Cleaning Up

Today, I took the pledge to stay clean.

Now, I’m already clean. I don’t do drugs, I only have an occasional drink, and I even vacuum regularly. But as an amateur runner, I can do better. (What athlete doesn’t say that, right?)

So today I pledged to the Clean Sport Initiative. To be a little cleaner in any way I can – through my diet, especially. To me, this means less refined sugar (ideally this would be no refined sugar, but I’m also a stay-at-home mom with a toddler, so let’s be realistic here), and more vegetables. It means athletic supplements with clean ingredients. It means more tea and less wine.

I also think clean living can be taken one step further: to live a clean mental state. To me, clean basically means simple, so part of my pledge is going to be working to maintain a simpler, less chaotic state of mind. To embrace positivity rather than dwelling in the negative. This part will easily be the hardest for me, as it’s something I struggle with not only as a mom but for most of my life.
What are some goals you’re working on? Have you taken a pledge recently? If so, what was it?

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When Inspiration Strikes

I haven’t written here in about two months.

I’ve been trying to write this post for some time now – sifting through topic ideas, typing and deleting – and nothing has come to fruition. Call it writer’s block or a simple lack of inspiration, but something has halted my desire to write.

It happens occasionally, and that’s okay. But life continues regardless. Lately, my family relocated across the country and we’re now living on the east coast again. Because of that, things have been in an upheaval. The house still needs organizing, interior decor remains unhung, and the family’s schedule has yet to solidify.

But between setting up a new house, getting acquainted with the area, and acclimating ourselves to our new lives, one thing has remained a constant – my need to run.

Today is one of those days I contemplate why I do what I do. Why I run. I know I’ll never be the best runner in the world. I know there are better, more efficient ways of losing my extra weight.

My clothes stink, my hair’s always a mess, and I always end up drenched in sweat. Half the time I want to stop running, turn around and walk home and straight into bed. There are days I want to sit on the side of the road and wait for my husband to pick me up in the car because I don’t think I’ll make it back on my own two feet.

So why do I do this to myself day after day, week after week? Why put myself through all of the pain, all of the tears? (Yes, sometimes there are tears).

Last week I ran a tempo run on the treadmill. Basically, a tempo run is running at the speed you can maintain for an hour. I was going to do four miles and had to quit at 2.75 because my legs ache horribly from overtraining. I hobbled back from my neighborhood gym and threw ice packs on my legs, shaking my head in disappointment. If it weren’t for my leg pain, today’s run would’ve been amazing. My breathing was perfect, my pace was perfect. But that leg pain got me anyway.

As I sat helplessly convalescing on my couch, I thought about why I got into running at all. Surely there must be a reason. I mean, I know why I do it now: aside from the health benefits, I run for some peace and clarity in my mind, to shake off the stresses and worries of the world. I run now to challenge myself physically, to push myself beyond my self-made boundaries and break through the mental barriers of hesitation. To feel that wave of triumph and elation from knowing I persevered through something I didn’t think I could do before. I run to chase the feeling of freedom we so often lose in our day-to-day lives.

But, why did I choose running to do this? I could’ve picked up any sport to immerse myself in – biking, swimming, kickboxing, weightlifting, wrestling – any of these could’ve given me that feeling of perseverance, that endorphin high I crave.

I was never a runner growing up. In fact, I was overweight. (I still technically am, but who’s counting.) The most physical activity I ever participated in was one year of softball in eighth grade, which I’m pretty sure my coach put me on the team because she felt bad. I wasn’t terrible, but I wasn’t awesome.

I never even bothered trying out for the high school team.

Instead, my teen-aged talents took me elsewhere. At a young age, my dad taught me to sing. Elementary school saw me landing starring roles in annual school musicals. I shied from the stage in middle school (such awkward years, anyway) but found my place in the soprano section of my school choir. I dove headfirst into singing and by the time I was a freshman in high school, our choir went on a school trip to perform at Carnegie Hall.

Back then I was pretty naive and didn’t quite grasp the importance behind it, but I now often look back at the glory of my high school choir days. I was one of the founding members of our school’s first all-female a cappella group, I won numerous solo auditions, and was often looked up to for my note-reaching capabilities as a soprano (although back then I was also naive to people looking up to me for that).

Singing was my forte, and choir was my favorite class of the day. Our director was often a shining light in a world of uncertainty for me as a teenager, and with her daily radiant positivity and regular silliness, singing became my first stress-relieving exercise.

It wasn’t until after I graduated high school that I learned my old choir director is also a distance runner. And I don’t mean she runs a marathon on occasion – she runs 50k’s, trail runs, and all sorts of “never gonna happen” distances.

Oddly enough, I took up running shortly before learning this. At that point I was a freshman in college, focusing more on my studies and finding my way in the world than improving my running skills. When I first started hitting the gym, I bounced between the elliptical and jogging on the treadmill. I found I enjoyed running rather than the elliptical, and stuck to it. However, running (and exercise in general) was never really something I took seriously at first, thus beginning our on-again off-again relationship.

Over the years, my love for running grew. There were times I ran for different reasons – losing weight, remembering a friend I lost along the way, supporting someone else’s endeavors, stress management – but looking back I think my true love of running blossomed from the seed of a different plant. One that, seemingly unrelated, brought a bit of steadiness to my life when all I could see was chaotic confusion and unanswered questions. Perhaps it’s why I can’t run without music – why I feel I need both to perform at my best. And why, even today, I still look up to one of my favorite childhood music teachers.

So to my middle and high school choir director, if you’re reading this, this is my thank you note. Thank you for the teacher you were and still are. Thank you for handing me stepping stones I didn’t realize I had until now. Thank you for your positivity and enthusiasm in my early years, and your tips and advice today.

Thank you for being the hidden inspiration I always needed.

Reflections in the Flood Waters

Today is Wednesday. It hasn’t even been a week since I first heard of Hurricane Harvey, and yet my life is forever changed.


We don’t have cable, so I don’t regularly watch the news. It wasn’t until my husband came home from work and mentioned the impending storm that I first heard of Hurricane Harvey. He often relies on my news research about things like this, so after we heard it was a category 1 hurricane on Thursday, we were concerned but not overly so. They weren’t sure where it would hit or how far inland it would come. So, as usual, I did my regular grocery shopping and grabbed a couple of things just in case. By the time I came home from shopping, I checked the news to see it projected to become a category 3 storm. My nerves  began to jump a bit at this point, but I knew we were far enough inland that there wasn’t too much for us to be concerned about.

Friday morning, my husband sent me a text from work saying we should prepare more. And let me tell you, when your cool-headed Army husband tells you we’re not prepared enough, your red flags start waving like crazy. I jumped on my computer to check the news and sure enough, Harvey was getting uglier. It was now a category 3 hurricane. Shortly after, the cloud cover moved in and the wind picked up. We weren’t expecting rain until about 1 a.m. or so at that point. Rainfall totals for the weekend were climbing – many models were projecting 15 inches for our area.

At that point, I hopped in the car and went to grab some canned food at the store. We were in the process of clearing out our pantry in anticipation for our upcoming move, so our supplies were in short order. I filled extra bottles of water in the house, leaving what was left in the stores to others who would need it. We even had our bags packed with essentials in case we needed to leave.

There was only one other time I packed a bag, and that was during a tornado scare while we lived in another town in Texas. We had had a line of heavy storms coming through with several cloud-to-ground tornadoes on its front line. Back then, it was just me, the dog, and two cats. Now that I have a toddler in tow, things were much more agonizing.

That evening, they updated our rainfall to start at approximately 11 p.m., which meant the storm was gaining momentum. The news was a constant feed on my laptop, playing in the background while I tended to my daughter’s needs and made dinner.

During the storm, it was terrifying. I was terrified for my family’s safety, terrified of flooding, terrified that we’d be another misplaced family. But Saturday panned out well. The rain didn’t hit us as hard. I woke up Sunday morning to a calmer sky, a break in the clouds, an easing of the wind. Little did I know of the havoc in Houston.

Sunday night I watched the sun set behind a fast-moving swath of dark grey clouds, but I felt ill at ease. A few hours to the east, an awful horror gripped hundreds of thousands of Americans. Families clamored onto rooftops in torrential rain and high winds just to survive and hope for rescue, as they watched everything they own get swallowed by rising flood waters. Those who could wade out of their homes did so with no shoes, their babies or pets carried in plastic bins or wrapped in garbage bags. The elderly sat helpless in wheelchairs or stuck immobile in their beds.

But while all of this was happening, another wave came to help wash away the fear, the heartache, and the pain that Harvey has caused. With the reach of social media, hundreds of thousands began to reach out to each other, quickly organizing into groups on Facebook and Twitter. Civilian and volunteer rescue teams mobilized immediately to save those in harm’s way. Regular people dropped everything and hopped online, creating rescue maps on Google Docs and relaying information to first responders using the Zello phone app. Those who couldn’t find ways to help or couldn’t find the money to donate simply offered prayers and words of encouragement to those pleading for their lives. Strangers checked on those already waiting for rescue to monitor their situations, ensuring them that help is indeed coming.

And then the boats came.

At first they came from areas surrounding Texas, then Louisiana. The Cajun Navy – a network of many groups involved in past flood rescues in Louisiana, including the August 2016 flood of Baton Rouge and Lafayette – took to the roads trailing their flat-bottomed boats. Hundreds flocked to the areas in and around Houston to save those who needed it. And they’re now training the Texas Navy, a new offshoot of the Cajun Navy.

The boats still came.

They came from Arkansas, Utah, and Illinois. They came from Missouri, Mississippi, and Massachusetts. They came from across the country, dropping their own lives to save the lives of others. I even read a story about a man from Ireland visiting Houston who got stuck in the storm, who stayed around to help with rescue efforts.

And they’re still coming.

More and more of our friends and neighbors are pouring into eastern Texas, helping anywhere and any way they can. They come with trailers, trucks, RVs, and boats. They come with bottled water, packages of food, and medical supplies. They come with calloused hands and hardened muscle. And most importantly, they come with open hearts and the understanding of one vital thing:

We all need each other.

I could make this about race, or religion, or political affiliation. I could make turn this into a plea of coming together. But it’s not about one thing or another. In my eyes, things like this don’t happen out of nowhere. I may not be a believer in God, but I believe in signs. And sometimes, the sign comes as a sudden, fearful storm of change.

Photo: our family’s collection of donations provided to the San Antonio Food Bank.



If you ever doubt our country, remember moments like Hurricane Harvey. I wish I could truly emphasize the feeling of watching time stop in your backyard while the world moves on in the front. It’s eerie. It’s an overwhelming cacophony of chaos and anger and helplessness and hope and love. Many of my local friends and neighbors are pulling out all of the stops to donate whatever they can to help everyone affected. Others who live farther from the area are donating to local drives, or organizing their own supply drives to send down to the area. If you haven’t yet, please donate. Donate all that can. Donate the cost of your morning coffee to your favorite disaster relief organization. Donate a pack of diapers to Texas Diaper Bank. Donate a can of formula, a package of dry beans, or school supplies. Donate whatever you can. Because one day, these very people might be coming with their helping hands to save you.

 

Donation options:

Salvation Army Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

Texas Baptist Men

Samaritan’s Purse

San Antonio Blood and Tissue Center

Carter BloodCare

San Antonio Food Bank

Houston Food Bank

Food Bank of Corpus Christi

Houston Humane Society

San Antonio Humane Society

Pets Alive! Austin

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund – this was created by Houston’s mayor Sylvester Turner, administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation

Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

Watching this whole thing unfold in my backyard has been completely heart-wrenching. My city had minimal impact thankfully, but it has become a evacuation center for coastal refugees out of Corpus Christi and surrounding towns.

I compiled a list of ways to help if you’re looking to help. Feel free to share it among friends and on social media. The storm’s impact is still in high gear – Houston and southern Austin are already flooded and they’ll have an additional foot or so of rainfall over the next 24 hours. They’re under multiple tornado warnings as I write this. Emergency operations are beyond capacity to the point where they’re calling for residents with boats to help with rescue efforts.

The clean-up from this will take months, if not years. Please, please help in any way that you can, even if it’s a $5 monetary donation. That $5 will help feed or clothe an entire family, or provide a week of diapers for a child currently without them. Seriously, anything will help.

Here’s a list of what I’ve found so far, although there are plenty more:

Red Cross:
Visit redcross.org, call 1-800-REDCROSS, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Salvation Army:
They are preferring cash donations nationwide to help with efforts. Physical donations (blankets, food, etc) are accepted but not preferred due to difficulty with moving them.
Visit disaster.salvationarmyusa.org or call 1-800-725-2769

Texas Diaper Bank:
Cash donations are requested to provide diapers to refugees and those who lost their belongings and homes. Visit texasdiaperbank.org to make a donation (designate it to Disaster Relief).

Catholic Charities USA:
Visit catholiccharitiesusa.org to donate

Driscoll Children’s Hospital:
A Corpus Christi children’s hospital that has sustained damage from the storm. Visit driscollchildrens.org

San Antonio Food Bank:
A Food Bank organization that distributes food to San Antonio families. They are  currently coordinating disaster relief to approximately 12,000 hurricane evacuees relocated to the city. Visit safoodbank.org for more information and to make a donation.

Samaritan’s Purse:
A Christian-based organization assisting in Texas with relief efforts. Visit samaritanspurse.org to help.

PLEASE NOTE: If you would like to donate physical items, please visit us on Facebook for more information and a list of mailing options.

 

I will continue to add more avenues as I find them.

The Bane of a Runner

It finally happened. After about three years of running, interrupted only by a pregnancy I didn’t run through, I finally did it.

I rolled my ankle.

This morning I went out on a quick 20-minute run after doing a lower body workout. Hurricane Harvey has been hitting the area and I’m lucky to say I’ve been on the outer ridges of it, although the rain and wind has kept the family in the house since Friday afternoon. Today’s break in the weather allowed me to head out for a few minutes. Less than two minutes in, of course, I slip and roll my right ankle to outside.

The good news is my husband is a trauma medic and almost finished with training as a respiratory therapist, so I’m in good hands. As of right now it’s just looking like a sprain with some minor swelling.

I think what’s hurt the most is my spirit. Logically, I know I’ll be fine in a few days and I just have to take it easy until it’s healed up. No running or any jump work until then. It is incredibly disappointing, however. My first reaction was worry that I broke it, but as soon as I realized it wasn’t, my emotions turned to frustration. It bothers mei couldn’t get my run done today – something I’ve been aching to do for over 24 hours now. However, it’s important to remember that injuries are something to listen to, and to not let it tear me down. Luckily, there are plenty of other exercise I’ll be able to do in the meantime, especially in my upper body areas. So until I can get back out on the road, here’s to a good arm and shoulder workout!

Pastimes

I have a lot of hobbies. Sometimes it’s binge-watching a show on Netflix with a pint of Halo Top, sometimes it’s crocheting something. Sometimes it’s both.

A few years ago, I started sewing. A few friends pooled their money and bought me my first sewing machine for Christmas, and I was on my way to making some pretty terrible projects. My projects are still pretty terrible by comparison to many other homemakers I know, but I think my skills have improved a bit over time.

Here’s  few of my latest works!


This one is my first cardigan made out of one of my cheaper fabrics. It was only supposed to be a test run for the pattern since I never made it before, but I’m glad it came out wearable…I’m not a fan of wasting my fabrics.

Black leggings!! This is one of my favorite patterns. I currently own three pairs of leggings, all from the same pattern, and all made to fit exactly me!

Sewing is one of my favorite ways to create something fresh and unique, whether it’s for me or a gift for a friend or relative. It’s also a great way for me to concentrate my energies in a positive way, and helps to prevent idleness and boredom which in turn brings negativity into my life. Creation is always my therapy, and sewing has become yet another outlet for that.

Be sure to keep up with my posts on sewing and see my new creations! See you back here soon!

A Lesson In Love

After spending four years training as a journalist, I learned a thing or two about maintaining a sense of propriety when shit hits the fan. One of the biggest things we’re taught in journalism school is the importance of objectivity – something that we need to hold onto in order to see the whole story.

So when something big happens in the news, I’m hesitant to react. I have a difficult time forming opinions. I like to find the facts before I decide on how I feel. It’s something I’m rather proud of about myself.

Over the past year or so, I’ve had far more emotional reactions to current events than usual. Saturday was one of them. I followed the events throughout the day and tried to avoid having a reaction to them. I tried to think clearly. I tried to rationalize everything that had happened.

Until I read something pretty unrelated. It was a post a friend shared on Facebook, discussing the importance of taking care of your fellow man and standing together through it all. The main quote threaded through the post read, “I hurt with her.”

That’s when my tears began. Not because of the story in the post (although a beautiful story in itself), but because of the hurt that happened that day. The ugliness the white supremacists showed in their anger and hostility towards those unafraid to stand against them. The photos passed around social media of a black police officer protecting a group of Nazi supporters. Photos of Heather Heyer, and her grief-stricken friends who survived the same accident that took her life. Of James Fields, the new face of domestic terrorism.

My heart sank, but not for long. Shortly after, social media outlets blossomed into a wave of hope and unity. The seeds had been sown. Everyone with a voice took to forums and comment boards, tearing down anyone who sympathized with the ones who tried to make America “great” again. I watched some of my closest friends completely shut down the few who argued the protesters weren’t in the wrong. Because despite the fact that they had a permit allowing their rally, it should be without question that white supremacists ought not to assemble without counter protests.

If we are to take one lesson from Saturday, let it be a lesson in love. Let it be a reminder that loving each other – that remembering we are all human beings – is the most important part of who we are not only as Americans, but as a global union. We all have the same fears, the same hopes, and the same pain. We can all hurt. All of us. And when we hurt together, we heal together. So, as you continue on with your daily life, remember to take a look around you at the people you pass by in the grocery stores or on the sidewalks. Remember to smile at the woman handling three screaming children on her own. Remember to drive slowly past the road construction workers. Remember to wave to the postman or garbage collectors. Remember to thank your local police officer or firefighter. Remember that regardless of nationality, creed, color, gender, we can all hurt. And with each other’s help, we can all heal.

Remember that sunshine chases away the rain.