Time to run

I signed Ri and I up for a 5K run/walk in support of research to cure Batten Disease. One of Ri’s friends has a twin brother and sister who are both battling the disease. The twins attended nearly all of the girls’ soccer games this Fall so a bunch of parents and girls signed up in support of the family. 

Ri was not excited about the event at all. I told her about a week in advance and nearly every night, she’d confirm “we don’t have to run the entire race, do we?” She still has PTSD from the Girls on the Run 5K where she nearly keeled over in exhaustion from running so long and hard. She is just not into running for running’s sake. And I’ve accepted it … for the most part….  

But as much as Ri dislikes running, she adores helping people. And I knew she’d go along with me to the race without a huge cry because she knew we were helping out her friend’s sister and brother. She has a monstrous heart. 

We arrived to lots of other girlfriends playing at Audubon Park and moms and dads registering for the race. Ri ran over to talk to her girlfriends while I signed us up. It was uplifting to see so many Grandview moms and dads with their kids coming out to support the cause. I can’t remember who the guest was on Krista Tippett’s show “On Being” but the guest opined that we all want to feel connected. That gives us purpose and joy. I thought of that guest’s words as I stood with my group of girlfriends and stretched my not-quite-awake-yet legs and watched Ri laugh with her friends. Others smiled at me as they walked to the start of the race. I saw Ri help a little boy off the bars. Connection. 

They had the siblings of the children inflicted with Batten Disease countdown for the start of the race. We stood together waiting to take off. And 3-2-1…we were off. Ri and a few girlfriends ran in front of me talking and smiling together. I was excited to see the girls running and laughing and I yelled “You got this girls!” Within a few seconds of my shout, I witnessed Ri stumble and fall to the gravel path. Blood, cuts, tears. 

I moved her over to the grass and sat down with her. She had a scraped knee and torn-up arm. Blood slowly oozed out. I could tell she was both shocked at the quick fall and stinging from the gravel cuts. I held her head into my chest. Slowly, I got her back up and told her we should walk it off and see how we felt after a bit. She was hesitant at first asking if she’d have to run. I told her we could walk the entire way and turn back if she hurt too much. 

We walked up to the bike path. She looked over at me and then at her friend, Evelyn. 

“Let’s try to run to the telephone pole ahead and then we will stop and walk a bit.” Evelyn agreed. And so we ran to the pole. Then walked. We caught up with other friends and walked with them. And ran. And before we knew it, we were at the finish line and all the girls formed a circle to talk. Some ran hard, others jogged with parents, others ran and walked and others simply walked and talked. No judgment, no pressure. 

I was so proud of Ri for plugging away to finish the race. I knew she was uncomfortable and the cuts stung. But she forced her mind to think of something else – friends, curing the disease, finding water, getting Mark Pi sesame chicken for lunch….whatever. She is one amazingly tough mama chica.

After the race, you could buy raffle tickets for the numerous gift baskets on the tables. I let Ri buy $5 worth of tickets. She gave me one ticket and she took four. She put them all in one canister for a wildlife basket. It had a bear hat, stuffed animal, zoo passes and gift cards to a pizzeria in it. All she wanted was the bear hat. 

We left before they drew names of the winners. They never called the rest of the day so Ri and I figured someone else won. On Monday, however, I received a call from one of the sponsors that Maria had won the wildlife basket. It was as though I’d been told we won 1 million dollars. I couldn’t wait to tell her that she had won. And for a few minutes after that call, I basked in the glory of that daughter of mine – her strength, her courage, her positivity, and her luck!


Girls on the Run! 

One reason to have a kid: the indescribable pride you feel when they accomplish a task that they wrestled with for months.  It is a feeling that I could never get from my pup or my next door neighbor or work.  It is a combo of pride and love and excitement and joy and exhilaration.  This little creature who you have nurtured and held and loved and rocked has accomplished something all her own.

Ri joined Girls on the Run in March.  She dreaded the running part of the meetings, and would pray that Girl Scouts or Strings was scheduled on a day that she had GOTR.  But then I would ask her in the evening how GOTR went, and she would reply “oh, it was fine.”  As much as she was blasé about it, or even disliking it at times, I think she learned a lot from it over the 10 week period of time.  They taught about negative thinking and body images in the media and eating healthy.  They taught about standing up for yourself and others and being strong.  And they taught these girls that they could make a goal and accomplish it even if they didn’t particularly enjoy doing it. Perseverance!

During the last week, Ri has willingly gone outside and ran up to Grandview Ave. and back.  This is a mile run.  This may not seem like a big deal to many but it is HUGE for Maria Grace.  This girl had zero desire to ever run and I believe she believed she could not do it.  So to see her strapping on my MP3 player and jogging up the street and back brought me to my knees (literally, I fell to my knees in jest and Ri rolled her eyes and chuckled). She always keeps me guessing.

 She did not exhibit any concern about the race the night before.  She asked what she should eat for breakfast and I told her definitely not a DK donut (her usual Saturday treat with dad).  She ate a half of a ham omelette and a piece of toast.  Smart girl.  Her girlfriend, Norah, wanted to run with us since her mom wasn’t running in the race.  This was a great thing because the two of them are similar in their running styles.  We arrived at the event and found the Grandview Girls team. We had to buy running head bands and pin on our numbers and take the obligatory pictures. I really enjoy the kids and the moms that participated in GOTR. They were a lively group and helped keep the girls’ momentum and excitement going as we waited for the race to begin.

The super heroes also kept our spirits up! When I saw Wonder Woman, I asked Ri to get a picture. She started walking over to her and I stopped her. “No, take my picture with her!” Ri shook her head. I eventually let her and Norah get a picture, too.

Finally, it was time to start the race.  We lined up with some other moms and waited for the gun to go off.  Waiting five minutes seems like 30 minutes when you are about to run a race.  But soon enough we were off and jogging.  Within 100 feet, Ri asked if we could walk a little.  This was going to be a long 5K.

But it wasn’t. It went by in a flash for me. Ri probably feels differently! She was not a happy camper most of the race – definitely feeling the heat and humidity as well as the pangs of running an entire 3.1 miles. We ran a bit and then set up goals to reach to walk a bit. But it wasn’t hard to get them both running again after some down time, which was a good thing. I just kept telling them that they were doing awesome and that the more we ran, the closer the finish would be. I kept trying to think about the end of my marathon and how much I hated the last few miles because I knew that was how Ri felt. But my girl kicked it into high gear when we turned onto Rich Steeet and she saw the Finish sign.

   She ran the race in 36 minutes, which is amazing for someone that has rarely run. I was beaming as we came to the end. How amazing is this daughter of mine to push herself to her limit even when she did not want to and end on a strong note? Love her to pieces. Jon and Mario and Patty were waiting at the end cheering us on and snapping pictures. That part is always so wonderful.

The girls got Popsicles and were relieved to call it over. They couldn’t believe how much they sweated (now Ri may have an appreciation for why I’m so sweaty after the gym). I spent the entire rest of the day with my heart up in the sky elated by my girl’s determination and umph and grateful for the women who put this program together. If it wasn’t for them, Ri would have missed out on conquering an activity that she never thought she’d accomplish.  How much I appreciate their efforts and confidence in the girls.

One more shot of esteem and dose of confidence for this girl. Let’s keep ’em coming.

Lovin’ the Reds 10K

On Mother’s Day, my girl cousins, Liz and Maggie came up to Columbus. Maggie recently started running and has been on a mission to get others to run. She succeeded at getting Liz to start up and they informed me that they were going to run the Reds 10K race on June 1. The race started near the stadium and ended in the stadium. In The Stadium?! How many years did I go to Reds games as a kid and dream of going on the field? Definitely a bucket list wish. But my non-committed self said “I will think it over” and went about getting dinner ready. As we sat at the table an hour later, Liz asked for my computer.

“I’m signing you and the kids up for the run because I know you won’t do it.”

She typed in my info, asked for my credit card number, and it was done. One thing about me is I don’t like to waste money. There was no way I was going to miss the run if I paid $50 for it. And so it was.

My little sis found out about it and decided she’d come in for it, too. Of course, she wanted to come in to actually race it. I was trying to avoid that piece. I get myself so worked up over these events so I just stopped racing in them years ago. But now Sarah was resurrecting that fire in my belly and I knew as much as I told myself I didn’t care about time, I’d try to win.

My mother and I engaged in much heartache for the three weeks between Mom’s Day and the race about what to do with Mario. We knew Ri would stay close to Julie during the race but were worried Mario may run off. We debated what we could do over and over until Jon finally stepped in and said that he was taking him to Mario’s house to shoot a beebee gun. Mario would prefer that over just about anything (going to Grandma Ionno’s house being the only exception).

Ri and I packed up on Friday night and headed to Cincy. We arrived to welcome arms from Gracie; she and Ri played house and baby dolls all night. Ri slept over at Aunt Julie’s house and got treated to goetta and pancakes in the morning. What a life.

Meanwhile, Sar and I got our sleep. I went to bed at 10 and woke up at 6:30 am ready to head downtown. Liz and Mag drove us and we got pumped up listening to some old school rap (those gals know how to do it).


The Riverfront blew me away – completely different than the Riverfront I grew up with in the 80’s. Is that how you know you’re old, when you start reminiscing like that?! We all piled out of the car and took off for the porta potties before the race began.



Sar found out that your time began when the gun was shot even though we wore chips on our shoes so we made our way to the front of the line. Sar got a heck of a start when the gun shot off and there was no catching up to her after that. We had made a pact to not feel bad if one of us ran ahead and she abided by it! I’m glad she did because it gave me additional incentive to keep my pace up and try to catch her.

I hit mile 1 at a 6:30 pace. Mile 2 at a 7 minute pace. On my way to mile 3, my mind really started to mess with me. A brief synopsis:

“You are over this ego thing. Who cares about your time?”

“Your body is gonna kill if you keep up this pace. Stop!”

“This is ridiculous. Just walk the rest of the race and stop torturing yourself.”

“Push harder. You can beat these gals in front of you.”

“Look at that guy running past me. Show him who’s boss. Catch him.”

“You only have three more miles. That is nothing. Run harder, girl!”

And so it went like a washing cycle – over and over again.

Until I hit mile 5 and saw 36 minutes on the digital screen. Holy cow. One more mile and I could stay under an eight minute pace. The mind games lessened and I concentrated on keeping pace with the guy in front of me. I could see the stadium ahead and then there was confusion. A lady holding a 10K sign told me to turn left onto the bridge. I didn’t think she was right but I turned. Someone yelled “no turn back!” I turned around and headed to the stadium entrance. There were a ton of people standing around and people walking in so I figured it was the end of the race. I was also amazed to be in the stadium – a place I had dreamed of standing when I was a girl. But then reality hit me, literally, as a female runner brushed by me. I looked ahead and saw the blue mat laying on the ground. Shit, the finish is up there! I bolted fifty feet and crossed over the blue sea. I made it. 45 minutes after I began.

I looked around in awe. The green field. The towering stands. Right field where I used to root on Dave Parker. And then I saw my baby sis making her way up the stadium steps.


She turned her head and we stumbled towards each other. We hugged.


We posed for a picture.

And then we walked up the stairs talking about the hell we had just gone through. Sarah hated the last mile and was confused just like me at the finish. But she thought she got third among women based on a spectator yelling “You’re third!” as she crossed the blue sea. We found the white tent and waited for a print out of our results.

Meanwhile, Maggie called and had made it in an eight mile pace. Pretty impressive for just starting to run. Us Heile women are no joke.


Sar was the first to get her printout. She came in 1st in her age group but it said she was 7th in females. She was bummed. How could that be? While we were contemplating that, I got my print out and saw that I was 1st in my age group! I couldn’t believe it. What a feeling of elation and pride.

We met up with Liz who ran almost the entire way (yet another Heile girl feat for just starting to run!) and their dad and sis and friend. We all gave high-fives and congrats. Then the phone rang. Julie and mom and Ri and Grace had arrived. We all hugged and laughed and took way too many pictures.




Mags and I did some congratulatory push ups…

while Ri performed her Strongman exercise and picked up Aunt Sarah.


I found out Sarah won third place among women when I happened to see her name in the third place slot and confirmed it with the race worker. Her prize? To throw out the first pitch at a Reds game! So jealous! Sarah has won gift certificates, tvs, and the like but for this race she got a certificate to throw out a pitch, which would have been cool if she didn’t have to come back all the way from Pittsburgh. And what’s more hilarious is when we went up to the tent to ask what we got for winning our age division, the girl beamed at us and chirped “you get a Reds bobble head!” Sar and I about died laughing. It’s the simple joy of giving your all, I guess….


Ri and Grace got to join in the fun, too and run the warning track. Poor Ri fell within two seconds of her run. Some six year old boy pushed her. Her little knees were scraped and one was bleeding pretty good. But she had her aunt and mom pushing her to keep going so she cranked it out. She’s got that runner in her when she needs it.




Aunt Sarah and I were very proud when she got her medal. Gracie and the crew were up in the stands cheering Ri on as she walked up to them. What an awesome event with family. I was delirious with joy the entire day.

And to top it off, we got to go down the Fan Slide (something they never had when I was little!). Ri made me get a picture of Aunt Sarah because she found it hilarious that we went down, too.


We drove home, put on our bathing suits, and headed to Blue Ash pool. Sar and I took turns heading to the whirlpool. That was pure heaven – I almost fell asleep three times.

Gobble Gobble

Showing off Sarah's mac-n-cheese

We successfully hosted the first Thanksgiving in our new abode.  No injuries, no serious screaming and only one dish of slightly burnt food.  Even the diverse family members homogenized and got along great.  Most of the family consisted of Jon’s side: his mom, dad, three brothers, their wives and kids.  My mom and sis showed up to represent the Heile/Menkedick side.  Jon woke up at 6:45 am to start the turkeys with his brother who drove over from Hilliard at 7 am (we can’t have any meal without Patrick’s input – he is a master chef).  They grilled one turkey and smoked the other.  Maria woke up exclaiming “I can’t believe Thanksgiving is finally here!”  The day may have been better than Christmas for her – she loves having the family over and entertaining.  She proudly showed off her place mats that she slaved over for the three weeks prior to Thanksgiving day (Megan, her sitter, and I prodded her more than a few times but she did a first-rate job on them and everyone enjoyed having a handmade mat in front of them).  

My sis, Sarah, came over at 8 am in order for us to get in our Turkey Day run. We had contemplated running in the UA Turkey Race but decided that we may be pushing our luck trying to cook and run a race that started so late (9:15 am).  Besides, 5 miles is wimpy – we went for about 8.  We tore through the hills of Grandview and ran through donwtown back to our home.  Sarah’s dogs kept us at a clip of a pace – they are like Iditarod dogs running through the tundra – they never stop!  Little Sarah, all 95 pounds of her – held onto “the reins” the entire run.  When the pups spotted a squirrel, they darted and pulled so hard on Sarah that she had to buckle down into a squat position and yank them back with all of her might.  It is quite a sight to see this petite sister of mine take complete control of two dogs.  She may be under 100 pounds but she is mighty. 

A walk to the railroad tracks

When I arrived home, Maria and Mario were ready for everyone to arrive anxiously pacing around the house asking “how much longer?”  Finally, Alana and Giovanni arrived and the screaming and insanity began (relegated to the basement, which continues to be such a godsend!).  The kids had the basement destroyed in less than 15 minutes.  A good reason for me to take a break and walk them down to the woods.  I was getting antsy anyway because it was so gorgeous outside and I had been indoors preparing for the feast.  “Anyone want to take a walk?”  All of the kids jumped up and grabbed their shoes and coats.  We walked down the road to the railroad tracks that are hidden behind a row of trees and bushes off the road.  Is there any more fun than playing on the railroad tracks on a beautiful November day?  The boys threw rocks into the trees and the girls danced around on the wood slats (on the outside of the track!).  We thought we heard a train whistle at one point but it was merely wishful dreaming.  The kids’ eyes popped out at the thought of seeing a train whiz by.  Gio made me promise I would run back down with him if we heard the whistle at the house, and sure enough we heard it right when dinner was starting.  Next time, Gio.  Maria and Alana sang songs on the way back and Mario and Gio acted like “old men” by leaning on their sticks and hobbling up the hill. 

When we got home, Maria and Alana begged for me to keep the boys out of Maria’s room so they could play barbies in peace.  Mario refused to budge until I told him that the girls would beg to come to his room because of all of the cool toys he had so he better run in to it with Gio and keep those girls out.  Maria and Alana caught on to my plan quickly and started to beg to come in Mario’s room.  Mario and Gio slammed the door and refused to allow them in the room.  The plan worked.

Meanwhile, the adults got to chat downstairs without children nagging at their ankles.  Actually, I should clarify: Jon and I got to chat with out kids at our ankles.  Patrick and Carrie have Alana and Gio pretty well-trained and Jon’s other brothers’ kids are grown.  I was so bummed when I took the tablecloths out of the plastic and they were really wrinkled.  If you buy new tablecloths they should be wrinkle-free – that is what you are buying, too, isn’t it?  And what is the trick to getting those wrinkles out?  I spent 20 minutes with the iron on them and still didn’t make much of a dent.  But with the place mats and plates and silver on the table, you could barely tell.  I had bought orange gerber daisies and purple flowers at the market the day before and they bursted out in the dining room against the brown walls. 

Ready for seconds

We made enough food for a small army, as always.  Thirty pounds of turkey, regular and oyster stuffing, mashed potatoes, chipotle mac-n-cheese, rolls, creamed corn casserole, gravy, and fruit salad.  Sarah’s mac-n-cheese dishes were a nice touch and Patty’s creamed corn casserole is always to die for.  I had dreamed of all of the food being laid out on the tables, everyone sitting down, and a beautiful grace being said by me.  Maybe the dream will happen next year.  THere were too many dishes to put them out on the tables, and it would have been a form of torture to make the first people in line wait for the last since it took about 15 minutes for everyone to get through (you know how that is “Oh, what are these? How did you make them?  They look great!”  all the while holding up the line!).  Patty did give an impromptu grace while we stood in line giving thanks for family – those with us and those who have passed – and appreciating the day we had together.  It was short but beautiful.  Patty and I are a lot alike in our love for family connection and every hour or so that day we would knock elbows and smile happy with the way the day was going.   

Maria and Alana with their drawing "If It's Too Loud, You Are Too Old!"

Within twenty minutes of putting my plate down to eat, I had to unbutton my jeans and stretch my arms.  Always a true sign of a good meal.  Maria loved the creamed corn casserole and the turkey.  Mario liked nothing and opted for an oreo yogurt.  Jon loved the creamed corn casserole, too.  I loved everything – seriously, I can’t pick a favorite.  I love all of the side dishes mixed together with the turkey.  Heaven.  When Mario was finished, he asked to be excused instead of stating “I am done.”  The family was quite impressed, as was I!  He informed me later that the school teachers make him ask to be excused because it is a more polite way of saying “I am done.”  Thank god the school teaches him some manners!

After dinner, Maria and Alana acted like vampires pulling naive aunts and cousins upstairs to the attic to “take a bite” out of them.  Josh and I were one of the firsts who got a “bite” in the hand from the vampire girls.  They had a hoot with that game for a while.  Then they chased after Peter for quite some time – poor Peter, our 17 year-old cousin who was “one of the kids” for so long that now even though he is grown, he is the honorary playmate.  We really need to slip him some cash next holiday.

Getting ready for dessert and celebrating Patty's and Alana's b-days!

The desserts enticed even the most full of us.  Pumpkin, pecan, cherry and peanut butter/chocolate pies with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream.  With all of that, the kids played a game of who could spray the most whipped cream down their throats.  It took us nearly an hour and a half to wash dishes – definitely the most obnoxious activity that you have to perform after a big meal like Thanksgiving but at least it gets you on your feet.  Sarah ran over to get her pups when it got dark out and brought them back over for an early evening walk.  We had hoped for a relaxing, serene walk around the block but a mad dash of kids flew out the door and we spent the entire walk trying to ensure that they remained together and didn’t cross the street and held their voices down (yeah, right).  As rowdy as they are, I love seeing all of the cousins together having a good time.  The older ones take care of the younger ones and the younger ones love the attention. 

When we arrived home, we began the pack-up,stuffing leftovers into plastic bins and sliding pie slices onto paper plates.  I tried to get rid of all of it but somehow ended up with my favorites – pecan and cherry – sitting in the fridge.  How is it that one minute I can be stuffed silly and within an hour, I am ready for another slice of pie?  Life is cruel that way. When the last of the family members walked out the door, Maria looked at me with the saddest little face.  “I want Thanksgiving back.  Why do good days have to end?”  “I agree, Maria. But instead of being sad, we should be so grateful to have such a warm, loving, fun family.”  She still looked sad so I took her to the second step of our stairs and sat her down next to me. She leaned her head on me looking out the door.  I held the moment and told her that the second step was our resting place – a place that she could take me to talk about anything she wanted to talk to me about.  I imagined her at age 16 with all of the teenage woes a girl faces.  I told her that I want her to always feel she can tell me anything.  She looked at me and said “I know I can, mom.”  Please, Lord, let her continue to think that way.  

We swept up the remaining scraps from the dining room and living room but left the food that had been dug into the floors by random feet stepping on them.  Those would have to be wiped up on Black Friday; we were not heading out to the shopping mall so we had all day.  Of course, we chose to ignore all that mess one more day and head down to Cincy on Black Friday to visit our aunts and cousins.  A little procrastination never hurt anyone!