Running Changed My Life

6 Jun

Today is national running day so I thought it was a good time to write about running. You know…I get asked alot if I really, truly like running. I think so many people associate running with a form of punishment to whip our bodies into shape. A chore that some of us add to our exercise routine to burn fat, to look good, to be healthy.

At the prodding of my best friend, I signed up for my first 5k in 2008. I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day at the time. I had been a smoker for half my life and had tried to quit more times than I could count and failed. Every. Single. Time. The problem was I really, truly liked smoking. I ran that 5k, still a smoker, and it sucked. I hated it. At the end of the race she looked at me expectantly, wanting me to love running. I looked at her like she was crazy and vowed to never sign up for another race ever again.

I honestly have no idea how she talked me into running a 10k next. “6.2 stupid, stupid miles” was all I kept repeating in my head. Why did I sign up for this? I had to actually train for this race. I couldn’t just wing it. So I trained. I kept smoking. But something changed when I finished that race…6.2 miles, to me at the time, was a REALLY long way…and I did it. There came a sense of accomplishment. A sense of pride. But inside I felt like a fraud…who can call themselves a runner and still be a smoker?

So I did something really crazy and decided to sign up for a half marathon. I quit smoking. I vowed that as long as I was going to spend the money and do a half marathon, I had to take it seriously. Something happened during training for that first half marathon. I went out diligently for my training runs. Mike joined me with Ava in a jogging stroller. He carried water and paced me. He kept me honest. He decided to sign up for that same half marathon. Our lives began to change…we talked about pacing, injuries, injury prevention and we ran many, many miles together. We did our long runs separately each week. Before I knew it, I started looking forward to the long runs.

My long runs were the only time I had that belonged to just me. No phone. No conversation. No bills. No Facebook. No email. No child. No husband. No friends. No chores. Just me and my thoughts. I wasn’t a wife. I wasn’t a mom. I was just a runner. And I knew as long as I kept running I would not smoke. I started to appreciate my body. The legs I once hated became the legs I adored. Not because they looked awesome but because they were strong and powerful and carried me along the way. My thoughts changed…I learned tenacity, commitment and sacrifice. I fell in love with running. The further I ran, the more I loved it. When everything in my body screamed for me to stop, I kept pushing on. I refused to give up. I counted light poles, trash cans, beach cruisers. I raced people on the bike path. I raced against myself. I raced for imaginary finish lines.

I get asked often, “What do you think about all that time while you run?” You have a of time to think when you spend that much time running…that’s for sure. Mostly I think about nothing and everything. I think about finish lines and seeing the people I love at the end of them. I think about the anticipation as I’m standing in the chute waiting for the race to start. But mostly when I run I just have this immense sense of gratitude for life and everything in it. Running is my meditation. It’s when I let go of everything and just run.

Running changed my life in a lot of ways. It brought me closer to my husband. I finally found something that made me want to quit smoking. I started living healthier. It changed the way I thought about my body. It made me realize that I was a hell of a lot stronger than I ever thought I was, mentally and physically. It taught me about commitment, tenacity and sacrifice. And I really hope that me running, sets a positive example for my little girl. I don’t know what her passions will be, but I hope that seeing her mama run lets her know that she is absolutely capable of anything she sets her mind to as long as she’s willing to put in the work.

Running is my therapy. I live for the long runs, the lost toenails, the sore muscles, the feeling that comes only when I know I’ve left it all out there on the path and given it every single ounce I had. I’m so glad I gave it a chance.

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What I Want for Mother’s Day

10 May

Mother’s Day is coming. I know this because I get a dozen emails a day about sending mom flowers, buying mom the perfect gift or taking mom to dinner. I also get asked by the husband what I want for Mother’s Day at least once a day. My answer is simple, even if it might not be what most moms wish for on Mother’s Day.

I want to spend the day with my friends and family. I want to have a bbq. I want to cook for them. I want to open good wine. I want to turn on some classic rock. I want to sit outside in the sunshine. I want to laugh. I want to be with the people I love. I want them to feel loved. I want them to feel cherished.

Because it really does take a village. I have not done this alone. First and foremost, I have an AMAZING partner. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of daily tasks Mike takes on around the house…I am blessed beyond belief. From bath-time, to packed lunches, to parks, to homework and dinner. The man is truly a partner in all things, especially parenting. He is hands-on. He is involved. And 99% of the time I don’t have to ask for help. I am lucky to have him. And sometimes I can’t help but hear this lyric in the back of my mind, “I have been blessed. With so much more than I deserve…”

And then there’s my family saving the day with sleepovers and play dates. Seriously…I have had to leave Ava with a babysitter once in 5 1/2 years. Do you know how much peace I get in the fact that she’s with people who truly love her? I’m so grateful for that. I am grateful for the advice, perspective and experience that each set of parents bring to the table. I am grateful to have a family that is supportive without being overbearing. I’m grateful that I can pick up the phone and say, “What did you do when _____ happened?” and always have an answer. I’m lucky, but more importantly Ava is lucky to be so loved.

Then there’s my girlfriends. Always ready and willing to help regardless of when or why. I’ve dropped Ava at their houses at 7am on Saturdays so I can get my long training run in. They have picked her up from school when I got stuck in traffic. They offer to bring soup when I’m sick and bring dinner when Mike is out of town. They are always there to offer advice and to help when I need it. But mostly they are there to listen when I’m trying to juggle it all. And sometimes, when all else fails and I drop all the balls, they show up with a bottle of wine and a big, fat hug.

So yes, what I want for Mother’s day is time with the people who help me on the journey…because I haven’t done this alone. I want a good playlist, phenomenal food, great friends, my family, sunshine and a good bottle of red. I want to say thanks.

Moves Like Jagger

2 May

For as long as I’ve been with Mike I’ve wanted a pug. My imaginary pug had already been named. Her name was “Pickles the Pug.” About three weeks ago I hopped on Craigslist and typed “pug” into their search engine. The search resulted in me coming across this face:

“Oh dear Lord I’m in trouble” was my first thought! That face!!! I immediately emailed the posting to Mike. No subject. No email body. Just the link. You see, he’s been on the fence about getting a dog. He thinks our lifestyle is too active and that we don’t have time for a puppy. But I knew if he saw this face he would at least entertain the idea. It took about 13 hours for Mike to bring it up. After much debating, weighing ALL of the pros and cons and asking my dad’s opinion, we decided we wanted to meet him. I knew we would be coming home with him that same day.

The first day he was crazy. Absolutely bat-shit crazy. Running, jumping, barking NONSTOP…and I kept getting this look from Mike and he finally said, “This is why they got rid of him Janice…he’s a pain in the ass.” I just kept saying, “It’s his first day in a new place…give him time.” But inside I was thinking the same thing…these people duped us. They are probably at home right now laughing because they got rid of their crazy dog and now we have him and I’m never going to hear the end of this from Mike.

By day three, he had calmed down tremendously. Now I couldn’t imagine our lives without him. It’s no secret that Mike and I are done having children and this little puppy has brought a whole new joy to the house. He’s livened it up. He’s funny and stubborn and so sweet. I never in a million years thought that a puppy would make our house feel that much more complete, but it has.

This morning, after I woke Ava up, and we were snuggled in bed I heard Jagger barking. He could hear Ava’s voice and knew she was up and wanted to see her. So I grabbed him and threw him in bed with her, which resulted in her getting a face full of doggie kisses. The sound of her uncontrollable giggles was all the confirmation I needed that we did the right thing by bringing the lil guy home!

Licking the air…and other things I do at work

24 Apr

I recently read somewhere that you should eat natural peanut butter over Jif or Skippy. The reasons went something along the lines that Jif/Skippy peanut butter is processed, has lots of stuff added to it and isn’t close to it’s natural state. And then I think I read that you’ll lose weight if you eat the natural peanut butter or something like that. I don’t know…I read too much crap apparently. Whatever I read, I got it into my head that I should try Almond Butter or the No Stir Peanut Butter we have in the fridge at work. Oh. boy.

So first I started with the Almond Butter. There was a layer of oil on the top like two inches deep. I started to stir it and promptly broke the plastic spoon I was using. Fine…metal spoon it is. Promptly bent metal spoon I was using in half. So then I thought to myself, “Screw it…just use the No Stir Peanut Butter instead. So I grab the jar and a new spoon and it’s HARD AS A ROCK. For real…I didn’t need a spoon…I  needed a chisel and hammer. So now I have two jars of “butter” open and all I want is a tablespoon of peanut butter dammit! Then, I come to this realization:

I have been trying for almost 10 minutes to get peanut butter out of jar and have yet to succeed. No wonder they think it’s better for me…I’ve burned more calories trying to get the stuff out than I’ll eat when I finally do get it out.

I think I eeked out about a teaspoon of peanut to eat with my apple. When I finally got around to eating it, it was so thick that it’s been stuck on the back of my tongue for 20 minutes or so. Seriously…you ever given a dog peanut butter? That’s what I look like right now. A dog. Eating peanut butter. Licking at the air.

And yes, I do realize that I just called myself a dog. And for the record…I’m sticking with Jif or Skippy going forward.

P.S. For those of you expecting something more exciting after my 6 month hiatus…I’m sorry.

A Letter to My Daughter

4 Nov

There are so many things I would love to tell you about yourself. How could I ever possibly put into words all that I feel for you? Lately you are so inquisitive…always asking questions and always wanting to know more. What amazes me is that when you don’t understand something I’ve explained, you will ask me to explain each word you didn’t understand. Not the whole thing…just the words you didn’t understand and then you will try to comprehend it on your own. And sometimes when I’m not sure if you understood something fully you surprise me weeks later by repeating it with comprehension of what you’re saying. You, my little doodle-bug, amaze me.

Today you asked how we get goose bumps. I should have known that my response of, “We get them when we get cold,” wouldn’t work. You said you knew when we got them but you wanted to know how. You handed me my phone and said, “Here mom, look it up on your phone.” We were already running late but I could tell you weren’t going to let me get away with not doing it. Wikipedia says goose bumps form when tiny muscles at the base of the hair contact, the hair becomes erect and a goose bump forms. I asked if you understood and you said, “No…what does contract and erect me.” Once I explained those two words to you I saw a light bulb go off. I love those moments with you. You immediately wanted to call daddy and tell him how goose bumps form. I was so proud when you used contract and erect in your explanation to him.

This past weekend while we were in the dressing room at Old Navy, you were dancing and watching yourself in the mirror. You started singing, “I’m Justin Bieber’s girlfriend. I’m Justin Bieber’s girlfriend.” This made me laugh because you’re just barely five and where you get ideas about boyfriends I’ll never know. I have to think it’s from school. When I told you that I didn’t think Selena Gomez would be very happy that you were stealing her boyfriend you stopped, pondered this and then started singing, “I’m Taylor Swift’s girlfriend. I’m Taylor Swift’s girlfriend.” And then you stopped to inform me that it was okay if you wanted to be Taylor Swift’s girlfriend because it just mattered that you love someone. And I told you that was right. I’m amazed at how much sinks in when we talk.

I have always tried to be honest with you. To explain things the best I could in the best way for your little ears to understand. Right now there are all these anti-bullying campaigns going on. And I realized it’s never too early to start talking to you about treating people with kindness and understanding we are all different. So we got to talking about how people are different and that it’s okay for us not to all do things the same way or to like the same things. And you agreed that having friends who were different was good because it would be boring if everyone was the same. So I took this opportunity to talk to you about love. Because one day soon, you may have a school friend who has two moms or two dads and I wanted you to know that not everyone’s family looks like ours, but that just because it looks different doesn’t mean there is any less love in their home. You looked at me and matter-of-factly said, “I know mom. It’s like our family. You have two moms and two dads and you just love them all. Right, mom?” Yes, Ava. That’s right.

Last night in the kitchen we were listening to your favorite Selena Gomez song and I said, “Hey Ava, you know the girl singing this song? She’s Justin Bieber’s girlfriend!” And you ran up to the iPod, put your hands in prayer position and said, “Please Selena Gomez can I PLEASE just have your boyfriend for one day?” It’s moments like these that I wish I could bottle up and show you in 30 years because it’s moments like these that make my heart grow just a little bit bigger in my love for you. Moments where your complete innocence takes over and you really believe that Selena Gomez can hear you through the iPod AND will give up her boyfriend for you.

This morning while I’m brushing your hair you start singing,

“Happy Birthday to you.
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to my heart
Happy Birthday to you”

And I asked, “It’s your heart’s birthday, is it?” Without missing a beat you say, “Yeah mom. It’s November 3rd, so it’s my heart’s birthday. Tomorrow it’s my brain’s birthday and I’ll sing Happy Birthday to him tomorrow.” I said, “So your heart is a girl and your brain is a boy.” And you said, “Yep.” No elaboration…it made perfect sense to you. But I love that you sing your organs Happy Birthday…it’s almost like you’re thanking them or acknowledging them at the very least.

These moments are just a few from this week. Moments that make me smile, make me laugh but most of all, make me so proud to be your mama. Love you doodle-bug!

 Love,

 Mom

P.S. As of last night your favorite songs (in this order as stated by you) were: 1) Who Says by Selena Gomez 2) Walking on Sunshine by Katrina & the Waves and 3) Anything by Taylor Swift

I’m Going to Karate Chop Someone

28 Oct

Normally I try to be all Zen-like toward people. Today is not a normal day. I gave up meat. Shut it…I don’t judge you for eating it, don’t judge me for not eating it. I just don’t like it that much. Except bacon. But bacon is not a meat. It’s so awesome it’s like it’s own planet.

So, this week I stop at the store and buy carrots and hummus because let’s be honest, if I’m giving up beef jerky I have to have some sort of snack. On Monday I put it in the fridge at work with my name on it in black permanent marker. I was out of the office on Wednesday. When I came back I had five carrots left. FIVE!!! Clearly I wasn’t even in the office to eat them and I would kind of remember eating a WHOLE BAG OF CARROTS (minus the five leftover for me). So I was kind of pissed, but thought, “Maybe someone just didn’t see my name on the bag. It happens.”

This morning I go to get my last five carrots, a few crackers and some hummus and this time…SOMEBODY ATE MY DAMN HUMMUS!!!! This is no mistake. I am being targeted for my food. I know it…I can feel it in my bones. So, I’ve come up with some ideas for handling this:

  1. Leave a note that says, “You’re an asshole. Love, Janice”
  2. Leave a note that says, “You owe me $7.82”
  3. Leave a note that says, “Hope you enjoyed my carrots and hummus. P.S. I double-dip like a mo-fo”
  4. Leave a note that says, “P.P.S. My daughter has the croup and I let her lick all the carrots.”
  5. Hide in the fridge and when they open it explode out and yell, “Caught ya sucker!”
  6. Put some eye drops in the hummus and see who spends the most time in the restroom next week.

Or I could just do this:

What I Learned While Microwaving Dinner

20 Oct

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

I’ve seen this quote a thousand times. It’s always resonated with me. I’ve always liked it. I pretty much like anything that’s all, “Hey…be nice to people.” A funny thing though, every time I’ve read this quote, I’ve always thought of the people who have caused me to feel hurt. Because let’s be honest…it’s really hard to forget (and forgive)hurt and we hold onto the hurt for much longer than is healthy for anyone involved. As if holding the hurt creates a cloak that will prevent us from ever being hurt again.

Last night Ava and I went to the grocery store. It was late. She was asking to buy everything and I was too tired to say no. As we were checking out, our checker, Milton, was talking Ava up. And Ava was, of course, hamming it up. As we were finishing up he said, “You have a beautiful little girl there. You really should put her into acting. She’s full of personality.” I thanked him and went on my way. As we walked across the parking lot, a man sped by and came a little too close to Ava and I. In my anger I said, “What an idiot!” And Ava said, “I know. I stuck my tongue out at him!” And I quickly stopped, knelt down and explained to Ava why I shouldn’t have called someone a name and why she shouldn’t have stuck her tongue out at him. As I loaded the groceries in the car, I thought, “Man this compassion thing takes practice and so much work.” How quickly I had replaced my good feelings from Milton with negative feelings from a stranger.

We got home, unloaded the groceries and I threw my dinner in the microwave. I stood at the microwave and checked Facebook. I saw the following message posted on my wall from a great friend:

“I’ve had a REALLY trying week, and every time I’ve wanted to tell someone to “shut the hell up” (or at times WORSE…lol) I thought of you…and found my compassion. Thanks for always being the inspiration that you are! I love you dearly! MUAH!”

And you guys…I seriously did a little happy dance…I felt so surprised and grateful. And then I thought of the Maya Angelou quote up at the top of this post. I learned an important personal lesson yesterday. It’s more important to remember the good that people make me feel…I need to practice that more. It’s a burden to carry past hurts. And yet so uplifting to carry around all those good feelings.  

And I’ll end with this…do not let anyone, ever steal your joy. It’s never worth the energy it takes to get your joy back.