Running with asthma: A race of one

I was supposed to run a 5K today as part of my “me-and-my-big-ideas” Facebook proclamation to run one race a month in 2014. Things were looking good: I made it through races in  January and February even though they aren’t typical “racing months” up here in New England. With spring around the corner, my resolution was looking like a sure thing.

Funny how “sure things” can become “not sure things” so quickly.

I’ve been plagued for the past few months by the reappearance of an old and not-so-welcome friend: Asthma. I used to blithely wave away the notion that asthma was any big deal for me, but it’s become a bigger deal this winter for reasons I can’t really ascertain. Tweaks in medications, short stints of Prednisone, a newly acquired Nebulizer. . .all these things work for a bit. . .but then I’m back to sucking air like a fish out of water whenever I try to run more than a mile.

Today should have been  my “March” race day. A 5k to support autism research, it was the only race I could fit into a jam-packed month. But, a recent head cold had settled into my chest and walking up the stairs was proving difficult. How could I run 3.1 miles when a walking the dog around the block was an effort?

So, instead of pinning  a number to my chest, I decided to slog out 3-ish miles alone, at my own pace, in my rainy neighborhood. It was slow going, with lots (and lots) of walking (and coughing) breaks. I got soaking wet. And pissed off. And worried. And frustrated.

I know my woes are no different from the runner with a reoccurring hamstring injury that is always in the back of their minds, or the swimmer whose shoulder tweaks during a workout, pulling them out of the pool while it heals.

And I know running has been so good for me and for my breathing overall. And that it will only take a few good weeks to get back to where I was before I got sick. But, right now, I just would really, really love to breathe like a normal person.

And run like someone who’s been working at it for two years, and not like a pack-a-day smoker who just decided to get off the couch.


The dream becomes reality watching Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker

Boston Ballet Nutcracker on stageLast year, my then-nine-year-old daughter and I were invited to attend the Boston Ballet’s brand-new production of the Nutcracker. As we sat there in the glow, her hugging a pair of worn ballet shoes that were in the “goodie bag”, I thought, “I’d love to give her the chance to dance in this ballet.”

This year, she will. Not with Boston Ballet (their ballet school is even more of a drive than the one we are currently attending), but with the Franklin Performing Arts Company which puts on a lovely Nutcracker every year, starring, coincidentally, two Boston Ballet soloists. She will be both a “party girl” and a “Marzipan” (sometimes called Pastorale.)

So when we were invited again last week to see this year’s Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker, we went with excitement building that Jilly will soon be part of her own company’s production.

And, oh, they do put on such a beautiful ballet. It helps that their location, the Boston Opera House sets the mood perfectly for a night of holiday magic.

Boston Opera House for Nutcracker

And the dancers are exquisite.

Boston Ballet Nutcracker by Gene Schiavone

The story is sweet and so entertaining.

Boston Ballet Nutcracker bear and kids

Though what I liked best was sharing this experience with a little girl who last year was dreaming about dancing in the Nutcracker, and this year, will.

Jilly and I at Boston Ballet Nutcracker

Many thanks to the Boston Ballet for inviting us to attend opening night of Mikko Nissenen’s Nutcracker. Shows will run through the end of the month and will really get you into the Christmas spirit.

For those of you in my neck of the woods, the Franklin Performing Arts Company’s Nutcracker will run December 14-15. Not into ballet? My oldest daughter, Belly, will appear in FPAC’s brand-new production, Carol’s Christmas, the following weekend. I don’t think my son’s fencing school is putting on any holiday-themed shows though. Maybe next year.

Never sign your children up for anything

 photo IMG_3561_zpsbd50760d.jpgThe biggest mistake I’ve made as a parent is that I started a playgroup for my firstborn when she was four months old.

FOUR MONTHS. Think about this: Why the heck did she need a playgroup at four months of age?

Let this be a cautionary tale to you new parents. Because, after a few months of pleasant chatting with other moms while our babies kicked their chubby legs on blankets spread carefully over the rug, the little buggers started reaching out and taking each other’s toys. I later remember the three little boys and three little girls all lurching around on unsteady legs, so excited to have someone their size to push over or hold onto when the world got spinny.

And, just like that, my daughter had a social life. And she knew there was a world “out there” that she wanted to explore.

So explore we did.

We went to “mommy and me*” gymnastics, swimming, and music classes that consisted of her swinging a tambourine around in my lap while we sang the most godawful tunes. As she got older, we added art classes, dance instruction, the “everyone gets a trophy” soccer teams, and group nature hikes where we drove twenty minutes to collected the same leaves and acorns I could collect in my backyard.

The whole time, I thought I was so smart. We weren’t overdoing it. Even as she got older, her activities never became of the “five day a week” variety like I saw with some of her peers.

But, I kept having children. And they too learned about playgroups and gymnastics and art classes. Last year, they even took indoor rock climbing classes!

Because I apparently forgot the whole mathematical rule that says (and I paraphrase): If you keep having children and keep adding activities, the cumulative effect will be that you will become batshit crazy. Or X + Y = *(@)#&!(*!!!!!!!!!!!!

This year, when I tried to assemble our jigsaw puzzle of a schedule using a color-coded spreadsheet, I had a revelation that I shared with Liz: “NEVER SIGN YOUR CHILDREN UP FOR ANYTHING.” Because now that they are 8, 10, and 12, they know there are so many things out there to do, and the world is their oyster.**

As homeschoolers, I could have had three children happily whittling away on the porch, who later go off to tend their backyard garden, or who retire inside to knit and read. I could’ve smugly laughed at all those parents who need color-coded spreadsheets to keep track of the days. They could’ve been hermits, and not even lonely hermits, because they have each other. And the squirrels in the back yard.

Instead, I’ve become that person in a minivan driving to the performing arts school, dropping off two kids so I can then drive the third to swim lessons, before picking up the other two, and rushing everyone home for an 8pm dinner.

It all started, I swear, with that playgroup when my oldest was four months old.


*we live in a more enlightened time now where these classes are called “parent/child”, but back a dozen years, things weren’t so politically correct

**provided their parents can afford it; horseback riding lessons, hockey, and skiing are still on the back burner for that reason