Lucky 7 Anyone?

I’m interrupting mom’s year of self-discovery to talk about the most important thing in her life – me. Yep, Jake from Moon Lake is back and hijacking mom’s blog for a quick update on the year I was 6.

A year ago, I rang in my birthday with a football themed party at the Community Center. I sported a new Tiger’s jersey proclaiming my love for roughhousing and mom’s dream of me someday becoming QB1. Life was simpler than.

I kicked off first grade by learning how to read… really good. It turns out I’m also really good at math. I love counting and for whatever reason, it was easy for me to add things up in my head. Some days I even surprised Mrs. Graff with my quick draw addition. Art on the other hand… well we all have our weaknesses. Coloring just isn’t my jazz, you know?

Speaking of Jazz, I love a good jingle. Mom gave me her Alexa this past year and I’ve been using it to play some of my favorites – Old Town Road, Blah blah blah, Pizza Man and Feed Jake. What can I say – I’m a country boy at heart who loves his Sponge Bob.

Which reminds me, mom got chickens again. I’ll be honest… I’m just not into them.  Other than the occasional chase, I’ve found I’m much more into domesticated pets like my best pal Joey. I did like playing cowboy for Halloween, though. For a brief moment, I even considered a profession in bull riding. Turns out, cow butts stink, so for now, I’m tabling that one.

As fall turned into winter, I tuned up my wrestling skills. Dad laid the smack down this year and said if I wanted to do tournaments, I had to go to practice. It turns out if you practice, you actually get better at wrestling. I was doing really well, even managed to place in a few tournaments, and then our world turned upside down.

It was time for spring break. We were about to jump on-board to head to South Carolina for a week-long get away on the ocean. I was gearing up to catch my first big salt-water fish and maybe try a handline. And then… everything changed. COVID-19 hit hard in March. School shutdown. Our vacation was cancelled. My friends could no longer come over to play. Baseball season was a no-go. I’ll admit, COVID-19 really cramped my style.

It turns out we had it pretty lucky, though. Mom and dad kept their job. They worked out an arrangement so I could do schooling in the morning virtually and then have my besties mom watch me in the afternoon. It is working out pretty well. I finished the school year strong and got to play with my buddy Nolan. Meantime, mom and dad got to keep working which meant they could take time off this summer for some family adventures.

Can we say cabin time? As soon as temperatures warmed up, we headed to the green cabin. I’ve had quite a few weekend adventures there including mastering tubing and knee boarding. I even tried water skiing (unsuccessfully) in July. This makes me the YOUNGEST Probst to ever try. And who knows, I may even get up this summer still. I’ve abandoned fishing for now but that’s partially because I am a fish now. Yep, early on in COVID-19, I mastered swimming at Moon Lake. I can now swim, float, do somersaults off the dock, cannonball off our pontoon and stay under water long enough that mom thinks I’m drowning.

I took advantage of COVID-19 to master my bike skills. The training wheels came off, I outgrew my kiddie bike and am now hoping for a new BMX bike. A new Dollar General went up in town and for over a month I used their newly paved (but abandoned) parking lot to master my technique. I even hit up a new bike park in Cable.

Our other summer adventures included mini golfing, meeting Paul Bunyan, go karting and exploring area lakes thanks to a new pontoon trailer paid for with stimulus money. Things got so crazy I actually went swimming in Lake Superior and Moon Lake… in April!

Dad gave me my first pocket knife and mom lets me light candles when she’s watching. Dad also keeps bringing me to the workshop where I get to play with sharp tools and learn about woodworking.

The two neighbor gals got gas powered four wheelers but after much debate, I’m gunning for a Chrome book and hacker mask instead. It isn’t the same but mom and dad are trying to teach me to be responsible about money. I also really love my screen time… when I’m not doing karate with dad or beating mom up.

Looking ahead, I’m excited to hear my school is opening up. I miss hanging out with my friends on a daily basis, eating uncrustable PB&Js, and winning a mean game of dodgeball in gym. It’ll be different wearing a mask everywhere I go but different is alright I guess. If nothing else, it keeps life on Moon Lake interesting.

And that my friends is the latest from Jake at Moon Lake. Until I’m back to report on how Lucky 7 went, enjoy your day!

Bring on the Chaos

So here we are… July. The year if half-over. WTF happened? I started the year with such good intentions. So focused. So prioritized. This was going to be my year. I’ll be frank. The pandemic has been disruptive to say the least. A serious distraction. Throw in some crucial conversations and reflections about the privilege I am surrounded by and it is hard to keep perspective, experience any traction or progress forward.

I left RISE in January with a promise to give myself grace. I’m batting maybe 50/50 on a good day. But, isn’t awareness part of the journey? This past month I took a time out to head to Marquette to just think. I spent 48-hours reflecting on my writing, my career, my life, and frankly, what’s next. I left more confused than ever (although I did crank out a few more chapters of my book). With all of that said, I am making progress on one thing – embracing chaos.

Chaos is not my thing. I’m a planner. I love to do lists and planning vacations and checking off boxes. I’ve been known to make an itinerary of my chores or task list for the day, complete with bathroom breaks to feel as though I accomplished something. Now, I spend my days assuming they are going to blow up in my face. That things are going to go awry. And you know what? As much as I don’t love it, I’m starting to embrace it.

So, as I turn the page on the second half of MY year, I’m doing my best to find time in the chaos to write. To hike. To exchange meaningful conversations with those I love. To dream. But, I’m also trying to live in the chaos that is my new norm. To acknowledge that the unknown isn’t always bad… just different.

It’ll be interesting if/when we ever turn the page on this pandemic. If we/I squander the lessons learned from these tough but livable times. In the meantime, I keep writing the book. One sentence at a time. I may not hit my milestone deadlines or check the chapters off as finished in a timely fashion. But movement is movement. And somewhere in the chaos, some stories are unfolding that I want to share with the world, even if nobody in the world wants to read them. Stay tuned… a book is on the way.

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.



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.

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

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.