Action Conquers Fear

It’s been months since I last swam for exercise, for lots of reasons, mostly just time. I told the desk worker that it had been a while. She was encouraging, “Oh, but it will feel so good to get back in the water.” I laughed and told her I was nervous, as if it’s possible to forget how to swim.

I really was nervous, butterflies and everything. I like that they don’t have real mirrors in the locker room, just polished stainless steel plates on the wall. That way I didn’t have to think about how the cap or goggles looked strange, or the suit didn’t fit the same way it did months ago.

Walked past the lifeguards contemplating turning around. I was there with a water aerobics class, but besides them, I was the only person in the pool. I hate that. I can handle being on stage with a spotlight on me, but something about being in a more intimate setting like a room or a class, I get nervous and self conscious. Add to that already being nervous, being in a swim suit in water, being slow and awkward and the only moving object in the pool, I felt like every move was magnified.

It didn’t help that getting into the pool and getting warmed up I felt like a drowning duck. I kinda did forget how to swim.

The girl at the desk was right, though. It did feel good to be back in the water. Well, after the initial shock of the cold enveloping my body when I jumped in. I struggled to get into a rhythm. I felt awkward. I worried it had been too long and I was going to run out of energy way before I had planned to, but I made it through my workout and on with my day feeling fantastic.

I like conquering the voice in my head that tells me I can’t or shouldn’t do something I want or need to do. I like how I feel when I push through with my plan and ignore all the reasons my mind compiles to dissuade me. I like feeling like I am stronger than my fears and excuses. I feel like training my mind and my heart is as important if not more important than training my body. I feel strongest when I conquer and rule myself. Sometimes, you really do have to just do it.

I’ll spend lots more time in the pool while I can’t run, and it will get much less awkward. I’ll get the hang of it again. Then I’ll have to conquer that same negative voice that says I can’t get back in the gym or on the trail. It’s a never ending cycle, but I won’t give in to “I can’t” until I actually physically can’t. Then I’ll just have to find something else to conquer.

My Hero

I wanna tell you a little of this man’s story, and why this last Peachtree Road Race was so very special to me. He doesn’t like it when we make a big deal out of his physical issues, but since this was a physical feat, I just have to. (Just one time, Dad. Because I’m so proud of you.)

He was born significantly premature in the 50’s with a brain injury resulting in limited mobility and other issues on the left side of his body. He endured braces on his legs, dozens of procedures and an extremely painful surgery on his foot and ankle to improve his mobility. His left leg is shorter and responds differently than his right causing a limp. His left arm and hand are twisted to a certain degree causing limited use. He now suffers with arthritis most severe in the joints affected by the surgery. He fractured his hip from a fall requiring surgery. He’s in his 60’s, and has always thought running wasn’t a healthy option for him.

He has always been active and health conscious, though. I remember watching him do push-ups with his good arm growing up not realizing how difficult that actually is. He has always had a “if you don’t use it you lose it” mentality, and with his condition, carrying extra bodyweight meant less mobility for him. So, I don’t ever remember him being much overweight, if any, my whole life. (I remember him talking about being overweight and having to do something about it, but I don’t actually remember that.) He walks miles and miles on the job site (he’s an engineer), and nowadays he’s keeping up with men half his age.

He has always been very supportive and interested in my running adventures. When no one else wants to hear about another race or training program, he would listen with enthusiasm. One of the races he loved to hear about the most was the Peachtree Road Race. A 10k in his hometown of Atlanta. He grew up not too far from the start line of this race, and since it started, he has always wanted to run it. But, given his mobility issues, he didn’t think he could.

Last year, when I was giving him a run down of my race, I told him he should run it. Seriously, there are people who walk it for the tshirt and the beer. He could totally do it. I offered to gift him a membership into the Atlanta Track Club and a guaranteed entry into the PRR as his Father’s Day present. All he had to do was train for it and run a qualifying race so we got a decent coral. No X coral with a 9:30am start time in the Georgia summer heat.

He could have listened to all the voices he’s heard throughout the course of his life telling him he would never be an athlete, that he would never run. He could have listened to the aches and pains he faces on a daily basis. He could have been self conscious about the way he (thinks he) looks when he runs. He has real legitimate excuses, but when it would have made all the sense in the world to say no, he said yes. He committed to the training. He pushed through the uncomfortable starting period. He read some books I gave him, and found that he loved running. He also figured out that all those voices telling him he couldn’t do it were wrong.

This man has long been my hero for so many reasons, but watching him overcome so much to accomplish this goal and run the Peachtree with me, it warranted sharing.

He is now a runner. My dad is a runner, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to say that. Now when we talk about running, it goes both ways. We can both talk about our training and our races and our plans… and our injuries.

Thank you, Dad, for your example and your support. You really are my hero.

Forget Diamonds, my Dog is my Best Friend

I have a Rhodesian Ridgeback, and she’s fantastic! Growing up, we rescued every dog we had except the second one. She was a pure bred Beagle named Princess, and someone stole her from us. Very sad. Our first dog was some kind of Aussie mix, but he had an unhealthy need to chase cars. He lived with three legs for a while because of his obsession, and eventually got around our defenses to meet his demise under the wheels of a car. After that, we had all kinds of dogs. One my dad spent a few weeks coaxing out of hiding. She finally gave in and let him follow her after having puppies in an old barn in the woods. We found homes for all her puppies, and she lived with us for about 8 years after that. Her name was Bear because that’s what my toddler brother thought she was when he saw her for the first time. We had another fantastic dog we rescued after someone threw her out of a moving truck. Just tossed her out going about 45-50 miles an hour. People are stupid. Anyway, she lived with my parents longer than I did, about 20 years (Chihuahua/Boston Terrier mix). We named her Cherry. We rescued a Collie trying to get into the trash behind a grocery store, scooped a little Lab mix puppy right off the interstate, and took in a Golden Retriever after her owner died. I kinda thought that’s just how you found the best dogs, really they found you.

My husband isn’t really an animal person. We didn’t have any pets until well after our kids were out of diapers. Mostly because we lived in an apartment that didn’t allow pets, then the babies came before we moved to our own house. I knew all the puppy stuff would be on me, and I wasn’t wiping human butts and cleaning up doggie poop at the same time. When we decided it was time to get a dog, he was super hesitant to rescue one. So, we talked to breeders, and found a Ridgeback puppy that was the cutest thing. She had been rejected by her original buyers because there was something wrong with her toe (ended up needing an amputation), and we got her at a discount. I called her my discount puppy until the amputation cost hit. She is now the most expensive animal I have ever owned, and I had horses growing up. 😉

Every dollar was worth it, though. I’m not exaggerating when I say she’s fantastic. She doesn’t chew furniture. She doesn’t have accidents in the house. She’s pretty chill unless you’re visiting for the first time or you’re the FedEx guy. Her only vices are food and trimming toe nails. The food thing is mostly the breed. We were warned. And, I can’t really blame her for her issues with her feet. She went through a lot with her toe. She’s my shadow most days, following me around, laying at my feet. I could not imagine our lives without her. She’s my favorite child. 😉

I really need to get one of those nanny cams to watch her when we’re not home because she does the craziest things. She can open a bottle — soda, chocolate milk, anything personal size that she’s not supposed to have — without destroying it, hold it with her paws and lick the contents out with her super long anteater tongue. We had to change the door knobs on our closets and pantry from oblong to sphere because she figured out how to open them. She can crawl into and wrap herself in a blanket like a taco. Cutest thing ever. She can jump higher than my head. She likes to close doors. She will walk into a room, turn around and close the door. We have to make sure we close the doors of rooms we don’t want her to get trapped in before we leave because this is such a problem. I think this is partially due to her love to make music with door stops. We have removed or replaced the springy annoying things because of her obsession. And, there are days I swear she knows exactly what I’m saying, like she speaks English.

One day recently, she faked an injury. I guess she decided she had been stuck in the house and neighborhood for too long and wanted to take a ride. I woke up, got the kids up, and was going about my morning routine. When I went to feed her, she limped to her bowl with her head down. After she ate, I asked her to come to me. She limped over and sat down. She limped when my husband called her. She limped when my daughter called her. It was her foot with the amputation. I was concerned, but couldn’t figure out what she could have done to it over night. She sleeps by my bed, and as far as I know, she was there all night. I took the kids to school, and when I came back, it was worse. She wouldn’t get up off the couch to greet me. She wasn’t following me around. It was SO weird. I called the vet and took her in. The very second we entered the clinic, the limp was gone. She was jumping and twisting, something she does when she greets people. It’s a little like her tail and her face want to reach you at the same time, and she moves toward you in a twisty sideways motion. I decided to leave her with them to see if after she calmed down from all the excitement, the limp would return and they could examine her better. It never came back. Because she was weight bearing and showed no distress in her excitement, they decided it couldn’t be serious like a break or anything and I should just watch her to see if it continued at home. I decided she was a little stinker who faked an injury to get out of the house.

Some days I’m not sure who is smarter, her or me, but I know she probably loves me more than I could ever love her. That’s just how dogs are. That does’t mean I won’t be giving her a run for her money, though, even when she faked injuries for a very expensive ride to the vet.

Dog Food with Cheese on It

Before Christmas, I was in the kitchen — working on dinner or the dishes or any number of other never-ending tasks I feebly attempt to accomplish every day, my husband was in the living room, and my daughter was bouncing back and forth between us. The conversation went something like this.

“Mom, Dad wanted me to ask you what you want for Christmas, but I’m not supposed to tell you he sent me to ask you.”

Laughing a little as I reply. “Ok. Our secret. Hmm. How about a spotlessly clean and organized house.”

She leaves the kitchen and comes back. “He said to ask again.”

“How about a week off. I don’t have to drive, cook, grocery shop, laundry or laying out clothes, etc. How about that?”

This time she comes back shaking her head. “What do you really want for Christmas?”

“How about everybody eats what I want to eat for a week?”

She didn’t even go relay the message this time. She just looked at me, arms crossed shaking her head, “Eww. For real, Mom.”

I think I asked for a new Swell and a Starbucks gift card which she happily reported, and I’m pretty sure my favorite present was a new Garmin watch. So, the hubs didn’t fail at his gift giving task.

My main requests, however, were not within the realm of possibility, at least not in this stage of life. It’s funny how that works, right? As you get older, the things you want aren’t really things. You find yourself chasing a feeling or a state of being over something shiny and new. I just wanted to relax, to wholly decompress and let go, which to be honest, even if my husband had been able to grant any of those requests, I would still be stressed. I would stress out about whether everything is getting done right and/or feel guilty that I had checked out.

Anyway, that last request, the one she poo pooed before even relaying it, that’s the one I think I would love the most. I am most definitely a food agnostic. I don’t believe there is one right way to eat, but I do believe there are certain principles in eating that are universally good for all humans. It’s really hard to get kids to eat that way. It may be even harder to get my husband to eat that way. I would love not having to stress about pleasing everyone’s personal taste on top of trying to make a meal healthy. That one stress is probably one of the biggest stresses in my life. If everyone would just eat what I eat, I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

The problem is that I eat weird food.

I made a makeshift version of huevos rancheros for lunch one day (pictured above). My daughter looked at it while I was preparing it. It was pretty much just beans, sautéed salsa veggies and cheese over a tortilla. I hadn’t put the avocados, egg, hot sauce or sour cream on top yet, although I don’t know that that would have changed her reaction much. She looked at it and told me it looked like dog food with cheese on top.

Of course, this child doesn’t eat cheese, anything with tomatoes in it (including pizza), eggs, oatmeal, any kind of bean, anything green except green beans and sweet peas, etc. The list is exhausting. She won’t eat tacos or sandwiches. What do you feed a kid who doesn’t eat tacos or sandwiches? How did I grow this child inside me and she not like tacos? Was she switched at birth?

My middle child was allergic to Milk, Soy, Corn and Eggs for the first decade of his life. It was easier to feed him than her. Incidentally, he’s my best eater now. I think because he spent so much of his life being told he couldn’t have things, now he’ll eat ANYTHING.

My oldest is pretty adventurous, but he’s not big on some of the easiest things I cook. He likes fancy. So, he’s disappointed often.

I’ve thought about meal or menu planning services, but inevitably, I get to looking and can’t find a plan that has meals my family will eat. I mentioned before that I’ll eat anything. Anything except eggplant, shellfish and sea buckthorn. So, I’d be good with pretty much any of it. The rest of the people in my house, not so much.

I plan and prep and go through the week, but it never fails that someone will complain about what I made and how I made it. Then there are the nights that we’re too busy, and we just get takeout. That’s when my middle guy asks me when I’m gonna cook again because he likes my food better than whatever we picked up. Cue the melting heart, but I can’t win.

I like my “dog food with cheese on top.” Some day, that’s all I’ll have to worry about, right? What I’m gonna eat. My husband can fend for himself at that point because I’m not catering to an adult picky eater for the rest of my life.

Some day, they’ll come home all grown up, and I’ll cook each of them all their favorite foods without complaint because I’ll want them to want to be home with me, right? But, right now, I just need to get through the week without throwing up my hands and telling them to just go fix a bowl of cereal.

I Thought I was Fit

So, my knee hurts. (Doc) Hubs says tendinitis. No running, cycling, squatting, etc. for at least a few days. Well, great then. What am I gonna do now?

Yesterday, I did an all upper body weight lifting session. Usually, I do short, heavy, full body sessions on non running days. It was horrible, but I kinda hate weight lifting. So, that’s really not anything new except that I feel like squatting does more for me than dumbbell curls. I mean, I don’t run with my arms, and everybody knows it’s your butt that makes or breaks the way you look in a swim suit, not your arms. Not that that really matters because I spend my pool days with tons of kids and other moms. Nobody cares what my butt looks like in my swim suit as long as it’s properly covered.

Incidentally, my favorite thing to do in a swim suit is to actually swim, like for a really long time, and that works with my knee issue. That’s not an option for me right now because of our end of the year schedule. I can’t go swim laps with a 9 year old in tow. At least not at the pools open right now. I’ll be able to at our neighborhood pool once it opens. But, then I’ll have the kids and the moms and the sun screen, goggle fixing, toy retrieving, floatie blowing up duties to attend to.

Anyway, today I decided to try this fascial conditioning program on one of the apps I use. I read the book Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall (good read), and I’ve been fascinated by anything ‘fascial’ since (I just noticed the spelling of fascinated and fascial are similarly spelled but not even close to meaning the same thing). So, I decided to try this program while I’m not running. I mean, it’s like yoga. I’ve done yoga. How hard can it be? Ha.

I am now reconsidering my actual level of fitness. First off, the program is taught by a tattooed former military guy who can bend himself into a pretzel. I was distracted a little by the tattoos. Tattoos on muscles are awesome, but I, for real, was trying to make out what they were, wondering about the stories behind them. Not really paying all that much attention thinking I can just follow along and figure it out. Then I was out of breath, my muscles were burning, and I had to modify the modification. It wasn’t cardio. It looked simple enough for my kids to do it, but I was struggling. I ended the video in dandasana (sitting on the floor with my knees crossed) drinking my water and watching him finish the exercises.

This may have been complicated by the fact that I ate half a bag of animal crackers (not the individual size) with strawberry milk and chocolate (it was dark chocolate, so that’s not totally bad, right?) just before the workout. Don’t judge me. It’s May. May is a black hole in my universe. It sucks all sanity, sleep and nutrition out into the abyss leaving me crazy, exhausted and either hungry or on a sugar binge. I looked fantastic in my swimsuit on Spring break in April. This Summer, yeah, I’m just gonna have to get used to letting it all hang out. Literally.

You can’t skip the cardio while eating like a giant 5 year old and keep the bikini body. Life doesn’t work that way, at least not after having kids.

I’ll be doing the next video tomorrow because I need exercise AND I refuse to be beaten by something that looks so simple. Maybe I’ll be more springy and mobile once I finish the program, OR maybe I’ll be back to running in a week and just quietly forget this ever even happened. Here’s hoping.

The Fit Friend

Do you ever wonder about your perception of yourself? Is it accurate? Do you see yourself better than others do? Or worse?

Me? Well, I’m confused. It is not uncommon for someone I have recently spent time getting to know to comment that I’m not how they thought I would be when they met me. I usually just chock that up to the fact that I’m a slow warmer (takes me a while to warm up to people and feel comfortable around them generally). More often than not it’s a positive thing they’re trying to say. They think I’m funnier or more fun than they thought I would be. They think I’m smarter and more articulate than they thought I would be. Etc. I’ll usually comment that my inside doesn’t match my outside, and I wonder just what kind of vibes I give off upon first meeting. I mean, do I look like a boring idiot? Should I change my hair? Anyway, the point being people usually tell me things about me that are good things. Most people are kind and don’t want to hurt people on purpose. So, I think this has a lot to do with that, but most people aren’t gonna make that junk up, either.

What do I think of myself? I’m generally pretty confident in who I am at this point of my life, at least in the aspect of accepting myself so I can grow. If I were to describe myself, though, I would tell you I’m socially awkward, weird, OCD, anxious, incapable of telling a joke (in person), ditzy, plain, slow, weak. I could go on. Negative first because those are the things up front and center in my mind because I want to work on them.

I’m almost always surprised when I hear someone compliment me or comment on me in a positive way. Even if it’s something I know I just aced.

I recently participated in a local 5k. I got a PR, and generally crushed it without much intentional training. I signed up just a couple weeks before the race, right before the T-shirt cut off date. Still, crushing it for me isn’t really all that fast, at least not in my mind. Someone I met at the gym I go to asked me about it when I saw her next. She said she saw me at the start line and decided she would try to keep up with me. Keeping me in sight was her goal. Me. I was shocked at her comment ALL day and obviously it left a big enough impression to be writing about it now.

I recently posted a video on my social media called My Fit Friend vs Mewhere a very fit woman is balancing on a board on a foam roller while rotating a weight plate around in front of her. One of those balance plus coordination plus strength things that few people can master. Then there was a shot of a less fit woman attempting the same thing, slipping off the roller and the board flipping up to hit her inner thigh. I posted it laughing because I saw myself as the less fit woman. A friend of mine, one of those amazing people who is able to be honest with me in a positive and growth inspiring way, texted me to say, “you know you’re the fit friend, right?” I stared at her text wondering who she really meant to send it to. Then she said, “you’re the fit friend, dummy.” I’m the fit friend? Nuh uh. I’m the forever chasing fit friend.

The inside most definitely doesn’t match the outside. My inner perception vs reality. I set goals, chase them, and crush them without much fan fare because by the time I achieve them, I already have a new goal ready to chase. I don’t think that’s a bad trait to have, but maybe I should allow myself to see the progress for what it is. Maybe I should allow myself to be the fit friend. I catalog negative traits and work toward changing them because I want to grow and be better than I was yesterday, but maybe I should allow myself to feel more proud of the positive traits, especially if they used to be negative. Maybe I should put a few of those positive traits up front and center in my personal description of myself.

Bottom line of this rambling post: if you see or think something positive about someone, tell them. Even if they seem like they must hear it all the time, your voice might be an incredible source of encouragement and strength they need to fight their internal negative voice. AND, Try accepting those positive comments about yourself as truth. Try seeing yourself a little more like the people who love you see you. They’re not lying.

Train Dirty, Be Clean

I go to one of those chain gyms with hour long classes that rotate through stations. It’s a GOOD workout doing things I’m not likely to make myself do on my own. I like to run, stupid long and slow. I like to swim, also stupid long and slow. Most other activities are done in an effort to help me do those things better. OR to look better in my jeans. 😉

I enjoy the program at this gym for my cross training. I feel fitter than I ever have, and I PRd my last race. So, I would say it’s awesome! The nature of the gym and the times I go, it’s mostly women who populate the classes.

When I talk about it, I will sometimes hear from men, or women relaying info from some of the men in their lives, that it looks like a great workout, but they’re not gonna workout with a bunch of women. There were lots more men when I was a member of a crossfit gym, and they had no problem working out with women. But, I get it. It’s cool with me. I just have to say, I always cringe inside when I hear that.

Why? For real. Is it because they don’t see how it would be challenging enough for them because, if a bunch of women do it, then it must be easy? Pink weights and stuff. Are they intimidated that one of these women might show them up? Are they worried about getting distracted? Do they think it’s just one big gossip session? Are they just not comfortable with it? I really would like to know.

Then today happened. I went to workout at a different time than usual. Different location, different coach, different patrons. The workout was awesomely hard. The coach was great. There were several men in the class, which was cool. Until it wasn’t.

You rotate through stations using a number, sharing the station with one or two other people. So, one is on the treadmill while another is on the rower or weight station, etc. I shared the station with a man, a man with large feet who must have worn his shoes to do yard work yesterday because there was grass and dirt all over the foot plates on the rower and all over the floor underneath. Because his feet were big, I had to adjust the plates and straps every time I got on the rower. Grass and dirt sticking to my sweaty hands. Grass and dirt on MY shoes now. I even found grass in the cup holder of my car after I left because it was sticking to me. Gross.

I worked out next to a guy who spread out into my space doing his own thing, setting his things on my station, acting like I could just move over.

Grassy shoe guy got lots more grass and dirt all over the treadmill we were sharing as well as the floor around our weight station. He left his used wipes and his card (to record times) on the treadmill. It looked like he was there with his wife or S.O. which made me wonder, did she notice the disaster he was leaving behind? Does she care? I mean if she lives with him, I’m sure she’s used to it. I don’t know about the guy with no sense of personal space. I couldn’t tell what he was doing much less who he was with.

Then I decided I was glad more men don’t workout with my “bunch of women”. If you can’t handle common gym courtesy, you can stick to your “manly” workouts and stay away from mine.

I know women can be just as gross, but it hasn’t happened to me at the gym before. I’ve never had to consider asking any one of them if they could at least wipe off the mess they left before moving on to the next station. The one or two men who join the “bunch of women” I usually workout with have more common courtesy, and I love them for it.

I bet the guys I encountered today are the kind that don’t wipe down or rerack their weights after lifting, IF they even lift. I bet they blast their own music and hog equipment like no one else exists. Sigh.

My PSA of the day, don’t be that guy (or girl). Train dirty. Be clean.

I will happily rejoin my regularly scheduled gym programming very soon, and think twice about switching times and locations again.

Bye Felicia (Monday)

I passed a woman in the toilet paper isle at Target. After she caught me staring at her chest (reading) and smiling, she smiled back and then did the beauty queen/hand model motion from shoulder to shoulder before going about her day. Awkward is kinda my thing, and I love when I accidentally find other people like me.

Her shirt read “I wanna be Felicia. She’s always going somewhere.”

I wish I had called out “Bye, Felicia” as I turned the corner, but alas I’m no good at being witty in the moment. It was, however, the highlight of my day, and a nice way to say “Bye Felicia” to Monday.

Food and Balance

 

Sometimes my meals look like this.

flatironsteak
Flat Iron Steak with Potatoes and Green Beans

And, I feel very accomplished as a cook even though it’s probably one of the easier meals to cook. I mean, one pan steak and veggies cooked in the oven. I really don’t know how much easier it could get and still be homemade.

Sometimes my meals look like this.

EggsPotatoesGreens
Fried Eggs with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

This would be my absolute all time favorite breakfast. No biscuits and gravy for me. Give me eggs, greens and potatoes any day.

And…. Sometimes my meals look like this.

PBJ
Crustless Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich with Strawberry Milk and a Banana

This is the meal that most makes me feel like a tall five year old who’s just really good at pretending she’s an adult when she has to, crustless PB&J triangles with strawberry milk on a pink plastic plate. Yeah, this doesn’t look like an adult meal at all. It’s my favorite meal to eat before a long run, though, minus the strawberry milk. I drink that after. It’s my go to fast food to take with me on the go. I actually eat a lot of PB&J in various forms. It works for me.

I’m all about balance. My whole life is a balancing act. I’m always juggling a dozen different activities, running in a dozen different directions, planning around five different people’s food preferences, trying to sleep and exercise, attempting to shower and dress half way decent without giving up my sleep or exercise. Sometimes, I just need a crustless PB&J and some strawberry milk.

Approximately 620 Calories with 19 g Protein, 21 g Fat, 70 g Carbohydrates (that’s a generous estimate for the peanut butter and the jelly and before cutting off the crust ;-).

What’s your balance food?

Goals

I was pretty disappointed in 2017. It absolutely did NOT live up to its full potential. 2018, though, I’m making that sucker my year, y’all. My list of goals? Here they are.

  1. Keep the young humans alive.
  2. Stay married and refuse to consider murder
  3. Avoid being featured on an episode of hoarders
  4. Run more than the dishwasher
  5. Try not to eat all the things

I am very happy to report that currently I am 4 for 5. I’m only counting half for numbers 3 and 5 because my basement and garage are still completely full of useless crap, and I’m sitting here at my computer with a box of Girl Scout cookies and a Starbucks refresher. I want to say I won’t eat an entire sleeve all by myself, but I know better.

My kids and husband are still alive. I am still married. I have not yet received the call from A&E. I’m on target for my running goal, and up until the Girl Scout cookie season, my nutrition has been on point. So, bam, take that 2017.

I guess that’s what happens when you lower your standards to just above bathing and breathing.

Seriously, though, I’m a list maker, a box checker. I like having a set goal and a plan laid out that will get me to that goal. I’ve lived my whole life that way, and I’m not gonna stop now because I didn’t get to cross off as much as I wanted to in 2017. I’m having real trouble with 2018, though. I have goals, and plans, kinda. Really, they’re just the leftover things from 2017 I’m still sore about not accomplishing.

I wanted to start a new blog last year, then I spent the whole year stuck on logistics. The fact that you’re reading this means, I accomplished that goal in 2018. Let’s see if I can follow through and keep it going.

I wanted to do more creative things in 2017. I’m currently about 3 chapters into a novel I started in January. So, that’s something.

I wanted to work on hospitality, growing and strengthening friendships in 2017. The hospitality part may not happen until I have an empty nest. You have to be home to have people over.

I wanted to read through the Bible twice last year. I only made it about half way through once. A lot of that is because I got stuck in a few places and dove in, or I was only able to read and digest small pieces at a time because my days are too full.

I wanted to read through the Quran. I’m not changing religions, but I know that I get super frustrated with how the media and non-Christians who have never actually read the Bible portray it. I figure it’s the same deal with Islamic scripture. I’m curious about what is actually in there and what is misrepresented. Once again my curiosity leads me down some interesting paths. However, this is proving difficult for a person living in the Bible belt who only speaks English. And, I thought the English Bible versions and translations were confusing to navigate. I’m gonna figure it out, though. Eventually.

I wanted to chip away at my 50 marathons in 50 states goal, but I didn’t run a single race longer than 6.2 miles last year. I barely ran 500 miles total for the whole year.

I wanted to run an Ultra marathon. Obviously, that didn’t happen either.

These are all rolling over into 2018, but I’m now thinking about more long term goals, things I can’t check off in a year, things that require building over time. In my searching, I ran across an article (that I can’t find now that I’m sitting down to blog this) that suggested reading some obituaries, imagining what yours might say, and typing it out. If you don’t like it, rewrite it. Make a plan to accomplish the things you want to be written in your obituary. When you get stuck, revisit that section of your paper and revise yours again.

I sat there with the article in front of me, and paused. It was a long pause, and then I decided I would do it.

What a powerful exercise. You hear things similar to this all the time. “Live your best life.” “Live like today is your last day.” “You can’t change your beginning, but you can write your own ending.” Lots of sayings like this because I feel like it’s a universal truth. You will die. Live how you want to be remembered. I’m telling you, though, sitting down to actually see it, to read it, to picture your life summed up in a paragraph on a page in the paper most people don’t read, to attempt to write it, it’s life changing. Try it.

I’m currently working on my revision, and I’ll let you know how it turns out. I may even post it. We’ll see.

Musician Arrested

If you could choose any profession and know you would be successful, what would it be?

Me? There are a few off the wall things floating around my head from childhood, like being an astronaut or a marine biologist. One dream was abandoned watching the Challenger explode on TV and the other I gave up because it required too much math. [I know both of those would have required a lot of math.] I want to write a book, and I’m working on that. I want to live like a grown up, and not just like a tall five year old who knows how to pretend she’s a grown up when she has to. Those would be nice. But, one of the abandoned dreams that still haunts me is music. If I could do anything and not fail, I would sing.

Most people in my life now met me after college and don’t even know I sing.

I started singing, as my mom likes to say, before I could talk. If I had a piano to play and someone to sing with, I was in heaven. I can remember singing for hours, until I got hoarse, and then being sad I couldn’t sing more. I used to spend hours creating melodies and writing songs, often with a tiny keyboard and headphones sitting in my bed into the early morning hours. It was probably my favorite thing to do, and up until college, the one thing I was most confident about. I didn’t know what else I would do, but I knew I would never stop singing.

It’s funny though, that by nature I’m shy. Asking me to say my name and something about myself in a small group setting would send me into a panic, but asking me to sing on stage with a microphone was exciting. I sang my first solo when I was 6. I forgot the words and sang the same verse 3 times. Even though I messed up the song, I had discovered the joy of being on stage, and I began to crave it.

Someone told me later, everyone gets nervous, but some people are able to channel that nervousness into positive energy and use it to perform. Others allow the nervousness to paralyze them. I guess I can channel one kind of nervousness but freeze with the other.

Most of my life, I heard only praise for my voice. Things to improve, things to work on, but never really bad things. Most of the time I heard how amazing my voice was. I had family and friends that used to tell me they couldn’t wait until they were listening to my voice on the radio. Up until my freshman year of college, I couldn’t imagine a time in my life that I would quit singing. I wanted to improve and learn, and as time passed, I could only see myself loving it more.

I was one of those kids torn between all of my loves: animals, music, and art. When I was planning college, I decided to major in art and minor in music or try to double major, but there was a mix up with my admissions paperwork, actually a mix up in the admissions department explaining to me how those two majors worked. When I arrived on campus, they had me majoring in art, specifically graphic design which required a minor in advertising. So, music wasn’t even in the mix basically because at that school, you didn’t combine those two things. When I met with my admissions counselor (the future Dean of Communicative Arts, and the most influential professor of all my time in undergrad), he encouraged me to stick with everything the way it was and take music classes offered to non-music majors.

I decided to listen to him. Here’s where we get to the part of the story I don’t tell often. Usually I’ll say the rest is history. Cut to that professor and a few other’s unparalleled influence on my life, me finishing my undergrad never having changed my ‘mistaken’ major, getting married then starting my graduate degree, ultimately ending up where I am now.

I love design and art. I’m good at it. At least I was before I quit to take care of my kids and became a full time special needs parent, but I had quit singing back in college except for the shower, some choir and specials at my home church. I refocused myself on my major classes and left music behind.

The reason for the switch in focus and the loss of something so very precious to me came down to one teacher, one phrase, and one moment I just couldn’t overcome.

During my freshman year, I took a piano class and a voice class. The piano class was amazing. I learned so much, I left class every day wanting to practice and get better, and I did. The voice class, though, was a struggle.

The first couple of class periods were used for a kind of audition, a chance for the instructor to hear everyone’s voice so he knew what he was working with. I was more nervous than usual because it was a small class in a small room, queue shy girl panic. I was shaky and pitchy, I knew that, but I was not expecting to hear what he said. He told me, while shaking his head, I sounded like a bad country music singer, but maybe he could fix that. While I tried to process what he said, he then began a monologue about how so many of us must have sang for small home churches or schools and were told we were good singers pretty much just because there wasn’t much else to choose from. He intended to help us either improve or give up singing. I struggled with every assignment. He was teaching classical method, and I didn’t like the changes he was making. With shaken confidence and a lack of desire to sing the way he wanted me to sing, I dreaded the class and by the end gave up singing almost entirely.

This post isn’t about my voice or whether or not I could have ‘made it.’ It’s about the fact that I never tried to pursue music in any way going forward because I believed him. That one sentence. The words that followed. I believed him over every other positive word, every other person telling me I should sing. I decided my voice wasn’t anything special, that I had just been a big fish in a small pond, and that I didn’t have what it took to keep singing outside of my little pond. No more auditions. No more volunteering to sing every opportunity I had. I only sang with friends for fun, in the shower, and in my home church choir and a few specials when I was asked. It was so rare, I can still remember my oldest son, at least ten at the time, walking into the kitchen while I was singing, and with a surprised look on his face said, “Mom, you can sing.”

As a juxtaposition, the admissions counselor I spoke of earlier, he was my freshman drawing instructor. He’s one of those people whose gift for teaching is evident the moment you meet him. He could essentially tell you your work was garbage (although he would never actually say that) in a way that encouraged you to learn from it and inspired you to to work harder and do better. No unnecessary flattery. Just positive instruction that lead all of his students to be better artists. I don’t think I ever heard any of his students say they didn’t love him as their professor. I left music behind to continue improving in art and design. Looking back, I believe it all boiled down to the one dream crushing instructor and the one dream building instructor.

During a time when my support system was changing, when I was having to grow away from my family and friends, when I had to begin to build my own internal support system, truly believe in my own abilities and base my confidence on that belief, there was a voice that shook that unstable foundation and changed the course of my life.

I don’t know if anything would have been different for me had I chosen a different school, a different major, had different instructors, or hadn’t taken what he said to heart. There would have been other discouraging people along that road for sure, and I don’t know that I would have been strong enough to withstand their discouragement either. There’s a pattern in my life of confidence lost, faith shaken, and life altered, and to follow a dream and truly succeed, you have to be able to push through the negative voices and trust your own. The purpose of this post, though, is to share just how big an influence our words can have.

I don’t know where that instructor is now. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t remember me or what he said to me. I can guarantee it doesn’t keep him up at night. But, it is still with me. I can still hear his words as if he had spoken them yesterday.

I gave up something I had loved doing for most of my life because one man told me I wasn’t good enough. One man.

Discouragement far out weighs encouragement. Out of all the positive I heard, that one negative influence impacted me so much more.

Teachers, instructors, coaches, these people we trust to help us grow and learn, these people we show our weaknesses to in hopes they can help us grow stronger, their words have the power to change the course of our lives.

If you are one of those people, a teacher, instructor or coach, please be aware of the power you hold and strive to be the voice that encourages your students or athletes to reach deeper inside themselves and work harder to develop their abilities even if those talents and abilities lie in another arena. Speak life. Try to be the voice that still inspires them 20 years later rather than the voice that crushed their dream and haunts them decades down the road.

I won’t be attempting to break into the music industry in my old age. I won’t be studying or teaching music. Closing in on my fourth decade of life, I’m good singing in my kitchen and Sunday School classroom, and I look forward to holding grand babies and singing the lullabies I wrote when my babies were small. Maybe I’ll go back to singing in church when my kids’ schedules no longer make it impossible to make practices, that is if I decide to stop teaching Sunday school (which I can’t imagine quitting right now).

Even though, I’m ok now, in those moments when I allow my mind to wander “what if?” I can still hear his words, and I wish so much I could have withstood his judgment. I wish I was writing a whole other story today, maybe one of failure, but one where at least I tried and failed rather than gave up without a fight.

Turning one marathon into fifty

Woman runs a 5k, doesn’t die, decides to sign up for another.

Woman runs a 10k, doesn’t die and starts thinking about longer distances.

Woman decides to run a marathon and figures a half marathon would be good to mix into training. She also decides to mix in a 30k. Gets injured training for these races, but runs them anyway, hobbling a lot.

Woman persuades unsuspecting friend who has never run more than a half marathon to run the full marathon with her.

Woman and friend run marathon. Woman runs injured. Has to walk a lot. Reaches 20 miles in considerable pain. Stops for a quick pic. Crosses finish line in tears. Finds her friend, goes directly to the food, then goes home to collapse into her husbands arms swearing she will NEVER run another marathon again.

Woman wakes up the next day feeling like she could conquer the world, signs up for another marathon.

Woman has to stop running because of her injury. Woman has lots of time to obsess about running.

Woman trains like a pro, foam rolls and eats like a pro, stays disciplined, focused, and determined to make this marathon what the last one couldn’t be because of injury.

Woman has tiny panic attacks all night before the marathon, and nearly can’t make herself leave the hotel for the start line. Vomiting never happened, but was a real possibility.

Woman runs the marathon like a pro (albeit quite a bit slower than one), never walks, never really struggles, climbs the course’s big hill like a boss, finishes with confidence and finally feels like a marathoner.

Woman remembers meeting a woman from North Dakota in her first marathon. This woman planted a seed in the new marathoner’s heart, 50 marathons in 50 states.

Woman runs two more marathons and plans to follow in her new friend from North Dakota’s footsteps, almost literally.

50 marathons in 50 states before 50 (years of age).

Woman has 12 years and 3 months to make this happen.