Category Archives: The Good Life

Summer, continued, and triathlon musings

Well, here we are, halfway through July, and nearly a month since I posted last, ​with the “I can’t believe I’ve been out of work for 3 weeks and have no time” post. I’m wrapping up week 6 of 11 weeks off, which means my summer vacation is officially more than half over; I feel like I have nothing to show for my summer vacation – which is weird, because if I look at it objectively, I’ve done 2 trips to the East Coast, a bajillion mom appointments, and a lot of triathlon training.

I get unsettled without daily structure. Happens every single summer. Even when I know I’m being fairly productive, I *feel* like I’m wasting my life away, without really relaxing or taking time off. I’m sure my husband can’t wait for me to retire. Fortunately, with 3 kids to put through college, I will probably have to work until I die. #silverlining

Anyway, the animals have been very happy to have me home. Their favorite time of day is when I (attempt to) plank and do push-ups. They like to “help”.

I’ve been sticking to my twice-a-week strength training with the husband. For the first time in probably ever, I can see some muscle definition in my thighs.

We celebrated the 4th of July with some dear friends, and an (early) cake for my birthday.

On my actual birthday, we flew to Boston for my cousin’s wedding. It was an awesome 3 day affair with multiple parties and celebrations. My cousin married a Pakistani-American girl, so we were able to experience a piece of their culture with the festivities. It was beyond gorgeous and fun.

out celebrating my birthday at a Boston pub with my family. That’s the groom in the center, who was the most composed of all of us at that point. 

the bride’s family provided us with traditional clothing for one of the receptions. So much fun!

at the mosque for the wedding ceremony. 

I’m teaching a summer online class, and working on some “list” items of cleaning and organizing (some people do “spring cleaning” – I’m pretty sure most teachers do “summer cleaning”), but other than that, it’s pretty much daily workouts, errands and household chores.

Boring routine makes for boring blog, I guess.

I *am* brainstorming my upcoming year’s race schedule, and trying to map out a trajectory of goals and training to focus on. Other than my triathlon in September, I don’t have anything officially on the agenda. I’m currently debating whether I want to do an early November triathlon or focus on road races once my September triathlon is over. I have such a love-hate relationship with triathlons; while I love the mash-up of workouts rather than the drudgery of mostly running, the time + expense factor makes me stabby. It’s really hard to find the time to train when I’m not off for the summer, and I really should consider getting some more gear if I’m going to stick with it (wetsuit. bike that’s not a $250 Schwinn, etc) but I have a hard time reconciling the cost factor of triathlons.

Not to mention I still sort of hate the bike.

Secretly I’m hoping I’ll fall in love with the marathon in 2018 and just focus on that.

Realistically, I think the odds are better of me winning the lottery and having all the money in the world to spend on triathlons rather than loving training for and running 26.2 miles, but anything can happen, right?

I know a lot of runners and triathletes read this blog – feel free to weigh in on whether you focus solely on one vs the other (or how you balance the two if you do both), and (especially for middle class ish parents with kids at home), how you handle the ridiculous cost of triathlons. I’m pretty lowkey when it comes to racing, and I know you can do triathlons on the cheap(er) – heck, I’m doing it – but I’m wondering how you approach it. Only a certain number of races per year? Stick to sprints on cheaper/less equipment?

I’ve been approaching it with the mindset that this is just a fun off-season-from-running-cross-training-workout, but I feel like the (few) triathletes I know “in real life”, as well as those I follow virtually, are all hardcore triathletes – as in, they invest a lot more time and money on the sport than myself, and take it seriously. Wondering if there are other “casual” triathlete moms out there who are content with lowkey racing/training?

Summer

I have been out of work and on summer “break” for just over 3 weeks now. This was me on the last day of work, celebrating. Look how happy I look! How relaxed! The year of teaching 2 senior English classes and 2 online classes and a junior advisory and running a senior signature program for 103 students was finally over!

So, three weeks of no teaching might beg the question of why I have not blogged before now. Even if it doesn’t, I’m going to go ahead and whine answer.​

The mom schedule, it’s killing me.

I know when you have little ones, the days are interminable. You’re stuck at home, wondering how to fill 12-14 hours of unstructured time, scrambling to line up playdates and story times and excuses to be anywhere and do anything rather than guiltily plopping them in front of the television. I remember those days.

Let me tell you, it doesn’t get any easier at the other end of the spectrum.

In the first three weeks of June, I have had no less than 15 appointments for my kids, not counting the daily pick-up and drop-offs for the 17 year old at his lifeguarding job (yes he has a license, but no, he doesn’t have a car. I told him I could buy him a car if he wanted to do his senior year at the local public school instead of his $$$ private school. Mom taxi it is!), the counselor-in-training camp for the 14 and 13 year olds (happening on opposite weeks), or the community service camp (14yr old) or dance camp (13 yr old).

Basically I (literally) spend my days in the car, or in waiting rooms.

Except for the first week of June, when I was in upstate New York and Ohio doing the college tour thing with my oldest.

current top choice: University of Rochester. Also happens to be the most expensive school on his list. Champagne wishes and caviar dreams! (on a McDonald’s budget)

We also hit up Niagara Falls during the road trip which neither of us had ever seen.

The trip was over 1000 miles of driving in 4 days with 4 different college tours (5 if you count the separate engineering tour at one), an admissions interview, and hours upon hours of information tossed at us. It was not exactly a “relaxing” start to the summer.

With that said, it was definitely a mother-son bonding experience I will never forget. Without his laptop and fortress of solitude (aka bedroom), he was forced to able to have heart to hearts with dear old mom.

As for me, I tried to quell the mounting panic that my manchild is for real, seriously, ready or not, getting ready to leave the nest in the blink of an eye.

Senior pictures: check. But also OH MY GOD SENIOR PICTURES.

Fortunately, I still have my 2 littles to keep me from getting too sentimental. Except they’re not so little anymore. The middle child? Starting high school this year. The “baby”? 8th grade. The boy is already working on his learner’s permit class (September birthday) and the baby took a drill team prep camp last week. To prepare for the high school drill team tryout in the spring. The high school drill team.

The counselor-in-training boy helping to check in his little sister for her drill team prep camp.

So this is all to say that even though I’ve been off the “teacher” clock for 3 weeks, the mom job has been kicking my ass. Granted, I’m trying to get 2 months worth of parenting duties done in 4 weeks, as they will be with their Dad for the month of July.

I would much prefer a more balanced timeshare of parenting in the summer so I’m not running around like a crazy lady in June taking care of all the appointments, and then again in August with all the back to school and work events and obligations, but it is what it is.

In other news, I’m coming out of my training slump and looking towards a fall triathlon (separate post about that to come). I’ve been saying for years I want to do better with the strength training (it’s the one part of my training plans that I’m always haphazard at best with), and as luck would have it, my husband has said for years that he wants to work out with me (he hates running. Even though he can smoke me).

So, for Father’s Day, I gave him the gift of coaching me in the gym (that wasn’t his only gift, but definitely the one he was the most excited about). I’ve told him I’ll do 2 days a week with him, so he can keep me accountable.

 

No it’s not a lot of weight. I told him if he made me too sore to train the next day, he was fired. 

 

Me: “That looks heavy. Is it a lot of weight?” Him: “They say if you can benchpress your own body weight, you’re in good shape.” Me: “Is that your body weight?” Him: “It’s about 30lbs more.”  Show off.

So that’s the summer update. I’ve been busy. But I’ve also been getting back into a training cycle (yay me!) and working on some upcoming school year goals.

Five years

for better or for worse,

for richer, for poorer,

in sickness and in health,

to love and to cherish;

from this day forward until death do us part

Today is our 5 year anniversary. I think this is supposed to be a “bigger” anniversary, because it’s a half decade, or at least, my husband seems to think it is, since he has repeated several times over the past month, “It’s our five year anniversary. We have to celebrate! It’s a big one!”

But while the sentiment is sincere, the enthusiasm is strained.

2017 has not been good to us, on so many fronts. As I alluded to in my last post, we’ve been dealing with so much. We’re exhausted, and depressed, and overwhelmed.

Put simply, we’re dealing with the “worse”.

Last weekend, as he once again drummed up some forced enthusiasm for our impending anniversary, I realized that I needed to somehow, some way, carve out a little corner of gratitude for this day. Despite the, for lack of better word, clusterfuck that has been our lives for the past few months, we are good.

Really good. I mean, distracted and strung out and broke and sleepless, but good. I realize that sounds weird. But I know what it is to take stress and anxiety and depression out on your partner. Been there, done that, have the divorce decree. I know how easily the planets in the orbit can chip away at the sun.

Our life has been hard lately. And it would be so easy to take all that anger, and resentment, and anxiety, out on each other. But we’re not.

We’re in this together.

So, in an attempt to acknowledge gratitude for that not-so-small favor, I put one picture from each year of our marriage up on my Instagram this past week. I included the following description with each picture:

Q: What do 2010, 2012 and 2017 have in common?
A: Therapists, lawyers, children in crisis, PTSD, medical bills, and oceans of tears.

But you know what they also have? My silver lining, my fearless warrior and the love of my life. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love. This Friday will be our 5 year anniversary. I’m counting down the years.

Summer 2013 – married one full year. Our road trip to Florida with a 13, 11 and 8 yr old. I don’t have a blog post for our 1st anniversary – this blog didn’t exist yet.

January 2014 – our 2nd year of marriage. This was our trip to Cancun to see my dear friend Sarah get married. 2nd anniversary blog post here.

August 2015: 3rd year of marriage, and first day of school (ie work). No, we don’t plan to color coordinate. Yes, we often do. 3rd anniversary blog post here.

March 2016: 4th year of marriage, and my husband’s 40th birthday trip to Seattle and Vancouver, Canada. He likes “real” photos. Like us in an elevator heading to Stanley Park. This is typical of the photos he takes of us. 4th anniversary blog post here.

Traditionally, for our anniversary, I revisit some pictures from our wedding. I was lucky enough to have my very talented friend Wendy do our wedding photography, and I have countless gorgeous photographs from that day.

But this year? This is the picture that rings true for me.

I know, I know, it’s not a “traditional” wedding moment. This was taken just after my best friends gave our wedding toast; if you look carefully, you can see the remnants of the verklempt on my  husband’s face (I had just finished a full out cry). My friends spoke, in not-so-specific-terms, of my fight to get to this moment. Of how they were so worried about me. Of how so many people in that room weren’t sure I would make it. And of how my husband came along and helped me piece myself back together again.

At some point, as we stood there, holding hands, me crying, listening to women who knew me, and loved me, best in the world, my 2 younger children came up and clung to us (my oldest is just out of the shot, behind my daughter). There we were, hands clasped, standing firm, with the boy wrapped around my husband, and my daughter curling into me.

Five years later, in so many ways, we are still holding this pose.

Right now, at this moment in time, 5 years into our marriage, we’re not able to focus our attention on each other. We’re not romantically gazing into each other’s eyes. Right now, at this moment in time, our children need every ounce of strength, time, attention and resources that we have.

But we’re still clasping hands. United. Protecting our family.

Happy anniversary to my rock, my partner, my amazing role model and provider for our 3 children. Their eyes are always on us, and I am so grateful and proud to have someone like him holding my hand, and holding me up.

 

The Happiness Project: April

For 2017, I am blogging my way through Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Read here to see my intro post.

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Lighten Up – Parenthood

For April, Rubin focused on parenthood, specifically her effort to “lighten up” when it came to parenting her (at the time of writing) two young daughters.

I totally get this. Parenting babies, toddlers and preschoolers is hard, y’all. I’m a decade out from it, but trust me, I haven’t forgotten. Rubin writes of the research, “Marital satisfaction nose-dives after the first child is born and picks up again once the children leave home” (91).

Picks up again once the children leave home.

I know when the kids are young, and you haven’t slept in years months, and you’re cooking dinner with a baby on your hip and one wrapped around your knees, and you are, literally, assisting little human beings with their shit and snot, that the thought of those little people having the independence to wipe their own asses, never mind make their own snacks, seems so intoxicating and alluring that anytime in the future seems like a better alternative.

People, I survived the early years of three offspring delivered in a 4 year span. They eventually grew older, started sleeping and taking care of their own bowel movements, and I had several blissful intermediary years of post-early childhood but pre-adolescence. Those were the magical years.

I now have 3 teenagers living at home.  To follow up on Rubin’s notes about the impact of children in general on happiness at home, “Marital satisfaction, which typically declines over the course of marriage, reaches its all-time low when the oldest child reaches adolescence.” To put it simply, if having kids at home is stressful and exhausting and on a day to day basis lowers general levels of happiness, then having teenagers at home is the bottom of the barrel.

Let it be said, before I go any further, that I actually have really good kids. I mean, I hit the jackpot. Furthermore, after working with teenagers for nearly 20 years, I’m going to make the claim that I *get* teenagers more than the average parent. So I have a leg up.

But still.

I’m not sure how “light” my load is.

Here is the problem with me (and I totally own this as my own dysfunction). I just can’t not worry, nag remind, obsess, stress, and perseverate over any little box that is left unchecked. It’s not even so much that I want to control the outcome, rather once something is on my radar, on my to-do list (even if it’s not my list, but someone in my orbit), I can’t let go of it until it’s taken care of.

Let me give you an example.

My oldest child was recently invited to apply for the National Honor Society. He was given the invitation to apply on a Friday, with a Wednesday deadline to declare his intention. So the 5 days went something like this:

Friday: Me to him: “So what do you think? Do you want to go for it?” Him: “I don’t know. I’ll think about it.”

Sunday afternoon: Me to him: “Don’t forget you need to decide by Wednesday.”

Monday after school: Me to him: “Have you made a decision about National Honor Society? You need to decide by Wednesday.” Him: “Um. No. Still thinking about it.”

Tuesday morning before school: “Okay, so you’re going to your Dad’s tonight. Don’t forget that application is due on Wednesday if you want to apply.” Him, noncommittally, “Mmm”

Wednesday afternoon: Me to him: “So what did you do about National Honor Society?” Him: “Meh. I didn’t apply.”

First, slow clap to my oldest for his A+ game on dealing with a type A mother.  But more importantly, while I disagree with his choice not to apply, I really wasn’t ever pressuring him on what to do. The decision was all his. I just needed to get it off my list. Now imagine this times 3 very busy children with a myriad of activities. A husband, who loves to be helpful and take things “off my list” but doesn’t quite have my rapid-fire timeframe for checking things off.

And the kicker: 103 seniors who I shepherd through a multi-faceted senior program with multiple components, plus 30 kids in English class, plus 11 advisees.

“Light” I am not.

So, where does that leave me? Because, listen, while this project is about happiness, it’s not about fantasy. I have been like this my entire life. It’s part of the reason why I am excellent at my job, highly productive, and high achieving in multiple facets of my life. But I will also never be “laid back”. “Light”, if you will. I am okay with this. That doesn’t mean I can’t dial it back a notch.

So, I’m working on letting go. Only reminding my kids once or twice instead of daily (and yes, I know that better serves them. Again, this isn’t about me trying to helicopter parent them into a certain outcome, rather my own obsessive list-making). Trying to let Jesus take the wheel instead of feeling responsible for others’ choices (especially the 103 young adults that I am kicking, nagging, cajoling and pleading with to get across the finish line).

My goal, like Rubin, is to modify my natural proclivity for order and control so that I’m lighter. She wrote (after working on lightening up), “The difference was that, although my nature was unchanged, I had more happiness in my life each day; … through my actions I was successfully pushing myself to the high end of my inborn happiness range” (111).

Lighter.

 

 

 

 

The Happiness Project goes rogue

I’m doing a 2017 blogging series on Rubin’s The Happiness Project (for March’s “official” post, see here).

This is the unofficial March post. It’s March. And it’s about happiness. So I’m counting it as part of the series, even though I’m breaking format.

I’ve alluded recently to how difficult this academic year has been, both professionally for my husband and me, and personally for two of our three kids. The junior has been fairly miserable, swamped with AP classes and SATs and ACTs and the grind of the dreaded junior year. The 7th grader has been wrestling with some personal issues, some having to do with middle school (is there anyone who survived middle school unscathed?) and some her own #2010 demons.

But that is her story. As her mom, it’s been heartbreaking, and stressful. We want to fix everything for them, and there’s nothing I can do but sit beside her, hold her hand, and tell her that she, too, must find her own peace with it all.

So it was with this emotional baggage that we all eagerly packed our suitcases and took off for spring break. We take a family vacation every other year (the years we have them for spring break), and the 24 months between each are spent budgeting, planning, squirreling away funds, saving Christmas checks from Grandma, parceling out some of the summer second job income, and anticipating family adventures.

Our next spring break, the currently cranky and overworked junior will be a (knock on wood, fingers crossed) college freshman, and off on his own spring break adventure, so this was likely one of our last trips all together.

Where better than Jamaica to escape reality?

They called me over, with a “Mom, come see what we made for you. Thank you SO MUCH for this trip.”

This picture might be my favorite from the entire trip. To see her so joyful in her soul, after the past few months, was worth every penny.

This girl.

They didn’t have a good time at all.

It was the first time out of the country for my kids, and our first time at an all inclusive. If you have teenagers, I highly recommend paying for the all-inclusive option. Sure, the food isn’t as high-quality as other resorts, but unlimited food and virgin daiquiris for 3 teenagers more than compensates. The kids were in heaven. As were Mom and stepdude, who never had to stress out about feeding the bottomless pits.

finally had a chance to decompress, and get quiet, and do some beach reading. I whipped through Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior and Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes.If you have read Love Warrior and if you know my story, you are probably waiting to hear what I have to say about that. It was … an experience, reading that book. I have an entire blog post about that. I have an entire book to write about that.

Perhaps, for another day. Because I am no longer on the beach, watching the surf, processing and reflecting and composing. Actually, if you want to know the truth, I’m typing this in a doctor’s office waiting room, where I come every Monday night.

Back to reality.

So, I know this isn’t a post about Rubin’s book. Or a race report. Or PTSD recovery.

But it is about happiness. Even if I had to run away to Jamaica to find it.

2017 – Dallas Hot Chocolate 15k Race Recap and Life in General

On Feb 4th I ran the Dallas Hot Chocolate 15k , and I’ve been meaning since then to post my race recap. I’m not sure how two and a half weeks have passed, except to say that my 2017 so far can best be described as the following:

There continues to be a lot, a lot, going on in my neck of the woods, and most days I feel like I’m drowning. So much so that I considered, seriously considered, bailing on the race. I’ve never bailed on a race since I began running in fall 2013 (if you don’t count the 2016 Houston half marathon, which I don’t, since I made the decision roughly a month in advance of the event not to participate after I pulled a muscle in my back. That wasn’t “bailing” so much as changing plans due to injury).

When I say I almost bailed on this race, I mean that starting 72-48 hours in advance of the Saturday race, I waffled on whether I was going to follow through. The week leading up to the race was particularly exhausting and overwhelming and difficult for my family, and I was averaging 2-3 hours of sleep each night, and going through the motions.

The day before the race, when I had to drive downtown to get my race packet (taking time out of work and traveling 30-40 min from school), I gave myself the mother of all pep talks, told myself I wasn’t a quitter, that I would and I could and I should do this, and set off.

And got rear-ended on the highway. I can’t make this up. The universe hates me.

That night, with a stiff neck and sore shoulders to add to my litany of physical and emotional ailments, I was so ambivalent about the race that I didn’t even take my traditional night before gear-laid-out picture. I decided to set my alarm, but gave myself permission to not attend if I felt worse in the morning.

Ultimately I decided that whatever physical discomfort I endured during the 9.3 miles would pale in comparison to the emotional pissiness I would feel at not following through with my race entry. I hate not finishing what I start.

I don’t have an in-depth race recap to share (partly because I waited so long to write this that I don’t remember most details) but I can say this: until this race, I never really understood how people don’t finish races due to cramps. I mean, I’ve heard of people not finishing races due to cramps, I’ve even seen it happen in televised races. Someone is clipping right along, and suddenly grimaces, limps. sometimes dramatically dropping to the pavement, writhing in pain.

I always thought that was a little … much. I mean, how bad can a cramp be?

And then I ran 9.3 miles after forgetting, in my zombie state, to drink many fluids the 24 hours prior. Hello dehydration. And agonizing searing quad pain.

I was doing pretty well for the first 7 miles or so. So well that I knew I was on track to bust last year’s 15k time out of the water. I’m not going to lie, I was feeling pretty badass – there I was, almost not even showing up to the race hours before, and now I’m flying along at a faster pace?

And then my legs starting twinging. Not badly, at first, but enough to let me know they weren’t happy. I wasn’t overly concerned – with less than 2 miles to go, I figured I was home free.

Around mile 8.5, with just under a mile to go, the pain got so bad that I actually had to do this weird Jedi mind trick where I pretended I was floating and my feet weren’t really striking the ground each time, but just skipping across clouds. I know it sounds weird and doesn’t make sense as I type it out, but it worked, in the sense that I hobbled-limped-floated to the finish line when all I really wanted to do was collapse on the ground and start crying. Like those people I had seen on television who I secretly called wusses in my head. #karma

Still, I finished. With a 4+ minute drop from last year’s time to boot.

In other news, yesterday my oldest turned 17. 17. I can’t really wrap my brain around the fact that I have a 17 year old. In one year, I will be the mom to a legal adult. How did that happen?

Wasn’t I just giving him kisses in the park on my 26th birthday?

In my mind, he’s still this age.

But actually, he’s about to be a senior in high school and next year, in addition to delivering cookies to his advisory down the hall, I’ll be ordering his graduation tuxedo.

The Happiness Project – February

For 2017, I am blogging my way through Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Read here to see my intro post.

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About a week ago, last weekend to be exact, I began preparing this post. I went through the February chapter of The Happiness Project and picked out what quotes I wanted to use, and marked down the techniques that Rubin identified to improve her marriage, and then I actually interviewed my own husband to see if he felt that our marriage could also be improved. If you’re not reading the book, she chose:

  • Quit nagging
  • Don’t expect praise or appreciation
  • Fight right
  • No dumping
  • Give proofs of love

I went through each one and explained what she meant and asked him, no getting-in-trouble, no-penalty-assigned, if he felt that I was weak in those areas. As I went through each item, he reflected and thought and then said that, no, I really did a good job with all of them.

Keep in mind that we’ve only been married (nearly) 5 years, and also, I did extensive therapy prior to marrying him.

In the spirit of the project, I asked him if there was anything other than what Rubin chose that could make our marriage better. He was silent for a bit, mulling it over, and then said slowly, “You know, really? The only thing that makes me … not upset, but frustrated, with you? You take on everyone else’s problems. You’re so busy worrying about the kids and school and me and making sure everyone is safe and happy and taken care of, that you get really overwhelmed and strung out. I wish you could just relax and not care so much.”

Wait for it.

So, as I mentioned in my first post, my first attempt at this blog series ended abruptly in February, 2010, when my life completely imploded without warning. There I was, working my way through February, ready to make my marriage my focus of the month, and my (then) husband decided to relieve me of the project. Here I am again, February, and on the heels of that conversation last weekend, things went completely off the rails on several different fronts this week.

February is not so much my favorite.

I can’t elaborate on details. For one, some of this week’s circumstances are not my story to tell, and out of respect for my children, I won’t say anything other than sometimes life knocks the wind out of you. For another, some of this week’s developments are my burden to (directly) bear, but it is not in my best interest to share in a public forum.

I will just say that if my husband’s wish for our marriage is for me to relax, kick my heels up, and bring a little levity to the union, I will have to write him a big fat IOU on that one, because we’re in for a bumpy several months.

But lest you think February’s Happiness Project is a complete bust, I will say this about this month’s focus. If, as Rubin says, “The atmosphere of my marriage set the weather for my whole life” (39), then I will be okay. I will. Because, and I don’t say this with an ounce of exaggeration or melodrama, one of the very few areas of my life that is truly, madly, deeply right and healthy and safe right now, is my marriage. If, as they say, God does not give you more than you can handle, then I offer thanks to the universe for recognizing that, while I’m sure I would survive the current clusterfuck that is my life, I wouldn’t do so with nearly the fortitude or grace that I am.

If you can call deeming my life a current clusterfuck, “grace”.