The unapologetic, raw, unedited interpretation of living life. Each of us is the artist of our own life, constantly remolding, reworking, and roughing out the details and applying what we've learned to the changing canvas. There are no do-overs, no take backs...just rough cuts that release what lies inside us.

I saw the angel in stone and I carved until I set him free. - Michelangelo

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What are you Running For?

I Run4Life.  That isn't just a hashtag or a health-nut metaphor.  It's much more.

A year ago, my husband and I were asked to be part of a 12 person team for the 24 hour Cancer Run at Sandy Bottom Nature Park. The majority of our team members were strangers to us, some of whom we had only known by their Twitter handle and lauded running escapades.  What lacked was not the talent, the drive or the apparent disregard for self-torture, I mean who doesn't think running as many 3.75 mile loops for 24 hours sounds like the best way to spend an April weekend?!  What just lacked a team name.

Then it hit me, we were going to bring runners from every walk of life, some elite athletes and some who just wanted to see how far they could push the human within themselves together for 24 hours in the name of beating down something that has affected us all...Cancer.  We weren't going to be joining together to mourn those who have fought but to celebrate life still ahead and the fights that have been fought.  We were going to run for LIFE!  And so team Run4Life was born.

Headed into 2014, I knew I wanted to push myself.  I finished 60 miles in 2013 with taking some extensive breaks so I was confident I could pace myself and just keep moving throughout the day to reach 75.  Of course, things always sound easier than they actually turn out to be.  I was fortunate enough to meet up with a young woman my exact age (minus 1 month) who shared more in common with me than I could have ever have thought at first introduction, but as miles passed by and the pain settled in, it was clear we were both going on a journey we would not soon forget and that we were both determined to finish together.  I do not know how I would have made it to the turnaround point that final time without her constant enthusiasm and support.  This is just the part of the running family that not every one gets to experience, but once you bond over tree jokes, dangling silk worms, and stomach issues, there is no turning are in it for LIFE.

75 Miles! People ask me why I would do that to myself?  After some thought and reflection on this past weekend's run, battling demons during the night at mile 65 and asking myself the same question - WHY?  I decided there really is no definitive answer, just another question...Why not?

I run because I can.  I run because I am free to run.  The only real competitor is the one inside my mind.  If I can beat her and show her that no matter what LIFE has in store, it can be overcome, then I have won.  Winning against yourself is the greatest satisfaction because all you need to do to keep going is move the finish line.

This year marked 9 years since cancer won a 22 month battle with my Mother, and trust me cancer had a FIGHT!  I run for Life because she fought for hers.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Time to Breathe

Have you ever reached a moment when you knew you needed to breathe?  I am a runner and a mom, so the pressure to take a breathe can come on strong if you don't pace yourself.  At the end of a dead sprint, the first thing your body tells you to do is inhale and get as much oxygen as possible.  You gasp, you choke, and you may spit.  Getting that first breath into your starving lungs can be painful, but it is what your body needs.  My kids are equally as demanding when they need my attention when I have deprived them of my attention, which may also include some gasping and spitting.  At the end of the day, the finish isn't pretty and somewhere you feel as though you missed the goal if you forget to just keep breathing.

God also wants our attention.  He doesn't need it, He WANTS it. In fact, He pursues us until we turn to Him.  He recently ran me down on the path of life and made me stop in my tracks.  The first thing I heard Him say was, "BREATHE." Take your breath slowly and find your pace again.

As soon as He had my attention, He followed with a whisper:

ALIGN yourself with me.
Have you ever tried to run in a straight line tied to someone who is running the opposite way?  Neither of you is going anywhere or one of you is going to end up surrendering to the runner with greater strength.  When God is the one tied to the other end, there is no question who is going to win the battle.  Our lives are meant to walk in lock step with our creator, the one who designed us and everything around us.  
The mountain is easier to climb when you walk in the path already laid out for you.

I was ready to run now! Again, I heard the tugging at my heart saying, "BE STILL."
Be Still?!  I thought, does God even know me?  But I obeyed and took time to enjoy the life I was racing to finish.  I embraced the opportunities to reconnect with my family and feel the freedom of taking replenishing breaths and re-discovering small moments of joy.
Be Still and know the plans I have for you.

Feeling refreshed and full of new energy, God was quiet.  Maybe I hadn't been still enough.  Then the voice came again, "LISTEN: Move when I move."
What I thought I had planned for the day changed, one of which brought me back to this special place where I can be myself and write the words placed on my heart to write.  We all need that place, the place where we can be quiet and still, to think and feel like our selves.  I hope each person is able to have a place like that in their lives, and perhaps when God moves, I will be ready to respond knowing I have this experience to look back on and a place to go when I need to Align, Be Still, and Listen.

Where is your quiet place?

Monday, July 9, 2012

In Response to Life

Trying to get back into writing has proven to be a tough challenge.  As with any art, the creativity process takes time to develop and is fueled by an inner desire to produce something not for myself but for the benefit and pleasure of others, so the blog lays empty, or as I refer to it - dormant.  When I began this blog more than a year ago, it was in response to pages of writing I felt needed a voice.  Now as a work-at-home Mom and business owner, avid runner and all around insanely busy person living the career and home life I have dreamed about, there isn't much time left to think about what I feel compelled to write...until recently.

For as long as I can remember, my life goal was to know that one person lived better because I lived.  I have known for years I want to live a legacy and a trail of lives which I impacted in some small way, that someone breathes easier going to bed at night because of what I contributed to the world.  In some ways, that seems incredibly selfish to say the word "me" or "I" and I do not mean that I need to be the sole contributor to a village of starving children or the single person responsible for any great feat of heroism.  Rather, I simply want to know I was part of something greater than me which led to a better life for someone else.

All around us everyday there are people who stand up fast to come to the aid of others.  They do not wait for someone to ask them to or respond to an organized effort is assembled.  They are the ones behind it, doing it, making it happen!

Where does that leave the writing? Well, I leave that up to my readers, my family, to those who catch the attention of the words intended to be in this space. 

Thinking back on the times when I have been called upon to write, they were not always joyous times or times when I felt the most driven to put words on paper.  Quite the opposite happened.  The requests came when I felt the least capable or least experienced to write it, but God, love, and words found their way and the writing happened and I felt the most connected to them.

In 1998, I wrote a poem for my grandfather, which I read at his funeral.
In 1999, I wrote a letter read to my parents on their 25th wedding anniversary.
In 2005, I wrote my mother's eulogy after her 22 month battle with cancer.
In 2009, on Thanksgiving, my grandfather asked me to write his eulogy. He passed away the week after Christmas.
In 2012, my father, a retired Marine and compelling public speaker asked me to write his key note address for a Memorial Day Ceremony.

Who was I to write about these lives or about the accomplishments of others?  What qualification did I have to submit my thoughts on behalf of leaders and people with far greater influence than I?
Writing in the simplest form is about the ability to draw out truth, emotion, and bring life to words.  There is an intangible joy that comes with memorializing a life in words.  The same joy experienced when writing moves people to action or tears.

I write in response to life.  And perhaps through this small way can cause others to #livebetter.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Party with those Crazy Birds!

Being newly debt free, and wanting to stay that way, my mission is to help our family live better without going broke.  Hosting a birthday party used to pull out all the stops, but this year I found ways to bring out the FUN and save the Finances.  With a little extra planning, hard work, and creative thinking we now focus on the celebrating! 

This is a little detour from my regular blog, but I am blown away by the change in our lifestyle and choices since beginning our debt free journey in 2011; I just had to share with you how you can throw a party, be mom (dad) of the year, and still have money left for the present!

For my son's Angry Bird Party, we held the event at our local YMCA (check on their member rates for room rentals) There are not too many places out there where you can hold a party, have access to their gym equipment, clean facilities, and hosted by people who love kids for under $100! (ours was way less)
We used their "regular party package" and then I looked for deals on paper goods and extras to save a few $$.

Items to purchase:

Cake/Cake Balls: <$25.00
Box of cake mix
Container of icing
Extra icing for "Staging cake"
Candy Melts: Yellow, Green, Red
(reserve a few yellow and green for the beaks and pig parts)
Eyes: I used leftover bits from ice cream topping
White cookie icing (I recommend using white chocolate cut in circles instead. 
This stuff was really runny.)
Black Licorice
Candy sticks
Green Floral Foam block

Angry Bird Towers: <$10.00 for paint
Spray Paint (* optional)
Boxes FREE!  (many retailers receive shipments on Fridays, hit them up in the afternoon)
I got the hook up at Bed Bath and Beyond and a local hardware store.  We also saved our cereal, tissue, and boxes from regular purchases at home.

Party Bags: ~$1.25 each
These used to be bank breakers.  Keep it simple!
Angry Birds fruit snacks
Clear Party bags
Spiral drawing pad
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Monday, April 23, 2012

The Distance to THERE

When I was a little girl, there was a swing set in our back yard. I used to spend hours swinging and looking up at the clouds thinking about what it was I was going to be.  Mostly, I turned up my little FM radio/Cassette Combo player and made up music videos, but there were moments when I would dream about life beyond Middle School, beyond Barbie and NKOTB (I am a child of the 80's...).  I was convinced I would get there on my own, wherever 'there' happened to be.

There interesting part about 'there' is nailing down its exact location. Over the years it moved quite a bit, like the clouds from my childhood, my drifting dreams were replaced each day with new, brighter ones. 

On the way to 'there'
At some point along the way, I realized I was not walking alone.  Something, someone, was guiding each step.  As I began to turn my dreams of a little girl into goals for the future, 'there' became a real place, a time, and sense of accomplishment.  I knew I wanted to influence people, not in a manipulative coercive way, but in a way that moved them to be better people, do things bigger than themselves, achieve the unthinkable.

You have to be 'there'
You just can't get there alone.  Along the way, many people influenced me (not always in positive ways) but those who made a true impact in me I remember most not for how flamboyant their tactics or how intriguing they made their stories, but because of how they live.  They continue to inspire me to live better.  This is really where the concept of Think better. Feel better. Live better. developed.  Before you can expect a life that is better than where you are today, you first have to surround yourself with the people who have been 'there', those whose experiences you can learn from, whose wisdom is far beyond yours.  There is nothing more valuable in life than a friend, a person you can count on to love you no matter what. 

'There' is not a place
There is an idea of what it means to live better.  When I sat on the swing behind my house I thought about what life could be like beyond today, it was full of hope and had no fear of failure. What would it take to get you 'THERE'?  What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

THERE is eventually where you will be once you decide HERE is not where you want to be.

Think better. Feel better. Live better.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Birthday Wish

A funny thing about birthdays, they still contain 24 hours, the kids still go to school, and work doesn't take a break, however on one day every year I take a moment to reflect on my life.  As birthdays pass, I become more accutely aware of how my Birthday Wish changes and what I consider to be "a great birthday".  When I was five, a Happy Meal with Ronald McDonald and a free ice cream ranked number 1 and Barbie in a bright pink box wrapped in a big bow equated rock star status by my standards.

The years change us, they open our hearts to what really matters. Today, I realize I am the richest woman on earth because I am loved.  From handmade cards to wildflowers, balloons and sharing the evening with close friends to calls from across the miles, texts and facebook posts to homemade guacamole and banana cupcakes.  I am truly beyond blessed and by the grace of God, my life contains More than Enough of the good stuff and my cup overflows with gratitude for the people in my life.


There is no greater gift than to love and be loved in return.

Think Better. Feel Better. Live Better.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

On the Edge of Adversity

There are two moments in your life when you will remember where you were and who stood beside you: standing in the midst of adversity and experiencing the supernatural. There is a bond which forms in these situations, a bond no one can sever, it transcends time and place. Interestingly enough, the experience of the supernatural is correlated with how we respond to adversity, challenges, or face difficulty.  Some will choose to walk away, others will wait, most will talk about it.  Few are bold enough to stand on the edge of adversity and take a step of faith.  They will face the darkness because they ARE the light.  And these few will share the pride, the distinction and honor of being in the supernatural.

This past Friday night I attended an annual hockey marathon at my high school.  Participating in the event after so many years reminded me of such a time in my life when struck by tragedy, a few stood strong to be part of something truly spectacular.  In 1994, a fellow teammate was killed in a car accident leaving a night game against our county rivals. Just Freshman in high school, my teammates and I watched as our Seniors faced losing a friend, classmate and sister in uniform.  Everyday on the way to practice walking past the trophy case, where jersey #26 hangs in remembrance, reminded us of the strength and courage of her parents, coaches, and teammates demonstrated.  It instilled in us a drive to value one another on and off the field, that no day should be taken for granted.   To this day, those who were part of the SHS Field Hockey Team that year still keep in touch.

As I sat on the same wooden bleachers, overlooking the same hardwood floors we played on so many years ago, I looked up at the felt banners toting successes past.  My eyes stopped on two of them: County and Division Champions.  In bright orange, the year 1997 stood out, only one team in the past 15 years had such an accomplishment.  The year was our senior year. My attention turned back to the purpose of the night - we were gathered to play in memory of Alicia Lenker, our fallen teammate.  We stood alongside other members of the team and thought back on the events of that fateful night looking at a group of high schoolers about to play in a hockey tournament in memorandum of someone they had never met.  After 18 years, two generations all shared a common thread of one young life. The somberness resonated with both generations.

The inspiration Alicia had on our graduating class directly impacted our desire to play harder and work as a team. It led us to several championships and accomplishments beyond our capacity. Now as alumni, stepping out to play again so many years later, it was as though nothing had changed. Adversity had made us stronger, the supernatural gave us in something to bond us forever.

This made me consider other situations when facing adversity leads to the supernatural. When those few bold individuals stand up to take action in spite of the opposition.  They experience something the others will never understand and they will never be the same as before.

The man in uniform who hugs his wife one last time before he steps off the dock onto battleship. He will gladly face the enemy if it means saving the life of the person next to him.  At home, no one can comfort his anxious family except those who share their sacrifice.

A husband and wife who must face lost hope, comforted only by their own love and commitment to a life lived for one another.

Friends, coworkers and neighbors step in to help when disaster strikes, bond in the shadow of tragedy. 

These stories inspire us to be better people, to help our fellow person, but do we ignore the call when we stand on the edge of adversity in our present moment?  What could be made better if you took one step beyond what you see in front of you?  When you find yourself in that place, step out in faith, the supernatural waits just on the other side. Keep digging! The imagination can not fully know the impact it will have on you and the person standing beside you. God gives us strength and courage to take a stand; He gives us one another in order to ensure we do not fall.

Think better. Feel better. Live Better.