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A New Day! (Part 1)

 

So I decided this past weekend that it’s time to revisit my blog. I kind of abandoned this site after I tried so hard to qualify for the Boston Marathon. When that didn’t happen in 2014, I lost interest in running for a while (read: I was totally exhausted!) and also stopped writing. After moving from the SF Bay Area to San Diego, gaining about 30 pounds and experiencing some more life – I realized that I need to run and I need to write. I’m running my first half marathon in 3 years on Sunday and here I am writing.

Speaking of experiencing some life, we got an unsurprising curve ball a few weeks ago that’s really prompted me to get back in front of the keyboard. Our amazing 8-year old son J, was just diagnosed autistic. It occurred to me that many other parents are going through similar experiences so it might be beneficial for me, and for them, to document our family’s journey.

Given that the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) evaluation was our idea, we were not entirely surprised. However, reading the psychologist report summary was still sobering. J has a lot more going on than we understood.

So let’s begin at the beginning. In this post, I’m just going to share how we got to where we are. In the next few posts, I’ll share about autism, his diagnosis and what we’re doing for him.

J is 8 now, nearly 9, and 1 week from finishing his 2nd grade year. He’s in 2nd, not 3rd because his preschool and kindergarten teachers both felt he was a little immature to start kindergarten the previous year. Looking back, those sentiments were more prescient than I understood at the time.

The only unique things about him that I can remember from J’s earliest days were (a) the rigidity of our schedule and (b) his extreme pickiness with food. When I remember back to our first year together, the sheer panic I felt if I arrived home from errands 5 minutes “late” is still palpable. J’s nap schedule was incredibly strict and if I missed a nap, a feeding or anything else even by a few minutes, he would be off (read: tantrum!) for the rest of the day. Other parent’s thought my husband and I were crazy for refusing to fudge his schedule even a little bit. I used to laugh at myself about it – now I realize that rigidity may be part of his current diagnosis.

On the eating side? Forget about it. He simply would not eat foods that weren’t sweet or cheese/wheat based. With a handful exceptions, he’s never eaten meat (except chicken nuggets), vegetables (except baby carrots) or fruit (except bananas and strawberries). But carbs? All day long. He only likes chocolate ice cream but prefers soft serve or frozen yogurt. He only likes old fashioned donuts from Starbucks. Sometimes he’ll take one from a donut shop but that’s not really his vibe. As a holistic health coach, his diet is my worst nightmare. His idea of a great dinner? Spaghetti with “sprinkle cheese.” Yep, that white stuff in the green canister.

I can work myself into a deep panic if I allow myself to think too hard about the dearth of nutrition in J’s diet. We’ve tried so many things…from forcing him to bribing him, from Occupational Therapy to food chaining. The only fault in our approach I can find is consistency. I’ve frankly just gotten too exhausted to continue. The path I’ve chosen is one of family harmony…it’s just too hard to push him on this topic. If you have a picky eater, you know what I’m talking about. There’s no such thing as winning – only hard feelings and family discord. I finally realized it wasn’t worth it.

About 2 years ago, I noticed that J started chewing on the collars of his t-shirts. It started happening very suddenly and it was unnerving. He seemed extremely vulnerable. He was finishing his kindergarten year that week. In fact, the first day I noticed him chewing was the day that his teacher took the students on a school tour to explain to them how first grade would be different from kindergarten. I assumed that that discussion had him anxious for the start of 1st grade and that the chewing would subside once we got underway with our fun summer plans. It also happened that his little sister was away that week on a Hawaiian adventure with her grandmother and Daddy was out of town on a business trip. So there were a few unique things going on, but nothing I didn’t think we could handle. I doubt I’ll ever really know.

Our then-neighbor and forever-friend, Sara, is a neuro-psychologist who specializes in autism diagnosis. She often told me about how she’d be visiting a school in some far flung locale to help a family determine if it might be right for their child. It never occurred to me that I’d be seeking her professional opinions about my little guy.

When I called her to ask what she thought of the t-shirt chewing, she said, “I suspect he has Sensory Processing Disorder.” She wasn’t basing that assessment on one conversation but on her observations of him over time, playing with her own children, etc. I was always complaining to her about how his limited diet. She had a gaggle of kiddos over for a sleepover one night and bribed each kid with donuts if they ate some bacon first. As you can imagine, this wasn’t a hard sell for most of the party goers. Not my guy – he refused the bacon and the donut – trying a foreign food wasn’t worth it. He’d literally rather go hungry than taste something new. That really struck her – she was eventually able to get him to lick the bacon. She said, “you can bribe most kids but he could not do it and it seemed clear that he really wanted to.” It was his fear and real inability to try the new food that was so unique. I mean, who doesn’t like BACON??? What kid wouldn’t give their left pinky for a donut??

Obviously there was a lot more to it than that, but that conversation with Sara got me thinking. I bought him a necklace to chew on instead of his shirts – he chewed through the hard silicon in one day. We started Occupational Therapy, again, for feeding. We went to the pediatrician and a psychologist – all of whom downplayed his symptoms and suggested we needed to try harder to get him to eat more at home. The psychologist even said she felt like the real issue was the chewy necklace – she said the necklace gave him an outlet so that he wouldn’t have to connect with her in therapy. She suggested I take away the necklaces and start 1st grade – stop worrying about what isn’t there.

So we didn’t replace the broken necklace. J started 1st grade, the chewing faded away and we went on as if all was fine.

And a few months later, a job change moved us to San Diego. J started in his second first grade class mid-year and shown like a star. All the kids welcomed the “new kid” with open arms, his teacher thought he was the bee’s knees (he is!) and we had a classroom full of new friends.

Fast forward another year and change…a few more life changes came our way. That job we moved down here for? Didn’t work out. On the bright-side, we spent the summer together as a family. On the dark-side, we were pretty worried that our savings would run out before we figured out next steps.

Thankfully that didn’t happen. After 6 years at home raising kiddos, I found a job and then 2 weeks later, Dad found a job. Our kiddos started school in August as part of a 2-income family for the first time. Obviously that change involved a new set of challenges, including full time childcare. We tried really hard to make these transitions as seamless as possible for our children, but it’s just not possible for them not to notice that Dad wasn’t working and later that Mom and Dad are both working. (*Side note – we’re very grateful for the relatively simple experience of 4 jobless months we experienced. While we have new challenges, we’re very aware that our challenges are not unique and that everyone of our problems are very good problems to have!)

So our little guy started second grade like a champ. He loved his new teacher and his class was full of bright, sweet kiddos. Our little girl also started Transitional Kindergarten and for the first time, we had two elementary schoolers. They both played soccer. We went to the snow after Christmas. Life is grand!

Somewhere around the end of the calendar year (2016), our little guy started chewing on his t-shirts again. We tried to ask him what was wrong. We weren’t sure what to do. I forgot about the necklaces. The pediatrician suggested a local psychologist, who turned out not to be covered by our insurance and her fee is $250 per hour. Ouch.

But a plan was coming together. What we needed to do next was have our guy evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorders by a child psychologist/neuropsychologist.

In my next post, I’ll share more about how we found a psychologist, the evaluation, the diagnosis and where we are now. Thanks for reading!

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Whole 30 – Day 13

I just want to preface by stating that Fun Fabulous Fierce (and I myself) is in NO WAY affiliated with the Whole 30 program. I am completing my own Whole30 program but am not sponsored or endorsed by anyone. In fact, I strongly doubt the W30 people even know FFF or I exist.

It’s Sunday and I’m trying to get myself organized for the week ahead. I started this morning at 8am by hitting up Whole Foods Market. I spent a small fortune on mostly meat and vegetables, ready to prepare a huge Cook Up to get the week going. You see, I’m almost in the middle of my Whole 30. Not sure what that is? Well, let me tell you!

Whole 30 is like a 30-day kickoff to the Paleo lifestyle. The essence of the program is to remove foods that don’t satisfy all four of the following “Good Food” standards:

1) Promote a healthy psychological response
2) Promote a healthy hormonal response
3) Promote a healthy “gut” (intestinal tract)
4) Promote a healthy immune system

Many of the foods we regularly consume seem really healthy because of how they are marketed, but upon deeper investigation do not satisfy those 4 simple rules. I’ll let you read all the details of that elsewhere (Whole 30’s website is a great place to start!). Eating “whole foods” (not necessarily purchased at a Whole Foods Market…who is also unaffiliated with the program, I believe) like grass-fed beef, free range chicken, wild-caught seafood and organic/non-GMO vegetables does allow your body to respond to foods in these positive ways.

I’m working my way through the program and I’m truly enjoying it. Because of my history with disordered eating, I struggled as to whether this super-restrictive plan would be right for me. I’ve done other cleanse/detox/crash-diets before and found myself craving everything I could not have and feeling constantly deprived. I also felt lonely, like I was the only person not having any fun!

I signed up for the Whole 30 Daily, which is a daily motivational email cheering me on and giving me thought-provoking ideas about things like exercise and stress reduction. The more I learn, the more I feel like W30 and FFF are like soul sistahs!

Speaking of stress reduction, I really haven’t much of it lately. My love just returned from a biz trip, which meant Mama running the show solo and with dwindling patience for the wants/needs/whines of two little people. Their cute little people but whining has a way of erasing even that. On top of that, I decided to use the dad-free time to switch a few things up around the house. The kiddos have been sharing a room lately (the little one was getting scared being alone – both wanted to be together…double win!), which meant there was an empty bedroom. Our “office” has been a corner desk in the family room, which has made it tough for anyone to work in the house if anyone else is home. So I decided power through and “surprise Daddy” with a HGTV style mini-renovation. Yikes. That was a ton of work!

Oh and speaking of exercise, remember that marathon I did back in August 2014? Well, I keep telling myself that I’m not one of those people who runs a marathon and then never runs again. The problem is that now that the race is behind me, I don’t really know what to do with myself. I still want to be a “runner” but I dread running. Getting out there, I LOVE being alone in the woods with my podcasts and miles of trails, but I’m finding it harder and harder to get to that zone.

So I’m trying to take a page from the FFF handbook (which doesn’t really exist) and give myself permission to not be a runner – for now, forever? I’m not certain. Maybe I run a little, maybe I hike or walk. But the point is that I still need to exercise and I’m not super motivated for that either.

I’ve got a personal training session coming up this week. Maybe I’ll come away inspired. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll do the Tough Mudder with Tina in June. Or maybe I’ll just. Actually I don’t know how to finish that sentence. Maybe I just don’t know right now. Truthfully, I don’t.

My energy is full throttle on what I’m eating, which is bringing me enormous pleasure. For the past 2 weeks, I’ve followed meal plans from the website, The Clothes Make the Girl. She offers very detailed and simple to follow meal plans for the first 2 weeks of a Whole 30. Unfortunately, I’m starting week 3 this week and she has started kicking me out of the nest. So I searched one of my favorite online sources (Danielle Walker’s Against All Grains) and here is what I came up with for the week:

1) Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Sauteed Greens
2) Blackened Salmon with Mango Avocado Salsa
3) Grilled Flank Steak with Cilantro Balsamic Marinade
4) Crock Pot Thai Beef Stew with Coconut Cauliflower “Rice”

I’m not great at living with uncertainty but I’m OK with where I am today. I hope these resources help you, if you are considering a Whole 30. Please comment and share your experience!

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Whole 30 – Day 5

It’s been quite a while since I wrote a post. The holidays hit me hard this year.

Turning 40 was an epic event! Of course, I started celebrating in September with my mom and sisters on a wild vacation to Hawaii. My husband wanted to get in on the memorable birthday action so he took me to Sonoma for an amazing spa/wine/food coma weekend. All in all, I’m a pretty happy 40 year old!

Except for what the scale and my clothes have to say about the matter….

Let’s just say I haven’t been running as consistently post-marathon as I was pre-marathon.

Long story short, I’m on day 5 of Whole30. In case you aren’t familiar with it, it’s like a 30-day intro to the Paleo lifestyle, with a few tweaks. It is very strict but it’s also very well planned. The website includes tons of information about how to be successful and if that isn’t enough for you, they offer an awesome book called It Starts With Food. If that doesn’t do it for you, you can sign up for their daily email support, which is helping me tremendously.

So what am I eating? Meat, veggies and fruit.

Am I missing my other staples? Not really. I don’t miss the grains or legumes really at all. I miss sugar a little a lot. But I primarily miss wine. I love wine very much and it’s tough not drinking it. Tonight I went out to dinner with two lovely friends and I really would have loved a glass of wine with my steak. But I did not have a drink and because of that, I was able to manage how much I ate much more easily and that was truly thrilling.

In case you’re feeling sorry for me that I’m not getting to eat enough delicious foods, I thought I’d give you a run-down of what’s in my fridge and what I GET to eat.

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What is that, you say? Well, I’m very proud to announce that it’s a pork shoulder roast that I prepared in the slow cooker for 16 hours! The meat came out so tender and luscious that I was tempted to eat it all for breakfast. Sucks to be me, right? NOT!
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Scrambled eggs with pork roast and “Sunshine Sauce” for breakfast. Sunshine Sauce is kind of like peanut sauce, only made with Coconut Aminos (instead of soy sauce) and Sunbutter instead of peanut butter. It’s grubbin’!

I’ve also been FEASTING on roasted veggies (brussels sprouts, eggplant, sweet potatoes, butternut squash) and I also made a killer butternut squash soup with bacon and chicken pieces. Rounding it out, I’ve been stuffing my face with a ground beef chili (sans beans!) that I could live on.

I won’t lie and say that it’s been all rosy every minute. I do miss wine and there have been some times when I’d like to dive my whole face into a carton of ice cream, but so far, for FIVE WHOLE DAYS, I’ve stuck with it.

And that is something! Here’s to a healthy start to 2015!!

Guest Post

‘Guest’ Post: Heather Von St. James

A couple of weeks ago, a woman named Heather Von St. James wrote me an email asking that I post on my blog about her and her malignant pleural mesothelioma diagnosis. I’d heard of the disease and knew it was a nasty cancer caused by exposure to asbestos but I wasn’t sure what I could really say about her or her disease that would be meaningful. So I asked her to write a guest post.

She replied something along the lines that she’d prefer that I write about what I know of her story…which meant I’d have to read and / or watch (the video of) her story.

It’s taken me a few weeks, I won’t lie. I’ve been busy with the holidays and blah blah blah. The truth is that I was a little daunted by the idea of adding my voice to this woman’s incredible story. In my work with Fun Fabulous Fierce, we talk a lot about being bad-asses. We talk about speaking our truths and we talk about achieving our goals. In Heather’s story, you find all of those things…only the stakes are much higher.

About 9 years ago, just before Christmas, and just after the birth of her daughter, Heather was diagnosed with the disease. According to what I learned on her website, she got it because her father worked construction and she used to wear her dad’s jacket when she worked or played outside. His coats were covered in asbestos dust from the sites where he worked.

After feeling crummy for several months after her daughter’s birth, the doctors ruled out all of the lesser possibilities and eventually confirmed she had cancer. She was given 15 months to live.

Her research on the disease brought up only frighteningly grim results – 15 months to live was a constant reminder.

Rather than squander her time thinking about dying, she set to work finding a treatment plan. She found a clinical trial in Boston and flew there to undergo a very delicate (read: risky!) surgery, followed by chemotherapy treatments. Because these procedures were in trials at that time, there wasn’t much solid evidence that it would be successful. She forged ahead none the less and her literal “NEVER SAY DIE” attitude sustained her. She fought like a maniac. Her fearless husband encouraged her along the way by reminding her that their newborn Lily needed her mama.

Heather is a survivor today! Isn’t that the best news you’ve ever heard? I think so! I have chills just typing the words.

Talk about a BAD-ASS! This lady kicked cancer's ass. Yeeeaaaahhhhh!
Talk about a BAD-ASS! This lady kicked cancer’s ass and lived to tell about it. Yeeeaaaahhhhh!

Heather has taken to the airwaves, the conference circuits and the internet to share her story. She’s made herself a resource to share with other mesothelioma patients her story and her hope. She helps patients connect with the resources they’ll need to get treatments and she advocates for research funding for her disease.

I can’t think of anyone more badass than Heather Von St. James. I’m so proud to have been asked to help spread her message. Now please help me spread it even farther!

SHARE SHARE SHARE so Heather can expand her reach and do even more amazing good.

Oh, and do you want to hear it all for yourself? Check her out at www.mesothelioma.com/heather.

Girls On The Run, motivation

Reinvigorated Running

If I’m being honest, I’ve been pretty disinclined to run lately. I’m sure once I list the reasons, they’ll sound like excuses to you and to me, but the fact remains that I just haven’t been feeling it.

1. Surgery: On Oct. 29, I had another bladder surgery. (If you missed the deets on the first one and want to learn more about mid-urethral sling and/or you’re a woman wondering how to stop peeing while you run, click here.)

2. Thanksgiving: Yes, I realize those events were a month apart but that doesn’t stop me from using Turkey Day as a reason not to run. Once we decided not to do the local Turkey Trots, I just didn’t have much in me to get out there.

3. Rain: We’re in a massive multi-year drought here in California. While it’s a frightening situation, it’s also been a little tough to complain because who really LOVES rain anyway? Well, apparently Mother Nature isn’t loving our dry climate so we’ve gotten some great rain lately. While I love to hear it on the rooftop, I don’t love going out in it. I don’t really mind running in the rain but I’m also not super motivated to do so.

4. Family Drama: We’ve had this in spades lately. Post-Thanksgiving the fall-out from the big day just drained me and I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, let alone putting on running / rain gear and hitting the muddy trail.

And then yesterday happened.

A few weeks ago (2 actually), my gorgeous friend Esmeralda asked on Facebook whether anyone would be willing to be a Running Buddy for her Girls on the Run team. Other mutual friend, Rebekah, and I were both in! Esma was coaching the team at a local elementary school and was looking for volunteers to run along with the girls on her team. If you’re not familiar with GOTR, you should be. GOTR is an awesome nonprofit that brings running to 3rd-5th grade girls. The girls train with local volunteer coaches in their elementary schools for a few months and then finish their season by running in an untimed 5k. Here in the Bay Area, the event took place yesterday in Golden Gate Park in SF.

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Here we are…me, Esmeralda and my girl, Rebekah…strutting our stuff post-race. Can you believe they gave ME a medal? I was amazed – after all, I am the one who was honored to get to be there!

If you can run 3 miles, you can be a Running Buddy and the whole experience is beyond fun. And no, you don’t have to be a mom or even a woman. There were plenty of dudes out there running with the girls. I particularly loved the Daddies running along with their girls carrying pole-mounted GoPros capturing the whole thing. How sweet!

Esmeralda assigned me to a sweet little girl. She is the very quiet middle child in a family of 4 daughters. Her mom couldn’t be there yesterday because she was working but I KNOW she would have made her Mama proud. She ran like a little champ. We chatted a little during our run (I mostly chatted to her and asked her questions, to which she responded with very short answers) but mostly we just stayed together and navigated the enormous crowd of runners. I was in little girl running heaven.

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Here’s my cutie pie…my sweet little running champ. I would love to run with this kiddo again.

It even stopped raining!

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Being out there with all those people and seeing the pride and amazement that those little girls brought to their run, my own running was reinvigorated. When we crossed the finish line, I thought to myself, “Wow, I could have run a lot farther!” And then I remembered – DUH! I ran a full marathon not so long ago…

So this morning, I grabbed my running shoes, pulled out my RUN LESS, RUN FASTER app and got in the car. I was at my mom’s house in Sacramento last night so I thought a run along the American River Parkway trail would be perfect. It slipped my mind that the California International Marathon was happening this morning.

The street I’d need to cross to access the river trail was the main race route. I couldn’t cross it so I parked about 3/4 of a mile from the river trail and did my pre-run stretching while watching the runners pass.

Seeing those sweaty, tired and motivated runners this morning flipped a switch in me.

I hit the trail and ran the 8-miler prescribed in my training plan. It was tough, I won’t lie. Getting back to a running regime when you’ve skipped out on several weeks of consistent running isn’t easy. It is NOT easy.

But I powered through it.

And I remembered what all those 8-10 year old girls I saw yesterday already know. Running is awesome and it makes me feel powerful, capable and strong.

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We Are Never Alone

The other day I was rolling through my Facebook News Feed and came across a beautiful photo of some pink rocks arranged in a heart shape around some purple flowers.

My friend’s little girl had arranged the rocks and flowers. Apparently my friend, her mother and her daughter had once spent an afternoon searching for all the pink rocks in the yard with Grandma. Weeks later, the little girl’s grandmother passed away suddenly. My friend and her daughter still handle those rocks and talk about how Grandma is still with them. Her daughter was 2 then. Now she’s 7. This sweet child arranged the rocks and photographed them. I thought it was really beautiful.

My heart ached so much as I looked at that picture. (I’m hoping to get her permission to share that photo with you here.)

I know how it feels to grieve someone you love. My father died when I was 19.

My father, James Edmund Hampton, a few weeks before he died. This photo was taken at a co-worker's wedding in June 1994.
My father, James Edmund Hampton, a few weeks before he died. This photo was taken at a co-worker’s wedding in June 1994.

I had just returned from a 3-month study abroad program in France, where I lived with a host family. Of all the observations I made in France, the most poignant was just watching my host family. They were going through an excruciating time in their lives. I lived with Elli and Paulette Teissiers, who were in their sixties at the time. Their 2 daughters were both grown and living in other cities. Their youngest daughter, Evangeline, who was probably about 29 at the time, also had 2 children, a 4-year old boy named Florian and a 9-month old baby named Serena. I loved those children SO much but it was almost impossible for me to even look at their mother.

Eva was a widow and her story terrified me. She had been 7-months pregnant with their second child when her husband, Olivier, was killed in a motorcycle accident.

I lived with the Teissiers family for 3 months and it took me most of that time to really understand what had happened to Olivier. All I really knew was that their daughter was a sad single mom whose older child spent a lot of time in our house.

At that time and throughout my high school years, my mother was an Oncology nurse and my dad was a Hospice volunteer so I had seen grief. I’d held the hands of adult daughters whose mothers had just died. I’d lost my own paternal grandmother to a heart attack. The difference between those experiences and Eva’s was that, to me, those other losses had been “natural.” It made sense to me that an older person would die. While sad, it makes sense for a grandparent to pass on, followed by their children, followed by their grandchildren. Olivier’s death did not make sense to me. A young man enjoying a fun afternoon ride through the countryside with his best friend – that person should not die.

While in nursing school, my mom had done rotations through each hospital department. I remember when she was working in the ER that the doctors sometimes referred to motorcycle riders as “organ donors.” This sounded sick to me, but my mom explained that when viral young men die in motorcycle accidents they make great donors because they’re young and healthy. I think there is something beautiful and almost holy in organ donation. I never want to lose another person I love, but if I do, I hope they can be an organ donor. Knowing the person I loved lives on in another person is a magical idea.

I don’t know if Olivier was an organ donor but I do know that his death left a very long wake of grief, including a widow who had no idea how to continue, 2 children who would never know their father, in-laws who wanted to make everyone all better and a foreign exchange student with her mouth gaping. I could not comprehend their grief.

And then…just 2 days after my return from France, my father died in a car accident. He was 49.

The depth of my grief knew no bottom. I wanted to shout. I wanted to curse. I wanted to break things. I wanted to make someone else hurt A. LOT. I wanted to cast the shadow of my loss across the bright June sun so that it would stop shining and give my heart a moment to reconcile my dad-less reality.

But the thing about grief is that it’s not an entirely solitary experience. Like it or not, you have to share your grief with the other people. For example, my friend’s husband died in a sailing accident a few years ago. Crazy life circumstances had happened such that I had not yet met him. Knowing we had tons of good times ahead, it didn’t seem like a big deal when one or the other couple missed a dinner or a party – we would connect next time. When he died, there was no more opportunity for a next time and yet, I grieved him at her side. I grieved a man I never met.

That’s the thing – you share your grief with everyone around you. I never knew Olivier but his life and death changed my life. I never knew my friend’s husband but I grieved his death with buckets of tears. I shared my own grief with my widowed mother, devastated brother and sister and many, many other people.

The church was full at my father’s funeral. As I looked around during the mass, I kept wondering what all those people were even doing there. Why did they come because they didn’t even know him?

Now I understand. Grief is like an earthquake. Near the epicenter, the force is strong enough to cause massive destruction and irreparable harm. But as the plates move and the ground shakes, the waves continue, weakened. Not all damage caused by an earthquake is disastrous but every person who is alert feels something.

Losing my dad was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. Watching my friend’s body shake as she thought through the details of her husband’s watery death was excruciating and yet I learned so much from her in those early days of her widowhood. She told me over and over again that her husband died on a perfect day. Their love was secure and they had no regrets. She told me so many times that there was nothing left unsaid between them. I love that. I replay those words in my mind all the time because I want to love without regret and leave nothing unsaid.

When my Facebook friend lost her mother, I imagine she was consumed with grief. Apparently her young daughter was too. But my friend was not alone because her daughter is there to arrange the pink rocks in a beautiful memorial to the woman they both loved.

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Maui Morning Run

I’m so blessed to be on vacation in Maui with my mom and 2 sisters today. My “sister,” Jill and I are both turning 40 this year. Her birthday was in July and mine will be in December. It’s easier to just refer to her as my sister so let’s just agree to that and not ask any questions. OK? Ok.

This amazing adventure kicked off a little less than a year ago. My Mom and Stepdad spent Thanksgiving on Maui last year. While they were here, they booked this trip for us. My Mom really wanted to do something special for our 40th birthdays so she figured prebooking a trip to Hawaii would do it. She called us and told us our flight numbers. I can’t think of many more generous gestures of love than this one – we’re all so grateful!

On Friday morning, Jill flew up from LA and I picked her up from the airport. She hadn’t seen my new house yet so it was really fun to have her join me to pick up my kinder from school and show her our house. The kids love their aunties so much! It was another joyfully precious moment when my other sister, Sandy, arrived Friday evening. Both kids were screaming her name and running around her in circles. They got so worked up with hugging that they were hugging each other…still screaming her name. You’d have thought they were getting ready for the vacation of their lives!

Saturday morning, our journey kicked off with a town car ride to the airport. Yeeaaaahhhh is all I can say. Big pimpin’ style.

Bit of advice? Next time you travel to Hawaii, fly Hawaiian Airlines. I had only ever flown United before and Hawaiian is amazing comparatively. The experience truly had an Aloha quality to which United just doesn’t even come close.

Arriving in Hawaii to meet my mom (who’d already been here for a week with my Stepdad to celebrate their anniversary, but who’d already flown home yesterday morning) was fabulous. She greeted us with orchid leis!

That's my Mom. We call her Mimi. Isn't she beautiful? She looks like a old-time Hollywood movie star...glamorous and dynamically unstoppable.
That’s my Mom. We call her Mimi. Isn’t she beautiful? She looks like a old-time Hollywood movie star…glamorous and dynamically unstoppable.

Over lunch we shared a bottle of champagne and a bunch of apps. Amazing.

This picture is cracking me up. No matter how much sun I get, I'm pretty certain I'll have that tan line across my thighs where my running shorts end!
This picture is cracking me up. No matter how much sun I get, I’m pretty certain I’ll have that tan line across my thighs where my running shorts end!
My sister, Sandy. She looks so much like my Mom that it's uncanny. She's ethereal and HYSTERICAL all day LONG!
My sister, Sandy. She looks so much like my Mom that it’s uncanny. She’s ethereal and HYSTERICAL all day LONG!
My sister, Jill. She's my birthday buddy and so much more. These beautiful women complete my life so deeply. I love my life.
My sister, Jill. She’s my birthday buddy and so much more. These beautiful women complete my life so deeply. I love my life.

The sunset we enjoyed later was a sight to behold. I’ve been to Hawaii several times before but I’m always struck by how colorful and magnificent the sunsets here can be. I think I took about 80 pictures.

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Of all the shots, I think I love this one the most. I love that you can a swell starting before the horizon. I love that you can see a bit of the shrubs in the foreground but mostly, the beautiful colors that reflected in the sky, on the water and even on the wet sand are simply spectacular.

This morning, Sandy and I went out for a run. I needed to have a “successful” run so I stayed out for 6-miles. I’ve been feeling really conflicted and confused about running. On the one hand, I really don’t “need” to run anymore. On the other hand, I feel a real sense of loss that my training journey is over and I feel like my day to day purpose is suddenly unclear.

I knew that this trip would be an important part of my Boston qualifying journey. I remember telling my mom when she booked it that I’d either be celebrating a BQ or licking my wounds that I didn’t get there. In reality, it’s kind of a bit of both. Running a marathon is something I had always wanted to do. The training and dedication that were necessary changed how I feel about myself. I know now that I can achieve ANY goal I choose to approach. I kind of already knew that but now I know for certain.

That said, I achieved the marathon completion goal, but not the BQ goal. And that really hurts. I need to repeat that. It REALLY HURTS. I really wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon THIS YEAR. I’m really disappointed. And then I’m disappointed in myself for being disappointed because I feel like it was such a privilege to have had the time and other resources available to me to be able to train so much for a recreational activity.

The intellectual part of me knows that I’m being really hard on myself. But the emotions are still in there and I’m working through it. This morning’s run was the first run since my marathon that I felt like I had some running mojo. I maybe licking my wounds but I’m doing it with 3 of the most supportive and loving women in my life. I’m so fortunate to have a family like this. Without them and the rest of my beautiful family, none of this stuff would even matter.

So I’m working on it and I’m working through it.

As I do, I’m going to enjoy this Bloody Mary and soak up every moment of Hawaiian sunshine and female love energy that I can get. New goals are waiting for me when I touch down next week.

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Hawaii morning run

Heading out for my first Hawaii run!

Here’s a pic of our first island lunch. This trip has been amazing so far-I can’t wait to run a little.

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Oh, our shirts say WWMD. It means, “What would Mimi do?” The grand kids call my mom Mimi. She always has the right answer and seems to know what to do. Someone’s in the hospital? Throw a chicken in the crock pot before you go visit…it’ll be a long day and you’ll appreciate that chicken when you get home. So when we’re in a bind, we ask ourselves, “What would Mimi do?”

In this case, she’d fly her girls to Hawaii for a week to celebrate their 40th birthdays!

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First Post-Race Run

So I decided that 5 days was enough and I wanted to run today. I actually wanted to run yesterday but somehow there was so much to do that it didn’t happen.

Anyway, I decided to start by walking my boy to school. So we loaded up the little girl in the stroller and took off for kindergarten. (I noted immediately that the wheels on the BOB Stroller weren’t as full as they could be. Ugh!) His “late slip” class begins at 9:36am (not a typo) so we left at 9am to have plenty of time for the 1.3 mile walk. He complained a LOT about walking. “It’s too far.” “My legs hurt.” “Are we almost there yet?” I kept thinking that he sounded like the voice in my head on Sunday morning!

Once we dropped him off, Lucy asked to get out of the stroller so I figured, what the heck?!?

We parked the stroller at the front of the school next to a bench. I started doing my dynamic stretches, beginning with a full body reach to the sky. As I looked down, I realized my tiny 2.9 year old daughter was stretching with me. It was too precious not to continue! So I crossed my ankles, brought my hands toward my feet and let my head dangle. She did the same. After 10 of those, I walked to the back of the bench. She followed. I rested my hands on the back of the bench for balance while alternating kicking one straight leg behind me with a flat back. She did too.

After about 5 minutes of dynamically stretching my very tight muscles, I said, “OK, let’s go running!” Lucy said, “I not go-een run-een Mommy.” I giggled and strapped her back into the stroller.

Those not-quite-flat stroller wheels plagued me as I got started. My left knee also started voicing a complaint. I stopped to stretch some more. By about 9:50am, we were finally underway.

Once we reached the Contra Costa Canal trail, I felt my running rhythm kick in. The Dixie Chicks were singing, “I’m Ready to Run” which always helps.

Before I knew it, my MapMyFitness app clicked off our first mile. By the time we reached the stoplight near Safeway, we were at 2 miles. As we exited Heather Farm Park, I noticed Lucy had been pretty quiet for a while. She was sound asleep.

We hit 3 miles on San Carlos Ave. and I realized that it was time to stop running. My legs hurt. My abs even hurt! Unfortunately we were still at least 2.5 miles from home. With my girl peacefully napping, I figured a long walk couldn’t hurt either of us so I pushed ahead.

All in all, my first run post-marathon was a little longer than I should have done. I’m sore today and feeling each step as I walk downstairs again. That said, it felt really good to run – just to RUN! I haven’t run without a mileage or time goal in so long that it was kind of amazing to do it just for myself. 

No doubt about it. I’m a runner!

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Santa Rosa Marathon Recap

The big day finally came! It was an experience I will truly cherish and never forget. Here’s how it went down.

Because Jonah was starting kindergarten on Monday (day after race), I asked my parents to take Lucy for the week so that Jonah and I could spend some time together before he got whisked off the school/college/career/marriage. We had a fun time together – mostly just hanging out at home and playing with legos.

Thursday was a big day for him, Jaguar Day…where he was to learn his teacher and schedule for the year. Long story short, he got a great class but suffered through Jag Day pale, weak and complaining of a yucky tummy. As we approached our house, he threw up for the first time. Throughout the night and next day, he threw up a lot more. Poor kid was sick sick sick. By Saturday he was feeling better and wanted to go to my mom’s to be with Lucy and have a fun cousin weekend.

Here’s what my Friday night looked like:

Because I've so often forgotten something crucial, I laid out all my stuff methodically and took a photo so I could reassure myself that I didn't forget anything (or confirm that I did...if I did!)
Because I’ve so often forgotten something crucial when traveling, I laid out all my stuff methodically and took a photo so I could reassure myself that I didn’t forget anything (or confirm that I did…if I did!)

Saturday morning started out with a 2-mile shake out run. I ran up to the guard gate entrance to Mt. Diablo just after sunrise. It was really beautiful.

The view from my last training run!
The view from my last training run!

By noon, we met my mom in Vacaville to drop off Jonah to spend the night with her (in Sac). From there, we headed toward Sonoma County. We had some wine to pick up at Dutcher Crossing winery so we decided to stop for lunch at the Dry Creek General Store. It’s a schlep to get up there but Dry Creek wines are amazing and Dutcher Crossing is both beautiful and chocked full of delicious wines.

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Geniuses!
Geniuses! (No parking!)

After lunch and our wine pick-up(s), we headed to the race expo at DeLoach winery. They did an awesome job with the expo.

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They even gave each runner a bottle of wine!
They even gave each runner a bottle of wine!

For the first time in as long as I could remember, I actually wore make up that day…so I took this pic to remind myself what a bad ass I am (not that you can even see the carefully applied cosmetics).

Grrrrr.
Grrrrr,Er, big dork.

I snapped this shot after our dinner in downtown Santa Rosa. Charles Schulz is from SR and apparently did most of his Peanuts comics from his home there so they honor him with character statues around town. It’s really cute! I took this one for my Lucy girl.

Bronze Lucy
Bronze Lucy

IMG_9452I posted that pic on FB at about 5:30am. I described it as, “post quake and pre race…feeling shaky.” Yes, we felt the magnitude 6.0 earthquake epicentered about 30 +/- miles from Santa Rosa. With the 6am gun time, our alarm was set for 4:45am. Waking to the largest SF Bay Area earthquake in 25 years an hour and a half before our alarm was both frightening and shitty. In case you’ve seen Robin Williams talking about earthquakes and allow yourself to think that all Californians are blasé and cool about them…we’re not. It was absolutely terrifying to shake for 20 seconds. I looked at the hotel pool for a second out the door afterwards. It looked like the ocean!

But the race was still on!

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My BQ time was 3:45 so I snapped this guy’s pic. I did not see him again.

IMG_9455One last selfie before the gun went off. I was calm but didn’t feel really ready.

The first few miles were full of self doubt. I kept thinking thoughts like, “why didn’t I shave my legs? It feels like razor blades rubbing my calves!” and “what am I doing here? when did I even think this was a good idea?”

Around mile 5 or 6, a woman ran up next to me and said hello. She and her daughter were running the race together and hoping to finish in about 4:30. My first thought was, “I’ll be so bummed if I finish in 4:30!” but I needed some company so I pulled out my earbud and ran with them. They explained that they are “believers” so they’d each assigned themselves biblical verses to read at each mile. Mom had evens and daughter had odds. As a formerly Catholic atheist, I might have said something self righteous about my own beliefs but instead just listened to them. I enjoyed their verses and the context they brought to each. They commented on why they chose the particular verses and the miles flew by.

I stayed with them until about mile 13. Regrettably, I had to stop to stretch my knee and never got to see them again. Their stories and relationship were so lovely to experience. I was so happy to have run those miles with them!

IMG_9457Things kind of went downhill after that. By mile 18, I was feeling really down. I couldn’t see them anymore and the 4:30 pacer had long since passed me. I called Tina and Jill. Neither answered. A little while later, Tina called back…from vacation in Legoland. She said, “Wait! Aren’t you running your marathon right now?!?” I replied, “I…I…I…just needed you…” and I started crying. She gave me the sweetest pep talk which ended with something like, “MILE 18?!?! That’s amazing! You’ve SO got this – you are a BAD ASS MOTHER FUCKER!”

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My sister in law texted from North Carolina to check on us after the earthquake. It was easier to snap a pic than type a lot so I sent this back along with “all good.”

If only that were truly true.

At mile 20, we were back onto the Prince Greenway, a lovely bike path we’d run for the first several miles. I was simultaneously feeling, “I’ve got this…only 6 more miles” and “I have a whole freaking 10K left to run…that takes like an HOUR!”

Then around mile 22, my right knee just made clear to me that I needed to stop. I felt like if I took another step something on the outside of the knee cap would “snap.” So I stopped and stretched. Stopping sucked.

Between that point and the finish line, I probably stopped 7-8 more times, including one last stop right after the mile 26 marker. 

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Finally, by the grace of all that is holy, I got to the finish line. With a mouth full of mint-chocolate Power Bar, Jon snapped this pic of me. The thumbs down well described how I felt. I hugged him with my whole body and shook with tears. I cried so hard and I couldn’t even tell you why. It was a similar feeling to how I felt after the births of my children…tears of exhaustion and relief.

After eating that bar, drinking some water and having my knee wrapped up with an ice pack, things got better quickly. The thumbs down was also an acknowledgement of my marathon time.

After eating some pancakes with salty butter and a chocolate milk, Jon took this picture. I was full of pride and felt so much better. :)
After eating some pancakes with salty butter and a chocolate milk, Jon took this picture. I was full of pride and felt so much better. 🙂

As I mentioned, my BQ time was 3:45. I finished in 4:45.

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I missed my BQ time by an entire hour.

I feel a lot of mixed feelings about that. Like my education, “they can never take it away” – my marathon finisher status.

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After training for 8 months, I wasn’t expecting to BQ but I also wasn’t able to outrun the mid-night earthquake or knee troubles that haunted my race. It wasn’t my day to have the 4:00-4:15 race I was hoping for. At this point, I cannot say whether I’ll ever do another full marathon. On the third day after the race, I don’t know about future racing. I haven’t worked out since the marathon and I’m not sure what to do next. My life has been a crazy jumble of house surfing, remodeling, escrow closings, contractors and RUNNING for almost as long as I can remember. Now the house is done, the kids are back in school and the marathon is over.

In 2 weeks, Tina and I will kick off our first annual FAB Camp women’s wellness retreat. Then my mom is taking me to Hawaii to early celebrate my 40th birthday. 

I know I’ll be ok…I know I can take on any challenge I choose to face. The marathon crystallized that fact for me. The only question now is…what will that be?

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For now, I guess I’ll focus on those two.

Oh, and Monday night, I focused a little bit on a glass of this…

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