Mother's Day

Happy Mothers Day to me.  It's my 10th one.  A decade of freshly picked dandelions and sweet cards covered in crayon and handmade gifts and smudgey fingerprints and messes and sloppy slobbery kisses and being known as Mommy or Mama or, gulp, Mom.  

My babies are getting bigger.  Every day, every moment, I can see it. 

I remember wishing for this time - this exact moment.  When they were newborns and it was 2 am and I couldn't get them to sleep and I was tired and they were fed and they didn't need a diaper change and they hated me and I hated life and everything was hard and awful and is a mother supposed to feel this way and I'm a fraud and please stop crying and please stop crying and I can't wait until this little baby is older and then - when this little baby is older - I will feel more in control and normal.  And in spite of that and all of the feelings about all of the things, I remember pulling them close and smelling their sweet baby heads and taking it in and saying "shhhhh.  stop.  just for a moment. they will be big soon."

The crying eventually stopped. The 2 month olds turned into 2 year olds, who finally slept through the night in their little toddler beds.  And the 2 year olds turned into 4 year olds who somehow - every single night - ended up sleeping next to me in my bed.  Every night, around 2 am, I would hear the soft pitter patter of little baby feet on the carpet and the heavy breaths attempting to pull their little baby bodies up onto my bed.  Sometimes they would just fall asleep.  Sometimes they would say "hi Mommy".  Sometimes they would talk more at length about what was going on.  I was tired.  I wanted to sleep.  But I would listen and say "ok, it's time to sleep, baby."  They would fall asleep, and I remember pulling them close and smelling their sweet baby heads and taking it in and saying "shhhhh.  stop.  just for a moment. they will be big soon."

Motherhood is hard. It is beautiful and amazing and wonderful, and I will go to my grave knowing that even in a life where I wasn't perfect and did oh so many things wrong, I did two things very right.  But it is hard.  Nothing can prepare you for how hard.  All the while you know that while the days go by so slow, the years go by so fast.  And you try to remind yourself "shhhhh.  stop.  just for a moment. they will be big soon."

But for every moment where I was at the end of my rope and cried myself to sleep with self-doubt, there was a moment where a tiny baby hand reached out for mine and let me envelop its softness in my own grasp.  For every moment of sheer exhaustion and not believing I could do this -- this "motherhood" thing -- there was a moment where my sweet baby child would hug me and gently pat my back - a tacit message of "I love you. I need you. And you're doing fine."  For every moment where I felt like I was The Worst Mother Ever, there was a moment where my little one said, unprompted and apropos of nothing, "mommy, I love you." 

My baby children are 10 and 8.  They're certainly not "grown" but they are big.  And yet, I still find myself reminding myself to slow down, to stop, to take in their sweet still-kind-of-babyness.  "shhhhh.  stop.  just for a moment. they will be big soon."  That state of "Big" is pretty much, but not quite, here.  I still reach for their hands, and they still let me hold them.  I still smell their sweet baby heads, and they still let me.  I still snuggle their bigger (but smaller than mine) little bodies, and they let me.  I still call them "darling love" and they still let me.  And now I find myself begging them, and begging time, to just slow down.  Please slow down.  Please, I am not quite ready for you to be big. 

Yes, Motherhood is hard. But that's what makes it great.  Giving birth is truly an allegory for motherhood itself - it's hard, it's painful, you're filled with doubt, but in the end, you do it, and you do great.  

Happy Mother's Day to me.  And to my sweet baby children.  I am their biggest fan, their biggest cheerleader, their biggest advocate ... but I am also Mommy.  I am bracing myself for what's coming - the eye rolls, the "please drop me off a block away", the "OMG Mommmmmmmmmm".  I'm not remotely ready for it, but I know it will happen -- much like motherhood itself.  And I'm hopeful that when I do, I can think back to when they were babies, and how I took the moment in the middle of the chaos and reminded myself to "shhhhh.  stop.  just for a moment. they will be big soon." Because although they may be big, no matter how big or how old, they will always, forever, be my babies.  
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I heart you.

Happy Valentines Day.  Yesterday.  But better late than never.

Valentines Day is one of those really tricky holidays.  There's a lot riding on it, a lot of expectation, and hope and emotion and pressure.  Sure, you can opt out of the holiday, but good luck trying to escape it.  For all its commercialism and "Hallmark holiday" kitsch, the Valentine message is pervasive and loud: Love! Love! Love! (and, of course, just as pervasive and loud: candy and cupids and chocolates and hearts and cards and kittens and overpriced underwhelming crowded prix fixe dinner.  and kittens.  did I mention kittens).

I don't know what's inside this kitten Valentine box, but I need it because the kitten looks so forlorn.
There are so many kinds of love to celebrate on Valentines Day.  I wrote a Valentine last year to my kids.  I had been alone for three full years and had made peace with the holiday ... and realized that my sweet little loves deserved a love letter of their own.  

I opted out of the holiday for years.  And then, upon my divorce, I was opted out of the holiday. So in  2013 I grappled with that a bit, and I wrote my first post on my own.  I realized that when you cut through the cliches and the saccharine and the over the top nonsense, the idea of Valentines Day was really pretty wonderful.  A day celebrating nothing more and nothing less than love is really not so bad.  I said the following in that blog post, some three years ago: 

But I also want to turn around my thinking and focus on love and the love I want and deserve.  I always think about Carrie Bradshaw's line from the finale of the "Sex and the City" series:

I’m looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love.
This is what I want.  I believe it is out there.  I believe in love and all that comes with it -- to love and to be loved; to need and to be needed.  I believe there is someone out there who will love me and get me and who knows that I would rather have one single lily of the valley stem over a roomful of red roses -- someone who knows that despite the fact that I would never ask for them, I actually love receiving flowers.  I am hopeful that this will be the hardest Valentines Day that I ever have.  I feel a lot like Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol, because I promise, when the time is right, I will not take Valentines Day, and more importantly what it means, for granted again.  Because, despite the heartbreak and all of the struggle of life and love, I believe in love.  And I believe in me.  

Oh 2013 self.  You had no idea what was in store for you, but you knew.  You knew -- you knew deep down in your heart, in your heart that may have been a little torn and tattered, but that was never fully broken -- you knew that the love you have right now was waiting for you.  That in just a few short years, you would find that someone, and you did.  That you would find your heart, and you did.   And what's funny and ironic is that my darling love gave me a necklace with a heart (and it's just coincidental, or perhaps serendipitous, that I was wearing my running heart headband too).  The necklace is an allegory for life: my sweet love gave me his heart, but he also gave me mine.  

Usually, my blog posts are directed to the world at large and all of the interwebs.  But not today. Today, I am talking directly to my sweetheart.  Please forgive me, interwebs.  It's Valentines Day and I have a love letter to share with my darling love.  

Thank you, my darling, for loving me and needing me.  And thank you for letting me love you and need you.  

Thank you, my darling, for making me laugh and smile, and for smiling and laughing with and sometimes at me ... and for knowing that there is a line there and always caring to protect my feelings.

Thank you, my darling, for "getting" me and who I am.  From moment one.  And for not only letting me be who I am, but for loving who I am and wanting nothing more, and no one else, than what, and who, I am.

Thank you, my darling, for anticipating my needs.  For giving me personalized pencils and books and phone cases, because you know I spent (and continue to spend) my life looking for the elusive "Shanna" bike license plates and pencils and magnets in the souvenir shops to no avail.  For giving me flowers.  And chocolate.  And beer that I love.  Thank you for somehow knowing when I need a text with just a picture of a small soft kitten or other baby animal.  Thank you for encouraging my love of unicorns and rainbows, even though you don't get it.

Thank you, my darling, for loving to swim with me.  And for being patient and sweet and reassuring when we go hiking and I get a little scared.  And for suggesting that we do a 5K at a local brewery in the Spring (even though you hate running) because you know how much I love running and beer.  And you of course. 

Thank you, my darling, for giving up watching a very important and exciting Eagles v. Cowboys game in the Fall to take me to see the band America -- surrounded by people a generation older than us -- because you knew I love their music and you knew how happy that it would make me.  And how happy you were, simply because I was happy.  

Thank you, my darling, for looking at me the way that you do.  For the times we are looking at each other and for the times you think I don't see you looking at me.  

Thank you, my darling, for being you.  You're not perfect, and I do not want you to be, but you're perfect for me.  You make me feel good and alive and loved and safe and adored and respected and liked and all of the things.  You make me feel more like "me" and more alive and loved than I have ever felt.  And you know exactly what to do and what to say.  When I am having a stressful day, you make it better.  You don't (and can't) fix it.  But you listen and you make it better.  

I promised back in 2013 that "when the time is right, I will not take Valentines Day, and more importantly what it means, for granted again."  The time is now.  And I don't and I won't.  

Happy Valentines Day, my sweet Matthew.  My heart is full with our love -- our real love ... our ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can't-live-without-each other love.  Thank you for showing me, by doing nothing more than simply being you, that it's true: love always wins. 
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Quality v. Quantity

I'm sure it's pretty obvious by now that my blog writing has trailed off a bit.  And not for lack of passion about writing.  I adore writing.  I have always been steadfast that running and triathlon got me through my divorce in one piece, but I've come to realize that writing -- and more specifically this blog -- did as well.  Writing has been my catharsis in a way that running could not, and can never, be.  It has enabled me to do something that even at the ripe old age of 40 that I struggle with ... to articulate my inner most feelings and "say" them aloud.  My blog, first and foremost, is for me.  But I've been thrilled, and frankly surprised, that so many people have reached out to me to say that they're somehow touched or moved by what I say here.  For Christmas, Matt even gave me a little (pink!) leather journal personalized with my name on the front and a lovely inscription on the inside cover because he loves the blog and wants to encourage me to write.  

My lack of posts is due to many reasons too numerous and varied to share here.  But one of them, and perhaps the most important, is that I'm focusing on quality over quantity where it comes to my writing.  My blog has evolved from a very structured three post per week workout-home-clothes schedule to a very unstructured, more "organic" (God, I really hate the overuse of that word sometimes but it's really the only one that fits) flow of introspection and reflection.  I will still post about my home and projects and decorating and style and fashion and unicorns and kittens.  And of course I'll continue to share posts about running, races and workouts going forward.  But at least for the foreseeable future, I want to incorporate more "real" writing here. I'm thankful that this is my space to do it.  

Thank you for giving me the chance to share with you.  
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Sweat: 2015 Year in Review - the pit and the pendulum

Hello and happy new year!  I hope 2016 has started off on the right foot for you.  It has for me, and actually, it's started off with the right three feet ... of snow.

We got pummeled with a ton of snow this past weekend.  Cheers to Winter!

Funny, this kind of epic snow puts me immediately back to 2014 when I was Ironman training, and every snowstorm brought with it the accompanying stress of "how/where/when will I do my workout??".  The timing of today's post works well with that.

Each year (admittedly, usually much earlier than now), I post a recap of the prior year's athletics feats and my goals for the current year ... I started doing this in 2013, and then had a pretty epic 2014.  But if you read my blog this past year, you know that 2015 was a rough year athletics-wise.  I guess that is inevitable coming off of the three year momentum of triathlon!-->half ironman!-->ironman!-->BQ marathon! .... BA BOOM crash.  Like this:

As much as I loved those big, juicy goals and those incredibly transformative experiences and the sweeter than can be imagined finish lines, it was impossible to sustain.  Well, that's not really fair or accurate.  It was impossible for me to sustain because I no longer wanted to make that level of effort because something had shifted; hence: the pit and the pendulum.

The pit was pretty big post-Ironman and post-BQ at Steamtown.  Where does one go after an Ironman and after qualifying for the Boston Marathon?  If you're me, you keep on going.  Or at least you try.  I had it in my head that I would obviously not continue the Ironman-level training that I had done in 2014, but I figured in 2015 I could step back just a tad and continue to run faster and faster. That didn't happen.  I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying I didn't PR once in 2015.  Every single race I did, I fell short of my time goal.  And I didn't get it: I was training, I was putting in the work, I was trying ... and yet, something was off.  And so deeper into the pit I fell.  As I went further and further from Winter to Spring, my confidence eroded more and more.  My runs were slower and I was feeling tired.  I tried to pep-talk myself up, but I realized that my heart was not in it.  And, as an allegory for life, if your heart's not in it, it's not gonna work out.

So, after a string of disappointing races (New Years Day 5K, Austin Half Marathon, Frostbite Five Miler and then the sad deflated cherry on top the New Jersey State Marathon), I opted out of racing and "training".  Truth be told, I had been struggling for awhile before I decided to just stop pushing and railroading myself and, instead, just let myself be.  Running, my soul sport, had begun to feel like a chore.  And I knew that that alone was reason to dial it back and reconnect with the reasons that I loved to run.  I resolved to take the Summer (and possibly more) off from racing and training.  I would run.  I would swim.  I would bike.  But I wouldn't "train", and I wouldn't keep a training log, and I wouldn't have a training schedule.  I would swim, bike, run for the fun of it, and for the love of it.  I hoped that this would get me out of the pit, instead of deeper into it.

And honestly, I was having a rough time.  Not only was my heart not in my races or training, but my heart wasn't into anything.  I was lonely, and that loneliness was palpable.  And an amazingly strong run could not fix it.  Nothing could.  I've made no bones about the fact that as part of my journey I wanted to find love - both to love and to be loved.  But love isn't something you can set a goal and attain and shoehorn your way into.  Love, almost always, finds you.  I knew that a shift needed to come from within.

And it did.  As part of my time off from the structure of my training/races regimen, I also resolved to go outside my comfort zone in all areas of my life.  I did, and within a relatively short amount of time, I met my Matthew.  And the pendulum swung in a major way.  We started dating and very early on, I knew (and so did he) that there was something different and something special here.  As adults in our 40s who have both been married before, we didn't propel ourselves into a relationship filled with only hearts flowers unicorns glitter and sparkles ... things got real really quick.  And while our relationship is, really, filled with hearts flowers unicorns glitter and sparkles, we've dealt with the really real stuff along the way too.  He is, without question, my soulmate.  It's only fitting that my soulmate helped me reconnect with my soul sport.

With the pendulum swing, and the resurgence of my heart, I felt more and more like me (actually, more and more like a "me" that I didn't think was possible ... a truly happy and fulfilled "me" ... which will be the subject of another post to be sure), and more and more like I wanted to really run  and race again.  I ran the Philly Half Marathon in November, and while I didn't hit a PR, I had a wonderful, fulfilling race.  As I ran, I knew I wasn't going to PR, and for the first time in a very long time, I truly did not care.  I enjoyed running and racing for their own sake and for the love of it and for how they made me feel.  I look back at that race, and I can't remember my time, but I can remember how I felt.  It was as though running was giving me a big hug.  I realized that while finish times matter and are important, right now, they don't matter as much and aren't as important to me.

So, there are no stats this year.  I usually post a run down of my distance and time for swimming, biking and running from the prior year and all of my race times/whether they were PRs.  I don't even have that information this year, because I didn't sync my watch for so long that the watch and computer utterly refused to cooperate and upload all of my workouts.  It doesn't matter -- at least not this year. It doesn't matter that I ran X miles or biked Y hours, but it does matter, very much to me, how those things felt and where I did them.  I can tell you that I swam a bunch, including a refreshing and fun swim in Jamaica where I cut my thumb on some coral that I swam too close to.  I got to swim in Mirror Lake again, and I cried actual tears in my goggles when I swam the IMLP course and remembered all of the sight landmarks along the way.

I biked a bunch.  You know biking isn't my favorite.  So I'll just say I biked a bunch because I did.  I biked with my friends and my sweetheart on the road and on trails.  I biked in Lake Placid on the IMLP bike course.

And I ran a whole lot.  Running is my favorite.  I ran runs that made me feel like I wan't tethered to legs and was, instead, flying; I ran runs that made me feel like a fraud and a failure; I ran runs that made me cry with transcendence; I ran runs with dear friends where we laughed, cried, cursed and said many inappropriate things.  I ran alone where I got lost in my thoughts.

The pendulum swing in 2015 was to a year in which I really, truly lived.  I didn't simply swim-bike-run. I fell in love, and I really lived.  I swim-bike-ran ... but I also did this ...

And this ...

And this ...

And this ...

I've found that as much as I enjoy running (and swimming and biking), there are so many delicious life experiences to be had that don't involve those things.  Hiking, zip-lining, enjoying a glass of wine, relaxing and resting ... and nurturing and being present in a loving relationship.

In keeping with that shift, I don't have any real goals for 2016 other than to continue to have fun and to do what I love.  Of course, I still love to swim/bike/run, and I will keep on doing those things.  I'm signed up for the Love Run Half Marathon in April and Escape the Cape sprint triathlon in June, which will be my first triathlon since Ironman Lake Placid, some two years ago.  And for now, that's enough.  I may decide I want to try to BQ again.  I may decide I want to do more tris.  I may decide I want to PR at a half marathon.  Or I may decide I have no desire to do any of those things, and I'm happy with the status quo of running (and swimming and biking) and don't want to do anything more than that.  I'll let my own pendulum decide.
Cheers to the lessons learned in 2015 and to the joyful hope of what's to come in 2016.
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Home: DIY Christmas Tree Skirt

Add this to the category of "things I DIYed but could have paid less if I bought off the shelf." Also add this to the category of "things I meant to post about before Christmas but didn't and yes today is December 30, so I am getting this one in right under the wire."

Back at the beginning of the holiday season, I made a Christmas tree skirt.  And by "make" I mean simply cut some felt and trim, and glue the trim onto the skirt.  Super easy, but not super affordable. But I love it, and it's totally my style, and I made it with my little girl, so I guess that is priceless.  At least that is what I am telling myself.  Here's the skirt!

I saw this gorgeous tree skirt on Design*Sponge last year, and it seemed easy enough.  My old tree skirt was very simple red scalloped felt -- something I grabbed at Target just because I needed something to cover the bottom of the tree (my mom had made one for me before but I think it got destroyed or lost in a move or it's possible it's still being used by my ex).  So when I saw this gorgeous, textured number from Design Sponge that was a DIY, I thought it was perfect.  

I printed out the Design*Sponge tutorial, which was my shopping list and got my supplies at JoAnn's.  I bought a big piece of ivory felt that was in their scrap bin (they had several of these) and then spent some time with the trim picking out exactly what I wanted.  Ummmm, it was super expensive.  I almost died when the cashier told me the total (which was close to $100 ...) but decided I was committed to this project and would see it through.  This was last year.

On the morning that we put up our tree (which was the weekend after Thanksgiving), my little girl and I made the skirt by following the directions on the tutorial.  It was very easy.  The hardest part was choosing which trim to put where on the skirt.  First, we cut a hole in the center.  Easy enough.

Then, we glued the tassel/brush trim around the edges and in the middle.  In order to make the skirt look nice and neat and not like a roving band of preschoolers did it, I used a ruler to make sure that the trim was at least somewhat uniformly placed around the skirt.

There was no science to it. We chose which trim we liked and where it should go.  I regret not buying more of the thick sequined trim.  We ran out of that and could only do one strip of it.  Sad face.  

The skirt is a little small, but my tree is also a little small, so the scale works.  If I do this again (and that's a big "if" given the cost of the supplies), I would make sure to get a very large scrap of fabric for the skirt.  Here it is complete and under the tree!

Whew! Just under the wire with the Christmas craft.  I hope you had terrific holidays. The new year is upon us.  Time for fresh starts, resolutions and renewed hope that this year will be the best one yet. 
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