Sweet Valentine

My husband is visiting his family in Mozambique after a long four years away. I haven’t been at my job long enough to take time off and Carlos is in a new school this year so we decided it was best for Orlando to go alone. He is actually really busy tending to family business, renewing his passport and beginning the starting phase of building us a small house in his hometown. We are hoping to return this year for the holidays.

This morning began at 5am when my son and his friend woke up downstairs. Sleepovers are the best! I was grateful that they actually fell asleep around 10:15 last night after Laser Tag, Glow Golf, dinner, frozen yogurt, Jurassic Park, popcorn, light saber battles and Lego Star Wars on the Wii! The boys played all morning, built forts, more light saber battles, went outside, came inside… They were so busy I actually finished up some leftover work from yesterday.

I rarely talk about work, but this is worth sharing. Yesterday I called a patient to arrange a home visit for Monday. He was recently discharged from the hospital and we are supposed to visit within 72 hours after discharge. I was concerned about his well being at home so I really needed to arrange a visit soon. Anyway when I asked about Monday the patient said no absolutely not. Then he started lecturing me about the impending storm. He said I should not be on the road on Monday. I told him I would drive slowly, but I really needed to see him. So he said, “how about now?” I dropped everything and off I went. I had just enough time to sneak in the visit before picking up Carlos from school. Well when I arrived the patient summoned me to the living room in front of the TV and he made me watch the weather channel for 10 minutes to prove there really was a storm coming. It was very sweet of him to think about my safety.

Anyway back to today. After lunch we met my son’s friend’s mom and brother so the kids could go sledding. It was 12 degrees out and the snow had already started. I can’t get over how the kids do not seem at all bothered by the cold. My hands and feet felt numb within minutes of being out there.

When we got home I had to start Orlando’s car so I handed Carlos the keys to go in the house. He came running back out with half of the key in his hand. Uh oh! Thankfully I had a key to the back door. It took me a little while, but thanks to Google, cooking spray and tweezers I did not need to call a locksmith. Carlos was a little worked up about the key incident, not thrilled that he had to clean up the living room forts he made with his friend and he’s been really sad because a close friend at school is transferring schools after school vacation this week. He hasn’t take a nap in years, but when he finished cleaning he burst into tears. I hugged him and we sat on the sofa. He kind of just melted into my arms and I before I knew it he was sound asleep.

I looked down at his long eyelashes and soft cheeks still red from the cold. It’s been a very long time since Carlos fell asleep with his head resting on my chest. I always cherished those moments, but now they are more precious than ever. He is growing up so quickly, too quickly. I know I’m just a hop, skip and a jump away from a pre-teen. I sat there soaking up the closeness, listening to the soft breathing and eventually I dozed off myself. It was so nice to be present in the moment, no phone, no computer or iPad, no distractions. My darn leg fell asleep and I had to stand up otherwise I would have stayed there until Carlos woke up. Luckily Orlando called and we chatted for a bit. It was wonderful to hear his voice.

Carlos woke up a short time after Orlando called. He seemed like he was still dreaming. He went to the bathroom, came back downstairs and curled up with me on the sofa. Within minutes he was sleeping again. This child fills my heart with so much love it honestly feels as though it might explode sometimes.

Carlos finally woke up, but he was in no hurry to move off the sofa. We chatted for a little while and then he suggested watching Star Wars Episode 2. We are working our way through all 6. I really love that Yoda!

After the movie Carlos took a bath and got ready for bed. We read together before I kissed him goodnight. Carlos wouldn’t leave my side all night. It was very sweet. He kept saying that it was the best Valentine’s Day. I couldn’t agree more.

The Quiet of Morning

I woke up before 4:30 this morning. It was so quiet in the house. Strangely it seemed easier for me to wake up at this hour than it has been to wake up at 4:50 the last two mornings. I slept right through my alarm on the previous mornings and didn’t get up until Carlos woke up around 6.

I went downstairs and completed day 8 of the meditation challenge. I’m enjoying this so much. I’ve never really been able to meditate without some kind of guidance. These are short meditations which is what I need right now. Maybe someday my meditation practice will grow into longer sessions without the need for a guide, but I needed to start with something more structured.

After meditating for about 10 minutes I did a short yoga class focused on the abdomen. It was challenging. I’ve been doing a 30 day yoga challenge also on Doyouyoga.com. Erin Motz is the instructor. I enjoy her method of teaching. I like the short classes that help me to focus on few poses. Again it’s just enough to keep yoga practice in my life without overwhelming me into trying to take on too much at a time when a new schedule, new routine and other life events wouldn’t be able to sustain the change.

This morning was very productive. I chopped vegetables in preparation for my favorite vegetarian chili I’ll be making later today. I have two of my favorite friends coming over for dinner tonight. (I’m not just saying this because they read the blog!) I’m really looking forward to a relaxing evening when we can finally catch up. I truly miss time with friends, but it’s often challenging to schedule get togethers because we all have different schedules and obligations.

One thing that I’ve been doing every morning for the last month is oil pulling. I haven’t talked about it here yet because I wasn’t sure how I really felt about it. It seems kind of new age, kooky and a little disgusting. I have been reading about it for a couple of years, but I just wasn’t ready to try it. I finally read enough about it to give it a try. I won’t tell you that miracles have happened as a result. I’m a pretty healthy person (knocking on wood), but my mouth certainly feels cleaner though that could also be in part to the fact that I follow up the oil pulling by brushing my teeth with baking soda. In a nutshell the idea is that the oil serves to clean out the harmful bacteria that forms in our mouth and reduce any fungal growth. There is also the idea that cleansing the mouth properly has detoxifying properties on the entire body. This could be a post on its own.

I have been using a teaspoon of coconut oil and I swish it in my mouth for about 20 minutes. Sometimes I do it while I meditate and do yoga, but today since I had so much extra time I did it after and I enjoyed that a lot more. When I’m done oil pulling I brush my teeth with baking soda as I mentioned and then I put a little baking soda in my palm with some water and I gently scrub my face. I’m telling you it is such a refreshing feeling. While I’m doing that I heat up water.

I try to sit down for 10-20 minutes in the morning to write while I sip on lemon water. I have always had a tendency to eat breakfast soon after waking. I’m a sweet breakfast person rather than savory, but I find this sets my sweet tooth on high alert for the rest of the day. By beginning my digestion slowly with lemon water I feel more in control of my eating.

This morning was great because I folded laundry before settling down to write. I got upstairs around 5:45 before Carlos woke up. I got back in bed to write. Soon I heard my favorite morning sound…two little feet landing on the ground in the next room. Carlos’ feet don’t pitter patter so much these days as they seem to grow faster than I can keep up with, but hearing him in the morning always brings a smile to my face. He almost always comes straight into my room to climb into bed for a morning snuggle. He’s 8 and I’m genuinely grateful that he still loves to snuggle, but I’m savoring these moments because I know I will soon have a pre-teen on my hand who might not be so keen to hug his mom. He says that won’t happen and I really hope he’s right.

For now I have a smiley, adorable Jedi laying next to me. He told me to say that. Star Wars is all the rage in our house and most mornings I’m not actually sure if I’m snuggling with Carlos or Yoda! His impersonation of Yoda is quite good though I do need to mute him after a little while. I do not allow light sabers in bed…I have to draw the line somewhere!

Well this post took an interesting turn. I really love starting the day off so productively and slowly. And now it’s time to get moving.

May the Force Be With You!

Deciding to Run

I spent last weekend in Florida for my sister’s wedding. Before I go on I’ll share a little bit about the wedding. It was quite an event held at the elegant National Hotel on South Beach. The ceremony took place overlooking the pool with the a view of the ocean in the other direction. It was an extravagant affair paying homage to the art deco era of times past. My sister was a beautiful bride. I was the matron of honor and my son was the most dashing ring bearer. He also stole the show on the dance floor later that night.

My handsome little ring bearer
My handsome little ring bearer

I was spoiled with warm sunny runs even as early as 6:30 in the morning. It felt so nice, but it was a tease. We returned home to more snow and it is coming down again. Winter is sucking the life out of me as well as the motivation to run, but I had to make a decision by today whether or not I was going to run the Vermont City Marathon at the end of May. I typically train for 16 weeks for a full marathon. It is what I have successfully done for 3 previous marathons. It gives me a little cushion of time and allows me to make the most of my long runs.

I have exactly 14 weeks to train this time. I have been running for the last few weeks consistently, but without a real training plan. I have been having a really difficult time committing to this race. I know I’m hesitant in part because of the Achilles injury. I feel fine, but I also don’t want to re-injure it. In all honesty, the real reason I have been holding back is because I’m slower now after the injury. I was so proud of my progress in my last full marathon in September 2013. That entire year was amazing. I set PRs at nearly every race. Now I feel like I’m starting all over again as a new runner.

I guess in a way I am starting over. I’m not the same runner I was before the injury. I’m having a very difficult time coming to terms with this. I feel like a failure in a way. Even when I push myself to run hard I’m not coming close to the pace I was capable of sustaining for long periods of time. This is frustrating.

After thinking about it intently I have decided to run Vermont City. I am craving the structure of a training plan. I want to run another marathon this year and after dropping out of Vermont City last year I want it to be the marathon I run. I need to deal with the fact that I don’t run the same. I have to refresh my mindset about why I run…I run because it makes me feel good; I run to clear my mind of all the clutter that builds up; I run for fresh air; I run because I love to run. I want to run for a long time and so if running safely, without injury means slowing down then I have to be ok with that. I’m working on being ok with it.

On Sunday, May 24th I will set a new PR at the Vermont City Marathon. It will be my post-Achilles injury marathon PR!! My clock has reset itself and from here on in I am looking ahead.

Today I ran my first official long run. I ran 8 miles before the snow started. It was a little cold to start and the roads were gross, full of slush. It is going to be a challenging training with this weather, but I’m excited to start and to work towards a successful, injury free marathon.

Morning meditation

I used to think meditation meant sitting for long periods of time while miraculously holding nothing in your mind. It was almost painful to attempt and a minute seemed to last an hour. I’m almost a month into my morning meditation routine. At most I sit for 10 minutes, but some days it’s 5 or 6 minutes. I’ve discovered tons of guided meditations on You Tube.

Today I began the Do You Yoga 30 meditation challenge. It’s 30 days of short guided meditations that are emailed daily. If you’ve ever wanted to give meditation a try this might be a great place to start.

This is what I saw when I opened my eyes after my 10 minute meditation this morning.

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I’m currently in South Beach for my sister’s wedding. It was a beautiful wedding.

This morning I also enjoyed a scenic 6 mile run along the coast.

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This will all feel like a dream when I return home to the stark white reality that it’s still winter. That is if we make it home. I hear there’s another storm on its way. I suppose there are much worse places I could be stuck for a day.

Winter Outdoors

Carlos was born in December. I remember that winter was fairly mild so I took him outside from the time he was 2 weeks old almost every day. I would bundle him up in his car seat and take him for walks. The fresh air was good for both of us.

I’m almost always cold. My family thinks I’m ridiculous as I walk around the house with my space heater carrying it from room to room. Winter was always a time to hibernate. Since Carlos came along I have learned to embrace winter. If I can’t move to Arizona or Mozambique then I better learn how to enjoy the winter.

It started with sledding. It’s one of our favorite winter activities. I dare you to try not to smile when you’re sledding. Impossible!! I have been taking Carlos sledding since he was 1. The hills have gotten bigger, steeper and make my stomach lurch a little, but still impossible not to smile. It is also the one winter activity we can all do as a family. My husband is like a kid again when he sleds. He is always volunteering to take Carlos and his friends sledding.

When Carlos was 3 my sister bought him 3 ski lessons for his birthday. The program was called Ski With Me I’m Three. It was fabulous. Carlos loved it! I really wanted to try it, but the next few winters I think we only made it out a couple of times for him to take a lesson. Last winter Carlos took a lesson and then spent the afternoon going up and down the smaller area of the mountain for beginners. The second time we went I finally took a lesson. I loved it! At the beginning of winter this year I rented skis for Carlos because it’s much cheaper than renting them each time. In late November I hit up the tent sale at the mountain we usually go to and decided to buy myself some skis. We took advantage of the discounts being offered that day and bought season’s passes too. We have already been a handful of times. I have no clue what I’m doing, but it’s fun and feels great being out there. We typically ski at the smaller area which has a J-bar that takes you up to the top. I am a disaster when it comes to getting off the chair lift. I think I need a lesson on that alone. Carlos is doing great though. Orlando is afraid to try it, but he loves coming with us. We are working on getting him to agree to take at least one lesson before the end of the season.

When Carlos was 4 he started a Learn to Skate program. Unfortunately the program was extremely unorganized. It was a mass of children on the ice with only a few instructors. He spent the entire time doing his own thing which was basically walking back and forth across the ice on skates. I started taking him myself to the public skate hours after school. It had been many years since I skated, but it was kind of like riding a bike. I got right back up there and while I’m no Dorothy Hamil, I manage to stay upright. One afternoon at the rink I met a guy who coached a skating program for adults at UMass Amherst. I joined the program and was really enjoying it until I got unbearable, painful shin splints from skating. I couldn’t believe it, with all the running I was doing it was skating that caused the shin splints. There is a lot of pushing into the lower legs and my shins couldn’t take it. I had to stop going to the lessons, but I still go skating with Carlos for fun. I have my own skates and I keep them in the car just in case. Carlos has since joined a different Learn to Skate program which is phenomenal. This is his third year and he is doing great. They learn all different techniques and now are doing mostly stick and puck drills.

Winter hasn’t stopped me from running. Sometimes it is tough to get motivated to get out there, but once I do I’m always surprised at how great it feels.

Orlando and I went snow shoeing a couple of years ago and I would love to try that again. We snow shoed up a local snow covered mountain. It was so peaceful and beautiful.

This weekend we are in Lake George. It’s a ghost town in the winter, but the lodging rates are a bargain. We are staying a condo rental. It’s very cozy and comfortable. We’ve enjoyed lounging by the fireplace, but we’ve been getting outdoors as well. Yesterday morning I went out for a chilly, but scenic run by the lake. Later in the morning we went tubing. It was a first for all of us and we loved it! It’s like sledding turbo charged. We had a blast. Then we went down to the frozen area of the lake. We wandered around checking out the ice fishing holes and sliding around. There is something so refreshing about breathing in the winter air. It just feels cleaner.

Carlos plays outside almost every day even in the freezing cold temps, snow and sometimes rain. I don’t force him to, he wants to especially if it’s snowing. Embracing winter has made it possible for all of us to stay active and healthy throughout the winter.

Morning Person

I’m not a morning person! I have told myself that for years. I don’t sleep late. I’ve always gotten up before or with Carlos. I just don’t like getting up to get ready for work or for the day. This new job means a new routine. I knew how I wanted my mornings to be, but it’s been a lot of trial and error to find a routine that works well for me.

This week my mornings have been the most consistent. I have been up between 4:40 and 4:50 everyday. I start with a short 6-10 minute guided meditation. Oh meditation! I’m terrible at it, but it’s one of those things I really want to do consistently. I have found some helpful meditations online just by searching guided meditations. Deepak Chopra’s, Chopra Center, has some. Daniel Goleman’s meditations are short and easy to follow. Doing these meditations help me ease into the morning.

After meditation I have been doing 10-15 minutes of yoga. Usually I find something online either on you tube or just a google search. Or I just do a bunch of sun salutations. Yoga, like meditation, is something I’m not great at, but would love to improve. I love yoga and how it makes me feel.

Then I settle down with a mug of hot lemon water and I write. Sometimes it’s email, lately I’ve been writing for the blog or I just journal.

By 6:30 it’s time to start rolling. I make Carlos’ breakfast and lunch. I check work email, shower and get ready for the day if I have early visits. If not then I do some things around the house and settle down to work by 8.

I feel more peaceful throughout the day when my days begin slowly and quietly. I enjoy being up and having some time alone before Carlos and Orlando wake up. Carlos usually joins me while I’m writing. He is sitting on the sofa reading right now.

Once the weather warms up I may experiment with an even earlier wake up time so I can begin adding a morning run. I don’t enjoy running at an early hour on cold, dark winter mornings so I begin my work day a little early so I can go out midday.

The first 5 minutes of dragging myself out of bed before 5AM are difficult, but then I’m up and awake. I’m never disappointed when I begin my mornings this way. I’m calmer, more productive throughout the day and my mind feels a little clearer.

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Marcus Aurelius

Ultra Disappointment

One of my running goals in 2014 was to run an ultra marathon, specifically the VT50 in September. As I stood in line with my family and friends at Ben & Jerry’s in Burlington, VT last Memorial Day Weekend my phone signaled that registration for the VT50 was opening in just minutes. I was in Burlington to spectate the Vermont City Marathon. Just 5 weeks earlier I was planning to run that race until I stopped 4 miles into my 22 mile long run with excruciating left heel/ankle pain. I didn’t know then that it was my Achilles and I was looking at a long road to recovery.

I was energized by watching the marathoners earlier in the day. I couldn’t wait to get back out there and train, and what better goal than an ultra marathon. I wanted to have something planned, something locked in. I had been to doctors and physical therapy, but still the pain persisted and I knew it had gotten worse as I stood in that line contemplating registering for a 50 mile ultra. I tried rationalizing it as soreness from PT. You know the “it’s got to get worse before it gets better” mentality. As I fought the urge to register I looked up and saw a group of people with their medals on and that did it. I logged into the registration site and registered for the VT50 in hopes that it would motivate me to heal more quickly.

Some injuries cannot be willed better and this was one of them as I would learn that painstaking lesson over the course of the next couple of months.  As the pain finally began to decrease I was left with a nagging awareness of the trauma my tendon had gone through. At no time was I ever allowed to simply rest my leg. Life continued around the injury and I had to walk to get places, work and stay active with Carlos. I started to resign myself to the fact that pushing my limits would only cause the injury to get worse.

When I finally started “running” again, if you could even call it that, I was only able to go for a few minutes. I wore an ankle support and often taped my ankle. By August I was barely up to 6 miles and the ultra marathon loomed in the distance. As the days wore on and my training was compromised by not only the injury, but Carlos’ activities, overtime at work and my husband’s busy work schedule. I was finding it very difficult to find time for long runs.

Mentally I was struggling. I had gained weight. I had reverted back to binge eating habits. I was frustrated by the injury and by how life seemed to revolve around work for both myself and my husband. Of course I always put Carlos first so I was juggling summer vacation plans with working 6,7 sometimes 8 nights in a row. I was undoubtedly sleep deprived. So throw that all into the melting pot and you’ve got one recipe for disaster.

Looking back I think I knew all along that I wasn’t going to be able to run the ultra, but I in my head I was hoping it would be the motivation I needed to start running again. At some time in the last week of August the VT50 race director sent out an email giving people the opportunity to drop out and collect half of their registration fee by the end of August. I knew it was time to concede. I felt defeated and a sense of failure, but I also knew that I wasn’t ready. Attempting to run such a rugged race with little training was foolish and an invitation to re-injuring myself. If I were advising a friend I would have told her not to run so I really needed to listen to my instincts as well as the rational part of my brain telling me to pull out of the race.

I cried. I moped. I am sure I ate some of those feelings. Then I moved on. I began focusing on training for the half marathon with my friend Kate. I also began reframing how I thought about and felt about running. I am not the same runner today that I was after Montreal in the fall of 2013. Sure I’m slower, but I’m also more cautious and more aware of my body. I stopped “training” and just focused on running for the love of running, going out without a goal or a plan, running as long and as far as I wanted to.

The injury has led me to some significant personal growth. I continue to work on being a better person and finding a way to live the most authentic life. I have been working on healing strained relationships, being kinder to myself and finding a healthy balance between food, exercise and spiritual well being. I’m in a better place today, but still a work in progress.

As for running, well I’m still figuring that out. I have been running almost every day despite the cold temperatures. My runs are either 2 or 3 miles because I am usually sneaking them into my work day. On Saturday I did go for a glorious 6 mile run. I don’t allow myself to focus on pace. I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about my pace, but it’s not something I’m focusing on. I’m still working through my feelings on how much I’ve slowed down, but I’m running again and enjoying it. That’s really all that matters.

Running goals for 2015? I love having running goals and I want them back in my life. I will run Vermont City this year and training begins February 1st. I will likely run the Jones 10 miler in Amherst at the end of February. I’ve run it for two years in a row. It’s a tough course, but rewarding. It will be double as a training long run. I am also signed up for the big Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day 10K in my area and I’ve offered to run with a friend who has never run it before. My thought is to use it as part of my long run that day. PRs are just not going to happen this year. Right now I’m  trying to accept the fact that I’ve changed as a runner therefore my goals need to change too if I want to enjoy this sport for years to come. I will run a half marathon in April as part of marathon training, but I’m not sure which one yet.

To sum it up, my running goals for the first half of 2015 are to:

  • train injury free
  • listen to my body
  • run happy with no pressure about pace
  • help others to achieve their running goals
  • focus on distance
  • stretch often, foam roll regularly and strength train
  • eat healthy

I’m not sure I will attempt an ultra marathon in the future. I’m not ruling it out, but it’s unlikely that it will happen this year. As I’ve learned in running, never say never!