Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One Year Later

One year ago today I had been on my sabbatical for 3 weeks, the kids had just gotten out of school, and we were on our way to Pennsylvania to camp. We ran out of gas 2 miles from the campground, discovered a field of fireflies, and battled 1,000 ants in our camper (insert gag here). I was already feeling relaxed, having made what ended up being one of the best decisions of my life. I was focused on being present in the moment, reconnecting with my family, and figuring out how to redefine myself without work.

When I went back to work in January I promised myself that I wouldn't slide back into old behaviors. I refused to let work become the focus of my life again, I refused to work constant long hours, and I refused to have to choose succeeding at work over my personal happiness. I knew I was off to a good start with the company I chose to work for because they make work/life balance a priority. Over the last several weeks, I have been reflecting on how well I have incorporated what I learned into my "new" life.

While on a walk with my friend (and sister in law) Lyn recently I had the chance to reflect on one particular lesson I feel I have been able to incorporate into my life. Lyn was exclaiming how hard it was to be present in the moment, when all she can think of is all that she has to do, between work and home. We have all been there before...you drive home and don't even remember actually driving because your mind is going through all the things you need to do when you get there. Or your child is telling you something and you are barely listening because you are chopping veggies for dinner while trying to scroll through your emails to make sure you aren't missing anything after hours. Then you realize they are waiting for you to answer a question you never heard. You can see it in their eyes..."Everything else is more important than me." It is such an awful feeling.

I got really good at being present in the moment when time was not an issue. It's so easy to take an hour to play a game and focus on your child when you don't have to whip up a presentation that night, fill out permission slips, empty the dishwasher, and read 100 pages so you can be ready for bookgroup the next night. I knew this would be a challenge again when the demands on my time increased.

There have definitely been moments when I find myself multi-tasking both mentally and physically. You have to when you work. There are only so many hours in the day and typically your to do list is longer than you can ever accomplish in a day. And sadly, things like "put everything down and listen to your children when they talk" and "look in your spouse's eyes when he is talking" just don't make the list. What I discovered is that I will not always be able to be 100% present in the moment when I work. And I'm ok with that because we all have to cut ourselves a little slack.

However, I will share with you what I told Lyn. I am now more conscious when I'm not focusing on the moment. Before I didn't even realize it until it was too late. Now I catch myself in the middle of the moment and I stop chopping those veggies, I stop looking at my email, and I look right in my kid's eyes and have a good conversation. The dinner can wait 10 more minutes and the work can wait til tomorrow (or at least until the kids go to bed). It's hard not to feel overwhelmed by all that we have to do. But we do have a choice to prioritize what is really important to us and what makes us happy. Answering work emails doesn't make me happy. My child's laughter makes me happy. Getting the dinner on the table "on time" might make me happy. But having great dinner conversation with my family makes me happier. I don't want to wake up the next day regretting that I didn't take 1/2 hour to read a book with my kids because I was writing that email that really could have waited until the morning.

There are so many choices we have to make every day. Choose to be present in the moments that make you and those you care about the happiest. The other stuff will fall into place. And some things will fall between the cracks. And the next day you will pick it up and start all over again. And that's okay.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Results Are In...

Well, we did it - Cori and I finished the 5K! Yesterday morning, I woke up at 6:15, not able to sleep anymore...I was feeling a bit nervous. Normally, I just wake up and go running...so waiting around until 8 o'clock, felt like forever. I was also expecting rain, but I awoke to sunny skies, which is always nice, but not when you are running. What more could I do then put on some earrings, find a hat to compliment my outfit, and get going? Might as well look good...at least at the start of the race.

On the way there, we saw people in their race shirts walking everywhere, like ants coming out of the woodwork. When we got to the school where the race started, it was mobbed - over 1,500 people were registered. People were doing warm up runs - clearly these were the "elite" runners. This whole scene was a bit of a shock to my system. We have been running at 5:45 am and barely see anyone on the race route. Now, the entire road was closed down and there were thousands of people around. I got a little more nervous at this point.

We met up with Steph, our trainer, and waited for our other running partner Meena. Unfortunately, she never showed up so the three of us headed over to the starting line. The air was buzzing with excitement! If felt like just a few minutes before we were off! On the way out of the school, there was Tim, Jack, Mimi, and Cori's family...all cheering us on. It felt great! One minute in and this wasn't too bad.

When we rounded the corner, it was an unbelievable sight. The road, for as far as we could see, was filled with people. You couldn't even see the pavement. It was a bit hard to get used to...trying to run around people and find a space for yourself. The first mile wasn't too bad because I was so caught up in the excitement and there was so much to look at. Then we got to "heart break hill". We have been running up it without stopping for a few weeks but this was definitely challenging. People in front of you would just start walking. So, not only was I dodging people left and right, but it was so tempting to stop because others were. But, we kept at it!

I think it was at this point when I realized how darn hot it was. We have been running in the early morning and more often than not, we were tempted to keep our sweatshirts on so this was a challenge. The reality of it smacked us in the face when we saw a runner passed out on the side of the road and an ambulance speeding toward her. Eek! I did not want to end up like that.

With one mile to go, we were back at the school. Our families were there cheering us on once again, and I have to say, it was a real boost for me at that point. I didn't have a lick of spit left in my mouth and I was sweating like crazy. But we were in the home stretch..there was no stopping us now!

Then all of a sudden, we could see the finish line! I was so busy trying to beat Cori that I didn't even see our families standing there. Apparently Cori's husband, Scott, was right at the finish line taking the all important finish line photo so there was no disputing who won but I didn't even see him. Turns out, she beat me..but only by a hair. DARN IT! Although I have to admit, at that point it really didn't matter because I felt like I was going to pass out I was so hot.

On our way to the results board, we ran into our other running partner, Meena, who had in fact finished as well. It felt good to have the whole group together and revel in our collective accomplishment! But what felt even better, was when we saw our results. Cori finished 34:27 and I was 34:28. We ran an 11 minute mile. 8 weeks ago I couldn't even run for 2 minutes. Can you believe it?!

We ran into a friend of Cori's who suggested we run another 5K this coming Wednesday night since we were trained and ready to go. She said they even feed you burgers and beer afterwards. Hhhmm...running for beer...sounds like a plan to me. We quickly said yes. Not only did I just finish a 5K, I actually enjoyed running, and now here I was signing up for another race. Pretty unbelievable.

I must say a HUGE thank you to our trainer Stephanie. She not only got us to finish the race, but she had us looking forward to getting together and running. Now, that is amazing. THANKS, STEPH!!

And I have to thank Cori for motivating me to take the class in the first place. She was right...I always felt great after running, even though it was hard to get out there so early. Cori, thank you for running with me, thank you for picking me up when I didn't want to go running, thank you for not stopping when I felt like walking, and thank you for keeping me laughing the whole time. And thank you for the positive introduction to running. Fine...I'll say it...I actually like running. I will miss catching up with you every other day, chatting about this and that, while watching the sun come up. I feel like we are breaking up - Say it ain't so!

We went out to dinner last night and celebrated with our hubbies. And then today we decided we should spend a little more time reveling in our accomplishment and take off tomorrow...and Tuesday...and skip the 5K on Wednesday. But we did decide to go running Wednesday morning on a new route. We are going to shoot for one more 5K this year...but probably in the fall.

Moral of this story: Keep trying new things. You never know where they will lead!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Running Like A Gazelle

Well, tomorrow is the "big day"....my first 5K. I can't believe just 8 weeks ago I could barely run for 2 minutes straight. I won't be fast tomorrow but I will finish. Jack asked me today, "Do you think you will win?" I told him it wasn't about winning...just finishing was a great accomplishment. As a 12-year old boy who is obsessed with winning all sports, he didn't understand why I wasn't running to win. Someday he will realize that I am winning...just by being able to challenge myself and finish the course is winning for me. Let's be honest...getting up at 5 am 3 days a week also = winning for me.

In the past, when I "had" to run, I just ran like a gazelle, wanting to get it over with as fast as possible. I quickly ran out of steam because I couldn't sustain that pace. Thanks to our awesome trainer Stephanie Morey of Avalon Fitness & Health, I learned that it's all about finding your natural pace and listening to your body when you run. She taught us a great technique...to just put your arms down and relax in the middle of your run. It looks a little silly but I have to say, it has allowed me to get my breathing back under control and just relax. You don't realize how much you tense up as you run.

In all new experiences, I really try to reflect on what I have learned and incorporate that into the future. Upon reflection, here are some things I learned:

1. It's always easier to motivate with others. If it wasn't for the fact that I knew Cori would be waiting either at her house or in my driveway, I would have easily hit the snooze button every day and pulled the covers up a little tighter. In fact, the day I did attempt to "cancel" our running date, Cori said "NO!" and she was in my driveway in about 5 minutes to get me. You need friends like that. Friends that challenge you, don't let you quit, and that you know you can count on.

2. Speaking of friends, when you try new things, you meet really nice people. Our group was really fun. Our instructor Stephanie is in the perfect job...for her. She is naturally postive, motivating, and always in a good mood. What more could you want in a personal trainer? Even when it was raining, she popped out of her car with a big smile and said "Ready guys?!"...and she meant it. And our other running partner, Meena, was equally as happy and positive. I laughed every time I ran behind them...there they were chatting the whole way, with their hands gesturing wildly, laughing away. Seriously, I couldn't talk and run without losing my breath until about 2 weeks ago. I really enjoyed hearing about Meena's childhood in India and listening to Stephanie's tips on how to be healthier...it was always great conversation.

3. When you think you can't do it, you can. Stephanie was great about figuring out where our comfort zone was and pushing us just outside it a little more each time we ran. As hard as something feels at the time, just keep pushing yourself because in the end you will feel so good when you reach a new level. Whether that is learning a new skill or honing an old one - there's nothing like that feeling of having challenged yourself to be better.

4. There are a few songs I find difficult to run to. Such as Chumbawambah's "I get knocked down"..I kept imaging myself tripping and falling so I had to shut that off. "Give's You Hell" by the All American Rejects resulted in me singing "Running makes me feel like hell" so I had to stop that one. It's also hard to run to Neil Diamond...unless you are Cori. In our final leg, she has taken to singing "Sweet Caroline"...out loud. I believe your husband said you shouldn't do that, Cori...

5. I do have that 12-year old boy's competitive spirit in me. By the time we reach the last 1/2 mile, I want it to be over so I have taken to running like that gazelle at the end. Cori tried to outrun me the other day...and it immediately made me run faster. We talked trash to each other the whole way. "I am going to beat you!", "Eat my dust!", and "I don't like you anymore!!" I think we were even...although I'm just saying that...I'm pretty sure I beat her by a hair :) Competetive friendliness is always fun.

6. And finally, I learned that trying new things can really be surprising. I never liked running. I didn't feel like I was good at it, I didn't like feeling out of shape, it was boring...you name it, running was not my friend. But as I said when I started this, I do like a good challenge. And in the end, and Cori, don't read this, I actually kinda like running. Today I even looked up other 5K races that are coming up. And honestly, this was such a positive experience...running with a friend, meeting new people and laughing the whole time...that's very different than self motivating to run each morning by myself..so we'll see what happens but running isn't so bad. Of course, let's see how I feel after tomorrow!

Insert a little prayer here that I don't end up pulling a muscle running out of the parking lot tomorrow...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Odds & Ends

After I posted my fashion don'ts some of my friends have asked if I was talking about them. First of all, if you are wear cordorouy pants with a short sleeve shirt you probably aren't my friend. And secondly, if you were to wear a skirt that was showing your underworld to everyone, I would tell you...and then smack you for having such bad fashion sense. These outfits I have seen have been on the train so unless you are riding the rails with me, you are safe from me sharing your bad fashion sense in my blog.

But while I am on that topic...there are a few other outfits I would like to add to my Don't Ever Wear That list. Do not wear a sleeveless sundress with suede mary janes. In fact, unless you are 6, don't wear mary janes. And don't wear all pastels on the top and heavy clunky black shoes on the bottom. Let's keep the seasons separate, people. For those I inspired to get a pedicure, we all thank you.

Moving on...in my attempt to be silly and light I discovered that I don't really know how to integrate that into my day. My kids aren't toddlers anymore so it's more difficult. The only thing I have managed to do is talk in silly voices. When I got home yesterday and saw shoes and socks all over the living room, a bag of chips on the floor, and every tv in the house on, I felt like a cartoon character...the kind where the top of the head pops off and steam blows out the top and the ears. Once the smoke cleared I mustered up a crazy voice and said "Do you live in a barn?!" They thought that was funny and then picked up...so maybe I am on to something. But I think being silly and light is more than crazy voices....I don't know that I will conquer this one.

And an update on my "training". Today we only took a 1 minute walking break in the middle of our 3.5 mile run. I actually think I will be able to do it! To get myself through the end I imagine Big Papi running a little bit with me, then Varitek, then Jacobi....and of course in this little fantasy I don't smell nearly as bad as I usually do...I have rosey cheeks not a red face like I just held by breath for 10 minutes...and my hair looks great. Not sure which Red Sox players will be there (at the Timline race they always come out) but I'm pretty, pretty sure they won't be hanging out at the finish line cheering me on...but hey, it gets me through the end of the run.

I have some tips if you want to take up running:

Don't drink wine the night before you need to run. Wine group...I mean book group the night before is not your friend. And "friends" who tell you that one more glass of wine will be fine aren't your friends.

Run with someone. Preferably someone who won't take no for an answer. When you say "I can't go anymore" and they say "Keep running", do as they tell you. When you say I am sleeping in and they say "NO!" and come to your house to pick you up, you will thank them later. Trust me.

Don't go into the run thinking "I can't do this" because you know what, you won't be able to. Instead envision yourself crossing that finish line and then get moving.

And this is key...make sure your iPod is charged the night before. Running while you listen to yourself breathe like a coal miner isn't pretty.


Feel free to come cheer Cori & I on next Saturday! The race starts at 8:30...and the awards ceremony is at 9:30....which is when I will probably come huffing and puffing over the finish line. (I am inserting a small prayer here that it doesn't really take me that long to run 3.5 miles...)

And just in case you are wondering where to cheer us on we would like some fans at the corner of Chamberlain and Hayden Rowe...that's our halfway point and we need motivation. Or feel free to by anyplace near Hopkins....that last little bit is a killer. And of course we will be doing our interviews and having our pictures taken for the newspapers at the finish line....

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kids Just Want to Have Fun

There was a little girl on the train today...actually she has been on there for about a week...commuting in with her parents. I suspect she is going to camp or daycare. She's super silly. She makes silly faces. Makes her parents play pretend games. She is loud and talks non stop. She sings songs in funny voices. She annoys me.

Tim will be the first person to tell you I don't know how to be silly and let myself go with the kids. I honestly don't get that kind of stuff because I didn't have that kind of childhood. I came out of the womb responsible and quickly transitioned from toddler to adult. I grew up in a single parent home with my mother and brother. My mother worked in Boston, so she left early in the morning and came home late. By 4th grade I was a latch key kid, responsible for doing the laundry, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, doing my homework, and then making sure my brother, my older brother, did his homework too. And when I say I cooked dinner, I mean I made roast beef, with gravy, mashed potatoes, and a veggie on the side. At the age of 9.

My mother was old fashioned and didn't believe that girls should play sports and sweat. It wasn't lady like. So, while my brother was out playing sports and hanging with his friends, I was home cleaning the house and playing the role of Julia Childs. All without breaking a sweat, of course. That's just how it was and I didn't really know anything different.

When my mother came home she was tired. She commmuted, worked hard, and was raising two kids on her own. We weren't goofing around. We were focused on getting organized for the next day...and I was the one usually telling everyone what to do. On the weekends my mother just wanted to relax and get her errands done...we weren't playing games and singing songs.

I also hung out with adults a lot. At the time, my only cousin near my age was 4 years younger, so familiy gatherings, which were often, usually consisted of me hanging with adults. And I loved it. But looking back I realize there wasn't alot of child's play going on.

When I had kids, being silly, letting loose, and doing "frivilous" things just didn't come naturally to me. Tim is great at that kind of stuff and to this day when we go to the beach, Mimi plays hair dresser with Tim while he reads his book. He talks in funny voices, complains about her service, and never gets tired of it. When the kids were little and wanted to play hairdresser I always threw a wrench in there like "Let's play hairdresser while I wash the dishes?" Or when they wanted to "play ponies" I would say "Let's have the ponies clean up the playroom...ponies love that!" I prefered to initiate games like "Organization Make Over" and "Lists for Fun". Buzz kill, right?

Even today when my kids get together with other kids and they start acting goofy, silly, crazy, and "out of control" (in my book), it's really hard for me to handle. I just don't get it. It doesn't seem like "a good use of time".

I see what this has done to my kids. They hold themselves in check a bit. They are less apt to let loose and be silly when I am around. They have a level of "adultness" to them, even though they are 11 & 12. Believe me, they still have fun and enjoy life but I can't help thinking I didn't teach them to live life without abandon. I am disappointed in myself as a parent in this respect. Hindsight is 20/20, isn't it? I really wasn't even aware of it until Tim pointed it out one day. He said "You just don't get how to be a kid, do you?" And my immediate response, which just flew out of my mouth was "I really never got to be a kid."

It was a big aha moment for me. And honestly, it's really hard to admit. But I can't change my childhood. I can't spend energy wishing things had been different. I am who I am.

Now, don't get me wrong...I do get silly from time to time. I do love a good accent and I have a few that I bring out from time to time. One night the kids and I only spoke in a British accent. And I have a pretty good accent...not as good as my friend Annie's...but I think I could get along at a pub in the Motherland.

And this isn't about having fun. We have lots of fun. My kids and I do lots of fun things and we laugh a ton together. This is more about letting your inner kid shine through. Life is meant to be enjoyed to the fullest and sometimes you just have to let loose and be silly, put yourself out there, be uncharacteristic, and act like a kid in order to seize the moment to the fullest.

We are our own worse critics. I am painting a far worse picture than the actual situation but to me, it is something that has nagged me over the years. Until I saw that little girl on the train again today and sighed because she sat near me, I realized I should just stop beating myself up about it and do something.

So, here's what I am going to do. I am going to be more mindful of the times I don't let loose with my kids and just go with it. And when I see them holding back, I am going to encourage them to live more freely. It's going to take some practice but I'm going to give it a whirl. My goal is that my past and the way I have parented in this area, doesn't hold my kids back in the future from taking chances, putting themselves out there, and allowing themselves to just go with their gut and let loose. I know I won't be able to see that right now, but over time that is my wish.

And in true Kelly fashion, I will be keeping a list of these moments so that I can see how I am doing. In the end, it's not what's on the list but the result it garners, but let's start with baby steps. Insert me blowing a raspberry here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Important Fashion Rules

It felt like winter was here up until 3 weeks ago. Then we had a crazy warm week...and then it was back to fallesque weather. Finally, I think we are starting to level out now and have some consistent weather. It's obvious the up and down weather has confused some people and I think it is important to review some simple fashion rules. Let's get started....

Do not wear cordorouy pants with flip flops and/or short sleeves. Cordorouys = winter. Do not wear them when the weather is over 60 degrees and do not pair them with summer items. Along the same lines, don't wear a winter sweater with capri pants. It's a seasonal mullet. And you look stupid. Cut it out.

Do not wear open toe shoes when your toes need attention. By "attention" I mean, if your nail polish is flaking or chipped, keep your toes covered until you can fix them. If the soles of your feet (and this includes your exposed heels) look like shoe leather, put some lotion on them and cover them up. In fact, put lotion on them at night and wear socks to soften them up for a month. Get a pedicure. Or get out that loofah you have but never use. And finally, if your toenails are too long, do not expose anyone to that sight. Cut them before you flaunt them. These seem like simple rules but apparently they need to be reviewed.

Put a slip under your skirt when it is light colored or just a light fabric. No one walking down the street needs to see your underworld.

And for the love of God, please check the length of the back of your skirt...especially on a windy day. If there is the possibility that your skirt may blow up with a light breeze, it's too short.

Today I saw a woman wearing a pheasant skirt with socks. Knee high wool socks. And sandals. This was the most disturbing sight to date. On so many levels. Unless you live on a commune, stop wearing hippie skirts. Knee high socks only work with catholic school outfits....or for those that work with a pole. If you aren't in private school and you aren't a stripper, don't wear that outfit. And socks and sandals? People...do we really have to review this one again?

What's the craziest outfit you have seen lately?