“Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.” – Roy T. Bennet

First Impression

I have always been curious as to how people view me, especially upon first impression. Depending on what sort of social situation I am in, I will put out a certain front. If I know most of the group I try to act as I normally am. I will crack jokes, maybe have a few conversations, and then I recluse after I’ve had enough. 

As an introvert, I realize I am most at ease when I am alone. After a while, however, I start to crave human company. I need a conversation, an exchange, something to remind myself that I am not a complete recluse. I sit in coffee shops or browse bookstores for the sake of interaction. I don’t need to have a full-blown conversation, normally. I simply need other humans in my vicinity to acknowledge.

So how do people see me, then? Am I a wallflower? A flash of colour passing by? Am I mysterious or intriguing or do I even stand out in any way? Would I be considered awkward or strange? I can be open and talkative one second and then closed up the next. Does that make me confusing or sullen? Seemingly mature or the exact opposite? Do I look world-weary or naive?

What do people see when they see me?

Unpopular Opinions

Doughnuts and bacon are disgusting.

Cars are a frivolity and people should walk more often.

Kids aren’t angelic. They are rather mischievous, actually, and don’t always mean well.

Brown and black do, in fact, go together.

Dessert is unnecessary.

Long lines can be enjoyable.

Not everyone has to marry and not everyone has to have children.

Women can be breadwinners (and men can do housework).

You don’t have to stretch before a run.

Bread doesn’t make you fat.

Rainy days are the best days. I mean, you don’t overheat when you run! Amazing!

You don’t need to go to church every Sunday and Wednesday. Sometimes, the physical church can be detrimental to your spiritual health and growth.

Help isn’t always helpful and it is okay to tell someone “no”.

The customer is not always right.

Toilet papers rolls should be placed so that the paper comes from underneath. It is easier to rip off and keeps people from using too much.

Anything to add?

Language

I can’t help but be drawn to languages. Communication and the fine use of words are beautiful things. It bothers me when people do not care about the language they are speaking. A lot of people only speak half a language; they speak a watered-down version of English, full of crass and mispronounced verbalizations. I understand that upbringing plays a large part in this, but then there is also the world of the Internet in which many people get lazy. From laziness comes a lack of care which becomes a bounty of grammatical errors. I am not perfect in this as I also grow lazy with my words.

My mom read to me and my five brothers when we were younger. She has always had a compelling storyteller voice, and even as we grew older, we would still listen in as she read to the younger kids. This brought a love of books to our family. We would collect series and try to read books before anyone else got to them. Our favourite series was the Redwall series, written by a man named Brian Jacques. We would take his fantastical stories to the backyard and pretend to be talking mice and otters and foxes. Even as an adult I am sure I would still play those games if it were societally acceptable.

I was lucky to have the childhood I did. I can speak and write and I hold a desire to learn inside of me. There are those, however, that never were given the chance. Kids drop out of school, dread homework, can’t even add sums or multiply simple numbers. It’s a hard world for learning, but I must reiterate: the language you speak is important. It is the difference between a high-paying career and minimum wage. It is the difference between forgiveness for a ticket and an instant fine. This is a prejudice but oftentimes a truth. We can use language to our advantage. After all, it is what convinces a nation to vote for a president, to believe what they read, and to take a single comment as complete truth. The moment someone types your instead of you’re, their opinion is instantly disregarded. It matters.

While I intend to complete my knowledge of the Spanish language, I am still learning the English language. There are words that I have never heard or have never dared to utter for fear of mispronunciation. English is complex and brimming with rules and exceptions to these rules. I occasionally bend these rules for the sake of rebellion and/or poeticism. All in all, maybe I simply wish for everyone to have the same draw toward their own language. Perhaps then our communication wouldn’t be so lacking.

 

Scoliosis


This isn’t normally something I like to show other people. I’ve tried to train myself into accepting every part of me, but when it comes to my back I like to ignore it. I don’t like seeing my awkward bend and I hate the feeling of tight shirts on my protruding rib cage. When I sit in the company of others I sit as tall as possible. When my husband captures pictures of my back, I normally delete them. 

The above photo makes me cringe, makes me sit up straight. I don’t like seeing my flaws so front and center. Once when I was stretching, my brother went, “Uggh! Your back!” That hurt more than it should have, because it is part of me, and not something I can ever change without surgery.

A few facts about scoliosis:

-Scoliosis is about 10 times more likely to occur in women than it is in men. 

-Usain Bolt – you know, fastest sprinter on the planet – has scoliosis. I’m curious what sort of stretches he does for the pain.

-Hitler viewed scoliosis as a disability and ran his freaky experiments on people with scoliosis, which absolutely terrible and terrifying.

Back to what I was saying. I hope that someday I’ll see this as just something that makes me stronger. It’s painful, especially when carrying a baby around and trying to sleep comfortably, but as long as I exercise and don’t sit too long, I can function just fine with it.

If you have any sort of insecurity about your body, I encourage you to talk about it and try to accept it as part of you. We’re all flawed humans and sometimes our flaws really do make us stronger or more interesting or simply just…us. We are as different as leaves on trees or blades of grass. We are tall, short, round, straight, curved, uneven, and everything else in between, and there is no problem with any of that.

Have you ever been out on an arid day, working hard or walking too far and then, suddenly, it hits you. The thirst. So unquenchable you are near gasping for breath; the rattle in your chest reaching audibility. It sends dense. thick heaviness through your muscles and bones and you feel incredibly weak to the point of falling until…

…you drink a glass of cold, refreshing water.

Some of the best things in life are so trivial, and yet so important. And, yes, it is stifling out today.

 


It’s a pretty cool thing to find your face in the morning paper. When I started the morning l was tired to the bone from keeping a baby happy all night long. I was having trouble getting my head “in the game”, so to speak. My loving husband made me pancakes while I tried to get everything ready. The race was a 40-minute drive away and started at 7 o’clock, sharp. We had fifteen minutes to get ready and go, and Ezekiel was still fast asleep.

The night before, I had filled the bladder for the hydration vest with water and had frozen it. In the morning, I let it thaw just enough to yank it open and fill it up to near-overflowing with water. I had two bison bars in Ziplocs stuffed into my vest, as well as dried cranberries and some homemade peanut butter Rice Krispie treats. I also had two more water bottles in the front. I was set, but nervous.

We arrived with 20 minutes to spare, but every runner knows that the line for the bathrooms will take all the time. There were about ten people in front of me, I still hadn’t picked up my bib, and Ezekiel still needed to nurse. Cue the rising panic.

I had to hurry back to the car to quickly sunscreen up after getting my bib. I remembered that two years ago I had fried in the beating sun and I had no intention of experiencing that again. The five minute call rang out, and Ezekiel still needed to eat.

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(He doesn’t realize I’m about to leave him for several hours.)

While I walked to the starting line, I covered up (barely!) with a blanket and let my baby finally eat. I was in the very back of the crowd, wrestling with a squirmy, thirsty child. I had to hand him over to my husband, Nate, when the gun went off the crowd began surging forward. I quickly buckled my vest together and set off, trying to get past the bulk of the people. I wish I had started in the front.

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(The sea of fluorescent runners.)

The first mile was spent passing a lot of runners. I always feel awkward passing someone. Do I tell them “good job” or “keep it up” even though I’m running in front of them? Personally, I might find that condescending, but I know that oftentimes others enjoy encouragement more than I do. Sometimes I say sorry, but I honestly don’t know what the etiquette is. I’m still a newbie to this whole racing thing.

When we reached the first climb I knew I was in for a long few hours. I stopped and shook my legs out a couple of times. I regretted not training in high altitude. I regretted signing up for the race. Gosh, I was actually pretty grumpy for the first half.

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(Nate, my unofficial photographer, caught me in a bad mood. I told him to leave me alone here.)

I tried to eat my bison bars but they suddenly tasted like rabbit food. The cranberries weren’t much better. I ended up spitting out some of my food on the trail as it was turning my stomach. While my nutrition was sub-par during the race, I stopped at most of the aid stations and took in plenty of electrolytes and fluids. Without those, I never would have made it.

After hitting up the halfway aid station, Jackson Gap, I ran alongside a guy from Portland for a couple miles. He pulled ahead of me on the hills, but I kept my pace steady and would occasionally catch him on the flat ground. Unfortunately, I rolled my right ankle on a sharp turn and lost him completely. The next two miles after that were spent wondering if I would be able to finish. I knew that little roll had done something to my ankle and I was hobbling. Because I had slammed my right knee in a training run, that whole leg was somewhat compromised. When I made it to the next aid station, however, I just drank more electrolytes and my husband and baby were there to cheer (or cry) me on. I kept going.

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(Grimacing.)

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(Everybody at the race loved him.)

The next section had several miles of climb to it, and I admit, I was pretty low during this point. I walked often, sometimes completely stopping and doubling over, hands on my shaking legs and staring at the ground. The lack of food was really catching up to me, but I knew I had to continue. I arrived at the last aid station and took in more electrolytes. My contacts were clouded over and my eyes were itchy from the dry, grassy spots. Allergies are my bane. Someone gave me a sponge for my eyes. I tried to find something to eat that appealed, but someone told me that if nothing looked good, I might as well keep going since there were only five miles left.

The last five miles weren’t too terrible. I caught up with Strava Socks (his name is actually Kyle, but at the beginning I had been behind him staring at his labeled socks) and I followed him out of the trail and onto the road that led to the finish. There were campers and onlookers all along the road, yelling and cheering us on. I heard people yelling “first woman” and “here she comes” as I neared the end. Strava Socks pulled ahead for a sprint finish, but I didn’t feel like sprinting at that point. My husband was running alongside me, trying to get me to sprint. I said no.

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(My official time was 4:27:31 because I started in the back.)

It was such a relief to cross that line. Several runner friends that had done the 15K were there and congratulated me as I tried to find food. They all looked so fresh, wearing colourful leis and holding beers. In some ways, I was jealous that they didn’t run as far, but at the same time I felt pretty accomplished. Maybe next year I’ll do it again. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll be brave and do 50 miles instead. Runners have short-term memory loss, after all.

 

Domino Effect

I didn’t live in the Dominican Republic for long. It wasn’t even three years in the end. But, despite all my efforts to not assimilate to the culture, I left with several quirks because of it.

Every afternoon, someone would either invite us to have coffee at their house or someone would simply put a percolator on the stove. You would think that hot coffee in high heat and humidity would be overkill, but I found that after the initial sweating, the outside humectation would seemingly lessen. Now, I enjoy a pot of (decaf) coffee when the day begins to lull and I’m already preparing for dinner. It may be summer, but I feel as though I am better acclimatized than my husband and can stand the heat of midday enough to run in it.

The beaches of Sosua were always interesting. That side of the island is the more tourist-y side, with bars and high-priced trinket markets lining the beach entryways. The worst thing about them was the appalling amount of lecherous creeps that preyed the shoreline. These were the Speedo-wearing, beer-bellied predators blocked from their own countries. The average age was about fifty, but that didn’t (doesn’t) stop them from picking up sixteen-year-old Haitian and Dominican girls to use and abuse with the promise of a future outside the island. Unfortunately, because I grew so used to seeing this sick trend, I now assume that large, white, fifty-year-old men are all predatory and dangerous. I know this isn’t a fact of all men that look that way, but perhaps I am racist and sexist in small ways because of it. I don’t trust anyone’s grandpa until I really know them.

Lastly, the poverty in the Dominican Republic made me appreciate the abundance of America. Appreciate, and also abhor. We live in such luxury here and complain about the things we do not have. We have so much. I do not go hungry. My family does not go hungry. We have a one-bedroom apartment and I could have another child and it would still be sufficient. We have jobs. We have savings. We have clean water. I cannot complain.

After all is said and done, I do wish to go back someday.

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