Running & distance… or not the distance

I’ve trained for and run two marathons. I completely understand the focus and hard work it takes to get to that finish line. I know all to well how all-consuming 26.2 miles can be for months at a time. And I wholeheartedly believe that reading articles and hooking up with other marathoners can be a HUGE support system during training. HUGE.

But when did all the running blogs become marathon blogs?

Why did people stop talking about running just for the joy and strength of running? What ever happened to running WITHOUT a training plan? Where are the runners who are out there logging miles, getting stronger, putting their all into the miles but not racking up 16, 18, 20 mile runs?

How about the half marathoners? The no-way-in-hell-ever-gonna-run-a-race-with-marathon-in-the-title runners? The runners who are signing up for the occasional 5k or 10k just for fun? The don’t need to race, just want to run runners?

I’m not necessarily talking about the individual’s blog who is currently training for a marathon. That person’s blog is likely about more than marathons and just dominated by the topic for a few months. I get that. It’s good. I’m talking about the blogs that have become running publications (because that’s what they are – online publications with huge readership). And suddenly these publications are raising the marathon up to such heights that the rest of us (or just me) are left behind.

It’s certainly inspiring to read about a person lacing up and making the marathon go from a dream to reality. But I’m at a point where it would be inspiring to hear from someone who just likes running and isn’t slogging through a training plan. Someone who shares the joy of a trail run or the conversation they had when they took a walk break (gasp). I’d love it if my blog feed stopped having the word marathon in 50% of the titles.

Maybe I’m just being grouchy and I need to unfollow a few blogs. But I feel a little like the lonely voice in an echoing room… Hello?? I like to run too! Sometimes I train for longer races but sometimes I like to walk and swim and ride my bike. It would be nice to find something that talks about the casual exerciser who sometimes trains for big races but always wants to be healthy.

2015 Summer Adventure Report Card

TimeHop just told me that today is my 7th blog anniversary. What do you get for the 7th anniversary?? Chocolate & wine I hope. (I just looked – the traditional gifts are wool or copper… that’s so boring.)

I’m glad TimeHop gave me a little nudge this morning though because I do want to get back in the habit of free writing more regularly. I’ve been doing a lot of writing for work (A LOT) but I miss free form writing and think it’s a good exercise. And if anyone out there ends up reading it, well bonus for me making friends on the Internets.

Each summer the kids and I come up with a list of fun things we hope to do. This summer was particularly challenging with summer jobs, high school gym class, sports camps, sleepaway camps… Sometime in July I resigned myself to two realizations:

1. I wasn’t going to check everything off this year. (Not that I ever have, mind you.)
2. I was going to have to start doing things with whatever kids were home.

And so I started carving out time and asking the kid who couldn’t join us to choose which adventure she didn’t particularly prefer – in the hopes of not disappointing anyone too much by doing something they had been looking forward to. It seemed to work out pretty well.

2015 Summer List of Fun Adventures

1. Hikes: We had two specific hikes earmarked this year. One at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois and the Three Dunes Challenge at the Indiana Dunes State Park. We were 50% on this challenge but I’m hopeful that we’ll still get to those dunes before too much longer. It’s still the season of summer for a month after all!

We totally lucked out on our Starved Rock adventure. We’d had a ton of rain recently so the waterfalls were out in full force – very unusual for July. My oldest & I had an awesome morning. Definitely one of my favorite days of summer.


2. Mini golf at Zao & Valpo Velvet ice cream: Both new-to-us places and well worth an afternoon adventure. We even squeezed in a round of go cart racing while there. Based on how poorly J came into the final stop, I’m not looking forward to teaching him how to drive.


3. Brunch at Bartlett’s: I’m going to count this as a success because we were there on a Sunday at brunch time. However, they had a busy weekend and stopped their brunch menu early. Technically that means we didn’t get brunch. But we did have an awesome morning at the beach and my husband had a strong ride up to meet us. It was a great way to spend a Sunday.

4. Birky’s Farm lunch: We all enjoyed this last year so it made it back on the summer fun list. We didn’t make it though. Two of my kids did eat a Birky’s lunch at the county fair though so that’s a close alternative!

5. Pick peaches: This one is tough because peaches aren’t ready to pick until right before school starts. We didn’t make it but I do have this Sunday tentatively marked for a peach picking adventure!

6. Kayak and/or paddle boarding: OR BOTH!! We went to a new place in Southwestern Michigan and had a wonderful two hours on the river. We had a couple kayaks and a couple paddle boards so people who wanted to try both could swap halfway through. None of us fell in and we got to eat “burgers as big as your head” before heading home. Great day!


7. Go Ape park at Eagle Creek in Indy: I tried to do this but they didn’t have any openings on the day we could go south. Maybe fall break…

8. Meijer gardens in Grand Rapids: This one was a little ambitious of me to post on the summer fun list and frankly, I’m the one that wants to go – the kids don’t know anything about it. They are good sports, however, and I know they’d go along and enjoy it. Someday.

9. Trips to Chicago: Not as many as we’d like but we did spend the first day of summer vacation and the last day of summer vacation in the city. First day was Lincoln Park Zoo. This is becoming a bit of a tradition for us and it’s a fun one. Second trip was to Little Italy for our traditional last day of summer adventure. I love finding new places to explore in the city and we had a really fun day wandering the neighborhood, peeking in a few places, and eating some fantastic food.


That ended up being a far more successful summer than I would have predicted in mid-July when the list only had one sad little check mark. I’m looking forward to a few more fun adventures with the kids as summer turns to fall. And then I’m sure before I know it, we’ll be making a list for the summer of 2016. Time does fly in this busy house!

An open letter to my daughter as she starts high school

When my oldest started high school two years ago, the school gave us a postcard to write a short note to our kids that they would receive during their Freshman Orientation. I’m sending my second child off to high school and somehow missed that opportunity. But I still want to share some advice and tips before sending my child zooming down the slide of high school that will ultimately launch her into the world. Some of it is the same that I gave her sister but all of it is still so true.

High school is such a fun time. You learn so much about yourself, you start truly becoming the adult you are meant to be. You do things with your friends and have a sense of freedom and adventure that you rarely see again. I’m excited for my daughter as she starts this new adventure. I think this kid of mine is really going to come into her own over the next four years.


Since I didn’t get to slip a note into her locker at the high school, I’m going to slip this on her pillow tonight.

Welcome to High School!
I am so excited for you! I know you’re a little nervous now but I also know that once you’ve been in those halls for a day or two, the nerves will settle and you’ll start having fun. You will always remember these four years – here are a few things to remember while you’re in them:

– Pick your friends wisely and always be a good friend.
– Every experience is something you can learn from.
– Savor the good moments and put the bad behind you.
– Time management is one of your strongest allies.
– Life is full of choices, try your best to make good ones.
– You don’t have to know what you want to be when you grow up.
– Clean your room. A clean space gives you room to think and create.
– You’re going to make mistakes, own up to them, be responsible and move on to make better choices next time.
– Don’t let those mistakes be something that put you or those around you in danger.
– I will always give you and your friends a ride home, no matter where you are, no matter what’s been going on, at any time of the day or night.
– Don’t compromise in a relationship. A person who loves you will respect who you are.
– Stay true to yourself and your faith.
– Try to make your corner of the world a better place.
– Never be afraid to hug a friend.
– Surround yourself with supportive, positive people.

And most of all:
– There is nothing you could possibly do that will ever make me stop loving you.

Stay safe. Be smart. Follow the path that God has laid out for you – you might have to look hard for it sometimes, but I promise it’s there. Remember that you always have a family that is here for you. And never forget how very, very proud I am of you.


A belated birthday interview for my 14 & 1/3 child

If there’s one thing that illustrates the hectic, crazy fast pace that my life has held over the past few months it’s this: I didn’t post a birthday interview for my daughter when she turned 14. (Cue up future therapist bill and add this to the list of injuries done to the middle child.) Oh I’ve thought about it from time to time but I never had the time to sit down with her and start writing. So as we approach her first day of high school, I decided this could not go on any longer.

Way back in May, I took my newly 14yo someplace that was new to both of us: a tattoo parlor for her biggest birthday gift – a cartilage piercing in her upper ear. We kept the birthday fun going with a fun dinner and painting class night. As is now tradition, she got to celebrate her birthday for a second time later in the month with her grandpa and uncle who share the same birthday month. Her other gifts reflected her sense of style and personality – everything from knit beanies to converse high tops to funky jewelry.



She is still the most stubborn child in the house but she’s opening herself up to some new experiences. The year she was 13 she ran the Sunburst 5K, went canoeing, walked Mackinac Bridge (with FAR LESS complaining than her first time) and hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains. She challenged her clarinet abilities with an advanced selection for the state music competition. She took on a huge task of patience when she made her mother’s birthday dinner: homemade ravioli soup. And she voluntarily and cheerfully woke up early on a weekend morning to cheer for a friend of our family who was running her first marathon.


People at our church know Miss E quite well. She is still an altar server and also plays her clarinet during some Masses – even when it means going to Mass twice the same weekend. She made her confirmation this year as well and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a face glow so much with the Holy Spirit. Before we left the cathedral, she even managed to snag a selfie with our new Bishop. She was a music leader for Vacation Bible School. She was active in the church youth group. And she was the narrator for our church’s Passion play.


She hung out in Chicago multiple times, took her first cab ride, and got to see Blue Man Group. She joined the high school marching band and has already marched in not one but two parades. She competed in both the Spell Bowl and Academic Super Bowl teams at school. And for the first time in a long time, she did not forget her lunch on the first day of school.



She’s the one child that I know always has a lot going on in her mind. She fills notebooks with poems and stories and thoughts. She reads so fast I wonder if it’s by osmosis. She is caring and kind. She is a champion for those who are the slightest bit different. Best of all, she is true to herself. I love listening to her – even if it is a challenge on those days where she has so much to say and speaks so fast it’s like she’s afraid she’s going to run out of time to say it all.

These are a few of her favorite things from the past year:

color: periwinkle blue (In fact, she would like to dye her hair this color.)
food: lobster ravioli from the fancy Italian restaurant we went to in Chicago on the night we saw Blue Man Group
dessert: homemade red velvet cake with homemade cream cheese frosting
part of school: Sigh… Social Studies class. Because I like to learn about that kind of stuff.
sport: tennis – to play but I really like watching hockey
thing to do: Oh this makes me sound really lazy: watch Netflix or YouTube
game: Ticket to Ride
tv show: How I Met Your Mother on TV. My current favorite YouTuber is Tyler Oakely… or John Green… or both!
movie: Annie
song: Fly Away by Five Seconds of Summer
book: Harry Potter – still… “always” for those Snape fans out there
restaurant: Station 21 – I like to order their mac & cheese
time of year: Fall because I like to wear big sweaters and the leaves are so pretty.
animal: An owl.

What did you request for your birthday dinner?
Homemade mac and cheese. And then homemade red velvet cake with homemade cream cheese frosting. (editor’s note: her mom was busy that day!)

What is something that can always make you smile?
My friends

What do you want to be when you grow up?
A writer Can I add princess too? The coolest princess who writes the best books.

If you could go anywhere on vacation, where would you go?
Rome because of the mythology and history and food… I’m ready to go!

What do you love about your family?
Let’s start with J… I like him because he always finds the positives in things which helps me see the positives. I like hanging out with K and talking about random things. It’s fun to talk with her. I like to listen to music with Dad. And I like to talk about books with mom.

What were some of your best memories from this past year?
Oh Smoky Mountains were awesome! I loved getting to spend the night and see a show in Chicago – that was a lot of fun. I really liked finishing middle school. Being done with middle school is very nice. I loved the school band trip to Great America.

What are some of your wishes for this year?
I would like to survive high school. I would like to not completely ruin my GPA. I want to make new friends. I want to read lots of books and watch lots of movies.

Each year I interview my children on their birthdays and write a post about their year. My hope is that someday these musings will spark special memories. Search for ‘birthday interview’ over there on the right to read previous posts.

Being thankful for: a nudge in the right direction

This week’s challenge (week #8) is to thank someone who noticed or encouraged a talent or ability. I’m struggling with this one. I think mainly because I don’t feel that I have some sort of exceptional talent or ability that could be noticed or encouraged. Then again, the challenge doesn’t say “exceptional” – it just says talent or ability.

So I did what I often do when I have a challenging question in mind. I took it with me on a run. When have I felt encouraged? When has someone pointed out an ability of mine and told me to do something with it? I got home with a few random fragments of ideas… the 10th grade English teacher who encouraged me to keep writing because I had good things to say. The business management professor who told me my analytic skills were strong. My first real boss who hired me just because he felt like I had the right qualities to get things done – and then he made up a job for me to do so. The freelancer that I worked with often who told me that if I ever wanted to go out on my own, I could put her out of business.

None of those rises to the top for me as a “big deal.” Maybe I’m putting too much weight on the question. After all, each of those minor nudges or comments put me on a path. Maybe this question is meant to help me recognize the seemingly minor interactions that changed the course of my life. That’s an interesting thought. Like my own personal butterfly effect.

And so I thank all of those people mentioned above: Mrs. Walker, Prof. Miller, Tim, Nancy. And I remind myself to be more liberal with those comments myself. When I see someone doing something well, I should tell them. After all, who knows when one small comment might inspire big change.

15 weeks, 15 letters, 15 minutes. To kick off 2015. Read about the gratitude challenge here.