Early Morning Resolution

Happy New Year! How are those resolutions treating you? I’d just like to go on record right now saying mine are slowly killing my will to live. Fourteen days ago, I started on a quest to factor me-time into everyday of my life to focus on wellness. My solution—wake up by 5:30 am everyday so that it wouldn’t cut into family, mommy, wife, friend or work time. On the flip side, the time once known as end of the day veg in front of Bravo time would go if needed due to being tired.

Let me backtrack one second and preface this resolution by telling you I am NOT a morning person. I cherish my sleep. I do best during regular business hours. The idea that I’d get up an hour early just to ensure I had enough time to hit the treadmill, lift weights, stretch or journal seemed a bit preposterous. But, last fall I started reading a lot by Brene Brown and this notion of creating habits to the point where the norm or your daily habit just is something you do versus something you think about. This theory resonated with me. After all, given how much I value sleep, I question whether I’d really get up early enough everyday to shower if it wasn’t something that had become part of my daily grooming routine.

In the past two weeks, I’ve hit the treadmill 8 times, completed yoga and cardio twice, completed a journal post and what I’m calling meditating once. To others, it may have appeared to seem like me staring at the wall in a zombie like stupor because I had stayed up too late the night before watching the Bachelorette but that’s neither here nor there. This mindful staring took place at 5:40 am. Today was the first time I missed my wellness time because I had an early morning work meeting. Surprisingly, I felt out of whack all day. And this excites me for a variety of reasons. If after a mere 12 days, not working on me in the morning seems unusual, imagine what will happen if I make it another week. Or, better yet, another month? I’m quite excited about the new found potential of this New Year’s Resolution.

Ultimately, I’d love for several things to happen with this experiment. First off, in 15 weeks from tomorrow, I’d love to finish the Journey’s Half-Marathon in Eagle River in under 3-hours. Second, in coming months I’d love to utilize some of this time to have a garden that doesn’t look like a Black Thumb Bomb was initiated within it. Finally, I’d love to write my way into closure on some lingering issues I need to just document on paper for my well-being and ability to live a more present and grateful life. Note, the goal here is to not lose weight. Obviously, this is another issue I come face-to-face with on a daily basis. But, I’m hoping that this experiment will help me understand how to form better habits when it comes to food. In other words, running my fastest half-marathon and creating a beautiful garden out of a pile of sand seemed easier in my mind than practicing portion control.

I share all of this with you just because I know by sharing this, I’ll likely continue on this journey. Or, at least that’s been the case with announcing blindly 5-years ago that I was going to run a half-marathon. If it hadn’t been for my very naïve public statement that I would do that, well I’m sure I wouldn’t have finished my first race and therefore never had the next five. So there you have it. A new year, a different me. We’ll see how that goes.

One last note…if you have 30-seconds, watch this ad. Then resume reading this post. (dramatic pause here).

In the grand scheme of things, this ad is a large online booking company trying to differentiate itself. I’m generally not a sucker for this type of marketing. But this ad, well it played on my first morning on my first day of getting up early. Before the tiger even came out, I was bawling on the treadmill. This might have been because of the early hour. But, I’d also like to believe that maybe, just maybe, this stupid commercial hit a heart string that many of my friends can relate too—the overwhelming love, sense of responsibility and desire to be an amazing mother. It sort of accompanies the bucket list of must do vacations with Jake before he’s too old and doesn’t think his mother is cool. This is a serious concern of mine. He already gives dad preferential treatment over me because I wipe his boogers and attempt to give him weekly baths. Anyways, at the end of the day, I think the underlining goal of this year’s resolution is that by finding me time and ways to improve the things that get me down, I can be a better mom. Now that’s something, I can get up at 5:30 am for daily.

 

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Last… As in Last Place. Thanks Nike.

An interesting post came up in my Twitter feed today. If it were a promoted Tweet, I would have seriously wondered exactly what in my Twitter profile exemplifies exactly how slow I run.

Fast Company shared Nike’s latest ad. In the Tweet, they call this ad a soulful tribute to last place. It immediately peaked my attention given my consistency in finishing in the bottom half of races for 5+ years. The ad itself is well done. It certainly triggered one of my favorite Half-Marathon moments, when while running in Door County, I could hear the awards ceremony going on. I still had about 5-miles to go. I remember turning to the person running next to me at the time and saying, “I guess we didn’t win this one.” At the time it seemed funny. But it is true. Running any race is difficult, both mentally and physically. But, I am 100% confident that running a race from the back of the pack is much more difficult. It is harder physically. It is harder mentally since you must maintain focus for twice that of someone in the front half. And, emotionally, it is hard to push through the self-doubt that comes with coming in last.

Nike manages to capture the glory of the back of the pack in their latest ad thoughtfully titled: Last. Watch it now:

I’m not sure if I’m inspired by the notion that I probably won’t die at my race on October 10. Granted, it is a half-marathon versus a marathon. But, I do appreciate Nike acknowledging that there are a whole lot of us in the back of the pack that buy Nike clothes too. Without us inspiring to be better and to try harder, they wouldn’t be nearly as profitable. So thanks for that.

On the training front, I completed my last long run of the season. It wasn’t a great time but I felt strong. The next two weeks will be spent doing some short runs and lots of cross-training and hiking. Fall is gearing up to be gorgeous and I don’t want to miss a moment of it. Hoping for some great race day weather to close-out a fun season of runs.

 

Lacing Up is Hard to Do

Today marks 12-weeks until my next half-marathon. It is also the kick-off of training for an anticipated 5K in August and a 10-miler run in September. A lot has happened since my last post. Two weeks after the half, I did my first 5k in Stillwater and absolutely loved it. I also learned during that race, I can push myself a lot harder during training. I finished in about 39 minutes. Not bad for my first race, no warm-up and no pacing or understanding of what it takes to run a 5k. The following weekend I completed a 5k obstacle fun run. No timing but a lot of laughing. For the past 4-weeks, I’ve been focused on enjoying summer, cross training (aka mowing the lawn, gardening, swimming with my 22 month old) and watching Scandal. As I watched the calendar turn to July, though, I knew this fun time was over.

This morning I woke up after sleeping soundly for 9.5 hours. Physically, I felt great. My hubby knew I needed to run this morning and was in full support. There would be no excuses or leisurely cups of coffee on the deck contemplating when I should run. Instead, it was go time. Getting dressed, I knew I was in better shape today than I have been in years. I knew just 8 weeks ago I ran a Half-Marathon in my best time ever. Just 5-weeks ago, I completed a 5k doing 13-minute miles. For me, this is impressive. But yet, I still felt that same jolt of discouragement and why bother as I grudgingly put on my shoes.
I don’t know about any other runners out there but for me, lacing up is the hardest part. Once outside jamming to my tunes and breathing in the fresh air, it physically hurts but my mental game improves. Just run to that tree, go past that mailbox, run to that stop box. Everything is so finite on the course—measurements are by steps, minutes and miles. As Nike so eloquently puts it, you just do it. But that’s only half the game.

Lacing up is much more subjective. It is about the why’s and the can I and what ifs. It is the fear of losing a toenail, injuring my knees, damaging my hips, getting attacked by a random rodent or bear. It is the realization that I’m still bigger than I’d like and those cute running outfits just aren’t a possibility right now.
Today, I won. I quickly laced up my shoes, glanced at my medals and bounded out the door. My first 30-minute training session went quickly—in part because I chose the single most humid day this summer to start training and the black flies are in full swing. But, I hit my goal, sweat and made it home before 8 am. It felt great. I pocket this for now knowing I’ll need this encouragement the next time I lace up.

I don’t know if I’ll make it this time. I don’t know what surprises are in store for me the next few months. But for now, I’m committed. The first training is I n the books. And from here, we’ll see what happens.

The Gardening Bond

gardening The loon is back on Moon Lake. The snow is quickly receding. Soon, Hauser’s will be opening for their annual perennial barn sale. Spring is here. With that, comes the joy of planning and planting this year’s garden. I’m aiming for low maintenance this year. In part, because I hope to spend lots of time gardening with Jake. Last month, an essay I wrote about Jake and I gardening ran in Northern Gardener. I’m a huge fan of this magazine so I was pretty honored they ran my essay about like on Moon Lake. And today, I want to share it with you.

Gardening Bond

In theory, I love gardening. In actuality, at the height of muggy, mosquito-infested evenings here not too far from Lake Superior, where the weeds outnumber my harvest three-to-one, I sometimes find myself hunched over, silently cursing about putting myself through this misery.

Most years, the first glimpse of goldenrod yellow crocuses poking through the last remnants of dirty snow inspires me to plan, plant and harvest yet another year’s worth of bountiful blossoms and hardy vegetables. I am an enthusiastic gardener while the snow is melting and as the first crops green up. As the weather warms and my excitement fades ever so slightly, little treasures from the garden keep me coming back for more. There is that first, sweet crunch of a sugar snap pea. My senses awaken as the calm scent of fresh mint clashes with the intense garlic smell coming from freshly cut garlic scapes. Nearby, tiger lilies and hens and chicks multiply before my eyes, while hollyhocks and lupines shoot out luscious shades of purple that Crayola can only dream of re-creating. These are the gardening moments I live for.

Despite this beauty, as the summer lengthens, I find myself easily dismissing each of Mother Nature’s countless miracles as I swat the mosquitos and yank the weeds that aggressively choke out my carrots and overpower my asparagus. It is a constant love-hate battle.

Last year was no exception. Except that it was. I’m a new mom. In a heightened hormonal, sleep-deprived, angstridden world of motherhood, the burden of gardening weighed me down. In an attempt to manage expectations, I planned, planted and harvested substantially less. I looked away as the weeds dominated the empty spaces. As summer progressed, I found myself stealing early morning moments to do what little I could to keep the garden going. Those snippets of solitude energized me in a way I didn’t expect. It reminded me why I garden in the first place. It made me want to do more. And then the raspberries ripened. I tended to keep my son away from the garden in part because of his love for shredding, yanking and destroying anything in his path coupled with the random spots of poison ivy that seem to find their way within my garden fence annually. But, on a bright sunny day in early July, I noticed the first radiant red berries popping out of my raspberry plants. It was time to make an introduction.

I carefully carried my son inside the garden walls, checking for bees along the way because that’s what paranoid mothers concerned about allergies do. We approached the overgrown row of plants and, as I moved to lead Jake’s hand to pick that first ripened raspberry of summer, he had already grabbed it. A burst of red left him giggling as I watched yet another outfit get instantly stained beyond repair.

I tried again. This time, with my help, he guided the berry from plant to mouth. Jake’s eyes grew big as he discovered the sweet, delicate flavor of a freshly picked berry that no grocery store brand can replicate. He instantly wanted another. And another. This scene was played out time and time again throughout our summer. A season of firsts—first sugar snap pea, purple bean, crunchy cucumber, mouthwatering tomato and countless others.

With each harvest, a new memory for mother and son and a new reason to garden. By summer’s end, even the buzzing of mosquitos could not drown this newly discovered bond. For now, love wins again.

Predator Round-Up, Sea Cave Mayhem, Playing Hookie and an Unwarranted Pity Party

Newsflash: Last week I had an unwarranted pity party. It started during my 5-hour drive home from the UP after a weekend of bonding with women at a 3-day Becoming an Outdoor Woman camp (more on that experience in a different post). I left the camp recharged and excited about life. But then, I had a bout of road rage with an irrational SUV somewhere in God’s country. In the heat of the moment and cursing him out for almost running me off the road, I missed my turn. It was an important turn that resulted in my 5-hour drive being more like 6.5 hours… in a place where there is no coffee. Seriously, look at a map of coffee shops (or any shops for that matter) in the route from Big Bay, Michigan to Iron River, Wisconsin. It is dismal at best. (Although Mount Huron Bakery in Ishpeming and Marquette makes up for it… almost).

About this time, I came upon a small town where trucks lined the highway on both sides for as far as the eye could see. My heart jumped for joy believing that any winter festival that draws this many visitors, must be stocked with some fabulous food and a well-kept porta potty. Imagine my surprise when I learned at the epicenter of this UP traffic jam was dozens of dead animals hanging from a poll. It turns out this winter festival was in fact the Kenton Predator Round-Up in which sportsman harvest as many bobcat, coyote and fox over a 3 day period as possible. Despite my curiosity, I opted to not stop at Hoppy’s Bar in Kenton.

It was about this time, something in me snapped. A full-fledged pity party began. I was irritated. I missed my son. I wanted to be vacationing somewhere warm, drinking something indulgent, and sporting cute summer sandals instead of oversized fishing boots. By the time I got home, my mood had only lightened somewhat. Then I logged onto Facebook and saw friend after friend posting photos from somewhere other than here. I was instantly jealous.

This sour mood continued for a few days. And then this happened. A co-worker was connecting with me on a project and mentioned she was taking the rest of the day off to hit up the Apostle Island Mainland Sea Caves. The sun was out. Temps were above freezing. I had no pressing deadlines. So, after a few logistical phone calls, I crashed her party and checked out of work a half day early. For those of you who know me, this is unprecedented. I’m a planner. I don’t randomly use my precious vacation time for spur of the moment events. This was huge (my life is in fact this boring).

Yes, the Sea Caves were busier than they’ve ever been when I’ve been there. Yes, I was a bit appalled by the number of folks I saw talking on their cell phone or shooting selfies even though I’m totally guilty of doing at least one of these things. But, somewhere along the way my mood lightened. I discovered that my life doesn’t involve cocktails on the beach…. right now. But man I’m blessed. I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say, crabby pants was squashed by the blessings in my life.
Looking back, it frustrates me that it took a day on a frozen beach to put things back into perspective. But then again, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten these great shots. And for those who missed the memo, the caves are now closed for the season. So for all those folks sipping margaritas in the blistering sun, I’ll see that margarita with a locally made mead and Mother Nature’s glory.

The Ugly Truth: My Real Year-in-Review

stevebethThis fall I contacted the talented Hannah of Stonehouse Photo to do family photos. I envisioned a warm, sunny day along the shores of Lake Superior with vivid red maples and golden oaks gently blowing in the background creating a backdrop Hallmark would envy.

I should have known better. Instead, Lake Superior dealt up an early winter storm complete with 40 mile an hour winds whipping off the Lake pelting tiny icy shards of rain into our skin. A grey sky and thick fog camouflaged any hint of fall color. Our photo shoot lasted all of 10-minutes before we surrendered to Mother Nature and made a pact to try again next year.

If nothing else, we could at least check off laughing in the rain on the shores of Lake Superior off our bucket list. The excursion, while fleeting, pretty much sums up how much of my year went. This was a year of humbling blunders for me where things never really worked out how I anticipated. I think motherhood does that to a person. Every time I thought I had things figured out, Jake reminded me that I in fact have no clue what I’m doing.

This, coupled with balancing an unexpected (and at time unmanageable) freelance boom, job transition, relational surprises and a variety of random setbacks, made for an interesting and somewhat messy year. I won’t lie. At times it was difficult. Downright depressing, frustrating and emotionally exhausting.

This is new for me—definitely a tougher transition than I expected. I like order. I like schedules. I like making to do lists so I can check things off. Instead, I am a planner operating for the first time ever without a 5-year plan. Heck, at this moment I’d settle for a 5-week plan or actually remembering to get our daycare schedule consistently turned in on time.

If I wanted to be dishonest, this would be the part where I say but it was these moments that made the great moments that much sweeter. But, this isn’t the inside foil of a Dove chocolate folks. This is my life and this past year wasn’t that great or pretty.

But, I’m learning. I’m growing. Evolving. Discovering that perhaps for me, imperfection is quite possibly perfection in disguise. I just need to manage it a bit better.

This past year has taught me that sometimes messy is ok. The world does not in fact stop if you leave dirty dishes in the sink and instead stack blocks only to have your son sabotage your creation in an instant. Kind co-workers will in-fact pretend not to notice the handprints of oatmeal on your sleeve, the lingering smell of diaper cream on your hands despite washing them twice, or laugh in your face when you mention your need to go potty. Friends will not question your lack of logic or question your agenda as you navigate this turbulent chapter of adulthood of just figuring things out.

While complex and messy and scary at times, life really can be as simple and amazing as a great cup of coffee and 5-minutes of solitude on your deck rediscovering how lucky and blessed you truly are in life. It helps when this solitude is interrupted with a strong, genuine, unconditional bear hug and a deep belly giggle from your son. While this year was trying at times, it was less trying thanks to the amazing people I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by. They keep me grounded, remind me on the tough days that things will in fact get better, and love me for who I am. It is pretty awesome.

Most importantly, I’ve learned this year the great thing about life is it is always a work in progress and you always get another chance to get it right. So, here’s to getting it more right than wrong in 2015. Granted, I’m not exactly sure what all that will entail for me next year. Similar to last year, I have no real New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t anticipate any major self-improvements or earth shattering achievements other than continuing to do my best. I will also return to running with a goal of the Journeys Half-Marathon in Eagle River in May. I know by including this in the post, I will in fact cross the finish line. The question is can I break that 3-hour goal I set last year. As part of this, it’d be great to shed some weight and improve my overall health. Yes. I know this is a bit cliché on New Year’s but honestly, who doesn’t want to look and feel better?

Beyond that, who knows what the next 12-months or 12-minutes of life will bring. Realizing this is an achievement in itself for me. To everyone who has been a part of this past year of my life, thank you for taking this wild ride with me!

Dear Jake

Dear Jake,

I don’t scrapbook. I’ve discovered, despite my love for writing, I’m horrible at keeping up your baby book. But, like any new mom I managed to take lots of photos. I slapped them together in this video just in time for your birthday. I hope someday you can watch this and know you had an amazing first year surrounded by lots of people who love you.

It is crazy to think it has already been one-year. If I’ve learned anything this past year it is that I have no idea how to be a mother and that you have given me a new perspective on life. This past year you have taught me more than I could ever teach you.

A friend on Facebook (a social media tool that will be so old school by the time you can read this) recently posted a poem that came through on my feed this week that really hit home:

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

― William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

By all definitions, your dad and I strive to live an ordinary, grounded life. But, there is no doubt in my mind that we live in an extraordinary place surrounded by extraordinary people. You are one of those people.

I have no idea what the next year will hold for us. What I do know is that the first time you grabbed my finger, I truly understood the sheer force of unconditional love. I look forward to many, many more birthdays with you my little munchkin.

Love,

Mom