A tribute to my Parents on their 50th Anniversary

Occasionally, something really big happens in my life that causes me to veer completely off track and prattle on about something entirely unrelated to my blog and my running efforts. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of my parents and I can think of no better reason to diverge from my typical fitness woes and use this platform to rave about the two folks responsible for my upbringing for a few minutes. While their big day is still a few weeks away, we celebrated last night at a fabulous party thrown my my sisters and me. This is the toast I gave in their honor.



My parents being so adorable my eyes hurt.

I’m going to tell you a story about love. I wasn’t there for the beginning part, so any and all errors in the early history and sequence of events should be blamed instead on my parents, who were responsible for the retelling of events and who now after 50 years of marriage cannot wholly be trusted to produce accurate, reliable, or truthful information.


Why hello there, Gene Witherup! Tinkering again I see—surprise, surprise!

This is my dad, Eugene “Gene” Witherup.

witherup_boys 1.jpeg

That’s also him on the left, pictured with his brothers Tom, Ron, and Joe. Missing from the photo is their baby sister, Janice.

He was raised in a Catholic family and after high school went to St Mary’s Seminary with the intent to enter the priesthood. Had that worked out, I wouldn’t be here and this would have been an exceptionally short story. Fortunately for me and all of his descendants, he decided that wasn’t the path for him, and he graduated from St Mary’s with a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy. Afterwards, he decided to pursue a master’s degree in Business Administration, but needed to get a job first and complete a few pre-requisite classes in order to make that happen. He took a job working full time at Polk State School and Hospital for two years, which is where the magic happened.


This is my mom, Marilyn Frellsen. Looking good Mom!

Mom was working there during her summers and they met during a work related Christmas party in 1964. Mom knew the son of the head of the school and he brought Dad over and introduced them. Now, in asking my parents for information about how they met and while talking about this party, they offered up that neither of them knew how to square dance. So, not only was this a party, but it was a square dancing party.


OK, so this was taken MUUUCH later, but still during a square dancing phase of their marriage and I’m going with it (…that period of time makes much more sense now).

…While I wasn’t there at the time, I do know my dad, and I know that it usually takes something dramatic to coerce any sort of dance moves out of him. Dad was apparently smitten because he asked my mom to dance. A dance he didn’t know how to do. That speaks volumes right there. And my mother agreed. That also speaks volumes. So I don’t know what sort of moves they pulled off on the dance floor, but it didn’t matter because little heart shaped fireworks were obviously all either of them could see.


Love is in the air!

So, the little love birds started dating and Dad pursued his master’s degree in Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, my headstrong mother obstinately insisted on pursuing her dream of becoming a physician, even though her parents tried to steer her toward a then more socially acceptable career as a nurse. She graduated from Grove City College and was accepted into the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. For anyone Pennsylvania challenged, this meant a long distance relationship with about a 6 to 8 hour drive between the two sweethearts, which could not have been easy for a young couple.


Mom getting ready for exams at Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, now part of Drexel University. Don’t stress Mom, you’re going to be a great doctor someday!

This is a photo of my mother that recently surfaced on Facebook, taken sometime during her freshman or sophomore year at med school. To complicate matters, one month before entering med school, my mother was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. At the time there were no disposable syringes for insulin and she had to boil her glass syringe every week. Back then this diagnosis meant a life expectancy of 20 years. She was 22 or 23 in the photo, which means she was expected to live until about the age of 40. Let that sink in for a minute. …This had just happened folks, and they got engaged during that Freshman year anyway.



They maintained their long distance relationship and my dad drove the 6 to 8 hours to Philadelphia to propose to his sweetheart anyway, and they got married on Aug 19, 1967.


The beautiful couple on their big day!


Dad on a boat, on their honeymoon…


And Mom, who I believe is on the same boat, but I can’t really be sure.

I’m bringing this up for a reason.


A selfie!

My parents did not know what life had in store for them and as a young couple in love, they faced a slew of tough decisions with a very uncertain future. And it wasn’t just an uncertain future, it was a future that had been condemned by the current medical data available at the time. They got married anyway.

They had not one, not two, not three, but four children, not knowing whether my mother would be around in 20 years to see their children off to college, or married, or to meet her grandchildren.


My tribe, back when we could all fit on one couch.

This had to be difficult for both of my parents. Perhaps this is why my mother has chosen to lead a life where every opportunity for adventure and play is seized and savored. Whether exploring distant lands, zip-lining through the jungle, indoor sky-diving,

Mimifly2 copy.jpg

It’s a bird!…It’s a plane!…It’s Super Mom!

or trying to learn the latest dance craze, she has taught all of her offspring to get off the sidelines and experience all you can while you can, because you can. Dad, who tended to be weighed down by things like common sense and rational thought, and a defibrillator, would often roll his eyes and offer up a “good grief.”

Dad good grief pool 1.jpg

Ummm, good grief.

But for all those exclamations of “good grief,” he has embraced many phenomenal excursions and experiences just the same, typically with the entire family cheering both of them on.


Dad, praying he can somehow escape a water entry at XPLOR, Cancun.


A Machu Picchu selfie!

Fortunately, they persevered and now here we are:  50. Years. Later.

140417 BAILEY'S LOVELY FAMILY-97 2.jpg

You made it! And you’re still going strong!

So what do you get when you combine two brilliant minds, one with a penchant for medicine, the other for tinkering with radios, electronics, and computers, with the right amount of love, compassion, humor, tenacity, and drive? They got us: four strong, extraordinary women.




OK, we’re awake! I see four incredible female powerhouses plus one honorary fiesty little female powerhouse in training (my niece, Madeline, is on the right)!

For starters, Margaret.

scan-005 2

What a cutie!



Mag is a successful environmental and health care lawyer, a member of the Board of Directors for the Chesapeake chapter of Habitat for Humanity, President of Professional Women in Building Council of Maryland, and a self made scout leader for both her son’s and daughter’s troops. And to round things out, she dabbles in the occasional community musical theater.


Mag, in her infamous role as a singing couch.

My parents could have stopped there, because they really hit a home run with her, but they kept going so I’m going to keep going.

Next came me.


But I’ll come back to me.



Kristiann also has a flare for the dramatic.

Kristiann is a compassionate social worker who has dedicated her life to helping persons with mental illness.


Kristiann and one of her babies, Jasper.

She is a dependable part time animal rescuer, and a newly anointed political activist who recently created a local group to support and protect human rights and equality, and her group membership is up from 1 to now approaching 70 people.



Jennine was an exceptionally serious child.

Jennine is an engineer for Lockheed Martin, a bona fide rocket scientist who has travelled the planet making defense systems that are classified, which works out perfectly because I wouldn’t be able to explain them even if I had blueprints and bar graphs splayed out in front of me to help.


She’s super smart. I know, I know. I find it hard to believe as well.

Dad, that electronic toy loader thing you gave her as a child totally paid off. She’s a freaking rocket scientist. For real.

And then there is me: Laurilyn.


Mag called me “Fang Face” for years after a game of catch went very, very wrong.


Sooooo glad my teeth came back.

I am an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist. I’ve dedicated my life to helping others heal from injury and illness. I’m a part-time writer, author of now two books. I’m a wannabe runner and athletic enthusiast.

We, along with their grandchildren,


each with enormous potential and brilliant futures in front of them, are my parents’ legacy.  Some say Dad was outnumbered in a house full of girls, but I believe he’s always been a feminist of sorts because he chose Mom: a strong, fearless female who was never one to back down from a challenge or an adventure. And she chose him.


He has only suffered a few minor tics.

And both of them have always been our most adamant supporters.



So I raise my glass, and thank God that my parents made each and every one of the decisions they did (except for making me eat lima beans, I didn’t learn anything from that) and I also thank God for the medical advancements that have allowed both of their continued presence in our lives. Cheers to them and 50 wonderful years!

Sole Searching

My sister’s orthopedic shoe nightmare is giving me flashbacks. A few months ago, when I increased my mileage after signing up for my first half marathon, I started to feel pain in the balls of my feet. I immediately chalked this up to inferior cushioning and headed off to a lovely local store with a wonderful reputation for analyzing gait and outfitting elite runners in the latest and greatest aerodynamic gear.

When I entered the store, it appeared that all of the store’s workers were busy serving other customers. Promptly, a gentleman on a ladder fixing a light fixture asked if he could assist me. In hindsight, this probably should have led me question his authority to provide me with knowledgeable guidance in proper running footwear, but his name tag seem to lend sufficient credibility so I proceeded to tell him about my affinity for Asics.


My Leaning Tower of Asics.

I have worn Asics since day one of my running career without any foot problems and was hopeful to remain faithful to the brand. I told my store representative as much while he filmed my sluggish “running” gait.  He suggested I try the fully cushioned, top of the line model, to help correct my over pronating form. This sounded great to me, and I asked him to try it in a size 10. I have worn size 10 shoes since forever, and it did not cross either of our brains that my foot could potentially be even more humongous. I acknowledged the enormity of my foot before he disappeared to retrieve my pricey future purchase. He insisted on another video, which he claimed was to verify my lack of over pronation, but was probably also in disbelief of the ungainly slothful movement pattern I insistently refer to as running. I prayed to God I would not pee myself during yet another stint on the treadmill, and with prayers answered shelled out nearly $180 on my new and improved foot cushioning system.


Big Asics.

The following weekend I attempted my long run in my fancy new shoes, but by the 6th mile my nagging foot pain was back. Frustrated, I trekked back to the store to complain. I found my store assistant and he decided we should measure those big boys at the end of my legs. Turns out one is a 10.5 and the other’s a whopping size 11. While I dealt with my mortification, he looked at my feet and then at me, and decided to confer with a colleague. They whispered a bit, obviously perplexed with how best to address my many running eccentricities with a single podiatric device. They finally nodded in agreement, then my attendant suggested I try a different shoe altogether, in the newly appointed size of eleven.

He disappeared on his quest into the most remote recesses of the deepest, darkest corner of the Men’s storage closet. What he retrieved for my extra appendage to try on is arguably the ugliest running footwear ever created. I have owned my share of unattractive footwear, but all of my previous running shoes have at least resembled sneakers. It was comprised of material I could not identify. I guessed it to be a thick, grey green felt with highlights reminiscent of vomit with no discernible contours and a wide styrofoam sole. Why it had felt in the first place remains a mystery as it did not look particularly waterproof and was definitely not aerodynamic or fast.  Perhaps in a smaller size it would have been less offensive, but on top of my body’s gargantuan infrastructure, it was ghastly. It looked swollen and orthopedic on the thing formerly known as my foot, and it looked like I needed a wheelchair instead of a run. I did not take a picture at the time, because I was so overwhelmed by its hideousness and enormity, rivaled only by the monstrosity of an orthopedic device currently found on my sister’s fractured foot.

cropped k's foot

The likeness is uncanny. Really.

As I stared at the beast, I tried to contemplate what I did to annoy the salesmen that they would attempt to present such an encasement as a valid solution to my running woes.


These are not running shoes. These are my cute and comfy SIZE TEN slippers, where the felt and furry world belongs. And where my hideous, colossal feet will remain hidden from the world forevermore.

I told my dynamic duo no way, and they then let me try on my original Asics in a size 11, a size 11.5, and a size 11 wide. The one guy was convinced these still weren’t big enough and he wasn’t sure they could help me at all. I decided to go with the more optimistic guy, but even he was torn between the size 11 and the wide 11. He finally settled on the regular size 11 and sold them to me at the mildly discounted rate of $160.

double shoes ascics

Big and Bigger Asics.

That weekend I took my elevens out for a long run and woefully encountered my ball of foot pain once again. Perturbed, I headed back to the store, found my sales associate once again and told him of my persistent pain. He quizzically looked at me and my ginormous hoofs again and suggested metatarsal foot pads. This inexpensive option sounded plausible coming from my light bulb fixing sales representative, so I handed him another 5 dollars and headed off with a new game plan.

Unfortunately, after traipsing around the house in them for an hour, the small pads felt mountainous and I began to question the sanity of this strategy. At this point, my half marathon was two weeks away and I had been unable to complete a long run without significant, limp inducing foot pain. I came to my senses and decided to consult my PT friend and running expert, Lydia, who I have consulted in the past and who was already familiar with my spectacular running technique.

I met with Lydia and told her my sad and literally lengthy foot saga. She looked at my feet and advised me to not try the mountains-in-my-shoes option so close to my half marathon debut. She said it looks like I weight bear on my small toes instead of my large toes when I run, and that’s not normal. While I could argue that technically all of my toes are large, the less large ones do seem to carry the brunt of my load. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt my biggest toes do anything other than sleep. It’s like they’re royalty who just want to lie about while the abundant servants get the work done.


You have no idea how incredibly difficult it was to take this photo.

Anyway, she decided I should attempt wedges under the pinky side of my insoles to help shift my weight toward the work resistant Queen bee toes. She also lectured me about brands of shoes and added that for unknown reasons some brands she typically loves have given her similar pain in slightly different models. She suggested I may want to try a different brand altogether.

I tried the wedges that weekend on my last long run before the race, and within an hour had pain all the way up my right leg to my hip. I ripped out that wedge, as Lydia had instructed me to do, and persevered with my left wedge. I dutifully tried to power through with my big toes in command. In truth, I’ve no idea whether those piggies performed appropriately because my long runs are actually miraculous feats of stagnant, snaillike endurance that consume me for hours and I can’t be expected to maintain my attention throughout its entirety.  It’s a wonder that the sheer size of my pedals can’t manage to muster a more impressive pace. By the end of my twelve miles, the left foot didn’t feel great, but it didn’t feel awful either, and I thought perhaps at least that foot had found a potential solution.

With less than a week before my race, I took my son shopping for his own running shoes. We went to a discount store and I was surprised to discover his 12 year old tootsies have expanded to within a half size of what I used to consider my appropriate shoe size. I eyed him empathetically and can only hope he continues to grow vertically so as to achieve some form of balance with his monumental inherited propulsion mechanisms. On a whim, I decided to try on a cushy pair of comparatively cheap, 60 dollar New Balance running shoes in an eleven. I had zero guidance and knew nothing about the shoe, but they felt comfy and I decided to buy them, feeling as though I had nothing to lose.


New Balance. New hope.

Well, I wore them in my half marathon and have worn them on every run since without any foot pain, other than a minor blister on one of my over worked helper toes. Sometimes the best option is not the fancy, most expensive one, and sometimes you need to just listen to your gut. And your feet. And my feet. Mostly my feet. Unavoidable with my size eleven stompers!