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).


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!


Five months ago, we lost our almost-six-year-old lab. He had been sick for months. We tried every reasonable possibility before making the difficult decision to let him go.  Losing him proved every bit as difficult as losing a human family member; we all cried for weeks.  I wrote about the pain of losing Outtie while it was still fresh.

Last week, I mentioned receiving an unclaimed property check, something my mom pestered me to investigate for years. It was not a significant check, but enough to think about how to properly spend it. We found a way to spend it that would’ve made my mom proud!

Mike and Liam missed having a dog. Outtie left a massive hole in their hearts. Since Mike and I grew up with dogs, we know how important it is for a boy to have a dog. Our neighbor informed us of a black lab named Banjo who is available through a local rescue. We spoke to the woman in the organization, who told us he is smart and kind but also still has his young dog hyperactivity.  We went to visit Banjo Thursday night. Yes, he is high energy! While he jumps, he doesn’t jump on people. He settled down in a few minutes.  It is clear that he is smart and eager to please.

Saturday, we went to pick up our newest family member. Liam was so excited when we walked to the car that he started crying tears of happiness. While Banjo is high energy, he is smart and eager to please! Within the first afternoon, Mike had him following basic commands: sit, stay, lie down, and wait. While he sits, Mike will throw a ball, and tell Banjo to wait. Banjo will not run after the ball until Mike says, “Banjo, go!” Liam wants to teach him to raise a paw. He can catch toys in the air, but not treats. Banjo needs some work on the leash; he really wants to catch squirrels and, once he sees one, needs redirection to keep from trying to run after them. His foster said that he caught a few while with her.  By this morning’s walk, he was next to me enough to let the leash slack a few times. I am hoping that he and I will eventually become running buddies; with some love and training, I know he will get there!


Getting ready to go home!


I can’t think of a better way to use the money my mom nagged me to track down!

I Went a Week Without Working Out… and it was Fine

What is that quote about the best-intended plans?

I had every intention of working out each day this week.  I have a routine established:

Monday: Strength Class

Tuesday and Saturday: Yoga

I usually get at least two in each week. However, all bets were off last week. On Tuesday, I had a faculty meeting after school and stomach issues that evening, causing me to miss out on both running and yoga. We got three inches of snow on Wednesday. I had a hair appointment Thursday afternoon. Friday, Liam woke up at 3 am with leg cramps, and I never got back to sleep. I had been keeping a cold at bay with plenty of sleep and Emergen-C; this night of lousy sleep was enough to bring on a full-blown cold. I skipped running Friday afternoon and spent the weekend on the couch. Mike was in Tennessee this weekend, making me unable to go out running even if I wanted to. I planned to do a few Beachbody on Demand workouts over the weekend, but I could not get myself off the couch.

So there you have it: why I didn’t work out for an entire week. While I thought I would be upset with myself and feel terrible, I am actually okay with this. I managed to keep my mild cold from becoming much worse. We watched The Martian.  I introduced Liam to Fuller House. I caught up with friends Sunday morning by helping at a fundraiser and attended a birthday party that afternoon.

Liam was very impressed that I saw the “Full House” houses at Alamo Park!

Because I didn’t work out, I meticulously watched my food intake, still managing to lose two and a half pounds this week.  (Having a cold definitely attributed to that weight loss. It’s not ideal, but I’ll take it this week.)

This is what I learned by taking a week off: I genuinely enjoy working out. I like seeing what my body is capable of doing and how I feel afterward. Working out is a want to, not a have to.  It is no longer a punishment for being idle or for overeating.  While I am happy when I have the time to work out, I no longer need to beat myself up if it just doesn’t happen.

Making Winter Running Less Terrible

We are in the heart of winter.  At this point, we’ve experienced snow, ice, and bone-chilling cold.  Those first runs when the temperatures dropped shocked the system.  My arms and fingers went numb, my lungs ached.

I signed up for a 5K in Maine over Thanksgiving, thinking that merely wearing a few layers would make everything okay.  While my body managed just fine, my lungs were so upset with me!  For hours after, they felt like I had spent the night in a bar back in the days when people were still allowed to smoke indoors.

Over the past weeks, I’ve figured out a few ways to run in the winter without hating every moment.  I am by no means an expert, but here are a few of my insights:


I looked at getting a pair of Polartec running tights. Because I could not bring myself to spend that much money on pants, I began wearing my favorite Athleta running tights with a pair of sweatpants over them.  This worked perfectly! My legs have never been cold on a run! I’m so glad I tried this before spending a lot of money on pants I wouldn’t even wear all the time.

I bought a cheap Aeropostale vest before the 5K in Maine. Once I started sweating, it felt awkward. For Christmas, my sister bought me a nicer Columbia vest designed for working out in the cold.  I love this one!  I’m also spoiled with the pockets.  I can put my water bottle in one pocket and my phone in the other.  I will need to think about a way of carrying items when the weather warms up and I am not wearing layers.

Wearing two pairs of pants, two long tops, and the vest makes running in the cold manageable.  It was 15 degrees when we started yesterday morning.  Once we got going, many of us were just fine.  I grew warm enough to need to my hair up.

Knowing Your Roads

I tried to run around my neighborhood a few times while there was still snow on the ground but the temperatures were warmer.  This proved difficult because the sidewalks around the airport were not shoveled, forcing walkers into the main road.  The Boulevard in Providence is always well-shoved.  Because there is a bike lane, there is plenty of room for everyone, even if cars are parked along the road.  Knowing where I can safely run and stay dry makes winter running easier.  This weekend, I decided to take advantage of warmer weather and go for a quick run before taking Liam to a birthday party.  Because one of the backroads near my house was flooded due to rain and melting snow, I had to turn around and run the long way home.

Cold Weather Accessories

Mike needed a face mask while working outside during a frigid spell.  The only store around who still had them in stock was Lululemon. While there, I picked up a face mask for myself, headband-style ear warmers, and tech gloves.  Their tech gloves are the only ones I’ve tried that actually work on my phone.  I tried to find the links but, because they were on clearance, they’re no longer on the site.  The ear warmers are great for runs in milder cool weather.  My head gets too warm while running in a heavy winter hat.  The Lululemon ear warmers even have a slot to pull through your ponytail.

Not All Cold Weather is Equal

One of my better winter runs of the year happened during 17 cold.  However, there was no wind and it just began lightly snowing.  Because of the increased humidity, the cold seemed kinder.  Yesterday’s run brought the same temperature, but dry air and a sharp wind made it feel much colder.


This isn’t really a cold weather tip.  My Spotify running playlists were growing old and I was too lazy to update it.  A few friends mentioned they enjoy Audible.  I borrow books on CD to enjoy during my commute but haven’t tried them during runs.  Again, I am cheap and wanted to avoid buying an Audible subscription.  Overdrive, an app available through your local library offers the same service for free.  I did find that a lot of popular books are unavailable.  I put a holds on a few books from the Goodreads playlist in the hope that they will become available as I finish the first book I borrowed.  I set out Thursday with a book and was finally able to run farther! I ran four and a half miles, my longest solo run!

Running with Friends

This is another tip that applies to all types of weather, but especially helps during the winter. Yesterday, I met up with a few of my BFG friends for a morning run. If I wasn’t looking forward to seeing people I love, I would’ve stayed in my warm bed a little longer, then made a big breakfast. Running in the cold was much less painful while catching up with friends. I am beyond grateful for my running buddies!

My New Trainer Journal

I am a planner.  Last week, I ordered a journal to track my half-marathon training progress.  I enjoyed charting my runs and other workouts.  I’m looking forward to seeing growth!


How Blizzards Bring Out the Best of New Englanders

We never look forward to blizzards.  They’re a lot of work mixed with loads of downtime.  When weather forecasts warned that a major storm could hit, we immediately made sure we had basic necessities.  I’m lucky that Mike and I always have a stocked pantry, knowing we could eat canned soup or cereal is a snowstorm or hurricane hit.   Thanks to Liam and his games and toys, we always have a supply of batteries on hand.  We are avid campers and have a collection of flashlights.

At the first snow of the season, we learned that Liam outgrew his snow boots.  Tuesday, he and I went on a mission to get him new ones.  I’ve always managed to find them secondhand at odd times; no such luck hit this time.  We wound up going to LL Bean and buying him brand new boots.  We picked up milk, bread, and a few other things we might need if the storm gets worse.

Here’s the thing about Rhode Islanders and snow: we panic.  Some blame the Blizzard of ’78, when people were snowed in for days.  My eighth-grade history teacher told us the story of how she was stranded at school for a few days with a handful of kids.  The busses just couldn’t get to them.  My mom used to tell me that she had to send my dad out with a sled to purchase more diapers the one-year-old me.  Now, I find it funny that people rush to the store and clear the shelves.  Accurate weather forecasts provide plenty of warning and cleaning crews get us snowed out within a day.  However, people still race to Stop and Shop and pick the shelves clean.

Schools canceled the day before the storm. In my day, we had to watch the news that morning and follows the scrolling announcements in alphabetical order at the bottom of the screen, hoping to not miss your school district and have to sit there for another few minutes.  There was a bit of excitement as the announcements got closer to your district.  We also listened to an AM radio who read the reports.  (I have the hardest time trying to explain to Mike that the gentleman who read the announcements is a state treasure; he even has a beach named after him.)

The actual day of the snowstorm starts with nervous energy.  We turn up the heat a few degrees.  In case we lose power, this gives us a little more time to worry that the pipes will not freeze and burst.  We sit on the couch, drinking coffee and flipping the channels between local news and reruns that are syndicated on weekdays.  We let Liam play on his Kindle without tracking the amount of time.  He’s stuck inside for the day, he can play a little more than usual.  We read books.  We play games.  We act silly.  Liam reenacting his time on a mechanical shark at my college homecoming last fall was one of my favorite moments of the day! We watch cheesy movies.  At some point, we all venture off to other rooms to do our own thing.  Liam will go play in his room, I will find something to clean.  I love this time!

Snow days provide a great excuse to snuggle up on the couch and read

Mike tries to decide when to go outside and tackle the first round of snow blowing.  Even with a strong machine, heavy snow needs to be handled in shifts. When he heard our next door neighbor head out around noontime, Mike followed suit. While Mike took care of the driveway, I dug out our walkway and our neighbor’s walkway.  Liam came out with me, eager to play in the snow.  The snow was blowing around, giving Liam the idea to put on his swim goggles so he could see.  Sometimes, he is an innovator.


We went back inside to unthaw, sitting on the couch with our soft, fleece blankets.  At 4:00, we decided to head out again to dig out while we still had a bit of light.  Even though I shoveled four hours earlier, it looked like I hadn’t done anything!  I started digging out all over again.  A neighbor came over with his snowblower and finished the job for me.  Another neighbor cleared our older neighbors’ walkway.  Mike used his new snowblower on five driveways.  Neighbors came out and helped each other dig and clear.  We texted our neighbor, a hospital nurse who has to go to work, and let her know that her path and drviewat were cleared.  She called us a minute later to express her gratitude. It’s nice to know that actions can really change someone’s day.

While I don’t think many of us look forward blizzards, I think we enjoy the camaraderie that emerges during these storms.  We check in on each other before, during, and after the storm.  We look out for each other and help each other out.  We laugh and joke during a less than ideal situation.

Today, Liam and I will venture outside to dig a third time, this time to remove snow that blew back into the walkway overnight.  We will play board games, drink hot cocoa, and, even though I swear I will not indulge and overeat during these snow-ins, I will eventually suggest making cookies.  Mike and I will continue to check in with friends and family to make sure everyone is still okay.  Blizzards remind me that I am surrounded by amazing people, some by choice and some by chance.  New Englanders’ ability to handle copious amounts of snow and wind is another reason why I would never leave this area!

Staying Awake

I stayed awake until midnight! Not only did we stay awake, we stayed away at our neighbors’ house!

We are blessed with amazing neighbors!  We were so naive when purchasing the house.  We only looked at the house we were interested in buying, ignoring the houses around it.  (I’d like to think that if were anything totally suspicious to see, our eyes would have caught it.) We managed to get friendly, welcoming neighbors.  They’ve all become great friends of ours.  For the past few years, one house has hosted New Year’s Eve.  For lame parents like us, it is a perfect setup.  We can walk over and be social, but be home in our PJs by 9:00.  We went over fully expecting to follow that trend.

After talking, laughing, and eating for awhile, a few of us began yawning.  I looked at my watch to see that is was 11:00!  I was asleep last year at that time!  I seemed silly to pack up at that point; we were staying out and up! When we reached the one minute mark, my heart dropped for a minute, preparing myself for the fact that my mom was not going to call me in two minutes.  I was surrounded by friends, realizing I would be fine.

Liam loved the idea of staying awake.  He was excited to watch the ball drop and follow ed the adults’ lead, hugging his own friends and wishing them a happy new year.

For months, my friends have been telling me about a boot camp class offered by a gentleman who has been on American Ninja Warrior.  They giggle as they talk about how overwhelmed they were in their first class.  I have been nervously intrigued by this class.  After my panic attack inducing experience with my last new class, I was careful not to work myself up about this one.  Last night, I was finally able to give it a try! The class was fantastic! It was challenging but manageable! The class started with a reasonable warm-up. Being able to keep up reminded me that my body is changing and growing stronger. It was set up in rotating stations. While your partner was completing the exercise, you had to plank.  I am great with weights but terrible with body-weight exercises.  However, I am strong enough to hold planks.  When I woke up this morning, I immediately felt that I worked hard last night.  I’m so glad that I went!  Fabio kept the class interesting.  The fellow attendees were friendly and welcoming.  I will definitely attend again!

Ten years ago, most of my time spent with friends involved sitting around, eating and drinking.  I am beyond thankful for friends who push me to try new things, get out of my comfort zone, and make myself better.  Some of my favorite time spent with them involve running, hiking, practicing yoga, and lifting weights.  I am excited and nervous to reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves this year!  We have some big goals for the upcoming year; I’m looking forward to a lot of celebrations!