Thursday, February 23, 2012

Presence in Another Venue

I've posted quite a bit recently about presence. My one word. My focus for 2012. I've talked about presence at work, presence at home, and presence with the kids. I've been practicing my Momfulness meditations that focus on presence. I've definitely made some progress.

However, I realized this week that even with all of this practice and focus, I've completely lost being present in what is an important part of my life again. Running, training, getting back on track to triathlon in June and September and to run an 8k in a few weeks and possibly a half marathon in the fall. One of my Facebook friends posted a link to the most wonderful post at another runner mother. She talks about staging a comeback and how much true strength it takes to not go "balls to the wall" in the first few weeks back into training.

Oops. Yes, even though I know better and even though I have promised myself otherwise, I have gone a bit overboard, and I had to acknowledge this twice this week. On Tuesday morning when I could barely walk because of an intense leg workout I did on Monday. And then again yesterday (with still sore legs) when after pushing myself to run a mile in 10:16 with Rowan in the jogger, I totally burned out and could only run/walk mile two in 12:06.

It hasn't helped that yesterday I dug around and found old race times online. It hurt my ego to see that in 2008 at the Yorktown Triathlon, I ran my 5k at a 9:48 pace... after a solid 650 meter swim time and 12 mile bike time.

The beginning of the run during the Yorktown Tri, 2008

Needless to say, I felt very defeated and discouraged last night. I'm in a hurry to get back to where I was. And another runner mother is so right when she says that that you just can't pick up where you left off, which I know, but I also need to acknowledge to myself that I also won't get there in 4 weeks, either.

None of this fretting and comparing is accepting where I am right now. It isn't being present with my current fitness level, with my body's capabilities, with my mental strength. None of this is being present with the progress I have made in the last four weeks. I haven't been enjoying these moments of training, breathing them in, and staying present. I've only been able to focus on the person I was and what she could do four years ago, not the person I am now: slightly slower, a little older, but definitely smarter. Smart enough to know that I need to slow down and realize that I will get there again, to know that it's okay that I'm just not there yet. It doesn't make me less of a person, less of an athlete. It takes so much more mental strength to control your impulse to push yourself too far beyond where you are. It's a slow, building burn that is needed here in training, not a big explosion.

Funny that this resonates with my post from last week-- it's the small things, the small victories that I need to recognize and celebrate here, too.

So let me celebrate where I am right now.

In the past 4 weeks...
I've averaged 4-5 workouts a week.
I've shaved 2 minutes off of my 5k time when running solo.
I can run 2 miles consistently while pushing Rowan in the jogger (except for yesterday...).
Even though I died afterwards, I ran a 10:16 mile with Rowan in the jogger.

And you know what? That has to be good enough for me right now. It's the best that I can do with where I am. I will make improvements as I continue to train, but I need to do so smartly.  Otherwise I know I risk burnout and injury, so I'm taking a break tomorrow and probably Saturday, too. Maybe I'll throw in some light Pilates or yoga (part of my 40 day goal challenge!) to stretch my muscles and to practice being present.

I know from before that this is a wonderful journey. Pushing myself both mentally and physically and feeling the joy that comes from each success. I don't want to miss it by being too preoccupied with the end result.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

40 Day Goal Challenge

I love having bloggy friends! I learn so much, and I am continually inspired to write more, learn more, and be more. That is awesome. Here's the most recent...

A few years ago, I tried to commit to the 101 in 1001 project where you set 101 goals to complete in 1001 days, or just short of three years. I immediately felt overwhelmed. For starters, I couldn't come up with 101 goals and make them meaningful.  And then, 1001 days felt like a very long time. For me, the whole thing felt unmanageable and completely stressed me out. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the point.

The good news is that my friend at Breath of Sunshine introduced me to the 40 Day Goal Challenge, which she found at another great blog called Smile With Your Heart. It's perfect for the easily overhwelmed (me!) because you take 40 days to work towards manageable goals. The theory is that it takes 40 days to create or break a habit. And as an added bonus, you can reward yourself with a little something at the end. Fabulous!

This is coming at a perfect time for me. Just as my life is about to shift, as I'm about to transition to a completely different daily reality, I want guidance to keep myself focused. I have so many things that I want to accomplish and to adjust, both for me and for my family, that I'm starting to feel overwhelemed by them and just a bit scattered. Most importantly, I want to continue my Momfulness practice, maintain my focus on presence, and continue to grow in my journey in the Catholic faith. I think this is coming at a great time as Lent begins today (a 40 day period... how synchronistic!).

Just after my first Ash Wednesday service

Here is my first set of goals for February 22-April 8:

1. Blog, blog, blog! I'm thinking 3-4 times a week.
2. Run, run, run! 3-4 times a week. I'd like to reach a consistent 10:30 pace for 3-5 miles by the end of this set of 40 days.
3. Swim, swim, swim! I need to see the pool 1-2 times a week to be ready for Breezy Point in June.
4. Continue Pilates workouts 2 times a week. Maybe slip in some yoga for balance?
5. Do something special with the just the boys (at least a few times). Now that I'm at home, I definitely want to spend more time with just them.
6. Take Pacey running with me. He loves it, and what a great way to connect with him (and wear him out!).
7. Continue to resist sweets and sugar as what I'm giving up for Lent.
8. Read and discuss the Gospel readings for the week's Mass with the boys before Mass each week.
9. Schedule date nights with hubby. 1-2 would be awesome, unprecendented even!
10. Devise and implement a monthly plan for keeping the house clean and organized.
11. Organize our homework area and figure out how to keep Rowan occupied while I'm working with the boys, so she doesn't try to eat their homework.
12. Implement another meditation from Momfulness. Continue using the two meditations I've started with.

I LOVE stripes. And this has awesome reviews. It will be perfect for spring/summer runs and bike rides.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Small Things

I was talking to my friend Kristy at Breath of Sunshine, and she really got me thinking. In her journey to adapt to life with a new baby and an elementary schooler, she mentioned that she needs to celebrate the small things. Isn't this so true? I know that it is easy for moms to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of our jobs. Raising these little beings into well-rounded, happy, and healthy adults is a monumental task, and we take it very seriously. So seriously that often, we perceive we are failing. And failing miserably.

Or is it just me?

I completely understood her excitement about a successful bus stop trip, and I realized that those are the moments that really matter, that we build from as we mother our children. These moments deserve to be celebrated. Not only because they build our confidence as mothers, but because they are meaningful to our children, too.

Have the boys seen me struggle with balancing their needs with the needs of a baby? I know they have, and it hasn't always been graceful. Does this mean I have failed as a mother? In some moments, I believe that I have. When I feel vulnerable about my abilities, when I do not maintain presence, when I lose my temper, when all the plates I'm spinning come crashing down, I see a failure of a mom, someone who can't hold it all together.

But here's the important question that begs to be asked. Would my boys or Rowan see me as a failure? Despite the moments when I behave as less than what television has told us is right and the norm, they most definitely would not. And why? Because of the small things.

So here's to the small things that need to be celebrated, here's to mothering in the moment, and loving all of the experiences motherhood brings...
  • Here's to making Valentine's Day brownies with the boys while Rowan happily snacked on Goldfish crackers in her high chair. (This is HUGE for us!)
  • Here's to making it through homework time this week without anyone getting frustrated. (Another BIG feat.)
  • Here's to getting meatloaf (a favorite dinner) in the oven.
  • Here's to slow and unrushed bedtime storytimes, three nights in a  row.
Have there also been moments this week when I've been a little less than June Cleaver? Sure, and those are important, too. They remind me that I'm human, they give my boys opportunities to see that sometimes parenting is hard, and they give me something to work on. I think I'll try to post some of my small victories each week. To help me remember celebrate who I am as a mother and where I am on my journey.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


There will be big changes happening at the Rock House in the coming weeks. I've lamented and struggled about returning to work since Brown Baby was born. Poor Hubby had to see me heartbroken as the final days of my maternity leave drew to a close. I would cry hard tears if he or anyone alluded to August and returning to work. I would look at my baby girl, and my stomach would clench because I recognized that all that she knew of life (being home with me) was about to change quite a bit. My heart ached for both of us.

Being the financial wizard that he is, Hubby put together a plan to pay down some of our bills, so I could stay home with her after this school year was over. From August to July is such a very long time, especially in the life of a baby, but I was joyful at the prospect of one day being able to stay home with her and being more available to the boy-os. Even with this knowledge, I struggled. I cried daily at the separation from my sweet girl even though I know she was very well cared for at our beloved babysitter's home.

Hubby and I have often wondered how I made it through returning to work after I had the boy-os. I don't know. I know I was sad at first, but somehow I did it. Maybe it is maturity and knowing how fast kids grow, maybe it is because I knew staying home simply wasn't an option. Maybe it was because I was so miserable at home, so work was an escape. Whatever the reason, my heart was not nearly as broken then as it has been for the last six months. This heartbreak, this intense longing told me that I needed to be home with her and the boy-os, and I trudged through work each day, moving one step closer to that reality.

In early fall, our circumstances changed. Hubby's new position at work provided me the option of not having to work until July. I struggled to make a decision. I have invested ten years in the school system; it has been the only "real" job I've ever had, and I was nervous about breaking my contract. I quibbled many times about what to do, but it was over Christmas break, as I settled into a daily routine of sweet, easy mornings and quiet nursing naps in the rocking chair, that I realized I could no longer ignore my heart's whisperings. Time clips along too quickly to quibble; babies grow in the blink of an eye; small boys turn into big boys without notice. I had the opportunity to be more available to all of them, to be more present, to be happy and fulfilled by just being their mom all day. As anxious as I was to make a huge decision, I knew had to take advantage of that blessing.

God works in wonderful ways, and once I made the decision to resign early, and Hubby and I named a date, I felt peace. A peace that has been fleeting since I returned to work. I wasn't waking up with dread anymore. I wasn't looking at the calendar and seeing July, a small, far away beacon of light. I felt peace knowing that despite Hubby's busy work schedule, I would be able to regain order and balance in our house that is so elusive when both parents work (especially when a baby is part of the mix). I felt peace knowing that I will have more time to devote to the boys and their activities. I have received nothing but positive, supportive, and affirmative comments from friends and coworkers.  Men and women applauding my choice. After I confirmed everything with my principal, I came back to my office and cried. Cried with relief that the resignation process that was a source of anxiety was complete, but more so with joy that one day soon, I will not have to say goodbye to this girl every day.

And though it will be hard to say goodbye to teaching (for now), to say goodbye to so many good friends and colleagues, I look forward to this new adventure, to just being mom.

I wish I could cite the creators of the first two images. I found them on Facebook with no attribution.

Friday, February 10, 2012


I've definitely been feeling the pull of three kids this week. Monday afternoon was one of the most challenging afternoons in while due to a very clingy baby and the boys with their mounds of homework. I couldn't sit with them at the table without holding Rowan. I couldn't hold Rowan at the table because she kept trying to eat their papers. I couldn't stand by the table holding Rowan because she kept trying to launch herself onto the table from a few feet above. I lost my patience multiple times. With the boys, with Rowan, and with myself. There was no amount of breathing, no amount of telling myself that this is a wonderful moment that would work to focus me, to help me to be present in that moment and smile.
The pull continued as bedtime ensued.  Rowan wanted to nurse for 40 minutes or more, and every time I thought she was asleep and tried to put her down, she woke up screaming. I thought of my sweet boys who were upstairs, watching TV, waiting for me to come and tuck them in. Guilt creeped in and I struggled not to feel frustrated with Rowan, struggled not to yell out, "You're not the only kid I have!" I know it isn't her fault, and I know that as she approaches the one year mark, she is starting to settle in to things so much better. But the reality is that parenting a high-needs baby is exhausting, and I never feel like I have enough of myself to go around. I gave the screaming girl to Hubby, and I went upstairs and rushed through storytime with the boys. The rushing through part weighed on my conscience for the rest of the night. Afterwards, I realized that I was not present with them, that I could only hear the screaming cries from downstairs, and that I really missed out on that special time we share. It's what my Momfulness book calls absent presence:

The state of being present in the body but not in mind or heart is called absent presense and is actually the state that most of us live in much of the time. It's as if we are walking ghosts. Our children know that we're not really there. They don't feel truly seen or heard by us. Love is a body-to-body experience; when we don't make real contact, our loved ones don't experience the fullness of love. And neither do we.

This passage perfectly describes where I was on Monday night during the boy-os' bedtime routine. I was not really there with them. I was struggling internally with my guilt, my frustrations, and I'd wager they could tell.

This is not how I want to parent them. And it isn't the reality all the time; the breathing meditation helps keep me present quite a bit. More importantly, I'm learning to forgive myself when it isn't enough, when I can't find my smile like I couldn't during homework time. 

In moments like the rushed bedtime and really any interaction with them, this is another practice that I think will help. Now that the breathing meditation has started to become second nature, I'm going to add this to the mix.

Eye Contact Meditation
from Momfulness (I'm summarizing/paraphrasing. She describes it much more eloquently!)

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Finding Me

I've posted before about the dramatic effects having a baby has on your self-image, your entire sense of self. Lately, I have been feeling this pretty intensely. I'm not sure if my focus on being present has allowed me to recognize these feelings or if it is simply time for me to do something about it.

Since brown baby's arrival, I've been running off and on, and I love it, but I have either been too tired, too busy or too stressed about taking the time away from the family to run consistently. I have totally lacked motivation, and that is pretty foreign to me because I was at one point a workout whore (my self-titled nickname!).  I have been feeling pretty nostalgic for those days lately. I was so confident and felt so good about how I looked and the clothes that I wore.  I know I've done a pretty decent job in losing the baby weight, but I'm still about 15 pounds away from where I was back in those days.  And about 5 pounds away from where I was right before getting pregnant.

Last week I decided it was time to get serious and really work at finding me again. I know that having a baby redefines you. And this redefinition takes time, too. I'm so incredibly happy and fulfilled by our family, and there are also some big changes coming up that really speak to my heart, too (stay tuned!). The process of redefinition is powerful, and I know that thanks to little Rowan, I am a much better mother to all of my children because I am learning to be so much more in tune to who I am, both as a mother and a person.

I'm so glad I started to reread and rework through my Momfulness book, too, because I really believe I am able to come to many of these understandings through practicing being present and being open to both what I need and what my family needs. I love that I'm taking it slowly through the book this time, rather than speed-reading through it and not really making it a practice.

But let's get back to the point of this post! I've committed to training for two triathlons this year, and I am so incredibly excited at the thought. I'm not sure where in the past four years I lost my motivation for being a "workout whore," but I'm welcoming her back with open arms. I feel like I've rediscovered a part of myself. The part that had gotten lost in the excitement of a new relationship, the frustration of a knee and foot injury, the distraction of pregnancy, and the elation and exhaustion of new motherhood is emerging again. The newness of her presence is pushing me to happily train and train hard. To run faster, bike harder. To look forward to swimming again, to feel cold water envelop me and to welcome the burn in my arms.  I want to raise a banner over me that says, "Finally! Welcome back! (And please don't stay away for so long again!)"

So here's to a renewal of fitness, of health, of ME. My first event will be Breezy Point on June 3rd (which was my first tri ever) and the second will be the Patriot Sprint on September 9th. I'm also planning to do some short running races, too.

I can't wait to have my race number scrawled on my arm again!