Thursday, November 26, 2015

An abundance of blessings and gratitude

Thanksgiving - the day we hopefully all stop and consider just how amazingly blessed we are. I know that I and my family have been given so much in this life, and the past year has been no exception. I could never adequately put into words all of the blessings in my life, so I will simply share images of the moments that filled my heart this year.

I am surrounded by love, in ways big and small, and for all of you who are a piece of my heart, thank you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Putting down roots

Yesterday was a milestone of sorts for me - I had to get my driver's license renewed.

With my birthday approaching my license expiration date loomed, so I put time on my calendar to leave work just a few minutes and head to the Revenue Office to get it taken care of. I hoped that by waiting for the holiday week the line would be short, and to my delight I walked in the door to no line at all. In and out in less than ten minutes - that has to be a record.

The lack of a wait wasn't the milestone, though - it was the renewal that hit me as momentous. You see, I've never lived anywhere in my adult life long enough to have to actually return to the Revenue Office / DMV / RMV / whatever that particular state called it. I suppose I did renew my Texas license while I was in the Army, but the irony was, I didn't even live there. It was my home of record having grown up there, but not really my home of reality.

Justin and I left active duty in part because we knew we wanted to have a family, and we wanted our future-children to have a sense of permanence, a place they called their hometown. Little did we realize that a career in sales would require the same mobility as a career in uniform. If you combine my civilian career with my time in uniform, beginning with leaving home to go to West Point, my personal odyssey has been an extraordinary journey:
West Point, NY -- Ft. Eustis, VA -- Ft. Stewart, GA -- Ft. Lee, VA -- Ft. Leavenworth, KS -- back to Ft. Lee, VA -- Ft. Hood, TX -- Owings Mills, MD -- Adams, MA -- Liberty Township, OH -- Fayetteville, AR
I've said it before and I'll say it again - we love it here in Northwest Arkansas. I hope that we can make this a long term domicile, and give our children a place that helps them feel grounded no matter where they go in their own adult lives. I know you can never say never, and great opportunities may arise in the future that will necessitate moving boxes and changes in plans, but for now, I'm grateful for the little card in my wallet that says I belong here. At least until 2019.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Follow the Rainbow

Sunday breakfast at our house has turned into one of my favorite times of the week. Technically, it's Sunday brunch - we go to the 9am mass and don't eat until we get home, usually around noon. It isn't that the food is anything extraordinary; it's more that breakfast food is awesome, and whether it's scrambled eggs, omelettes, pancakes, waffles, pumpkin muffins, coffee cake, donuts, cinnamon rolls, or maybe several of the above, it's hard to get it wrong.

Throw in bacon or sausage (or on the rare occasion, both), hashbrown patties and a fruit salad, and it's become a multiplate plus sometimes-a-bowl kind of meal that has our breakfast table covered with deliciousness. Now that the weather is turning colder, the kids have been requesting hot chocolate to go with mom and dad's coffee, too. On the surface, it seems like a pretty simple thing to have Sunday brunch at our kitchen table each week, but it's one of the everyday moments that I treasure as a simple family tradition.

This past Sunday, we actually went a little bit on the lighter side. We are so very blessed to be able to afford fresh fruit year round, and Justin's always been great about making sure the kids have balance in their diet. Frankly, I lucked out, because I don't know that I was very good about eating my colors before I married him!

That whole "eat your colors" thing has always delighted me. First, it's an easy way to think about balancing my diet. Second, you truly do eat with your eyes, and a plate with more than white rice, mashed potatoes and chicken breasts is certainly more appealing than a monochrome meal. It's also an easy thing for kids to remember and a guideline they can easily follow.

When I put Sunday's breakfast on their plates and set them on the table last week, Caroline commented how we had the rainbow on our plates!
John's response: "and the cinnamon roll is the pot of gold!"

Nailed it!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Halloween 2015

Halloween this year was pretty different than in years past. We didn't have anyone come over to our house, and the kids didn't go together. It felt like a milestone that I didn't realize was coming; I guess that's how parenthood goes sometimes. You don't realize when the last time was the last time until it's gone.

As big as my kids are, though, they're still kids, and Halloween is still a fun time to dress up and get candy!! Falling on a Saturday made the pre-trick or treat chaos a lot more manageable this year. To complicate things, we decided to go to fall festival at the church on Friday night, bringing a couple of friends with us. May as well as much mileage out of the costumes as possible!
Caroline may have the record on getting mileage out of a Halloween costume; for the third year in a row, she was Harry Potter. Why mess with a classic, right? The robe is getting a bit short, but thanks to Aunt Susannah, there was a new accessory with the awesome Gryffindor scarf.

John didn't have a strong opinion about a costume, so several weeks before Halloween, I helped him brainstorm based on what he loves. Right now, what he loves is... video games. Specifically, Minecraft. It's a game made out of pixels - how hard could a costume be, right? Buy the head; order the diamond pick-axe from Amazon; cardboard box and Post It notes for the body. Voila - I give you Steve from Minecraft.
Halloween night was a little bit soggy, but that didn't dampen the enthusiasm for free candy. I dropped Caroline off at her friend's house so they could go together; Harry and Hermione ready to cast a Trick or Treat spell on the neighborhood! John and Thatcher waited for me to get back, since I was once again the chaperoning parent for the neighborhood walk. After a twenty mile run that morning, though, I wasn't quite as fleet footed as the boys. They were running like fools down the sidewalk, trying to catch up with the big kids who didn't want to be caught in the first place. With a few words I convinced the boys to give it up and actually start ringing doorbells to get candy, but was surprised when they called it a night before their bags were full.

It seems like this may have been the year we pivoted to big-kid trick or treating. I'm not sure what next year will bring; I would think we'll still be all about the candy, but maybe not so much about trick or treating with mom in tow. So I'll just savor this year for the moments it provided, my two kids and their friends doing what kids do. Trick or treat!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

For the love of the run

It's been almost three years since I was in the best running shape of my life; these days, I spend a lot of time thinking about how much work it is to drop weight and get faster rather than actually doing the work it takes to drop weight and get faster. I run because it's fun and a great way to spend time with friends rather than to qualify for Boston or set new PRs.

Despite the competitive fire being banked for the time being, I do still look for ways to do more; be more; achieve more. I continue to work toward my goal of running a marathon in all 50 states, but don't really have a specific plan for the next several months. The upside of no plan? Flexibility.

I got a text a few weeks ago from a childhood friend down in Houston asking if I could provide a recommendation on a hotel for the Tulsa marathon weekend. Not having run it before, I checked with a friend and responded. We went back and forth a few times, during which I made a couple of excuses for why I wasn't running it this year.

Excuses. Man. I seem to be full of them these days.

I start thinking. Tulsa - it's four weeks away at that point. I'm in reasonably good shape; I still do long runs on weekends, including a 14 miler not too long ago. Marathons are like those songs that get stuck in my head; I couldn't stop noodling on it. I don't have Oklahoma; this is a huge Maniac race; Tulsa is only a two hour drive away; how hard can it be to go for a just-finish?

Clearly, the thing to do is to run a 20 miler the next weekend. Clearly. Because if you can run 20, you run a marathon right?

My friends think I'm nuts. Maybe I am. Of course, that means they're as nuts as I am, because you know I didn't run that 20 alone the next weekend!! Off we went, starting at 5am on Halloween morning, knocking out Hobby Lobby loop and then the Stadium Loop to get all twenty miles in. With the take-it-easy and just-finish approach, I had one of the best 20 milers I'd had all year. Go figure.
So that was that - I was in. I went home and signed up for the Route 66 Tulsa Marathon, which is one week from today. I've been "tapering" in my training ever since - this might be the best idea I've had in marathon training. Run whatever you feel like for a few months, do one 20 miler, then taper! There has been one training challenge since I signed up; the weekend after the 20 miler I decided I should do 14, but Justin was out of town and I was home alone with the kids on my regular Saturday morning run time. What to do, what to do... well, duh. Obviously, the answer is to run laps in the neighborhood.
The elevation profile cracked me up!!
It's better than a treadmill...

I know running 15 laps in the neighborhood doesn't sound great, but as it turned out, it wasn't too bad. The mailbox was my water stop, and I went by the house every seven or eight minutes to check on whether the kids had any lights on yet. The guy around the corner having a garage sale probably thought I'd lost my mind by the fourth or fifth time I ran by, but hey - maybe he was on to something. Ha!

Here I am with the race one week from today, and I'm mostly looking forward to it. Like I said on our run yesterday morning, the problem with having run several marathons at this point is that I know exactly what I'm in for. I'm super excited to see Molly, coming up from Houston, and there are other friends going from NW Arkansas. It's a huge race for the Marathon Maniacs, so I'm sure the vibe will be great. And I'll get to mark Oklahoma off the list, a bonus for the year since I thought Vermont was to be my only new state!

I just have to remember - this isn't about the pace. This race is all about the love of the run.