A slow 5K

2018 frEIhofer’s run (Last year)

2018 frEIhofer’s run (Last year)

This time last year I’d just run my first post-kid half marathon and felt healthy and inspired. Then I stopped running. I just... stopped. I couldn’t make the time for it, then fell out of habit, then became too intimidated, then called it stupid, then... a year had passed of me feeling less connected to my body than I’ve felt in awhile (ever?), including immediately postpartum.

Christine got her groove back, 2018

Christine got her groove back, 2018

We give new moms such grace for, like, six weeks or maybe even six months and then the grace period is over. Back to hating your body into submission and the relentless quest to shrink shrink shrink yourself. The smaller the better. Diet culture is so strong it’s hard to escape. Even when you know it’s brainwashed you. Even when you are a smart, thoughtful person. Even when deep down you think you might still love your body with the new 20ish pounds but are supposed to feel disgusted or ashamed. It’s a constant struggle for me to distinguish true health-seeking behaviors from diet and skinny culture BS.

2019 FReihofer’s run (also, christine lost her groove THIS YEAR)

2019 FReihofer’s run (also, christine lost her groove THIS YEAR)

But this week, after not having gone for a single run in months, I decided I wanted to run my 8th Freihofer’s Run for Women, a premiere nationally-recognized all-woman road race in my city. I tried to forget how 5Ks have often been a throwaway distance for me and told myself it was ok if it was hard. Ok to walk. Ok to go slow. Ok to feel squished in my workout clothes. And it was... ok. I lined up with 3,400+ women and we ran the streets of Albany. It took me a full 11 minutes longer than my fastest run of this course in 2014. It even took me 6 minutes longer than just last year. But I’m realizing that running and walking are key parts of my Feel Good Plan. Going to the gym? Nah, not now at least. Restricted eating? Nope, can’t do that now either. For now I’m accepting this season of life as best I can, understanding that the postpartum period lasts a lifetime and eating all my free cookies from this morning’s race. Someone sign me up for another (short) race. 

I’ve got more to say about:

  • How the newborn stage was easy breezy for me but everything since has rocked my world

  • Diet culture, man, and it’s death grip on us all

  • Health for health’s sake, not for bikini Instagram photos

The weather was perfect, the cookies were abundant and it was a day ripe for dusting out the cobwebs and plotting the downfall of diet culture and body hating.

My two-year-old

Note: I found this essay in my drafts folder and remember now that I didn’t post it because it felt too mushy, too saccharine, too much. Looking back on it several months later (Clark turned two in late July), it feels just right. He already seems much older than he was this summer, but still just as sweet.

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Well, my sweet boy, you are two. I stop myself every time I think, "How can you be two years old already!" because, in fact, you are so obviously and perfectly two. You are our best buddy, our silly trickster, our early morning snuggler, our beautiful, wild two-year-old boy. 

Once again, your birthday has come around and I'm frantically searching my journals, my phone, scraps of paper and feeling the inadequacy of my notes. No amount of words, no number of poems could adequately describe the depth of my love for you, Clark Wilder. I knew we'd love you, I knew it would be hard, but I didn't know I'd love you this much and I certainly didn't know how hard it would sometimes be. These are the longest days and shortest years of our lives. I wrote a note on my phone this year: Everything is harder now, everything is sweeter now. That's how every day feels.

Everything is harder now, everything is sweeter now.

You fill us with such love and tenderness; your laugh brings me to my knees with its beauty and the feel of your little juice-covered, sticky little hands in mine is a much-needed salve.

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You wake us up with a kiss, taking my face in your hands and saying "Wake Mommy!" You love hiding and sneaking up on people and playing with your bear, puppy, lion, froggie and ducky. You love that darned Peppa Pig and, of course, Elmo and Curious George. Your new favorite is the Wild Kratts and their creature adventures. I think you fall asleep every night dreaming of popsicles. You know your colors and a lot of numbers and animals. You look up for airplanes and clouds and "hoppy birdies".

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You pick up rocks and sticks and jump in every puddle you see. I don't know if you look like me anymore or just your daddy, but you look damn good. You have friends at school and at night pretend to call them all on the phone, or the remote control or sometimes through a secured line on a calculator. You color and make snakes with Play Dough and climb and jump on everything.

You are the sweetest boy I've ever met. Thank you for being you.

I like to think of the last photo as Clark’s face when he learns to read and eventually finds this sappy love note from his mom :)

Life lately

Early yesterday morning, I took pause to marvel at how deliciously beautiful Clark is. How delightfully snuggly. We were spending an early morning watching cartoons, because I was too bleary eyed to do anything else at that hour. “Mommy, sit here. Mommy, come too.” He absentmindedly played with my rings and snuggled up as PBS Kids rolled in the background and the world started to wake up.

A few hours later, we were both in tears in the back of my car. He wouldn’t sit in his car seat; I was out of tricks and bribes and patience. I lost my cool, regained it and repeated that cycle a few times as I navigated the surprises and monotony of toddler negotiation. When I finally gave up and just sat next to him, upset and defeated, Clark touched my cheek and said, “I’m sorry, Mommy.” My first thought was, “If you were really sorry you would have gotten in your car seat 20 minutes ago ya little punk!” My immediate next thought was, “Oh. So this is parenthood.” Your child breaking your heart and putting it back together again and again.

Drop off at daycare was harder than it had been in months. Clark didn’t want me to leave, didn’t want to let go, wouldn’t calm down. I finally got to work 30 minutes late and right in time to walk into our weekly staff meeting and take my place at the head of the conference table. I was exhausted and scattered and not sure what other emotion to feel.

When I picked Clark up in the afternoon, him and his bestie were each rocking little baby dolls. His teacher said, “Clark is just the sweetest. He’s so kind. When someone is upset, he always goes over and asks “Are you ok?” and pats their back.” My heart swelled. A few minutes later, we started another round of get-in-the-car-seat diplomacy.

That’s it. No conclusion drawn, no life lesson learned. Just a vignette, a blur of the ups and downs of life lately. So much joy, so much frustration. In an effort to beat the writer’s block of the past few years, I thought I’d share a little with you :)

Families belong together

"Change the world one friend at a time"

I paused in my car to hear the end of a story on All Things Considered with a recording of young children crying at a detention center. I heard the sounds of their trauma, the terror in their cries, the heartbreak and heartrage of their parents and the wild-eyed frantic desperation their mamas felt when their babies were stolen from them. 

I paused again on my walk inside, up the beautiful new path we paid to have built to our door, in the backyard of the home we own, in a city where we feel safe, close to family, with heat and air conditioning and clean water and stability. Where my ethnicity and race and language and education afford me privileges that others are systematically denied.

I stepped inside. My husband and toddler greeted me with their handsome grins and hugs. Clark was having a tough night. He spent much of it crying and whining and tantruming, which is unusual for him. For a fleeting moment I thought, "Here I am, enduring my son's inconsolable cries just like those mothers seeking asylum." What a foolish thought that was. No, this was nothing like what those mamas at the border are facing. Clark was crying because he wanted a pop. He wasn't crying from fear or terror or trauma. He wasn't afraid for his body. He wasn't wondering where his mommy or daddy was. He wasn't crying for human touch that the guardians of the stolen border children aren't allowed to provide. He wanted dessert, that's all. When he eventually calmed down, Chris and I quietly poured ourselves a drink  and the three of us set out for an evening walk around our neighborhood. We weren't afraid that anyone would take Clark from us or that one of us would be arrested or deported. We weren't fearful for the safety of our own bodies, or imagining the bullets or handcuffs or humiliation that might come upon us. We were a young family on a walk, nothing to see here.

How do you reconcile your immense gratitude for your life with your visceral, shared pain of the world? I'm having trouble finding that edge and balance. I still fret over picking out new couches to brighten our living room. I still concern myself with my weight and my skin and my clothes. I'm worried when all Clark eats is cheese and toast and strawberries. I admonish myself for not having planned a family summer vacation sooner because all of the charming Airbnb rentals are booked. Flip that:  I have a home and a living room and money to buy couches and cheese and toast and strawberries and paid vacation time and the luxury to still worry about all of those things. 

I guess what I'm saying is, there is a lot of pain in this world and today I'm haunted by the cries of babies who have been torn apart from their mamas and daddies. I hear the pleas of brave parents who risked everything they had to save their babies, to leave their homeland in search of safety and freedom. 

There is no such thing as other people’s children. We will fight for these kids like we’d fight if they were our kids. Because they are. We will fight for these mothers like we’d fight if they were our sisters. Because they are. If my country was ravaged with violence and my children were in constant danger, I hope I’d have the courage to do whatever it took to get them to safety. I hope that when we got there, we’d be cared for instead of terrorized. And if I were ever separated from my children, I’d hope that some mothers, somewhere out there, would care enough to get them back to me.
— Glennon Doyle, founder of Together Rising

You know what to do. Find an organization you trust who is doing the work to end this crisis and give. Give more than you think you can and please, for the love of progress, don't complain about their overhead expenses or employee salaries. Listen, love & give. If you need a nudge in the right direction, Together Rising has been doing an incredible job researching and connecting with on-the-ground organizations to pass through 100% of the money they raise. You can also donate through ActBlue and have your donation split among several trustworthy orgs. Cup of Jo published a great piece dispelling myths and suggesting ways to help. Families Belong Together is organizing non-violent actions and rallies as well as encouraging support for organizations on the ground. 

It's ok if...

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Real quick, in case you're waiting for permission, I hereby declare that it's ok if:

  • Your baby/toddler doesn't sleep through the night
  • You're not as interested in dropping those last few pounds of baby weight as you thought you'd be by now
  • You breastfeed your 14-month-old 
  • ...but you wish you could wear regular, non-nursing bras again
  • You can't imagine having another baby yet
  • You haven't taken a romantic vacation away with your husband since the baby
  • You don't enforce a strict schedule at home like the internet says you should
  • You are ready for bed by 9pm
  • You are both addicted to and paralyzed by to-do lists
  • You don't daydream of staying home full-time with your baby
  • You spend too much time on Instagram
  • You're worried your blog is going to turn into a mommy blog
  • You are ready to donate 75% of your pre-baby wardrobe
  • You are grateful for a wonderful daycare but your heart still hurts a tiny bit when you drop your baby off in the morning
  • You are happy and tired and grateful but sometimes quite whiny
  • You still try to control everything, even though you can't

And, of course, it's ok if the opposite of these things are true for you. It's all ok, and you're ok and you look nice today even though that dress doesn't fit quite the way it used to but it's hugging those mom curves and there's something kind of nice about that. Grab a cider doughnut and make this week a good one :)