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An Honor to be Nominated

When my phone rang last week, a strange number on the display, I almost didn’t answer it. But then I did. And I was surprised to hear who was on the other end.

It was Gretchen, from the Michigan Fitness Foundation. She was calling to congratulate me for being named an honoree for a Governor’s Fitness Award.

Surprised

I was definitely not expecting that phone call, but it surely made my day.

I really was surprised. Mom had said she was going to nominate me. But, honestly, with everything going on in her household lately, I thought for sure she wouldn’t get around to it.

Besides, even if she did nominate me, she’s my mom and she’s supposed to be proud of me. How much weight could that carry in an award like this?

Mom hug

Getting a hug from my always-supportive mom after my first marathon.

 

Apparently enough. I suppose inspiration is inspiration — no matter what.

So, what are these awards, anyway?

Michigan Moving

The Governor’s Fitness Awards serves as a platform for recognizing individuals, public officials and organizations that are committed to healthy living. Each award recognizes the many different ways the winners are inspiring and influencing Michigan residents to live a healthy lifestyle.

I was chosen as an honoree in the Conquering Obesity category along with two other deserving individuals. It really is humbling to be nominated for an award like this.

You see, I never set out to try to inspire anyone or encourage anyone to change their lives. I just set out to make my life better and, hopefully in the process, extend it. So that’s what I did. Every drop of sweat, every “yes” when I wanted to say “no” and every “no” when I wanted to say “yes,” every pound lost and mile run. That’s what this always has been about.

And I wrote about it. Because that’s what I do — I write for my mental health. I write to process things; I write to explore things; I write to deal with things; and I write to celebrate things.

At first I kept my blog private — just a simple online journal to help me deal with the enormous task of losing 100 pounds. But through my Weight Watchers meetings, I saw that there were a lot of people out there struggling with some of the same issues I was writing about on a daily basis. And I thought maybe it would do some good for people to know that they’re not alone.

No one “in real life” talks about the scary parts of losing weight and getting healthy — of taking control of your life. They talk about the befores and the afters — the amazing difference between then and now and how “skinny you look” now. The glory side of losing weight.

Before and after

I think I'll always feel emotional when I see these photos side-by-side.

But what about the fear that comes with shedding the emotional weight along with the physical weight? What about self-sabotage because it’s SO scary not to have that extra 100 pounds to hide behind anymore? What about when your friends and family aren’t exactly supportive of you?

So my blog became my voice — and, I’d hoped, a voice for those who couldn’t find theirs. A voice that said: It’s OK to be scared and frustrated and sad. But even more than that? It’s also OK to celebrate the small victories along with the big ones.

In the process of blogging about my progress, a couple of really amazing things happened:

  • People — besides my mom — started reading what I was writing. And they liked it. And told me how nice it was for someone to be real. And they told me I inspired them.It was very strange that something I was doing physically was inspiring anyone. For someone who used to be known only for her smarts, it was a bit of a pleasant surprise. And it wasn’t something I took lightly. That’s why I don’t sugarcoat things, and I will always be real. I deserve it, and so do the people who take time out of their days to read what I have to say.
  • I met some amazing and inspiring people who were on a very similar path as I was. From those I met locally, to those I met online, I’ll always be grateful for the people who’ve strengthened and encouraged me on this journey. I definitely need to mention the HUGE community of health and fitness bloggers out there. And some of them have become even better friends than those I’ve known for years “in real life.” They have your back — whether it’s for a supportive hug or a kick in the pants. And I am honored and privileged to know them — they have made all the difference in the world.

It has been an amazing journey where I’ve been inspired just as much as I’ve done the inspiring. And the best part? It’s not over.

Now that I have regained control of my life, my health — both physically and mentally — I’m no longer scared of where this road will take me. I see opportunities and challenges that excite me more than they do scare me. (I mean, sure, a little fear now and again is a good thing — it means we’re alive.) And I see a whole world that has opened up to me that I didn’t even know existed — a lot of it in my own back door.

Hiking on Lake Michigan? You got it. Jumping out of a plane over the middle of the state? Sign me up! Running a marathon through the streets of Grand Rapids? You had me at 26.2. Kayaking through the lakes and rivers? Boy, would I!

Perhaps the best part about being nominated for this award? It’s for The Mitten.

“Thank you for being such a great role model for your fellow Michiganders. Sharing your story will help to continue to work to create a healthier Michigan.” ~From the letter I received regarding the award

This award — and what it seeks to achieve/recognize — is rooted right here in the state I’ve grown to love. I’ve always liked Michigan. But through my journey to get healthy and fit, I’ve grown to love this state. In fact, I’m currently wearing my “Smitten with the Mitten” shirt, and it couldn’t be any more true. It wasn’t until I found myself being active out on those hiking trails and running paths and lakes that I truly appreciated what a gift I was given by being born in this state. There is so much to do that the opportunities to be active are really endless. For runners or walkers or bikers or swimmers or hikers … just step out your back door.

To be an honoree for this award truly is an honor. One that makes me reflective and appreciative as much as it does proud. Yes, I worked hard to get where I am today — I continue to work at living my happiest, healthiest life. But I could never have done it alone. Luckily, I don’t have to.

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Race Recap: It’s An Urban Adventure

When my dear friend Abbey originally suggested that we sign up for the winter Grand Rapids Urban Adventure Race, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. But I was game. Because, wasn’t 2012 supposed to be about me putting the fun back in run? And what’s more fun than running through the woods with a map, a friend and some good ol’ Michigan snow?

Except Michigan hasn’t been cooperating on that whole “snow” front thing. It’s been warm. And melty. And smooshy. Not that I’m complaining — because it’s certainly made my weekend expeditions to Mr. B’s much less of a white-knuckle nightmare than it could have been. But it threatened to make the adventure race a little less adventure-y.

And then there’s that whole “I don’t know how to read a map” thing. Yeah, orienteering was part of the race. And I haven’t done that since once in Girl Scouts. (I still maintain that I should have been a Boy Scout.) Thankfully, the organizer of the race and one of my very favorite stores put together an Orienteering 101 clinic. It helped. But not enough.

The week leading up to the race was warm. No snow. Grass was showing. And then, Friday came. And it snowed. A lot. And the roads turned to ice. A lot. And it was, magically, winter once again.

Winter

Winter returns to Michigan — just in time.

When I woke up dark and early Saturday morning, my Weather Channel app told me it was -6 degrees (I was too scared to check the “feels-like” temperature). I didn’t even want to get out of bed. Because I knew what was waiting for me outside. But, alas, there was a friend — and a race — waiting for me. And race day means … oatmeal pancakes!

oatmeal pancakes

Protein oatmeal pancakes have never failed me.

It also means … race hair!

Race hair

I only share this because I love you.

I got ready in my many layers of race attire:

  • Tank-top base layer
  • Short-sleeve tech shirt
  • Long-sleeved tech shirt
  • Wind-breaker running jacket
  • Running tights
  • Two neck gaiters
  • Calf sleeves
  • Two pairs of Smart Wool socks
  • Hot-pink, zebra-striped leg warmers (as awesome as they sound)
  • Hat
  • Ski band
  • Gloves
  • Hiking/running shoes
  • Spikes (thanks to Abbey for the encouragement on wearing these!)
  • Sunglasses

Once I got to the race site, Cannonsburg Ski Area, it took all of 3.6 seconds outside of my car to know that the clothes I brought to change into afterwards would need to be on my body. Immediately. So, I added one more pair of socks and a second pair of pants. And Abbey contributed a thicker, warmer pair of ski gloves.

I think we both could have talked the other one out of the race. I mean, it was cold. My nose was frozen shut. Abbey had crystals of sparkly ice hanging off of her hair. But we decided to be brave adventure racers.

Race bib

I don't care who you are, Abbey and I had the best team number ever.

So, here’s how it works:

  • The race is completed in teams of two, in three different waves: male/male, female/female, male/female. (Our team name? Aquatic Powerhouse. Because we’re both super Pisces.)
  • Teams are given a passport with squares on them, and at each checkpoint there’s a unique punch to mark the square
  • Teams have to make their way around the “course” using a map, a compass and — in our case — Abbey’s sense of direction
  • There also are challenges to complete throughout the race — you can choose to complete them or skip them (we did a little of both)
Ready to Run

We're either completely crazy or super hardcore. I'll let you judge.

Abbey and I had one goal in mind when we started the race: Have fun. Let me tell you, it was one of the most enjoyable races I’ve ever run. And I would do it again in a heartbeat. (Good thing there are spring, summer and fall versions of the race!)

passport

Passport in hand, we found our way over the river and through the woods.

The first checkpoint was at the very top of the ski hill. (Yeah, the hill behind us in the picture above.) It was a tough climb. But, honestly, up was WAY easier than down. I don’t know how many times we nearly fell.

And, yeah, by the time I got to the bottom of the hill the water in the Camelback had frozen in the tube. So, basically, I was waterless — save the drops Abbey kindly shared with me from  her Camelback before hers froze.

We had “mapped” out our plan and headed right off the ski hill — pretty certain most of the other teams went left. Somehow we ended up passing about six of the first checkpoints. But, but, but! We got to the very farthest checkpoint before any of the other teams.

grabbing the checkpoint

Abbey punches our first checkpoint box like a pro.

Then, we Abbey got our bearings and we were able to make pretty good time to the rest of the checkpoints. Some were up. Some were down. There were hills. And mud. And lots and lots of brambles.

Checkpoint punching

There was definitely some satisfaction to be had in the punching of the passport.

Another checkpoint

I made Abbey climb the ladder. I don't like ladders.

Checkpoint by the river

Look, Ma! I found a checkpoint by the river!

We're running

Run, Aquatic Powerhouse, run!

slingshot

One of the obstacles involved a tennis ball and me with a slingshot and Abbey with a fishing net.

all done

We made it!

Just over two hours and 30 minutes later, we called it good. With a three-hour cutoff for disqualification, Abbey and I weren’t certain we could get out to the checkpoints we missed earlier in the race before the time limit. After seeing our results online, we both realized that if we had actually tried — rather than just went out for fun — we could have placed. That’s what next year’s for, right?!

After the race, we headed inside where there was food and beer (for Abbey) and Mr. B (for me). All in all, it was a fantastic experience, despite the ridiculous cold.

me and Mr. B

After the race Mr. B and I enjoyed a low-key afternoon of hanging out and ...

hot cocoa

... hot cocoa! And well deserved, if I do say so myself.

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Love in All Its Forms

In case you haven’t heard, it’s Valentine’s Day. A day for hearts and flowers and chocolate and love — and half-naked guys flying around with arrows (which, to me, sounds more like an episode of “Law & Order: SVU” than it does romance).

Flowers

Flowers from Mr. B — every single stem picked out by him.

And, since I’m so clearly, madly, deeply in love, you’re probably expecting me to be all gushy-mushy, lovey-dovey. But I won’t. Because I am every day. Because every single day with Mr. B is one filled with love and appreciation, admiration and adoration. Because one day out of the year? For me it’s just another day to spread love and joy. It’s no better or worse than Jan. 19 or July 6 or Oct. 23.

Yes, it serves as a reminder on our calendars to not take those we love for granted — including ourselves, by the way. It can even give us special traditions and memories.

meatloaf

In my family, Valentine's Day was ALWAYS about the heart-shaped meatloaf. This year, it was my turn. Mr. B officially has been welcomed to the family tradition.

And it reminds us to appreciate the people — and things — that bring love into our lives. In that way, I’d like to invite you into my world and introduce you to the loves of my life — and the things I will celebrate today:

  1. Mr. B. Clearly no list would be complete without him. His love has changed my life.
  2. My family. Always there — for better or worse. And always, always in my heart.
  3. My “new family.” Turns out, when you fall deeply in love with someone, you gain a whole new family. It’s kinda awesome.
  4. My friends. I don’t have many, but the ones I do? Fantastic.
  5. My job. To quote Katharine Graham: “To love what you do and feel that it matters — how could anything be more fun?”
  6. My health. How can I not be in love with my active, healthy lifestyle? I will never take my health for granted again.
  7. My hobbies. Running, reading, writing. They make me happy. And I love them for all they’ve given me — and all of their potential.
  8. My strengths. There are some things I’m pretty good at, and that makes me proud. I know my strengths, and I try to use them for goodness. Because that’s how you grow love.
  9. My weaknesses. The areas I need to improve make me who I am, and they give me drive and direction. They move me along and make me better. And every time I conquer one? All. The. Love.
  10. Myself. Ohmigosh, I just admitted that I love myself. I do. No apologies. I’m smart; I’m funny; I’m beautiful; and I’m worthy of my own love.

Don’t let Valentine’s Day define how you feel about yourself, your partner or your relationship. Celebrate it, if you choose, as a way of remembering how truly blessed your life is — single, married or “other.” Or don’t celebrate, if you choose, because your life is full of love all year long.

We shouldn’t wait to do this once a year — we should celebrate love in all of its forms, all of the time. My suggestion? Pick some random days on your calendar. Circle them. And do something for your loved ones (and yourself) that day — it’ll mean even more. Because, guess what, roses and chocolate are available all year long. Just like love.

A Valentine's Day gift from my boss.

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Why ‘Survive’ When You Can Thrive?

So often this time of year we hear people talking about “surviving” the holidays. And it’s not just the media — it’s coworkers, friends, family members, cashiers at the grocery store. It makes me sad. The holidays — if you celebrate them — are supposed to be about love and celebration, family and friends, hope and warmth.

I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. ~Charles Dickens

Granted, everything’s not always ideal. There are sad times and memories brought to life — brought into the spotlight — more so during the holidays than at other times of the year. But, still, for the most part, this time of year should be about celebrating and spreading love.

Look, I’m not super religious. Heck, honestly, I don’t know what I believe. But I do believe in the goodness of people and the kinship of humankind. This alone is enough reason to celebrate. (Though, I think we should do that all year long. But I digress.)

People are so busy hurrying, scurrying and worrying to really enjoy these things. They’re buying presents, cooking (way too much) food and counting down. And, honestly, they’re making themselves too busy to enjoy the peace of the season — no wonder they’re just trying to hold on, trying to survive.

This survival goes further than trying to “get it all done.” And in the world of someone who blogs about health and fitness (until she falls in love …) and trains with fellow fitness enthusiasts, it’s pretty common that this “survival” talk turns to food and treats and goodies.

christmas cookies

The annual "Cookie Table" at our family Christmas party.

But in my last two-and-a-half years on this get-healthy, live-better journey I’ve learned that it can’t be that. The holidays cannot — and should not — be a fight for survival. They should be a time to enjoy family and friends — and, yes, the treats that you don’t get throughout the year. (Hello, daiquiri cheesecake.) They should be a time of moderation and enjoyment. I’ve found that if I focus on all the things at these parties that I can’t eat, it does more harm than good. Rather, for me, a happy, healthy holiday means choosing the things I want to indulge in, enjoying them and moving on. There is no dwelling, there is no guilt. There isn’t even obsessive calorie counting.

The holidays also mean staying active. A trip home doesn’t mean I take the weekend off from running or training or working out. Yes, my workouts may move around and shape-shift. But on every day, I try to be active. This year I’m in marathon-training mode. That means I’m due for a 10-mile run on Christmas Eve. I’m hoping to get it done after the service at Mom’s church that evening. It’ll be a tight fit, but when I signed up for this marathon, I agreed to make my training a priority in my life. So, once the gifts are unwrapped, the goodies are tucked neatly in Tupperware containers and the carols have been sung, I’ll lace up my running shoes and hit the dark northern Michigan roads for a good, long run.

For me, the holidays are all about balance. Balancing indulgence with diligence, fun with work, want with need. Because I refuse to simply “survive” this season. I will thrive this season. Even if it means I come back home a couple pounds heavier. Cuz it’ll probably be from the ridiculous amount of love filling my heart.

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The Appearance of the Permagrin

I’ve been kinda quiet lately. Not because there’s nothing to write about. Because there is. Lots, in fact. My marathon is less than a week away. Exciting things are happening at work. It’s apple season in Michigan! I just spent a week in England.

Phone Booth

My week in England changed it all ...

And then, well … there’s this boy …

Do you ever feel like when things are going well — like, really, really well — you just want to keep all of the goodness for yourself? That’s kinda what I’ve been doing — holed up in my world, ignoring my little blog and soaking in the sunshine. But, I’m a writer. And eventually the words start leaking out. Drip, drip, drip … until, finally, I might as well blow the dam and share it with the world — it’s kinda hard to contain the goodness when it plasters itself all over my face in the form of a permagrin. The humming and skipping pretty much blows my cover, too.

skipping and jumping

Utter happiness is hard to contain.

Someone who I’m liking quite a bit told me to start at the beginning. And in the beginning is, well, me.

Relationships take work. All of them. The ones with our families, the ones with our coworkers, the ones with our partners and — most importantly — the ones with ourselves. They take work to make them work. I’ve been working on my relationship with Kimi Joy for a couple years now. Really, really focusing on loving her — just as she is. And loving her enough to know that she deserves better than what I’d been giving her.

I worked on my physical, emotional and spiritual health. And I was in a good place — the best place I’d been probably for my whole life. Happy. Working in a job I truly enjoy. Running. Spending time with my family. Soaking up the best that Michigan has to offer. Traveling. Sharing my joy with the world — through smiles and hugs and random acts. Making friends ’round the world. After years of wishing my life could be better, I found myself wonderfully content exactly where I was — blessed anew every morning I woke up, able to have another day.

And then something happened that knocked me off my feet. Something that stopped my life and completely changed the game. I met Mr. B. (Right now, I’m sure my family and friends are salivating … eager to hear about the elusive Mr. B. Well … I’ll give a little — but I’m not ready to give it all … yet.) Funny how when you truly care for yourself, you open yourself up to be cared for by someone else. Not because you need it but because you are worth it.

I truly believe that when you send love out into the world, it’s returned to you — 5-, 10-, 15-fold. Now, I’ve given my fair share of love into the world. But this? It certainly feels like more than my 15-fold.

So here I sit, just a month after meeting the person I never knew I should be looking for, wondering how it all happened. Life is moving fast — spinning and turning and sweeping me up. This list-maker, spreadsheet-lover, day-planner-adorer is finding herself lost in the moment. She’s trying hard to stay out of her head and live life as it comes. It’s throwing her off balance and taking her outside of her comfort zone. But you know what? It’s the best feeling in the world.

“Sometimes you don’t know you’ve crossed a line until you’re already on the other side. Of course, by then it’s too late.” ~Harry Stevenson, “Feast of Love”

It’s your turn to tell me: What do you do when you’ve found exactly what you didn’t know your life was missing?

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You Win Some, You Lose Some

My day started out with a craptastic run. It was not pretty. I was not pretty. And, admittedly, there were tears — of frustration, though, not of pain. In fact, I may have even cried when I was in the shower. But once I got out of the shower, I was determined to make the most of the day — while only kinda dwelling on the missing 10 miles from my running log. So, in an effort to appreciate the gifts that I have been given, I’d like to take just a few minutes and recognize the day’s wins:

  1. I got to run 2 miles. Some people can’t. Some people don’t know the joy that a run — even a short one — can bring. Sure, it wasn’t 12. But it was two. And for that, I am grateful.
  2. My barefoot shoes appear to help the ankle/foot situation. When I have them on, I walk with no pain. I haven’t done any major running in them — one 5k and a couple of for-fun short runs and walks. But I’m thinking it’s time to make the transition more real/permanent.
  3. I took a two-hour nap. I woke up at 4:30 this morning in anticipation of my long run. When that didn’t happen, I just went about my day. So, by the time the afternoon rolled around, I was ready for a rest. And I took it. Naps are wonderful gifts.
  4. My oldest friend stopped by for a visit with her son. We’ve been friends since before either of us could talk. Our shared history reminds me how wonderful true friendship can be.
  5. My friend’s son, Jack, is adorable. He turned 2 this summer. And it was so fun chasing him around the farm, watching him feed the chickens and letting him play on the tractors. Made me realize how much I can’t wait to have kids of my own one day to introduce to the wonders of the farm.
  6. Jack is just learning to talk, and he babbled on and on for practically the whole time. Some things I couldn’t understand, but when he was in the mudroom saying “Holy shit, holy shit, holy shit” for five minutes straight, I almost peed my pants. I realize that parents are horrified when their kids pick up swear words. As an aunt, I find nothing funnier.
  7. When I was walking my friend to her car, she said: “Holy crap, girl, you have some big calves. Must be from all the running.” Now, a word like “big” describing part of my body used to send me into a horrible period of self-hatred. But these calves? Yeah, I work hard for them. And they work hard for me. So. Proud.
  8. It’s apple season on the farm, and I get to eat all the free, glorious, fresh Ginger Golds I can.
  9. My youngest nephews, Caleb and Gage, give the world’s most amazing hugs. When I walked into their house, they gave me giant hugs and then Caleb quickly said, “Hey, what about that bleu cheese?” When he heard I was going to eat bleu cheese for dinner last night, he wanted to try it since his favorite color is blue. I forgot to take it to him this afternoon so that means another visit tonight!
  10. My mom’s homemade bread. Dipped in her homemade marinara. Enough said.

My list? Ten to one ratio of good to bad. How can I complain about that? See? It’s important to realize that no matter how bad things may seem, there is always, always, something to smile about.

Kimi Joy

How can I not smile? Life is good.

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Where in the World is Kimi Joy?

OK, so I’ve been quiet. I’m sorry — I really do miss writing and “talkin’” with all of you. But, sometimes when my heart is heavy all I want to do is write. Other times, my muse hides away in the deepest caverns of my soul and comes out when she’s darn well good and ready. Plus, I have been on vacation. And it was busy — and fun. Here’s a quick top 10 13 of the things I’ve been doing. I’ll be back later with full recaps on vacation, skydiving (!) and my 15k race.

  1. I went skydiving. Holy crap, I still can’t believe I did it!
  2. I spent some lazy beach time — and didn’t feel self conscious in my suit. At. All. Win, win, win, win, win.
  3. I worked on the farm — at our market and in the cherry trees.
  4. I ate way too many cherries to count.
  5. I spent some much-needed time reading for fun and chilling out in the sunshine (lathered with my SPF 50, of course).
  6. I ran. Even returned home to fit in a bootcamp session.
  7. I hung out with Rosebud a lot — though, “a lot” is not enough. There may have been some crying. And some ice cream. There may also have been a killer butt-kickin’ bootcamp mini session that caused RB to not be able to sit for two days. (Also win.)
  8. I spent one-on-one time with Mom and with Dad. I needed it. So did they. There may have been some crying.
  9. I got to play lots with my nieces and nephews. Family time is (mostly) fun time.
  10. I went on a boat and visited with my brother. RB was there, too (of course)!
  11. I helped build a grill.
  12. I caught up with some of my oldest and dearest friends.
  13. I ran a 15k race during the National Cherry Festival. There was a very big hill.

A couple pictures:

All suited up for skydiving

The instructor even picked a fun color for me!

Beach ready

Hey! Guess who didn't feel self-conscious walking around on the beach in just her bathing suit!

Rosebud Bootcamp

A very sweaty mini-bootcamp session with my sister was just what the doctor ordered.

Me on a boat

Loved getting to hang out on the boat (however briefly) with my brother and sister.

We built a grill

Look, Ma! We built a grill for Grandma!

Picking Cherries

Yep! I even picked some cherries. (Two for my mouth, one for the bucket.)

Rosebud and me

Rosebud and me after the race, looking very sweaty and accomplished.*

*Special thanks to Cherry Bay Orchards/Shoreline Fruit for allowing us to be part of their team — and for taking this rockin’ picture of us by the big cherry.

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