Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How many arms do you have?

"Are you sure you don't need a bag?"

The man at the Whole Foods checkout counter looked at me with confusion.  Clearly, he thought I needed a bag to carry out all my grocery items this morning.  I had two cans of pumpkin puree (why not make another chocolate chip pumpkin loaf today?!), a large container of baby spinach, a birthday card, a four-pack of yogurt, two cucumbers, a dozen eggs and a gallon of whole milk.  Oh, and a non-fat chai latte, too.

But I have an aversion to using disposable bags, even paper ones, whenever possible.  (I do live in Portland, after all!)  And I was too lazy to walk back to my car and get my reusable bags.  So I loaded up my arms with all my goodies, grabbed the milk with one free hand and my latte with the other.  As I walked to my car, I was again thankful for my minivan's keyless entry so I didn't have to dig through my purse for keys.  I only needed one finger to pull open the door.  (And, yes, I do drive a minivan. I had to sell my Subaru wagon to become a minivan-driving-soccer-mom and have never looked back...thanks to keyless entry and the DVD entertainment system.  Don't judge.)

After driving home and putting things away, I finished (yet another) load of laundry.  While carrying the clothes hamper three flights upstairs from the basement laundry room to my third floor bedroom, I also picked up three stuffed animals, two discarded pairs of footed pajamas, a baby blanket and a pair of boots.  I deposited everything in the various rooms where it all belonged and then began the process in reverse -- bringing towels and linens to the basement and picking up things along the way.

I'm not sure if it is a mom trait or a female-only trait but sometimes I feel like I have more arms than my husband.  Or maybe than all men.  I remember walking up the stairs of my house, carrying my almost 2 year-old on my right hip and carrying a 4 month-old in my left arm while she was breastfeeding.  I'm pretty sure my husband can't do that.  (No offense, honey!)

I got to thinking this morning about the things we carry.

We carry groceries.
We carry laundry.  Never-ending loads of laundry.
We carry kids.  Both before and after birth.
We carry backpacks and soccer bags and dance costumes and school lunches.
We carry briefcases and work laptops.
We carry endless plates of food to/from the table and in/out of the dishwasher.
We carry donation items to Goodwill and other charities.
We carry cooked meals to our friends and neighbors when they are in need of some extra help.
We carry flowers to our own moms and Mother's Day and to our kids' teachers on Teacher Appreciation Day.


We carry our husbands/partners when they are going through difficult times at work.
We carry our parents when they are too old to care for themselves.
We carry our girlfriends when they are going through tough times in their lives.
We carry the fear that something will happen to our kids.
We carry ourselves across the finish lines of marathons or to the gym to squeeze in a workout.
We carry the guilt that we are never doing enough -- as a mom, as an employee, as a wife, as a neighbor, as a runner/cyclist/exercise-enthusiast or as a homemaker.  

I oftentimes struggle with being a stay-at-home mom.  I lose my patience almost daily with my toddlers. I crave the social camaraderie that comes with working in an office.  I miss feeling like I'm using my brain and education to their full potential.  I fear that I am going to fail.  I feel that I am lacking an identity.

And then I start thinking about all the things that I carry on a daily basis.  I try to imagine my family without me in it.  And it makes me feel important and necessary once again...and proud of my little arms.  (It also makes me think I must have more than two of them!)

The most important things I'll ever carry...

Of course, none of this would be possible without my family and friends carrying me when I need it.

And special thanks to this one...

What do you carry in your life?  Do you struggle with your identity?

I really was going to post today about the fact that my foot injury -- the one that kept me from running all summer long -- seems to be back again.  But talking about it might make it a reality.  So I'll just continue to be in denial for a little longer and hope for the best.  In the meantime, I had a great track workout last Friday (6 x 800 in the middle of a six mile run), an easy 7 on Saturday and a hard 10 mile progression run early Monday morning.  I was just starting to feel like I'm getting back in shape ready to kick-off Boston training and now I'm not sure how my foot is going to handle the increase in mileage and effort...

Happy Halloween!!!

- Kristen

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Love-Hate Relationships

I had all kinds of productive thoughts swirling through my head at 5:30 this morning when I was in the middle of my 5 mile recovery run.  My morning was all planned out -- I was going to finish my run, wake the kids up and get them dressed/fed/off to preschool, make a green smoothie for breakfast, take a big pile of clothes to be donated and write a quick blog post.  All this was to be accomplished before picking the girls back up at 11:45am.  Easy, right?

Post-breakfast sisterly love
Love getting rid of things!

I was going to post about the start of my Boston marathon training or the lack of motivation I have to complete my home organization projects or how I am already feeling pressure to start my Christmas shopping.  (Most of this pressure comes in the form of daily stacks of catalogs delivered to my house with pictures of fully-decorated Christmas trees or wrapped presents on the front.  These catalogs cause me to forget the fact that it isn't even yet Halloween.)

After the run, however, I turned on my phone and the screen froze up into a bunch of squiggly black and white lines.  Like a miniature zebra screensaver.  Ugh.  Did I mention this was my new iPhone 5 that I have had for exactly three weeks?  Really, Apple?  All my plans went out the window...

Heading to the Apple store

After battling traffic to the downtown Apple store to get a new phone, the rest of the morning was spent trying unsuccessfully to restore my phone using a very recent backup.   Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted that backup and restored from a year-old backup instead.  Shortly thereafter, I realized that I had also deleted all of the pictures from my Italy trip that I had taken on my phone.  Fighting back tears, I just gave up and accepted my new phone for what it was.  Which is exactly like my old phone was a year ago...with no pictures of Italy.

I do love Apple products.  I'm typing this post on my MacBook.  I use my iPod nano when I run.  And I'm never without my iPhone.  But I can't count the number of hours I have spent syncing and backing up and downloading and restoring from one product to another over the years.  The benefit of Apple products is supposed to be their seamless integration with one another but somehow it has never worked that way for me.  So I also really hate Apple products.  Today, especially.

This got me thinking about other things that I both love and hate.  Last week I had a track workout and I can honestly say I have always had a love-hate relationship with the track.  I generally hate it when I'm doing it but love the results I get from it.  As much as I love marathons, there are certainly days when I dread heading out for a 20 mile training run in the rain and there are definitely times during the marathon itself when I swear I will never do another one.  However, within an hour of finishing a marathon, I am ready to sign up for the next one.  (Remind anyone of childbirth?)  I also love dense, flourless chocolate cake but hate it when I eat the whole cake.    I love wine but if I have too much, I definitely hate it the next day.  (I suppose a little impulse control would help with these last two...)

I know a lot of people have love-hate relationships with sports teams.  Or politicians.  Or their jobs.  Maybe even their spouses or kids(!!).  My husband has a love-hate relationship with our dog but that is mostly because he is the one who takes her for walks in the cold, windy rain and picks up after her.

What is there not to love about this face?!

In the end, I suppose having a complicated relationship with something or someone isn't necessarily a bad thing.  There really are very few things in life that are just black or white -- almost everything is a varying shade of gray.  Isn't that what makes life interesting?

I am looking at my running schedule now and see that Friday is another track day.  6 x 800's as part of a 6 mile run.  I know it will be hard.  I know I will want to quit.  And, at times, I will hate it.  But I also know how much faster and stronger it will ultimately make me as a runner, both physically and mentally.  So I suppose I will love it at the same time.  Or at least when it is over.

(And I will probably continue to buy Apple products, too.)

"If you never have a 'bad' day [running], you're probably doing something wrong; if you never have a 'good' day [running], you're definitely doing something wrong." - Mark Remy

Yesterday's workout was a 9 mile progression run (2 miles warm-up at 8:30, 3 miles at 7:30, 3 miles at 7:15 and 1 cool-down mile at 8:10) and I finished it before the kids woke up at 7am.  It was my longest run since the marathon and a sort of kick-off to my Boston training.  It left me energized and excited to have a goal to work towards once again.  Only 24 weeks to go!

Do you have a love-hate relationship with anything?  

- Kristen

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Every Step Counts

Just in case the surprise trip to Italy wasn't enough of a 40th birthday present, my husband took the additional step of throwing a party for me last weekend with close friends and family.  I am actually someone who shies away from being the center of attention and was nervous as the party approached.  (You know those girls who grow up dreaming about their wedding day?  Envisioning their walk down the aisle with all heads turned towards them??  I was not that girl.  I actually hyperventilated before walking down the aisle and broke out in hives.  I think it comes down to not feeling deserving of the attention...but I digress.)  

Anyway, as Saturday night rolled around and my family started to arrive at our house for a little pre-party get together, I finally started to relax.  The glass of champagne might have helped with the anxiety but holding my 8 day-old niece was definitely the highlight of the afternoon.

She really makes me want another baby!

Once we were at the actual party and I had a glass of wine (or two), I was having a great time.  It was so fun to see all my friends in one place, catch up with everyone and enjoy some good food.  My husband worked with a caterer to plan a Spanish theme and we had the most amazing paella.

This picture doesn't do it justice -- I think the pan was about 3 feet wide!

Towards the end of the evening, a group of my friends gave me a gift.  It is a silver necklace filled with charms.  There are charms for each of my kids, one for my husband and me, and one that says happy 40th and has all their initials.  In addition to the charms with our names on them, there is a circle and a running shoe charm.  And the simple slogan Every Step Counts.  The charms can be removed and rearranged to suit your mood and here is one of the many possibilities:

If I had received this charm a few months ago, I am pretty sure this blog would have a different name.  I love that slogan.  It describes so much in life.  

We all have goals in our lives.  Some might be related to sports -- qualifying for the Boston marathon or completing a triathlon.  Some might be related to our careers -- getting a college degree or publishing a book.  And others might be more personal -- being a good mother or overcoming a hardship. 

No matter what our goals are, most of them take work to get there.  And, at times, our goals may seem impossible.  But as long as we keep working towards them, making little steps even, then we will get there eventually.  

"Hard things take time to do.  Impossible things take a little longer."  - Percy Cerutty

I am just starting to build up my running base again in preparation for Boston training.  It is frustrating and somewhat depressing to realize how much fitness I have lost in the three months since I ran the Newport marathon and injured my foot.  My foot isn't really bothering me anymore, though, so I have no excuse to not get back out there and get in shape.

Monday morning I ran 8 miles on a typically gray, dreary, wet Portland day.  It was my longest run since the marathon and I couldn't have been happier to be out there running and pushing myself, despite the weather.  It was a sort of progressive run with 2 easy miles, 2 miles at 7:45, 2 miles at 7:30 and ending with 2 easy miles.  I averaged 7:58 for the 8 miles and it felt much harder than it should have.  I followed up yesterday's run with a 5 mile run today at an average pace of 8:03.  Again, it felt a little harder than I expected but the sun was shining on my face and in my heart.  

Perfect day for running
I am so motivated and excited to dream big and find out what I am truly capable of doing.  I expect there to be 

good runs, 
bad runs, 
fast runs, 
slow runs, 
hard-as-hell runs where I desperately want to quit and 
days when I feel like I could run forever.  

I look forward to each of those runs as I know I will learn and grow with each one.  And I can believe in myself knowing that as I head out the door for each and every run, that every step counts.  

What are your goals and what steps are you taking to achieve them?

- Kristen

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

When in Rome...

Wow.  Where to begin?!

If you read my mystery trip post, you know my husband planned a surprise vacation for my birthday.  Even as he was checking in at the Delta counter for our flight, I still had no idea where we were headed.  It wasn't until we ran into some good friends at the airport that my husband finally disclosed our destination...we were going to ITALY!  (Oh, and the good friends that I "ran into"?  They were coming with us!)

I could detail our itinerary and fill paragraphs listing the museums, castles, churches, monuments and Tuscan hill towns we visited as well as the sculptures, paintings and incredible views we saw.  But the best way to summarize our trip is this:

We ate too much food.
We drank too much wine.
We slept too much.
And we ran too little.

All in all, it was a perfect vacation!  The Italians really know how to live.  Where else can you be served cake at breakfast, wine at lunch, handmade gnocchi at dinner, the best espresso imaginable at any time of the day and tirimasu for dessert?  Our theme of the trip was "When in Rome..." so we made sure to live like Italians as much as possible.

Pound cake, apple struedel and homemade donuts were just part of breakfast

Just one of the MANY bottles of wine we drank last week

Double espresso
Honestly, I am still shocked that my husband was able to pull off such a huge surprise and plan such an amazing vacation.  I am humbled that he would do so much for me.  And I am thankful for the help of our families in watching the three kids.

Eventually, our time in Italy was up and we returned home on Sunday.  We immediately rushed to the hospital to meet my newest niece who was just two days old. Then we spent some time with my visiting in-laws who flew to Portland from New York to help watch the kids while we were away.  They flew home this morning and now it is back to life as usual.  Except it feels a little different.

I find myself waking up each day more grateful than the day before.  Grateful for the health of my family.  Grateful for the sunshine that has been omnipresent in Portland for the last three months.
Berry picking one day in July
Grateful for the ability to run miles upon miles with a smile on my face.  Grateful for my husband, who never ceases to amaze me.
J in front of the Coliseum in Rome
Grateful for the precious little girl born just days ago to my brother and his fiance.
Almost makes me want to have another...
Grateful for the unconditional love my parents have always given to me.
Mom & Dad
Grateful for my kids who fill my heart with joy.  Grateful for friends who have been in my life for as long as I can remember.  Grateful for new friends that I have recently met.  Grateful for the beauty that surrounds us all.

I could go on forever...but the bottom line is that I am grateful for the life I have been given.

"Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they already have."  - Unknown

I am definitely happy.

- Kristen