Crossing Over to the Other Side

crutches-350x350[1]I blamed Tae Kwon Do for the broken foot and bum knee. I told myself I’d be all right If I did an alternate exercise.

Not so.

I’ve learned that I’ve reached the age where you don’t fight through pain. You respect it. Pain means I stop what I’m doing and alter my workout. If not, I’m likely to be using crutches.

A couple of weeks ago, I could feel a twinge in my knee every time I took a step. It wasn’t from Tae Kwon Do. I hadn’t returned to Tae Kwon Do since I broke my foot last year. I thought I could walk myself right through the pain and come out the other side where it would feel better and I would be the stronger for it.

Yeah, right.

By the end of my workday, I could barely hobble to my car.

At home, Jody got me a broom to use as a crutch. The thought of walking upstairs or downstairs was too much. I wanted to fly up those steps. You miss being healthy the most when you’re not healthy.

182[1]Saturday morning, I was TRIA’s first customer. I told Jody I could drive myself. I knew once the receptionist saw me coming in the door that I’d be placed in a wheelchair. I put the broom in the back seat of the car just in case I needed it to get from the car to the door of the clinic.

A knee brace, steroid shot, and a pair of crutches later, I shuffled out of TRIA.

Lesson learned. It wasn’t Tae Kwon Do. It wasn’t the Boot Camp at YMCA. It was me who had crossed over to where the truism, “No Pain, No Gain” wasn’t true anymore.

I’m still learning lessons. I went to the YMCA to see what I could do with my newfound knowledge of respecting pain. I went from machine to machine. If it hurt, then I tried something else. Finally, I found what I was looking for—a cardio machine that is similar to skating and skiing that allows you to prepare for all sports that require lateral movement in your legs. I would have been okay had I stopped there. There was a diagram on the machine that showed how you could do squats at the same time as your lateral movement.

The next day, I felt as if I was kicked in the side by a horse. Now, I limped and I couldn’t straighten up.

You don’t miss health as much as when you don’t have it.

Well, there’s swimming. If I don’t drown.

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My MCL Sprain is Trying to Age Me

Years ago before I was a black belt and the children were young

Years ago before I was a black belt and before the children were 2nd Dan

It’s become this independent burning sensation on the inner part of my knee.
Oh, there it is, I’ll say, when I feel it. Then I’ll take an ibuprofen.
I’ve Googled, What is that burning? Does that mean my MCL is healing? Or, that it’s getting worse? An MCL sprain is a nag.
I didn’t listen to the nag in Tae Kwon Do even though I felt a twinge in my knee that told me to take it easy. I’m not that old, I said to myself. I’ll kick my way through it. And, besides, at that point it was just a minor annoyance. I didn’t ice my knee after class because my knee would be okay the next day just like it always was.

My former self.

My former self with Jody.

The next morning, I almost fell getting out of bed. I couldn’t bear my weight. Without warning I was transported to my chronological age of 56 year(s), 6 month(s), and 2 day(s).
I hobbled for weeks before I went to the doctor.
I wanted to know if I was injuring myself beyond repair for not listening to the nag and I wanted the medical term for what was badgering me.
An MCL injury is a sprain or tear to the medial collateral ligament. The MCL is a band of tissue on the inside of your knee.
I refuse to let my MCL age me.
11034339_10205241803538815_4078779682495764301_oI’ve continued to kick at Tae Kwon Do (just maybe a little slower, a little lower and a little more carefully).

I stood all night long as a Police Reserve Officer at a middle school dance (well, maybe I sat for a moment on the bleachers in the darkened gym).

I still walked 3 miles at lunch time, (okay, a few times I turned around because I didn’t think that I could walk through the pain).
Sometimes, I don’t appreciate my health until it diminishes. Then all I want is to be returned to my former self. And then I read a Facebook post about someone who has it a lot worse than me. That is where I presently am. Feeling the burn, taking ibuprofen. Putting it into perspective.

A Wonderful Dilemma for a Middle School Girl

Crystel and Natty

Apple Jack Invitational. Crystel and Natty after their first cross country meet – A one mile race.

“Go, go, go, dig, dig, dig.”

I hear my voice replaying on the video and cringe. I sound like a crazy woman.

It’s just my child running a 5th grade field day race for gosh sakes. In the scheme of things it doesn’t even count. The distance is approximately 50 (or is it 100 yards?) and none of the kids are called back for jumping the gun. Still, there I am, my voice reaching a high pitch squeal.

Here she comes, my girl crossing the finish line … first.

I wipe away tears, choke back a sob.

I’m sure it’s her strong body and competitiveness and has nothing to do with my out of control fervor.

My daughter is in for some rough years unless I get banned from her sporting events. I don’t think they can do that to moms. But if they do, maybe I can wear my police reserve uniform and sneak in. And, if that doesn’t work, I’ll go as McGruff.

Not that I screeched any less at her brother when he was running. “Go, Antonio, go. Dig, dig, dig.” He’s in for the same mortification.

When another mom, texted a photo of 12-year old Crystel and her daughter, following their first cross country race as 6th graders, it hit me that Crystel’s experience in sports will be very different than mine.

This year marks the 42nd anniversary of Title IX.

10th place for Crystel and 20th place for Natty at the Apple Valley Cross Country meet

10th place for Crystel and 20th place for Natty in the 2-mile race at the Apple Valley cross country meet

In 1970 when I was 12, Title IX had not yet passed. Although I could beat my older brothers at most anything and was the only one who dived off the cliff in Spring Valley, Wisconsin into the Eau Galle Dam, I couldn’t compete in sports.

Regulations on how to implement Title IX, signed into law, June 23, 1972, did not go into effect until 1975.

This past summer, Crystel was mulling over which activities and sports she was going to become involved in during middle school. “This is what you call a dilemma, Crystel,” I told her. “You have so many options that you will have to choose.”

Three weeks into middle school, she’s done what she can to cram in her interests: piano, dance, cross country, and Kor Am Tae Kwon Do. If she could she’d figure out how to add soccer and a number of other after school activities.

When Title IX was enacted, 1 in 27 girls participated in athletics. One in three girls participates in athletics today.

In the photo, Crystel and her friend are self-assured, confident, and have just run their first one mile race. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, women who are active in sports have more self-confidence and are more outgoing than women who do not participate.

Most people think Title IX only applies to sports, but athletics is only one of ten key areas addressed by the law. Other areas include: access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing, and technology.

Before Title IX

• In 1972, women earned just 7% of all law degrees and 9% of all medical degrees.

• In 1970, women earned only 13.3% of doctoral degrees.

• Women weren’t awarded athletic scholarships.

After Title IX

• For the graduating class of 2013, the Department of Education estimated that women earned 61.6% of all associate’s degrees, 56.7% of all bachelor’s degrees, 59.9% of all master’s degrees, and 51.6% of all doctor’s degrees.

• Last year, 140 women graduated with a college degree at some level for every 100 men.

• By 2003, there was more than $1 million in scholarships for women at Division I schools.

1045198_1472771266320064_3137456199553566764_n1My WordSister, sister in writing, Ellen Shriner has completed a book-length memoir called BRAVADO AND A SKETCHY VISION LED ME HERE, a coming-of-age story that takes place in 1979 and 1980 during her first year of college teaching.

Her memoir portrays the challenges of women faced as they sought graduate degrees and entered the workforce.

On July 5, 2012, Ellen also wrote a blog piece about Title IX.

Thanks to Title IX, Crystel has the wonderful dilemma of choosing which sport she will compete in. Eventually when she joins the workforce, she will have more choices to her liking than women of previous generations had.

And, because of Title IX, Crystel and Antonio will have to put up with a mom that alternately shrieks and sobs at the finish line.

What Makes For A Strong Family?

Richfield Dual Language School fiesta. Playing games on McGruff.

Richfield Dual Language School fiesta. Playing games on McGruff.

I think about this a lot since my children will be starting middle school next year. Middle school means 900 students in three grades compared to 400 students in five grades at Richfield Dual Language School.

Middle school means dances, parties, old and new friends.

Middle school means more access to social media.

Middle school means I’m just outside of my parent’s reach.

Guatemala

Guatemala

Or, does it?

A strong family is in my mind because I want my children in my circle of influence. I don’t want them to make choices that have no do-over.

So, how to keep them close?

A lot of people believe that eating dinner together every evening or even several times a week is vital. That isn’t going to happen in our family. Jody and I often don’t eat dinner in the evening, although we make sure our children and their friends are well fed.

One constant in our life is putting the kids to bed. We take turns with them, as we have since they were infants. This of course, will become less practical as they get older.

I don’t want Antonio and Crystel to be lost in middle and high school like I was. I want them to be able to ask me for help without rebuke and even to bring their friends’ concerns to me if need be. I want to be accessible.

Boundary Waters

Boundary Waters

To this end, I’ve done a good job, even though at every school conference this year Jody and I’ve been surprised. The children take turns with who is having ‘issues.’I tell my kids that they couldn’t ever do anything worse than I did in school and that is the truth. The difference is the world is a much more dangerous place and a lot less forgiving than it was 44 years ago.

Tae Kwon Do

Tae Kwon Do

Having a strong family means having strong relationships within the family. It’s very important to me that Antonio and Crystel are friends. Sometimes, I still remind them that we adopted them together so they would always have each other.

Mondays have become our family Tae Kwon Do day. It is our sit down dinner. Antonio, Crystel, Jody and I are black belts. We have had many meals together the last several years. Our testing day is a banquet.

Once in a while we have game night, and when Amazing Race is on television, we all gather around imagining Mama Beth and Mama Jody as contenders.

Loft Mentor Series

Loft Mentor Series

Out of all that we do, I think it is our adventures that keep us strong. Doing new and different activities or eating meals in new restaurants. Since I won the Loft Mentor Series, we’ve been attending the readings as a family and eating out at a new restaurant prior to the reading.

And then there are our more adventurous trips which go a long ways toward bonding us as a family—camping in the Boundary Waters, visiting Guatemala, taking a train to Chicago, Mexico, driving to Arkansas, Florida, and cross country skiing in Wisconsin.

Mexico

Mexico

Sharing the above with family and friends also tightens the bond.

A strong family can mean many things. Tonight a strong family means no electronics and no friends over until all MIS (missing homework) on a fifth grader’s conference report are replaced with a grade.

Afraid of the Writing Workshop. Did It Anyway. Glad That I Did.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMadeline Island Writing Workshop, “How to Plan, Write, and Develop a Book: Taking You Book to Publication” Mary Carroll Moore.

I had first met Mary Carroll Moore in November of 2012 for a 1 1/2 day writing workshop at the Loft Literary Center. A classroom full of writers of all genres explored their books and put together storyboards in pictures and writing. A storyboard is a graphic organizer displayed in sequence for the purpose of pre-visualizing your manuscript.

After attending the 2012 workshop, I signed up for Mary’s week-long writing retreat on Madeline Island, September 2013.

What sold me were the unexpected breakthroughs in how I viewed my book. I rearranged chapters, saw reoccurring images, and for the first time, realized what my manuscript wanted to say.

Madeline Island School of Arts

Madeline Island School of Arts

I’m not an easy student. I approach learning in the classroom tentatively and cynically. I’m reluctant to try different styles, and at the same time, I’m also open to new ideas and feedback. Yes, competing principles. Drives me crazy, too, and I have to sit there and make myself focus on what is being taught.

I was even opposed to attending Mary’s November 2012 workshop, but a writing friend said “No, it wouldn’t be right for you. You probably wouldn’t get anything out of the workshop. If she was me, she wouldn’t go.” So, I signed up. Don’t tell me that I can’t do something.

Taking the road less traveled on the Island

Taking the road less traveled on the Island

A hunch, a notion, a feeling.  That becomes my next step or goal. The Universe speaks to me through repeated musings and I pay attention. I sent in my deposit to Madeline Island School of the Arts (MISA) for Mary’s September workshop without knowing how it was going to come about.

Winning The Next Step Grant generated the funds, and a new job spawned the vacation week.

When it came time to go Jody planned a family weekend for us at Edgewater Hotel in Duluth for my sendoff. Saturday the “What am I getting myself into?” thoughts started making an entrance. On Sunday, I admitted them to Jody.

I was scared. I didn’t know Mary that well. I didn’t know if my writing would be as good as others. And, it would be dark at night.

MISA

MISA

Even so, Jody and I drove in opposite directions on Sunday.

My classmates on Madeline Island consisted of six other writers. The first evening we introduced ourselves and our manuscripts. I hate this part. My book has to come out of the closet, and state what it’s about.

Classroom learning started the next day. I sat next to my nemesis. I learned that word in Tae Kwon Do because I have a few of them there, too. I always seem to find one no matter where I go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis guy had an answer for everything. Since I sat next to him, I could literally feel his restraint as he stopped himself from monopolizing the discussion. I didn’t think he would get anything out of Mary’s class but it only took him a day or two to come around to Mary’s way of thinking. That was impressive, I thought, and it added cred to Mary’s teaching. If he found her teaching meaningful …. Good thing for him because he flew in from New Hampshire to take her class. Maybe it was because he was from tiny New Hampshire that he didn’t like all the space I took.

Think of it, 9, 350 sq miles compared to 86, 943 sq miles. Move over Big Boy. Us Minnesotans need SPACE.

In-between sparring with my rival, I did a lot of learning. The aha moments came fast and often. I worked to make them stick so I’d be able to recall them after I returned home.

When Mary teaches, material makes sense, concepts fizz with possibility.

Her balance of classroom time to personal writing time is excellent. Having a solid week to work with a storyboard that constantly changes is refreshing.

Writing Prompts

Writing Prompts

It could have been the ferry ride, the remoteness, or the magic of Madeline Island School of the Arts (MISA), that allowed my manuscript to become my essence for one week.

And when darkness came, as it did every night, I picked up the phone and called home.

At weeks end, before I even drove my car on the ferry, I began to imagine my return in 2014 and taking my seat next to know-it-all guy, and fashioning a border with my writing prompts.