To Peru

(May 12, 2015)

On May 12, 2014, I started a new chapter in my life. I walked through the front doors of Operation Smile’s Global Headquarters ready to take ownership of my new job: my own personal dream job. I was ready to thrive. Exactly one year ago I began this journey. Today, May 12, 2015, I am sitting on a plane heading to Lima, Peru to participate in my first medical mission.

“She’s seeing things.

She is hearing things.

She’s so sensitive.

Read: She’s irrational.

And this I have internalized. Who am I to trust my body, my senses, my instincts? Who am I to know how to raise my child without consulting parenting books and up-to-date rearing studies? Who am I to try to find God outside of an institutionally approved, fully vetted doctrine? Who am I to think I can pursue impractical dreams? Who am I to be taken seriously? Who am I to think I am capable and worthy? Who am I…who am I?” ~Leigh Ann Henion

This has been my internal dialogue for much of my life. I’ve focused on how I’m not enough – not enough of a wife, not enough of a mother, not enough of a dreamer. I’ve never trusted myself.

As I boarded this plane, tears rolled down my face. Not sure the root of my tears – part homesick and part inspired – I am certain my tears come from a place of gratitude.

I’ve been talking about myself a lot lately. I’ve focused on how this is my dream coming true, but the truth is that this has nothing to do with me at all. It is not about me being enough or capable or worthy. It isn’t about who I am. It is about who they are. It is about the patients we will treat in Peru. It is about the mother who can continue to dream for her child. It is about the father who can exhale knowing his child will be safe and healthy. It is the story of the parents where my heart feels connected.

I have two healthy boys. We have access to safe medical treatment anytime we need it. I am grateful.

This journey is about bringing hope to these communities. It is about healing. I haven’t even touched down in Lima yet, and my heart is already transforming. My old dialogue – Am I enough? Who am I? – is fighting to make its way into this journey. Who am I to think I am worthy? Who am I to think I deserve this dream? By the time this plane touches down in Lima that dialogue is no longer welcome. This isn’t my story.

“It is showing me that I am part of a divine completion, and knowing this somehow makes me feel whole. It is in the spirit of Aloha, oneness, that I intuit divinity. We do not live outside or inside of nature. We are nature. We are not separate from each other – our fates are intertwined, always.” ~Leigh Ann Henion

This journey is about connection. It is about community. It is about hope. It is about spreading love and receiving it – unapologetically and whole heartedly. This is about seeing that fate is always intertwined.

Four more hours until Lima…..

The coastline welcomed me

A Mother’s Story

“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”   ~Mitch Album

It is Mother’s Day. As I shared breakfast with the most special mothers in my life – my mom, my mother in law, and my sister – the magnitude of their reach wasn’t lost on me. I am my mother’s story. My boys are becoming my story. We are all living through each other every single day.

When I gave birth to Cole when I was twenty four years old, he opened my heart to the world. He inspired me to be my best. He brought all of my dreams to the surface. Everything I have ever wanted to be, I have the courage to pursue because I am his mom. My children our my strength.

As Mother’s Day comes to a sleepy end, I’m writing in an old sketch book my packing list: Packing for Peru. I leave on Tuesday heading to Peru to attend a medical mission with Operation Smile. I can remember the moment this became my dream. I remember sitting next to my mom on an airplane nearly fifteen years ago and reading an article about a group of young adults who carried medical supplies into Cuba to provide relief. I know the moment this dream bubbled to the surface, but I also know this dream has always been a part of me. Perhaps this is my mother’s dream too.

When I stare at Cole and Chet while they sleep, I wonder what they will do with their lives. Will they travel the world? Will the work to find a cure for an incurable disease? Will they transform the world into a peaceful place? I realize now that I see my dreams in them. Does my mom see her dreams in me too?

When I get on that plane on Tuesday I am carrying their hearts with me. I’m carrying my dreams, but I’m doing it for them. I want both generations to know that I’m grateful that I’m the one who gets to do this. Over eight days I have the privilege of helping execute a medical mission, and if that isn’t enough, I get to put a backpack on my back and wander for days after to fill myself back up. I get to hike Machu Picchu mountain. I get to sleep in the Sacred Valley. I get to wander down cobble stone streets. This gets to be part of my story.

“I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious. Life rushes back into the void, richer, more vivid, fuller than before.” ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I’ll be back in exactly two weeks richer, more vivid, fuller than before. Another chapter of my story will be written for my boys, my mom and me.

My sister, me and my mama

My sister, me and my mama sharing stories

Chicago Marathon 2015

“Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.” ~Carl Sandburg

On October 11, 2015 my feet will travel 26.2 miles through the city of Chicago. I woke up yesterday morning at 5am feeling the panic that I might not get selected in the lottery process. I hit refresh on my email over and over again. I followed #Chicagomarathon to see if anyone else got an acceptance letter yet. Just after 10am, my status changed from “Pending” to “Accepted”.

On October 11th, my feet will travel 26.2, but it is my heart that will carry me.

“Courage, Dear Heart.” ~C.S. Lewis

Nine days ago I wrote a blog post: See your Magic. Inspired by the birthday of my aunt and the Boston Marathon, I eluded to the fact that I wanted to run another marathon. What I didn’t tell you was that on March 10th I entered my name into the lottery for the Chicago Marathon. I knew my heart was ready to tackle 26.2 miles yet again.

As I look at the direction of my life in the next six months, I’m overwhelmed by gratitude. This year has felt like magic. How did I get so lucky? Every year seems to be punctuated by life events. I know five, ten, twenty years from now when I think back to 2015, it is going to stand out as a magical year for our family.

On Monday, Christian started a new chapter in his professional career. He started a new job that is going to inspire him, challenge him, and allow him to grow in ways we never imagined.

On May 12th, I am boarding a plane for Peru to attend my first ever Operation Smile medical mission. I am exposed to the nature of this work every single day, but to experience it first hand, to live it, to breath it, is something I can’t begin to understand. My heart is prepared to grow.

Over the next six months, my mileage will increase once again. What now feels like a long run will become a short run on my schedule. Saturday mornings will start at sunrise. Over the course of hundreds of miles, my soul will be polished it the best version of myself. This is why I run. This is why I’m ready to run a marathon again. My heart, my head and my body are all working together.

I’m consciously telling myself to slow down, to inhale, to exhale, and to not let the excitement and the whirlwind of life overcome me. I want to enjoy every second of this phase of life.

When I look back on the thirty five years I’ve existed that all began in a tiny hospital tucked in the woods in Lake Forest, Illinois (just north of Chicago), I know what each of those years has meant to me. I’ve lived enough to know just how special this year is for me and my family. Running the Chicago Marathon is the perfect way for me to celebrate the growth that this year has delivered.

There is no better time to let my heart carry me and no better town to welcome me home. It’s time to embrace Chicago!

Photo via Business Weekly

Photo via Business Weekly

Every ounce of gratitude I feel, every gesture of love I feel, I promise to carry it with me during every training run. This marathon is about bringing my best self to surface. It is about running with my heart. It is about embracing life.

See your Magic

April 20, 2015

My Aunt would have celebrated her 48th birthday. In the two years since she’s passed away, she continues to shape me. She continues to inspire me. It was at the kitchen table in her Mom’s house in Wisconsin nearly twenty years ago that I came to understand myself. She saw me, and she reflected back to me all the passion I had yet to find inside of myself.

I put on my platform boots. I drank a large iced coffee. It felt like such a celebration of Amy.

With my platform boots on my feet and my iced coffee in hand, I watched The Boston Marathon on one monitor at work while work continued on the other. I squealed with delight as I saw familiar faces. My heart ached as I watched favorite runners fall out of the lead pack. My heart swelled as every runner made a final surge for the finish line. I love this sport, this race and this marathon.

These two events colliding together on the calender make me want to push harder, live bigger, and love more. These two events make me want to feel it all.

Life has been so good to me this year. Life has embraced me. I want to embrace it back. How can I make my heart visible to others? How can I bring the passion my aunt saw in me to the surface for everyone to see? There is one thing that makes me feel alive. There is one thing that lets me feel every emotion of life. For me it is running. It’s the marathon.

There is something magical about running; after a certain distance, it transcends the body. Then a bit further, it transcends the mind. A bit further yet, and what you have before you, laid bare, is the soul.” ~Kristen Armstrong

There is magic in the marathon! My soul is ready to be laid bare! 

If I could make one promise to my aunt, I’d promise her I’d see people the way she saw me. I’d promise her I wouldn’t hide. Pay it forward! Find the magic in yourself. Find the magic in people!

 

 

 

 

 

Grow into it, still growing. 

A year ago I realized the importance of growth, the comfort of growth, the necessity of growing.

Grow into it.

It’s been almost a year since I changed jobs. It’s been almost a year since we enrolled Chet in school. It’s been almost a year since our family learned to adapted to so many new changes. During that time I found myself me    ntally coaching myself through most life moments.

Grow into it.

Very little has changed since last May, yet everything is different. I find comfort in the challenges of my job. I cherish the time Chet spends thriving in his school. Our family has gained so much since last year.

Grow into it.

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View from my Run

 

Yet we are still growing. I find myself adjusting to a child maturing into middle school. He’s growing and stretching. Finding comfort in this middle stage of development is a challenge. He’s loving and caring one moment. He’s withdrawn and abrasive the next moment. I want to whisper in his ear grow into it, but I know it’s me that needs to grow. I need to grow as his mother to support him.

Grow into it.

Teenage years and toddler years are a lot to manage. At the end of most days, it my connection to Christian that becomes neglected. Many discusses have ended with the conclusion that this is a phase in our relationship that we have to trust, that we have to embrace and that we have to grow through. The moments in life when our children need us most don’t last forever, so we are trusting the growth. We are focusing on small moments for just us. We are growing.

Grow into it.

A year ago I asked my husband and my children to trust me, to trust that the change I was making would make me a better wife and mother. They held my hand and cheered me on. Now it’s my turn. Nicole at My Fit Family wrote of her marriage, and it has inspired me ever since.

“Marriage is about falling into pace with each other.  When one person chooses to grow, the other person cannot be left behind.  Feelings of jealousy have no place in our hearts towards each other.

Sometimes, people grow.  And because we are individuals, we can’t force one person to be ready to grow with the other at the same time.  But here is what I’ve learned–from my own marriage of 10 years, seeing my own parents marriage of 39 years, my grandparents marriage of 64 years: When your partner grows, you must pace along with them.  Be an encourager and supportive–not bitter or resentful.

Because your turn will come.  And your partner may be the one that is holding back–and you will need his support.  It’s almost as if the person who is growing has no choice but to grow and the other person must be the supporter and encourager.  Being left behind will cause too big of a separation.  A great divide–and if you aren’t careful, it may never be filled–it may be too difficult to build the bridge to connect the two of you.”

It’s now my turn to watch my husband flourish, to pace beside him, and to let him grow. This year belongs to him.

Grow into it. 

It has been a year since I used these three simple words to motivate myself. It has been a years since I relied on these three simple words to anchor me in my own growth. A year later I know this: growing isn’t something to be feared. It isn’t something to resist. It is something to be embraced, celebrated and encouraged. Growth is the direction I am headed.

Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional.” ~Glenda Cloud

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View from my Run

 

 

Celebrating 35

For the first time, I’m celebrating a birthday that feels like a real bench mark in life. 35 feels established (a very nice word for old). It feels significant. So many of life’s big moments are behind me: happily married, full house, satisfying career, happy home, and satisfied with my education level. There are no more “what’s next?” moments on my life plan because what is next is simple. What is next is simple enjoy this life I’ve created for myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my voice this year in nearly every facet of my life. I’m writing my own story. I taking ownership of every step I’ve taken. I’m finding that the stronger I become in owning my own story, the more I have to offer those around me.  Finding peace in the memoir of my life has changed my perception of the world.

Understanding my story makes me want to know your story. I want to know the story of the person running by me on the trails. I want to know the story of the mother in line behind me at target. I want to know the story of the mother half way around the world who brings her child to our surgery site. Our stories are all so unique and all the same.

I find myself wondering how much compassion we would give if we all knew each other’s stories. Would we get mad at the man who accidentally cut us off in traffic if we knew what he was feeling? Would we get mad at the cashier who moved a little too slow if we knew what was going on in her home? Would we demand so much from those around us if we knew what they had been through? Perhaps its age or perhaps it’s my exposure to just how fragile life and love truly is this year that makes me want to embrace the world more. We all experience heart ache. We all experience loss. We all are doing our best to live our best possible life. Life is rarely easy, but there is so much magic in living.

“Today is your magic moment. Whatever you do will be there for the rest of our lives. We can’t relive it, so give it all today.” ~Dr. Bill Magee, CEO and Co Founder of Operation Smile

This year I will use my voice. This year I’ll tell my story. This year I will remember that we all have our own story, our own experiences, that are bigger than any one moment. This year I will embrace the magic of living.

 

The perfect gift from my parents: a yellow bench for our backyard

 

 

Shamrock Half Marathon 2015

“Courage, Dear Heart.” ~C.S. Lewis

A week ago I crossed the finish line of the Newport News Marathon 8k. Over the five hilly miles, my head quickly tried to play its old tricks. By mile two I found myself thinking old thoughts of “I can’t” and “it’s too hard”. As quickly as they came, I quickly laughed them off. I spent last year battling those mental demons. There was no way I was letting them win this year. Instead I had fun with the runners around me. I chatted with the few spectators that were on the course. Even when congestion prevented me from breathing deeply and a cramp emerged in my side around mile 3, I stayed happy. The result was an 8k and a perfectly executed race

(Finish Time: 45:15, Splits: 9:11, 9:02, 9:01, 9:01, 8:56)

After this race, I knew my heart (and most importantly my head) was ready for my big race weekend: Shamrock Half Marathon.

I wasn’t supposed to be running the half this weekend. I was supposed to be in Africa. I wasn’t training for a spring half. I thought my goal race would be a 10 miler at the end of April. So when plans changed, I quickly adapted my training plan to squeeze in a few double digit runs (two to be exact).

As race day approached, I had a few goals floating around in my head. First and most importantly, I wanted to duplicate the feeling I ran with at the One City Marathon 8k. I wanted to run with a happy heart. I wanted to have fun. Based on my current fitness level, I also had a few anticipated finish times.

A Goal – Sub 2 if the day was absolutely perfect mixed with a little race day magic (the same pace as my 8k the weekend before)

B Goal – PR (sub 2:03:19)

C Goal – stay strong (9:30 pace)

As I lined up at the start of the Shamrock Half Marathon with my friends, I decided I wanted to go for. I wanted to see if I had a sub 2 hiding inside my running legs. Regardless of my inconsistent training and regardless of my unfocused running all winter, I knew my heart and my head was the strongest it has ever been going into a race

The excitement is building

The excitement is building

Mile 1 9:08

Mile 2 9:06

Mile 3 9:06

Mile 4 9:01

Mile 5 9:04

Mile 6 9:05

The first six miles head north through the North End of the oceanfront and along Shore Drive through First Landing State Park. My only thought through the first six miles was to slow down. I didn’t want to run faster than a 9 minute mile. I consciously head back and resisted the urge to run faster as the excitement of race day took over.

As we turned on to the military base, I started to fatigue a bit. I think mentally I knew what the next 3 miles had planned. Three miles through a lonely, quiet military base. My running buddy Laura dropped back at Mile 7 due to some cramping so I was all alone. I started the process of counting miles and water stops. Run to the next mile marker. Run to the next water table. Run to the light house. Get me off this stupid military base!

Mile 7 8:54

Mile 8 9:05

Mile 9 9:23

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I expected to feel a surge of excitement as I left the military base, but it never showed up. I was tired. I couldn’t find the motivation to keep the wheels turning. I hadn’t been paying attention to my garmin at this point. If I had know I was so close to going sub 2, I think I could have fought a little harder. Mentally I thought I was in the perfect bubble of finishing with a new PR above 2 hours.

Mile 10 9:35

Mile 11 9:21

Mile 12 9:56

As always Christian was waiting for me as I came out of the military base. Seeing him is always a welcome sight. He stays if I want him near. He bikes ahead when I push him away. I really wanted to be done by the time I saw him. Mentally I was tired.  When I finally saw the mile mark to let me know there was 1 mile left, I finally found some energy. I didn’t run 12 miles to quit, so I tucked my head and kept going.

Mile 13 9:30

As I made my the final turn onto the boardwalk, I was smiling from ear to ear. I knew I was going to cross the finish line with a personal best. This year I really allowed myself to enjoy the energy of the crowd. I high fived everyone on the turn. I cheered along with them. I embraced ever single sign and every single word of encouragement. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Final Stretch 8:36 pace

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Official Results 2:01:43, 9:17 pace

I felt like I was beaming as I made my way down the finisher shoot. Satisfied didn’t even begin to describe just how good I felt about my run on Sunday. Running a PR always feels good, but this year feels different. This year running was my last priority. This year family time always came first. This year my work has become my source of pride. This year I choose sleep when my body was weary. This year my life felt like everything fell in place perfectly. To be rewarded with a personal best is truly the cherry on top.

Post Race Celebrating

Post Race Celebrating

As I put another check in the box next to a goal accomplished, I can’t help but feel like this is my starting point. I felt this exact same way last year at the finish line of the Shamrock Half. I’m finding my stride. I’m finding what works best for my life. Running has become the perfect compliment for everything that makes me happy.

This year running embraced me back. My heart won this race!

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