Seven Weeks to Go!

Oh, no. This is starting to get real. Back in November, signing up for a half-marathon seemed like a great idea. It was six months into the horizon, providing ample time to train and zero excuses not to be prepared. It was so cold over the winter that any thoughts of completing the long training runs were non-existent. February brought the official beginning of the twelve-week training program. It started off pretty easy, without much difference between what I was already doing.  Week five of training requires an eight-mile tune. This week’s training includes a nine-mile run.

I was excited to run seven miles, signifying completing more than half of the half-marathon distance. Eight miles represented steady progress. For my second eight-mile run, I set out on a completely different route, a huge square around the airport, forcing me to finish the run if I wanted to get home.  Next week, I can take a different way home to add an extra mile.

The run itself wasn’t too terrible. I started out struggling to find my motivation, but I was okay by mile two.  I almost immediately regretted wearing a second pair of pants. Even though it was 23 degrees with the wind chill, by my second mile, I was sweating. Many times, I considered taking off the extra layer, hiding them in a bush somewhere, and returning for them after I finished my run. I smiled to myself as I ran past the local Irish pub that we used to frequent. Even in the early afternoon of Saint Patrick’s Day, the normally quiet pub was packed. Ten years ago, Mike and I would have been there. Now, I am running past the pub rather than sitting in it. Funny how life and priorities change as we get older.  I enjoyed going a different route; it made the run a little more interesting. Instead of my normal mindless or easy audiobooks, I listened to White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. It’s interesting and informative, sharing parts of history that I had never yet heard. While it is definitely heavier than A Man Called Ove and Scrappy Little Nobody, I’m thankful for the time to exercise my mind and body. By mile six, I was tired and sore, perhaps because unlike last week’s long run that came three days after having a wisdom tooth removed, I had not taken three Advil before going out for the run. Because I was two miles from home, I didn’t have any choice but to run home. My plan to hold myself accountable worked!

I came home on Saturday afternoon feeling pretty accomplished. For a second time, I had run eight miles. Not only did I run the eight miles again, my pace was three seconds faster per mile! If I kept this pace throughout the half, I’d reach my three-hour goal. (Last week, my pace was 13:45, setting me up for a three hour and one second completion time.) I was feeling pretty good about myself until I started doing the math. Over eight miles, three seconds equals twenty-four seconds, not even the length of a single commercial. Yes, I had just run eight miles, but on race day, I will still have to run another five. I have been working so hard, yet I still have so far to go.  As an English teacher, the stereotype is that we are supposed to hate math. At that moment, it was a reality; I hated math because it let me know that I had a lot more work to do. It spent the rest of the afternoon trying not to have a full panic attack. Why did I think I could do this? Before signing up for the race, I had never even walked thirteen miles over the course of a day. (According to my Fitbit, my best day ever was walking twelve miles and change over a whole day.)  Now, I thought I could run thirteen miles… in a row! Seriously?!

The novelty of training for this is gone. This is hard! That being said, I set a goal and I am going to accomplish it. I don’t care if what I have to walk. I know there will be tears when I cross the finish line.  I will reflect and complete the process again at the Newport Half Marathon in October. This experience will become another reminder that I can do anything I set my mind to! That still doesn’t mean that I have to love every minute of it!

Eight Weeks to Go!

My coworkers and I just began our second round of Biggest Loser. I lost ten pounds during the first round, which only sounds impressive if I fail to mention gaining eight pounds between Halloween and New Year’s Day. That leaves me minus two pounds. The final weigh-in for the second round is May 7, the day after my first half-marathon. The long weekend runs should be advantageous through the contest.


Wisdom tooth removal diet!


We took a week off between sessions. During this time, I had an ear infection and unexpectedly had to have a wisdom tooth removed. As a result, my diet could be described as that of an unsupervised toddler.  I left the oral surgeon’s office and went to Stop and Shop to full the prescription for mouthwash and pick up a few items to eat and drink during the next few days. I took a picture and sent it to Mike. You can only see four, but I actually purchased five types of ice cream: two half gallons, two pints of (low-calorie Moo-licious) Ben & Jerry’s, and ice cream sandwiches. Add three boxes of Mac and cheese, and you really have a feast meant for a three-year-old.  (In my defense, I drove myself to the appointment, had a wisdom tooth removed with nothing more than some Novocain, drove myself home, and went to work the following day. I deserve all the ice cream I can fit in my mouth!)

I was able to get out for short runs Monday and Tuesday. Because I had not completed a long run last weekend, I was determined to get out this weekend. The weather is promising 12-18 inches of snow, making running much more difficult for the remainder of the week as well. Sunday was my only chance to go for a long run for at least a few days. I planned to go for at least five miles and see how I felt. It may sound weird, but my mouth had been throbbing while walking Banjo, something about walking along the road was incredibly painful. I took an extra Advil and hoped for the best. Maybe it was the Advil, but I felt good enough to

I managed to run eight miles! The sun shone, making it feel warmer, and the winds feel less harsh. I listened to a cheesy book along the way, making the miles go by easily. Towards the end, my legs got heavier and my pace slowed, but I completed the eight miles! After my strength class yesterday afternoon, I met up with BGR to complete short run.  With the storm, I will probably not get out for another run for a few days.

I’m thankful that I signed up for the half-marathon six months ahead of the event, allowing plenty f time to prepare. As I get stronger, not necessarily faster, but definitely stronger, I know I am capable of completing the race in May!

Running is a “Get To”


Banjo and I during one of our spring-like runs last week!


My students often ask if they “have to” complete certain parts of assignments. My reply is always “No, you get to do that part.”

“Get to?”

“Yes. Get to.”

When we read I am Malala, there were many conversations about the importance of education. I remind them that the educational opportunities so many students here resist are the same ones Malala and her friends are willing to fight to receive. During our Socratic Seminars, we discuss the concept of education equaling freedom. Even before reading Malala’s book, directions have always been explained as “get to” rather than “have to.”

I had to remind myself this as I am getting deeper into half marathon training. I get to do this. I get to push myself, set a goal, and complete it. I may not reach that three hour goal the first time around, but I am nine weeks away from putting a “13.1” sticker on the back of my Subaru. (Yes, I am going to order it ahead of time and put it on my car before I leave the race!)

When I tell people I have been running, many times I hear reasons why they can’t, past injuries, bad knees, etc. I get to do something that many people cannot, even for short distances. As I go deeper into training, the goal is to run at least two short runs and one longer run each week. I’ve been managing two two to three mile runs after school and completing a long run during the weekend. Last Saturday, I set out with the goal to complete at least five miles, allowing enough time to shower and get ready for Liam’s first penance at 10:30. We experienced a Nor’easter the night before, leaving 150,000 people without power. Once I got to the fields near the airport, strong winds whipped my face. I’ve run in the cold; this was a whole other beast. I wasn’t feeling well. Also, I was sick and was having difficulty taking deep breaths due to a terrible sore throat.  (A trip to the clinic Sunday revealed an ear infection.) I felt like it would be a failure if I turned around. However, running is a “get to.” If I miss a workout, it will be okay. The world will not end. I will not forget how to run. I called Mike to inform him I was on my way home.  I managed to get out for two short runs later in the week.

Yesterday, I had a wisdom tooth pulled. (Yes, it has been a week!) My goal is to try to get out and run today after work. If it happens, great. If not, life will go on, and I will get in my long run Sunday. The world will be okay. I get to run. It clears my mind, makes my body stronger, and reminds me I can do great things.

What a Difference a Year Makes!

Last night, I went to Lippett Park for the next round of Beginning Runner’s Group. Exactly a year ago, many of us were meeting for the first time. We were nervous and timid. This time, hugs and laughter filled the air.  Last night, we were the ones assuring nervous first timers that than can absolutely do this, that they will be able to run a 5k in June. All of the things that seemed unsure or impossible a year ago are part of my everyday life. I can run a few miles without stopping.  I can run (interval) seven miles… in a row!  I can set goals and know I will achieve them.

I love the support BRG provides. Without that support, I never would have been able to become a “real runner.” The thought of training for a half marathon would be as unfathomable as trying to hitchhike to the moon.  Running has taught me that I can set goals, work towards them, and achieve them.

Running has taught me to appreciate what my body can do. Every Saturday morning, I track my measurements. While I have only lost five pounds during my year of running, I’ve lost ten inches.  My feelings about food have changed dramatically; I no longer look at food as a reward or exercise as a punishment. For the first time in my life, I think I have managed that healthy, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing attitude towards food. While I would like to lose another ten pounds, my focus lies more in changing what my body can do rather than what it looks like.

Running has taught me that positive friends make all the difference. I’ve written about my awesome groups several times. I would never have the confidence to attempt a lot of my favorite memories from the past year if it weren’t for the encouragement of the people around me. I’ve stepped out my comfort zone countless times this year. I would never have done so without people cheering me on, keeping me accountable, and filling the training with laughs and conversation.

Running had taught me the importance of not just setting goals, but also being vocal about them. For years, I dreamed of being a runner. I was able to make that happen. When I signed up for the half marathon, I didn’t really tell people, still questioning my ability. Mike proudly started bringing it up in conversation with friends, “Tell ________ what you’re training to do.” Nervously telling people makes me more determined to reach this goal.  I publically set my goals at the gym, writing them down for all to see. While talking about training last night, conversation leaned more towards how excited we were to crush this goal than how worried we were about running thirteen miles.  Setting goals keeps me motivated and accountable.

By this time next year, I will have completed two half marathons. If they go well, I am going to throw my name into the New York City Marathon lottery, letting chance decide whether or not a marathon is in my cards. At this point, I would love to be able to tell my grandkids that I ran a marathon. I would love to be able to cross that goal off the bucket list. If it doesn’t happen, I will not beat myself up over it. I am too proud of what I can do to get hung up on where I haven’t made achieved (yet).



There’s a meme that makes the rounds every so often about working out not just for yourself but because your kids are watching. I love that Liam sees me as an active person.  Last Mother’s Day, his class made “All About Mom” books. He wrote that I enjoy yoga. He knows that I run and train. I take classes in the adult side of the gym while he takes ninja classes. Most importantly, he watches me try to become better. He hears me talk about runs or races that didn’t go as planned. Last Monday, I talked at dinner about my failed attempt to PR my deadlift. When I ran seven miles last weekend, he hugged me, “Congratulations. You’ve never run that far. That’s a huge accomplishment.”

We often talk about the “power of yet,” the idea that it’s not a failure, you just haven’t succeeded yet. We remember things that used to be difficult that are easy now: climbing the wall at ninja class, place value, borrowing numbers in subtraction, etc. I’m so thankful that he understands that not everything goes your way the first time around.

This week, my college’s alumni association hosted an event at the Alex and Ani Ice Skating Center downtown.  We never go out on weeknights but decided to make a special exception for a special occasion.  Our first stop was the bumper boats, a new edition this season. Liam loved them! They were a lot of fun! We were paired up with a nice group and had a lot of laughs as we bumped into each other.

The second part of the evening was spent ice skating. I had only ice skated one other time, but I grew up roller skating and roller blading so I was able to skate around pretty easily. We rented Liam a snowman to help guide him around the ice.  Because he had never even roller skated, he didn’t realize the basics. It took a few minutes to get him to realize he needed to push his skates to the side rather than one in front of the other like he as he went. Much like teaching him to ride a bike, there were a lot of steps involved that most people do without thinking.


Liam wanted to give up, but he didn’t want to leave the event. He kept at it, holding on to his snowman, the edge of the rink, and eventually skating on his own. A younger Liam would have cried and given up. This Liam kept with it, listening to feedback, watching me, and trusting that I would not let him get hurt. By the end of the night, he could on his own. He wasn’t fast. He wasn’t smooth, but he could do it.  I am so proud of these moments when he is willing to struggle.


By the end of the night, he was done with pictures!


What I Should Have Said Two Weeks Ago

Two weeks ago, my friend’s mom passed away after a long illness. We were very close in college, grew apart after graduating, and recently reconnected. I was unable to attend the wake and have been rattling words inside my head, trying to think of the right thing to say to help ease the pain. This is a sampling of the randomness:

There is nothing I can say that will help you feel better. However, knowing that you are not alone in your grief is comforting. Sometimes, people will tell you that your mom is no longer suffering. That doesn’t make you feel much better; you wish you still had your mom here and that is okay.  It is your grief, no one can tell you how to handle it. Other times, people are afraid of saying the wrong this and say nothing. If I’ve learned anything, saying something, acknowledging the pain, is always helpful.

Grief is going to hit you out of nowhere when you least expect it. This isn’t like a cold that you can nurse better in a week or so and go on with your life. Years later, something great/sad/silly/amazing will happen and you’ll think about telling your mom, only to have the sinking realization that you can’t. When my mom was in the nursing home, I used to call my mom every afternoon when I was getting on the highway after work. Eight years later, I still take different backroads to get to the highway, simply to avoid the reminder that I can no longer call my mom and tell her about my day. While spending Thanksgiving with my in-laws, I always think of my mom’s burnt dinner rolls, look at my mother-in-law’s perfectly cooked rolls, and tear up that I will never be able to make hockey puck roll jokes with my mom ever again.  You will be able to resume day to day normalcy, but grief will come out of nowhere and hit you when you are not thinking about it.

For a long time after she’s gone, you’re going to remember your mom as perfect. It is okay to also recognize her flaws. I tell Liam about his Nana, who fought so hard to stay alive long enough to meet him, keeping to myself how angry I was when she told everyone I was pregnant long before I was ready to share my news.  Freshly remembering the pain of discovering I was pregnant only to have it go away, I didn’t want to jinx myself or have to explain to people I was no longer pregnant if that happened again. My mom couldn’t help herself, sharing the good news with everyone she could. As time passes, things that used to drive you bonkers about your mom will become nothing more than entertaining quirks.

Signs are going to come when you expect them least and need them most. Don’t question how or why they happened. Appreciate the signs that a loved one is still watching over you.

I keep putting together these words, hoping for the courage to write them on a card and send them. I don’t want to appear like I am an expert on your grief. Your grief is different than mine, which is why there is not one magic formula for recovery. Knowing that you are not alone makes all the difference.


My Own “Ride or Die” Group

I just finished reading Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes. After being accused by her sister of never saying yes to anything, she agreed to every invitation and opportunity she received. During this year, she played with her kids every time they asked, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel and The Mindy Project, and gave several keynote speeches.  While sharing her experiences, I  wanted to be best friends with her.  In one of the later chapters, she discusses losing two close friends over this year. Her other friends informed her that they were never really “friends” and seemed to be upset over her transformation. Shonda (because we are on a first name basis now) categorized her closest friends as her “ride or die” friends. I immediately decided to steal the term for my own. Since entering adulthood, I’ve lost several old friends. Some were toxic and needed to be cut, others just lost touch and, when space became too great, drifted apart.

The result of my many offers to perform flower girl duties at my friend’s wedding. I still giggle when I think about this picture.

I used to mourn the loss of these people quite frequently. As they were replaced by amazing, supportive friends, I realize that some of the breaks were definitely for the best.  The current people in my life are my own “ride or die” group. They showed up even when I claimed I didn’t need them. They check in frequently and remember things that are going on in each others’ lives. We are silly, inappropriate, and supportive. We keep group messages going. After spending time with them, I will remember silly things we said or did and randomly laugh, causing Mike to glace over and humor me by listening to me recap our shenanigans. Sometimes, our sessions actually hold up and are hilarious to others. Usually, these recaps end with Mike shaking his head and smiling.


I’ve said that I had to meet Mike when I was older; twenty-two-year old me would not have appreciated him. The same is true for my friends. I needed friends who expected more of me than they were willing to give, belittled my life choices, and made catty comments about me when they thought I was out of earshot. I needed these people to understand that I hit the friend jackpot as I grew older. My yoga girls, mommy friends, and running buddies slowly became my “ride or die” group.  I thoroughly enjoyed Year of Yes and believe it should be required reading to anyone who has ever doubted themselves. Her ideas about friendship are one of my favorite takeaways. Shonda reminded me how important it is to have a “ride or die” crew. I am eternally grateful for mine!

When Your Kid Sets the Example

Part of being a parent is the constant worrying about whether or not your kid is doing okay, which is a direct measure of how you are doing okay as a parent. Liam is a great kid. He is kind and thoughtful. He was a trooper during the second half of February break. We spent three days running errands. By Friday, we were both done. To make matters worse, Friday was the day or errand errors.

Happy dog at his check-up Wednesday!


This kid and his giggles get me every time!


We took Banjo for his interview at a dog daycare.  Before adopting him, we booked two trips, so we need to find a place to take care of him while we are gone. The plan was to take him to his interview, once he passed the initial trial period, we were to leave him for three hours. We could then go up the street to get the oil changed on the car.  The problem was, he didn’t pass, causing us to drive back across town, drop him off, then drive back across town to get my oil changed.  (He had a second interview Saturday and passed with flying colors!) After forty minutes of driving, the dealership informs me they were running an hour and a half behind. We went somewhere else to take care of it, frustrated that I drove all that way for an “express” oil change.


It took two trips to the blood center before I could donate. Liam is always happy to eat warm post-donation cookies with me!

After the oil change, I drove to pick up the boots I had dropped off to be re-soled, reheeled, and stitched.  (I cannot find boots to fit my calves so I’ve been fixing these bionic boots for six years now.) My shoes that were promised to be ready by Friday, were not. At this point, I was ready to cry out of frustration. We could have been doing so many better things on this beautiful day. We passed playgrounds, libraries, and other attractions. I put my eight-year-old in the car for errands that, for reasons beyond our control, weren’t following through. We got to the Blood Center when they were not yet opened. At our next errand, replacing Liam’s sneakers, we discovered that the place where I always buy Liam his shoes closed. Yes, I completely understand that these were first world problems. What kicked me the most was the Mama guilt, mostly brought on by Facebook posts of our friends visiting Boston, New York City, and doing all sorts of fun adventures while we failed at task after task. 

Liam still smiling at the end of a terribly unproductive day!


If I were not with Liam, I would have followed my usual routine for handling stress: crying and eating junk food. As we walked back to the car from the shoe repair, two blocks up because we couldn’t find parking, I apologized to Liam multiple times for messing up our last day of vacation. He replied, “It’s okay. I’d rather be here with you.” When I told him how much that remark made me happy, he continued, “You told me I needed to clean my room when we got home. I’d rather run stupid errands than clean my room.” Liam proceeded to perform what he called his “errand fail dance.” While I was ready to cry and get frustrated, Liam found the best of a yucky situation. He managed to have the same effect on me that Mike does when I am upset. I often joke that Liam managed to inherit all of Mike’s best traits and all of my terrible characteristics; I love seeing Liam share Mike’s ability to keep me giggling, even when I wanted to scream. Liam has a gift for always seeing the positive; I hope that talent remains as he becomes an adult.

On Kind of Being a Townie

I love that Liam is able to grow up in the same area I grew up. When we explore many of the same places I went as a child, I feel that I get to enjoy them for the first time again.  I love that we get to enjoy such childhood favorites as Del’s Lemonade, Warwick City Park, and bakery pizza. This spring, Liam will make his first communion at the same church where I made my first communion many years earlier.


Somewhere, there is a picture of me in my first communion dress in front of the church. I’ve been searching high and low for that picture, hoping to recreate it with Liam.  These are three photos from my first communion that I have been able to find.

Yes, this picture is the epitome of everything the early ’80s had to offer. It is also a perfect representation of my mother’s motherhood and party planning style. First communions then were much simpler. The priest posed for pictures with children in the church basement after mass. Families went to the house for simple celebrations. There were no professional photographers or restaurant receptions.  After my first communion, we went to my house where my aunts, uncles, and cousins celebrated with me. We ate store-brand potato chips from plastic bowls and party pizza, happy just to spend time together. Anyone who knows my mom knows that, while she was the kindest, most selfless person in the world, she was not good at details.

My Aunt Dot scolded my mom for not getting a picture of me in my dress. My mom borrowed a first communion dress from the mother of a neighborhood girl who made hers the previous year. I took it off as soon as I got home from church. So here I am, freshly called in from playing in the backyard on my metal swing set, mismatched clothed and messy-faced.

The church gave each of us a plastic statue of a child at the altar. There were several plastic candles attached to the altar. In spite of everyone telling her they were not actually candles, my mother insisted they were real. She put it on my cake and lit the “candles,” covering the cake with tiny specks of burnt plastic. Speaking of cake, my mom was part of a huge family; that little cake was supposed to be enough to feed about twenty people.  Also worth noting about that cake was that I believe it was the first cake ordered for me. Typically, we made our birthday cakes, to be enjoyed at our at-home birthday parties.  I remember feeling very important that I had a cake made for me.

While I wish I had the picture of me in front of my church in my first communion dress, but I am more thankful for this picture:

Because my mom was always the one behind the camera, she left us with very few pictures together. This will be the picture I recreate with Liam in a few months.

As parents, we try to do what is best for our children. When I feel like I need to plan a big birthday party each year, complete with matching utensils and paper goods match, I remember my home parties with party pizza, hugs drinks, store-brand chips, and games of pin the tail on the donkey and clothespin drop. We don’t need to plan big, perfect events for our kids. We just need to be there to celebrate.

The Splints

For years, I’ve struggled with shin splints. After even aerobic workouts, my right calf could throb for days. Stretching and consistently working out have been the two best ways I’ve prevented them. Taking long breaks from exercise then returning like no time passed always leads to injuries.  When I take classes and particpate in Rhode Runner runs, a warmup is guarenteed.  During my solo runs, I have to remember to warm up and cool down.

This past Saturday, I did something that goes against everything I’ve learned about running: I went for my longest run yet and barely stretched. Oh, am I paying for it! I am doing every possible remedy: Tylenol, ice, heat, stretches, Biofreeze, foam roller. Nothing is helping. Wednesday, I ventured out for a shorter run but only made it to just under two miles, knowing that I would make things even worse if I kept going. I tool Tylenol and iced it three times last night.I haven’t worn any of my heeled booties, sticking to my Teiks each day this week.  I don’t have a desk in my class, only a cart where I hook up my computer. While standing there, I’ve been stretching my calves as often as possible. The hope is that these steps will help me heal.

That being said, I am nervous for my next long run. Everything I’ve been reading about half-marathon training says that I should be running at least three times a week.  I’ve only been getting out twice and had to cut yesterday’s run short. While I am aware of the body’s need to recover and repair, I am also nervous about falling behind in training an missing my goal. Now that the warmer weather is sneaking in, it should be easier to fit in quick afternoon on weekdays.

Tomorrow, I will venture out with the intention of running seven miles.  If my body tells me to stop, that’s what I will do. My aspriration is to be more than halfway to my goal of running thirteen miles!

If anyone has any suggestions for aleviating and preventing shin splits, I will happily try them!