On Becoming a Runner. Again.

My husband came to visit me once when I was in graduate school, in the very early days of our courtship. That was back when I used to smoke, and stay up until three or four every night, and hit the bar scene hard, and sleep until noon most days, and so forth. At one point during his visit to my apartment, he got himself dressed in exercise garb and said he was going for a run. I blinked a few times at him while I took in such a foreign notion, and then told him to have fun while waving and lighting up a cigarette from my spot on my couch.

A few years later, I went to DC with him and cheered him on while he ran his first marathon. It was such an exciting event, and I decided I wanted to run a marathon myself.

So I did. Twice.

We did the Grandma’s Marathon in the summer of 2007


Standing in Lake Superior after the race made our feet and legs feel so good!


It was really cold.

And we did the Disney World Marathon in January 2008.

I did not much enjoy the Disney World Marathon, so after doing it I decided to take a break from running for a while. I had no idea it would be for over seven years.

Within five months after the DWM, Ben and I got married, and then I got pregnant. I then ended up being pregnant and/or nursing for the next five years, and though my husband has continued to run various events, during that time running just wasn’t on my radar. I had zero interest in it. I was focusing more on survival than on going out for an “invigorating” run when someone was available to watch my kids for me.

After I weaned Sis, I started to toy with the idea of running again. But it was really hard to get back into shape after my third baby in so many years, and I just couldn’t seem to get myself in gear to do it.

I even made a specific goal for 2014 to run some sort of event. Even if it was just a 5K, I wanted to do something. And then I got pregnant. And then I lost that baby. I had gained a lot of weight during that brief pregnancy, and I just lost all motivation to think about races, and training, and running in general.

Actually, if I’m really honest, for the past two years I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a run but not going through with it  in part because of thinking, “But what if I get pregnant?” I’ve been avoiding signing up for any sort of race because of this possibility. Registering for such a long race is a bit of a commitment, and I kept thinking maybe and what if? and this could change things.

Well. A few months ago, my husband told me he wanted to run the Dam to Dam Half Marathon again in his home town area of Des Moines. He challenged all of his siblings to run the race with him, and he casually mentioned that perhaps I’d like to do it too.

I debated. I thought (again) about the what if? of potentially becoming pregnant. I told myself I wouldn’t have time to train because of the girls. I thought about the logistics of the race day and how it might be difficult to have someone take care of our girls and our dogs while we ran the race.

And then I decided to stop making excuses.

I realized that, if I did get pregnant, I would only be out fifty bucks or so for the entry fee. And that would not be a big deal.

I acknowledged that I wouldn’t be able to spend hours running every day like I used to. And then I decided that I could commit to doing enough. I knew that might not get in lots of long training runs (the longest I managed to do was seven miles), but I would still be able to train enough to finish the run.

I reminded myself that, of course my in laws would help with the girls and the dogs and it would be fine.

So I signed up for the run. And then I started running.

The majority of my runs were only about two or three miles, because that’s about as much as I could stand to do on my treadmill at one time. I did one four, one six, and one seven mile run (all outside). I did CrossFit to help strengthen my muscles and get my lungs in shape.

I knew I would be able to finish the race, though I would probably be slow and it would likely be painful.

And I did. And I was. And it was.


It was hard and it was painful, but it was also fun and very, very rewarding, just like my first two marathons.

This time, I had a few new strategies for getting through. Throughout the two and a half hours I was running (yes, it took me that long to run 13.1 miles, I got passed by a speed walker at one point), I focused intently on the fun of the experience and the beauty of the run and the people around me. I laughed at the antics of some of the other runners. I said “Thank you!” to the spectators. I offered up every ache and pain that I could (the stitch in my side, the ache in my thighs because I did too much of a squat workout three days before the run, the blister forming on my left foot, the pebble in my shoe for six miles, etc.). And I thought every. step. of the way. about my girls waiting for me at the finish line.


Maybe at some point, I can use my running as an example to them of how we can do hard things and have fun doing them. Or of how it’s okay to do something for the simple joy of accomplishment. Or how you can have fun doing something and not feel embarrassed even when you aren’t the best or fastest at doing it (did I mention I got passed by a speed walker??).

After I completed the run, they all asked me if they can run with me when they get bigger. And that’s the best motivation I could ever have.

Completely Unplanned Thoughts About Running and Spirituality and Writing

I haven’t really been much in the mood for blogging lately. I don’t know why. My head seems full of lots of ideas of things to write about, but then I come to type them out, and I’ve got nothing. Or I just choose to do other things instead of even sitting down here with my fingers on the keys.

So, I’m sorry I’ve been absent a bit lately. I decided this morning that I just had to sit down and start writing something, and I’m not entirely sure what this post is even going to be about at this stage of the process. But you have to start somewhere, and frankly, I miss blogging when I don’t do it enough, so typing, typing. . .

We had a wonderful week at my parents’ house. I haven’t mentioned it here, but my husband and I have signed up to run a half marathon at the end of May, which means I’ve been spending a lot of time on my treadmill lately. It’s a little strange, because for my past marathons (the last one was in 2008), I did all of my training outside. We lived in North Carolina and had mild winters and a few nice trails to run on near our home. And we didn’t have any kids, so it was easy.

I obviously can’t just pop out and run in the great outdoors whenever I feel like it anymore, so the treadmill during nap time it is. I’ve found an appreciation for the treadmill. I don’t hate it (anymore). I’ve found that I enjoy praying the rosary while running, or listening to audio recordings from Lighthouse Catholic Media. These things help me to not focus on the drudgery of being on the treadmill or the tiredness of my body. And of course they’re good for my soul too, so that’s a bonus 🙂

But really there’s nothing like going for a run in the great out of doors.


I got to take my first long outdoor run while visiting my Mom and Dad last week, and it was so lovely. The Rosary (counted on my fingers) and an audio CD still accompanied me, but this time they were enhanced by the backdrop of God’s creation.


I got chased a bit by some enormous dogs, and met a friendly donkey and a few horses.


And I found myself even appreciating the hilliness of the road. It is utterly flat here, and I tend to only run flat on the treadmill (because the treadmill doesn’t have downhill!). But this run was wonderfully hilly. I never used to be grateful for the hills when I ran in North Carolina. I mean, who likes running uphill? But my husband mentioned how much he enjoyed running the hills in Kentucky, because without the uphills, there are no downhills. And I realized he’s right.

I don’t love running uphill. Often I walk up the hills, to be honest. But really, the uphill is so worth it to have the downhill. Running downhill is so fabulous. It feels like you’re flying! The ups and downs are way better than always staying flat.


I think this is kind of the way I feel about life in general and spirituality too. I wrote this post a few months back about feeling frustrated by a spell of spiritual blahs. I think those times of dryness are like the uphills. I don’t like them. I tend to trudge through them without much excitement.

But when I get to the other side, when, through my effort and persistence I get myself to the end of the hard part, the reward is so awesome and so worth it and so much more appreciated.

The ups and downs have to happen.

I think it would become painful to always be running downhill. And I’m not sure if it is possible to maintain a constant state of being spiritually “on fire,” either. The fabulous cannot be kept up indefinitely.

But I would rather have the uphills and downhills than run flat all the time. I’d rather have some spiritual lows and wonderful highs than be in the middle and humdrum all the time.

Maybe blogging is like that too. Maybe I’ve been in a bit of a low, working my way uphill, only to come back with a renewed love and appreciation for blogging. Maybe.

Some Never-Before-Seen Selfies – All for a Good Cause #35K4SMA

If you happen to follow me on Instagram or if you’re a friend of my personal page on Facebook, you may have seen this photo already this morning:


I posted it bright and early, even though I really, really hate selfies. I’m not really opposed to them in general, I mean when other people post them. I don’t hate selfies on principle. I hate them because of vanity.

I cannot, for the life of me, seem to take a selfie in which I look even a little bit normal. Every time, every. time., I either end up all forehead or all nose or double-chinned or something else utterly not flattering. So I don’t do selfies. The few times that I’ve tried, they don’t end up anywhere that others can see them. Not on Instagram, not on FB, not here on the old blog (except once in this post, but that selfie was very dark).

However, today I made an exception. In fact, I’m about to make a big exception and even show you all some of the selfies I’ve never posted before, all in the name of a good cause.

35K 4 SMA 

I already posted a couple of weeks ago about how I was going to run 5K this week and why. Kelly, the mom who is running 35K for SMA has two little boys with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), and she is trying to raise money for other families who are struggling with the bills that come along with this diagnosis. Bills for necessities like medical expenses, special equipment, home modifications, etc. I donated money to the cause (you can too, hint, hint, right HERE), but I’m also just trying to let others know what Kelly is trying to do.

So, back to the selfies. For the first time ever, I’m going to share my selfie fails (i.e. all of them). There aren’t many, because I learned pretty early-on that selfies are not for me, but here you go.

Here’s one I tried to take when I got my bangs cut in December:


My chins and I decided that wasn’t the most flattering look for us.

Weird frown. And the nose.

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Dark. And grim:


The only other ones I could find were those from this morning, though there’s plenty of material here. I took a lot before I ended up with one that looked halfway decent.

Like this one that I took immediately after finishing my run:


I was still gasping for air, and I couldn’t hold my phone steady to take the picture!

Next I got this one:


The lighting was so bad and you can’t really read the sign (which is kind of the whole point), so I tried again. And got this:


Just. No. Remember what I said up there ^^ about the all-nose or all-forehead thing? I think I managed to be both all-nose and all-forhead in that one.

Then all-nose in this one:



I even took a few while still on the treadmill:

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And now you see why I do not have a great love of the selfie.

But you all keep posting yours! Maybe if you get on it quickly, you can even do a sweaty one for 5K for SMA!! You know you want to 🙂

Seven Quick Takes New Year’s Edition

Linking up with Conversion Diary.

2013 was an interesting year here. We had some rough experiences. We had lots of changes, some good, some bad, some amazing. I think I will remember 2013 as a year of change and challenge.

I’m eagerly looking forward to 2014. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions as such, but I do like to think about the past year and the upcoming year. The good, the bad, what I want to modify, what I want to accomplish. I like to look forward to the new year and make goals. Here are a few of mine for 2014 (well, seven to be exact):

1. I haven’t completed any sort of race or other fitness event since running the Disney World Marathon six years ago. I am not sure which event I will do yet, but I will be training and getting back out there for some sort of race/event in 2014 (one thing I am sure of, it will not be a full marathon).


2. Currently, I can do two unassisted pull-ups (unassisted meaning without a resistance band), and eight straight-body (not on my knees) pushups, and I can back squat 135 pounds. By the end of the year my goal is to be able to do ten pull-ups, twenty pushups, and to back squat 185 pounds.


3. I read somewhere around 43 books in 2013. I really don’t need to make a goal to read more. Actually, I probably should make goals to read less and get more other things done in my free time. But that’s not going to happen.

With that in mind, here are some books on my “To-Read” list for 2014:

Catholicism for Dummies – I’m almost halfway through this one.

Divergent – I have a secret love of teen dystopian novels (Hunger Games, anyone?).

10 Gifts of Wisdom: What Every Child Must Know Before They Leave Home

Wool – My husband finished this audiobook recently. It sounds interesting, and when possible, I like reading the same things my husband has read/listened to so we can discuss. We’ve been talking about Screwtape Letters a lot recently, and I really enjoy our conversations (not that I expect this book to be on par with Screwtape, but maybe still fun to talk about)

The Sun Also Rises – This was on my Summer Reading List and I forgot about it. I’ll get to it this year.

Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It – You know how much I enjoy Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog. I’m giddy about her upcoming book.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

He Leadeth Me – Another one from the summer list that I forgot to read.

Things Pondered – I just saw a link to a ton of free Kindle books by this author. This one in particular is interesting to me, but I nabbed all of the free ones and hope to read them all this year.

That’s just a start. I also intend to start reading my Bible more this year now that I’m almost finished with 150 Bible Verses Every Catholic Should Know.

4. I will work on experimenting and using different settings of my camera. I almost always shoot in the “P” mode of my camera, which controls everything but the flash for me. I need to start learning how to shoot in the “A,” “S,” and “M” modes.

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At least once a week I’ll be experimenting with different camera settings, lighting, etc. I have tried reading books. I’ve tried taking a class. I need to just do different things with my camera if I really want to learn.

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5. I need to pick a Kindergarten curriculum (!!) I also really need to work on being more organized in my homeschool planning and scheduling. I haven’t yet found a system that I’m comfortable with. Suggestions would be welcome.

6. I’m instituting a Family Game Night. We had our first one tonight. I saw the game Cootie on Amazon the other day and remembered how much I loved playing it as a kid. I ordered it.


What was I thinking? It is not fun. But we have lots of other games too, and I think Super Friend has a bajilllion games for her kids, so I’ll ask her for some recommendations as well.

Unfortunately, I suspect my kids will be choosing Cootie as our game for a while.

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7. I will be getting back into some cooking adventures. My husband and I used to have fun doing a little version of the Food Network show “Chopped” at home (I even have a whole category in the “Topics” drop-down dedicated to this). Then last year he got me some great books and I started some other fun cooking projects.

I cooked lots of egg recipes one week.


^^Homemade mayo


^^ Shirred eggs (yeah, I didn’t know what that was either) with cream and parmesan-reggiano


^^ Souffle !!

Another week I did Spanish dishes.


I like doing things to make food prep fun, but I’ve gotten away from doing this for a while and have been in a cooking rut (mini meatloaves, lettuce wrap tacos, chicken with mustard/maple sauce, repeat).

So. Back to fun stuff. My husband got me some gorgeous cookbooks for Christmas. Italian and French. I’m going to get closer to my roots and go Italian first. Then I think I’m going to go in depth with onions. Then French. Then, who knows? Sunday I’ll be making gnocchi in tomato butter sauce from scratch. Yum.

I love the feeling of beginning a new year. Reflecting and anticipating. 2014 is gonna to be good.

What are your goals for 2014?

See more quick takes here. Happy New Year!

Um, Awkward! Some Things You Should Just Never Say

The other day I saw my next door neighbor for the first time in over a year.

She was out in her yard, and I walked over with the girls to quickly say “Hello” and let them pet her dog. Neighbor Lady says, “It’s so good to see you!!!!!!!!!” Then she shifts her eyes rather pointedly toward my stomach, wiggles her eyebrows up and down, and excitedly says, “Are you?….” Of course the unspoken word was obviously “Pregnant?!”

I’m not.


So, here’s how it played out. I gave a terse shake of my head and said “No,” probably rather grumpily.

She quickly replied with, “Oh-I-was-just-asking-because-you-said-you-wanted-to-keep-going [with having more kids].”

Okay, that’s true. But… awkward.

Fortunately we were saved by my girls chattering about Neighbor Lady’s dog and how he looks like our dog who died (this might have been slightly awkward itself in a different moment, but as it was, it was quite refreshing), and about their hopes for future purchases of bicycles and stuffed hummingbirds and other random, innocent, oblivious things.

Then, Me: “Okay, gotta go!”

And as I walk away, the final parting shot, Her: “You look great!”


‘Kay. Here’s the deal. Yes, I do still have about 10 pounds I’d like to lose since having Baby Sis. Yes, she is 13 months old. Yes, my belly is squishier than it has ever been before.

I look okay. Not great. Okay.

But still. There are just some things you should never say. Right?

I’m someone who gains 50+ pounds when pregnant. I have tried to exercise and eat well during the three times that I have been growing another human within my body, but I gain insane amounts of weight even when I do this.

So. I have given in to just eating ice cream and becoming huge, knowing that I can lose it all after the fact.



It worked out pretty well the first two times.

This is me the day I found out I was pregnant with Miss:


About 8 months after Miss was born and shortly before I became pregnant with Lass:


Around 8 weeks pregnant with Lass:


After having Miss, I came close to regaining my pre baby body fairly quickly (of course it didn’t seem quick at the time, but now…).

After Lass I came a little less close, a little less quickly, but still got fairly near my goal.

Around 9 months after Lass was born:


About 9 weeks pregnant with Sis:


Now, 13 months after having Sis I am still nowhere near my goal weight, or even the weight I was when I got pregnant with her (which still wasn’t quite to my goal weight).

Crap, it’s a lot harder to get there this third time around! I know I can’t really complain, because I haven’t done the work to get there…


But it still feels pretty crappy to have my neighbor look at my (poofy but not that poofy) stomach and ask if I’m pregnant.


So the moral of the story? Never ask someone if she’s pregnant. Just don’t do it.

If it isn’t completely obvious, you are playing with fire.

Even if it is completely obvious, sometimes it’s not really, so you’re still playing with fire.

And truly, if someone is pregnant, and you can’t tell by looking, and she’s not talking about it, maybe she doesn’t want you to know. Just don’t do it.


I’ve hit the CrossFit workouts pretty hard the past two days. Nothing like a little motivation.

Thanks Neighbor Lady 🙂

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Two Sentences I Try to Never Say

“I don’t have time.”

“I’m so busy.”

I try hard to never utter these sentences.

Having three children so young and so close in age means that yes, my days are sometimes a bit hectic. I can’t tell you how many times someone has looked at me with my three girls and said something like, “Whoa! You’ve got your hands full! You must be so busy!”

But I’m not any more busy than most people. In fact, it seems to me I’m actually less busy than many people I know. When you have little kids, you have a different kind of busy. Or maybe busy isn’t even quite the right word for it. Maybe “frazzled” would be better, or “scatterbrained.” I might look busy when I’m running and/or wandering around like a crazy lady, because I can’t quite wrap my head around what I was supposed to be doing just now, due to the fact that my brain has not had a moment of quiet for the past seven hours. Between the sibling squabbles and top-of-the-lungs singing, throwing fits (mostly them) and reading out loud, “Mama, can you be Prince Charming?” and “I have to go potty!!!”, “I’m so hungry!” and “Mama, Mama, Mama, MAMA!,” I often have difficulty forming coherent sentences or remembering where I am, which might make me appear a bit harried at times, which might be mistaken for busy.

Moms have lots of stuff to do, but I can’t say that I’m super busy.



But that’s not why I try not to say, “I’m so busy” and “I don’t have time for ____.”

A few months ago I was busier. Miss was in preschool twice per week and I had to drive 25 minutes each way to take her to school. Both older girls were in gymnastics and Miss was taking swimming lessons. We had a weekly playdate with good friends. Add in grocery shopping, cleaning house, cooking, yadda, yadda. There was lots to do.

I made a choice to take Miss out of preschool and life began to feel much less busy.

I. Made. A. Choice.

I chose to take Miss out of school for many reasons, which didn’t necessarily include becoming less busy. But the reduction in rushing and running was a welcome result. I realize that taking kids out of school or other activities isn’t something that others would want or be able to do. But my point is this:

We have time for that which we make time.


If something is a priority, we make the time to do it.

Sometimes I’m very tempted to say, “I’m don’t have time to exercise.” But I do. I really do. The truth is, sometimes I’m just too tired. Or too lazy. Or I prefer to sit on my rear and read a book during the brief and precious time that my kids are napping. “I prefer,” not “I don’t have time.” Yes, it would feel better to say, “I don’t have time,” because then it could feel more like I wasn’t responsible for my lack of exercise. But I want to take responsibility for, and thus control of, the choices I make for my life.

Here’s another example. I’m in three book clubs. I don’t go to all of them monthly, but frequently do attend two, and one I never miss. Very often when other members and I have invited friends to join a book club, we get a response of something like, “I’d love to, but I don’t have time to read.”

I try not to get offended by this, because I’m pretty sure the people who make these statements aren’t trying to say, “I am way more busy than you if you have time to sit around and read books! Loser!” No. I’m sure no one means that.

But the thing is, I have time to read books because I love to read books. Reading is a huge priority to me. The book club I never miss? Priority. Same thing with this blog. Priority.

I make time to do the things that are important to me.

Reading, blogging, cooking, playing with and teaching my kids, quality time with my husband. Exercise. Yeah, I’m working on that last one.


Sometimes my life can feel busy. Sometimes I feel rushed, especially when trying to get three kids into winter gear and out the door in time to make it to a swimming class. Sometimes I get so focused on the end goal – lunch on the table, kids in bed, or whatever, that I forget to have fun with my girls in the process. I’m working on slowing down. Feeling less pressed. Being more mindful. Enjoying small moments.

Avoiding the “I’m so busy”/”I don’t have time” temptation is one of the ways I’m trying to accomplish this. If I don’t say and believe “I’m soooo busy,” I think I’m less likely to feel that way.



We try to emphasize being healthy and exercising our bodies in our household. My husband is great at getting in regular workouts, even if he sometimes has to do them at 9 at night. Miss goes to gymnastics and we do lots of dancing and running (“chase me!” is her new favorite) and jumping and good physical playing that makes for great exercise for a two-year-old. The other day she and her Daddy were “exercising” in the family room.

Even Lass is working on her squats…
Now I need to get my rear in gear. I used to be good about exercising regularly, often quite vigorously. I have been lazy. I’ve been losing my “baby weight” without exercising, and have been usually watching what I eat. But I’ve been terribly lazy about exercising (if you don’t count lugging around two little girls and literally chasing a 2 year old, which I don’t). I have about 5 more pounds to lose from my pregnancy with Lass, and it probably isn’t going to come off without adding some exercise into the mix. Plus, exercising isn’t just about losing weight. It’s about being strong and healthy. It helps me to have more energy and probably even an improved mood. So, I’m putting it out there. This month, I will exercise more. I just need to get started and the momentum will build. I’ll say I’m going to exercise at least 15 out of the 30 days this month. That’s not a lot, but it’s a start. As my brother (who is in fantastic shape and trains others, you can check his blog here) would say, “3,2,1 – Go!”