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!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Community of Runners

One of my favorite aspects of running is how once you decide to run, you are instantly welcomed by an enormous community of runners. It doesn't matter how fast or how far you go, just mention to a fellow runner that you run and you're likely to get a response like, "Running is what gets me through the week," or "I hope to still be running when I'm eighty."

At one of my first races, The Lamplighter 5K in a dinky little Carolina town (can't remember if it was in North or South Carolina, as we lived along the border and ran races in both states regularly), I was following the Marathoning for Mortals run/walk training plan, so I'd take walk breaks regularly. I can't tell you how many times my fellow runners encouraged me with "Keep it up!" or "Lookin' good, Red!" There I was, new to the sport, but so openly welcomed. It was there that I also noticed for the first time that most of the runners started and finished their runs with smiles. Even the most serious of runners can't hide their smiles the entire time.

I wish I had discovered running when I was younger. Looking back, I'm surprised that I didn't. A friend of mine in high school was one of the top 5 girls in the state. An even closer friend of mine, John Wilt (or just "Wilt"), was a runner who managed to get in regular runs despite all of the marching band & football practices, guitar lessons, band practices with friends, volunteering and academic competitions he did. Now that I know running isn't something to be feared, I suspect that running may have been the glue that kept it all together for John. Sometimes he ran with friends, but I know that as much as he enjoyed socializing (EVERYBODY loved Wilt), I know he must have basked in the solitude of running from time to time, too.

John never knew me as a runner, though I wish he had. Running has made me a much better person than I ever was during our shared high school days. I like to think that he would have said, "Well, put on your shoes and let's go!" I can only imagine the wisdom I could have gleaned from a run with him - running or life-related, it wouldn't matter. Wilt had a way of just knowing. Knowing the right thing to say, knowing when not to say anything at all, knowing the perfect analogy to help you think more clearly, knowing that he was the perfect person to deliver harsh reality to you instead of sugar coating the truth or dancing around it. He served up Truth better than anyone I've ever known.

The last time I saw John was at my wedding, three years before running got its wonderful hold on me. Though he and I hadn't really seen one another for years (I moved before our Senior year), we stayed in touch some and he made a point to get leave from the U.S. Naval Academy to meet up with his parents for my wedding, for which I will be forever honored. He stayed right up to the very last dance, for which there were only about a dozen of us left in the whole place. Two short years later I returned to our common town for his memorial service.

On Sunday, May 9th I'll be joining runners from all over the world (one of the benefits of being Air Force brats) to honor John's life and raise funds for the John Wilt Scholarship. While the actual run is in O'Fallon, IL, where John's parents still reside, I'll be running it right here in Duvall, WA. While some of his friends still live in the area, and are likely to be there in full force, I bet just as many of us will be taking part in the virtual event. I get chills just thinking about how our love for Wilt and his love of running are uniting us all.

Next time you go for a run, take a minute to think about how the running community has strengthened you and enhanced your life. And on Sunday, May 9th, if you run (make that "WHEN you run"), think of John and his far-reaching circle of family and friends who are running, too. I'll be thinking of John and the other runners who have influenced my path. While Wilt's feet won't be hitting the pavement like ours, he'll be there. Runners are always there for one another. John Wilt was a runner. And I'm proud to be a runner, too.

John Wilt graduated from O’Fallon Township High School in 1996. His interests included music, sports, math and science, literature, international relations and history. He was a member of the Honor Society, the concert and marching bands, the speech team, and Model U.N. He also played varsity football, participated in track and was active in his church. After graduating from the United States Naval Academy with a degree in Physics, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

John died May 8th, 2002 in an aircraft accident while undergoing flight officer training at NAS Pensacola, Florida and was posthumously promoted to 1st Lieutenant in August 2008. In John’s memory, a $1500.00 renewable scholarship has been established to recognize a member of the graduating class who has enthusiastically pursued academic excellence, been involved in athletics and other extracurricular activities, and has displayed exceptional levels of commitment to achieving personal goals. Proceeds from the 5K run will apply directly to the scholarship fund. Visit for more information.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Starting with a Thankful Spring Heart

It took a few weeks, but I think Mother Nature finally caught on that this is April and the appropriate season is SPRING. In celebration of the wonderful stretch of days we've had over the past week, I'm posting my "Starting with a Thankful Heart" entry a few hours early.

As I get ready to face this new week, my heart is full of sunshine. I am thankful for:

1. The 11 mile training run my friend Kajsa did today. No, I didn't go with her, but her daughter played with my kids in the yard while she hit the trail and her husband weeded the front garden beds for her. Hooray for her!

2. The countless hours of gardening we enjoyed this week/weekend. There's nothing quite like wheeling around loads of soil, sifting it, collecting rocks, chasing kids in the yard, planting new trees, pulling weeds, raking, and breathing wonderful fresh air all the while. And, NO, I'm not usually a gardening gal, it was just that good.

3. Homemade worm farms (constructed enthusiastically by three children - ages 4, 3 and 2). Priceless.

4. The season's first sunburns that remind us that YES sunscreen is important. I have it out and ready to incorporate into our daily routines.

5. A full visit with my mother-in-law. We had a great time doing a little bit of everything and the kids have many great memories to hold them over until we're able to see her again.

6. The flexibility of casting aside a run to enjoy all of the above.

I did get in 3 runs during the week as part of my SaneFitness workouts (I start Week 5 of the program tomorrow - it IS great!), but no longer runs this weekend as I initially planned. But I realize that I am more balanced this evening because I chose the yard work over a run (my husband did offer me the chance to get away for a run, but I turned him down).

As for tomorrow? I run! But not as far as those Boston Marathoners. I wish them - AND YOU! - happy running.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Breathing: The Most Important Tool in My Life Kit!

Every now and then life gets sticky, runs are more difficult, and the sun hides out behind the clouds for longer than I'd like. It is during these times in life (and sometimes they all happen at once, so it is a collective and singular time) that I find breathing to be my best tool.

One kid is galloping around the house like a Pony Express rider gone wild while the other is climbing chairs to get scissors and staplers out of the "grown-ups only" cupboard in the kitchen to "Project, Mama!". This is a recipe for disaster, especially if that first kid rides past the chair too quickly and knocks down the arts and crafts kid. Yelling seems easiest, but from experience I know that yelling just makes the horse go faster and more items fall out of the cupboard. What to do? BREATHE first, then assist the crafty gal in getting more age-appropriate items and suggest that the rider pull the horse to the nearest watering hole for a break. The BREATHE some more.

Now that my running workouts are back on track, I'm starting to increase my speed. Sometimes this is liberating and motivating, other times I think my body would rather go back to bed. When I realize negativity is getting hold of me with thoughts of cutting the run short or slowing down to make things easy, I get back to my BREATH and get in a steady rhythm, aligning my breaths with my stride. More often than not, once I get control of my BREATH I can finish out the scheduled run - and sometimes even knock out a little extra distance with a smile. I love how empowering those BREATHS can be!

While my rate of respiration never will be able to control Mother Nature and the amount of sunshine we get (or as of late, don't get), BREATHING does help me focus on what we DO have. Warmer temperatures enable us to take family walks, which make for happier kids, adults and dog. "Sun breaks", as they're called out here, are perfect opportunities for weeding a few square feet of garden while Mr. Music whacks trees with sticks and Little Sister slides, slides and slides some more on our little backyard structure. It may just be 10 minutes, but those 10 minutes are crucial to everyone's sanity and overall well-being.

And for this writer, BREATHING is the key for clearing the clutter from the mind. A calm BREATH makes everything more manageable. And taking the time to BREATHE makes me a happier, better person.

How about YOU? How does deliberate BREATHING support you in your times of stress - or times of delight?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Starting with a Thankful Heart (in the Sunshine!)

The last two days have been absolutely beautiful: blue skies, a lemon-drop of a sun radiating its warmth down to us, a gentle breeze that ruffles your hair but won't knock our trees down onto the neighbor's house. Good stuff.

With this new weather comes renewed energy and an increasingly positive outlook on things. Today I am thankful for much, especially:

1. My grandma and uncle are in town visiting. I love that we get to have 4 generations of family together for the week, especially this year when Little Sister is TRULY interacting with my grandma by singing her songs and telling her whatever is on her mind. After being around my two kiddos this afternoon, my grandma is amazed that once upon a time she chased after three small boys all day. "This is why young people have children!" she declared.

2. Yesterday we went on a family hike at Wallace Falls State Park (this gal got some great shots there!). Mr. Music hiked the entire 1.9 miles up to the lower falls and thanks to the distraction of the question "What superhero would YOU be?" he made it all the way back down to the car without a meltdown! It really is QUITE a hike. But knowing that he can do that one opens up all kinds of great hiking adventures for us this spring and summer. Just thinking about the possibilities makes me smile. And the cross-training of a hike was good for this runner's legs.

3. Little Sister is big enough to entertain herself (mostly) in the backyard while we do yard work. We spent all of yesterday afternoon and early evening puttering around the yard. We adults were moving the vegetable garden and getting the outdoor play toys cleaned up while the kiddos played in the grass and occasionally lent a hand. Last year I was on chaos-prevention detail chasing Little Sister around to keep her out of harm's way, which was fine. BUT this year I get to DO things in the yard, which is much better!

4. Since increasing my mileage and being a bit more hard core with my weight lifting workouts, I'm really noticing a difference in how my clothes fit and how strong I feel throughout the day. Be sure to read my review about the SaneFit card deck to see how you can win the card deck and see some great results in your fitness, too! Remember, you have until the 30th to post a response.

5. We've had 2 days in a row with morning-to-night blue skies and sunshine. Tomorrow promises to be the same. Bet you can guess where I'll be most of the day - OUTSIDE!!

Have a wonderful week, Dear Readers! I hope the sun reaches you this week, too.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Hairy Side of Running

It is official. My hair is longer now than it has been since my son was born nearly 5 years ago (I cut it short just a few months later). It is so long that people comment on a regular basis on how long it has gotten. The photographer who did my awesome head shots noticed when we were beside each other at a light the other day - she had me roll down my window to tell me so (my kids were flabbergasted that we were holding a conversation between cars - and afterward my son asked, "Mom, do you KNOW that person? How does she know your hair is long?").

(This is the head shot I used in my book - a great spur-of-the-moment shot in June 2006 by photographer Jim Hallas, a talented man who is no longer with us, but now gets to see the beauty of the world from above)

(This is my "new" head shot from last summer - taken by the ever-amazing Jennifer Tai, the above-mentioned traffic light conversationalist)

(The most recent photo I could find - my hubby and me on Whidbey Island about a month ago)

I like having longer hair again for regular day-to-day mom/author stuff, but now that my red tresses hang past my shoulders, I'm at a loss for what to do with it when I run.

Pony tail? Nope. I don't like how it *thwaks* me on the back mid-stride.

Leave it down? Not a chance. I sweat like a man when I run.

French braid? Plausible. Unfortunately I haven't figured out how to do that myself and I don't know that my husband has the skills to pull it off, either. Oh, and he's not usually home when I run.

Cut it? Ack! I've worked hard to be patient with it to have it get this long. A trim to even it up a bit would be great, but beyond that I'm not ready for the scissors.

That leaves me with the option of having two braids. But here's my question for you, Dear Readers:

How do I pull off braids without looking like Wendy from Wendy's or Pipi Longstocking?

Do I go for two braids down the back, or should they go down the front? Should I skip the braids entirely and just do low pig tails in front?

Help this runner! If you have long hair, what works for YOU? If you don't have long hair, what have you seen that seems like it works for those who do? Seriously, hit me up with some ideas!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lost in the Pages: Guest Review of Empowering Youth by Kelly Curtis, MS

As much as I love running, I think I love books even more. Not only do they have the ability to transport you to new places and introduce you to intriguing people, but they have a way of connecting people who share similar visions and beliefs. When I happened upon Kelly Curtis' blog last year I was excited about the release of her book Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things because I knew that it would be a great read for a community leader friend of mine, Laura Smith.
Laura is a fellow-educator, mother to two passionate children and tireless leader in our community. I'm honored that she agreed to review this book for us all!

Review by Laura Smith, Community Coordinator, Snoqualmie Valley Community Network

Many people have said “It takes a village to raise a child”. Since I believe whole-heartedly in this concept, I was thrilled to be part of giving the youth in our small community a voice by developing a youth led, adult supported youth council. It all seemed easy enough since I have a background in education, have worked with this age group in various ways, and even have a little bit of funding to work with to get the group up on its feet. However, once the youth council had a few meetings under its belt, it quickly became clear to me that I needed more guidance than what tends to come to me intuitively. That’s when I purchased Empowering Youth: How to Encourage Young Leaders to Do Great Things.

The book itself is a succinct, easy to read guide that suggests very practical hands-on tips for cultivating the best in young people. The book supports the Developmental Assets approach that has been working its way into communities and schools over the last decade or so. After only reading a few pages, I decided the book is a resource that needed to be given to each of the adult mentors for the newly formed youth council. I was finding that all adults (myself included) involved with the group are well meaning, but that we definitely have a tendency to try to take over (we like to call it guide or prompt) conversations. It is my hope that the book will provide reinforcement to the “youth led, adult supported” concept that we are trying to achieve.

Currently, the adult members of the council are reading the book. Next month, we will be holding a book discussion while the youth hold the youth council meeting. The content of the book has already given focus to me as the main coordinator, and I feel positive that the other adult mentors will appreciate the insights and ideas provided.

As an adult who works to give youth a voice, I learned a great deal from the first two chapters in the book that focus on what a community that values youth really looks like and the ways that the youth in a community can be treated a valued resources. One point that really struck home is that often youth are included in committees or on councils as “token” participants without their voice or opinion being held in high (or at least equal) regard. As I explore our community for opportunities to hook youth in, I am cautious to make sure their participation is valued. The book is full of activities and checklists for youth, adults, or both to use to take a closer look at many areas including how youth are valued in the community, how youth see their community, and how youth can become solid partners in the community.

The last couple of chapters explore serving the needs of others and creating a safe world for young people. Although the youth council isn’t to this point just yet, Empowering Youth discusses the benefits of such service and provides tips and tools for getting a project or event started. I especially appreciate the focus on how service project participants learn about themselves while learning about citizenship, community development, social change, and the interconnectedness of people.

As a parent, this book is a reminder that there are little things that we do (and can often do more of) each and every day to empower our children. Today, I will try my best to be an active listener when my kids hop in the car after school. I will remind them that they are valuable assets in our family and maybe someday when they are old enough, they will choose to join the youth council to share their voices and skills with others in our community.

What do YOU do to empower the children in your life? Leave a comment!

Do you have a powerful book you'd like to review for my readers? I look forward to welcoming more guest book reviews over the next few months. Please send me a message to get your review scheduled!