Sunday, May 29, 2016

Quilted Memories

My mind is swimming with a variety of thoughts. That's not completely uncommon, but this week in particular, there is much to be accomplished. I am entering the week of my 5K, which is in memory of my mom. The event itself always brings on a flood of "to-do" items, memories of mom, learning and growth of my own self and knowledge of the running industry, and likely very little sleep!

 This will be a busy week for sure, but yesterday I took time to myself. I took time away from the chaos, away from my computer on-line classes, and away from the home. I took time to meet with a couple of my friends from my Colombia trip.

 The joy that I take away from those conversations sits deep in my soul. They are conversations of reminiscing over what God did in each of our lives during that time- which is so good to continually remember. The conversations are of dreams of what we want to happen in our futures. And they are conversations of sharing the pain of life as well.

 Both of the women I had the chance to catch up with are very dear friends, and to have time to sit and soak in some new moments was priceless.

 Barb, one of my friends whom I met yesterday, is a quilter. A long story short, Barb agreed to make a quilt out of my running shirts.  I always had wanted one of these, but they are crazy expensive. So, Barb's agreement to make one for me at a very generous cost made me more than happy.

 Yesterday, Barb gave me that finished quilt.  I had no idea what to expect, since I gave her all my shirts and told her to put it together however she wanted. I didn't ask for specific shirts on there, and I certainly gave her enough. So, when I unfolded the quilt in anticipation, I was immediately taken down memory lane. Allow me to share what flutters through my mind as I looked at the quilt.....

 Square one: I run because.... Kentucky Derby half marathon 2015. That race in particular doesn't hold a significant memory, but the shirt was one of my favorites because behind the phrase "I Run Because" were people's reasons as to why they run. Reasons given by runners in the race itself. And I love reading those. Running holds a huge place in my heart, in case you didn't know. ;) And so I found that a significant shirt to start off my quilt.

 Square two: Monumental Half Marathon 2015. That race was significant to me because I trained hard through the fall for that event. But in the process of that training, I learned an even bigger lesson in life- the lesson of letting go. Lessons that will forever be engrained in my heart and mind and lessons I will carry with me for a lifetime.

 Square three, ten, and twelve:  Linda A. Ferguson memorial 5K shirts. Obviously, that sits closely to my heart because it is an event in memory of my mom. It's an event I gave birth to and have enjoyed putting on yearly. Through that event, I have grown as a person in more ways than one, and I have learned hundreds of lessons. It is an event which led me to my current job with the Air Force Marathon.

 Square four: The Flying Pig Marathon. The only full marathon I have ever run.

 Square five: The Air Force Marathon. Special to me for a million reasons. That shirt in particular happens to be from the year I was going to run the 5K but it actually got cancelled because of lightning. Still, it's very special to me. Simply because of being the Air Force Marathon.

 Square six: Girls on the Run 5K. Barb picked that because her granddaughter was involved with that program. For me, I ran that event for the cause.

 Square seven: Xenia Half Marathon, 2014. I did not finish with a particularly amazing time. But that event was a time in life I was facing significant hardship, and the race to me signified being able to push through it.

 Square eight: Foam Fest 5K. Just for fun. I don't do very many of those, but I admit- that event was a blast! My friend Alyssa and I ran through crazy obstacles, mud, water, walls, and inflatables full of foam. That was a great time!

 Square nine: GloRun. That was an event my son and I ran together. I can recall it very clearly still.

 Square eleven: Harrigans 5K. That event holds my 5K PR. It rained, but it was a good event.

  I had so many shirts that didn't get to make the quilt, but that didn't matter- looking at the quilt makes me happy, makes me remember. It would mean nothing to anyone else, but to me.... it reminds me of that which I am capable.

 It brings back memories.

 My son asked me if I would have another quilt made with the rest of the shirts. I told him probably not. At least not for a long time. Then again, perhaps one day I will, and the quilts may get passed on to my kids, eventually.

 For now, if you know me well, you know I am more often than not cold. So, I wrap myself up in the quilt, all the while wrapped up in the memories.

 Oh- and one of the neatest things also on the quilt is that Barb stitched a runner girl in the corner. She is one talented woman! I am grateful for her handiwork, but even more so for her friendship.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Cleveland Experience

I spent the last 4 days in Cleveland for work, and I am coming home with more than one story to tell. This was the last travel for work for a while, and I am glad for that, but it was one to go out with a bang - in a good way, mind you.

 This was my first time in Cleveland, and there, you will often hear the phrase "the Cleveland Experience." I am sure it is some kind of marketing that was made up for the city, and I have to tell you, I am leaving with Cleveland experience stories. I could make this a 2 part blog, but I will refrain from that and do my best to summarize for you. One of my favorite parts of doing the travel is getting to have new experiences with new people, running at new events, and recapturing my thoughts to remember for the days to come.

 The story of the weekend was the race. As is typical when I get to travel to other marathons, I took the advantage of running the event (the half marathon, of course.) I have been training for this particular event since March. I changed my eating habits slightly and I have been going to the TRX class as part of my training schedule. For this race, I didn't aim for a PR, but I was aiming for 2:32 minutes. I wanted to feel improvement from my last run in March, and I am working diligently towards being a better runner, and this event was a baseline for me to gauge how that was going.

 I packed for this travel on Tuesday (left on Thursday) and did my packing based off the weather forecast at that point in time. In the time frame of our arrival to Cleveland, the weather forecast changed every day. I had to buy clothes while I was there in order to be properly dressed for running on Sunday. Even then, I could have done with a little bit more attire, but I made do.

 Thursday and Friday were mostly beautiful days. Saturday it turned colder, with more rain. And by Sunday... May 16.... the forecast told us snow, sleet, hail and rain were in line for the day. Who could ever have guessed that for May! This would be one for the books, that's for sure.

 My co-worker was going to walk the 10K, and I run the half. We met to walk to the start line and made our way a few blocks. We were both surprised that it wasn't as cold as we had anticipated.
 We wanted to check out the start line area before we made our way into our corral, and as we neared the start area, I felt someone pinch me. I turned around and my FAMILY was there! They surprised me, drove 3 hours (leaving at 3:30 am) and showed up at the start line to see me. I was so surprised and so happy, it made my day! They were not prepared for the cold of Cleveland either.

 The race began on time, and off we went! I said goodbye to Jeanette and took off at my race pace. The first mile was dry. And then the sleet started. And then little balls of hail. Tiny enough to not leave bruises, but big enough to sting the skin. This carried on through all the miles. I will not bore you with mile to mile details, but I will tell you by Mile 5, there was no more dodging puddles, the feet were soaked. The hail and rain and sleet and snow mixture got harder, while the temperatures were colder. The wind came and went throughout the miles, being stronger in some places. By mile 6, I put my glasses in my pocket- I could not see through them and nothing was left dry on me to wipe them off. By mile 9, I could not feel my hands or my right arm. I was soaked and absolutely freezing. I just kept moving. when I thought about walking, I did not. 1. Because I was making good time and I wanted to maintain that. and 2. Because I was honestly afraid if I began to walk that I would freeze. So, I plugged away. At mile 11, with frozen hands, I looked at them. They felt like they were bent into place! I blew warm breath on them, trying to make the blood flow. I gave up and just kept moving.

 Mile 12 was a bridge. I was numb. Literally. I understand that sounds exaggeratory, but I promise you, I was numb. I wanted to walk, but I had gone that far without yet stopping, so I pushed through it. I maintained fairly well. The wind was wicked on that bridge. The first half of that mile was tough, but as I pushed through it, the end of the bridge gave me a little more "umph" to my step. I could see the finish line... and I was pushing it. I felt good, aside from being frozen and numb. I looked for my family for a moment, but at that time, the sleet and snow were falling so hard, I couldn't see anyway, so I focused on my finish and I felt amazing about my time! I was so happy with it. I finished ahead of the 2:32 and was almost at a PR (one minute off). I wasn't aiming for one, so I didn't mind missing it. I was super happy with my finish time, especially because of the weather conditions! Who could have seen that happening in MAY!?! It had to be record bad weather for their event.

 My family was there, waiting for me, shivering and doing their best to stay warm. I was so happy they came; I know their experience of standing around had to be fairly miserable. I could not feel my hands to call my coworker and tell her where to meet me. (Michael pulled his phone out and did it for me.) I was shivering and my body did not know what was happening. I have never been more grateful for a heat sheet at a race finish. I could not even stop to take the finish line food- I needed to keep moving. My family hugged me, drove me to my hotel and said goodbye- they were going to make their way back home.

 I literally stood in the shower for 40 minutes, trying to warm up. I was freezing, but at the same time, I was happy and would not trade that race experience for anything.

 You never know what weather you will get in a race. This was for sure a first for me (and I hope a last), and I most certainly would not have predicted snow and hail and sleet in May. If I didn't have these pictures to prove it, you wouldn't believe me. So, while I am not a huge fan of some of these, I am sharing them nonetheless, because they were part of my Cleveland experience.

  A few more notes about my Cleveland experience. While I could write more about it, I will do a bullet point for you (with pictures).
  - We attended a dress up party. I didn't know anyone, but by the end of the evening, I did, and I enjoyed that experience. I enjoy people and I enjoy learning. And I got to do both through the evening. I had fun dressing up, which I never do to this extent. It's not my typical scene, but a change of scenery is always nice once in a while.

 - We chose a "Best of Ohio" restaurant to eat in, and we decided it was wisely placed on the list. It overlooked the lake. We had good conversation and a beautiful view.

 - I met a really cool person named Star. Star and her husband direct another race in Ohio. She does motivational speaking. I learned a lot about her story and her career, and she left me with some wise words in one of our conversations. Advice that will sit with me for a lifetime. Advice that deserves its own blog and perhaps will most likely find its way to one soon. She said that in one of her motivational speeches, she tells her audience the 3 words a person (or runner) should never use :  "Only. But. and Slow." As we talked more about that, it resonated in my heart, because I use those words far too often, and they put me down. She had wisdom behind this. She inspired me and encouraged me. And she will stick with me for a lifetime, whether she knows it or not.

 - Greeting cards are my favorite. If you know me,  you know how much I enjoy giving cards out. American Greetings was one of the sponsors of this event. They gave cards away, and I was elated to get cards that were motivational about running to take with me to write to friends in the future. They also had a giant greeting card in the lobby area, and yes... I had to take my photo with it. (My gracious coworkers always put up with my photo habits.... it's part of documenting for my memories, as cheesy as it may seem.) They also had a place for you to take your own photo and it be sent to you. Well, we did this. And I am going to share this, but I need to give you the story behind it, because we are holding signs up in the picture.
 Prior to Star's and my conversation, a runner came to our table talking to us. Long story short, he saw I was running the event and asked me about it. He asked my projected finish time. When I told him, he didn't even hesitate to say "Oh! I pace the slow runners!"  I was a little speechless for  a moment. He was implying my time was slow and proceeded to talk on to me about that. (one more reason Star's talk with me was meaningful) Anyway, it became the joke of the weekend, that I pace the slow runners.

 Needless to say, while the weekend held many different events- from high heels to sneakers and sunshine to snow- my Cleveland experience was one for the books. But one I would not trade.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day 2016

Mother's Day.

 In part, I am full of emotion, but struggle to put together the words.
 The memories flood my soul, which bring joy to my heart and a smile to my face.

But it is a bitter sweet day, as mom has been gone 5 years. It doesn't get easier, it just gets different.

Facebook is flooded with pictures of women laughing with their mothers and wishing them well.
 The stores are saturated with mother's day cards and flowers.

 I carry a single carnation to my mom's grave today. And this is my version of handing her a mother's day card. One she will never read or see, but words well deserved for a mom who has left me a legacy in her absence.

 I rejoice today because I am a mom of 2 wonderful children. They bring me thrills and they bring me frustrations. They teach me and stretch me. They help me become a better me. Sometimes along this journey, I miss my mom fiercely, wishing I had her to talk to, to understand how in the world she put up with the emotional me at 13, as I know I am now walking that same crazy path with my own 13 year old daughter.

 I have been spoiled today by my family with heartfelt hand written cards from my kids, who know that no matter how old they get, I will always embrace the hand written words.  I have been showered with unexpected gifts, things my kids have remembered me saying through the months of "I wish I had that..." . And Michael has smothered me with flowers and some amazing cooking. I am enjoying what it means to be a mom.

 And I am remembering my own mom.

 As I sit quietly by her grave today, I know there is no magic in where her tombstone is. This is not a place where she is physically. I don't often come here. But today, there is beauty in the stillness. There is a closeness somehow, even if just for a few quiet minutes in my day. No one is talking and there is no media shouting.

 It's the birds- which my mom so loved to observe- and the green grass, and me.

 The wind whips gently around me, evidence of God's embrace in my life.

 Mother's Day will always be bitter sweet.

  For the thousand memories I hold of mom, I experience the newly made moments, knowing how she would enjoy them, were she here.

 For the legacy she left behind, I hope to grow to become like my mom was.

  For the laughter she found in the every day moments, I hope to be clothed with the same attitude.

   As I sat and helped Joseph in the late hours of the night this week with his book report, I recalled how my mom sacrificed hours of sleep countless times to help me with my projects. I had the funniest memory come to me  when I was in third grade, I had a solo in the school Christmas play, and mom spent hours sewing a costume for me- a red and white cow costume.  I don't know what brought that to mind, but I smiled at that.

 Mom never complained. Mom never asked for more. She gave all she had.

  When I lost mom, I lost the biggest cheerleader I ever had. She was at all my soccer games when I was the worst player ever (not an understatement, I seriously was.) She came to my basketball and volleyball games. She sat in the audience at all my plays, multiple nights of them, just to be there for me.

  Mom came to all the football games because I played in the band. She cooked meals and she drove me everywhere . (I didn't appreciate that at the time... now I fully understand how much time and gas that took.)

 My mom was there when my children were born, and while she wasn't here when I miscarried, she was there in presence and letters, because she, herself, had lost a child -  after delivery.

 Mom prayed for me, every day. Something special that mothers do best.  Something I've rarely heard anyone say to me since.

 Mom sent me scripture notes and encouraged me in my faith.

 She taught me to clean and taught me to bake. But more than that, she taught me that those things don't matter in the scheme of life- time with each other is what matters. She would sometimes put aside cleaning or chores to play a game with me. We played hundreds of hands of Dutch Blitz and multiple other games. We laughed until we cried. We sang songs. She told stories.

 One time when mom was in the hospital, she was pretty ill, and couldn't speak, but her sense of determination and humor remained. The kids were fairly young and we sat in her room. We decided to play a game. We would make up a story and every time a certain word was said, someone would have to make a trumpet noise. It was sort of like learning a new word kind of game. Anyway, mom made the trumpet noise and there were times we said the word as often as we could that instead of trumpet noise, we would all just laugh. My kids remember that.

 My mom taught me to love.
  Love with all I have.
   Never give up.
     Be true to who I am, to who God has made me.

Mom cared for me when I was sick, even to a point of lying on my hard floor the night after my tonsillectomy. She got up in the night with me when I couldn't sleep. She read to me.

I  can remember getting up and finding my mom so many times sitting at her desk, early in the morning, reading her Bible and praying. She lived faith and taught me faith.

 She had her flaws- everyone does. But more often than not, she chose joy over sorrow. She laughed instead of cried. She hugged me instead of saying angry words. She loved me when I was unlovable. She cheered me on when others laughed. And she stayed by my side, even when she disagreed with me.

 To an average person on the street, she may have been just another Cedarvillian. But to me, she was my mom. My hero.

 Mom is gone, but her legacy lives on.

 I hope that I can one day leave that same legacy. Those are pretty big shoes to fill.

 Today, when I sat down to write, I don't want this post to be sad. I miss my mom, and a part of me will always shed tears over her absence. But, she is in the perfect place. She lives in Heaven. And one day I will see her again.
  I will miss her forever. But forever here on earth is just a drop of time in the bucket of eternity.

 I am grateful for the legacy my mom left me.  I hope that I can leave a legacy and live like my mother did. In the Rachael kind of way, but with the Linda touches laced all through out it.

 So, while this is the most non-traditional mother's day card that will never make its way to a Hallmark shelf...

 Happy Mother's Day, Mom.
  You lived, you laughed, you loved
   You taught, you played, you disciplined.
You cheered, you cried, you prayed.
    You defined motherhood for me.
You inspired me to be a better me- always- and you continue to do so.
    You can never be replaced.

 The memories live on.
  The tears fall occasionally, but mostly, I smile.
  I hope that I can be a mother one day like you were.
And those lessons, those memories, and that legacy
 is the greatest gift you ever gave me.

 You may never have worn a cape, but you will always be my superhero.

Happy Mother's Day.

 You are not here, but I will celebrate you anyway.
 Today and every day.

Because you were an amazing mom.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Painters bleed their emotions on a canvas.
 Singers belt out their feelings through lyrics.
Writers drip vulnerability through the ink of their words.

 All are a form of artistry. I am an artist, whether it would ever be recognized in that manner or not.
I am real and raw and I won't apologize for it.

When I've had a bad day or I am learning powerful lessons, or I am bursting with joy over God's work in my life, I want to do one of two things, because these things help me process the lessons, help me grow and keep going. Thus, I typically want to...
  Or Write.
Today, I write. I will drip the vulnerability of my growth through the words pushed out with passion on the keys of my computer.

I read a quote this week that has sat with me in a potent manner. It was by e.e. cummings and it said "it takes courage to grow up and become who you really are."

 I have been growing up so much in the last year, and becoming who God has always meant me to be. But yes, it does take courage some days. I'm not sharing this to toot my own horn. I share this because I think it also takes courage to be real and raw, and being real and raw help me to continue growing into who I am. I share this because it is His story, told through my life.
 Fighting for what's worth it, when no one else understands or gets it .
  Letting go when holding on would be less painful.
Moving forward when the past tries to claw its way into every day.
    Growing stronger when the world says those actions are weakness.
 Overcoming lies verbalized or criticisms handed out with the truths God clearly teaches.

 Courage. Bravery. Strength. 

 At times, exhibiting these is exhausting. Having courage and being brave are choices. Growing up and becoming who you really are is a process, one which we have the opportunity to choose or walk away from, one which develops strength from the most inward parts of the soul. At times, courage and bravery are lonely.

 It takes courage to recognize what needs to be let go and what is worth holding onto for dear life.
  It takes courage to fight for the things that are worth it, especially when so many say to give up.
 It takes courage to move forward when the past wants to hold you back.
 It takes courage to grow stronger, when it's far easier to give into the weaknesses.
   It takes courage to have a voice of victory, rather than the voice quitting.
 It takes courage to know when to say no and when to say yes.
 It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. 

  I am learning this daily in my life as I push through obstacles, as I see more and more I need to let go of in order to grow into the more necessary parts of me. I am not so sure I am all that courageous, but I am intently listening to what God has to say and looking to Him to help me become who I really am, from the inside out. The topic has crossed my path too much lately to be ignored, And thus, I write about it.
  It's a little private, but at the same time, if we don't verbalize our struggles, how can we help each other? How can another know that the thing they struggle with the most- perhaps the thing hindering them from finding the courage to be who they are meant to be-  if we don't talk about it?

    Courage. It takes courage to share in a vulnerable manner. It takes courage to write. It takes courage to be me some days. But it's a battle worth fighting. Because, again, as I become the me I am made to be, to grow up and exhibit the qualities with which God has most gifted me, He makes new avenues of opportunity. He shows up in the most unexpected ways. He is one step ahead of me, gently calling me forward with the wave of His hand...."come on, Rachael... you can do this... I got you!" And that's the most important place to be.
   Courage. Strength. Bravery. Words that intertwine themselves in a daily weave of definitions.
      At the start of the year, I chose Strength/Strong as my word for the year. The way that definition is playing into my every day life is sort of incredible. As I have studied the word and sifted it through the verses of the Bible, so often it is paired with courage. And as often as it is paired with courage, it also is addressed as not being my own strength, but finding the strength of God within me. Later I will blog more about that word, but today, I ask you, where do you need to exhibit more courage?
  It lives in you.... sometimes you have to dig deep, and other times it's just at the surface, ready to roar like a lion.
   What are you waiting for?

  Joshua 10:25 
Joshua said to them, "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight."