Saturday, March 29, 2014

Why I Run

This was the forecast on Friday night - for Saturday morning.  The morning of my very first half marathon.  The half marathon for which I had trained for 4 months...
But, I soldiered on with my pre-race preparations. I have run a number of 5ks, a 10k and a 12k, but this was almost double my longest race yet. I was nervous but really not too bad. I set all my stuff out. My husband made spinach pasta with light Alfredo sauce and I drank a gallon of water (well, not all at once...but still).

My BRF (best running friend) Molly, who conveniently lives in my neighborhood, picked me up at exactly 6:45am after my pre-race coffee, bagel and banana. It was raining. I was ready with my visor and my trash bag...

Then, it was almost time. 

And off we went! The first 5 miles were kind of a blur. I apparently took the above photo on the stretch road out to mountain campus... Where we passed Swan Lake.  (Warning - some photos that follow are blurry. It was rainy-ish, yes - but they are mostly blurry because of my very technical method of carrying my phone when I run. I shove it under the strap of my sports bra. So it gets humid and sweaty and the lens fogs up. Sorry...)

(Yes that is a real swan and I was probably 25 yards away...)

This is just after mile 6 at the old mill...

Then we ran up past Winshape and at the Normandy Inn (?) - at this point, it was 9:30. Still no real rain to speak of! It cleared when the gun went off. 

The volunteers were my favorite part of the race. And they liked having their photos made:

This girl (who is bound to be my real life friend soon) was super into encouraging all the runners. Thank you!!!

And then, gloriously, Mercifully, I was at mile 12. Phew!!!

(See? I was really happy about mile 12...)
And then I saw the finish line! And my friend Molly was at my last turn. She ran the 5k and then waited in the windy weather for me for like an hour and a half. True running friends are hard to beat!!!

And as I approached the finish line I saw my husband. He had been waiting patiently for an hour and a half, too! His jeans and jacket were soaked.... I saw him before he saw me and I busted into tears. 12 seconds later I realized there was a photographer at the finish line and an ugly cry finisher photo was not what I wanted so I sucked it up!!!  
I had to use the facilities (my running buddies know I used the port-a-johns THREE TIMES between 7 & 8 am. But I refused to stop during the race. ;)

Here I am post-potty with my medal!

So. Here are my thoughts. 1) I did it. I really did it! 2) it was worth it. All that hard training was totally worth that busting about-in-tears moment. 3) the race was beautiful and an awesome run. My time was not super fast but I wasn't last and I felt great. 4) post first half-marathon if you sit or lay down, don't plan to get up for a while. Not worth the effort. 

I had a lot of people encouraging me in my journey to this achievement. Yes, I am the one who actually laced up and sweated out all those miles. But, I have had a lot of outside inspiration from all of my running friends, my non-running friends, my family, and sometimes even strangers - like the little 6 or 7 year old boy at mile 5-6 that handed me water and told me I was looking good and he was proud of me because I was almost halfway!

In this journey, I have also had people tell me that because they saw what I was doing with running, they were also inspired to get up and move. My heart is full of gratitude for those of you who have decided to make your own journey. I want to be very careful about this next part.... I have also had a billion questions about running. I am not an expert, nor am I a very experienced or fast runner.  I don't know the answers to nutrition and fueling questions, or about plantar fasciitis, or whether static stretching is good or bad. So, I usually just refer those people to the interwebs. 

The number one question I do get though, as a runner that started running at 36 years old is - WHY? Some want to know why because their motto is "I don't run unless I am being chased..." (For the record, that was also my motto before last summer/fall...) Others want to know because they want to start running, but need to know how to start; or, they have tried to run, but have not enjoyed it. As a technical matter, I didn't really love running for the first 2 months, but I did love that I found myself pushing for further and faster each time I went out...and, if you never love running, it's ok. I think you have to find your own reason to run. 

Maybe my story will help you find your reason. I know exactly why I run. I don't tell everyone often, because it seems sappy and overly emotional and ... Well, too deep. But, deep down I know why I take every step, even when it hurts, even when I don't want to, I don't feel like it and any other chore would be preferable to lacing up and hitting the pavement. 

I run because I can. I run because when I do, I feel more alive than I have ever felt before. And "alive" is the one thing I want to always *remember* to count as the most profound gift I have ever been given. 

It's not complicated. I can run. So many people can't run and will never even be ABLE to think about running. So, when I run, I remember to be grateful for my legs that carry my body. My heart pumps blood to my brain and my muscles and my brain tells everyone - keep going, guys. My lungs draw in the oxygen that keeps everything fed and healthy. My skin sweats and cools my body temperature. What amazing machines we are. 

This next bit is probably the most profound part, for me; this is also the part I am not so great at spouting off when people ask me why I run. I run because it helps me remember I am ALIVE. My legs hurt. Bad!!! It's hard to breathe (but I keep doing it...) I have to use my brain to get un-lost on an 8 mile unmarked trail (and yes, I use my smartphone, too...) The pain of running, the physical sensations and difficulty - they make me FEEL ALIVE. And yes, I feel alive most of the time, but when I am running, there is not a lot else to feel... I become very focused on the physical capabilities of my body - my amazing aliveness. 2 years ago this month, I started radiation treatment for a really weird type of cancer called Anaplastic large cell lymphoma. After like, a bazillion tests, it was determined that my prognosis was really good and I was going to be fine. I was lucky to never have been particularly ill, and that I had the best care ever. But it changed me. It changed how I feel about my body. Instead of being irritated about how my hips don't fit into the size I want, I embrace that these very hips carried two other lives into this world. 

So, when I run, I remember that I am so very very very lucky to be able to feel the blood pumping and the muscles straining and the lungs squeezing. This makes me alive. Alive is what I strive to stay...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Life gets in the way of 40 days (But Lent goes on...)

So, I have admittedly slacked this week on the 40 bags challenge. The way I see it we still have 25 days left in Lent. I am pretty sure I am well over 25 bags already, so... We'll call it good for now. 

I have cleaned the following areas (with no true photo evidence):
Under the couches and coffee table. (This produced a whole bag. Don't was mostly dog hair.)
The front hall entry way and hooks. (Our hooks breed jackets, hats, bags, and the junk in those bags breeds more junk. Srsly. And, in this winter-that-never-ends, please Jesus let us have clean hooks with no more coats hats mittens!!!) 
Oh my goodness, I have never looked at my house like I have in the last 18 days (or however many) - there is dust on everything. And I dust!!! also, where do cobwebs come from? And how do they keep coming back? Are they just collected dust in the corners? Aren't true "webs" supposed to be circular intricate weavings of silk with a big fat spider in the middle? Actually I googled this random thing because of course in my house with an 8&9 year old we have random such questions 47 times a day and employ google regularly.

Alright, so I rid the house of cobwebs, at least for a day. And I pledge to remain vigilant. 

Moving right along...
I ran a 5k last Saturday and got my best 5k time yet... (That's me in the middle. In the grey...)
And also, my alma mater (14 seed) beat Duke (#3 seed and bracket pick favorite for final four!) 78-71 in the NCAA tournament. 

Unfortunately but with a huge helping of grace and fan loyalty, My bears lost to Tennessee in the next round. Alas, Mercer Madness was EVERYWHERE on the interwebs and I am proud to be an alumnus. 


 My puppy (who is not actually a puppy at 2.5 human years old, but we call him Puppy nonetheless...) is in hospital and has been since Monday. He has (had) a terrible abcess on the side of his neck/face under his ear. Poor baby. Here is a cute photo. 
Hopefully he will come home tomorrow. 

And... I am running my first half-marathon in 3 days! Eek! The Berry Half/10k/5k benefits the Berry College Elementary School and I am super excited (albeit a leeeetle nervous!)
And....since (in addition to my total lack of organizational skills) I have a propensity for being accident prone and, well, totally clumsy, I managed to hurt myself. And of course I had to do it on the Eve of my first half marathon after, you know, 15 weeks of hard training. I had to call my husband on Sunday to come pick me up a mile from home after a stick jumped up and tripped me. Having a massage today to loosen that all up. I'm a wreck. But, you know, I am an entertaining and well-loved wreck.

Anndddd.... I decided to start a running group - a chapter of the national group Moms RUN This Town ( - we had our first get together Saturday (pre-tumble)... And I indulged in some retail therapy since my running shoes have 400+ miles. I got the green ones on the left, Mizuno Wave Runners.

Annndddd - I have some friends getting married, so I am attempting to finish their Love Quilt in time for the nuptials. 

All this said, I will get back to my 40 bags. I have a trial calendar tomorrow. My Webelo is camping with his den this weekend, my girl is sewing with her Grandmomma, my sweetie is going to the Braves game (yay baseball) and I am running a half marathon and taking a nap. Next week is spring break, so as soon as I finish my appellate brief that is due next week, I will be able to tackle my income tax return and do some purging. Kids' rooms are impending doom... And I have the front closet:
And the laundry room:
How are you doing with your 40 bags? Or do you have another Lenten challenge? Do you do spring cleaning? Why is your experience with cobwebs?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

40 Bags in 40 Days: days 11 & 12

Happy Friday Eve!
It's been a rough week here. Not any one thing but a whole slew of things are piling on to exhaust me this week. Housework, lawyer work, kid work, and also - I am running my first half marathon in 8 days (ohemgee!) - and I am battling the end-of-16-weeks-of-training slump. I mean, I'm ready for the race, and excited, but the nerves and the "did I do everything I needed to so I can finish strong" worries are creeping in! I did run a 5k last weekend (excuse the screen shot phone photo... I should really download the photo)... It looks like I am busting it and all those folks around me are leisurely strolling along... But it was a personal record best time for me! It was my 5th 5k in 5 months. How's that for alliteration?

Ok - while we are rambling (ok, it's me that is rambling, but you're following along, right?) Another thing I became obsessed with this week is bento boxes. If you don't know about bento (the formal Japanese term is Obento) - you can google it but basically they are compact boxed lunches that, ideally, are nutritious and tasty and usually kinda pretty, too.

Without getting into all the details of my ongoing weight loss struggles, basically I have a thyroid function issue, and vi eat really well and stay within my recommended calorie range every day (accounting for fueling my training runs, too...) - but I occasionally struggle with the 40/40/20 carb/protein/fat balance... So, bento was a good solution. So this happened:
And this was today's:
And then my kids were jealous so they got their own bentos and this happened:
Needless to say, we have had good times eating lunch this week!

Ok, onto the bagging and purging, etc. I actually have gotten rid of 5 bags in the last 2 days. 3 trash and 2 donations, but I only got this photo:
I also cleaned out my antique buffet/sideboard which we use as an entertainment center/ tv stand... It was a mess. I threw away or gave away more than half the stuff, thus freeing up some extra storage space for all the electronic thingamajig we need to keep in the living room. 
Also, I dusted all the electronic piles on top. Have you ever looked behind your tv??? Oh my holy oats it is dusty back there. The only thing left is getting that tangle of wires sorted down there. That is a husband job. 

This weekend I may (or may not) tackle one or both of the childrens' rooms. Maybe not. Maybe I will just do the front hall closet (a big task but not near the overwhelming mess of C&C's living space!)

Now, off to bed, I have court and a lot of weekend to get into tomorrow... Until the next bag...


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

40 Bags in 40 Days: 10 & 11 - when life gets in the way

So, I'm sitting in my car typing this post on my phone. Yes, I could do it at my office but work is work; that is, when I am in my office (which I organized back at the beginning of the year - see photos below) my head is not focused on fun, interesting, informative and entertaining blogging. I have thoughts of bond reductions, plea negotiations, appellate arguments, probation conditions and motions to suppress. At least, that's what I did in the last hour. 
Here: my office...before and after:
 I could do the blogging at home...but I feel like my home time with my handsome hubs, precious littles and hairy dogs is already limited and throw in swim practice, cub scouts, training for a half marathon and the 40 Bags project and I do not want to sit at the computer when I get home. 

So here I sit. Why am I in my car? Because I have to grocery shop. Grocery shopping ranks right up there on my most exciting necessary tasks with getting a root canal. Except I have to do it roughly every 10-14 days. I am pretty organized about the meal planning at my house - I know, I know - me and organized don't usually show up in the same thought but we don't eat out too much, and I have been meal planning for years now. So, I spent a little while deciding what to cook (between swim and running and scouts and bond motions)...made a list...popped on to coordinate coupons and sales...

And I have started taking my lunch in my fancy new Bentgo bento box:
My kids are so jealous of this little set up and its yum factor they have convinced me to order them their own bentgo bentos. 
So my list includes lots of healthy packable-for-lunch things... And I look forward to a stocked fridge and pantry...But I'm stalling the actual shopping, paying, getting home, organizing and putting away part. 

In other news, I have made some minor progress with my 40 bags. Here is our "toy chest" behind my couch. It rarely gets opened...

And I used to use it to corral little kid toys like Duplo blocks, dolls, and FP Little People sets. Somehow , though, I no longer have little kids so we cleaned it out:
There were a couple games in there we kept, and a stash of matchbox cars and 3 nekkid barbies. (Incidentally, I am sure no one ever outgrows matchbox cases. They are the perfect "toy" for 2 year olds and 12 year olds alike, gender neutral, cheap, portable, the possibilities are endless.)
The chest ended up empty:
And we decided it would be an awesome place to keep our family board games and our new collection of beloved jigsaw puzzles. 

I also did clean out the coffee table drawers and the pile of crap on the front entry table, but those photos are not enlightening at all. March onward... Towards semi-organization!!!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

40 Bags in 40 Days: 7, 8 & 9

Sorry it's been a couple days! Thursday night we had swim and I finished sweeping and mopping the kitchen. I can officially say it is completely organized and cleared out of unnecessary stuff!

Next, I tackled the dining area. I have three pieces of furniture in that portion of our open floor plan living area, table & chairs, armoire (that I use for sewing storage) and a china cabinet. 
I cleaned off the tops of the cabinets first and dusted. (Yikes! Super dusty!)
And I cleaned out the inside of the china cabinet and got rid of a lot of extra glasses and things. 
Also, our hooks by the back door were out of control. Covered in soooo much junk. Bags and coats and hats and gloves and swim goggles... I didn't take a proper before photo... 
But here is the after:
(Chickfila cow art by Carson, 2011)

I also cleared out the side table between the couches:

Bag/box totals:
Donations: 18 bags or boxes (9 black garbage bags, 4 boxes books, 1 box DVDs, 4 boxes glass vases, drinking glasses and crystal.)
Trash: 13 kitchen bags
Recycling: 2 giant city cans full

I am on track to finish the entire livin area by this weekend, so stay tuned! Thank you all for your continued support - it feels really great!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

On Doing My Best

My kids will complete the 3rd & 4th grade this year.  Man, it flies. My strongest childhood memories began in 3rd grade. Maybe that's what is causing a little anxiety lately about my parenting... that I KNOW my kids will REALLY remember from this point on, and so I feel a lot of (self-imposed) pressure to *make* *it* *count* more now than ever...
Aren't they precious? Where is the pause button?!?!?
Photo Credit: Abby Hennington

You see, I had an idyllic childhood. My parents were/are perfect. Well, maybe not perfect, but really really close.

My Dad taught us lots of practical life stuff that I still use today...
*Jokes are good. Jokes and humor and laughing can solve a lot of problems in the world.
*If you fall, just say "Hot Dog!" and then get up and rub some dirt in it and get back in the game..
*Anything, absolutely anything, can be fixed. Cars, houses, bones, TVs, homework... And, if it can't be fixed, it can be replaced - The only things that can't be replaced are people, and broken trust.
*The only time you raise your voice is if someone is too far away. You never raise your voice in anger.
*If you don't do something right, really, it's not worth doing it at all.
*If you're going to drive a car, you have to check the oil, fill the tank, and be able to change a tire.
*When you are asked to do something, you must do it. Immediately. If not, I start counting to 3. And I start with the number 2.
*If I say "Get in the truck, J" - don't ask questions. Just do it. We may be going to the hardware store for a part for the fixing of things, or we may be going to get ice cream, or we may end up at the beach for the weekend. Surprises in life are good. Don't question so much.

Momma is amazing.  She is kind and lovely and smart. The one thing I always, always, always knew I wanted to be was a Momma. Because, to me, Momma was the best thing EVER. But, she showed me that a mom can be other things, too. She had a career that she enjoyed. And I never doubted that I would also be a work-outside-the-home mom. (In fact, I was going to be an astronaut.)

Here is Momma Joy wisdom:
*Don't whine. It's not attractive. You can be honest and tell the truth and share your feelings without whining. No one likes a whiner.
*We don't get angry about accidents, it wasn't on purpose, and it can't be undone (but it can be fixed - see Dad-ism above).
*When we mess up, we say we are sorry.  Sorry doesn't fix everything, but it's a start.
*We don't cry over spilt milk, we clean it up and pour another glass.
*We don't say anything we might regret because words can't be taken back.
*When we are upset, it's ok to cry. But then you have to go wash your face, and brush your teeth, and go to bed.  Everything will always be better in the morning.
*Momma & Daddy will always be proud of you, no matter what happens, but you have to promise to do your best. Your best is all you can do.
*In all things, we are kind and honest and act in love.

As an adult, I appreciate that I was taught these things. I like who I was taught to be. Or at least who they taught me to strive to be. When I'm having a hard time, or something bad happens, and I don't know what to do - I call my momma. If something breaks, and I try to fix it but come up short, I call my daddy. I want to be like them. I want to be the parents to C&C that they were to me.

So, I try hard. Every day. And it is way hard, y'all. And I mess up. A lot.

My patience gets short. I don't want to fix dinner or do the dishes or, God help, do 4th grade Math homework. (Where's my Daddy when you need him!!!) Sometimes, I want to raise my voice (in anger!) - and sometimes I do raise my voice...sorry, Daddy.) But when I do lose my temper and raise my voice, I say I'm sorry. Sometimes I whine about things, because they are so hard! (But I usually catch myself and immediately change my tone, because like Momma said, no one likes a whiner.) I worry. I worry WAY too much. Usually about spilt milk, that I can't unspill - But I try not to.

I sometimes tell Momma about how:
the laundry is a big fat mess, and no one has clean underwear,
or how I messed up and lost my temper because Cole misplaced (fill-in-the-blank) AGAIN and had a fit,
or Carson is the slowest-slow-poke ever,
or I had to miss the Challenge field trip that all.the.other.moms were going on because I had court
...and how am I ever supposed to be as good as she was?

She says it wasn't perfect like I think, I just don't remember.
She says that our laundry was a mess, and we had dog hair stuck permanently in the carpet, marker on the wall, gum in the hair, and that she didn't want to fix dinner, and she lost her temper because *I* misplaced (fill-in-the-blank) AGAIN and had a fit, and Casey was the slowest-slow-poke ever...

WHAT? I mean, I know we were kids and we were a mess, but my parents weren't perfect, either??? I guess I don't have to be so hard on myself about making it all perfect. Maybe, like me, my kids will grow up and remember the good important stuff that I worry so much about passing on. And all the other crazy chaos will just fall by the wayside from their memories...

I am not my parents. I am only me.  But I am lucky to be theirs, to have come from them; so, if I try hard, I can fix anything, and it's ok to mess up if I say I'm sorry, and if I do my best they will be proud, so I do my best.  And my best is all I can do.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

40 Bags in 40 Days: Day 6

Day 6 - lower cabinets and 2 utensil drawers... I really didn't want to do this today. Tuesdays are "the day that shall not be named" around here. Work is always crazy on Tuesdays, you aren't even properly into the week yet, and everything is always scheduled on Tuesday... (Because people will forget over the weekend if it's Monday...Down here in God's Country, Wednesday is church night, Thursday is the second most popular activity scheduling day, but people might take Friday off and go out of town. And Friday, well, we have high school football or date night on Friday ...) 

Anyway, I digress. I opened the first drawer to find this stash. I'm thinking quilt...

Then this happened:
And this is the worst idea for a cabinet ever, disguised as a great idea. A lazy Susan - but everything falls off back in that corner. And you can't reach it unless you have go-go-Gadget arms (which, unfortunately, I don't)...this cabinet is my nemesis. And tonight, I won the battle (and maybe the war?)...
Embarrassing under the oven photos. But it is clean now!
And gosh, look at all that space:
These are both afters, forgot the before photos for the utensil drawers, but you can trust that they were awful before and this is a huge improvement. I think based on my prior 5 days of photos you probably are going to believe me...
And I had a whole bag of trash (already taken out), and bag number 9 (?) maybe for the Salvation Army. Plus a blurry action shot of Puppy. 
Tomorrow is lucky #7 ( know what day it is???? Ask the camel ... )