5 Books that Changed my Perspective

I’m an avid reader so it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that a good book is something I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. This past year, I’ve really doubled down on my reading and devoured a number of game-changing books that in the words of my 8-year-old left me with my mind blown.

There are so many good books I read this year – all of which are listed on my Good Reads account. That said, there were five in-particular around the personal development space that really hit home for me. These books offered me keys to the kingdom – a better understanding of how my brain operates and why some of the most random things trigger me. Turns out, they aren’t that random.

In no particular order, I gift you these reading recommendations.

It’s ok that you’re not ok. By Megan Devine. I discovered this book by chance (thanks Amazon algorithm). After my dad died, I wanted a book that’d tell me it was ok to grieve my way. I’m convinced that book doesn’t exist, hence me writing my own book about grief and loss. That said, this book came close. Devine spends a lot of time exploring our country’s culture around grief and how sometimes folks’ best intentions in helping someone grieve fall flat. How in our cure all culture, we sometimes do more harm than good. “When you try to take someone’s pain away from them, you don’t make it better. You just tell them it’s not OK to talk about their pain,” she says. She also gives permission for folks to grieve on their own timeline and their own terms. In my heart, I knew I needed to grieve my loss this past year on my terms, but this book gave me the courage to do so.

What happened to you? By Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey. This poses the simple question of why we should ask the question of what happened to you versus what is wrong with you. I first bought this because I thought that was an interesting question to ponder. What I uncovered was a deep understanding of how my brain is wired, presented in a way that was engaging, interesting, educational, emotional, inspirational, scary and liberating all at the same time. This book changed the way I talk to myself and how I look at my past. Oprah says, “because what I know for sure is that everything that has happened to you was also happening for you. And all that time, in all of those moments, you were building strength. Strength times strength times strength equal power. What happened to you can be your power.” This book doesn’t try to say everything happens in life for a reason. Frankly, I don’t really buy into that anyway. But, it does reframe the power you have over your past if you do the work. It also draws connections in your everyday life that tie back to experiences from your childhood. Seriously, the connections are eerie, but at least for me, surprisingly accurate.  

Atomic Habits. By James Clear. “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems,” is one of the most quoted lines of this book. It is easy to understand why. In 2020, I attended a personal development conference that was all about goal setting. In hindsight, what I really needed in that moment was this book. If you have dreams and goals and desires in life (which if you don’t, that’s a bigger problem), this book is your guide to achieving them. This book doesn’t coach you into setting big ass SMART goals and then tell you to go change the world. In fact, Clear does the opposite. He says, you want to lose 100 pounds, go to the gym everyday but for under 2-minutes. Don’t go on a diet but instead, if your goal is to be a healthy person, start asking yourself what would a healthy person do. If you want to write a book – don’t drop $1,000 on a weekend long retreat. Instead, write for a few minutes. Every. Single. Day. In other words, we are a product of our habits. I’ve heard that in a variety of ways – often times in fat shaming with the common line, you are what you eat. But, Clear backs this up with science and tools and framework that makes you realize that incremental steps over the long haul is what gets you to the finish line. Seems obvious but in a world of instant gratification and life-changing transformations everywhere you turn, it is easy to forget that most if not all of us actually put our pants on one leg at a time and do the best we can with what we have – and how that’s more than enough if you build a system that supports the life you want to lead.

The 5 Second Rule and High Five Habits by Mel Robbins. Understanding the why behind stuff is one thing. Doing it is another. Clear’s book gave me the framework and set a bar that was achievable. Robbins takes that framework one step further with a self-help hack that’ll get you off the couch. The 5-second rule is a simple countdown from 5 that ends with action. Once you’ve got momentum, it is easier to keep going versus stopping. When I first heard about this, I thought it was lame. Then I watched her Ted Talk and was hooked. After reading her book and trying the hack before many, many summer runs, I can say it works. This fall, she followed up with another book called High Five Habits. This one is about how quick we are to self-sabotage ourself and how a simple act of giving yourself a high 5 in the morning, can rewire how you look at yourself. And frankly, if you don’t believe in yourself, what’s the point. All of the goal setting, habit stacking, momentum building in the world won’t work if at the end of the day, you think you suck. Together, these two books and Atomic Habits in-particular, have provided me more traction on my goals this past year than anything I’ve ever read in the past.

I’ve always been a strong believer that reading can change your life. In the words of someone much wiser than me, Dr. Seuss once wrote “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Happy Reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

Wonder and Worry

This weekend, I have the rare opportunity to explore my writing. For the first time ever, I’m participating in a writing workshop at the North Shore Readers and Writers Non-Fest in Grand Marais. The course is lead by creative writer Kathryn Savage. Remember back in early 2020 when I traveled to Florida to participate in a personal development conference? You know the one where I was terrified to dance with 10,000 strangers? Well I upped that today by sharing my writing with ten individuals. Turns out, it is a lot less revealing to dance like nobody is watching, then reveal your soul to strangers. The joys of being a writer.

Anyways, the class has my brain in overdrive. I will be leaving this weekend with so many more questions than answers. But, I’m also leaving a new found appreciation for some new forms of writing. I’m even playing with some new approaches to my non-fiction writing. Here’s a glimpse of just one of my writing prompts today. I hope you enjoy it.

Wonder and Worry

I wonder sometimes if I’m overly ambition. Too extra. Too out there. I worry that I am not enough.

I wonder if we had caught the addiction sooner, my mother would be alive. I worry I’ll follow in her footsteps.

I wonder if my son knows how much I love him. I worry I will smother him to death.

I wonder if I’ll ever lose the extra weight. I worry about the impact diet culture has on women.

I wonder if I love my job enough. I worry I’ll never find my calling.

I wonder about the roll COVID-19 and a broken health care system played in my father’s death. I worry I didn’t advocate hard enough.

I wonder if there’s a greater being in the universe calling the shots. I worry about challenging my faith.

I wonder how I reversed a life of poverty. I worry I am not generous enough.

I wonder why Pet Smart prohibited me from buying a goldfish. I worry about all of the goldfish sacrificed as prizes of the golf ball toss game at summer festivals.

I wonder why I grow so many zucchinis when I hate zucchini. I worry my garden will never grow.

I wonder if I love myself enough. I worry that my ego gets in the way.

I wonder how a dating app brought me and my husband together. I worry about how technology is changing relationships.

I wonder if I miss opportunities because I’m the world’s largest introvert. I worry that I talk too much.

I wonder where these words are coming from. I worry words are never enough.

I wonder if I worry too much. I worry that I wonder too much.

Grief and Gardening

This month, an essay I wrote about dad and gardening was published in Northern Gardener magazine. You can catch a glimpse of it here. It was shortened a bit since in typical Probst fashion, I was a bit wordy – so the full version continues on below. I learned a lot from my garden this past summer, including a bit about faith. There are so many things I never told my dad, but topping the list is just how much of him lives on in me.

Grieving in the Garden

Father daughter bonds take many shapes and sizes. For me, gardening offers me a rare moment to reconnect with dad. At just 42, I became an orphan. The story is complicated but the void in my heart is easy for any daughter to understand. Sure, I knew my parents wouldn’t live forever. But, my dad had 1,000 lives and for a while seemed invincible. Despite defeating the odds over and over again, it was a minor case of pneumonia that blindsided me Christmas Eve and left me alone.

Now, a few months later I find myself looking to the soil for answers. My dad and I shared a common love for making things grow.  Growing up, gardening season started at the local feed mill in early spring. It was there, I’d watch my dad slowly count out the exact number of seeds he’d need and place them gently in a brown paper sack. We’d then move on to the potato starters picking the ones with the funniest eyes. Back home, I’d watch him turn the soil over with fresh manure, prepping it for planting, but not placing a single seed in the soil.

“Is it time,” I’d ask almost daily. “Nope. You must be patient.” This was one virtue I didn’t inherit from dad. Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, my dad would determine it was time to plant.

One by one we’d place the seeds in rows marked by twine. We’d round out our plantings with small tomato and cucumber plants from the local greenhouse. And then we’d wait.  As the weeks dragged on, I’d watch my dad lovingly water and weed those tiny buds.

“Is it time,” I’d ask in earnest every day. “Nope. You must be patient.” I’d see those initial white blossoms morph into tiny pea pods knowing that someday we’d finally pick our first super sugar snap pea of the season. I can still taste it. Green beans soon followed with juicy cherry tomatoes, bi-colored sweet corn and bright red raspberries. Endless rows of cucumbers were soon ready to be canned in mom’s secret pickle recipe. Each day, I’d wander the garden in awe of what transpired over the summer. Dad made it seem so simple.

Years later, I’d try to replicate the magic in a makeshift garden in my first home. The veil was pulled back. Without the loving eyes (and watering) of dad, the plants died. I discovered that cheap soil, no fertilizer and an unfenced area in a heavily populated deer area spelled disaster. Weeks later, I glanced at my shriveled up decaying plants and decided I was too busy to tend to the garden. By summer’s end, the once plotted space was nothing more than grassy weeds.

I’d move several times over the next few years. Each move marked a new opportunity to plant. But, something always got in the way. And when it did, dad would share his bounty with me. As time went on, dad’s declining health limited that bounty. I didn’t realize it then, but I wanted to make up for lost time. So I returned to gardening.

I began plotting my vision of the perfect garden. Every year involved bigger and better. My husband tried to keep up with my growing demands of more raised beds, additional fencing, more hoses, more fruit trees, and perennials. We trucked in fresh manure. We fenced and fended some more. Despite being on a small lake lot with acreage under 2.0, the project quickly became unmanageable.  To overcompensate, I planted what was easy and could grow no matter what.

It started with the beans. There were so many beans. Purple beans. Green beans. Beans on top of beans.  And then there were the zucchinis.  I don’t even like zucchini. But it grew fast and furious in my garden, somehow compensating for my missed years.

I proudly shared my bounty with dad. “I don’t even like zucchini,” he’d quietly hint as I brought him baskets of them. “But I grew them, dad.”

“So, why don’t you eat them,” he’d say. (He knew I disliked them as well).

Back and forth we’d banter. He’d hint, in a not so subtle way, what he wanted from my garden. And, I’d try to navigate around the fact that we liked the same things and I didn’t want to give him my cherished sweet peas because I wanted them all for myself. I even attempted to pass off sweet peas from the Farmer’s Market as mine. He instantly knew they weren’t. This push pull relationship continued for years, yet for some reason I kept planting the zucchinis.

After my son was born, my priorities shifted yet again. The balancing act of being mom, daughter, wife, professional caught up to me. Areas of the garden were quickly taken over with mint. My raspberry bushes left untrimmed spreading like wildfire. Asparagus quickly became trimmed to the nub by north woods creatures and my unfertilized lingonberries succumbed to their demise. Areas of fencing now aged, were nothing but a minor inconvenience for the resident deer in the neighborhood. But yet the zucchinis kept growing.

Last summer I finally stopped. The garden scaled back to a mere four, 4×4 beds and a small plot of raspberries, sweet peas, sunflowers and mint. A few fruit trees remain and deer friendly perennials surround a newly made (and easily maintained) rock garden. I fertilized and doubled down on water. My dad, now an amputee, gladly accepted my single, simple offering of sweet cherry tomatoes and a few sugar snaps that I snatched from my son’s hands.  

“You might get this gardening thing down, yet,” he’d say before giving a friendly suggestion on how to improve my outcomes. “You just need to be patient.”

In hospice, dad declined quickly. I suddenly understood we were out of summers. There would be no more garden banter about how to make things better. His parting words of “I’m proud of you girls and I love you” captured a lifetime of love in a single moment. And then he was gone.

Due to COVID-19, there was no funeral and I’m left wondering how to live out my dad’s legacy. There are so many things I could do. Do I plant a tree or an entire apple orchard? A garden statue? Planters? My dad loved blueberries. I thumb through countless mail order catalogs looking for the perfect tribute. I turn to Pinterest. But, each time I’m overwhelmed with grief.

Like clockwork, spring finally arrives in the north woods. I find myself longing to solve this legacy question so I can check grief off my to-do list. If only it were that easy. Instead, bare ground looks back at me. I return to the basics. Prep the soil. Fertilize it. Plant it with what you love. Water it. Nurture it. Each movement is a living legacy to dad. Each time, it gets a little easier.  Turns out, grief like gardening, needs patience and grace.

What If?

Copper Harbor, Michigan

I just enjoyed the most incredible week off. I traveled the UP and listened to great podcasts, hiked, took some photos and curated an incredible piece of artwork. I also played the what if game. I tend to do this a couple times per year – once in the spring and once in the fall. It is an opportunity to reflect on what’s going well and not so well in my life.

For many moons, the what if game tended to lean negative. It was often reflecting on my past and contemplating if I had made the right decisions. In many ways, a game of regrets and being disappointed that I hadn’t accomplished more in life. Rarely, did I flip the switch and say what if this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now to get to the next thing. What if I’m setting myself up for success by being here in this moment thanks to the hard choices I’ve made in life. What if accomplishing more in life looked different for me because I’m actually really happy with the life I’m living – even if others might think rural Midwest living is lame. (PS They’re wrong).

Two things happened this week that steered the what if game in a different direction. First, I had pre-ordered Mel Robbins High Five Habits. It arrived just in time for vacation and my vacation happened to coincide with her high five challenge.  At some point, I need to write a post about some of the game changing books I’ve read that have inspired me to ask some tough questions and make minor tweaks in my life that have made a real impact… but until then, I’ll just say buy the book. Or, check it out at the library. Or, watch the videos about it. It is some super simple hacks to help you understand why you think the way you do and to help motivate you out of bed. Very similar to her other book that is also was a game changer for me.

Ask yourself, if it’s not about winning, then what is it about for you?

Then, my amazing friend Tracy launched a business called Stoneweaver. I ordered one of her custom pieces that comes with a question. The question associated with mine is: if it’s not about winning, then what is it about for you?

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, as I gear up for a race tomorrow morning. The race itself isn’t that exciting. I really just want to enjoy the fall colors and it helped motivate me off the couch this summer. But, it is sort of symbolic in that ten years ago, this was my first half-marathon (or any race) for that matter. (Quick plug, you can read all about this adventure in my book!) And, I realized I’m capable of so much more than I ever dreamed, if I only reframed my narrative from I can’t to I can… if I really want to. More importantly, my definition of winning in these races is finishing. For some, that is not enough. But, that’s what is so great about asking yourself what matters. You get to decide. And that’s pretty awesome.

And ultimately that’s the real question for me. This week I spent a lot of time dreaming. Trying to determine my next what if. What if I’m meant to tell more stories. What if I lost the weight. What if I went back to school or opened the business. Or, what if, I spent the next year being curious. Trying new things and seeing what other narratives I can challenge because I think my greatest passion in life is learning.

I’m ending the week with more questions than answers. A sign that I’m on the right path. Curious minds never stop questioning. I challenge you to do the same. Ask yourself what if and dream of what’s possible.

Sisu, Sunflowers and Spin

As I type this, I am less than 2-weeks away from race day. I’ll be going back to where it all started. Ten years ago, I crossed my first finish line after waddling 13.1 miles at the Whistlestop Half-Marathon in Ashland. This time, it’ll be a 10k. It is sort of crazy to think about everything that happened in-between.

I’m not going to attempt to sum up the past 10-years. But, these past few months, some signs reminded me about why I started running in the first place.

Spin. Yep. I purchased a spin bike. It was not on a whim. This summer I experienced my first “real” injury. Real in the sense that it literally hurt to walk in the morning, slept with a brace and donated about a dozen of my favorite shoes that don’t have good arch support. Plantar Fasciitis is no joke. I really wanted to run a race this fall, though, so I opted to cross train. That involved a few feeble attempts at swimming. But, I also decided to hit up a spin class at a local gym very early in the morning (wake up call of 4:45 am). Turns out, I love it. Turns out, driving over an hour every time I want to Spin is not sustainable, so I’m complimenting my in-person weekly class with a new addition to my home gym. I wish it didn’t take an injury (or mojitos) to try something new. But, running constantly reminds me that you’ll never know what you are capable of if you don’t show up and try. And, even beautiful things can be born out of pain.

Which leads me to my next update. Sisu. Don’t roll your eyes. I know I talk about this a lot. But now, it is embedded on my skin. Last month also marked my first tattoo. I won’t say this is something I’ve wanted my entire life. I will say the last time I thought about getting one was while studying abroad after my mom died. I ultimately chickened out (language barriers, alcohol and public health concerns may have had something to do with it as well). After dad died, the idea came back. Only this time, it wasn’t so in memory of my parents, but rather honoring the legacy they left behind. I could write a whole book about the ups and downs of my family (who couldn’t), but the heart of the story is I was blessed to have two parents who supported and instilled me a huge sense of ownership, accountability and determination to create the life I wanted for myself. There were no silver spoon hand-outs or ribbons when I finished last. But, there was always a space and acceptance for me to do me. And wow is that a gift. Plus, YOLO right?

Sisu tattoo

Finally, I grew sunflowers. As in plural. After dad died, I made a promise to myself to focus less on pleasing others. To recognize that the people and experiences that have meaning to me should get the lion’s share of my energy versus strangers, toxic people and inconsequential encounters in my day. Easier said than done. But, this summer, I let that play out in my garden. I know, sounds silly. Here’s the thing, though. I’m not a big fan of green beans. But, I used to grow tons of them because even this black thumb can go beans in northern Wisconsin. They’d often times rot in our fridge (I don’t can or freeze) or become compost in the garden. As would the zucchini and several other easy to grow but less than palette pleasing vegetables to me. I’d post a few pics on Instagram and call the garden a success. But seriously? Not so much.

This year, I didn’t grow beans. This year, I planted 3 rows of sunflowers. And a dozen tomato plants and an entire garlic bed so I could eat bruschetta weekly. This summer, I planted two sets of green peas to pick at after work. And for the first time ever, I experienced actual joy in my garden. Sure, it is covered in weeds and needs some serious soil work, but it was all mine. And, while there is certainly a scientific explanation to all of this, another part of me wants to believe this was partially dad’s doing. Another September sign that I honestly needed right now.

So how does this all tie back to running? Choices. There are so many things in this world we cannot control. But, honestly, sometimes the simplest of choices over things we do control matter most. I broke another narrative in my head about being the fat girl that can’t do things like group fitness classes, I grew the garden I wanted even knowing it might fail, and I literally branded myself with a reminder not only of the person I want to be but the person I already am, should I choose to show up for myself.

Random Moments

The scar looks much larger in life.

Facebook reminded me today that ten years ago I accidentally blended my finger while making guacamole. At the time, it was extremely traumatic. And, as someone with a low pain tolerance, I thought I was going to die. Crazy how surviving pregnancy and giving birth changes that perspective. But I digress.

I still have the scar from that immersion blender. Every time I look at it, I’m reminded how quickly life changes. Not in an overly dramatic way, but how something as simple as making guacamole, can scar you for life. Frankly, I think it is all of those small, simple things that add up to who we are as people.

This week I started training again. I’m nursing a real injury of plantar fasciitis, so I’m taking this slow. But, I’m already feeling life like has a bit more purpose. That, even in the midst of what’s sure to be yet another fall of COVID-19 chaos, that I’m in control of at least a small part of my life.

This summer I mentioned I was taking time to just think and be. A summer of productive procastination. It was an intense summer of Teremana margaritas, adventures with Jake, smut reading, cabin time, cocktails with friends and food. Soo much food. It was great for the soul and my mind. But, the past few weeks I’ve been feeling a bit aimless. A bit out of control. (Plus my pants are getting very tight). A bit like, what’s my purpose.

I opted to return to the basics. I’m ordering a Spin bike. I’m giving myself grace but training for a race again. I’m balancing out my summer reads with some personal development. Topping that list, gaining a better understanding of my PCOS. I’ve set a new writing goal and registered for a fall retreat. I’m making my bed every single day. I’m stretching for 2-minutes before I brush my teeth in the morning. Simple things that the book Atomic Habits (a must-read folks) taught me. I’m dreaming of a winter adventure with the family and maybe one by myself.

As beautiful as productive procrastination has been (and man it served me well), it is time to resume regular scheduled programming. Driving home today, I noticed the first tinge of red and gold on some leaves. A new wool sweater arrived at my house. While I’ve invested in my first pair of Birkenstocks (perhaps the makings of a future post), I am making plans to wear them with socks.

Transitions are always tough. Summer to fall signals a lot in my brain. A sense of urgency to make this year count. To not squander a single outdoor moment before the first snow flies. This year is no different, except that I’m going to try my hardest to balance a life of purpose with enough grace to also enjoy some productive procrastination. I think sometimes I approach life as an all or nothing. I’m finally realizing that maybe it doesn’t have to be this extreme.

More on this to come in the coming months. In the meantime, my latest blog post came out today on Another Mother Runner. They limited me to three of my favorite lyrics (beyond hard) to listen to while running. In case you are wondering, here’s the link: https://anothermotherrunner.com/my-top-three-song-lyrics-for-running/

Facing My Writing Fears

This past week tested my strength as a writer. For years, I’ve had no problem sharing my voice and perspective on this blog and more recently my first book. But, as a huge introvert who is slow to open to up folks, this past week has pushed me WAY outside my comfort zone.

My first book signing.

On Saturday, I did my first book signing at an independent book store. There were three other authors present as well. It was a great opportunity to have some interesting conversations about the book publishing journey and how we became authors. That part I loved.

On the flip side, it was the first in-person time where I was asking complete strangers to buy my book. Despite having a day job as a marketer, wowza that’s uncomfortable.

Then, I had my first speaking engagement as a runner’s group. I knew some of the women, including the organizers. It was even my idea. BUT, it wasn’t until I was reading a portion of a chapter out loud that I realized just how personal my writing is – and how these folks didn’t necessarily want to know what makes a stubborn Fin tick.

Here’s the thing, I didn’t die. I don’t know if the folks I talked to this past week cared about what I had to say. What I do know, is that it is important to me to keep pushing myself outside my comfort zone. I thought I’d share my talk below… and then also put out two more announcements into the world because that’s what I do.

I’ve been nursing a real case of plantar fasciitis (ouch). But, I signed up for a 10k in October with hopes of walk/jogging it. I’ll be following that up with a trip to my doctor and a consult with a weight management doctor to continue along my health journey in hopes to tone up over the winter. In May, I hope to return to Eau Claire or Door County for a half.

My other big news – I signed up for a writing retreat in November. Yep. Time to start book 2. I’ve learned so much the past year and I’m ready to start putting thoughts to paper. I’m also ready to tap into some real professionals to help me. It’ll be tough but time. The topic: It Could be Worse: A girlfriend’s guide to grief. More on this to come in the coming months. In the meantime, a few words about my running why from the Solstice Outdoors Running Group launch event in Ashland.

Running Presentation

I’m going to share a bit more about me in a minute… but first I want to ask you all a few questions.

  • Who here ran as a kid?
  • Who here stopped running at some point… drivers license, gained the freshman 15, it wasn’t cool…
  • How many decided for years they could no longer be a runner?
  • Who here remembers that day they decided to run anyway?
  • Anyone feel like a fraud that day? And maybe even still do?
  • How many folks here consider public speaking a form of torture?

That’s my story in a nutshell. I grew up as a tomboy and would run around for hours without thinking twice about it but at some point, I stopped. And I suddenly had this limiting belief that I couldn’t run anymore… so I didn’t. For years.

Great story. That probably leaves you wondering why I am here… I’ll tell you why. Mojitos.  Yep. Mojitos. Ten years ago, I drank a few too many mojitos at a dinner party and the competitive nature in me heard some friends talking about their races… and before I knew it I casually said, I’m training for a half.

I was not. Straight up bold faced lie. I’m sure nobody would have remembered that… but my husband had given me that look. You know… I think in reality it was confusion because he knew I wasn’t training… but I interpreted it as I couldn’t do a half-marathon…

And so I did what every logical, stubborn Finn would do… I signed up for a half-marathon that was 15-weeks away…

Spoiler alert – I finished. With all my toenails. I didn’t die. And surprisingly, I did not win.

This past winter I published a book… the book was sort of the antithesis of running books… there are so many running books out there that talk about how to train harder, lose weight, run faster, run slower, eat right, exercise… but there wasn’t really a book that said, hey – you over in the corner, if you want to run you can. Just put on some shoes and start running. That you can run a race with a goal of just finishing and that’s enough.

In fact, it is because of us back of packers that Olympians win. I mean think about it, if everyone trained as hard as those in the front of pack… they’d be the losers. So yeah you’re welcome.

In all honesty, though, people run for a lot of different reasons. And I think one of the greatest things holding folks back is this notion that they aren’t good enough. And I’m here to tell you today, that you are … that if this body can run a half, y’all can do anything.

But, before you lace up and do that first run, I want you to really think about your why. Why are you here? What made you decide that this moment is when you want to do a race. And once you’ve determined your why, you can determine your what. By what – I mean training plan or food plan or whatever it is you need to accomplish your why.

Simon Sinek has this quote that I absolutely love… he 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.”

When you start training – you get to decide what your score will be… for me early on it was not dying and keeping my toenails… So I thought I’d share a page from my book about a moment I had in running where I had to decide if my why of finishing was strong enough to sabotage the self-doubt I was feeling.

Excerpt from It Could Be Worse: a girlfriend’s guide for runners who detest running.

Chapter 14: The Bus

By April 30th, I needed to make a decision. I paid the entry fee. I was in.

I’d like to say that once I committed, it was easy.  It wasn’t. I was still injured. I was weeks behind on training. I honestly didn’t know if I’d even get far enough in my training to have the capacity to run thirteen miles. I kept revising and condensing my already-condensed training time. My 10k in May was downgraded to a 5k and then became my first no-show ever. Things looked grim. The clock kept ticking. My chances of finishing grew dim. And then, after six weeks of dismal training, I turned a corner. My legs no longer throbbed on mile-long jaunts. I looked at the calendar, and with some creative math, I discovered that I could pull off enough long runs to at least finish. But that damn bus kept looming in the back of my mind.  I hated that bus. It represented every running insecurity I had ever experienced.

I snapped. Literally. I was on a run listening to Fort Minor’s Remember the Name. And, I got mad. In that moment, I loved running. I loved the fact that I was running. I loved the fact that I kept showing up, even though it would have been so much easier to quit. It was in this moment that I decided that I was tired of questioning whether I was good enough to run. I was running—but on my terms.  Fuck the bus!

From that moment on, I showed up for my runs. I quit caring about my time and focused on finishing the miles. For the first time ever, I ran with a couple of incredible ladies. What started as a five-mile run ended with 9.6 miles and it was fun! I kept going. There was no time for tapering. And then it was race week. I carbo-loaded with conviction. I dragged my husband to the health fair and stocked up on free samples. I posted pictures on Facebook and shared my self-doubts and conviction to finish.

There’s a lot of talk about how challenges are more about the journey than the destination. By race day morning I knew I’d finish. I knew I had it in me to show up and give it my best. I also had peace with the knowledge that thousands of runners would beat me. My goal was to finish strong. To pace myself and cross the finish line with my head held high.  After mile one, I threw that goal out the window. I decided to just run. To quit caring about time or pacing or ensuring I had enough reserves to get across the finish. I decided to be foolish and break all the rules and just run. And, so I did.

I ran for the love of running. I thought of my mom and how proud she’d be of me for not quitting. She never cared about what I wanted to be when I grew up, only that I’d try hard and make my own path. I ran for my dad, who could no longer run, but wanted nothing more than to go for a long walk. I ran for my son, to show him that it isn’t about winning, but showing up and trying. I ran for my friends, who said my journey inspired them and convinced them to try something out of their comfort zone. I ran for every fat girl who sits on the sidelines and thinks they aren’t built to run. But most importantly, I ran for me.  After eight years of showing up at starting lines, I realized that as much as I hate the process of running, I love the act of running. I love that every morning that I wake up, I get to decide if I want to run. I can blow off the training and eat the chips or I can train hard. I get to choose how much or how little I want to do, and then see those results embodied on the road. I get to see experience camaraderie of running, buy overpriced shoes, listen to hip hop and channel my inner grit.

At the end of the day, I’m a stubborn Finlander. At times, there’s a thin line between stubborn and stupid. But that day, my Sisu was strong. I knew when I finally crossed the finish line it would be my best time ever. But more importantly, I had run the race on my terms, finally at peace with the person I am, on and off the course. For anyone wondering, I didn’t beat the cut-off time. I missed it by four minutes. But the ominous bus?  It never showed up. It turned out that I was good enough just as I was.

And that folks, is my story. Does anyone want to share what lead them here today?

I’m going to end with probably one of the most famous but important tips/quotes in running… it is by a guy named John Bingham. And it goes: “The miracle is not that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

Kudos to all of you for starting.

And that my friends is the latest on my running and writing journey. I hope you are all finding ways to push yourself out of your comfort zone. As hard as it is, it is nice to be back in the goal setting mindset after a few months of just wandering and being in my thoughts.

Hello World. I’m eight!

Just another day on Moon Lake.

Jake here hijacking mom’s blog. This might be one of the last times I do this since I’m now getting old enough where I have an opinion about mom sharing every aspect of my life… But, that’s a battle for mom to fight next year. In the meantime, this weekend I turn 8. And wowza, what a year it has been.

Let’s see, where do I start? I guess mentioning that I survived a global pandemic is noteworthy. I never got COVID-19 and I was fortunate enough to live in a place remote enough, that school remained in-person all year long and I never felt unsafe. I masked when needed but also enjoyed life. I think my parents didn’t weather as well… and maybe had a few anxiety induced moments… but I somehow managed to come out unscathed.

I did miss a season of wrestling but dad’s been picking up the slack on that front wrestling with me almost daily. I’ve also discovered the fun and exciting world of WWE, which is not how the Tigers wrestle. This summer baseball resumed. Mom and dad were coach which was a bit of a buzzkill but I practiced ton and my team included every boy in my grade. We were an unruly 18-person team that managed to age my parents at least 2-3 years so I’d call it a success. I also had the last hit of the season, surprising our opponents with a successful left-handed bunt. Yes, I’m that cool.

Speaking of cool, I aced second grade. I scored in the 99th percentile for math and mastered spelling. I don’t love reading, primarily because I’m told I have to read, but I’m also good at that. In fact, one of my biggest challenges in second grade was being the coolest and most handsome kid in the class. When I told my mom that, I got a lesson on what it means to stay humble. I’m still working on that front but I think deep down my parents love my confidence.

We managed a few travels this past year. We hit up Universal Studio in Florida, in which I promptly rode a ride that freaked me out, resulting in me wanting to ride the calmer E.T. ride for the rest of the day. I swam in the ocean, collected sea shells and watched my first shuffleboard game. Over the winter, our Airbnb wasn’t as busy so we spent a lot of family time at the brown cabin and by spring, were busy hitting up the green cabin. There, I did plenty of tubing and wrestling and reading in my new hammock.

I’m still growing like crazy. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night with growing pains. And, I eat like a horse. I love grapes and blueberries and strawberries and bananas and apples and oranges and peaches and well pretty much all fruit. I’ve been known to eat 4 bananas and 6 mini oranges during a growth spurt. But, better fruit than Doritos. (Although I love those as well. And Triscuits with spreadable cheese). Water is my beverage of choice but occasionally dad sneaks me an energy drink – Bang is pretty good. I learned about that on YouTube, my other addiction in life. I’ve had a chrome book for a year now and thanks to something called the Internet, the world is my oyster. I’ve learned a ton and been told more than once that I need to look at the source before believing everything I hear.

I have amazing friends. This summer, my daycare owner hosted a sleep over at her cabin. It was my first night away from mom and dad and to be honest, I didn’t miss them at all. I was happy to come home but man we had fun. I kayaked and drank mountain dew and swam and played games and stayed up way too late. The next day I was a zombie. My daycare also let me jump off a bridge into the Brule River and get ice cream at A&W lots. All in all, the perfect summer.

I’m still a bit stubborn and at times have to sit on the steps and think about what I’ve done (what does that even mean?). My parents tell me regularly that I’ll make a great lawyer someday because I’m very good at arguing. Frankly, I blame them. They are always telling me to use my words but then when I talk a lot then tell me to quit yammering.

Looking ahead, I’m gearing up for third grade with Mrs. Janigo. I’m looking forward to recess and lunch and even computer lab. We’re contemplating the Grand Canyon for Spring break pending this global pandemic. This year I also get to join basketball, which is another sport I’m confident I’ll dominate in. Other than that, I’m just making the most of living on Moon Lake!

Choose Your Own Adventure

Do you ever have those moments where you find yourself seeing the exact thing you needed to see at the exact right moment? Last night, one of my childhood besties posted this saying by Pam Lambert on Facebook “she silently stepped out of the race she never wanted to be in, found her own lane, and proceeded to win.”

If your life is anything like mine right now, I am guessing that maybe you need to hear that message as well. For anyone who knows me, you know boundaries are a big thing in my life. Some attribute my unwillingness to hug (unless you are my son) to my Scandinavian roots. Perhaps. Perhaps it is the same genes that have helped me master the art of saying no… right until I get sucked up into society’s pressures to be something. WTF does that even mean?

Anyways, bottom line is sometimes when things get hectic, it is easy to forget what matters. To get sidetracked by the to do list versus the what matters list. I was rapidly approaching that this past week. Then Saturday hit. A perfect family fun day on the South Shore. The only to do, play with my kiddo and enjoy fabulous food. It was the perfect reminder that I needed.

It is insane to think summer is over halfway over. Work is insane. I want to run another race. The no activity COVID-19 calendar is now replaced with the how can we cram two years of lifetime in before the snow flies.

Here’s the thing. Time keeps moving. No matter how hard you try to slow it down, it just keeps ticking. Moments we can never get back keep passing by. You know, I’d give anything to have a mundane conversation with my father about the weather or ask my mom for some advice about getting my high school heart broken yet again by a two-timing loser. Maybe it is the fact that I cannot get those moments back that I fight so hard to keep my time sacred. There are the things I need to do to have the resources I need (shower, collect a paycheck, answer emails, attend meetings) … but man I try hard to not let them define me.

Am I always successful? Not really. I have an ego just like everyone else. I want to get the gold star at work and look pretty for my husband. I hear the ads of being too big and want to lose the weight and eliminate the wrinkles. I want to be successful (whatever that means). I wish I didn’t. Most day I don’t. But when I do, man does it derail my why.

So anyway, last night I was faced with a conundrum of whether I should take my kiddo to a Friday matinee and have some 1:1 mommy and Jake time (before a crazy summer festival weekend on our lake), or take advantage of a meeting free afternoon to crank out some more reports. The choice should have been obvious. But, for a moment I Iet that fear of not being enough slip into my head and challenge my why. I felt guilty for taking more time off since I have some vacation time coming up.

I’m happy to report that moment has passed. The work will get done. It always does. But, these moments you cannot get back. So, if you needed to hear this, take it from the selfish Scandinavian who chooses herself first. You get to decide which lane matters and define your success against your why’s versus someone else’s. As someone who has spent and will spend a lifetime swerving in and out of that lane, it truly is the best place to be. In other news, this month marks ten years of running. I posted about it earlier this month but I also shared 10 lessons learned for Another Mother Runner. You can check out the blog post here. And, a special thanks to The Duluth News Tribune for making me a recommended reading in their lifestyle section this past week. Next month, I’ll be doing a book signing event at Redberry Books in Cable if you are at all interested in getting an autographed copy of me living out my why. Can’t make it to Cable? Buy my book here.

Cheers to 10-years!

My first post-race photo ten years ago!

Ten years ago, I enjoyed a few too many mojitos at a dinner party and announced I was training for a half-marathon. (I was not.) Nevertheless, the next day I decided in a carb-induced hangover to make good on that announcement.

Since then, I’ve crossed dozens of finish lines, often at the back of the pack. Along the way, I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks that I wish I had known starting out. I put those together in a book and also for an upcoming blog post for Another Mother Runner.

But, today I want to share another lesson that’s been on my mind. Time. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. The obvious trigger is losing my dad and also rapidly approaching the age my mother was when she died. One cannot help but question their mortality in these moments. Bigger than that, though, is the time the constantly escapes while busy waiting or planning for the next thing.

In the healthiest of times, I guess it can be called productive procrastination. It is why I have not dived into my next book headfirst. I know my heart needs a bit more time to heal. But, in most situations, at least for me, it is about fear. It is about me wondering but what if I fail, or this isn’t the right path, or I discover I hate it or someone is better than me. Sometimes I spend so much time pondering and contemplating that I forget that sometimes the easiest solution is to just move ahead.  

Ten years ago, a few too many mojitos cancelled out my fear. Before I could ponder or talk myself out of running, I proclaimed myself a runner. I’m so grateful to that because I know 100% without a doubt if I had done the pros/cons list about whether I should start running, I never would have taken that first step.

I’m so glad I did. In the past 10-years, I’ve had a few lofty (for me) extrinsic goals that focused on time or speed. That isn’t why I run, though. I run because I choose to. Because it is the identity I want for myself. And the best way to achieve that, is to do it.

There’s a fascinating best-selling book out there right now called Atomic Habits. Game changer for me. It gives me language for a lot of the things I struggle with when it comes to creating simple daily habits that’ll help get me to the goalpost. I highly recommend it.

In it, James Clear reinforces something so vital to success – that in order to get anywhere, you have to act. Seems simple. Unless you are the plus-size runner who is trying to resume training. This weekend I did that. I tackled my first non-express spin class (45-minutes of pure sweat-induced bliss) and re-opened Hal’s app. I plugged in a fall race with my only goal being it is time to start again.

If you’re still reading this and are stuck, read Atomic Habits. If you’re stuck about how to start running, just lace up your shoes and go. If you want even something simpler, buy my book. Heck, drop me a line and I’ll even mail you an autographed copy. The bottom line is just start.

Ten years ago, I threw a few words out at a party that nobody but me remembers. But, it was the start of a journey I’m so proud of and I cannot wait to see what the next 10-years have in store for me.