(Peru) Screen Day 2

(May 16, 2015)

The unknown was eliminated as we entered day two of screening. I knew what to expect. My nerves had been settled. Day two was a repeat of day one. The drive to the hospital was familiar. The walk to the courtyard of the hospital was familiar. The crowd waiting for us wasn’t a surprise. In one day this became familiar territory.

The medical team quickly settled into their screening stations. Patients were registered shortly after we arrived. With every patient that came through the screening process, I watched in awe the love of each parent. While the environment already felt like home, I still found myself standing back observing it all.


The children were entertained by a plastic bottle that quickly turned into a soccer ball.

Stickers provided hours of entertainment.

I never witnessed a family complain.

I never saw anyone ask for anything.

Gratitude filled the air before anyone even knew if they would get surgery.


This waiting room is such a contrast to the waiting rooms in America. Compared to the world that I know, I can’t help but feel they have found such a deeper appreciation for life when they have less. How do you blend our world so it has the best of both? How do you remove medical uncertainty, life uncertainty, and uphold the love and gratitude? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that more isn’t always better. I also know that less isn’t fair.

I feel myself growing quiet. My heart is changing. I find myself wanting to absorb it all. I want to stand back and appreciate every moment. I want to sit for hours and play. I want to learn from each person who showed up at the hospital the past two days. I want to learn from every person who showed up to volunteer. I have so much to see. I have so much to learn. I have so much to be thankful for in every moment of my life.

How do you take this all in?


Photo credit: Michael Kelly, U-Voice volunteer (and a pretty incredible person too!)

(Peru) Screen Day 1

(May 15, 2015)

It’s about to begin. I’ve had this thought for so many weeks now. I have carried around so much anticipation knowing this moment was about to arrive, and today is the day it begins. Today is the day I get to observe the magic of a medical mission. Patients are probably waiting already. They are waiting for us to arrive at the hospital.


I don’t have a lot of words for today. There are only images that will forever be captured in my memory. I spent most of my day observing and learning.  I was just trying to absorb it all. I was just trying to be a friendly smile to settle someone’s nerves. I was just trying to be an extra set of hands to the people who were taking care of every patient. I was just trying to keep a child happy while they waited for hours in the sun not exactly knowing why they were waiting.

It was a long day.

We arrived at the hospital and made our way to the center courtyard where screening would take place. I don’t know what I expected. I found myself taking several deep breaths as we navigated the hallways of the hospital. When we turned the corner and walked outside into the courtyard, the deep breaths got stuck in my chest. There was no visible end to the line of people waiting for us to arrive. Within seconds, people started clapping. I didn’t even realize they were clapping for our arrival until I had walked past the crowd and into the area set up for screening stations.

A Small Glimpse of Screening Day

Every single person standing outside in the sun was waiting to be screened or was waiting for someone they love to be screened. And they were clapping. It didn’t seem fair. It still doesn’t seem fair. We should be clapping for them. Life certainly can’t be easy for them. I can’t imagine the ache in the heart of a parent when the learn that their child is born with a cleft lip or a cleft palate. I can’t imagine the feeling they must having wondering what they can do. If this was my child, surgery would be scheduled and planned before he was ever born. His birth would still be filled with hope knowing help was waiting. We should be clapping for them for showing up today.

At the end of day one, we screened nearly 200 patients. Nearly 200 individuals received a full health screening to see if they are healthy enough for surgery. The had time with a speech pathologist. They had time with a psychologist. They got help with breast feeding or bottle feeding. A nutritionist meet with them all. A dentist spent time with each patient. It’s an amazing thing to observe. It works like a machine. One station to the next. Every team has a specific goal, and every volunteer treated every patient with love and compassion.

Hours and Hours of Fun thanks to a green frog finger puppet and a two year old boy who made me love my boys even more

Tomorrow we will do it all again. There are more patients to screen, more bubbles to blow, more people to love.

“It is only with the heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince     

Still working hard long after Sunset (or maybe just Jerry!)


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



Chasing the Sunset

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” ~Rabindranath Tagore

As I pulled into my driveway after a busy day at work and a last-minute visit to the doctor (that trumped my plans to go to my first boot camp class), I could see the sun beginning to flirt with the tree line. The thought of seeing the sunset over the river is all it takes these days to get me out the door in my running shoes. Cole, home with a clean bill of health, had an art project to tackle. Christian was grilling. Chet and I decided to chase the sunset. I ran as fast as I could to catch the setting sun. The river is less than a mile from our front door, but leaving for a run with a two-year old never happens quickly. Running while pushing a two-year old never happens quickly. We made it to the river just as the gorgeous reds were leaving the sky.

My running buddy

My running buddy

We missed the sunset, but the river was still waiting. I always let Chet run with me for the few blocks along the river. We bird watch. We check out the crane that is building the new boat ramp. After some begging and pleading (and protesting), he returns to his stroller (or tractor or lawn mower or dinosaur – whatever his imagination determines each night) to take the long way home.

This is why I run. My reasons for why I run change with the seasons of my life. During this season, I run for the sunset and the sunrise. I run to see the world wake up and fall asleep. It refreshes my soul. It hits the reset button.

Running has become less about pace and personal bests and more about connecting with my body. It’s become my way to keep my body, my mind, and my spirit free. It has become a time to explore the wild imagination of a two-year old and to listen to the rambles of a ten-year old. It’s become my way to catch up on conversation with my husband. There are nights the whole family joins me on their bikes. My running can be selfish at times. I run for myself, but my evening hours at home are limited. My time with my boys is limited. So I selfishly bring them with on my runs. I don’t think they mind.

Everything in life has a season. Right now is my season to bask in the glow of sunshine. I want to take in as many sunrises and sunsets as I can. I want to celebrate the promise of new beginnings, and I want to celebrate what has been offered as each day ends. I’m excited about running again for no other reason than I love to run. It’s something I hope I never take for granted.

Fall race season is just around the corner. I won’t be trying to run my fastest times or to push myself to new levels. This season I want to carry sunshine with me on to the race course. I just want to run. I just want to shine.

Chasing the sunset

Chasing the sunset

The Magic of Retrospection

“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~Lao Tzu

As a spectator at this years Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, I was in awe of every runner who lined up at the start line. The race lived up to its reputation with brutal heat and humidity. This race is never an easy race.

How did I do? How did I run this race three years in a row?

The summer of 2010 was a typical summer for me. I never ran more than five miles. I only ran when I felt like it. I never trained. I had decided to ignore my race entry. I was going to let the race go because my body wasn’t ready. A few days before race day, I got a call from my aunt. She had breast cancer. I had to run. I lined up with runners not know what to expect. I’d do my best. I had to. I cried through many of those miles, and yet I finished in a respectable time. Somehow I ran that race. I felt weak. I felt unprepared. It felt hard.

I returned to this race in 2011. I was six months pregnant with Chet. As I trudged along on the race course, I struggled. It felt hard. I felt weak.

In 2012, when Chet was a newborn, I trained hard. I ran every Saturday morning. Some nights I only had two hours of sleep, but I always showed up to run. Race day came, and I ran through all the same feelings. It was hard. I felt slow. I struggled.


The common thread between all these races was my perception: I always felt like I was struggling to make it work. I always felt like I was struggling to balance life and running. I always felt like I was struggling to balance life, motherhood and marriage. I’ve always felt like I’m struggling to stay afloat.

But something magical happens when I cross the finish line. It was all worth it. Today when I look back, I am in awe of myself. I’m in awe of what I was able to juggle. I’m in awe of the balance I maintained. Looking back, I feel like I was a superwoman.

How did I do all of that? How did I balance it all? How did I make it work? Because right now I feel like I’m fighting for that balance. Right now I feel like I’m fighting for that strength. How did I do it then?

While I watched the Rock n Roll half marathon from the sidelines this year, I saw something in those runners. I saw love. I saw passion. I saw sacrifice. I saw so many people who were doing it, and I realized I’ve been doing it all along. It’s the fight for balance and it’s the fight for strength that fuel that love and passion in my life. How I feel today is no different from how I felt two years ago.

I’m doing it today just like I was doing it then. I don’t need to wait two years to be in awe of what I’m accomplishing today. I can appreciate myself now. I can be grateful for what I have right now. I don’t want to find my happiness through retrospection. It’s waiting for me right now. The only difference between today and two years ago is that I’ve already crossed the finish line for the events in my past. I haven’t crossed today’s finish line yet. I haven’t felt the magic of today’s finish line.

When I look back, nothing in my life was lacking. This message applies to today too. The magic isn’t really at the finish line. The magic is in the process of getting there. I doubt the finish line would feel like such an accomplishment if it was easy to get there.

Sunrise on Race Day

Sunrise on Race Day




Whole Hearted.

“I have come to believe that coming true is not the only purpose of a dream. Its most important purpose is to get us in touch with where dreams come from, where passion comes from, where happiness comes from.” — Lisa Bu

Over coffee last week, my running coach and I redefined my relationship with running. We chose a new lense for my view of my training plan. I want to run. I need to run. I love to run. But every time I have put on my running shoes lately, I wonder if my run will be a success. I cross my fingers and hope that it turns out to be a good run. Every time I put on my running shoes lately, I feel a little broken.

For the past two years, I have used running to repair the broken things in my life. After having Chet, I used running as a way to reclaim my identity. After I went back to a job I didn’t love, I used running as a way to fix a long work day. After my father-in-law and my aunt passed away, I used running to heal my broken heart. When marriage hits a rough spot, I use running to heal my frustration. When the boys become too much, I use running to fix my sanity. Running has always fixed my broken spots.

As my life heals itself, running has become the broken piece. It’s time to heal my relationship with running.

The only way to heal what is broken is to highlight and enhance all the aspects that I love.


Last Thursday, my first run back after my stitches were removed, I joined two friends near and dear to my heart for an evening boardwalk run. We ran our favorite route – over the Rudee Inlet bridge straight into the crowd of tourists on the boardwalk. When our feet hit the boardwalk, it felt like the start of summer. We haven’t done this in two years! Three miles into the run, we made a happy hour pit stop for orange crushes and lots of girl talk. The run back to the car was filled with laughter and happiness.

On Sunday, I headed out for my long run. I headed to my favorite running route. I left my garmin at home. I just ran. I ran the Cape Henry Trail into our State Park to some of my favorite back trails. It’s been a while since my running shoes had real trails underneath them. I ran up and down sand dunes. I ran alongside water. I skipped over tree roots. I don’t know how far I ran or how fast, but when my feet finally hit pavement again I felt like I was flying.

As I ran down the trails, trails that have held so many of my tears and so much of my laughter, I felt myself picking up all the pieces I had left scattered over the years. I ran these trails, the day the world said goodbye to my aunt. In the middle of a winter storm advisor, I found my refuge in the tree-lined path. On these trails, I spent an entire summer running with my friend Heidi as we both tried to figure out how to be new moms again. Every time I ran with a broken heart down these trails, I left some of myself behind. Every time I ran filled with hope, I left some of myself behind.

Sunday’s run was a declaration. Sunday’s run put an end to broken running. Sunday’s run reclaimed my favorite place.


There was no stop button to hit when I got back to my car so the run continued. My heart was filled to the brim, and it followed me home.

Last week’s run and all my runs going forward need to be a reflection of my life right now. I’m bring my heart, my whole heart, back to my running. Life is constantly changing. There will be more phases of heart ache, but right now, my whole heart needs a chance to shine. My whole heart needs a chance to run.




Defining Quiet

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.” ~Zen Proverb

It happens often. I feel the spaces around me growing quiet. The noise from the outside world becomes mute. These are my favorite moments. These are the moments when I hear my heart the loudest. These are the moments when I know I’m doing exactly what I am meant to do. My world has been quiet lately.

I used to wait for the quiet moments to find me. I used to crave them and beg for their return. I would long for the calm after the storm. After moments of intense happiness or whirlwinds of sadness, the quiet has always been a welcome surrender. Instead of waiting for the quiet moments to appear, I’ve been intentionally creating the quiet lately. I’ve removed facebook from phone. I’ve left the garmin behind on my runs. I’ve removed myself from chatter that doesn’t have meaning. None of it matters, but yet I can get caught up in the noise. I can find validation in a few new likes on my facebook page. I can feel success when my garmin shows a run that was faster than yesterday. I can feel validation when I feel like I’m accepted by everyone around me. None of this matter. There is a shallowness in all of this, and lately it has become too noisy.

I always struggle when life gets too noisy. Maybe it’s my introverted heart that causes me to crave solitude. I know it’s my heart that causes me to crave meaning in all my relationships. So this is my focus right now. Quiet spaces and meaningful relationships with everything I love: my family, work, real friends old and new, running and yoga.

Inside this new quiet space, I’ve gained awareness. It has brought me so much perspective. (I think the unexpected two week break from running has helped too.)

My running has been a struggle since the Richmond Marathon. I’ve dissected the pieces every way possible. What was I missing? What had I forgot? In many ways, I had a lot of success on the road, but I also had a lot of heart ache. Every run has felt like a gamble. Would today’s run feel like a success or would I come up short? With more quiet, more space to absorb my own life, I can clearly see the picture now. In the past two years, running has become my coping mechanism. I used it to heal my heart while grieving. I used it to find my identity after the fog of having a new baby. I used running to heal everything. Every single time I put on my running shoes, I asked it to heal me. I showed up feeling hurt, sad, lonely, and broken. I left all this energy in my running shoes. I would walk away from each run refreshed, but my shoes still held the puddle of my broken self. And my broken self still lives there. I am no longer broken, but the energy is still in my shoes. I still show up to every run looking for a problem. My heart and head search (or create) broken pieces. Every time I wonder if the run will be a success, I’ve mentally given myself permission to fail.

It’s time to redefine this relationship. I have to fill my running shoes with a new vibration, a new energy. I have to transform my runner heart. As observed by one of the meaningful friends in my life, can you imagine what my running can become when I’m coming to it with a light heart? Can you imagine what it can become when my shoes are filled with the magic of running again?

My relationship with running is no different from any other relationship in my life. What I bring to the relationship, what I leave behind, is exactly what the relationship becomes. It is okay to move through all these emotions. Every single one of them is normal. What isn’t normal is residing in these places. I have to learn to pass through them without getting stuck. This is what these new quiet spaces are showing me.

I’m letting the quiet guide me. I’m letting my heart pull me into these spaces. I’m intentionally seeking quiet spaces in my heart, in my head and in my life. I am creating meaning instead of seeking validation. It’s taking me down a path I didn’t imagine but one that feels like home.

Life is a constant balance. I hope by falling off the radar in some aspects of life, I create space for my heart in many other directions. I hope that by ditching false forms of validation, I recognize the real value in the quiet places. I am transforming my own energy.

It’s the quiet, the depth of life, that makes my heart come to life. This is the place I’m residing.