France Got a Haircut (The People of Jenison)

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So, France got a haircut the other day. It really changed his looks. More like an American male now, rather than that European look he usually has going. But I can’t change his name now.

There’s an interesting mix of people who come into Jenison when I’m there to run each morning. I realized recently when I was telling my husband about these people that I take after my Dad – he had nicknames for people when he didn’t know their name. I’ve done the same for my fellow Jenisonites.

What is it about France that makes him look European to me? Honestly, I’m not really sure, except suffice it to say that he wears long legged running tights and a sweatshirt or long sleeve t-shirt tucked in when he runs. It just smells of “stylish” and European. Anyway, he’s France to me.

I’ve already talked about PaulΒ and the ROTC kids in an earlier post.

There’s also Official. He confused me for a while – I would see him one day wearing his t-shirt that says “Official” on the back and he was always walking. The next day he would be wearing a reflector belt and he would run a few laps then walk. Of course since I only ever saw him from the back as I either ran past him or when he ran past me, it took a few weeks for me to realize that these were two different people whom I’d morphed into an amalgam. They look alike from the back but definitely not from the front. Oops.

Reflector Belt, as might be expected, wears a reflector belt. Why he wears this to run on an indoor track, I’ve not yet figured out. We chatted one morning on the walk into the track about why the main doors to the track are locked requiring us to walk completely around the entire building to get to the one unlocked door. He told me that for a while, MSU thought it was a good partnership with one of the local high schools to allow them to use the indoor track to get ready for track season before the weather allowed them to do much outdoors – even though officially Jenison use is restricted to only students and employees of MSU (as most MSU facilities are). This led to other area high schools starting to use the facilities also.

Apparently, some local parents then thought it was a good idea to start dropping their kids off there without supervision. Even very young children! Β Of course, tragedy of the commons can predict what happened, but I’ll tell you anyway. It became a free-for-all. Some of the kids that were being dropped off there starting using sidewalk chalk on the flooring and vandalizing and destroying some of the equipment that was in there. Needless to say, MSU had to lock the entire facility every night now so that no one can get in after hours. It should be enough to have the signs that say “For use by students, faculty and staff only”, but I guess only locking it works when people have that entitlement mentality and have no respect for common property. 😦 Sad.

There’s a couple that comes in together. I call them the Professor and his Wife. She told me her husband used to run with his colleague every morning. For 35 years. Then this past year, his colleague retired. He felt a little lost without his running partner, so now he bribes her every morning with a trip to Bake-n-Cakes, after which they come to Jenison where she walks around the track while he runs. Sometimes he runs outside, but only if someone else is there in Jenison. Once he sees that I’m there and she won’t be alone, he waves at me and then takes off outdoors. Not sure what he’ll do when the mornings get warm enough for me to run outside again without triggering my asthma. Anyway, I’m really quite blown away by the Professor’s story. Thirty-five years – just imagine that for a minute.

And then of course, I have to tell you about my boys. It’s a group of 9 guys who all come in together. Some are tall and skinny, some are heavy, some obviously fit, and some not so fit. They run, do pushups and situps and most especially, they encourage each other. πŸ™‚ I love it. The “fit” ones will jog slowly alongside the heavy ones as they try to keep going around the track. At first they pretty much kept to themselves, but I worked on them over time. πŸ˜€ I greeted them every morning with a “good morning gentleman”, and I commented sometimes when I ran alongside one of them – like “you guys are awesome how you support each other that way”. After a few days, several of them started greeting me and wishing me a good day, or even giving me a “keep it up!” call of encouragement. Β Like I said, they’re my boys. πŸ˜‰ They haven’t come recently though, and I miss that daily interaction.

A few weeks ago, I thought about what nickname someone might give me and I puzzled over that for a while. Old lady with short gray hair? The slow lady with one boob? And then I remembered an incident from a couple of years ago when I was running at the IM East indoor track regularly. There were a lot of students that would come in the morning, especially after the 1st of the year when everyone makes their New Year’s resolutions πŸ™‚

One day, I was trundling (Yes, this is a completely made-up word. It’s one of my super powers πŸ˜‰ and if you saw me run you would immediately understand the definition I’ve come up with for it.) along and noticed two girls that were running alongside me. They’d run a few laps really fast, then walk for a while to catch their breath, then run some more. They were both holding their hands in a “thumbs up” signal and laughing. Then I realized they were looking slyly over at me as they laughed. And I looked down and realized that I was running with both of my thumbs in an up position.

You can imagine the shock I felt that someone would so openly make fun of me like that, but I recognized that they were just immature kids with not much real life experience. Quite often my stance is to protect someone else from being bullied or teased, but this time I was actually the victim. I didn’t say a word to them – just continued on past them and a minute later, I heard them coming up alongside me as they switched from walking to running again. So, I sped up. They sped up again, and so did I.

Each time they would start to come alongside me, I would speed up again. At that time, I was running 4 miles a day and averaging 10:45 minutes per mile for that distance. So, yeah, that’s slow. I’ll never be a racer. But I had tons of stamina. πŸ™‚ At one point, I heard them starting to whistle as they tried to suck in enough air to keep going that speed, and when one of the girls started grunting, I turned around and smiled at them as I pushed myself just a little faster. They stopped to walk then, and as I looked back at them, they scowled at me. So of course I smiled again πŸ˜‰ I continued to run at that pace for at least another several laps before stopping. So, I may run funny, girls, but I beat you. πŸ˜€

Anyway, I decided the other day that if someone had to describe me they would probably call me “Thumbs Up”.Β  Because I still run with my thumbs up, no matter how hard I’ve tried to change that since being made fun of. (yes, I ended a sentence with a preposition πŸ˜‰ )

But that would be a pretty good nickname, don’t you think? I’m okay with being the Thumbs Up girl.

I approve.Β image

Things are okay.Β image

I got this.Β image

Thumbs up! πŸ˜€

My Giving Key

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I almost didn’t finish my run yesterday morning. Just before I hit 2 miles I lost all my energy and felt like I could barely lift my legs. The bottom of my feet, and especially my heel started hurting really badly. I know why – I had a very stressful day at work the day before and so I didn’t sleep very well that night. I had dreamed all night of the work that I needed to get done the next day. But I kept going around the track – one step, then another. Trying to breathe, to focus on something other than how incredibly tired I was. Almost there, three more laps, keep going.

I ended up finishing my run. πŸ™‚ I kept reminding myself that I can do this and that I have strength.

The same thing happened this morning. I slept terribly last night with lots of restless dreams and leg cramps. 😦 So in my run today, I felt the same drag right around 2 miles, but again, I persevered. I was able to finish it yesterday, I told myself, so I know I can do it today, too.

I have strength. I’m not sure I was inherently born with as much strength as I believe I possess today. Much of it has come from life along the way. Especially from this past year, from the support of my family and friends, and even complete strangers.

The Giving Key necklace that my beautiful new niece gave me for Christmas reminds me of that. Strength. Someone at work asked me the other day about the meaning of the key I was wearing, so I thought I’d share about it here.

The Giving Keys is a company which was founded by someone who was wearing an old hotel key as a necklace during her concerts. She decided it would be cool to engrave old unused keys with inspirational messages.Β  From the website : in a way, we are all like these keys – unique, flawed, scarred, and sometimes discarded by others – she wanted these keys to have their purpose renewed over and over again.

Pretty cool idea, but it gets better. She met a homeless couple and decided that The Giving Keys could be more than just inspirational, it could be actionable as well. She and the homeless couple together founded the company with the intent to provide people a transition out of homelessness. There are stories about some of the people they’ve employed over the years and how this second chance has changed their lives.Β  It’s really pretty awesome and I am grateful to my niece for having given me this Giving Key necklace so that I could feel like I’m a part of it as well.

If you’re ever looking for a gift to give to someone who seems to have everything, or someone who needs some inspiration, go to The Giving Keys and help others in the process!

In the meantime, last night I purchased a new pair of running shoes. My feet did not hurt today like they did yesterday, even though I was still just as weak and tired. πŸ˜€

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I continue to struggle with some anemia, and dehydration is always a threat, especially now that I’m running. Even though I’ve been focusing on drinking cup after cup of water every day, and trying to eat a diet high in iron, I still have that tell-tale pounding in my ears (a symptom of both anemia and dehydration). I just have to keep working at it. I saw my surgical oncologist today for my first post-cancer treatment 3 month checkup – all looks good so far.

I am now running 2 miles plus 2 laps each day. I’m slow, but I don’t care. I’m running.