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A long, long time ago . . . so long ago, I had to stop to look-up when it was, each Monday I wrote about how I was starting the week with a thankful heart. Though I took a break from writing those posts, it doesn’t mean I threw my thankful heart out the window. But I do feel that I’m at a place in life where it is a good idea to return to the practice of writing out the good things. Having a six year-old boy in the house will do that to a person.

Today is Thursday  (oops, not yet!) Wednesday, not Monday, but I do have a thankful heart. Today I’m thankful:

1. I talked with my boss and it looks like I’ll get to teach not one, but TWO hooping classes starting in January, bringing up my class total to THREE with the Cardio Kick class I currently teach. Sweet!

2. I’m having a meeting at the end of the month with my boss AND her boss to hammer out the details for me to coordinate and direct a youth running program for our YMCA branch! This really makes me giddy!!!

3. Though sick yesterday (germs do NOT read calendars), my daughter was well enough to return to school today, enabling me to get back to the Y for my usual Wednesday workout and to the grocery store to re-stock our pantry. This, too, makes me giddy! Life really is all about the little things.

4. Tomorrow I have a Girls’ Night with a friend I haven’t seen in a few months. We’re venturing here: The Vineyard Table

5. I remembered the password for my WordPress account on my first try. I guess it HAS been a long time since I blogged regularly. This will change.

How about YOU? What makes your heart thankful today?

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On Friday morning I was offered my first paying job in SIX years. That’s right, my last paycheck was in June 2004 at the end of the school year, just a few weeks before giving birth to my son. Since then I’ve been in Mama Mode and Book Publishing Mode, both of which have been great for adding flavor and rich experiences to my life, but have not produced paychecks. But starting Wednesday afternoon, this crazy redhead will be a part-time employee at her local YMCA branch! Big bucks? Nah. Small potatoes, for sure. But I believe there will be something satisfying about knowing that I earned a paycheck again. And I love that I’m able to start with just 3 hours/week doing something I enjoy and am truly passionate about. Talk about a mom-friendly job!

Both sample hooping classes went really well last week. I reported that 16 fabulous folks came out to try the Wednesday afternoon class (one of whom is my new boss). Apparently word spread and I actually had to turn a few folks away for Friday morning’s class because I ran out of hoops (and space!) once we reached 20 (or maybe 22, including a few kids there with their moms). Holy cow! Never in a million years did I think I’d FILL that huge room and get THAT many people excited about hooping at one time. It was unreal in a fabulous sort of way.

So tomorrow we bid a fond farewell to May to usher in my new beginning in June. With it comes the end of Kindergarten for my son, the start of a summer of adventures with both kids home all day, and this new work thing for me. Good thing I’m a runner so I’ll remember the importance of breathing.

Wishing YOU well as you flip the calendar page on Tuesday! Happy running, hooping, or whatever gets you going and keeps you happy!

The class ended three hours ago, but I’m still floating. A combination of sixteen students filled the studio space at the local YMCA to try out my first BodyHoops hooping class this afternoon – Zumba instructors, mothers, children and a few hoopers over 50 let me guide them through a 45 minute fitness hooping experience. I had no idea how many people to expect – I was hoping for at least five. My mind is still whirling that SIXTEEN people were there! I think their facial muscles got as much of a workout as the rest of their bodies did – not a single person stopped smiling the entire class.

I have nothing but appreciation to give to the staff at the YMCA. They created eye-catching flyers to announce the class, had their group fitness instructors make announcements in their classes to invite them to try hooping. They did an all-around amazing job drumming up positive energy and excitement about the class. Those who attended the class asked when it will be held again so they can come back, countless gawkers curious observers watched wide-eyed from the windows as the group worked to smooth their basic hooping moves and test out fun new arm tricks. I secretly wonder how many checked at the front desk to see when the next class will be offered.

I hope to continue the happy momentum I’m feeling after today’s class as I welcome more YMCA-goers into the world of hooping during Friday’s sample class. And next week I get to branch out with a session for my son’s kindergarten class and a class for 7 lucky hoopers in a barn (how fun!) in my own little town. I wonder if I’ll ever stop being amazed at the joy a simple hoop can bring to people. I hope not. It is an incredible feeling and I look forward to sharing it with more people! This is an adventure I never expected myself to experience, but I’m so glad I jumped in with both feet to do it. Life will never be the same . . .

I posted at the start of May that I would be tracking my mileage on the calendar. This is the first time I’ve really charted my distance since marathon training in 2003 (yikes, that was a long time ago!), so it was a true learning experience. I had to get back in the groove of remembering to transfer the happy little number from my Garmin to the calendar AND I had to get over the shock of how much lower my mileage was than I expected.

I was pleased to see that I really did get in 3-4 runs/week, which isn’t bad when you consider we also got in a 4 day trip to CA to visit Yosemite and family and that I also did 18 miles on my bike (towing my daughter in the trailer, no less!) and we hiked countless miles. But 39.2 miles over the course of a month was lower than I thought it would be. If the Run Like Hell Half in Portland this October is going to be a successful reality, these feet have some more running to do!

How will I get my mileage up this month?

– My Saturday group runs really will turn into long runs now that more ladies are participating. At least two of the gals are also planning for the Half, so instead of 2-4 miles on Saturday, we’ll be logging 5-6 to start and then increasing our mileage from there.

– My amazingly talented singer/songwriter friend, Loni Rose, is now joining me for a run on Wednesdays while our sons are in school (and maybe the boys can bike beside us when school is out!) and she likes to run a good distance. We celebrated National Running Day with a 5K run and were pleased to discover that our paces are similar and that we really had fun together (even though we were a bit slower than either of us would run with our husbands – less chatting with the guys, is my guess!). 2 loops around the lake is 5K, so next week we’re adding a third loop.

– Now that my pace is a bit faster (when not talking too much!), I can get in more distance in a shorter time while pushing my daughter in the jogger. She’s also happy to go now, especially if we can stop at a park mid-way or post-run. The park “carrot” also enables us to go for a bit longer.

– My son will be in a YMCA soccer/t-ball camp in the mornings the last week of June, allowing me to keep with our usual weekly routine for the month. July will be a different story, but I’m just taking things one month at a time.

How about YOU? What do you do to increase your mileage? Any challenges you have to work around?

I’ve been away from the blog world, but this time my absence was not due to sick children!
1. Since deciding to do a Half, I really have been running more. My training plan isn’t set yet, but a few gals (from our newly-formed Saturday morning running group!) and I have our sights on the Portland Half in August . . . or maybe Seattle in November.
2. I’ve been putting our YMCA membership to better use and even have our daughter taking a Toddler Sports class (fits perfectly between my run & shower and the time we have to leave to get Mr. Music from preschool – full morning, but awesome!).
3. We took a trip to Yosemite National Park – AMAZING (that’s me running through the valley, because I could).
4. We Are Girls Who Love to Run finally has a Facebook page – become a fan – REALLY!!
5. I’ve joined the world of Twitter (@writingrunner), though I’m still tinkering with it to figure out what it is all about.
6. Though I’ve been home since Monday night, my brain is still stuck in Yosemite. My only running was once through a meadow with my son (seen above), but you can surely see why I’ve had a hard time getting back to “real life” once you take a look at these photos (we took nearly 250 in the 3 days we were there . . . and that was just OUR camera – my brother-in-law’s fam took just as many with theirs!).
7. Be sure you take the time this weekend to thank a Service Member (former/current and/or their family members) for their dedication to our country and our freedom.
And now I leave you with images from the amazing national treasure that is Yosemite National Park (yes, we took these ourselves!!!):

Despite some frustrating events (like locking my keys in the car!), this has been a very good week on the homefront. So good, in fact, that I’m wound up and ready to go FINISH my daughter’s birthday quilt – one more row to quilt and then the binding goes on. Since this project has been going for, oh, something like 6 months now, I’m getting really anxious to get it done.

Tomorrow we’re off to the YMCA to give the childwatch another try while I do the treadmill thing. If it goes well, I’ll feel secure in trying a class out next week! My goal is to attend at least one class/week to add some flavor to my usual running and balance ball workouts. I’m getting excited that next week might be the week I start. Keep your fingers and laces crossed that Little Sister continues to do well with childwatch . . . that’s the key piece to making it all happen.

Happy running/balancing/reading, everyone! I’m off to sew . . . happily!

Yup, it happened again. I lost my yellow hat. While life has been rolling along fairly smoothly as of late, but I’ve been finding myself getting bogged down with bouts of pessimism. Ugh!

I find that it is much too easy to latch onto negative thoughts and let them fester, all the while knowing in the back of my mind that the pessimism is unhealthy for me and my family. When I started growling at the kids for no good reason it made me stop to re-frame things and get me back on track to finding that beloved yellow hat!

This week I started playing a little mind game with myself:

When I’m ankle, knee, shoulder . . . or even eyeball deep in frustration, I take a breath and find the silver lining in the situation.

Allow me illustrate:

Frustration: I just walked my daughter back to her bed for literally the 20th time tonight. This is probably the 20th night of this ritual in the past month or so.

Silver Lining: I’m using the experience as a practice in self-discipline and as time to “just breathe”. It also worked out timing-wise for writing a guest post at the Positivity Blog. If you haven’t yet checked out that blog, you should.

Now. Just go. I’ll still be here when you get back.

See? It’s great, isn’t it? Well worth the trip, right?

Now . . . back to what I was saying.

Frustration: School was cancelled today in anticipation of big, snowy storms. Funny thing, though – not a single snowflake fell until 5PM. Since Mr. Music was home most of last week, I was really looking forward to having him at school!!

Silver Lining: I invited my mom to come over and decorate our Christmas tree with us (as a surprise for my Grinchy husband who would rather not decorate – and he WAS thrilled to come home to a house all decorated and cleaned because that meant HE didn’t have to do any of it). We also got in much needed trips to the Chiropractor, the post office and to our church to make a donation to the food pantry.

Frustration: My daughter’s attention span while I’m on the treadmill is about 20 minutes. Not so good for much of a run.

Silver Lining: It is better than not running AND I’m setting a good example for her by taking care of myself. I’m more likely to get on the treadmill more frequently each week now that I know she CAN last 20 minutes. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to lengthen the time and that it will help with her adjustment to being in the Child Watch at the YMCA when I take classes. It is also motivating me to keep up with my strength training, since my stronger core is enabling me to run faster!

With our Christmas tree right next to my work space, I’ll likely find the silver lining easy to discover for the remainder of the year. I hope that regular posts on this topic will help me continue on my path of optimism. I’m also finding that my patience extends longer when I can find the positive in a negative situation. Patience is a priceless (and essential for sanity) when your kids are 4 and nearly 2!

Like the Smurfs sang all those years ago, “Goodness makes the badness go away! When there’s goodness in your heart, the badness just can’t start. Goodness makes the badness go away!”

As for YOU, what silver lining you can find in your life this week? What words of wisdom have stuck with you from the cartoons of your youth?

My husband and I finally sat down to figure out our Christmas shopping list yesterday. We took a look at our selections from last year and considered our family members’ reactions. Of all our gifting last year, hands DOWN, the favorite items were the pillowcases I made (I think the final number was 32 handmade pillowcases, but I’m a bit fuzzy after all of that needle humming).

While I’m not going to make that many pillowcases again this year (fabric was specially chosen for EACH one . . . I think I was truly out of my mind!), we did decide that the bulk of the gifts will be homemade. The others will be as locally-purchased or experience-based as possible. If you are a family member reading this, please STOP reading NOW and move on to your regularly scheduled life – email reading, dusting, vacuuming, playing with the dog, walking on the beach – WHATEVER . . . just GO!!!

What are you still doing here, Mom? Pat? Get out of here! I love you, but NO PEEKING!

OK, I think they’re gone. *whew!*

I mentioned a week or so ago that I’d really like our gifts to be environmentally and budget friendly. I think we’ve go it: Homemade reusable bags (similar to these)! My husband and I cranked out the prototypes last night while the kids were at my parents’ house for a sleepover. Here’s the rundown:

– We’re using fabric from the stash I’ve been building for the last 10 years (some fabric I bought in Italy before we were married!). I’m also reusing some old curtains that I made years ago that are still in good shape but don’t fit our windows in this house. I’ll be using thread from my stash, too. Random colors of thread will add to the eclectic feel of the bags!
– For the more “masculine” bags (no fru-fru stuff for the manly men in our families!) we DID get some navy striped sheets on sale to cut up and use (budget friendly, not AS environmentally friendly). That was the ONLY shopping we had to do.
– We figured out how to make the bags like the reusable canvas bags from the PCC Natural Markets out here, so they are quick and easy! All it will take is sewing 2 rectangles of fabric together (the bags are lined to make them more durable since we’re NOT using canvas), making the tuck to give the bags a bottom, and then attaching straps.
– We’ll use the bags as wrapping paper for a few little goodies to send. That’s right – no wrapping paper needed! I can feel some trees smiling about that one.
– Even with the little goodies, everything should fit in a flat envelope for cheap mailing and limited “Post Office package juggling dances” while managing 2 small children in line.
– If we make 2 bags/night, I can have 20 made in 10 nights, which means that all the packages can be mailed well in advance of the Christmas rush!
– Since the idea was truly my husband’s, he has agreed to man the iron. This really will be a fast project with two of us on deck!

Since I was able to run at the YMCA after my son’s swimming lesson yesterday and I started my morning with the first workout of Week 5 in the 6 week Bounce Your Body Beautiful plan, I’m feeling quite energetic. I’ll put that energy to good use for tonight’s sewing session! I’ll be sure to get some photos of the process to post while we’re at it.

Today I decided to try something new. Actually, 2 new things . . . at the same time.

1. Drop the kids at the YMCA child care.
2. Try a Zumba class.

How’d it go?

1. My son loved it. Two of his closest friends from school were there, so he was set. Little Sister didn’t share his feelings. At all.
2. I reserve my review of the Zumba class for a time when I can do more than 10 minutes of it. That’s when the child care staff came looking for me. Nothing like having to walk all the way across the front of the class (twice even, as I had to retrieve my water and key) to go console a sad kid. *sigh* So far I’m still interested in going back, assuming we can get Little Sister to take to the child care.

I’m excited at the opportunities our new YMCA (or YNCJ, as Mr. Music called it earlier) membership gives us. Swimming class went VERY well on Tuesday for Little Sister (perhaps that’s why she wasn’t interested in playing – she wanted to be in the pool!) and Mr. Music is excited about his first class tomorrow. I’m also hoping that my dear husband will be able to take advantage of the open lanes for some swimming from time to time, too. As for me . . . we’ll just keep trying the child care stuff so that I can enjoy what the Y has to offer. It shouldn’t take TOO many more partial classes, right??? I have these grand visions of classes and time in the weight room . . . and how those will help me run faster!

Does anyone have advice for how I can help my 21 month-old take to the child care?