Reflections

Fresh New Look for MarathonForGood.com

new1When Jen gets a break, MarathonForGood.com gets a pretty little makeover.

What do you think?

After more than three years of the same theme, I decided to finally stop being lazy and pay a little more attention to the look and feel of my website, MarathonForGood.com.

(And yes, I mean WEBSITE, not “blog” because I’ve officially finally put my shiny domain use to*good* use (pun intended) so I am officially now MarathonForGood.com).

Only took three years.

I’m not a designer and I know MarathonForGood.com has quite a journey ahead of itself, but at least I’ve put one foot in front of the other today by linking my site and now freshening it.

Next up: New pages and a re-envisioning of content.

‘Cuz, you know, I don’t have enough going on in my life already. ;)

My Heartbreak Hills

ImageI cried. I took a deep breath. I nearly panicked.

Miles before Heartbreak Hill, less than halfway through the biggest marathon of my life, I wasn’t sure if I could make it.

There was nothing physically wrong with me. I had trained for the race and achieved my 20-mile long run in perfect timing and hit my fundraising goal in spite of finding out I was going to run the 115th Boston Marathon AND raise $5,000 for charity in less than three months.

There I was, winding my way from legendary Hopkinton and bonking before the “real” race had even begun (that’s usually around mile 20, Heartbreak Hill, the mile point that’s a struggle in every marathon; it’s made worse by an increase in elevation in Boston. I was only at mile 10.)

boston-marathon-map

I’m now 19 days away from going back to Boston and I feel as though I’ve already conquered so many “Heartbreak Hills” on this journey.

Injury.

Life changes.

Distractions.

Juggling being a mom of two children (it was only one before).

Illness.

Because of my past experience in Boston (which you can read here), I know the pitfalls and challenges that come with the territory, and I’m determined to overcome them. Now I just have to figure out how to slow life down and more more of these hills out of my way.

Boston, I’m coming for you!

 

What Was I Thinking When I Got Married?

I dusted off the nearly 9-year-old wedding photo surrounded by silver hearts, the frame my grandparents gave me as a gift that fateful day.

“What was I thinking when I got married,” the thought crossed my mind as I studied the photo.

I remember the shot. We had just finished walking down the aisle after being pronounced husband and wife. My smile was the biggest I’ve ever experienced (even, dare I say, bigger than following the birthes of our two children, but that came with a whole other level of exhaustion of course) and a tear slipped down my right eye as the photographer took our picture. We carefully shoved my full wedding dress into the waiting limo for the 10-minute ride to the reception and our photog snapped this photo.

Image

We had waited three full years for that moment. We hadn’t lived together, but were practically inseparable. He and I were adventurers, frequently hiking and rollerblading, braving frosty ice and even (gasp) a Ferris Wheel (long story). Now, after the bridesmaids’ dresses were chosen and altered; after the tuxes were rented and the church was booked; after taste-testing and choosing a caterer and picking out wedding colors; after two rounds of invitations (that was a doozy) and cutting corners to hit our budget, here we were.

I thought I knew what I was in for. I thought he knew what he was in for.

I was wrong.

I thought I was a good person who was kind and considerate of others.

I was wrong.

I thought I was confident and capable of facing and conquering all fears by myself.

I was wrong.

I thought I loved him so much that I could never intentionally hurt him.

I was wrong.

I thought marriage was a safety barrier, closing the door on challenges from the past.

I was wrong.

I thought I knew all of his idiosyncrasies and struggles.

I was wrong.

I thought he and I were the perfect communicators.

I was wrong.

I thought we would pull together and have a Christ-centered relationship with frequent Bible studies and prayer.

I was wrong.

I thought he would be the cook.

I was wrong.

I thought I would do most of the child rearing.

I was wrong.

I thought he would be the one to tell us to step out in faith when it was time to take a leap.

I was wrong.

I thought I would always be the soft spot in the family when anyone encountered challenges.

I was wrong.

I thought I had it all together and the perfect plan set for our lives.

I was wrong.

What was I thinking when I got married? Oh, lots of things (clearly). Between life, unmet (and unspoken) expectations, failures and faults, exhaustion and shock, we’ve weathered many storms and I’ve learned a few things.

1. It never feels good to intentionally wound someone. Self-control is sometimes the greatest act of love you can demonstrate in the heat of the moment.

2. Compromise binds; selfish decisions divide. Making decisions together, be they small or large, pulls you together as a team and keeps out insecurities and offenses.

3. No, you can’t say something too many times. Although my husband may disagree with me on this one, I’m a firm believer that clearing the air, especially if something is weighing on you, is the best medicine for you, the other person and the relationship.

4. Forgiveness is freeing. Boy, am I imperfect. And, so is he (thank goodness!). Forgiving mistakes and wounds and letting them go is critical to moving on and moving TOGETHER. I repeat: it’s important to move on together.

5. Leave room in your schedule for the other person. Life has so much to offer, but it’s no fun without your best friend. Carve out spaces of time for fun, laughter and reconnecting. Once kids come, this grows more and more difficult. I feel like I’m learning to do this more every single day.

6. Pray for your significant other. Prayer softens the heart and makes you consider the other person’s needs. Maybe it even calls out a few things you need to change in order to support them. Taking time to pause, reflect and consistently offer up your significant other’s needs and desires stirs something in your own heart.

Bottom line…I’ve realized that love is a choice. Love really is a verb. It’s an action. Every step we take. Every word we speak. Every choice we make…we’re either showing love or we’re harming it.

Stay united and always remember what you were thinking when you got married. It could change your perspective on where you currently are in your marriage.

What do you think? Anything to add? Share your comment below.

Turning Guilt to Gratitude in Action

gratitude71Today, I threw away a dozen bread rolls because there were specks of mold growing on them.

And, to be honest, it hurt my heart.

I could’ve torn the pieces off and still salvaged them in some way. I could’ve reused the “good” bread creatively.

My big take-away though? My family has so much that we can’t even consume the abundance we have.

Now, think of the rest of the world.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been able to travel to Mexico and give back and I miss it. I miss the shantytowns (“colonias”); I miss building homes; I miss connecting with those who are so happy with even so little. Something happens when you travel abroad and give back. It’s called perspective.

This revelation, for me, and the tugging on my heart is especially timely, given the organization I’m supporting as a charity runner for the 2014 Boston Marathon.

About buildOn
In the last twenty years, the non-profit group buildOn breaks the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through community service and improved education. In buildOn Afterschool Programs at high schools across the U.S., urban youth are contributing intensive service, helping seniors, young children, veterans, and the homeless in their communities.

At the same time, these students help build schools in some of the poorest countries in the world.

Here are a few more facts to consider:

• buildOn has supported international communities in Brazil, Haiti, Mali, Senegal, Nicaragua, and Nepal to build 587 schools, using over 1 million volunteer days by the community members, which are attended by over 85,000 children and adults.
• More than 11,000 adults have become literate because of educational opportunities provided by these schools, 70% of these adults are women.
• Improved education in African communities is directly linked with reduced birth rates, and delayed marriage and child bearing for many girls and women.

How to help
The buildOn Boston Chapter is fundraising to send 24 high school students from the Boston Public Schools to participate in a Trek for Knowledge to Malawi. These Treks are life-changing experiences for all who attend; we are planning to provide new schools for two Malawian communities. Each Trek begins with all volunteers and community members signing a covenant, however some adults cannot read or write and sign with a thumbprint.

I have volunteered to raise $6,500 in support of the buildOn Boston Chapter, as a member of the Boston Marathon team for April 2014. Your contribution will help me achieve this fundraising goal, will be applied 100% towards the cost for high school students to travel abroad and finance the school construction. buildOn is a 501(c)3 organization, their EIN is 22-3128638 if you are a business owner or you would like to support me and submit a tax-deductible donation.

The easiest way to join in is my Crowdrise fundraising webpage, the address is listed below, which you can also find under the “Support Me” tab on my website, MarathonForGood.WordPress.com.

Let’s all put the “guilt” away this holiday and embrace gratitude in action instead!

Thanks in advance!

Focusing on Another Weight

Weight: n. The amount or quantity of heaviness or mass; amount a thing weighs.

I’ve been feeling heavy lately, but not because my jeans are too tight.

My goal, as you know, has been to lose 40 pounds by August 4. So, I’ve been proactively going to the gym, cutting calories (in a healthy way) and stepping up the pace even more. I was feeling good, even energized, by my new routine.

But, I began noticing some changes that concerned me.

As a breastfeeding mom who exclusively nursed my son until he was 14 months old, I have the same commitment to my daughter, which is make it to 12 months. All the studies support breastfeeding for improved bonding, improved immunity, improved intelligence…you name it. It’s very special and very important to me. So much so that my breast pump and I are practically joined at the err…hip. Twice a day every day at work, the lactation room and I have a 20-minute date. It takes time out of my work day and, given that I’m down a team member and work for a crazy healthy (and exploding!) company, every minute is a precious, limited commodity.

I began my routine two weeks ago as usual and began to notice a steady drop in what my body supplied. I brushed it off and reminded myself that I needed to drink more water. Still, the “problem” continued and I began to stress.

On Monday, we saw my 9-month-old daughter’s pediatrician who said her head circumference and her height were on target; that her developmental milestones were dead on and that she seemed to be in great spirits. But…how much was she eating? What was she eating? How much milk was she taking in?

We left the pediatrician’s office with an appointment reminder slip in hand to see her again a month later for a “weight check up.” Strict orders to increase supply of milk or we’d be resorting to…formula supplementation. I don’t think formula is evil, please don’t get me wrong; it’s just not my first choice. I don’t want to lose the special bond I have breastfeeding my daughter and I know supplementation can be a slippery slope. I want to make sure her immunity is being built on the same solid foundation as my son’s (even though it’s pretty crummy right now. Thanks, preschool!).

All of this is not the end of the world, but I left  the office that day feeling like the worst mom on the planet.

Was she getting enough? Did she feel hungry all the time or something? I thought we were giving her enough with the three solid feedings, milk before work, during the day and at night and her snacks…she’s not a fussy baby. Wouldn’t she let us know?

The questions are still swirling through my head as I scan articles on the CDC’s website; the Mayo Clinic’s website and chock my head full of more information on how to increase milk supply than I ever thought I’d want to know. Fenugreek three times daily; empty your breasts whenever you can to “trick” them into thinking they need to supply more. More water. Less stress. More breastfeeding. Less solids.

It’s overwhelming. So much so that for the first time in months, I caught a random cold bug and it kicked my butt. I’m better now, but I’m not.

Every minute I’m wondering if she’s gained a few ounces; does she have what she needs; is there anything more I can do? I’m worrying, and meanwhile, my daughter just plays and chatters away, crawls all over the floor and grins her big, toothless smile, dimple in her right cheek.

So, yes, I have a gym membership. Yes, I’ve used my gym membership. Yes, I have healthy foods and yes, I’m eating healthy foods. But now’s not the time for focusing on the scale. I can’t lose my breast milk. I WON’T lose my breast milk.

For now, the only weight I’ll be focusing on will be my daughter’s.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

5 Things Making Me a Happier Mom

IMAG2388I’ve accomplished a goal that I never set out to achieve: I’m a happier mom now.

Okay, so this could always ebb and flow like any mood, but let me tell you, it’s amazing how much happier I feel; how much more present I feel when I’m with my children and my husband.

So here’s what’s changed.

1. I’m Exercising. Lunch hours no longer really include, well, lunch. Since signing up for a gym membership, my lunch hours are now spent working out at least a few days a week. Talk about a de-stressor during a crazy work day! And, let me bunny trail for a second. You know those evenings when you’ve had a long day at work and you feel like you’re just going to lose it when you step in the door because you feel so overwhelmed? Okay, just me. Well, Friday was “that day” for me and thankfully, I was able to hit a spin class before going home.

I was a new mom.

2. I’m Eating Healthier. Junk food makes you feel like junk; seriously. Sluggish, gross, maybe even a little more down than before you picked up that juicy, cheesy In ‘N Out burger. Since incorporating more veggies, water, having a daily protein shake, and lightening up my diet in general, I feel more balanced, more focused and definitely feel more energetic even on the stilted sleep I still experience having a daughter under 1.

3. I Have a Hobby. Yep, I got a hobby. I used to scrapbook and do crafting occasionally, but who can spread out and sit down undisturbed to do that anymore? Then, marathon running and training became a hobby (it’s really my lifestyle now, but we’ll put that on the shelf for now). For a while, my baby daughter has been my world, edging out a possibility for any new pursuits, but now that she’s older, it’s getting easier to incorporate more “me” time into my life again. So, I have my own Pampered Chef business. I cook, I bake and I’m around other adults for a few hours every week…and I earn money to cover family vacations. Win, win, win!

4. I’m Having “Girl Time.” It’s hard to feel like it’s okay to be away from home outside of work hours when you are at a job from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. You want to spend time with your family. You know you need to keep up with the daily chores…but still, that small voice inside cries out “I need to get away!” Thank goodness I have a wonderful, supportive husband who just KNOWS when I need to just get out with the girls. From a spa day to a shopping day, I’ve been lucky enough to have some girl time over the past few months, which has seriously spared my sanity and perked up my mood in a huge way.

5. I Splurge, Minus the Guilt. Yup, you heard right. I haven’t stepped on the scale lately, but while I’m changing my habits, I’m also having grace with myself and allowing little splurges. If I want a cupcake date with my little boy, then I do it…and make better choices before and after said event to make up for it. The best part, however, is that I’m no longer beating myself up over having a sugar-laden treat. I’m making a change, but we all need margin. Be good 90% of the time and give yourself 10% wiggle room for the inevitable splurges, right?

So there you have it. Five little things that are making me a happier mom. They could help you be a little happier too…even if you aren’t a mom.

“I Don’t Have Time”

“I don’t have time.”

cooking

Single biggest reason I’ve cited in the past for not:

  • Going to the gym/exercising/running
  • Cooking healthy meals
  • Bringing my lunch to work instead of going out to eat
  • Getting my chores done

What I’ve found that REALLY translates to is “I don’t want to MAKE the time.” Because, let’s face it, when we REALLY want something, we’ll make time. We’ll somehow find a miraculous 30 minutes to watch our latest show; to surf Facebook; to go through the drive thru for food; take a trip to the mall. Somehow, we find a way.

Going back to that infamous “list,” one that I’ve been tackling recently is cooking healthy meals. For those of you who are unaware, this is my current cooking partner (see picture above). Pretty cute, right? I love Miss Z, but I gotta tell you, cooking with one arm is a bit of a challenge. Forget even TRYING to cut something with a knife.

Anyway, case in point, tonight was a whirlwind. Got home from my 9-to-5 job; changed; loaded the kids up in the car; drove to swim practice for my other kiddo; drove through the drive thru for said kiddo (I know, I know…we’re working on that, too); got both kids settled; fed Miss Z her standard fare then happened to glance at the clock.

7 p.m. Still no dinner made.

chickenPopped a few seasoned, raw (unbreaded) chicken tenders in my Round Covered Baker in the microwave with 12 minutes and proceeded to change the baby into her jammies, get the other kiddo’s teeth brushed; fill up bedtime water and straighten up his  mess.

DING.

Still no time to eat dinner so I leave the chicken in the baker and try to put Miss Z down for bed. Ya, not happening (hence the picture from earlier in this post).

(Side note, does any of this sound familiar to any of you…? Thought so.)

One kiddo in bed and another in my arms, I’m back to the kitchen to rinse a salad mix, poked holes in a flour tortilla, spritzed it with olive oil and laid it over the upside-down Round Covered Baker for 4 minutes to create a taco

salad

shell crust (Look, ma, no deep frying!) and put the baby down so I could chop up the chicken.

10 minutes later, I had this lovely creation: a southwest chicken salad on a crunchy tortilla bowl/shell.

As I type, it’s 8:20 p.m. and the baby and other kiddo are finally in bed. The other half of my salad is sitting next to me (I’ll get to it).

The No. 1 Lesson in weight-loss I’ve learned thus far is do whatever it takes to ELIMINATE excuses. If there’s something “keeping you” from exercising or eating healthy, examine it and find a way around it.

Jim Rohn says “If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”

One down, a few more to go…

(6 pounds down, 34 to go by August 4, 2013)

My 30th Birthday Present to Myself

30cakeI’m not gonna lie.

The idea of turning the big “3-0″ stings a little. And no, it’s not because I’m worried about getting old; I’m not contemplating the fact that my life is nearly half over; I’m not worried about my accomplishments to this point.

Thirty just seems…not me.

Anyway, as I bid good-bye to 30, I’ve decided that I’m going to treat myself to a very special gift that I’ve been thinking about for a while. It’s going to be a gift that keeps on giving and one I can use as much (or as little) as I like.

I’m getting a gym membership.

To set the record straight immediately, I’m not getting a gym membership because I think it’s going to magically transform my schedule or do the work for me. On the contrary. I’m splurging on a gym membership (which will mostly be reimbursed by my company every month anyway) because I need a place to just go and focus on my exercise goals.

It’s easy for me to subside on running and before having my daughter, working out in the living room wasn’t too difficult, but now the challenges of working out are not working out. So, I’m splurging for my 30th and getting a gym membership.

If you’re feeling up to “celebrating” with me, drop me a line and I’ll see if I can get a guest pass for you. :)

(P.S. Working on my next post about my food changes and I’m super excited to share. Coming soon! :) )

My Change in Progress: Week 1

hiking with zSo this won’t happen every week, but I figured one week in would be a good place to start.

The change has begun!

Here’s what I did well this week:

1) Exercised Five Times. My goal is to exercise 4-6 times a week and I achieved that goal this week. How did I do it while working full-time, managing two kids AND having a business on the side? I planned ahead. For example, on Wednesday, I knew I’d be picking up my daughter after work, which would mean no time to get out and run, so I ran during lunch time. That would be the one benefit to winter time temps. I’m mostly doing cardio right now, but weight training is up next!

2) I Stuck to Healthy Eating. I managed to say “no” to at least three tough encounters: 1) Chick Deep Covered BakerFil A Wednesday night. Normally, this is an easy grab-and-go. I skipped it and made Chipotle chicken in my Pampered Chef Deep Covered Baker in the microwave in 15 minutes and then created a fresh corn salsa over corn tortillas. WAY better (and tastier) than Chick Fil A. 2) Wanted a chocolate bar Thursday night during Grey’s Anatomy and turned to Vanilla Honey Greek yogurt instead. Added a few mini chocolate chips for my chocolate fix. 3) Rather than going out to lunch a few times during the week like I normally do, I brought Morning Star veggie burgers, a handful of arugula and roasted red pepper hummus. Super tasty and filling!

3) Got My Sleep. Yep, I stuck with 8-10 hours of sleep a night…miraculously. You definitely have to be intentional and keep an eye on the clock, especially after a long day with the kids when you’d like a little time to yourself playing with Facebook or whatever else.

Here’s what I didn’t do as well this week:

1) Stepped on the Scale Multiple Times. While the number is an indicator, it’s not my main focus. And, to be honest, weighing myself day in and day out actually is more distracting to me and discouraging at times. By not seeing the number budge or not change as fast as I’d like in the past, I’ve N01noticed it’s easier to fall away from my good habits. I want to commit to just a ONCE weekly weigh in.

2) Not Drinking Enough Water. I need to be drinking my weight in ounces, and that’s A LOT of water; far more than what I did this week. I’m committing to filling up my huge cup of water at work and drinking at least two a day. Water is crucial for weight loss for satiety and also to give your body the ability to release the stuff you don’t want.

3) Stressed Out. I didn’t turn to the things I normally do when I stress out (i.e. chocolate and wine…), which is good, but now it’s about breaking down the stress and removing or reducing the amount in my life. Stress is a HUGE inhibitor for weight loss and can promote all kinds of horrible chronic disease and premature aging. No thank you! I commit to taking a walk, doing some deep breathing or refocusing when I encounter the levels of stress like I did this past week.

That’s my week in a nutshell! I’m incorporating more vegetables, lean proteins and following one quick adage that I hope you’ll love, too:

“Eat breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince; dinner like a pauper.”

-Sanjay

Stack your calories and what you consume during the day accordingly!

How to Be Radically Different

change picEveryone has an identity. Some people might see you as the person they go to for advice on fixing a car. Or, maybe you’re the pseudo-expert on getting children to behave. Me? My identity has always hinged on running in one facet or another.

That’s why I was slightly shocked and appalled when a friend of mine said this to me recently:

“When you used to marathon…”

…:insert screeching brakes here:…

“Used to?”

Having a baby 7 months ago has definitely changed things. No longer can I just pop right out of bed and go for a run. I’m lucky if I can even get out of bed on time most mornings or simply have enough time to care for the baby and my family, get myself ready and make it out the door to get to work as needed. BUT, (and I was clear to say this to my friend) I will ALWAYS be a marathon runner. A marathoner. I do marathons…you know what I mean.

However, in running, just as with life, if you want better results, you have to change. And, as you’re aware from my previous post, I’m ready for change.

So what does the word “change” actually mean? I came across one definition that said “To make radically different.”

Ya, I’ll take that.

But, how do you become radically different?

1) Evaluate & Reflect. I’m naturally a reflective person; I was the 8-year-old girl with the Little Mermaid diary with the lock on it who filled up pages upon pages every day. Sometimes it was about boys; sometimes it was about how “unfair” life was with my parents. Regardless, if you want to change, or become radically different, you have to sit, be quiet and do some self evaluation. What am I happiest with in my life? Who supports me, encourages me and also calls me to the carpet when I’m dead wrong? What do I want to achieve in my lifetime?

2) Seek Advice. Looking before you leap truly has its advantages. You can watch someone fall flat on their face and decide you aren’t going to follow in those footsteps. Or, if you don’t have the privilege of witnessing it, simply finding a mentor or a wise friend can be immensely helpful. Find the person you really trust and give them permission to speak into your life and be honest with you. Ask for their advice on what you need to work on if you’re having trouble pointing it out within yourself.

3) Identify Uses of Your Energy. We’ve all heard it: If you can’t take care of yourself; you can’t take care of anyone. I’ve also heard it said that we all have a finite amount of energy every day and WE choose how we’re going to spend it. So, if you begin every day with $500 worth of energy, what are you spending it on? Is your energy being used up propelling you forward toward achieving your dreams? Or, are you stuck in an energy-suck (read: parasitic relationship) with someone who is all about themselves and their needs? It has to be a give and take. That’s what healthy relationships are all about.

4) Take the Steps. Once you have identified what is unnecessarily taking up your time and energy, then it’s time to decide and take action on what DOES deserve your time and your energy. And, when you’re trying to achieve change, you’re not always going to be met with cheerleaders, encouragers or people who even understand what you’re doing. Hurt feelings and discomfort are simply in the cards. Why? Change is uncomfortable. If it weren’t, wouldn’t most of us look like super models or at least have a healthier body fat? If change wasn’t uncomfortable, then wouldn’t most of us be debt-free, anxiety-free and truly care-free?

I’m anticipating sore muscles with my increase in running. I’m anticipating stomach pains and grumblings from a body that will no longer get the excessive calories it’s been used to. I’m anticipating friends who won’t understand why I don’t splurge on treats; meet them somewhere late or simply don’t meet them at all. Change takes discipline and while discipline isn’t always fun, it produces results.

I’m ready to be radically different.