it. ¬†Both are understandable and acceptable.

I would say, for the most part, I’ve always been okay with change. ¬†Sometimes excited by it. ¬†Other times mortified by it (think president elect Trump) and on the very, very, very rare occasions, completely not willing to accept it, until I don’t have a choice but to accept it, and then I realize I’m going to be okay.

How do I know I’m going to be okay?

Because I have Jesus in my life. ¬†Because I believe in my faith and my God. ¬†Because I know that the work I do here, while I’m alive, prepares the way for my entrance to His Kingdom.

And knowing that Jesus will be waiting for me brings me great joy and happiness. ¬†It encourages me to work harder while I’m here on earth.

To show people kindness and compassion every chance I get. ¬†To share my bounty, even if it’s small. ¬†To serve others. ¬†To make sure I’m right with God every day through prayer and devotion. ¬†To forgive and love others. ¬†To see the beauty in all that surrounds me and be humbled by His greatness and graciousness.

To appreciate being alive, for however long that may be and to remember this passage…

“Serve one another in love.” ¬†Galations 5:13

Until next time…

Love, Jeni ‚̧

 

 

 

 

Mangled?

I have Graves Disease.

And it’s a nuisance.  Like having a perpetual gnat buzzing around your head that won’t go away no matter how many times you swat the crap out of it.

It’s an ugly disease.  It does terrible things to your body.  And it doesn’t go away.  Ever.  Because there is no cure.  Only treatment.  Lame-ass fucking treatment.

I haven’t blogged about it at all (even though it’s one of the reasons I started this blog), about how it’s changed my life, until now anyway.  I’ll share more about living with Graves Disease…eventually.

But today is an important one.  An anniversary really.  It’s the day that Graves Disease changed my life, again.  Six years after being diagnosed.

On this particular fall day, I underwent major surgery to have my thyroid removed at an excellent hospital in Virginia, with three very special people supporting me.  My awesome Aunt, my Dad and my Polish Princess.

It was my mistake that I had just assumed that the boy would have been there too, but it turns out that the cad dropped and ditched to go to the gym, do some shopping and relax at home, all while I underwent major surgery for the better part of five hours, not including several hours in recovery, before being moved to a private room for the next 30+ hours.  This was information I didn’t find out until after the break-up and it made me feel like such a complete fucking loser; but I’m not going to go there (I will insert an appropriate eye roll here though; and maybe a middle finger).

After the surgery I immediately started to photo document my recovery and healing.

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This picture was taken two days after the surgery and the day after I was released from the hospital.  My neck was quite bruised and swollen at the surgical site and down my chest.  From coughing, the edge of my sutures gave out and I had a little bleeding.  It looked more ugly then it really was.

For the most part, the steri-strip was quite resilient and was to stay in place for the next ten days.

On the 29th, nine days post-op, I returned to the Surgeon’s office to have the strip removed.  It was the day of the great reveal and I was ready for the strip to come off because the itchiness was driving me nuts!

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(Above:  the final picture before seeing my newest scar.  The bruising is virtually gone and the swelling reduced immensely.)

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This picture would be the first look I get at my new scar.  The Doctor didn’t have a mirror in his office, so after he removed the steri-strip I did my best to take a selfie of my neck.  I thanked the Doc and left with my next follow-up appointment scheduled.

Once I was alone in my car I looked at the picture.  I’m not sure what I was expecting to see.

Maybe a smaller, cleaner incision site?  Or something bigger?

I wasn’t upset.  Or sad.  I didn’t think it looked terrible, just different now.

The logical part of me knew my body would eventually heal the scar and I knew what measures and products I needed to use to meet the healing.  I felt positive and ready to get on with a healthier, happier life now that my diseased and sick thyroid was no longer a part of my endocrine system and causing serious problems.

It wasn’t until after I texted this very picture to “him” and received a response I would never have anticipated, that I saw my scar differently.

“Why does it look so mangled?”

Yup.

He really said that.

Verbatim.

What could I say?

How do you respond to that?

I was dumbfounded.

I honestly don’t remember my response.

Just those shitty-ass, insensitive, six words.

“Why does it look so mangled?”

I’m pretty sure that would not EVER be my word choice to say to someone I loved.

It was a damaging statement at worst.

And enlightening at best.

And from that point on, I was embarrassed.  I felt like a weirdo.  Awkward.  Especially around “him”.  I didn’t want people to see my scar; to stare at my mangled neck.  So I wore scarves everywhere I went, or band-aids over the scar.  Sometimes, both.  Even when I was training clients.

It would be many months before I felt comfortable uncovering my neck.

Like six of them.

But the words were always with me.

Mangled.  Mangled.  Mangled.

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(A week after the steri-strip was removed.  The scabbing has resolved, but the scar is still raised and red – November 10th, 2014)

Life goes on.  My body healed.  My scar changed in color and size.  I moved back to NY and then eventually to Florida.

And here I am.  Two years later.

How does my scar look now?

Pretty muthafucking good!

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(October 20th, 2016 – Two years since surgery)

Most of the time, people can’t even tell I ever had surgery or notice my scar.

But I always know it’s there.

I see it.

I feel it when I rub my neck; the slight bump at the corner where the scar tissue has accumulated under the incision.

And while I’m proud that my body was strong enough to bring me through a very serious surgery, strong enough to heal an angry scar, strong enough to get and keep me moving every day that I fight against my body and Graves Disease until a cure is found…

…I still catch a glimpse of my scar in the mirror and hear those words…

“Why does it look so mangled?”

…and I think…

Fuck you! I’m not mangled, I’m amazing and beautiful!

Until next time…

Love, Jeni ‚̧

 

Evacuated: Hurricane Matthew

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Growing up in New York, I’ve only watched on television what kind of damage a massive hurricane can bring, especially to coastal communities. ¬†I’ve watched news clips of people packing the things that mean the most to them and leaving their homes behind to seek higher ground and safety; only to return to devastation and property loss and a long period of rebuilding their lives and the communities they call home.

Now, I’m one of those people, living in Jacksonville FL, ¬†with less then 20 miles between me and the ocean. ¬†This beautiful city that I have made my home in. ¬†The beautiful beaches that I have sat, napped, sunbathed, walked, jogged and even played with Tippy on. ¬†The beautiful blue ocean that I have swam in and paddle boarded on.

This city and these beaches that have brought me peace and healing these past several months will soon be facing a punishing blow by Matthew, now a Cat 4 hurricane with no feelings, care or concern.  A hurricane that has already taken the lives of 108 souls on its path of destruction through Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas.  A hurricane that could possibley make a u-turn and hit Florida with a right hook.

In preparation for Matthew I unplugged all of my small appliances.  Moved my tv against an interior wall.  Cleaned out the refrigerator of any food that could spoil in a power outage.  Threw some clothes, books, shoes and my laptop in a bag and said goodbye to my new home and closed the door.  Praying that when I return, my home and the few possessions in it are in one piece.

Evacuated.

Me and Tippy are safely with our framily in Lake Mary. ¬†We will certainly be impacted by Matthew. ¬†We might lose power. ¬†Some trees may fall down….

…but we have each other and we will weather the storm together.

Please pray for us in Florida.

And when the storm passes and the sun shines again, remember, that many people could be facing significant damage, no home to return to, a long period of time with no work or power, or even loss of life.  Remember them as they rebuild their lives.  Donate your time to clean-up efforts, food banks and animal shelters.  Provide a bagged lunch or hot meal.  People will be in need.  People will be thankful for any and all help.

To my friends who couldn’t leave Jacksonville, I pray for your safety.

God bless.

Until next time…

Love, Jeni ‚̧

 

He Saved You

A reminder that seasons are temporary and growth and healing inevitable ‚̧ԳŹ

The Bottom of a Bottle

He Saved You

He didn’t save you
To let you take yourself once more
He didn’t save you
To wallow in your fears

You weren’t pulled from the depths
To just dig another hole
You weren’t showered in light
To wrap yourself in shadows

Seasons will come to cover us all
But these don’t define us
Seasons of darkness we will have to walk
But these He walks at our sides

He didn’t save you
So you could just let go
He saved you
So you could hold eternity

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Negative Connotations

We see them, hear them, speak them….

Every damn day.

Actually, the word connotation itself is really quite neutral.

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It’s when we attach the word “negative” to it that the definition¬†becomes, well, negative.

Duh.  (Smooth Jen.  Real smooth.)

Soooooo…

The topic is negative connotations….

For example, whenever I see a U-Haul truck (like today when I was pumping gas), in particular the 10-foot moving truck model that fits the contents of a one bedroom home, it¬†holds a “negative” connotation for me. ¬†Seeing one¬†reminds me of a time in my life that I was so absolutely positive I was doing the right thing ¬†because I believed my heart and the words and actions¬†of another party, and in reality, I was about to blindly walk off the ledge and fall in to an abyss that would change me forever in ways unthinkable.

In the past two years I have lived in places, with people, and each experience has grown me and made me stronger, yet, I can’t help but wonder why I’ve had to go through such extreme circumstances and situations to get to a place where I can finally begin to rebuild and move forward without all the negatives infringing on that forward movement.

After thinking long and hard about the negative, I realize, I’m pretty fucking tired of it all. ¬†Tired of seeing things, like a U-Haul truck, and letting the thought carry me backwards, always pulling the scab off an old wound. ¬†Tired of dealing with the toxic and negative behavior of others that can’t get their own shit together, so instead they take it out on everyone around them, including me. ¬†Tired of wondering when it’s all going to stop feeling so difficult and just become smooth sailing with everything coming up roses.

And like a 10 foot U-Haul moving truck, it hit me…

It’s time for me to take the “implication” of those¬†feelings and find the positive.

It took two U-Haul trucks (and a bunch of other shit) to bring me where I am today, both geographically and emotionally. ¬†It hasn’t been a smooth journey (and there have been a few assholes along the way), but there have been a lot of positives which have contributed to my growth and a few people that have come in to my life that will be with me forever and I’m so incredibly grateful for them. ¬†I truly can’t say that my path would have crossed with theirs, thus them becoming an integral part of my life without those damn U-Hauls!

These days, I’m traveling light, since all my shit is gone anyway. ¬†What I have left, fits very nicely in my car.

I’m at ground zero.

Starting over.

And that’s ok.

That’s a positive. ¬†Since there is nothing left to lose.

Literally.

And, if I’m lucky, I’ll need a U-Haul in a couple of years, that I can fill with new things that hold great and positive memories…

…and connotations.

Until next time…

Love, Jeni