Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Blogroll the 11th

Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend. As expected, I'm pretty sore from housework but anticipate being ready for a CrossFit WOD tomorrow. Since I've got nothing new to report, figured I'd share what I've been reading this week:
Train Like an Athlete:
Eat Like an Athlete: 


Think Like an Athlete: 
Sleep Like an Athlete:

  • Stress keeping you from sleeping well? Here are 5 activities beyond meditation that can help reduce stress.

Did I mention I'm still tickled by all of the Marvel movies I watched in May? At least the last month was good for something!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

I Need a Hero

I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night
He's gotta be strong
And he's gotta be fast...

Ok, I've been listening to way too much "Eye of the Tiger" radio on Pandora for the last 48 hours. It runs through the same 15 songs over and over again, but it's just too perfect for cleaning, patching holes, sanding, painting, etc. with my mom.

I hate this type of housework by the way. Seriously, I'd live in a cave if it was socially acceptable. It would be a really clean cave, because I don't mind the cleaning so much, but painting and yard work? No thanks.

My weekend hasn't been all work and no play, though. I did go see X-Men: Apocalypse (the non-Disney Marvel movie because, for some reason I can't understand, Disney does not own them... yet). 

And speaking of heroes... move over, Ant-Man. This guy's my new favorite:




That's Quicksilver. Now, when it comes to X-Men, I've always been partial to Domino (long story for another time... probably never because most of my audience for this blog isn't going to care), but she's never in any of the freaking movies. Quicksilver has been in the last two, and he runs really fast. So he rocks.

I wanted to find out more about the actor who plays him, except when I asked Google about Quicksilver, I also got this guy:




Hang on... that's Quicksilver from Age of Ultron, last year's Marvel Avengers movie. (Spoilers forthcoming).

The Marvel Universe isn't big enough for two Quicksilvers, is it? Are you telling me that guy is the same character as:



What?!!!

Yes. He exists in both the Avengers world and the X-Men world.

Mind. Blown.

How am I supposed to choose? Can they both be my favorite? Hmmm...



Ok, this guy is Disney. So he should win, right? Well, just a sec...



Even though X-Men's Quicksilver is not Disney, he's actually a good guy in both Days of Future Past and Apocalypse...



Whereas Age of Ultron's Quicksilver is on the side of evil for most of the movie.

But he did defeat McLovin' in Kick-Ass. 



Er. Hang on, Nicole. Let's just stick with Marvel movies, mmkay?  

Alright... but just sticking with Kick-Ass for a second...


YES!!! They were both in Kick-Ass.

I can't handle all of this crossover. My head is going to explode. Ok, back to X-Men.


So X-Men's Quicksilver is Magneto's son. That can't be a good thing, right?




But Age of Ultron's Quicksilver kind of... dies... at the end. So doesn't leave me much to look forward to, right?


Winner:



Like I said before: Always go with the guy who makes you laugh.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Normalcy

Up today at 5:30. Laced up. Strapped on the heart rate monitor. Got out the door.

The last time I tried running was April 29th, almost a full month ago. I was in New Jersey with my family and figured it was time to get back in the game after two weeks off following the Star Wars Half Marathon.

I figured incorrectly. I had to call it quits after a few laps on the track, and vowed to give myself more time away from running not to mess anything up further.

So that's exactly what I did. Pretty much sat on my ass for a full month. And felt miserable about it. 

Then, I signed up for CrossFit last week and had a decent first workout. I had really high hopes that it meant I'd be reunited with running again soon. I haven't been back to CF since last Saturday because the soreness from that first WOD didn't ease up until yesterday. 

Even though I was feeling better, I could not go back to CF today. I had already pledged my shoulders to my mother for a fun-filled weekend of washing windows, stripping wallpaper, and painting one of her apartments in preparation for a new tenant to move in on the 1st of the month. Glad I got all of my real fun in last weekend.

Because CF was out I thought maybe, just maybe, I could squeeze in a run before meeting up with Mom. Nothing too long or exhausting, just something to test the waters.

How'd it go today? 

Hmm... how honest should I be?

Alright, I probably should not have run. This thing with my foot is so weird. I wouldn't call it pain exactly, but it just doesn't feel the way it did before the race last month.

Stupid Dark Side Half Marathon. You've ruined me forever.

It felt good to be outside again, though. "Good" isn't the right word... I was hit with a wall of humidity when I left at 5:45am (mind you, the sun isn't even up here at that time yet)  which reminded me I'm pretty much entering the worst time of year to be a runner in Florida. 

So it felt... normal-ish... to be outside running again. I guess that's a better way to describe it. It's been an eternity since I last ran around my neighborhood. (Just checked Smashrun. April 13th was my last run here).

So not really sure what the rest of my workout schedule is going to look like this week. My gut tells me less running would be better... and the next CF WOD on Monday is "Murph" (all CF gyms do Murph on Memorial Day) and that includes two miles of running. 

Guess I'll just have to see how quickly DOMS sets in after marathon apartment cleaning today and tomorrow. Who needs CF when you're a perfectionist who has 14 windows to wash under the supervision of an obsessive clean-freak?

Today's exercise: 3ish mile run. Dirty windows.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Running haiku

Because why not. For those not familiar, a haiku is a form of Japanese poetry - three lines, 17 syllables (5 in the first, 7 in the second, 5 in the third).

Sometimes I wonder
Why run races I can't win?
Blame insanity.

Business meetings do
not happen on the race course.
Should learn to play golf.

Look! Disney announced
new races with new medals.
Please take my money.

Star Wars. Nothing but
Star Wars. Gimme those Star Wars.
Don't let them end. Ah... (can not take credit for this one)

Yeah, I run thirteen
point one miles. No, I don't look
like I do. Cookies.

Half marathon in
under two hours. Can't seem to
do it. Frustrated.

Not giving up yet.
If I can't do it this year
will find new hobby.

This haiku is not
about running. Dog passed gas.
Can not concentrate.

Too hot to go run.
Will read "Fifty Shades" instead.
(Also sub: Will watch "Game of Thrones" instead.)
(Also sub: Will watch "House of Cards" instead.)
(Also sub: Will watch "Daredevil" instead.)
(Also sub: Will get a massage instead.)
(Also sub: Will go take a bath instead.)
A guilty pleasure.

Heart Rate Monitor
Y U No Stop Chafing Me?
Must get Body Glide.



I could do this all weekend, folks. Give me a topic. Or leave your own haiku in the comments.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Impact

Geez, people. I am STILL SORE from last Saturday's crossfit WOD. I've been using my DOMS as an excuse to remain inactive this week.

But I know it's a lame excuse. I think somewhere I heard that working out again is a great way to get rid of DOMS. I don't remember it taking this long to recover when I first started CF in 2014. Maybe this is what it means to be entering my late 30's.

I've set my alarm every day this week to get up and go at 5:30. When it goes off, I check in with soreness (still there), check in with my ankle (still not 100% healed), and check in with my motivation (not present since the husband is traveling for work this week, so I'm on my own). This is not a good formula for getting back to my fitness regimen.

All of this inactivity is making my average step count suffer. My daily target used to be in the 11k range when I was training for the half. Now I struggle trying to even hit 5000:


But I did have a reason to get moving today - it was my first day volunteering at a local nursing home with Project Pup! Ben and I had our dog, Joey, certified to visit nursing homes and hospitals a few weeks ago. It wasn't too hard to find a nursing home nearby in need of a visiting dog... this is Florida. So I met with the Activities Director today, and made my first rounds.

Joey was a hit with everyone, as I knew he would be. Ok, there were a few residents who didn't want to meet him. I don't know how they could resist his big eyes and wagging tail. Just not fans of dogs, I guess.

Everyone else couldn't wait to pet him, though. The residents would tell Joey and me stories about their dogs, their kids, their lives before assisted living. Joey would sit and listen patiently in their laps if they wanted him to. Some people thought *my* name was Joey. I corrected them, but I don't expect them to remember.

So we had a good day, I'd say. Joey made a positive impact and I got a few more steps in than I usually do. I spoke with the Activities Director, and she approved of our visit today, so looks like we'll be going back every Monday evening for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

SORE

Just so you know, there's no DOMS after doing Crossfit.

No, the soreness comes pretty much immediately. I could barely reach up into my cupboards to grab a mug to make coffee after my workout yesterday

Man, I missed Crossfit.

As I mentioned yesterday, I used to go to CF pretty regularly when I lived in NJ in 2014. I loved the energy, the people, and the sense of accomplishment I got after every workout.

What I didn't love was that I was often sidelined with injuries for weeks at a time. Hips. Shoulders. Knee problems. At the time, I had fantastic health insurance that covered me for chiropractor visits, but even with popping in and out for adjustments, I just couldn't seem to heal quickly enough to get back in the game. 

Finally, in November 2014, I called it quits from CF. I couldn't risk any more injuries that might screw me over for my inaugural Star Wars Rebel Challenge 10k and half marathon at Disneyland in 2015.

Clearly, I had been doing my WODs (Workout of the Day) incorrectly. Or maybe my inflammatory diet and disordered eating patterns caused my problems. But I missed CF, and decided to give it another shot right after I moved to Florida last year. 

There were two things I took as clear signs my local gym and I were meant to be:
  1. The owners, who are about our age, grew up in the same region of Pennsylvania my husband did, so we built some rapport right off the bat.
  2. The WOD on the day I tried it out happened to be "Nicole." (There are some standard CF workouts named after girls and others named after military heroes). And, coincidentally, Nicole involves a lot of running. Nicole isn't easy, but I'm just glad she's not evil like Fran.
I did my one-week free trial at my local gym but then chickened out from joining. I knew I'd be registering for the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge, and I had visions of spending every other month injured again. (It worked out that I didn't join, anyway, when I was forced to move across the bay to Tampa for a while).

But I've convinced myself things will be different now. I'm going to work with the coaches as closely as possible to keep myself off the DL. I'm only going to go twice a week, max (before, I was going 3x or more each week). And I'm really paying attention to what I eat.

So we'll see how it goes for the next three months, but I've got high hopes.

Today's exercise: Spin. (Don't raise your eyebrows at me. Just because my arms hurt doesn't mean my legs can't work!)

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Back in the Game

I've had about as stressful a week as it gets with work. And remember... I work from home, so you know it's gotta be real bad if work is getting to me.

And next week's not looking much better.

I just feel like it's one "ugly" thing after another for me. Death in the family. Sidelined by an injury. Not actually meeting the goal I set when I began this blog. And now feeling stifled by a job I used to love.

Things are very different for me now than they were just two months ago.

Come on, man. I know life is better than this.

So this weekend has been all about fun for me.

  1. I went to an NHL Playoff game (first time ever!) between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins last night. And last night was intense, but ended with a victory for my Bolts. (Sorry, extended family. I know most of you are Penguins fans but I didn't grow up watching hockey, and I've had a ton of fun going to Lightning games this season. So I've gotta claim them as my team.)
  2. I went back to Crossfit for the first time since August today. I was an avid crossfitter in 2014 but found myself injured every other month, which didn't play well with my 5k, 10k, and half marathon race schedule that year. So I dropped it for a while. I had a blast this morning, and am still riding the biggest thrill - that my poor injured right foot actually put up with it. It's a good sign that I may actually be able to pick up running again this week! I'll share more about crossfit in a future post, but it felt good to be back in the game.
  3. I went to Star Wars day at the Replay Amusement Museum, a local arcade where you pay one fee to get in, and all of the pinball machines and arcade games are on free play. I like pinball well enough, but I love all of the old school 80's arcade games. Particularly this one:
  4. He wouldn't let me play, though. Think Vader would approve of a stormtrooper playing a Return of the Jedi machine?

  5. I'm going back to Disney tomorrow. First time in over a month. I feel like I'm returning to the scene of a crime. But I don't think it's going to take much for Disney and I to be friends again. Maybe just one drop from the Tower of Terror.
It feels good to be "me" again.

Today's exercise: Crossfit "Team Wod" - 200 m relay, 100 pwr cleans, 100 pullups (yeah right... ring rows), 100 s2oh, 200 m relay.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Blogroll the 10th

Slammed at work. No time to think or write. At least I can still find a few minutes in my day to read...
Train Like an Athlete:
Eat Like an Athlete: 
Think Like an Athlete: 
  • I haven't been able to keep up with meditation consistently, but I do have to walk my dog every morning.
  • How to stop obsessing about body weight and food.
  • Resilience should be the end goal... not necessarily happiness.
Sleep Like an Athlete:

I've got nothing to share here. Sleeping is like my favorite thing to do these days, but...



Alright, break over. Back to work.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Dr. Paleo

I think my new doctor and I are going to be good friends.

I'm so relieved. My health insurance is pretty restrictive about who I call my primary care physician, and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to find an in-network doctor who reads a lot of the same stuff I do. I did a lot of research over the last few months, and as luck would have it, found a possible match within a 3-minute bike ride from where I live. I made an appointment right away, but had to reschedule a few times because of my unplanned trip to NJ at the end of April.

I arrived at my scheduled time today, a little bit nervous about having to rehash to yet another doctor my entire life history, eating disorder and all. I didn't want to be told to stop running again, or walk out with another antidepressant prescription.

When he walked into the room, I made some immediate judgments. He's probably the oldest doctor I've had in my lifetime. Definitely not right out of med school (although he later told me he actually didn't even go to med school until he was 40, which reminded me it's never too late in life to do the things I really want to do). I almost didn't want to tell him my list of... quirks... because I was fairly certain he would have me institutionalized by the end of our conversation.

But I took a breath and gave him the full story, including all of my beliefs about food addiction, my on-again/off-again relationship with the paleo lifestyle, and how I'm currently just exhausted by life.

And when I ended my story on the verge of tears, he smiled at me and told me his nickname was "Dr. Paleo" and that he was absolutely certain he could help me.

So I left with a request for lab work, a recommendation to look into the GAPS Diet by Natasha Campbell-McBride, and a little less skepticism about doctors.

Awesome. The only thing I didn't like? I had to be weighed today.

The face I make when they tell me I have to get on the scale.
I haven't stepped on a scale in ages. And what I saw today was shocking... not in a good way.

Maybe I should have asked for that Zoloft refill after all.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Next steps... or lack thereof.

It's been exactly four weeks since the Dark Side Half, and the only thing I've done at this point to prepare for the Avengers Half Marathon is to watch the latest Captain America movie.

And the only thing that's really done is reinforced how much I love Ant-Man.

I do enjoy me some Marvel movies. Not as much as Star Wars, of course, but pretty dang close. I blame Disney.

The Marvel/Disney relationship is a strange one. X-Men comes out later this month, to which I wondered Disney's strategy for releasing two Marvel movies at practically the same time. After doing some research, I learned Disney doesn't actually own the X-Men.

Which makes sense to me now, because I knew there was no way that a family-oriented franchise like Disney could have been involved with Deadpool.

And I also knew that Disney doesn't own Spider-Man... yet Spider-Man makes an appearance in the new Captain America movie.

And, unlike the thirty other Spider-Man movies, I actually like this Spider-Man.



Ok, you see right through what I'm doing here. I'm rambling all things Marvel now in order to avoid the topic of my still injured foot and my inability to run. I did finally get off my ass to go to spin class with my mother this morning. It's been ages since I did that, and it didn't hurt my foot so much.

Given how long it's taking to heal, I'm going to assume I must have a stress fracture.

I finally picked a local doctor here in Florida, and have my first appointment tomorrow. I actually had made the appointment to speak with him about other things, but hopefully he can get to my foot too.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Project Pup

Today I brought my dog in to have him screened to become a certified therapy dog for a local nonprofit called Project Pup. Members of this group bring well-mannered pets to visit with the sick and elderly at nursing homes and hospitals. I've really been looking forward to counting myself and my dog, Joey, among their members.

Look at me - all kinds of volunteering for things lately.

Ben, Joey, and I left bright and early for his appointment at a nursing home... a good thing too, as we missed our exit on the way there. Normally, it's not a big deal to miss an exit, but when you miss the last one in St. Petersburg, Florida, you're stuck going on a really long bridge to Tampa.

Oops.

So we went from being 15 minutes early to being 5 minutes late really quickly. My anxious self was certain the Project Pup volunteers weren't going to let us in.

But they were, of course, very nice and understanding. The volunteers reviewed his paperwork and then gave us instructions for the screening.

Joey's first test was to meet and greet one of the volunteers, who was sitting in a wheelchair. I lead him up to her and asked if she would like to pet the dog. She nodded, and I picked Joey up to her level (Joey's a little bit too small for someone in a wheelchair to reach him).

Next, Joey had to greet a volunteer using a walker. Same drill... ask the guy if he wants to pet the dog, pick up him so he can say hello, and move on our way. Only this time, the volunteer knocked the walker onto the ground with a loud crash to see if he could rattle Joey.

My dog didn't even flinch. So proud.

And then the real test began... meeting actual residents of the nursing home.

He was a huge hit.

EVERYONE wanted to meet Joey, even the nurses. We met one nice elderly lady who was confined to her bed and asked if Joey could sit on the bed with her. I asked the screener if that was acceptable, and she shared that if the residents ask for it, it is definitely ok. So I picked Joey up and placed him on the bed, and he wasted no time laying down right next to her for some snuggles.  The resident was all smiles, and her daughter took a few photos of her mom with my pup.

Needless to say, he passed his test with flying colors. I never had a doubt.

And for one hour today, I had my mind on something other than my own depressive thoughts. My dog not only helped other people smile today, he reminded me there are still things to look forward to in life.

I can't wait for our first volunteer gig together. He's going to make so many people happy.

Anyway, I couldn't take photos of him at the nursing home, so here's a few of his graduation party:

Celebrating at Dog Bar St. Pete

Bart the French Bulldog. My second favorite patron after Joey.

Joey fell in love with Bertha the Japanese Chin.

Bart. I just can't take how cute he is.

Better slow down on that wine, Joe.

I told you so.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Saving my year

2016 was supposed to be my year. It doesn't seem to be working out that way. I look back on some of the things I wrote around Christmas last year and wish I could go back and have a realistic conversation with myself.

I know we're not even halfway through the year yet, but given the events of the last month, it's going to take something really epic to feel better about life right now. Maybe that would be finally running a sub 2 half marathon. But truthfully, I think even that's not going to be enough.

Either way, I've got to put the Dark Side behind me and start looking forward to Super Heroes Weekend in November. It's exactly six months from today.

Three concerns:
  1. Travel: I anticipate needing to travel more frequently over the next six months, which interrupts the routine I've built for myself here in Florida.
  2. Weather. Those who ran the inaugural Avengers race last year had a miserable time. Hoping weather patterns change for this year's race. This is a minor concern compared to:
  3. Injury. Almost a month has passed since I ran the Dark Side half, and my foot still isn't healed
It's killing me to not be able to go out for a run. I know I should look beyond running to improve my fitness levels, but I just don't enjoy anything as much as running.

To be frank, everything I'm doing right now isn't giving me much enjoyment. My husband suggested we go to Disney this weekend, and ... for the first time ever... I said no.

I need a hero to rescue my year. I'll take Thor, please. Or even Captain America.

(Ok, really... I'd prefer Ant-Man. Always go with the guy who makes you laugh:) 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Commute

This week marked the first time I had to commute to my old office in New Jersey since I moved to Florida last July.

Commuting is good for nothing except rocking out to Britney Spears and NSync. I never said "bye bye bye" to that teeny bopper phase...

I am not looking to give back 90 minutes each day to sitting in traffic, but I did find it helpful for gathering my thoughts and remembering things I forgot to mention on my last post regarding the Dark Side Challenge.

Another reason Disneyland races are so much better than Disney World races? Time zone change. I had to be up at 3am each day of the Dark Side Challenge to hop a bus to get to the starting line on time. Sure, we had to be up early at Disneyland too for the Rebel Challenge... but 3am at Disneyland is 6am here, so I was awake and ready to go anyway. And all of the hotels at Disneyland are walkable to the starting line, so you don't have to hop a bus to get there.

But I do have to give credit in one area to Orlando over Anaheim for runDisney races. Disney World has fireworks at the starting line, which is pretty awesome. They set them off as each corral starts. Disneyland can't have them, I think because of how dry it is there.

I started watching Dark Side Challenge Go Pro videos on YouTube to see if I could randomly find myself like I did after last year's Rebel Challenge. There are so many more Go Pros for this race, I'm not sure I'll ever get through them all, but here's my first find (9:20):




I can't tell if I'm in this next one or not. My neon pink compression leg sleeves usually make me easy to spot, so I'm going to say I'm not in it... but I know this guy was definitely nearby me at the end of the race. He started one corral behind me (he was in "E" and I was in "D") and there are some key things that happen in his video that I remember seeing on the course. I'll take another look and let you know, but in the meantime sharing it here because it:

A. Is one of the better Go Pro videos out there - it only makes you slightly nauseous while others out there are totally going to make you ralph;
B. Gives a pretty good overview of the half marathon if you've got the time or patience to watch 42 minutes of it. At least just watch the first few minutes for the fireworks.


Monday, May 9, 2016

New Rankings

I have to change my half marathon rankings, last shared in October 2015. Now that I have a 5th one under my belt, where does the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon fit in?

Dead. Freakin. Last.

5: Star Wars Dark Side Challenge: Orlando, FL
I expended a ton of physical and emotional energy in trying to assure this race would be my best yet, only to end up with my worst time. And an injury that still has me sidelined 3 weeks later. I also realized that the Disney World races are just not as cool as the Disneyland races. Disney World is so big that in order to get you from the start to the finish in 13.1 miles, you get to spend very little race time in each of the parks - most of the course is on overpasses in between the parks. Disneyland is small enough that you get to spend significant race time in the parks, AND the city of Anaheim participates in a big way too (see #1 below).

And all of mile 11 was uphill. Not cool, Disney.

Like I said before, I hate the Dark Side. At least I know - no matter what happens at the Super Heroes Half at Disneyland in November - it will be better than the Dark Side Half.

And here are the rest, copied from the post I linked to above:

4: Rock and Roll Half: Philadelphia, PA
My time of 2:02 was decent enough, but I was so freaking bored. This race had no loops or clover leafs, and city roads were closed off, which made it impossible for race supporters to cheer you on. It was great to see my husband at mile 3-ish, but I really could have used a familiar face around miles 10-12. There was also a killer hill at the end. Dislike.

3: Wine and Dine Half: Orlando, FL
The Wine and Dine Half was awesome not so much for the race itself, but for the incredible after-party. The ability to take over Epcot until the wee hours of the morning (4am) made it all worthwhile, and got me thinking I might even be able to do a full marathon if it was at Disney. It's not that the run was awful, but there were a lot of boring stretches on overpasses. I didn't have my iPod with me, so the lack of music made this even more difficult. This race holds my second worst record.

2: Unite Half Marathon: Piscataway, NJ
This was my first half marathon - decently priced, close to home, and had a great course that clover-leafed around the starting line so I had lots of spectator support throughout the race (thanks to my father and stepmother). My family also were easily able to get to the finish line through some back roads. This race gets a bump too because it holds my best record.

1: Star Wars Half Marathon: Anaheim, CA
Shocking, right? The thing about races at Disneyland is that it's a much smaller resort than Disney World - so at the end of mile 6, you are out of the parks and into the streets of wonderful Anaheim, CA. Yet the entertainment gets even better once you are out of the park. Local bands and high schools line the streets along with members of the 501st. I also enjoy the fact that one week after the race, I randomly found a Star Wars Highlights Go Pro on You Tube - and found myself at min 2:24 (Yup, I'm the one in the long sleeves wearing my favorite headband):



Sunday, May 8, 2016

For Four Moms

I'm one mom short this year on Mother's Day. Stupid melanoma. You are supposed to be one of the least lethal cancers. Why'd you have to take my stepmom?

Before the events of the last month, I'd always joke about having four moms. Both my husband and I are children of divorce - and subsequent remarriages - so that's four moms and their high expectations I need to live up to. Four moms that want grandbabies, damn it.  Four moms that all raise their eyebrows in the same way when I talk about my latest hardcore fitness regimen.

Holidays always created tremendous anxiety because I knew we'd be disappointing three out of four families - we just couldn't make it to see everybody since they were so spread out over three states. But come on, Moms. Is our presence really all that exciting?

I thought moving to Florida might give us a free pass from holiday guilt, but nope. I think we lost some brownie points for trying to escape.

Planning a wedding with four moms? I was just glad to have enough room on the guest list for my own friends. And having all four in the same room at once? The thought caused me so much anxiety, I almost gave up on the very idea of marriage.

But I'm glad I didn't. Because having four moms is also so, so awesome.

Especially when they behave themselves for my benefit. I never thought THIS - stepmom, father, me, and mother... smiling even - would EVER be a photo.
My mother-in-law, with her counseling background, is SO easy to talk to. My stepmother-in-law knows a ton about health, and shares my own preference for life in the warm, sunny south. My stepmother got to know me as well as my own mother did, and treated me as the daughter she always wanted. And as for my own mother, her generosity knows no bounds. I get all of the nurturing, guidance, and support that only a mother can provide... times four.

Well, I guess times three now.

When I found out how sick Becky was and needed to return to NJ right away, my own mother immediately jumped in to let me know I could be with my father as long as I needed to - she'd take care of my pets, my plants, and my house. My nearest in-laws drove over an hour in traffic to be with my family for the wake, and my distant in-laws texted me every day and sent flowers to my dad.

So while I grieve for the loss of my stepmom this Mother's Day, I also find great comfort in remembering that I was... and still am... so lucky to have had these four women in my life.

Happy Mother's Day to all the awesome moms out there.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Girls on the Run

Today, I did something I've never done before - I volunteered for a race!

When my alarm went off at 5:30 this morning, I briefly considered bailing out. This past week month has been emotionally turbulent (cue exhaustion). I wasn't going to know a single person where I was going (cue anxiety). And I was going to have to watch everyone else run a 5k while I continue to be sidelined due to my injury (cue envy).

So, yeah, sleep sounded way more appealing in those first few moments. But I remembered that people - whether I knew them or not - were relying on me to be there. And this wasn't just any 5k, but one that I selected to volunteer for specifically because I really care about the cause.

Girls on the Run is a national non-profit organization that teaches girls from 8 to 10 years old how to find their inner strength. Over the period of 10 weeks, girls are coached to build confidence, learn teamwork, and set personal goals. Running is a major component of the program because it encourages them to build healthy habits at a critical point in their lives (research shows girls tend to start dropping out of sports beginning at age 11). The culminating event is a 5k race that is more celebratory than competitive. 

I learned about the organization two years ago when I did the Perfect 10 women's race in New Jersey, and thought it would be cool to get involved... just never made time to do it. Through some prompting from my coach, I was reminded this was a group I wanted to volunteer with and started looking up information about the local chapter here in Florida. I had to go through a background check (important when you are volunteering with children), and was invited to volunteer for the race since the spring 10-week coaching season had already begun.

I showed up for my volunteer shift today early enough to catch the sunrise behind Raymond James stadium:

Not a great photo, I'm aware, but the only one I took for the day. Wouldn't be appropriate to take photos of children I don't know without their parents' permission.
I was given a yellow volunteer t-shirt (yay swag!) and asked to direct parking for the morning. Two hours alone with my thoughts in a parking lot is just fine and dandy for an introvert like me. And I did particularly enjoy all of the smiles and waves I got from little runners sitting in back seats of minivans. Adorbs.

Before the race started, runners were able to visit the race village and get their hair spray painted and sparklefied (#madeupword), slap on some temporary tattoos, and take pictures in a photo booth. Umm.. why don't they do these things at adult races???! So fun!

When I wrapped up parking duties, the volunteer coordinator changed my role to course marshal. I'm so glad I actually got to see the race! These girls had so much support - some had parents running with them, some had their GOTR coaches by their side, and some even held hands with Team RWB. If you aren't familiar, Team RWB is a running group made up of badass military veterans. Usually, they can be spotted carrying American flags, and today they donned sparkley capes. Way to play, boys.

Oh, and don't forget the runners had support from people like me who clapped and cheered nonstop for 60ish minutes until the last runner crossed the finish line. My hands are kind of sore.

Can't wait to do it again in the fall.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

A Natural Part of Life

Apologies in advance to those of you looking for my usual "eat/sleep/think/train like an athlete" blog posts. This isn't going to be one of those.

My stepmother passed away exactly one week ago. It still doesn't feel real.

I hate that word by the way. "Stepmother." Fairy tales and Disney haven't done right by the stepmoms out there, portraying them as something inferior or evil. Not Becky. She has always treated me like her own daughter.

I had hoped for a different outcome for her and the rest of my family. And though her death prompted me to take a hard look at my own health habits, I still couldn't make an immediate commitment last week. Italian families grieve over food, Irish families grieve over drink, and - lucky me - I claim heritage from both.

Sleep was hard to come by, but tears were plentiful during my last ten days in NJ. I knew that if I didn't want to continue spiraling downward, I'd have to return to Florida as soon as possible. Leaving my father yesterday was one of the most painful things I've had to do, but I hope he took some comfort in knowing that I will be returning a few times in the next month for business travel.

But besides work... I foresee a lot of spontaneous travel back to NJ in my future. Which means I need to build it into my healthy routine and no longer treat trips home as an excuse to go nutritionally offroading.

Becky's death has made me contemplate my own mortality. I know my untimely death would be emotionally trying for my husband and parents, so I'm going to do whatever it takes to ease their burden by planning ahead. If you have others that are dependent on you (spouse, children, etc.), I don't care how old you are or how uncomfortable the conversation makes you, get the following straightened out RIGHT NOW. Wait, and it may be too late. You just never know. (Quick disclaimer: please speak with your financial professional about all of the below. This is not meant to be dispensed as advice for your specific financial situation.)

  • Life insurance - get it. A financial professional can help you figure out how much you need. Even if you don't need it for income replacement... funerals are $$$$. And your loved ones are going to be way too emotional to make pragmatic decisions about how to send you off. Speaking of...
  • How do you want to be sent off? Tell a few people, not just your spouse (prepare for the unfortunate case you both end up in the same accident). In the past week, I've seen two very different approaches to celebrating the lives of loved ones. And neither really resonated with me. So I'm going with being donated to science. And maybe someone will recount the tale of how I finally achieved a sub 2:00 half marathon at a party somewhere. But I digress...
  • Wills - No, you aren't too young to have one. Most of the time, your assets will go to your spouse - but what if you aren't married? Or what if you are, but you both end up in an accident? A will directs what should be done with things like your house, cars, etc. Otherwise, a judge is going to end up deciding for you.
  • Naming (and updating) beneficiaries - speaking of, make sure things like retirement accounts (401k, IRA, etc) have a current beneficiary named. I'll give you two problematic scenarios:
    •  If no beneficiary is named, your dollars go into probate, and those dollars could be used to pay off creditors first. So say you die from a really horrible illness, leaving a huge hospital bill behind. You are no longer around, so you don't have to pay it. Great! However... you don't have a named beneficiary on your 401k plan, so it goes into probate... which means the hospital can have at it, not leaving much left for your loved ones. Not so great, and something that could easily have been avoided by naming a bene.
    • Your bene was your first wife/husband... and you forgot to update it when you got remarried. Even if your first spouse was a stand-up guy/gal and wants to sign over the check to your current spouse, they can't do that without tax implications.

There's more to think about, for sure, but that's enough morbidity for today. Just needed to bring some closure to the last week and thought this would be a good way to do it. While I would have liked to create a post for Star Wars Day yesterday, my heart just wasn't into it. Tomorrow I'll get back to the stuff I usually write about.