Seven “Humbugs” and a “Ho Ho HOLD” on the Snark

I really enjoyed preparing the four posts I submitted to 12Most, such as this one about twelve great vine videos. There was one draft that never came to fruition, though, because every time I started writing it, I began feeling like its negativity would outweigh its informational value and that I may hurt the feelings of people I care about.

Writing about the topic I addressed in that draft on my personal blog seems a little less offensive, though, since I can just say my opinion and not be representing an entire cadre of writers. I am just going to get it out of my system once and move on (with, of course, a segue to a somewhat more positive ending).

The Humbug Part

I believe we have made some life events that are simply that, life events, hyperpublic and over produced. In doing, there is a danger that the personal, unique, cherished nature of these events may be diluted in favor of the public, commonplace, “how-could-I-top-that” qualities. These events include:

Promposals

A promposal is an invitation to the prom that is elaborate enough to be classified as a proposal. There are some examples here. The high school student seen here had her intended date pulled over, had the cop fake an arrest, and waited in the back of the car with a sign that said “prom.”

My humbug about promposals: First of all, what if the intended date says no? Secondly, as much as I love a theme and a fun creative project, I am still just as charmed by a young man who approaches a young woman in person and simply says, “Will you come to prom with me?”

Prom Photo Sessions 

Prom photos have become more and more sophisticated (so click here to see what I mean).

My humbug about elaborate high school dance photo sessions:  If the girl felt beautiful, the guy felt handsome, and the family could afford the dollars, what does it matter? These sessions have an “engagement photo-like” feel that seems out of place for couples who may not be embarking on a long-term romance.

Marriage Proposals 

Maybe it is the ubiquitous nature of YouTube and our ability to create and share video documentation of our lives. Something is happening that has resulted in a proliferation of marriage proposals that goes far beyond one individual getting down on bended knee and asking the other individual to spend a life together.

For example, a sand art proposal whose story can be found here.

marrymekelly

For more “beyond bended knee” proposals, click here.

My humbug: My humbug about this one is a little challenging to define. So many of the ones I have seen are full of love and beautifully done. These people are old enough to be somewhat confident the relationship will “stick,” which differentiates them from the high school students referred to earlier. I think I would distill my opinion down to: make sure you spend as much time clarifying that you feel the same way about money, kids, and sex as you do editing your proposal video.

Pregnancy Announcements 

When I got pregnant in 1995 and 1998, the  news traveled the “old fashioned” way–by word of mouth, phone call, email, and snail mail. This is no longer the case. Pregnancy announcements now fly over cyberspace as quickly as you can press “like” on a Facebook status or retweet someone on Twitter. The graphics behind these shares are pretty darned creative (like these).

My humbug: This is another one where I am blown away by the creativity but simultaneously a little taken aback. Maybe it’s the fact that such rapid shares separate the prospective parent from the recipient of the news. Half the fun of announcing your pregnancy is seeing the expression on the other individual’s face. I’m not sure 50 “likes” can do exactly the same thing.

Gender Reveals 

Putting aside those disciplined people who wait  until their baby is born to find out its gender (I was not one of them), the “gender reveal” process has gotten complicated! Here are three themes on one Pinterest Gender Reveal Board:

Ties or Tutus

Cupcake or Stud Muffin

Boots or Bows

For more including a gender “lottery,” click here.

My humbug: I am pretty sure the first gender reveal party I saw was on television. I can’t remember which celebrity it was, but the event was elaborate. There was a Hollywood party planner, caterer, favors, tents, the entire festivity checklist. Now I see them routinely on social media. Again, nothing is really damaged but having a gender reveal party but it seems easy to lose the exceptionally personal nature of the moment.

Maternity Photo Sessions 

I have seen some gorgeous maternity photos (such as these). What a beautiful way to commemorate that moment in a family’s life.

My humbug: My humbug is with the unduly revealing ones such as these. I am not a prude about the female body, especially the beauty of the pregnant female body but there is something about these photos that makes me feel like an invader (and I know, I can just “not look”).

Using A Baby’s Name Before They’re Born

Perhaps it is because we can now personalize pretty much anything that a baby is often given items with his or her name on them while they are in utero.

My humbug: I don’t know if this is a southern superstition or what, but I have always been leery of applying a child’s name to a product until they have been born. I am sure my feelings are influenced by having lost two pregnancies and by my mom’s having lost a baby, but loss happens. I just feel like it’s tempting fate.

In many of these cases, maybe my issue is green (and not the fun green of Christmas), but the green of envy. Since I couldn’t afford to throw a gender reveal party, for example, does that feed my humbugosity? If so, I own that but don’t think that’s the root of my opinion.

Switching Gears to the Positive

Since it’s Christmas, let’s address the most ubiquitous over-the-top phenomenon this time of the year, the Elf on the Shelf, who is hovering around many homes this season:

Thanksgiving Day Parade

Over the past few years, I have found myself increasingly thankful that the EotS wasn’t a “thing” when my teenagers were little. If it had worked to modify my kids’ behavior, though, maybe I would have bit.

My world, in-person and on social media, is filled with über creative types. These adults have possibly missed their calling in production design for major motion picture houses. For example, toilet fishing:

tumblr_lw1fazz8h51r755nso1_500

Source: www.diycandy.com

Toilet fishing is almost rudimentary compared to the attention to detail of my friend Diary of a Mom (I mean would you look at those little tiny oxygen tubes coming out of “Hazel’s” nasal passages?).

THEN there are the “alternate” EotS folks, who do tableaus like this (this was one of the tamer ones! Visit the Good Time Elf Facebook Page to see the others.):

for-a-good-time-elf

The voices of the Elf on the Shelf detractors are louder than ever this year (at least it seems that way to me). This article, for example, outlines one parent’s view.

I have had the elf skeptic conversation with friends on Facebook about EotS. We all gleefully pile on (yes, me included), smirking our disdain for the effort, the misguidedness, the adult energy, time and effort required for a “children’s” phenomenon.

Here’s my Ho Ho HOLD the snark point: I am through snarking about EotS.  He isn’t for me, but if he had been a “thing” when my kids were little, I may very well have given in and loved every minute of it.

I have had teachers say EotS is a “friend” in the classroom, someone the kids love and enjoy. I see families I care about and respect enjoying the heck out of creating their EotS scenarios. I see kids who *may* be doubting Santa’s existence still looking forward to their elf’s whereabouts in the morning.

It’s not for me, but there’s enough snark this holiday season (and, let us admit, all year long). If EotS is your thing, enjoy! I’ll even send you a Big Green Pen for your elf’s use if you’re running out of ideas!

snark santa

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Conquering Things

It has been a weekend for conquering things (and celebrating the conquering of things):

As my trip to Savannah approached, I was searching for a running route. Madeline of Food, Fitness, and Family, who I first met as an “Elf For Health” partner, lives in the vicinity but suggested that Victoria of Victoria Runs would be the best person to ask. Now that the weekend (and the run) have come and gone, I better understand why Victoria’s first question was, “Do you want to include the Talmadge Bridge?” I now understand why that question wasn’t as innocuous a question as “do you want to run on streets or trails?” The Talmadge Bridge changes up everything about a “Saturday long run”:

bridge(Oh, and by the way Victoria gave me a great coffee shop recommendation too, so a shoutout to Gallery Espresso is in order (the “Welcome Runners” image below is from their door).

gallery espresso door

Then there’s my friend Matt “Luau” Wilson, who ran 100 miles in 27 hours and 57 minutes in the TARC 100. This must set an all-time record for the number of continuous Charity Miles run. It’s one very big thing to accomplish the running of 100 miles. it’s an even bigger thing to do it for your child and for all families for whom autism is part of their world (Matt ran his miles for Autism Speaks). Way to go, Matt. I am proud beyond words to call you friend.

luau tarc(Oh, and by the way Matt has a great spouse too, who had quite a weekend of her own as Matt slogged through the mud, so a shoutout to Jess is in order).

Lastly, my niece Jessica graduated from South University with her Pharm.D. (that’s why I was in Savannah). It has been academically grueling, and the years she committed to an accelerated program have had their share of life’s ups and downs, but she has persevered with intellect, persistence, class, and grace. Jessica, I love you and am forever elated to be your family member.

jess grad(Oh, and by the way Jessica has a great set of parents, too, who have done their share of sacrificing, loving, and nurturing along the way so a shoutout to Mary and Jamie is in order.)

A big bridge, a hundred miles, and a doctorate. Conquered!

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Boston 13.1

A week has gone by since I ran my first half marathon, the Allstate Boston 13.1 for Autism Speaks. Whereas I usually feel like I could write hundreds of words about pretty much any workout, that has not been the case with this event. I can’t decide whether to start with the people who motivated me to do the race in the first place; the coach and fellow runners who supported me through the eight months of training, the families for whom autism is a part of each and every day who were among my biggest incentives, or the race day itself, a day that was so autumnally perfect that it almost defied belief.

This experience started on February 14, 2012, when I was the first person to comment on this post by Luau:

In retrospect, there was zero doubt that I would participate in this race from 10:15 a.m. on 2/14/12 when I made this first comment to 7:00 a.m. on 9/16/12 when I started the race. But there were steps along the way …… talking it over with my spouse since there would be a commitment of time (to train) and finances (to travel to Boston). Fortunately, the timing was in my favor because it was Valentine’s Day and I asked for his support of this effort as my gift. (It worked!). There were fundraising steps (as a member of the Autism Speaks team I agreed to raise at least $500), including the comment contest that brought in 278 comments (there were two winners and I came in third, but I really appreciated everyone’s willingness to help me out!). There were also literal steps – thousands of them as my training progressed. My training was transformed in April when I began training with Jeff Kline (Coach PRS) of PRS Fit. Along the way, there was one truly awful run but that was outweighed by progressively stronger and longer training runs the last six weeks that helped me feel utterly prepared for my race.

As race weekend approached, I ran the last of my long runs (14 miles) and started tapering. I flew in to JFK Airport on the Friday prior to the race, spent Friday evening in Connecticut with my good friend Audrey, and drove up to Boston on Saturday, September 15.  I got all my gear (my Autism Speaks team tank, a tech shirt, a dri-fit hat, and my all-important race number) and returned to my room to organize myself prior to the team dinner.

As the dinner approached, I found myself feeling inexplicably anxious about meeting the people who I felt I had come to know relatively well via social media. Up until this weekend, I had been batting 1000 for meeting people in real life who I had first met on social media — in that the “IRL” meeting confirmed all the warm, fuzzy, and our-senses-of-humor-match intuitions that led me to invest in a social media relationship. To go back to my husband’s first reaction (remember Valentine’s Day 2/14/12?) of “but you can run 13.1 miles right here in Tallahassee,” I felt more like a 6th grader attending a new middle school after just having moved to the town; I was nervous. Which led me to procrastinate going down to the dinner and (I thought) miss an opportunity to mingle with all the people who I wanted to match a twitter handle to a real face and voice. When I was in line for my food (pasta, of course), I did find/meet Luau, Jess, and “Jersey” and ended up joining them at their table. That was a real blessing because race day flew by with less opportunity to chat. I also met Ann Marie, another twitter acquaintance, and Beth Clark, who I had just started interacting with on social media but turns out to have a love of things Bronx and NY Theater (and autism support) so that was pretty darn fabulous too. (And thanks to Jess for the best compliment of the weekend which may sound completely wrong out of context but I think we were talking about my theater choices when I ended up in New York after the race and we were talking about Avenue Q, which has “racy” content. Someone said, “If you’re easily offended, it’s not for you,” to which Jess said, “if she were easily offended she wouldn’t be here.” (For someone (me) who spends a lot of time feeling very thin-skinned, that was the ultimate pat on the thick-skinned back!).

Equipped with the all-important cow bell,

I returned to my room and met up with my friend Jacqui, who had driven down from New Hampshire to do the race with me. It definitely helped to have someone along for the experience who had run a marathon before (Boston, actually) and was able to keep the tone light. We both turned in pretty early since the race started at 7 a.m. and we had to drive to Suffolk Downs.

The race started at 7 a.m., and we took off through the horse gates. I remember Jacqui saying “Lucky Seven” as she went through Gate 7 and saying about my gate (8) “Eight is Enough.”

After the horse gates, we were truly off! I have to hand Luau kudos for his mid-stride photography skills (the blue afro is part of his fundraising approach – read more about the blue afro here (and sign the petition to convince Katy Perry to donate a blue wig for his NYC Marathon run here):

One of my concerns pre-race had been that I had never done a run this long without music (or an audiobook). I almost always listen to something when training, but never listen to anything when racing. I wasn’t sure how I would handle the lack of that electronic/audio security blanket. Turns out there was so much activity along the course (people cheering, other runners approaching due to the out and back (and a little loopy) nature of the course) that the lack of music wasn’t an issue; I really think I would have missed a lot of the race environment if I had been plugged in.

There was also the issue of heart rate. Being a bit anal about all of this, and knowing that my coach wanted me to stay at Zone 2 with 3 minute surges into Zone 3 every fifteen minutes, I had taken the time the night before the race to meticulously write down the time intervals for these surges upside down and big enough to hopefully see without digging my glasses out (they’re right above the QR code):

That part of the plan tanked when a) my Polar stopped recording my heart rate a half hour in (and had to be reset), and b) it was clear that Zone 2 was not happening for any of the 13.1 miles. Adrenaline, a new/different terrain, you name it – I was never going to get down to Zone 2 without crawling or sleeping. But I do know from observing my HR monitor that I stayed pretty consistent the whole race, and hopefully that means something good.

I have always admired runners who write race reports with incredible specificity – identifying particular details at named mile markers, such as what their heart rate was, how their breathing was, what they ate, etc. That’s not me.  If I had to pick five specific things about my experience on the course they would be:

1) The first 5 miles really seemed to fly by (relatively).

2) Although I had my own hydration and nutrition with me, there were a lot of water/gatorade stops. That, and the volunteers handing out strawberries. I didn’t want a strawberry but I think that fragrance will always trigger memories of this 13.1 in my head.

3) There was a neighborhood that started around the 8 mile mark — I could see the 9 mile marker right across from the 8 mile marker so I knew that I would loop around and encounter it in a mile; for some reason that was mentally a relief.

4) My left foot. My left foot has had a very subtle “something” (stiffness?) for a few weeks now. It seemed especially notable on Friday as I was flying up for the race. Maybe my hypersensitivity to it had to do with my nerves about the race. I don’t know. Throughout the whole 13.1, it was always “noticeable” — I just wanted to get through the race without it getting so bad that I could not finish on my own terms (which meant running even if my running is slower than some walkers).

5) My thought process at the Ten Mile Marker. When I got to the Ten Mile Marker, I literally thought, “Oh, all that’s left is a 5K.” That is such a big change in mentality for me. It felt great to know that I had run more than 13.1 miles before, that I would be doing it today, and that I was so close to knocking a goal off of my list.

(I finished in 3:09:03.)

As I was thinking over how to close out this post, which has turned into a novel, I ran  across my horoscope for today. It said:

“You have a talent for choosing the right people to hang out with. That doesn’t mean they are always easy to be around, though. Your friends will be mentors, motivators, and reality checkers.”

(Holiday Mathis)

One thing I did “right” was entering into a coaching relationship with PRS Fit. I had to give up things I enjoyed (like the boot camps that involved stadium climbing) and my “regular” Tuesday night interval group. Early on, Coach Jeff pointed out that “what I had always done clearly had not worked” (as it related to running a faster 5K). Being coached made a huge difference in my conditioning level and my mental preparation.

The other “right people” who were along for this run were the donors who contributed toward my fundraising for Autism Speaks. Over the last few years, I have asked for a lot of support for many causes. I try my best to reciprocate but I am pretty sure in this situation much more was given than I can ever repay. I love this image of a heart held aloft, because everyone who contribute (whose names are incorporated into the image) “held me” financially and morale-wise. I can’t thank them enough.

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

The List

This post is starting today, and, if everything goes according to plan, will be capped off next Sunday by a confirmation from me that I completed the Boston 13.1 Run as an Autism Speaks team member. I don’t plan to write a full post next Sunday (a rarity in the three years I have been blogging weekly) because by that evening I will have run the race in Boston and made my way to New York City. I have roughly 60 hours in the City and plan to squeeze in every moment of BigApple-ness that I possibly can.

On February 14, 2012, I read this post and announced to my husband that evening that the best Valentine’s Day gift he could give me would be an endorsement of my running the Boston 13.1 on September 16. He wisely said yes (not that a “no” would have been anything to me except a minor hurdle!) and the planning began.

There are many reasons why I chose this race, in this place, on this day. I documented three of the biggest reasons in this April, 2012, post. As the precursor to running the race, I want to dedicate each of the miles.

Mile 1:   Mile 1 is dedicated to the Florida State University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. CARD’s First Words Project provided assessment, support, and services to our family when my son was young and taught me about the pre-verbal developmental signs that may indicate a child has an autism spectrum disorder. And they answered my zillion questions, not to mention empathizing with my spiraling-out-of-control anxiety.

Photo credit: FSU Autism Institute

Mile 2:  Mile 2 is dedicated to the HollyRod Foundation. Admittedly, most of my impression of the HollyRod Foundation’s work on behalf of Autism has been gleaned from reading Holly Robinson Peete’s tweets, and her open letter to Rapper 50 Cent. Those tweets and that open letter were enough for me to know that a) she loves her boy and b) she uses her fame in an articulate and focused way to help others with Autism. That’s enough for me.

Mile 3:  For Thomas. Read his mom’s posts about autism here.

Mile 4:  For Kidlet.  Kidlet is the son of friends. He watches Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on Saturday mornings and he has Asperger’s Syndrome. Of course he rocks.

Mile 5:  For Kyan. Kyan is the son of Mary Foley, who is the Chairperson of Jacksonville, Florida’s, Walk Now for Autism Speaks. Watch the 2 minute video on Mary’s “Why I Walk” post, and I guarantee it will be two minutes well spent.

Kyan

Mile 6:  For Josef, Cher’s son. Cher and I only know each other via Facebook, even though we live in the same town. Josef is 8 years old and has autism; his mom has been so supportive of every single one of my efforts related to autism.

Josef

Mile 7:  Mile 7 is dedicated to Delirious Mom, conductor of her self-described “Crazy Train,” and her daughters. Read about her experiences being the mother of twin girls who have autism here.

Delirious Mom’s Girls

Mile 8:  Mile 8 is dedicated to Giana.  Giana’s grandmother, Christine, became a social media friend of mine through our families’ experiences with Long QT Syndrome. Giana is young and is still having various assessments done.  At this point Giana is believed to have SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) and is receiving the recommended therapy and is making wonderful progress.

Mile 9:  Mile 9 is dedicated to Boy Wonder, a six year old with autism. I can’t wait to meet his mother, “Jersey,” at the run. That alone will be worth the hundreds of miles traveled to Boston and the 13.1 miles of running. Read her blog; it will only take you a few posts to understand why.

Mile 10:  Mile 10 is dedicated to Carly Dowling. Carly used to be my daughter’s dance teacher but has remained a friend and role model. She teaches children with autism in South Florida. She deserves much more than a mile.

Miss Carly, Teacher and Friend

Mile 11:  Mile 11 is dedicated to “The Menininho.” He is the son of my incredibly resourceful and engaging social media friend, Maya, who blogs about many things, including Marfan Syndrome, at www.marfmom.com. “M” was diagnosed with autism in 2010.

Mile 12:  Mile 12 is dedicated to Temple Grandin, Ph.D. Temple Grandin is an adult with autism who is a prominent author and speaker on the subject of autism. Every time I hear her interviewed, I am blown away by her intellect, her perspective, and the contributions she has made in so many areas.

Mile 13:  Well, Mile 13 and the extra .1, here you are. And I pray that next Sunday by 10:30 am. (race cut off time), that is where I will be too. One family that has gone the “extra mile” and then some is Luau, whose post kicked off this journey and Jess, whose many written-at-4am-to-the-detriment-of-her-own-well-being posts have taught me, encouraged me, entertained me, and motivated me. So for the two of you, for Brooke, and for big sister Katie (and even the dog), this mile point one is for you.

Even the dog “goes blue” to support Autism Speaks

I have only scratched the surface with these dedications when it comes to the people and organizations who have impacted me when it comes to understanding more about autism and becoming an advocate. If I didn’t identify you by name, please know that you and your family matter so much.

And now, a placeholder until next Sunday night, when I plan to report back on my first half marathon:

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

 See you next Sunday night!!

 

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.