I was extremely touched to get a handwritten note in the mail (anything that isn’t a bill is great, but a personal note is the BEST kind of mail to get) from a fan of We Are Girls Who Love to Run last week. She was concerned because I haven’t been blogging (or visiting others’ blogs) much lately and guessed hopefully that it was because I was spending more time with my family. Well, guess what? She was dead on!

I AM still alive and my summer was FILLED with plenty of good outdoor summer fun (and producing two quilts). I think the real proof of that can be seen in my son’s stunning physical skill growth this year:

  • He now rides a bike without training wheels.
  • He can go ALL the way across a long set of monkey bars or rings without stopping.
  • He soccer ball handling is head and shoulders above what he could do even in the spring.
  • He’s a few inches taller than he was at the end of the school year – no kidding, the hem of his pants from spring hit him at his shins. And his sister grew 2 inches in July. Maybe I didn’t blog because I was so darn busy feeding them all day!

This is a boy who loves to ride!

We also fit in a trip to visit family for my husband’s sister’s wedding. We were all part of the wedding party and the flower girl (our daughter) turned out to be quite the little dancing party animal – she danced the whole night, right up through the last song. Her brother (one of the ring bearers) threw in the towel long about 8:30 and crashed out on some chairs we pushed together as a make-shift couch. We definitely have one early bird and one night owl.

The bride and flower girl take a spin on the dance floor

Other adventures included some camping with friends, a trip to Oregon for the String Summit (put on by Yonder Mountain String Band – a weekend of live bluegrass – pure heaven), and our new favorite beach on the coast of Washington. Life really was good this summer, even though running wasn’t much a part of it.

Hooping at Waikiki Beach in Cape Dissapointment State Park, WA

That’s right, this girl who loves to run only got out to run a handful of times. Between our family adventures, being home with both kids all day and getting my hooping classes up and running, running was pushed to the near-bottom of the list. I think only blogging was farther down.

The break was good, but I did miss running. School started this week and I’ve already returned, sneaking in a treadmill run at the YMCA during Tuesday’s non-stop rain and enjoying 5K around a lake before picking up my daughter from pre-school on Thursday. Other than tight hamstrings, my body has gotten right back into the groove and is happy to be back at it again. And if this post is any indication, it looks like blogging is back for me, too.

What about YOU? With the start of “fall” are you returning to something you missed over the summer?

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My husband’s grandmother passed away on Saturday. It wasn’t really a surprise that we were going to lose her, but that didn’t make it any easier when she did leave us. She had family by her side when she went peacefully in her sleep.

This is a big loss for our family. “Grandma OH!” (that’s how she signed all of her cards) was the matriarch of the family, my mother-in-law’s mother. She lived with my husband’s family for well over ten years, a vibrant and positive addition to the household during his sister’s high school years. While my husband didn’t live at home during those years (he had already been out of the house for a number of years before she moved in), she was a part of every single visit home and provided much encouragement to us during our early years together and then as we expanded our family to include our two children. How blessed we are that our kids got to spend some real quality time with their great-grandmother.

I think I already knew it, but dealing with this loss confirms it – I’m a nervous cleaner. From the moment my husband’s mom called until just a few minutes ago, I’ve been nose-to-the-grindstone cleaning. The washing machine and dryer haven’t had more than a few hours rest, the bathrooms are all dazzling, and my children had no choice yesterday about cleaning their rooms because I was there with them and we got the job done, no questions asked. The same is apparently true for my husband who whipped our backyard into the best shape it has been since we moved here over five years ago. No joke. He’s a nervous worker, too, and once the yard was done immediately connected with work and did some project stuff until he was too tired to read the words on the computer screen . . . a good four hours later.

When we moved from the East Coast to the West Coast we knew that the distance would make some elements of life more difficult. Sure, the day-to-day stuff is much the same (work, kids, etc.) but the BIG stuff – weddings and funerals – are certainly emotional struggles we’re now facing.  We are headed to my sister-in-law’s wedding in a little over a week, which makes a trip there for Grandma OH’s funeral this week something out of our reach. I hope that our trip gives my husband some closure, as we do plan to visit his grandmother’s grave to pay our respects, and there should be plenty of time for sharing stories about her life with the family at large who will also be in town for the wedding. I also hope that in the meantime we reach some sort of balance at home – though I AM enjoying the fruits of my labor and my husband’s work may help reduce the guilt he feels about time off for the wedding. Type A, we are.

When I feel myself getting caught-up in the grief of losing Grandma OH, I think of my daughter’s take on death (she’s three) and it does make me feel a bit better knowing that Grandma OH would get a total kick out of it. Upon hearing about her death, my daughter declared, “Well, I’ll just get on an airplane and fly there to see her.” When I explained that Grandma was in heaven, she replied, “So I’ll fly to heaven to visit her, but I won’t STAY, I’ll just say hi!”

No matter how I fight it, I’m truly a “Type A” gal. I pick a goal, I work tirelessly to get there, and then I pick another goal. Wash, rinse, repeat. When you get in this cycle, sometimes you blast through life with blinders on, not that you intend to miss the scenery as you travel along, but because that goal is so bright and pretty that you fixate on it. Other times you are so busy looking at the scenery (or newer goals) that you forget about the sparkly long-term goal that is about to smack you in the face.

If you could take a peek at my calendar for the last few months, you’d notice pretty quickly the lack of white space in the Monday – Friday portion. Each day is filled with appointments, classes, play dates, etc. They’ve all gotten us to this point in time and I likely wouldn’t change a thing if I could go back, but somewhere in the midst of all of the go . . . go . . .go, my son finished Kindergarten. *smack*

Six years ago I was packing up my own classroom at the end of a busy year of teaching 3rd grade, running a marathon, growing a baby and finishing a Master’s degree. I knew becoming a mom would change me, but I had no idea how profoundly it would alter my concept of time and my idea of what makes life full. At that point in my life Kindergarten for that baby seemed a long way off, but I blinked and here I am, my heart filled with love for my Kindergarten graduate and the amazing person he is becoming.

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’m getting that night before the First Day of School jittery feeling, but I’m not going to school tomorrow . . . exactly. I am stepping back into my teacher shoes, though . . . kind of. This time around I get to wear my running shoes, pairing them with a festive tie-dyed headband, tank top and yoga pants. Topping off my ensemble with a glitter and hot pink wrapped hoop. This is not your traditional teacher wear. And I’m lovin’ it.

When I step into the classroom, it will be one with a wall of mirrors, reflecting splashes of whirling color, and faces flickering between extreme concentration and unexpected joy.

The sounds filling the room this go around won’t be those of pencil sharpeners grinding away at #2 pencils, rather a mix of funky drum beats and at least one fabulous 80s’s remix that will get even the most reserved student moving.

Gone is the smell of four-years-too-old carpet and school gule, replaced by anticipation and good ol’ sweat.

Tomorrow starts my journey as a BodyHoops Instructor, with a demo class, a “try-out” of sorts. My students will be adults of all ages, excited to try a new workout that reminds them of the playfulness of their youth, challenges their balance and coordination and even burns a good chunk of calories once they get going. If all goes well, after this demo class I’ll be introducing many more YMCA members to the wonderful world of hooping in the months to come. And once again I’ll get to wear my teacher hat . . . but this time I no grading is involved and I get to pick the curriculum. And, as my daughter likes to point out, I get to swirl my hips and wear pink (or orange, or yellow, or purple . . . ).

 Wish me luck!

persist – (pər-sĭst’, -zĭst’) 2. To hold firmly and steadfastly to a purpose, state, or undertaking despite obstacles, warnings, or setbacks.

Last April I started bugging  encouraging my running/walking friends to join me on Saturday mornings for a trail run. The idea behind the regularly-scheduled run was initally to provide accountability to MYSELF and hopefully drum up some company as I really got back in the swing of integrating running into my life. I know many, many people who toe up to the start line of our local 5K/10K races every summer, so surely they are out there running on non-race days, right? Right.

At first it didn’t seem like much of a chore – I sent out an email invitation on Fridays (usually before 9PM).  Most Saturdays for the first few months I’d be joined by 2-3 other women. It wasn’t the same ones every time, but there were “regulars”, to be sure.  It was a great chance to get to know them well as our feet grazed the trail, with nothing but the occasional quacking of ducks or mooing of cows to interrupt our chatter. Then summer hit and travel schedules left me running solo (on those rare weekends when we were actually in town ourselves). Fall brought the return of the runners, sometimes as many as eight at time, as moms celebrated the return of the school year and a more predictable life schedule. A few gals hung in there for the start of winter, though I do admit to bowing out myself for a run or two when the rain and fog were so thick that you couldn’t see past the edge of the trail.

Still, it seemed worthwhile because I was getting thank you emails and some response that even though they couldn’t make it THIS weekend, a few runners had every intention of joining in soon. The schedule was doing its job for me, as my running mileage was steadily increasing as I had planned. Also, the purpose for the run was morphing in a very positive way, becoming more about encouraging new runners and returning runners to come out for support, than it was for self-accountability. So, I persisted.

I persisted, despite a dry spell – there was NO response to any running invitations for over a month. After a few Saturdays of solo runs (and two that I missed – one for my hooping training trip and another because my husband surprised his dad with a visit on his 60th Birthday) last Saturday I was thrilled to be joined by one walking gal (a mother of four daughters, and her sweet dog, Tinkerbell) and two fellow-mom runners. One likely was a cross-country star pre-children (1 boy and a set of boy/girl twins) – long, graceful legs that make an 8:00 pace look easy. The other runner, Jennifer (one of my regulars!), encouraged Ms. Speedy Legs and me to go on ahead, that she was just happy for the accountability to get there and she’d meet us at the finish. So, pushing myself, I managed to hold a conversation (a bit gaspy, from time to time) while we knocked out a very fast 3.1 miles (*pant, pant*). I enjoyed a cooling walk to the parking lot while Ms. Speedy Legs sprinted for one last quarter-mile burst – amazing!

That’s not where the persistence paid off, though.Wait for it . . . it is coming! I waited around for a bit for Jennifer to return, but even after checking down the trail a bit, didn’t see her. I figured she was running the 4.4 mile route, so I headed back home. I sent her an email yesterday to check with her to make sure everything went alright with her run. Turns out, it was better than alright.

In a nutshell: On her way back from the turn-around, Jennifer found a set of keys on the trail. She had seen a woman walking her dogs a few minutes back, so she headed back for the turn-around. They WERE that woman’s keys and she was thrilled to know that someone had found them! As it turns out, the woman with the dogs is Jennifer’s neighbor (she didn’t know it until they got to talking) and has recently lost 50 lbs. She’s motivated to keep on her fitness path, but has really wanted to meet more women in our community and find a gym partner to keep her accountable. Jennifer has also been looking for a gym partner and so they’ve set their schedule and now have a familiar face to see in the wee hours of the morning at the gym. I suspect we’ll see this new friend on the trail Saturday mornings, too.

That’s really what it is all about: reaching out to the community to make connections and support one another in our personal quests. So the next time I’m feeling frustrated about emailing 40 women with no response, I’ll remember how I’ll never know when or how, but that my persistence will pay off, often in ways I never imagined.  

And now – for what 5 of you have been waiting for . . . the winner of the Mother’s Day copy of Run Like a Mother (over a week late because I live, breathe, and run like a mother myself – lately late for EVERYTHING!) is:

Meghan Ling (Entry #4, as chosen by Random.org)

I promise I didn’t pick her because she shares a name with my daughter! Meghan, I will contact you so I can get this awesome book in the mail to you ASAP!

Happy persisting to you all!

Here’s my APA (a throwback to my Master’s days) citation for the above mentioned definition of persist:

persist. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved May 18, 2010, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/persist

After living in the Pacific Northwest for a little over five years now, you’d think I’d be accustomed to long periods of grey skies. I’ve done pretty well this winter, but with the turn of the calendar page to May on Saturday, like any good Midwesterner (I mostly grew up in Illinois & Missouri), I expect sunshine. Mother Nature teased us with some early spring loveliness in March, but quickly whisked it away after a few days.  I thought for sure the passing of April would be what we needed, but the sun didn’t make an appearance on Saturday, it didn’t have much to offer us on Sunday and it teased us from across the Snoqualmie Valley yesterday.

And then today (cue Simpson-like angel chorus) I awoke to a sunny blue sky. You know the sky – Smurfy blue with white puffy clouds. This is what every good Seattleite prays for starting in January. I’m happy it came sooner, rather than later.

With the return of the sun comes much running responsibility (and fun, of course). You can find me (and my children) running/walking a 5K on Saturday that benefits the building of a new park in our community, whether or not the sun hangs around. But in the long short-term . . .

I’m five weeks out from the hilliest 10K race you could ever hope to run. This means it is time to get off the treadmill and hit the hills, which I find to be a much friendlier experience when not having to expend extra energy to continually wipe the rain drips from my face. It means that my short runs and long hooping sessions need to morph back into long runs and extra hooping sessions.

The return of the sun also allows me to take my hooping practice back outside where it belongs, too.  Our basement ceiling has taken its fair share of abuse when I forget myself and swing the hoop over my head. It is now “decorated” with lovely little blue marks.  While hooping indoors is better than no hooping at all (much like treadmill running), assuming I can keep the hoop out of worm slime and the garden, outdoor hooping is essentially unrestricted exploration time.  Of course I can’t argue with the physical benefits of hooping either: The more I hoop, the stronger my core becomes and the faster I run. What’s not to like about that?

Run Like a MotherIn celebration of my return to a more structured running training plan and Mother’s Day this Sunday, I’m offering a chance for readers to win a copy of the newly-released Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving – and Not Lose Your Family, Job or Sanity by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. Thanks to Dimity’s and Sarah’s insight and playful musings, I’m ready to get back to the pavement and run like the mother I am (of two adorable children). I’d love to share their wisdom with you!

Reading Run Like a Mother is a bit like having coffee with a close friend. These gals are honest & witty as they unravel some mysteries about running and motherhood. I literally laughed so hard I was crying – on SEVERAL occasions – as I read the book. They get it all: dating, marriage, pregnancy, running partners, motherhood, the ups and downs of training, the pains (literal and figurative) of injury, and friendship through it all.

Want a copy? You are, of course, encouraged to purchase a copy for yourself or your very favorite mom who loves to run. Visit the Run Like a Mother website for where you can buy a copy. But if you’d like to have a chance to win a copy (as one lucky commenter shall), here’s how to do it:

In Chapter 13 of Run Like a Mother, Sarah covers a variety of ways to “Slowly Step Away from the Road”. While hooping is my current favorite choice, I’m sure it isn’t everyone’s (yet!).  Leave a comment below about your favorite method of cross-training. How often do you cross-train? How does it impact your running?

OR

For those of you who aren’t runners but would still like to be the chosen one for this book, I want you to think about a mom who has made a difference in your life. With Mother’s Day on the horizon, this might be your mom, grandma, or aunt. But she might also be your best friend’s mom, your best friend (who is a mom), or the mother of your children. What makes this mom special to you? Why do you think she’ll enjoy this book?

I shall announce the lucky winner on Sunday, May 9th – Mother’s Day, of course!

On your mark . . . get set . . . leave a comment!

My last post was on the 10th, which is . . . how many days ago? What day is today? Who am I? Where do I live?

In a nut shell since the 10th, I’ve:

– Had an amazing book signing with fellow-author, Sarah Bowen Shea (photos to post when I can figure out what “safe” place I tucked them in)
– nursed a sick kid back to health
– hosted my mother-in-law for 4 days
– done the regular “Mom” stuff
– nursed a hurt foot
– traveled to Ojai, CA for 3 days of BodyHoops Teacher Training (ie., hours and hours of hoop dancing/move learning/lesson plan learning/etc.)

I got home from the last adventure sometime after 11PM last night. Based on how well today has gone, I do believe I left my brain in California.

Despite the fatigue and the challenge of getting back into “mom mode” after a long weekend away, I’m really quite excited about things to come. My plan is to arrange several 6-session hoop classes for children starting in the fall. I’ll likely organize to hold some adult classes, too, depending upon how things unfold these next few months. First I need to polish my hoop moves, but since I’m now hooping daily, I’m hopeful that my skills will be up to par by the time I get all of the business details worked out (insurance, location, costs, etc.).

I can’t say enough about how amazing the weekend in Ojai was. It was the first time for as long as I can remember that I was truly out on my own from start to finish – including driving myself to and from the airport. I’m over 30, but I haven’t ever done the rental car thing on my own (either my husband or one of my parents has been along for any rental car excursions with me), driven down a 12 lane highway in California, stayed in a hotel on my own or eaten more than one meal a week at a restaurant alone. But last weekend I did it all. And thanks to my GPS (awesome “little” invention), I navigated from Burbank to Ojai and back without fail, slipping in some dining adventures along the way.

The teacher training (I did Level 1 & Level 2) was fantastic. Diana Lopez, the founder of BodyHoops, was our instructor, and she really has this all figured out. She ran the weekend as a series of mock classes so we could get a true sense of how classes are paced, develop our own hooping skills, and get a handle on the terminology. We had group discussions, she helped us troubleshoot, and all the while worked with us at our own experience levels cheerfully and encouragingly (is that even a word? See? Brain hasn’t caught up with body yet). The training manual has it ALL written out so that I can remember it all in a week or so when I’m all caught up with being back home and can really focus on moving forward. I do look forward to practicing every day to get better. Seriously, daily. Can you think of a better way to coax a smile . . . better yet, a full belly laugh, out of yourself at the end of a long than hula hooping? Maybe one day in the not-so-distant future I’ll even get my Level 3 license. It is totally on my dream list now! And maybe even fire hooping. OK, definitely fire hooping. Yes, fire hooping. I’m getting in touch with my fun self and I’m loving it.

Interested in learning more about hooping? Want to order your own awesome, weighted hoop (these aren’t the hoops from your youth)? Leave me a message and I’ll get you a coupon code to save you $5 on your order!

Next up . . . the very delayed run-down of the book signing (which, too, was a positive experience). With that post, look for info about how you can WIN a copy of Run Like a Mother. I’m timing it just right with Mother’s Day. So maybe you won’t have it in hand for Mother’s Day, but really mothers should be celebrated and appreciated more than one day a year, right?

Happy running, happy reading and happy hooping!

Last week I mentioned that we just hit the 2 year milestone for We Are Girls Who Love to Run. Tomorrow I’ll be celebrating that in style with a book signing. I’m already getting that excited fluttery feeling in my stomach thinking about it because it is a joint event with the co-author of Run Like a Mother, Sarah Bowen Shea. Sarah writes for Runner’s World and Shape Magazine. I cannot tell you how totally wound up I am to be part of this experience with her!

I’ll likely be too excited to post anything tomorrow night, but I do promise to do a posting ASAP with photos of the two of us and a run-down of the whole thing. I’ve had a few book signings before, but really folks, this is a big one for me.

If you live in the Seattle/Eastside area of Washington State, come on over to Title Nine in Bellevue to meet Sarah and me, buy our books and have us sign them! Here are all the details you need:

Who: Runners or friends of runners, parents, girls . . . the list really is endless.
What: A fabulous book signing event
Where: Title Nine – Bellevue
When: Sunday, April 11th, 3-5PM
How: Bring a friend!
Why: You don’t have many opportunities to meet 2 running authors at once, especially one who wrote for moms and one who wrote for daughters.

Will I see you there? I hope so!

I ran this morning, weeded half the yard (BIG chore) and chased kiddos, but still have plenty of energy. I’m off to put it to good use by getting the books ready for tomorrow and laying out all of the clothes in my closet to see what to wear. I might work on my sister-in-law’s wedding quilt some, too, for some distraction. I’ll likely “sneak in” a longer run tomorrow morning to make sure I have my jitters out. How appropriate that this whole thing is running-centric.

Happy running & happy reading!