Something Amazing

Guys! I did something horribly amazing- I gained ten pounds in a very short amount of time. It happened so quickly that I didn’t even realize it until I was back to my “Oh no” weight. (Does anyone else have a hierarchy of weights? (Mine are happy, okay, watch it, oh no- do something)

After finishing the half, I continued to eat as though I was still running twenty miles a week. Liam decided he did not want to continue with Laid-Back Fitness. (Nothing happened, he just wanted a break.) Without Liam’s parent discount and the time for me to workout while he is in class, it didn’t make sense for me to continue. I hurt my calf doing speedwork and couldn’t run for over two weeks. It got ridiculously hot. Then we went on vacation for a week, following the mantra “do what you want” for eight days.

My view for a week during our annual trip the beach house.

I was up five pounds the day we went away. When we returned, I was up ten. That is what eight days of eating cinnamon rolls and bacon for breakfast will do. I am not a huge drinker, sometimes going weeks without even having a single adult beverage. While on vacation, Mike and I drank beer each night while sitting outside, listening to the waves, watching the stars, and chatting away. With beer came cheese and crackers and, before we knew it, we were indulging in a day’s worth of calories after Liam went to sleep.

When I returned home, I fearfully crept on the scale, learning I was up five pounds in eight days. Time to get back on track! This week marks the official start to training for my second half marathon. Now that I know I can run thirteen miles, I want to focus on getting stronger and faster.

I’ve worked too hard to only come this far. It’s time to hit the reset button and get back on track.

Summer Running Buddy

By the end of the school year, I created a pretty good routine to make sure I was ready for my first half marathon.  I would come home, change, and take Banjo with me on a short run, picking Liam up from school and walking home together. Now that we are both out of school, I pondered how to get in my runs as I begin training for my second half. When a friend asked if Liam and I would be interested in training for a 5K in the fall, it seemed like a perfect reason to introduce Liam to running. He is excited to run with his friend.

Proof that Liam is my kid: he insisted on packing a snack for the run. 

When we decided that we would begin running with the dog in the morning, Liam had many of the same fears I did when I began running. He questioned his ability, could he run far and fast enough? We set out with a goal of running one mile. I asked what a good time would be to run. His reply: “3:28 in the morning.” We agreed that a fourteen-minute mile seems a reasonable first goal. We set a few norms to keep either of us from getting frustrated or discouraged:

Liam decided the course.

We run no more than a mile.

Walk when you need to walk.

Liam explaining our route.

 

We set out, walking a block before beginning to run. Liam took off, which I knew wouldn’t last but let him play it through. After a few minutes, he was tired. I set the one-minute interval on my app that I usually use for speed training. He did fine with this, then decided to use landmarks as goals. “We can run to the main road, then walk to the next street, and run again.” It was a perfect setup!  When we were close to the one-mile mark, I noticed our pace was 13:35; I decided to push a little further so we could finish at 13:30.

We walked the rest of the way home. Liam was great about celebrating what he accomplished. When he started putting himself down, I reminded him that it took months before I could run a mile. “Now you can run thirteen.”

“Yup, I can. And it took me over a year of running to be able to do that.”

I am beyond thankful that Liam is interested in running. I hope it becomes something we can enjoy together. Much like our daily walks with Banjo, I appreciate the opportunity to connect with Liam and talk about life. I only have a few summers left in which he will want to spend most of his time with me; I need to enjoy them while they’re here!

Week Seven: List the Greatest Compliments and Encouragement You Have Ever Been Given

I am a firm believer in compliments. I compliment my students, my family, and my friends as often as possible. I think about compliments that have truly affected me and encouraged me to continue working towards my goals.

              

You’re a good mom. A significant portion of parenting involves worrying.

“Am I too hard on Liam? Are my expectations too high?”

“Am I being too soft? Am I letting him get away with too much?”

“Am I reading to him enough?

“Am I playing enough games with him?”

“Is it okay that he is the only kid he knows without a video game system? Should I just suck it up and buy him one?”

With all of these daily worries, it was a huge confidence booster when my mother-in-law randomly told me I am a good mom.

My “running bully” congratulating me for beating my goal time at our first half!

You are stronger than you think you are. My “running bully” gets the credit for this one. I lovingly refer to my friend Kerri as my “running bully” because she pushes me when I question myself, causing me to PR at the ever-difficult Gaspee 5K and beat my goal time by fifteen minutes at our first half-marathon. I love my running group because we focus on getting out there and getting stronger over being the fastest. That being said, having someone out there pushing you out of your comfort zone is never a bad thing!

I’m so glad you’re my mama. Liam and I have a really good ability to bounce off of each other. We can make up games on the fly, without stopping to decide rules or goals. Mike and I each have activities that are “our things” with Liam. Liam and I go for bike rides, read books, sing Hamilton, and tell each other silly jokes. Every so often, Liam wraps his arms around me and tells me, “I’m so glad you’re my mama.”  It melts my heart.

Week Six: Things that Block You from Happiness

This one hits close to home. This past month has provided countless opportunities for reflection and perspective. Being asked to reflect upon what stands in your way is especially fitting this week.

Self-doubt and Worry I have it. I continuously question my abilities. Am I a good parent? Am I a good teacher? Am I a good wife? Am I good enough friend? Do I have any business writing about running? Am I spending enough time playing with Liam? Am I hovering? Do I check in my friends often enough? While doing all of these things, how do I keep my own head above water? Running and weight-lifting have taught me that I am stronger than I think, but I am always doubting myself.

Not Asking for Help Mike is a saint when it comes to this. Somehow, it has come into my mind that being a good wife means taking care of as much as I possibly can. I get home before he does and get laundry, dishes, lunches, cleaning, and dinner taken care of before he gets home. By the time he gets home, I’m exhausted. Mike tells me to leave stuff for him to do, yet every day, I feel the need to take care of it myself. I take care of holidays, birthdays, and events without asking for help, then get overtired and grumpy. It’s a vicious cycle, one in which Mike does a fantastic job of tolerating from me. I fight the same overwhelming meltdown several times a year, and Mike gets me through each time.

Social Anxiety Maybe I hide this. Maybe I don’t. I fear silence in small talk and talk too much then I worry that I dominated said conversation. I try to make a point of asking more questions while talking. Then I get together with a group and, for fear of dominating the conversation, don’t say much. On those rides home, I worry that people thought I was disinterested and won’t invite me in the future. I avoid certain social situations in which I know there will be a lot of small talk for fear I will talk too much or too little. I replay conversations in my mind, searching for spots where I may have messed up.

Usually, I ask Liam the same questions in the weekly prompt. It makes for interesting conversation while walking Banjo. This week’s topic is not one I want to ask Liam to reflect upon. We sometimes say he is his own worst enemy. He gets worked up about problems and spends more time worrying about them than it would take to fix them. He will spend a half an hour arguing that he doesn’t want to do math homework or clean his room, only to admit defeat and get the task done in less than ten minutes.  This is part of being a kid. Overall, Liam is a thoughtful, intuitive kid. He’s is going to get himself right where he needs to be.

It Doesn’t Get Easier, You Get Stronger

This is a common encouraging phrase heard in the workout circuit.  Yes, it is true when it comes to working out. I can now do things I never thought I’d be able to do like run fast(ish) miles and complete half-marathons. But it also applies the regular life.

    

This week marked the eighth anniversary of my mom’s passing. I never really know what to do on that day. The first year, we took the day off and went to the area where her ashes are spread. We went to get ice cream at her favorite ice cream parlor. Now, I am not allowed to take personal days during the last two weeks of school and her favorite ice cream parlor is closed. I wanted to take Liam, Mike, and Banjo up the street to our local place, enjoy the company of my favorite boys, and have a sweet treat. The universe had other plans.

My friend’s dad passed away this week. The wake was scheduled on the anniversary of my mom’s passing. I selfishly wanted to get there at the beginning, pay my respects, and take care of my own mourning. Liam had other plans. He did not want to go with me, having attended my cousin’s services last week. I was not going to push it. He was fantastic last week and two wakes in two weeks is a lot for anyone, nevermind an eight-year-old.

I tried not to cry while I waited in the receiving line. This is not about you, I told myself, be strong for your friend.

The line provided time to think about what to say. I am terrible during difficult times; everything that comes out of my mouth is cliche. I hugged her. “I am so sorry this is happening,” I began. I asked how her mom and her kids were doing. I asked how she was doing. She admitted she was being strong for everyone. “Take care of yourself. I didn’t cry until five days after my mom died. It’s going to hit you at the weirdest, silliest times, and that is okay. I’m going to check in on you and help you any way I can.”

And that was it, a whole conversation while embraced in a hug. I managed to hold my own tears. I managed to not think about the conversations I wish I could have, the things I wish my mother could have taught me. I thought of what I wished someone had said to me when my pain was fresh and I was adjusting to my new normal.

Every year, I look for signs from my mom. Sometimes, she shows up in a dream. My son starts singing one of her favorites songs, that he has no business knowing, such as the words to Lionel Richie’s classic “All Night Long.” I see a rainbow. My mom always took care of others. This year, she took the focus off of my own self-pity and provided the opportunity to take care of someone else. Maybe I am making the events fit into the idea I need, but I’ll take it.

Gaspee Recap

There’s a sweet spot in New England weather that promises the arrival of summer. It’s warm but not hot, not too humid, but most of the spring pollen is on its way out. This past weekend brought just those promises to life!

Saturday started with the Gaspee Days 5K, the culminating activity from last year’s Beginners Running Group. A year ago, we were nervous to mingle with “real runners” and doubted our training. This year, we were seasoned, having multiple 5Ks and a half-marathon under our belts! It was great to return to see our progress and help a new round of BRG graduates to complete their goal.

Photo courtesy gaspee.org

Those who are not local may not be familiar with the story of the HMS Gaspee. While everyone knows about the Boston Tea Party, the burning of the British customs ship the Gaspee occurred the previous year, leading up to the start of the American Revolution. Each year, the town celebrates Gaspee Days over the course of several weekends. There is an arts and crafts festival, fireworks, music, race and parade, and even a reenactment of the burning.

It is worth noting that the Gaspee race is one of the most challenging 5Ks around; it contains long, sloping hills that never seem to end. But the race also happens before the start of a parade, so there are thousands of people cheering you on. Residents set up sprinklers for runners; kids hold out their hands to high five racers. While it is a challenging course, the energy is fantastic!

I was excited to run this race, even though I have been nursing an injury and haven’t really been able to get a good run in since the half-marathon last month. My expectations were not high for this race; my goal was only to improve my time from last year, even if only by seconds. At the beginning of the race, I took off, pushed by the crowd and excitement. My first mile was 11:11, a pace I knew I couldn’t sustain. (Remember, I am an okay runner!) My sugar started to drop, and I felt a little woozy. I slowed down at times, allowing myself to walk some of the tougher hills.

I made it through the turnaround, enjoying my turn under the passing sprinklers. I was just starting to get discouraged at mile two when I saw my friend Kerri waiting for me.

“You don’t need to wait for me; I’m not running as much.”

“Yes, you are.”

“I need to walk a bit.”

“We can walk tot he top of the hill. Then, we’re running.”

And we did. Kerri stayed by my side throughout the race, slowing down when necessary, but keeping me motivated to try my best. I would not have pushed myself so hard had it not been for her encouragement, to remind myself that I am stronger than I think. I need people who believe in me when I am doubting myself.

Pushed to a PR!

Kerri stayed with me until the final turn of the race. For that final .1, I pushed myself as hard as I could, finishing the race in 36:44, two and a half minutes faster than last year! That gave me a PR for my 5k, which I know will improve when I race again on a flatter, more forgiving course! My current goal is to complete a 5K in the 35-minute range.

Words cannot express how happy I am that I joined BRG last year.  I am grateful for the confidence BRG provided to teach myself that I, too, am a runner. I can set goals, work towards them, and achieve them. The summer offers a lull before “race season,” which includes a 5K, four-miler, 10K, and another half-marathon. Now that I know I can do all of these things, I can focus on getting stronger. I cannot wait to see what the next year brings!

Week Five: The Best Choices I’ve Made

This has been the week of weeks!

Mike had his gallbladder out.

Liam wasn’t feeling well; he tested positive for thyroid antibodies, most likely caused by Hashimoto. We have a referral to an endocrinologist. I am relieved to know what is the cause of his symptoms. As someone who also suffers from thyroid issues, I am confident in my ability to help him manage the condition.

I pulled a calf muscle, leaving me unable to run for two weeks.

Our bank accounts were hacked twice. We knew we would get our money back, but it is time consuming to get everything back in order.

I had oral surgery and, according to doctor’s orders, should only be eating soft foods (scrambled eggs, pasta, etc.) This lasted less than a week before I went to eating softish foods on the other side of my mouth.

If nothing else, this week served as a reminder about the importance of perspective. It was a reminder of how well Mike and I work together. We could have buckled under the stress, but it brought us closer. We made time to chat. We laughed and giggled. We finished the week reminded that we chose the best possible partners for this life of ours.

So this brings us to this week’s topic: What are the best choices you’ve made?

Marrying Mike is at the top of that list. I am thankful I met him when I did; my previous self would have played gamed and ruined the relationship. He supports me, argues fairly, and is an amazing dad! I am beyond lucky that Mike walked into my life when he did.

 

Going back to school. Now that I have been teaching for fifteen years, other jobs feel like they were in another lifetime. After a few years of working odd jobs after high school, I started college when I was twenty-one. It took me five and a half years to earn my Bachelor’s degree, but I did it! I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a teacher. Going back to school and fulfilling that dream was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Being picky about friends. My friends are amazing! I’m glad I chose not to settle!

Stepping out of my comfort zone. Running, traveling to California, starting a blog (then sharing it with people). Some of my greatest joys in the past few years stem from doing things that scare me.

 

Liam is a little young to be in a position to analyze life decisions. I asked him about some good choices he’s made.

Making good friends. He’s at an age in which he is realizing that, while most people are friends, not everyone fits that description. It’s not that he has enemies, he’s eight. But he has learned that it’s easier not to try to be best friends with everyone.

Loving to read. Liam loves to read! He is struggling with math, but the boy loves to read. He will read whatever he can find: magazines, chapter books, graphic novels, resource books. I love that he loves to read and I’m willing to do what I can to nurture that love.

What I’ve Learned from Banjo

It’s hard to believe that we have only had Banjo in our lives for four months. He settled in and life has never been the same. He is the happiest dog I’ve ever met, complete with enough personality for many dogs! I know that he struggled for a while before being rescued from a road in Lousiana. He was twenty pounds lighter, a third of his current body weight. We often wonder what his life was like or even what his name used to be. I’ve learned a lot from this little pup.

Focus on the positive. We often wonder what happened to this happy-go-lucky pup, what made someone dump a dog they had obviously put a lot of work into. We had hoped that he just ran off or got lost, but an interaction with an acquaintance with a specific look made it clear that Banjo had some interactions with humans that were less than positive. In spite of that, Banjo has more love to offer than any dog I’ve ever met.

Demand love. During our walks with Outtie, he would try to catch attention at the bus stop of high school students we pass each morning. None of them seemed interested in giving Outtie pats. Banjo demands it, walking to each teenager and stopping until they acknowledge him. He doesn’t jump or step into personal space; he just simply stands next to each person for a moment, giving them an opportunity to give him love. After several months, each student now smiles, says hi to him, and gives him a few pats while he wags his tail and smiles back. Life is too short not to find places to give and take love.

 

 

Show people you love them. Banjo is a love bug. He nuzzles, stays next to you, and smiles all the time. It is evident he is overjoyed to be surrounded by people who love him and is always more than willing to show his affection and appreciation.

Be active. We have learned that it is pretty much impossible to tire this dog. He will chase the ball every time you throw it, even if it means making himself sore the next day. We learned that we have to be the ones to stop playing because he will play as much as we let him. He loves running with me and going to walks. Banjo is a dog who needs daily activity.

Don’t let your past dictate your future. It is clear that Banjo went through some difficult times. You’de never know it. He is the gentlest, silliest, kindest dog you’ll ever meet.  He doesn’t let bad past experiences ruin his future hopes of happiness.  Since we just took Liam to see The Lion King on Broadway last month, I’m reminded of Timon’s advice, “You’ve got to put your past behind you.”

 

You’re never too busy to give love. Banjo will be in the middle playing or relaxing. If he sees someone walk into the room or yard, he stops what he’s doing, walks over, and offers love. It’s a nice reminder that we, too, are never to busy to be nice.

Week Four: Getting Out of Your Head

This one hits home this week as we have been helping Liam find strategies for managing stress and Mike and I have been dealing with a lot of stress. (I try to focus on the positive so I will keep that to myself. Nobody wants to read about our woes.) I have struggled with anxiety since childhood. It’s been a long journey, but I finally feel I have a good hold on it. Here are my ways I get out of my head:

  1. I have a ritual for worry. I allow myself a certain amount of time to worry, then I make myself file it away. I used to spend sleepless nights worrying about things that were frivolous or beyond my control. Getting an honest grasp on what is worth my worry have been huge.                                       
  2. Running and yoga. What started as activities for my physical health became huge components of my mental health. Since I am still nursing a strained calf muscle and haven’t been able to run in ten days, I am feeling the need in my head as much as in my body.
  3. Spending time with Mike and Liam. Yes, it sounds cheesy and I am not apologizing. They always manage to make me laugh and forget about things that are worrying me.
  4. Reruns. We have Netflix and Amazon Prime yet, whenever I need to shut my brain off, I find myself watching Friends, Big Bang Theory, or How I Met Your Mother reruns. I know them all by heart but refuse to venture into new shows. I stick with what helps me feel better. Maybe they work to shut my mind off because I can half watch them and still follow along with the plot.

I asked Liam how he quiets his mind when feeling stressed. He struggled to find answers. We talked about a few things he does when he is worried.

  1. Play with Banjo                                                                                         
  2. Watch funny TV shows. Liam and I just started watching Fuller House. It is totally cheesy and he loves it. Having traveled to San Francisco to work twice, I earn major coolness points when I able to point out landmarks and pull up pictures on my phone. I’ve even been to Alamo Park and saw the Fuller House house. He asks if we can visit when he gets a bit older. I loved visiting this area and can’t wait to take him in a few years.
  3. Go to the playground. When Liam is getting miserable, we know that we need to get him out of the house. Walking to the nearest playground is a great, free way to burn off energy. He is trying to teach me to cross the monkey bars. I love watching his patience and interest in trying to teach him something that comes so easily to him.
How lucky are we to have this beach a mile from our house?

When is a Good Time to Bounce Back from an Injury?

A week and a half ago, I was having a fantastic run! The weather was warm but not hot. I managed a great pace that was both challenging and sustainable.  After months of focusing on distance and endurance, my focus moved to getting faster. I joined the #sportsbrasquad and was feeling invincible. I was working towards my goal of increasing my speed.  In the middle of an interval, my calf gave out. It was sudden, like someone had whacked it. I couldn’t walk and had to call my husband to come get me. I limped for the next couple of days. It is still painful when I walk, just enough to let you know the pain is still hanging around.

It’s been ten days. I am itching to run. I’ve tried a few times, only to have to immediately stop. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do to help it heal: taping, wrapping, ice, compression socks, massage, foam rolling. It is getting better, but not as quickly as I’d like.

It makes me wonder when I can begin running again. Should I wait until there is no pain at all? Should I head back out when the pain is there but manageable?

Once I get back out there, how do I prevent this from happening again? I stretched before running. I started off slow, walking for a few minutes before beginning intervals. Now, like a scorned lover, I am trying to find the courage to get back out there. The pulled calf happened suddenly, leaving me scared that it will happen again and cause further damage.

Maybe, like recovering from heartbreak, I can put myself out there a little at a time and build up the courage to try again.