Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking Forward to Good Health in the New Year

So, I did it - I finished all of the pillowcases for 30+ people (including one for myself - with a running shoe print, of course) for Christmas. They really did make for the perfect wrapping paper - they fit gifts of ALL sizes and shapes!

I wish I could report that Christmas came and went without a hitch and that I even ran on our trip to my mother-in-laws, but that's not quite how it all went. Running didn't happen for a variety of reasons - icy roads, lots of visiting with family, adjusting to the time difference (3 hours), etc. The biggest reason was the most important one, though. Our son was transported by ambulance on Christmas night from the ER to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where he was admitted for three nights.

After working for 2 weeks to get the kids healthy for our trip (daughter had pneumonia, son had sinus infection), they were both finally off meds and ready to go when a cold erupted in both of them the day before the trip. After several days of coughing and general ickiness, we began to realize that this bugger was not going to pass quickly. At Christmas dinner with 22 family members, our son picked at his dinner (RARE, as this kid eats non-stop) and had a wicked coughing fit that told us it was time to get help. My husband took him to the ER to be checked and after 2 breathing treatments they transported my boys by red sleigh (translation: ambulance) to Children's in Pittsburgh. Diagnosis: pneumonia and aggravated asthma.

The next 3 days were filled with trips back and forth to the hospital for visits/tag-team overnight stuff while the docs, nurses and respiratory therapists worked to get his oxygen level steady. We are ever so grateful for my husband's family who drove us back and forth (I don't know the highways and city area well enough to make the drive in the dark) and took care of the little sister who was dealing with missing her brother and fighting her own cold/bout of pneumonia. The day before our return home to Washington our son was released from the hospital and our daughter took her trip to the ER for a chest x-ray that confirmed her illness. Armed with a bag loaded with antibiotics and inhalers, we were able to get on our regularly scheduled flights home on Tuesday morning (despite the fact that I lost my driver's license in PA . . . but that's a WHOLE other story). There is no place like home!

I had planned to share the series of haiku I wrote for our Christmas cards on Christmas Day with you all, but I think this last day of 2009 is an appropriate day to share the poems, too. As I look back on the year, I remember our fun-filled summer fondly, I appreciate the supportive network of family and friends and I am amazed at all my children grew through. I look forward to 2010 as a year of further personal growth - as a writer, a runner, a wife and a mother. And I pray that it is a HEALTHY one - not just for my family, but for yours, too!

And now . . . the haikus:

Daily Adventures
Two bicycles race
Beside the family garden
A rope swing beckons

Camano Island
Logs stretch out their arms
For kids to construct their caves
On the rocky shore

Little Sister
Red hair flows freely
As she dances side to side
Laughing and singing

Big Brother
"I have an idea!"
Inspiration is bellowed
Filled notebooks are proof

Brianna
Behind the dense fog
Ducks quack and cows moo, "Hello!"
As she runs the trail

Husband
Stars twinkle above
As the crowd dances freely
Music-filled nights rock

Albus
Kids reach for the leash
Announcing a family walk
Swish, swish goes his tail

Our Wish for You
Christmas lights glimmer
As the New Year approaches
May love fill your days

Happy reading, running and good health to you in 2010!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Endulging in My Other Passion - Sewing!

With the temperatures holding steady in the 20's and low 30's, the treadmill has become my best buddy. While cranking out 3-4 miles while "standing still" isn't my favorite thing, it keeps me sane and does help me with developing a sense of pace. It also gives my mind the opportunity to wander toward more creative outlets . . . like sewing!

For the last month I've been cranking out pillowcases for our annual homemade wrapping paper project. I did this 2 years ago, last year I made reusable bags and this year I decided to return to making these bright and personality-matching cases. I even thought to take a picture this go around (you're all shocked, right?!). Here are 15 of the 25 that are finished. About 5 more should complete the batch - and I have 6 days in which to do it!

And since I like an overflowing plate (and I noticed I was still using my summer purse - *gasp!*) I decided it was time to make myself a winter purse . . . and while I was at it, I'd make a smaller version for my daughter. Nothin' like a little math to make an evening fun, right? Yes, I successfully divided and multiplied the dimensions to create a 3/4 version while coming to the realization that geometry and algebra really DO come in handy many times a day in my life.
These are the bags before I added the shoulder straps. I think I actually like the miniature version better (though it was a bit tricky to sew). Think my daughter would mind if I swapped her for the purple one? Maybe not, considering she woke up today and said, "It's a purple and pink kind of day!" I better just leave things as they are.

I used the messenger bag directions in The New Handmade by Cassie Barden. I also used this pattern for my well-worn summer purse and would recommend it to anyone looking for a sturdy and purse-like messenger bag. There are some other great purse/bag patterns in there, too.
As you can see, the end result is a hit!
And now my son wants me to make him a backpack, but I have to put these spur-of-the-moment side projects to rest for a bit. Next up after the remaining pillowcases are 2 quilts: one for my son (takes the edge off not getting a new bag, right?) and one for my sister-in-law's wedding. And some pillowcases for a school auction . . . and half-marathon training. :)
Happy passion-following, everyone!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Books (and more!) for the Holidays

Though I passed on the Black Friday shopping (and even the Cyber Monday fun), I've really enjoyed the Christmas present planning/creating this year. Last year I made reusable bags for family members, this year I'm back to pillowcases (14 are done so far, so I'm about half-way done!). But when considering the non-homemade gifts to put on our shopping list we took some other things into consideration:

1. Is it a book? As an author, mother, former teacher and avid reader books are always at the top of my personal wish list and gift-giving lists. Always. This year each of my children's teachers will get a novel to enjoy over the break (wrapped with a festive pillow-case, of course!). Shhhh, don't tell them! And when we look for books, I'm not just shopping from the bestseller list (though there are great ones there, and I did get a few of those) - we're discovering some great ones that are produced by independent publishers, too (like PJ Hoover's middle grade fantasy books). Check out the Moonbeam Children's Book Award listings for some recent titles for kids.

2. Is it local? A favorite gift for our extended relatives (aunts & uncles that shouldn't be forgotten, but don't require a big chunk of the budget) is something grown in the Pacific NW. The fruit grown out here is AMAZING, so we alternate between Chukar Cherries and Canter-Berry blueberry syrup. Our little Valley is also well-known for visual arts, so prints & notecards by local artists are list favorites. It is great to support our local economy and the creative energy that spreads here!


3. Does it inspire? If it is something that can be used once, we're generally not interested - unless it is an experience (tickets to a museum or play, for instance). Clearly that means Kleenex is out. Some people on my list are budding runners, so Carol Goodrow's 2010 What a Day for Running! calendar or a pair of running socks are perfect choices for those folks. Notecards from Banana Blossom Press are another choice for my running friends. And a new pair of running shoes is on MY wish list - to keep me going! My son loves to build and draw, so we're looking for open-ended, creativity-feeding toys like Dado Squares for him.

4. Does my purchase help others? We have a gift store in our little town that sells nature-related books, Folkmanis puppets and games, all in support of protecting and restoring wild fish throughout the Northwest. The toy store in town is offering a special shopping day on Saturday in support of my daughter's cooperative preschool - 10% of the sales that day will be donated to the school. Proceeds from the sales of the fly fishing-themed children's books about Olive the Woollybugger by my friend Kirk Werner support the program Hooked on a Cure. Our company Balanced Steps, LLC donated a case of We Are Girls Who Love to Run to our local YMCA in support of their Invest in Youth campaign - folks who purchase one of those copies at the Y are not only inspiring their friend/family member with the message in the book, but 100% of the purchase price goes to the YMCA. Not too shabby.

5. Does it respect the environment? While this answer isn't "Yes!" in every case, we do try to take it into consideration, especially when it comes to packaging/wrapping. Amazon.com is making strides to cut down on packaging by offering "Frustration Free Packaging". We've combined things to ship once, re-use gift bags, use the kids' artwork as wrapping and wrap small gifts in the pillowcases I'm making. All of the gifts we have for our children will be wrapped in their fun pillowcases I've made over the years. The kids and I are also hitting our local used bookstore where they'll pick out some books to give their dad for Christmas. Who says a book has to be new to hold value?

6. Does it fit the budget? I'm a bargain shopper. I'm all about the free shipping offers (if it is for something I want - I don't shop BECAUSE of free shipping) and last year's selection of Christmas fabric (which enabled me to make pillow cases at half the price by buying off the clearance rack!). I'm also make good use of coupons. These savings enable us to splurge on a few full-priced items. Everybody wins!

Happy December and happy shopping, everyone!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Birthday Reflections

Though my actual birthday was last Friday - the 13th - birthday celebrations in our family tend to start a few days early and end a few days later. It is just more fun that way. It started with a big birthday celebration with family (8 birthdays in all in October/November) when family was in town visiting in late October, included a 4.4 mile group trail run on Saturday and ended last night with my favorite birthday dinner of my youth made by my mom (breaded chicken tenders, egg noodles, cranberry relish and green beans - with chocolate muffins/ice cream for dessert!).

This year I helped my husband and dad lay laminate flooring in our family room on my actual birthday - just one part of the main level flooring project we tackled this fall. My husband took the day off from work, my mom took our daughter to the Tiny Tots program sponsored by the Seattle Symphony and our son was at school. The previous 2 days of the flooring adventure (the last 2 Saturdays) I was on kid patrol while the guys worked. Helpful? Absolutely. But I'm a hands-on gal, so I really enjoyed putting on those old jeans and a running t-shirt from 2004 to help out with the actual installation. I was in bed by 9:30 on my birthday, but I'd still call it a successful and happy day. I love my new floors!

As the day allowed, I did my usual birthday reflecting. I thought back to birthdays past:

1. In 5th grade I had a joint birthday party with my best friend (her name is Briana and her birthday is the day after mine - no joke!). We made cookies at my house and then we all headed down the street and around the corner for a sleep over at her house.
2. My 25th birthday weekend was also my marathon weekend at the SunTrust Richmond Marathon.
3. Last year was a pretty day and I celebrated it with a run! This year I did a quick 2 miles on the treadmill before it was time for the floor fun.

And I thought about how intimidated I was by the number "30" last year and how welcoming I find the number "31" to be this year. So now I give you a quick 5K version of what I'm thankful for as I round out my birthday celebrations (3.1 things!):

1. My body, mind and spirit continue to enjoy running
2. My children are adventurous & energetic souls like their parents
3. My husband and I are making reading a more regular part of our evenings
.1 The thrill of discovering what this next year has in store for our little family

How about you? Do you have something you do every year for your birthday?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lost in the Pages: Review of 2010 Calendar What a Day for Running!

2010 Calendars. They're everywhere these days - shopping malls, bookstores, drug stores and grocery stores. Cute bunny noses catch the attention of my daughter while superheroes mid-flight beckon my son to take a look. Every year the calendar selection seems to be the same: animals, comic strip characters, international destinations, and special calendars for "Moms on the Go". I don't know about you, but I don't need a reminder that I'm a "mom on the go" (my life tells me that daily) and puppy calendars just remind me that my sweet pup is getting old.

I've tried on-line calendars, but I really rely on the good, "Old School" wall calendar. I write down EVERYTHING in it. When I talk on the phone to schedule doctor's appointments I carry it from room to room to multi-task and minimize sibling rivalry. I can even toss it in my car to take to my kids' schools to set up play dates. I lose pocket calendars and day planners are bulkier than I like. So for me, a yearly wall calendar is a must - even though you'll never find mine on the wall.

A month or so ago I saw that my author friend Carol Goodrow created a wall calendar for 2010, I ordered one on the spot. Instead of wishing I could be back in Venice, Italy (as I did with my calendar 3 years ago) when looking at my schedule for April, I'll have the pleasure of thinking about the great springtime running sounds as depicted in the illustration of a boy "jammin' with the rain" as he runs through mud puddles ("spat-ta-pa, spat-ta-pa, splatter, SPLASH!"). While it doesn't look like I'll make it to Italy again soon, you can count on me making my own running music on a regular basis here in the drippy Pacific NW. I knew there was good reason for me to ignore the pleas from my children asking for Hello Kitty and motorcycle calendars!


In May I'll be treated to a reminder of the sights of running and how numbers play a role in this favorite sport of mine. Carol's illustration shows a young girl out for a run "Counting Petals" and everything else as she runs: miles, time, footsteps, geese, horses, trucks, heartbeats . . . This reminds me of my marathon way back in November 2003 when I was counting orange cones to make it through my "wall" around mile 24. Some days running takes focus and it is the numbers that push you to your goal . . . other days the numbers are simple celebrations of what running shows you that you otherwise may have missed. This page shows what I already knew - Carol GETS it!


And without giving away TOO much more of the treasures in Carol's What a Day for Running! calendar, I'll let you know that moms who are runners will appreciate the illustration for November in which a daughter joins her mom for the final mile of a marathon. As a mom whose children are starting to discover the joy of running and a woman who organizes Saturday morning trail runs in my community, I can appreciate the caption: " . . .Cool weather can make a very long run doable. Throw in the bond of family and friends then VOILA! Even a cloudy November day shines."


If you are looking for something inspirational and heart-warming for a 2010 wall calendar, head on over to PE Central to get your copy(ies) of What a Day for Running! or order them directly through Carol. I promise the calendar will make you smile and provide your family with encouragement throughout the year better than any ol' farm animals can (though I can appreciate their beauty and cuteness, I just need a break from them!).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sharing my Passion

So November is in full gear, I'm just a few days away from celebrating my next birthday and Thanksgiving is right around the corner. If you know me, you know I use birthdays for reflection. Starting about a week before the birthday and lasting for a good week after, I ponder the previous year's adventures, look back 5 years (or some other appropriate number - like 2, when my daughter celebrated her second birthday) and look ahead to plan new goals. I'm also goal driven, but you already know that.

Through our business, Balanced Steps, my mom and I have sold over 1,000 copies of We Are Girls Who Love to Run. While this is nothing to sneeze at, especially for an independent publishing company, we are looking to make more of a ripple with the message in the book. We are thankful for the families and libraries that have made our little book part of their collection. We also know that there are readers who don't have access to uplifting books like ours. So this week we're shipping out cases of books to non-profit organizations nationwide to get the book into the hands of girls who really need extra encouragement and affirmation that they are strong and important members in their community. Each of the groups we are reaching will be able to give 24 girls a copy of We Are Girls Who Love to Run to add to her bookshelf. Many of these girls don't have many books on their shelves, but thanks to organizations like Nashville's Book'em and Boston-based Fit Girls, high-quality books will become part of their lives.

As much as our little business counts on book sales to survive, we know that giving back to the community is an important part of what we set out to accomplish when we established Balanced Steps. These non-profit groups share our mission of inspiring youth to find and follow their passions through literacy (and fitness). As women, moms, educators and members of the book industry, we couldn't be more pleased to support them in their work.

Inspired? Check out the websites for the groups who will be receiving books from us. These non-profits, and many regional groups like them, are working tirelessly this season to get books into the hands of youth (and not just this winter, but year round!). Some groups want new books, while others pledge to find good homes for gently used books - the websites have the details!

Fit Girls - a program for 4th & 5th graders that started in the Boston-area that promotes healthy bodies, healthy minds and healthy hearts. Participants run, read and participate in community outreach. The Boston Fit Girls Project is supported by the DMSE Children's Fitness Foundation.

Book'em - a Nashville-based nonprofit organization focusing on the collection and distribution of books to children and teens in lower-income families who might not otherwise have books of their own. They also provide volunteer readers to local preschools and elementary schools.

Page Ahead - a Washington State-based nonprofit organization guided by the fact that literacy is essential to lifelong success. They provide new books and develop reading activities that empower at-risk children.

The Hall Steps Foundation - founded by the elite running husband-wife duo Ryan and Sara Hall, the foundation seeks to take small steps toward the marathon goal of ending poverty. Internationally the Foundation partners with existing charities. Their US work uses running and mentoring to reach at-risk youth.

How do YOU share your passion? How can you turn your gratitude into a gift for others?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Waking-up the Senses with a Good Run

(Today was a crisp, fall day - much like the day our family had pictures taken a few weeks ago, just after the fog lifted. Yes, all four of us were hula hooping for this shot. I love how the photo screams FALL is here!)

This morning two friends met me for a trail run. As it turns out, I met each of the women through my children's schools - and we each have a child in kindergarten and a 2 year-old daughter. Our shared passion for running and sneaking in some "me time" for an early morning run made it easy for us to slip easily into a 9:30 pace for a 4.2 mile run.


As we were running and chatting I was hit by how everything seems to come together on a run. My frustrations with my non-sleeping children melted away as our conversations drifted from home improvement projects to college days to how we met our spouses. On this foggy, fall day, things became clearer in my mind and I became aware of how running wakes my senses:


Sight:

- Though I never focus visually on anything in particular while running, I can match just about every run with something inspiring or quirky that I passed. Today the fog tickled the upper branches of the trees and blanketed the cows in the valley along side us. It was like being part of the calm part in an old war movie.


Smell:

- I had to rethink my hill running day choice after a few weeks of dodging garbage cans and their odors on our community's garbage day. I smile when I pass by homes on their laundry days when I can identify the family's fabric softener brand. Today's trail smell confirmed that we are waist-deep in autumn - cool, damp air and a breeze that hinted that the cows really were out there in the fog somewhere.


Sounds:

- My favorite running sound is tied to race days. After the starting horn the pitter-pattering begins. Hundreds or thousands of feet hitting the pavement at once makes for quite a raucous. The sound gets my heart rate going with the excitement of being part of something so much bigger than myself. This morning's run was marked by the crunches and swishes of our six feet navigating the thick carpet of sycamore leaves. While today's weather was calm, the previous three were filled with rain and strong winds, encouraging millions of leaves to release their hold to the trees and rest on the path.


Taste:

- What runner hasn't been treated to the salty taste of sweat making its way into their mouth during a summer run? That's what usually comes to mind when I think of the taste of running. But my Saturday morning trail runs have changed my thinking. The last few weeks I've been treated to a big breakfast when I returned home: eggs, bacon, toast and even hash browns. Now THAT'S my preferred taste-association with running - post-run goodness!


Touch:

- With the onset of cooler weather, I've become more aware of hand comfort on my morning runs. I've heard many a runner talk about how they don't like running with hot hands, but I prefer sweaty hands to icy cold hands. This morning the gals found me with my hands happily wrapped in my running gloves - a gift from the principal when I taught 3rd grade 5 years ago. Those gloves have been an essential part of many a run. I did shed them at the end of the fourth mile today, but am glad I grabbed them on my way out the door and went with the running jacket with pockets!


Next Saturday I have to fore go the usual trail run, but I'll have my two kids in tow for a family run (1.7 miles, I think) that supports youth programs at our local YMCA. I'll be signing books during the pre-race excitement to raise funds for their scholarship program. I wonder what my senses will notice at the event . . .


What sense is most heightened for you when you run? Do you have a favorite place to run because of it? Do share!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Up and running

I like a full plate. This sometimes makes my husband cringe, and sometimes causes me to breakout like a 15 year old . . . but, I like to be involved in things. I like to connect with people and I like to help others. It's in my nature, like my love for hot chocolate on cool autumn night.

I'm currently working on several exciting ventures:

1. Writing proposals for using We Are Girls Who Love to Run in corporate campaigns
2. Creating running clubs for Spring 2010 modeled after Carol Goodrow's Happy Feet, Healthy Food club at local elementary schools
3. Reading great books and resources, a mix of old & new, to review here SOON!
4. Increasing my own running milage back up to 15-20 miles/week
5. Keeping up with housework more consistently so I can focus better during times when my children are sleeping/away and I have time to work.

The first three items have my greatest focus.

The fourth is being supported by the increase in participation for the Saturday morning trail runs I'm orchestrating in my community. I ran a fabulous 5 miles with a fellow-mom last Saturday. It was such a great run, I practically floated through the rest of the day. Some runs are like that - and I hope to enjoy plenty more!

That fifth item is a constant struggle. Housework has never been at the top of my list, but the better I do with it, the more I'm willing to keep up with it . . . and the more willing I am to actually let people past the front door! If my book ever makes millions, you can bet I'll hire a cleaning crew so that cleaning isn't ever on my list.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fingers Crossed for Good Weather

Tomorrow morning is Race Day. Well, not for me, but for many a runner or triathlete. On Twitter I saw that the Berlin Marathon is tomorrow (um, well, maybe today with the time differences!). In Seattle tomorrow marks the first time our city hosts the Trek Women's Triathlon. It gets underway at 7:15 - those of us volunteering will check-in at 6AM so we can be on the course and ready to support the athletes by Start Time.

This morning I was hoping to meet with a group of women for a trail run to kick-off this weekend of excitement, but Mother Nature had other plans for me. A downpour (not a light drizzle, it was TEEMING!) kept me inside, even though one woman DID show for the group run and kicked out a fabulous 5 miles in the rain before heading to Vinyasa class. I told her she earned her cape and that she can count on me being there next weekend (even if it IS raining - I'd like to earn a cape, too)! I will say that the other 4 or so women who will be doing the early morning Saturday runs also opted to stay dry, so I wasn't the only rain-shy runner in town.

The thing about tomorrow, though, is that rain or shine I WILL be at the race! I'm signed up to support the bike portion of the race. I'm looking forward to being on the course and seeing what it entails, as I really am a runner, not a triathlete. I'm also excited to be taking part in this event as a volunteer because it is an all women's event and it is fun to feel the extra energy that's around for women's races than for co-ed events.

And now that I know the kids are finally asleep, I'm off to relax a bit before going to bed early. I want to be well-rested for the race tomorrow and will have to leave the house around 5 to park and be ready by 6. Yikes! I might have to bring along some toothpicks to support my eyelids . . .

Happy running, biking, swimming and volunteering to everyone in race communities tomorrow. And congratulations to those of you who completed an event today, including an old high school friend of mine who marathoned today. Enjoy your well-deserved rest day tomorrow!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Race Season


The Summer 2009 race season came and went. I was pleased to knock out a few 5K runs, two timed and one memorial run.


The memorial run also happened to be my 2.5 year-old's first fun run experience (that's her above - pre-run). She had so much fun running the kids' dash with her peers (2 and under!) that she asked to run it again . . . and again, both of which were the same distance as the "big kids" (10-12). I cannot begin to express how thrilling it was for me to see her run - arms pumping, legs circling, all with a HUGE grin on her face. I truly believe that those little dashes taught her what running is all about: letting go, having fun and feeling the satisfaction after a good run.


I had hoped this fall would be my chance to train for and complete a Half Marathon, but I found that running with one kid in a jogger while encouraging another kid on a bike to pedal along side me is NOT as easy as I envisioned this summer. But this doesn't mean that races won't be part of my fall running experience. Instead I'll be using Fall 2009 for some other important things:


1. I'm volunteering next weekend at the Seattle TREK Women's Triathlon. This will be my first volunteer experience for a large event and I can't wait!


2. I'm working hard to promote a weekly Saturday morning women's trail run in our community. Since I initiated it in May I've seen mixed results. A few dozen folks have expressed interest in it - now the trick is to get them out of bed and into their running shoes!


3. We Are Girls Who Love to Run will be at the Seattle Marathon & the Portland Marathon Expos at the Banana Blossom Press booth. I'm thankful for Maria, who also displayed the book (and sold some copies!) at the Iron Girl Seattle event last weekend. If you haven't seen her greeting cards for athletes, be sure to check them out. There are cards to celebrate all distances, the love/hate relationship of training, as well as love for other sports. It is so much fun when small businesses can connect to support one another.


4. My son started full-day Kindergarten 2 weeks ago, which leaves me with a bit more time for running and building my distance base. And since my daughter loves being in the jogger we'll do more outdoor runs this year while she's still light enough to push (not too much longer, I fear). This morning we went for a 2 mile hilly run before her first day of pre-school. What a great way to start the week.


5. I'll be taking fun and easy steps to promote running experiences through the We Are Girls Who Love to Run page on Facebook. Volunteer opportunities, food for thought, and interesting upcoming races will be posted there. I post no more than 3-4 times per week, so come on over and become a fan!


What's on your plate for the Fall 2009 Race Season? Are you working toward a new goal? Be sure to post below!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Less Really Was More!

So, in looking back at my last post, it seems that I was right with the title. Less really was more for August: less blogging made for more of everything else.

More . . .

library trips
hula hoops hooped
books read
miles run
movies watched with the husband
veggies grown
tomato sauce canned
berries picked
concerts attended
State Parks visited
beaches walked
swings pushed

And as we get ready for our son to start Kindergarten next Tuesday, I realize that all of those "mores" will be great for my new take on "Less is More" in September: Less time with kids (because of school!) is more time for writing/working/running. Change is good!

Oh, and have you been stalling on getting your hands on a copy of my book? Act fast and you might just win a copy in a giveaway! If you are on Twitter, be sure to enter the WE ARE GIRLS WHO LOVE TO RUN book #giveaway at #girlgetstrong http://ow.ly/l2P9 And while you're at it, be sure to browse the Girl Get Strong site. They have lots of good stuff going on there for women, including articles by guest bloggers that are top notch!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Less is More

Somehow August snuck up on me. June and July were filled with just about ALL of the things we were looking forward to doing this summer, but now it is August and we have 4 weeks until the start of the school year. My two lingering, yet contradictory, questions are:

1) What the heck am I going to do with these kiddos until school gets underway in September?
2) How is it that my calendar is filling so quickly for August and September when those pages were BLANK last week?

Since #2 is happening so quickly, I don't think #1 will be much of an issue. But it does leave me thinking that it is time to rethink and regroup. I'm changing my mindset to consider a new approach: Less is More. As a "Type A" go-getter, this is a tricky one for me. I'm betting it has big rewards, though.

For example:

1. Blueberry picking - eat less, put more in bucket

Instead of eating them all while picking (my kids' favorite approach), I'm opting to just nibble one or two every bush or so. The reward is a full bucket to take home and enjoy in muffins, pancakes, etc. We have 3 gallon-sized bags frozen to enjoy through the year. My parents have over 50 pounds frozen at their place. Less is definitely MORE!!!

2. Child Motivation - yell less, get more cooperation

Instead of yelling at my son (which never works anyhow, so I don't know why I'd even bother) to clean up the disaster in the family room, down the hall, in his room, in the bathroom . . . you get the idea, it was BAD . . . I implemented a tip I got from a friend's nanny last week. I set a timer for 5 minutes. My son worked on cleaning the family room. When the timer went off, he could stop there and pick the next space to clean. Then I reset the timer for 5 minutes as he worked on his bedroom. He could see immediate progress in a short amount of time without being overwhelmed by the sheer task of shoveling himself out of the disaster. In 20 minutes he had 2 rooms completely cleaned and neither of us had a single meltdown. Smaller chunks of time (less!), led to cleaner spaces (more!) and happier people (hooray!).

3. Entertainment and opportunity - less scheduled time, more time for unique experiences

One of the Seattle theatres called in May to see if we wanted season tickets (which included tickets to Wicked). I called my mom, we quickly decided on some shows and I hurriedly bought tickets for 4 shows between September and May. It happened FAST. Then I discovered that the IronGirl Seattle event (including a 2 Day Expo!) was the same weekend as Wicked and I'd have to find a babysitter for the kids after I had been gone all day at the Expo. Since my kids usually get Oma and Papa as their sitters (yes, yes, we're ALL spoiled by that one!), this is not really an easy thing. Just thinking about it for 2 days had me stressed to the MAX.

Having We Are Girls Who Love to Run at the expo is just too good an experience to pass up - especially since Seattle is just a stone's throw from us. And although I know Wicked is supposed to be AMAZING, the stress of the whole experience isn't worthwhile. I cancelled our tickets on Friday and couldn't be more content with the decision. I feel good about having the other 3 show dates free, too, even if they don't coincide with another event. I also feel good about not having shelled out all the moolah for the shows. I love theatre, but maybe this is our year to experience some good local talent. Less expense/time commitment for entertainment leads to increased potential for business and more family time.

4. Running - fewer people for a group run, more thinking time and quality one-on-one chatter

I'm keepin' on with my Saturday group run stuff. Some mornings I've had 6 or 7 women join me, other times it is just little ol' me. While I do get a bit bummed if I'm running solo, it isn't always a bad thing to have the trail to myself (and my cell phone for safety). This past Saturday I started the run by myself and was pleased that I fell into a nice pace and as able to work through some mental challenges. I also got to have a few powerful moments of eye contact with a cow in a pasture alongside the trail when I stopped to shed my long-sleeved shirt. That cow seemed to get me. Really, she did.

Shortly after my turn-around spot, a member of the Saturday crew came down the trail, so I turned back around to run with her. Big group runs are fun, but every run has its own purpose and I walked away from Saturday's run feeling more satisfied than I have post-run in a long time.

Whew! That was more than I expected to write, but now I have less clutter in my brain which gives me more thinking space for enjoying a good book tonight.

How about YOU? How can you apply the LESS is MORE theory in your life?

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Running Triangle

Last night I took our trusty old pup, Albus, for a run. It was one of those ideal summer nights - a little overcast without covering the tri-colored sunset, a gentle cool breeze, and both of the children were sound asleep so my husband could enjoy the quiet at home. I left the Garmin at home and we just went. We seemed to bound up the first hill (usually a killer), and fell into a comfortable pace immediately. I slowed to a walk a few times to make sure I wasn't over-exerting Albus (he is nearly 9 years old, after all), but each time he looked at me with a glimmer in his eye that said, "Come on, Mom. I may be old, but I've still got it. Let's GO!" It was summer running perfection for the both of us!

But after we got home I realized that while the run itself was great, I shouldn't get too excited about my running fitness just yet. My post-run stretch was a loud reminder from my body that while my strength and endurance are better than they've been in years, my flexibility is at a near all-time LOW.

Further reflection led me to a self-discovery: I've never been diligent about maintaining all THREE elements of my running (endurance, strength & flexibility) simultaneously. In my younger years I was a dancer - I had some endurance, but strength and flexibility outshined it. I discovered yoga shortly after running found me, thus giving me the great combo of endurance and flexibility. But when I integrated strength training into my workout mix last fall, the yoga slowly faded to make room for the weights. So, though my fitness triangle shifts regularly, I have yet to find the sweet spot where all the sides get equal attention!

Maybe this is a casualty of motherhood, or maybe it is because I've never had a formal plan to integrate all three elements effectively. Whatever it is, my plan is to work on it! I've been doing 3 days of weight training each week, but I think it is time to change the plan. I'll keep using the SaneFit strength training workouts, but I'll knock it down to 2 days of weights to welcome at least one day of yoga practice/week back into my life. The running can stay the same at 3-4 times/week. For now. I'm interested to see if increased flexibility will help me as I get rolling with my longer runs.

How about YOU? Do you find that you go through phases where one element of your workouts take over and you neglect other aspects? How do you keep things balanced in your fitness life?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Kids' Birthdays aren't Just for Kids


Tomorrow is my son’s fifth birthday (that's him doing what he loves best above). As my mother-in-law says, he’ll officially be a whole handful.
I find birthdays and anniversaries to be great times to reflect on personal growth and to check-in with progress on goals I’ve set. Don't worry, there will be cake and singing and silliness, too. And a few tears that only mothers know how to cry when their babies get older.

When I think back over the “whole handful” of years, I’m amazed at all that has happened in our little family (I’m keeping with the “5” theme):

1. We moved all the way across the country from Charlotte, NC to just outside Seattle, WA. If that situation doesn’t provide growth, I don’t know what will!
2. After two serious allergic reactions before his first birthday, our son was diagnosed with a long list of food allergies. As of last week, we’ve been given the green flag to add in larger amounts of eggs & milk into baked food products. This is cause for celebration at our house!
3. Our son became a loving big brother to a spit-fire little sister.
4. We’re now able to enjoy family adventures lasting longer than 6 hours. We’ve managed 2 weekend-long camping trips already this summer. I really never thought this day would come.
5. Our kids speak of their futures using empowering phrases like, “When I’m a runner . . . “ and “I’ll do that, too, because I’m strong!” I can't wait to see what will happen when they make those phrases come true.

Although the birthday is HIS, as the mama who birthed him, the day belongs to ME, too! This gives me the clearance to evaluate my goals in relationship to his life-span.

1. In his short/long (I haven’t decided if the time has been fast or slow!) life I published a book and sold over 1,000 copies of it.
2. Two weekends ago I set a running PR that blows anything from my “pre-kids life” out of the water.
3. I have completed at last a dozen quilts and already have a growing list of quilts to create over the course of his next five years. Only one quilt in his lifetime was for me – the others have all been gifts to celebrate weddings and births.
4. I started a non-profit social moms group in our community 3 years ago and it is still running.
5. My husband and I celebrated our 10 year engagement-iversary last week and our marriage is still going strong.

Now that know I can guide a child through life longer than I’ve held down any single paying job, my challenge begins. I must ask myself:

What are my new goals?
What experiences will I have the pleasure of remembering when the NEXT birthday rolls around?

Don't go yet! I have a challenge for you:

What life events prompt YOU to take a look at where you’ve been on your life path? What experiences lead you to set new goals as you head forward?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Reaching Beyond the Comforts of Home

"Mom, can we just stay home today?" my son occasionally asks.

For someone who is so set on adventuring and exploring, some days we find that home satisfies his needs. I feel that way sometimes, too.

Home is safe. We can really let it all hang out at home: we stay in our jammies until after lunch, watch an extra show on TV, splash in our kiddie pool, swing from the rope swing on our giant cedar tree, and read as many books as we can before falling asleep in the bean bag chair together. After stuffing our mouths with juicy berries . . . and maybe even some fruit snacks or otter pops (ice pops, icees, whatever your region calls them!), of course.
But, before long the kids do get antsy and we all know that means it is time to head to a park, take the dog for a walk, check out the used bookstore for a fun treasure, pick-up requested titles at the library, or meet up with friends for a play date. Those things are good for the soul, too, even if we do toss a haircut or grocery trip into the mix!
Sometimes I wish a change of pace for writing/promoting books could be so easy. How nice it would be to have a switch to flip for switching into high gear or back down into low gear. Or maybe there could be a GPS system for book publishing that calls out the next steps for me or helps redirect me if I miss my turn. Now THAT would be grand!
I've been enjoying some of that good ol' time at home recently, but know that the worker in me is antsy to get back into the swing of things - seriously.

Some ideas are brewing for new books, but now is really not the time to be thinking of publishing another title, or even sending out manuscripts to other publishers for consideration. Still, I think the ideas are worth of recording, so I need to block out some blocks of time to just sit and write, even if nothing official can happen with the work yet.

Getting out to meet readers/runners is important for promoting the book, but I've been so busy with my own running and life that a book tour hasn't panned out yet. I see some good options on the horizon, though, so one of my next steps is working to make public appearances happen.

I also hope to connect with readers more, both adults and kids. You can become a fan of We Are Girls Who Love to Run on FB (I hope you do!), I'm on twitter (http://twitter.com/writingrunner) and I do my best to visit other runners' blogs to get a good feel for the pulse in the running world. It is my hope that connecting with others virtually will help me find opportunities for face-to-face experiences (like I mentioned earlier!). See, I really do need to take that step OUT into the world to encourage girls and runners to recognize their strengths and reach their goals.

Making the book easy to buy is another goal of ours. We Are Girls Who Love to Run is listed on Amazon (you can even get a signed copy there!), but we're working to get the book into more brick and mortar stores and more on-line retail shops. That's another important step for our business to take this year. People can't buy it if they don't see it, right? Several specialty running stores in the Pacific NW carry the book, but I know there are some other good matches for it out there, Oh, and feel free to let me know if YOU know of a good place for my book!

I see that my son's desires for home days tend to come after wild weeks of inconsistency and unfamiliarity. Home is safe and home is comfortable. But I also see that my son has incredible times of growth and self-discovery when we do venture out and explore the "unknown". And my daughter? Well, she thrives on outings and outside experiences, too. In fact, I like to tell my husband that when I grow up, I want to be like HER. These photos say it all:


I'm more like my son, or maybe it is the other way around. It is easy for me to just tread water with the things I know. We can continue to sell a handful of copies each week using the few venues in place. That's easy. But, to really bring the book's message to life and reach out to girls and runners, I need to do more. It is time for me to really take a stand with this book and step into the scary "unknown" to reach our goal of selling 3,000 copies of the book this year. That's how we can make a difference. The trick is to keep it all in balance.

Scary?

Yes!

Hard?

Definitely!

Exhilarating?

I hope so!
As always: Happy running and happy summer reading!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Becoming a Good Sport

My son is just 12 days shy of his 5th birthday. For those of you without children, here's a translation:

He is a confident force to be reckoned with!

Really and truly, he wants to be a super hero when he grows up. If that doesn't pan out, he's sure that he will be "the best Globe Trotter EVER!" (despite the fact that his current basketball skill is that he knows what a basketball is). He assures me that he is a faster runner than me (despite the fact that he begs me to slow down so he can catch up when I'm running and he's biking with me) and asserts on a daily basis that he will always be older than his sister (which is, in fact, true).

Unfortunately hurt feelings can accompany all of this young confidence. He's starting to discover that other people's athletic skills are a bit more fine tuned than his and that hitting a ball with a bat is harder than it looks (even with a tee)! This makes my job as his mom a bit more challenging this summer than I thought it would be.

Thankfully I have some good stuff in my arsenal.

1. YMCA Rookie Sports Camp - My son spent the first week out of school at the soccer/t-ball rookie camp. I was thrilled that the core value they promoted all week was Sportsmanship. In addition to working on dribbling, catching, hitting (and running in the right direction), the group of 4-8 year olds learned how to encourage one another and celebrate success without being arrogant.
2. Books that promote kindness and acceptance of others - Now that he's reading independently more regularly, we're reading books together and discussing them the first time through. Then he rereads them on his own. After we read them again as a family (with little sister!) I have him tell me something the main character learned in the story. This often leads to an age-appropriate discussion about if/when he faces that situation what he can do. Where's Your Smile, Crocodile? by Claire Freedman was a good one we read last week that showed the importance of helping others. I was also happy to discover an Early Reader that chronicled a pair of friends who struggled with competition: Cork & Fuzz: Good Sports by Dori Chaconas. And you'll notice the new book Nico & Lola: Kindness shared between a boy and a dog by Meggan Hill in the photo below.

3. Family Runs/Rides - I DO want my son to feel confident, but I want him to feel good about specific things he can do (not just what he *thinks* he can do!). So even though when he rides his bike while I run it makes my runs s-l-o-w-e-r, I know this won't always be the case. To build his confidence as a rider, I'm using the time to cheer for him when he's doing well with detailed compliments: "Wow! When you steer straight like that, you can go farther faster!" or "I noticed how smoothly you took that turn!" These become part of our reports to his dad at dinner time and then we set a skill focus/goal for the next bike outing. Of course, riding on the tag-along on the back of Dad's bike during our family trail rides is great, too.

4. Water Balloons - Good ol' "Catch" isn't a favorite at our house (i.e., we have strong reading skills, but need to work more on hand-eye coordination!), so now we're working to make it fun and game-like so he can be successful when he plays a bit more seriously with kids at school or the playground. Water balloons are great for this on these warm summer days.

This last summer before he heads off to Kindergarten promises to be one of growth for all of us. I'm glad that fun can be at the base of all of it!
How about YOU? What do you do to help your children strike a healthy confidence balance? What's in your fun/learning parenting kit?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Nearly a Week Without Running . . . but still Thankful

(Rainbow over the Puget Sound after a rainstorm on Camano Island this weekend while we were camping - photo was taken right from our campsite!)


It is nearly midnight, but my brain is racing. I'm blogging in attempt to purge my thoughts and thus calm myself. No, no, I'm not awake worrying about anything and no, my redheaded temper isn't fired up about anything I can't change. I'm simply overwhelmed (in a good way) by some pretty simple things, for which I am thankful:


1. I am thankful that my mom was able to fly ALL the way from WA to MA for a weekend with the extended family of her youth. She gathered with her three siblings (just that part is amazing) and their dad to celebrate the life of her uncle with their countless cousins and, and, and . . . from what I hear, it was QUITE the gathering in honor of an amazing man. While there, my mom and her siblings also celebrated my grandpa's 85th birthday and were able to spend Father's Day with him. Today was likely the first Father's Day all 4 of them were with their dad in a few decades. Isn't that remarkable? I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it. Wow.

2. I am honored that my high school AP Chemistry teacher somehow remembered me after all these years and friended me on Facebook (along with a number of my memorable and colorful classmates). Her class and her talents as a teacher (beyond just the material) were important parts of my Senior year and her passion for teaching inspired me in my years as a teacher. It turns out she recently bought a copy of We Are Girls Who Love to Run. The book, and my regular FB status updates about my runs and silly anecdotes about my little family, are now helping to inspire HER as she enters the world of running and trains for her first triathlon in August. Inspiration truly is circular. OK, now my eyes are getting a bit blurry.


3. I have not run a step since last Wednesday (I think it was Wednesday, anyhow). Our family took off on Thursday for a long weekend of camping at Camano Island State Park and it was amazing. We did come home a day early, but ended up exploring another State Park this morning instead, so we didn't really lose much outside time with the switch in plans. We gained a bit of extra sleep and a fun movie night, though. The weekend away from computers, and telephones was just what this gal needed . . . and the weekend away from grass pollen and whatever else is triggering his allergies is just what this gal's husband needed. The beach, with rocks, driftwood, forts, crabs of all sizes and colors, wind, rain, rainbows, coin showers, and amazing clouds welcomed us. My daughter roasted her first marshmallow and my son enjoyed at least three fire-roasted blueberry pies with the mountain pie maker (in one night).
(This is the view from our camper on our camping trip this weekend - literally the best spot in the whole campground - talk about having a room with a view!)



4. I am thankful for the promise of a playful summer. This weekend reminded me that my children's childhoods are precious and short - I will be limiting screen time across the board. Our mission for the summer is to explore and experience while the getting is good. The kids can do without TV on a daily basis (though I think Saturday family movie nights will become part of our fun when we're not camping) and I can do without FB/Twitter/blogs on a daily basis. I will definitely check-in and post from time to time, but not with the regularity that you've seen from me in the past. Summer in the Pacific NW is too short!


(Here's my Boy Who Loves to Wiggle in his best form!)

5. I am thankful for readers and runners who have the book We Are Girls Who Love to Run on their shelves. I am thankful that they are sharing their passion for running/living a vivid life by recommending the book to others and by encouraging others to reach their goals (running or otherwise!). You can even find the book on Facebook and become a fan! The blog posts I do write over the summer will be running/book publishing related. I'll update you with info about where the book is headed, where you can find it to buy a copy (if you don't already have one!), and additional ways you can share your love of books and running with youth. This is, after all, my passion. I will also continue to share pertinent book reviews about similar, uplifting books.

(This is my 2 year-old Girl Who Loves to Run, doing what she does best . . . go, go, going!)

And with that, dear reader, I am feeling less fidgety and my brain is getting the message that it is okay to slow for the night. Tomorrow I will return to my love of running - refreshed & energized by the time spent with my family and the new perspective I have on what my place is in this world at this point in time.

Wishing you happy running and precious time with your loved ones this summer,

Brianna

Monday, June 15, 2009

Starting the last week of school with a Thankful Heart

The kids are down & out with the double whammy of environmental allergies & croup, but that doesn't mean there aren't things for which to be thankful! As this last week of school gets going (well, it will get going for us on Wednesday when he's not contagious anymore), I am thankful for:

1. The wonderful educational foundation my son has received in his two years of Montessori preschool. Wouldn't trade it for anything and I look forward to my daughter enjoying her years there when it is her turn.

2. The friends I've made through my son's school. At least two of them have joined me for runs, so you know they are amazing women (even the non-runners are great)! Yes, parents can make friends at school, too.

3. My 25:51 PR at the Duvall Days 5K on June 6th (and placing 14th out of 220 women)! Thanks to the combination of group runs, Sane Fitness strength training, and a little "kick in the pants" from my husband (more like a dare, really), I discovered that YES, this body can go a bit faster and actually enjoys the challenge. Think I can break 25:00 by the end of summer? Hmmm . . .

4. The promise of the lazy days of summer. Our family calendar is filling quickly with camping/hiking/music filled adventures. In fact, last weekend we managed to ride 2 ferries, visit 2 State Parks and I still got in my Saturday morning run. As my son says, "This summer I want to spend A LOT of time outside. Outside, outside, outside." Done!

5. The honor of being the author of a successful book. I'll write more about this later in the week, but in these days of struggle for the book publishing world, I'm thankful for the readers who spread the word about We Are Girls Who Love to Run and encourage others to make it part of their treasured book collection. For an independent publishing company with a minuscule budget, Balanced Steps is really having a positive impact on young readers and their families!

Wishing you health, sunshine and happy running!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lost in the Pages: Review of Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle


I picked up Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle at our local drug store on a whim one day. As an author, I'm a total sucker for books, especially picture books, and even more especially picture books for girls that somehow incorporate healthy living. Usually I think about them longer than 5 seconds before purchasing them, though. But this time the cover grabbed me, I totally forgot the purpose of my stop at the store, and off I went to the check-out to make it mine (under the guise that the book is for my daughter). Kudos to illustrators Mike & Carl Gordon for their whimsical artwork that truly stopped me in my tracks.


Things that make this book shine:


1. The author's daughter is credited for asking the question that created the book.

2. The book is a dialogue between a mother and daughter.

3. The girl's dog joins her on her questioning adventure ("Do princesses climb trees?" one page reads. The illustration shows the girl dangling from her knees on a branch. Her dog is doing the same with its back legs on the next branch over!).

4. The mother's answers to her daughter's questions are both playful and real.

5. This book celebrates the joy of life with healthy balance of adventure and responsibility (the girl has chores and goes to school - what more could a mom ask for?).


The only thing that I would change about the book is to make the main character a redhead. But only because my favorite little girl is a redhead (that would be my daughter), not for any REAL reason. But, since the mom is a redhead (like me), I really can't complain.


Without saying too much more (like giving away the surprise ending - which adds icing to the already wonderful cake of a book), I do have to add that I think this book has some great parallels with We Are Girls Who Love to Run and another book I reviewed just a little while ago, Sally Jean, the Bicycle Queen. All three books encourage girls to embrace the many facets of girlhood, let their inner selves shine, and to follow their hearts. Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? is truly a gift from the author and illustrators to the world of little girls. I look forward to sharing this book with my daughter as I help her recognize her inner strengths and explore the beauty of our day-to-day world.
How about you? Is there a book that really grabbed YOU recently? Do tell!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Checking the Numbers

I posted at the start of May that I would be tracking my mileage on the calendar. This is the first time I've really charted my distance since marathon training in 2003 (yikes, that was a long time ago!), so it was a true learning experience. I had to get back in the groove of remembering to transfer the happy little number from my Garmin to the calendar AND I had to get over the shock of how much lower my mileage was than I expected.

I was pleased to see that I really did get in 3-4 runs/week, which isn't bad when you consider we also got in a 4 day trip to CA to visit Yosemite and family and that I also did 18 miles on my bike (towing my daughter in the trailer, no less!) and we hiked countless miles. But 39.2 miles over the course of a month was lower than I thought it would be. If the Run Like Hell Half in Portland this October is going to be a successful reality, these feet have some more running to do!

How will I get my mileage up this month?

- My Saturday group runs really will turn into long runs now that more ladies are participating. At least two of the gals are also planning for the Half, so instead of 2-4 miles on Saturday, we'll be logging 5-6 to start and then increasing our mileage from there.

- My amazingly talented singer/songwriter friend, Loni Rose, is now joining me for a run on Wednesdays while our sons are in school (and maybe the boys can bike beside us when school is out!) and she likes to run a good distance. We celebrated National Running Day with a 5K run and were pleased to discover that our paces are similar and that we really had fun together (even though we were a bit slower than either of us would run with our husbands - less chatting with the guys, is my guess!). 2 loops around the lake is 5K, so next week we're adding a third loop.

- Now that my pace is a bit faster (when not talking too much!), I can get in more distance in a shorter time while pushing my daughter in the jogger. She's also happy to go now, especially if we can stop at a park mid-way or post-run. The park "carrot" also enables us to go for a bit longer.

- My son will be in a YMCA soccer/t-ball camp in the mornings the last week of June, allowing me to keep with our usual weekly routine for the month. July will be a different story, but I'm just taking things one month at a time.

How about YOU? What do you do to increase your mileage? Any challenges you have to work around?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Starting with a Thankful Heart returns . . .

It is too pretty of a day to be sitting at the computer (for which I am most thankful!), so I'll keep this post short.
I'm starting this week with a smile in my heart because I'm thankful for:

1. The 5 women that joined me to run on Saturday morning (and one brought along her daughter to ride her bike along side her!). This women's running group is really picking up momentum! It is great to see people come together to share their passion and support one another, no matter their speed.

2. The beauty of Camano Island, WA. We spent Memorial Day there and went back again yesterday. I haven't felt so connected with a place since living in Italy for a summer. Although the day was a bit hazy, we could still see the Olympic Mountains and enjoyed a picnic and walk along the rocky shore of Camano Island State Park.

3. The excitement of running this week to prep for Saturday's Duvall Days 5K. I'm thinking that with all of the weight training and more frequent runs I'm doing that this could be a PR race for me! I ran the Duvall Days 10K last year (brutal hills!!!), so it should be fun to do the flat 5K route for a change of pace this year.

4. I remembered to use sun screen today! Sunscreen is almost part of our daily routine now. It took some getting used to once the weather improved, but now even the kids think to ask about it.

5. The house has been purged of baby gear. That's right - 2 SUV loads of stuff (in good shape, no junk!) went to the Duvall Co-op Preschool to help raise money at their garage sale next weekend in conjunction with the big Fire fighter's Pancake Breakfast event next door to the preschool. This is BIG time stuff in our little town. :) There's actually room to park a car in our garage now - and should I want, I can twirl around in just about any room in our house without knocking my shins into excess toys.

I do thank you for stopping by to visit, but I must encourage you to please leave a quick comment and then step away from your computer and get outside to enjoy your day/evening! What about me, you ask? I'm following my own advice by relaxing in our hammock before the kids get up from their naps and we head to the park.

Happy June and happy running!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Ending with a Thankful Heart

Somehow I got away from my "Starting with a Thankful Heart" posts. They really are a great way to kick-off a work week, so you can count on me getting back to those. When I find frustration building-up or feel like I'm swimming against the current, I can often turn my attitude around by taking a minute to acknowledge at least ONE thing for which I am thankful.

Granted, gratitude can be a bit like pulling teeth when you have a two year-old screaming in your ear and a four year-old taking apart every last thing he can get his hands on. But it can be done. And when I can latch on to one or two things for which I truly am grateful, I find I can get to the root of the screaming (lately, the arrival of molars and a significant physical growth - as evidenced by the dramatic shoe size change overnight!) and redirect my son's curiosity for good instead of evil (it always helps to address him as a Superhero and give him tasks that can "save the day"). Oh, don't bother asking me about the socks - I really don't know why they're an important part of the outfit, but they are.

In the spirit of those usual Monday posts, here's my "Ending with a Thankful Heart" gratitude list:

1. My husband recognizing that I was ready to hear him say "You can run faster if you want to. I know you can." After plodding along at the same pace for at least 2 years and with a nearly 6 months of strength training under my belt, he's right. I can go faster - because I have the tools to do so. I kicked-off my "I can go faster" mind-set this morning with a tempo run on the treadmill - and, no kidding, he was right!

2. The open arms of the great outdoors. For SO many reasons, but especially since it provides my children with a place to be themselves, full throttle.

3. Pizza. Late-night pizza with my husband after a full day last night and family pizza night with my mom tonight. Is there such thing as too much pizza? I'm sure there is, but we haven't reached that point yet.

4. And finally, as my dad would say, "Cuteness personified." The boundless energy of my children can't be beat (though there ARE days when I could use a second run to get a bit more time to myself - let's be honest here!). They wear me out and they challenge me daily, but I wouldn't trade 'em for anything.

How about YOU? Can you think of at least one thing for which you are thankful this week? Big or small, feel free to share in the comments.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Update Central

I've been away from the blog world, but this time my absence was not due to sick children!

1. Since deciding to do a Half, I really have been running more. My training plan isn't set yet, but a few gals (from our newly-formed Saturday morning running group!) and I have our sights on the Portland Half in August . . . or maybe Seattle in November.


2. I've been putting our YMCA membership to better use and even have our daughter taking a Toddler Sports class (fits perfectly between my run & shower and the time we have to leave to get Mr. Music from preschool - full morning, but awesome!).


3. We took a trip to Yosemite National Park - AMAZING (that's me running through the valley, because I could).


4. We Are Girls Who Love to Run finally has a Facebook page - become a fan - REALLY!!


5. I've joined the world of Twitter (@writingrunner), though I'm still tinkering with it to figure out what it is all about.


6. Though I've been home since Monday night, my brain is still stuck in Yosemite. My only running was once through a meadow with my son (seen above), but you can surely see why I've had a hard time getting back to "real life" once you take a look at these photos (we took nearly 250 in the 3 days we were there . . . and that was just OUR camera - my brother-in-law's fam took just as many with theirs!).

7. Be sure you take the time this weekend to thank a Service Member (former/current and/or their family members) for their dedication to our country and our freedom.
And now I leave you with images from the amazing national treasure that is Yosemite National Park (yes, we took these ourselves!!!):

Monday, May 11, 2009

Community of Runners (Part 2)

Saturday was the official running of the John Wilt Memorial 5K. Thanks to Facebook, I can tell you that John's friends were running everywhere on Saturday - thus far I've seen photo evidence of runners in Manhattan and Tuscon, and have read reports of others running, too. I expect more photos will be posted this week showing those runners in action. My friend Beth, the race's director, reported that the race started with John's best friend, TJ, and her husband (a fellow former Marine, like John) starting out 20 seconds early with the Marine flag. It was a somber start to the race, a true heart-felt and silent tribute to John. But, as John would have insisted, the race quickly picked up energy and excitement once the rest of the runners got going, ending with a post-race celebration with quite a large group of our classmates who were able to attend the race.

I originally thought just a few local runners would join me for my Washington-based tribute run. While my closest running gal friends showed up, I was thrilled that an additional 3 were able to join, bringing our tally to six moms out for an early morning 5K on Mother's Day Eve. Since we started in the parking lot by our local police station, we were able to flag down an officer to take our photo before he headed out on his rounds. The fog hadn't completely lifted yet when we got started, but it didn't slow us down any. With six runners on the course, we were able to comfortably split into two pace groups. One gal sprinted ahead to do a fast final mile (WAY faster than I could maintain - she truly left us in her dust!), but my neighbor and I managed a respectable 28:30 finish and we jogged back to accompany the second pace group to the finish just a few short minutes later. Two of those gals report that they ran PRs! We were truly "Girls Who Love to Run". And, yes, that is me with my yellow hat!


I don't remember the last time I ran with someone else, let alone a handful of women for a group run. I really enjoyed it. And apparently, so did they (not so surprising, based on what I've read on other people's blogs and on on-line running communities, group runs ARE inspiring). They asked if I'd put together some group runs again soon, which I plan to start-up in the next week (and already know of a few others who would like to run with us). And to top it all off, my neighbor and I decided today to sign-up and train for a fall half-marathon together since our pacing is so similar. I guess I AM doing a half this year, no more excuses!!


So, thanks to my friend Beth and our John (and his parents and close friends), for bringing together this little group of women in Duvall, WA for a run on Saturday. It seems their reach of influence far exceeds the John Wilt Memorial 5K - they're now responsible for influencing a Saturday morning running group and a pair of women who can count on one another for half-marathon training support. Aren't runners and girlfriends the best? I love being part of this community.
So what's next on my race plate? I'll be running with an 11 year-old girl for the Duvall Days 5K the first Saturday in June! Her parents won a package the REF auction that included a copy of my book and the chance to have me run with someone at the race. I'm excited!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

May - Tracking My Distance

I'm not really a competitive runner. I just like the way running feels, the way it clears my head and the way it leaves me feeling strong. I enjoy races, but haven't been one to push myself toward any goals since having the kiddos. But all that is about to change!

Now that I'm back in my running shoes 4-6 times/week, I'm curious about how much distance I'm actually covering. Before now I think the statistics would have frustrated me since I really couldn't get in more running. But NOW I'm in a groove and I think the statistics will help me build up my distance and encourage me to consider building speed as we approach the summer months and some fun 5K & 10K races.

I know there are fancy things I can do to track my runs (heck, I can do so on my Garmin, right?!), but for starters I've been recording my distances by hand on our family calendar. There's something satisfying about hand writing the numbers. Perhaps June will be the month that I learn to utilize the high tech tools I have - when I'm really getting outside more for my runs and gearing-up for some races.

I look forward to reporting my total for May at the end of the month!

How about YOU? What motivates you to go the distance or pick up your pace? Take a second and leave a comment!

Have a great week . . . and happy running!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

And the winner is . . .

*Drum roll . . . . *

#9 . . . Girl on Top, a fellow runner.

Here are some photos of the drawing so you can see that it was fair! Each entry got a number, I put the numbers in my yellow running hat and my husband took a break from his Wii game to do the honors of an unbiased number pull.

Girl, send me an email with your address and I get the deck right to you (I do my final Week 6 workout on Sunday, just in time to send you the cards on Monday)!

Thanks to the 11 folks who left a comment to be considered for the Sane Fitness card deck. I know some of you are interested in getting a set of these for yourself, so click on over to the Sane Fit site and take advantage of their Mother's Day special! If you are a local and want to see the cards, let me know before Monday and we can meet up.

Hopefully I'll have something similar to review and giveaway soon. Stay tuned . . . and happy running (and strength training)!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Last Chance!

Get your comments in NOW for a chance to win the Sane Fitness cards I've been glowing about for 6 weeks. Tomorrow at 9PM EST I'll be drawing the name of the winner!! Please post your entry on the original post to be considered (though comments here are always welcome, too, they just won't help you win!). If you don't win them, there's still time to get free shipping for Mother's Day on the Sane Fitness website.

Today I'm keeping it simple with an easy update:

Running: 2 laps (roughly 5K) around Lake Tye in Monroe, pushing Little Sister (with a break to play at the playground with her!). Gearing up for the John Wilt Memorial 5K on May 9th.

Reading: Three Cups of Tea now . . . Artemis Fowl is next in line (Pavement Runner got me curious about Artemis Fowl).

Gardening: Bought 3 rose bushes to plant in the front yard along our new brick wall (photos to come when bushes are in the ground!)

Kids: Sound asleep after nearly 4 hours of outside time. I love spring!

Happy running, reading and playing!! Now go cast your entry for those cards!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Giveaway Reminder!

Next week is my 6th and final week of the Sane Fitness Quick Start Fitness Deck that I reviewed a few weeks ago. As promised, I'll be drawing a winner for the deck on April 30th - which isn't long from now!

So far, I'm sticking with my rave review. Since I started the program 5 weeks ago, here's what I've noticed:

1. My outer thighs are more toned now than they've been in years, which in addition to the vanity boost, also makes hill running easier. LOVE that! And now that I look back at the photos from the start of the program, I notice my arms are more sculpted now, too. Bring on summer!

2. My body fat percentage has dropped, which somehow manifests in a more slender face for me. This is only accentuated by my longer hair - but it is fun to see photos of me with short hair and fuller cheeks compared to me now with long, straight hair and a thinner face.

3. I returned to yoga this morning (thanks for watching the kids, Mom & Dad!!!) and found that although it has been a few months since my steady yoga practice, my body was still able to do a challenging Vinyasa session heavy with push-ups and core work. There's no way I would have come out feeling as good as I did without the strength training during my yoga hiatus!

4. I feel empowered by my increased stamina and strength and find myself facing new challenges. For example, I moved 75 landscaping bricks with my dad BOTH into and out of a van without batting an eye. This is a gift from the cardio work with running and the strength from lifting. I am sure I wouldn't have proposed the idea of building the brick wall (without my husband around) last year when strength training wasn't part of my workout routine. But this year more things seem possible. (Shhhhhh, don't tell my husband. The finished wall is a surprise when he returns home from a work trip tomorrow!)!

5. My kids like having a strong mama (well, I already knew that, but now it shows even more because they leave me alone without complaint so I can finish!).

Like the sound of those results? Click on over to my original post to be tossed into the running for the cards! Maybe YOU could be the lucky winner. As of today there are only 8 entries, so the chances of winning are quite good. Don't be shy!

And as always, happy running!