We were the lucky ones...

My coworker called me late last night, weeping, saying "She's gone."
I tried to process what that meant all the while trying to comfort my coworker.
I tried to figure out whether I needed to call my bosses.

I've spent the past day feeling a lot of things, and also marveling at my coworkers and friends, and thinking about how a tragedy brought out the best in all of us -- the good memories, the people that are rocks, the people that nurture, the people that are good with words -- all for someone so gentle and kind.

I've experienced death so many ways -- being in the room when my grandmother took her last breath, the death of my mother, the murder of a classmate, the untimely death of friends, the long and drawn-out diseases that robbed people of their identities. But no death perplexes me more than the coworker death (and I've experienced a few).  People who are a blend of stranger, acquaintance, friend, teammate, (nemesis), mentor, and peer.  You never realize what a fixture they are in your life until they are no longer there.

Right now we can only speculate as to how my coworker passed away, but we know how she lived -- with joy, with humor, with gusto.  We all had such fond memories of her inside the walls of the office.  Some of us were even luckier to have memories of her during happy hours and other gatherings. 

On a more personal note, she helped me greatly when Spike was diagnosed with diabetes.  She helped me understand the disease and reassured me that I wasn't doing everything wrong (as I often felt I was doing everything wrong).  She was always good for a bit of silliness and a giggle or a laugh.  And when she listened, she really listened. 

I know you all are going to try and support me as I grieve my friend and for as much as I appreciate your words of support, I would prefer an action of support:  think of all your friends that live alone and reach out to them.  Give them a call, let them know you care.  Be present in their lives.  Choose to gentle and kind with others.

Get your blood glucose levels tested. 

And if you really want to, donate a few bucks to the American Diabetes Association.  

My Sweet Embraceable You

Last week, I tweeted that I should do a PSA about how to hug a person with a back injury (cause I had suffered a few bad hugs).  My amazing friend, Paul, was like "LET'S DO THIS!" So we did it.  I think he did a great job of compressing 27 of me acting like a creepy idiot into 7 minutes of semi-coherent awesomeness.  Kudos Paul. (You should also check out Druidzilla's (Paul's doggie) Twitter feed.)

Paul brings up a very good point -- that any and all physical contact requires consent (verbal or physical) each and every time.   There are times when even someone with the best intentions in a hug (to comfort and show affection) can go very wrong in the application (unwanted contact or the hug exacerbates an injury). Not everyone is a hugger (like me) and that's 100% okay and within his or her rights. 

Many times if I see someone going for a hug, I'll say "I have a bad back, please be careful." Most well-behaved Homo sapiens will respect that and either switch to a handshake or they let me lead the hug.  But there are a few people who don't get the message.  Not all of the "bad hugs" made it into the video so I'll list them here:

1.  The Bear Hug 
2.  Wiggle/Weeble Hug (with Twist variation)
3.  Side strangle Hug (with Slap variation)
4.  High Velocity Hug (with Tackle variation)
5.  Crack-your-back/Amateur Chiropractor Hug
6.  Jump-up-and-down Hug (a/k/a the Giggly Sorority Hug)
7.  Pick-you-up/Go Low Hug (a/k/a Feat of Strength Hug)
8.  The Limp Body Hug (this isn't injurious, it's just lame)
9.  (The Little Kid Hugs -- this one kills me because I love my niece and little ones in the family, but I can't always pick them up or bend over to hug them, which sometimes hurts their feelings.  In this case I really need mommy and daddy's help in explaining that I have a boo-boo.)

What makes a good hug? 
1.  Consent 
2.  Balance (in terms of gravity and that hugger/huggee mirror each other's physicality)

Again -- BIG THANKS to Paul for filming this with me and thank you all for (hopefully) your future hugs.

The Fit of Fitting In Part III: BOOBS!

The Fit of Fitting In, Part I:  All people deserve to feel comfortable when exercising, not just athletic models.
 Give us options that make us feel fast and strong, not just like we need to be camouflaged.

The Fit of Fitting In, Part II:  Taking City Sports' extended sizes for a spin, or rather, for a cha cha cha.

Also related:  my thoughts on being "Lulu-Worthy" well before they were publicly criticized for shunning plus-sized shoppers.

I'd love to give credit, but I don't
know who took this originally.
So the title of this post says it all:  BOOBS.  Boobies. Tatas.  Breasts.

They've always been a part of my body that (1) I've been proud of, but (2) have been made to feel ashamed about.  My first bra was a sports bra that flattened my breasts into my chest, all because my mom was jealous of my development.  The old ladies at the store kept trying to show me cute things with little bows, but my mom would have none of it.

Because of my history with sports bras, I'm VERY particular about sports bras now.
  1. The bra must perform.  They need to keep up with me in the gym.  
  2. The bra must be easy to put on and not require the Jaws of Life to remove. 
  3. The bra must be stylish and not look like a granny bra.  (For instance, they may work like a charm, but I've never thought Enell sports bras were pretty.) 
  4. The bra must not give me uniboob.  Compression doesn't always limit breast movement. 
  5. The bra must not cost an arm and a leg.  A good bra is worth its price, but only if it performs. 
I've been a big fan of Moving Comfort for a while now.  Instead of sizes being S, M, L, XL, Suspension Bridge, they mix up band and cup size (you know, like a regular bra).  I'm wearing the Moving Comfort Vixen bra in my "Joy of Exercise" and "Spokesbody" videos.  Recently, City Sports Bethesda (MD) had Moving Comfort in to do a sports bra fitting and they invited me to come in.  Their awesome rep, Christine M., measured me (a 38DD or its 'sister-size' 40C) and gave me a few options to try on.  

So much of the bra fitting process is about finding what works for you personally, not what works for anyone else.  Try on a few bras, jump up and down, bend over, jog around.  Don't be afraid to test the bra!

I wanted to like this bra but it didn't happen for me.  I felt it ran a little small (see the stretch across the front?). 

Also, there was no underwire in this bra, which means it broke the uniboob rule. 

I did, however, like the wide, adjustable straps. With some of my older VSX bras (before they redesigned the line), I'm always shortening the straps (from the back).  These shorten from the front, which is BRILLIANT.

This one was all sorts of wrong for me.   I didn't like the relatively high neckline and how close it cut under my arms.  And while I appreciate that there is an underwire and support, the underwire poked out in a way that made it look like I had a roaming third nipple.  

I did like that they had gel-padded straps.  I can see this being a very important feature for larger-chested runners.  

Maybe it was because the bra that I tried on was green, but my first comment to Christine M. was "HULK SMASH BOOBS."  It wants to pretend that it is a very supportive bra, but it compresses without supporting/encapsulating, and thus failed the jump test. 
From the outside it looks like there are molded cups, but there are not.  And as you can see, the fabric was doing something funky.

Rebound Racer
For all the reasons the other bras weren't quite doing it for me, the Rebound Racer ( the bra that I tried on first!) was a better choice.

The Rebound Racer had the wide, adjustable straps that I liked from the Jubralee.  While there was no underwire, there was plenty of support.  The pattern helped skirt the uniboob issue, but not completely.

I just did a 5-mile run on the elliptical and it did okay, not great.  I purchased it in the 38DD, but like many of the reviews on the site, I found the band to be a little tight.  I did find there was a bit more vertical jiggle than I would like.

The Urban X-Over
I've been wearing this model of Moving Comfort Bra for 2 years and I love it for a lot of reasons.  The molded cups mean I'm not flashing my nipples to everyone in a cold gym (see Jubralee, Maia, Endurance Racer).  The molded cups also keep my boobs separate and secure.  I don't have a uniboob in this.  The racerback fully unhooks.  It's one of the easiest sports bras in my collection to get in/out of .  It is also the bra that stays the most dry (= less chafing).  And because it's an adjustable racerback, I can put my boobs where I want them, and they'll stay there.

So while I didn't find a new bra that blew my mind, I'll stick with the Moving Comfort bras on which I've come to rely (The Urban X-Over and the Vixen), as well as my surprising love for the Victoria's Secret Incredible sports bra (which I hadn't expected to love, but is a serious contender for a running bra).

Hug Me, Hug Me Not.

Friday (3/14/14) wasn't just a "rest day" -- it was an "I know tomorrow is going to be hard on my back, so I'm not going to poke the bear by going to the gym today" day.

On Saturday (3/15/14), I had the pleasure of volunteering at the DC Rock'n'Roll Race Series at Water Station No. 8 (the first station for those continuing past the half marathon to the full -- "Eight is great, come hydrate!").  It's bittersweet that I couldn't run the 5k, like I had wanted to, but it was awesome to get out there and see all the runners.  Also awesome were the number of runners that said "thank you" as they ran by.

But... six hours on my feet, bending over and pouring wee little cups of water/Gatorade took its toll.
After lunch with my co-captain and a neighbor who came down to help, I came home to take a nap (and some anti-inflammatories) in order to have a modicum of energy for a friend's birthday celebration later that night.

I used to be, but I'm no longer a fan of crowded bars.  I'm less a fan of crowded Irish bars the weekend before St. Patrick's Day. But I'm a good friend and sometimes you just gotta show up. I lost count of the number of people who bumped into me or put an elbow right in my back.  Or you say "I have a bad back" and they try to give you a back massage.

Harder to bear, though, were the few who tried to do side-bend wiggle hugs.  These were the few times I actually winced or yelped in pain.  I tried to keep that happy-go-lucky face on, but there's nothing that scares me more than a wiggle hug.  They start off all benign, and then you feel the person begin to shift their weight.  You do everything you can to resist this movement, but they are determined to treat you like a slinky.

A few of those hugs and a few drunk people falling into/spilling beer on me was enough to send me packing.
Morning the next day (3/16/14) was rough.  I had multiple invites to go and do things (visit my niece, grab a beer, hang out) but it was all I could do to get out of bed and make myself some tea.  Nurse Jack Cat took care of me, but the woozle can't make a waffle to save his nine lives.

Point is this:
Having an injury sucks.
Having a chronic injury sucks.
Having an "invisible" chronic injury sucks.  (For instance, everyone gave the guy at the bar with his leg in a cast a wide berth, but when I asked a guy to stop elbowing me because I had a bad back he thought that I was just saying it for shits and giggles).

But you know what doesn't suck?  Having people in my life who understand that my saying to them "I can't, my back won't let me" isn't a personal attack against them.  I'm not trying to be anti-social or inflexible.  I'm not trying to weasel out of plans with people.  Some people understand that I'm saying "My pain is preventing me from putting pants on."

Also in the realm of "not sucking" -- people who give "solid as a rock" hugs -- they use their arms to give a gentle squeeze and just let me drop my guard and relax into it.

And some people just give me crap about it.
I have some moccasins they should try on.

This Gift

This morning I woke up early.  Sometimes I sleep in a position that feels okay for a bit but will wake me up in oodles of pain. Today was one of those mornings. Then I have a choice to make:  try for more sleep or start the day. 

I went to Twitter in search of an answer and found Erika Andersen's post about "Fit Mom" once again banking on her "What's your excuse" bullshit. You all know how I feel about her.

If you didn't already know, I will say it here:  not everyone has or wants the same body; sometimes an "excuse" is a very good reason; and we shouldn't use anyone else's body as permission to treat our own mind/body badly.

I am lying in bed, seething over "Fit Mom's" narcissism and lack of empathy. I am also trying to figure out if I will be able to walk without pain today. I know I bitch about my body all the time cause I feel that it is holding me back, but never doubt that I am thankful for every good day that it gives me. I am also fearful of the time when there are more bad days than good, but I try to not let that fear paralyze me. I think about all my friends who struggle and suffer their bodies more than I do--friends who have bodies that fail them every day from their DNA to their nerves to their bones to their muscles.  Those are the people that inspire me to honor my body with movement.

So I am here at the gym, moving slowly on an elliptical.  Not because I want to be or look like "Fit Mom" but because I know that if I keep moving that my back will loosen up. I keep moving because I can.

The first song on my iPod said it all (to the point that I have had it on repeat).  My "gift" isn't my body (sometimes it does let me down) but rather how I feel about my body (thankful, proud, strong, worthy) is the "gift" (and you can't PhotoShop that into/annotate that onto a picture):


This gift will last forever
This gift will never let you down
Some things are made from better stuff
This gift is waiting to be found

Your heart's in wide receiving
Been too long buried in the sand
Some things require leaving
This gift will fall right in your hand
Just try to understand

If you long enough
And you don't give up
If you're strong enough
And you don't give up
And you

You'll be no harbor to the sorrow
Just let it go.

Don't hang your head in sorrow
Don't give up just before you win
Don't wait around for tomorrow
Open up your arms and let it in

This gift will last forever
This gift will never let you down
Some things are made from better stuff
This gift is ready to be found
Just you believe it now

This gift will last forever
This gift will never let you down
Some things are made from better stuff
This gift is ready to be found
Your heart's in wide receiving
Been too long buried in the sand
Some things require believing
These things just fall right in your hand
Just try to understand

If you long enough
And you don't give up
If you're strong enough
And you don't give up 

I wish I could give you all the gift of loving and honoring yourself. It is armor and compass. It is a deep
breath and an infinite heart. 

And if you love yourself, you don't judge yourself by other people and you are generous enough to not ask them measure their worth through you. It isn't "What's your excuse?" it is "How can I help?"

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ― Rumi

Bert Stern, "The Last Sitting"
I saw this photo last week -- the unmistakable, unparalleled Marilyn Monroe and the scar from her gall bladder surgery -- and it struck a nerve when it came to how I feel about my own surgical scar.  She was simultaneously strong and alluring as well as vulnerable and human.

Prior to my artificial disc replacement surgery, I was worried that a scar would be an indicator of my being broken.  I made plans on how I would cover it up with scarves and distract people with jewelry.  I was surprised that after the surgery (1) it itched like crazy and (2) I felt very tender toward it -- that it was an indicator of my healing.  It wasn't the scar on me, it was my scar.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Alvin Mitchell of the blog People In This City.  Not only does he take photos but he likes to interact with the subject.  We talked about the skill of photography, and how Photoshop makes people unrecognizable from who they truly are -- that a good photographer reveals the subject, they do not disguise or hide the subject.

Jack cat was needing some extra stimulation and love after losing his brother, so I took out on his harness/leash for a walk and some time watching birds (this happens to be in a church yard).  I hadn't taken a shower, my hair was a bit of a mess, no makeup whatsoever, and I was covered in cat hair.  In other words, that was me on a weekend.

Alvin showed me the picture and I was very struck with the colors and the way Jack is looking out.  It wasn't until he published the photo on his blog that I noticed my scar.  I then read what he took from our conversation and realized how poignant it was to my very own story:  "People make assumptions about one another’s body… The scars and small details are a part of me.  Try to get to know the person -- that’s when the magic happens." 

The scar is just a part of my story.  It is not the whole story.  
The scar is a part of me and I refuse to be ashamed of any part of me. 

Back it up

You better WERK. Sashay. Shantay. 
So... I had my follow-up with my awesome orthopedic surgeon today in regards to my slip and fall.

We took x-rays of both my neck and my back.  Before I could even get back to the room to change, my doctor saw me in my very sexy hospital gown and said "You look like you've been losing weight."  The dude has seen me naked/half naked on a surgical table. He knows things. 

The good news is that my cervical implant DID NOT BUDGE A BIT.  The pain that I'm feeling is probably just muscular but we're gonna keep an eye on it. He jokingly said that I'd be cleared to play NFL football.  While I don't think that will be happening any time soon, I'm super relieved that I didn't mess up my very expensive implant.


So let's talk about the picture below:

On the left is my MRI from March 2007.  On the right is the x-ray from today.  I've circled the discs L4-L5 and L5-S1.  You can see that the degenerative disc disease has progressed a bit and compression has increased (especially in L5-S1).  This probably wasn't a result of my fall, but it could have been a contributing factor.  He's confident that the pain I'm feeling in my lower back is referred muscular pain.  Either way, my doctor said "Just because there's compression doesn't mean there's pain" -- but it's something we need to keep an eye on.  I'm going to go to PT again just to help with range of motion in my hip/back.

Degenerative disc disease operates differently for each person, for each body.  Some people have rapid decay and compression, some people are able to stave off the effects or the need for surgical intervention by lifestyle changes.  So while there's more compression in my back, it's not bad for 7 years.  I still have more good days than bad.  I still am taking care of my back as best as possible given what's going on.  So let's focus on the positives here:  (1) I have great health care (2) I have a great doctor (3) and my body is working with me as best as it can.

I'm going to once again profess my love for Dr. O'Brien.  He really gets it.  We chatted about the fear people have about going to doctors (surgeons in particular) and he really summed it up in one sentence:  "I'm going to treat my patients the way I'd want to be treated."  More importantly, I've seen this in his care for me.  I'm so glad he's a part of my long-term team.

And I'm free. Free falling.

My story begins in June 2013 when I purchased this bad boy:

Pretty cool, right? (And if you don't think it's cool, maybe you need to take a moment to learn about the mulitalented Alton Brown.)  Months of antici....pation followed.  Not only would I be seeing Alton Brown, Master of Mischief and Purveyor of all things Eviliscious, perform but that golden ticket would guarantee my place at a pre-show meet & greet.  But more about that later.

Now... as I'm an evolved and somewhat refined Homo sapiens, I began my day by taking a nice long shower. Little did I know that my bathroom is out to get me.   (Yours is too!) I stepped into the shower and everything was fine.  I then stepped under the stream of hot water, did a lutz, and ended up tangled in my shower curtain (and rod as an accessory) on the floor.  I hit my lower back against the edge of the tub and slammed my head and neck against the toilet.

Now...the next step for most sane people would then be to either (1) call 911 or (2) go to the emergency room.  But I had a show to get to and nothing was going to stop me, not even a mild concussion.  So I did what any slightly-less-than-sane person would do:  I tweeted out that I had taken a fall.  I didn't want to alarm anyone (ahem... **waves to dad**).  So yeah, I recognize that I didn't do the most prudent thing after the fall. But um... ALTON FUCKIN BROWN ((I can assure you that this isn't his middle name, but it should be)).

So I finished taking the shower, dolled myself up and then hopped on a train to Baltimore.  Before the show I went Brewer's Art and ate a very delicious sandwich (Rachels are one of my favorite sandwiches, and this was one of the best ones that I've had) and a delicious beer or two.

There, I met the guy (Dan was super awesome, smart, funny, and an AB fan as well!) that bought my extra ticket (I'm still sad that my hot date, Rachel, couldn't go).  I must say that it must have been awkward to meet a girl who then proceeded to talk about her admiration for another man for the rest of the night. All-in-all, he was a great choice for the second ticket and a theatre buddy.

By the time we got to the Lyric, I was a cross between giddy and nauseated, excited and scared and well... a girl about to meet one of her idols. And meet him I did.  He was gracious and sweet, and I will cherish that moment for a lifetime.


The show was amazeballs.  He's funny, his talented, he's quick-witted when it came to the audience interactions.  Basically, you should see his show if it comes around to your city (or a city nearby) once he gets his second (third? fourth? fifth?) wind.  Also funny? In the row right behind me? The best man at my brother's wedding and his wife.  

So while I'm still basking in the glow of having met ALTON FUCKIN BROWN, I'm also realizing that I probably injured myself that morning.  I have an appointment tomorrow with my orthopedic surgeon to make sure that I didn't disturb my implant or cause further injury to either my neck (a little sore plus the ringing in my ears has returned) or my back (worst it has been in years). All signs that I did something.  

So fingers crossed, kiddos.  The rollercoaster continues.