Oh Christmas Tree

Each year we visit our friends at Howling Pines Farm to hunt for the perfect Christmas tree. It’s an event the kids ask us about for weeks in anticipation of what, to them, is the official arrival of “Christmas Time”. This past Sunday we made our annual trip. The short drive takes us out of suburbia just into the country. While it’s only 10 miles from our home, it feels like a short, relaxing vacation from our cares. It offers a step back from our holiday to-do lists to a little simpler life. Even if it’s only for an hour, it’s a welcome escape.

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I can’t remember a year when it has been quite so warm, but you won’t find any complaining here. After the brutally cold winters we’ve experienced here in Cleveland the past two years, this year I am NOT dreaming of a white Christmas.

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It’s a quiet, picturesque spot owned by a friend with whom my husband grew up. We attended their wedding and now our daughters will dance together as snowflakes in The Nutcracker next week. On this day, they were like little ballerinas dancing through the rows of trees.

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Ms Dakota always wants some love. After all, she is the farm’s namesake and the inspiration for the logo, so it would be awfully rude not to greet her.

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And of course, we always need to get a photo with the kids by the tree. Not OUR tree, but A tree. I think we had to bribe them with candy or something.

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I just couldn’t help but capture some other shots of this adorable place to look back on when I want to reminisce about our peaceful hour-long getaway.

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This “Christmas Time” I am striving to not get caught up in my holiday to-do list and lose sight of the reason for the season. In a blink, we’ll be taking down all the decorations we so carefully put up and we’ll be tossing out the paper from the packages we so lovingly wrapped. I don’t want to sigh with relief when the holidays are over. This year I am living in the moment and clinging to those that make it special, like our annual trip to pick out our Christmas tree. I only get to live it once, so I’d better enjoy it instead of just trying to get through it. Before long, we’ll be saying, “remember when” and “the kids were so little” and I’ll wish I could relive these magical days.


Dream Big

Maybe you’ve noticed that I haven’t been posting as often lately. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up on blogging, I’ve just been busy chasing after some new dreams. This time, they aren’t all athletic goals… although I’ve got a few of those floating around in my head too. My close friends and family know that every couple of years I get the itch to start something new. Some may think I’m noncommittal or that I have ADD. Believe me, I have questioned that myself. But I really think I’m often changing course because there are so many things I want to try in my life that I’m not satisfied sticking with status quo. “So much to do and so little time.” Sometimes it feels like my best quality and at others like my worst fault.

Berry BlendLet me back up a minute to fill everyone in on my stints as an entrepreneur. About six months after I left my advertising job in 2007 when our oldest daughter was born, is when I felt the first itch of self reinvention. It must have been on one of the late nights I was up feeding Elizabeth that I dreamed up my first business idea. At the time I still had two four-legged, furry babies to care for as well. I had begun using the extra produce that Andy brought home from work to create fruit and vegetable based dog treats. I baked them in my home and sold them through local grocery stores, pet stores and farmers markets.

As my business grew, so did my belly… my baby belly. When I was pregnant with our second child, I hired someone to bake for me so I could manage running the business. It worked out well until several months after she was born when I realized I either needed to hire someone to help with the kids so I could devote more time to take my business to the next level, or put it on the back burner. I wasn’t passionate enough about the business to delegate raising my babies to someone else. In addition, I knew the dog food industry was a very competitive market and I wasn’t confident that this little business out of my home could ever compete with the “big dogs.” So I set aside my entrepreneurial dreams for awhile. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel disappointed in myself for never bringing it back to life. By sharing my recipe here I feel like I’m somehow making worthwhile all those countless hours I spent baking berry, apple, pumpkin and carrot shaped dog cookies during my kids’ nap time and after they went to bed at night.

My CupcakeWhen I was pregnant with John I got the itch again. This time it was the crafty part of me that was yearning for a new challenge. It started with me making barrettes and bows for my girls. Then a friend asked me to make some for her children and it began to take on a life of it’s own. I started making appliqué children’s clothing, bibs, burp cloths, pillows, nursery bedding, wall art and more. I sold them to some local stores and online. I would put the kids to bed and stay up until midnight sewing. Or I’d get up at 5 with the baby and he’d sit and watch me sew while we waited for the girls to get up. Somehow I kept it going because I enjoyed doing it so much. But once again, about 6 months later, I realized that I was trying to do too much with too little time. I was stressed and on edge and I was taking it out on my kids. So I set it aside. I still consider going back to it now and then.

I began these ventures for many reasons; to express myself creatively, to have an escape from changing diapers and singing “The Wheels on the Bus” and maybe to earn a little extra money on the side to help contribute to our income and not feel guilty when I wanted to buy a pair of shoes for myself. Honestly I went through a little bit of an unexpected identity crisis when I left my job, became a mom and couldn’t figure out how to answer when my husband asked “What did you do today?” While I have always felt SO VERY LUCKY to have the opportunity to be home to care for my children all day, after starting up these companies, it felt good to have something interesting to say when people would ask, “And, what do you do?” I suppose I wanted to feel like I was contributing my knowledge and gifts to the world. Of course, perhaps by raising our children is how we do that best. But, by having my own “thing” it helped me cope with the challenges of being a mom and it made me feel a little like the person I was before I had kids. Not that I’d really ever want to go back completely.

Above all, attempting to take on new challenges, allows me to continue to find new parts of myself that I didn’t know existed; new ideas, new gifts, new strength, new blessings, new passion. 

The FinishI suppose those are all some of the same reasons I began my adventures as a long distance runner and I know it had a lot to do with why I began writing this blog. I have learned more about myself over the past few years than perhaps ever before.

Now, as I begin a new journey working with my husband in his family’s 100 plus-year-old produce business as their Director of Communications & Community Outreach, I couldn’t be more excited about what’s in store. I feel like all the challenges, successes and failures that have come before have somehow been preparing me for this role. Now I get to work on taking what was once just another one of my big lofty ideas (to some, maybe, unrealistic ones) that I wouldn’t let die and make it happen. I get to do many of the things I enjoy most and do them in an effort to help a community in need, while solving some of our country’s biggest environmental and health challenges. See Mom and Dad, you told me my relentless persistence would help me be very successful someday.

There are certainly times when I look back at the path my “career” has taken and I second guess some of the choices I made. But I have no regrets. Every experience I’ve had has taught me something new about my trade and about myself.

At the end of the day and at the end of all my days, I’d rather look back at my life and say, “Gosh, I sure tried a lot of things. I may not have been great at all of them and I may not have achieved ‘success’ in the eyes of others, but I’m damn sure glad I tried every single one of them.” After all, the only impossible journey is the one you never begin. And as Lucille Ball said,”I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than the things I haven’t done.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


My Minestrone

IMG_3491On cold, rainy fall evenings like tonight, I love a bowl of hearty soup. Here’s one of my standby recipes. Serve it with a salad, a baked potato or cook up a grilled cheese to dunk in there. The best part is you’ll have enough leftover for tomorrow’s lunch.

MINESTRONE SOUP

  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion (or 1 cup), chopped
  • 1 cup celery (2 stalks), diced
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • pepper
  • 1 cup frozen green beans
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 cup whole wheat pasta

In a large pot combine oil, onion, celery and parsley. Sauté until soft. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Add vegetable stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, carrots, basil, salt and pepper. Heat to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Add green beans, kidney beans and pasta and cook about 15 minutes until pasta is cooked. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.

 


Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

Spinach and Mushroom LasagnaI haven’t shared a recipe in ages! That’s probably because I haven’t been making share-worthy food. Between playing “Campaign Manager” for my husband’s School Board race, training for the Chicago Marathon, taking on a new part time job and managing the craziness of a household of five, there simply hasn’t been time to get creative in the kitchen.

On this Election Day Eve I invited family over for dinner to map out our plan for manning all EIGHT polling locations in our school district tomorrow. I needed a meal that could feed a big group and that I could make ahead and pull out of the oven when my in-laws arrived. Leftovers for tomorrow night after standing outside holding my husband’s campaign signs all day would be pretty wonderful too. A warm and hearty lasagna seemed to fit the bill.

Since I don’t eat meat, I always stick to a vegetable based lasagna. I’ve made several recipes, but had never created a recipe of my own. This afternoon I was feeling inspired. Here’s what I came up with. All my toughest critics told me it was “a keeper” so I’m sharing it with you. Now, I’m not going to say this recipe is the “lightest” one I’ve ever created, but it is perfect for special occasions with family and would be great for upcoming holiday gatherings.

SPINACH AND MUSHROOM LASAGNA

2 Tbsp. EVOO

2 Tbsp. butter

1/2 cup onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1, 8 oz. container of mushrooms, sliced

5 cups of your favorite marinara (or my homemade recipe)

1 bag fresh baby spinach

1 tsp. dried basil

1, 5 oz. container of ricotta cheese

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

2 egg yolks

1 box of lasagna noodles (whole wheat if possible)

a pinch of nutmeg

Salt

Pepper

Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. I usually add a bit of EVOO to the water to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Drain and set aside. Once cooled enough to handle I hang them over the side of the colander or pot to keep them from sticking together.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet. Add onions and garlic. Heat for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add mushrooms and cook until the water cooks out of them and until they are nicely browned. Add marinara and stir to combine. Gradually add spinach and let it wilt down into the sauce. Add basil. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes and set aside.

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In a medium bowl combine ricotta, parmesan, 1 cup of mozzarella, egg yolks, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir well and set aside.

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In a 13 x 9 casserole dish, spread a bit of the red sauce. Use three or four lasagna noodles to make a layer on the bottom. Cover with cheese sauce, red sauce, then noodles. Repeat ending with a final layer of noodles and the remaining sauce. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and a sprinkle of basil.

Bake uncovered at 375 for 30 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbly.

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Enjoy with family and friends!


Why Do We Run Marathons?

IMG_2645As I crossed the finish line in Chicago this past Sunday after running 26.2 miles, my legs virtually locked up in complete and total exhaustion. I shuffled through the finishing chute collecting water, food, and my medal and I watched as other finishers struggled. A couple were placed in wheelchairs. One woman, her face pale and her eyes almost lifeless, was rushed away to an ambulance. The rest of us limped along, virtually silent. There were no audible cheers of joy or shouts of celebration. We were like zombies. I said to the girl next to me with a bit of a giggle, “Why do we do this to ourselves?” She was too tired to answer. While they couldn’t say it, I knew everyone was likely feeling the same combination of pain and total pride that I was experiencing.

IMG_2630“Why?” The thought has certainly crossed my mind other times before. Like during the final miles of the two previous marathons I had run earlier this year. And even at the start of this race when the nerves and excitement had me jittery with anticipation about what the next four hours would have in store for me. With over 45,000 runners, it took almost 15 minutes from the time the race started until I would even get up to the starting line. Here it was…finally! The moment for which I had been preparing for 18 weeks. It was well worth the wait.

I ran the first miles quickly, weaving between the tall buildings and over the Chicago River and soon began to discover that my tight legs weren’t going to make today’s run an easy one. My heart felt like it was racing and I was a little short of breath, probably from starting out at a faster pace than I had been used to. The crowds were plentiful and somehow coupled with the close quarters between runners, it made me feel surprisingly anxious, almost claustrophobic. I thought about the many miles ahead and the difficulty that lie before me. Yet the energy and excitement kept me moving north through the neighborhoods in which I spent a few years as a young “twenty-something”. With 8 to 10 miles down, we ran through “Boys Town” and then “Old Town” and I finally began to set my nerves aside.

After making our way back through the Loop and crossing the half way mark, my ankles that had suffered injury during my training felt tight and a bit achy. I knew the second half would be a fight. By mile 14 my legs were telling me to stop and walk for a bit. I convinced them to wait until mile 15. When I got there I persuaded them to keep going. At about this point I saw a man walking barefoot, well limping, holding his shoes with his head down in despair and his mouth grimacing in pain. “Why do we do this to ourselves?,” I again pondered.

IMG_2655Somewhere around mile 17 or 18 it became increasingly more difficult to continue. I told myself I could walk through the water stops. To me that felt acceptable and more respectable than walking at other places on the course. At the time I was questioning whether I could actually finish and was thinking I would have to walk the last six miles. Feeling nauseous (likely from the warmer weather) I couldn’t stomach any more Gatorade or gels but I knew if I didn’t hydrate I would certainly hit the wall. Walking those few water stops became my method for making it to the finish. I focused on getting to the next water stop instead of through 6 more miles.

The rest of the race is pretty blurry. I was just puffing along trying to make my brain tell my legs to shut up, or vice versa. After mile 22 or 23 I told myself there was no walking. Looking at my watch I could see that I still had a chance to meet my original goal of under 4 hours or at least come in a minute or two faster than my PR from Cleveland of 4:06. My legs were entirely cramped up at this point, but I kept running. It probably looked more like shuffling to the spectators watching me, but I was giving it everything I had. It was like I had the pedal to the metal but I had a flat tire. At about mile 24 my watch died so I really had no idea what speed I was actually going.

All around me people were walking, holding their hamstrings or pinching the cramp in their side. Others had stopped to stretch on the curb. Fans watching held signs saying things like “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.” and “Do Epic Shit.” They kept me going. The final mile seemed to last an eternity. I could see the tall buildings of the Loop up ahead, but it was as if I was running on a treadmill and not getting any closer to them. I skipped the last water stop and kept pressing on hoping that I might still beat 4:06. Not that it really mattered. All I really wanted to do at this point was finish and put that medal around my neck. I turned the corner and inched up the last little hill yelling an obscenity or two and into the park crossing the finish line unsure of my chip time, but pleased that I had persevered.

IMG_2647So “Why DO we do it?” One sign I saw on the course said, “You are all crazy.” Yeah, apparently. But all joking aside, I’ve been doing a lot of legitimate soul searching since Sunday after the pain I felt and saw in Chicago. Why do perfectly intelligent people decide to put themselves through the cramps, the blisters, the chafing, the drama and the misery of those last miles of a marathon? Why do we risk injury and for some, very sadly, even death, to run 26.2 miles? It’s a question I’ve been trying to answer for my family and I know it’s a question that non-runners probably ask themselves when they witness our apparent idiocy. It’s a question that even we as runners ask ourselves on occasion. Here’s where I’ve come out.

I think we all run marathons for different reasons. For some, the answer might be as simple as, “Because I love to run.” But c’mon, who really LOVES running miles 20 to 24 of a marathon? For others, perhaps it’s an item they want to check off their bucket list. Still others want to “earn their stripes” as a runner; a badge of honor or perhaps they’re just curious to see what it feels like. And I suppose many runners want to do it simply for bragging rights. I can’t answer for everyone else. I can only tell you why I have run three marathons.

For me, the desire to run a marathon began about a year ago. Before then I was actually pretty vocal about the fact that I had absolutely NO interest in ever trying. Three years ago I could only run a few miles and wouldn’t have even considered that a marathon would be in my future. But last fall, after having completed a number of half marathons I began to finish 13.1 miles to discover I had more in me. I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment that came with finishing half marathons and I had the desire to see what else I might be capable of. After having watched my husband run a number of marathons (the 2014 New York Marathon in particular), I began to discover that I felt envious of him and the other runners. I watched women who looked a lot like me and thought, “If she can do it, so can I.” Sure, the idea of running that far scared the shit out of me, but the fact that something scared me made me want to conquer my fear. Running has unveiled a bit of a competitive streak in me, more like a lightning bolt. So, last winter after my husband and I had signed up to run the Big Sur Marathon again as a relay team, I told him I wanted to start the relay and run the whole race. Curiosity, the desire to see what I had in me and the drive to conquer something that scared me were my original motivators.

During training for Big Sur when I ran 15, 17 and 20 mile runs for the first time, is when I began asking the “Why do I do this to myself?” question. Running through single digit temps or on the treadmill for two hours caused me to do a lot of soul searching about my motivations and desires. I experienced a few “Why” moments again while running my second marathon in Cleveland three weeks after Big Sur and yet again while training this past summer through sweltering heat and being away from my kids on Saturday mornings to run for 3 hours to prepare for Chicago.

IMG_2641So after all this reflection, “Why do I run marathons?”

The question is always answered as soon I make it to the other side of “the impossible” to feel the complete satisfaction and total gratification of meeting a goal that seemed unattainable and unrealistic at one point. Some of it IS simply about my love of running; my own legs carrying me from one town to the next or from one end of a city to the other. In part, it is about my love of the outdoors and the open road. The desire to run a marathon starts as curiosity, uncertainty and fear. Then, like a drug, the high in those moments (well, hours) when you’re actually achieving it has you immediately hooked. The euphoria of conquering the “impossible” and tackling that fear keeps me coming back for more. I like how it feels to step out of my comfort zone, test my abilities and push my limits. It’s a good way to live life.

Most of all, for me, completing a marathon gives me something tangible to cling to during the rest of my days when I might question whether or not I’m able to achieve another goal. It helps give me the confidence to say, “I didn’t think I could run 26.2 miles and I did. I ran through doubt and pain and came out the other side. If I can do that, I can do THIS.” (Whatever “this” is.) Running marathons gives me confidence and faith in myself that I can persevere. It primes me for the challenges that life has in store for me. It’s like practicing for the pain life is going to throw your way. Are you going to stop and quit? Or are you going to keep running through it?

Sure, the last miles of a marathon are painful. The way I see it, a couple of hours of pain are worth a lifetime of knowing that I have, can and will set goals and come out the other side no matter what sort of obstacles I have to work through along the way. Do you have to run a marathon to teach yourself that? Of course not. But it sure is one pretty powerful lesson.

IMG_2663After three marathons in six months, I have proven to myself that I CAN do it. With the pride, confidence, contentment, self-awareness and humility that I have gained from those experiences in my back pocket, I’m ready to take on new challenges and tackle with zeal the biggest challenge of all, the marathon of every day life.

And while I think I’ll hang up my marathon hat for a bit and spend a little less time running on the road and little more time running after my kids, I know that marathons are also a little like child birth. While it’s happening and in the days after you might say, “I’m never doing that again.” Before long, you find yourself saying, “When can I do it again.”

 


Only 14 Miles

IMG_2417“Only 14 miles.” Those are the words I said to myself before I set out on my last “long run” before the Chicago Marathon, just 14 days before the race. ONLY. It’s a powerful, yet a dangerous word when using it to approach a run.

I have spoken (or thought) it before. It usually helps me when I’m feeling nervous before I head out (which is always). “Only” or “just” make me feel capable and up to the challenge. “If I have run 26.2 miles and if I ran 20 miles last week, then only 14 miles is easy.” These thoughts help build up my energy and allow me to make what is certainly still no easy task, seem a little easier. Doable.

Sometimes it does feel “easier” or at least a lot shorter than 20 miles I suppose. On occasion, I’ve set out saying this and have had a completely and totally enjoyable shorter, long run. These days I can run 14 miles and not have to walk down the steps sideways the next day. But it’s all relative, I guess. Because now I know what my body feels like after running a full marathon.

Other times thinking “Only 14 miles” can backfire. Because running 14 miles is never easy. It is still (for me) two full hours of running. It means running to the next village 7 miles up the road and back. Inevitably, there will still be cramps and foot pain, blisters and chafing. Oh, the chafing. That’s what ended up getting me this time. I forgot to put on the Body Glide and boy did I regret that for the last 5 miles of my run and for the last two days since. There is always something that makes me regret ever even thinking the word “ONLY.” It’s almost like I jinx my run if I let that cross my mind.

And let’s back up for a minute. Just three years ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of running 14 miles or even 5 miles. Back then, my goal was three miles. And just two years ago, when I ran my first half marathon in 2013, 13.1 miles was my ultimate goal. It was “the impossible.” And when I finished I couldn’t walk right for probably a week. When I consider that, saying “Only 14 miles” seems almost… inconsiderate.

So what’s a girl to do?

These days I use the words “ONLY” or “JUST” very carefully when it comes to my running. I think them quietly and humbly to calm the nerves and to pump me up, but once I set foot out my door, I forget I ever thought it. And then, I run the mile I’m in. I’m not overconfident. And I never assume it won’t hurt. Because it will. But I don’t wallow in my fear and uncertainty either. Because the minute you start telling yourself how hard it will be, your brain will convince the rest of your body to turn around and head home.

For me, so much of running is mental. To be successful you have to be confident, but not presumptuous. Courageous, but realistic. With this in mind, run with the knowledge inside your heart, your mind and throughout your body, that you are strong and capable because positive thinking feeds positive running and enables you to meet your goals.

As I approach The Chicago Marathon in just a week and a half and feel excited yet nervous, I can’t help but wonder if someday I will have an even bigger goal. Someday, might I quietly think to myself, “ONLY 26.2”?

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Expect the Unexpected

IMG_2248I wasn’t sure what to expect when I set out on my last run. I planned to go 20 miles, my longest run in my Chicago Marathon training, but anything was possible. While I knew I had the mental strength to persevere, I wasn’t as confident about my physical capability. Sure, I’d run 20 miles before, but not three weeks after an ankle sprain. This one had left my foot black and blue, too swollen to fit my shoe over and had me hobbling around in a brace. After having missed out on critical training runs to rest, my normal confident, cheerleader self who says things like, “Yes. I. Can.”, was thinking, “I think I can? I hope.”

When I geared up for my run I wasn’t sure if it would be one of those extraordinary days when my legs would feel powerful, my lungs efficient and my mind free. I wondered if my ankles would feel normal and allow me to meet my goal. Or, perhaps it would be one of those days (like a couple I’ve had this season) when I enthusiastically set out to tackle a long run and then everything comes to a screeching halt when my ankle suddenly gives out and I’m lying by the side of the road bleeding with my leg throbbing in pain.

“What would happen today?” Sure, there was some subconscious fear of the unknown. But I didn’t acknowledge it outright. It manifested itself as nervousness, the usual pre-long-run butterflies. Except this time I could barely even eat my breakfast. I was focused on the task ahead and tried to not let the four-letter words, doubt and uncertainty hijack the positive outlook I knew I would need in order to meet the day’s goal.

I set out feeling good, reminding myself to go slow. The experts seem to all say to run thirty seconds to a minute slower than the pace you want to run during your race. My first mile always seems to last an eternity as I anxiously anticipate the many miles ahead. Yet my watch always proves it to be my fastest as my eager mind doesn’t always quite know how to slow down my legs. The next couple of miles felt easy, though each step was deliberate as I analyzed and surveyed how every piece of my body was feeling, especially that ankle that three weeks earlier was too painful to even walk on.  As I passed mile three I could see that today the ankle pain I expected to make things challenging, wouldn’t be the problem. Instead, unexpectedly, it was my feet.

At first the pain was dull, but I knew it would get worse because it was the same feeling I had experienced many times before. It was a sharp shooting pain in the balls of my feet. The pain I had always attributed to my (ahem)… bunions. With each step it was as if knives were cutting my feet from my big toe to my pinky and then down the arch. “This long run is going to feel even longer today,” I thought.

The view that approached called me to stop and regroup. The horses there were shrouded by the morning mist. I couldn’t help but take a photo because I knew the fog would lift by the time I returned to this point at mile 16. As I stood for just a moment soaking in this fantastic view, the pain was unexpectedly quiet.

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I carried on to mile 10 where I stretched for a minute before turning back to complete the second half. The pain grew more intense and at mile 13 I decided to take off my shoes to remove the toe separators I’d been wearing. My friend Kristen met me at my mile 14 and I followed her the last 6 miles back to my house. Unexpectedly, small talk with a close friend has a way of quieting the voices and erasing the pain. I couldn’t have finished that last stretch without her leading the way. THAT is a true friend.

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So obviously, I need to figure out a different solution for my shoes in the next three weeks, but after this run I was reminded of something much bigger.

Expect the unexpected. Not just in running, but, more importantly, in life.

If you’re like me, tomorrow’s possibilities (or sometimes impossibilities) float around in your head and keep you awake at night. I like routine and order… the expected. But, lately I often find that the “thing” I fear most ends up being the easiest one to conquer. It ends up being a non-issue. There is usually some other hurdle or sometimes even a fantastic reward in store that I hadn’t even considered yet that presents a new, unique path or even just a moment of complete gratitude. When you fear one thing, somehow, life has something else completely different in mind for you next to challenge you in a new way or to offer you an unexpected minute of happiness, to remind you that you are not in charge.

This year so many new and unexpected opportunities have unfolded right before my very eyes. This blog. Running marathons. A new job doing work about which I am extremely passionate. And so much more. My faith assures me that every new unforeseen challenge is somehow part of God’s plan.

So “What will happen today?” I can’t wait to find out! 


Highs and Lows

It’s been so busy around here that I haven’t had a chance to post in over a week. The last several days have been full of highs and lows. Let me bring you up to speed, or lack thereof, as it were…

LOWS

  • The pain I experienced after falling during my long run two Saturday’s ago. The disappointment I felt when I discovered my ankle was blowing up like that of a 37 week pregnant woman and then turned black and blue from my calf to my toes.
  • Hobbling around in an ankle brace wondering if all the miles I had put in training for the Chicago Marathon were a total waste of time. Beating myself about how I could have possibly been so stupid to fall. The embarrassment I felt having to explain my clumsiness to everyone.

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  • The end of another summer. I can’t for the life of me figure out how it always goes so fast!

HIGHS

  • The high I experienced during my long run two Saturday’s ago (before I fell).

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  • Receiving a new part-time job working as the Director of Communications & Community Outreach for the Forest City – Weingart Produce Company doing work in which I am deeply passionate and very excited to begin.
  • IMG_2001A visit to the doctor for an x-ray of my injured ankle which revealed that it was not too severe and that I could run as soon as I didn’t experience pain.

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  • All of my favorite end of summer traditions; The Great Geauga County Fair, a trip to the beach at Lake Erie and the first home football game of the season.
  • After a very mentally challenging week off from running to recover, a successful test run for a pain-free 3 miles and then another encouraging 5 miles today. Restoration of hope that I might be able to run The Chicago Marathon on October 11th after all!

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As I reflect on the events of the past week I realize that life will always be filled with these highs and lows. Without them life would be pretty… lifeLESS. This week’s lows were really nothing of much importance in the world. Even so, it’s how we maneuver through the peaks and valleys that reveals our true character. And sometimes the tough days are actually what help us enjoy the easy ones. Like I often say to my children, “Every day can’t be sunny. If they were, we’d take them for granted. It’s the cloudy days that help us appreciate the sunny days even more.”


The Battle Between I CAN’T and I CAN

It’s week 12 of my 18 weeks of marathon training. Six weeks from this Sunday I will run the Chicago Marathon. It will be the third time I will run 26.2 miles. When I woke up before dawn this past Saturday morning for another long run, I jotted down the way I was feeling. Here’s what I wrote.

“This is the point in my marathon training when my brain starts to try to convince the rest of my body that I CAN’T actually do it. Or that I don’t WANT to. It’s when the little lazy minions in side of me who aren’t totally on board with this goal begin to wage war with the rest of me. It’s when I begin asking “Why did I decide to do this?” It’s when the battle between I CAN’T and I CAN begins.

Now is when I begin to feel guilty and selfish for leaving for two, three or more hours on Saturday morning to run. It’s when I want to sleep in past 6:00 in the morning, and not eat my breakfast in the dark or tip toe around so I don’t wake anyone up. It’s when my head starts saying things like, “Just stay here and make pancakes for the kids and lay around in your jammies until 9 am.” It’s when I begin to say things like, “Just have another glass of wine for dinner tonight. So what if you have to run 18 miles tomorrow? Run another day.”

But then I come to my senses and I remember that these are the moments that “separate the men from the boys,” the ladies from the women, the weak version of me from the strong version of me, the ordinary me from the extraordinary me, and maybe the sane from the crazy. I realize these moments are the ones that matter most and if I give up now, I have lost. When I’m not fighting this battle I wish I was. These are the times I remember why I do this. Not to tell someone I ran 16 miles today, but to win the battle raging inside of me and quiet the voice that whispers, “You can’t do that.”

Yes. I. Can.

For me, running isn’t actually so much about running. It’s about life and what I’m capable of in it. It’s about proving wrong the doubters, the naysayers, the haters… in my own head.”

And then I went out and ran 16 miles.


Whole Wheat Pasta with Roasted Vegetables

IMG_1305I haven’t posted a recipe in a while. This one is too delicious not to share. As a vegetarian I am always looking for new ways to use vegetables. Roasting them is always one of my favorites.

WHOLE WHEAT PASTA WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES

  • 1 eggplant, cut into large cubes
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut in 1/2″ slices
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into large chunks
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 lb. whole wheat pasta (I used Ohio City fresh whole wheat spaghetti)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • sea salt (or Himalayan Pink)
  • pepper

IMG_1299Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the eggplant, zucchini and pepper on a large jelly roll pan, drizzle with EVOO, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Place in oven checking every 5 or 10 minutes and flipping around until tender and browned evenly (about 20 minutes total).

Meanwhile in a medium skillet add 1 or 2 Tbsp. EVOO and the chopped onion and cook over medium heat until softened, 5 minutes or so. Add garlic and tomatoes and simmer another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add in cheese.

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Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Add pasta to tomato sauce and then add in roasted vegetables and a handful of chopped fresh basil. Toss to combine and serve.

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