A few months back, I pondered the idea of being “just a 5k runner.” Last week, I shared that I signed up for a 10k, allowing over ten months to prepare. Well, that 10k is going to be my cooldown. We signed up for a half marathon! That was my one Black Friday sale purchase; we decided to sign up because they offered a code.
The race isn’t until May, allowing six months to prepare. While researching half-marathon training plans, it’s becoming clear that a runner can prepare for one in twelve to sixteen weeks. I can continue to do my short (for others) runs during the weeks and aim to increase my distance by 1-1.5 miles weekly during a long run on the weekend. Even if I miss a little bit of training due to New England winters and have to backtrack when the weather gets warmer, I will have plenty of time to be ready. My running friends and I have committed to running together on the weekends.
Why am I doing this?
To prove to myself that I can set a goal and reach it
To finally conquer my self-doubt when it comes to running
Hopefully, to lose some of the ten pounds that have crept up in the last two years
To be vulnerable and supportive and work towards a goal with some amazing people
So I can put a cool 13.1 sticker on my Subaru (only kinda kidding)
Now comes the hard part, besides the training itself. I need to tell people I’m doing it. It took a long time to tell people I was running. I still preface any running talk by saying, “I’m not fast, but I’m doing it.” Just as I was initially nervous to reveal to people that I was running, I am nervous to tell people I am training for a half-marathon. I’ve never run for than four and a half miles in a row. I’m not fast. But I am running. And I am running towards a goal.
I know, it’s a totally clique prompt, but I’m going with it.
Right at the top!
Mike supports me in every possible way. While I didn’t need his permission, he gave me his blessing to sign up for BRG and take a class at Bryant this spring. Some weeks, I was out of the house four nights. He never complained. A year ago, we spent four days in the hospital while he recovered from an appendectomy. We laughed through much of it, confusing the nurses. We left the hospital thankful not only for his health, but that we were able to get through a scary, stressful time.
He’s funny. I genuinely love spending time with him. He is a great father. I am thankful for him and our great marriage.
My in-laws are amazing! My father in law is one of my favorite people in the world! They are supportive and involved. They are fantastic grandparents. My mother in law will play with Liam for hours. They both give great advice. When I am thankful for my husband, I am also thankful for the two people who raised him. They are the reason he is so wonderful!
My Friends (old and new!)
The few years after having Liam were so lonely. Facebook exacerbated the situation by informing me everytime people went out without me. Over the years, I’ve made some life-changing friends. They support me and challenge me to try new things. They offer different perspectives. They allow me to vent when needed put push me when it is time to move on. Most importantly, they make me laugh! Whether we are running, doing yoga, putting together an event at Liam’s school, or sitting around a fire in someone’s backyard, laughter is always a significant part of the festivities. I think about where I am right now, fully aware that my friends helped me more than they’ll ever know.
My kid is amazing! I know, every mom has to say that. I love this little seven-year-old child of mine! He’s smart, funny, and observant. He is kind, even when he doesn’t realize I’m watching.
My work is challenging but rewarding. My kids are amazing and make excellent observations about their world. I am also blessed with fantastic coworkers and a lot of autonomy. I spend more time with my colleagues than I do with my family. I’m thankful to spend my days with great people.
I often complain about my body, fully aware that I need to change my diet to change my body. However, my body is healthy and allows me to run and practice yoga. It allows me to take walks with Liam and Mike. It may be bigger and softer than I’d like it to be, but I am thankful to possess a healthy, able body.
While doing research for his I-Search paper, a student asked me to look at his research organizer. He had one bit of information for each of his five research questions. Knowing he needed at least two to three answers for each of his questions to formulate a valid, well-rounded response, I told him, “Good start” and began asking clarifying questions to gather more information.
“Really? I thought I was done,” he told me as we wrapped up the check-in.
From across the room, another student chimed in, “Don’t you hate when she does that? ‘Good start.’ ‘No, I’m showing her because I’m done and she always says ‘Good start.'” There is nothing more humbling than learning about an annoying quirk from a group of teenagers.
It wasn’t until he called me on it that I realized how often I use the term “Good start,” in both verbal check-ins and while communicating via Google Docs. I often joke with my students about a magical place called “Done.” They all want to be there. For them, “Done” is place that means they can relax for a minute and exhale before moving onto their next goal.
It makes me wonder, when are we “Done?” In yoga, we are never “done.” That’s why it’s called practice. In the ten plus years of practicing yoga, I’ve never been bored; there’s always something new and another challenge. Running and weightlifting have changed my yoga practice. While my legs are stronger than they’ve ever been, I’m aware that I am not as flexible as I used to be. I was close to being able to do a split; that went away when I began running three times a week. While some flexibility fled, I find I get more from my sessions now. My body craves the stretching and movement.
When it comes to running, I am aware that I will also never be “done.” I’m inspired by progress to become faster and stronger. It is such a great feeling to feel better while running or to go a little faster than you’re used to running.
With both my students and Liam, I spend a lot of time talking about growth mindset, a term coined by Carol Dweck. She talks about the power of the word “yet,” as in, “I can’t do that yet.” Because I loop with my students, we can talk about progress and how far they’ve come in the months and years we’ve known each other. When he gets frustrated with a new concept, I remind Liam of his progress in ninja skills classes and elementary school. “Remember when borrowing numbers in subtraction was tough? Now, you can do it without any problems. You’ll get this!’
My running friends and I often remind ourselves of our progress. We remember when the thought of running four minutes was terrifying. Now, we regularly run three miles without stopping.
So this makes me wonder when I will be “done” when it comes to running, weightlifting and yoga. In my weightlifting, my goal is to do a pull-up. I can deadlift 200 pounds but can’t do a pull-up. I signed up for a 10K next September. There is talk about a half marathon next summer. How far will go? I have a plan to reach these goals? What’s next?
Most of my runs stay in the three-mile range. I know I could run farther, three-miles fits my schedule and ability. In group runs, we often talk about completing longer races. Many complete 10K and 10 milers regularly. It seemed like a distant dream for me. Then I remembered that running three miles used to seem impossible.
Registration for the Ocean Road 10K opened today. A lot of the Rhode Runner group participates. I know there will be a lot of support and friendly faces there. The race isn’t until September 2018, allowing a lot of time to prepare. Being a worrywart, I looked up last year’s results. There few almost 1400 runners; at my current expected pace, I should be faster than 200 of them. I have over ten months to get stronger and faster!
Yesterday was my first run in the suddenly cooler weather. Wow, it was terrible! I just thought that wearing longer pants and sleeves would be enough. My lungs burned! That was an expected surprise! After doing some reading online, I learned that keeping my neck warm should help; Target sells fleece scarves that will do the trick. Running in the cooler weather required changing up a few things. I was not expecting my nose to start running fast than the rest of my body and my arms to get so cold. After maintaining paces in the low 12’s, I was back in the low 13’s. To face this new awkwardness, I signed up for a Thanksgiving morning race in Maine. I’ll miss running with my friends at the local race; I’ll still be able to get in a race and enjoy an extra treat that evening!
Just like all of the challenges life throws at us daily, running in the cold will be a fun new one! It will take some adjustments, but I will get where I need to be!
Yesterday was my mom’s birthday. Usually, I can breeze through this day. On her first birthday after she passed, we went to her favorite restaurant. Since it closed a few years ago, this is no longer an option. Monday, I decided to make a spice cake, her tradition for everyone’s birthday. Whenever the occasion called for cake, she had a spice cake with vanilla frosting ready. Finally, my dad admitted that he didn’t like spice cakes. Apparently, before they were married, my grandmother pulled my mother aside to tell her that my father loved spice cake. Wanting to be a good wife, my mother made spice cake for every birthday and holiday. When my father broke down and asked her to stop making them, my mother told him the advice given before their wedding day.
“Spice cake is my mother’s favorite!” my father revealed. “We tolerated it for her!”
While my mother began making us chocolate or yellow cakes for our birthdays, the joke never died. On my dad’s first birthday after my mom passed, I baked and sent a spice cake to him in Florida.
This year, I felt the need to make her a birthday cake. I explained to Liam, who hates running errands after school, that we needed to stop and get the ingredients to make Nana’s favorite cake. He didn’t complain. At the store, there was every cake mix except spice. I began crying in the middle of the market. Of course, this is when we run into one of Liam’s classmates and her family. I’m tearing up like a fool, carrying an empty basket.
“Picking up dinner?” she asked, being friendly.
Ugh… I decided to explain, unable to just say “Yes” and move on. It actually helped to get the words out. “I guess the is the universe telling me I don’t need cake,” I surmised.
In true awesome mother form, I made Liam a snack, let him watch TV, went upstairs, and cried. It has been months since I’ve cried over anything. I’m usually so good with my emotions; why am I crying over cake?
It hit me later when I was hugging Liam good night. Because he is growing so much, he can hug me with his arms on my shoulders rather than wrapping them around my waist. It made me realize that I forgot how I hug my mom; whose arms were on top? Did it vary? I was such a mess that I just went to bed, hoping to sleep it away.
Grief is grief. We never know when and how it will strike. We can try to prepare ourselves for when we think it will sneak up and make an appearance. Grief lets us know that things still matter, that pain doesn’t always leave us. I often wonder what life would be like if my mom were still here. I find myself forgetting things about my mom, or struggling to remember things that should be etched in my memory, and getting upset with myself, as though these lapses are a personal insult to her and her memory.
The best I can do it tell Liam about his Nana, share stories about her quirks and kindness. I can intend to make a spice cake and be okay if the universe tells me otherwise.
I’ve previously mentioned that seven is my favorite age. If Liam could stay seven forever, I would be beyond happy. As Mike and I talked about what we should do for Christmas, a horrible thought hit me: this might be Liam’s last Christmas believing in Santa.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that I am not a big Christmas person. We put up a tree a decorate outside. We bake cookies and spend a lot of time decorating them. I take Liam to see Santa on a weekday afternoon the week after Thanksgiving so we can get in and out and avoid lines. We leave cookies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer. But that is as far as we go. I will never play Christmas music or watch Christmas movies. I have no interest in decorating extensively or using holiday dish towels. We never did those things growing up and too many years of retail killed whatever Christmas mojo I once had. Last year, the only picture we took on Christmas morning was of the dog.
When Liam was younger, Elf on a Shelf became popular. I hate everything about it, referring to it as Santa’s narc. Liam went through a phase where he thought he should earn a treat each time he acted appropriately. This came to a head while we were on vacation. We took a boat ride from our beach house in Jamestown to Newport. We walked around Newport, had lunch, bought some fudge, and rode the boat back.
“Maybe because I was such a good listener I could get a special treat,” Liam suggested on the boat ride back.
“You’re spending a week at a beach house. You took a boat ride to Newport. We bought you lunch. You had fudge. That is your special treat.”
Mike and I focused on Liam doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do, not because he may get a treat. Honestly, I know that most things in life come down to the “earn a reward/ avoid a consequence” mentality. I want Liam to enjoy doing the right thing and not become a spoiled beast. We never offered up Elf on a Shelf. Liam never wanted one.
This year, Liam asked for an Elf on the Shelf. He said that all of his friends have one and they seem like a lot of fun. We asked him to explain the elf’s job; he’s fully aware he reports to Santa. His classrooms in his last school did Elf on a Shelf. I have to admit that I enjoyed looking for the little guy each morning. It looked like a lot of work and reminded me of themes saved for teaching Lord of the Flies. (What makes people do the right thing? Is it because we’re actually good people or is it because we are scared some toy elf is going to snitch on us to the big guy?)
But then we remembered that the years of Liam believing in Santa are numbered. We’ve got this one, but next year isn’t guaranteed. I ordered the elf this morning. I’m going to dig out all of the Christmas decorations people have given us through the years that I usually store away. Maybe I’m lazy, but it seems like a lot of work to move everything around just for a few weeks? It takes hours to put it all out and hours to put it all away.
This year will be different. We will drink the Christmas Kool-Aid. I will set an alarm on my Fitbit for 9:15 each night, reminding me to move the elf. Mike and I decided to decorate the inside of the house this year. I will make Liam watch the Polar Express, which I have never read nor watched myself. We bought tickets to breakfast with Santa. This time of Liam believing in all of the Christmas magic is dwindling; we need to keep it as long as possible.
When I found out I was pregnant, Mike and I immediately pondered names. My choices were Madalyn or Reagan for a girl and Holden for a boy. Mike vetoed Holden on the spot. We went to our twenty-week ultrasound not knowing names. While I did not want to find out the gender of our baby, Mike did. He now admits that he spent weeks looking at ultrasounds on Google Images to know how to see the gender. During the last few pictures, Mike looked over the ultrasound technician’s shoulder, hoping for a glimpse of anything that would determine the gender. His face lit up when he realized he saw what was unmistakably a boy. Once I knew, I was glad to know that we were having a boy.
We still needed to name said baby. We were toying with the idea of naming him Michael after Mike and his father but calling him by his middle name. One night, Mike came upstairs all excited. He suggested naming the baby Michael William and calling him Liam for short. He’d be named after my father-in-law, one of the noblest men I’ve ever met. I loved the idea! We also decided not to tell anyone the full name, explaining that we would go with the name Liam. “It will be different,” Mike had said, “There won’t be three of them in his class.” The world was in the height of Aiden mania. There were millions of baby boys named Aiden or names that rhyme with Aiden (Jaiden, Brayden, etc). It was settled; we had finally named the baby!
Little did we know that millions of other parents were having the same conversation. Liam ranked in the top three names for the next few years.
After months of waiting, we finally met our Liam. When he was in his Grumpa’s arms, we let Mike’s dad know that he was holding his namesake. It was one of my favorite moments of my life.
As we got to know our Liam, we couldn’t imagine calling him anything else. “He’s definitely not a Michael,” we said to each other on more than one occasion, “He’s definitely a Liam.”
Fast forward six years. Michael is finished at his daycare center and moving to a new school for first grade. At an open house, he told us he’d like to be called Michael. It seemed easy enough. It is still a struggle to remember when to call him Liam and when to call him Michael. I’ve been chitchatting with someone about Liam and asked if I have another son. His birthday party was a fun mix of friends from home, his old school, and his new school. Singing Happy Birthday sounded like a garbled mess during the last line.
Liam has always had a way of using logic to get what he wants and to get the last word. Often, I’ve wished he’d just throw a tantrum so I could veto him and move on. As I was preparing Liam for a week of summer camp, I labeled all of his materials “Michael.”
“I’d like to be called Liam at camp.”
“I’ve already labeled everything Michael. You’re going to Michael at camp.”
On the first day of camp, Liam came home proudly wearing a nature hat he made at camp. Across the rim read “Mike.”
“What’s with the Mike?” I asked him.
He shrugged, “I told them they could call me Mike.”
As he makes friends at his new school, he is slowly being called Mike and sometimes the dreaded Mikey. We specifically didn’t want a Mikey!
Our seemingly simple plan to name our child is more confusing than ever. He goes by three different names. I tend to use Liam most of the time and reserve Michael for when he really needs to listen and pay attention. Mike and I also have a handful of nicknames that we mix in as well. My favorites being Booba and Kidface while Mike calls him Sport and Sport Puppy.
Even though I often complain to Mike that I wish we had just named him Liam or just called him Michael, I sometimes love having this name confusion. When one of the most confusing things in life is what people call your kid, I guess things are pretty drama free.
In seventh-grade, I decided to be an English teacher when I grew up because I thought there would be nothing better than spending my days reading and writing. Never in those thoughts did I think about having summers off with Liam. However, almost thirty years later, I get to earn a living doing something I love and enjoy two months off with Liam. I often explain that I have the best of both worlds.
I feel the same way about running. I have a supportive fun group of people to join on runs but also get the pleasure of going out solo. Once a week, I am able to run the Boulevard before picking Liam up at school.
I love both of these runs for different reasons. When I am with friends, the time flies by! We pick up right where we left off, talking and laughing. I wondered how we were able to connect quickly. A line from Big Little Lies sums up what I am trying to put into words:
“It was interesting how you could say things when you were walking that you might not otherwise have said with the pressure of eye contact across a table.”
I love when a group run can push you to go a little faster than you normally would. I also love when you can pass the time chatting and forget that you are engaging in a challenging physical activity.
My solo runs also hold a special place in my heart. I can zone out and focus on the world around me. I can listen to my embarrassingly pop-filled “Run Run Run” playlist on Spotify. My pace is mine alone. Even though I can go as far as I’d like, my distance tends to be two miles around the neighborhood and exactly 3.1 miles when on the Boulevard. I can focus on my breathing and my form. (My form is causing underpronation. I’m learning about it and trying to correct it myself.) When I started running the Boulevard solo, I noticed a lot of things that had gone previously unnoticed while chatting.
When I first began running on my own, I thought the time would drag. While it doesn’t go by as quickly as it does when I am with a friend, I love having the time with my mind to challenge myself to get better at something that previously seemed impossible.
So I am the mom who didn’t take a single picture of Halloween.
There was a rush to get ready and out the door to meet at our neighbor’s house for a few games before trick or treating. Because Liam’s school didn’t have power and was canceled, he went to work with Mike for the day and didn’t get home until after 5:00. We were convincing Liam to eat so he wouldn’t get tired and grumpy while walking around with his friends. There was Liam’s sudden request for me to wear my Pikachu costume with him. I was going to try to avoid dressing up. He asked me. At seven, he’s not going to ask his mama to dress up with him much longer.
The boys played a few games, a donut eating contest and bobbing for marshmallows, and were on their way. Liam said “Thank you” at every house, even when he didn’t think I was listening. He really is a polite kid! After about an hour in, he started to get hungry and whiny. Because he ate a huge lunch, he wasn’t hungry at dinner and ignored our request to “just eat a little something.” He made the decision to power through. The kids had a blast! We are so fortunate for fantastic neighbors and a neighborhood that really gets into the Halloween spirit! Houses are decorated, and people are friendly.
It wasn’t until we got home and I checked my Facebook that I realized I hadn’t taken a single picture of Liam in his costume. We were so busy having fun that I forgot to capture it! I love looking through my Timehop pictures on Halloween to see how much Liam has grown. Next year will have a year missing. It is what it is. We have a picture of him wearing his costume at a trunk or treat event at the school last Friday night.
Somewhere out there are pictures of my sister and me on Halloween. I know that we don’t have photos from every year. My dad has moved a handful of times since my mom passed away; I don’t even know how many pictures he has left. I love our cheesy photos in front of the fireplace wear quintessential 80’s Halloween costumes. There was one year I was Strawberry Shortcake, and she was a Monchichi.
When I realized I had forgotten to take pictures, I felt a pang of disappointment. There have been plenty of moments that didn’t make it to the camera. I’m thankful for a night that was so fun, we were too busy enjoying it to stop and take pictures! Honestly, my only regret of the evening is telling Mike to take the remaining Halloween candy with him to his office. I know I cannot trust myself with copious amounts of candy, but I wish I had saved a handful of Milky Way bars before banishing them from our house!