Winning Matters

dream-big-start-small-but-most-of-all-start-quote-1Let’s be honest for a minute. I am one of the most competitive people on the planet. I love to win. In fact, for years I’ve told myself the reason I keep running is because I absolutely suck at it and somehow that will teach me that sometimes you do stuff, just to have fun (even though it isn’t a lot of fun).  Lately, I haven’t been winning much of anything. Because if I’m being 100 percent honest, the pandemic threw me hard.

What does that mean? It means I like to be in control. I like to make plans and execute plans and check things off my to do list and manage things. I’m good at that. But, a pandemic thrown at you two days before you are supposed to go on your annual vacation doesn’t really allow for that. Your son’s school suddenly closing on a moment’s notice… when you can barely parent let alone teach is tough. Your teammate taking FMLA and a series of unanticipated grants dropping in your lap is difficult to navigate when frankly your struggling to motivate yourself to take a shower. Grocery lists for stores that lack groceries doesn’t really equate to much.

As these items were fired at me, I did my best to remember Rise Ft. Meyers. Remember that? Just four months ago I flew to Florida and declared the word grace as my word for 2020. Who the fuck knew that I’d need that word more than ever. But, as the pandemic continues, I don’t find solace in that word. I find defeat. How much grace do I have to give myself before I find some sense of normalcy?

In my quest to try to figure shit out, I reread one of my favorite marketing books – Start with Why by Simon Sinek. If you’ve never read it, please do. Or, at least watch his Ted Talk. Even if you aren’t into marketing, there is a lot of wisdom in it. It has been years since I’ve read this book and this time, I was more focused on me than how I approach marketing campaigns. I thought maybe I needed to rediscover my why. And, it was during this re-read that I stumbled across a line that was more than relevant to my life right now… Simon says, “No one likes to lose and most healthy people live their life to win. The only variation is the score we use… The metric is relative but the desire is the same.”

Let me say it again for the folks in the back… most people live their life to win. The only variation is the score we use. It made me realize that right now, I need to modify my score card a bit. It isn’t so much about giving myself grace for screwing up, but instead reminding myself of what matters and how I’m keeping score of it.

So what do I write down everyday that matters to me?

Jake knowing I love him unconditionally. Grow something in my garden. Earn the respect of my co-workers. Retire at 55. Self-publishing a book. Practice gratitude everyday. Spend quality time with my father. Manage my weight. Beat my Grandma’s PR. Maximize a growth mindset.

These are just some of the things I strive for… these are the marks that I keep dibs on. And right now, some of these are a big stretch for me. But what Simon reminded me of today is how I keep score matters. Am I scoring my parenting ability on the meals I make Jake for dinner… or for showing up as him mom, every single day. Am I gauging success on what Parenting Magazine says my kid needs for nutrition or on the fact that we laughed so hard I almost wet myself? Because if it is the latter of the two, I’m crushing that goal. The first, not so much.

Am I a self-published author? Not yet. Did I miss my April writing goal? Yep. But am I further along on writing a book than I ever have been before? Yep. Do I know without a doubt that this darn thing will be published even if nobody buys it. Yep. Am I committed to keep plugging away, one word at a time. Yep.

Am I struggling to keep a positive attitude during this time period? Hell yeah. But is the mark my daily attitude or the fact that I keep showing up every single day and am at least trying?

In other words, I know my why. I’m someone who has invested a lot of time in understanding what makes me tick… and even so, still find myself at least questioning if I’m still on-course. And, it turns out, my desire to win isn’t unique but instead totally normal. But, what I do know is sometimes how we’re keeping score isn’t so easy. How we determine if we’re living up to our why can be disguised or temporarily misplaced or lost in the shuffle of just trying to get through the day or making the poor mistake of comparing our score to someone else’s.

This weekend I took a step back and allowed myself to reallocate my scorecard. Did I love on my son? Am I saving money? Am I showing up for my co-workers and doing my work? Am I putting healthy food (along with the snacks) in my body? Am I getting outside and moving my legs? Am I carving out moments to peck away at my book? These are all things I can control, even in a world that seems so out of control right now. But it is these little wins that matter folks. And it is these races I intend to win next month.

I have no clue what chaos comes with a new calendar month. But all I do know is even that can’t shake my why.

And then this happened…

hollisTwo months ago, I was diligently taking notes as Dave Hollis educated this pragmatic planner on how I was made for more and how I could get out of my own way. As I scribbled notes, I added pre-order his book to my to-do list and soaked in all of the things that might get in the way. The list was solid – those who love me not understanding how this conference changed me, my fears, individuals who shouldn’t be do make their way into my headspace, the day-to-day distractions that consume my time but aren’t in life with the vision I’m creating for myself. It was a nice solid list. And, like a good rule follower, I made a plan… that even included discontinuing Apple News and all of the smut magazine reading I’ve thoroughly enjoyed for years.

I started to write a book. I started making small changes to my diet. I was more conscious of whose opinion I let in. For two months, I did well. And then, COVID-19 hit. This was not on Dave’s list. To say it has uprooted day-to-day life is an understatement. To say my healthy habits extended to including mini Cadbury eggs wouldn’t be a complete lie. In a single week our spring break was cancelled, my office moved home, my dad landed in the hospital and now needs additional care and my child’s school was postponed indefinitely. This is nothing compared to what many of my friends and family are going through but for just a minute, I just quit caring. I ordered spanx leggings. I “forgot” to wash my hair. I enjoyed quite the pity party that involved top the tater.

But here’s the thing. The little voice that says “made for more” (or the hat that’s sitting on my desk staring at me) is screaming out more than ever. I’m a solid 5 chapters into the rough draft of my book. That’s a third of a book. And now that there are real words on paper and an outline and a purpose, it is a lot harder to walk away. I find myself doubling down on gratitude and discovering how blessed I am to live where I live, have the job I have, and the family and friend supports. It is hard to feel anxious or sad when you add those items to the mix. In other words, the tools I learned at RISE Fort Meyers couldn’t be more relevant than they are in this moment.

So for now, I’m drinking the darn water alone. I’m going for walks and runs – either outside or on my treadmill. I bought a book of postcards to send handwritten notes to friends. I’m doing my best to put down technology in the evening to play with my kid. I’m listening to the birds and allowing myself to see the humor in the stupid red squirrel that has figured out how to maneuver himself into our squirrel proof feeder. And most importantly of all, I’m giving myself some grace when I eat the mini Cadbury eggs.

Harvard Business Review posted an article today about grief. It took me a minute to connect that so many of my feelings right now are a result of anticipatory grief. AKA the fear of the unknown and the disruption in our normal life that feels like actual loss. Today I emailed my former office mates the article because I miss them dearly. In our commitment to social distancing, working from home is a small price to pay but it doesn’t change the loss or grief we are feeling. Somehow the geek in me finds comfort in knowing that these abnormal feelings are in fact normal.

So today, I’m reminding myself to practice giving myself grace and to remember that perspective matters more than ever. If you had told me two months ago a pandemic would turn my life upside down, I would have laughed. But today, I can proudly say, if ever there was a time to be made for more… to show up for life… to make things count… it is now. And that my friends, is my latest Rise Fort Myers update.

Here we go…

Accountability Check In

This post will be short but accountable. It’ll soon be 2-months since RISE Ft. Myers. I’m not going to lie. A series of life changing things have not happened and my universe is not altered. But, sometimes it is the little things that remind me, progress not perfection. After all, isn’t that the very definition of grace? Last night was no exception.

Over the last month, I’ve been building my treadmill time to 30-minutes. On Tuesday, I got to 16-minutes and quit. I wasn’t feeling it and rather than push through it, I hopped off. In the past, that little blip on my radar may have derailed me. But, not this time. On Thursday, I hit 15-minutes and felt the same desire. But, instead of hopping off, I doubled down. I finished. It felt great. It is crazy how the simplest act of continuing to move forward can be so easy yet so difficult.

Changing habits takes time. Minding one’s emotions and muscle memory is a real thing. But, the only way to get better is to try. To frankly show up and say, here I am world. Take it or leave it. Frankly, that’s how writing the book is going but the point is it is moving forward.

So as Mr. Dave Hollis says, let’s go… (and yes, I did totally pre-order his book)… I have one more chapter to write this afternoon to hit my February goal. My fingers are fired up and so with that… more to come on the RISE Journey soon.

1:400,000,000,000

Mel_Robbins

Mind blown. I can’t believe I didn’t watch Mel Robbins’ Ted Talk about How to stop screwing yourself over sooner. Such a great talk. You must go watch it now!

It was referenced at RISE. Yes, this is another RISE follow-up post about my quest to give myself grace and pursue my dreams. It was the foundation for us leaping out of our chairs and dancing like idiots. (Which by the way, I’m still occasionally making my co-workers do and it is still about 100% effective in making us laugh like school children). But, now I understand the context of launching yourself forward. That we need to quit telling ourselves we’re fine and actually do something about making our life better… which involves forcing ourselves to be uncomfortable.

Now let’s be real for a second. I’ve managed to do this. Running races at my size is not comfortable. Attending RISE solo was extremely UNCOMFORTABLE. Changing jobs when I thrive on stability and the known is scary and uncomfortable. Making a concerted effort to be social when I’m the world’s largest introvert is painfully uncomfortable. So yes, I force myself out of my comfort zone regularly for things that I think will make me a better person for others… but not necessarily for myself.

Yep – back to that whole thing of grace. That whole thing of while being there for everyone else is great, it is too uncomfortable to put myself first. To act on the things that would make me achieve the selfish thing I want for myself. And what a shame… Gibbons makes it clear that there is only a 1:400,000,000,000 chance we are here. (That’s 1 in 400 trillion for those who aren’t good at numbers). So, why do I feel it is ok to waste that? It isn’t. End. Of. Story.

And so, I’m throwing this out to the universe (or the 5 people still reading this post). I’m self-publishing a book. I’m doing it for me. It will not be a New York Time Best Seller. It will not necessarily inspire others. But, it will be a tangible, in-print book that shares my why. It’ll be framed around running. It’ll be honest and raw and probably include a few typos and a lot of run-on sentences. It will not be perfect. But it will be mine.

I hope 1-year from now I’m talking about the book that nobody’s talking about. I hope that I have found enough inner peace that rather than wonder if anyone has read it, I’m just happy I put my words out into the universe.

Working title: Sh*t Happens.

I’ve always found when I put something on this blog, it happens. For better or worse, I’m a person who knows that once I say something, I’m committed. And so here we go…

Last note, if you are still reading this, thank you. But take 20-minutes and go watch Mel. Take a minute to appreciate how flipping amazing it is that we are given this gift and to ask yourself, what do you want?

Hard As F$**

Two weeks ago I was jumping up and down in Ft. Myers dreaming big and owning the word grace. Today, I’m sitting in a dimly lit coffee shop devouring a delicious latte contemplating the complexities of habit forming. Later today, I’ll be purchasing a copy of the Power of Habits for fear my local library will start to set limitations on the number of times you can renew or recheck out the same book.

I doubt y’all are anxiously awaiting news of whether this transformation atRISE will stick. But, for me, writing about it holds me accountable. Truth be told, it is baby steps. Think, Paul Abdul’s song lyrics of “I take two steps forward, I take two steps back…” from her hit song Opposites Attract playing out over and over again at Moon Lake Estates.

What does that mean? Let’s see… I drove my co-workers crazy playing the Spotify playlist from Ft. Myers. Turns out that jumping up and down and jamming to music is fun but unfortunately, not an effective and efficient way to remain a productive contributor at one’s day job. I now limit that playlist to my morning routine and running. Yep. I’m running again. But, just 10-15 minute spurts, 4-days per week. We’ll see where this goes but I’m challenging myself to make that 15 minutes count. And then there is the water drinking. I challenged a co-worker (they are amazingly good sports) to a water drinking contest in which we are confident we did more damage to our kidneys in a single day than a weekend bender would have done… but I did manage to hit triple digits in ounces that afternoon. That said, I’ve scaled that goal back to a realistic but noble intake of 72 ounces of water per day.  My success rate right now is about 50%. As for getting up an hour early? Nada. But, I am getting up 15-minutes early and forcing myself to write down things I’m grateful for, which is particularly difficult that early in the morning.

And that brings me to the battle with healthy food habits. I started with breakfast. I’ve now re-engineered what I eat in the morning and I feel that’s working. I’ve also made a commitment to record everything I eat with the understanding that there is no right or wrong. But instead, I just need to understand what’s going on. The calorie counter doesn’t lie. And, as fun as that meat and cheese tray was this past week, it is clear that I need to make some choices beyond breakfast to get to my end game.

Other notable changes – I unsubscribed to Apple News (goodbye smutty magazines that reinforce I’ll never be pretty enough) and the New York Times. I’ve moved my bedtime up and am limiting my television intake, which means no Bachelor but still the occasional Bravo Reality TV show.

That’s the latest on this journey of grace. I’m still defining what success looks like because it can’t be a number on the scale of this ideal version or a better me because what does that even mean? But I do know it involves making incremental changes and letting go of what’s getting in my way of making space for what I could become.

Keeping the momentum of RISE alive is tough because honestly creating new habits is hard AF. But, the stubborn, gritty, goal setting no nonsense gal appears to be popping up now and again. She’s testing the waters on this new challenge. And, I’m doing my best to give her some grace. We’ll see where this journey takes me in the coming months.

Why RISE?

To say I was skeptical is an understatement. This introvert does not embrace large crowds. I struggle to strike up conversation with strangers. Nothing about me would seek out a crowd of thousands. So, when the announcement of RISE Fort Myers came across my newsfeed, my instinct was to scroll. Only I didn’t. Something caused me to pause. I clicked. And that quickly, a spark had been ignited in me that couldn’t be put out.

The antagonist in me fought back. I hesitated, assuming tickets would sell out and that’d make the decision for me. Then, I could tell myself it wasn’t meant to be. But, that didn’t happen. Rachel’s marketing had hooked me and seats were available.  Each day her conference would show up in my feed beckoning me to hop on a plane and head due south to see if I could rediscover my true north. Rachel won. For the first time in my adult life, instead of beating myself up over why, I let myself say why not.

I’ve never attended a personal development conference.  I’ve always aimed for perfection but my journey has been in isolation and generally involved higher education. I had no idea what to expect.  So, I did what any Gen X introvert would do…I researched the hell out of Hollis and RISE because if I was going to make this investment, I was going to make it count (Yes, I’m the girl that was irritated when I got an A- in my MBA program). I read the books, subscribed to the podcasts, watched the Rach and Dave Morning Show and devoured the documentary. I quickly accepted that I’d be traveling thousands of miles to dance like an idiot, share scary secrets with strangers, and attempt to navigate Florida’s interstate with Siri as my co-pilot. I was scared but prepared.

I went all in on day one. I showed up early and chatted with strangers. I drank the water and set my intentions. And, I danced. Oh did I dance. This country bumpkin jiggled and strutted with a total of zero rhythm and patted herself on the back for ‘keeping it real’. By the time Rachel hit the stage, I felt like the gold star student ready to show myself that I was so together that this conference was just a brief respite before returning north and resuming regular scheduled programming.

Then, we unpacked. We unpacked and we unpacked and we unpacked. And, just when I thought we couldn’t unpack anymore, we unpacked some more.  We talked trauma. We stood up for our sisters. We talked triggers. We talked habits, good and bad. We dove into body image and the 10 bod commandments.  I soaked it all in. I cried. And I cried. I took notes. I was present. I put away technology and let the words soak into my body. I checked my traumas off on a sheet one at a time, at peace with knowing that while those things happened to me, they did not define me. Years of therapy had paid off.  I was feeling good, right until I wasn’t.

I didn’t know going in that a single aha moment would trigger so much baggage in me, that I’d want to reframe my entire life. Yep. Rachel Hollis went there. What past experiences have shaped your perspective on life?  What if that perspective was wrong? What if you took time to do something about it? And, let’s just keep going, what if you took a minute to understand what triggers the bad habits so that you could do something about it?

Newsflash – I’m over weight. Because I eat too much, sometimes, right? But, I try to conquer that with super healthy habits like running half-marathons. Unlike so many other runners, though, I’ve been running for 9-years and have completed over a dozen half-marathons and gained weight.  I never understood why I’m doing all of this work on myself to do this race but yet am not motivated enough to lose the weight. My inner answer has always been you need to try harder. But damn Rachel and her ability to push us past surface level answers. The truth is, NONE of this was about losing weight.

The reality is running is really hard at my size, especially since I don’t train properly, and despite finding the strength to finish, I never feel amazing after a race. I run half-marathons to inspire other folks and because I put it on the stupid internet my pride says, you better cross that finish line no matter what. Because, YOU show up for people. I don’t know who these people are but I show up for people.  And, I’ve managed to find the joy in finishing last and failing and telling myself it is ok to not be perfect because that’s the lesson I wanted to spread for those people.

But here’s the problem. I DON’T show up for myself in those races. I don’t take care of my body leading up to those races. I don’t invest the time in meal prep or blessing my body with healthy food or stretching or doing any of the things runners do to care of themselves. And, because of that, I’m ok with running. It isn’t selfish or about me, it is about them so that’s ok.

And yep, just like that the trigger hits. Twenty-two years ago I got in a fight with mom about laundry. She’d been sick for 4-years and I was tired of doing everything for her and so for the first time ever, I exploded at her. I told her she could get her own laundry from the basement. And with all the drama of an 18-year old with a license and car I stormed off and went to work…. Ten hours later my uncle was driving me to the hospital so I could say good-bye. By the time I got there she was unconscious. She’d die the next day. And for 23-years, I’ve been trying to make up for that moment by showing up every day for everyone else. If I could just keep showing up for everyone else in the world, it’d be ok.

I had processed in therapy and understood that my mama knew I loved her when she died. That it isn’t my fault she died. But, I never took the time to understand how that single action would reshape my perspective on what I call being a good person. The truth is, it is the most selfish thing ever because when I don’t show up for myself, it shows up as all sorts of crazy in my day-to-day life. It shows up as eating fast food for convenience versus prepping healthy meals. It shows up as binge watching Netflix instead of moving my body or spending time with my family and friends. It shows up as me being short with my husband because he’s trying to help and doesn’t he get it, I help people, they don’t help me. It shows up as me juggling twenty-seven things like so many mamas I know only to say, what this, no problem… even though I’m a mess inside. It shows up as me making myself smaller so I can fit into the life my husband has made for us versus the life I want for myself. It shows up as me investing time and energy in things I don’t love but think I should love. But, something changed this week.

Right before my flight took off this week, my dad landed in the hospital. He’s been on and off sick for about a decade now. My gut screamed, you better stay, because what if something happens? I struggled with what to do. I waited for someone to judge me or give me the fuel to stay. For someone to say, wow, are you sure you should go on that flight? But here’s the thing, nobody said that. Everyone said get on that plane. Everyone said go and have fun. Dad will be here when get back. And, thanks to trip insurance, I forced myself on to that plane because I could always fly home. And, if I’m being totally honest, I hopped on that plane for them because I didn’t want them to think I couldn’t do it. As soon as we were in the air, I second guessed my decision. But, it was too late.

I sat with this guilt while Rachel talked about trauma. I danced with it. I mulled about it back at my hotel room alone. And, when we talked about triggers, the light bulb went off. My trigger isn’t a fear of being abandoned but a fear of abandoning someone I love. A fear of not being enough for them. And, so every time I let someone else down in my head, I’m triggered. Because for years, I’ve been telling myself that while my mom loved me, I let her down that day I stormed out over stupid laundry. And, if I could just double down and never let anyone down, I’d make up for that day.

Here’s the problem – my bar is high. I expect myself to show up perfectly for people every time. They don’t, but I do. And, given I’m far from perfect, I fail A LOT. So I’m triggered a lot, which then makes me feel like I didn’t show up for them, which triggers me to double down on my investment in them versus my investment in me. I honestly believed if I just showed up more for them, I’d be a better version of myself.  But am I? No. How sad is it that others believed in me more than myself—that it was because of them I got on a plane to work on myself.

The conference ended with the future. To understand that at any moment we can make the conscious choice to show up for life.  That’s step one. Then there is the work. The really, really hard part of actually doing the work to live the life you want. That scares me. And is the thing that I need more than ever. So my word of the year is grace. Because this all or nothing approach to perfection or curling up and being small – yeah that doesn’t work for my anymore. That I know that to be me, I’m going to have to give myself and those around me some grace to figure it out. And so, 2020 will forever be remembered as the year I stepped up to the plate but gave myself some grace to show up as me.

My goal is to tackle health, one step at a time. This may culminate in a half-marathon but only if I’m willing to invest the time to do it right. To see what I’m really capable of. My ten year dream is to know I could complete a 12-hour Trail Ultramarathon strong if I wanted because I am truly healthy and whole.. which means I’d run the Ultra for me and nobody else, but only if that’s STILL my dream. To do that, I need to channel some Lindsey Vonn and rediscover the big, bad ass I used to be.

Lots of folks have asked me if attending RISE is worth it. They’ve asked for the down low and whether this is something they should consider. It depends. It depends if you are open to the idea that you are worth more. If you are open to putting yourself first or making the investment in not changing yourself but acknowledging your worth. (And, if you’re willing to release your inner dance moves because you won’t get away with not doing this). This conference didn’t change my life but it reminded me that I am blessed with a life that’s worth living. And, that’s an investment I’m ready to start making every single day.

 

Good Enough Folks

newyearnewmeTwenty years ago today I rang in the New Year in the control room at KBJR-TV. I had just started my first real job as a journalist and in case you hadn’t heard, there was a fear that the world was going to end on Y2K. Or, at the minimum, ATMs and all other computer devices weren’t going to work.  Midnight came and went and other than a minor snafu with our live shot in which a reporter attempted to do a withdrawal from an ATM to show the world hadn’t ended only to discover he had insufficient funds and the withdrawal didn’t work, life went on. The world didn’t end. We signed off and went to the local watering hold to celebrate a new decade. I drank too much and started 2001 with a hangover only the 21-year version of me could endure.

Fast forward to today. I’m currently drinking my last latte of the decade and feeling the pressure to figure things out. Does anyone else ever feel that insurmountable pressure on New Year’s to make some declaration of being a better version of one’s self? Let me give you a tip I wish I could follow, don’t fall for it. You and I are actually good enough. That’s right, good enough. Yes – today marks the end of a decade and tomorrow opens a blank book to a new decade in which we get to write our own story. Own our own narrative. Do all the things. But, can we just for one minute acknowledge that it is also just another day in which we may overindulge tonight and tomorrow, roll out of bed and put our pants one leg at a time just like any other day.  We will be no different. We will be no better or worse. We will know no more than what we know right now. But, we will have the opportunity to learn more and be more and grow into the person who we want to be and that is what it means to work on one’s self. And the amazing thing is this happens every single day. Not just when there is a new year or a new decade.

Next week, I’m doing something I’ve never done before. The skeptic in me is boarding a plane and flying to Florida to attend Rise. This introvert is going to join 4,000 other women to spend 3 days in a full blown time out to spend some time figuring things out. It is a substantial investment in time and money. But, the way I see it, I dropped $15,000 and two years of my life on an MA only to do it again 10-years later at $20,000 for an MBA, just because I feel education is a good investment. Don’t I at least owe it to myself to invest a fraction of that time and money to understand what’s holding me back from being the best version of myself? And, what does that even mean? Maybe the best version is the gal that shows up some days and gives 25% and binge watches You on Netflix… but is a good friend, daughter, wife, co-worker and mother. Would that really be so bad? When did showing up become such a negative? And, if a $1,000 investment and a few days of my time and attention makes me ok with that, well that’ll save me a lot of therapist bills. The alternative, I leave with a clearer version of myself and what matters. Or, I discover that the billion dollar self-help/personal growth category isn’t really at all helpful for me and spend 3-days on a beach in Florida reading good books, sipping latte’s and working on a tan. Last I checked, R&R is good for the heart and soul.

The one thing I do know for 2020 is I want to be more honest with myself about what motivates me versus what I want people to think motivates me.  Maybe it will be self-help conferences, long hikes in the woods and half-marathons. Or, maybe it’ll be trashy tv, bon bons and bonding sessions with my gal pals. I honestly don’t know. But, I want to be a bit more authentic about what I share with people and why. Because I do believe that in a world of perfectly polished posts and photos, a lot of us are feeling that same pressure to outshine ourselves. And, as fun as that ride has been the past 20-years, I’m ready to turn the page to a more authentic, albeit messy, version of myself.

So my wish for you and me as we close out this decade and frankly every day is to find peace with the world we’re in—that when we go to the ATM of life, we find that we’re not overdrawn by trying to be more and do more for others but instead investing in a life that’s good enough… for ourselves.

Eight Years Down, A Lifetime to Go

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At least one person in my world thinks I’m number 1!

Eight years ago, I overcame my insecurities and lined up for my first timed race in decades.  I had decided to become a runner after indulging in too many chips and margaritas, waking up hung over and seriously questioning my unmotivated self.  I had just gotten borderline news from my primary care doctor that implied if I wanted to continue indulging in chips, I needed to start moving more.  A plus size gal in my early 30s, several acquaintances raised their brow at me when I declared I was going to be a runner. The only logical response for this Fin was to sign up and complete a half-marathon because the best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can’t. My time was mediocre at best but I finished.

Thirty plus races later, I’m currently carbo loading for another Whistlestop Half Marathon. I’m still insecure. I’m still overweight. I still enjoy too many chips and margaritas. And, my finish line time is still mediocre. My health indicators, such as cholesterol and blood pressure, are better but in every other realm I have failed at running. And, here’s a dirty secret, I don’t even like running.

There, I said it. I actually hate running. I love buying shoes, socks and stretchy black running pants. I love checking out new trails, reading inspirational running stories, posting selfies from gorgeous vistas, and runner swag. I love the running culture—the kind strangers you joke with on the trail or catch a ride with on the shuttle bus.  The ultra-fast marathoners who pass me on the trail and take time to tell me I’m doing great, even though they’ve ran 13+ more miles than me and can run 2-3 miles to my 1. I love traveling to new places and meeting the volunteers who dedicate their Saturdays so I can run.

It turns out you can do all of that without actually running.  When push comes to shove, though, I absolutely hate running. I’m sure this is partially due to my size.   But, if I’m honest, I realized that deep down I hate running because I’m mediocre at it. And, I’m mediocre at it because I’m not willing to put the work in to be a good runner. I’m not willing to do the stretches, train regularly, eat healthy and lose weight so that my legs aren’t carrying an extra hundred pounds.

Why after 8-years do I keep showing up? Who knows. Who cares. I certainly don’t. Because at the end of the day, something keeps bringing me back to the trail. Perhaps it is my inner Sisu—this gritty hustle deep within me that says I’m running for me and that’s enough. It doesn’t matter if I’m first or last. That instead, this run reminds me that you get out what you put in. And that at times, that needs to be enough.

I’ve had one of the most lackluster trainings in the past 8-years. I haven’t run 13-miles since I crossed the finish line at Grandma’s Half-Marathon in June. I’ve done minimal training and thoroughly enjoyed a summer of over indulging. In all tangible ways to measure my training, I have failed. Except I haven’t, because I keep showing up. I’m not willing to let the dream of someday being a good runner and everything I could have, should have done, prevent me from just being a runner today. I’m not willing to let the part of me that longs to finish first or to be the best, prevent me from doing something folks said I couldn’t do.  Call it cliché, I run because I can folks, and for someone who had a one-legged dad right now, that means something. And come Saturday, I’ll cross that finish line—not for him but me. It won’t be pretty but it’ll be me doing me.

Say What You Mean to Say

This post is in honor of an extraordinary woman who I had the opportunity to meet by chance. This weekend, she’s fighting her final battle. It was an honor and privilege to know her. And, today I’m reminded of how we never just know how much time we have left to say what we mean to say to folks.

This is a story about an unlikely encounter with an extraordinary woman named Kendra Williams. I first learned of Kendra Williams in 2007 while querying Midwest Living Magazine to write an article about our local mead shop. I remember looking at the Midwest Living masthead and seeing her listed as travel editor and thinking to myself, wow, I sure would love to have her job. I mailed my query, and while hopeful, realistic I would never hear from Ms. Williams. This would be the first of many times she proved me wrong.

In the fall of 2007, I started an unlikely after hour job scouting for Midwest Living Magazine. I explored state parks and public campgrounds; sought out scenic drives and island getaways; taste tested burgers, pizza and fish galore; and shared with Midwest Living readers why I love skipping rocks. I wrote about my experiences, uploaded reports, and filled out databases, all under the guidance of Kendra. And then there were the cats.

Thanks to Facebook, Kendra and I were connected outside of Midwest Living. She was in need of a quality home for her two cats. My husband and I had room. We met up in Duluth for our first non-virtual connection. I left with Chickpea and Mischief. These cats became a part of our annual Christmas card photo and appear on our Christmas tree ornaments. In other words, they became family. But, they also taught me about faith. Several years into our journey, both cats wandered away at different times. It pained me to notify Kendra of my inability to keep her pets safe. Rather than question our parenting abilities, Kendra prayed to the Saint of Lost things. In both cases, the cats returned. Perhaps it was coincidence, but her faith was unwavering and I couldn’t help but wonder, how can someone have such faith?

Kendra’s prayers for my family and I continued. As we grew closer over email chats and some serious redline editing, I discovered what an amazing editor, mentor and friend she was to everyone who crossed her path. She was honest with me about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and offered me real life advice about the journey to whether I wanted to transition from occasional freelance to full-time writer. It is because of this, I have finally found a career I love, while not losing sight of my desire to put words on paper daily.
Soon after, I discovered myself seeking out Kendra for more than professional advice. I shared my adoption struggles and sought comfort in her wisdom. Kendra could relate—because her journey to motherhood was similar. More than once, a kind email, message or tweet would lift my spirits. And when the pain hit of a heartbreaking failed adoption, Kendra sent messages of strength, hope and prayers. Months later I would become pregnant and my prayers would be answered.

Soon after, Kendra was diagnosed with MS and in 2014 officially left Midwest Living Magazine. While our professional relationship had come to a close, I continued to stay in-touch. Her posts from Des Moines offered inspiration and courage and reminded me of the power of resilience. And then the cancer came. It was aggressive and mean and relentless. It was painful to watch someone go through so much heartbreak, even virtually from hundreds of miles away. I didn’t understand why someone or something would do this to anyone, let alone to Kendra.

Even in her suffering, Kendra continued to draw strength from God. Over the past few years, she has shared her journey of hope. She has found humor in her pain and beauty in her life, even on the darkest of days. She’s fought harder than anyone I know and still continues to be grateful for all she has in her life. There’s making lemon-aid out of lemons and then there’s Kendra—a woman who has found a way to make life out of death.

This past month, she announced that her primary care doctors were in discussions with her about hospice care. Yet, she still continues to fight, taking baby doses of chemo to see if she can extend life just a little bit longer.

At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want? To just have one more moment with those we love. To have one more conversation. One more interaction. One more memory with those whom we have lost. But, how many of us would continue to fight the fight like Kendra? It was during these moments that I truly began to understand the power of faith.

Eleven years ago, an ordinary letter created an extraordinary impact in my life. The recipient was Kendra Williams. And today, I just wanted to let her know that I’ll always be grateful for our connection. I pray she continues to find love, hope and strength in the coming days and weeks. I am forever grateful for this connection.

Six Going on Sixty!

Jake here again! Mom took a hiatus from updating this blog but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped aging. The last trip around the sun was CRAZY busy. I honestly don’t know how kids have time to be kids now-a-days.

Topping the list, I graduated from kindergarten this year with off the chart testing scores. I enjoy school, especially recess, gym and lunch. I’m a really good reader and sometimes I humor mom and dad and pretend I enjoy reading. I own so many books. But, if given a choice, I’ll take playing over reading any day.

I really love to play. I love playing Guess Who, card games, chess and checkers. I have dozens of games loaded on my Amazon Kindle and sneak as much screen time as mom and dad will allow. Unfortunately, it isn’t nearly enough. But, they say it is the only way to make me sit still and rest. I hate rest. Seriously folks, you can rest when you are dead.

That means, I’m what many folks would call an overly active little boy. AKA I love to play. Are you sensing a theme here? This past year I mastered wrestling, or at least took first place in my age and weight division. I can dribble with both hands, kick a soccer ball and make a basket on a 10-foot high hoop. And, you should see me dominate at baseball. I bat leftie like mom and can knock them out of the park… or at least past the bases. I love pitching, catching and tossing the ball around. I even love the occasional run around the bases. Plus, I look pretty cute in my uniform.

I still live on Moon Lake. As part of mom and dad’s irrational fear about me accidentally drowning, we’ve really been working on my swimming skills. This has resulted in some fish like tendencies, especially if jumping off the pontoon or dock at Moon Lake Park, or tubing at the Green Cabin.

Speaking of fishing, it turns out the fish in Moon Lake LOVE hot dogs. Who would have thought it? The hot dogs are a big hit and I’ve caught dozens of sunfish. They are so cute but mom and dad never let me keep them.  That said, I did with a pet goldfish named Goldie during Blueberry Festival, despite mom and dad’s best efforts to make me lose. My luck ran out, though, on the blueberry pie eating contest and tractor pull. Next up, is a rematch with the sheep at mutton busting. This year, I’ve convinced the sheep hoof will NOT get the best of me.

I’d like to think I’m a pretty creative kid. I like to tell stories (occasionally made up ones) and I’ve really worked on controlling my temper. I’m learning to use my words to express my feelings and what I want (and have even been told I occasionally talk too much).  I have lots of friends at daycare and at the big brown school and my teachers are great.

I still love eating. I can now pack in an entire Jack’s Pizza or a bag of cherries. Despite my best efforts to eat mom and dad out of house and home, I’m losing weight and gaining inches. I also keep having these growth spurts that really hurt my knees. Pretty soon, I’ll be taller than mom and dad.

Mom and dad kept me pretty busy this past year. In addition to school, I joined wrestling, cub scouts (and my first Pinewood Derby) and bible school. I got my own popcorn at Toy Story 4 and worked with dad in the workshop. I also get to cut my freezie pops open with my own green knife (with supervision of course). I occasionally collect eggs from our chickens and am starting to master cracking them. If nothing else, the chickens really love me petting and chasing them. We vacationed in California and mom took me to the Disney castle. I also got to see Storm Troopers and ride the Toy Story ride at Disneyland. We swam in the ocean and visited an aircraft carrier.

Looking ahead, this weekend is my football themed birthday party and mutton busting. We have one more cabin weekend, a trip up the north shore (and some racing on the alpine slides) and then back to school we go. I’m not super excited for school but I do get a pair of new gym shoes, so that’s cool.

All in all, it was another exciting adventure around the sun. Looking forward to what’s in store next year!

Jake from Moon Lake