Life Happens

I realize that most of my blog posts are perky and upbeat, pretty carefree which fits because that’s my personality in real life.  But every so often life happens and gets in the way of my cheery disposition.  That’s what’s going on right now.

If you remember, a few weeks ago I asked for prayers for my family.  I didn’t disclose what was going on but you all touched my heart with your willingness to pray for a situation you had no idea about.  So here I am again, asking for prayers.  This time, I feel comfortable disclosing that my lovely stepmom Starla was diagnosed with breast cancer.  While it’s only been three weeks, they’re moving very quickly with treatment and she is having a double mastectomy this morning.  I would greatly appreciate prayers for the surgeon, hospital staff and her recovery.

Two lovely women in my life.  My stepsister Sarah and Starla at Sarah's high school graduation, 2012.

Two lovely women in my life. My stepsister Sarah and Starla at Sarah’s high school graduation, 2012.

Starla is such an amazing woman and has a great attitude about this whole thing.  Seriously, I would be afraid of her if I was cancer.  She’s going to kick it’s butt.  She has such an awesome attitude that I actually feel selfish for worrying.  However, the truth is I am.  But why?  In my heart, I know that God has complete control of the situation; however, my head is still desperately trying to figure out what can I do?

I went for a run earlier this week and after 6 miles of prayer and reflection I realized that I can’t do anything.  There is nothing on this Earth that I can do to make the cancer go away, to make sure her doctors give her the best care, to make recovery any easier.  Nothing, zip, zilch, NADA.  So instead of carrying around that burden, I turned it over to God and said, “Here.  You take this worry.  I can’t deal with it any more.”

Bible-verses-on-joy-happiness-and-joyPhoto Source

And that’s exactly what I’ve done.  So today, I will wait anxiously for the call that surgery went well, but I will try not to worry.  I know everything is under control.  I encourage you to remember that as well when an seemingly overwhelming situation presents itself to you.

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Remembering Sandy Hook

As a nation, we are all still reeling from the tragic event that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday.  26 lives taken way before their time; the innocence of an entire school full of elementary children stolen; the trust of a community shattered.  There are no words to adequately convey the heinousness of what happened or provide comfort to the families.  Instead we try to do our best to understand ‘why’.

As I watched the news over the weekend, that has been the question at the forefront of everything.  Why?  Why would someone do something like this? They’re just innocent children and teachers.  Why? Why?? WHY??  I have asked that question, with tears streaming down my face, only to find the same answer – “We don’t know why”.

The families, 27 of them -including Adam Lanza’s family- are just now starting to realize that what happened on Friday wasn’t just a horrible dream.  Those families, who sent their children to school on Friday full of hope and excitement for the weekend, now have to start putting together the pieces of their broken life.   My heart breaks for them.  It aches to provide them comfort somehow; yet, I know from seeing my parents lose a child, there isn’t anything we can do to ease the pain.

Instead, we grieve with them.  Give the parents space to be angry, flood the community with support.  In times like this, I am reminded that God is waiting to provide comfort.  He grieves with us and his shoulders are broad, they can carry all the anger, hurt, confusion that we can heap on him. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” Psalm 34:18

Please reflect on the lives that were taken Friday.  Such beautiful children and adults, so full of life and hope for the future.  Say a prayer for their families and community.  Remember them; love them.

Celebrating Life

First things first, time to announce my Vega Energizing Smoothing winner.  Congratulations JenniferLynn I will be contacting you shortly for shipping details.

Now that I have that out of the way, I want to talk about today.  Today used to be just plain ol’ November 16th, nothing fancy to it, no reason to pay it any special attention until 7 years ago.  On this day, November 16, 2005, my family found out that my brother had been killed in Iraq. Instantly, November 16th became a day that I would never forget.

I still remember every single detail about when and how I found out, what time of day it was, even what the weather was like outside.  It’s fascinating to me how our brains lock in certain details and keep them forever.  I will probably be able to recall the same vivid details when I’m 80.  Some day I’ll share them, but this post isn’t the right time.

Roger had been killed with several other Marines while searching farm houses for terrorists as part of Operation Steel Curtain.  They came under gunfire and a terribly fierce battle erupted that altered the lives of countless people.  My brother was awarded a Bronze Star Medal for his heroism.  I encourage you to read the short citation from his Bronze Star; it gives you some idea of what happened that day.

This is from the memorial in Iraq. So many lives lost in a period of 3 days.

From Roger’s funeral; just a few days after Thanksgiving.

Each year on this day I stop by and visit my brother and say hi to him from my Mom and Dad since they live too far away and can’t.  I drop off flowers and give him an update on what’s going on.  I try not to play the ‘what if’ game but, inevitably, I’m going to lose and sometime today I’ll find myself wondering ‘what if’ he was still here or some variation of that scenario.

While this is a very sad day by all means, I try not to let the past dictate my happiness.  I choose to celebrate life instead of pine over death.  I choose to remember my brother and all the silly/dangerous/ridiculous things we did together as kids.  All the fights we got into.  All the advice he passed on to me.  His infectious grin.

And tomorrow, I choose to be a kid again.  I will run carefree through the streets of New Orleans in a tutu while strangers throw powdered paint at me.  (Sounds like fun, right?)  When I signed up for The Color Run last February I knew that it would fall this weekend and I thought it would be a wonderful way to celebrate life.  Roger was a fun guy and I can imagine him having a blast throwing paint at random people.

Everyone deals with grief differently.  It’s ok to be sad, angry, numb, confused, whatever.  But it’s important to remember that it’s also ok to be happy.  Nothing says that you’re bound to sadness; it’s a choice that’s made and I choose happiness.  I choose to cast my excess baggage on God and let him carry the burden for me.  After all, his shoulders are much more broad than mine.

The first year after Roger was killed I dreaded today like the plague.  I didn’t know what to expect or how I would  react.  Over the years, I’ve realized that if I make a conscious effort to address that this day (or other significant days like his birthday) are going to be emotionally charged, I have a much better chance of it not affecting me.  It’s the times I’m not prepared that really catch me off guard and knock me on my butt.  Trust me, I have plenty of spontaneous pity-parties during the year but today, and this weekend, will not be one of them.

To say I’m excited about The Color Run tomorrow would be an understatement.  I have been talking about this race since before I even knew it was coming to New Orleans.  There’s just something about finishing a race looking like an Oompa Loompa that really appeals to me.  I have all of my neon gear and I’m ready to go get pelted with paint! I know Roger would have liked that.

I miss my brother dearly and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him, the other families that lost their hero, and also the men that were survived.  I honestly think today is much harder for those Marines that survived and I pray for peace of mind for them.

Confessions of a Clean Eater

I think this post might be better titled ‘Confessions of a Not So Clean Eater’.  The past six weeks I have indulged a bit here and there.  Ok, I’ve indulged more than I care to think about.  It started with my anniversary weekend when I talked the hubster into sharing a bourbon glazed bread pudding.

The next day we stopped at this cute, kitschy fruit stand called the Tomato Place.  They had a bacon, avocado, tomato sandwich that I just haaaaaaaaaad to have.  All of the produce was homegrown and the wheat bread was made from scratch.  Really the only part not clean about this was the bacon but I’m sorry, you can’t have a BLT without bacon. Oh, and the fried okra.  Definitely not clean but oh so tasty!

Then my stepmom came into town and I made homemade chocolate chip cookies.  I’m proud to say that I only ate 2 of these total.  Did I mention they were made with Ghiradelli chocolate? I’m not going to lie, these were good.

I may have also had a daiquiri to celebrate the kickoff of my Marine Corps Marathon training.

The final straw was me making 3 & 1/2 dozen red velvet cupcakes for my class; it was my last class before I graduated and I was attempting to secure an A with my mad baking skills.  Of course I had to eat one….quality control anyone? (In case you’re wondering, grades posted Monday and I did get an A in that class. Was is because of the cupcakes? Who knows.)

Whew! I feel better getting that out in the open!  I know it’s really easy to fall into justification mode and I’m one of those people who can justify almost anything…It’s really bad.  Seriously, if you ever want to feel better about something, come talk to me.  An example of my justification: when I decided to eat the bourbon bread pudding, I justified it several times over by telling myself ‘it’s ok, it’s my anniversary’, ‘It’s ok, I raced in a duathlon this morning’, and finally ‘It’s ok, I need to gain some weight anyways’.  But by justifying things I’ve cheated myself out of what I love and introduced unnecessary guilt into my life.  And let me tell you, with the exception of the BLT sandwich, each time I ate the the food in those pictures I got sick to my stomach. After a year of clean eating, my body just can’t handle those foods.  Was it worth it? At the time, yes.  But the after effects of guilt and feeling sick? Nope, not all, no way Jose!

I know that most of you are reading this going, so what? You ate a few things with sugar in it – get over it.  What’s my point in spilling my not so clean secrets? There are several reasons 1.) Anytime I eat something not clean, I feel like I’m cheating on, well, myself.  2.) Nobody’s perfect and if you meet someone who seems perfect – look closer.  There are cracks and flaws there.  3.) Just because I may have had some moments of indiscretion doesn’t mean that I’ve ruined anything.

Reason #3 is one of those truths in life that applies to almost anything.  If you’re trying to lose weight, and have indulged when you shouldn’t have, don’t throw in the towel.  Just wipe your mouth off 🙂 and start over. It’s going to be ok!  So you’re training for an specific event and skipped a training run or scheduled day at the gym? Do you throw your hands up and say better luck next time? No! You get yourself back on track and finish the plan! The worst thing that you can do is embrace the self-defeating attitude of ‘I’ve already messed up so what’s the point in continuing?” No one ever said that living a healthy, active lifestyle would be easy but let me tell you it’s worth it!  You were created by God to do great things in your life but you have to be willing to work hard to accomplish those things!  “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.” -Ezra 10:4

Question:  What do you do when you get off track?

Garden of the Gods

#25 on my {Before I Procreate} list is to run through Garden of the Gods.  Garden of the Gods is an outdoor lover’s paradise located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and sits at an elevation of over 6,300 feet. Yeah, 6,300 feet is pretty high for this sea level runner.

It was a really dreary, overcast morning so this was the best picture I was able to get. Ignore the date stamp; I used someone Else’s camera and didn’t know that feature was turned on…

This was sort of a full-circle goal since {My Journey} with running started in Colorado Springs and prematurely ended in the Springs.  Now that I have my running groove back I couldn’t wait to tackle Garden of the Gods.  With my stepsister Sarah graduating, I knew I’d be going home and would have the perfect opportunity.

Doing what I do best….goofing around! Love these kids.

I was already pumped to tackle Garden of the Gods but even more stoked when Sarah said she’d go with me.  Seriously?? What better way to get in some quality time with her; cha-ching!  I really wanted to see the sunrise so I drug a very sleepy Sarah out of bed at 5:45 and off we went.  Did I mention that it was only 40 degrees out?? This was a lovely system shock after running in almost 90 degree weather for the past few weeks.

How in the world is this kid old enough to graduate?

As we started to run through the stunning rock formations, I couldn’t help but notice how Sarah had grown into such a beautiful, compassionate young woman – with a goofy sense of humor!  She was 8 when I graduated and in some ways I still look at her as that kid. (I guess this is similar to the feeling parents get when their kids grow up.)  We chatted about college goals, a little bit about boys and a lot about life in general. In the end, we totaled 5.25 miles which is the farthest Sarah has ever run.  (Yes, future runner in the making.)

When I put #25 ‘Run through Garden of the Gods” on my list I had thought that I would enjoy God’s beautiful handiwork with the natural rock formations and running trails.  I had no idea I would gain much, much more during this run.   I got to know Sarah as the woman that she is and not the kid she was.  While I did end up appreciating God’s handiwork, it wasn’t what He had created thousands of years ago but who He created 17 years ago that made achieving this goal memorable.