Has Anyone Seen my Motivation?

Here I am, less than one month from my next half-marathon, and I have not run more than six and a half miles to train for it. There have been quite a few reasons for this:

  • It was unusually hot this summer. We had several heat waves and several stretches of days with heat indexes over 100. I just couldn’t run in the heat.
  • I’m nursing my knee. I went to the doctor in May and could not find the cause of the pain. Acupuncture helped, but I haven’t made it there in almost a month. I’m so nervous about further damaging my knee that I haven’t gone out as much. And when I do go out, I am not pushing myself as hard as I should out of fear of further injury. I am slower than ever.
  • Time Time Time  Summer is always busy. The new school year has me putting in multiple twelve-hour days each week.  I bring my running clothes with me with the intention of changing and getting to 6:00 running club, but I have been staying past 6 and, when I leave, my brain and body are much.

These may seem like valid reasons, but they do not change that fact that, four weeks from now, I will be running thirteen miles. I hoped to shave five minutes off of my first time. I hoped to be a little thinner and a little stronger.  I have gained weight instead of losing it. I’ve almost finished LIIFT 4, so I’d like to think I am a little stronger.

So I have four weeks to prepare for this half. I will head out Wednesday for a ten-mile run.  At this point, I am no longer concerned with beating my previous time; I am determined to complete a goal I set for myself- to run two half marathons in a year!

 

How Mayim Bialik Made Me Cry

While I was upstairs getting dressed, I took a moment to myself to mindlessly scroll Facebook. Liam was downstairs playing and I thought I had a few minutes. Mayim Bialik’s site, Grok Nation, featured a video of her explaining her expectation versus reality regarding how many children she would have.  When she was younger, she imagined giving birth to enough children to create her own football team. Once she had two sons, she realized that was what she could handle. As Mayim spoke, she was on the verge of tears as she explained that, even though she knew it was the right choice for her, she needed to mourn the future she originally planned for herself.

     

Her honesty and her confession made me think of my own plan for having children. When I was younger, I always imagined having two children. It just seemed like the thing to do. I have a sister and (usually) enjoyed having someone to play with and to understand when different things were happening in our lives. She helped me through various times when my mother was sick. When it came to planning my future, I never thought about anything other than having two children.

Fast forward to adulthood. I met Mike, who was adamant that he only wanted one child. We agreed to discuss it again after becoming parents. The months after Liam was born were some of the most difficult of our lives. At four weeks old, we flew Liam to Florida to meet and say goodbye to my mother, who held on long enough to meet her grandson. Two weeks later, we drove to Maine to say goodbye to Mike’s grandmother. We came home to two feet of water in our basement. Our friends all but abandoned us after Liam was born. Liam suffered from terrible colic, eventually taking baby Pepcid to relieve the symptoms. The first few months after Liam was born were some of the most rewarding yet difficult months of my life.

     

When Liam was almost a year old, we revisited the topic of more children. When he was a year old, we decided we were happy as a family of three.

There are many reasons for this. Some are quite responsible and others are strictly personal:

I was thirty-three when I had Liam. Having more children at a later age increases the chance of complications for both myself and future babies,

Mike’s job relies on contracts; long-term work is not guaranteed. We do not want to have more children than we can comfortably afford.

Having one child allows me to better balance what I call the “triangle of sanity,” or the management of career, marriage, and motherhood.

Having one child makes it easier for both Mike and I to pursue our interests, partly by having the money to pursue hobbies but also because, when I go for a run or yoga, I am only leaving Mike with one child. When I go for a run after school, I am only paying for one child to attend after-school care. Did I choose to have one child so I can run and practice yoga? No. But having the time and energy to follow those pursuits centers me, making me a better mother, wife, and teacher.

Having one child gives Mike and I more time for each other. More important than the weeks at the beach house, toys, or adventures, Mike and I give Liam two calm parents who have time available for him each day.

Having one child allows me to train for a half marathon, attend yoga twice a week, and enter thirty-seven books into my Goodreads account this year.

This is not an insult or disrespect against anyone with more than one child.  I applaud your time and money management skills. I watch you balance sports practices, birthday parties, and overall needs of multiple children with admiration and respect.

I watched Mayim explain that, while she was content in her decision to stop having more children, she also needed to mourn her original plan.  That line summed up how I feel.  There are times I wholeheartedly wish we had more than one child, simply because that was the original plan.  However, I know that I am meant to be the mama of one child. As I watched, I began to tear up, relieved that someone else understands how I feel.  Before the video finished, I heard my bedroom door open. My first impulse was to sigh, slightly frustrated that I cannot get five minutes alone to get dressed.

“What’s up, Bug?” I asked.

“I just needed to know where my mama is. I love you.”

He Gets It!

This summer, Liam has been joining me on my workouts with the Beginner’s Running Group and November Project. He quickly fell in love with the social aspect of both groups. He’s the first to dish out encouraging words and high-fives. Of course, he loves receiving encouragement as well.

Last week, we headed to Lippitt Park for BRG after spending the weekend on the Cape. Liam played hard all weekend, tubing, swimming, and catching turtles. He was already tired, but I reminded him we committed to attending BRG. It was also ridiculously hot. After a quick warm up, we hit the Boulevard for intervals. I made sure our pace was barely above a jog and took Nuun with us. He found his mantra an repeated it, “There’s no need to lead… There’s no need to lead… There’s no need to lead.”

A few minutes into our run, our friends Kerri and Kristin caught up with us. After explaining they had already gone for a run, they admitted they were walking to their cars but, upon seeing Liam, knew they couldn’t leave him. We made it through the run, even when Liam wanted to give up. Kristin challenged Liam to a race to the finish line, which he gladly accepted.

That night, Liam was getting ready for his shower.

“You know, quitting is a lot harder when your friends are there. If our friends didn’t show up, this kid would have been out of there.”

At that moment, I knew Liam got what this is all about. It’s not about leading the pack. It’s about trying your best and not giving up. It’s about doing things you didn’t think you could accomplish. Most of all, running with a group is about supporting each other. There have been times that I was not at all feeling my run. I ran anyway because my friends were waiting for me. There are times I pushed myself to run farther and faster than I thought I had in me at the time because my friends were by my side. I’d like to think there might have been times when my friends weren’t completely ready or into their run but were able to get through it because I was by their side. Running and working out are about so much more than the actual activity.

Pinterest Princess or Bust?

This sums up my life:

I hate to bake. I hate crafts. Basically, I hate any activity that involves closely following directions. When Mike and I first moved in together, he was amazed at my inability to put together IKEA furniture.

Fast forward thirteen years. We have an incredible eight-year-old boy, one we intentionally tried to have in February to time my maternity leave, allowing me to stay home for seven months.  Each February since, we curse ourselves as we try to plan his birthday party. We usually have his party at various indoor facilities throughout the state. Last year his party was at McCoy Stadium. While his parties have always been fun, Liam wanted an outdoor party so we didn’t have to worry about time or how many kids he could invite. We decided to celebrate his eight and a half birthday over the summer. When he asked if he could have a Harry Potter themes party, I jumped at the chance to let him have a party in a theme I really liked (as opposed to last year’s love of Minecraft). Liam and I have been reading the illustrated books together. I love that he loves them. (I’ve stated earlier that I sometimes feel guilty for not sharing his enthusiasm for things he loves, such as Star Wars, Minecraft, and Pokemon.)

I told him that this would only work if he helped me, which he happily obliged. We set off on Pinterest. He started off having much more faith in our abilities that I even had, wanting to make Hogwarts letters to send out to friends.

“We can put wax on them and send them to everyone.”

“I already sent out a Facebook invitation.”

Liam really wanted to give his friends wands. We had recently visited Wynotts Wands in Salem, where Liam chose his wand. He understood that we could not afford to buy each kid a wand. The bulk ones online were either too cheap or too expensive.  Pinterest shared a tutorial for making wands that actually seemed reasonable. We ordered chopsticks, hot glue gunned the ends, then painted them. Liam was happy to help, and the finished products were pretty cool!

We also made golden snitches and chocolate frogs. Liam began asking me to make the chocolate frogs on Monday. Knowing I could not be trusted with that much chocolate in the house, we needed to wait until Friday.

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We made a Quidditch court. Mike was happy to act as our Quidditch coach. The kids had a ball playing.

    

I set up a table for “potion class” containing small cauldrons of baking soda and vinegar. They were about to mix the ingredients in their cauldrons and watch the reaction. Liam used to love doing this trick, but I feared that they would think it was silly or childish. Potion class was a hit!

After potion class was wand class, in which the students needed to keep their balloons in the air.

   

My only real goof-up involved the cake. I assumed I could order a cake from Stop and Shop a week before the party. I was wrong; they no longer carry the cake kit. Walmart does not have Harry Potter cakes, either. After Googling “easy Harry Potter cakes” for a while, I decided to order cupcakes from Stop and Shop and cake decorations from Amazon. It worked out just fine.

After a week of making golden snitches, wands, and Quidditch courts, Mike began calling me his “Pinterest Princess.” While I don’t see myself doing this again, the process wasn’t terrible. I love Liam’s ownership in the planning. I didn’t mind doing the projects with him. I’m also painfully aware that the number of years remaining of planning birthday parties and Liam wanting to spend all of his time with Mike and I are dwindling. I need to make the most of it while I can.

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!