Monday, December 31, 2012

2012...Thank You

Not every year is a banner one.

They can't all be, right? 

But this year was for me.

If I could place myself in a movie, I would be that girl who came out of her shell....who morphed from the caterpillar into the butterfly...and soared to find her true know, the one that had been hidden for sometime.

After deciding by sheer will that 2012 would be the "Year of Kelly," I found running or, it found me.  Either way, the love and discipline of putting one foot in front of the other saw me through three half marathons, one Hellacious trail run, a 5K mini race, countless early morning short runs, and many, many long Saturday morning training jaunts.

Running helped me to regain my self confidence, to garner time dedicated to breathing in and out and taught me to let go of my past transgressions and simply to trust.

Undoubtedly, I was transformed.

And so, I sit staring down a new year...2013....and it feels a bit ostentatious and entitlement-driven to dub this next year, my year again...but why not?  Shouldn't every day of our lives be for the living?  Shouldn't we yearn to soak it all in and to not be afraid of what lies waiting around the corner?

So, here's my proposed 2013 bucket list.
  •  5 Half Marathons
  • Cheering the hell out of my good friend while she kills it in her first FULL Iron Man race
  • Yoga and lots of it
  • Writing....more of it and more unabashed accounts of what lies inside of me
  • Swimming, Dancing, Singing, and in general Enjoying the hell out of my Family
  • Dreaming...clinging to the hope that one day I will find myself in Tuscany
  • Thanking God daily for my blessings
And so, here we go.  Here's to you and me doing this New Year together.  Let's make it our year to soar ferociously and fearlessly...I can already feel's going to be good.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lots of Room...and Need...for Love

I haven't been writing much lately.

I'm not sure what to chalk it up to.  I suppose any old excuse will do.  Busyness of the season.  Exhaustion from mothering three little ones.  Or maybe, a need to take a step away so as to assess where I am.

The morning of Friday, December 14th, 2012 was definitively a wake-up call.

I woke up extremely exhausted.  Our youngest daughter, Claire was to celebrate her second birthday, but unfortunately, she'd been up most of the night throwing up.  She was the last of the brood to take on the stomach flu.

I was preparing to get my "game face" on as I went in to teach a Conflict Resolution training to thirty plus not-for-profit members of the community.  Meanwhile, my husband was juggling morning appointments so that he could be home with our sick little one while also getting the older two to school.

As everyone got situated, I asked participants to share their names, agency affiliation, and their personal contribution toward world peace.  I introduced myself as the CEO of my household and told them that my contribution was personal timeouts from my children, so as not to commit acts of violence during times of extreme frustration and lack of patience.  Everyone laughed and then one by one, individuals gave profoundly important answers to the icebreaker question.

Feeling good about the training, I drove home and checked Facebook.

Very quickly I learned that there was a horrible school shooting in a small town in Connecticut called Newtown and that they didn't know how many children had been murdered or staff members.  I thought I would vomit.  And then, I quickly called home.  Were my children okay?  My God, how could this happen again?

In the days that followed where we learned more details about how many children and adults were massacred, it all became so heart breaking that I found myself filled with more sadness than anything.

Simultaneously, I watched friends on Facebook decimate each other with their opinions about gun control, gun rights, mental illness, school security, and a barrage of other topics semi-related to the shootings.  It reminded me all over again of the political commentary revolving around the elections.

In this season and spirit of the holidays, I am reminded that we are all in need of greater tolerance, grace, and love.  None of us has the answers.  We can universally agree that to lose someone we love with all our heart is beyond imaginable. 

My prayer in the new year is that we draw closer together...that the lives that were tragically lost in Newtown serve to help us to cling tighter and not to divide.  We need one another.  We do better when we are connected.  We are all valuable individually and collectively.

And so I am reminded of Mother Teresa's words:

"If we have no peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."  Amen.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ode to Claire on Her Second Birthday

Two years ago today, I met you face-to-face...which was a gift, because I'd been dreaming about you for years.

Post the birth of your brother, Sam and your sister, Kate, I had a feeling (call it mother's intuition) that our family was not yet complete.

In my heart, I believed that there was a little girl, by the name of Claire, just waiting to grace us with her extraordinary presence.

You scared the pants off of the doctor, when you emerged with the umbilical cord wrapped around your neck four times.  And in that moment, we knew that we were done for.

Gorgeous blonde hair, huge blue eyes, a petite little frame, and a smile that never stops, you are a definitive presence.  But beyond your beauty, it's truly your personality that makes you a force to be reckoned with.

Flinging yourself off of the dining room table, diving into swimming pools, stomping and moshing in dance parties galore, you love being alive and sharing your spirit with the world.

As the youngest of three, you've decided that keeping up with your older siblings is a must and so different than the others, you learned to pray first, get yourself dressed, sing songs, initiate potty training, and do spider man push-ups.  Really, you're quite good.

My prayer for you, my youngest child is that your eyes will remain as wide, hopeful, and optimistic as they are today.  May your fearlessness continue to transcend any doubt, limitation, or concern that you feel as you navigate the world.  And may you continue to know tangibly within your soul that you are loved, you are wanted, and you are supported by so many.

Happy, Happy Second Birthday, Claire Bear.  Here's to so many, many more!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Love of the Tub

There seems to be one sacred spot that for a few brief moments breeds beautiful isolation.

A destination for a recluse. 

A remote spot where no one's begging me to prepare a snack, to help find a lost toy, to locate the keys, or to return a call.

Complete with steam, it melts the frustrations of the day away and gives back some semblance of what it means to be me exempt of the stress and the chaos of raising little ones.

It's the tub.  And, I adore it.  Especially in the winter time.

So, you can imagine my chagrin when I found myself knee-deep, literally, in the throws of a "Calgon-Take Me Away" moment only to look up to see my two-year old dare devil daughter about to dive on top of me. 

"Jesus Christ!," I yelled while simultaneously ripping out my iPod ear buds.  "Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Saint Jude, can't a mama catch some peace?"

And then, she vanished and I realized, there's going to come a day when I long for her to chat with me while I'm in the tub...but today, is definitively not one of those days. 

I love my children more than I ever thought imaginable, but today, my adoration for the tub is at the top of the list.

There should be places in the home where children will be zapped similar to an animal with a shock collar if they try to come near.  I'm advocating that the tub (while mama is in it) be one of them.

That's not too it?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Power of Vulnerability

I've always worn my heart on my sleeve.

Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you that 99.9% of the time, I'm willing to tell you just about anything that you want to know about me and most of it falls in the realm of the intimate or the personal.

I don't know why.  But I find it liberating to be the first one at a cocktail party or a gathering of friends to start spilling the "real" stuff...the brutal challenges of motherhood, the craziness that is marriage or the cons of wearing a thong...not necessarily in that order.

I've just never been very good about talking about the weather or fashion or organic eating or...well, you get the picture.

And so, it was with extreme gratitude and a huge shout of praise to God that I stood humbled and joy filled when five women said yes to participating in an advent event that I'm organizing for a women's circle at my parish.

In a dress rehearsal of sorts, they came and shared their personal journeys of faith in preparation for the event next week.  As each woman spoke and cracked the facade of control, perfection and mystique that we like to show the eyes filled with tears, my heart swelled with love, and my faith magnified as I realized beyond a shadow of doubt that God is indeed alive and well among us.

If there's one life lesson that I want to impart to my children it is that the faster you let judgement, condemnation, and righteousness go in favor of compassion, kindness, and empathy... joy and abundance in the simple will abound.

We should all do ourselves a favor and be not afraid to be vulnerable with one another.  We have nothing to lose and everything collectively to gain. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tough Love

I've never been good at dispensing tough love.

Just ask my friends.  They'll tell you.

I'm that mom that is constantly asking my kiddos how they're feeling in their heart, if there's anything I can do to make them more comfortable and telling them I love them constantly.

And so, it was with much dismay and sadness in my heart that I had to put the smack down on the older two this morning.

Much like you, we have morning rituals that are fairly sacred.  We lay out their school uniforms the night before, place colored cereal bowls on the table and make sure that coats, hats, mittens and shoes are by the door for quick grabbing prior to departure.

Sam is seven and a half years old.  Kate is five and a half years old.  They're both old enough to know exactly how to pour their own bowl of cereal, throw their pajamas down the laundry shoot, get dressed, brush their teeth, and get their coats and back packs on before leaving the house.

But for whatever reason, I find myself assisting more than I should and before I know it, I'm nagging them to do the same old tasks and fighting to get us out the door so that we're on time.

And if there's anything I despise, it's sending my kids to start their day with a feeling of stress or a memory of a yelling mama who's told them that they need to take care of business.  

But, Sweet Fancy Moses...what in the hell is a mother to do?  I can either enable the behavior or nip this shit in the bud.  And it's time to put the boxing gloves on and show them who's boss.

In the process, I'm conflicted wondering whether I should drive to school and bring Sam his mittens so that he's not cold on the playground and Kate her chap stick, so that her lips don't continue to get chapped.

I'm forcing myself to stay put and let the kiddos sit with my lesson of tough love and pray that tomorrow will bring a new found sense of responsibility in the both of them and a new level of patience for me.

The trials and tribulations of parenting. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

3 Half Marathons in 2012

One year ago, in November of 2011, I was ready for change.

I didn't know how it would morph, but I knew that it was inevitable.

After having my third child, I was desperate to inhabit my body again and to rediscover me.  And so, I set out, to do some work.

I put one foot in front of the other and decided that I was going to give running a go.

I could barely run around the block or the track at the gym.  I was frustrated...mortified at the place I'd found myself.  My fitness level was in the toilet.

But bit by bit through will and consistency, I started to emerge.

My goal was to run a half marathon on the morning of my 37th birthday.  It was a daunting task.  I had to be able to run for 13.1 miles which seemed impossible.

And then, I did it. It was the best birthday present ever.  Here's me crossing the finish line.

Once I completed that race, I decided that it was time to go back to my roots.  I registered to run the Chicago Half Marathon to reconnect in the city where I went to college and to claim something for my own. I didn't plan on traveling alone for the experience, but with the help of many, I went and had hands down one of the top 10 experiences of my life.  Here's me post the race.

And finally to commemorate the annual anniversary of the year of change, I ran the North Face Endurance Challenge Half Marathon race in Kansas City.  By far and away the most physically grueling of all three courses, it was the best way to end the year.  Here's a post race photo op.

45 pounds lighter, significantly stronger in body, mind, and's what I've learned.

  • Never ever, ever, ever give up on yourself.  You are a child of God and an investment worth fighting for every minute of every day.
  • Anything that is worth its weight in gold is not easy.  It will hurt.  It will be frustrating.  You will want to give up...many, many times.  Don't.  Keep trying.
  • Failure is good.  Falling on your face while trying something new and outside of your comfort zone is the best way to know that you are alive, inhabiting your body and living your life.
  • You've only been given one life and nobody else will live it for's up to you to decide that you're going to own it...all of it...the good and the bad.
  • You are never alone.  More people than you know are willing to support you.  Just reach out.  We're ready and waiting.
  • Often, change doesn't have to be all or nothing.  One small tweak today overtime can make a tremendous difference in the long run.
  • You are stronger and more capable than you ever imagined.  Your greatest ally is the little voice inside your head and your heart saying, "Keep going.  I believe in you."  Listen to it.  And don't let anyone tell you differently.
  • Life is meant to be joy filled.  If you're feeling less than or doubtful that you're "all-in," don't be.  Do something about it.  Change is the only constant.  And, it's a powerful thing.
I don't know what 2013 will bring, but I'm really excited and extraordinarily grateful for this journey.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Friendship is a Single Soul..."

"Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies."  Aristotle

She knows me. 

No, not just the fact that I'm a coffee addict and that I live to run. 

Or that I'm impulsive and can appear flighty when it comes to committing to events or trying something new.

She accepts that I'm obsessed with the happiness of my children and am constantly asking them, "how are you feeling in your heart?"

No, she's at the heart of me.  She knows the ugly stuff....the deep, tucked away stories that don't get told at parties and aren't part of the resume.  She knows the embarrassing stuff like I'm a cheap date and puke after 2 glasses of anything alcoholic in nature.  And she knows the what I'd be doing if I wasn't living this life.

And she calls me.  And she dreams with me.  And she cries with me.  And she hopes.  And she prays.  And she pushes.

And she calls bullshit when she knows that I can do better.  And she's willing to take the fall if it means that I'll get the glory for a brief moment.

And she remembers when I run.  That I'm scared shitless of races.  And my kids' birthdays.  And that I suffer from Catholic guilt more than anyone should. 

And she celebrates everything from fitness goals to the fact that I told someone to 'Fuck Off' even if it was only in my mind.

And she loves me. 

There is no price tag that can be put on friendship.  When it's real, authentic, gritty, available, and reliable....there's nothing you won't do.

Here's to all the "she's" in my life.  Soul sisters.  My village.  My girls. 

I couldn't do it.  Any of it.  Without you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Beauty of Being "All In"

We walked into the church eager to celebrate the baptism of a dear friends' little one.

It wasn't our home parish and like usual, we were just fighting to get out the door with the three little ones and so heading to a different location created busyness.

And, everything was complicated by my husbands' injury.  He was in the Emergency Room the night before after slicing open his finger on the kids' picnic table.

So, given the circumstances, I arrived grateful to be there in one piece.  I wasn't expecting anything, just a chance to celebrate in this little ones' joy filled experience.

But then, the pastor started to talk and delivered a homily that I couldn't stop thinking about.

It revolved around asking how much that we're willing to give in much that we're willing to much skin that we're willing to put into the game, especially when they're no guarantees for a win, maybe even when it seems as though a loss is eminent.

I've always been conservative when it comes to betting.  I don't go to casinos.  I've never been to Vegas.  I want to understand what my odds for success are before I ante up.

And to be completely honest, I've operated this way in my relationship with God.  I want to see outward signs that I'm on the right track.  I get anxious if I can't see my way along the path.  I want to be more in control than I'm willing to admit.  I'm not very good at trusting that everything will turn out the way it's supposed to.

So after his talk, I pondered the thought of truly being all in...what would that look like?  What would it cost me?  What would it cost me if I don't surrender to the obvious...that no one is really ever in control.

And then, I stumbled upon this quote from a fellow runner.... 

"I'm glad to be here right now, poking at my threshold. I want to get more comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to get more confident being uncertain. I don't want to shrink back just because something isn't easy. I want to push back, and make more room in the area between I can't and I can. Maybe that spot is called I will." -Kristin Armstrong

Because when you put it all out there, the only thing that can happen is that you lose your pride, your ego gets bruised, you discover something about yourself you didn't know before, and ultimately, you own your life on life's terms and not the preconceived ones that you've been hiding behind.

It might be time to be "all in."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

100% Obligatory Action Free Zone

It was my hip again.

Two miles into the run and I was frustrated.

I should have just stopped and called it a morning, but I needed to sweat out the toxins, the stress, and work through my general malaise. 

I don't know if my state of mind was attributed to exhaustion with the kids, anxiety over my upcoming half marathon race, anticipation of my in-laws holiday visit and the craziness of the house, or just in general, a need to be alone away from the responsibility of it all.

Do you ever feel like that?  Where your body, mind, and soul simultaneously belt out a resounding, "Fuck it," to the world?  And you know that in an ideal time and place, you'd be on a beach in Mexico holding something with an umbrella completely and utterly alone.

No cell phone.  No deadlines.  No upcoming project concerns.  No grocery shopping.  No dinner to attend to.  Absolutely 100% obligatory action free.

That state feels like a slice of Heaven.

A place where you're able to think, decompress, do away with the shit that just doesn't matter.  It's remote, isolated, simple, and hand crafted just for you.

And it's also a place where you don't feel guilty about being there.  You're not worried about being unreachable, non-participatory, or unengaged.

It's a spot where your batteries are recharged, your mind is cleared, your body is rejuvenated, and you're ready to come back to the demands of life with a smile on your face.

That's where I want to go.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing"

I am an old woman, I'll give you that.

Old enough to remember loving Judy Blume books.  I think I've read them all.

Some of my favorites include, "Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret,"  "Superfudge," and "Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself."

I'm also a big Beverly Cleary fan.  "Mouse and the Motorcycle." "Ramona Quimby, Age 8."

And then, there's the greats like Roald Dahl.  "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."  "The BFG."  "The Twits."  "Fantastic Mr. Fox."

And so, it is with great delight that I watch my seven-year old son and five-year old daughter devouring these books. 

They too are falling in love with the authors, the characters, the brilliant stories and begging to trek to the library to dive into new tales...enabling me to relive my childhood all over again.

And so, I leave you with one of my favorite paragraphs from "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing."

"Both my mother and my father are always warning me never to talk to strangers in the park.  Because a lot of dope-pushers hang aroung there.  But taking dope is even dumber than smoking, so nobody's going to hook me!"

I guess some things have changed since the '70's. Maybe I need to have a chat with my kiddos about the resident dope pushers or maybe how not to get hooked?  Good times.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When Does the Soul Enter/Depart?

I've never been a fan of cemeteries.

In fact, since my grandparents have passed, I've not gone once. 

Not on Memorial Day.  Not on Christmas.  Not on the anniversary of their deaths.

To me, they're not there.  Their souls have departed.  They are in Heaven.

When I want to pay homage or connect, I just start talking to them.  Usually, it's on their birthdays or when my children do something that I know my grandmother would remark about or love. 

And so the other day it hit me during a fascinating chat with a friend...if I believe that the soul departs the body upon death, when does it enter?

Upon conception?

Upon birth?

What happens to embryos that are frozen during various In vitro fertilization processes? 

Is the soul only available to us as human beings when it inhabits the body because we're limited creatures?

It all seems so complicated and ethereal until your child asks, "Where is Great Grandma now?"  or "Did you always know that I would be your daughter?"

And then, the philosophical conundrums feel a bit more real and important to try and process.

In my quest to determine my purpose for being on this earth, I'm mindful that my life is intentional and my soul is here for a reason.  And that ultimately, the real question is figuring out what I am here to do?

So maybe it doesn't matter when the soul enters the body, as long as it seeks to make the world a better place than when it discovered it.

The gifts that we bring are intended to create a more meaningful, peaceful, loving experience for those who come after us.  If we're seeking to do so, we know that the legacy we leave behind will no doubt be impacted by our presence.

So, in many respects, arguing over the soul's inception or exit is far less useful than the contribution that the soul makes while she's here, which is what I've shared with my children. 

Since we have no idea how many days we have on this earth, we should seek to make each one count, so that we're living a soul-filled life and helping others to do the same.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Traveling Up...Together

Look down. 

Nose to the grind stone. 

Focus on the cracks.

Study the leaves.  the sticks.  the grass.

Hear the music reverberate.

This is doable.  It doesn't matter if you haven't been here before.

You'll come back again.

And again.  and again.

Your ass is supposed to burn.

Your eyes are too. 

And the palms of your hands and the insides of your ears.

Sweat is telling.

Listen to it.

It's your heart.

It's got this.  along with your head.  and your soul.

Almost there.

Apex in sight.

Control it.

Release the fear.  You are not alone.

I am here.

Look up and out.

It's you and me at the top.

Of the hill., for the descent.

You've earned it.

Push down....for the up...

is on it's way.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Not Giving in to the Demigods

It was her hair that I loved.

I distinctly remember that.  It was blonde.  Not white blonde.  But that really cool California blonde with a million yellow, brown, almond, caramel colors strewn through it.

And she had blue eyes.  I did too, but hers were better...Mediterranean like and infinitely sparklier.

And she was smart, extraordinarily so.  She took all of the same advanced placement courses that I did, but different than me, she breezed through them as if it was nothing but a thing.

Oh, and she played the violin.  And when I went to her house, her father, a professor played classical music and asked if we wanted tea or to see their recent photos from Europe.

And I wanted to be her.

We were 16 and I was certain that she and her family epitomized everything that was right and beautiful in the world.

If I could just somehow transform my dark brown hair into blonde locks and lose 3 or 4 inches off of my 5 foot 8 inch frame and play a musical instrument and get a passport and learn to like tea and....

And I remember it like it was yesterday, the ways that we as adolescents turn ordinary people into demigods not realizing that when we do, we diminish the beauty and importance of who we are in the process.

This memory came back to me as I was talking with my beautiful five-year old daughter Kate.  She was sharing how she wished that she had curly hair like a little girl in her kindergarten class and that she played soccer.

I told her that curly hair is fun until you have to wash it, comb it, and manage it.  And that all of my friends with curly hair envied my straight hair because they hated maintaining their lioness locks.

Then I told her that soccer is super cool as well and she could certainly try it this spring, but that we shouldn't forget what an amazing ballerina that she has become.

And finally, I conveyed that its completely normal to "fall in love" with other people and to want to "be" who they are.  It's part of being human.  But the best skin to live in is your own.  It's true that if you don't live your own life, no one will get the best of you and everyone will miss out on the blessing that is you.

And yet, it's so hard when all you want to be is a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, Chopin listening, European traveler.  Alas, someone has to hold down the fort in Omaha, Nebraska.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I See Dead People...Sort of

For seemingly forever and a day, my friend has been encouraging me to write a post delving into the world of mediums.

You know, those people that have the gift of being able to "cross over" to the other side and engage with the deceased.

Take for example, the new TV show, the "Long Island Medium," focused on a woman who claims to be able to make contact with the departed.

Do you buy it? Is it conceivable?  Or is it simply a hoax...preying on the vulnerability of the ones left behind?

I'm not sure.  The only thing I do know is that during seasons of my life when I've missed a loved one that is no longer with me, I've prayed and tried to connect with them, especially when I'm hurting or lost.

For example, my paternal grandmother loved cardinals.  She had statues of them all over her home.  She incorporated them into her Christmas cards.  She believed that they were magical whenever we were in their presence.

And so now, when a cardinal comes and perches on my fence post, I feel as though she is somehow with me.  Since she's died, I've never heard her voice or necessarily been aware that she's heard mine, but the symbol of the bird signifies both a feeling of calm and freedom simultaneously...and somehow, I feel that she's connected to this life I've carved.

Maybe I would feel differently if I had some unfinished business with a member of the dead.  Maybe if I needed closure or an answer to a question left unresolved, I'd want to know more.

The truth is that no one really knows what happens post death and when someone leaves us, we are left to try to fill in the blanks.  Many times, we rely on our faith teachings believing that we will one day be reunited again.  For others, it's simply the end of the relationship.

Either way, is it possible that people live on this earth with one foot here and another foot in the hereafter?  Interesting thoughts to ponder on the eve of Halloween. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Erosion of the Spirit

It wasn't what she said.

Eerily, it was the tone in her voice.

Resigned.  Renouced.  Abdicated from the joy that I had been accustomed to knowing for so many years.  And then, after some dialogue, what appeared to be surrender to her situation.

After countless dialogues with girlfriends about themselves or those closest to them...I'm convinced her situation is not unique.

When the power balance shifts in a relationship and one person consistently and often cruelly subjects the other to their demands, the spirit of the overpowered is lost and their identity is morphed into what the dominator decides it should be.

Mark my words.

It's happening in more relationships/marriages than we care to concern ourselves with...until, it's someone close to you, and then, it makes a difference.

But how?  How does it happen?  What perfect storm of factors or convergence of scenarios would allow a beautiful, educated, capable woman to fall prey to the harsh extremes and irrational behaviors of the man who vowed to love and protect her for the rest of her life?

Let me begin by saying that it doesn't happen over night.  Not even remotely.

There may be a sign, a red flag here or there of controlling behavior, but often in the dating stages, it's passed off as attentiveness or territorial love, which may be welcomed if the woman hasn't been loved in some time.

And then once a life is created....a house, a business, children, extended family...well, then beyond the blessings, stress rears its ugly head and unfortunately, what appeared to be love before is now the reality of the situation....control, limitations, ugly outbursts, and blame.

Most of these scenarios feel shameful and humiliating to the one who's finding out the real side of her partner....which is both frightening and frustrating.

But who do you share the details with?  Especially, when your partner is loved by many and appears "normal" to the outside world.

The answer is you don't.  At least probably not for a long time.

And by that point, your spirit becomes eroded, your confidence diminished, and your prospects for the future are grim.

But as I sat on the phone with my friend...I gave her this advice...

"Find your voice again.  Never, never, never stop fighting for what you know to be true in your marriage.  You are in a partnering relationship, not a parental one.  You are to afford each other mutual respect and to make decisions jointly.  You are competent, capable and resourceful and no one can take that away from you.  We teach people how to treat us, so let him know that you will not accept abusive language, controlling demands or irrational/fear based behaviors.  Enough is enough."

I am bloody over this control dynamic that I'm witnessing in too many relationships.  Men and women deserve respect in relationships...this comes from actions, not from words.

Until then, I swear to God if I hear of another man trying to usurp his power over the hands and heart of one of my girlfriends, I'm taking a God damn two by four to their heads.  Mark my words.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

When an Email Changes Everything

It had been over ten years since she'd heard his voice, seen his face or known what he was up to.

Her hunch was that he'd settled down, gotten promoted, and maybe had kids of his own.

Their friendship hadn't ended well and lots of things that should have been said weren't, while other things that shouldn't have, came out in droves....making a reconciliation highly unlikely.

And then out of nowhere on a spring day, the message came, "I'm sorry.  I miss you.  I wish you well."

He wasn't an old boyfriend or past love, no he was more.  He was a really good friend...which is unfortunate because really genuine, giving, platonic relationships between guys and girls are rare.

But the truth is, she'd wondered and hoped that he'd found the love of his life, that he was making rituals of his own, and that the world was treating him with the kindness that he deserved.

The question was whether to write back.  And then, of course, what to say.  Had too much time passed?  Was it all simply water under the bridge?  Would they have anything in common and beyond that, how do you move past the awkwardness of the events that led to their separation?

In the end, hope usually wins and faith in their foundation forged a path.

"Thank you for reaching out.  I'm sorry for my part in how things went down.  I'm so happy to hear about your family.  Let's try again."

It's not always easy to reach out, especially when an extraordinary amount of time has passed.  It's not always easy to know what you'll get, when you do, but most of the time it's worth it.

Often, it just takes a little courage, vulnerability, hope, and a few key strokes.  Typically, I'm sorry is a good place to start.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What Happens When Its Not Enough

Have you ever done that thing...

Where you say to yourself...I'll have just, piece of chocolate, handful of chips...

Or, that other thing where you say...I'll be really good once the holidays are over or when we get back from our trip or after I make the project deadline...then, I'll concentrate on doing the right thing.

And when you're doing that thing....that rationalization of indulgence...and all along, you're fully intending to get buzzed, to eat the whole bag of M&M's or to spend time doing something you shouldn''re thinking ugh, why do I always do this to myself?

And so the question is...what happens when it (fill in the blank) is not enough?

And why can some people live within the realm of moderation and others well, not so much?

Does it make you a bad person?  Do you struggle with a character flaw?

Or is this the essence of what it means to be a human being?

And the sooner that we own our cravings/desires and work toward honoring the feelings connected to them...well, then are we on to something?

Because most of the time, it's not about the beer or the chocolate bar.  Isn't it about being transported to a place not connected to the stress, exhaustion, predictability or blah of the current status quo?

And so the real question seems to be how to transport oneself to the fun, the spontaneous, the free...without feeling the shackles of the guilt in the interim.  Because really, it's no fun if you're feeling bad about it in the process.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

One Hell Of A Week

Today didn't go down the way I wanted it to.

As I write, I'm stowed away in bed with some intestinal yuck, looking outside my window at a gorgeous 78 degree fall day that is begging me to join it.

My plan was to go to mass early with my family, help my son sell Boy Scout popcorn after church and then go for an 11-mile run.

The run was to cap off a beautiful and nearly gut wrenching exhaustion of a week.

With events/meetings every night, a memorable birthday party for my mother, lots of volunteering at the kids' schools and five days of body was wiped out.

So, I was eager to be by myself with my iPod running on probably one of the last beautiful days of the season.

Until I woke up and quickly realized, that's not happening.

I'm learning that I suck at managing my own expectations.  When I decide how I want something to go down, I'm pretty resolute to see it through.  And so, well, argh.

The Sunday New York Times, cat napping, water, tea, and the hope that this is a 24-hour deal.

If not, I'm going to seek out a Shaman or a Buddhist monk for healing.  No rest for the weary. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Your Crazy Big Idea

Each morning this week, I've woke up wanting to curl up and go back to bed.

4:30am comes too early when it's dark outside, it's cold, and flannel sheets are taunting me like sirens with their melodies of warmth and peace.

But alas, I get up.  I turn on the coffee pot.  Eat a banana.  Put on my shoes and go.


I thought I would be sick of it by now.  It's been almost a year since I've taken it up and with most new ventures in my life, I get bored easily.

But interestingly, beyond the physical benefits of weight loss, the greater energy reserves, and the discovery of my belly button again...I've located parts of me that were, well, lost.

I'm not sure that until I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone for an extended period of time that I appreciated what I was capable of.  In fact as I look back over the last 10 months, I'm aware of more fear than I care to admit.  More insecurity.  More trepidation.

And the truth is life is just too short.  It just is.

We fall down thinking that there is always tomorrow or another chance.  Many times there is, but sometimes there's not.

We're never 100% prepared for any given situation and if we wait to do what our heart is calling us to try, but scared to attempt, the only fact is that we'll never know how amazing or horrifying that it could be.

Running has taught me to take risks.  They may be calculated.  But they're a far cry from thinking about it and never doing anything with it because it's a crazy idea.

If we all took our one crazy idea and shared it with the world...we might just be a happier, funnier, healthier group of people.

What's your crazy deal?  What makes you all giddy inside just giving it ten seconds of thought?  If money was no object, what would you be doing?  Where does your passion reside?  What's holding you back?

And if you knew that your days were limited, what crazy, big, beautiful, bold, YOU idea would you bring to the world?

Come on...I'm dying to know.  We all are.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Schizophrenic Living and Dreaming

It was really quiet. 

And, I, well, I was soaking wet.

That's what happens when you forget to bring clean towels from the laundry room and you've turned off the shower and you're exposed with no protection in sight, literally.

And I was cold.  And tired.  And then, crunch.  My toes smooshed a cheerio.  Perfect.

And then, looking in the mirror, I heard her voice.

"It's all normal...all of it...this schizophrenic life that is yours.  You can't imagine not being there for your kids' everything.  And then when you are, you just want to run away and start a new life in...I don't know...Zimbabwe.  And then you feel guilty because your Catholic, a mother, and trying to be all things to all people, always.  Knock that shit off.  It doesn't do anybody any good."

And then last night at a party, I heard his voice.

He was sharing his travels to Tuscany and his love for all things Italian.  I was hanging on to his every word and sharing that my dream is to one day get there.  "Then you will, if it's your dream.  No one can take that away from you."

So, my plan is to keep doing the towel folding, cheerio pouring, diaper changing, stroller pushing, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" singing mama thing that one day, I'll find myself in Italy writing with a glass of something bubbly on a veranda overlooking the countryside.

Hopefully, I'll be in my 40's...I hear that's when life begins anyway and according to my mom, her 40's were her sexiest's hoping.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Slow Down, Sister

The other day I found myself at my second home.


My sweet five-year old daughter, Kate was accompanying me and within five minutes, she knew that her lunatic, crazy mother was on the scene.

It's no joke.  I long to be one of those ladies that peruses the aisles reading labels, checking out the sales, enjoying the colorful displays, trying things on.

But the truth is that most of the time, my jaunt into the Red Target land of glory is an on-the-fly, "Aw fuck, I forgot the fill in the blank," and I've got a whopping 20 minutes to get that shit and be back in the car, on the road, definitively late for wherever I'm supposed to be.

My daughter is the antithesis of me.  That girl lives in the moment.  She understands what it means to appreciate the aesthetic and to take time to go through those fucking dollar bins that they strategically place by the shopping carts....crack for kids, a nightmare for parents.

So, while I was trying to convince her that we did not need another Halloween decoration, sparkle glitter pen, tube of finger nail polish or knock off Hello Kitty post it note, she belts out...

"Slow down, sister...what's the rush?"

You know what happens when you're running on empty and your kid makes a retort like that?

Shit gets real.

And just as I was about to get snarky back, an elderly woman burst out laughing.

"Oh my that is funny."

Yep, showed up by my kindergartner.

Great lesson for me at Target.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Story in the Reflection

Three ice cubes and 50 ounces of water in a Camelbak.

Three pockets of Espresso Gu and 8 Sports Beans.

This is my standard fuel reserve for an 8-13 mile training run.

An ipod with a playlist.  A Garmin monitoring my heart rate, elevation, distance and speed per mile.

Short shorts.  A tank.  Running shoes.  Colorful wool socks. And lip, shiny gloss to be exact.

It's a routine that transpires every Saturday morning.

I run through parks, neighborhoods, down busy streets, up hills, under overpasses, along side cyclists, and try not to get hit by cars.

My music is obnoxiously loud and my heart is always pounding.

Today was hard.  My hips hurt.  My legs were tired.  My mind was racing.  And more than a handful of times, I wanted to bag it and call it a day.

But the thing that always stops me is that I've never done that before.  I've never not (I love the use of double negatives) finished a run.  And I always lean on precedent.  I don't want to break the stride, literally.

So, I started telling myself a story about the woman I am, not the woman that I often apologize for being.  I started visualizing strength and releasing of fear, doubt, guilt, indecision...because they're so useless anyway,

And then I caught a glimpse of myself on the side of a retail building and I was stunned.  That's me.  All strong and shit.  How did that happen?  When did I become that?  Was I always that?

I'm a fan of power.  Owning who you are and recognizing what you've earned.  And not apologizing along the way.

Today's 10-miles taught me that good things come when you keep lacing up the shoes and doing what you know to be healthy in your life.

I really liked the reflection...the image of a powerful me. I think I'll keep running toward it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Love Upon Demand


Beat up from the feet up.

So tired that my eye balls hurt...and my hip, can't forget the new war wound.  It must be that I get to test out pain in all parts of my body to determine that yes indeed, I want to be a runner, badly enough.

It also must mean that it's 4:00pm on a Friday afternoon that is cloudy, damp, and cool outside.

And then when I think about where the week went or better yet the day, I see her coat.  It's red velvet and little, really little, hanging out by her shoes, her pigtail holders, and the back pack that she's been carrying around pretending that she's a big girl like her older sister.

And, it's the revolving plate of cookies.  And the spelling test prep.  And the talk about flag football and the fire truck that came to visit school. "Do we have two escape plans in case of an emergency?" 

And it's the cub scout uniform crumpled up in the corner and the macaroni and cheese smooshed into the socks by the library book bag and the cobwebs that will not go away.

And it's "Mama...Mama...Mama...I'm here, hold me, love me, be available to me now or I'll explode."

And it's that feeling of wanting to curl up and be held by a force that will just take care of everything for you upon demand and your command that I get.  I really get it.  And it's not unreasonable.  It's just that somehow we grow out of expecting it because it's not reliable or organic to every situation.

But right now, in this moment, I say simultaneously...bath, wine, nap, sushi, chocolate, love, breath...immediately.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Change of the Leaves and Me

I remember walking at this time last year.

The leaves were doing that magical thing that they do claiming all of their vibrant autumnal colors and making the landscape so inviting.

You know how it goes down.  One day it's cold.  One day it's unseasonably warm.

And you're mindful that like a good thing, it can only last so long, before the leaves will all be crunched, the trees will be barren and the winter will set in.

Last year at this time, I was in a remarkably different spot.  Overweight.  Tired most days.  Nursing an infant and trying to manage the "zone defense" life that is raising three kids.

This year, I feel changed.  As strange as it is to say, I'm not afraid of the cold.  In fact, I'm kind of excited about the first snow.  I'm eager to see how my winter weather running gear holds up to the harsh temperatures and to the challenge of staying fit in the face of shorter days and less sunlight.

I'm also hopeful for continual transformation.  Because everything happens in due time, right.  It happens when we're ready to accept it, to put in the work, and to integrate it into our lives permanently.

My hunch is that my running is only going to become more and more a part of my life and that I'll delight in the snow crunching against my shoes and the well deserved hot toddy that ensues after a long trek.

The change of the seasons seems like the perfect time to assess the direction that I'm moving...and I think the consensus is that I need to keep on keeping on.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Running For You...And You...And You

It was cold.

The high was in the forties and I wasn't ready to put on my shoes and make a go of 9 miles.

I had a of those phlegmy, snotty, feverish sort of chest colds that makes you want to curl up in a ball and feel sorry for yourself.

Except I'd been playing that card for the last three days...and so, it was time to suck it up.

I pulled out the winter apparel...ear band, gloves, capris and decided that I would give it my best.

At the beginning of my run, it hit me.  I would dedicate segments of my run to friends/family members who are in need.

As the hills got steeper, the north wind became more biting, and the desire to throw in the towel grew greater, I would use these stories as beacons...a way to see my way through.  And in some sort of masochistic way, I prayed that as my pain became more intense, theirs would lessen.  Weird, I know.

My first three miles went to a dear friend...probably one of the strongest, most inspiring women I know.  Mesmerized by her ability to keep it all together raising a brood of four boys while under duress and constant friction at home...she encourages that all things are possible if you believe, put a little elbow grease into it, and laugh with the world.

The next three miles went to a friend who shared coffee with me that morning...staring down an unknown path in her marriage and raising her daughter potentially on her own...I prayed that she would know she's not alone.  Ever. 

The last three miles went to another sweet, off-the-charts amazing friend whom I look up to on a daily basis.  I prayed that she would know that she's an incredible mother, a dedicated wife, a ridiculously available friend, and an incredible nurse.  And that someday, one day, all of the answers will fall into place.

But my last mile...well, that was mine.  Because the last mile turned into an unexpected 10th mile.  I prayed for grace, kindness, trust and a belief that all is well and that I am enough. Always.

It was quite the experience.  Definitely much more than a run.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Blessed to be Doing what I'm Doing

Most of you know that my parents divorced when I was little.

Four to be exact and my brother was two weeks old.

My mom was hard pressed to make sure that we had dinner on the table, parent permission slips signed, and a ride home from school.

So, activities like Daisy Scouts, ballet, and gymnastics really were not on her purview or remotely in the budget.

It was last night in the middle of kicking off a Daisy Scout parent meeting that it hit me, I am extraordinarily blessed.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to provide this gift to my daughter.  I am thankful that it is me that picks up my children each day from school and walks them through their homework in the afternoons.  

I am mindful that our time together in this way is limited and unique to the ages that they are.  And so for the time being, we live in a small house, drive older vehicles, and make it work on one income.

My hope is that as we look back and as they remember their childhoods that they will know that we were there.  Mama helped them to earn their badges (as did my husband who is the Cubscout Leader), walked them through their spelling tests, crunched leaves with them, and snorted chocolate milk out our noses as we made bubbles in our cups.

Life is short.  No matter how hard it is, I'm thankful that I get to spend my hours and days making these memories.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It's Just The Period Talking

Like it's my job, I'm a religious charter.

Of my period that is.  My menstrual cycle, my anticipated visit from Aunt Flo, my monthly reminder that I am indeed without child.

And so I'm very aware of how it all goes down.  The days leading up to the premenstrual lunacy that is about to ensue.

But even though I'm completely experienced in the whole deal, I am still 100% taken aback by how much I HATE...triple fucking...HATE, HATE, HATE my period.

Bloated, crampy, irritable, fatigued, hormonal, and frequently irrational is not even the half of it.

I am one mean, in-your-face screaming, crying, over-the-top raging bee-yatch.

Exhibit number one...I can not, I mean can not deal with slow service people.  And by service, I mean the only service that I indulge in...Starbucks.  So, yesterday, when I needed some caffeine and had a 20 minute window to get it in between slamming 15 grocery items in a cart, comforting a teething toddler and trying to get back to pick up my daughter from ballet....

I had NO time, patience, or interest in watching the Starbucks barista at Target gently sprinkle the Pumpkin spice on top of a patron's latte.  Bitch...just give me the iced coffee before I cut your throat.  I modified that so that I could write it in my blog.  Much worse in real life.

Exhibit number kids.  "Mama...why do I have to do a spelling quiz every day after school? Come on."  Because it's 15 God damn words and you will get an A + in this subject if it's the death of me.  Now sit your ass down and write.  I didn't give up a career and back burner my graduate degree to hear your whiny little ass moan and groan.  Suck it up.  That was modified as well.

Exhibit number to my husband.  "Damn it!  Why do I always incessantly look like I'm 3 months pregnant?  Fat Ass Anonymous here I come."  To which he simply shakes his head and I say, "I know that're trying to figure out how to not answer the question, so that you don't have to admit that I am a fat ass.  Well fuck you too."  Yep, another slight modification.

As I lament these period trials and tribulations to my girlfriends, they all echo the same sentiment, "Yep, that's just the period talking."

Well, shut the fuck up, period.  You're not welcome here anymore.

Whew, I feel better.  Now, where's the chocolate?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

When you've been around the block a few times, you know that pain is a given.

You recognize that what you expected to go down is not...and after anger, tears, bargaining and ultimately, surrender, you get that life's not fair.

And that maturity is simply the state you find yourself in when you accept reality gracefully.

So, it was with an extreme lack of character, grace, and maturity that I attempted to do hill training last Saturday morning.

I'm preparing for a half marathon in six weeks and am keenly aware of how much work lies ahead of me.  The course is hilly to say the least and my legs, ass, and least of all my head is in the game when it comes to going up and down for 13.1 miles.

But while I was running, I was simultaneously aware of how it doesn't matter...most of it at least.  I spend a good chunk of time worried about the balance in the checking account, questioning if I'm doing the right thing by staying at home, fearful that my kids will be jacked up if they don't live on a street with lots of kids or play club soccer.

And in the end, these "worries" will all take care of themselves.  And like hill training, life is simply a series of ebbs and flows; peaks and valleys; good times and bad.  In theory, it's how we recognize the seasons.  We can't appreciate the wind in our hair and the cool breeze of the sweet spots unless we feel the pain in our ass, the stitch in our side, and the overwhelming heaviness of breath.

I'm learning, truly learning what it means to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, uncertain, and fearful.

It's painful, but it's doable.  And ultimately, it's real. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gridlock at the %@(+! DMV

"I wouldn't go in if I were's a minimum hour wait...and the line's wrapped out the door," said the man who walked back to his car with his son.

Are you kidding me?

Like a dip shit, I waited until the last day of the month at 11:30am to renew my license plate tags.  I know, I deserved to be standing in line, over the lunch hour, holding my 22-month old toddler listening to the biggest degenerate I've laid eyes on in I can't remember.

Yep...I should have gone first thing in the morning.  I should have gone in the middle of the month.  I should have renewed the tags online.  And I sure as shit, should not have brought my toddler.

But just as I started to grin and bear it, I hear, "No ma...I called my parole officer...I went to the AA meeting...I don't think so....I'm supposed to meet this chick later....I don't give a shit about tickets....I get em all the time...there only like 16 bucks...I don't know if I'm supposed to keep filling out applications if I already have a, I'm stuck in line, the second time, because I forgot something in my car...I love you too."

It was some sort of Lifetime movie gone bad.  And then while saying prayers of gratitude to God for my sweet Claire who was quietly singing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," with me....this crazy dude behind me starts asking me all of these questions.

"Uh oh...looks like your baby's gotta runny nose." (him)

"Uh, thanks." (me)

"She looks tired.  Does she usually nap in the afternoons?" (him)

"Sometimes." (me)

"So you don't work?" (him)

I start singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" while desperately trying not to scream.

"I mean outside of the house, of course." (him)

"Down came the rain and washed the..." (me)

"Do you miss adult conversation?  My mom was a first grade teacher and said it can be hard." (him)

Kill me...(me)

Next in line...

And just like that...I earned a spot in Heaven.

What a fucking day.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

When Love is Not Enough

Usually by Thursday mornings, I'm making every excuse to turn my alarm clock off and go back to bed.

Particularly this morning because the kids did not have school and I was free from making lunches, pouring bowls of cereal and getting them out the door.

But I know how shitty I would feel if I didn't, and so, I laced up my shoes and headed to the gym to run.

Undergoing my usual locker room routine...
  • Deodorant on pits
  • Pit stop into the bathroom
  • Garmin on start 
  • Headphones cued to play list
I heard this...

"I'm done.  What am I really getting out of it anyway?  He's inconsistent and expects me to pick up the pieces.  He's just selfish.  Yep, love's no longer enough. "

It was the cute gym girl on the phone talking, I'm assuming, to her bestie.  Her last line before I grabbed my water bottle and vacated the premises stuck with me.

When is love no longer enough?

In almost everything else in life, if you just put in consistent, focused, and diligent effort, you will reap the rewards of success.

Relationships are a completely different animal.

In her case, she may have been putting in her share only to be met, day in and day out, by someone who didn't sign up for the same deal.

And so, different than the unconditional love that a parent feels for their child and by unconditional, I mean, children can shit on you selfishly over and over again and love will always be's just not the same arrangement in romantic love.

You've got to want to be there for the other.  It's absolutely like a friendship.  Consistency, care, follow through, loyalty, availability, interest, and love.  Once that foundation is established, well then all of the good physical intimacy is just icing on the cake.

But until then, the words "I love you, " only go so far.  And apparently for her, not the distance.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cultivating Happiness

The past few nights, I haven't been sleeping.

You know what it's like...

When you're in and out of that haze of consciousness knowing that you should be sawing logs but thinking about all that is wrong with the world and wishing you could wave a magic wand...

to make it all better.

Through phone conversations with family members and friends and my own private longings, I've been hearing the phrase, "I just want to be happy," over and over again.

Admittedly, it's easy to look over the fence (physical or virtual) and assume that a certain street address, occupation, or life station would make one happy.  As if it's a destination.

So in one of these hazes, I grabbed my nightstand book, "Eat, Pray, Love" and was struck by one of Elizabeth Gilbert's quotes.

"When you sense a faint potentiality for happiness, after such dark times, you must grab onto the ankles of that happiness and not let go until it drags you face-first out of the dirt-this is not selfishness, but obligation. You were given life; it is your duty to find something beautiful within life no matter how slight.”

And so with the various life circumstances that my friends' and family find themselves in and the ones that I lament from time to time, I am mindful that happiness, like love is something to be cultivated.

More than a noun, happiness is a active state.  A way that we live.  A mantra for being.  Not something that we're entitled to unless we put the work in...and in some cases, meant to be redefined from rainbows and butterflies to peace and joy.

Happiness looks different for every person.  And in the end, only you know when your heart is aglow.  But what will it take to get you there?  Are you willing to participate in the process?

Ultimately, we have responsibility for this life of ours.  Finding something beautiful, joyful, and peaceful to love is the calling of our heart which over time manifests into happiness. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Please, Please Stop Whining

I forgot about this phase.

I should have recorded it with the two older children, so that it wouldn't have caught me so off guard and in the end, been such a pisser.

My soon-to-be two-year old daughter is going to be the death of me, literally.

She's teething, has some form of a cold or allergies, and is refusing to sleep through the night in her bed.

She's learned to throw temper tantrums and instead of shouting "no" in disapproval, her signature retort is "MO!" which means no in Claire speak.

She is beyond exhausting.  She's consuming so much energy and mental mojo that my husband and I are ready to hop the next plane to anywhere.

"It's just a season."

"This too shall pass."

"Try to enjoy it.  Soon, they'll be grown and gone."

All of this is great advice, but offers little to no comfort when you're thick in the trenches. 

The only thing that provides refuge is her crib.  She hasn't yet figured out how to crawl out...and a sound machine which somewhat drowns out the incessant whining...and a glass of fill in the blank which sometimes numbs the constant irritation.

I feel horrible documenting these feelings, but it is what it is...the joys of parenting a toddler.

I'm sure I'll miss it, but definitely not today.

Monday, September 24, 2012

"I Just Want to Be With Him"

Recently, while on a trip out of town to Chicago, I randomly connected with a girl around my age taking the same train.

Sitting next to each other, she asked me why I was in town and I told her I was going to run the Chicago Half Marathon.  Crazily, she was too.

We exchanged stories.  I told her that I was married and had three children.  She told me that she was embarking upon her Ph.D program at the University of Chicago and was excited to have a break this weekend.  Her boyfriend who is originally from London but living in New York was coming to the Windy City to cheer her on.

Because I can't help myself and am ever the meddler, I probed, " he the one?"

Anyone that prefaces a response to that question with, "'s complicated, " is doomed.

And so I asked more.  "How long have you been apart?"  "Is one of you willing to move?"  "How invested are you?"  "Are you willing to walk away?"

My stock speech as a girl who spent too many years in relationships that were eventually going no where is...get the hell out.

But then she got teary.  "It's been five years and I just want to be with him.  I think this weekend is going to determine a lot."

Aw's the coming to Jesus conversation.  I actually thought about asking if I could have it on her behalf.

It's not a hard one to have.  It should go down fairly quickly.  No hemming.  No hawing.  Just straight you want us or not...unconditionally?  If not, goodbye and good luck.

That's what I've learned.  No dragging your feet.  No trying to think about on our best days how we could make it happen.  Nope.  Life is complicated.  Relationships can get murky.  But at the end of the day, are we on the same team or not.  If not, cut the cord, so you can find the one.

I sort of gave her that advice and told her she was too damn cute and smart to wait for any douche bag who wasn't ready to commit.

I like to think that I was practicing on her, so that one day, I'll be prepped to have that chat with my daughters.

Life's too short.  Spend it loving, not wondering whether someone loves you or not.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Stories We Tell Ourselves

I sort of envy people who don't live in their heads.

It's got to be such a beautiful and clean experience not to continually rehash life experiences.

Alas, I've learned that it is what it is, and I've always been a girl who can't help but analyze my world.  I'm rarely good at taking things at face value.  There must be something more.

And so it struck me when I recently attended a workshop for beginner runners.  The focus of the talk was how to enjoy your race experience.  One of the techniques that the speaker suggested was to develop a keen awareness of the stories that we tell ourselves. 

In the case of running, often what flows through the head is far more powerful than what the legs think they can or can not do.  So, if you're constantly visualizing what it will feel like to cross the finish line and telling yourself that you're steady, powerful, capable, and determined...the mantras eventually move into a story that plays out mile by mile until you've achieved the goal.

In the routine and rituals of daily living, we engage in the same story telling behaviors.  We tell ourselves tales about who we are and who we are not.  We feed our mind with messages of hope or doubt based upon who we believe ourselves to be....a contributing member of the team, a failure as a mother, a beautiful friend, a worthless fill in the blank.

As we all know, the best part of story telling is that you can change the direction of the tale at any time.  You can decide what will happen to the characters, how they will be transformed, the lessons learned, and ultimately what happens before you imprint the words, 'The End.'

So, what will your story be?  How do you talk to yourself?  What character are you playing?  Do you believe that you're worthy, capable of the kind of ending you want?

Because in the end, we are a compilation of our thoughts that either motivate us to act or to not.  Instead of staying in your head indefinitely, the power of staying keenly aware of your story is that you are the writer, actor, director, and producer of the outcome.

What will your ending look like?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Moments of Anticipation

You know how you feel when you really,

I mean, really want something.  Not just a little bit...but a lot. 

You get antsy, itchy, heart racing excited, nervous, anxious, hopeful, doubtful, and ultimately, the pit of your stomach starts to grind as you pray, beg, bargain, negotiate your way toward the prize.

I've felt this way a handful of times throughout my life.  And when I start to sweat, can't sleep, get fixated, assess the odds, and rationalize my case...that's when I know....that I really, really want it.

I'm feeling it for a couple of opportunities in my life.

And I'm aware that it could go either way.

But what I'm extraordinarily grateful for is the gift of the feeling...the crazy blood flow, the sweaty palms, the hope beyond hope, the journey toward the outcome.

And that's why I run mentally and have an outlet for all of these moments of anticipation.

They let me know that I am indeed 100% alive.  There's nothing better.

Friday, September 21, 2012

How Do You Walk Through the World?

Last night, I had the privilege of participating in The Literacy Center of the Midlands fundraiser, "The Spelling Bee."

In her opening comments, the executive director noted that over 77,000 people in the Omaha metro area are functionally illiterate.  And because they can't read, they are some of the most intelligent, creative, resourceful people she knows.

Driving down city streets, they know to turn left or right based on landmarks.  They figure out food labels in grocery stores, how to interpret bills in their mailboxes and how to apply for jobs even though many have no experience with online tools.

Seated at my table was a woman who is a student at the Literacy Center.  She shared her story and my soul was stirred.

At the age of 50+ years old, she's starting over again.  She wants something different, something better for her life.  She's doing what she said she should have been doing a long time ago...getting the skills she needs to navigate and thrive in the world.

And it's not easy.  It takes a willingness to be vulnerable, to fall on your face, to keep trying, and to trust that eventually these skills (that most of us take for granted) will emerge.

Her story and the entire event gave me extraordinary pause.

We all walk through the world...side by side...wanting the best lives for ourselves, for those we love.  We sacrifice, we hope, we try, we fail, we believe, we yearn for more.

But what was different in this woman was how she walked...she wasn't afraid of what it would take to learn, she was afraid of what she would become if she didn't make change in her life.

I want that.  I want to fear what will become of me if I don't do what I should do....instead....of how painful or hard or scary it will be to take on the task at hand.

We have so much to learn from one another.  I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to walk alongside her for a little while last night.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Process of Aging

This year marks my 15-year college reunion.

I could hardly believe when the promotional emails, post cards, and facebook commentary emerged.

Fifteen years.  Where did it go?

When I was back in Chicago for a half marathon race earlier in the month, I was having dinner with a friend.  After not seeing one another for years, he said, "You look the same as you did in college."

After three babies, a graduate degree, a pseudo career prior to kidlets, sleepless nights, and lots of stress...I could hardly imagine that comment to be true...but I really appreciated it, nonetheless.

Not long after that trip while rifling through old baby clothes boxes, I stumbled upon pictures of me, my old college roommate, travels abroad, and fun times with friends.  I looked at myself in the mirror and then at the picture and thought, hell...maybe, the years have been kind...minus a few wrinkles and bags under the eyes.

When I think about that wide-eyed, hopeful, and extraordinarily green 22-year old college girl, I think about a woman who was yearning, eager, and I guess wanting to be the woman that I am today....married with children and most days extraordinarily happy. 

And when I look at the 37-year old woman in the mirror, sometimes, I long for the days when I would read philosophy texts for hours, drink beer like it was my job, get dressed up for a date and try not to puke from the butterflies (and subsequent beer) in my stomach.

But mostly, I hope that I'll get to look at a 57-year old woman in the mirror who will no longer have children at home.  And a 77-year old woman who will hopefully have finally traveled to Tuscany and published something.  And just maybe a 97-year old woman who will tell stories to her great grandchildren about being born in the 1900's...can you imagine life before the internet?

The process of aging is inevitable.  Some people do it well by owning each season and taking the best parts of who they were into where they're going.  Some people do it poorly by stewing in the past imprisoned by what was.

I'm thankful that the years have been kind and pray that there will be more college reunions to look forward to.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Becoming a Better Writer

If it is true that you are what you do...over and over and over again, then it must mean that if you want to be a better (fill in the blank)....

mother, runner, wife, friend, lawn mower, church goer, you name it...

well then, essentially, you must have to fake it until miraculously, some day, you arrive.

I want and have wanted to be a better writer for as long as I can remember.

I remember learning what a "theme" was in high school English class and thinking, I love the concept of a thesis statement, supporting evidence, a nice lead in, seamless transitions.

Later in college, I recall receiving the dreaded blue book at test time.  My favorite exams were essays.  I abhor multiple choice answer quizzes.  No fun in that.

Supplementing the formal writing, for most of my life, I've written in some form of a diary or journal.  I have gazads of them packaged in boxes in the basement documenting the trials, tribulations, and joys of my life.

But the reality of it all is that my writing needs work.  And unfortunately, like any skill, the only way to improve is to practice and to submit it to outside eyes.

So, I've decided to push myself to write an essay a week and to force it on one of my unsuspecting friends who will hopefully provide me with constructive feedback and helpful suggestions.

Until then, I'll keep writing stories in my head that will one day lead to paper and eventually onto the keyboard and hopefully into the hands or eyes of another, because I suppose, writers write.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Kelly's Hot Mess Celebrates First Year Anniversary!

One year ago today, I was in need.

Feeling stifled, a bit isolated and bubbling with so many thoughts that couldn't be contained any longer in the form of a journal...I decided to create and share my blog.

I titled it "Kelly's Hot Mess," primarily because on any given day that's really how I view my life...a compilation of craziness that takes the shape of raising three wacky kiddos, banging my head around being the most authentic and available wife I can be, running so I can feel my body in motion, and playing around with what it means to be alive in the most "real" way that I can document.

Since my inaugural, introductory blip, I've written 276 posts that revolve around the stories of my life and the crazy thoughts in my head.

I have been abundantly grateful for all of the commentary that the blog has elicited...some constructive, some controversial...but all helpful.  Private messages from readers have encouraged me that I'm not alone in my journey and collectively, that we're all trying to do the best we can.

My hope is to continue writing in this medium and maybe, maybe just one day expanding it into a collection of short stories or an essay submission to my favorite column, "Modern Love" in the Sunday New York Times.

Until then, know that I appreciate your readership, but more importantly, I treasure your friendship and the many ways that we've reconnected through "Kelly's Hot Mess."

Happy Anniversary!

Monday, September 17, 2012


I had a hard day.

Mostly because I couldn't gain perspective...

on what really matters.

Not the busyness or the money or the plans or the material.

Until I stumbled upon a poem that my mentor gave to me.

And then I remembered.

Maybe, you know it.  If you don't, enjoy.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are the vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter, for their will always be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly in the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You are needed in this world. Do not concern yourself with other worlds, for they do not exist. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding in an ordered manner. Therefore, be at peace with nature and the mysterious process of evolution, whatever you conceive it to be; and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, strive to maintain your own inner peace while you do those things bring you happiness and contribute to the survival of humanity. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

--Author Unknown

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Marital Honesty

For you married readers out there...

here's the million dollar question...

do you tell your partner everything?

Are you transparent about it all?  How much it costs to get the gray out of your hair.  How many beers you drank at the last sales meeting.  The fact that you can't stand when he/she reaches over to kiss you first thing with well, that breath.

That you have a minor crush on a guy/girl at the gym.

That you secretly steal a smoke on the car ride home from work.

That sometimes, after shopping trips, you stuff the goods inside your bag and head immediately upstairs to put the aforementioned goods under your bed.

That on that one night, during that one time, when you were super tired, you faked it, so you could go back to sleep.

And then there's the deeper stuff....the pieces that you've sworn to take to the grave....that you won't even document.

In a healthy, loving, communicative, transparent important, necessary, or helpful is it to be completely honest?

It's a good question.  I'm certain that 99.9% of the time my husband tells me that I look fabulous in everything I put on...even when sometimes, I have no business being caught out in public in such garb.

I also know that there are hot button topics that we don't address like politics because they don't lead to warm fuzzy feelings.

But in general, on any given day, is it critical to tell your partner everything or is it okay not to and where do you draw the line?

Food for thought.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Parts of Me

I promised myself that I would notice 'me' when I was in Chicago.

Not exclusively my running form or how my body felt in motion during the race...

but that I would pay attention to how I felt roaming the city streets, navigating the 'L' stops, engaging in conversation with college friends, bumping into strangers, and in general being out of 'mom mode.'

I've read that at any given time, we compartmentalize pieces of ourselves...mostly out of survival, sometimes for the purposes of organization, and ultimately, because we prioritize the season that we find ourselves in and back burner excess so as not to get confused or off-track.

But those parts of us that are temporarily not engaged, do not go away....and when they are awakened, if only briefly, they remind us that we are complex, alive, and multi-dimensional.

Moments after I finished the Chicago Half Marathon race, I sat down next to a man on the shuttle bus.  We were trekking back to the L Stop that brought us here.

I introduced myself.  Told him where I was from.  And that I had a husband and three kiddos eagerly awaiting my return to congratulate me on the achievement.

He told me that he was a professor at the University of Chicago in literature.  His focus is in Irish literature and he'd just finished a sabbatical in Ireland with a stint in northern Italy.

We chatted about my time studying abroad in Greece and Turkey, the Windy City, running, races, family and how great it is to do something completely outside of your comfort zone.

He mentioned that he wasn't married and had no children.  "Frankly, I wasn't sure how to fit that into my life.  I applaud you."  I laughed and said, "I envy your travels to Italy and around the world."  He promised me that I'd get there one day.

Those parts of us that enjoy meeting strangers, shooting the shit over a bus ride or a beer, stealing moments to engage our brains in the latest political debacle or philosophical debate...they don't go away.  They may be dormant and hibernating.  But they never leave us.

And that to me is extraordinarily refreshing.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Life is a Marathon to be Savored

It's been nine months since I've been dedicated to a regular running regimen.

And in that time, I've taken in countless pieces of advice.

Suggestions on running form, pace, training plans, nutrition, clothing, name it...there's gazads of information out there.

But the other day, I saw a quote that stopped me in my tracks.  Simple.  Straight forward.  But also loaded, if you sink into it.

Life is a marathon and YOU are in it.

Many will concede that the running metaphor has many evident and cheese dick parallels to the journey that we're all this unique life that we've been given.

But give it a second and think about it.

This is your life.  It's your race.  And when you take care of yourself physically, mentally and're able to endure.  You're not simply surviving, you're thriving and maybe, conquering some personal best records in your relationships, in your work, and in your space.

There are days, when you're exhausted.  Sick.  Tired.  Hurt.  Someone or something injured you.  You're pissed.  All that work for nothing.  Fuck that relationship.  Damn that job.  Screw that project.

But today, the hour turned, the sun came up, and by the grace of God, you were given the gift of anew.

Will you lace up your shoes, give it a go, make amends, hydrate, refuel, believe in yourself, trust in the future?  Or will you stew bogged down in defeat or simply surrender to the pain?

Because even on the days when we can't imagine getting up and trying again, we're in it.  Life is a marathon and we're here.

And everyone will tell you that to be successful in a race means to start slow, take in everything (the sights, the smells, the people, the experience), to have a plan for how you're going to cope when it gets hard, to create the story that you'll tell yourself (I am strong, powerful, capable) when you want to quit, and to put in the time, so that at the finish line, you fully experienced the journey.

I am grateful everyday for what running has taught me.  It's not easy.  But the lessons are true...they're beautifully hard and hopeful.  Here's to enjoying the marathon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Here's to Sleep & Indulgent Behavior

Today was the first morning in ages that I woke up and thought, I can't run.  I'm too exhausted.

Lacing up my shoes, it all started playing like a movie in my head.

For probably two weeks leading up to the Chicago Half Marathon, I didn't sleep.  Or if I did, it was fitful and fraught with weirdo nightmares of getting lost.

Compounding my lack of sleep, my whole family, and many families around us are sick with some yuck deal that is either a virus or a severe case of allergies.

Consequently, I've been pounding Emergency drink, Airborne, Zinc, Vitamin C and water.

Then my calendar smacked me in the ass when I realized that I've volunteered for a shit load of roles/events at my kiddos' school and church.

And, another half marathon in 8 weeks.

And, a jewelry business that I'm resurrecting.

And, I'm crazy.  Certifiably so.

So, at the risk of sounding immature...lazy...or's what I want to do.

I want to run my long run on Saturday morning, drink a ginormous glass of vitamin D chocolate milk, take a steaming hot shower, fall asleep to a great play list, wake up and start drinking.  You name it.  Martinis, Mimosas, doesn't much matter.  I just want to drink.  Then sleep again.  Then sleep some more.  Take some ibuprofen.  Regain consciousness.  Resume the routine.  And be happy.

It's okay if it's only a fantasy.  It's a beautiful one that may someday become actualized.  Until then, here's to sleep and dreams of indulgent behavior.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

North Face Endurance Half Marathon-Kansas City

I have this amazing friend.

She's the one who originally inspired and encouraged me last year to run my first half marathon.

This summer, she competed in her first Half Iron Man (which if you're unfamiliar is a 1.2 mile swim followed immediately by a 56 mile bike ride, followed immediately by running a half marathon).  She did it in grueling heat with a smile on her face.

And yesterday, she registered to compete in her first full Iron Man (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 or marathon run) which she'll complete next September.

In preparation, she needs to run a marathon and so together, we're headed to Kansas City in November to do the North Face Endurance Challenge.

North Face offers these races in cities across the country.  They're typically off road with crazy ass elevation and some technical difficulty.

Kansas City is one of the few races that will be on the road.

She'll be running a full marathon and I'll be running a half.

Reviewing the course, it's beyond clear that I'm going to have to start running hills and doing some tempo training work.  I'd like to get a bit faster.  And, I'll have to learn to run in colder temperatures.  The high for KC in November is 52 degrees.

I'm excited.  I'm anxious.  I'm hopeful.  And now, I'm re-focused on a new goal, a new challenge, a new opportunity and a new chance to keep owning 2012...the year of Kelly.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rocking the Chicago Half Marathon with a Grateful Heart

I don't even know where to begin.

Four months ago, immediately after completing my first half marathon, I felt over-the-moon about the accomplishment and anxious wondering what was on the horizon.

I impulsively registered two days later to run the Chicago Half Marathon.  I assumed that one of my runner friends would join me and that we'd have a wild and crazy time taking the windy city on.

One by one, something came up for everyone and I soon discovered that if I really wanted to do this, I'd be going alone.

Scared and deflated, I told my husband that it probably wasn't meant to be and that I should just write off the registration costs.

And then, out of the wood by friends emerged and made my trip a reality.

One friend (and I'm crying at O'Hare airport as I write this) offered up her family member's condo in a fantastic neighborhood.  Knowing that I was petrified to take public transportation, she mapped out my itinerary and gave me step by step directions and emergency contacts of all of her friends in the city.

The condo was steps away from Wrigley Field and both nights, I heard Springsteen singing to a packed stadium and felt like I was at the concert without paying a dime.

College friends that I haven't seen in over a decade, called, wrote, and insisted that we get together.  One by one, they traveled to me, took me to fabulous restaurants, listened to me talk about my family, my running journey, and gave me heart felt encouragement, hugs, laughter and tears as I prepared.

My husband graciously took time off of work and planned fun activities for he and our three kids to do while I was away...and then tucked a note into my shoe letting me know that I was an amazing woman.

My family and very dear friends sent me text messages, letters, emails, cards, and notes all reminding me of why I was going and letting me know that I was already a winner.

And now, I'm moments away from flying home and all I can remember is this:
  • Waking up to a 68 degree day
  • Running along a breathtaking lake front with sunshine sparkling off the water
  • Feeling a body that was strong, steady, and trained
  • Having a heart filled with joy while bands played and people cheered
  • Eyes that wanted to cry, but an ear-to-ear smile that wouldn't let them
  • Feet that never stopped running and never let me down
  • A watch that showed me a time I've never seen did I run that fast?
  • And a belief that I was meant to be in Chicago on this day doing this by myself
There is no question that I am a changed person.  I am inspired.  I am motivated.  I am passionate.  And I am extraordinarily grateful.  There are no words to express that throughout all of this process, I was never alone.  This journey was a collective effort.  I just got to selfishly wear the medal at the end.

If I thanked God, my family, friends, and Chicago would not be enough.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Exposing and Embracing the Mess

Here's the state of my house.

From the microwave stand in my kitchen where I cannot find shit...really...I think something died underneath all of those piles and the only thing I'm motivated to do is to drink coffee from the colorful mugs.

To the living room that always seems to have some random group of totes, boxes, laundry piles, library books, pile of shoes, gooey abandoned suckers, and muddy stroller tracks awaiting us.

To the hands that can find all of the chalk, markers, crayons, colored pencils, glue, stickers, books, magazines, jars, and small objects that should not be put in one's mouth.

To the kitchen which on any given day is consumed by dishes in the sink and dishwasher, lids that have been loved with crayons and markers, insane amounts of pharmaceutical paraphernalia like adult and kids ibuprofen, vitamins, supplements, acetaminophen, and baby syringes.  It's the craziest shit pick up pile of them all.

To the toddler's room which by the grace of God has some toys picked up but for the most part is a straight up death trap on any given day of the week.

Let's get real friends.  My life just like yours is messy.  I didn't have the heart to take a picture of the bathroom.  No need to expose the real shit.  It's just good to let it all out there because then, no one has any pretenses and when you come to visit, you'll know what you're in for.

So, please, come and visit, save me from the cleaning that I should be doing.