Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Meal In A Jiff

I was at it again in the kitchen. My better half calls me "the short order cook." I guess growing up in a family of six and learning how to cook from my mom and grandmothers, I am able to now spin a meal around modern style. My mom and grandmothers did not work outside the home so they seemingly had the resources to get a meal done without worrying about leaving the house with the stove on. Welcome to my life of quick, easy homemade and fresh tasting meals. It's my daily challenge not only to provide something nice for my family but to stay out of restaurants as much as possible.

At times I find myself coming home from work often staring at the refrigerator wondering what on earth do I whip up tonight. Occasionally I have it all sorted and planned out ahead of time via crockpot cooking or something a little less spontaneous. But then there are those days where my mind is elsewhere and what we eat for dinner has not been thought of that day.

Today was one of those days. I hadn't thought of it until I came home from work at 5 pm. When I opened the refrigerator I was pleasantly surprised to find leftover chicken breast, broccoli, mushrooms, and green peppers. I had plenty of pasta in the pantry with newly purchased tamari sauce. It popped into my head.

Chicken Lo Mein

And within 30 minutes I had chicken lo mein on the table. Very tasty. It was really quite easy and here is how I did it. Excuse the lack of measurements. I usually eyeball those.

Leftover chicken breast
One green pepper, chopped
A handful of mushrooms, sliced
Head of blanched broccoli (blanch in boiling water for 5 minutes only...drain and shock it in cold ice water to stop the cooking process)
Two beaten eggs
Tamari soy sauce
Peanut Oil
1/2 lb of angel hair pasta (or spaghetti)

Boil pot of water for the pasta. While water is boiling, heat a wok or large frying pan with peanut oil (enough to thickly coat the bottom of the pan). When pan is very hot, add eggs and scramble. After eggs are scrambled, add remaining ingredients except for the tamari. Stir the vegetables and chicken for approximately 5-10 minutes until the dish cooks and develops flavors. While that is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until done. When pasta is done, drain and add to the stir fry. Incorporate the pasta and stir fry until fully combined. Sprinkle tamari sauce on the dish and stir in until there is a slightly brown color to the dish or when it suits your taste (usually about 5-6 shakes of the bottle).

You are now finished and have a really lovely dish that tastes even better than take out and much healthier for you.

Bon Appetit

Saturday, January 26, 2008

What Is Your Finish Line?

You know how people always say that you can do anything you put your mind to? Well, I am a firm believer but I like to take that thinking one step further and add that "You can do anything but if a fire burns inside of you, your chances of success are that much greater."

Since finishing my first marathon a few weeks ago, people have asked me many times questions like "how on earth did you wake up at 3 am, sit around for 3 hours, run for 3 hours after that and then walk around in Disney World for 12 hours after that?" Aside from the obvious answer - adrenaline - I myself wonder really what it was that got me to that start line. It's the what that I have been trying to define. What is it and how can I get more of that? The thought may be somewhat abstract but not really.

You see, I believe that in order for a goal or a dream to stick it must burn inside you. The burn doesn't have to be a full flame but just enough to speak to you. Not in the literal sense, mind you. Dreams can speak to you in many ways. Maybe you envision achieving that goal and you cannot get that vision out of your head. Maybe you talk about it constantly or blog repeatedly (OK so most of my blog topics this year have been about running). If you cannot get the thought out of your head, then you have an achievable goal. It is then up to you to get out there and do it. Which brings me back to my marathon day. The what that got me up at 3 am wasn't my insomnia. It was the burning inside of me. The flame had gotten so intense that I could taste this race. I went over it hundreds of times in my head. I was so excited to finally be there that I set 4 alarm clocks (up down double dot to the 100th degree!) I checked and laid out my clothes, rechecked, checked again, rechecked a dozen times. Waking up at 3 am became that little tiny thing I had to do in order to get to the start line.

When I got to the start line I remember thinking about the journey. I vividly remember the early November day when I was on a short run (2 miles) and 1 mile out I could go no further. My legs just wouldn't move. My body quit on me. I walked 1 mile back to my house in the dark all sweaty and stinky. Negative thought surrounded me. I got to the steps of my front door and cried. It wasn't too late to quit. I would only lose the $100 entrance fee if I just stopped NOW. But then I thought "I will never see that finish line that I keep thinking and dreaming about." Obviously those thoughts did not last long. I was back up and running the very next day.

Some people who have seen my marathon photos all say the same thing..."You don't even look tired at all" or "You are smiling. That is amazing." And I explain it all by saying that my weariness was not nearly as great as my elation at seeing that finish line and knowing that I was about to experience one of the top 10 greatest moments of my life so far.

So if you have a flame that burns inside of you, don't let it get away. Keep it burning and go for it. Go for your FINISH line. You will be amazed how you feel when you get there.

Marathon Video

I just finished up my Marathon video and hope you all enjoy reliving the experience with me.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

My Favorite Poem

Yes, indeed, I have a favorite poem and it doesn't start with "Roses Are Red." In fact it is really the only poem I have ever really loved and yet, whenever I read it, I feel like I am reading it for the first time. I remember studying it in high school in my 12 grade English class. I remember it being read during my commencement from college. It always applies to my life and inspires me.

You may have heard of it and if you have, you may enjoy reading it again. If you have never heard of it, you may grow to love it like I have.

Here it my favorite poem by my favorite poet:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. - Robert Frost

A Great Conversation

My heart warmed from this conversation this morning with my little princess.

Me: I am leaving for work right now and Daddy is taking you to school.
Her: Ok. Mommy.
We start kissing and hugging goodbye.
Me: I love you. Have a great day.
Her: aren't supposed to tell me to have a great day. You are only allowed to say "I love you."
Me: OK. I love you.
Long Pause
Her: I love you too Mommy.
Long Pause
Her: Have a great day Mommy.
Me: Have a great day Princess.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Flirting With 40

I have to give a shout out to my sister-in-law who recommended this book to me. It was a great read...not just easy but worthy in theme and spirit.

It's not because of the romance...ok, admittedly the character of Kai does make your toes tingle. It's not all about the fact that she fell in love with Hawaii although to date it has been my most favorite place I have ever travelled. It's not totally because she is divorced and therefore, I can relate to her on that level because I surely can. I think it is mostly about the fact that she is a single mom with a domineering ex and a guilt ridden life. She doesn't realize how she is caught up in the rollercoaster of life but also cannot enjoy it because she doesn't know how. She is in a life she never wanted and does not know how to enjoy any of the wonderful things that life has to offer. When she meets Kai on the beaches of Hawaii he helps her to see that life is as difficult as we make it...nothing more and nothing less.

The book is a wonderful transformation of a confused soul brought back from a life that she hated to a life she never knew existed.

I give this book an A+ not only for the pure enjoyment factor but because when I finished it, I realized that I, too, needed to retool my own life and am looking forward to the challenge.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Back To The Gym

Yesterday was my first day back to my gym after a long hiatus.
I was dreading it a bit because even though I have been running a lot lately I have not been weight lifting and my muscles have become rather soft.

As I dragged myself in I hopped onto my favorite elliptical machine ready for pain and torture. What I found was a big surprise. It was actually a lot easier than I remember it being. Prior to marathon training, my steady elliptical level was no higher than an 8. Today I had it set at the familiar 8 and found it to be TOO EASY??? I graduated up to a 9...still too easy until I settled on a 10. Ok, if I really pushed it I could have done a 11 or 12. As I was in motion and in between my favorite iPod selections, I pondered this a bit. How could this be? Maybe all of that running really did something extremely positive for my endurance.

When I moved over to the weight machines I thought that this would be where I would really feel the effects of my absence. Again, to my surprise, the leg machines were rather EASY. I pursued the leg extensions at 70 lbs and had to move up to 90. Admittedly hamstrings were still a big tough. OK, maybe my quad muscles have really been shocked from the running so it makes sense that the leg extensions would be easier than normal. Ditto for the rest of the workout to the hip and inner thigh extensions to my ab work. It was all puzzling to me.

My reasoning is fairly simple. My frame of reference is very different now that it has been nearly a week since I ran a half marathon (I love just saying that out loud). I feel as though I have catapulted to a whole new level of fitness and that feels pretty good.

While the days of me as a skinny mini are gone (having 4 kids and being over 40 will do that to you), I have never felt more physically fit in my life than I do at this time. It feels really great. I plan on riding the momentum and hope that I can inspire others to get on board with me also.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

iPod Selections

The moment you all have been waiting for...this is the day where I reveal my iPod directory that helped get me through months of hard running training. You just have to promise not to ask me to explain the reasons for some of these songs. There is no real thought to it. The songs in their own way are chosen simply because they light a fire under me and get me moving. I can't always explain why...they just do.

1. Carmina Burana O Fortuna - Boston Symphony
2. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
3. Good Vibrations - Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
4. Radio Nowhere - Bruce Springsteen
5. Black Balloon - The Goo Goo Dolls
6. Sleigh Ride (In the Style of the Ronettes) - The Jingle Belles
7. Happy Holidays/It's The Holiday Season - Andy Williams
8. Wonderful Christmas Time - Paul McCartney
9. All I Want for Christmas Is You - Mariah Carey
10. Seasons of Love - Rent
11. Let Love In - The Goo Goo Dolls
12. Home - Daughtry
13. Dreams - The Cranberries
14. How To Save A Life - The Fray
15. Slide - The Goo Goo Dolls
16. Iris - The Goo Goo Dolls
17. Keep Holding On - Avril Lavigne
18. Hands - Jewel
19. Home - Daughtry (repeated)
20. Lost Highway - Bon Jovi
21. Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield
22. Where Do You Hide Your Heart - Amy Grant
23. Angels - Amy Grant
24. Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen
25. Carmina Burana O Fortuna - Boston Symphony (repeated)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Marathon Day

This past Saturday was one of the better days of my life. I ran a 13.1 mile marathon. I don't say that lightly. It took me a good deal of training and mental fortitude to make it. I blogged about it constantly. When I lined up amongst the 15,000 other runners I felt calm and peaceful and not worried at all. I was too caught up in the moment watching the fireworks and listening to the sounds around me. I had never experienced this before and wanted to enjoy it all.

I knew I wanted to do three things. The first was to finish the race. The second was to finish without stopping to walk. The third was to not be too serious and enjoy it. I was able to do all three.

It was difficult. This was my first long distance run of my life. I am 42 years old. My knees are not what they used to be. My arches are flat. 18 months ago I could barely run 200 ft at any given time. On top of all of these things I couldn't give up the goal.

During the race, I thought a lot about my goals and my dreams. I thought about what inspired me to this day. I thought about all of the things I have been putting off because of lack of confidence. (I also thought about the huge pizza I was going to eat after I finished but that is besides the point). I promised myself that when I cross that finish line I am going to continue toward my goals more aggressively. I am going to remember this day if I get down in my confidence. I will be able to say "I ran a half marathon."

When I crossed the finish line I cried out of excitement for doing something I really never imagined myself doing. This was my gold medal day. I relished in it. I thanked God for it. I remembered all of the people who are no longer here who would be proud of me. I called my Dad on the phone and told him I finished. I thanked and hugged and kissed everyone who supported me.

At the end of the night when I dragged my tired body into bed, I sat alone and congratulated myself because I surely deserved it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Am Ready...I Think

I am officially finished with my half marathon training. With the exception of a few short runs this week, I am resting my weary legs from that 10 mile run last weekend. Therefore, there is nothing really new to post anymore regarding my training.

That said, I wanted to take a few minutes to say what an incredible family I have. They have been so super supportive of me over this time. It has meant so much to me. Many, many times during these past many months I have thought I should quit. I recall several days where I just felt I would never run past 2 miles. Luckily, my better half was there to encourage me and make me feel better. If it weren't for him, I would have never been able to run in the evenings or early mornings which was when I did most of my runs. I know there were times when it was difficult leaving him with all four kids to handle while I went out to run.

And then there is the rest of my family. My kids have been hugely supportive from the start always giving me high-fives when I come back from a long run. They are all so excited for Saturday to get here (or maybe that was the promise of visiting the Magic Kindgom that makes them happy). My brothers and their wives have been so incredibly supportive helping to encourage me and give me advice. Some of them will be there on Saturday to cheer me on. That means a great deal to me...more so than I can express. I got a card in the mail yesterday from someone special to me wishing me good luck. It made me cry because I guess we all take for granted how much we all mean to each other. My Dad has been a great support too. His only comment to me is "please be really careful...don't overdo it." Such a sweet dad!

I have never liked being the center of attention. I am really uncomfortable at my own birthday parties and don't like people watching me open up a gift. I just don't like the spotlight at all. I would rather give the attention than receive the attention. Last year at this time I went up to Disney to watch both of my younger brothers run this race and that was great fun for me. This year it will be me that they come to see. And while it is a bit uncomfortable for me to accept this spotlight, I will do so graciously because I am sure that everyone around me loves to give attention as much as I do.

In just 48 short hours I hope to be crossing that finish line. And when I do I hope to relish in the accomplishment and carry it through to my next endeavor.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Making Me Laugh

I had an awesome night out last night with my family. We went to Chilis because we had gotten a few gift cards for Christmas and wanted to use them up. Taking 4 kids out to dinner when two of them are teens and two are tiny people sometimes can be challenging but sometimes I am actually up for that challenge.

Last night while sitting at the table my oldest teen said something (what he said escapes me at the moment) but I let out a loud laugh. It was really funny....that I DO remember. I then noted to the remainder of the table that today all four of my kids each gave me a huge laugh out loud moment. They all looked at me as if I had two heads...what kind of sane person gets amusement from their kids making her laugh? What is so special about that?

The truth is that we (correction...I) don't laugh enough. I am so busy, busy, busy. I admit it. I should not be. I should take the time to sit back and allow the laugh out loud moments to asborb my brain. Why? Because it is FUN! It's fun to laugh and it's fun to see my kids laugh with me.

I commit to laughing more and being more easy going with my kids and making them laugh. I will let you know how it goes.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

10 miles and 6 days

6 more days until the big day but you could probably read the countdown clock on the right hand side.

I ran 10 miles this afternoon. A personal best. Boy do my feet hurt. No blisters but just cramping. Much cramping. This was my last long run before Saturday and for me I was not only doing it for mileage but also to try out all of the things I will be wearing on Saturday...shirt, pants, hat, socks. I have to be sure that none of them irritate my body while running. The outfit passes the test.

All that is left is a couple of days this week for some short runs...a couple of miles each. Compared to 10 or 13.1 those are a breeze.

I am looking forward to this run on Saturday and I am also looking forward to posting my iPod songs for the whole world to see. I am certain they will make some laugh because I have to admit that the personal selection is all over the musical map.

You just have to wait and see.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Countdown to Disney

A little over a week left until 13.1 miles. It's hard to believe I am almost there. It almost seems surreal. My final long run is tomorrow and it will be 10 miles which is my personal longest. It's been a long, tough road. I remember in the beginning after a 2 mile run and not being able to go any further and coming back home and crying my eyes out. I was so fearful that I would never make it this far. After that day I decided to pay more attention to why I was not achieving the results I needed and changed my regiment. I decided to never run on a full stomach any more and that was the key.

Since then I made certain to run on an empty stomach which did wonders for my stamina and endurance. I prefer to run at night but I tried it in the morning a few times and did pretty well. I have been maintaining 4 miles as my base run and when I feel like going further on any given day, I do so.

I am so excited for next Saturday.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Phone a Friend

Both of my teens got cell phones for Christmas. I purchased them because I thought they were old enough to have them and because there have been situations in the past where they needed them to call me and vice versa. I feel better knowing that they have them on hand.

Since the divorce they rarely call me on the phone from their dad's house. They have asked to and tried to but are often met with harsh discipline or are simply told that they are not allowed to call me. Now that they are getting older, bigger, and wiser they are starting to buck their dad's system.

Case in point.

This morning is one of their dad's visitation days. I am at work and suddenly my cell phone rings. I look at it and see that it is my 12 year old teen calling in on the cell phone I gave him. I get so excited because it is the first time that he is calling me that I can ever remember. I pick up the phone and he starts talking about an iguana that he just saw at his camp. He tells me this big long story about the iguana and how funny the story was and how much he laughed and how scared he was, etc etc. He ends by telling me that he just had to call me to tell me the story and that he loved me and will tell me more over the weekend.

To be honest with you I didn't really pay much attention to his story. I was too busy tearing up and thinking of how happy I was that he actually thought of me to call me. It really touched my heart and totally made my day.

A lot of people take these kinds of things for granted. To me it's like opening up the best gift in the world. Today is turning out to be a great day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Clinical Depression

Ten years ago I was clinically depressed. That was the diagnosis. It was an environmental depression which means it was triggered by events going on around me as opposed to some sort of chemical imbalance.

Those events were a failing marriage and my mother's diagnosis of end-stage lung cancer. Both events were major stresses that, even by themselves, can bring a person to a depressed state. Having both occur simultaneously can be very traumatic.

Which is probably why I don't recall many details of that time period with the exception of my mother's funeral and the night before her death which I recall very vividly. Everything else is either a big blur or completely gone from my memory.

I was treated for the depression via psychotherapy. I opposed the use of drugs because I wanted to get to the root of the problem and felt perhaps drugs might mask it. I left that option opened as a method of last resort.

I never felt suicidal though I do recall feeling that maybe if my life did end it might be a huge relief. I think that was when I realized I needed help. After all, I had to raise two small boys. And at the time of my depression I could not be there for them. I knew it was time for an intervention.

Therapy has and always will be a huge source of help for me. A lot of people are against it but I am not. I look at it as a mental check-up and I am seeing a therapist right now who has been extremely helpful to me with those emotional check-ups.

So many people ask me why it is that when I got divorced did my ex get the majority of visitation time and why was it that my ex was the receiver of child support. I often times have a difficult time answering that question to myself much less to others. The depression was so deep that I don't recall my even thinking of the details of my divorce agreement. Heck, I didn't even have a lawyer to help me out. I was completely and utterly lost.

I wish I could answer questions from 10 years ago more definitively but I really can't. Not because I don't want to but simply because I can't. I don't recollect and I don't want to try. I live through the mistakes I made and they have helped me be a better person today. I am glad that I am no longer depressed and I am so blessed to have a happy, healthy and thriving relationship with my dear husband and 4 beautiful children. Life with them couldn't be better.
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