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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Lucky number 40

Well look who's 40!  Today!  

That's right, y'all.  I'm the big four-oh!  And I am grabbing 40 by the big brass ones.  Needless to say, 40 is a huge milestone.  I think it's way bigger than 30.  I know there have been movies and shows and books about the mid-life crisis that's supposed to accompany turning 40, but to be honest, I haven't been looking at 40 as something lurking in the corner, waiting for me to get there and pounce on me like this adorable, yet menacing, cat:

Rather, I have been looking at 40 like this - with me as the Kool Aid Man bursting through a big wall.

That's right.  I went full on Kool Aid Man on you!  And now I want Kool Aid.  Anyway, no mid-life crisis for this girl, no crying in my wine beer ... I won't be bemoaning the fact that I'm older or that my age starts with a "4" or that I'm as close to retirement as I am to starting college or that my body has changed or that I have laugh lines and crows feet -- though all of those things are all true.  The way I see it, is my thirties were my awakening.  I did the very difficult and often painful work of discovering who I was, what I wanted, what I didn't, and what my life was all about. I am certain that my parents and grandmothers would read that and laugh -- that I think at age 40 I've got it all figured out.  I am not so bold as to say that, but I know a lot more about life, love, loss and myself than I did just a decade ago.  I am ready to turn 40 and embrace the new decade and season of my life and wait for the good things and lessons that are yet to unfold.  The difference between now and ten years ago is I feel equipped  to handle what may come, and I know that what may come will be beautiful, horrible, painful, sublime and everything in between.

I've also been thinking.  I've been thinking a lot.  I tend to do that, as I think this blog shows.  But in life, when a milestone approaches, one ponders.  I've been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting and pondering as I near the close to mid-way point (Deo volente) of my journey through this life and I've realized that there has been one thing that I have been really wrong about:  luck. 

This realization was prompted by a gift from my parents.  They recently went on a trip to Scotland and Ireland.  They always ask what I'd like as a souvenir, and usually my answer is a Christmas tree ornament.  But this time, I asked for a Celtic knot necklace.  I love simple jewelry and I thought a pretty little Celtic knot would be something I could wear all of the time.  They brought one back for me, and a very similar, but smaller, version for my little girl.  When she gave it to me, my mom said that the knot meant something, but she could not remember what ... that each of the knots has a unique meaning but she could not for the life of her remember what mine was.  I figured I could google it and figure it out eventually.  One night as I took off my necklace, I looked closely on the back and realized that the answer was right in front of me the entire time and stamped onto the back of the necklace: my knot meant luck.  

And I realized, just like that, I've been living a life filled with luck.  Just like I have been walking around for weeks with luck literally hanging around my neck without knowing it, I realized I have been living the most luckiest life of all.  I've never thought of myself as a particularly "lucky" person, and I've never really believed in luck, at least for me.  I always ascribed to Lucille Ball's philosophy of making your own "luck":

Luck? I don't know anything about luck.
I've never banked on it and I'm afraid of people who do.
Luck to me is something else:  hard work and realizing what is opportunity and what isn't.

While I can say with conviction that many of my life's blessings are the result of my hard work, I have to admit that so many more -- the really important ones -- are the result of pure and total luck.  Of things beyond my control.   I'm talking about my relationships and the people who I treasure more dearly than any possession or any accomplishment.  Those are all the result of luck.  Ironman  or marathon finish? That was me.  My success in college and law school? My hard work.  Career? All me.  But friendship ... family ... love ... those are not things you can attain by working hard and putting your head down and seeing it through.  Those are, at least at the outset, by and large, all driven by luck.  By somehow magically being in the right place at the exact right time.  

I am lucky that I have two incredible, kind, sweet, smart children.  Sure, part of who they are is shaped by me and their dad, but I believe a bigger part of them was who they were when they were born.  Their capacity for and ability to love humbles me and shows me that regardless of how I might feel to the contrary, I have done something really right by them.  Sometimes I just watch them do their homework, or watch a show, or work on an art project and am overwhelmed that these two perfect little creatures are here because of me.

I am lucky that I was born to two wonderful, loving parents.  I had no control over this.  My mom and dad have always encouraged me and never once made me feel like I couldn't do anything I set my mind to.  My parents were and continue to be first in line when it comes to supporting me - whether it was by watching me with a bunch of friends put on The Muppet Show, or by applauding my sister and me dancing in our tutus to ABBA, or driving up to Lake Placid to see me become an Ironman.  I feel like I make them proud. But they make me proud as well.

I am lucky that both of my grandmothers, who are in their late 80s, are still with us.  I am so so blessed to have such strong, smart, vibrant role models in them for the past 40 years.  They are both incredible women.  

I am lucky that my sister was born some 3 years and 4 months after I was.  She was my first friend, and while we are very different, we are always sisters and have each others' backs like no one else.  As we have gotten older, we have gotten closer.  I am looking forward to becoming even better friends.  

I am lucky that by some stroke of luck, my friend Heather and I were both in Mrs. Nidorf's first grade class. And that despite some tween-angsty ups and downs we managed to stay friends essentially from age 6 to the present day.  And I am lucky that I played field hockey in high school with "the girl with the red shin guards from Hopewell."  My friend Angie and I met in high school and became fast, close friends.  Angie, Heather and I were, and are, so close through good times, bad times and everything in between.   We literally grew up together, laughed and cried together; and we continue to grow together and laugh and cry together.  We just have a lot better hair and clothes than we did in the early 1990s.  

I am lucky that the powers that be at Catholic University put me in close proximity in the same dorm as my friends Missy, Maggie, Melissa and Julia.  Looking back, we became friends solely because of where our dorm rooms were located.  I came into my own in college, and these girls were there.  We became adult women together and have not only remained friends but have gotten closer.  Our friendship was strengthened 8 years ago when Maggie died.  The five of us spent one last night together, with Missy, Melissa, Julia and I sitting vigil with Maggie in her hospital room.  Our friendship has continued to grow despite our loss, but I believe that our friendship keeps Maggie alive.  Things are not real until I tell my Catholic girls.    

I am lucky that my friend Colleen and I ended up going to the same law school, and despite living together for a year, remained friends.  Haha.  Colleen's perspective on life and love has come to my rescue many times.  Colleen, more than anyone else in my life until that point, encouraged me to be myself and thought that the person who I was (and am) was weird and funny and that I should never change.  

I am lucky that I stumbled upon the Martha Stewart wedding boards back in 2001 when I got engaged ... and that almost 30 other remarkable women -- my "Wedding Friends" -- did as well. We've gone from talking about dresses and flowers and favors to children and divorces and marriage.  Our perspectives and lives are as different as our geographic reach.  They are dear, precious friends.  Abby, Andrea, Angie, Ava, Camille, Debbie, Denise, Heidi, Jeanine, Jen, Jennie, Juliet, Kate, Lea, Liz, Lynn, Madelyn, Mandie,  Marci, Maya, Nicole, Patti, Rachel, Rose, Toya and Yovanka -- all of them have shaped who I am.  

I am lucky, though this may seem odd to be considered a "lucky" thing, that my dear friend Toya and I were newly single again around the same time.  When you are newly divorced, you feel as though everyone around you is a couple, and you are very, painfully alone.  Frankly, it is kind of true.  But Toya and I, who had struck up a very close friendship some 6 years prior, helped each other through what was at times a painfully lonely time.  That shared experience brought us even closer.  And now the two of us have found happy, fulfilling relationships ... oddly enough one month to the day apart.  She knows everything about me.  We are soul sisters.   

I am lucky that Toya decided to try to sell her half marathon bib that she could not run rather than take a loss. And that when I emailed my running club about the bib, Tina answered.  Tina and I started talking races, running and unicorns and have been close friends ever since.  There is no way we would have met had this not happened.  Lucky lucky.   She makes me laugh on the regular and only she knows the importance of owning a pair of yoga pants emblazoned with unicorns and rainbows.  

I am lucky that even though my marriage did not make it, my relationship with my former sister in law, Jamie, did.  Jamie is my sister forever and a dear, treasured friend.  We talk often and see each other as often as we can.  I am lucky that what started out with us being the spouses of brothers turned into a close friendship of our own.  I've seen Jamie become a wife, and now a mother. I am lucky that she will always be in my life.

I am lucky that I happened to have the exact same train schedule as my sweet friend Robyn and that she took pity on a very pregnant woman who needed a seat.  We had seen each other for months on the morning and afternoon trains that we took and one day struck up a conversation about how unkind people on the train were to pregnant women.  We became friends and realized we had so much in common.  Thank you SEPTA for being the catalyst for my friendship with this wonderful, sweet and always got your back friend. 

I am lucky that when I started my career at my firm, Amy did as well.  And that we were somehow staffed on the same case that enabled us to get to know each other better.  We became friends, and then close friends and then super duper close friends.  I am lucky that we run, and swim, and bike at the same pace.  There's nothing quite so therapeutic as a run with a close friend.  And I am lucky that when she could not train with me for the 2012 Philly marathon that Bill could and that Amy insisted that we train together.  Bill and I didn't really know each other well, but on our first long training run, he said, "So tell me the story of your life.  We've got a lot of running to do.  We might as well start there."  And a friendship of our own was born.  I am lucky that my two friends have been my training partners [IRONMEN!] and dear friends who supported me through some of the highest, and some of the lowest, times in my life.  They're about as close to family as you can get.  

I am lucky that my incredible boyfriend Matt and I happened to meet online in the early Summer and that the line "so how was your Monday?" was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.  I am so lucky that despite what happened in our respective pasts that we were (and are) both happy people and both truly ready for and open to love.  And that we found each other.  I am lucky that he loves me for who I am and does not want to change a single thing about me -- even my music.  I am lucky that we love one another and tell each other how we feel.  Not only am I lucky to be loved by him, but I am so lucky to love him.  The first picture is one that he took of me, and he is responsible for that smile.  He makes me happy.  So very happy.  And what else can you ask for in life than to be really, truly, purely happy?  

And finally, I am lucky that I am here.  That I was able to wake up this morning, take a deep breath, look around at all of my blessings and live another beautiful day on this Earth.  And take a run and listen to my horrible music.  And then have a delicious IPA because beer makes me happy.  And cake.  And maybe cry a little, because I am a sap but also truly thankful for my luck in life, so much so that it brings me to tears.  And I'm thankful for this blog - it's been my creative outlet for years and a place where I love to share a little bit of me with the big world [wide web].  Today's post was about as "me" as they come - cats, Kool Aid, running, beer, Latin [Deo volente means "God willing" - I've been waiting ages to use this phrase], dorkiness, love, and most of all, the people who I love and who love me.  

So tonight I will spend the evening with my darling children and the love of my life eating my birthday meal of fried chicken and thanking God for the incredible life of luck and consequent love with which I've been blessed.

Here's to 40.  
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Grief is the Price We Pay for Love

My friend Maggie was, herself, a contradiction - a tiny person with a huge personality; a beautiful woman who was most comfortable in fuzzy novelty socks from Target and jeans; a thoughtful, quiet presence with an enormous and unforgettable laugh.  So in a way, her death on December 6, 2007, seemed to fit that mold.  That profound sadness and grief at a time when the rest of the world was celebrating and filled with hope. 

It's been 8 years.  Eight years since I got the phone call and lived the following 5 days that would change me forever.  Eight years since one of my very best friends quietly, beautifully, and with incredible strength, left this world.  Eight years since I saw her face.  

Her death was unexpected.  She wasn't sick.  It wasn't a disease or an affliction.  It was just "one of those things," which is what people say when they don't know what else to say.  She was there and then she was not.  She hung on for days, and I truly believe that was so that we could all come see her and say our goodbyes.  Even though we weren't really prepared for the fact that we were saying goodbye.

I vividly remember looking out of the window at the hospital on the morning of her death before she died, knowing what was about to happen in a very short time, and watching the cars on the Beltway below race to wherever they were going.  I remember wanting to scream at their drivers "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT IS HAPPENING IN HERE?" because, to me, it was unfathomable and unfair that the entire world was not grieving and feeling those same feelings as we were.  That this beautiful life was about to be gone forever and there they were, going about their daily routine, unfazed by the sadness and grief and horror that was happening so painfully and acutely right then and there to me.  But I didn't scream. I sat at the window, held my very pregnant belly in silence and cried.  And to this day, when I drive on the Beltway and see that hospital, my heart aches and my eyes well with tears.  

Even though it has been eight years, I am still unprepared for the way I feel in early December.  I always know, in my head, that the anniversary is coming, but I am never prepared.  I know it's coming.  In the back of my mind, I think "OK December 6 is coming ... it will be sad."  If only grief were logical.  If only grief understood that time is supposed to make things easier to bear.  I've stopped trying to figure out why I feel the way that I do.  I just accept it and deal.  After all, life goes on, which is a painful truth of grief.  There is work to be done, children to be mothered, errands to be run, bills to be paid, life to be lived in all of its grand and mundane details.  Grief is always there.  

As I write this post, I have a candle flickering nearby.  It's the holidays, and I love to have holiday candles in my house.  I've had to take a few moments from writing this to wipe away my tears and I find myself looking at my candle and the flame, and it occurs to me that grief is so much like a flickering flame.  It's always there burning ... when it starts the flame is the largest and the most intense, and then the fire settles a bit but it keeps burning and it stays burning, sometimes low and quiet, and sometimes, without warning or reason, bursting with an unexpected bolt of fire.  There's no real rhyme or reason, and there's no real antidote to it.  It's just there.  And in a way, it's comforting.  I hate to think of a time in my life when I am not grieving the loss of my very dear friend.  My 8 years of grief have been just like that: a long slow burn with occasional and unpredictable bursts of profound sadness.  Such is life.  And such is death.  

I miss her every single day.  I miss her the most at this time of year.   With 8 years, I can actually see differences in my appearance from the last time she was with us.  But Maggie will always be young and beautiful.  I am thankful and grateful to God that I knew her.  I miss my friend.

Rest in Peace, Maggie.  We will always love you.
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