Dear “Mom” – Why are you in Havana and who is Terry?

I have had the same email address since just after Google introduced gmail. It’s my first initial and last name @ gmail.com. Pretty simple.  Other people evidently employ the same simplistic strategy, but fail miserably somewhere in the execution.

I get lots of email intended for other people.  Brianna, Bernice, Brian, Brittany, Blake and Barath receive a lot of mail in my inbox. Those emails, I suppose, make sense if they really do share my last name.  I also receive email for Sherkeydra, though.  She’s applying for student loans, and my email address makes no sense at all for her name.

Brittany orders a lot of stuff from Alibaba.com.   Bernice is having problems paying her phone bill. Brian gets a payment from Wells Fargo every Thursday night, and Blake is looking for a roommate.

Brianna’s family is a real hoot.  They travel a lot and seem to have a sense of humor.  Her mom and dad (Terry) are in Cuba right now.

When I began receiving all of these emails for strangers, at first I responded to let the sender know that they had sent the email to the wrong address.  I received a very nice email from one of Brittany’s high school teachers a year or two ago.  I also had a heartwarming exchange with a woman who was trying to reach one of these strangers to participate with a group who was taking food to a family whose loved one was in her final days.  She reached the wrong person, but I surely would have taken a casserole if we lived in the same state.

Another time I began receiving a lot of email from someone’s dad.  I responded to let him know that his messages were reaching the wrong person.  He didn’t believe me.  He asked what I was doing.  I answered honestly – I was looking for a nursing home who could take my father.  Since he believed I was his daughter, he didn’t take kindly to that one.  I replied with a photo of my tear-stained face next to the headline of that day’s newspaper. I never heard from him again.  Most often my replies are usually ignored.

I tried to get AT&T to stop sending me Bernice’s messages, but after 20 minutes on hold, I gave up on that cause.  Now, when I receive messages for the other “Bs,” I just hit delete.

I receive vacation pictures, invitations to Thanksgiving dinner, and emails showing me the newest listings in Bel Air, MD.

The weirdest misdirected email that I received advised me that the “subject” had left the “perimeter.”  When I clicked on the link provided, I got the feeling that I was venturing into super-spy territory, and I wondered whose car was being tracked.

Terry and his wife have, previously, been advised that I am not Brianna, but they don’t believe me.  Brianna’s sister has already replied. Her brother was copied, too.  Mom and dad must wonder why Brianna never replies.

I talked to my own dear mother a few minutes ago. I know she’s not really in Cuba.  Brianna’s mom enjoyed seeing Hemingway’s apartment and like Mojitos.  She had a scary experience in a decrepit building where she followed a shady guy to the 3rd floor because he had a “good deal” to show her.  I’m happy Brianna’s parents lived to tell THAT tale.  I’ll pray for their safety.

I’m assuming that the other people who use my email address primarily give it out as a “spam” address.  If only I had their true email addresses, I could forward their emails from Mom, Dad and the crazy stalker person who has set a perimeter.  I don’t, though, so I’m torn about whether or not to wish “Mom” and Terry a safe voyage from the daughter they never knew they had.

Life is strange sometimes.

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

I once read a popular book on relationships by John Gray, PhD.  It was titled Men are From Mars, Woman are From Venus.  The general concept that I gleaned from the pages was that men and women think differently.  When someone presents a problem, a man’s tendency is to try to solve the problem rather than responding with empathy or sympathy.  Women share their problems hoping for emotional support, rather than a problem-solving session.  The failure of the woman to appreciate the solutions offers is unsatisfying to the man, and the woman feels slighted because the man hasn’t given her the emotional response she had hoped for.  Chaos ensues.

By birth, I am a woman.  By vocation, I am a lawyer.  While I am still a woman (and happy that I am), my law school education changed how I respond to other people’s problems.  I have developed a tendency to listen, identify the problem, and offer a solution.  Sometimes I put hours of (unpaid) time into figuring out a legal solution to a problem that has been shared with me.  Imagine my shock and horror when, instead of thanking me for doing free legal research and offering a tangible solution, the person with the problem got ANGRY with me.

While it is not uncommon for lawyers to be maligned, most of us are pretty nice people.  We charge money for our time because it’s all we have to sell, but many of us provide pro bono services to indigent clients, help family members and volunteer our time for other good causes. Forget everything you learned about lawyers from reading lawyer jokes (please).

This week I had a conversation with a friend who was frustrated.  Her frustration stemmed from problems in an area that I have training and experience with.  As she shared her pain and frustration, my mental wheels started spinning.  I had solutions to those problems!  Just as I took a breath to deliver my well-thought-out plan, I heard a little voice in my head say, “Not your circus, not your monkeys.”  I swallowed my words and said nothing.  I listened.  I realized that not only did my friend probably already know the legal solutions to the problems, but she was also not the person who needed to act.  The situation was largely beyond her control.  She was telling her problem to her friend – not her lawyer.  Instead of giving in to the urge to fix the problem, I needed to offer emotional support to my friend.  She just needed to vent.

I’ve been a worrier since I was young.  If I’m not worrying about my troubles, I’ll worry about yours.  I finally understand what Mom meant when she warned me, “don’t borrow trouble.”

I posted earlier about wearing many hats.  Sometimes those many hats lead to confusion.  I am learning that when I am wearing the “friend” hat, I need to put the “lawyer” hat in the closet.  The lawyer hat tends to make me look like I’m from Mars, anyway.

Ditch the Witch!

I wrote this several years ago (2012) at the beginning of one of my “practice starts” to my healthier lifestyle.

*****************************

There is this woman in my life – she makes things so hard

  • she never leaves me alone
  • she goes everywhere with me
  • she sleeps with my husband (that’s awkward!)
  • she makes me carry her up the stairs
  • she makes me carry her down the stairs
  • she shares my clothes
  • she eats my meals
She’s mean, too:
  • she won’t let me ice skate with my kids
  • she won’t let me ride a roller coaster at Cedar Point
  • she won’t let me do fun things with my husband

Every step I take, I carry her with me.

Letting the other woman into my life made sense at the time. She helped me hide from the people who might want to get too close.  She protected me from attention I couldn’t handle.  She helped me come up with excuses for why I couldn’t go for a walk or dance at a wedding.  She was my partner and co-conspirator (and made a wicked hot-fudge sundae, too!)

I weigh as much as two of the *real* me.

Every step I take is twice the work.

I’m going to ditch the witch!

She won’t go away all at once.   I’ll have to push her away ounce by ounce.  She knows she’s on her way out.  I’ve started packing her suitcase.  Most of the size 26 clothes are already in it.  She can have them.  I don’t need them.

I won’t send her away hungry.  The cupboard is full of processed foods with gluten and refined sugars.  She loves that stuff, so I’ll pack her a care package.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I’m going to run on the beach, ride roller coasters and chase kids and grandchildren.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I’m going to buy skinny clothes made for one person – not two.

I’m going to ditch the witch.

I don’t need her anymore.

*********************************

Update:  her suitcase is getting pretty full.  She’s been given the eviction notice and she knows her time is limited.

I’ve added to the things I’m going to do when I ditch the witch

I’m going to run (and FINISH!) a half marathon.

I’m going to run up and down the stairs at the high school stadium

I’m going to zumba and kickbox and yoga and RUN her right out of my life.

I’m going to ditch the witch (3/4/2015)

I Wear Many Hats

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On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I had fun trying on many of the fun hats.  My teenaged daughter rolled her eyes, but I had fun anyway.  The truth is, though, that I really DO wear many hats.

In my personal life I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, friend, niece, stepmom, grandma, and reluctant dog groomer.

Professionally, I am a lawyer.  I am an optician.

As a self-employed lawyer married to a self-employed eye doctor, sometimes I am a medical biller.  I am an adviser, an advocate, sometimes a photocopying maniac, file clerk, janitor, courier, and 10646900_10153173048258223_8222125410929167398_nreceptionist.

I wear many hats.

Some of them are more elegant than others.

Some of them fit more comfortably than others.

Some of them make people a little uncomfortable.

When we wear many hats, it’s important to recognize that sometimes we put on the police hat when someone really wants the chef hat, or the nurse hat.  Having been taught to think like a lawyer, I approach problems differently than many people.  When I hear someone else talking about their problem, my first inclination is to try to help them solve it, or at least to give them some idea of what they may be facing.  Sometimes that’s not the hat they need to see.

I have a friend who is a psychologist.  She told a story, once, about going to see her sister, who was having a bad day.  My friend listened to her sister rant about the bad day.  Before deciding what to say next, she paused.  “What do you need from me today?” she asked.  “Do you want to know what I think about what happened?  Do you want me to tell you what I think that you should do?  Do you want me t11009980_10153173048508223_4944157478184827454_no hug you and tell you that everything is all right?  Do you want me to tell you that you’re right and they are wrong?”

Tell me what you need.

Tell me what hat you need me to wear.

That’s the problem when you have too many hats!  It’s difficult to decide which one to wear.  One goes with your outfit, but it’s too dressy.  One will keep the sun out of your eyes, but it clashes with your shoes.

My lawyer hat is not warm and fuzzy.  I’ve spoiled a couple of budding friendships by bluntly delivering my legal synopsis of a situation when really all that person wanted was for me to listen to them.

When a potential client comes to see me, they get “the talk,” in which I explain that my role as their lawyer means that thy may not like what I have to say.  It’s my job to be realistic and tell them their options and the consequences.  If they want someone to make them feel good about themselves and their situation, they need to go see my friend the psychologist.

I’m getting better at keeping track of my hats and wearing the right one.  It’s not always easy wearing many hats.

The Bus of Shame (or, The Saddest Ride at Walt Disney World!)

Last Sunday, I had the great pleasure of participating in RunDisney’s Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World Resort.  I lined up at 4:30 a.m. in a parking lot  at Epcot Center with about 15,000 of my fellow runners for the happiest half marathon on the plant.

On the long walk to Corral “N,” we passed a large truck with the label “mass casualty response unit.”  This was more than a little disconcerting.  Still, although the air was chilly and I hadn’t had my coffee, I lined up and excitedly waited for the first group to be released at 5:30 a.m.  As you may have gathered, it takes some time to release nearly 15,000 runners on a course.  Consequently, I was still waiting to begin my run for another hour.  I spent that time reflecting on the journey that had brought me to where I was.

I thought back to the day in March 2014 when I took my first steps in several years on the treadmill.  I was elated when I finished my first mile.  Soon I traveled to a running store and purchased “real” running shoes and downloaded an handful of running apps.  Although I often felt slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter, I kept going.

A few months later my lovely “bonus daughter” (also a runner), told me she was planning to run the Princess Half Marathon.  Although I knew it was a lofty goal for me, I registered and began training.  Over the course of 2014 and early 2015, I logged over 400 miles.  Sometimes life got in the way, and between unexpected life events and illnesses, I missed out on several significant blocks of training.  As the race date approached, I knew that I could go the distance, but my times were still slow, and I knew it was questionable whether I would be able to maintain the required minimum pace, although I was doing w11020486_10153158688958223_2338817202565848104_nell on my training runs on the nice flat, climate-controlled indoor track.

I obsessively checked my training times, read blogs about the wicked “balloon ladies,” (the pace group for the 16 minute/mile).  I crafted my tutu, packed my bags and felt moderately confident that I wouldn’t be “swept” and have to ride the “bus of shame” back to the finish line instead of running through the happiest finish line on earth.

By the time my corral was called, I was cold and my feet hurt from standing in one place.  My timing app wasn’t working right, my glasses were fogged and smeared so I couldn’t read the screen anyhow, my earbuds were malfunctioning, and I had absolutely no clue what my pace was.  I just knew it felt slow.

I had a blast running among other “princesses” (and a few princes) wearing tutus (the princes, too!).  I pumped my fist as I ran by the speakers playing the theme from Rocky.  I sang along to “Don’t Stop Believing”  and I smiled my way into the Magic Kingdom.  As I passed through the park, I remembered the long, long lines at the porta potties I’d passed, and I popped into a “real” bathroom.  Still blissfully unaware of my pace, I readjusted my tutu, washed and dried my hands and popped open a packet of caffeinated jelly beans.

As I joined the pack of princesses, I heard the news – the balloon ladies had passed by.  My trip to the bathr10502162_10153159811733223_3231952080083691982_noom had cost me precious minutes, and now I had to try to fight my way through the pack of princesses to catch up.  I flew through Cinderella’s castle and as I exited the park again, I spotted the balloons waaaaay up ahead of me.

I tried my hardest to pick up the pace.  The news filtered through the pack that we had until Mile 8 to catch up, or we would be swept – transported to the finish.  I tried hard to weave through the other back of the pack princesses.  I could see the balloons getting closer.  We passed by several security people and I overheard one tell the other, “the race is over for these ones, whether they like it or not.”  I passed by a woman sobbing loudly.  I asked if she was okay, and she answered through tears that she was okay, just devastated that she wasn’t finishing.

I pushed harder even though I knew I was wearing myself out with 5 miles left to go.  I could see Milepost 8, and I could see the balloons.  As the balloons passed the mile marker, two large buses pulled across the road.  Medics were there to help those who needed assistance, and we were asked to board the bus.

The driver told us each, “great job.”  The ride back to Epcot seemed to take a very long time.  There wasn’t a smile to be seen.  We had been swept.  We were on the vehicle that had been dubbed “The Bus of Shame” by numerous bloggers.  My heart sunk.  My Facebook was broadcasting my splits to my friends.  I really thought I could do it.  I had failed to reach my goal.  I was sad.

As we exited the vehicle, some of the wonderful volunteers staffing the event met us with high fives and medals.  Although we had not finished the 13.1 miles, they draped a shining medal around each of our necks.  They showed us where to get our bananas, our drinks and our snack boxes.

I wandered over to the “real” finish line for a few minutes and watched the crowd cheer for those who were finishing.  My heart sunk into my shoes, and I moped my way back to the bus that would return me to my hotel for a much needed shower.

I called my husband, and told him I’d only made it 8 miles.  I posted on Facebook that I’d only made it 8 miles.  I waited for my bonus daughter  (who finished!  Yay for her!!!) Then, I took a nap.

Naps fix almost everything – especially attitudes.

My high school friend, Lyle, posted one of my statuses from early 2014 on my wall – one where I was overjoyed that I was able to run for a handful of minutes without stopping.  It was at that moment that I realized there was absolutely no shame in having been swept after 8 miles.

I thought back to my first 10K race in September.  I finished dead last, but I was thrilled to have finished.  That race was only 6.2 miles.  My Disney run was 2 miles longer (more if you count the long hike to the corrals before it even began!)

Since I started running in March 2014, I’ve completed four 5K races and a 10K.  Yesterday I finished my 500th mile.  I’ve run on trails and tracks and through parking lots.  I’ve had scores of wonderful experiences and only a handful of negatives.  Best of all, I’ve lost over 70 pounds, I’ve regained the ability to physically do many things that I couldn’t dream of for a number of years, and I’ve made new friends and reconnected with old ones.

Although that bus ride was still the saddest ride at Walt Disney World, there is no “Bus of Shame.”  Every back of the pack princess on that bus was someone who set a lofty goal and spent many hours training getting to mile 8.  While I apologize to the runners who had to fight their way through the pack in order to pass me, I’m so glad that I tried.  I’ll be back next year, and I may even wear a tiara.  10959471_10153161521318223_290637641601916152_n

Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Story

I didn’t come up with this title on my own.  It hit me smack between my eyes first thing this morning as I reviewed my Facebook feed.  I thank Kara Louisell for sharing it.  Check out her FB page for lots of inspiration.  https://www.facebook.com/karalouisell?fref=photo

dont be afraid

I shared this image on my own Facebook feed this morning.  I’ve made a lot of changes in my life in the past 10 months or so.  As a result, I’ve shed a bunch of weight.  I’ve run over 350 miles.  I’ve learned new ways to deal with sadness.  I’ve begun reaching out to others, learning to delegate, and being kinder to myself.  I’ve chronicled those changes and shared them here and on my Facebook page along the way.

I’m not normally an attention-seeker.  I’m a little bit uncomfortable being in the public eye.  I like to work behind he scenes.  I’m the person who doesn’t generally strike up a conversation, but I enjoy it immensely once given the opportunity to engage.  I’m naturally quick to discount a compliment and I still don’t like the way I look.  I’m my own worst critic.

I’ve become one of those annoying people who “checks in” at the gym on Facebook.  My nike+ app tells my friends when I start a run and how far I go.  I’ve posted pictures *eek* spandex, covered in sweat, painted up, covered in colored powder, and generally having fun while being less than necessarily “proper.”

A long-time friend posted something recently about people who stay the course without need for praise from others as opposed to people who do things half-way and seek applause.  I pray that I’m not the person that friend had in mind.  I share these changes because many have shared privately that I am inspiring them to change, too.

I am very uncomfortable being anyone’s inspiration.  I know how fallible I am.  I know how often I stray from my health diet and eat potato chips.  I am very aware when I skip a workout to go shopping or watch TV.  I’m imperfect.  I’m still overweight.  I mess up.  I don’t FEEL very inspirational.

Perhaps that imperfection – the humanity – is what inspires?  I have lost 75 pounds through sheer determination despite going through down spells, having injuries, and just feeling grumpy some days.  I’m not a fitness model.  I haven’t reached my goal weight.  I finish last at most races that I run.  My flaws are myriad – but my sincerity is real.

When people started telling me that I INSPIRE them, I wanted to tell them not to be absurd.  But, just as I learned to accept a compliment graciously, I’m learning to accept that I have no right to tell another person what (or who) is “good enough” to inspire her.

My story is complicated and colorful.  I’ve been through a lot of challenges, and despite it all I’ve managed to carry on. I’ve made decisions that I’m not proud of, but I am proud of where those decisions have brought me.  Perhaps that’s why I have been given the gift of being able to inspire others.

I’ve made a decision not to be ashamed of my story.  It’s mine to tell – all mine.  It’s different from your story.  Perhaps it will inspire you to change.  Perhaps it will inspire you to block me on Facebook.  I just write what I know.

A Clean Heart (and the Cone of Shame)

Once upon a time, I had a little cat and a little dog.  They were sworn enemies.  One day the little dog gave chase to the little cat and caught her.  Little dog created two tiny punctures in the little cat’s side.  We washed them and treated them with antibiotic.  They scabbed over and nearly healed, but they must have begun to itch.  Little cat ripped off the scabs and the little holes became a little bigger.

We cleaned them again and they began to heal.  They were looking great when little cat once again ripped the scabs off and the holes became even larger.  This happened once again, and the two holes became one large gaping wound.  There was still no infection, but it was a scary looking wound.  We took little cat to the vet and he said that he couldn’t stitch it because the risk of infection would be too great.  Instead, he fitted her with the cone of shame.

dug

The cone of shame worked its trick.  She stopped picking at her wound, and the wound got smaller and smaller until it healed once and for all.

Yesterday I spent a lot of mental energy dwelling on something someone said to someone else that wasn’t even directed at me. My child brought home an illustration from class that I thought was inappropriate.  I posted it on Facebook and garnered support from my friends and began to feel self-righteous.  I presented my point of view in an email to the person who originated the distasteful example and went to my “zen den” to try to let it go.

The joy of sitting in a darkened room lit only by candles, listening to soft sounds and wrapped in the warm embrace of a soft blanket is that in the stillness, God can speak to our busy minds.  Last night I had such an experience.  As I watched the thoughts drift in and out of my mind, a bit of scripture turned into song came into view and stayed long enough to stick.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.

-Psalm 51:10

I did not dwell on that thought last night, but the subtle experience made its impression.  My husband came to find me and we watched some television together and slept peacefully.

This morning I received an email in reply to my message.  The person who used the example that upset me failed to understand where I was coming from.  The peace I had found in my private sanctuary last night dissolved, and I experienced, once again, the sting of perceived rejection.

I got ready for work, leashed Jimi the Wonderdog and drove to the office.  My office is in disarray right now.  I’ve been trying to fit too many things into too little time while worrying about too many things.  I realized that no meaningful work could happen until I took care of the piles and restored proper order.

As I tidied piles and washed dirty mugs, the psalm/song came back into my mind.  Sometimes we need to take a moment to clean our heart so that we can get back to work, too.  Holding onto resentment allows us to go back to it time after time, picking and picking until the wound becomes larger and larger.   I asked God for help to forgive and forget and to renew a spirit of tolerance, kindness and forgiveness within my heart.

 I really don’t want to wear the Cone of Shame.

Love and Light,

*Be*