Tuesday, December 31, 2013


The start of a new year always causes me to pause and look back.  I remember reading a quote many years ago which stated, in so many words, that the only two things that matter at the end of your life are "what you learned and who you loved".  Those simple words resonate with me as I reflect on the previous twelve months, along with all the promises I made to myself and others at this same time last year.  Did I keep my promises?  Honor my vows?  Improve on the flaws that needed fixing?  These answers are light and simple as long as I did not screw up too severely in any one area.  I could go easy on myself by wiping the slate clean and looking only forward to what the new year could bring.  But what if this was it?  What if the close of this year marked my own personal expiration?  What would be left of me and my time here to warrant any noteworthy memories?  What would be my legacy?

I am not trying to be overly morbid by harping on my demise, but this does cross my mind from time to time.  Surely I'm not the only one.  Although I was raised Catholic and consider myself a Christian, I make a real effort to learn about and respect the religious principles of various groups.  My own spiritual journey is still evolving and leaves me hungry to explore other viewpoints from different faiths.  Beyond the walled garden of Christianity, I know that other faiths follow similar universal teachings of love, forgiveness and charitable deeds.  We all appear to believe the day will eventually come where we will stand in judgement for the life we lived and the choices we made.  I don't live in constant fear of that day when my judgement will come.  I would be a monumental hypocrite if I made that type of declaration.  However, I do wonder if today was my last day and all my second chances were used up, would my goods out weigh my bads?

My point is that we really don't know when that final day or year is coming.  Last year at this time, many people made heart felt resolutions, but did not live long enough to see them through.  Yesterday, someone that died today, planned to still be here right now.  How can I be so arrogant to think my last moments will be come at a convenient and well planned time?  There most likely will not be a warning bell for me to tie up all my unfinished business neatly for a glorious Hollywood ending (complete with an emotional musical soundtrack, I might add).  In true form, my final words will probably be something non-poetic like "aah crap, not now".  In that moment my mind may go to my family, my friends and loads of unfulfilled promises.  Will they be forgiving enough to remember me for my good intentions instead of my poor actions?  Will they be left behind knowing how much I loved them, even if I never said it enough times?

When I look at photos of my deceased and beloved grandparents, I am immediately filled with all the emotions and memories of the lives they led and the experiences we shared together.  My hope is that my children and others will be able to look at old photos of me one day, with my smile frozen in time, and remember my impact on their existence in a positive light.  I want my legacy to be more about what good I did do, instead of what I could have done.  I need to believe that my work on this earth will endure and inspire someone to want to go farther than I my own journey took me.  Maybe they will sense my spirit when they accomplish a personal goal or achieve a life long dream.  By "they" and "someone", I mean my own children of course, but these sentiments are not limited to only them.  If you want your legacy to endure beyond the span of your life, then you need to start now, on this day, in this hour, in this breath to make your best intentions real.  Don't assume that another year is available or guaranteed to every one of us to make good on today's promises.  If we live like this year is our last, we may work harder to make the time count for something better than just our best intentions and create a legacy we can be proud of.

Happy New Year to everyone and may this year find you happy, fulfilled and 
blessed with all the love your heart can hold.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Oh, Grow Up!

My blog has been getting a lot of hits over the last month although I have not shared anything new.  I swear I did not abandon it.  I've just been going through some things.  If you are connected to me on Facebook, you may already know that we have been doing a small kitchen face lift.  This so-called small kitchen remodeling project grew a little, just shy of a high rise demolition and rebuild.  It includes some new sleek toys and I am really happy with the results.  The original estimated timeline was supposed to be ten days max, but three weeks later the whole thing has come to a close finally.  I actually believe my husband was so agreeable in upgrading our outdated kitchen so I would cook more often.  Bless his sweet little heart!  Hasn't he figured out the only thing to keep me cooking at regular intervals is to actually like what I cook?  (He always turns up his nose at my vegetarian creations.)

Enduring this construction project during the holidays creates a much higher stress level than I could have ever imagined.  We have always loved hosting small gatherings at our house during this time of year, but the kitchen demolition has made the party planning a little trickier.  We have been eating out every night and keeping the boys out of the messy, dusty house as much as possible.  During all this time of family togetherness, I have noticed a lot of changes in their behavior.  There are very few signs of sweet little boy traits around here.  When they made their Christmas wish lists this year, there were exactly zero toys that made the cut.  We have never told them the truth about Santa, but no one seems to be very worried about him anymore.  Whenever we are out in public, neither son wants to walk next to me, let alone hold my hand.  My title of "mommy" was taken away months ago and now they just call me "mom".  Even worse, this title is no longer said in a sweet way.  It is usually yelled from upstairs whenever food supplies have run low, like "MOM, WE'RE STARVING!!".  It leaves me feeling like I have been through some sort of demotion or reassignment.  I used to be the queen of this household and now I am treated like an annoying fifth wheel that  is sent away to make occasional food runs.

Of course this is not good, so this week I tried to indulge them in a little tradition I started when they were really little.  Every Christmas vacation, we load up in the car dressed in pajamas and drive around looking at Christmas decorations.  When we went this year, they snoozed in the back seat and asked me to wake them up if I drove by "anything cool".  I recently snooped on my big boy's internet browsing history and discovered he has been Googling "signs of puberty".  He was getting dressed the other day and ran for cover when he heard me walk into the room.  Really??  It's not like he's had some incredible growth spurt that produced strange new body parts overnight.  Even my once cuddly baby boy acts like I am invading his turf when I walk into his mini man cave.  He keeps his eyes on me when I open his drawers to put away clean laundry.  We have already reached the point in our relationship where I have to ask them to explain song lyrics to me because I am no longer cool enough to speak the same language.

Throughout all these little observations, I have taken note that they seem to be adjusting rather smoothly.  The two of them seem to be doing okay with their new found maturity and coolness.  It's me that can't handle it.  They are growing up and maturing much faster than (cough, um) me.  I am still stuck in the "adorable little boy" phase, while they have obviously moved up to the "pre-pre-pre-teen" phase and left me behind.  I am the one who has some growing up to do.  I am the one who is afraid of what new developments tomorrow will bring.  By the time I catch up with them, they will have moved on to the next level.  It already takes ninja-like skills just to sneak up on them to steal a kiss on the cheek.  If that is the best I can get for now, then I guess I will have to treasure it for what it is...precious and rare.  My Christmas wish list will include a free hug-and-kiss-combo from each kid that will have to last me until the next gift giving holiday, like maybe Mother's Day.  It's going to be really interesting growing up with these two.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Comeback

Over the last few weeks I had a date highlighted on my calendar:  September 2nd, Labor Day.  This day was significant because I planned for it to mark my triumphant return to running following my foot surgery.  This day was chosen because it allowed me six weeks of recovery time for my foot to heal and for all the swelling to go away.  Why six weeks?  It seemed like a respectable amount of time to be down and out from my sport of choice.  Besides, it is the same amount of time I have taken off after each of my previous surgical setbacks.  Yes, I've had a couple.  Six weeks is just long enough for me to miss my runs without going completely crazy from inactivity.  I have never missed that six-week goal in the past and I had no plans to miss it this time around either.

This Saturday morning I met that goal two days early.  My plan was to lace up my running shoes and do a simple test run around the block.  There would be no worries about pace, form or appearance.  Just take some easy strides to see how my new foot would feel during repeated strikes against the road.  I still have a mild limp when I walk, but it is so slight that no one stares at me with that pathetic "poor-thing-bless-her-heart" look in their eyes anymore.  I figured I would last about a half mile and be totally spent from exertion, since I had not done any physical activity to this degree since the day before my painful bunion was removed.  My shoes were worn and my running shorts were snug from the weight I gained while laying around with my bum foot propped up.

Nevertheless, I walked out the back door and turned on my running app, as I headed down my street to put the shiny new foot to the test.  Initially, it felt a little weird because I am still struggling to use a normal foot strike.  Ever since I ditched the crutches, I have been walking with an under pronated foot strike, meaning the outer part of my foot touches the ground first and rolls inward.  Supposedly I adopted this bad habit in a self preservation move to protect the tender ball of my foot while it was still swollen and healing.  If I don't make a conscious effort to correct this soon, I might end up permanently jacking up my foot in other ways I never intended.

With my bad running gait, wearing too tight shorts, I managed to surpass my initial expectation of hitting a half mile and stretched this little test run to a full two miles.  It felt like I had the starring role in a short film called Fat Girl Running.  According to my running app, my stats included an average pace of 4.0 mph, which equals a painfully slow 15-minute mile.  For any non-runners reading this right now, that is equivalent to a brisk walking pace.  I was breathing hard, with my lungs and quads burning, but I was out there and I was moving.  That's all that mattered to me.  I felt like I'd won a major prize.

When I turned the final corner and hit the home stretch back towards my house, another runner was passing me on my left side.  She smiled as she ran ahead of me, probably assuming I was a rookie runner because of my uneven stride and slow pace.  My stupid pride forced me to straighten up a little to try to look sharper as she passed, but it didn't matter.  She was already long gone and too lost in the bliss of her own morning run to notice me.  That was when I was reminded that this little journey was mine alone and not meant for anyone else to care about or understand.  I had to make this run, as well as all the others, for my own sense of accomplishment.

There would be no medal at the end and no cheering crowd to greet me.  Later in my life, it may not matter to me that there were no witnesses to see that I'd met my little goal on this average Saturday morning.  But it will matter to me that it happened at all.  It will matter to me that I have never let a setback permanently sideline me.  It will mean something to be able to tell my kids that I got myself back in the game without any whining about how far I still have left to go.  It won't matter how sore I was at the end of this little two miler, but it will matter that it took far more determination just to start this comeback run than it ever took to finish it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Superwoman Doesn't Live Here

I recently changed my hair.  For years, I wore it in a super short pixie cut that was easy and convenient for my runner girl lifestyle.  My husband loved it and it was easy, so it remained my signature style for roughly 15 years.  Sure I would grow it out from time to time, but eventually I would get tired of the upkeep and go back to my simple short look.  It was cute, fast and made me feel carefree.  So what the hell was I thinking by letting it grow out to shoulder length this past year?  Oh yeah, I turned 40 and decided it was time for a makeover.  By simply allowing my hair to grow out to a longer length, I had to double everything related to it:  my hair care budget, my number of products, my blow drying time and my morning prep time.  UGH!  I want to go back to bed just thinking about it.

So was it worth it?  Sure, because my guys seem to like this look.  My husband would go along with whatever 'do I choose, but it is the opinion of my boys that really gets my attention.  My hair has a very thick wavy/curly hybrid and coarse texture to it.  Although I occasionally wear it in it's naturally wild state, I also started straightening it most days and it's a lot of work.  After washing my hair, it takes about one hour, start to finish, to completely beat my bushy wavy hair into submission.  So imagine my disappointment when my baby boy walks in on me during one of my marathon hair straightening sessions and says "you look better with it curly".  Huh?  Did he just say that?  Doesn't he realize that I do all this work in an attempt to look good?  So much for that.

I instantly felt defeated.  He waltzed his little 8-year-old self into my bathroom and made me feel like a chump with one simple statement.  How does he do that?  Why does his innocent declaration feel so monumental to me?  He was not being mean or disrespectful.  He just stated his opinion in a nonchalant, matter-of-fact way and walked out.  My kids and I have both reached an interesting point in our development.  I have finally come to a point in my life where B.S. is no longer tolerated and toxic people are quickly shown the door.  I feel stronger because I don't spend valuable energy trying to get people who don't matter to like me.  Although all the chinks in my armor are not completely gone yet, I finally feel good in my own skin.  However, the little people who do matter most to me can walk into my bathroom on any random day and say they don't like my hair and I want to crumble.  I don't consider myself to be especially vain, but his brutal honesty about my disheveled appearance has caused me to check myself in the mirror a time or two.

Why do I let his opinion rule me so much?  Probably because I do want him to think highly of me.  I do want him to feel okay standing next to me.  When I show up to his school to meet his teacher and see his friends, I want to represent him well.  I want him to look up to me with pride.  But isn't that backwards?  As the parent, shouldn't my opinion be law?  Shouldn't he be on a mission to impress me?  My two boys are very different.  My oldest son, who is the miniature spitting image of my husband, gets all his personality traits from me.  We like many of the same things (like running!) and miraculously he still chooses to hang around me without anyone having to offer bribes.  He's a great kid who looks at me like I am Superwoman that gets everything right, but I get the feeling he tells me what I want to hear sometimes.  My suspicion is that he will be the son to look after me when I am really old and unable to chew my own food.  I know my glory time with him is limited because he will be too cool to hang with his old mom in about one year.  My youngest son, however, just calls it like he sees it.  He's not worried about protecting my feelings and self esteem.  He just puts his opinion out there, regardless of the fall out.  Not much bothers him either.  Yeah he is still light years away from adulthood, but I do believe he will continue to have these personality traits later in life.  He is like a little Teflon Don that couldn't care less that his socks don't match most days.

Maybe that is why I value his opinion so much.  It's because these are the exact qualities that I want to have one day.  I want my guys to like my cooking.  I want them to miss me when I'm not around.  I want them to brag on me behind my back.  In order to achieve my own superhero status, I would have to let the minor failures bounce off me and move on without a care.  When people ask for my opinion, I would give them the honesty they deserve instead of the politeness I try to manufacture.  Crap, I can hear how ridiculous that sounds:  When I mature, I want to be more like my 8-year old.  Well, maybe not exactly like him.  I still have better hygiene than him and slightly more money.  Nevertheless, I admire him and look forward to the day when I can have the same nonchalant attitude about petty issues that don't matter in the larger scheme of my earthly existence.  This chic is a long way off from achieving that kind of feat, but my hope is that I will feel content enough with myself in another 20 years or so to finally reach that superwoman status.  That means there will be a lot of screw ups and mistakes made in the meantime, but hopefully no one will be paying attention just yet.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

If This World Were Mine

If the stars and planets were aligned with the universe working in my favor, some simple changes would make my little world a much happier place.  I wouldn't ask for much.  Just a few minor adjustments could have a major impact on a simple gal like me.  Take a look at my wishlist of how things would change if we lived in a world according to me:

  1. Hairy's Law:  First and most importantly, good hair days would rewarded.  Houston weather can be brutal.  Although I love my hometown, I live in the most humid city in the continental United States.  No matter your style or hair texture, you can probably count your really good hair days on one hand in this town.  We have approximately 2 weeks of beautiful spring-like weather per year.  The other 50 weeks of the year, we spend our days running from one air-conditioned spot to another, making every attempt to avoid the sticky weather with a vengeance.  We spend too much money and time trying to perfect our look for nothing.  Most of us fall prey to the frizzy fairy early in the day and look like dry bushy poodles by the time we get home from work.  If this were my world, ladies that are able to keep their 'dos in check from sun up to sun down would be recognized for their astounding achievement.  A trophy or plaque would be awarded to these mythical non-frizzy beings.
  2. Brownie Points:  Sometimes making the effort to do something constructive is just as massive as the actual task.  Don't you wish that earning brownie points was real?  Showing up to the gym whether you actually workout or not would be worthy of a point or two.  Acknowledging that you need call that old friend whether you do or not would be point worthy.  The intent to pay down your credit card debt even if you never really do would earn you a few brownie points as well.
  3. Hit RESET:  Raise your hand if you have ever started your day on the wrong foot and things kept going down hill with every other step you took.  Sure, we have been there and probably wished like hell that there was a way to hit a RESET button and start the whole day over again.  Aside from eternal youth and instant wealth, having the ability to start over again with a clean slate might be the most sought after alternate reality most of us would choose.  
  4. Sympathy Pounds:  You know how you often find yourself in situations where you spend time with an unhappy friend that needs some cheering up?  We end up taking that friend to dinner, sharing a rich dessert or simply buying them drinks at happy hour in hopes that this kind gesture gives them that little pick-me-up to keep going.  However, that cocktail or dinner ends up leaving us helpful and caring friends with extra pounds in the long run.  If I had my say, these situations would be categorized as "sympathy pounds" and they could be dismissed and not count against our actual weight or the shape of our physique.  Because these extra calories would be consumed out of genuine concern for another person's well being, we could write them off in the same methods that we write off tax deductible purchases.  Sounds like a win-win to me.  
  5. Kiddie Jail:  The debate over corporal punishment would be nonexistent if parents had the ability to sentence their disobedient children to some form of kiddie jail.  Imagine if your kids were out of control and your nerves were so fried that if you did spank them, you would probably knock them into next season.  Regardless of whatever form of punishment we choose, we sometimes are left with a guilty conscience when we question our parenting methods.  But what if kiddie jail existed so parents did not have figure it out for themselves?  Certain offenses could automatically result in their little butts sitting in a kiddie jail cell for talking back, having a messy room or letting their grades slip.  We could assign double concurrent jail sentences for bigger offenses like acting a fool in public or being ungrateful while opening gifts on Christmas morning.  Even bad hygiene could be added to the list of offenses.  Hopefully one day in jail would be enough to teach any child a firm lesson. 

There is plenty I could go on and on about in crafting my perfect world, but they pretty much all relate to me being able to eat and drink whatever I want without consequence, while growing smarter and more youthful as they years progress.  I would even invoke the power of the "evil death stare" so we could unleash on stupid drivers that need to be properly punished.  When I figure out a way to make any of this a real, I promise to share the secrets immediately.  Until then, I can only hope.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Operation Beast Mode, Minus One Foot

Ugly Truth Moment: I have been gym-stalking someone.  There is a lady at my local gym that has what I consider to be an ideal lean fit body.  She is a mother about my age, looks strong, obviously follows a strict diet and remains completely focused during her workout sessions.  How do I know this?  Like I said, I've paid close attention.  This woman and I have never met, never spoken to each other, nor have we ever exchanged a polite salutation.  Yet, somehow she always seems to be at the gym at the same time I show up (no, that was not planned) and she always kicks ass in her workouts.  Sometimes I think she looks good just to piss me off.  For months, I have used her as my visual motivation for getting to my own fitness goals.  Don't judge...we all do this but don't admit it.  We all have someone we admire from afar.  We think that if we followed their methods and discipline, then maybe we could get to their level of fitness.  She does not know me from Adam, but one day I will walk right up to her and tell her how much she has inspired me on many occasions to get my butt in gear.  Lets hope she does not run away screaming "stranger danger"!

Today's workout started like many others.  I hopped onto my cardio machine of choice and then moved on to the weights area.  I was dragging and not feeling especially peppy when I spotted her.  She was in her own world with a singular focus of perfectly executing her reps.  She was not fussing with her music player like I was. She was not tugging at her ill-fitting clothes like I was.  Her only interest appeared to be the free weight in front of her at that moment.  So simple, yet when I am at the gym working out I let my mind wonder to so many other counterproductive thoughts.  Why is it so crowded?  What playlist should I choose?  How much longer before I can leave?  If I blocked out those thoughts, maybe my head would have more room to consider ways to get me to my dream physique.

One of the things distracting me during my workout today is my impending foot surgery.  It's not by any means glamorous and I don't like admitting it, but the bunion on my right foot cannot be ignored any longer.  Believe me, I have tried.  That stubborn issue is more annoying than it is painful.  You just can't run away from foot pain.  It gets in the way of every freakin' thing I want to do.  I do not want to have surgery and I am open to hearing about any other nonsurgical options that will allow me to keep running.  This is happening at such an inopportune time because racing season is coming up.  My podiatrist is a marathoner, so he understands the need to get my training started for the upcoming season.  Normally we start with basic mileage in mid to late July and add on a little each week until we are battling 20-milers by the time the temps cool down in late fall.  But six to eight weeks of post-surgery recovery is a scary thing for someone needing to ramp up their mileage during that time.  Eight weeks off would set me back tremendously.  If I have my foot surgery now, it will be late September before am I back out on the running trails.  This means any fall races are out of the question, forcing me to chose races in January or later.

The so-so good news my doctor gave me was that I could swim to my heart's content during the recovery period.  At least my cardio health can remain in tact.  As my foot gets better, I also plan to ease my way back into the weight room and do whatever strength training I can.  Running will be out of the question, but I plan to squeeze in anything else he tells me I can do.  There is no way I am going to let Miss Ideal-Gym-Body-Chic get even further ahead of me in the fitness department.  Even if I have to follow the cleanest eating I have ever done, I do not intend to just lay around and lose the little bit of strength I do have.  If nothing else, my internal organs will be in super shape no matter what my outer self looks like.  I am going to need something to make me feel better while icky stitches are holding my foot together.  Boy, I sure hope orthopedic shoes become stylish sometime soon.  Looks like they might become a staple for my outfits in the near future.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day Reflection

These days you hear so much about fathers being absent from the family picture for various reasons.  The 3D's...divorce, death, and "dead-beat-ism"...are sometimes the reasons to blame.  However, I've never been able to relate to this problem.  My entire life, I have been surrounded by some wonderful fathers that continue to be a blessing in my world to this very day.  My father and my stepfather both influenced me at different stages in my development, all in preparation for the day I would find myself united in marriage to yet another great father- my husband.  The most amazing fact of this story is that neither of these incredible men were raised in the presence of their own biological fathers.  They had no fatherly examples to learn from.  Though they were raised in different towns, within different family dynamics, they all shared a common bond of being the forgotten kids, raised well in spite of the absence of their own fathers.  It is at this time of the year especially that my heart breaks for the little boys they once were, wishing longingly for a paternal connection that would never be.

The older I get, the more I look, act and sound like my mom.  If I dig deep enough into old family photographs, surely I would find that my resemblance to her at my current 40+ age would be uncanny.  Now in her 60s, I appreciate my mother for everything she is and everything she ever did for me.  That being said, I am sure she would nod her head in agreement that I was always a daddy's girl.  While many dads suffered missteps and inconsistencies, my dad always seemed to get it right.  Although he was content as a blue collar guy, my dad was the smartest man I knew growing up.  His and my mom's work schedules were staggered, so that he was the parent at home in the mornings to do the breakfast/hair combing/school drop off routine.  This man took hair combing so seriously that my sister and I often had to sit through a couple of re-do sessions each morning before he felt our tight little ponytails were presentable enough to be seen in public.  The next time you see a childhood photo of me, take time to notice the super straight center part in my hair and how the skin on my forehead is pulled so tight that I look like I've had a pre-teen face lift.

Each morning our little girly outfits were always pressed perfectly, our hair and faces were always clean and our homework was always double-checked.  It was a team effort between my dad and mom, but my dad somehow figured out his half of the parenting with mostly on the job training.  Both his dad and mom were out of the picture during his formative years and he was raised by his grandmother.  He was no angel and was predicted by many members of his extended family to be the one most likely to end up in jail because of his streetwise habits as a hotheaded teenager.  In the 1940s and 50s, his father was a sharp dressing playboy and my dad wasn't his only child left behind as a result of his exploits.  He often told me stories of days he would sit on his grandmother's front porch waiting for his dad to come pick him up for promised father-son fishing trips that never happened.  I have one really old black and white photo of my dad when he was a bright eyed 5 year-old, and I still have trouble understanding how any parent could have left that sweet little boy behind.  In spite of this rough start, my dad eventually matured into a fun-loving, yet strict and fiercely protective father of two little girls that looked up to him like a hero.

My stepdad's childhood was much different because although his biological father did not raise him, he did have a stepfather.  However, he mostly raised himself.  I refer to my stepdad lovingly as somewhat of a brainiac.  He was incredibly intelligent as a child, so he breezed through school and was off to college at a very young age.  Being on your own so young, you might expect him to be lacking in understanding the sensitive needs of young children.  However, this man has been the most nurturing and loving grandfather to my own kids that anyone could ever hope for.  My boys are still too young to understand the complete dynamic of my parents' divorce and subsequent second marriages, so my stepdad (their "pappa") might as well be their flesh and blood grandfather.  The genuine family ties bonding them together are that strong.

My hubby's childhood story is similar to my dad's in the fact that his biological father was a good looking rolling stone, that romanced many women and left behind many children.  We believe that my husband is the oldest known child of his, although the extent of that story many never be fully understood.  My hubby's childhood was rough already because he was sickly child, whose teen mother and hardworking grandmother raised him and loved him the best they could.  Because of his illness, he was forced to grow up faster than other kids and deal with mature issues that stole his innocent outlook on life at a time when he should have been more carefree.  With no exaggeration or sarcasm in this declaration, my husband is hands down the best father I have ever known.  I continuously scratch my head on this one, because my husband should be a very emotionally damaged individual considering some of the hurdles he's had to overcome.  Yes, I am slightly biased because I am in love with the guy, but I could not dream up a more dedicated father to my sons.  My boys look up to their dad like he is superhuman and I hold no jealously toward their undeniable admiration of him.

How is it possible that these three men from different walks of life could survive different levels of absenteeism from their own fathers to become awesome father figures in their own right?  Did God have the end result already in mind when he set each of these little boys on their fatherless journeys?  How did my three fathers turn out okay when so many others continue to lose their way?  If I understood the answers to these questions, I would bottle the winning formula and sell it to every family I could touch.  These men have done nothing extraordinary to be outstanding fathers.  They have simply been present and active in their families and shown them love unconditionally.  They have recreated their legacy to be one of strength and support, leaving me hopeful that history not only won't repeat itself, but will hopefully teach important lessons about family and the ties that bond.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

My Summer Non-Vacation Vacation

My summer "vacation" is finally here, but in name only.  I actually have more work to do this summer than I can remember in recent years.  So far, I've had exactly one weekend off and I am staring at my calendar for the next couple of months in disbelief.  When did all these deadlines pop-up on my calendar?  Where did all these meetings come from?  When did I agree to lead training sessions?  Something is wrong with this picture when your so-called vacation is busier than your actual time on the clock.  But who the heck am I  to complain, because most of the stuff coming up includes projects that I begged for my school district to start for the longest time.  As I have mentioned before in a previous post, we were lagging behind in the "new  ideas" and "progress" departments at my job.  Thankfully this is changing, and not slowly, but more rapidly than even I could have imagined.  We are testing out new applications, new hardware, new methods of sharing information and it is all way cool.  For once we are not watching the other guys get all the shiny new toys.  We are the guys questioning and leading the way to the next big thing.

Aside from the ongoing personnel additions, my first big calendar event will be the ISTE conference in two weeks.  ISTE stands for the International Society for Technology in Education.  If you are unfamiliar with ISTE, this is the big mama summer conference for all things EdTech (educational technology).  I have never been because the host city is usually somewhere too expensive for me to afford even a cheap plane ticket.  This year the host city is San Antonio, so a three-hour drive up the highway is nothing compared to the knowledge and exposure to new ideas I hope to gain.  I also had to pay for the registration for this conference out of my own pocket.  This may not sound like a big deal, but my district doles out tons of money each summer for various individuals to attend staff development conferences.  You pretty much just have to find a conference worthy of attention and then very sweetly ask for your campus or district superior to foot the bill.  The response is usually a quick yes on the condition that you use whatever training you receive at your chosen conference to come back to your campus and train others.

Because I accepted a new position a couple of months ago, I could not ask my old boss to pay for my ISTE registration, nor could I march right up to my new boss to ask the same thing.  Call it stupid pride, but I just paid for the whole damn thing myself to avoid any awkward moments.  Maybe that is the reason why I have such a vested interest in this trip because it is 100% mine.  It is totally for my own self improvement, very much in the same way the yoga conference, clean eating seminars and running trips have been for my own growth and enjoyment.  I did those things because I intrinsically recognized something I could gain personally and not because someone else thought it would be a good fit for me.  I will be able to sit in on sessions from experts in my personal learning network, as well as sit in on meetings about the latest and greatest product trends on the market.

Also on the calendar is my Google certification exam.  Everything I know about Google Apps for Education has been self-taught, as is everything else I know about instructional technology.  Yes, I have my masters on the topic, but that degree was earned 10 years ago.  Anything in regards to technology from a decade ago might as well have been a century ago because things change so quickly in this field.  I have stayed up to date by following expert blogs and tech reviews and being just plain curious whenever new things hit the market.  Thank goodness for the openness of information in technology these days or I would be at a loss as an educator.  The training modules are online and I can study at my own pace.  The overall goal is to get it done this summer, while I supposedly have more free time to do it. Yeah, right.  Free time is not in the cards for me this summer.  Any other free hours will be spent with my guys, kicking back for some family time.  A weekend trip here and there will be squeezed in between the various home improvement projects we still have going on.  An occasional trip to the neighborhood pool will be arranged just to remind my kids that, yes, it actually is summer vacation after all.  Throw in a couple of popsicles and we will be alright.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Feeling Brand New

My habit of apologizing for being away from this blog too long has to stop.  I will be more consistent.  Believe it or not, I miss it when I don't regularly connect with others through this forum.  This time, like the other times, my absence was directly related to activities at work.  Things have shifted tremendously at work, for the better, and I am more psyched than my nerdy girl heart can handle.  First, I accepted a new position, in a new building, which has a newer design model to be better suited to a newer vision we are following.  By trade, I am an instructional technology specialist in a large school district.  By nature, I am an all around geek.  You know those hopeless nerds that read tech reviews for fun?  Yep, that's me.  I have not one, but two big tech conferences coming in the next few months and I can't wait.  Right now, I am loving my job, but it has not always been that way.

Although I got into the field because of my combined love of techie tools and working with kids, recent years kept me from enjoying both.  The focus of my job was distorted by other demands that made me feel more like a 24/7 desktop repair guy instead of a certified educational specialist.  That is changing rapidly because my district is adjusting it's vision to more 21st century methods of instruction.  It includes such an extensive list of changes that I my fingers would be numb by the time I typed it all out here.  The most gratifying of all the changes will be the addition of new personnel.  Two years ago, my department suffered major cuts and several talented team members were let go as a result.  Their absence was felt immediately, first because we were a very tight knit supportive group and second because others had to take up the workload that was left behind.  We'd lost our friends and it hurt.  We felt like chumps having to go back to our campuses and fake enthusiasm for improvements that just were not happening.

Another reason my love for my job was waning was because we were stagnant.  To be the technology leaders in our district, we were not doing anything very innovative.  Budget issues, "old school" thinking and fear of the unknown helped create the collective stall in which we found our department.  This was the result of several interwoven undesirable factors, most of which have now been cleared from our playing field.  Now it feels like we have opened our eyes from a long slumber and are energized to take on the world.  We feel relevant again and being experts in our EdTech field (educational technology) is suddenly cool again.  Being the nerdy computer geek in the room is now the sought after status.  There are the promises of new tech toys, better applications and a vision befitting the group of innovators we hope to become.  I personally plan to go after a few choice certifications and add some new skills to my own EdTech toolbox during the summer break.  Doing what I do is fun again and I find myself eager to get to work to share with my staff all the new tricks I have learned.

The home front has been going through some changes as well.  The hubby and I are knee deep into a major remodeling project that may span several months.  The extended time frame is due to funds, not the scale of the job.  I am not ashamed to say the new floors, the new paint and the new kitchen are being added one at a time so we can afford each addition in small chunks.  It feels like our house has been under construction for  months, but I will be thrilled to see the finished results.  All of these changes and improvements even inspired me to get off my butt and start back running.  I took a break a couple of months ago because I was suffering from good old fashioned burnout.  Running is a purely therapeutic escape for me.  I am not competitive or very serious about it, but I do love it.  When it stops being fun, I stop the running and take a break.  The problem is, when this self-imposed break is over, I have to start over with my training as if I am a newbie runner and the process is painful.  Painful yes, but not at all impossible.

I've had the pleasure of sitting on the interview panel that is screening the new instructional technology specialists for my district.  These individuals,young and not so young, are full of energy and fresh ideas.  They are ready to start their next chapter in life and it has the old seasoned veteran in me pumped to get things underway.  I am going to try my hardest to allow that enthusiasm to spill over into my running this season.  If an old nerdy girl can learn a few tricks, then surely the runner inside her can learn a few as well.  For one of the first times in my life, I feel that change is good and I am going to take it for all it is worth.  If I make it through these changes unscathed, then maybe I can call on this experience to get myself through whatever hurdles are still yet to come.  After all, I now understand that nothing lasts forever, not the bad or the good. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Scoreboard: Kids 1, Parents 0

Lately the celebrity news headlines have been buzzing with stories about stars that are getting pregnant or adopting children well over the age of 40.  There are photos of baby bumps and critiques of maternity fashions everywhere you turn.  Even in interviews these folks go on and on about their cravings, their sleep habits and the weirdly unique names they plan to give these kids.  Although at its core, these stories celebrate some wonderfully blessed events, I find myself staying clear of the all pregnancy hype just in case that stuff is contagious.  Don't want to accidentally catch the baby fever, now do I?  There is no cure when that fever hits you.  Once it develops, you find yourself laid up for months in a dizzying honeymoon of sorts, daydreaming about kissable chubby cheeks and soft cooing noises.  You become so delusional that you begin to believe sweet little bouncing babies actually stay that way long term.

They do eventually grow and start to talk...and talk back...and develop crappy attitudes...towards everything...especially you, the parent that cleaned the poop and wiped the spit up and lost sleep every time they turned over in the night.  Remember that series of pregnancy books we all read, "What to Expect When You're Expecting"?  I have been contemplating writing my own series of advice books and calling them something like "What to Expect When Your Once Cute Baby Boy Grows Into A Smart-Mouthed Slob That Constantly Wants To Go To Battle With You Over Every Little Thing".  Maybe I need a shorter title.  

It is not that I don't love my kids with all my heart, but it seems like the game of parenting has just stepped up to the next level for us.  Once we left the diapers and baby bottles behind, we felt like we had hit easy street for a while.  The boys reached a stage of independence without much drama that made us believe we were doing an okay job.  Our biggest headaches were making sure Santa and the Tooth Fairy showed up on schedule and that the food pantry remained stocked with marginally healthy after school snacks.  However, lately things have shifted.  My beautiful little tykes are growing into real people with real mood swings and real attitudes that can be a real buzz kill on an otherwise average day.  We go back and forth over everything from clothing to food to TV, and sometimes just over general bad vibes in the room.

I fully expected these changes to occur, but much later down the line when we reached the adolescent years.  My oldest son seems to have inherited his teenage tendencies several years early and his occasional not so pleasant attitude is taking up way too much space in this household.  My baby boy, a.k.a. the Caveman, is the slob that leaves his mark on every corner of the house without regard for cleanliness and hygiene.  If something smells or looks like it needs a cap full of bleach, it probably belongs to him.  Add to this the fact that they fight each other constantly just because they are complete polar opposites in personality, hobbies and general breathing habits.  The time and attention we give to redirecting and managing these two behavioral developments is dominating our every move in this house.  As a parent, you walk that fine line between being a good disciplinarian and being a domineering tyrant.  You want order and obedience, but you don't want to treat them like the family dog.  You want to cut out those smart-mouthed comments, but you don't want to break their spirit for speaking up for themselves.  You want to foster their independence and strength, but you still want them to know whose boss in your presence.

In the last few months, parenting just got really hard for us.  We have been second guessing our moves and our speech around the boys, wondering if their bad habits are normal developments or a reflection of our parenting.  Have we spoiled them too much?  Bought too many toys?  Babied them too long?  Spanked them too little?  Some days it feels like there is a giant scoreboard keeping an ongoing record of our back-and-forth and tit-for-tats.  In a way, they are winning and we are losing.  It is like there is a  battle for control in this house.  It started a few months ago and someone forgot to tell my husband and I that the competition was underway, allowing the kids to get an early upper hand.  Can I have a timeout, so I can plan my strategy or consult  a playbook?  It cannot go on this way for another eight or nine years, or can it?

At this point, I cannot say for sure what direction we will take in an effort to get things back on track. I might start trolling the internet for proper bolts and hinges to lock them in their rooms for a while until we gain control on the home front.  Too extreme?  Nope!  We will slide a tray of food and water in the room once a day.  Okay I am kidding (not really), but we have decided to give them more responsibility around the house in hopes that it leads to a little character building.  If you fight over a toy, we take that toy away.  If you cannot get your act together by the time we are ready to go somewhere, then you stay home.  If your room is not clean, then you sit there in the filth until it starts to resemble a human dwelling again.

Above and beyond all of this, we have vowed to no longer repeat ourselves when telling the kids to do something.  We used to bark out an order and the boys would not react right away because they knew we would allow a few more chances before we took action.  This probably made us look like chumps in their eyes, but it is changing for the better.  No more we will stand at the foot of the stairs begging people to do anything.  The hubby and I have cracked down on the discipline and have seen some improvement, but we won't rest on our laurels anymore. We have a few more tricks to try out before we resort to a full blown lock down. Stay tuned. Round 2 is still in progress.

Monday, February 11, 2013

As the Stomach Turns...

My first post-cleanse Starbucks experience did not end well.  My running buds and I were on the highway heading back to Houston after a quick girls' road trip to run the Dallas Hot Chocolate 15K.  Since my cleanse was over and I was free and clear to eat or drink whatever I wanted, naturally my taste buds led me to my java brewing sanctuary.  We stopped at a Starbucks somewhere in B.F.E. Texas and I ordered one of my signature drinks, a short soy mocha.  After going nearly a month without caffeine or chocolate, the taste seemed really strong to me.  I thought I drank it slowly in an attempt to savor my first decadent item, but in hindsight I might have been struggling just to get it down.  Since my diet has changed so drastically, I have become highly sensitive to flavors and smells.  I have also become incredibly dependent on water.  My water intake was pretty good to begin with before these changes, but now I feel wiped out if I don't keep chugging water constantly throughout the day.

If that wasn't bad enough, I was wired for the rest of that day.  This tiny eight ounce drink was consumed sometime around 1pm.  By 11:30pm, I was still wide awake.  I tossed and turned all night, sleeping in one hour increments at best.  Around 5:00am, on a lazy rainy weekend morning, I finally gave up and got out of the bed in search of some house cleaning to do.  My brain was on high alert and would not allow me to calm down and relax.  It was a crazy jacked up feeling and I could not believe my system was still reacting to something I drank the previous afternoon.  It took a full 24 hours and loads of water for my system to feel normal again.  What the @#$%?  Is this how it is going to be from now on?  After a short hiatus away from caffeine, does this mean I "broke" my body from ever being able to enjoy another specialty coffee drink?  Say it ain't so!  If I can't drink my Starbucks, what ever shall I do?

It does not end there.  I also tried to eat some sugar-free Blue Bell ice cream.  Of course I thought I was being smart by only getting a partial scoop, less than a half of a cup.  The plan was to take it slow and easy since I had not digested any dairy in so long.  I opted for the sugar-free version because I did not want to bounce off the walls.  Sugar was off the menu as well during this cleanse.  Two tiny bites into my micro serving of ice cream and my stomach started doing flip flops.  It was an immediate reaction to the dairy and it lasted the rest of the night.  I wanted to bang my head up against the wall for thinking my insides could survive a dairy invasion.  Oh well, scratch that off the list of acceptable things to eat for now.  My love for cheesy enchiladas, queso dip and buttery popcorn was fading fast.  I consider myself a fairly intelligent person.  It only takes one clue or two for me to get the big picture.  If these first two experiences were any indicator of what was to come if I continued to to try to eat my old favorites, then I would have to hang back for a while.

Under normal circumstances, I am margarita and wine lover.  Do you think I am crazy enough to attempt an alcoholic beverage after the way a tiny amount of caffeine affected me?  Not by a long shot.  Just the mere thought of biting into a piece of meat right now makes my digestive system want to lock up and throw away the key.  Although I did plan to continue with my vegan diet for a little longer after the conclusion of the cleanse, I fully expected to be able to indulge every once in a while if I cared to do so.  However after these little excursions, it felt more like I was punishing myself instead indulging.  Sticking with the vegan thing feels a little safer at the moment.  When I went to the grocery store to stock up on lunch items for this upcoming work week, none of my old stuff appealed to me.  I loaded up my shopping cart with fresh produce, beans and grains without really thinking about it.

My hubby commented that my face and shape were slowly changing.  Of everyone in my yoga cleanse group, it appears that I may have actually lost the least amount of weight, which is 6 pounds.  After chatting with others in the group, I discovered that many of them lost about 8 or 9 pounds on average.  This did not bother me, because I knew my body would continue to adjust now that I would keep up these dietary changes for a while.  If I end up losing another 6 or 7 pounds, I will be happy.  I also plan to get back into my weight training now that most of my racing calendar is complete for the season.  It is normal for me to go through this cycle of wanting to hit the weights and tone up in time for the spring weather.  The difference now is that I will have to make a concentrated effort to take in enough protein and B-12 supplements.  It is going to take a little practice but I think things might turn out for the best.  I suppose it can't be a bad thing that my body is rejecting the junk and the toxins.  Whenever my brain catches up and gets with the program, I just might be on to something good.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Cleanse: Mid Point Check-In

So right now I am roughly half way through my 21-day yoga cleanse and things have been overall positive.  If you recall, the focus of the cleanse is for us to abstain from the "big five": sugar, animal products, gluten, caffeine and alcohol.  In other words, I have been a very sober, sugar-free, decaffeinated vegan for the sake of this experiment. My initial anxiety was having to give up sugar, but that has been one of the two least difficult items to avoid.  I thought I would be coming out of my skin by now, hopelessly yearning for sugar of some kind.  The monster-sized cravings I thought would consume me simply have not happened.  I am shocked.  As long as I keep sweet treats out the house, I am able to avoid them quite nicely and my kids don't seem to notice the absence of their sugar laden snacks much either.  If I had to name one sugary thing I have missed the most, it would have to be Tropicana orange juice.  Why?  I have no friggin' idea why.  For some reason, when I think of sugar, that is the "delicacy" that crosses my mind first.  Weird, huh?

Avoiding animal products has not been hard either, simply because I have gone vegetarian several times over the years.  However, it is avoiding the dairy items that takes a little more practice.  Let me explain.  When I was a vegetarian, I was an ovo-lacto vegetarian, which means I avoided eating meat but I still ate dairy products and eggs.  This cleanse requires us to go all out as full blown vegans, meaning the dairy had to be eliminated as well.  This still has not been difficult for me, but I did notice that I eat some dairy products out of habit and not always because of taste.  Since I am a self-proclaimed cereal oficianado, switching from cow's milk to unsweetened almond milk sent my taste buds to no-man's land.  Unsweetened almond milk is pretty bland, but it does it's job in the supportive role of moistening my gluten-free cereal just the same as cow's milk.

What I surprisingly have missed the most is my morning cup o' joe.  I never considered myself addicted to caffeine, but not stopping at Starbucks for my soy Americano or Mocha has been rough.  I am pretty certain the baristas at my local Starbucks have put out a missing person's report on me.  They have probably been combing through the obituaries expecting to see my picture, because death would be the only thing to keep me out of a coffeehouse this long.  It is not really the coffee itself that I miss, but the comforting feelings I normally associate with the smell and the warmth of coffee.  It relaxes me and serves as my temporary crutch in the mornings when I am not quite brave enough to face my mornings alone.  Yeah I could try to drink the decaf stuff for the next few weeks, but that would feel like eating diet ice cream when the super rich full fat version is what you really want.

Although I have whined too much about what I am not allowed to have on this cleanse, I tend to forget all the factors that have tipped my opinion in favor of this thing in the first place.  First and foremost, I have lost a little weight while eating filling and satisfying meals all day long.  By staying clear of the processed junk and loading up on the fresh whole foods, I have easily dropped the recommended two pounds per week that so many medical professionals say is the correct amount to aim for.  I have been eating more than my usual amount of food and still remained well below my daily calorie count.  My workout regime has shifted a little during the cleanse, because I am simultaneously doing the 30-day yoga commitment, too.  My running has temporarily taken a back seat until this cleanse is over, because I wanted to keep my focus on the internal changes I was trying to make and not the sweat sessions I usually take pride in doing.  So far the formula has worked.  On any other diet, I would eat a "cheat treat" and then go to the gym and run my ass off on the treadmill, trying to burn off the calories I cheated with in the first place.  This was definitely counter productive, because I would continue to the cycle day after day and never actually lose any weight at all.

The best part of the cleanse for me by far and wide is leaving behind my regretful eating habits.  By that, I mean I can honestly say I have eaten absolutely nothing on this cleanse that I regret eating.  Usually, because of "cheats" and dietary slip ups I would make from week to week, I would look back on my diet and workout journals and be regretful about my awful food choices.  I am such a food lover sometimes that I pig out on the good stuff and the junk in a 50/50 fashion.  For the sake of this cleanse, those percentages have shifted to about 90% healthy whole foods and it feels damn good to be able to say that truthfully.  My cleanse only lasts one month, but I am seriously considering keeping up the vegan portion of the program after the official diet is over.  I will gladly add my delicious morning coffee back to my routine, as long as it is dairy free.  The sugary stuff will take a back seat as well after the cleanse, now that I see I can go without it successfully.  Who knows how my margarita and wine favorites will fall into my new list of priorities, but so far I haven't missed them.  Is it possible that I am beginning a new healthier chapter because some funky new age dietary cleanse?  Let's hope so, because this old body can use all the help it can get.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Isn't Cleansing For the Crazies?

If I had to pick one quality that I love most about myself, it would be the fact that I am always willing to try just about anything at least once.  Whether it is a new hairstyle or a new restaurant, there is always something out of my norm that catches my eye.  This does not mean that I have to fall in love with everything or adopt it as anything permanent, but I do like to step outside of my little box on occasion just to get some variety from time to time.  Most of my try-something-new adventures center around food.  It is amazing that I never became a better cook because good food, not junk, has long been my preferred drug of choice.  I use good food to celebrate, to soothe, to remember, to forget and sometimes just to be a glutton if I am really honest with myself.  My latest new thing to give a whirl is a 21-day cleanse that starts this weekend.  It goes hand in hand with a 30-day yoga commitment I am currently doing at my neighborhood gym, so the two activities are meant to support each other.

As a guide for the cleanse, we are following a plan laid out by author Kathy Freston's book Quantum Wellness Cleanse.  For 21 days, I will avoid what she calls the "big five".  They include (in order of "Oh Hell No!") sugar, gluten, caffeine, alcohol and animal products.  I purposely listed them in my personal order of difficulty, although others surely may have a different perspective.  I amno stranger to Kathy Freston's books, so it was an added bonus that this experiment would follow a plan I was already kind of cool with.  I have done similar stints like this in the past where I would eliminate animal products from my diet and was in fact a full-fledged vegetarian for two years before I got married.  Why I became a carnivore again after marriage is still a bit of a blur to me.  Somewhere along the way, I must have fallen into a beef brisket and never climbed back out.  I still flirt with the possibility of going back to my old ways and even tried going vegan for a short while last year.  Whenever I fall back into the habit of eating meat, I can never identify exactly why except to say that I become lazy and stop paying attention to what I eat.  Mindless eating for convenience is going to be the death of me, literally.

There are a few factors that make this cleanse different for me.  First, I have never done any type of diet of any kind with a group before.  I usually hate all the gooey gushy sharing that takes place in group meetings, so my method has been to suffer in solitude and do my dieting alone.  Hey, but like I said, I will try anything at least once, so here goes.  I signed up at the gym and we will meet for an hour and half once a week for a month to offer support and swap healthy recipes.  This is all being put on by the yoga department, so we are encouraged to practice yoga daily and record our experiences in a journal that we can share with others if we choose.  Throughout the cleanse, I will be encouraged to give less importance to the foods that are eliminated and embrace new things that I normally would not be willing to try.  Already this sounds like it will be right up my alley.

After you eliminate all added sugars, gluten and animal products, you are left with a mostly plant-based diet.  The biggest pains about actually following a plant-based diet are the constant trips to the grocery store.  Fresh veggies and fruits do not have a long shelf life, so you may find yourself in the store loading up every 2-3 days on average or else you will fall of the diet wagon.  When I did my short vegan stint last year, I do cringe remembering the near constant trips to the store but I did enjoy the food.  I remember the way I felt lighter and more clear-minded throughout my days.  I remember how my weight starting to drop nicely without much change in my fitness routine.  I remember my skin looking healthier and my hair being shinier.  So if I remember all these good side effects from the veganism experiment, why the hell did I ever stop?  Was it laziness after so many frequent store visits or having to plan and prepare meals ahead of time?  Who knows.

Another factor that is motivating me is that fact that I am making some huge dietary changes all at the same time.  In the past when I wanted to drop weight, I would eliminate meat or sugar or alcohol.  I have never eliminated all these things at the same time, so I am curious about how my body will change when I play by all the rules at once.  Will my system go into shock from being too damn healthy?  In my quest to achieve a slimmer figure in the past, I would eliminate sugar or processed carbs and lose about 5 pounds.  After that I would get bored, change up my efforts and accidentally scarf down a cupcake or something.  Before you know it, after a single slip-up, I would throw in the towel and slowly let my dietary vices slip their way back in.  I would end up right back where I started.

Also one sad thing to admit is that anytime I have cleaned up my diet in the past, I've always given myself an "out" or a Plan B, some sort of way to cheat and still claim to be on track to the outside world.  I don't want to be that person this time.  I want to follow the cleanse as closely as possible because I am truly curious what transformation my mind and body will go through.  I actually want to be a good pupil this time and do what the teacher is requesting of me.  When I seriously look at the plan through mature eyes, it does not look so scary.  I mean, it is only 21 days.  Come on, I've had college boyfriends that barely lasted that long.

Based on my experience with no-sugar/no-caffeine eliminations in the past, I can expect the first 4 days to be pure hell.  Headaches, cravings, and plain old all around bitchiness are going to be on full display.  I will have to keep reminding myself that these food eliminations are temporary and I am merely giving my body a break from all the toxins.  My hope is that I will be able to leave some of them out of my diet even longer because ultimately they all contribute to my overall weight gain.  I am carrying around an extra layer of Thanksgiving/Christmas/birthday partying pounds that I have chosen to ignore for the last couple of months.  Now it is time to face the music and dig through those extra layers of pudge to find the body I want.  I haven't seen that body in a while, but I know it will not remain hidden for much longer.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lessons Learned: Looking Back at the Streak

By the time you read this, I would have completed my crazy little running streak.  I made it and it actually flew by as if only a few days passed.  The plan was to run a minimum of one mile every day for 40 consecutive days, but it ended up being a little more than that.  This is because my Go-FAR run club girls had a group run the day after my streak was scheduled to be over, plus I had another run with my boys and a post-yoga class run just to sweat a little.  Oh well, one extra run wasn't going to kill me after lasting this long.  Make that two more, or wait, three more extra runs?  I also have a 5K and a half-marathon coming within days of the streak's end.  So total, this will make 46 consecutive days of running.  Whew!  I surely did not see that coming.  I must be a little crazier than I originally thought.  One day I will eventually sit down and calculate exactly how many miles I covered during this time, but that will be a day when my brain is less mushy than it is right now.

So how was the streak, you might be asking?  It was a learning experience in ways I did not expect.  I thought I would be tired, burned out and ready to get it over with.  I thought an injury might happen or my schedule would get too busy.  I thought my family might grow resentful because I was too focused on a silly little promise I made to myself without any rewards to gain.  None of that happened.  Instead of burning out from the daily routine, the running became highly addictive.  I learned that running in the morning before my schedule gets crazy really is the best option.  I have normally been an evening runner because of my super early work schedule, but since I was trying desperately to keep things from getting stale during this time period, I made some adjustments.  So, morning runs won most of the time over evening workouts.  The only thing that could have prevented me from getting my run out the way first thing in the morning was my ability to dream up a worthy excuse.  As long as I did the run in the morning, the stress of squeezing it in later was eliminated.  This meant getting to the gym at 4:30am for treadmill runs some mornings because it was just too damn early to run alone in the dark by myself.

Another lesson learned from the streak was to keep the running light and fun.  I read once that in order to change your attitude towards a given task, you have to change the way you refer to it.  Instead of saying, "I have to run later", you would say instead "I get to run later".  This would make it feel like a treat is waiting for you instead another tedious item to be crossed off your to-do list.  On days that I needed to do longer runs, I made it a point to take my time exploring new routes or even revisiting old ones that I seldom made time for anymore.  I made my way down to Memorial Park for runs at least once per week to keep things interesting.  If you are unfamiliar with my reference to Memorial Park, it is the running mecca in the Houston area and it is easy to rack up double-digit mileage exploring some of the running trails in that park and surrounding area.  I trained for my first marathon doing most of my runs along the Memorial Park and Allen Parkway trails, so in a way this brought me back to my running roots, like some sort of informal homecoming.

Some runs were in mild weather, some were in freezing cold temps and a few were in the rain.  Normally I am not a rainy weather runner, but I got caught out there in a few showers a couple of times during the streak and survived them nonetheless.  I ran alone, with old friends, with new friends, with my boys, on the treadmill, and on the trails.  I ran with music, without music, sometimes without a watch, but always with a clear mind and a free spirit.  It was wonderful and the deeper I got into the streak, I felt tremendously blessed to be able to walk out the door and put one foot in front of the other in good health with a sound mind.  The streak slowly transformed itself into a celebration of sorts, a testimony for all the souls that ever dreamed of running, but simply did not or could not for one reason or another.

My husband has always been the health nut of our family.  Every family has at least one and yes, it gets annoying!  He eats well, lifts weights, bikes, swims, and runs just to keep himself strong.  However, when my husband was sick a year and half ago due to kidney failure and in his weakest state, his weight plummeted 60 pounds.  He could not walk across the room without feeling winded and needing to rest.  Back then, he would have given a pirate's treasure just to be able to walk around our house with ease.  My thoughts went to him and back to that time of our lives when good health was not taken for granted.  Because of those memories, I would end my runs giving thanks to God for the ability to lace up my running shoes and push my body in ways that some others may not be able to do.

This reminds me of a quote I read today that said, "If you really want to do something, you will find a way.  If you don't want to, you will find an excuse."  Isn't this the gospel truth?  This streak taught me to prioritize the things differently so my joy was not trampled by all the "must do's" and "have to's" of my daily routine.  I got to enjoy my oldest hobby at it most basic level and learned to love it again.  The whole experience was so positive that I even considered extending the streak by another 20 days just to see if I could make it.  That idea got squashed because it is easy to let too much of a good thing morph into a bad thing.  There was no need in getting greedy.  My running would always be there and the possibility of doing a repeat performance could remain a viable future option.  Instead, I decided to try a streak of a different kind.  For 30 consecutive days, from January 15th through February 13th, I will be participating in a yoga streak.  No, this is not an original idea of mine.  My gym is sponsoring this 30-day yoga commitment and it will give me a chance to further explore a hobby I have pushed to the back burner for far too long.  If I can experience just some of the joy I gained from this last streak, I should be in a very happy place by the end of the next one.

A Side Note:  On days that I did run with my iPod, I had what I call my "feel good" playlist on a loop to keep my feet snappy and my mood positive.  I shared it here in case you need a little "mood" music too!

My Streaking Playlist:

  • "Freedom" -Nickie Minaj
  • "Madness" -Muse
  • "32 Flavors" -Alana Davis
  • "On to the Next One" -Jay-Z
  • "Hall of Fame" -The Script
  • "Paper Cut" -Linkin Park
  • "Working Day and Night" -Michael Jackson
  • "Life is a Highway" -Rascal Flatts
  • "Are You Gonna Go My Way" -Lenny Kravitz
  • "Home" -Phillip Phillips