Monday, December 17, 2012

Anniversary and Reflection

One year ago today, my oldest brother passed away.

I started this blog days ago. I have written and deleted several paragraphs, and mentally composed and rejected countless more. Even though they were heartfelt thoughts, they seemed trite--the kinds of things that everyone says at times like these.Not that they aren't good, but I'm sure someone has said it better than I could have.

So rather than writing a put-together article with a common theme and logical flow that nicely ties the end in with the beginning (as I often like to do), I'm just going to share a mish-mash of thoughts.

A year ago I re-learned that I throw myself into activity when I'm upset. Other ladies eat chocolate; I clean. Some people rant; I go for a run. But I found out that grief still manages to sneak around the most manic-activity self-control. I held it together for three weeks, until the slideshow before the funeral started. Then I cried. And we're not talking delicate sniffling. We're talking full-on, give-me-that-whole-box-of-Kleenex, so-much-for-eye-makeup bawling. And it was good for me. Sometimes you just need to commandeer a box of Kleenex and let it out. Sadness is part of the human experience as much as happiness, and if you try to avoid all pain or sorrow, then I don't think you can truly have happiness and joy.

I know people are often plagued with "what ifs" or the "if onlys." It's okay to think about those--in moderation. It's the "if onlys" that help you do better next time, and the "what ifs" can motivate you to go beyond your comfort zone. Where it is not good is when you wallow in it like a pig in the mud.

Show those you love that you care--often. I usually show I care by doing things for people or letting them know that I'm thinking of them rather than saying, "I love you." But not everyone speaks my love language, so I'm trying to expand my affection "vocabulary." If people know that you care, then you will have comfort rather than regret if something does happen. But don't get obsessive about it, either.

Above all, let's be a little more kind to each other. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Let someone go ahead of you in line, or refrain from calling someone an unkind name. Think for a second before you tweet, facebook, or email when you're grumpy. A little more love, charity, and decency will go a long way.

I am thankful for the gift of life that I enjoy, and for a spiritual anchor, which I think the world needs more than ever. I am grateful for the wonderful people in my life, and if I hold open a door or help carry in your groceries or ask about your family or send you an email/message/text, then know that it translates as "I care about you."

And for my brother, Chris (far right), I look forward to seeing you again one day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Surprise Re-Release

The story:
There I was, going about my normal day, when I get a call out of the blue from the publisher of my two non-fiction books."We're just calling to verify that we have your correct website address for the cover of your book."

Oh-kay. My last book with them came out almost four years ago. (I'm cringing as I write that. This quest to go national takes a while, doesn't it?) "Sure," I said, and gave them the right info. Then I added, "You do know that book is old, right?"

"Oh," said the young man on the phone in a bright voice. "We're re-releasing it next month."

Say, what?

That's right, ladies and gentlemen, my first book, Parenting the Ephraim's Child, co-authored with Deborah Talmadge, has just been re-released! It has a shiny new cover (Oooh and Aaah at the gorgeousness) and now you can get it as an ebook too!

 *pausing for the applause*

You can find it on Amazon (Kindle) or paperbackBarnes & Noble, or on my publisher's website (links provided).

Now that's one of those good surprises! (Not like the ones the neighbors' dogs leave in your grass for your daughter to find as she's playing tag and not paying attention where she steps.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Warning: Healthy Recipe

So I normally don't rave about food on Twitter or Facebook, but I made this salad the other day and it rocked my taste buds. I just had to gush on social networks and I got requests for the recipe. (And just a warning, it is healthy *and* delicious. Even my brother who was super skeptical became a fan after a couple bites.)

Quinoa & Black Bean Salad

1/4 cup pine nuts
2-3 cups cooked quinoa
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. sea salt
5 Tbls. chopped cilantro
2 scallions (chopped)
1/2 jalepeno pepper, finely chopped & seeds removed
1 can black beans (or 1 cup cooked)

Preheat oven to 300. Toast pine nuts in small baking dish for 5-7 min. Set aside.

Remove cooked quinoa from pot and place in large bowl to cool (20 min. or so). Combine oil, lemon, cumin, and salt in bowl. Whisk together and pour over warm quinoa. Toss well. Add rest of the ingredients and toss. Serve at room temperature.

**I omitted the scallions and jalepeno and it still tasted divine!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Never Give Up; Never Surrender

The title of this post is a quote from one of my favorite movies, "Galaxy Quest." If you have any Trekkie tendencies at all, you simply *must* watch that movie. I still laugh until I cry when watching it. And it segues perfectly into today's blog post. (Love it when that happens!)

So awesome blogger/author Elana Johnson put together a Never Surrender blogfest this week to coincide with the release of her new book, "Surrender." (Visit her blog for great posts. Click here for a list of others participating in the blogfest.) The idea of the Never Surrender blogfest is for people to share a time in their lives when they didn't surrender. Talk about an inspirational topic!

I have a lot of Never Surrender moments (one could argue in my case they could be called bullheaded moments), but one that easily comes to mind is when I decided to run a marathon. Now, I run a lot, but running for 26.2 miles is a whole different ballgame. And because I like to be prepared (hush dear husband who chimes in, "try over-prepared"), I researched training programs and nutrition information. I talked to friends who'd run marathons and heard all about their experiences, and I put together my plan. The race itself is grueling, but honestly, what is more grueling is the four months of training to be able to run the race successfully. You read that right--four months where you don't slack off, when you have to eat right, when you figure out how in the world you are going to convince your body to run for 3+ hours, because, trust me, your body doesn't particularly want to.

It would have been so easy to surrender to the nice, warm bed instead of forcing myself to get up and run four days a week (three of those days I had to be finished and back home by 6:30 a.m. to get kidlets off to school on time). It would have been cake to spend my Saturdays doing something other rearranging the family schedule so I could run for hours. And it would have been so easy to think, "Forget this marathon-craziness. I'm in good enough shape. I don't need to." But I didn't. I stuck to the plan, even though some days it was the last thing I wanted to do. I ran the marathon and it wasn't as bad as I was afraid it would be.

The thing about pushing yourself to the limit is that you discover you can do much more than you thought you could. And when you never surrender, when you meet a challenge and conquer it, the reward is priceless.

I love this picture (not because I look particularly spectacular after 4 hours of running) but because you can see the satisfaction and elation of conquering a Never Surrender moment.

So when you're faced with something hard and it would be easier to quit than push through, remember to Never Surrender. Because you can do more than you think you can!

"Never Give Up; Never Surrender!"

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Boston Marathon Report

So, a week ago I ran in this little race called the Boston Marathon. I promised details, so here you go.

Before I really start, let me clarify that the Boston Marathon isn't just a race, it is a 26.2-mile-long party--and I'm not kidding. I felt like I was running along a parade route. Spectators lined both sides from start to finish, and there was music blasting, live bands, a couple of drum lines, dozens of neighborhood parties, signs, bounce houses, horns, megaphones, whistles, balloons, cheering, clapping, people spraying the runners with garden hoses and handing out oranges, water, popsicles, ice, etc. I had my iPod, but half the time I couldn't even hear my music over the cheering crowd; hundreds of thousands of people watched the race. It was unreal.

The checklist:
Awesome vacation with the family in NYC and then Boston, where we used almost every transportation method available (plane, taxi, foot, subway, bus, shuttle, train, amphibious vehicle). Check.

Increasingly nervous checking of the Boston weather forecast as every day the predicted temperature got higher. Check.

Email from Boston Athletic Association informing participants that the heat would be in the red zone, and they strongly encouraged participants not to run if we: undertrained, were only used to cool weather, had several underlying conditions, were not extremely fit, were sick in any way, etc. Check.

Second email from Boston Athletic Association reiterating that it’s going to be incredibly hot (mid to upper 80s) and if you can say yes to any of the listed situations, you should not run. And they really mean it. Check.

Third email from Boston Athletic Association telling us again (in case we missed the first two emails) that it’s going to be very hot, and if we do decide to run to understand that this race is not one for personal records and that it will be imperative to adjust accordingly, i.e. hydrate well and slow down. To quote the email: “Speed kills.” Check.

Call out to friends online for good vibes because at this point I’m getting nervous. Check.

Overwhelming encouragement and support from the best friends in the world. (Thank You!!) Check.

Carb loading because I dragged my family out for the race, and I’m completing it, Dangit, even if I have to walk the thing. Check.

Revise race goal to finishing in under four hours and not needing medical attention. Check.

Getting up at 4:45 a.m. on race day, and tiptoeing around hotel room to get ready. Check.

Catch a ride at 5:30 a.m. to the subway station with fellow runner and his wife (thanks nice couple from upstate New York whose names I can’t remember) so I don’t have to pay for a taxi. Check.

Ride the subway downtown and read newspaper left on the seat with a front page picture of 2nd place woman’s overall winner last year collapsed across the finish line and in need of medical help. The article speculated about the medical attention that will be needed for this year’s race. Check.

New onslaught of nerves. Thanks a lot, newspaper. Check.

Follow the crowd out of the subway and see the line of school buses stretching as far as I can see to shuttle runners to the start line. Check.

Getting on the bus and sharing a seat with a really nice woman named Janet, who shared the elevator-pitch story of her life (born and raised in Alaska, moved to Boston, then to upstate New York, has two kids, this is 2nd Boston), Boston Marathon tips, and her SPF 50 sunscreen. Check.

And it was on the bus to the start when I realized that I was going to experience something a little different. You see, we had a police escort. The police shut down the freeway to allow us to get to the start, and then opened it back up again after the buses passed through. That was a first.

We unloaded at the Athlete's Village in Hopkinton, which is the whole campus of the town's junior high and high school, with an unreal number of port-o-johns (isn't that so East coast?) lining the perimeter, some really large tents, and an announcer playing music, telling jokes, and directing race traffic next to the jumbo screen.


The people kept coming, along with some costumes (dear person wearing the large Elmo head, I hope you didn't end up in the hospital), the large banners, and the lines to the port-o-johns. It's a good thing the waiting area is so nice, because you're there for a long time. Eventually, like cattle being herded into a chute, 20,000 of us dropped our stuff off in the buses that would be waiting at the finish line and filed into the road lined by metal barricades. That's where I saw my first spectators.

We kept shuffling toward the start line, and eventually got there. This is what it looked like almost 2/10 of a mile from the start.

And at this point I could hear music and a commentator. Spectators lined both sides of the street, cheering and whistling and blowing horns and clapping and making noise. It was a great send off. And the cheering and spectators lasted the entire race. 

The first two miles were hot hot. As in, "Oh my gosh, are you serious?" hot. After that, I think I got used to the heat--or at least my body realized that we were seriously going to run 26 miles in it (the highest recorded temperature along the course was 89 degrees). I drank water and Gatorade at every water station, and settled in to enjoy the experience.

I have to give a big shout out to the 10-year-old girls in Newton who were the first to give me ice and to the Buddha guy who was handing out orange slices. A big thank you to the firefighters who opened a fire hydrant, and to all the spectators who sprayed us with water.

I missed the hubby's text saying where to look for him, the kids, and our friends from New York who drove over for the race, so we missed each other at mile 6. They did, however, get to see the Elite Men group run by.

They waited at mile 17, anxiously looking for me...

And here I come (completely oblivious).

Here's my hubby, running out in the throng to get my attention.
And jogging backward to take a picture.
"Oh, Hi! I know you."
And pausing for a pic with my favorite cheerleaders.

Then they loaded up on a free BBQ, and collected free pom poms, clappers, cowbells, and a jump rope. (Remember at the beginning when I said it was a party?)

Meanwhile, I continued on my way to Heartbreak Hill and beyond. Heartbreak Hill isn't that bad, not when you run the hills around my house. But it comes at mile 20, so you're pretty tired by that point. I think I passed more people on that hill than the rest of the course. The spectators just got thicker as we got closer to the Finish line, and at the end you round a corner and go down a block past a massive church like this one.

Wait. It might even be this one. I can't really remember, because after 20+ miles, your brain doesn't work that well, honestly. I couldn't even do more than the most basic math at that point. Example of typical thought process: Let's see, I'm at 24.5 miles so that means I have... um... Two miles. Wait, less than two miles. Oh look, she has a pink tutu on. That's gotta itch. Anyway, one mile and... *looking at Garmin* Crap, now it's 24.7 miles. So that means one mile and... something to go. I can do that.

Then you turn another corner and all of a sudden you are hit with this wall of sound and people lined up on either side in every available space and in front of you is the giant blue and yellow arch that declares FINISH. Just a side note, to get in the bleachers at the finish you have to have a ticket, and to get within a few blocks of it, people camp out overnight. I'm serious.) So I start to sprint (I can't believe I could sprint still) and make it across the finish line. A line of orange-jacket-clad volunteers cheer me on, and I step aside to pull my phone out of my fuel belt with fumbling fingers (because your fine motor coordination is only working marginally better than your math skills) and turn to take a pic. A nice volunteer asks if I'd like him to take one of me and I probably alarmed him with my effusive thanks.

I am so happy! I did it!
3 hrs. 54 min. 13 sec.
And no medical attention required!

 (Unlike the dozens of people getting wheeled away on wheelchairs and puking lemon-lime Gatorade on the curb. It will be a really long time before I can drink that flavor again.)

Fifteen or twenty minutes later, my husband calls and they finally made it to the finish by subway. I literally outran them. We meet up and I get a "good job" hug.

You see the look on my face in the next pic? You can tell I was still suffering Marathon Brain.

And here we are sharing stories with the runner on the ground--who couldn't exactly get up. (Marathon tip: don't get on the ground right after the race, unless you plan on staying there for a while. Getting up is a challenge.)

For those who like statistics, I finished 7329 overall out of 21554, 1882 out of 8966 women, and 1364 out of 4580 in my division. That's not too shabby. :) The volunteers were great, the crowd was ah-maz-ing, and it was a total blast! I would definitely do it again. I have to thank all the friends and neighbors who talked me into running the race. I thought of you all during that 26 miles of heat, and the encouragement from everyone helped keep me going.

And here's the fancy finisher medal, which is hanging in a prominent place in my room. I earned that puppy. I might just give it a name and sleep with it under my pillow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stand in the Moment

Happy New Year!

*squints at the date*

I mean, Happy March. Er... Happy Mid-March. It's only taken me two and a half months to kick off my triumphant 2012  return to the blogosphere, which is a lot less triumphant now that it is March rather than January. But no matter. Today I'd like to share a small bit of wisdom that it took me far too long to learn.

First, the writing application. My rough drafts are often messy, wandering, tell rather than show, boring verbiage.  In other words, they aren't very good. And that's okay, because there are always revisions sparkling in the distance, where I can take my train wreck stories and get them closer to that wonderful idea that made me catch my breath in the first place. But the other day I had an epiphany as I was revising yet another rough draft of a chapter that was sucktastic: I had to stand in my story.

Being a true storyteller isn't about telling someone a story, it's about weaving words so someone is transported through them into my world and my characters, and doing it effortlessly so the reader doesn't realize it's happening. And to do that, I have to live it first. Don't get me wrong, I get there through revisions, but I can make my writing time more efficient if I stand in my story from the beginning.So now before I start, I close my eyes and put myself in the scene first.

This applies to life as well. I am a big get-things-done person, and there have been many times I find myself focusing so much on my To-Do lists (yes, plural) that whole minutes, hours, days have passed me by. I have to put myself into life--stand in my own story. I need to pay attention to what is happening. Right. Now. And if that means less things get crossed off my list (like a triumphant blog return) or I close the laptop more and focus on what's happening around me, then so be it.

A good life, like a good story, is in the moments.