Involve the Family

family

Family and Friends want to be a part of your life and join in the experiences that you love as much as they can. They want to share your joy and success. There are many ways that they can join in and support you in your running. Races are always in need of volunteers.

Operating an aid station for a race gives you a real appreciation for the accomplishment of running. You watch runners struggle and keep going. Most runners are very courteous and grateful to volunteers. Races would not happen without the volunteer support.

Many races give their volunteers race swag such as t-shirts, coupons, and samples of sponsor’s products, similar to what the runners get. Most importantly volunteering allows them to see you, their runner, out there on the course, which can be difficult for trail running courses. Volunteering may also motivate them to give running a try or not.

Family can be at the starting line to see you off, meet you along the course to cheer and hold up signs, and then chant your name as you cross the finish line. This is easier to do on a longer course where there isn’t the chance of missing you coming into the finish because they don’t get back in time. If it is a short course, which loops around itself it can be done as well.

Many race websites post the course and the best places for family and friends to see their runners. Crowding into an aid station is not a good place to be. Some runners stop at aid stations to get their water, Gatorade, or gels. Many runners slow down as they pass through the aid stations. Family and friends will only add to the congestion. It is better for them to be at another place on the course, particularly for races with a large number of participants.

Runners are packed together for the first few miles of a marathon or half marathon, which makes catching their runner’s eye or giving a high five more difficult. After the halfway point, runners spread out and seeing a familiar face is all the encouragement a runner needs to keep going to the end.

As a runner knowing that I have someone at the finish line cheering for me, encourages me the whole race. I want to come across that finish line looking and feeling strong. When I am at a down point or want to walk, knowing that I have people waiting for me gives me just one more reason to keep going.

As soon as the finish line is in sight, runners are looking for their personal fans, pulling their shoulders back, and picking up their pace as much as they can. You know that once you cross the finish line your loved ones will help you get a chair, ice, water, a banana or just take off your shoes.

But I have kids…

overwhelmed parent

Most people have children and children require you to change and adjust your life around them, especially young children. It makes keeping a running schedule a little more difficult. If you’re a single parent, it makes it a lot more complex.

Parents have to be flexible when it comes to getting their daily run in, just like they need to do with other things in their life. As a parent, your life bends and twists around your children. Once your children are older and more independent, it’s much easier to keep a consistent schedule of things you want to accomplish.

Sometimes when you have children, goals have to take a back burner for a while. The needs of our children become our priority, and our desire to finish that marathon or even sleep for eight hours straight through are sidelined.

It is possible to maintain a consistent running schedule when you have children. A supportive partner makes a huge difference, but even if you are a single parent you can get your run in. Here are some ideas on how to do it…

First look at your goals and think about the time it will take to train for a particular race distance. This will depend on the pace you run since faster runners are going to spend less time training. Now look at your schedule and see what you can throw out or where you can squeeze your training in. If you can’t fit in a four hour long run in on weekends once in awhile then you should probably back off your goals.

If your goal is to run 5k’s, 10k’s, or even a half marathon, training during lunch or in the morning before kids get up is doable. I know you’re not a morning person, but give it three solid weeks and you may find that you prefer starting your day by accomplishing something.

A lunch run can be great to break up the day. It also puts you out in the sunshine rather than the dark. Lunch runs can be difficult to maintain on a consistent basis if you frequently have lunch meetings or go out to lunch with friends. Try to find a running group that runs during the lunch hour, either in your office or at a nearby gym or park. Having others to run with, will get you out there on days you have an offer to do something else.

For single parents, a lunch run may be easier than leaving the children during the morning unless they are old enough to not panic when (not if) they wake up and you are not there. When my children were elementary school age, I would make sure my oldest son knew I was running the next morning and what time I would be back. I would write it on a white board with my phone number (just in case he forgot it). If they woke up while I was gone, they called me. I didn’t just go home when they called, it depended on what they needed and how long I had left.

The long run on the weekend will take a little more planning. If you have a partner who is willing to care for the children during your long run that makes things pretty easy. However, make sure you do the same for your partner to have their time away from the children. If you are a single parent, you have to get creative. You can find another parent in the neighborhood who is a runner and single parent one of you could watch the kids while the other runs and switch off weekend days. One of you run Saturday and the other Sunday. This is also useful if both parents run.

Another strategy for single parents is to get up with enough time to finish your run before the children get up. I know this means getting up at like 3:00 am, I’ve done it many times. Keep your run close to your home in case you need to get back quickly and then follow the same procedure as above. Leave a note and your phone number. Have the kids call as soon as they wake up and then decide if you can finish the run or need to go straight home.

Running in circles around your neighborhood for twenty miles is not always a fun run, but it’s better than not running at least in my book. There are things you can do to make it more fun such as listening to an audio book or music. There are great running apps that make running like a game. You can also find a friend to go with you.

Running when you have children can be difficult and you may have to adjust your goals depending on your children’s age and the support system you have. But don’t just give up running, seriously look at your options and get creative. There are so many benefits to your physical and mental health from running to just let it walk out of your life.

Fountain of Youth

running kids

My oldest son, Jazz, turned eighteen on Friday July 10. Everyone says “time flies” and we all know that it does especially when we are having fun. And, all in all, watching my son grow into a man has been fun. Yes, he still acts and thinks like a teenager and he will for four or five more years, but he has successfully launched.

When our children reach another milestone along the journey of life, we ask ourselves, “What was I doing when I reached that point in my life?”

At the age of eighteen, I had a child of my own. I was trying to finish my high school diploma while taking care my son. Jazz and I were going through boxes a week or two ago and came upon a picture of him and me. He was 18 months and I was 19 years old. He said, “You look younger now than you did then.”

I have to admit I get a kick out of every time I am mistaken for his sister or one of his friends. He laughs about it now but he didn’t when if first started happening. People have made the mistake of thinking I’m about fifteen years younger than I am, even when my son is not around.

Some people just age well, I suppose, but running keeps you young. It is the fountain of youth. I’ve met many runners who look much younger than they really are. Running keeps you relaxed in other areas of your life and it helps you deal with stress when you are stuck in frustrating situations. Stress can add years to your appearance.

Running also keeps the bones and joints healthy. I know a lot of people (non-runners) say that running is not good for bones and joints, but all the science proves otherwise. Runner’s bones are more dense than people who are not active. This protects them from factures as you age and the bones become more brittle. Joints stay healthy when they are used, keeping the blood flowing to them.

Running also helps keep the extra weight off. Carrying extra weight causes joints to break down more quickly and hinders cardiovascular and respiratory functioning. If you take your running seriously, meaning you run three to four times a week and seek to improve your performance, you food choices tend to be on the healthier side such as fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.

I’m convinced running keeps you young not only in physical appearance but in the heart too.

Be young, enjoy life, and run.

 

Girls on the Run

GOTR

Logo is property of Girls on the Run.

“It’s time to wake up Sky,” I said while rubbing his back.

“MMMM,” he moaned from under the blanket.

“Come on it’ll be fun.”

“MMMM.”

“We can stop and get hot chocolate and a cinnamon roll.”

At that, he began kicking the blankets off.

“What are we going to have to do?” he asked once we were on the road happily munching on a cinnamon roll.

“Fill water cups, cheer, ring cow bells, and hand out granola bars.”

He rolled his eyes. “Cow bells?”

“Yes, you can’t have a finish line without cow bells.”

We arrived at the Girls on the Run 5k at 7 in the morning to help set up our aid station filling cups of water and setting out thousands of granola bars on the table.

“How many runners are there?” I asked another volunteer named Lisa.

“1500,” said Lisa.

I smiled. This was going to be an amazing morning.

Girls on the run is a non-profit program for girls ages eight though thirteen and Sky and I were volunteering at their annual 5k event. The goal of the program is to “unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness.”

Learn Live Dream Run

Everyone who ran the 5k was assigned the number 1 on their bib, because each of the girls is number one. The theme of the race was be your own superhero, the girls (and boys if they wanted to run a mostly girls race) wore florescent green capes as they ran. They had face painting and colored hair spray the girls could use to become a superhero before the race began.

The aid station Sky and I were assigned to was actually a pre and post-race station. When we arrived there and I realized we were on the wrong side of the finish line, I was a little bummed because I wanted to see the girls race past with the green capes streaming out behind them, but I smiled and handed out water asking them what their super powers were.

I was really impressed with the number of parents who were running with the little girls both mothers and fathers were out there with their hair and faces painted too.

The race began at 9:00 in the morning with the firing of a blank out of a gun. It’s a beautiful sound when the sun is rising over the mountains into a cloudless sky and you have 1500 superhero’s lined up at a starting line arch.

After they all run beneath the arch, it was empty in the pre-race festival area. Crickets chirped inside my head as I looked around at the green and pink balloons dancing alone in the morning breeze.

The program manager came up to us and asked us to hand out medals to the girls as they crossed the finish line. I was overjoyed. Handing out medals at the finish line is the most rewarding part of a race.

Slipping the medals over the heads of the red-faced sweaty girls as they came across the finish line was more amazing than I could have hoped. They laughed, they cried, and they won, every last one of them.

we believe

Merry Christmas

xmas tree

I have a ten mile run Christmas morning. I’m very excited about it. I’m more excited about that then opening the gifts beneath the tree (I know what they all are anyway). I’m getting up at 5:00 a.m. to go run. It doesn’t matter how cold it is or how much snow is on the ground. I’ll be out there putting one foot in front of another.

Everyone leaves their Christmas lights on throughout the night of Christmas Eve and into Christmas morning. The red, green, blue, yellow, and white light catches in the snow, like jewels scattered on the ground. Christmas trees stand in the front windows of every house.

The streets are empty of all cars. The stores are all closed and the parking lots are empty. A hush falls over the world Christmas morning, especially if there was snow during the night (that’s a special gift).

Each branch of the trees will be lined with snow. A downy white blanket covers every yard without any footprints and no tire marks in the street. Falling snowflakes catch in my eyelashes.   Snow crunches beneath my feet. The cold air makes my cheeks and lips go little numb and rosy.

Around six, the magic starts to happen, the lights come on inside the houses. The children begin to wake. They slide out of their beds, and shove their little feet into slippers. Scampering down the hall to their siblings rooms they whisper into the dark, “It’s time to get up. It’s Christmas.”

They dance around the tree bouncing and laughing. Santa Clause has come leaving presents wrapped in paper covered with their favorite Christmas characters. They carefully peer among the gifts, trying to find out which one belongs to them.

Then it’s back down the hall to wake up mom and dad. The wrapping paper flies throw the air and flutters to the ground. Cries of glee, hugs, and “I love you.”

I catch glimpses of this as I run. I smile. The true gift of Christmas, is seeing the joy and wonder on another person’s face, young or old.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Walking Away from Hope

teens

Parenting is hard. There is no instruction manual. What works for one child, does not work for another. Everyone, including strangers on the street, wants to tell you what you are doing wrong. Excellent parents have kids who are out of control due to a variety of reasons: mental health, physical disabilities and disorders, drug abuse, gangs, and other criminal activity.

There is nothing more heart wrenching and infuriating than a parent who throws up their hands and turns their back on their child. In parenting, failure is not an option. Your child did not ask to be born. Your child did not choose you as a parent. You, the parent, chose the child. From the day you took that baby home from the hospital, you chose.

Until that child is eighteen years old they are your responsibility to house, feed, educate, and love. No matter how hard the going gets, it’s your job to always say yes to them being your child and to never lose hope that it will change and that things will get better in the future.

Hope begins and ends with the parent.

In my day job, I watch parents (biological and adoptive) walk away from their children. Place the child in the custody of the State and wash their hands of the child. It’s not every day, but even one is too much in my book. I’ve heard every reason: “We’ve tried everything,”  “They are ruining our marriage,” “the other children are afraid of them,” “They are destroying our home,” “They are stealing from us,” and “They are physically assaultive.”

teens 2

I know sometimes kids have to be taken out of a home and go to treatment programs, but their always your child. As a parent, your efforts to visit, love, and care for your child should never cease.  The child’s issues may prevent the child from living in your home, but it doesn’t end your responsibility as a mother or a father.

Kids are hard. I understand. I really do.  I know, you’ve tried everything, every type of therapy, every medication, every consequence, every parenting class, every assessment, and every treatment program known to man.

Well, try them again.

Never walk away from hope.

When it rains, it pours

goats

I hate when old adages settle into your life, kick their feet up on the coffee table, and never leave.  This one, “When it rains, it pours,” is only 110 years old and was given to us by the geniuses at Morton Salt. Yeah the salt people.

Its original meaning was positive, however, over the years it has become negative. Morton Salt developed this as an advertisement gimmick. Back before 1911, whenever there was humidity or a rainstorm everyone’s salt turned into a clump. It didn’t sprinkle out in beautiful white crystals over our food or when thrown over the left shoulder.

Morton salt decided to add a few things to salt like magnesium carbonate, which prevents it from clumping. So the slogan “When it rains, it pours,” meant that even when the humidity was high your salt would still come out in beautiful crystals wherever you wanted to toss it.

Currently, it’s used to mean that when one bad thing happens many other bad things follow right on its heels. An English Proverb, “It never rains, but it pours,” means just that and was used in the US and UK prior to Morton.

Personally, I like the Morton version better than the proverb because it gives you a little warning. You know that when it starts raining you should prepare yourself for a torrential down pour. Where in the proverb, there is no warning the sky just opens up and you should have built your ark, but if God didn’t warn you, you’re screwed.

So why the tangent on this? Whenever I think I’m getting ahead financially and have an extra paycheck (because I get paid every other week so twice a year I get three checks in one month instead of two) something comes in and sucks it dry. Every time, it never fails.

I find it rather entertaining at this point. There is a sense of excitement about it.

Extra check in August extra expenses:

  1. Registration for school 300$
  2. School clothing 600$
  3. Court clothing (low carb diet made new court clothing necessary) 200$
  4. Jazz’s car needs new breaks back and front and a few other things 650$

I consider myself lucky that these two events coincided and have in the past as well. Sure, I’m not getting ahead, but I’m not falling further behind either.

This prompted a conversation with Jazz about why he should have an emergency savings account in case the English proverb applies to his life rather than Morton Salt. He is quiet fond of reminding me that he plans to move out in a year. So I try not to waste valuable opportunities like this to teach him a life lesson.

So, what’s with the goat picture? Nothing. The goats make me smile every morning that I run past them because they are always on top of their house.

Back to School Chaos

back to school

I hate back to school time. My heart rate is up, my stomach does summersaults, and hands sweat as the first day of school approaches. You would think that I was the one returning to school after three months lounging in the summer sun, but no. It’s my children preparing for another year of education.

Jazz will be a senior this year. He is an excellent student and enjoys socializing and learning new things. He is comfortable in his high school and understands the routine rising in the morning, getting to school, and completing homework when he gets home. For Jazz, school is just something you do.

Sky will be in eighth grade this year. For Sky, school is a war zone.

I’ve already met with the vice principal of Sky’s school and we have another meeting next Monday with his teacher as well. We need to decide which classes Sky should be enrolled in, how to deal with his behavior at the end of the school year, and how we can start this new year off on a positive note.

Sky’s school experience has been very traumatizing including physical restraints, time out rooms, in school suspension, and out of school suspensions. Unfortunately, his experiences are not atypical for a child with his diagnosis (bipolar, anxiety, ADHD and learning disorders).

I read an article in June regarding a study done by the Department of Education stating that 267,000 students had been restrained or placed in seclusion over the 2013-2014 school year. Most of these students are special education students.  You can read the article here if you’re interested.

When I called Sky for the Monday meeting this week, he said, “I’m not going. You know I hate that place. I can’t be there.”

“I know it’s hard bud, but it’s important that everyone hears from you about what you want for your classes and what you would like to see happen this next school year to make things better. They need to hear your voice.”

“You be my voice mom.”

“Sky, I will be there, but it is more powerful if it comes from you.”

“Conference call me into the meeting.”

Sometimes I hate technology, I thought to myself.

I took the first week of school off work, so that I can deal with situations as they arise. Sky doesn’t know I am off work that week, of course. If he did, he would think he could just stay home. I actually work twenty-five miles from my house just so he can’t call and say come and get me mom. He calls anyway, but I can honestly tell him, I can’t because it’s too far for me to get him and then return to work.

As I tighten the laces on my running shoes, and step out my front door in the morning, I think of ways to make this year easier than last year. I am always looking for new ways to help other people understand my son.

It is a careful balance I strike between helping him and letting him fall. If I help too much, he will never learn to be his own voice and I’d rather him fall now when the damage he’ll do as he hits the ground will be less extensive than when he is older.

Are you dreading back to school for you or your children?

Innocence

courthouse

Men in black and grey suits stood on the street corner across from the stone white courthouse checking their phones and watches. Rays of sunlight streaming over the peaks of the mountains ricocheted off the curved glass windows. The walk light blinked on. The dong of the clock tower sounded 8:45 am. I stepped off the curb tugging my rolling briefcase behind me.  It rumbled across the red brick crosswalk. My hand tightens around the handle as I step over the train rails and pull my briefcase across.

A few steps from the curb, a boy and girl hand in hand rounded the corner. A smile tickled the corner of my mouth and erupted in my eyes. So young. So innocent. To me, they are perfect and out of place.  They weren’t be more than fourteen years old.

His brown hair was short with a rounded neckline.  He wore a light blue button down short sleeve shirt with flecks of sea green, untucked from his khaki shorts that hung below his knees.  My smile widened to impossible depths when I noticed he was wearing almond dress shoes with black laces, no socks.

She wore a white short-sleeved dress decorated with crimson poppies that hung just below her knees.  Her brown hair swept past her shoulders and fluttered at her elbows. She had rouge on her cheeks and light blue eye shadow, makeup that was wrapped in pink princess wrapping paper for her birthday.

Despite it being late summer, both are pale skinned without any tan lines. Not sickly pale, but pale as innocence, one who has not been burned by the world passing around them.  Christmas morning fills their expressions as they glance around and at one another.

It’s a full court calendar this morning, a parade of what goes wrong in children’s lives drugs, violence, poverty, and worse. I watch the two cross the road away from white stone of the courthouse.  Locking their image away safe in my mind, I drag my case files up the ramp to the revolving door. I lift my briefcase up on the conveyer belt to go through security.

People in front of me set off the security sensors, but I don’t. I’ve been through it too many times. Nodding to the police officers, I set my briefcase on the floor and pull out the handle to its full length. It clicks out a familiar rhythm as I cross the marble tiled floor to the stairs.

I lean to the left to offset the weight of the briefcase as I climb the stairs to the second floor.

Fighting for a Chance to Dream: Blog

“Fighting for a Chance to Dream,” is my life’s premise or theme. Every aspect of who I am flows from these six words.

People get so wrapped up in their daily stresses that they forget why they do things, what motivates them. We all strive to achieve. We all work to finance the things we want to do. Sometimes this doing and striving block our vision of the dream that is fueling it. This is what happens to those that have their basic needs met. A hidden or concealed dream is better than no dream at all.

There are many people who don’t have a chance to dream because they are too busy thinking about having their basic needs met of safety, food, shelter, medical care, education, and love.

Every person deserves the opportunity to dream. We all lose when someone never has this chance because that person never reaches their potential and in this world we are becoming more dependent upon one another not less.

Running for me does many things. It gives me a way to process all the other things that I deal with on a day to day basis such as child abuse and neglect cases and being a single mother of a child with a neurological disorder. It also provides me with a way to help others. Bringing others into running not only helps them physically, but emotionally as well. It builds confidence. Provides a sense of achievement and stabilizes mood better than just about any psychotropic medication.

I’ve begun a new blog you can find it at fightingforachancetodream.wordpress.com.  It will contain all facets of me. You will find posts containing my writing journey, writing tips, thoughts on children, mental health issues, parenting children with mental health issues, advocacy issues, and frustrations of mine with the world as a whole. You will also find inspiration and hope.

My running advice, experience, and musings will continue to be posted on this blog. I’m sure there will be some crossover. I plan to continue to post my Flash Fiction on this blog as some of you have expressed an interest in continuing to read it.

This way people who have no interest in all the other things that I do can happily read about running and those that want to know all my deep dark secrets can subscribe to both blogs.