Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stuck.... a rut.

One of those ruts that come along with winter.

The early darkness to start nighttime before I leave work.

The wind howling outside.

Darkness in the morning when my alarm goes off.

Coldness surrounding the air outside the cocoon of my bed.

Much to easy to pull my toasty warm blankets over my head than get out of bed.

Stuck in a rut.

I suppose some of this rut is due to the change of seasons....the clocks turning back...the darkness and cold..

But, I suppose most of it is because I accomplished my goal for the year.

I set out to run half marathons and marathons all year long to raise money and awareness for LIVESTRONG.

And I did it.

Some people thought I was crazy.  How in the world would I do that?  How would I fit in the training with three kids?  I was determined....and I had made my goal no way, no how I wasn't going to attempt it.

Yes, I was successful.  But a drawback of this success is being in a rut.  I am a little tired of running.  And, without a big goal ahead of me, it is difficult to get motivated to be training (although my waistline getting tight on all my pants is certainly a bit of motivation).

I do have a half marathon scheduled in February - the LIVESTRONG Austin Half  - so actually I do have something to train for....but February seems so far off when I have had a race each month.

And then there is that typical rut I get into after each marathon I have ever run......

which tend to be in the fall....

and after I take a few weeks off to recover.....

winter has set in....

and BAM....I am in a rut.

This week was going to be the start of my breaking free from the rut.

After eating my way through Thanksgiving, I got in a very satisfying 5 mile run last Friday....spent some time in the weight room....and another 5 miles on Monday.

My plan was to run another 3 or 5 miles tonight.

But then life got in the way......gymnastics and circus practices....a promise to go pick out paint for a little girl's bedroom.....dinner.....helping with homework.

Suddenly, the night got away from too late for a run....and my butt is back in the rut. goal tomorrow......

is to set my alarm.....

place it in my bathroom.....

and when it goes off.....

I will have NO choice but to get out of bed.

My workout clothes will be set out right next to my alarm.....staring me in the face.....guilting me into working out....

with the sign below taped on the bathroom mirror -

Time to become a morning person again.....and I am going to use all the tricks necessary to trick myself.

Keep me honest folks!

Oh - and if you are interested in joining me in Austin this February, consider joining the Team LIVESTRONG team - I can guarantee you that running for such a great cause will be an amazing experience.  Check it out!  Join TEAM LIVESTRONG

12/1/11 Follow-up - Yes, I did get out of bed....and yes, I did get to the gym.  Roughest 3 mile run I've done in a long time.  Although my mind was awake, I don't think my body was quite awake yet.  Gonna take some time to adjust to running in the morning but already I am loving the benefits of it.  Love starting the day off  having accomplished something before anyone else has plans for my time.

Please keep me honest....and if you see me over the next few weeks, ask me how my morning workouts are going!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

277 some

What started out as a jaunt to Las Vegas by prove to myself that I could make plans alone....I was capable of being the strong, independent woman my father raised me to be.....became a 277 mile journey...

13.1 down the Vegas strip...

13.1 around a speed skating rink in Wisconsin....

26.2 through the streets of LA and Santa Monica in a monsoon....

13.1 alongside a dear LIVESTRONG friend up and over the three rivers in Pittsburgh....

13.1 into 40 MPH winds with the Big 10 Illini fans cheering me on.....

16 biking as the middle leg of the LIVESTRONG Chics 3rd annual triathlon relay....

13.1 at a black flagged inaugural Summerfest Half in Milwaukee....

45 miles in the rain up and down the hilly Philly countryside.....

20 miles in the shadows of Mt Hood to dip my toes in the Pacific Ocean over 30 hours with 5 new LIVESTRONG BFF's - and leaving behind roadkill.....

13.1 making new friends as I traveled from Illinois to Iowa and back again.....with a stop for the best milkshake I have ever had as my reward....

 65 miles through Texas Hill Country with my incredible LIVESTRONG friend - and fellow honorary sheriff...

...not before I rode alongside Lance Armstrong - a private ride donated to me by some very cool cancer-hating friends

and finally......26.2 rocking a Movember MO through the 5 boros of NYC.....alongside some amazing cancer-hating LIVESTRONG runners.

Since last December....277 miles ran and biked to benefit honor those who ran out of time and we lost to honor those still putting up a gallant fight to cancer.....and those still at our side as survivors having knocked cancer out.

279 miles if we count the 2 miles I floated through the air after jumping out of a plane above the cornfields in Central Illinois.  And countless more miles training.....

No, I didn't exactly meet my goal of a half marathon each month - I missed February because of conflicts and had one scheduled for June but it was the same day I dropped my daughter off at Camp Kesem - a camp for kids that have or had a parent with cancer.....I think very valid reasons.....but I still surpassed my original goal of 200 miles......TAKE THAT CANCER!

I cannot thank each and everyone of you enough for your support this past year.  The friendships I created throughout this experience - from the two new friends I met on the plane ride to Vegas to the two I met in the corral on State Island...and all in between.  You all inspired me to keep going when times got rough this year.

Oh, and let's not forget the close to $11,500 raised for LIVESTRONGWOW!

And to top it all off, I was selected as the Pan The Man SUPERLATIVE winner for the month of July and was honored to be used as a widow that defines thriving in the video created  below by Embrace Life Winner, Michelle Neff Hernandez.

I've been asked quite a bit what's next.  Well, I've taken a few weeks off to rest and back at it this weekend.

Maybe cycle more?  Maybe tackle more local events?  Maybe hula hoop a few 5Ks with the cancer hating red head?

What do you all think?  What should I do in 2012 to support my LIVESTRONG fundraising efforts?  What do you want to see me accomplish??

But what should I do for 2012?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

"The more light you allow within you, the brighter the world you live in will be." -Shakti Gawain

I write this as my Thanksgiving turkey is stuffed, seasoned and roasting in the oven; homemade cranberry sauce simmering on the stove and an apple pie cooling on the counter with the sounds of the Macy's Day Thanksgiving Parade in the background - and the glee in my daughter's voice as Santa makes his arrival in NYC.

It is a quiet Thanksgiving this year - no family visiting and no travel.  Just myself and the kids.  But quite an enjoyable day so far cooking, relaxing and best of pressure - easy to please 3 kids with the Thanksgiving basics.

However, this is far different than Thanksgivings of my youth - as the youngest of a blended family (9 kids - our own version of the Brady Bunch) holidays were always filled with noise, games, laughter and lots, lots of food.   Once I married Brian and moved to Philadelphia, Thanksgiving was spent with friends or sometimes travel to visit family in Rochester. Until the Thanksgiving I was pregnant with Jay.  Brian suggested we spend the holiday at the Outer Banks and enjoy our last holiday without the craziness (and joy) of kids in one of our favorite places - the beach.  So, we packed up our Thanksgiving feast and began a  tradition that lasted through the birth of all our children as well as our move to the Midwest. 

Until Brian passed away.

Walking the Outer Banks beach one of many Thanksgivings
Brian & Rachel that last Thanksgiving

The last Thanksgiving the kids and I shared with Brian was at the beach.  The following few years were spent with my family in Rochester, Brian's family in Tennessee and the last few years in Bloomington.  My oldest is now a junior in high school and for the third consecutive year will be performing in his high school Madrigal performance this weekend.  No opportunity to travel very far because of these performances - but I do love seeing him perform (he is quite talented - something he inherited from his father's side of the family as my family has no singing talents what-so-ever).

I think I am ready to start this tradition again.  I think it would be good for my soul to be there again....a moving on....and an opportunity to revisit a life I loved with Brian.  His ashes were scattered off the coast of the Outer Banks, and as a family, we have not been back there since that day.

I miss Brian quite a bit - especially around the holidays - but I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to be a part of his life.  To have memories with him....and to see him in our children.

As with every Thanksgiving, it is tradition to reflect on what we are thankful.  Here goes:
  • My children - although at times they drive me crazy (think two teenage boys and a red-headed daughter that hasn't fallen too far from the tree) I love them dearly.  It is difficult being the only parent but they understand the difficulties and I know they are appreciative of our struggles.  As I find gratitude each night before going to bed, all three consistently make the list for a variety of reasons.  My life would be 100% different without them - perhaps some days would be easier but in the whole scheme of life, I would never have been able to move forward as I have without the three of them at my side.
  • My family - we are not the closest of families - I think due to the circumstances in our lives - and it doesn't help that I live halfway across the country.  But, I know that if I need something, all I need to do is pick up the phone and I can count on my sisters, brother, nieces and nephews to be there for us. 
  • My in-laws - Brian's family has been a blessing to me.  One would think that perhaps it would be difficult for them to be around the memory of their son and brother (I recall my grandmother not being able to be around us after my own mother passed away because it brought too much pain to her).  My mother-in-law and her husband are like parents and friends to me....a major void in my life with the passing of my own father 8 years ago. There isn't anything they wouldn't do for me and the kids.
  • My health - yes....very important item to be thankful for.....even more so that I am the only parent.  I can't even tell you how concerned my kids get whenever I have a doctor appointment....all routine annual visits of course....but I understand them being concerned.....and extremely grateful that I am healthy.
  • My friends - this one is a given.  I can't list you all but without each and everyone of you, my children and I would be lost!  You provide me laughter, support, a shoulder to lean on,the necessary kick in the pants,  the opportunity to cry without feeling sorry for me, shelter for my children with I need a break - or off running my marathons, accepting me as I am (the craziness, the goofiness, the sadness, the directness etc).  I could go on and on....but that would be another blog entirely!
  • My children's successes - My kids have definitely been dealt a raw deal in life.....but that hasn't stopped any of them in being successful in life.  All three are very unique individuals, all have their strengths, and the word "can't" isn't part of their vocabulary - except when asked to do chores around the house I suppose.
  • The LIVESTRONG community - without this organization, my life would be completely different.  The friendships I have made over the past three years has added so much to my existence.  I cannot imagine any of the friends I have made through these experiences not being a part of my daily life.
  • My blog readers - I appreciate your support as I often use this space as a free therapy session....appreciate your willingness to read my rants and raves....appreciate your understanding and comments regarding my achievements and difficulties.
  • My LIVESTRONG donors - I am incredibly thankful and overwhelmed at the generosity of my friends, family and strangers in supporting my efforts for LIVESTRONG.  This year we raised over $11,000 for close to $35,000 the past three years.  This is something that is near and dear to me, so your support is something I am very appreciative of each and everyday. 
The theme in this list - the people in my life.....bringing the LIGHT into my soul.

Rachel is busy making a Thanksgiving concoction in the I asked her what she is thankful for:
  • Her dad
  • Me
  • Our friends 
A Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.  May the friends and family in your life provide you with light needed for you to shine each!

What are you thankful for this year?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

RunningStrong for Hope: What is Holding Us Back.

RunningStrong for Hope: What is Holding Us Back.: "It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not." This quote was shared by a new friend I made this yea...

What is Holding Us Back.

"It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not." 
This quote was shared by a new friend I made this year through my participation in Team LIVESTRONG.
How very true this is for all of us.  How often we focus on what we need to improve, what we lack – or perceive we lack, what others have made us feel about ourselves.
I am certain if we all took time to reflect on that quote as it applies to us individually, we could all come up with a long list of what we think we are NOT and those we wish we were.
My wish list….
  • I wish I was more organized
  • I wish I was more of a planner
  • I wish I was a faster runner
  • I wish I was physically stronger
  • I wish I didn't always speak my mind so freely
  • I wish I was more ambitious
  • I wish I was a better mom
  • I wish I was a better friend
  • I wish I was a better sister
  • I wish I was less frazzled.
The list could go on and on and on.
Wow….a lot of negativity on that list.….and I am sure I'm being hard on myself but aren't we all?  These "wishes" have held me back at times….but why?  Some of them are just fruitless to ever attempt – for example, being organized.  I have tried….and I have come to the conclusion that some people are very organized and others are not.  I, unfortunately, fall into that later category.  However, as I reflect, I realize that at some point, I was organized…..somehow over the years, with each child, with each additional responsibility on my plate, I have become less organized and definitely without a doubt more frazzled.  But, somehow it all gets done in the end….perhaps not the way I wish my super organized and with-it friends do it….but it gets done.
Perhaps that makes me more flexible, more of a free spirit?  Hmmm….perhaps that explains the lack of a planning gene in me.   Some may beg to differ that I don't plan – for goodness sake I just completed a year of races and travel without a hitch – but when I do have plans, they are very loose plans.  Again….I don't like a rigid schedule….I like flexibility….and I love it even more when someone is willing to make all the plans.  Just tell me when and where I need to be! 
A great recent example that would drive many of my friends crazy.  On my recent trip to NYC, I really didn't have an agenda with the exception of going to the Marathon Expo, running the marathon, and the Team LIVESTRONG event afterwards.  My son and I had a list of sights and experiences we wanted in NYC, but none were on a schedule….none were set in stone….and because of this, some were checked off, others were not, and still others were added.   No set plan?  No worries….we still managed to have fun and because that's the way I roll, we were never stressed about our schedule.  In one instance, my son picked a museum he wanted to tour but when we arrived, it was closed.  What to do now? Well, we just jumped in a cab and quickly moved on to the next item on our list.  No worries!  And no regrets!
I suppose every mom, dad, friend, sister, brother,  husband, and wife feels they could do better for the other party of their relationship.    But, in the eyes of the recipient of those relationships, do they really view us as terrible moms (well let's not survey the teens), dads, friends, sisters, brothers, husbands or wives?  Perhaps in the moment, some of them do, but when they reflect back on their lives, will our "terrible" status – especially to our children – really have been that awful?  Or would it have assisted in developing independent, caring successful members of society?  I hope so!  Sure, on a personal level,  my being stretched too thin has definitely created some opportunities which under different circumstances I would have handled differently.  I cannot necessarily change my circumstances, but I can adjust my standards…..and accept them.
How should I view myself?
  • Independent
  • Caring
  • Full of life
  • Willing to stand for my convictions
  • Devil's advocate
  • Flexible and adaptable
  • Willing to take on challenges
Had you told me 5 years ago I would raise over $30,000 for LIVESTRONG, become an advocate and mentor for other LIVESTRONG participants, run marathons and half marathons (or even a 5K for that matter), take up cycling, write a blog and share my innermost thoughts with strangers…..I would have most definitely told you that you were crazy.
Think back over the past few years…..I'm sure we have all accomplished activities and taken risks we never would have thought we would ever do in a million years.   We certainly didn't accomplish these goals because of our list of shortcomings. 
Now, pat yourselves on the back for a job well-done….a life lived fully.  And let's all vow to start defining ourselves by our ABILITIES….not what we think we CANNOT do..…and KEEP living life fully!

Monday, November 14, 2011

It Is What It Is

I think I gave people the wrong idea with my last post.

Yes, I am sad. But that is ok. Being sad is a human we all experience....and I for one am certain it would be unhealthy if we were not sad and disappointed at times.

No, I am not so sad as to be concerned about my well being. I very much appreciate being alive and living not need to worry about that. I still have loads of places to see, friends to make, planes to jump out of, adventures to accomplish and most importantly, raising my wonderful, smart, ambitious children

What I was trying to convey is that after seven years of being along...meaning without a spouse, without a significant other to share the ups and downs of each day, to start and end my day with, to make plans for the future, does get a bit lonely....and sad.

It isn't easy living life with a significant other to support your and assist with the day to day grind (believe me....I've overheard plenty of people complain at how little their spouse does, how terrible it is to have the around all the time.....I'm amazed I haven't bitten my tongue off yet from keeping quiet) but imagine how lonely it would be to do this alone day after day after day. After awhile, it gets tedious....boring....feelings of being trapped come along.

This where I'm at. Yes, I recognize that being in a relationship doesn't make me the person I am. I am fabulous all on my own. But, being in a relationship certainly would add some enjoyment to my life. And the idea of that not being a possibility - lets face it....7 years being single doesn't make me too optimistic - is somewhat depressing.

Widows/widowers are in lives we did not plan....lives we did not choose. If we had a choice, I'm pretty certain we would all still be celebrating wedding anniversaries, sharing a morning kiss out the door, sharing a glance across a crowded room, smiling at one another when our kids accomplished something or said something silly, providing support to a parenting decision the other made regarding teen angst, calling/texting each other to see what errand we can help the other with. The list is endless. And although we all miss our spouses, we also don't want to live a life without those little daily reminders of someone caring for you.

Of course, being in a relationship doesn't define me but being a widow does....because I live it each and evey day. And the saddness doesn't ever go just goes into hiding.

So please bear with me....this is nothing comes and goes....I'm just finally publicly sharing this with everyone as one of my "public service announcements."

No need to need to try and fix is what it is....and somedays are easier accept this than others.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To

I had the opportunity to attend some amazing and uplifting events the past month - cheering on the Chicago Marathon Team LIVESTRONG runners, attending the Ride for the Roses event at the Austin LIVESTRONG Challenge, and just last weekend, running the NYC Marathon for Team LIVESTRONG.  

Surrounded by my LIVESTRONG family....weekends filled with inspiration, joy, some cycling, running, dancing, laughing hysterically and just plain ole' fun.

All the anticipation of these events and the actual excitement of the events came with a cost this year.  In years past, I've entered these events in a tail-spin and being around the LIVESTRONG community lifted me up.  Unfortunately, this year, it has been quite the opposite.  I mentioned this in my previous blog as feeling as though I was watching from the sidelines....but now I don't even feel like I'm on the sidelines.

I think those LIVESTRONG filled weekends caused me to feel quite empty and alone once I returned back to reality and without the constant influence of the most inspiring people I know.

For the past 3 weeks, I have been dealing with some rather dark moments.  Moments that make me just want to lie in bed and pull the covers over my head.  Moments that make me dread the sun rising and the sun setting each day.  Please know that I love life, I love my kids, I love my friends and I am not in such a state that I do not recognize that I have a blessed life...but suddenly I am feeling very trapped....mostly dreading being alone for the rest of my life.
I know, I know....I've heard it a million times...."the right one is out there," "you need to stop thinking about being alone and live," "you deserve better" etc.  Hmmmm......interestingly enough, all this advice is always provided by those that are not alone, all in happy loving relationships or are single by their own choice.
Well, my answer to those statements -
  • "I had the right one....he was taken away from me by cancer."
  • "It is hard to ignore being alone when loneliness surrounds you 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for 7 years....with no light at the end of the tunnel."  
  • "Who determines I deserve better?  What exactly is better?"

Don't get me wrong - I love my friends and I love that they want to make me feel better.  I truly appreciate all of you being so positive and trying to cheer me up.  But sometimes, being sad is necessary to be happy again.  I am just getting sick and tired of the sadness, sick and tired of not having someone out there that is wondering about me.  I just want to be part of someone's life....and to be part of someone elses life.  I know that doesn't make a person....but let's all certainly feels good to be important to someone.

So, although I know I am quite fabulous and a lot of people are missing out, it doesn't change reality.  Right now I am sad....I am lonely....I am dreading the winter gloom....and the holidays.  Yes, I am not being the upbeat full-of-life person you all seem to think I am.   Reality check - I am that person but lately there isn't any reason to be that person.

I know what you are thinking....Barb's having a pity party.  

So what!  "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to!  You would cry too if it happened to you."

I will get through this as I have all the obstacles in my life.

Don't worry but please keep in mind that although it has been 7 years since Brian passed, and I keep myself busy with races, skydiving, trips etc., these activities to not replace being alone.

I like to think that we all have periods of sadness in our lives otherwise we would never appreciate the periods of happiness, right?

OK, I promise my next posts will be more uplifting....updates about these amazing weekends are in the works.....keep a lookout for them!

Thanks again for all your support this year -I would certainly be adrift by know if it weren't for all the lifesavers surrounding me day in and day out - all of YOU!