Thursday, November 29, 2012

Making Spirits Bright by Keeping Expectations Low

A brand new family of three.
You may or may not recall that last year we had a baby a week and a half before Christmas. Holiday celebrations were... understated. I was pregnant, and/or in the hospital, and/or hormonal and recovering from childbirth throughout the festivities all month long. Once Sam was born I was was excited and determined to make my baby's first Christmas perfect and memorable. I had plans for pictures with Santa, handmade ornaments, sweet christmasy birth announcements, and nothing but happy, glittering, beautiful memories of this first perfect holiday as a family.
None of those things happened.
You want to know my memories of the holiday? Being scared and huge and uncomfortable. Crying in the back bedroom as the rest of the family ate and celebrated. Feeling guilty and inadequate that I had made nothing significant happen for my baby's first Christmas.
Not exactly... what I planned.
Sweet baby bundled up on Christmas

On this side of things... I am disappointed with myself. Not because I didn't complete holiday crafts, but because I had far too many unreasonable expectations. I wasted the holiday, and wasted the moments I could have had with my family frustrated that they didn't look blog-worthy. I beat myself up about it for months. Kinda disgusting, huh?
Earlier this year-- like, June-- I started thinking about and dreading the idea of another Christmas. All the traditions I wanted to establish, creative endeavors I wanted to accomplish, and expectations I would surely fail to meet. Sigh. It made me feel stressed, overwhelmed, and miserable. I saw myself in the back bedroom crying and punching a breastpump again.
I didn't want that.
Santa Baby 2011
 So I sat down and made a list of the things that were important to me to accomplish for the holiday season. It was a long list full of all good and wonderful things, rich traditions and fun memories. And then I (and this is a big thing, pay attention...) forgave myself in advance for not accomplishing every last one.
Then I crossed about half the things off the list, so I had just the most important things on the short list in front of me. And I felt like if I got those things done I would be very happy.
Then I put stars by about three things that were most important on the short list. And I decided I would focus on those three things, and if the rest of the short list didn't happen, I would be okay with just the short short list.
You know one of the things that made the short short list? Enjoy my family.
Already I have failed to accomplish things on the long list. And... I am falling behind on the short list too. My living room has been cluttered with storage boxes for an entire week becuase I can't seem to find time to finish the decorating in between all the other stuff going on. I have already had to tell people 'no' to festive holiday events I would have enjoyed being a part of. And despite my efforts to do 'on the side' work for cash, I don't have the money for the special surprise I wanted to buy for my husband.
But Sam and I watched Charlie Brown Christmas the other day with hot cocoa (for me, warm formula for him, but still!) and he smiled and giggled and my heart was warm and memories made. My dad is building a magnificent gift for Sam that we have spent a lot of time creating and collaborating on. He gets giddy just talking about it, and it makes my heart happy to see him enjoy it so much-- for my Dad, the anticipation of Christmas morning and giving this gift is nearly unbearable. Which is so much more than any department store Santa could give us. My husband works all day, and comes home to a wife who is content and happy to see him-- and not stressed and angry over what has not or cannot be accomplished. The Grandmas got the sweet Baby's First Christmas ornaments that I started last year this time-- only a year late, but still cherished. The short short list.
2012 Christmas Traditions
I'm already happier with the way this holiday season is going. I decided to be realistic, and keep my expectations low, my house clutter at a normal level, and my stress level around 6 (which is kind of my normal functioning level, so that's good! ha!). I'm focusing on the short short list:
My family
I'm forgiving myself for the times I will undoubtedly fail. I am calling a truce with myself over all the lovely christmas ideas on pinterest that will not happen. I'm keeping my plans few and my expectations low...
Except for expecting this year to be worlds better than the angry, regrettable, hormonal mess that was last year.

Okay, you're right.
(Deep Breath)  
Valerie, I forgive you for last year, too.

Happiest Holidays to you and all your loved ones!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thirteen point freakin' one

I just thought I would throw that up there at the top so you wouldn't be in suspense until the end.
I did it. I completed a half marathon. Before the 6 hour time limit. In an upright position. With a smile on my face.

Thursday night we went to the airport to pick my sister up. She was coming in from NC to run with us, and I was so excited to see her! It had been a long time since she was home! Sam even made a sign for her, because he was so worried Aunt Melodie would not recognize him-- he's so big!
We had a little fun at the airport.

Friday morning Sam and I headed over to my parents house for a running super-food breakfast of pancakes! Then we got to spend the day shopping and playing with the family before heading downtown and checking into our hotel. (My parents got us a room downtown so we wouldn't have to get up so early the next morning.) We crammed 5 adults and an infant in a pack and play all into one room!
Sam gets fitted new running shoes... :)
 Then we went to packet pick up and the expo. This is the first race i have ever been a part of that actually had an expo! It was interesting walking around and looking at all the junk people wanted to sell you... we bought sparkly headbands! And we grabbed wristbands for our pace groups. Then we went out to dinner. We attempted the pasta place but it was over-run with racers... so we went a little further and found a better option... SUSHI!
So good.
Early morning pre-race shot
Z had to work all day, so he joined us at the hotel that evening, and we tried to sleep... but I was so nervous-- I think everyone was-- that it was difficult to get much rest. We got up at 6 the next morning, got dressed and headed down to line up. The race started at 7:05 and it was COLD out.
I kept debating what pace group I should join-- or if I should join one at all. I had some pretty significant differences in my training times and my race times from the 5k and 10k I had recently done... and i just didn't know how to gauge it for the half marathon. I decided to join the 2:40 group, even though I was pretty confident I could do better than that. But I stood there in the cold chit-chatting with the other runners in that pace group and trying not to waste precious energy shivering.
It was the biggest race I have ever been a part of, and my pace group was so far back that I couldn't even hear any kind of starting gun... we just heard a cheer go through the crowd and saw the first runners sprint up the hill about a half mile ahead of us. Oh boy. So we walked up to the starting line, took a big scared breath, and started it at an easy jog.
Liberty Memorial behind me

I quickly knew I was in the wrong pace group. I tried to stay with them for the first mile... but it quickly became a challenge... they were so slow! I was wasting more energy staying with them than it was worth... so I ditched them. And fell into pace with another runner who suggested we try to catch the 2:35 pace group, and we did before the 2nd mile. The third mile was a beast-- running up the hill by the liberty memorial! At the top of the hill I caught sight of the 2:30 pace group and I was all, I'm a rock star! And then Bam!, another hard hill by the hospital. And... I never caught them.
But that's okay.

I ran along at my own pace. I enjoyed the scenery. I enjoyed my own company. I talked to myself the whole time, a little amazed that I was actually doing this-- that I was actually enjoying it!
I loved turning from Westport toward the Plaza down this canopied street of beautiful fall colored trees. I loved the bands they had along the way playing music all morning for the people running. I loved the energetic church choir that was running the water station at mile 8, they were my favorite. at the 11 mile water station the marathon leader passed me (sigh) but he had a police escort and they were playing dramatic music as he (at mile 24 of his own race) went breezing past all of us half marathoners gutting it out at mile 11 of ours. Passed us like it was nothing. Jerk. Not really. He earned it.
It was my secret goal not to let the marathoners beat me accross the finish line. Obviously that didn't happen. But I am happy to report the marathon leader (who came in at 2:320000000something?) was the ONLY marathoner that beat me. Ha!
Me being awesome.

I picked up my pace a smidge at that point and tried to run it in pretty hard. Before the race I had a friend tell me-- the first three miles and the last mile are all run on pure adrenaline, so you really only have the 9 in the middle to worry about, and you've got 9 miles in you. haha. She was right, though. That last mile was all adrenaline. I was close, I was almost done, I was... I was amazing, you guys. You don't even understand. I felt so good, so proud. I was smiling and waving at everyone. I rounded the last corner and could see the finish line and started sprinting in. I was scanning the crowd along the sides for my family-- I wanted to hear them cheer for me, but I really wanted them to see me cross that finish line. I wanted Z to see me cross the finish line with this smile on my face.
And I was yards-- feet-- from the finish line-- and there they were-- and it was awesome.
And I did it.
Crossing the finish line (the clock is wrong...)

Two hours, thirty-four minutes, and forty-seven seconds. Thirteen point freakin' one miles.
I did it.

I couldn't stop smiling. My family met me and hugged me and I thought I might cry for a minute-- I was so excited, so happy, so proud. Four or five months earlier when I first said I wanted to do it, I didn't honestly believe I would follow through. But I did, for once in my life I stuck with the program and gutted it out to the end. I had my family with me-- encouraging and helping me along the way, and yelling for me at the finish line as I accomplished my goal.
It was awesome.
Half marathoners!

(I'll share a number breakdown soon... for anyone who cares.)