Monday, April 6, 2015

Dear Dad.

I have spent the majority of my life being a caregiver.  In one way or another, I have spent more than two thirds of my life being responsible for the livelihood and wellbeing of another in some shape or form.

For this, I am thankful.

I have been taught many lessons in life at a young age because I have been a caregiver.  I have been taught humility and humbleness.  I have been taught grace.  I have been taught about forgiveness and about strength.  In somehow finding hope even when it seems impossibly buried under that last rock you'd left unturned in a quarry full of stones.  To be patient and kind.  In being faithful to your family.  In being resilient for no other reason than you have to be.  To survive, to make it to the next day with the same challenges and struggles, you must be.  Not everyone can do this, to survive this, so I am thankful.

For all of these reasons, I chose to be a nurse.  I chose to give myself to others in their most vulnerable times of need, when hope seems lost.  When humility is out the door.  When strength seems impossible. I know all too well all of these feelings and can empathize with families and patients and hope to bring them even the smallest bit of comfort in their times of need and celebrate with them the victories, big and small, along the way.

My Dad suffered in many ways throughout his battle with Huntington's disease.  He finished this fight, this war within himself, two weeks ago tomorrow.  March 24th, 2015 at approximately 10:00pm his heart stopped beating.  His family surrounded him and sent him off with our blessing to the next part of his journey.  To be at peace, to be free of a diseased body and mind.  To leave the grip of the disease that took his existence away.  Huntington's disease changed him in every possible way.  The zest for life he carried with him that I remember as a child was gone many years ago.  He had become but a hollow shell, simply a body that used to house the spirit of a man once full of smiles and laughs was replaced with anger and hostility toward those around him.  This is the disease that consumed him.

He had been in a nursing home going on seven years this fall.  The day we had to tell him it wasn't safe for him to live at home anymore was one of the very worst days of my life.  To help take him and his belongings to the place that would become his new home, without any of us, was heartbreaking and gut wrenching.  But it had to be done.

I would visit every Monday after class and bring him lunch.  He knew it was Monday if I came.  We'd share a pizza or some sandwiches, talk about school and the patients I got to do cool nurse-things to the previous week.  My jam packed schedule and waiting tables.  The new boy I was dating who I'd marry 6 years later.  The days and months and seasons of life seemed to blur together for him and for us.  Life went on.  Visits home were few and far between for him; it was too hard to take him back and he didn't want to go either.  I didn't blame him.

After being in and out of a psychiatric facility after an outburst, he landed at Spring Meadows where he would finish the last few years of his life.  It was perfect for him.  Out in the country, with a patio he could sit in the sun and look at the pond.  Not all the patients needed as much nursing care as he did but they could manage him there, no matter how angry he got or difficult to manage.  It was a saving grace for him.  People who could give him what he needed when we simply could not.  His disease was progressing, he was in a special chair full time, too weak to hold himself up in a wheelchair.  He would lay on mats on his floor for a change of scenery and watch his TV in his room.  His world became very small.  It was difficult to visit him without someone else there to talk with because he didn't say much anymore.  He would look at you with his blue eyes and smile most of the time.  It was almost as if he was looking through you. He'd only manage words in moments of anger.

My step-mom Jody is an angel on earth.  She truly took their wedding vows to heart and stood by his side no matter how ugly it got, no matter what he'd yell in a fit of rage fueled by a disease he had no control over until death parted them.  So often in Huntington's families the spouse cannot handle the person they married and what the disease was changing them into.  Jody faithfully visited, brought him milkshakes and told him about the things going on in the outside world.  My grandmother, his mother, was there often.  She was unable to fathom him being alone for any major holiday or event despite the fact that he didn't know that it was Christmas or his birthday any longer.  The thought of it was unimaginable to her and I can't blame her for wanting to be with her son, her only remaining child.  She has buried her husband and both of her children. I can't imagine how her heart feels.  She looked at me during the funeral and told me "I'm no longer a mother.  I don't have children", and my heart shattered into pieces I didn't know it had left to break into.  That pain.  That hurt.  It's not the way things are supposed to work in life.

March 24th started like any other week day.  I had a dentist appointment and chatted with the hygienist about our wedding and showed her some photos of the day.  I got a text from Jody that my dad wasn't doing well.  I planned to go to Columbus that weekend for a bridal shower and told her I'd be up to visit in a few days.  I clarified what "not good" meant and she said he was not responsive.  He hadn't taken anything by mouth with the exception of the sublingual morphine and ativan the hospice nurses were giving him to help make him comfortable.  His breathing was fast.  His heart rate was up.  He was requiring oxygen.  I decided I would go the next day, we've been through ebbs and flows of his illness that he sometimes would have these really bad days but be okay after a good sleep.  It didn't cross my mind that my father would die that day.  Just hours from this time.  I sat down for a meeting at work and broke into tears.  He wasn't doing well.  I was just processing it and what this might truly mean.  21 years of his illness gives a lot of time to prepare for the worst.  To prepare to say goodbye. But it's never truly enough time when you are actually faced with it.  I got another call just moments later saying the hospice nurse said she didn't think he'd make it through the night and to get my brother Tyler and come up right then.  So that's what we did.

We arrived around 4:45pm to find him completely unresponsive with his eyes rolled up in his head, not quite completely closed, and with oxygen in his nose.  His breathing was rapid, about 35 breaths a minute from my unofficial count.  I have enough nursing experience to kind of guestimate things like that just by a close eye and not needing to truly count.  I knew walking in that door that he for sure was not going to make it through the night and I was not going to leave.  I've seen enough people die to know that it was coming.  My grandma was there, Jody, and cousin Kathy.  Tyler and I stopped to get everyone sandwiches because I refused to eat nursing home food and we were out in the middle of nowhere.

I sat down next to him and kissed his head.  I held his arm and told him I loved him very much.  Jody was on the other side of him and whispered in his ear "it's okay honey, we're all here, you can go".  My sister also arrived and we all were chatting about different things, mostly telling stories and memories of Dad.  Mamaw and Kathy went in and out to smoke a few times, the nurse in and out every hour to administer the morphine and ativan and hopefully slow his breathing to make him more comfortable.  He had been on so many medications for so long to help with his mood and agitation it hadn't surprised me they'd already increased the doses three times that day to help him be more comfortable.  

In the 8 o'clock hour my sister went back in to our aunt's house to tuck her kids into bed for the night.  Around 9:15 Jody was saying Tyler wanted to go home for the night and she was going to take him, wanting to know if anyone needed drinks or snacks to hold us over for the night, knowing we wouldn't be leaving.  We were deciding what sounded best and it was like a movie - it was 9:30pm and he opened his eyes.  He had a film over them from where they were half open the whole day and so very dry.  He looked around the room - first at my grandmother who was on the side his head had been leaning toward.  "Hi Phil - hi!  I see those blue eyes!  He's opening his eyes…"I walked around to see for myself.  I knew this was it.  I knew that this can happen right before someone dies.  That final moment of clarity.  Jody said it out loud, "this is it".  It was.

His breathing suddenly slowed.  We all kissed his head.  We told him we loved him so very much.  That he had been the very best Daddy he could have been.  His eyes again almost closed, but not completely.  His color began to change, his mottled arms and legs crept into his core and face.  He kept breathing, slowly, slowly. The color in his face had changed and I knew he was gone.  I felt for a pulse and there wasn't one.  He was always so stubborn and in true fashion, he continued to have a breath every few minutes until right at 10:00pm.  Tyler stepped out, he couldn't handle those breaths.  He had told me he didn't want to be there when Dad died on the drive up.  That's the thing about life and plans and intentions - they aren't always what we think they're going to be.  Nothing happens on our time.  He stepped out into the hall, with tears in his eyes.  No 19 year old should see his father die.  No 19 year old should have only one or two good memories of the man who was supposed to teach him how to be one.  But that's life.  That's what happens with Huntington's disease.  That's what happened to him.

The nurse came in and listened with her stethoscope for almost a full minute and shook her head at me as I was shaking mine at her.  We both knew he was gone yet neither one of us said it out loud.  Jody sat crying at the bedside, a martyr of a wife.  She hated that he had started to get cold, she just wanted him to be warm.  At least before, while he wasn't fully himself, he was alive and he was warm.

We all stepped out of the room and went in one by one to say goodbye to him.  To say things that we needed to say to him.  I apologized for not being there more, but I knew he would only want me to live my life.  To not spend my days trapped with him in that nursing home.  To be successful, to be significant. That's what I know he'd want for me, but I apologized for my absences anyway.  I told him how much I loved him, about how I'll remember all of everything.  For what he'd taught me about working hard and never giving up. About dedication and perseverance.  About love and compassion.  I told him how happy I was he got to see me in my wedding dress and selfishly that's all I really wanted the last few years was for that to happen.  I kissed him again and wiped my tears, leaving them in the room.

My sister came back and brought a bottle of rum and we had a drink in his honor.  Every one of us around his bedside toasted this man - a son, a father, a husband, a grandfather, a cousin - and knew he would be appreciative of the sentiment.  We decided to have the visitation that weekend and called the funeral home for them to come.  Tyler and I just wanted to sleep in our own beds that night so the family told us to go ahead and go.  It was like my feet were cemented to the ground and it took everything I had to will myself to leave for the last time.  The last time I'd ever see his face.  I didn't want to leave but knew there was nothing left for me to do.

The next few days were like a fog.  I was in charge of the music to be played at the visitation.  Two hours of his favorite songs were burnt onto a CD that I knew he'd love.  Classic rock mixed with the Jackson 5 and Hang on Sloopy.  Every song with a memory.  Saturday came and we drove north to meet our family.  There were so many beautiful bouquets of flowers all around and small tokens of love from others.  Photo albums were around the room and the slideshow of photos were full of the best times.  Photos of my Dad and Aunt Lisa as kids, Dad and Jody's wedding day, trips to Florida, graduations, the photo shoot I was gifted shortly after nursing school, pictures of smiles from good days over the past few years, and from Laurel and I's weddings.  The deterioration of his body as the photos went on was so evident.

The parking lot filled up and so did the side streets.  Dozens of well wishers coming to pay their respects.  I heard countless stories of from when I was little from his buddies, of things they had done together.  It was a packed house, it was as if the whole town was there.  That's the beauty of small towns, they come together.  The line was to the door and there were more people than chairs for the service.

And just like was all over.  The words were spoken and the hymns were sung.  The prayers were prayed. No more Huntington's disease.  No more trips to the nursing home.  No more Dad.

As the days go on, I find just that to be the opposite of true.  I feel him near me so often throughout the day.  Maybe it's because I know he is free of the body he spent the last 20 years trapped inside.  I find myself telling him every time I think of him that my only hope is that I have made him proud and will continue to do so.  That I hope I've made the right choices and I take the right path.   That I love him and I miss him and his smile.  That I'm thankful that every morning when I get myself ready that I can look at myself and see the eyes he gave me and always have that little bit of him in me.

My greatest passion in life is to do what I can to help find a cure for Huntington's disease, and that has never been more intensified as it has become in the last week.  Two other friends have lost parents, one the week before me, and one this week.  That is simply unacceptable.  We have to do better.  I plan to continue fundraising and volunteering, maybe even making a career out of fighting this disease.  I have hope.  I got that from him.

Rest peacefully, Daddy.  I love you so.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Wedding Wednesday - December edition! (On a Thursday.)

The month has arrived!  December is here!  Things are getting really real now that the wedding date is within the 10 day forecast - Kyle was amused at my excitement over this little fact.  I want to know if it's going to snow, dang it!

So the last month has been interesting to say the least.  I was insanely stressed coming into this week due to lack of communication from vendors, drama with the bachelorette party, my Dad's nursing home giving us a hard time about allowing us to use their transportation to get him to the ceremony, the hair lady not discussing pricing before we put in my hair extensions (yep, I got extensions.  I want a hair style, darn it!) and wanting an insane amount of money from me, our venue not being open to accept our final payment… the list goes on and on.  I'll save you from the crazy that was going through my head because I thought my skull was going to explode with everything that was happening, mostly for no real reason at all, and all things I had no control over.  I decided Tuesday once everything was good with the venue that I wasn't going to let anything upset me anymore. It's literally one day of our lives, one of the BEST days of our lives, and I just need to trust that all the people who say they're doing stuff for us will show up and that whatever will happen is going to happen.

So I had my final dress fitting and I was super worried about it.  I wasn't comfortable in the dress before and wasn't sure the alterations needed to make me feel better would be possible.  I was worried I was literally going to have to walk into a David's Bridal and buy something off the rack, but I didn't.  It fit perfectly and with a little smoothing it'll look perfect.

My bachelorette party was this last weekend and my girls threw me a great evening of pedicures, a fun decorated hotel room with snacks, beverages, and a poster of a man we named Mr. Grey, then dinner at a japanese steakhouse called Genji's, and then to my favorite place, the Big Bang piano bar.  We went there a lot in nursing school and always had so much fun, went there the night before I moved to Cincinnati, and went there the night I decided I was going to run a marathon.  Lots of good memories associated with that place and it's always a good time and I always lose my voice from singing so loud. I danced with a cowboy who looked so out of place there, but I'm glad I met him.  He asked when I was getting married and wished us luck and to love each other more every day as we never know when our last day will be.  He said he had lost his wife 6 years before to cancer, and he couldn't have been older than 40.  I was caught off guard and it was one of those moments I knew I was supposed to meet him for a certain reason.  He got the piano guys to play the song I'd been requesting and I was really touched by his gesture and words.

Tonight is my bridal shower with the ladies from work at Maggiano's, an italian restaurant that I've never been to before.  I'm excited for a giant piece of tiramisu and some guilt-free carbs!

Even more exciting is that I just found out today that the nursing home is now willing to bring my Dad for the ceremony when they weren't before.  I had talked myself into being okay with it, that we'd go out to see him when we got back from the honeymoon and I'd put on my dress and take a few pictures. But really, in my mind and when I look back at pictures and know he was still alive and wasn't in them was going to be really hard for me.  I know it will ultimately be a day-of decision, but I'm hoping he's in good spirits and he will be able to be there and we will have new family photos of the day with him there.  I broke down in tears when I found out, and I'm forever thankful for all those at Spring Meadows care facility that have been involved in this and especially the nurses who are willingly coming with him and take care of him on a daily basis.  I am so, so thankful.

All the details are finalized, everyone has been paid, the dress is in my closet, and we just have a final tiny few things to finish this weekend and next week will be a breeze!   I'm so excited to get my final few shifts of work over with and make my way up to Columbus on Thursday to pick up my good friend Karli from the airport and let the wedding weekend begin!

Now.. moments from the bachelorette party!
Mr. Grey!
The best bridesmaids!
The Bridal Bunch
One of my three times on stage. Like anyone is surprised!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wedding Wednesday - November!

My apologies for the week delay in this Wedding Wednesday, but I had the excitement of my bridal shower this weekend that I wanted to share!  It has been a busy, busy month on the wedding front.

At the very end of October we took a day to go to Columbus and meet with our venue and vendors to make all the final selections for everything from the colors of the linens, the menu, decor, and timeline.  I'm so glad I'm not a DIY bride and that the venue is providing 95% of the decor for the day!  I'm so looking forward to seeing it all together, it will be beautiful!  We spent about an hour and a half at the venue, had lunch, and then went to meet our other vendors at a Panera (which no longer existed and apparently none of them knew either!) so we found a coffee shop just down the street with the best Rice Crispy treats I've ever had.  We met our fab photographer, Erica, followed by the videographer and the DJ.  Everyone has the timeline and locations of everything and that's the biggest relief!  Kyle has been SUPER helpful in organizing everything because he's a big dork and loves lists and charts and using Excel whenever he can.

Our RSVP deadline has come and gone as well and the date they were due, November 1st, we started the day with only 85-90 confirmed guests.  We invited 275.  SO… needless to say I had some people to find!  I posted this lovely photo reminding people to get their acts together and we spent the evening contacting and reaching out to other family members of those who had not responded.  I also partially blame our not so fantastic postal worker who doesn't always get the right mail in the right boxes at our apartment, and I think we didn't get all that were sent.  By the end of the day we were up to 160ish confirmed guests - hooray! We anticipated around 200 guests to show up and we are looking to be right at that number.

I also had my first dress fitting! I waited to see what I was going to do weight wise and sort of put it off.  The bridal shop I bought my dress from does not do in-house alterations, but they do give you a booklet of seamstresses they recommend in various parts of the city.  I called the one closest to my house (who also has an extensive resume!  She seems very impressive) and she was able to get me in two days later.  I went for my fitting and needed a few areas taken in and am adding a single layer of tulle to help with the length. I'm also adding a special touch which I'm sure Erica will capture with the details of the day.  It should be ready in about two weeks!

Then, this weekend was my bridal shower at home with my family.  My fabulous bridesmaids and sister worked really hard to throw a very "Lindsay" event… from the Taylor Swift playlist in the background to the mini key lime pie desserts (which are my favorites!) and everything pink and sangria and punch… it was perfect.  My grandma was part of the game to dress each other in toilet paper as brides and it was literally one of the most precious things ever.

I was so thankful for all the hard work that was put into the day and I'm looking forward to my bachelorette party with these ladies at the end of the month!

With only 30 days to go (ahh!) we just have the final details to put together and all major decisions and plans have been made.  All the hard work has been done, now it's time for all the fun stuff!  I'm so thrilled and can't wait for the big day to arrive.  Enjoy some photos from the shower! Next update will be just about 10 days away from "I Do"!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

No Excuse November.

I'm on the quirky "lets name a challenge/goal/aspiration after the month" kick, so here we are.  I've been wishy-washy about my progress or lack there of.  About my eating habits, how busy I am and will continue to be, realistic expectations, and I could go on and on.  Up until today, I hadn't exercised in any form except for walking the dog around our apartment complex.  I hadn't ran, I hadn't been to Zumba or lifted a weight. I had been eating donut holes, candy, and pizza.  I had gone WAY off the deep end and for what?  I'd been killing myself these last 22 months to lose weight, maintain my losses, run all the races, and look damn good in a wedding dress.

I'm calling to schedule my dress fitting appointments and I'm more bloated than I've ever been due to my lack of water intake and my poor diet choices.  My dress will still fit but won't need to be taken in as much as planned. I have had the whole year to make progress and for every one stop forward I took, I took 2, 3 and right now I'd even say 12 steps back to account for the 12 pounds I've gained from my summer lowest of my adult life.

I have bridal showers and my bachelorette party coming up.  There will be treats and drinks to be had and I refuse to not let myself enjoy some of these most exciting times and memories of my life.  I refuse to starve and I refuse to eat chicken and protein shakes multiple times a day.  There's not a great quick fix, and lets be honest, quick fixes don't work anyway.  I want to and I will wear the bikini I bought for my honeymoon.  I will also wear the one piece.  I will feel confident and I will enjoy myself.  Life is short and I have a lot of time to hit a number goal. I have days I look in the mirror and cringe, but I also have days I look in the mirror and appreciate the hard work I've already done.  I did something for myself recently that I'm so thankful for, and while I can't elaborate on it right now, I will talk about it at a later date.  This thing I did will forever go down in history as something I never thought I would do, but did it anyway, and I was comfortable and confident and I walked out more comfortable in my own skin and confident in the body I carry than ever.  I am real, I have flaws, I am perfectly imperfect.  I am always a work in progress but I know I am mentally in a better place than I have been in a long time.

So, this November, I choose to do away with the excuses. I choose to be happy and feel good without killing myself.  I choose to make good decisions 95% of the time and enjoy the special moments and events this month with my family and friends before I am a married lady.  No excuses, only planned events and treats with moderate living in between.  With movement and activity and time for myself.  With excitement and new adventures ahead, I am no longer afraid or ashamed.  I ban negativity and negative self-talk.  I choose to love myself. I choose to give up all my excuses and move forward. Who's with me?

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Columbus Marathon race recap.

This seems so appropriate for my 100th blog post!  My favorite race in my favorite city deserves a special spotlight.

On our way!

I initially signed up for the half marathon and in June after going to the HDSA National Convention in Louisville in June.  I was pumped up, I was inspired, I wanted to run another 26.2 for my Dad and to celebrate my birthday by running the same marathon - twice - in the same year of my life.  My intentions were good, I had other races lined up to help with training runs and I was really excited about this year's race season.  Yep, I'm a *real* runner now, I have a race season!  It's crazy.

Flat Lindsay, ready to go.

Check out those Bride and Birthday girl buttons on my awesome sash!

Things were going well and when I ran the Emerald City in August I was on par with where I needed to be to run the full 26.2 again.  When I got a sinus infection following the race, was out from training for a whole three weeks, I was really skeptical about being ready.  I thought I would dredge on and finish somehow, but the more I thought about it I knew that was a bad idea.  Could I have finished?  Sure.  Would I have ended up in a walking boot with a stress fracture from being severely undertrained?  Probably.  No bride wants to wear a walking boot down the aisle so I decided to play it safe by sticking with the half marathon.  The race was sold out and I couldn't transfer my bib back to the half, so I made the turn with the half marathoners and called it a day.  Best decision ever.  The only thing is I feel weird about wearing a 26.2 shirt I didn't earn and hanging a 26.2 medal on my rack I didn't complete… so I'll hang it in the back.

Hellooooo from the starting line!

SO… to the actual race!  We headed to Columbus on Saturday late morning after dropping Penny off at her favorite doggie boarding spot.  (She subsequently broke out of her crate in the middle of the night and the staff found her in the small dog yard in the morning, but that's neither here nor there… she does what she wants.) We stopped for Raising Cane's for lunch and met up with our wedding florist and checked off our very last vendor after having all the others booked for at least the last 10 months!  We made it to the expo at around 3:30pm, right during the Ohio State game, and it was PACKED.  I was so surprised at how busy it was during the game, but not everyone who runs this race is from Columbus so I can understand.  The expo was big and awesome, as usual, and held at the Columbus Convention Center.  There was a Nike store, other race vendors, the few running stores in Columbus were represented, and many fun booths with swag and gear.  I picked up a few packages of sports beans and made my way upstairs to pick up my race pack.  They had the list of those celebrating their birthdays and gave out birthday buttons again, but I didn't get one because my birthday is today, Monday, instead of either Saturday or Sunday.  No worries, I had my own birthday button to wear!  I was pretty much in and out without any problems.  Kyle and I went to Olive Garden, our old stomping grounds, for dinner instead of my desired Spaghetti Warehouse just for logistical purposes and I was full and happy.  We went back to our hotel and set the alarms for 5:00AM - someone (not me) wasn't happy about it, but he's a good sport!

I woke up just a few minutes before the alarm went off and I was up and ready to go.  I fixed my hair a bit and of course put on some mascara (cameras are everywhere, hello!) and put on my very favorite race outfit to date.  I was celebrating my last race bling before the ring and I wanted to go in bridal style!  I had a shirt made with some pink fabric paint but my cat, Felix, jumped on the table just as I had finished it and walked right through the paint.  Fail.  I bought another shirt.

I was ready to go and we headed to Panera for my usual bagels for the drive.  Yes, I eat two plain bagels before a half!  My other races have been on Saturdays and I forgot until we pulled in that Panera doesn't open until 7 on Sundays instead of 6, so that didn't go so well.  There was luckily a Tim Horton's not too far away and I got my bagel fix there. The one perk of race season - bagels.  Mmmm.

The weather was perfect, about 45 degrees with an expected high of about 55 and sunny for the day.  Honestly, this was my ideal running weather and I was loving every second of the cool air.  In the corrals there were so many people that you couldn't feel the coolness and I was warm while waiting for the race to start.  The start and finish was combined this year, unlike previous years, and it was a bit confusing to get into the corrals when the whole block was fenced off.  I was in the very back in corral D and that was the only entrance I saw into the area and there were TONS of people.  The bathrooms there were way backed up and I had seen some further up and fought the crowd to get to them and back into my area.  I think that's definitely an improvement they will need to look into for future years if they choose to keep that same place for the combined start/finish, but they're aware.  I don't know how the A and B corrals ever got where they needed to be unless there was another gate to get in that I never saw.

Anyway, I arrived around 7:00 and before I knew it, it was 7:25 and the wheelchair athletes were off!  I ran into a few instagram followers/friends (Hey Katie! Lyndsey! Lisa! whoop whoop!) The big perk for our large field of athletes is they have a double start so everyone can enjoy it since we're wrapped around either a city block or in this case in a U shape this year.  The national anthem was sung, and the fireworks were set off.  Those of you who know me know I HATE fireworks, but it sure was a pretty way to start the day!  Then once the A and B corrals were off they did the whole thing over again for the C and D corral and that is truly one of my favorite parts of this race - it's all about the experience for everyone!  The new start was electric - the street was lined with speakers so the music was pumping and the fans at the start in the new bleachers and all along the roads were packed in.  There's always great crowd support but I think this years start was better than previous years!  The first two miles flew by with all the people and cheering.  I didn't feel as cramped nor did I experience the dodging that comes with bigger races and people all trying to get away from each other at the start, it was fabulous.

One of my favorite race signs! Others included "Run like Ebola is chasing you!l, "I don't know about you...but I'm feeling 26.2!", and "You've got me!"

Every mile of the Columbus Marathon has a patient champion represented and the mile is decorated with their chosen theme.  All of these kiddos have been patients at Nationwide Children's Hospital, home of my first nursing job out of school, and it holds a special place in my heart.  It was my mission to have a fun time, high five and greet each and every patient champion, and all the parents in mile 11, the Angel Mile, who were there to honor their angels who have already finished their race.  It is always a very emotional mile for me, but this year after some experiences I have encountered in my nursing career, it hit even closer to home.  I wanted to hug and thank each family for supporting US through their grief.  I'm tearing up just writing about it, and I can't explain what it's like to see these people smiling and cheering in honor of their children for US.  I have a special bond with some families and have shared in some part of their grief over the last year, and I can only imagine their faces as I ran through the mile.  Every sign of their babies, some smiling, some intubated but with pretty bows in their hair and their big eyes looking at the camera, reminds me of my job and my families.  Our families. I am so thankful for my job and these families who trust me with their babies day in and day out, and my heart is both full and aches in a constant feeling of wondering if I did enough, if we did enough, every day that I work.  These families are like my families and they are there for all of us running through their mile.  It's more than I can put into words.  More than I can properly convey.  I shook the hands of each parent holding a sign of their sweet loved children and wiped the tears with my sleeves as I carried on.

I had no intentions of PRing.  I had no intentions of being able to run the whole race considering how the last few weeks have gone.  But when I was finishing mile 11 and my RunKeeper app told me my time and I was figuring it out in my head - if I kept running, I would CRUSH my PR.  There was a PR gong waiting in the finishers area to be hit by all those who scored PR's that day and I wanted to HIT IT.  So off I went; through mile 11, the turn into 12, past the 13 mile sign and across that finish line in 2:40:58 according to my RunKeeper.  2:42 official time.  I had done it!  My PR of 2:46 was SMOKED, my last weeks time of 2:50 DEMOLISHED… I had finally freaking done it.  Minus greeting those parents and patients and the slow down through the water stops - I had run the whole half marathon.  I was elated and got through the finishers area with my marathon medal (whoops… but it's the bib I had!) and got my finisher goodie bag, water, chocolate milk and cookie.  I went out the athlete exit to look for my family and fiancĂ© and to FIND THAT GONG.  While it was a big cluster of people, I never found the gong.  I found my family and I got hugs and pictures and we called it a day.  I was on top of the world and I knew that if I wouldn't have felt guilty having them wait several more hours for me, I would have kept going and finished that marathon.  Just knowing that I could have done it had I really wanted to makes me feel like I can do anything.  On this day last year I completed a marathon, not knowing how I would make it through and with a lot of convincing from my sidekick, Carrie, I crossed the finish line.  This year - I could have done it.  I know I could.  I am confident that with the right mindset I can accomplish all of my dreams, both physical and beyond that.  I know I will one day get to my goal weight, I know one day I'll finish that triathlon and I will finish another marathon.  I have so much life ahead of me and I know I will accomplish everything I want to do in my life - and that is enough for me.  It may sound arrogant and it may seem cocky - but the confidence I have in myself and my abilities isn't something I had a year or 18 months ago.  The mental changes I have had over this two year journey is bigger than the pounds lost or the new clothes I can fit into.  The Lindsay who hid behind jokes and smiles is no longer hiding - they are genuine feelings that I have 99% of the time.  Not every day is good, but there is good in every day.  Yesterday was both a good day and there was so much good in the day that it was palpable.

My hubby-to-be met me at the finish! And my step mom's finger also made the shot! Haha!

I'll see you next year, Columbus.  My favorite city, my favorite place.  My home.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Inaugural Queen Bee Half Marathon!

You guys, I've got 10 medals for 10 half marathons.  I can't even believe it! I'm so glad I could celebrate my 10th with my good friend Leah during the Queen Bee half marathon here in Cincinnati.

I knew it would be a fabulous event - they've been advertising like crazy and the organizers also run the Flying Pig every spring so they knew what they were doing.  The field was small but didn't feel like it even when the half marathon separated from the 4 miler runners.  I never had a time where I didn't have people around me, not including Leah :)

They sent out the final race details last week and I found out that there would be some pretty sweet mile sponsors and treats out on the course - so much so that I didn't even pack fuel for this race so that meant no fanny pack!  I would be free of carrying anything because Leah and I were riding together which was a nice change.  In fact, I lost my armband for my phone so I didn't even have music which is strange for me.  Our goal was to get me to run the whole thing and for her not to die since it had been about 10 years since she's ran (did I mention it was a whole marathon that she ran?  She totally had this, I knew it before we started!) and she teaches Zumba more days a week than some people work so she's in great shape.

Packet pickup was Friday at the Horseshoe Casino which was also where the race started and finished the next day.  The casino is new and I hadn't been yet, so I drug Kyle along to check it out.  There were tons of vendors, packet pickup was smooth thanks to the volunteers, and the expo (yes, there was a real expo for this race and I was thoroughly impressed) was stocked full of goodies and girly products thanks to P&G.  I picked up my new favorite shirt that says "I ran this Beeatch!" which has been the best race slogan to date.  Love it!

I found myself!

Saturday morning I met Leah in the parking lot of our gym and we cruised downtown to the casino.  We didn't hit any traffic and got a decent parking spot in the garage, headed inside, and waited in the warm building with real bathrooms to be used, a major highlight of the race!  We headed outside around 7:45 to get to the start line.  

I'll take this...

There was music and everyone was dancing, including an older gentleman on the roof of the casino parking garage that was getting everyone's attention as he jammed out to Pharrel's "Happy".  He made my day!  We heard some announcements from a local weather lady and then comments from the race director, Iris Simpson-Bush.  She seems fabulous and I kind of want to be as awesome as her!  A female barbershop quartet sang the national anthem and we were off!  There were a few men running and they had to start 15 minutes later - loved it! (Although they still passed us, I didn't mind)

The rooftop dancer!

The first two and a half miles were all uphill.  Seriously.  I was thinking this was a good idea to get them out of the way, and it probably was, but the extra effort came back to bite me in the butt at the end of the race and I didn't get the quicker start like I'm used to.  We averaged about 12:40 minutes/mile those first few miles and then when we hit the glorious downhills that followed we shaved a minute off the pace.  Starting at mile 4 they had all kinds of goodies - Twizzlers, Starburst jelly beans, Honey Stinger gel AND jell-o shots, the Queen's Royal Tea (iced tea in a race!), a Chippendale's mile (men in t-shirts that looked like Chippendale bodies, it was a trick!), and lots of great themed water stops.  I was very impressed by the creativity and also in the city of Cincinnati for coming out for a smaller race that is new - there was a decent amount of crowd support that I wasn't expecting and needed.. so thank you, all of you, for coming out Saturday morning!

It was our original goal, like I mentioned, to run the entire thing.  It's been my goal for this year to be able to run the whole race and PR, but it hasn't happened yet, and it didn't happen Saturday either.  I was giving it my all and after the opening hilly miles and another big hill in mile 6 I was totally exhausted.  I was ready to slow down by mile 8 truthfully, but knowing Leah had the car keys and we both had stuff to do later in the day I knew I had to keep going.  I thought at mile 10 I was going to have to start run/walking but Leah was so supportive and was the one cheering me on - yes, in my 10th half marathon and in her 1st official half (she has run a full marathon but never a half!) without any training, she was the one who was encouraging me.  She was literally running circles around me, and never stopped.  It was amazing!  She kept telling me it's all about the Zumba and it works!  So keep that in mind, all you non-runners, that you can do it too if you wanted!  We saw her kids right before the dreaded hill at mile 6 and they were so cute, as usual.

I made it until mile 11 before I had to slow down, and I finished the last two miles in a walk/run.  Leah kept saying "just think about how you can write in your blog about the race how you didn't walk! Just keep going!" but my shuffle was so slow I was better off walking really and as right as she was, my legs just didn't have it in me to pick them up and go any faster.

We finished the course in 2:53 for 13.55 miles, and I stopped my Garmin at 13.1 in 2:50, pretty much my average for the last few races.  We headed through the finish line running like Phoebe does on the show Friends and I loved every minute of it.  We got our medals from some handsome Army dudes, picked up water, chocolate milk, a banana, got a race picture taken together, and headed to the after party to collect our flip flops, free Skyline coney dog, and mimosa!  The mimosa line was really long and I wasn't feeling great so we skipped it and headed to the car.  The medals are awesome and they open up and have a mirror inside - a perfect addition to this fabulous ladies race.

Mmm Skyline!

Fabulous bling! 
(photo credit to the Queen Bee facebook page)

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Wedding Wednesday - October Edition!

Happy October! Also, my apologies for not posting this last week, I didn't realize that Wednesday brought us a new month  and a date for this post!

We are officially 66 days away! Only 9 more Saturday's before our dream day comes to life.

We've spent the last month getting lists of things left to do made, payments arranged, wedding bands chosen, celebrating our 1 year engagement date, and choosing my veil! Lots of little details have been brought to my attention and we're in the process of sorting out what is important, what can wait, what we have left to pay on and when those are due. We chose a venue for our rehersal dinner space that will double as a birthday party for our ring bearer and nephew, Levi. We also chose tuxedos for the guys and made some decisions on the florist.

Invitations went out this week as well! I'm excited to get RSVP's back and see the fun things our guests filled in. We used some mad libs, a "fun-o-meter" that's to be filled in, a place for advice and a song request. I have gotten so much positive feedback about how amazing these invitations are and I couldn't be more pleased with them. I also chose Kyle's wedding gift and got to work on it.

Next up? Getting together with all our vendors for final meetings, starting the dress fittings, and waiting for RSVP's to fill our mailbox!