Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What I Learned in March

Is March really over? I feel like I blinked, and the calendar is turning to April!
  After February being the longest month ever, somehow March flew by!
For me, March was full of fun events-  Dad's 70th birthday party, my family all together, working outside of the office off and on, travel, and races.
 But as I have come to do at the end of each month this year, I am pausing to reflect on what I have learned this month, be it silly or serious, and there's always a little of both.

1. It turns out I don't have to have sweets to live. 
 For Lent, I gave up sweets. I have never participated in Lent before, but when my friend asked what I was giving up for Lent, and I learned what they were giving up, I felt challenged, and wanted to participate as well. So, I gave up sweets. At first, doing so was extremely hard. I craved chocolate and sugar pretty badly. But now, after many days, while every now and then I still want something sweet, I have grown accustomed to this and am half considering not really going back to sweets. I have read the more sugar you have, the more your body craves it. Well, then, perhaps giving it up is a good thing all around.

2. Hilly/Shmilly.....
 I ran the hills and conquered them. Now, doing hill training feels way less intimidating. In fact, while it hurt a bit, the race was a really wonderful experience, and so I almost feel excited to do more hill running. I said almost. I don't really know anyone who enjoys hill training. That being said, I don't fear the beastly term of "hills" anymore. Nor will they stand as an excuse in my path.

3. Selfies are a strange phenomenon.
 Selfies are funny, aren't they? I evaluated this and I am confident I take far too many selfies. But, either no one is around to capture a memorable moment for me, so I do it myself, or my desire to take countless snapshots in a moment keep others from really wanting to shoot pics with me, soooo, I resort to selfies. I said I take too many and I said I probably should take less, but, alas, I take them anyway. I tell myself one day my kids will be glad I've taken so many. Here is my latest race selfie. And to be quite honest, selfies really aren't all that flattering. But they are real, aren't they? So, here is my not so flattering post race selfie.
4. The Body and Running
 I guess this was a month for me to acquire new knowledge of running related facts. Being part of Dr. Mark Cucuzzella's training clinics this month, I learned many new facts about the body and running. Like your body stores energy, and if treated properly, and used appropriately, your body can run a long while without refueling. Or how the body's motion works when running and what posture does to affect that- even our posture at our desks all day. (He really verses this much better than I do. Check out his videos on www.usafmarathon.com under the training tab) The point is, I learned new techniques that I believe may very well carry me much further than I was a month ago, if I apply them. Thank you, Dr. Cucuzzella. 

5. Prayer is the greatest gift you can give someone.
  Often times , the power of prayer is underestimated. And often times, I find myself saying "I can't really do much for you except  pray for you."  Except??  Prayer is the greatest gift. Some of the most meaningful people in my life have been not ones who try to fix it all or have all the answers, but the ones who give me a hug and simply say "I'm praying for you" . Those prayer warriors make an eternal difference that no one sees. I often underestimate the power of prayer. But when I stop and think about it, and really consider the depth of what prayer can and does do, I realize how valuable the pray- ers are. And sometimes, God gently reminds me that prayer is a phenomenal ministry. One that can be done every day, all day. 

 This month was so busy, I had to really pause and realize what I learned. March was a good month. I am excited to see what April brings. While life continues to be full of change, change is what forces us to grow. And to learn. One day at a time. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Run the Bluegrass

I was asked this weekend what my favorite race I've ever done was; I had a hard time answering that.
  Honestly, The Air Force Marathon will always hold that special place in my heart as my favorite, because that was where my love of running was born. Not to mention the incomparable patriotism found laced throughout the event.
  But in talking about different courses and events, each race I've ever done has held a different meaning and a unique challenge of some sort.
 This weekend, the half marathon I completed, Run The Bluegrass, in Lexington, KY, was no different.
 I enjoy getting out on a course I have never studied, run, or experienced. I enjoy not knowing exactly what will be around the next bend. Initially, upon looking at the elevation chart, the race did not look all that hilly. However, upon arrival at the expo, I realized I was somehow misled in my beliefs. The course, in fact, would be quite rolling.
  The more I talked with participants through the 2 day expo, the more I learned how hilly my next day's race was going to be.  I get competitive against myself, so I had to remind myself how much I love to run for fun and not worry about the time.
  Known as "America's Prettiest Half Marathon", their banner theme held true...the course was absolutely beautiful.  The start line was like most any start line,the National Anthem gave me chills, as it typically does, but then it was followed by a Kentucky Bugler. You know, the ones you see on TV at all the horse races? Seeing/Hearing that was pretty neat. And then we were off... Large mansions embedded in the rolling hills of the bluegrass country were found along the entire course. Long driveways paved the way to those homes, lined by brick walls or picture-perfect picket fences. The rolling hills held miles and miles of horse pastures and barns and beauty. For the first many miles, the hills didn't bother me; I was captured by the beauty and enjoyment of the event. I was even on track for a really good time, which I did not anticipate.  I literally cried as I came upon the one and only wheelchair participant in the event. He was a double amputee, and he was blind. He was a marine veteran, hurt in Iraq. I cried as I passed him on a hill (and not long after, he was soaring by me!) because of his sacrifice and his heroism, as well as his determination to overcome and pursue "normalcy" to the best of his ability and not let his disability hinder him from participating in life. A person like that puts life into perspective.
   When I came up to mile 9, I lost a lot of ground in my good time. My muscles, not used to all the hills, were growing tired. And Mile 9 was all uphill. I still found the race course to be beautiful, but I had to focus on forward movement and good posture and healthy breathing a little more, which took away a little bit of the beauty for a moment. I got through that mile and kept pushing ahead. I was no longer on track for my PR, but I didn't care. I was having fun, which is what running should be about anyhow. Around mile 11, the horses in the parallel pasture were enjoying our company, and were running along the fences with us, which once again brought the beauty back to the event. (The hills were still rolling, in case you were wondering).  At mile 12, I patted the girl next to me on the back and told her good job. I could tell she was struggling a little. Her pace picked up and she went by me, smiling a little. I wrapped around the corner,  seeing all the fencing for the finish line. I can't explain the emotion in the moment. I was lost in it. Even though I have run many races, the feeling of finishing a race is unexplainable. I still love it. Because I love what running does for me.
  And then I crossed the finish, got my medal and the moment was over.

 This race did not hold the most amazing significance of any race I've ever done,  but my mantra, stronger than yesterday, held true through the miles. After a long winter, some trying moments, changes crossing my path, and interesting new discoveries,  I finished what proved to be the most hilly course I have ever done. Beautiful, yes. Challenging, absolutely. But amazingly fun...100%.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Little Moments

I have had an awesome week.
 It's been super full of busy events, but all of which are events I love doing.
And it continues to be busy through Saturday.
  But it's weeks like these where I can pause and remember how lucky I am. It's weeks like these that I don't take for granted. When you experience some bad days, or bad weeks. when the good ones come along, they  are so much more appreciated.
 It's like the saying, you don't appreciate the sunshine until all you've seen is rain.
  So, here are some of my little moments from the week....

-Singing along to the radio loudly and then laughing our heads silly like school girls with my friend, Lisa.
  - A good conversation with an old friend.
     - Talking to hundreds of runners at an expo about my passion and my favorite race, the Air Force Marathon.  I thrive in that environment. It energizes me. It's my zone.
 -Getting away for a couple of days in a different environment, which is hilly and beautiful.  (I cannot wait to run the course, even if the hills are slightly intimidating)
    - Telling jokes so dumb not a single other person would laugh, but it's okay, because I laughed so hard by the end of the day I was exhausted. Laughter truly is the best medicine, in case you were wondering.
     - Learning all new aspects about my body/nutrition/running. This week, I had the privilege to make a new friend and take him around as our guest speaker to all kinds of training clinics on behalf of the Air Force Marathon. Not only do I love doing that because I was able to promote our event and talk to runners (there may be a theme here that people really energize me!) But I learned many new facts and important details from Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, our chief medical consultant. And quite honestly, he inspired me.
    - Finding a peaceful contentment. There is nothing that can replace those moments where I breathe easily and just enjoy the moment.
  -Meeting a new friend, Penny, who, along with Lisa, made me laugh hysterically.
        - Getting a "yes" from retired General Reno, a very godly  man, who will open up the Linda A. Ferguson Memorial 5K in prayer and be my awards guest as well. And not only that, but I had no idea that when I asked him, he and my dad actually knew each other! So then to hear dad's stories of General Reno. A very cool tie to our event, about which I am super excited.

 I believe there are more details from the week, but it has been a blessing week for me, full of good moments. I hope yours has been as well.... One day, one moment at a time. Even in the bad days, there are good moments tucked in there, too.... Just look
   God is good. All the time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Stronger Than Yesterday

I'm going against every traditional training rule in running. I know better, but.... I'm going with it anyway.
  I have a race this Saturday. A half marathon. This winter has been brutal, and training has not been up to par. I've never quit running, but it would suffice to say that I have been training for an event more like a 10K than a half marathon.  I also was training for an April race and not a March race. But that being said, when an opportunity comes my way,  I can't really pass it up. And so, I will be running a half marathon on Saturday. 
 I told myself it is going to hurt. I know I can finish, but I know it is going to be a challenge for me. A new challenge. At the start of this year, I was setting out with a specific time goal for my spring half marathons. As winter grew colder, that goal shifted to become a perhaps fall goal. 
  All those things in consideration, I switched my training method. Last Week. You aren't supposed to change your training method a week before a race. I always said I will not be a walker during my races. I like to run. But, I have succumbed to the fact that I will have to do some walking. And thus, I switched my training to the Galloway Method. If you're unfamiliar with it, the gist is that you run so many minutes, walk so many, it's up to you the ratio. 
 I was unsure of this. It feels a bit like cheating myself out of a good run. But I tried it and, for now, have fallen in love with the method. I feel amazing when my run is finished.  I'm pacing myself the right way for the first time all winter. And I am very excited to try this method out in the half marathon on Saturday. After a winter full of obstacles in my running journey,  I am very much looking forward to my race this Saturday. 
 As I ran 8 miles over the weekend with this method, many thoughts pushed through my mind. But the one that kept repeating itself over and over will be my running mantra for this race.
 I do not always choose a mantra, but I did in my last race in December, and apparently, I have one for this week's as well.
   Stronger than Yesterday.
I am stronger than yesterday. 
   I can do this run.
    I will conquer these miles. 
 I am capable. 
    I am stronger than I think.
    I am stronger than I give myself credit for.
      I am certainly stronger today than I was yesterday.
Stronger emotionally.
   Stronger physically.
    Stronger mentally. 
 Each new day is a day that His strength is made perfect in my weaknesses. 
    I am stronger than yesterday, and I will conquer and finish. I will not quit. I will not give up. I will not quit dreaming. I will not stop being me. I am stronger than yesterday. 
          So I will carry that mantra through my race this weekend. It's a life mantra as much as a running mantra. 
  I am Stronger than Yesterday. Because He has made me that way. 
     And I cannot wait to conquer a new course this weekend. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Me.... in the Raw

Well, I started this whole post this morning about my grief journey, because this week marks that anniversary of mom's passing. But, I kept having this nagging feeling that my best posts, the ones that reach the most people and have the biggest impact, are those that are exposing and raw and real.
 And that is because, while so few will venture into it, we all really crave it. We don't always know it or admit it, but what we all want is to have those relationships that are so rare and real.
 Getting real is hard. No one really enjoys it at first, and I wasn't going to put this post up here. But, my journey of grief over the last 4 years has taught me value in being real and vulnerable. There is always caution that comes with that, but if getting real about me helps you,  then why should I withhold? So,  I have decided to share this post.
  Through the last 4 years, I have walked some painful places. Some of those moments were results of grief and the longings that losing my mom created in me. And losing mom was like losing a part of me. But that being said, I also was able to really learn to a greater depth who I truly am.  And thus, this post was born months ago, but I never shared it. So, here I am...in the raw....
Who Am I?

Recently, I had to have my credit card ended and a new one sent to me because someone had stolen mine somehow over the internet. When I called my bank to see what was happening, they told me to prove I was in fact who I said I was. They asked a few questions, along with social security numbers and the normal things along those lines in order to establish that it was in fact me.  
I thought about this as I have been thinking and processing the tough questions of life lately as to who am I?

A social security number identifies me to the government, but doesn’t tell who I am of any worth. Somehow, these questions can be confusing. I’m 32, for pity sake, shouldn’t I understand and know who I am by now? Yet, as life throws curve balls and confusing situations, that question is challenged in me each time, and each time it is challenged, it seems harder to answer, more confusing to understand. 

Perhaps I overthink it; or perhaps I’ve never truly embraced who I am. A recent personality test taken tells me I am a harmonizer....I am a people  pleaser and that is where my energy gets used. This same personality test told me that in the other categories of life, I have very little energy left, so I resort to that harmonizer in me each time. Much validity lies in that statement. I please others before I please myself. Yet this doesn’t always seem to pan out in the best ways for me. 

So, I have begun asking myself really tough questions; questions that I find difficult to answer in ways that challenge all I’ve known my entire adult life. 

I am a wife. I am a mom. I am a writer. I am a runner. I am an office employee. 
    Those are the statements that so often come to my mind when I am asking myself who am I? 
And yet, those are not who I am, they are what I do. There is a difference, I believe. But it becomes so hard to separate and differentiate between what I do and who I am at the core. 
Words speak volumes to me. When I say volumes, I mean that I hang onto words like a monkey hangs on a tree. I remember them for days and months to come. They have the power to tear my heart apart or build my spirits up. I have often let words of others’ define me in ways that God has not. Yet I struggle to not allow those words, be good or bad, define me. And in recent days, this has become a clear picture of a part of my struggle of who I am at the core. 
So I have begun asking myself Who Am I?  Not in name, not in jobs, but who is Rachael? Who does God say I am and who does He want me to be? I wish it were as simple as just answering. Yet, for me, being an overthinker much of the time, being one who holds onto words, answering this questions has become complex. 

I have had to sort through the words of others, whether good or bad, and allow the words of what God says to me be what defines me. And then I can take those definitions into life and strive to become what He wants me to be. 

I am His child. A precious daughter of the King. Not to be thrown away or stomped upon or allowed by anyone else to be defined. I am His princess. 

    I am loved. Deeply and truly loved how I so desire to be loved. It’s not based off what I do or what I say, but it is based off simply pure, unadulterated love. 

 I am forgiven. I am covered in His grace. Every day. I mess up. All the time. I sin.  I have hurt others, I have confused my own identity. But He steps in and covers me in Grace. Why? Because He loves me. 

      I am free. Free to be me in Him. He has made me wonderfully and beautifully, as Psalm 139 tells me. I am free from sin, if I allow Him to work in me. I am free from fear, if I give it to Him. I am free from my past. 

These are the things that matter. And yet, so hard to embrace. When words are thrown at me, it becomes so hard to see myself through the eyes of my creator. When life changes, those moments can seem bigger than the real truths. 
   But these are who I am at the core. And being these, He has then given me abilities and talents and unique gifts that only I can fulfill because of the fact that I am unique. That’s where my writing comes in, my running happens, my passions unfold . They don’t define who I am, but I am able to take who He has made me to be to fulfill things that only Rachael can fulfill. It is in this, that He has given me the gift of encouragement (ahem...harmonizing??) . I love people. I love to tell them good things. I love to listen to them and help them. But somehow, I often allow myself to love them more than I love myself. This comes back to remembering who I am at the core.  I have to allow God to fill me up every day so that I can pour that out onto others. Then and only then can I be used by Him. 
  as I embrace  and learn who I am, the smile I so often love to pass to others, grows. It is so genuine and cannot be suppressed by  hard times. The smile grows because it is rooted in the depths of security in who God has made me to be. No matter what happens. 
    I have to come to a place of if everything were stripped away: My family, (my mom....), my job, my blog, my running ability, and everything I do because I love...if all that were stripped away from me, would Christ be enough for me? That is a deep and terrifying question to answer. But when He does become enough, then my joy is full. My heart can overflow. I can rest in Who I am. I can be who He created me to be. 

The complex question of who am I still resonates in me, and I am still striving to answer it. But as I work through the depths of it, I am discovering that though I have not always made the best decions in life and I have made mistakes and messed up, who I am at the core, I really do enjoy. And when I am being who He made me to be, I am happy. I am full and I can better pour out onto others. But remaining in that on a daily basis.... That is a struggle. One which I am fighting to conquer. 
  He has made me a beautiful woman. I don’t mean beautiful like look in a mirror and I’m gorgeous. I mean, He has made me beautiful on the inside. And as I learn to embrace that, the beauty shines through in my smile, and my laugh and my abilities and the gifts He has given me. 

 Nothing can take that away, unless I let it. Not others. Not change. Not grief. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

My Story

It's Monday, Fitness Post Day. The weather is amazing the last couple days and today,  so I am very excited to get outdoors and run without all the layers!
 At my job, we have been collecting stories from our runners of  why they run.  I, personally, have enjoyed reading each of the stories. I love to understand people and to know their story.  I love to hear reasons of why people feel accomplished, what they are overcoming.  Some of the stories are simple and still others are quite detailed. But, personally, some of the stories have even challenged me, or reminded me that my worries of life are not all that big compared to what some others have to conquer.
  If you have followed my blog a long time, you have most likely already heard my running story, and why I do it. But, in light of reading other runners' stories, and in light of the fact this this week marks the anniversary of my mom's passing 4 years ago, I am going to share some sketches of my story yet again this morning. Some of my readers, I know, are new friends. If you already know my story, feel free to skip today and I'll catch up with you again tomorrow or Wednesday ;).
  The bottom line is: I run because I love it. I run because I am passionate about the sport. That's the bottom line. But the story behind why I love it is detailed and in depth.
 If you knew me growing up, you know I was more of the drama nerd/band geek. I was not athletic or inclined in that way at all. In fact, I often said I can't, specifically about running. But in 2008, having moved back to Ohio after living in Florida 7 years, I sat on the finish line of the Air Force Marathon as a volunteer, watching all these different body types and sizes cross the finish line, and decided, if they can do it, I can do it.
 My journey of running started out simply because I wanted to prove to myself I could, in fact, accomplish something I'd told myself for years I couldn't do. I had no idea when I began that journey that I would fall in love with the sport, that it would lead me to my now career.
  Starting out was hard, no doubt. Many days I wanted to give up. But for the first time in my life, I wasn't going to let the voice of "you're not good enough... you can't do it..." stop me. And I conquered. I didn't set out on the journey with the goal of a 5K. I, like a crazy person, chose my first race to be a half marathon. And I fell in love with that distance and with the sport. All in all, I love to run because it has helped me overcome the doubts that have so often pounded on my door and barged through the positive parts of me.  Simply accomplishing that first race back in spring 2009 taught me I am more than I allowed myself to believe or see. And running, through all these years now, has  helped me through the hard times.
   Running has helped me push through depression and anxiety.
     Running has seen me through grief.
   Running has helped me be a better me.

 Simply because it is something I make time to do because I love it.
 I don't run to lose weight or to accomplish some bucket list.
  I don't run for a cause.
    I just run for me.
 It may be selfish, but running has led to some beautiful moments for me. Including, but not limited to, my now being immersed in the culture daily as my career.

  The last piece of my story of running I will touch on is the grief piece. I began running before my mom was re-diagnosed with cancer. But, reality is, running helped me through that time.This week, that topic is on my heart and mind a lot, as it is only natural to be recalling that journey since this week marks 4 years of mom's passing.
  I recall quite clearly this one day in November 2010, it was unseasonably warm, and I went out for a long run, under the last leaves of fall gently caressing my skin as they quietly fell.  I felt amazing for a few moments. Mom was fighting cancer pretty hard, but she was so positive and determined. After that run, I went out to mom's and  had lunch with her, and we played games (our favorite game, Dutch Blitz) and talked, drank coffee, and laughed. We had such a great time. That was the last day I had a conversation with my mom like that because the next day she woke up and couldn't talk, couldn't write. The cancer overnight had pressed in on her brain that quickly. That run, that moment of freedom and that last day of normal conversation with mom is one which will forever be imprinted on my mind.
   The next many months, the last of mom's life, I ran because it kept me "sane" through that process. Mom passed on March 20. I was scheduled to run a half marathon 2 weeks after that date, and I had not trained to the best (obviously there were higher priorities) but I ran that race, one I will never forget. I ran that one because I knew mom would want me to, but also to tell myself I would be okay.
   My passion for running has fueled the 5K we put on (in memory of mom) to raise scholarship funds for nursing students. At first, putting on that event was a way to process grief to a certain degree, to turn a sad situation into something positive. But, as time has gone on and grief is no longer what it once was, the event is less about grief and more about the students who get the scholarships. It's about being a light to others, doing something for someone else. It's not about mom. It's not about me. It's about God's love and light being extended through a simple passion of mine.
   And that event, ultimately led to my career now at the marathon office, where I am very proud to be on staff. Like any job, there are challenges to be found there. But, the entire process that led me to this point has been God-orchestrated, and I couldn't be happier than to be part of it and sharing that as part of my life story.

 So, why do I run? Because I love it. Honestly, running is probably one of the first deep passions I developed as an adult. I love my family, I love being a mom. Don't get me wrong in those aspects. I enjoy many activities. But, running was probably the first passion I discovered as an individual adult. Something just for me.  My story is no greater than anyone else's. But, since it was fitness Monday, and a week marking a significant time in my life, through which running has played a large role,  it seemed the appropriate thing to write today.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Little Moments

As the week wraps up yet again, and time continues to march on, those little moments become more and more essential to bringing smiles to life. Chaos exists all around us, demands shout for our attention, people can be draining at times, and well, quite frankly, life can offer times of tailspin confusing and frustrating moments.
  But, as the picture above shows a beautiful and quiet moment captured in time, so can the little moments each day be a moment captured in time, to lend smile and encouragement on those rather chaotic days. I have begun to learn the art of being still. I am absolutely awful at this. I enjoy being busy, having projects, and being surrounded by people. But in the stillness, I can better understand the lessons I am learning and I can more appreciate what those lessons mean. Those little things... they truly become the big things; the things that matter. So... Here are some of my "little things" from the last week.

 - The first signs of spring are around, and while it's definitely still chilly, the promise of warm days to come has provided a small burst of energy for my soul. The sun is out, the snow is finally melting, and the birds are returning. 
    - Over the last weekend, my family was together for the first time in 4 years, to celebrate my dad's birthday. It felt so good to laugh, to hug, to recall old memories and to hear some stories told that had never before been shared, as well as make new memories. Those memories made in those moments will sit with me for a lifetime. 
   - A sister in law who is such a fun friend as well. We started as baristas together back in the day at Starbucks, and we kidded then that we were sisters, but then she and my brother married and we truly became sisters. She's pretty awesome. 

     - A person unexpected who says nothing but "I'm praying for you."  No words of advice, no probing, no expectations or judgements. Just the simple words "I'm praying for you." 
         - Having my nephew around for a weekend. At one and a half, he is on the go. I loved giving Bekah a small break and changing him and putting him down for a nap and learning some of his antics. 
  - Being a people person, and energized by others around me, friendships are a very important part of my life. I am grateful this week, as much as any week, for a best friend who knows me better than I know myself and can simply say "You don't have to pretend or be a certain way with me." Again, a simple statement that goes miles and speaks volumes to my soul. 
     - Jumping on the trampoline with my son. Man, it felt good to be outside, it felt good to jump and be free like a child, it felt good to laugh, and it felt good to share a new moment with my son. 
        - Swapping books with my daughter. My mom used to give me good books she'd read. Now, me and Elizabeth share books. We share the love of words (both in writing and in reading) just like my mom and I did. I love that Elizabeth and I swap books. 
   - My dad. He's one of my heroes in life. I am grateful for him. (He has no idea I captured this photo. There are pigs all over the house, because mom used to collect them. The kids were playing with this one and handed it to him, and he ended up holding onto it for a while. Just seemed an endearing photo...)
     - Growth. I am thankful we don't stay stagnant in life. Lessons can be hard at times, and other times they come more easily. But I am glad that life continues to teach and push me to be better. 
         - Journals. Occasionally, I come across some of my mom's old journals or writings, and I love learning new things about her through those. I am also glad I keep a journal because it helps me see how far I've come and reminds me of things God has taught me that sometimes I forget about. 
    - A new blogger friend, Amanda, a connection only God could have provided. I love finding these hidden jewels. This one came across my path in an unexpected way, but her journey is so similar to mine, I know it was a connection that God put there. 
    - Dreams. I am a dreamer. sometimes life clouds those dreams, but once they start pushing through me again, much like the flowers ready to bloom, beauty begins to shine through. It's just part of me, not meant to be stifled. 

   The little moments become the big ones... embrace them. One day at a time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Dad

In regards to leadership, my dad is one of the greatest family leaders I have ever known.
 Today, my dad turns 70, and we had a blast celebrating his life.
We gathered up old friends from his lifetime and family came together, and we managed to pull of the surprise of showing dad how much we love him.
  My dad is an amazing man. And my dad is a picture of leadership in many ways.
 Dad is a quiet leader. He doesn't command respect, he has earned it through his work ethics and his honest efforts in all he does. Dad doesn't want or ask for attention, or even lead hundreds of people. But his leadership has taught one, who has taught another, and the trickle effect is so large, he has touched hundreds of lives over his adult years.  His leadership has a quality about it that is rarely found.
 Dad was first a farmer, running a business and leading our family through the years by providing with solid hard work, which had no breaks. When the pigs were being born in the middle of the night, dad was up, out in the barn, taking care of them. When winter hit and temperatures were below zero, dad put on more layers to feed the animals. When summer burned heat through most people's skin, dad was out in his jeans, on the hay wagon throwing bales, never complaining.  I have always admired my dad's work ethics. He never quits. Dad now has an excavation business, and let me tell you, you'd never know he is 70 years old if I didn't tell you. He's in the trenches as much as the young hired help. He lifts heavy machinery and has callouses on his hands from his daily work with his hands. If you ask dad what a sick day is, he'd likely say, "A what?" because he works through it all. He taught me the value of earning my dollars through honesty and hard work.
  Dad always provided for our family. Earnings were meager many days, but my dad always found a way. He never asked for money. If he had to work more jobs, he did. A story was told about him at his party that went something like this- in his younger days, he went into the bank for a loan to get a car. (at that time, he shared a car with his 2 brothers, which was really not ideal). The bank was a farmer's bank and when asked what he needed a loan for, and he said a car, they told him they only gave loans for buying cattle. The next day dad went into the bank again and said he needed a loan to buy cattle. And they gave him the loan. He always found a way. He never quit. He may have been discouraged at times, but he rarely let that show. And because he was so faithful to God in all he did, and always gave back to God, even when there was nothing to give, God always provided in return.
He taught me how to handle money because of all the years i watched him wisely use his.
   Dad has endured much loss, but never allowed that to prevent him from moving forward. He lost his twin brother and younger brother in one day in a farming accident. He lost a son. He lost his parents. And in recent years, he lost his wife. I only could hope to have the faith my dad has displayed in those times. Yes, he hurt. But he always held onto his faith and believed God was good and had a plan. I certainly have not handled my grief as elegantly as dad has. And he has had way more to grieve.  His strength is admirable. His faith unshakable.
  Dad leads by example. Not by commanding or demanding, but by being alongside his people. The list could go on with what I could say about my dad. The bottom line is, I am so thankful for my dad, and his example of love and leadership to me. What he has taught me has helped shape who I am today. The things I used to make fun of my dad for regularly (like falling asleep on the couch, or telling dumb jokes, or his old fashioned sayings) I now find myself doing the exact same things.
 My mom used to shake her head and say "Oh brother, you two" because we were so much alike.
But if I had to be compared to anyone, or said i was like someone, I could not be prouder than to be like my dad.

  The first time we have all been together since mom's funeral. L-R, Stephen, Becky, Dad, me, Tim
My dad. :) 

Monday, March 9, 2015


Monday typically brings around my fitness blog, but about the only thought I have to say in regards to fitness today is that when I did my Saturday morning run, I realized that while "pounding the pavement" is one way to sort through my thoughts, the other way is  "pounding the keys". Meaning, letting the thoughts flow through the tips of my fingers to the pages of my blogs.
 I really am just one voice among millions who blog. You could choose any blog to read. I appreciate those of you who stick with me through mine. I am really no expert on any one subject matter, I just have a lot of thoughts which I push out onto virtual paper as the lessons I am learning through this journey of life. Many bloggers out there have expertise in one area and write about that. My blog? I try to be as real as you can find, whether the thoughts are relevant to one topic or not (and most often, they are not... )
  What's on my mind most this week is leadership. I can't really explain why that topic keeps penetrating my thought process, but as it does, I find the way to work through that is to write. Some thoughts remain in my mind, or quietly shared in the comfort of a chair over a cup of coffee with a best friend.
 The topic of leadership stands true to be one on which I am no expert. However, I have been thinking about what makes a leader a leader. I have served under several different bosses, all of whom have had different styles. I have learned much from being under various personalities. But I believe each person who is a leader has a unique style. I observe husbands and fathers who lead their families in different manners. I have read books about leadership.  No one formula to becoming and being a leader exists; it looks different in each personality.
 There is optimism and Pessimism in leaders. There are dictators and there are teachers. There are quiet leaders, who bring up more leaders by their powerful examples. And there are loud leaders, who demand respect and want the attention, and gain it, but not always in the most positive ways. Leadership has no one great definition.
 I do not think leadership can be forced. And I feel that to be a leader, you must first be a learner- willing to admit to wrongs and not knowing it all, but celebrating those on the team who do contribute to those moments, and allowing the more knowledgable one to have the moment.
  There are born leaders, and there are leaders who rise up through time.
 When I worked at Starbucks, I started out very timid. And in my head, I would say "I'm not a leader." And yet through time there, I rose up to become a shift supervisor. When I was a shift supervisor at Starbucks, and I wanted to continue to grow and "move up", I was told I needed to be more assertive. And yet, when I tried to do that in ways I'd seen other leaders within the company do it,  I learned different styles of leadership existed. Because the reality is, that moment  I attempted to  to get what needed done accomplished, it landed me in a spot of needing to apologize and correct the formula. I found out The way I lead through my experiences there looked very different from the other managers styles. But, in time, I gained respect because of how I led, not because I copied another leader's style.
 In my life, I have been under some great leaders, or I have had the opportunity to be immersed in the culture of watching other great leaders. I'll recall some of those experiences this week, since that is the topic on my mind. My dad is one of the great leaders I have watched. Some of my bosses have been. And as a  once barista inside a fast growing company, I had the opportunity to experience different personalities of leaders. The greatest book of leadership, the Bible, is full of great leaders, as well as stories of those who were not.
  Being a leader looks different in every environment.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Little Moments

The saying has been said this week,  "March came in roaring like a lion" , with several inches of snow and a few more days of bitter cold. But, I am going to keep hanging on to Spring being just around the corner! (next week's forecast with 50s sounds like pure heaven after all this mess!) Spring is beginning to line up with busy days for me already, but, perhaps that can/will be a good thing.
 I have to continue to take a moment each day to reflect on the little moments through the day. When life gets busy, that becomes all the more important. I look forward to Fridays even, not just because it's Friday (TGIF, right?) but also because this is always a morning blog good for my heart to hold onto and end my work week.  Without further ado, here are some of my little moments from the week:
 - As a previous barista for years, I would see off and on a customer do a kind act by buying the drink for the person in front of them. I always loved those moments, where I got to deliver the news to the customer- 'your drink is taken care of today'. But this week, I was that person who was given that act of kindness. As I dug through my change purse, pulling out my nickels to pay for my drink,  the woman behind me, whom I did not know and probably never will, told the barista she was buying my drink. I smiled and nearly cried all at once. It was the kindest pick me up. You see, it's truly the little moments that matter....
  - Laughter is so good for the soul. I so LOVE to laugh. (who doesn't??) Yesterday, I laughed so hard with my friend over the dumbest things, that I had tears in my eyes and my sides hurt. To try to even explain why we were laughing would make no sense to anyone, but no matter, it felt great.
   - I had an unexpected visit from a childhood friend yesterday. The kind of friend who you can always just pick up with at any time.
       - my "little" brother, who stands many inches above me these days. It's wonderful to have a sibling who understands me, encourages me, and pushes me in the right way all the time, even if we only get to talk every now and then. It's helpful to have a brother who understands the military world I work in (far better than even I understand it) because he's lived it. And great to have a brother who supports me in all my endeavors. And just as exciting, who is coming in this weekend! That has been enough to lend me excitement for the entire week.
   -Surprises. I love them. I love to get a surprise, I suppose, but really, I love to give them the most. The planning and unfolding of it adds to good little moments for the week (more on this next week)
    - While my training has been shy of what I'd like it to be, I am very much looking forward to a new race on my horizon at the end of this month, which will run through the beautiful horse parks and areas of Kentucky. I not only get to run a new race, but I get to promote ours (Air Force Marathon) at the same time. Bonus for me :)
      -  God's provision. No matter what the circumstances, I love to see God provide. For my needs. For others' needs. When things seem most sparse, He always provides a way. I've watched this all my life, but every now and then there is a potent reminder of it again. I am grateful He meets all my needs.

    TGIF, my friends. May you enjoy all of your little moments, one day at a time.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mindset and Motivation

As I sat and thought about what to bring you on this monday blog post about fitness, I thought to myself I really am the last person qualified to be writing about this topic. I am not an expert, by any means. I simply tell my story about my running journey. That far from qualifies me as a fitness guru. Many I know, who are far more educated, are more qualified to be speaking or writing about this topic than myself. 
 February was a really, really, (did I say really?) tough training month for me. But, I have learned much through that time, and much of training is about the journey. In reflecting on my February "Monday fitness" posts, I realized that much of what I wrote was for me, as much as it was for my readers. Which brings me to my thoughts today.
  I feel like I am finding my groove with fitness again. Saturday I did a long run again. (Okay, it was only 5 miles, but considering what February was, that was a good track to being in the long distance once again...) That particular run, though slow, felt amazing. The sun was out and 25 degrees felt like 55 compared to recent temperatures. I chose a different route, and though the scenery was boring, my feet finding a groove on a different roadway made a difference. I could feel myself pulling out of the slump of the rough month of training. I also shifted my mindset dramatically over the last week with my eating habits. Part of training, after all, is eating right, too. I don't always do this well, but I have realized my body needed that change. Many don't realize what eating the right foods can do for both body and mind. I struggle with this- I like my sweets and my potato chips very much. It's not to say I have to give those up completely,  I just needed to adjust the consumption. These 2 efforts combined make a phenomenal difference. Do you know what both of these boil down to? 
The mindset and the motivation. 

The mindset is the one aspect I can control. Only I can do this. I can allow myself to give up or I can push myself to keep going. And while I never quit on myself through the wintery month of February, the mind played a large part of the challenge. Yes, there were health factors in there as well, but I teetered between the lines of quitting and keep on going for many days.  The mind plays a huge part of that. After all, the mind is the one that will play the tricks of "Get out of bed" or "Sleep in" . Or "Eat that cookie" or "Eat that orange."  The mind tells me I am good enough or I am a failure. It's an endless battle the tricks the mind can play on us, but it comes down to which part of that battle will I let win? The lying part of my mind, which never leaves me feeling better, is done being the winner. I will choose to keep winning and being a winner, simply by continuing to fight for my goals and runs and healthier me. 
   The motivation is a different story. Motivation looks different to every person. For some, they run for the victory of receiving a medal. Others are motivated by a number on the scale. Still others are motivated by people around them. My motivation is a different color and a different shape all the time. Each person has to figure out their own motivation. For a little bit, my motivation was a time goal. And to be honest, that time goal still remains in the back of my mind. But, I have never been a watch fan, I really prefer to enjoy the run. Training with a time goal as my motivator brought challenges which caught me off guard. So, the motivator this time around (at this point in the game) come around to a couple different specifics. Sometimes, a friend motivates me. That would be the case at this point. Not a training buddy, but a friend also changing the mindset and bettering themselves, albeit in a different manner, has helped me see if they can do it, so can I, so I need to get out of my head and back into the game. Perhaps we motivate each other, but I'd be more inclined this time around to say that I have been the one motivated in this case by their determination, whether they know it or not. And I am grateful for it. The secondary motivator that comes around with that is just to keep working on me. I lost a little bit of that the last month, but as I train, and fuel myself with better foods and more exercise, I find my happy place more often than not. And the more I do that, the better I feel. No, those 2 things are not what makes me me, but they certainly contribute to a better mindset, and a better mindset makes me a better me. 
  See how the mindset and the motivation tie together and in essence, keep the training going? And the training (or goal setting/exercise) helps me continue to be a better me. 
  Goodbye, February. You taught me much, but I will not miss you. Hello, March, I welcome you with open arms and a determined mindset.  And look out... my races come in April.... 
   Mindset and Motivation are in place and I'm not quitting. I'm continuing to work on me. Physcially, emotionally and spiritually. And yes, the mindset and motivation tie into all of those as well.