With All My Sole

A Spoonful of Happiness

I can’t believe how long it has been since my last blog post….9 months!! I have thought about writing many times, and I have written things down in my journal over the months, but I suppose life has just been too busy to pull it all together. Busy at work, busy at home, busy with family, and the unexpected things thrown my way in between all of the normal day-to-day responsibilities. In general, a lack of time, but really those are all excuses. I really enjoy writing… it is good for my mind, heart, and soul, and I should have made more time for it. There are countless times I should have traded my cell phone in for my writing pen and slowed down to do something I enjoy and find therapeutic. It’s a life lesson I am trying to remember every day…slow down, make time, and spend my time doing things more meaningful and purposeful.

As far as running goes, I have come a long way since my last post, which was a recap of my very first half marathon. After months of physical therapy, I battled my way back from my injury and I have learned the importance of adding regular stretching and strength exercises to my routine. I have also added two half marathons to my running journey – the Walt Disney World Princess half marathon in February, and the Disneyland Tinkerbell half marathon in May; both of which I was able to complete injury free! But for now, I will table any further running talk. Instead, I wanted to write about something I have had on my mind a lot lately and something that affects all of us….happiness. One simple word that carries so much weight in our lives. Every now and then someone will comment on my positive and cheerful demeanor, and this got me thinking about what makes us happy and how we can all achieve happiness each and every day of our lives. My life is not perfect, no one’s is. We all have things that we struggle with, that challenge us, that are hard, sad, and difficult. I have simply been learning not to focus on those things, and instead, challenging myself to always find the positives through life’s tougher times. I focus on my blessings, and the constants in my life that create life-long, sustainable happiness. Some days are harder than others, but I refuse to stop choosing to smile through it all and remain cheerful, hopefully inspiring others along the way to do the same. So today, I wanted to take some time to share my humble thoughts on achieving happiness through it all…

My 10 Key Ingredients to a Spoonful of Happiness

Happiness is a State of Mind

First, we have to understand the boundaries of happiness:

  • Destination “happy” cannot be found on a map; it is a state of mind, not a destination.
  • You don’t find it, you create it
  • You don’t obtain it, you choose it

In my opinion, understanding these three big things is crucial to happiness, otherwise, we will spend our entire lives trying to chase it down, despite the fact that it was within our grasp the whole time. Happiness does not have a destination that we have to locate and make our way to, and there is no checklist we have to mark off in order to obtain it. We cannot have the mentality that it can be achieved once certain things line up and happen in our lives. Getting married, having kids, buying a house with a white picket fence, landing our dream job, making a certain salary, or wearing a certain size jeans will not gain us true happiness…that is not how it works. We have to make the choice every single day that our feet hit the floor that we will be happy no matter what our situation is and no matter what is thrown our way. There are so many things in life that are completely out of our control, situations that we cannot change, and these situations have us standing at a crossroad: we choose to be happy through it, or we choose to be angry and resentful through it.

My husband has always told me that we will never be able to change or control certain things in our lives, but what we can control is our reactions to them. Don’t wait for happiness to happen, don’t wait for it to fall in your lap, and don’t look to others to create it for you. Create it for yourself. Choose it every day. When we purposefully choose it day in and day out, happiness will eventually transition from a conscious choice to an unconscious habit, and we will simply be filled with happiness in our lives. And hopefully, that happiness becomes infectious to everyone around you.

 True Happiness Cannot be Found in Things

Simply put, you will not find true happiness in things, but rather, it will be found within yourself, within your relationships, with family and friends, and in moments and memories. Can a new outfit or a new car make you happy? Of course they can! But this is what I consider to be fleeting happiness. Let’s use a new car as an example: The purchase of a new car is exciting and is likely to make us pretty happy, but for a relatively short amount of time. Eventually, the newness of that car will fade and it will just be a vehicle that gets us from point A to point B, and one day we will probably even consider it old, run down, and in need of being replaced. This car, this “thing”, has created what I consider to be fleeting happiness. When I use the term ‘true happiness’, however, I am talking about sustainable, long-lasting, memorable, and impactful happiness that stands the test of our time on this earth. The true happiness can be found in the places that car takes us…to birthday parties, holiday celebrations, on camping trips, vacations, baseball games, dance classes, weddings, family reunions, Grandmas house, the park, on dates, and the list is endless. It is the people who fill the car with us, the songs we sing or the games we play during those car rides. It’s the laughter that fills that small space and the conversations as we travel to and from. It is the journey, not the tool in which we used to get there…

When we look back on photos from our past, we don’t focus on the clothes we had on, the car we were driving at the time, the new tile floor we may have just had put in, or the nice, new couch we may have been sitting on. The things we cherish in those photos aren’t things at all, but rather the people, and the life experiences. True happiness is found in the moments, the adventures, and the memories we were creating. It lives within us…it surrounds us…it cannot be found in the physical things of this world.

Let the Little Things Go

When it comes to letting things compromise your happiness…pick your battles. Are you really going to let a long line at the grocery store or a rude cashier ruin your day? Is it really necessary to beat yourself up when you make a mistake at work or get a bad grade in one of your classes? Should you really be walking around with a “today completely sucks” mentality if your car breaks down, you are late for work, or you spill coffee on your favorite shirt? In the grand scheme of things, I consider these to be the little things and I try to let them go. They aren’t worth giving up happiness over. We’ve all heard the saying “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and this is why – all of the small things add up and make a big impact. Let it go, and save the energy for the big challenges that will inevitably come our way. As Carrie Underwood says, “Sometimes that mountain you’ve been climbing is just a grain of sand.”

Slow Down

The old saying is “take time to smell the roses”, and it really is great advice. These days, we are all busy, or if we aren’t busy, we quickly find something we think we should be doing. It seems harder for us to sit still, at least for me it does. There will always be tasks that need to be completed and the older I have gotten, the more I am coming to believe that there is no such thing as being completely caught up anymore. We will always have clothes to fold, dishes to wash, work deadlines to meet, celebrations to attend, meals to be prepared, doctor’s appointments…the list is endless and you know exactly what I mean. But even on the busiest of days, we can take a few moments to slow down. One of my favorite time of day to slow down is before I even get started. Since one of the things I love is my morning coffee, I try to sit in a quiet spot and take time to actually enjoy it. If we don’t intentionally take moments to slow down, we will find ourselves rushing through life so much that we aren’t soaking in and appreciating the things we enjoy doing and find happiness in. Take a walk and pay attention to the feeling of the sun soaking into your skin, sit on your porch and listen to the birds chirping, watch the sun set, notice the color of the trees and the flowers, talk to a friend on the phone, play a game with your kids, dance with your spouse, read, write… Take time to do the things that make your heart smile. Sometimes after a busy day at work, my husband will ask me to dance…we just listen to the words of a song and enjoy those very few minutes together…slowing down and appreciating that we have one another at the end of a busy, sometimes stressful day. Slowing down allows us to appreciate the gift of life, not take it for granted, and enjoy the little moments that matter so much.

Adjust Your Perspective

Perspective is everything, and this goes back to choosing to be happy. It is our choice how we view every situation we are handed. Let’s say you are sitting in awful traffic that isn’t moving and you are inevitably going to be late for work. Inconvenient? Sure. For me, perspective settles in really fast though when the ambulance flies by my car. Maybe traffic is an inconvenience, but at least I am safe, and sadly, someone else might not be. Recently, I have tried to change my perspective on Monday’s. It is not uncommon these days to start seeing posts on social media on Sunday afternoons about the weekend already being over and dreading the arrival of Monday. I am trying to stop thinking of Monday’s as a bad thing and instead, view it as a fresh start to a new week…a week that will be full of new memories and experiences. I am choosing to be thankful that I lived to see another Monday, and thankful that I have a job to go to that provides for my family. Overall, I try to look at the challenges and struggles I face differently than I did before and focus on what I can learn from them. When facing a difficult situation, ask yourself how you can be strengthened and molded to be an even better person by facing this situation. What can you learn? How can you grow? How can I perceive this as a positive thing in my life? Your perspective is your looking glass on life….make it as clear and beautiful as you can.

Focus on the Positive

Now it’s time to focus that looking glass on the positive and try to keep it there. We have two choices in every situation: focus on the positive, or focus on the negative. Can’t we all agree that by focusing on the positive side of every situation, this will leave room in our lives for more happiness? I say if life hands you lemons, toss those things to the side and count your strawberries. I don’t know…I just picked a fruit that seemed sweeter and more likable, but you get the point. Do not focus on the lemons in life, but rather, focus on all of the sweet things you love in your life. Count your blessings often. Focus on what you do have. Consider keeping a thankful journal and writing down all of the positive things and experiences in your life. Write in it often and then pull it out and read it on the harder days to refocus on all the good in your life. Also, don’t fall into the trap of focusing on what others have. Worrying about what other people have and comparing it to your life takes away the focus from all of the positive things you do have and discredits it.

Life is Too Short

Life is too short not to be happy, plain and simple. I recently stumbled across a calculator that allows you to enter your birth date and it provides various life calculations, all the way from how many times your heart has beat, how many breaths your lungs have taken, and how many weeks you have lived. One of these numbers hit me pretty hard though. It calculated that on average, I have about 2,022 Saturdays left. Wow. Um…ok, WOW. Life is too short not to make every day count, not to try with all of our might to focus on the positive and the make the best of what we have. Let’s think about those dreaded Mondays again…if I have an average of only 2,022 Saturdays left in my life, I have about the same number of Mondays left as well. Do I really want to waste that many days of my life being disgruntled that the weekend is over and I have to go back to work? Talk about changing my perspective on Mondays! And let’s not forget that these average calculations are based on us being blessed with the ability to live our lives to an old age. Unfortunately, this is not something everyone has the privilege to be able to do; too many lives are taken too soon. Live the fullest and happiest you can every single day because this is not a dress rehearsal…we don’t get a repeat of this life we have been given.

Don’t Grow Up Too Much

Don’t grow up…it’s a trap! This one is my favorite, it’s very “me”. Maybe I should consider it my secret ingredient in this whole happiness thing. Look, I am a perfectly grown up grown-up…I have a full-time job, I am raising kids, I pay bills, keep up a home, etc. etc. However, I am still a big kid at heart. One of the things I love is Disney, and I feel like this is where a lot of my childlike heart comes from. Disney is all about imagination, magic, dreams coming true, and feeling footloose and fancy-free…and I want more of this every single day. People that know me are not surprised if I wear my Mickey ears on a random day. I will skip through my neighborhood if the mood strikes me, burst out in song or dance, ride the carousel at the mall, get the huge lollipop, wear the tutu, play arcade games, go to the pumpkin patch, jump on the bed, watch Disney movies, listen to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious on my way in to work, and have an Alice in Wonderland themed birthday party. This list could go on and on! The point is that there is no age in which we have to stop enjoying the simple, silly, more childlike things in life. These small things make me pretty darn happy, especially since being a grown-up has plenty of responsibilities and harder times to deal with. Relax, don’t take life so seriously all the time. Laugh more, sing more, dance more, and enjoy being a big kid every now and then…it does wonders for your soul.

Care a Little Less

Wait…did I just suggest that you care less?? Why yes I did, but let me clarify. I care deeply about others…about my family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers. I love people, I love helping others, I love making others smile every chance I can, and I want everyone to be happy (I call this my Mary Poppins syndrome!) This is not the kind of caring I am talking about though. For this particular purpose (figuring out how to unlock the key to your own happiness), we kind of have to care less about what others think about us. Let’s use my previous key to happiness about not growing up too much as an example. I am sure that there are plenty of people out there who think that singing Disney songs all the way into work is stupid, childish, and ridiculous. However, this is a harmless ingredient to my personal happiness….I have to let their opinions go and not care about what they think. Because caring about others’ opinions so much that it changes a behavior or activity that we enjoy will ultimately only take away and destroy our happiness. We end up getting sucked into a loop of trying to change who we are to satisfy others or fit into their mold. Sometimes you have to worry less about others people’s opinions because they aren’t healthy for us to hold on to. Simply put, just be you. Unapologetically you, and surround yourself with people that love you just the way you are, with no exceptions.

Fear No More

It’s hard to be completely happy if you are always afraid. Fear is a powerful thing, and it will destroy happiness faster than we can blink. For me, this is a key ingredient that I still work on constantly. Life experience, prayer, exercise, and slowing down have helped me a lot with letting it go. Anxiety has tried to rip me apart for a lot of my adulthood, it ebbs and flows, but with every wave that has been sent my way, it has tried to steal my joy. Running is one of the things that has helped me tremendously with fear, anxiety, and worry. It’s one of the reasons I love running so much…it gives me the gift of freedom from these things and it makes me stronger emotionally and mentally in addition to physically. I have also recently had some big “wow” moments which have made me realize that many times, the things we are fearing aren’t things to be feared at all, and those things usually turn out fine. The things that we worry about aren’t likely to be the things that will ever happen so fearing them only takes away our “now”. It will steal every single day we are blessed with if we let it. It will control us and take away the happiness we so rightfully deserve in life.

It is part of human nature to be fearful of things throughout our lives, but I am trying to give it all to God and remember that He has every situation under control. When I feel the wave of fear coming my way now I remember His promise to us and rest in the comfort of His word.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

 

These were simply some of my humble thoughts on how we can be the happiest version of ourselves. As Mary Poppins says, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”, and I like to think that this spoonful of ingredients will help us get through life and be more full, meaningful, and joyous. I recognize that some days are harder than others, and I also recognize that many people have much harder situations to navigate through life with. I only hope that some of these ingredients can help us all have sweeter, happier days in our lives.

I want to insert a small dose of personal experience here. My husband suffers greatly from debilitating migraines. He just recently told me that this year has been the worst year of his entire life, which I already knew, but hearing him say it broke my heart even more. I cannot imagine the pain he experiences day in and day out, but I can visually see how much joy in life that has been taken from him. I don’t really have words that would do any justice to how much sadness this creates in my heart and my soul…I have cried more times than I can count watching him suffer and over the loss of my once active and happy husband. A good friend of mine recently told me that they had no idea he was suffering so much, and that my pictures on social media seemed to portray that everything was fine, perfect even. I reflected on this and realize a couple of things I wanted to share:

First, I realized from this conversation that I am choosing happiness, even during the difficult, less than ideal times. It’s easier on some days, and more challenging on others, but the reason I only share the happy times is because I choose to focus on the positive, on what I do have, and not what has been taken away from my husband and my family. When we focus on the negative we give it too much power over our lives. The happy days are the memories I want to hold in my mind and my heart, the days he feels better and is able to smile and enjoy life a little. The second thing it made me realize is that you never know what someone is going through, and you never know what is behind someone’s smile. For this reason alone, it is so incredibly important to be kind to everyone we meet, and never make assumptions or pass judgments. We have no idea what is really going on behind someone’s smile; maybe they are simply choosing to be happy through a very difficult time in their lives. Maybe they chose the happy path that was lying at that crossroad before them, and they are creating their own happiness no matter what. In a world where you can be anything…be happy, and be kind.

I hope that each and every one of your spoons overflow with happiness every single day.

With all my sole –

Christy

 

The Power of a Run

“If you had
one shot
or one opportunity
to seize everything you ever wanted
in one moment
would you capture it
or just let it slip?” – Eminem

 

November 5th, 2016, that was my day. My opportunity. My moment. The one I had trained and worked so hard to reach and capture as my very own. To show up, work hard, and bathe in the excitement of my accomplishment. So the question is…did I capture it, or did I let it slip away? My emotions of how it all turned out have been all over the place, but I have also been reminded of the lessons that can be learned through running. The power of a run can be found in both the good ones and the bad ones, and sometimes…even more so in the bad ones.

Here is my very first half marathon recap…

It has been almost 2 full months since I “ran” my first half marathon. I use the quotations because there was very little actual running involved in those 13.1 miles. It was probably something closer to 3 cumulative miles of running, 5 miles of walking, and 5.1 miles of painful limping. So that alone should tell you how well it went…not so well at all. Yet when I reflect back on that day now, it was actually kind of perfect (in a very imperfect kind of way). How confusing, I know, so let me explain…

Going into race day, I knew that the outcome was completely up in the air. Because of my injury, I had been forced to decrease my mileage significantly during the last several weeks of training, and I didn’t run at all during the two weeks leading up to the race. I had only reached 10 miles before my training came to a halt, and so the whole event had a huge question mark surrounding it. Just two days before my half marathon I was seeing an orthopedist to confirm my diagnosis, start a treatment plan, and to make sure I wasn’t overlooking an even bigger injury. Thankfully, I was only dealing with my original diagnosis of piriformis syndrome which could certainly be treated, but my body needed time. But time wasn’t something I had going for me. I saw a physical therapist later that afternoon and we did as much as we could without irritating the muscles even more so before the race. I had reached the “it is what it is” mentality, and I knew that all I could do was give it my all, hope for the best, and not let it steal any of my joy. So that is exactly what I did. I had absolutely no idea what to expect and I was definitely cautiously optimistic about the outcome, but I was also very excited. And I wasn’t going to let anything take that away from me.

I always imagined I would be extremely nervous right before my first half marathon. I assumed I wouldn’t eat well the night before or sleep much at all, and I definitely thought I would be a big ball of nerves on race day morning. But much to my surprise, my excitement seemed to take over, and the nerves never really showed up. My husband and I traveled with friends to Savannah, Georgia for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon, and I was soaking in the entire experience. The night before, our friends’ sister opened her home to us all and prepared a wonderful homemade pasta dinner which served as our pre-race fuel. I met new people, talked about our upcoming race, and ate two delicious platefuls of spaghetti! Even while I was talking to others about running those 13.1 miles, I still never got nervous, but I remained very aware of the reality of my situation. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run the entire time. My goal was to take it easy and do walk/run intervals throughout the race, hopefully keeping the pain at bay, at least most of the time. While I once had a finish time goal, my only goal at this point was to finish, and preferably pain-free. But I really had no clue what my body would be able to do, so I simply enjoyed the company and embraced that no matter what, this race was about to become a big part of my running story. I laid out my clothes before going to bed, slept fairly well, and was ready to go the next morning. I still never experienced those nerves I kept expecting to show up. I think I was just so anxious and ready to get going and see how it was all going to play out for me…

Ready, Set, Run!

 Standing at the starting line, I was super excited and hopeful. More than anything though, I was ready to get going and find out how the miles were going to play out for me. I wanted to start running, realize I was okay, and reach the point where I knew I was going to make it just fine. But I was still cautiously optimistic, and I understood that I would likely reach a point where I would struggle with my injury. I just never thought it would happen so fast, or that it would hurt anywhere near as much as it did. There is this feeling I would always get before the pain set in, a slight tug or pull that acted like a little knock to my muscles, letting its arrival be known. It was my body’s way of offering a fair warning that it was about to get painful and that I should probably stop. I had listened to this warning during training…I slowed down…I stopped…I rested for days and even weeks at times. But on this particular day, stopping wasn’t one of my options. I had arrived at the starting line with one goal…to arrive at the finish line through the hard work and energy of my own two legs. Unfortunately, I felt that little tug to my muscles at only about a quarter of a mile in, way sooner than ever before. Over the course of my injury it had initially shown up around mile 2 or 3, and eventually, through listening to my body, resting, and cross training, I had been able to hold it off until closer to mile 4 or 5. So the fact that I felt that unwanted knock at only a quarter of a mile into the beginning of 13.1 long miles…absolutely crushed me. I remember trying to put on a happy, outwardly positive face. I tried not to let my husband and friends see how discouraged I was right from the beginning, but I knew the pain was coming, and since I had never had to push through it over such a long period of time…I was scared. Scared of the pain, scared of hurting myself even more, scared of not being able to finish, and scared of letting them all down. I vividly remember the sound of dozens of watches ringing aloud when that first mile was reached. My heart sank along with the sounds….I was only one mile in. How could I possibly do this for 12.1 more miles? I felt like my dream of finishing was getting farther and farther out of my reach. Sadness and doubt were setting in fast, and I found myself feeling like I was somewhere I didn’t even belong. But then I heard familiar voices. The voices of my husband and friends telling me that we were going to do it together, that they were not going to leave my side, and that I would make it across that finish line. It was their encouragement and support that helped me shut down the voice in my mind that was telling me I couldn’t do it, and got me to continue on with the long journey ahead. They let me go the pace I needed to, to run when I could and walk when I needed, and they constantly assured me that I would make it to the end. It was that love, friendship, and support that kept me going even through the slowly increasing pain. I wanted to finish not only for myself, but also for them. The people who had not only stuck by me through many miles of training, but who were also giving up the outcome of their own runs in this race to ensure that I made it to the end. By mile 5 the pain was pretty constant and it was really starting to weigh on me that it would only continue to get more difficult…and painful. My mind was racing on how I would possibly be able to finish, but I wasn’t giving up. I found myself bargaining with my body…begging it to please let me make it through the remaining miles. I promised it rest afterwards, that I would go to physical therapy, and to take a break from running however long I needed to. I just wanted this so bad. How could I not…I had trained for months, given up sleeping in on so many Saturday mornings, and pushed myself through sweat, exhaustion, and the fear of even being able to do this. The exact fear I was experiencing in that moment. I ran when I could, but the running intervals were getting much shorter and the walking intervals were turning into a limp. Somewhere between mile 5 and 6 we stopped at a medic stand and made an ice pack to hopefully help with the inflammation. I limped along to mile 10 and that is when I hit my major wall. The pain had reached its all time high and in my mind, there was absolutely no way to continue. I was fighting back tears…tears of pain, anger, and confusion. And then I received a text from my best friend and my very first running partner that said “I would carry you if I could! Do not give in. Do not stop. God will carry you.” Her message filled my eyes with tears and when I looked up from my phone, I had reached the mile 10 sign which read “Finish! Get what you came for.” The combination of those messages sent a flood of emotion through me in that moment, and while I was hurting incredibly bad and wanted to stop just so the pain would stop, I also knew then that I was NOT going to give up. I knew I was being carried…by the love, support, prayers, and encouragement of those surrounding me both near and far. And so I stopped for a refill of more ice and I pressed on.

Those last few miles were really painful, but I tried to hide it as not to worry my husband to death. I tried to enjoy the beautiful day, the charming streets of Savannah, and the company of great friends beside me, but the pain made it difficult to concentrate on anything else. I gritted, I beared it, and I didn’t quit. I remember watching the pacers go by and getting discouraged when I realized just how long this half marathon was taking me to complete. But the closer I got to the finish line, the more I started to see my strength, determination, and perseverance in a new light…the light it so rightfully deserved. If you would have told me before I started that I would take 4 hours to finish the race I would have thought it to be a complete failure. But after living out those hours…hours of giving it my all, pushing my body beyond what I thought was possible, and not allowing myself to give up…I had a whole new perspective on a 4 hour finish time. I remember looking up at my husband and telling him “If I finish this race in 4 hours in this amount of pain, I am a complete bad ass.” And I meant it. That initially horrible finish time sounded like an amazing accomplishment after working as hard as I did to get there. And then the moment arrived where the finish line was finally in sight. Regardless of the pain, I knew I wanted to run across that line, and thankfully, my husband and friends wouldn’t let me give up on that dream either. As we turned that last corner and could see the end in the distance, we started to run. And as soon as I did, I wanted to stop. It felt like nothing short of a dozen knives being stabbed into my left leg and lower back….over and over and over. I couldn’t remember experiencing any type of pain like that in my entire life and I started crying immediately. I looked at my husband who was running to my right and I told him I had to stop, but he encouraged me to keep going. He assured me “You can do anything for one minute. You CAN do this. Keep going. You’ve got this.” He may have said more, I don’t know. I kept repeating that I couldn’t go on and that it was too painful, but he talked me through it until the end, and I didn’t stop until I was done.

At exactly 4 hours and 8 seconds after crossing the starting line, I finally crossed the finish line. All of that doubt, fear, pain, and perseverance…and I had actually arrived and reached the goal I had desired so much. So to answer the original question of whether or not I captured my moment or let it slip…I totally captured it. But I certainly didn’t capture it alone. I did it with the people who never gave up on me. Because when others believe in you so much and they don’t let you give up, they never leave your side or they continue to send you encouraging messages until you make it the rest of the way, it provides motivation and strength that you didn’t even know existed inside of you.


Looking back on that moment I am overwhelmed, not just that I did it, but in all of the life lessons I learned on that day, and that running continually teaches me. The power of a run is more than your body moving you forward. It is realizing that you are capable of so much more than you ever believed. It is achieving something that you once though of as impossible. It is realizing that it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to finish something…it’s the finishing that counts, and the hard work that was put in between the start and the finish lines. It is thinking that you have nothing more to give, digging deeper, and finding out you have SO much more inside of you. It is realizing that we don’t only run with our legs, but also with our hearts. It is about discovering what we are capable of, and discovering the power of love, encouragement, and support. It is about more than just ourselves…it is about being there for each other, believing in each other, and cheering each other along on the journey.

Life is a series of moments that are constantly passing us by, and these moments in time are what make up our beautiful, wonderful lives. Capture all of your moments and experience them fully and completely. Feel the power and joy they bring to your life. Embrace them, enjoy them, and never let them go, for they are yours to grasp and keep in your hearts forever. I wouldn’t change a thing about my perfectly imperfect moment on this painful, memorable November day. Not one single thing…

My Half Marathon Training Recap: Ready or Not, 3 More Days!

I have thought about my running journey a lot this week. It has been an emotional path of nervousness, excitement, determination, accomplishment, and a whole lot of hard work. I think about where I started… a very unhealthy, unfit body that struggled and hated everything about running (actually, I hated everything about exercise in general) and where I am now… in love with running and always anxious to get home, lace up my tennis shoes, and get some miles in… and this total transition still amazes me. Three short years ago I couldn’t even imagine running an entire mile without stopping…but then I did. Even after that major accomplishment, I never thought I would run in a 5K race… and I did that too. Then a 10k?? It seemed impossible, and I remember the overwhelming feelings of fear and doubt that filled my mind… and yet I did that too. And here I am today, staring in the face of thirteen point one miles… and I don’t fear that number at all. Because if I have learned anything on my running journey it is this – I am capable. It took a couple of years and hundreds of miles to reach this point, but I finally know that I can do anything I set my mind to do when I put in the hard work and give it my all. For me, this is the greatest gift running has given me, and one of the many reasons I love it so much. I will never give up on running or on myself ever again. But (yes, there is a but…) despite my unfailing confidence in my ability to run this distance, my body has placed certain limitations on me these last few weeks, and I don’t know what that will mean for me on race day. Let me start from the beginning….

Running put living back into my life. What exactly do I mean by that? Simply this… running has greatly increased the quality of my life physically, mentally, and emotionally. It released me from chronic stomach pains. It released me from stress, anxiety, and worry that weighed heavily on me every day. It released me from thoughts that I wasn’t good enough or that I wasn’t capable of certain things. I am so much happier and healthier now, and for all these reasons… running gave me my life back. Some of the most exciting parts of running has always been setting new goals, reaching them, and of course, celebrating them. And while there was a day that I never thought I would have the ability to run a half marathon, I eventually gained the strength and the confidence that I would, just as I had conquered those other milestones.

There is a distinct mixture of excitement and nervousness when you register for an event like this, and I have spent the last few months getting even more nervous but equally excited. Thankfully, I have not been alone on this journey, and I have had the opportunity to share the nerves and excitement with not only my husband, but also the best running friends I could have ever asked for. They have encouraged me, celebrated with me, and they have been there every step of the way to remind me that I can do this. It is with their encouragement that I finally reached that “I’ve got this” moment and I hope they know what a priceless gift that is to me. Together, we followed a training plan that increased our mileage safely and gradually, and we stayed hydrated and fueled for every run. My alarm went off at 4:30am many Saturday mornings for our long runs, and my husband and I met up with our running group with sleepy eyes and lots of yawns. But I can’t tell you how much I loved being with my friends, working towards this once unimaginable goal, and watching the day awaken with them. I put in the miles. I stayed focused and determined. And while it was hot, humid, and very hard at times, I have loved every single sweaty mile. Ten miles is my number though; to date, it is my longest consecutive running distance, and I remember the emotions that soared through me when I hit that milestone like it was just yesterday. It was a really good run. I left feeling strong and excited, and it was just what I needed to keep my confidence alive and strong. Just remembering that feeling is making me smile (my post 10-miler is my feature picture for this blog). My next Saturday long run, however, did not go as well. Sciatic pain caused me to cut my run short by a couple of miles… and so it began. This was the point I realized that piriformis syndrome had joined me on my training journey. Which really, really threw a curve ball into what I considered my perfect path to the finish line. A wave of constant emotions began. One day I was mad, and I yelled. The next I was sad, and I cried. The reality of it is…this is not the reality I had envisioned in my head. I had done everything right, I had put in so many miles, so much effort, and so much determination. The question of why this happened continues to race through my mind every day. But many times it doesn’t matter what we do or how well we plan, because life steps in and reminds us that we don’t have total control. What is to come, will come. What happens, happens. It is what it is. That doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it or that I understand why, but it also doesn’t mean that I’m giving up. That is the furthest thought from my mind.

For the last several weeks, I have read plenty of articles on this injury, I have seen a chiropractor, and I have been consistent with ice, foam rolling, stretches, and strength exercises. I have rested, cross trained, eased back into running with intervals, and rested some more. But the pain keeps creeping back up when I run. It has been extremely frustrating, heartbreaking, but also humbling at times. But while my frustration and concern seem to take over from time to time, I assure you that it has not taken away my excitement and my hopefulness. As I was reading story after story from runners who have had injuries that interrupted their training and even kept some of them from running their race, I realized something very eye-opening to me. These were their stories, their struggles, and their memories to share. It wasn’t the end but rather a part of their running journey to look back on and grow from. Life isn’t seamless, and things don’t always go as we plan, but that doesn’t make it any less a part of our story. The important part is how we choose to move forward from it and let it grow us as a person. Ultimately, this has been one heck of a rollercoaster ride for me…major highs to major lows…but I am not stepping to the side. The only place I am stepping is across that start line in three days.  I have dreamed of how it will feel to cross that finish line for too long to step aside and give it up. I will fight until the end, and no matter what the outcome may be, I will be thankful and embrace it as part of my journey. I am a runner. And this is simply part of my story…

Three days. One goal. It is my journey to embrace no matter what.

This one is dedicated to my biggest running supporters…you know who you are heart

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Running Shorts and Red Lipstick

“Self-confidence is the best outfit you can wear. Rock it and own it every single day”

Many days I can be seen wearing my running shorts and red lipstick, usually on a weekday when I get to enjoy an afternoon run after work. I come home and shed my work clothes as fast as I can and throw on my running shorts, anxiously ready to hit the pavement and run off any stresses the day may have brought with it. But my red lipstick stays with me. No, I don’t re-apply it before I head out the door; the color just lingers on beyond the 8-hour work day. So I confidently run, like I never have before…

Here’s the thing, it wasn’t too long ago that I wouldn’t have been caught wearing either. Nope. Not at all. NEVER. As far as the shorts go, it was a classic case of hating my legs. I always did…I was overly critical of them…of myself as a whole actually. And as far as the lipstick goes, it was a classic case of being extremely timid and overly concerned of what others would think. Wasn’t it too bold and daring for the person everyone (including myself) thought I was? I didn’t want the judgement, the questions, or the attention. So… I laid low in my neutral colored lipstick and my blue jeans or yoga pants, hoping to avoid the criticism from myself and others. But those days are gone (thankfully). It didn’t happen overnight, and I wasn’t even conscious of it while it was all unfolding, but recent comments from friends and even complete strangers have made me realize this major breakthrough I made somewhere along the way. In a way, it kind of feels silly to even be talking about this, but I have realized that it is actually all very symbolic for me. When I first started wearing my new lipstick earlier this year I was terrified. I’m not even sure what really lead me to do it after all these years other than being tired of holding back, tired of worrying about what other people think, tired of questioning every single thing and not living my life bravely and boldly, and the fear of getting older and wondering why I didn’t just wear the red lipstick in my youthful years.

Earlier this summer while attending a local play, a stranger complimented my red lipstick. I promptly thanked her, and also went on to tell her how much her compliment meant to me since I had never worn such a bold color in my entire life. I was still in that phase of slight unease where I was questioning my decision to wear it, and I wasn’t fully comfortable yet with the major change. She assured me that it was a beautiful color and that it looked great on me. What was a simple comment for her was a huge deal to me; it made me feel a little more confident, so I bravely continued applying it each day. I continued wearing it throughout the summer until it finally felt like my normal. The red was just…well…me! But it really all came together and hit me last week. I had stopped at the grocery store after one of my late afternoon runs so I was sporting my running shorts, red lipstick, AND a massive amount of sweat. I was stopped by one of the employees to try a sample of the dish she had prepared and I graciously stopped and accepted her offer. We started chatting, first about the food I was trying and how she prepared it, and then she specifically mentioned that she sees me there often in my workout clothes and my red lipstick, and she told me that she loved the color. She herself had on a bright, beautiful shade of pink and I immediately returned the compliment. But it wasn’t just her lipstick that was shining brightly, it was also her personality. She had a huge smile that made you feel welcome and want to keep talking to her. We had a brief but powerful exchange of words…just a few comments about feeling beautiful, being happy, and being bold enough in life to wear colorful lipstick. The conversation made me happy, and it also left me thinking. There used to be a day that I never wore shorts, and there used to be a day that I never wore red lipstick, yet there I was wearing both, with absolutely no worries or concerns. Running has done more for me than shape and strengthen my body. Running has strengthened my mind, my soul, and my confidence. It has allowed me to see life through a different lens, to take chances, and to be bold in life. Somewhere along the way I stopped looking at my legs negatively and started viewing them for the amazing gift they are. They move my body, they allow me to fly, and they never fail me. And somewhere along the way I stepped outside of my comfort zone, I stopped worrying so much about what others might think or say about me, and I confidently started wearing the red lipstick that I always wanted to try.

What I hope you take away from this post has nothing to do with wearing shorts or a certain color lipstick. It is simply this –

Sometimes we forget how a few simple words can make a big impact on others. Speak with kindness, give compliments often, and uplift each other, always. We are all in this together.
Be confident in who you are and be brave enough to do the things you have always wanted to do. Don’t let your own worries, fears, or criticism get in the way, and certainly don’t give others that power over you. Life is too short to live it in yoga pants and neutral colored lipstick. Be brave, be bold, and be the person you want to be…

FLY, My Darling

“To love yourself is to understand that you don’t need to be perfect to be good”

FLY. First love yourself, that is. It’s not something we are born automatically knowing how to do, but life sure is easier once we figure out how. Many of us struggle with it for a large portion of our lives, which, let’s just be honest…really sucks. I know exactly how this struggle goes…we question our abilities, wonder if we are good enough, and even wish we had different or “better” qualities within ourselves. All along, not appreciating the talents and qualities we do have to offer the world. Learning to love yourself is not an easy task (at least not in my opinion), but it is a necessary component of true happiness. We spend our lives longing for others to love us, accept us, and welcome us into their hearts, but what about doing this for ourselves. How wonderful would it be to reach the point where we are comfortable in our own skin, we are accepting of ourselves just the way we are, and we love all of the things that make us…well…us! I have spent most of my life caring way too much about what other people think about me. Somewhere along the line it began to feel like I was changing who I really was in order to make them happy. All of this negative energy was going into what others thought about me, and I rarely stopped to think about myself and my own happiness. And when you spend long enough trying to please others and constantly worry about their perception of you, you end up putting your own thoughts and feelings on the backburner. I did this for a very long time, but thankfully, I finally started questioning it, and I have made major steps in the right direction to start flying… Read more

Just Keep Swimming

 

“It doesn’t get easier, you just get stronger”

This week is simple really. I just want to offer encouragement to never give up. Or should I say….to just keep swimming? In honor of Dory and her big movie release (and because I’m a huge Disney fan and I incorporate Disney anywhere I possibly can), let’s go with that!

JUST. KEEP. SWIMMING.

Or biking, or walking, or running, or lifting, or dancing, or whatever you do to keep moving…just keep doing it! We all need the encouragement from time to time, especially on those days it is difficult to stay the course and continue pushing ourselves. Some days, you just want to throw in your set of Mickey Mouse ears and be done with it (okay, maybe the saying is “throw in the towel”, but I saw another Disney opportunity here so I took it). These are the days that encouragement is the most crucial, and the days we all need to be mentally prepared for discouragement to creep up on us.

Sticking to an exercise plan is not an easy task; if you were told otherwise you were very misguided. It is a major commitment of your time, it pulls lots of strength and energy from your body, and it takes a large dose of dedication. Someone recently asked me when running became easier for me, which is interesting because I keep asking myself the same question…when will it?? There was one night this week that I only had time to squeeze in two miles, and they were two very difficult, sweaty, messy miles. I just wanted to stop and scream as loud as I could “Shouldn’t this be easy by now?!” My conclusion is that we are using the wrong word completely and creating a false reality around our hard work and dedication. Read more

Inspire, and Be Inspired

“To be inspired is great, to inspire is incredible”

From the very first day my wellness journey began, I became focused on my own body, my every day choices, and my quality of life more than I ever had in the past. My success depended on it, and I was determined to be successful. I had to keep my mind set on the goal and push myself more and more each day. I had to dedicate a lot of time, put in a lot of hard work, and learn to have patience for the long term results I desired. I now know that it was this focus and dedication that got me where I am today, and I am a completely new person because of it. But while I was in my zone focusing on getting myself better and learning how to make healthier choices every day, something was happening that I hadn’t stopped to think about….others were watching me. Some I realized at the time, others not until very recently, and some I may never even know about. Today I want to talk about the joy in inspiring others.
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Embrace Your Beautiful

“I am not beautiful like you. I am beautiful like me”

I had a random thought the other day. Why is it that often times, a confident woman is seen as being conceited or “full of herself”? Why are they sometimes judged, talked about, or are constantly having their intentions questioned? Isn’t confidence something we try to instill in our daughters at a young age? Don’t we want them to grow up to love and respect themselves and be strong, confident women? Don’t we all want to find happiness with who we are, throw away all of the doubts and judgments we place upon ourselves, and finally achieve self-confidence? Of course, I am completely aware that there are those who have crossed the confidence line and have gone over to the conceited side, but I have also witnessed perfectly non-conceited women be the topic of gossip and judgment, for no reason other than her wonderful, beautiful confidence in herself. And that really sucks. Why does this double standard continue to live on in society, and why do women so often turn on each other, becoming so judgmental and negative? Why can’t a woman’s confidence be embraced? It sure makes it difficult for us all to instill this value within ourselves. Read more

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