Bad Ass, faith, life lessons, Uncategorized

Mangia.

Tonight I was struggling. So much is going on in my life so fast and I was trying to process everything in a somewhat coherent way. I scrolled through my phone and called a few people, but I only got voicemails. We moved to this city four years ago and have built up an incredible village of people who support us through good and bad, but tonight I needed someone different. The stuff I am dealing with is deeper. I’m aching at my core and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why I am so lost about who to call and talk to about this. Then I remembered a time before when my panic attacks led to blackouts and life seemed like more than I could handle. I remembered who got me through heart monitors and death, unplanned pregnancy and big break-ups. It was that family I had created once, the family who called me Wilky.

At one point in my life, I started each evening walking into a dark and empty restaurant. The only sounds I heard were coming from the kitchen where fresh herbs and vegetables were being prepared with extra precision and care and fresh burrata and mozzarella were carefully crafted while spanish music played in the background. It was food preparation that took hours and was truly an art form. Each bite of food in this restaurant created a memory. It was to be savoured and enjoyed like an Italian Opera. It was not mass produced or created elsewhere. No. This food, these masterpieces, can only be found in a still small dining room in the heart of Pennsylvania.

That time of setting up before guests arrive was my sanctuary. My coworkers and I would prepare fresh whipped cream, dressings from scratch, and a fresh batch of sangria filled with crisp apples and juicy oranges. Silverware would be checked and double checked to be sure it was perfectly placed on the crisp white table cloths. Marinated olives would be stirred and hot Focaccia would be pulled from the ovens and placed on the cooling racks, filling the room with the smell of sea salt and rosemary. Candles were lit and small jars would be filled with dark green Italian olive oil. Every night brought new and exciting guests and experiences, but the set up was always the same. Like the routine of a liturgical church service, it was a holy process for me.

A shift in this restaurant often meant constant moving on my feet for 7 or 10 hours, but I never noticed, even when I was nearly 8 months pregnant. Our job there was to create an atmosphere where guests could come and forget everything else in their life. Or perhaps it was to celebrate the good in their life or share the sorrow. It was not a place to get a quick bite. It was a place to come and stay awhile and drink good wine, specially crafted cocktails, and the most incredibly prepared seafood, game, and exotic vegetables. It was a place where we took the time to learn about our guests’ lives enough to become the guests at their weddings and parties. It was a place where the desserts were so delectable, guests were talking about them for days and asking us to make them again. It was a place where professional upscale guests would be caught licking the bowls of their nero pasta because dammit, it is just that good! Guests left feeling like they had just visited family in another land.

I flourished in this environment. There is joy that comes in serving others and guiding them through an experience like nothing they have had before. There is joy that comes in creating a cocktail that perfectly fits their description and helps them forget any troubles they had in just one sip. There is joy that comes in working as a team to bring this experience to several hundred people on the busiest nights of the year, sometimes in masks and costumes. There is joy that comes in memorizing a menu in Italian or Spanish or knowing how to describe the difference between 20 different dry red Italian wines. There is joy that comes from serving the food of the most talented and creative chef many of us will ever experience in our lifetime.

The real joy, however, came at the end of our shift. Most nights, we would say goodnight to the last guest, clean the dining room, and then sit at the bar and have our own glass of wine. We shared stories of the night and stories of our lives. No topic was off the table and advice was always given with love and understanding. This was the life giving part of our day. This was our confession booth, therapy couch, and late night phone call to a friend all wrapped into one. These people, this family of mine, got me. I belonged there. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I felt like I truly and completely belonged with them. We fought sometimes. We judged each other sometimes. We disagreed often. In the end though, we pumped up the music, moved the tables out of the way, and danced it out. No matter what happened between us, we were always able to end an evening with dancing and laughter: pure joy. There was nothing a little Aretha Franklin couldn’t fix.

We recently lost a family member and his name went by as I scrolled through my phone. That tightness in my chest made me long to hear his voice and talk to him about what I am going through right now. He would know exactly what to say. He always did. I can’t talk to him. I can’t sit at that bar with those people and talk to them tonight or dance out the pain that life brings, so instead I decided to listen to Nina Simone while I drank too much wine and reminisced about a group of people who I love and miss dearly.  

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Bad Ass, Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Run Momma Run, Uncategorized

back to life. back to reality

Five years ago, I would have been ashamed to post this photo. While 4 miles is no easy task, the time it took me to complete them tonight was about twice what it used to take me to run four miles. Tonight I had to run, jog, and walk to get there. Also, due  to toddler difficulties, I had to do it on a treadmill. Again. After 10pm. Five years ago, I ran at least 5 miles 4 times a week and 10 or more on weekend days and biked the 22 mile greenbelt around Harrisburg at least once a week. But this isn’t a story about a runner who is trying to win a race or be the fastest or show people how good I am at running. This is a story about someone coming back to life. It took me three years to slowly fade away and it will take time to come back.

After I had my daughter, I got back to running, lost more than all the baby weight, and felt absolutely amazing about life. Then, for reasons that made sense at the time, I decided to move to Philadelphia. In many ways, things have gone well for me here. I bought my first house, I found a job I love and fall in love with more as it grows and changes, I connected to a church community and a parenting community, and I began building a village for my daughter. But some of the reasons for moving here turned out to be empty promises and were emotionally difficult to deal with. In the last two years, I have almost completely stopped running, my diet has been completely out of whack, and I have let depression win on more days than I’d like to admit. I turned down social invitations choosing to stay home and secluded instead. My body and my overall health has suffered as a result. Some friendships have suffered as well. I focused so much on who I used to be that I forgot to become her again-in a new improved state. And worse, I forgot to enjoy who I was at the present, double chins and all.

About a week ago, I realized that my daughter would be four in a month. Four. She is starting to recognize my behaviors and even imitates them sometimes. She recognizes when I am sad and she asks me about it. I want her to see the best me that I can be(hokey I know, but it’s true). I don’t want her to start imitating the me who sits in front of another episode of Scandal while eating a block of cheese and drinking a bottle of wine. She deserves to know the me I was 5 years ago when I found out I was pregnant the day after I ran a half-marathon in Nashville. The excited, giggly me who did not give a fuck what anyone thought of me. The me who did my thing, painted horrible paintings, but loved them, the me who laughed obnoxiously out loud multiple times a day, and the me who ran everyday because it was the one thing that made me feel my dad’s presence. I want her to see the me who at 35 found out I was pregnant and was going to become a solo parent and just said to myself, “OK Bek, let’s do this!”

On Mother’s Day I was still up at 11pm taking care of a messy kitchen and a sink full of dishes. I caught myself smiling. I realized just how wonderful things really were. I was standing there in MY kitchen, in MY house, washing dishes from my incredible daughter. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for everything in my life. When I was running that half-marathon 5 years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be standing in a kitchen I owned washing dishes from a kid I had. The excuses I have used to avoid life have only clouded my view of the wonderful life I have been gifted.

That’s all it took to make me decide to get back to it. I promised myself that I would run, jog, or walk at least 2 miles a day for two weeks. At the end of that two weeks, I will make a new promise. On Sunday morning, I will be running my first race since that one in Nashville in September 2012. It is a 5K and I am already a little scared. The thing is, I am also excited. Bella will be with me in the jogging stroller the whole time. And soon, she will be running beside me. And even if I am the last one across the finish line, I will still celebrate and be grateful that I am able to complete 3 miles and do so with my daughter right in front of me cheering me on.

I leave you with an excerpt from Jen Sincero(an incredible author who I highly recommend) that I have been focusing on this week.

“You can’t see the silver lining through victim goggles.”

“Have faith that you and the Universe have created everything for your growth and be grateful for it. No matter what. Get practiced at making gratitude your go-to. Notice the 8 trillion things around you at all times that you can be grateful for, and feel into the grateful expectation for all the things coming your way. The good, the bad, the ugly, The salsa stain you just got on your new white shirt, become a gratitude machine for all of it.”

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Going Solo: Single Parenthood, life lessons, Run Momma Run

get up.

Four and a half years ago I ran my fourth half marathon. Two days later I found out that I was pregnant. I was a runner first and foremost. It had become the most important part of my life and I had fallen in love with every race and practice run. Running was the first img_2820thing I thought about when I woke up and it is what I planned on doing as I fell asleep each night. I had run two full marathons, four half marathons, a ten-miler, and countless 5Ks all in the span of about 4 years.

After I had my daughter, I got back to running pretty quickly and even got my body back. I began dreaming of the two of us running together across that first finish line. Then, shortly after her first birthday, things started falling apart. Life changed drastically for both of us and the running me seemed to disappear. The fun loving careless me disappeared too. The fearless me disappeared. The anxious and depressed me took over. My career and my daughter were both wonderful, but other things got out of my control and I just shut down. I shut down completely. My body, mind, and spirit all took a hit. Until a few weeks ago, I was pretty sure I would never fully recover.

Then, we lost a close family friend. This was a man who has been a mentor and pastor when I was in college and who had been an inspiration to my entire family. At his funeral I thought about the fact that there would never be anyone who could replace this man. He had a way of reaching you at your lowest and showing you how to rise up. Through stories told at the funeral, I was reminded that we all fall down at some point. If we are human, it is inevitable. The important thing is getting back up. This pastor was gifted at meeting people at that point and helping them get back up to finish the race. I wished I could talk to him one more time because I knew he would know what to say to help me to get back up. I fell down two years ago and I have been down too long.

When you are a solo parent of a toddler and you work full time, finding time to run, or work out at all, is nearly impossible. Finding “me time” in general is almost unheard of. When people tell me to take time for myself, I scoff. The other thing that is impossible, however, is being a solo parent and not asking for help. Trying to do everything yourself is a great way to completely burn out. Over the last few months, I have been slowly asking people for help. Family and friends have stepped in and fed my daughter, watched her for a few hours, taken her to school, and invited her for play dates.img_2818

Today was one of those days. My daughter was invited to a play date for the morning with the understanding that I leave her there. So, I laced up my running shoes, drove to my beloved Kelly Drive and walked 4 miles as fast as a snail!! It was sunny and beautiful and freezing cold and it felt amazing. Every biker, runner, walker, and Canadian goose passed me on the trail and I did not care one bit. I listened to the playlist I made for that half marathon four years ago and I remembered the me I used to be. Since I tried my first  bootcamp spinning class two days ago, my legs were solid blocks of painful cement that buckled at every incline, but it didn’t even matter. My body, mind, and spirit were up and moving together for the first time in years.
So, after months of not writing, here I am again. It is not to boast or gain pity. I am here for accountability. I am a writer and I am a runner. If I am truly going to “get up,” I must img_2821do both. This post is about as good as my sloth-like morning stroll, but it still feels great because I am not lying in a heap on the floor under my computer. I’m sitting in the chair and I’m ready to write again.

 

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gardening, life lessons, Losing Dad


FullSizeRender (1).jpgA few weeks before my dad passed away, I caught him eating a raw potato. A RAW potato. I jokingly asked him if he’d like me to cook it for him. I will never forget his response, “No. I like it this way. It tastes like earth.”

I lived in six different houses in six different towns growing up. Each one of them had an ample amount of Earth. At each house, my parents were adamant about having a garden, fruit trees, and plenty of green. My mom covered the house with plants of various origin and my dad focused on vegetables and fruit trees in the yard. From birth, I have watched the magic that happens when a seed becomes a sprout and a sprout becomes a plant, a flower, a vegetable, or a tree. It has always amazed me and been all the proof I need that there is something greater than myself. I remember living in York County, Pennsylvania, where we had a huge vegetable garden, and hiding between two rows of peas with my best friend. We would lay in the dirt and giggle as we filled our bellies with fresh sweet peas. There is nothing like biting into a crisp pea pod on a hot summer day. It tastes like Earth.

One of the reasons I love the garden and gardening is because it is one of the few places I can still sense my dad’s presence. Just as I can feel him smiling every time I open up a new book, my dad also lingers in the sprouting of a new seed and in each shovel full of Earth as I turn it over to start something new. When I found a house in the city with a big back yard, all I could think about was the garden I would be able to have. It would be the perfect way to honor my dad and share a part of him with Bella.

I definitely have my work cut out for me. In the first year of Bella’s life, I celebrated keeping a human alive while I mourned each plant and vegetable as one by one, they died a slow and painful death. Now I have a toddler that I still have to keep alive(not an easy task) and a yard full of weeds and random treasures that must be dug up and sifted one shovel at a time before I can even think of sowing any seeds. The process is slow and has required quite a bit of texts to mom, consults with experienced urban gardeners, and googling. I’ve also discovered that, for the most part, my gardening will have to be in containers and raised beds; something totally new to me and not exactly what I had hoped for.

There is actual scientific proof that having contact  with the earth through standing in your bare feet, sitting, or lying down on the earth, known as earthing or grounding, actually improves your physiological and electrophysiological health. In fact, when stressed or depressed, direct contact with the earth has been shown to improve your symptoms. I suffer from anxiety and depression and have actually been told that regularly walking through grass or soil will eventually improve my symptoms and balance the cortisol levels in my body. It makes sense. I spent much of my childhood barefoot and covered in grass and mud. There were many times my parents didn’t know where the earth ended and I started. “Earthing” is in my blood, but I have not done much of it in the past few years. It is a therapy I am willing to try and willing to create space for in my backyard.

This piece-of-earth project is not only for me. I want Bella to have the opportunity to ground herself daily. I want her to know what a tomato seed and flower look like. I want her to remember happily hiding in the rows of peas while she bites downFullSizeRender.jpg on a piece of earth. I truly believe an essential part of good parenting is figuring out a way for your child to connect to the earth somehow. Most people my age grew up “earthing” daily and we didn’t even know that what we were doing was actually beneficial to our health and well-being. Today, however, many of us have to work to make that happen for our kids. We are fighting against computers, and smartphones, video games, and bigger flatter TVs with more to entertain our kids every day. We need more hikes, walks in the park or on the beach, and weekend camping trips. And, if we have the space, or even just a pot of soil in the kitchen, we can fight that pesky technology with a nothing but a seed, some soil, and a little water and sunshine.

So, despite the fact that we may not see our first sprout until sometime next year, I’m looking forward to the hours of digging and weeding that Bella and I have before us this fall. I’ll be doing it with my dad’s old garden tools while I think of all his corny jokes and remember how excited he was the first time his fig tree produced fruit. Hopefully, by this time next year, I will be telling you about our very first potato and how Bella and I sat in our garden and ate it raw while we talked about Grandpa Wilcox and how truly delicious the earth tastes.

 

“For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower, sun and moon, and stars of light;  
Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”

 

 

It Tastes Like Earth

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