Dogs recognize the exceptional in everybody because they take the time to sniff them out. Dogs don’t worry about your social standing, where you live or work, what kind of clothes you wear. They’re more concerned with who you REALLY ARE (or if you have treats in your pockets). Because I’ve been taking the time to sniff out the people around me, I’ve been blessed to meet some extra-ordinary folks
Today I’m going to introduce you to Ellen, a friend I met through running. I wasn’t sure how to write this so I conducted an email interview. Her words are in bold, mine in italics.
Ellen is a runner, fitness fanatic, mother, wife, ex-cop…and what else…(as if that isn’t enough).
So where to start on this interview. Of course, looking at your Facebook page, two things really jump out – your love for your children and your love of running.
I’m sure everybody reading will want to know “How does she do it?” But I think the answer is obvious “With love”
So let’s get started with you…
You were a law enforcement officer. Is that what started you on your fitness journey? What motivated you to join the force.
I guess I secretly wanted to be a police officer ever since I was a kid. I loved the show Dragnet and then moved on to Hawaii Five-O because they always got the bad guy. I was pretty focused, even as a young kid on trying to make the world a better place even if it was one bad guy at a time. Of course, as I got older, the line between “bad guy and good guy” got blurrier and more obscure. It was then that I learned of a thing called “situational ethics” (would you steal to feed your starving child?) and police work became more about social work based on personal morals. I liked that well enough, but laws and personal perspectives sometimes clash.
Over the past…how many years…you’ve lost quite a bit of weight and gained quite a bit of fitness…
Tell me a little bit about that.
Well, the long and short of it is that I was always a jock in high school. I was always a bit more athletic than most girls and competed mostly with boys. I did medical missions for years through a non profit I started. We brought 250 kids from 16 different third worlds countries to the USA for live-saving FREE medical care. That is a tale all its own. But while I was doing that, and traveling, I got lost somewhere and woke up with a whole lot of weight, which in turn, depressed me, which in turn, exacerbated into more weight gain and that cycle was born. When I realized that I had 2 kids, both age 5 who needed me I decided I needed to get my health back. Sooooo, 86 pounds later and a whole lot more healthier, here I am. I am trying to learn to be a runner because running is the total package for me.
You’re a foster mother to quite a few children with special needs. That takes a special person. What made and your husband decide to dedicate yourselves to these children? (I did learn Ellen is not a “foster” but read on…)
I am a Mom to 2 bio adult boys, both with children (3 grand daughters between them) of their own. As they were growing up, I did foster care for “the system” for a while, but again, got quite dismayed with the real purpose behind foster care (it is a numbers game) and how little “services” were actually provided. The pendulum swings from “you are a bad mother, let’s take your kids away because you feed them poor food” all the way to “ let’s put your 6 month old baby in a foster home for the 18th time and give you a break—oh and stop using drugs”. In other words..you can half kill your kids and still not lose them or you can be poor and be penalized for it. The system is broken.
Our ELEVEN adopted children are not foster children. They know the joy of permanency. I need to emphasize that because of our 11 children, SIX of them were adopted by other families who were unable to parent them. They ALL came from third world nations where they knew poverty, abuse neglect and lived a constant state of never knowing what was next. Permanency is a HUGE need for them. They are not foster children; they are all children who have a family and belong.
When people adopt children, there are challenges that not many talk about. International kids can be a challenge not only for the obvious reasons (they don’t speak the language, they are accustomed to the food, smells, even skin color of their new family. But they also can be a challenge because they had no say in the deal. There they were…in an orphanage which is the only home they ever knew and suddenly they are a million mile away, in a new culture with strangers who expect the child to immediately love them. These kids can be full of rage, sorrow and confusion. It really can throw a family for a loop. And usually, the mother is the target of that rage. Running helps nullify some of that agony from watching your child grieve.
I have 11 special needs kids. I love, adore and am smitten with them. They taught me more than any books, lectures or even ideas I have ever encountered. But not everyone feels that way about my kids. For school systems, they are a financial burden and we have struggled and fought with schools for services. Advocacy is not always a popular position. Educational advocacy can pit school against parent and I have to tell you, of all the tough things I have done in life, this is one of the toughest. I know my kids need me to fight for what they rightfully deserve, but there is a certain vindictiveness that happens when you force big entities to do their job. We have fallen victim to that vicious retaliation more than once. Running helps me clear my head and turn my anger around.
So, if I were to tell you that I run to keep the weight off, that would be true. But more so, I run to keep my head and heart balanced. The reason I hated running so much was that I KNEW I was fit, but I could not find that balance. I could not defeat that inner voice of anger and contempt. The real challenge of running for me, was learning how to be ok with not being my best or with feeling tired and waiting to quit and being ok knowing that some days are just like that. When I could give myself permission to just run and let my run be just that..a time to just “be”, I started liking running and now, it is the best medicine. It took great friends and real support for me to get there and I am still shaky with it all. Always a work in progress but it teaches me the value of friendship, too!
My first race was a 10K. I am proud of that but truthfully, I should have done a 5K. I did a 10K because I wanted to prove that I could do more. In a way, that is good. But in a way, that was the EXACT barricade that I was facing with my running. Needing to be the best without fail. The 10K taught me that I could prevail, but it also taught me a bit about arrogance. That is the dichotomy of running…it teaches you about your strengths, but it also flashes your weaknesses and lights them in bold marquee lights. Mostly, it teaches me about balance. We all need balance.
Another thing I love about running is the “brotherhood”. When I read yet one more story about how someone, without care and concern, stopped their own personal marathon to help a stranger meet their goal it lights my heart on fire with hope. When I read stories about kids who can’t even walk, hoisting themselves over a finish line named courage and determination, what does THAT tell you about the human spirit? When I read about a woman with stage 4 brain cancer, not only running her final marathon, but running it to make others aware of a cause, what does that say about self-sacrifice? I have found the camaraderie of runners is unique, inspiring and universal. I love belonging to such a cohesive community of hope in times of worldly division and degradation.