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This is a week of anniversaries for me. I just enjoyed my 8th anniversary with my husband, and we also acknowledged our 5th year in our home.

This evening, though, marks a third kind of anniversary for me. Much like an alcoholic, or anyone who has battled a life-threatening addiction, I celebrate (officially!) two years of eating clean, giving my body exercise, and separating myself from an unhealthy food-centered lifestyle. On this evening two years ago today, I made the final commitment to myself that I would do whatever it took to get myself healthy, that I would no longer make excuses, that I would not let myself fail this time no matter how uncomfortable the process, and that I would claim my freedom once and for the rest of my life.

Bill and I had just celebrated our 6th anniversary and had some pictures taken by our daughter at the park. It is weird to me that, scour as I might this week, I cannot find any digital copies of those pictures. I have everything else, it seems! I only know that I looked at those pictures, after chowing down on our traditional anniversary meal at our favorite burger joint, and I really saw myself. Sure, I saw the obesity—60 pounds overweight and counting—but more than that I saw someone who looked both way too young and way too old all at once. My skin was tight and wan, I knew how little physical energy I had…but I also saw something else. I saw my eyes. Where was the zest for accomplishment and life going? Was it being absorbed by all of the work of motherhood? Where was my personal vitality? The life of my mind and body together? I loved, with a passion, being alive—but was this body allowing me to live fully? To do everything I wanted to do, physically? Was this body going to be it? Hadn’t it been far too long since I felt my body really reflected the creature I was inside? 

A couple of weeks before those pictures in 2012, I had just bought my next size up in clothing. Would it stop? If so, how?

Bill had already been on the first year of his journey to lose his weight. Seeing my unhappiness, he brought it up: why not try counting your calories and exercising? He was gentle. He loved me at my most uncomfortable. But our conversation turned REAL. Why not try to do this, he asked. It’s just math…

(…and willpower…and commitment…and goal setting…)

I thought about it for a couple of days. Either I would do it all in, or I would not attempt it. It was a bigger change than just giving up some calories everyday and moving my body. It meant, for me, breaking away from foodie culture: no more food-centered TV shows, put aside my food magazines for other reading, stop posting so many pictures of what I make/eat/think about eating, stop making food so darn important and all-encompassing. There is so much more to life, but by focusing on food so heavily, I had chosen to pursue a temporary pleasure at which I could not possibly fail. It’s easy to eat. In this culture, as we have for hundreds of years, we tie food in way too closely to imaginary status and rhetoric. It was time to remember who I was as a teenager when I pursued bigger dreams and took more substantial risks, a time when I was unafraid of truly hard work. So often those long term goals afford very few immediate pleasures at all; the pay-off is at the end.

I remember thinking, two years ago tonight, “I have seen what I can do academically when I try my very best; I know what it is to try my best at being a teacher and now at being a mother. But I have never given myself the chance to see what I could do for my health/body if I tried my very best.” 

It was that simple, in a way: it was time to try my best. I have had a good track record with that, generally. That was all, but it was everything.

I knew if I told myself to do my best, I would not want to allow myself to fail. “Trying my best” at something in life is a bit of coded language for me. That phrase activated a part of my mind that is incredibly tenacious. If I viewed this getting-healthy business as a long-term project requiring work, I would be less likely to undermine myself. In fact, I remember thinking, “You cannot allow yourself to not see this through if you commit to trying your best at it, because trying your best and achieving is so fundamental to who you are.”

That was the moment of terror, the moment of risk: if I told myself I was going to do this, and I did not follow through, who would I really be anymore? I would not be who I thought I was, all my life. I remember exactly where I was in my house when I realized this.

Deciding to change myself asked me to gamble with everything I thought I was, and hoped I could be.

And I chose to gamble it all, on the night of May 31, 2012.

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Spring 2012 (note the ubiquitous sweater, even in warmth); taken today, May 31, 2014. Two years makes a difference. Actually, I have been maintaining my current weight now for most of the year (having hit it officially last August in 2013). So, less than two years…can make a huge difference. If I can do it, food-lover extraordinaire whose definition of loving motherhood partly included baking treats several times weekly with her children, then anyone can find the way to do it. I believe that.

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Our 5th anniversary in 2011….and our 8th anniversary this week. We have made our bodies now the best they can possibly be for one another, and that is an amazing experience to share.

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Oh boy. This one on the left is hard for me to share. This was at my heaviest. What was going on here? Why didn’t I stop? It’s not just the weight, either. Anyone who has been/is overweight knows that the weight itself is not what makes looking at this picture difficult. It is the fact that I had so thoroughly trapped myself and given myself so little time or care. That hurts. Why did I not value myself more, for a period of time? Why did I not notice, or care, that my freedom was slipping away? I feel like telling myself, “Wake up! Wake up!” And now I am starting to get teary-eyed because I am realizing how easily I could have decided to keep living in the status quo two years ago… What if I had not been brave with myself? What if I were missing out right now on the freedom that I feel today? The thought of never feeling what I feel right now really upsets me. What if I had chosen to go through the rest of my life without feeling the way I do right now?

Without being able to run and feel my body free? Or to feel like I look on the outside the way I feel inside? Or to have 1000% more energy to be active with my kiddos? What if, two years ago, I had made a different choice?

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Bathing suits. Change can happen if we give it enough time and work. I promise. There was a time in my life when I thought I would hate wearing a bathing suit forever, or bathing suit shopping…

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This was taken about a week or so ago. Freedom and playfulness and silliness and…the ability to be exactly as I dreamed I could be.

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It would have been nice to experience Hawaii with my husband in a different body (early 2012, before I put on another 15 pounds), but maybe another time… The picture on the right was taken last month.

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I used to think love looked and felt like the picture on the left. Uh-uhn. For me, now, loving my children means teaching them to monitor their food choices, giving them enough education to choose wisely and healthily, and taking them to work out. It will be more difficult for Katie, because I developed some poor food habits with her early on, and I take responsibility for that. We are working on it. I try not to use “skinny” and “fat” as our adjectives with her; we use words like “fit” and “strong” and “healthy.” I am teaching her how to assess the value of a food item for nutritional content. She knows how to navigate parties now, too: sure, take a few chips if you feel you must, but then move away from the bowl and be done.

So. What has worked for me? I have been asked this many times in the past two years. A couple of times, I have even been approached as though I have a secret. Am I taking secret magic pills? Hormone therapy? Is there some magic combination of food items?


I count calories—yes, still!—and I exercise 5-7 days a week (five intensely, the other two perhaps a walk, hike, weights, or light cross training) for 30 minutes or, sometimes, quite a bit more. At this point, I make exercise THE priority in our home, for everyone. (Betcha thought it was academics. Those are essential, too, but I have come to believe that everything—including mental/intellectual clarity—starts with exercise).

When I was losing, I aimed for 1200-1500 calories a day. Even running.

Now, my calories are a bit different, but those who say runners can eat whatever we want? No way. Untrue. Oh, I wish! I burn only 78-80 cals per mile when I run. Mathematically, that’s not very much. If I do a short run in my training, like 4 miles, that’s only 320 calories burnt. I still have to watch it, in both directions. Maintaining weight is its own ballgame, not exactly like losing.

Here are some helpful ideas that worked for me: (Warning– just skip this part if you don’t like things that border on lectures, and/or if you are not currently interested in losing weight).

1. Weigh daily:  Bill and I weigh ourselves every morning at nearly the same time every morning, after fasting (food or drink) all night, and in our unmentionables to reduce variability. Bill takes the scale on vacation with us. We are accountable daily. There is about a three pound range of statistical variation.

2. Reduce food triggers: We don’t watch food shows or put ourselves in many situations in which food is the prominent feature or motivation for the event. I try not to “pin” recipes unless they meet my nutritional needs, so no fantasy recipes for me. I have also tried to post fewer pictures of what I eat (although sometimes I still do, for whatever reason) so that food is no longer glorified or central to what we are doing on a daily basis.

3. Adopt a mainly plant-based diet: I’m not against meat, exactly, though most of it has lost all its appeal at this point. (I have not eaten nor craved beef since January 1st this year—so about five months). I do still make roasted chicken and fish occasionally, and every now and then I buy turkey meat for the kiddos. If I never had a bit of meat again, personally, I wouldn’t miss it. When I do eat chicken, I eat a small portion and usually do it only because it might benefit the next day’s run. So how did this happen? I discovered that I can eat a whole bunch of plants for the same calories and get more full, basically. I also feel better on plants. I am not ready to go vegan, although very early on in my journey, the Forks Over Knives documentary gave me something to hold onto and I recommend both the film and the cookbook. I still love my 0% Greek yogurt and goat cheese too much to go totally vegan…at this point.

4. Enlist the support of your spouse: Bill was able to rough it out for a year without a bit of help from me, who was still baking up a storm like I ran a bakery or something, and coming up with random food-centric occasions. But by the time I was ready to take accountability for myself, I was also ready to rely on Bill in a way I never had before. We have real conversations about food, and I can trust him not to enable me to make excuses for myself. If I am having a hard day, he never advises self-medication with food. We share weight daily. On the odd chance we happen to have to eat out, we make choices together and put our heads together about calories. I know he wants me to be successful, and I want him to be successful. We want to be healthy, together. We do not allow the other to start rationalizing choices (although both of us control our own rationalizing impulses pretty well). It helps to have an ally. We have been known to chortle together over billboards and such advertising plates of food—that’s an insane amount of calories right there!  (Yes, we are somewhat annoying calorie counters, especially in private—we have firm ideas about what is healthy and what is not, and what will put on weight and what won’t). But it so helps to have someone who speaks my same language and who lives in food-reality with me. Our culture, on the whole, is so far removed from having a realistic relationship with calories and food consumption…it is kind of amazing. But I’ve been there, so I understand. Most of us live (I certainly did) in the land of how we wish things were: I wish I could eat three donuts and be able to run them off easily. I think the biggest piece of my journey has been educating myself: once I learn the facts, I cannot unlearn them or pretend they don’t exist. And acting against factual information is not logical…

5. Count calories, without exception: I have probably made this clear. I do not really think there is another way to do it, especially over the long haul, for me. Maybe some people are born with a more innate set point and know how to eyeball portions and when they are full, and so on, but that’s not me…and will never be me. People have asked me about other diet trends: eating whole foods, organic, paleo, etc. Maybe? For them? Maybe. But a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. To think that our bodies will magically reshape themselves without attending to the math of it…well, that’s partly what got me in the hole for years. That thinking in the past allowed me to imagine, “Well, if I have this burger, I can walk it off this afternoon.” No way… Walk off an 800 calorie burger and fries? For me it has to be black and white. No fudging. Eating 1000 calories of organic food is still eating 1000 calories. It has a cost. Doesn’t matter where the food comes from…or how green it is. Energy in, energy out.

6. Use technology: I love my Fitbit. Interestingly, though, I did not have a Fitbit for all of my weight loss. I started using it only this past October (2013), and I love how it helps me to maintain and works with our scale. I entertain the idea that the merging of technology with the human form is the future, and I believe that we can use this to our advantage to become healthier people. Using social media to keep accountable for goals can also help prevent backsliding.

7. Avoid eating out: We rarely eat out, and we both have this “oh no” moment when we find ourselves needing to eat out for whatever reason. It is much more difficult to control ingredients and calories at a restaurant. Portions are so much bigger than humans need at a meal, so you also end up paying more for the opportunity to overeat. It’s not a winning situation for us. But if we find ourselves in a spot where eating out may be the only option, we try to preview online menus ahead of time and calculate/estimate calories for the items we think we might choose. If I can, I always go into a restaurant scene these days knowing 24 hours ahead of time what I will order. If it is a restaurant where few options are going to be acceptable, I plan breakfast accordingly. At times, I have also cut my restaurant meal in half, pushed half to the side, and only eaten the portion.

8. Eat on a salad plate: I started this right away two years ago, and it helps with an understanding of proper portions.

9. Connect with a larger ideal: Changing my lifestyle started out as mainly cosmetic. I wanted to lose weight for aesthetic reasons, mainly. A little way into it, I started shifting my motivation to bigger ideas: taking only what we need so that our human resources go further, reducing the cost to animal life, self-identifying as being part of the “runner” culture, looking at weight and muscles as an athletically-driven pursuit, etc.

10. Make incremental goals: I remember when 15 pounds seemed far away. (I have lost 60 pounds, and between six to seven sizes). I always had my “secret goal,” but I kept that even from Bill. He thought I would stop after about twenty pounds or so and be what I was when we first got married. So, even he was surprised! I set little benchmarks all along the way. I am as far as I can go at this point, so now the goal setting has shifted. More muscles, improve at swimming and running. One day? Maybe train for a triathlon or mini triathlon. I will always be trying to push and shape my body; just the goals have changed. I would be lost without my training or self-improvement goals, personally. I think it is important to say something like: I will eat only 1200-1500 calories for four weeks and work my way up to running/jogging 2-3 miles. Accomplishing each step sets up a feedback of reward.

11. Do not reward thyself with food: I used to reward myself with food constantly, and my children, too. We are not trained pets. I feel very strongly about this. If we reward ourselves for anything with food, we give food a quality beyond its intended purpose of fuel. Why not reward ourselves with a nice bath? A run on a favorite route? Time doing a hobby? A trip to a favorite and renewing place? There have to be so many other options.

12. Learn to be hungry, and accept the discomfort: Being hungry is not comfortable. And that is okay. I had to learn that. Who ever said we get to walk around life being comfortable all the time? We have to learn how to sit inside of discomfort. Our bodies are meant to be hungry by the next meal. And over time? Being hungry stops hurting (I think that is mostly psychological because it isn’t like we are really and truly starving) and becomes just another sensation. Like giving birth. Feeling a tooth come out. Running 10 miles. We have been conditioned to think that any discomfort must immediately be remedied. No. Living in reality means learning how to feel real sensations. Some of the sensations of which the human body is capable, we have been trained to squash as soon as we can. That’s unfortunate, really. Learning how to sit inside of hunger and feel all of its dimensions (which, let’s face it, in a first world country when we eat three meals a day is NOTHING) is a good exercise in not being pampered.

13. Say no: I am in charge of what crosses my mouth, and I cannot have everything. Maybe I can have some of it another day. Over time, I have found there are foods to which I always say no (donuts, french fries, soda, most chips), because I have now lost the craving and realize they will do nothing much for me. We can train our bodies to want good fuel, if we give it time. But I also make allowances and plan for the food items I would never want to do without: a small piece of super dark chocolate, a piece of Lucia bread at Christmastime, certain holiday food. I cannot ever again have it all, but I can have a taste, or I can choose to trade one thing for something else. Telling myself, “No” is an act of mothering that has given me insight into mothering my own children, too.

14. Indulge in other pleasures: Good quality tea has been a pleasure for me that has helped me along. So many tastes, but no calories. Yoga feels so good mid-morning. Long hot baths. Race entries. Nail polish. Rolling Stone magazine. Self-denial needs to be balanced with self-treating. We need to have a plan. When I feel like eating and it is not time to eat, what can I do to be kind to myself in some other way? I had to come up with a little list of go-to options when I felt like eating but knew I shouldn’t be hungry. Sometimes hunger is not about the food…

15. Forgiveness of self: It won’t always be perfect. When I had one too many pieces of fudge (I meant to have just one) at our Christmas party, I didn’t crumple into a ball. Most of the time, I really don’t falter now that I have made up my mind, and that’s why my weight has come off quickly (as some people have wondered at). But, occasionally, I do. I never overeat by 1000s of calories, though, and that does help. But those times I am not perfectly in control? Okay. Regroup and start following the program anew. Get sleep. Run. Eat according to the plan the next day. Get over it… Tomorrow is a new day. It is not rationalizing to forgive yourself for a lapse. But I am always sure not to avoid the scale the next day: I force myself to be accountable for what I have done while still being gentle with myself.

My methods aren’t always met with excitement, because they seem (to some) so stark. What is stark to one, is objective and logical to me. But it is true that I don’t really do sleight of hand with myself: I keep it real and true and objective, and I don’t try to excuse myself when I mess up. I don’t talk myself into ignoring my plan when I feel like it. Some days, it is not fun. If I am super busy, my lifestyle is easy; on days where I happen to have more idle time, I find myself wishing I could eat eat eat just for the pleasure of it.

Some will snark, “But life is short! What about the pleasure? Why toe the line so much? Why be such a goody goody?” Well, my pleasure comes now and it comes later. I lived through a phase of food-for-pleasure, and it isn’t as good as the phase I am in now…for me. I love the pleasure of a body that can run fast and far, where every other sensation is magnified, where I can feel mentally clear and in charge of myself. I will not regret what I did not eat, but I would regret very much if I had made a different life decision two years ago. I have enough life left, I hope, to taste a little of anything I want to taste, in moderation. It doesn’t need to be constant, and it doesn’t need to be to the point of satiation or stuffed-ness. The pleasure of meeting a long-term goal is unique to itself. I trade immediate pleasure for long-term pleasure. That’s how I used to be in my high school years, and I have returned to being that person, only moreso. I am in it for the long term goals at this point. I am starting to create goals that are two and three years out.

So. Two years. Two years of freedom. Two years of work. Two years of remembering how and why to value myself. Two years of self-improvement (losing weight is one thing, but the discipline required spills over into other areas of life as well). Two years of fulfilling my expectations of myself. Two years of working on goals with my husband.

I love myself too much not to fight for myself. I can only give fully of myself to my kiddos and husband when I take the time and care to have my business together. They do not deserve to become excuses for why I couldn’t do it… If anything, they are my inspiration. They deserve to know me at my most vibrant and alive, to have a more patient, silly, happy, wild version of me. They deserve a mom who is not afraid to try her best.


And finally…of all the races I have placed in or run this year (my two year runnerversary is coming up, too), my first race with my dad is still my favorite. It was the Long Beach Half Marathon 2013. I had watched him run it from the sidelines in October 2012, just four months into my journey. No matter what I ever run again, this moment right here—right here—will always be the treasured one. Whenever I see this picture, I start to choke up. It was not just the accomplishment of my body…but the understanding of just how much my dad had inspired me to become healthier in modeling that change himself, and how much a parent can affect a child in that way. When I look at this picture, I think, “What if? What if I had never started? What if I had given up?” Then I never would have known this moment with my dad, nor all the moments that have come after. The thought staggers me.

Two years ago tonight.

What if I had not been brave? What if I had not dared to believe in myself?

But for one fateful moment, I did.

And everything has changed.

Bill and I celebrated eight years of marriage today in a low-key, mid-week kind of way. We watched our wedding film, although for various reasons it grows more difficult to watch every year, including that we are so aware of how many of our loved ones we have lost over that time. Yet the other side of that: realizing that it marked a time in my life when so many of my friends had just married or were about to get married, and that now there are babies and families and careers and adventures.

After work, Bill came home and my mom helped us to commemorate the occasion with a few family photos, and then Bill provided dinner, we exchanged letters (actually, a specific assignment that Katie had us write about how we support each other in achieving goals), and reflected again on our vows (which we wrote ourselves). Bill’s plan is to live forever, and my plan is that I am married to him for always, even should anything happen to him, and will never take off my rings. He is my one and only, my true love. His very existence inspires me to be my best self.

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Eight years ago…and today…


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Pinwheels in the afternoon

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Dancing to “Something” (Beatles) eight years ago as our last dance…and dancing to “Something” this afternoon (Katie and Eric’s idea).



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Just married…and eight years in…

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I carry your heart with me, always…

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Um, nope! And nope again!

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What eight years can do… (Also: I am wearing the same flip flops I wore during our last dance and to leave for our honeymoon).

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Bill was in charge of dinner. We really don’t like going out to eat if we can avoid it (for various health reasons, but notably because of the inability to control calories or ingredients closely), so Bill brought home fruit salad and our favorite protein bars. Yes, we are weird, silly, and quirky at our house, and I love us. We put it all on our special wedding china: even protein bars can be classed up, yessir! The kiddos were over the moon about a dinner that seemed like dessert, ha ha!

I love this guy, with all of myself. I would marry him again, every time.

I love you, my William. Happy 8th!

“Just smell the grass, the dirt, just like I dreamed they’d be

Just feel the summer breeze, the way it’s calling me…

For like the first time ever, I am completely free…

I go could running

And racing

And dancing

And chasing

And leaping

And bounding

Hair flying

Heart pounding…”

From Disney’s TANGLED, “When Will My Life Begin (Reprise)”

By 5:00 AM we were bundled in the car, in our racing clothes, headed down for a day of road racing in Vista at the annual Strawberry Festival. I had the 10K, my mom and dad raced the 5K, Katie ran the mile, and Eric raced his first ever race, a quarter mile.

We arrived early to pick up our race packets. I could quickly ascertain that some extremely experienced runners showed up for the 10K, not a surprise since there was a cash purse for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd for each gender and the race was chip timed by a legit company. Some of us took our strides to warm up our legs (I never stretch—I want to be tight), and the sheer elegance of some of the runners gave me the shivers for such a thing of beauty. I have run enough races now to pinpoint my biggest competitors before even starting, and I was not wrong today. The 20-something-year-old with the long red hair standing in line to pick up her packet: you could tell by the way she carried herself. The guy in the red jersey with the 70s hair and the stride of a gazelle. Yup. (He would go on to win BOTH the 10K and the 5K today, handily). The late 20-year-old in blue who was talking with the red jersey guy, who demurred, “I haven’t raced in 6 months, so this is going to be horrible.” Right again: she would go on to win it for us ladies, and she is a seasoned runner from UCLA who has half-marathoned in about 1 hour 16. The girl striding around with her track team. Yes. We would duke it out for miles for third place (she has a 5-something mile time and will be running for her college next fall, and she is excellent). These runners were on my mind before we even started, and it turned out, my instincts were dead on.



Right at the start of the race: the lady in blue would go 1st place, the lady in the greenish yellow socks would take #2, and I (in red and pink—strawberries!) would grab 3rd.



That man in red at the front? Won both the 10K and 5K. Amazing.

As we waited at the starting line to Pharrell’s “Happy,” I put on my game face. I have an intense game face, and it was amusing to hear my mom and Bill talking about it on videos I watched later. I had tapered all week, stored up that glycogen, and more importantly, I have seen my pace improve drastically over the past few weeks since the Carlsbad 5000, and even since the Run Through the Vineyards. As usual lately, I ran without my music. I am finding myself to be incompatible with music lately, when it comes to running. I might access it again at some point, but even when I start training with it, I have had to remove my earbuds on most runs lately. I need to be able to hear myself right now. Sometimes the music fights with that. I don’t know what I will do for Long Beach: 13.1 is a long way to be so exclusively in your head and focused on breathing and footfalls, but I think by then I might be ready to run it without music. We will see!

The pack separated fairly quickly by Mile 1. My first split was a bit fast at 6:23. I had set my Garmin to 6:45, but I was also racing. I did not know my actual pace until the marker, and so at first I thought I was just feeling crummy for no reason…turned out my body was feeling the work of that pace. I willed myself to slow a bit and Mile 2 was 6:46, and I targeted the varsity track girl. We kept changing places for the next few miles, and boy oh boy does she know how to run a course! She knew exactly where to hit. Mile 3 was weird at 7:04, but we started getting a bit of a hill. Mile 4 killed me: 7:35 up a hill through the park that literally went BWOOSH twice. But it killed everyone (slowed us by a minute or so), so I was still with my little group there. After the hill, we hit a trail, and I made the decision I was going to pass the varsity girl once and for-freakin’-all and make it a done deal this time. It was a bit intense, because she was so, so, so good and I knew she might have a kick in her toward the end. I could feel her eyes on my back for the next 2-something miles. But it turned out that I had quite a bit left in me after that hill, and I ran Mile 5 in at 6:27, and Mile 6 in at 6:35. The final .20 was 1:09.

My average pace was 6:46, and I PR-d at 42:02.2! I am on top of the world. I was the third woman in, the first woman in my age group, and the 21st person in. I won some moola, too! More than I remembered it would be from the website, so that was awesome! For the first place in my age group, I won additional cash to the Running Center. Payday, yes! I have won gift certificates before, but this time I am really a paid runner. Ha ha. Crazy. Who would have guessed this two years ago? Not me…but dare to dream, right?

With half a mile left to go, the varsity girl was about 50 yards behind me. I tried to kick it with everything left. “Run it home, run it home, run it home,” I kept thinking. Fortunately, I still had kick!


This race compelled me to dig deep. In Mile 5 something really clicked. I had been driving it, but I had this moment of insight as I assessed my bodily systems: Hey, wait a minute, I thought. I don’t have much further left, and I know from all those intervals Bill has me do that my body can stand a LOT more pain than what it is feeling right now. Get going, get going right now. Your body isn’t feeling it yet, so take it as far as the pain of the track. Now fight. 

And that is the precise moment in my running career, officially,  that I realized that intervals during training are not just about gaining physical speed; intervals during training prepare you mentally to face more pain and accept every ounce of it mentally and with confidence. They are mental training, in disguise. I felt so grateful to my coach-husband in that moment. I get it now, I thought. I get it.



About to cross the finish line!

So I have now run two 10Ks within a month of each other. Which one was more satisfying?

Last month I placed first among women and fifth overall with a time of 44:47.84 on an extremely hilly, muddy, washboardy course. If it were just about placement or how things appear to be on the surface level, I should love the Run Through the Vineyards more.

But I don’t. Today gave me the kind of runner’s high that only comes from knowing that your body did exactly what you have been training it to execute. I would rather take 3rd place in this field of tremendous women and make my PR, with legs and mind that felt so in sync with each other and ready to spring…than to take 1st and feel like I ran mentally sloppily. Today, my mind and body were mutually invested, and I know without a single doubt that I did the best I could do today. I could feel myself doing the best I could do, and I left it 100% there. I never quite got into that zen moment of flow with the Run Through the Vineyards. Today, though? This pace, this harmony of my mind and body, this run is more exciting to me—by far—than a first place win when I feel I didn’t quite earn it hard enough. I earned it today, and I was in the flow. Those other ladies made me earn it. I made myself earn it. This was a true race, to the last 50 yards, with ladies who have decorated running careers. I’ll take it. Third place in this field means it is time to want more of myself, and that it is reasonable to want more.


Cash prize! Not bad for 42:02.2 minutes worth of work this morning. Er, not counting all the training hours that have to go into this!




After I finished my striding this morning as warm-up, Katie gave me a good luck kiss and hug.


My one and only, my husband, my everlasting best friend, my phenomenal coach…thank you! Today’s performance belongs as much to Bill as it does to me. He is such an intelligent and thoughtful coach. He knows this stuff. I could absolutely not keep accomplishing these goals of mine without his perfect coaching. Sometimes I cannot believe how well he knows me, and how well he knows the math of my body. He had me so excellently tapered for this. Trusting him—in life, and with this little pursuit of ours—is one of the wisest choices I have ever made. It’s crazy how much I have improved under his guidance. What a way to kick off our anniversary weekend and week! Eight years coming up here…


Strawberry Festival 10K! This was a great day, one of the most personally fulfilling races I’ve ever run at this point.



Chipping up! These were shoelace chips this time…

And the day only got better from there!

My mom raced her first official race, too, and guess what? She took it for her division, out of 21 in the age-gender field! First place, baby! I am so, so proud of her, and it is awesome that we are a family of runners. This is a wicked-crazy-wild pastime for all of us to have converged upon here, and it is so fun! Mom killed it, going sub-10:00s with a pace even better than training. She gave it her all, and that is excellence.


My dad earned fourth place, too, for his division, and even more significantly, is very much making a full recovery. He looked tired coming in at the Carlsbad 5000 (his first race back from time off), but today he looked super strong at the finish. He had his kick on, and was working the race. I love to see my parents running in the same 5Kand supporting each other, but still running their own race. I am loving this family hobby!

And the kids also ran!



How much do I love this look of exuberance on her face? How much do I love sharing this with her? How much do I love that she is part of the running culture at such an early age?



Go, Katie! She had kick at the end, too. I didn’t get to see it in person (thankfully, Bill recorded it) because I was getting Eric in position, but boy, she drove it home and didn’t let up! So proud of her!


Go, Eric!



My runner girl! Lightning McKatie!



Team Matics-McGaugh. Hey, we need our other members! Word on the street: Matics-McGaugh has eyes on the Big Sur relay next year. Yes, indeed. The full adult team. Now THAT will be epic.


I love this quote about “enlightenment” (and the banishing of darkness) from the Yellow Deli, where we ate lunch to celebrate our family run. My cousin Kd introduced me to Yellow Deli, which serves mainly vegetarian and vegan food with some options for carnivores, almost exactly one year ago today. It was just down the street from the race, and so we had to go. I chowed down on a vegetarian burger, green yerba mate tea, and a banana and almond milk smoothie. And a small bowl of lentil soup. Yep—way, way too much fuel, considering my protein bar-banana-strawberry intake before and after racing! But I will get back on track and have a lighter dinner. By design I do not acquire calories from restaurants very often, but Yellow Deli is so fresh and delicious, and I love the vibe so very much that I am willing to be a bit indulgent! I figure if I am going to do it, do it on a day when I raced my heart out and need a few more cals, right?


And one more for the road: Katie with her Amie after Katie’s race.

What a beautiful day!

Oh, and a bit of family trivia? Right where we were sitting on the track…was nearly the SAME spot where Bill won the 1966 Vista Relays in the triple jump! That is pretty awesome! Who would have ever guessed we’d all be right there?

Like most people who live comfortably, we stuff ourselves in our home with too much excess. Some of it is a natural accrual over a few decades worth of living, and some of it comes from not “making do” enough. So, what if we “made do” a little more and gave up more of what we don’t need? What if I could trim the excess of my objects in much the same way I have spent the last two years trimming the excess of my physical body and the excess of my food consumption? Perhaps in living a life of less excess, I could leave less of a footprint on the Earth and more of an ideologically humanistic influence.

Keeping our bonds to material objects in check is not easy, yet this is a lesson that becomes more and more crucial for my kiddos to understand, especially my daughter. It is natural at her age, I suppose, to want almost everything she sees. When we go to Target to buy a present for a cousin, Katie wants dolls of her own. Katie is the child who asks for everything. Eric never does, which is how I am, too. I’d rather die than ask my parents for more than they already give—and I have always felt this way. Sometimes they offer things, and I have had to say no in order to keep them from going overboard—it is a matter of ethics. When you have people who are vulnerable to giving all the time (such as my parents), and when you are smart enough to know that it is their vulnerability, then you have an extra degree of responsibility never to exploit that vulnerability and, in fact, to protect it. But Katie’s not quite there, yet, which makes her normal.

Yet I have also seen her take this too far, where the desire gives way to moments of anxiety if and when we deny her—and I can relate to that. That dress I just cannot get out of my mind? If I buy one more book, it won’t hurt, right? I need to try this new color of nail polish! Sometimes when we crave some new thing, there are moments of flutteriness in the stomach. Often, if we just remove ourselves from the object we desire, that flutteriness subsides, and we realize the craving was just a passing moment of infatuation. I think the easy access to objects of desire make this era of online commerce especially dangerous: removing ourselves from material inundation grows more difficult every day.

Although I am not a hoarder, I am a pack rat. I tend to keep my material objects far too long. Generally I keep them for three reasons:

1) Sentimentality

2) Potential repurposing: I see multiple uses for any object and anticipate needing it for future problem solving

3) Worry of regret in letting it go

The first two reasons may actually be legitimate reasons for keeping various objects. I do not get rid of sentimental objects, though as I have grown older I have realized that I have to be careful about what I allow to become sentimental in the first place. Potential repurposing is also a valid reason to squirrel away parts and pieces of things. What could I make out of this? What if I could use that during a big disaster? There’s nothing amiss with thinking ahead, but I also do need to stay realistic. Am I really going to jerry-rig old lamps and radios and doorhandles and vacuum cleaner parts? I might!

But worry of regret? That’s emotion talking. It’s quite a bit like sentimentality, I suppose, but not quite the same thing. Am I going to regret giving away a pair of heels I have worn maybe twice? Should I have even bought them in first place? Letting things of little use go is, I realize now, a bit like investing in the trust and confidence of my future self. Do I know myself well enough at this point not to keep what I don’t think I will use? And will that be okay? Will I regret letting go of old Martha Stewart magazines (so full of information!! I hate to let go of information!!!), or will I trust my abilities to be able to find the information again when I need it from a new and different source?

So often we bond to material objects out of fear. As if our clothes and magazines and old toys can form enough of a wall between us and really living…

Summer Bucket List item #3: Clean out and donate excess to the Assistance League of Temecula Valley. They sell the items at their thrift shop, Castaways, and the proceeds go to fund their philanthropy Operation School Bell. My mom served in the Assistance League here for years, and I was President of the Temecula Assisteens at one point, also, in high school. Our crew of girls (the ones with whom I served from 8th to 12th grade) actually started the current Assisteens of Temecula philanthropy: Operation Book Worm. It’s cool that our philanthropy is still thriving all these years later. The Assistance League has clothed in new clothes and given backpacks with school supplies to over 25, o00 children in the past 20 or so years. Operation Book Worm supplies books for the backpacks.

In cleaning out our closests, Katie and Eric and I talked about consciously severing the bonds to the things that are “ours.” I would so much rather have them bonded to an abstract ideal—love, goal-setting, kindness, learning, etc—than to things. Things come and go, and they may provide a momentary flash of happiness to procure…and than that’s it, the procurement is done, things idle on shelves or in closets barely getting use. If we bond our happiness to material items, we will never be satisfied or filled. But bonding our happiness to our ideals? Those big universal ideas? We can choose to make those the guides by which we live, and those ideals never have to idle or be shelved. We can live and breathe “passionate living” any moment of the day. We can embrace our freedom, and our joy.

Sure, there were some items in these bags that I wonder if I will need again, or miss. But if I give them away, now, they can be put to use by others who will really use them. Those items will have a purpose, beyond serving my ego or my fear of needing them. Plus, in this case, the proceeds from selling them will also be put to immediate use. My bags were money in my closet, money that can go toward promoting education for children whose families are really struggling. I believe in an educated world and the power of education to make a difference.

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The back of our car was stuffed!

And it was time. As I cleaned my closet, I found a bag of maternity clothes I was still keeping. Although I had gotten rid of most of them before now, I still had my favorites. Two years ago, I would have met that bag with more emotion, still in the stages of “what if” with respect to a third child, despite not planning a third child. When I saw my bag this week, I discovered happily that I am all the way free of “what if.” People often ask me if we’re having a third, and we have planned two. I decided my narrative awhile ago, and I embrace it. It is not just a matter of coming to terms with it, but actually an active and enthusiastic ownership. I am eager and excited to move forward with my kiddos into their elementary school years—they are at such a fun age, and at such a fun age gap—and I am equally excited about what that means, yes, for me. It means getting to reclaim a bit of my hobbies and passions, and therefore myself. It means getting to dedicate my body to athleticism and to pursue some difficult goals without accounting for childbearing. It also means moving forward with them, without pining so much for their newborn days. Part of being in the what-if stage, for me, of a third child was not at all about feeling the necessity of a third child but about feeling the nostalgia for my Eric and Katie’s infancies. As soon as I understood what I was truly feeling, I realized I had to make myself go forward with these children and not stay behind wishing for their early years. Enjoy them now! As they are! 

When I had Eric, I knew our family was complete, and I remember distinctly feeling that while first holding him. I think it is natural for women—whether they have had children or not—to enter a what-if stage. At a certain point, be it none, one, two, three, six, or fourteen children, every woman deals with coming to terms with her reproductivity and the end of that phase, by choice or by force. There are a mix of emotions as we go through that phase, maybe. But whatever our lives are going to be, we have to keep moving forward and enjoying the narrative of it, children or no children. Make the most of our time, however it pans out.

So, goodbye maternity clothes. Even my favorites. I have pictures of me in them, and that’s enough. I don’t need the actual object as a symbol of that time—I have the time itself in my memory. And I have new times coming…

Same thing with more baby/toddler clothes. I had already given some way to family and friends, but this time I went for deeper cuts. I have more to do, possibly, too. Are the kiddos really going to want their first Christmas jammies for their children, or are they going to want the joy of picking out their own style of jammies for the own kids someday? And am I really going to let bags of clothes languish in the garage for another two decades before my kiddos have children? What about the children and parents who could use those clothes NOW? Into the bags they went. Be of usefulness: a theme for this year.

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At the Assistance League!

We feel lighter knowing our items can be put to use for a good cause. There is a proper time for sentimentality, but whatever is sentimental to us should not be so out of fear or out of worry of regret. We have to let go of anything that holds us back or keeps us stuck. I also have found myself pondering at length over the past two years how just using my share—of items, of fuel, and certainly of calories—can maybe start making a difference. Imagine: if I just eat the calories I need to sustain myself and do not eat excess, couldn’t that be a way to make a small, tiny dent in world hunger? What if we ALL only took what we needed, and no more? We produce enough food to feed the world many times over, if we don’t hoard it either in our kitchens or on our bodies. There are those who want to legislate good works, charity, and love for humanity, those who want to use politics to redistribute resources. There are people who get aggressive during election seasons about putting politicians from the “correct party” in power who will fix us all by some hand-waving. We have institutions dedicated to telling us how to be decent, good people and offering advice for how to love our fellow men and women. But seriously? If we care? Nothing has to be done by force. We have the power to make a difference if we just monitor our own excess. We all have the power, today, to observe and police ourselves and do our part to make the world a better place by the choices we make.

It took me a long time to begin to start understanding what all of that means and how to live truly with the love of humanity in mind, and I am still working to live a life coherently with philosophy of existence and why we are here. It is not possible to make perfectly informed decisions about what we consume, and I still struggle with the ethics of where some of my products (food and otherwise) come from. These are questions I will be pursuing for many years. I only know: I do not want people to suffer for me. Or for my comfort. I understand that biology and the struggle for resources will always play a role in human nature. But: I want my life to be of use, not of harm.

The scent of jasmine by night and the glorious wandering freedom of long days: summer, summer, summer. Hours at the library, salt and sun and sand sticking to the body, blueberries and strawberries, road trips, rising at dawn to run before the heat settles in,  lunches with friends and family, birthday parties, iced mint green tea, watermelon, sunscreen, summer playlist, flip flops… I know we are still technically in the spring season, but I can feel the summer coming.

Katie (and Eric) and I have made lists of much of what we hope to learn and do over the next few months. This year, we are calling them our Summer Bucket Lists. Why not? We have only one short life, and summer is the time for learning all of those extra little fun things that make life vibrant and whimsical. What makes us curious? What memories do we want to make this summer 2014? What are our self-improvement goals, when we have only ourselves setting the expectations?

We’ve got a bunch. Katie has already finished two substantial chapter books this week, plus all of our other reading. She wants to sew a project with her Amie, learn a handful of clapping games (me, too), and make strawberry jam, among other items. I want to train and race in Eugene, Oregon (home of runners), teach my children a few old school games like kick the can, learn to pickle, make comfort bags to pass out to the homeless, and give myself a “suntan tattoo” (among several other goals).

We want to live fully the philosophy that summer is a continuation of learning, a golden invitation to pursue what the individual heart and mind wish to pursue. It is a time for adventure, to make some days slow on purpose, to be outdoors as much as possible, and to live with vitality. School might be out for the summer, but living passionately and learning never end.

We are not officially on summer vacation, but having finished our curriculum a couple weeks ago, we are having a go at our bucket list items already, while still doing a bit of review. In truth, I am going to sneak in math and English review and even new material all summer, but the nice thing about being a homeschooler is keeping my kiddos in a state of guessing about whether other kids are officially in school or not. I fudge holidays all the time, and one spring break Katie did cotton on: “Why is Daddy home this week and we’re still working?” Whoops.

So, here is my Summer Bucket List item #1:



Learn how to make a fishtail braid! I know how to French braid and make a normal braid, but that’s about it. I watched a YouTube tutorial with Lauren Conrad. Well, that was easy! For those who know how to fishtail, this may not seem like any big deal, but that’s kind of the point: summer learning is all about this little stuff that may have slipped by us in life! Or sometimes the big stuff! I love the fishtail, and I made one on Katie today. It seems to stay put just a little better… What makes you curious? What little skill have you always wanted to learn?

Summer Bucket List item #2 was more substantial:



Make a fairy garden/fair house with Katie and Eric, using reclaimed items from our yard, garage, junk drawers, art supply stash! June is the month of fairies, as it goes in world mythology. What a fun little play space!


We started right after breakfast this morning, collecting supplies from around the house. Even though I knew we would be working on this today, I didn’t prep anything last night, on purpose: I wanted Katie and Eric to be part of the brainstorming and hunting process. What could we use? What could we transform? Can we think of a new use for an old object, within the context of this project? I wanted their creativity to run wild, wild and free. The only recently purchased materials we used for this project were the alyssum and lobelia. Everything, everything else…came from what we had around. Definitely an upcycle project!



We did a little of everything: construction/architecture, beading, painting, physics (balancing), design/aesthetics, planting, and repurposing old objects. So much going on in one whimsical project. It took almost all morning and until about 2:00 PM. They want to make another one!



Katie used rocks from some gem panning she has done to decorate the pathway of terra cotta shards.



Eric used a combination of old seed beads from my jewelry-making days to make a blue river underneath a bark bridge.


Images of our garden: Katie had the idea to use Popsicle sticks to make a little wigwam in the uppermost pot. She also had the idea to use a metal dish that held wedding favors from my friend Shil’s wedding to make a dyed blue pool for fairies to use for their feet. I was able to incorporate some painted ceramic coasters that my friends and family made eight years ago at my bridesmaid’s luncheon at Color Me Mine. Giving some of these objects new life has been especially meaningful. They are no longer on shelves or tucked away, but are now part of something magical.



Popsicle sticks made a red garden fence outside of the pine tree house, as well as a door for that house. We used an old gold ornament as a light by the wigwam, as well as feathers and miniature pine cones for texture.



I wish we could make one every day, too!




Unbelievably, the string of silver beads above the purple door is left over from—hang on to yer hats, friends—my 11th grade Prom. Ahem. Ages ago. I had them incorporated into my up-do. So, friends, when I say that we didn’t need to buy anything for this—there’s a reason. All those things I save because they might be useful one day? THEY SO ARE! I am always seeing multiple, multiple potential uses for any object, so I am a bit of a pack rat. Good thing, in this case! I just need to make many, many fairy gardens… I knew I had a calling. 😉

I think I would be a tinker fairy.

Which kind would you be? Water? Animal? Weather?

And with that: I hope to make progress on the bucket list more tomorrow. There are some philanthropy and reading goals I would like to have done by this weekend.

Happy Summer (well, soon), everyone!

Community service and philanthropy have always been a huge part of who I am as a human being. In high school and college I logged hundreds of volunteer and hands-on hours working for organizations like the Assisteens, Alpha Phi Omega (a co-ed service fraternity), Ravenswood Reads, National Honor Society, Earth Club, Interact, my sorority Chi Omega, etc. Through some of these organizations I had the chance to work for Make a Wish, Habitat for Humanity, and other local groups…basically, if I could get involved, I did. I did not consider my life to be in balance unless I have a consistent philanthropic component. I am an idealist and optimist in every way. We do not need to sit around judging others; we need to get our hands in it and do something to ease the burden with love. We are all part of the same universe.

Being of service—and believing in the power of an educated population—hugely factored in to my career choice, as well, as a public high school teacher.

But having young children? That I care for all the time and need to bring with me frequently?  That has made philanthropy a bit more difficult. Sure, I have donated monetarily to several causes, gifted loved ones with Heifer projects at Christmas, and looked for ways to give from a distance, including giving time to things like vaccination studies, etc. Those donations have been a way to stay true to my ideals, in part, of helping humanity to perpetuate and evolve; none of those overtures are, however, as fulfilling as actually spending hands-on time doing real work for a cause.

Finding access to hands-on service is difficult for rogue do-gooders who are not affiliated with groups that typically have long-standing arrangements with philanthropic causes. Believe me, I have done some research. Perhaps not enough. I am working on it. Putting this part of my life back in balance is a priority this coming year. This is especially critical as my children are growing older; a mind and heart for humanist philanthropy starts young. How much can we do to make the world a kinder, more humane place before we die?

So when Stanford University, my alma mater, came calling on social media (and our alumni website) with information about this year’s Beyond the Farm day of national community service, I jumped on the opportunity. Alums all over the country stepped out on May 17th to make the world a nicer place to live. We could pick any project we wanted from dozens set up in our area. What a treat! I combed through information for all the projects in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange counties and beyond. I wished I could clone myself and work at all of them! I wished that the Stanford Alumni Association would hold one of these a quarter! Most of all, I wished that I had an ongoing project in my life.

I ended up choosing to work at a food bank in San Diego—Feeding America—because I could bring Katie with me (children 5 and older were invited). I wanted to involve Eric, too, but better one than neither, right? We must use our short lives well, and I want Katie to start understanding what that really entails.

Katie has already been part of a few different service opportunities, but this one was really different for her. It was work! And she loved every second. She did not want to leave. She expressed several times wanting to return to help again (which may be a possibility, actually).

What could be better than showing up with dozens of other alums on a Saturday morning to do work together to improve the world even just a little bit?



We had a choice about which station to work in at Feeding America. After hearing that the “food integrity checkers” would need to be detail-oriented, methodical, and prone to wanting to fix things, Katie wanted to work at that station. We had to take bags of donated food and check every item. Surprisingly, we encountered several items that did not make it through for various reasons (including the obvious, like, hello, an open bag of half-used quinoa). We had to check seals and things like that. If a box was damaged, but the food was sealed inside, we could fix the box. We loved it, and it was a great fit for us. Katie quickly grew independent on this task and excited to fill our bins for the date checkers. Toward the end, we also got to break down boxes and plastic bags and recycle them. She loved that, too. It was an excellent morning. Community service is so much fun!

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My hard-working and helpful girl! She worked the whole time, on her feet, no stopping or breaks. She relished this. I think she found something that speaks to her here…



Reppin’ Stanford. Thank you for the opportunity, SAA. I am so proud to be an alum from this university, truly.

In other news this week:


We packaged up some of our blueberry jam and made some challah to give to a family who would benefit from having it. So fun to leave little surprises on doorsteps! I could play Secret Santa all year long, seriously… Is that not the best game, or what?

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The kiddos and I had our usual Sunday picnic…in our own backyard this time! It was their request, because they wanted to play with some of our water toys. I don’t care where we picnic, I just savor this Sunday picnic time with them so much.


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A treat for the coming summer: a big water ball! You blow it up, and then attach the hose…and it sprays water everywhere! So fun. We are working on our yard this weekend and week, finally getting some additional herbs and such in.


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We also took a walk/tractor drive/scooter over to Amie and Boppa’s house to work in their yard a bit this weekend.

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Katie and Eric both got their OWN library cars today! We’ve always just used mine, but I want them to have ownership now over their reading and reading habits. Katie has some goals for a summer of reading, and now that she is able to handle substantial chapter books, even more of the library just opened its world for her. They were so excited to use their cards today.


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And Bill and Eric had their first game of catch when Eric asked, “Daddy, will you play catch with me?” So sweet.

I love my people.

I love humanity and what it can be…

What is that quote again? Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, as much as you can. Yes. Something like that. And as a part-utilitarian, I would add: for as many people as you can. Do no harm. Celebrate the good. Be of service, not of judgement.

“My candle burns at both ends;

It will not last the night;

But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—

It gives a lovely light.”

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

In high school I carried around those hardback anthologies of poetry in my backpack to read during downtime. You know those anthologies? Not quite the tome and canon that is Norton, but the “best loved of American literature” kind that fit well in the hand and serve well in moments panged by first crushes and missed romance. I must have read the above poem dozens of times.

I burn my candle at both ends all too often, and I take accountability for that now, even though I used to put that burden on my children and/or circumstances when I was unhealthy and not the master of my own mind. Even two years into my lifestyle of caring for myself responsibly, I still struggle with proper sleeping habits. I gamble fast and loose quite often, banking on the children not waking up or on falling asleep right away when I do bed down. I do not like to sleep, not really, that’s part of the problem.

Every once in awhile, though, I short myself too much. Events collide, and I lose the gamble. My rebellion catches up with me. After a couple of weeks, actually, of burning the candle, last night my children both woke up. Eric needed help with water; Katie seemed to wake up rather randomly at about 3:30 and never did go back to sleep.  Since she kept needing me, I never went back to sleep either. Sleep deficit: one million. I heard the first birds chirp.

Oh, I was in a grouchy mood. I hadn’t felt so grouchy and irritable in, oh, about forever. I knew I had a six mile run scheduled for this morning. Coach-husband tried the, “Well, you don’t have to do six; you can do less if you feel bad” consolation.

“Yes, I do!!” And I am sure the verb here would be “snapped.”

Exhausted, I put on my running shoes. Yesterday I ran five miles in the morning, took the kids for an hour of walking and park time in between their gymnastics classes, came home after art class and did intervals on the track, and then came home and took my children swimming. The intervals were insanely fast, for me. It was 880, walk a lap, 440, walk a lap, 220, walk half a lap, 220 for a total of a broken mile at a 5:53 pace. PRs for me on all those distances, and the first time to break 6:00 even though it was not an unbroken distance. Great news yesterday; killer today.

Usually within the first few strides of a run I feel all my cares lifting, but not today. Today I was so out of sorts I wanted to break down into tears and wallow a bit. I was angry and sad that I had barely slept and felt so bad. But whose fault was that, really? I was irritated that my routine was all off kilter, and then depressed that I felt at odds with life. In that first mile when none of that yuck would shake off, I could tell that it would take every bit of willpower and effort to overcome myself this morning and to get back in touch with reality.

Reality? No matter how bad a day I think I am having, it’s not bad at all. Not even a little bit. I don’t have to watch my children starving to death or dying from treatable, vaccinatable diseases. I do not have to fear for my life every day. I do not have to be afraid to educate my daughter. I have freedom of thought and speech and expression. I have way too many luxuries. I am not currently evacuated from my home like those in peril from the nine fires south of us. I have an extensive family network of love and encouragement. These are the things I remember before I am even tempted to complain like a petulant, uninformed child. I also remember this: every moment I have a choice about what to write next. (Or I think I have a choice, which amounts to the same thing).

Every moment, a choice.

First choice: no matter how bad I feel, follow my health routine. A long time ago, I would have martyred myself instead of womanning up. I was up for the children, I would have said. I deserve/have earned a comforting breakfast full of sugar and fat. And I would certainly not have dreamed of exercising after such an exhausting night. I didn’t exercise anyway, but my tiredness would have been a reason up my sleeve not to start. So, first choice: get those running shoes on, woman. No matter what poor choice you made about going to bed last night, you don’t get to keep backsliding. Get out that door. Get control back over yourself; don’t keep yielding it up.

Every moment, a choice. What memories do I want to make today?

I was pondering this question on my run to nearly no avail when I saw a man unassumingly picking up trash since so many trashcans had blown over in yesterday’s wind. He was just walking along, making the world more beautiful. I thanked him and ran on my way, but the image stayed with me. There is always good if we look for it, always something to hang on to, always a good person whose example can help pull us out of ourselves and back into a desire to be of service. He was reminding me to serve my bigger ideals today, but it would be another couple of hours before I let the significance of his actions become part of me.

Second choice: wallow or remember the bigger picture? Well, I wallowed decently for the last several miles and took an especially brutal route on purpose because I was so irritated. Horrible hills, horrible average pace for me, horrible grouch. Really stuck it to myself, huh? Wah! Wah! But there has to be a fixed point to the wallowing. A gal has to know when to cut that business off. Sometimes we have help to do it, but other times we have to make it happen on our own.

Fortunately, I had help today:


I was sitting in Bill’s office kind of bumming out after my run when suddenly my little Eric appeared, having just woken up. I don’t know how he perceived anything amiss, but he crawled right up into my lap and gave me the biggest, most lingering hug I think he has ever given me. Somehow, he just knew this day was not totally my day so far. He had been asleep, so I don’t know how he would have known… He is such an affectionate, perceptive, big-hearted little guy. Then he cuddled on my lap for a long time, just letting me read some news and snuggling with love. I told him I was tired but would try to play; instead, he tucked me with his blanket into the fort in the living room and played nearby while I tried closing my eyes for a bit. He’s my sweet boy, that’s for sure.

Third choice: let the day continue to drift, or proceed as planned? The day will pass whether I am tired or not, so it might as well be fun, right? By now some of my grouchiness was lifting. How could it not after Eric’s hug?

We did weights and a yoga class streamed from Runner’s World, made granola, and tackled the laundry.

Then we got out.

Because sometimes a change of scene really helps.


We have a choice about what to write next. Grouchy or goofy? I dug in my heels and made my choice. I will be tired regardless: I might as well be as positive as possible in writing our family narrative.

So we walked down to the corner. In 92 degrees, yessir.


And on the way back? The public lawn had sprinklers on. Let’s run in them!, I exclaimed to the kids. They looked at me wide-eyed. In our clothes? Yes, in our clothes. Why not? I am sure we looked slightly loony-toons to drivers passing by, but who cares? We were making a memory. A deliberate memory, to be the stand-out memory of the day.

They marveled at it all the way home. I guess I need to get their clothes wet more often. It was just the right amount of novelty, though. I woke up feeling like I was having a bad day, I said, but we have a choice about what to remember about this day. I am not going to remember that I was tired today, and you are not going to remember that, either…but you will remember that today we had lunch together and then ran in the public sprinklers together on the way home. 

There are choices, always choices. Even the cheerful get grouchy; even the most optimistic wrestle with themselves. I think the key, though, is to remember that we’re writing our story every moment. What do we want that story to be? What role are we hoping to play in the story of those around us? Will we be so focused on our own irritations that we wallow, or will we make the effort to be of service to humanity through helpfulness and productivity despite how we temporarily feel? Are our ideals big enough to contain both the good and bad aspects of our human nature; can we get ourselves make better choices for our actions without fear of punishment or promise of reward (other than the reward of doing good for the sake of doing good)? If there is nothing to stop a bad mood other than the realization that a sour mood gets in the way of creating good ripples in the universe, what will we do to pull ourselves out of it?

The day is almost done. I was not at my best and did not do half of what I hoped to do with the kiddos today, but I also didn’t screw this one up, either. And sometimes, that can be good enough. Do no harm. Look for the good. Celebrate what is going right.

Tomorrow is a new day.

It’s 10:02 at night, I have one load of laundry drying and another washing, and the house smells like Thanksgiving because I got it in my mind that I needed to finish breaking down the roasted chicken carcass and get the stock made before letting it go another day. I probably should be in bed, but I don’t run on Tuesdays, and this week has hit the ground running. I realized tonight that Katie and Eric had no clean jammies to wear—and I horde jammies (I like cozy clothes, what can I say?) so it was a do-or-die laundry situation over here. We found some comfy relaxing clothes for bed tonight, and I am up making sure the lint trap doesn’t catch on fire while the dryer is going: one of my neuroses. Ever since my dad mentioned it could always be a possibility, I am unable to run the dryer without being a few feet away from it.

This morning started with a 4.06 mile run in 27:33.3, a 6:47 pace. Coming off of yesterday’s 10 miler, my legs felt a little sizzley, and when Bill told me he wanted me to go four miles fast, I had a moment of doubt. Actually in my mind I had the momentary thought, my husband must be joking! but I tried to keep my poker face. Then I started—determined to meet his task for me—and I could feel my legs settling into their new zone and popping off the ground. Bill always knows what he’s doing here, evidently. A beginning mile that was half uphill at 6:51 encouraged me, and then when mile two clocked in at 6:40, I knew I was going for it. All sub-7:00, I told myself, even up the killer hill home. I surprised even myself, coming off that 10. I’m really feeling like I am in a new place that I haven’t been yet. Bill has promised track work for me this week, and even though it hurts like heck, I am excited for it. Do it now, get the pain, be better a few weeks from now. The reward center in my brain is already lighting up!

Eric was up early this morning, shortly after I returned home. We read for a bit and then he helped me count out my weights. I never did fit in my recovery yoga this morning, but we all did a walk after dinner so my legs feel good. Katie woke up a bit later, and then we went with my mom for an early morning blueberry picking session at our local farm. Our goal was to pick enough to make jam with leftovers besides. The kiddos have discovered that frozen fresh blueberries are sweeter than candy, so we hope to freeze a bunch for dessert after dinner.



After her horseback riding lesson and the gift of two lemons for the jam from her riding teacher’s tree, we came home and tried our hand at blueberry jam. With the exception of one batch of marmalade that turned out deliciously about three years ago, I would not count myself as any kind of proficient jam maker—yet. In fact, in my life I have failed numerous times to get the art quite down. But this time? I was determined to get it right. Katie helped, and we took it step by step, no rushing (usually my problem) and made an afternoon of it. And we had success! Having to explain the process to my daughter, I found that a few aspects of jam making really clicked more for me today, once again supporting the idea that we learn the best when we are teaching someone else. Katie and I are terribly excited now to try our hand at all kinds of jams. In fact, she talked the whole three mile walk after dinner about how she wants to make more jams, hopes we try to pickle, and desires to can sauces and make pies to freeze for later. She definitely discovered a passion today and has all kinds of plans for our pantry and for sharing with friends, family, and neighbors.

Well, my stock is done and needs to be divided into two-cup portions for freezing. And as it turns the corner to 11:00 PM, I am thinking about how very much I want to fit a yoga session in tomorrow morning since it is a no-run day. During our walk this evening, the air was summertime warm with a light breeze scented with jasmine vine—the essence of all that I love about summer, in one scent.

Okay, time to deal with that chicken carcass…

My Katie and my Eric, I am so grateful for both of you. What a beautiful day we had celebrating our lives together.

Mother’s Day 2014 started with a 10 mile run for me. I figured I would do five miles to commemorate bearing Katie, and five miles to commemorate Eric. I celebrate the transformation of my body into a new kind of machine, and I often draw upon the endurance and joy involved in carrying and giving birth to my two children without pain medication when the going gets rough during training. I figure: if I can feel full labor, I can make it up some hills and/or hit the anaerobic state of pain without too much complaining, you know what I mean? Part of Mother’s Day for me, also, is to celebrate my freedom as a mother to design a healthy lifestyle for all of us; to have my body not only back, but better than it ever was before kids; and to have the time every morning to get my physical and mental business together and keep my business together so that I can mother these two people to the best of my ability. Taking care of others starts with taking care of ourselves, I fully believe and practice that philosophy. In a sense, I have to mother myself in order to mother my littles.

I tried to get up super early to get the run done before they woke up, and that was a successful mission (10 miles at a 7:13 pace average). I had promised that we would bake blueberry muffins for breakfast, and so I wanted to be here right when they came downstairs.

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Although we used to bake almost daily, baking now is a special treat. We used a healthy recipe that we found online from Skinny Taste, only we omitted the 1/4 cup brown sugar (what the heck? totally does not need that at all in my opinion), used the 2 TB agave in the recipe and a little bit of honey. So delicious! The blueberries we picked last Saturday were luscious in these! I rarely have muffins, so this breakfast felt incredibly decadent. The kiddos and I had so much fun making them together.

Then I opened presents: a handmade card from Katie that was so thoughtful and sweet, as well as a picture, some running clothes including a Disneyland racerback for my 10K there in August, and a tin of Alice in Wonderland loose leaf topsy turvy tea. I may or may not have had a bit of a hand in picking some of this out. 😉


Before heading out to Nana’s for lunch, we packed up some eggs for our neighbors to leave as a secret present today. We know that they lost their only child in a car accident several years ago, and so a day like today must feel extra sad and painful. We thought maybe we would send them a little bit of love anonymously and left the eggs on their doorstep before running back to our house.




And then there was a Mother’s Day photo shoot…




With my firstborn: you made me a mommy. I am still trying to be worthy of you.



My people

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With my pensive boy at Nana’s house

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They are getting so big already! I love entering this new phase of childhood with them so much.


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We had lunch and a party at Nana’s with generations and cousins and laughter and play time and flowers and delight. Last June it seemed as if we might not get to celebrate another Mother’s Day with Nana, but she is doing so well right now, and I am just so thankful that we still have time to make memories with her. I do not take them for granted. The men took the kiddos outside, and we had a chance to visit all together for a bit, which is such a treat these days!


5K into my 6K run this morning, I knew I had it in me to try again for a new 10K PR. Or so I thought. I had a decision to make: ignore the data or use the date to make another attempt at it? I have tried a couple of different times on my training runs to make the PR I wanted, but so far had failed to reach the goal I had set for myself. Would I reach my mark this time?

I have been working on breaking into the 42:00s for months, steadily whittling away at my pacing. I do keep my goals realistic but also just challenging enough to keep me hungry. Why? Because for me the point of this grand adventure of living is to keep testing and pushing myself, searching out my limits, getting to know myself, and reminding myself how elemental it is to my happiness to keep striving every day to make myself better than I was the day before. Runners know: no amount of work is about racing other people. We race only ourselves. What is it like to want to beat the person you were yesterday, at being your best? To me, the act of challenging myself IS the enjoyment. There are other parts of running I appreciate very much, too, but the conquering of myself through goal-achievement is the big reward for me. I want to see what my best is.

After the Run Through the Vineyards 10K in April, which I won for the females but in which I did not PR (my 10K PR happened on the 15K course back in March), I approached my training with renewed vigor. I am consistently diligent, but I asked my coach-husband to push me harder. Time to break through some boundaries. There is no doubt that as I approach the upward swing to my 40s (I am 34 right now) that I will start encountering physical boundaries, but for now I am finding that most of my boundaries are still in my mind and therefore conquerable with hard work and discipline.

And with a willingness to go get some pain. The body must go through controlled and careful pain in order to shift into the next gear: I am understanding that more every day. It has been one of my discoveries these past two years.

This morning was a triumph. I have been working and working and working and working for the time I reached this morning. And of course, as happy as I am, I am still not satisfied. Now I want sub-42:00. But for now I will celebrate: I ran a 10K this morning in 42:02. After going the first 5K all sub-6:50 up and down hills, I knew I had a shot at racing it in. I took mile 4 over to the track and decided to run the rest in as even and fierce as I could, keeping a steady pace. I didn’t want to deal with stoplights, wet sidewalks, or twisty miles. Let’s just do this thing, I thought, once and for all.

I went 6:46 per mile pace for the whole thing. Can I do better? I do know that I am looking forward to the flat Disneyland run I have coming up in a few months. I have a couple of other 10Ks scheduled before that one, and we will see what happens.

Last week, training was heck. I have been pushing myself as much as possible to get as many miles in sub-7:00 as possible. Last week, quality over quantity was our training theme. I did 33.81 miles, and my pre-long-run pace was 7:03 for the week. When I added a long 9 miler on Saturday, my pace average for the week changed to 7:09. The week before that, all of my miles averaged out to 7:09, as well, but this was an improvement from the 7:12:59 average for a 26.07 mi week in mid-April, and a bigger gain from the 35 mi week at 7:21 pace around the week ending on April 9th. So, steady improvement.

To break through the wall, I raced every run last week. I didn’t go full, full out, but I approached each one with a racing mindset and a racer’s heart. It was crazy. Every run last week was SO INTENSE. I would wake up in the morning feeling some pressure, and it was a good pressure, but still: last week was not about running for the sheer enjoyment. Sustaining that for days helped to train my mind a bit more, and it made me really appreciate my long run (9 mi) on Saturday at a more comfortable pace of 7:24. Coach-husband and I agreed that I needed my long run to focus on the joy of running and the joy of clearing out the mental spaces, just to enjoy the morning.

Then something strange happened. I had a short week this week, missing my Sunday start (my training weeks start on Sunday, I rest Tuesday, and run through Friday) due to a charity 5K walk event with Katie and a friend of mine. I still managed to get 25.05 miles, though, and my pace for the entire week was 6:59:21…my first sub-7:00 week! I find this pretty wild, since Bill and I agreed that my runs this week should focus more on mental happiness and letting my legs just do their thing, to see what their “thing” might be at this point. I have paid just a bit of attention to my Garmin Forerunner this week, after watching every mile last week. After breaking my body into the new gear last week, my legs naturally found their new pace this week and went without so much of the mental strain. My body has felt the new pace, and, I hope, continues to like it.

So last week’s crazy intensity paid off. I raced myself in every run, and I finally, finally, finally got my body to a new place. I am very much hoping to sustain—and then improve. That Long Beach Half is out there this fall… I ran it in 1:43:06 last year and am striving for something in the 1:30s this year.

My motto, clearly, is: always want more of yourself.



This morning, post-run: a10K in 42:02! Now, let’s make that official in a race…



Katie and I have been loving our time at the track. The first year that I ran, yes, sheer mileage increased my fitness and dropped my pacing. Sheer mileage can do that… But this year? I am a convert to the track. Deliberate speed work is, in my thoughtful opinion, the only way to break through the barriers we think we have. Speed work on the track is all about the pain. I did some 880s not too long ago, and they hurt. You know before you go that you are intentionally going to seek out the hurt. I try to think of each round of speed work as the forge in which my mind and legs become more like steel. When we are given the chance to forge ourselves, do we take it?

Sarah McGaugh

Sarah McGaugh


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