Monday, December 31, 2012

Winter

Winter running is magical. There are so many reasons I love running during the winter months but the first long run of winter is always the best. The cold air filling my lungs. I breathe in icey air and breath out the warm air. I breathe in fresh feelings and breathe out stress.

A Blanket of white covering the land looking so clean and fresh after a good snow. Cleansed of all that ails it... Like me. The soft sound of my footfalls in the snow. Music to my ears.

My running buddy leads the way dipping her snout into the snowdrifts flipping the snow into the air and trying to catch it as we run. She is in her element.

As I run I can smell that someone has a fire burning. Another is making bacon for breakfast and someone else is doing laundry. The smells waft through the air like snowflakes drifting to the ground.

It is a lonely run but the fact that it is just my running buddy and me makes it all the better. The quiet envelopes us as we go. The sounds of her panting and my breathing a rhythm all it's own. No music needed.

We arrive home sweating, cold and tired. She collapses on the floor and I collapse on the radiator. All is good on a winter morning.

 

Perspective

The Saturday prior to Christmas the girls and I worked for the parish. We got up early an I thought I would hear complaints but they quietly got dressed and ready. 13 bundled up and forewarned 14 who didn't listen and ended up cold after on.

We headed to school to help the parish disperse food and gifts to the less fortunate.

I thought this was about us helping them. Boy was I wrong. When we arrived on this bitter cold morning there was a line of people already waiting.

We positioned ourselves as they opened the doors. I was in the gym assisting with 'shopping' and the girls acted as Sherpas, lugging bags to cars.

Families can register for gifts, food or both. They pick up gifts first and then head to the gym to 'shop' for food. I carry the bags as they fill them with oranges, potatoes, cookies, and other goodies.

As we shop, we chat. The gratitude expressed by these folks always amazes me.

A few of our guests stood out to me..

First there was a lady that came in for the first time. She was about 50 or so. She started crying from the moment I said hello. She cried and thanked each helper filling her bag. She continued to cry and hug people as she left. My girls took her items to her car and 13 said she was given the tightest hug... One she would not soon forget. A hug that made 13 cry too.

Then there was The the lady in the red hat. She was so nervous. About 65 or so and did not want to take too much food. She said that there were others who needed it more than her. We got to the end of the line where the guests are offered a ham. I admit it is huge but can be shared or frozen as it it's fully cooked. She didn't want it and left. A short while later she came back saying she changed her mind. So we went to get the ham. She was so nervous that her hands were sweating and I noticed she was rubbing them together hard enough to break the skin. She was so unsure about the ham. I reassured her and gave her suggestions as to using it all ( Sharing with a friend, freezing, packaging it in smaller potions, etc) but I could see that this was so stressful for her. She then whispered "I am so scared."

"Of what?"

"The ham. It is so big"

She went on to tell me a few times how scared she was as I tried to comfort and reassure her.

"We just want you to have food but if it is too much, how about I just cut you a small piece to take home?"

She looked as if the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders! She showed me exactly how much he wanted and I went to the kitchen to cut it for her. I returned with her small portion and she placed it in a bag, thanked me and left. As it turned out there were a few others that did not want an entire ham and took the leftover smaller portions. Everyone was a winner in the end.

There was the lady who did not take much food because it was not organic and there were too many processed foods.

There was a lady who came in dressed to the nines... She looked so stylish but when you got close enough you could tell that everything she had on was well worn or ill fitting. She had an air about her though that caused us all to stop and take notice.

There were folks that wanted to get through that line as fast as possible in order to leave. Embarrassment? Pride? Not sure but with us was the last place they wanted to be.

There was the lady that had taken the train to us. We had no idea until one of our teen helpers was missing for a while. We thought he had decided to hide out and take a break. Little did we know he had walked her and her food to the train station (3 blocks away) wearing only a sweatshirt. He came back a teen Popsicle.

There were so many more faces and stories in the over 140 families we served that day. Faces I see each time I shop. Faces I see each time I look at my full fridge. Faces that I see each time I pray.

Each face a reminder of my blessings. Each face the face of God. Each face changing my perspective.

 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Unqualified

After the massacre of 27 people, mostly children, I am struggling. I am struggling with so much right now. I am struggling with my own insecurity in my profession. I am struggling with the safety of my children. I am struggling with my qualifications to help others.

Since Friday, many people have asked me for my advice and assistance in dealing with their own children. I feel so unqualified to help these people as I am not sure I am even doing the right thing with my own children. Every family is different and what is right for my children and our family, might not be right for others.

There is no real explanation for what happened or why it happened. The shooter is dead thus we can only speculate as to his motives. Our nation will forever wonder why. Our nation will forever mourn.

So what now? Do we lock our schools and make them more like a prison than a learning environment? Do we change the laws that regulate guns? Do we alter how we deal with mental health issues in our nation? How will we respond? How will we remember these babies and the adults who gave their lives to protect them?

How we move forward from here will be the real memorial to these victims. I still don't know if I have the right answers. I still feel unqualified.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Giving

Give until it hurts. Who does this?
I was supervising lunch recess for my students when I saw a man walking across the playground (really a part of the parking lot that it roped off at lunchtime). He was dressed a little strangely and walking directly through the boys playing football so I walked over to him to escort him safely to the other side. As I got closer I could better see what he was wearing... worn out shoes, well worn jeans, a 1/4 zip fleece and a fleece bathrobe with a wide leather belt holding it closed. On his head he was sporting a baseball cap.  He was carrying a holiday gift bag as he shuffled slowly towards me. I asked if he was lost and he said he was on his way to drop off the bag at the Rectory so I walked him to the rectory door. We soon realized that the rectory was closed for lunch.  I offered to take the bag and deliver it later that afternoon. I looked inside to find a pair of very well worn and duct tape repaired soccer slide sandals... something any one of us would have thrown away long ago. He explained that he loved these shoes and they were"expensive" but he was willing to part with them because someone needed them more than he did. He was donating them to a Christmas service project for the poor of the parish.  We came upon our Maintenance man who offered to place the bag in the Rectory for us. He looked inside as I did then looked at me as we shared a knowing smile. This gift of the heart would get delivered.
I walked the gentleman back across the lot and back to the safety of his car....which was a rather nice newer model vehicle. He got in and drove off.
We never know the circumstances of others. I know nothing about this man but was as surprised by his generosity and caring as I was by his attire. I do not know where he went when he left. What I do know is that he made me think...

How many of us feel the pain when we give? How many of us give from the heart? How many of us give of ourselves and our time? How many of us give at all?
 How many of us judge others by appearance? How many of us just judge?

Thank you, gentleman wearing the robe. You gave me the gift of giving.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Surprise

Holy cow!  That's me!
A surprise can be a good thing or a bad thing. It can take your breath away or make you feel like you were sucker punched. It can make your smile as wide and as bright as the sun or bring torrential tears of sadness.

Today I got a surprise that stunned me to my core.  I woke up to a notice of a photo of me posted on Facebook. Not only was it a photo of me.... I was the front page of the Shamrock Shuffle Website! The photo was one that I had never seen before and made me smile from ear to ear!

When I ran that race, it was my first race wearing a tutu. I have since run every race wearing one and love that I am keeping a promise to my Girls on the Run. I wrote a post after tat race about what it means to me to run wearing a tutu. Tutu Spirit is what carries me through each and every run. what began on that day was a surprise. The feeling of being a powerful princess continues to surprise and delight me each time I put on my tutu. 

After i recovered from the initial shock of the photo this morning, I realized that several friends had shared this with others on FB. One of my favorite running buddies posted this:

"One of my running mentors and great friends is featured on the Shamrock Shuffle sign up page!!! This woman pushed me through so many miles when I ran my first marathon, has seen the smiles and seen the tears that running has brought me. Sign up is open today for one of Chicago's greatest races."

I was moved to tears. It is my goal to motivate people to be their best self and push themselves beyond what they think is possible. I want to encourage people. I want to empower people. I want people to believe in themselves...and I will believe in them until they can do it on their own. If I can do it anyone can!

Surprises. Life is full of them. Surprise yourself today! Peace.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November 25

Tampa bay, Florida


Disembarking and flying home

 

We got off the ship without incident and waited for my mom to pick up a rental. She showed up with a Ford Flex....for 8 people and 14 bags!

We packed the trunk full, loaded the back seat with luggage and kids, put 2 suitcases on the floor of the middle seat (meaning the The Big Guy and I had no legroom) and 17 sat on a suitcase in the middle. It was by no means comfortable nor safe! We drove about, had lunch at a Cuban place,a shopped at a mall and then went to the airport. Free wifi in the airport was a true gift to these weary parent travelers! We also had outlets...not enough but enough to make do.

3 hours and many snacks later we boarded a plane home. The flight was uneventful and after an easy landing at Midway we got our bags and prepped for the last leg of the trip...the drive home!

 

Today I am gradual for safe travels and coming home.

November 24

On board


 

Today is our last day on the ship. I woke up early to a beautiful sunrise. I decided to go for a run on deck which was amazing. The wind at my back for part of each lap and then into wind for the other half. After 5 miles I chose to head in to the gym for a bike ride then some weights.

Breakfast on deck and then a quick change into a bathing suit. I planted myself on a deck chair for the rest of the day happily reading my book and drinking umbrella drinks.

Early in the afternoon we had to head down to our room and prepare for the main event...my parents vow renewal. The girls looked beautiful and the boys handsome.

The captain officiated the tearful ceremony with the grandchildren standing up as witnesses. We took many photos after and then headed to dinner.

Dinner was a relaxed affair with story after story of how may parents met, dated, and married.

We retired to our rooms full of food and festivities to pack ours bags.

 

Today I am grateful for warm sun and love.

 

November 23

Cozumel, Mexico


 

Again we had to tender into port. This was an arduous process as the waters were choppy and there were 6 ships in port. Once we got ashore we exited the safe area and took a cab downtown. We shopped a bit and wanted to take a glass bottom boat ride but the waters were choppy and my kids got a little skittish so we gave up on the idea. We met the family for lunch at a place called Panchos backyard. It was so good and the drinks large. 17 and I had a few cocktails together again which was fun.

After lunch we walked about and found a bar in which the seats were swings. Fun! It ended up being a short day as the weather turned windy and cloudy and we were all tired. The tender ride back was tumultuous as the waters were choppy with the wind. The kids were a bit nervous but we made it back to the ship and relaxed before dinner.

The kids had all made friends aboard ship by this point so they all took off leaving mom and dad alone for a change. We spent some time in the hot tub and went to a super sushi dinner together.

Another day done.

 

Today I am grateful for deep drinks and time with my husband.

 

November 22

Costa maya, Mexico

Thanksgiving day

 

We woke up early and walked off the ship prepared for the kids to participate in a long awaited excursion....swimming with the dolphins. It was early (8:30) but already warm. We walked to the dolphin pool and while the instructor gave an initial lesson, I took pictures marveling in the excitement of my kids.

Soon they entered the water and the dolphins came right over. They kissed the dolphins and did other training behaviors with the dolphins. It was a joy to watch the kids do something like this. Usually thanksgiving is about me running and us eating all day. Not this year. It was all about my kids.

Once they were finished and got out of the water we walked across the beach to SeƱor Frogs for fruity drinks, free Internet and nachos.

There is a free large pool and beach with coral access to the ocean. We hung out in the pool, laid on chairs in the sand and swam in the ocean looking at the living things under the water. Mom and I collected pieces of coral and I swam with the kids in the warm Gulf waters.

We packed up about 4 and headed back to the ship to get ready for Thanksgiving dinner...at the steakhouse!

Yes, I had steak, potatoes and shrimp for Thanksgiving dinner! A non traditional Thanksgiving to be sure but one that I will remember forever.

 

Today I am grateful for dreams... And the ability to help my kids dreams come true.

 

November 21

Belize City Belize


I slept almost all the way through the night for the first time in days waking to drink a little water. I woke up for good early and headed to the deck to sit and enjoy the view. I watched as the ship came to port and anchor as my family slept. I was feeling much better....not 100% but stronger and ready to see another city.


We hopped aboard a tender boat and rode to shore. The village was crowded and filled with little shops. We wanted to leave and enter the city to visit a famous church. We exited the "safe zone" and immediately did not feel safe ... Even with my big husband! We did not want to put the kids in harms way so we turned around and headed back into the safety of the secure area. We milled about visiting shops with local wares and had some snacks. Local donuts and fried plantains were yummy. We then decided to stop for a drink at the Wet Lizard. 17 and I ordered drinks, mom and The Big Guy had local beers and the kids had pop then we ordered some conch ceviche which was scrumptious!

We got back on The ship via the tender and relaxed for the evening.

Today I am grateful for cool drinks and fresh seafood.

 

November 20

Roatan Honduras

The sun rose behind the clouds and I rose to a sick stomach. The Boy got up and got me some breakfast (if you call ginger ale, Cheerios, and banana breakfast) and we sat on our balcony together as I tried to hold some food down.

The rest of the family woke up and headed to breakfast as we watched the ship dock in the port of Roatan Honduras.

We disembarked and headed to the main port area. My mom had already contracted a driver to chauffeur us about the island. As our driver, Percy, drove We saw many beautiful and many not so pretty parts of the area. Many clothes hanging from clothes lines and lots of people walking everywhere. I like to get in and mix with the local culture however being married to an over protective cop does not allow for this behavior when we are together. So we traveled by van throughout the island. I took photos from the van windows and longed to get out and walk amongst the streets. We visited a private nature preserve that was beautiful. Many wealthy islanders have been allowed to build homes on the property and it also houses a private resort. We got out near the resort area to use the restroom and walk around. Soon the rain started again and chased us back to the van.

We decided at this point to head back to the ship as the rain became heavier. We had planned to go to the beach but the weather had other plans.

We did make a stop at the monkey park. This was a very small little area where a private guide, Oskar, took us to various cages of different native and nonnative species of wildlife. We saw tapirs, spider monkey, island rabbit, and island white tailed deer. We entered the cages and interacted with the white faced gibbons and scarlet macaw. It was the macaw that took a liking to Jack as it took a nibble of his finger!

 

We boarded our van and drove though an area called the West End. This a an ocean front area where the divers and fisherman are the prime sources of income. Dive shacks are everywhere and boats to take the divers out are a dime a dozen. We stopped at a shirt shop to get the kids a souvenir. The shop was owned by a man from Iowa who came to visit and never left.

 

As we drove though the streets Percy told us about the area and himself. With no traffic laws, the only thing governing speed on the streets are well placed speed bumps. Also the road is riddled with potholes that could swallow a car whole. Percy shared that his father was originally from Columbus Ohio and had come to Honduras to work for Dole foods many years ago. He never learned the language but his children did ... Much to his frustration as the often spoke about him right in front of his face but he could not understand.

 

Percy told us of his 3 grown children and reminded both my husband and I that the most valuable thing we could give our children was education. His own children had not followed that example leading to a life of drinking and destitution.

 

We arrived back at the port with time to spare. I decided to walk out of the compound and across the street to photograph a cemetery. This angered my husband as he does not like me "wandering off". Me? I was fine....happy for the opportunity to enjoy a moment to pray and take some photos of the beautiful headstones.

 

We met up with my brother and his wife and they told us of their adventures in Honduras as we reboarded the ship. At this point we were famished so we got a little something to eat and I headed down to the cabin for a nap....which turned into an all night affair of me sleeping on and off while people came in and out. I remember little of the night with conversations here and there are my kids and husband paraded into and out of the room.


Today I am grateful for Imodium and chance encounters with people who change my viewpoint.

 

November 19

 

At sea


Our first full day at sea. I got up .... Well that implies that I slept...which I did not. The Boy was a nervous traveler and was in my bed several times. But soon I got dressed and headed to the fitness center where I worked up a sweat that felt cathartic. A quick change of clothes and the Boy and I went to breakfast where we met up with my parents. We stayed on deck and chatted while the rain came and went and soon the sun was out and so was I....collecting as many rays as possible. A break for lunch with my husband and back to the sun was how I spend the first day.

 

The sun gave way to clouds again and we decided it was time to shower and get ready for dinner.

 

Dinner was at a different restaurant on the ship but also one of the main dining rooms. The food was a bit better here and time with my family the best part. After dinner we walked about and soon I retired to the room....while the rest of the family played about the ship. The rest was short lived as I got violently ill. All night long I was in the bathroom sick as a dog. It was no fun for anyone in our room.

 

Today I am grateful for an on board fitness center!

November 18

Bon voyage


 

Sunday we arrived at Midway bright and early to meet my parents and board a flight to Tampa. The flight was smooth and the kids well behaved ( as much we can expect.) 9 even cried upon take off from midway!

Upon arrival in Tampa we collected our luggage and headed to the port via car service arranged is advance by my mom.

We arrived at the large ship port and began waiting in various lines, one for security, one for check in, one for photos and another to board the ship. It was very reminiscent of Disney world!

 

Once on the ship we found our rooms and changed clothing then headed to the pool deck for a drink. The sun was shining and the weather warm. Before long the ship set sail and the adventure was beginning.

 

Dinner in the main dining room was, well, an adventure. With freestyle dining there are no set meal times so you show up and wait if needed. This did not make my father happy. He like to show up and eat. The food, once we were seated was fair. (Read bad banquet hall) but the company was great. Sitting down to dinner With the whole family is a true luxury.
 

After dinner we walked about the ship and went back to my parents room for a nightcap and then bed.

 

Today I am grateful for luggage with wheels....and patience.

 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Travel

Today I am grateful for the opportunity to travel with my family. We have never taken a real vacation with the kids, only long weekends here and there. We have never traveled on a plane all of us together so today will be an experience. I am grateful for some quality time with my kids and my family as a whole. 

First

Today I am grateful the first trimester is done.... At SCHOOL! Report cards are finished and sent home. The majority of my conferences are Done. I am grateful for a break from the stress of school for even a few days. I love teaching but taking a break allows me to return refreshed and a better teacher. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Water

Today I am grateful for water. It us my beverage of choice for most of the day. It is essential for the making of coffee,  the taking of long, Hot showers and replenishing my soul. I often take for granted that it is there at the twist of a handle. I find my greatest peace at the waters edge. Simply put, I can't live without water. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Internet

Today I am grateful for social media and the internet. Through FB and Twitter and other means, I have been able to reconnect with old friends, meet new friends and develop so many more meaningful relationships in real life. I am also able to keep up with my kids via social media thus not feeliing like such an outsider. I love my 'creepy internet friends' one and all!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Music

Today I am grateful for music. I love music as there is something for my every mood. I love that my children love music as well and that most times we can agree on something to listen to together. My kids introduce me to new music and keep me 'hip'. My son is learning to play the guitar and longs to play "Blackbird" by the Beatles someday which warms my old heart.  Music feeds my soul and fills me up. 

What's your favorite song right now? 
What's your favorite song of all time?
What's your favorite band? 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Seasons

Time to put away the tiki bar!
Today I am grateful for the seasons. I am grateful I live in a place where we get all 4 seasons ... Sometimes on a 24 hour period! I love each season for a different reason but have to say fall is my favorite.

 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wondergirls!



It was not a Marathon but like one for our WONDERGIRLS!  I have to shamelessly brag on a bunch of little girls so if you would indulge me please.....

Saturday, November 10, 2012, was the WonderGirl 5K sponsored by Girls On The Run.  This was the culminating event of a 13 week self esteem, positive body image program for girls in grades 3-5.

It was a cool overcast morning but  the girls and their families came out to run....for many their first 5K and for many the longest distance they have ever run. The coaches gathered our girls...all 25 of our third grade girls who began the program came out to run together. We pinned on their numbers and set off to decorate tiaras.  The rain threatened and we were all a bit nervous…but that only added to the excitement of the day!    We did our Girls on the run cheer and got ready to run. Soon it was time to line up and run....each girl walked to the start with their running buddy (an adult that runs with the girl for support), hand in hand.  We had many other runners supporting us and running with us…siblings, parents, grandparents, friends…..

The gun sounded and we were off....a little slowly at first as there were so many people and not a lot of space. As we ran through the neighborhood, the crowds cheered and honked horns in support of the girls. Everywhere words of encouragement could be heard....."You can do this!" "I am proud of you!" "You are going to finish..." We walked a bit and ran a bit …we got through the distance….

As soon as the finish line was in sight the girls finally realized that they would finish. We ran to the finish with the sounds of the crowd yelling and flashes going off as a multitude of parents and supporters took pictures and cheered! The girls…every one of them…crossed the finish line head held high smiling from ear to ear!

When we arrived back at our school gathering site, we met with all the other girls proudly wearing their medals! Parents were all sharing stories with one another so visibly proud of their little girls! The girls were beaming!  What a sight!!!  Shortly after,  it was time to part ways and head home
.

The girls wore their shirts and medals to school on Monday and we coaches could not be prouder of them!! This was a life changing event for not only the girls but families and coaches as well.

We all started running at different times in our lives. We all run for different reasons. We all train for different events. Everyone had to start somewhere. Our hope and prayer is that this was the start of something good for all these girls and families.



These girls are not only SUPERSTARS but.... WONDERGIRLS!!  

Warm

Today I am grateful for warm coats, hats and gloves/mittens. I am grateful that I have them to wear and can provide them for my family. I am also grateful for a home with heat. Many families do not have or can not afford to heat their homes. I am grateful that my family is warm.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Freedom

Today I am grateful for freedom and for those men and women who protect my freedoms. Throughout history, each and every day men and women put on a uniform, fight and often give the ultimate sacrifice to protect the freedoms we often take for granted. We must express our gratitude to these valiant soldiers and their families not just on days like today, Veterans Day, but every day. Freedom is not free. Someone always pays a price. Let us never forget and always be grateful....

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Lines

Today I am grateful for finish lines. Finish lines have taught me so much about myself as a runner and as a person. Today a finish line will teach my GOTR about themselves. It will teach GOTR parents about their daughter. Finish lines are a goal but they are more that that. They are a destination. We learn so much before we even teach the finish line and all of it is important. I will never cross a finish line first and may sometimes be last but crossing that line will make me feel like a winner ... Just like it will today for each of my Girls on the Run! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

GOTR!

Today I am grateful for Girls on the Run. I am grateful to Molly Barker for starting this program. I am grateful for my girls in program each season and my coaches. 
GOTR is a blessing in my life for my reasons. I love that  this program Allows girls to focus on the important things such as how amazing and powerful they are even at a young age. This programs allows girls to feel the power of accomplishing something they thought was impossible at the start. Girls learn that life is tough but they are tougher and stronger than even the biggest challenge. I love that I get more from these girls than I can ever give back. I learn more about them and me each time we are together. I am a better mom, coach, teacher and woman thanks to GOTR.  I am forever changed thanks to GOTR. Girls on the Run is so much FUN! What are we? FANTASTIC! Who are we? ROCKSTARS AND SUPERSTARS! SPARKLEFINGERS!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Vocation

Today I am thankful that I am a teacher. I am not only thankful that I have a job but that I have a vocation. I love what I do. I love that every day is different and every child is unique. Despite the paperwork and the occasional parent, it is all good. I love to share the joy of learning with my students. I love to open their eyes to the bigger world that surrounds them. I love that they teach me more than I could ever teach them! I remember every student and think about where they are now. I am so blessed  to have learned so much from so many awesome kids all making me a better teacher, mom and human being. Thank you to my many former students!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Husband

Today I am grateful for my husband. He works multiple jobs tirelessly to support our family. He works on his day off as well as holidays to make ends meet. He puts on a uniform every day and protects those in the City only to be critiqued, criticized and often despised by those he serves. I am grateful that he loves me for who I am despite my flaws. I am grateful he is such a wonderful father that has good relationships with his kids. I am grateful each night when he arrives home safely. I am grateful he is my husband. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Freedom

Today I am grateful for freedom and those who protect that freedom. I have the freedom to vote.  I have the freedom to speak my mind. I have the freedom to own a gun. I have the freedom to listen to what I want. I have the freedom to pray how and where I choose. I have the freedom because someone put on a uniform, fought and perhaps died, to protect that freedom and for that I am forever grateful and truly blessed. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Heart


Today I am grateful for my children. I love them more than they will ever know. I try my best to be a good mom to them each day, and while there are days I fail miserably….they never fail me.

17 – She made me a mom. She challenges me to be better every day. She and I are so alike but she is a much better version of me. She makes me proud every day. She fails to realize how deeply I love her.

14 – My curly girl. She makes every day an adventure and I am so blessed she is my child. She teaches me to see the world through very different eyes and I always learn/see something new.

13 – My baby girl. She is so smart and sassy and sweet. She is my sensitive soul. Her nickname of Queenie befits her in so many ways. She is the Queen of my heart.

9- My Little Man. My Little Prince. He was a gift from God and continues to shower me with blessings. He makes me crazy but in the end the smiles outweigh the insanity.

Saving


Today I am grateful for Daylight Savings Time. The extra hour provided today makes me feel like I can accomplish so much more in my day ... Starting with a bit more sleep!

I am also grateful for my dad....Happy 75th birthday to my dad, Walter Binder. He is the guy who taught me to love Sunday Bears football, a good book, good food, good jazz, and great wine. Here's to many more years teaching his grand kids about the finer things in life!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Heroes

Today I am grateful for first responders like my husband and many of our friends. They put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. Their jobs are never easy, the hours always long and the gratitude nonexistent but yet they do it anyway. They are the true heroes of this country.
God bless Captain Herbert Johnson who gave the ultimate sacrifice last night. Prayers for his family and all of the CFD.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Running

Today I am grateful for running. I am grateful to the man who first dared me to run a 5K changing the course of my life forever. Running has saved my life in so many ways allowing me to become a better mother, wife, friend, teacher and coach. I may not be fast but I am always moving forward. Forward is my pace.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Dark

I has planned to go to the gym today as I have been feeling fat and lazy. I got changed right after work and was ready for a good sweat. Life had other plans. Shopping for the key ingredients for my husbands winning chili recipe, dropping and picking up kids from all different locations, dinner, homework....it seemed that life had other plans so I gave up the idea of the gym for today.

I got home from my running around and walked in to find the dog dancing around the kitchen in her tell tale "no one has taken me out" dance. I asked the kids and was ignored so I hooked up the puppy's leash and took her out.

I was planning on just taking her for a short walk but she started to pull at the leash and gave me that "lets go, woman" look so I started a slow jog to the end of the block.

I rounded a corner and just kept going. She looked so happy breathing in the cool night air with her nose sniffing everything possible that it just made me smile. We went around the park and I was going to go home but my feet took me another direction. I knew the way.... I had run this route before and the puppy seemed to know where we were going. Each time we reached a point where we could turn to go home, I turned the other way.

It was dark....well as dark as it gets in the city. Growing up in the country you learn what DARK really feels like. This was not really dark but it was as dark as the city gets....Unless someone shoots out the streetlight. Living in the first neighborhood to use electric lights and named after Thomas Edison, I have learned that it is never really DARK. I have embraced the lights of night.

As I ran I was enveloped by the warm amber glow of the streetlights. I was overwhelmed by a sense of peace that I had not felt in a long time. I was running with no GPS, no iPod, no watch, no nothing. My phone was on silent and I forgot I had it with me.

I was with my puppy in the dark, leaves crunching under our feet and cool air filling our lungs. I breathed out the crap that filled my head, heart and lungs breathing in the cool air and fresh attitude. The sights and smells of fall filled my senses.

I arrived home 30 minutes after I left but it felt like I could have run for miles more. I walked into the house and was greeted by chores being done and kids getting along.

Sometimes we all need a little dark to appreciate the light.

 

Gratitude

Gratitude is the best attitude. ~Author Unknown

During the month of November I will post one thing each day that I am grateful for. Just one item a day. By Thanksgiving I will have been reminded of 22 reasons to be grateful and 30 by the end of the month. Won't you all join me and live an attitude of gratitude this month?

Today I a grateful for coffee. It is the nectar of the God's on a day when I need sustenance to get me through the long work day and hours before I can call it a day. On a day when my students are sure to be either over sugared and still wound up or in a complete sugar coma, I am thankful for coffee to keep me going.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Found

If anyone has seen my running mojo please have it call or come home. It got lost in the past few weeks and I really miss it.


My mojo left. I think it might have gotten packed up with the marathon baracades and signs. I have not seen it since the marathon. I really wonder if it was misplaced in the suitcase of one of my BRF (best running friends) that were in from out of town. I'm not sure where it went. Perhaps it just ran away? I don't know.

I have been out searching since the week after the marathon. A couple times I week I lace up my shoes and go out looking. I look high and low and sometimes take the dog hoping she can help me sniff it out. Nothing. I got nothing. I miss my mojo. I could always count on it when things were good or bad. It was always there to get me through. The feelings of anger, impatience, frustration have taken over my life. I miss the feelings of joy, accomplishment a peace that my mojo provides.

Yesterday I decided to go look again in the one place I had not checked....my trail.

I woke up late and missed my usual group but I saw this as a blessing in disguise. I needed time to look on my own before asking for help.

I took off and headed down the trial by myself. It was pretty deserted. Not many people use the trail as it gets colder. I relished the emptiness as it mirrored my running soul. I took no Garmin. No anything. I wanted to devote my attention to the hunt. It was liberating not to have to keep a set pace for others, to run at a pace that was good only for me. To walk when I chose. Speed up and slow down when I felt like it. No one depending on me for answers. I was on my own. Without even my mojo to keep me company and I began to search.

After the first 3 miles, I had pretty much given up the hunt. Even the deer on the path were not paying attention to me. My path knows me better than anyone. It has been there for the good runs, bad runs, hot runs, cold runs, crappy runs. It has allowed me to work through my problems and help me find the answers. It has been there through sadness and elation. My trail is the home and my running group, my family.

I decided to look a bit further along the trail so continued my run and it was then that I thought I heard something rustle in the trees. Crazy! There was no one there. Just the wind. But something made me continue running.

Shortly before I turned around to head home I saw Wanda. She was taunting me. She was teasing me like a big bully. If there is one thing I hate (yup. Hate. Strong word, but I hate bullies) it is a bully. She was there just begging me to try and fail. I was having none of it. Instead of turning around to head back I turned, threw my shoulders back and charged up that bridge. Halfway up I thought I heard a voice say "hills make you stronger" I shook my head and looked around. No one there. What the heck?! I was losing my mind!

I continued up and over the bridge and to a point I felt that was far enough. I headed back. Up and over the big bully Wanda a second time. She was not getting the best of me today. I may not have my mojo but I did value my dignity. I still had my Pride.

I continued on towards my truck and felt as if I was being watched... No, followed. I turned to look and was completly alone on the trail. Good Lord. I really was losing my mind.

As I entered a clearing I thought I saw a shadow next to mine. I swore I saw it and I stopped this time totally turning around. I was still alone. There was a biker about a half mile up but no one close enough to leave a shadow. Now I was really getting a little creeped out and wanted to be done with this run.

About 1.5 miles from the car I saw another runner from our group. I really enjoy running with her but she is group leader for a faster pace group and we only run together on the off season. She is older than me and of a different faith. She teaches me something new every time we are together and I treasure out time together. She was going the other direction so I thought we would wave and continue on in opposite directions.

But she stopped and asked if I minded company on the way back. She was tired and didn't want to go on alone. So off we went together.

We chatted for a bit and soon I could no longer talk. She was going so fast. I could not keep up. I stopped at the next intersection and told her to go on. She was too fast for me. She laughed and and said it was me that was driving the pace and she could not keep up! It was then that I realized that there were three of us ..my mojo had joined us and was the one that driving the pace! So we decided to slow it down a bit but finish strong. It was the most glorious, energizing mile of my run. I needed it so badly. My mojo was right there pushing us to keep going and finish. And finish we did, thanking each other for pushing one another to a great finish.

What I realized was my mojo was never lost. It was me who got lost. I needed to find my way home. Home to where my path, my group and mojo were all there waiting for me with open arms.

 

Shore

I haven't posted since the marathon because I've been feeling a bit lost.

Real life hit like a hurricane the day after the marathon. The kids, the activities, the house .... All the things that have longed for my attention all came at me at once. It was overwhelming and enveloped me like a tidal wave. I was bobbing in the deep and struggling but there was no one to toss me a life ring. It was up to me to find my way to shore. Dead or alive.

The weekend after the marathon I took off again. A long overdue weekend in Vegas with some good friends. It was a fun trip filled with firsts (Cirque, gambling, etc) and Momma found out she likes the roulette table! But I was again away and coming back just pushed me farther from shore. It was so hard to keep swimming while keeping the shoreline in sight.

Here it is 3 weeks later and I am finally feeling the sand beneath my feet. My tired arms can rest as I walk towards the beach. The water is still deep but I am almost there. Soon I will be caught up with life and able to rest in the sun on the beach but for now I am still working my way into the shallow waters.

What is in the back of my mind is that I know the tide of the holidays will carry me back out soon enough and I will have to find my way back to shore again. Thank goodness I am a strong swimmer.

 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Faith


A reminder of what is important
Each year I write up a full report of my marathon adventure.  I write it all down mostly for myself so that I can remember all that took place on a whirlwind day but also to inspire other to create their own “marathon memories” either by running a 5K, marathon or just doing something they never thought possible.

 My mantra is “Forward is a pace” both in running and in life. It gets me through my toughest of times and roughest of runs. I preached it to my pace group all summer in order to get them though and learn to have faith in themselves. What I didn’t realize was that I was the one that needed to hear it, learn it and have faith the most.

Marathon morning dawned early, cool and crisp. A perfect day for a run. I was more nervous for this marathon than any other in the past,  second guessing myself into a panic almost daily for the 4 days prior to Sunday.  This morning would be no different. I talked my husband’s ear off about all that could go wrong as he drove me downtown. He just listened and finally said, “really? What is the worst thing that can happen? You know what you are doing. Just do it” And with that I got out of the car.

I met up with friends and we walked to the Congress Hotel to meet other runners from our group and hang out until it was time to start. We all stretched and nervously chatted as we waited for the time to head to our corrals. One of my friends chose to lead a small group in the most beautiful and moving prayer before we headed out. It was the perfect reminder of what was truly important that day.

We bundled up and I donned my signature tutu.  Tutu spirit was going to carry me though this distance today. We were all  in different start corrals so it was time to part ways. My friend and I headed to our corral and at the entrance met Fr. Rob S. Fr. Rob and I have run several races together but I did not think I would actually meet up with him in a sea of 45,000 runners…but there he was waiting for a friend. We talked a bit and I introduced him to my friend asking him to keep us both in prayer as he ran and he agreed.

At 8:00am the gun sounded and we were off….my friend was running her first marathon and I was running #4. I agreed to stay with her and get her to the finish. She was so unsure and scared but I reassured her she could do this. She was ready. So off we went….Forward was our pace to the finish line.

At the Mile 1 under the Michigan Ave bridge, I chose to take off my ‘toss’ coat. This would prove to be a costly mistake. It was dark and as I moved towards the sidewalk to throw away my coat, I was cut off by another runner who shoved me as she passed. I was paying attention to her and not the street thus tripped into a pothole and rolled my ankle falling down on both knees. I jumped up and got right back to moving forward. My friend was stunned and wanted me to stop at the nearest med tent as my knee was bleeding pretty badly….NO WAY!  Been there and done that!  I told her emphatically NO! ….that I would just shake it off and had to keep going. Nothing was stopping me today…slowing me down? Maybe, but not stopping me ...so on we went.  Forward.

At mile 2 she said, “We are at mile 2 already? Did I miss mile one?” as she checked her watch.  “Yup, “ I answered, “We are slow but not that slow!” We laughed and kept moving forward.

At mile 4, I heard someone yell, “Mrs Nader!!!” and there was one of my Girls on the Run with her mom and sister. I took a minute to give them all a quick hug and we were off again…Forward.

We ran through the Lincoln Park Zoo and then headed further north as I narrated the run for my friend coaching her along as we ran.  Lake Shore Drive looks so beautiful from a runner’s perspective with people honking as they drive by!

At mile 7 the course turns off the lake and heads into Boy’s Town. I was reading signs when I heard my maiden name being yelled over and over as I turned to see someone chasing me. A woman had jumped out of the crowd to come hug me and say hi. It was a friend that I had not seen since college.  She told me that she had been watching for me all morning and wanted to wish me luck. I was moved to tears as we hugged and she disappeared into the crowd again as I kept moving forward.

Running through Wrigleyville and Lincoln Park is always a thrill as the crowds are amazing. I wear my name on my shirt so people call me by name as I run which is so motivating. It really kept me going during the tough times. But soon I realized that my friend had fallen back and gotten lost. I tried to wait and look for her but could not see her so I kept moving forward thinking she would catch up with me.

At mile 12 I heard Fr Rob behind me again saying hi. He had passed me once before so I thought he was ahead of me. Not so.  So we ran together for a bit but soon he was well in front of me and I lost sight of him.

As I crossed the bridge to head toward Greektown, I heard my name again. It was another family from school!  We had a quick hug and I was off again. Spotting family and friends during the marathon is no easy task. You not only have to know WHERE there are but also what SIDE of the street they are on. So chance encounters like this are magical and meant to be.

I was making good time and feeling really great at the half way point when I saw the cheering section from my running group. That was awesome!  They are like family to me so knowing that they were there to support me and the other runners from our group was great!

Mile 14 is the Charity Mile so I found the Girls on the Run cheer sections and high-fived my friends, did a few courtesies and kept moving forward only to hear my name again from a familiar voice. Suddenly I was 10 years old again hearing my mom call my name. There she was with my dad and a big pink sign.  Again a quick hug and kiss before I was off and running forward again.

The cooler weather and a water belt allowed my to skip every other water stop and drink when I felt the urge rather than every mile. I think that this helped me move faster this time and run better. No walking other than water stops this time. Always forward.
Soon I had a companion again who said, “No, I am really not stalking you!” It was Fr. Rob again. How he managed to find me again was amazing. We ran together again for a bit and soon he was well ahead of me.  I would not see him again even at the finish.

Mile 17 brought on Little Italy. I love this part of town as it holds many good memories for me…mostly food memories…but good memories none the less!  I came upon an older (late 60’s) gentleman in a wheelchair. Not a fancy racing chair but a common,  every day wheelchair. His helmet bore a sign that read “Do not tap” …I wondered how many people had, in fact, tapped his head as they ran by and how that would get old! I began to run next to him as he said, “Did the race start yet? Am I winning?” He was clearing joking and I laughed with him as we talked a bit more. He was a Rabbi on a mission to raise money for his synagogue. I wondered how long it would take him to finish the whole distance.  He finally said, “Go now! You go with my blessing!  Keep moving and don’t stop til you get to the finish.” And away I went. Forward.

A few young guys passed me and made a comment about my tutu. We chucked a bit and as they sped past me I noticed the one 20something had “Jesus Saves” and a cross written in marker on his shirt. The other young man had Philippians 4:13  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Written on his bare back. Underneath that was written Type 1 Diabetic.

Shortly thereafter I saw our fearless Running group leader along with his wife. They were a sight for sore eyes. What fabulous cheerleaders they are and right where I needed them.  Another tight embrace and I was off again moving forward.
Entering Pilsen behind a group of runners from Mexico was amazing. The roar of the crowd was deafening!  There were also folks handing out slices of oranges. I took one and devoured it. So yummy!

I kept running though the lonely part of town along Cermack.  The crowds are thin but the promise of Chinatown on the other side kept me moving forward.
Running on faith and tutu spirit at this point.
Chinatown is one of my favorite parts of the Marathon. The tall gates upon entering and the crowds there are fabulous. But the best part is that I know that the finish is only 4.5 miles away.  What made Chinatown even better this year was another chance encounter. My best friend’s sister calling my name!  My friend wanted to come down to cheer but due to her heath,  could not. Seeing her sister was just what I needed at that point. I could feel my friend right there beside me guiding me along forward to the finish. Forward.

I crossed the bridge at 33rd street with only a few more miles to go.  And it was there I spotted my running group cheer team again…right when I needed them. I asked who had passed them already and told them I was feeling really tired but they promised me I was less than 5K from the finish…now I needed my last push forward. I was making silent deals with God and the devil at this point…praying and cursing at the same time.

As I left my friends and began up Michigan Avenue towards the finish, the two young men passed again. This was our 4th encounter of the day. I jokingly said, “Ok really….why can’t you two stay ahead of me?” The shirtless one turned to me with a smile and said, “I am a severe diabetic. I have to stop every 2 miles and check my blood sugar.” It was then that I noticed the insulin pump on his hip as well as the test kit he had been carrying. No water belt or anything like that…just his test kit in his hand for 26.2 miles. I had taken the opportunity to get out my sport beans and was chomping on one as we ran and talked. I offered some to both and the shirt wearer took several but shirtless said no…he did not want to stop again to test with only a few miles left.  With that they both said, “God Bless you” and then they took off…faster than ever towards the finish…all of us headed forward.

Before I knew it I saw the Mile 25 sign and felt so great. Then I ran past the 800 Meters sign knowing the most challenging part was still to come….Mount Roosevelt!  It never seems like much of a hill until you are in the homestretch on the marathon then it seems insurmountable. In the past I have never has ‘gas in the tank’ enough to run this hill but this year…it was not going to get the best of me so I leaned back and headed up. Forward and uphill.

I got to the top and could see the final corner. As I rounded the corner there it was…the finish line! I was almost there!  Forward …and I was sprinting with the last of what I had left. I felt great…tired but great. I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face and angels on my shoulders.

This was my best run to date and the clock proved it. I had a new personal best!   My first marathon was all about the finish. The goal was to get across the finish line. The second time was about the journey. Crossing the finish line was icing on the cake.  The third time it was all about determination.  Always moving forward despite the obstacles.  This time it was about faith. Having faith in God, others and myself.

During this adventure I learned so many things about myself.  Every single run taught me a lesson. Those lessons got me to the finish.  I learned that I am a better, stronger, smarter runner/person than I was a year ago. I learned that hard work pays off. I learned that tutu spirit is a real and powerful force.  I learned that I need to have as much faith in myself as I do in others.  I learned that God reveals himself in so many ways…we just have to open our eyes.  I learned that everyone needs inspiration. Some days you inspire and some days you need to be inspired. I learned once again that if you simply put one foot in front of the other…you move forward. Forward IS a Pace. I realized that I did something that many people can’t do, won’t ever start....I completed a marathon...not once, not twice, not three but FOUR times!!
Marathon finish number 4!
And a Personal Best to boot!
Faith, Forward and Tutu Spirit!
Thank you to all of you for your months of encouragement, generous donations, faith and abundant prayers. I am forever changed.....…..

A mom
A teacher
A 4 TIME marathon FINISHER!
Peace.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rings

Tonight was 17's ring Mass. Tonight in church she was given her class ring. What started out as a beautiful sunny day ended as a cold, rainy night. No rain for weeks and tonight it poured. I think it was a good omen. The sky cried instead of me.

As I sat in church looking at my college ring listening to the priest talk about the importance of rings, I was reminded of my own ring day in college. I did not ever get a high school ring but I did get a college ring. I wear it every day. Memories flooded my mind as I sat in the church.

I was a junior in college when I received my ring. The whole family came to visit and attend the Mass. We spent the weekend celebrating this big day. My friends and I looked forward to Ring Day from the first day of freshman year. Wearing the ring meant we were finally part of the group...we were really Woodsies. It was like a membership to a special club. What we did not fully understand at that time was the depth of commitment and loyalty that came with the Ring.

Every woman who has graduated from the Woods since 1840 wears the same ring. The only thing that ever changes on the ring is the graduation year. It is a beautiful and unique ring that I wear every day. It is a constant reminder of many things but mostly that I am a part of something bigger than myself. I have a responsibility to my faith. I have a responsibility to the legacy of the ring. I have a responsibility to the Woods.

It is my hope that my daughter realizes the importance of her responsibility to her high school. The responsibility to her friends, faith and family. And that her ring is a constant reminder of that responsibility. We both have promises and miles to go.....

The Ring Song

Whose Woods these are, I think I know.

Her love will always be with us below.

Her ring we take, of us a part,

Encircling fingers young 'round her heart.

I pledge to her, a ring to keep,

Like Woods is lovely, dark and deep.

And I have promises and miles to go.

And I have promises and miles to go.


The bells of Saint Mary's I hear they are calling,
The young loves, the true loves that come from the sea.
And so my beloved, when red leaves are falling,
the love bells shall ring out, ring out for you and me.

http://www.smwc.edu/download_file/-/730