Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Godmother

Because I had my year-end link-up scheduled for the first three days of the week, today's post is a bit late in coming to you, but it's one of the highlights of my year.

Last weekend I made the trip home to Pennsylvania to attend the Christening of my dearest friend's baby boy, and take on the role of Godmother.  Cue the theme music to my favorite movie...

I can't really explain why The Godfather is one of my favorite movies, because I am clearly non violent and in no way support organized crime, but I think it is the underlying theme of the importance of family as well as many aspects of Italian heritage the film portrays.

The role of Godfather or Godmother is one of very significant importance in both the Italian culture as well as the Catholic faith.  In fact, this source states that Godparents are so respected in Italian culture that they "are regarded higher than blood relatives".  Well now I'm blushing :)

To be chosen to be a role model and positive influence in the life of someone's child is probably one of the greatest honors and responsibilities I can think of to bestow on a person.  Every time I am asked to step into this role, I am humbled and feel blessed beyond belief, and it is not a responsibility I take lightly.  Whether you have religious affiliations or not, I think one of life's greatest responsibilities is raising children - whether indirectly or directly - and whether they be your own or not.  You know that old saying 'It takes a village to raise a child' really is true.  Children are influenced by everything around them, and it is important that all adults in their lives are positive, loving and nurturing. 

I mentioned in my last post that one of the highlights of this year was being able to be present at this boy's birth.  His mother is one of the most treasured people in my life, and she lives in Pennsylvania.  As you know, giving birth is usually not a planned event!  It can happen any time of day or night without warning.  So as much as I wanted to be there for the event, I had resigned myself to the fact that by the time I drove up from Baltimore, it would probably be days later, due to my work schedule.  Well, God works in mysterious ways my friends.  Wouldn't you know, I lost my job just a few weeks prior to a very early delivery by my friend.  I was able to be present for the entire thing - something that would not have been possible if I had still been at my job.  When one door closes, another opens...

He was a perfect tiny little pumpkin back in February and now he is a gregarious and stylish 10 month old sporting Chucks with his suit..where does the time go?

This also marked my THIRD stint as Godmother.  I can't even believe it.  I am also Godmother to this little nugget:
And to my cousin's baby boy:
Sometimes I can't believe that 3 different sets of parents have entrusted me with this honor - to play a special role in their children's lives.  But then I think, I must be doing something right :)  One of my foremost goals in life has always been to be the best Human I can be.  For as long as I walk the Earth in this body, I just want to be a good one. 
I always thought I'd have kids by now, and sometimes I think, hmmm where did I go wrong that this is where I've ended up at this point in my life.  But then I look around at my godchildren, my niece and nephews, all of my cousins, the countless kids I have babysat for over the last 20 years, and the hundreds of kids I worked with as a daycare teacher and substitute teacher (many years ago) and you know what, when I look at it that way, I already DO have kids.  Tons of them!  More than I possibly know what to do with, so it's a good thing I've got a never ending supply of love to go around.
Sometimes it's hard to see what you already have, when you are thinking about what you don't have.  Remember that one kids.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before 2014: Part Three

Life is a Sunset
Today I answer the last of the 25 Questions.  If you're just joining, I'm linking up with Chelsea at Life is a Sunset this week and taking part in a year-end inventory.  You can get more information about this exercise and also check out Chelsea's and other bloggers' take on the questions via her blog here.  I answered the first and second sets of questions here and here.  Without further ado, I tackle perhaps the hardest set...

21. Who do I need to forgive?  Forgiveness really is a hard art to master isn't it?  Human beings are not perfect.  We make mistakes often.  We say things without thinking, we find it hard to put ourselves in someone else's shoes and we often hurt those who are closest to us.  There are people who have hurt me in the past and I couldn't make sense of it.  It took me awhile to realize the reasons why other people do things is really not my concern.  Once I accepted that perhaps it really wasn't about me, but about them, it became easier to let them go.  In addition to being hurt by others, I know I have also been the antagonist.  I think the most difficult person of all to forgive is yourself.  This is something I struggle with and am working on.  I am trying to be as compassionate to myself as I am to others.

22. Where is it time to let go?  I have let go of a lot this year.  Finally letting go of a career direction that just wasn't working was the biggest one.  I've also let go of some personal limiting beliefs, but there is still some work to be done there.  I've let go of the need to know the outcome, or for certainty before taking action, because I know there is no such thing.  There is definitely more discomfort in taking steps without knowing where they'll lead but letting go is so much better than hanging on to something that is no longer serving you, just because you are afraid to take the leap. 

23. What old habits would I like to release?  I want to become better at being present.  I would say my thoughts for most of my life were focused on either rehashing/reliving the past, or were fueled by anxiety about what might happen in the future.  It's only recently that I've been reading about mindfulness and I've really tried to just "be" in the here and now.  Tomorrow is not promised, so why worry and why put your life off for a day that may never come?  I spend a lot of time around kids, and you know what?  They have mastered this skill without even trying.  When you are a child, you don't worry about tomorrow.  They live and play in the here and now.  Their concept of time is much different than ours.  I am looking to reclaim some of that gusto and wonder for the present moment, trusting that things will work out for the best along the way.

24. What new habits would I like to cultivate?  I think the biggest one would be taking action.  As I mentioned before, I am historically a staller.  I take forever to make decisions but recently, I've become better at taking action even when I have no idea what the outcome will be.  This has proven to be a successful tactic! I want to keep the momentum going and not revert back to my old ways, because there are so many more things I want to accomplish in 2014. 

25. How can I be kind to myself?  By forgiving myself for past 'mistakes' and knowing they brought me to where I am now.  By staying positive, open, optimistic and peaceful with where I am and not comparing myself to others (this is hard!). 

Well, wow.  I thought yesterday's questions were tough but these take the cake.  There is probably so much more I could have written for each one, but I need to limit this post to a respectable word count :) 

As I reflect back on 2013, it was a year of big change for me and I've learned so much, but in many ways, it was just the start of many new things to come.  I hope that I continue to carry the lessons and momentum I've gained into the new year because there is a lot more I want to do.  2013 was also probably one of the fastest years of my life.  I still can't believe that we are days away from Christmas.  Sometimes my old life seems like it was just yesterday, but then other times it feels miles away.  Is this a sign that I'm getting old?!  Don't answer that. 

I hope you benefited from answering these questions if you decided to dig in and answer them.  If you have any end-of-year exercises that you participate in, I'd love to hear about them.  This is the first time I've ever sat down and put my thoughts about the past year to paper and I think it's something I will continue to do in some form or another going forward.  Thanks to Chelsea for hosting this link up!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before 2014: Part Two

And so we are at Day Two of this exercise.  Today, I'm answering questions 11-20 from Chelsea's list.  If you want to link up, or check out her answers to today's questions, head over to her blog at Life is a Sunset.  In the alternative, I'd invite you to just think about or journal your own answers if you're so inclined.

Let's jump in:

11. When did I feel most creatively inspired?  This year for me, it has been when I'm blogging.  As a little girl, I used to love reading and writing stories.  And then somewhere along the line, I began to think of these as trivial pursuits and abandoned them.  I am SO glad I finally decided to stop thinking of all the reasons I couldn't start writing again, and couldn't start a blog, and finally just DID it.  There's that thing about taking action, any kind of action, again!  A funny thing happened now that I am writing - the creative fire within me has been re-lit and some of my other passions from long ago have started to surface as well. I used to be into drawing, painting and crafting when I was younger and lately I have been fantasizing about signing up for an art class.  2014 get ready...

12. What projects have I completed?  (1) Starting this blog.  (2) Training for and racing 2 more half marathons this year - one in which I PR'ed!  (3) Setting the groundwork for a new career. 

13. How have I procrastinated?  Honestly, I have probably procrastinated the least this year than I ever have in my life before!  This year was all about action for me, in so many different realms.  Traditionally, I tend to hold off on making decisions out of FEAR - fear that I will make the "wrong" choice. And do you know what usually happens then?  I wait too long and the outcome is decided for me and without my input, which generally leads to unhappiness.  I've finally seen that making a choice even when you are afraid of not being "right", is far better than sitting back and doing nothing.

14. In what ways can I re-structure my time?  Come 2014, I'm going to have a lot more on my plate and many more commitments, and I can already see it's going to be difficult to fit everything I need/want into a day.  That being said, I know I need to take care of myself and schedule my workouts, blogging, studying and other 'me' time activities, or my mental and physical health will suffer. 

15. How have I allowed fear of failure to hold me back?  This is a big lesson I learned this year.  And another reason I rarely take chances and hold off on making decisions.  I believe this fear of failure is what kept me in a job that was so misaligned with who I am for so long. I was afraid of stepping outside my comfort zone, but this year I was forced to do that, and what a blessing that has been!

16. Where has self-doubt taken over?  I doubt myself a lot, even today.  I'm better than I was a few years ago, or even last year, however I still have much to work here.  I often let outside voices influence me and my decisions too much, instead of listening to my own inner voice to guide me. When I was in a dark place a few years ago, and decided to run my first half marathon, I really doubted that I could do it.  Even as I increased my mileage and I could see that I was actually running, 10, 11, 12 miles - more than I had ever run before - still I doubted myself!  Now you can see how deep seated this is. I had actual physical proof and I was indeed performing the said task, yet still I doubted!  So, I've come a long way since then, and I credit running as the catalyst that set off this self-work and helped me to become so much more emotionally and mentally strong and confident.

17. When have I felt the most alive?  Wow, are these questions getting more difficult or is it just me?! There have been many moments this year when I have been so, so grateful to be alive.  And that is saying a lot, because a few years ago, I felt like there was no life left in me.  Some of the moments that stand out this year:  Being present in the hospital when my best friend delivered her first child; Every time my niece or nephew takes my hand, or calls out to me, "Jilly", in their tiny little voices; My PR in the half marathon in my hometown.  Those are just a few things/moments that I will never forget.

18. How have I taught others to respect me?  By finally realizing and proving through some key accomplishments this year, that I know what's best for me.  I think I first had to convince myself of that.  Once I stopped looking outside for answers, I think others started to see me as a more confident, strong and capable person.

19. How can I improve my relationships?  Many of my friendships and family relationships have grown stronger this year.  After working on myself, I was finally able to communicate more openly with those close to me.  For 2014, I hope to improve my outlook and openness to a romantic relationship.  That 3 month stint on this summer was an attempt but there's more to be done on the partner relationship front, that's for sure :) 

20. Have I been unfair to anyone? In the past, I believe I have and I am working on forgiving myself for those mistakes.

Wow.  These questions are becoming more difficult, more intimate, and pretty emotionally draining! I feel like I'm baring myself here, but I'm glad to be getting things out.  The only way to start anew is to put it all out there.  Part Three tomorrow.  Until then friends... 

What about you?  Did you find the second set of questions to be more probing?

Monday, December 16, 2013

25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before 2014: Part One

This week I am linking up with Chelsea from Life is a Sunset for her Three Part Series:  25 Questions to Ask Yourself Before 2014.  I have been following Chelsea for some time and really admire the person she is, her courage and positive outlook and the incredible things she has done with her life despite some very difficult obstacles.  I just think she is an all around awesome human being!

I was trying to come up with a way to recap my year, and was struggling with how to put everything down on paper, and when I saw her post last week about asking yourself these end-of-year questions, it struck me as the perfect way weave the past into the future.  There is some good stuff in these questions, which I will be answering in three parts.  So today, I am going to work on Questions 1-10.  I'll be back tomorrow and Wednesday with Parts Two and Three.

1. What am I most proud of this year?  Surviving, and thriving, through a major life change!  This year I was laid off from a corporate job I had held for 9 years.  Although the first few months were admittedly rough, and I went into panic mode, I eventually calmed down enough to do the inner work that was needed to make some positive decisions and actions towards building a different future for myself.  I am so happy I didn't make any rash or rushed decisions in those first few months because I can't tell you how excited and centered I feel about the coming year now.  One of those actions was starting this blog, so I'd say that's one of my proudest accomplishments as well :)

2. How can I become a better _________?  I'm going to fill in the blank here with the word "human" instead of focusing on a career/job title.  I think becoming the best person you can be during your short time here on earth is the biggest task of all, bigger than any job.  I have been working on myself all year in many ways - reading spiritual and self-help books, blogging out my thoughts, 'attempting' meditation, trying to see the positive in every day and situation, practicing gratitude, adding more variety to my workout routine, eating cleaner, and approaching life in a whole new way - but there is so much more I want to do, and this journey will surely take a lifetime!

3. Where am I feeling stuck?  If you would have asked me this question a year ago I would have said my job, but that is no longer the case.  Actually, I am feeling quite free and open in most areas of my life lately, and am excited for all that is to come.  That being said, there are certain limiting thoughts that stick around in my head, mostly concerning my romantic past/future, and I am trying to let them go.

4. Where do I need to allow myself grace?  I am becoming better with this.  As a child I was definitely a perfectionist, and those tendencies had some destructive consequences, but lately, I am seeing that letting go of being perfect and just taking action, any action, is so much better.  I have accomplished so much more by adopting this attitude when I realize that nothing, and no one, is perfect.

5. Am I passionate about my career?  Yes!  I will be sharing with you soon my plans for 2014 in this area, but I am finally following my heart, and letting my natural talents lead the way.  I believe there are certain things each person was 'born to do' and I'm so excited I finally decided to pursue those things, instead of what I thought I 'should' be doing.

6. What lessons have I learned?  Oh boy, I would need pages upon pages for this one! I've actually mentioned some of the lessons I've learned by answering some of the above questions, but I have learned SO much this year.  It's wonderful what can happen when your world is turned upside down.   Here are a few of the most important lessons I've learned:  The most important voice to listen to is your own.  Positivity breeds positivity; gratitude breeds abundance.  Everything has a way of working out.  There is a lesson in every situation.

7. What did my finances look like?  It was a bit scary this year, not knowing how I would make ends meet, but once again, lessons were learned.  I was finally forced into making a budget and became much more aware of what I was spending.  In addition, my attitude about money is beginning to change dramatically. Working in finance really led me to have a negative view of money, but I no longer feel that way.  I now believe that if you are using your innate gifts for the good of other people, then money, which is just a form of energy, will flow to you to increase your positive influence on the world.  I look forward to 2014 being an abundant year.

8. How did I spend my free time?  Working on myself and helping others, and spending time with friends and family.

9. How well did I take care of my mind, body and soul?  Probably the best I ever have!  Even when I was unhappy with my job or other elements of my life in years past, I was pretty good at taking care of my body, but I tended to steer clear of taking care of my mind and soul.  Those were harder for me to tend to.  I didn't want to do the hard work of confronting what my inner voice was trying to tell me.  It knew all along the sources of my discomfort but so often I would push that voice aside.  Now I am tackling things head on and feeling so much more inner peace.

10. How have I been open minded?  I've come to see this year that life is not a linear path and cannot be viewed in black and white.  Those are two huge changes in my previous thought processes. I've become open to surrendering the outcome and following my heart, and most of all living in the moment. 

I invite you to link up with Chelsea or just answer some of these questions on your own.  I think it's a nice way to do some introspection on the past year and center your focus for the coming year.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bootcamp Wrap-up

My month-long membership at EA All Day Fitness is coming to an end; in fact, tomorrow will be my last workout!  The past four weeks have literally flown by.  I would venture to say that these workouts have probably been the most intense I've had to date and I'd say they were on par with the workouts I did last year during my month-long CrossFit trial in terms of intensity.   This experience has definitely proven to be one of my best Groupon purchases to date! 

It's not often that I feel really challenged or pushed to my max during a workout; I guess mostly because I work out solo.  I guess I go too easy on myself!  The only class I take regularly at the gym is Body Pump and while it's a great strength training class and I occasionally up my weights, it's pretty much the same succession of moves every week and the level of high intensity bursts of activity is just not there.  When I run, I mostly run for distance, meaning I rarely (if ever) do speed training.  Now of course some runs are harder than others, depending on the day, terrain, etc, and I do push my pace on occasion but again, I'm not sprinting and I'm not carrying around any weights with me so there's no resistance training there.  When I swim, I swim for time.  I'll usually tack on some sprints at the end of the workout but I'm not sprinting the entire time.  On the other hand, I've definitely maxed out several times during the past month at some of these boot camp workouts, but in a good way.  I think the combination of the instructor's enthusiasm and support throughout, plus the team atmosphere in the studio, allowed me to give just a little bit more than I probably would on my own. 

In addition to being challenged, I've also learned some new moves and picked up a lot of ideas that I can incorporate into my own workouts going forward.  To give you an idea, here is the basic framework for each hour long workout session:

- Most sessions would start off with a 10 minute dynamic warm up that consisted of 60 seconds each of 8-10 different exercises including:  plank, squats, lunges, jumping jacks, running in place, high knees, inchworm to cobra, among others.  The warm up would also sometimes include an 800 meter run.

- After the warm up we'd get into the circuit for the evening.  Sometimes we would do the whole circuit for 45 mins, sometimes there would be 2 or 3 different circuits that we would rotate between for the duration of class. 

- The circuits were pretty much anything our trainer could come up with!  One class we had to go through this obstacle course for 45 mins straight:  Several box jumps in a row, 15 burpees, jumping over low hurdles with a band around our feet all the way across the studio, plank-walking under a series of high hurdles back across the studio and then long jumps all the way back across again - over and over again!  That one nearly killed me.  I could run 5 miles in 45 mins and not feel even remotely as wiped as I did in 20 mins of doing that crazy man course!

- If the weather was decent, sometimes he'd take the workout outdoors for the day.  One night we did a partner workout.  We had to run 400m across the parking lot, then each do 10 burpees over each other while our partner held a plank.  Then we had to run 600m back across the parking lot and do 20 partner push ups (clap hands with your partner in between).  After those, we ran down to a tire flipping station where we had to flip monster 80lb tires about 20 times before moving onto the final station which was holding 45lbs in each hand and walking 100m each!  Phew.  My partner was pretty awesome though so we kept each other motivated.  And even though I was freezing when we stepped outside, about 2.5 mins later I was sweating like crazy. 

- Some other moves we did throughout our workouts this month:  one legged burpees (try them!), using 30lb sandbags to run stairs, suspension cables for arm workouts (pull-ups, curls), squat thrusts, wall sits with weighted medicine balls (kill me). 

It would be impossible to recap everything I've done over the month, but I hope this gives you a good idea what the workouts were all about and what I've been up to for the past month.  The workouts were varied, intense, and fun, and I enjoyed every minute of it!  Almost...

I would consider myself to have a fairly high fitness level at this point, and the studio instructor actually said the same to me one night, however, he mentioned that at this point it's more about getting stronger and faster for me.  He works with people of all fitness levels, from those just starting out to athletes trying to improve their performance, and these boot camp workouts can be scaled for people at every level.  I want to condition myself and my body not just to benefit my running, but because I want to reach a bit higher and see what else my body can do.  I want to see how lean and strong I really can become. 

I'd really love if I could continue on with this studio, even if it's just a couple of days a week between running and other workouts, however I think just like CrossFit the cost is going to be much too prohibitive!  If I purchase a few basic items I could probably do some of the workouts at home.  If I had all the time and money in the world, I'd really love to spend it conditioning my body, however that will probably never be the case for me, or most people.  Between work, family obligations and life in general, most people can't devote hours to working out.  But I think if you do an hour or even a half hour of super high intensity workouts like this a few days a week, you can see pretty incredible results.  Just like this guy:

Your turn!
What's the last workout you really enjoyed?
What do you do for cross-training?
Have you ever done boot camp style workouts?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Those of you that lived in the Baltimore/DC area in 2010 will probably always remember Snowmageddon, the giant snowstorm we had in February of that year.  We were snowed on for two days and got almost 3 feet of snow where I live.  The storm shattered all kinds of records and it was nearly impossible to navigate the roads for days.  It also took forever for me to uncover my car, and there were standing mountains of snow everywhere for weeks.  My Facebook news feed blew up that weekend with pictures of people traipsing all over the city by foot, exploring our city made new by snow, Day After Tomorrow style. 

The past two days here have in no way been Snowpocalyptic, but the conditions had me reminiscing about that storm.  I woke up Sunday morning to this:

I'm not the biggest fan of snow, but the scene was beautiful.  So serene.  It snowed for most of the day, and so I was pretty much forced to stay in for the day (PJ day, ok twist my arm!).  My plans for that evening got cancelled, so I took a rest day, watched Christmas movies and finished a book I had been in the middle of - A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson (extremely thought-provoking; I may do a post on this).  However, by the end of the day, I was getting stir crazy and was looking forward to boot camp the next morning.  Well, we had sleet and freezing rain all night so my Monday morning plans got cancelled as well.  Ugh.  You see why I'm not snow's biggest fan?  I ended up doing this circuit workout twice through - top to bottom, then back up from bottom to top.
When the weather cleared up in the afternoon I headed out to do some Christmas shopping.  I hadn't even started yet so this seemed like a good enough time as any to get going!  Ummm, stores, and the humans inside them, are crazy at Christmas.  I should have known this.  I got a few things but ultimately felt defeated.  My list is long and my purchases are few.  Endurance sports, I'm good with.  Endurance shopping? Not so much. I have a feeling I will be doing most of the rest of my shopping online.  On top of that, there was more snow in the forecast last night!
Fast forward to this morning.  Snow Day #2 and I'm beginning to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
Beautiful indeed, however all my plans for the day got cancelled once again.  Even the Federal government in DC is shut down today. wah wah  I'm beginning to see a pattern here.  And may I remind you all, it's not even Winter yet!  The season doesn't officially start until the solstice on Dec 21st which means we still have more than 3 months of this to look forward to.  If I were 12 years old again, I'd LOVE winter.  Back then I lived for snow days which meant no school and spending the entire day outside sledding and with my sisters and all the kids in the neighborhood.  These days, not so much.  I am so antsy in here!  The streets are fairly clear today though so I'm hoping evening boot camp classes will not be cancelled.  I'm also thinking that I'm going to need to invest in some kind of winter running adaptations like Yaktrax.  Does anyone use these on their running shoes?  If its going to be snowing like this all winter, I'm going to have to get out there.  Cabin fever will be the death of me. 
Here's to hoping there's no more snow in the forecast for tonight...
How's the weather where you are?
Do you like/love snow?



Thursday, December 5, 2013

"Believe in Yourself and there will come a day when others will have no choice but to believe with you." ~ Cynthia Kersey

This article happened to pop up on my Facebook news feed last weekend while I was home for Thanksgiving, and it could not have been more timely.  Let's discuss. 

It's actually quite amazing and wonderful how messages seem to find me at just the right time this past year.  (Especially this line from the article:  "Know that you are a Divine being and you have a unique offering to share with the world that nobody else has.")  Perhaps it's because I've become more aware and receptive to them, but I do believe magic happens when you are truly in line with who you are and why you are here.  Over the past several months, a sense of peace, fulfillment and real joy has begun to settle deep within me.  I know I am headed in the right direction...finally.  This is a feeling that can only come from inside, and therefore as you move further and further down your path and into your truth, outside influences have less and less effect on you.  I am in no way 'there' yet, but I am becoming less reliant on outside feedback and heeding my own intuition much more. 
With that being said, the holidays are a unique time of year amongst extended family, when relatives who you may not see very often find it the perfect opportunity to ask personal probing questions and/or provide their (unheeded) feedback on your current lifestyle!  Am I right?!  I suppose I am the current 'black sheep' in my family, being as I am unmarried (the horror!) and in the midst of a career change (the audacity!).  So I certainly did receive my (un)fair share of questioning from members of my extended family this past weekend.  My personal favorite is "You're so pretty.  Why don't you have a boyfriend?".  Ummmmmm, not sure how to answer that one?  What correlation do my appearance and my relationship status have exactly?  Would it be more fathomable for me to be single if I were less attractive?  There are many witty responses I craft in my head to questions like these however I'm not a mean spirited person.  Most of the time I just laugh them off.  The thing is when people ask questions or pass judgment on you, I think it really says more about that person than it does about you.  I think it reveals more about their own insecurities, fears or regrets, and is colored by their own personal prejudices and experience.  Which is to say, they are judging you for something they have never done.  When you think about it like that, their comments become less pertinent to your life and your purpose and it is easier to brush them off. 
I am certainly not on the 'conventional' path at this point in my life, but what does that really mean anymore?  Conventional, or traditional in the American sense, would probably seem ridiculous to many other cultures (Hellooo, McMansions and giant SUV's).  And there are so many people following previously atypical paths now that I think the definition of what 'conventional' is is already undergoing so much change. 
This is not to say I don't value people's insight, advice and experience, especially when my own experience and information on a subject is limited.  I certainly do.  I love hearing stories from those who are older and wiser than me (and there are many!), but I am learning more to temper other's advice with what I feel is right for me and my life.  This is a big change from someone who is a classic 'people pleaser'. 
Any time you go through big changes, or do things that people consider non-traditional, there will be feedback - both positive and critical.  The point of all this is, that when you are really tuned into who you are, the opinions of others matter less and less.  At least that is what I have found along the way.  I'm lucky to have some really wonderful friends and family who have been very supportive of me over the past few years, or really, throughout my life.  I know these people truly love me for who I am because they want simply for me to be happy, however that manifests itself.  Isn't that the wish we have for everyone we love?  It is those people you should hold dear.  And above all else, listen, act and live with your heart and with love.  Everything else will fall into place...
Have you ever been the recipient of personal questions, or unsolicited advice?
How did you deal with it?


Monday, December 2, 2013

Home for the Holiday ... in Pictures

I'm back in Baltimore today after a four day weekend in Pennsylvania eating everything in sight celebrating Thanksgiving!  We actually had 2 Thanksgivings - one on Thursday and one on Saturday.  I am officially turkeyed out.  Besides eating, I also got to spend some time with friends back home and do some running.  When I got back in town tonight I headed to boot camp, where I just spent the last 45 minutes flipping a tire the size of a house up and down the parking lot, so you'll have to excuse me if this post is a bit light on words and heavy on pictures.  I think my arms are about to fall off and I'm not sure how much longer I can type :/  Actually, let's just say a post filled with pictures is more artistic.  Yep that's it :)  Enjoy!

Decided to register at the last minute for a Turkey Trot back home.  I'm just not good at sitting still.  Unfortunately, I checked the weather forecast AFTERWARD.  Hellloooo 20 degrees. 
Thanksgiving!  Clockwise, from top left:  1. Moscato - how have I never had this wine?! It's DELISH.  2. The glorious table of food.  3. Ninja-bread men made by my little cousins.  Get it? They are karate gingerbread men. HA!  4. The token plate of food pic.  5. Me and my momma
My Thanksgiving plate.  My absolute favorite item of all is the Italian meat stuffing in the top right there.  Ground beef, spinach and pignoli nuts.  I literally wait all year for that.  Some other Italian delicacies include stuffed mushrooms (bottom right) and fried artichoke stalks (not pictured).  In addition, my cousin urged me to try the turkey liver.  Throwing all caution to the wind, I obliged in his little dare.  DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS.  That was worst thing that's touched my lips in years. 
Went for a 5 mi run around my parent's neighborhood yesterday.  It was about 20 degrees warmer.  Suh-weet!!
Got to hang out with some of these back-home beauties last night.  Oh how I love a good friends reunion and some girl talk.
Andddd, finally - I can now join the ranks of the 'cool kids' club with this intricate Rainbow Loom bracelet, handmade for me by this awesome 11 year old

And there you have it.  Family, Friends, Food!  My Thanksgiving did not involve any shopping.  In fact my only Black Friday purchases were the race entry fee for above Turkey Trot and some Vegan Treats.  You can clearly see where my priorities lie :)
Hope you all had wonderful holiday weekends, and Happy Hanukkah if you're in the midst of celebrating that holiday as well!
Feel free to share with me some highlights from your Thanksgiving!


Friday, November 29, 2013

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal!

The Lean Green Bean
This month I participated in Foodie Pen Pals, a fun food exchange set up by Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean blog.  She started Foodie Pen Pals in 2011 and it has been going ever since!  If you are interested in signing up, please check out her blog.  It happens every month.  Make sure you sign up by the 4th of the month.  Lindsay will take it from there, generating a match for you.  Then you correspond with your Pen Pal to find out more about them and their food preferences and get working on your care package!  This was the first time I've done it and I really enjoyed it.  I got matched up with Meagan of I Run 4 Chocolates.  She is a runner and teacher who lives near the Jersey Shore.  In addition to the great treats you will get by participating in Foodie Pen Pals, you get to meet new friends!  Additionally, you don't have to have a blog to participate - just a valid email and mailing address. 

Today is Reveal Day which means I get to share with you all of the wonderful things Meagan sent me this month!  Check out all this great stuff:

Meagan included a lot of snack and sport fuel items - two of my favorite food categories - plus a cute handwritten note attached to each item!  I received my package about a week ago but haven't tried any of the treats yet because I didn't want this post to include pics of half eaten (or missing) food items! Hahaha.  But I'm excited to dig in and try all of these items out in the next few weeks.
Here's a more in-depth look at what Meagan sent me:
1.  Trader Joe's Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta - Confession: I have only been to Trader Joe's twice! Ahhhhhhhhhh I know.  What kind of blogger am I?!  I have been a Whole Foods addict for 9 years simply because there was not a Trader Joe's in close proximity to my home or work, but I read about TJ's on pretty much every blog out there so perhaps this warrants further visits/investigation on my part :)  I am so intrigued by this pasta.  And here's another confession:  I've never had flavored pasta.  I mean my mother's family is Italian so I grew up just eating regular pasta (what other kind was there?).  This notion of flavored pasta is blowing my mind right now.
2.  Clif Bars - I have had Clif Bars before but quite a long time ago.  I remember eating them in high school a lot before workouts or just as snacks.  I'm excited to try these as a pre-race or pre-run food as Meagan suggests since I usually eat a bagel beforehand.  The two flavors she sent me to try are Crunchy Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Raisin Walnut.

3.  Nature's Promise snack bars - I live on protein bars/snack bars/granola bars during the day and I always keep things like this in my bag so I love finding new bars to add into my rotation.  I've never had a Nature's Promise bar either so I'm looking forward to diving into one of these bad boys the next time I'm sitting in hours of traffic and about to start eating my steering wheel. 
4.  PowerBar Performance items - Meagan sent me a package of PowerBar Energy Blasts as well as a PowerBar Energy Gel.  I've had items similar to these before but never a PowerBar variety.  For gels,  I usually consume Gu, mostly just during races, sometimes on a long run.  And for chews, I usually eat Clif Shot Bloks or Honey Stinger Chews.  I can't wait to try the PowerBar varieties of both!
5.  Yogi Teas.  I love tea!! Especially in the wintertime.  I actually sent Meagan my favorite holiday tea (which I mentioned in this post).  I've never heard of Yogi teas but these flavors look delicious.  I am a big green tea drinker and the caramel apple spice tea just sounds heavenly. 
6.  And last but not least, a Magic Towel! Hahahaha.  This is great! I remember getting these as a kid and thinking they were the coolest thing ever.   I actually didn't even know they still made these, but I love the randomness and awesomeness of this item!
Pretty great stuff huh?  If you'd like to know what I sent Meagan, you can head over to her blog today and check out her post.  And if you're interested in signing up for Foodie Pen Pals, check out all the info on The Lean Green Bean.  Today's post on The LGB will also have links to everyone who participated in this month's exchange. 
Well, that's all for today folks.  Hope you are all continuing to enjoy the Holiday weekend!
Your turn!
Have you ever participated in Foodie Pen Pals?
Or ever been a pen pal in general?  Like back in the day, old school style?!
I was in a pen pal relationship with a young chap from Germany back in middle school.  It was set up my German teacher back then. I thought it was awesome!


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Part 5

As I write this post, I can't believe November is almost over!  I loved being more mindful of all the blessings in my life this month, and wish I took the time to do this more often.  I hope this month has set me on the right path to do just that.  As 2013 winds down, I look back on this amazing year of change and growth for me, and just can't believe what a whirlwind it's been.  I am working on putting together some deliberate end-of-year recap posts as well as goals for the coming new year.  Things have come together this year in a way I never thought possible, and it's spurred even bigger goals and plans in me for 2014.  More to come.  But for now, let's wind down this month with my last gratitude list:

November 22 - My cats!  I know I've alluded to them in the past, but I am so grateful that I have these two special boys in my life.  I was always an animal lover, but prior to adopting them, I never considered myself a 'cat person'.  That seems absurd to me now because I was missing out my whole life on such a special little species!  And truly, being an animal lover means loving all animals, right?  I'm so glad I took the plunge and welcomed these guys into my home 9 years ago.  Today we had a visit to the vet, and one of my boys has a health ailment.  Something that sounds promising with treatment, and so that's what brought up these feelings.  I mean, obviously we were meant for each other - they're into protein shakes and running shoes!

November 23 - A clean house.  I will be the first to admit, I am no Susie Homemaker.  Many people in my life will surely pipe in and verify this.  I do not enjoy cooking (at all), cleaning, and housekeeping.  I know some people really do enjoy these activities and take pleasure in their ability to keep a beautiful home and prepare delicious meals.  I wish I enjoyed these activities more, especially cooking.  However, every once in awhile I get inspired to clean my little palace (ie. my 1 bedroom apartment) and the feeling I get after scrubbing this place from top to bottom just can't be beat! I was pretty proud of myself today and thankful that I that I have this place to call home.  Also, um, cleaning is a pretty hardcore workout!
November 24 - Church.  It's been awhile since I've been to Sunday Mass.  And it felt really nice to wake up early this Sunday morning and go.  Even if it's been awhile, I always feel this sense of peace and comfort going back (yes, even though they've changed the prayers that were ingrained in my head since Catholic school and I now have to look at that little pew card!).  Anyway, there was a phrase that stood out for me today in the priest's homily.  It was all about Love and how our purpose here on earth is to share the Love God gave to us with everyone we meet.  That's it.  Just BE LOVE.  This theme of Love is coming up a lot lately in my life, in my readings, writings, and daily experiences.  I feel like there's some kind of magic in this message; I like it, and I'm learning a whole lot from it. 
November 25 - Apple magic.  Seriously.  I did a whole post on it so you know this knowledge has had a profound effect on me this week.  Have you tried it yet?!
November 26 - Patience.  My trip home in the evening usually takes anywhere from 30-45 minutes.  tonight it took 2 HOURS.  No, I am not exaggerating.  There was pretty much a perfect trifecta of circumstances that made my commute trying, to say the least, and somehow I kept it together.  It's this new thing I'm trying where I just Let it Go.  It sounds weird, new-agey, I know.  It's something I've been reading about and it's hard to do.  Really hard sometimes, for me.  But the fact of the matter is, there are many, many things you will not be able to control in life.  And when you/me/people, struggle to try to control these things we just add unnecessary stress into our lives.  Obviously, there is nothing you can do about traffic.  The only thing you can do is surrender control, and let it go.  And once I did that tonight, I felt FREE.  Sure, it changed my plans this evening but what could I do.  That's life.  Things won't always go according to plan.  I just let it go and it was amazing the effect this had!
November 27 - Green Smoothies!  (I may or may not be posting this in response to a recent post by OlivetoRun in which she admitted she's never had a green smoothie...what?! KIDDING!)  In all reality, I LOVE green smoothies.  And pretty much all smoothies.  I have admitted I am no cook, but I really love experimenting with smoothies and creating my own recipes.  I don't measure anything and I don't follow other recipes, I just throw stuff in there that looks good! And most of the time it comes out ok :)  This morning's breakfast smoothie consisted of the following:  Unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a little water, vanilla pea protein (vegan), 2 handfuls of spinach, pineapple, cherries and wild blueberries.  Lots of good stuff.  You get fruit, vegetables, antioxidants, vitamins, nutrients and protein.  What is not to love about that?  Behold the deliciousness:
November 28, 29, 30 - Family, Friends & Food.  I love Thanksgiving because it means I get to go home and spend time with many of the people I love the most!  It also kicks off the holiday season, which to me is all about Family.  I am excited to spend the next few days really doing nothing but enjoying quality time with my people.  Well, that and the food!  There is nothing better than home cooked food from your extended family.  Since my mom's side of the family is Italian, we eat a few different things on Thanksgiving.  Perhaps I'll snap some pics and post them on Instagram for you!  I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving today as well.
How about you?
How was your month of mindfulness and gratitude?