What does 7 years of marriage look like?

I’ve heard of the 7-year itch and i guess it means growing tired of someone, moving past the comfortable bliss and just feeling like roommates. Does the itch need to be scratched and ultimately lead to divorce? I’m not sure.

This past week my husband and I celebrated seven years of marriage. After having grown two babies in my stomach and pushed them out, I would say that is 10 times easier than marriage. It is the hardest thing i can possibly do, and yet it is worth every single minute. It’s never giving up, not being able to turn a blind eye and walk away, and knowing that you better say what you mean and mean what you say, because there are consequences.

Seven years of marriage still feels like and has glimpses as to those early lustful days. There are still times i feel fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of my husband –maybe when he’s talking to someone else or a look he doesn’t give too often– and I’m taken right back to the nights in 2005 he used to make my stomach flip-flop. But of course, most days we’re in our “in-between clothes (not quite pajamas, but not really clothes we’d allow one another to wear in public”) and pretty worse for wear. Most days my hair is not styled and my make up is 12-hours old. We’re comfortable and casual, and used to it.

Seven years of marriage for us has seen us go through a few jobs, both quitting and being laid off, two children, one miscarriage, two homes. being landlords, owning property that requires an unGodly amount of upkeep and time, vacations in the Caribbean, New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, MIami,  and lots of places in between. It’s seen us stressed over some serious stuff and laughs and good times and all the fun we’ve had. We’ve probably been to 100 concerts in 7 years if not way more, experienced major life changes like children and home buying and making a financial forecast for our future.

We’ve created some traditions for ourself without meaning to. My favorite being watching the movie “Just Friends” every year at Christmas and hosting a murder mystery party that grows in attendance and interest annually.

Seven years means that you no longer hide when you’re annoyed with someone. It means pointing out their flaws and venting your frustrations, more often than not. It means thankless hours of yard work or grocery shopping and preparing meals and fixing things because it just becomes a routine you settle into. It means more pops on the mouth than passionate kisses, and even quick, “lets-do-this-before-the-kids-need-us” sex versus life-changing love making. It’s rushing through an entire day sometimes barely seeing one another because you’re tied to kids’ activities, volunteer work, household chores and routine monotony just to get everything checked off the daily list.

It sounds like a bit of glim picture when i say it like this. Is this what my husband envisioned when he proposed atop that sexy patio rooftop in downtown New york City? Did he foresee me in my yoga pants nightly, serving chicken casseroles accompanied by cheap wine and focusing most of my time and energy on our two children? Probably not.

I’m guessing what he did envision though was having a life partner. Having a best friend who has his back. Having someone to raise children with who understands they are a priority and often come first. At least that’s what i envisioned.

Because as much as the above is true of our marriage, there is so much more. Seven years has given us the time to know that life ain’t always easy. It’s not always what we thought it would be. There’s a saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. With that in mind, we rarely try to plan. We have a few goals for ourselves and each other, but we don’t expect to cross them off on a calendar by a certain date. We know that so many things can tempt and test our faith in one another, in God, in our love and ourselves. We’ve learned that communication is necessary to move past the frustrations. We’ve learned to recognize the power that can come with a compliment, the time it can take to do something nice for the other because they REALLY need a foot rub or just “pass” from putting the kids to bed one night. OUr marriage is strong and solid and stable. It might not be the romance or excitement our first year of dating, or even our fourth was, but it’s the real deal and it’s not going anywhere.

The things i love the most about seven years of marriage are knowing that i’ve changed personally quite a bit. I’ve got new goals in life and passions and friends and tastes in clothes and food and music. So i’m not the same person I was in 2008. ANd thankfully, neither is my husband. I can’t very well expect for him to be fine with my changes and me not recognize his newfound love for football or politics or this or that. To know we’re not the same people we were when we first started dating, and we’re still completely in love, means we’re still constantly connected to one another and growing and evolving as a couple.

Thankfully our family lives nearby so we’re able to have a night to ourselves pretty regularly. Sometimes it means dinner out somewhere expensive and yummy, and other times it can mean a night out of town for a concert or getaway. But a lot of times it just means a night at home without the needy cries in the morning for breakfast or entertainment. It can be just some time to stay up late having a bonfire in our backyard “connecting” with one another. We thankfully haven’t lost sight of the importance of date nights. We give each other lots of space, be it a regular poker game, or volunteering at church, or going out with girlfriends, etc. BUt we also have a weekly “show” we watch together, still try to have Friday night movies, and make sure to eat dinner together with our kids every.single.night.

Seven years is something to be proud of in this day and age. Even one year is something to be proud of. Divorce is so rampant that it’s like an epidemic. Some people take it for granted and others fought tooth and nail for their marriage and it still just didn’t work out. Whatever the reason, I don’t judge. Marriage is hard. And i hope to make it seven more, and seven after that, and so forth and so on. Because for me, my marriage is sacred and tried and true. My husband may laugh at my wanting to celebrate our anniversary sometimes, but’s not a day i brush off lightly. It stands for so much more and is what I’m most proud of. Because without it, i wouldn’t have my children and the emotional wellbeing that my marriage provides. I thank God for it every day.

 

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Our first home we purchased together with our first "baby" Grover. ANd pregnant at the time with our first son Cohen.

Our first home we purchased together with our first “baby” Grover. ANd pregnant at the time with our first son Cohen.

Halloween 2009, Dog and Beth Bounty Hunter

Halloween 2009, Dog and Beth Bounty Hunter

Second new years together 2006

Second new years together 2006

Long haired Sean 2006

Long haired Sean 2006

Sean's attempt at long hair 2006

Sean’s attempt at long hair 2006

engagement session "jennifer and sean"

engagement session “jennifer and sean”

one of my fave engagement shots

one of my fave engagement shots

Aiken bluegrass festival 2006

Aiken bluegrass festival 2006

the earliest days..

the earliest days..

Boone skiing 2006

Boone skiing 2006

What’s Your Treadmill Speed?

Today at work a coworker and i were saying our goodbyes and he asked if i had any fun plans for tonight. I replied half-way jokingly, “oh, you know, just getting on the treadmill that is my nightly routine.” He said “Oh you get on a treadmill every night?” He seemed impressed. He missed my metaphor. “No, my life is a treadmill at home, at night, during the week.”

I went on to explain that after my 45-minute commute through horrendous highway traffic, I walk in the door to three hungry faces who are all a little grumpy and tired from the day. But they are always happy to see me, and I, happy to see them. But before i even put my purse down, one of the three asks (in their own childish or adult-ish voice) “what’s for dinner?” “what are you making mom?” or my favorite, “WAAAAHHH-WAAAAHH.” So with too-tight workshoes still on, I come up with something and spend the next several minutes cooking dinner.

I will admit, some nights our dinners are convenient and faster than others and probably less nutritious. And sometimes, on a good day, they are preplanned and contain a nice palette of colors–attempts at replicating that food pyramid thingy and hoping at least one drop of green beans accidentally co-mingles onto the same fork as the tater tot and finds its way into my four-year-old’s mouth. But let’s be honest, usually dinner ends with an abundance of food on the floor from a one year old and some tears or fighting with the four year old. My husband is a good sport and will try to mediate and help both kids not go to bed hungry.

From there, it’s a toss up of “who-did-you-put-to-bed-last-night” and we make the long journey upstairs. The next hour continues with our bedtime routines. Teeth brushing, pajamas, praying we don’t read the same book as the last 80 nights (but we still do), trying to go to the bathroom multiple times and then with the other kid, trying to get a 12 month old to sit through a few books. It’s like clockwork, a treadmill that we find ourselves on every night. Going through the routine and the motions almost effortlessly.

After the kids are to bed, I told my coworker, whichever of us is done first comes down to clean up the kitchen. By 9 pm we’ve usually finished all semblances of chores and kids and there’s hope that we might  get to chat with one another. Sometimes that hope is dashed though bc one of us will need to pay bills, or do a household project. And it’s now 10 pm and we’re tired and ready for bed.

I exhausted myself just relaying the thoughts in my head of what faced me when i got home. “What if the kids could just put themselves to bed,” my husband and I have said jokingly. “Should we cut down the routine from three books to one?” “what are we doing that takes up so much time at night?” We’ve asked ourselves before. All of this takes away from any precious moments we have together or to ourselves after a long day.

My coworker kind of half smiled and looked fondly back on the sound of those memories. “Yea, i’ve almost forgotten what that was like.’ his oldest son just went to college and his youngest daughter is full of activities every night of the week. He said they were lucky if they had dinner together three nights a week.

“When did you get off this treadmill feeling?” i asked. What was the magic age i wondered? I was hoping for 5 and 2, meaning next year for me. But his answer surprised me. “Well you never really do. You just get to a different speed.”

I paused for a second and thought about the answer. He was right. As parents, we probably never get off the treadmill that is parenting. Right now, I am running uphill about 7 mph (my average is like 4 so this is a sprint) and can only catch my breath when i jump off for a minute or two. But it never really stops and it’s always hard. “Yea, you start to kind of go downhill, or slower after a few years,” my friend replied.

I thought back to life with one kid. How hard that was and seemed. And we still decided to purposely add another. And i think about people with more than two. How much different that must be. What speed are they on?

On the long drive home I often have time to think of things. And tonight i thought about although my time with the kids is a good two hours (from cooking dinner to the final kiss goodnight) it’s time I have with them uninterrupted. There are no cell phones or Tvs or iPads during dinner or bedtime. We act goofy and sing songs and my oldest and I have come up with 13 different ways to give each other a bedtime kiss (they are bizarre re-enactments of animal actions). We play games like farm bingo and Five Little Monkeys (literally) jumping on the bed. We act out characters and scenes from books (his favorite is Ferdinand the Bull. I am Ferdinand smelling flowers, and he is the bee landing on me and I have to go ‘crazy.”) we do all of this before bedtime and while it’s happening, I am in heaven.

Even changing my youngest’s diaper, trying to wrestle him to stay on the changing table and not leap into his crib, I am so thankful. yes, we’re on a hard cycle, a never-ending treadmill, but in some ways I’m glad it’s an endless trip. I’m grateful that i don’t have to get off and God gave me the opportunity to put myself second, and sometimes third, so my little family can thrive. I can’t ever turn down one more “lion kiss” or “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” reading if it means making them feel happy, loved and secure. To me, anything else would be like cheating.

How can i do anything but love these two?

How can i do anything but love these two?

Overwhelmed by kindness

My son turned four this past weekend and one of the things we talked about was picking out a toy to give away to someone less fortunate. We were looking through the insane amount of toys he had and books and he decided he wanted to donate a book and a card game. At church he learns about giving offering to those who need extra help, so the fact that he decided to do this on his own was impressive.

He had also put some money from his piggy bank into a separate bank that he asked to take to church this past Sunday and give to our pastor. He loves holding the money jar to walk around and ask people for money (the kids bring $1 or loose change each week to donate at the kids’ service). Several church members think he should be the next treasurer since he has no problem asking for donations. It’s always comical to watch him race to the stage to be the first to grab the jar.

But to know at age four, he is already aware that others aren’t as fortunate as he, and he wants to give back.

Tonight, I had the opportunity to have dinner with two families who are homeless. My church is part of a group called GAIHN, which sets up a weeklong “home” for women and families and gives them warm meals, a bedroom of fold-out beds, showers, laundry services and the opportunity to eat with members of the church. I brought pizza and salad and there were cookies and drinks for the two families to eat. People at church sign up for shifts to keep the families company.

So often, the face of homelessness and poverty is synonymous with laziness or freeloaders. People put such a stigma on the homeless as though they are just looking for a handout and refuse to get a job. The families in the GAIHN program have access to GED classes and job fairs. And they aren’t allowed to stay in their rooms during the day, but rather, must be out and about and potentially, looking for jobs. But I’m sure it brings them great comfort to know they have a roof over their head at night for them and their children.

Tonight there was a woman who had three children; a 15-year old girl, a 10-year old girl and a 4-month old baby boy. To see the baby hit home with me, as I have a 10-month old boy. Knowing she is homeless with such a young child just immediately grabbed my heart. We had a great dinner conversation and laughed and joked about baby stuff and I couldn’t help but smile at how cute the boy was. The woman mentioned her husband was staying at another shelter becauase they were going through a divorce. To already be divorcing with a four-month old again was just so sad to me. But she talked about the hardship of trying to work but not being able to afford childcare. As someone who has been puzzled and a little put off about the ABC vouchers allowed at my daycare, it suddenly hit me as to how valuable they are so that people in this situation can have the opportunity to send their kids to daycare at an “affordable rate.” Sadly, this woman couldn’t quialify for them and had nowhere to send her kids so she could try to work.

The other family who sat down was a woman, also with three kids. They were 14, 11 and 8. They were all as sweet as can be. As I spoke to the woman with the older kids, the floodgates opened. She just started telling me her whole life story and the position she was in. She had worked at a call center working her way up, making $35,000 a year and with no education, not even a GED, she was so proud.

But then her oldest son’s father committed suicide and so she was having issues with childcare. She didn’t trust her son yet to be the babysitter for the other two after school and she wound up in some bad situations with people taking advantage of her while trying to find reliable child care. As a result, she started missing work a lot so she could be there when her kids got off the bus. And ultimately, lost her job. She now flips burgers at Burger King and is afraid of what is to come for her family. Yet she is hopeful something will change for her.

We talked for quite a while and I offered to review and edit her resume, a skill I’ve enjoyed doing for others. She was extremely grateful. I watched as her kids enjoyed the pizza I’d brought and were very polite. We continued to talk and she told me her fears of her oldest son entering high school this fall. When I asked her where he was going to go, she winced a little, saying “we don’t have an address. So I don’t know.” It was then that it really hit home to me how dire the situation was.
Yet then, she started telling me about her heart-to-heart with her son. She told him how right now, he’s about to go to high school, and the future is bright before him. She wants to lead by example of what NOT to do, but also what TO do as far as making things change. She is so afraid he will say “well momma, you didn’t finish high school, why should i?” She is struggling with how to be a good role model, when she doesn’t feel worthy. She desperately wants him to graduate and get a job and have a great life. You could just feel the desperation leaking out of her.

Yet she never once complained or asked for anything or made me feel as though she wanted a handout. Like all good moms, she just wanted her children to be safe and well-cared for. She mentioned being embarrassed going to a job fair in her Burger King uniform, yet we talked about how that shows she already works and has a good work ethic and is employable. Her face lit up when I told her I would look at her resume. I was about to give her the shirt off my back when she said she was so sick of her clothes smelling like French Fries. But she said it almost jokingly, yet I know she was serious. But again, she didn’t ask for anything, just talked about all the ways she was going to try and figure out how to improve her situation. She currently wakes up at 4:30 for her early shift, works till lunch, then spends her free time before she gets her kids from day camp looking for jobs, applying and exploring the GED program. She barely sleeps.

As I was leaving I went back to the first mom I spoke to and asked if she could use some baby clothes, since my baby was a little older and I still have lots of baby clothes lying around. She was very gracious and said she’d appreciate anything. She asked if I knew of a stroller or had one, as that was one item she really needed. It was hard to carry the baby around everywhere and his carseat, as we all know, was getting heavy.

I’ll be honest, I have two strollers. Two. The Jeep Umbrella one and the Chicco one. And I actually do use them both. But I felt guilty in that moment knowing she needed one and I have two. So I decided then I’d try to buy her one. As a member of the Facebook group, KidsSift, I thought, maybe someone would have a cheap one that was gently used I could sell. I wasn’t sure if it was acceptable to be asking for stuff on the site, so I was a little apprehensive when I posted “anyone got a stroller for cheap for a homeless family at my church?”

Yet an AMAZING thing happened. As of now, my post has roughly 40 responses from women offering strollers big and small, formula, clothes, toys, furniture, offering to buy things for the family. I am blown away. Part of me wants to take it all and just give it to as many families that come through our church program. I don’t even know what to do with it all just yet. The comments from these strangers to me were so beautiful. Woman after woman, mom after mom, wanted to help. They all have young ones at home and undoutedbly are super busy and probably stretched a little thing with daycare and multiple children. Yet none of us are in the situation as these women at my church this week. And we all know it is an unspoken rule among mothers to help others.

To me, children are the most beautiful gift from God. They truly are a miracle. And to think any mother or child doesn’t have a home to raise them in, is heartbreaking. At the end of the day though, we don’t need the Kate Spade diaper bag or the ultra-expensive stroller. We just need a few necessities like diapers, wipes, clothes, food and love. Mostly love.

This mom wasn’t asking me for anything, other than maybe just did I know where to find a cheap stroller. And yet by me asking just the same question, I can’t wait to surprise her with the kindness of so many others. It reaffirms to me how awesome God is and his ability to provide when others need it most. I am humbled to see the hearts of others open to give this woman a care package that her son, named Kingdom Isreal, will greatly benefit from. Thank you all.

Today and this week, I’ve had a lot of insight and reflection. From seeing my own son learn the importance of giving to others, to seeing strangers offer to help me help someone else, to just the true faces of poverty and homelessness and how they defy the stereotypes. Next time you see someone down on their luck, just know they probably love their kids just as much as you do and are fighting harder than we’d ever know possible to keep their families together.

God is good, all the time.

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Seeing light through others’ eyes

It’s pretty hard to ignore the fact that our country is in a state of unrest. It saddens me to see all the racial hatred that exists, from the recent police brutality situations to the most recent horrible tragedy in Charleston. While we seem to take several steps forward with progress toward the LGBTQ community, we can’t help but to beckon the days of segregation with acts like those of the Charleston shooter, the policy in McKinney, Texas, and other situations. While I never have all the facts, and in some cases I think there is probably more than what the media portrays, I just wish people could be people no matter their skin color or sexual orientation, and we could look past it. Just as I can’t help but be a white female, African-Americans and homosexuals are the same way. They are my friends and no different than any of my white, heterosexual friends. I just don’t understand why we can’t live in harmony.

But today’s blog isn’t about the injustice of the world, as much as it is the ability I had to capture some innocence and forget about all the evil that exists. In my own backyard, I felt something special today. I saw life through my child’s eyes, and it was beautiful and bright.

For years we’ve had a PlayNation playset sitting under our work shed in the back yard. We dismantled it from a friend years ago and were waiting until our son was old enough to enjoy it. Our family friend gave it to us for a deal if we took it down from his back yard (he bought a house with a set that he didn’t want). So lo and behold, my husband and I jumped on the $3500 set for a fraction of the cost and some old fashioned elbow grease.

Fast-forward a few years later and we knew with our son’s 4th birthday around the corner, this would be a perfect birthday gift. It so happened to be Father’s Day weekend and my husband and I thought how nice it would be to have his brothers over for some extra muscle and his father to help guide the swing-set rebuild. See, there were no instructions or even a photo to go off of, so reverse-engineering was crucial. All five Clark men ascended to the yard to have some bonding time and build our boy a playground of his own.

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I peaked outside a few times to capture the progress on camera and could tell boys were enjoying themselves. It’s not everyday you can get these guys together and out at 8 a.m. on a Saturday to start building something they will never use. So I cannot say how much I appreciated them. I gave them all some sandwiches and lots of hugs and thank yous, but the real joy came when Cohen saw it for the first time.

I had grand ideas of keeping it under a tarp and displaying once his birthday rolled around, but that’s 30 days from now and not practical. So we gave it to him today, allowing the builders to also reap the benefit. To see Cohen’s eyes light up, and his voice shriek with excitement as he went down the slide was worth every penny.

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Afterward we had a big swim party with the rest of the Clark men and their wives and kids and such. For a few hours it was just a nice day of relaxing and enjoying family. I didn’t have to think of the unjust world outside my yard’s perimeter. I didn’t have to worry about protecting my child or trying to affect change. I got to see things through his chlorine-filled eyes, and I loved it. I know one day he’ll know the violence that exists, the bullying, the hatred, the struggle that our world faces everyday. But today, he was surrounded by love, positive reinforcement, gratitude and joy.

As we swung together after everyone left, I couldn’t help but feel I’d achieved the American Dream. Some may say it’s dead, but I think I got it. I try hard to not just depend on God in times of need, but rather, always be gracious for what I’ve been given. Today, I must have said thanks a million times. For a beautiful home, family, job I love, friends and health, I don’t think things could be any better.

Now if we can just get everyone else in the world under my same spell, maybe we’ll see some brighter days.

Finally, again, I’m a triathlete!

IMG_3413I did my first triathlon in 2006 after many years of being unhealthy, overweight, totally inactive and somewhat depressed. It was for sure, an act of God that I even signed up for it. My coworkers at the time thought I was kinda crazy and my boyfriend (now husband) supported me from afar. But really, it was just something I decided to do. It was as outlandish as the average person saying they wanted to do a marathon or something. Now, granted, it was a sprint triathlon, but still, it was 3 sports at once.

I definitely kind of got the bug and went on to do 3 more after that. None of them were my forte by any means, and each goal was always to finish, have fun and give it 100 percent. Growing up athletic but slow, meant that my goals were always to try my best and beat my own records. If I did that, then I won the approval of my parents and ultimately, myself. If I beat anyone else at the same time, then great. But overall I just like to be able to tell myself I did my best.

So after seven years, I had a couple of kids, got hitched, started a new job and settled into that wonderfully sublime part of marriage where you think your husband loves you for you, and you’re comfortable. Then kids happen (with great joy I must add) and those nights of cooking for one, having all the time in the world to meal plan and work out and train seem to dissolve before your very eyes. How wonderfully bliss those days were. I wanted more and yet today, I yearn for that simplicity. I see my sister having Dateline (TV show) marathons on Saturday afternoons, nursing a hangover and yearn for that time I could just lay on the couch in my PJs and hang around until time to go back out and party again. Instead, I have a 9 month old who needs bottles, baby food, constant stimulation, rocking before naps, toys, games, loving, kisses, etc. I have a almost-four-year old who wants me to get his favorite movie queued up, fix the right kind of cheese crackers (not the generic mommy!!) and make sure his straw fits perfectly into the cup that has a pre-built straw. It is beyond exhausting. Of course, I would never trade it. But sometimes it’s hard to imagine I could have ever been as exhausted in my single days as I am now.

Needless to say, as a working mother, something gets sacrificed and most often, it is myself. My days are filled with getting kids up and ready for school, and if I’m lucky enough to shower in the morning, I go to work with air-dried hair. Hopefully my sons’ outfits match and I have the right shoes on them, but my breakfasts tend to be whatever I can eat and drive with at the same time. I look at their nice breakfasts my husband makes them while I’m getting them dressed, and I smile knowing we have a beautifully balanced role, yet I’m a little jealous that my fiber bar will not be near as good as the turkey sausage, banana muffins, orange juice and yogurt my son has (for breakfast number 1 I might add; he gets another at school) . Yet I continue on.

See, in these years, your choices are to put your kids before yourself, your job before your own well-being, your husband before yourself and well, yourself last. I’m guessing many other women are in this same predicament, or have been, and we quite often find ourselves forgetting to wear make up or look as good as we want to; not because our husbands make us or we feel like we have to, but just for the sole reason that we WANT to. And so sadly, we are often forgotten. We obligingly put everyone else before ourselves. Maybe that’s the sign of a good wife or mother, but it’s also probably a check on a list of things that can cause women to go crazy years from now.

So in January, I decided to revisit my triathlon days and sign up for another one. I figured why not have something looming over my head like a freaking triathlon to motivate me. I knew I would probably wait until the last few months to really give it the old college try but I also knew, come hell or high water I would do it.

But this time I wanted to get my sister involved. She’s always been the person I look out for most and I knew she wouldn’t ever do one alone, but because I know she’s hard-working, I thought this could be a new role for her to try with my guidance. I was hoping to have a training partner and such. So I paid for her entry and lo and behold we signed up together.

For months, I trained. Every Tues I committed to doing long bike rides after work, which meant I missed my son’s gymnastics. Granted, most nights were quite the same routines and so I prob didn’ t miss much. But due to the hills on the bike route, I would many time have given anything to be at gymnastics over that damn bike

But I decided somewhere between Feb and March that it was finally time to take back some time for me. And what better way to do so than with some healthy training for a big race. I use the term race lightly bc no part of me was racing. But there ARE some people who take these things seriously. There may even be cash prizes, I’m not sure.

I know my work friends and Facebook friends and real-life friends were sick of hearing about it, but I must admit, the only reason I talked about the triathlon so much was it was my way of reminding myself it was real. See, I’ve gained some weight since getting married and so I knew no part of this would be easy. And by mentioning the words TRI-ATH-LON every chance I could, I knew that enough people would hear about it and therefore, I would be held responsible. Was I scared about the bike? Hell yea! Did I think I could do it? Not sure. There was a 2-hour cutoff that I’d never endured before and on each test run I was coming in reallllly close to the 2-hour mark

The hardest part about training though was the time it meant away from my family. I must give my husband the biggest shout out bc of how amazing he is. He more than took one for the team, he took over. Nights and weekends of meal prep and putting kids to bed and just being an amazing father, my husband was my biggest cheerleader. He, has expressed that he would like me to be the healthiest version of myself as I can be, so he didn’t mind being mom and dad at times if it meant I was out training and preparing.

Race day finally came and the 4:45 wake-up call was a bit brutal. Having two kids who sleep through the night, I haven’t woken up that early in a while. Especially on a Saturday. My nerves were surprisingly pretty calm, but my sister was feeling them so I vicariously became a little jittered. Still, the thought of finishing in 2 hours was something that went through my head over and over again. I researched the slowest people’s times from the year before and there was one woman, Alice, who came in last and had about 8 minutes to spare.

As my sister and I lined up our bikes I started having this weird sense of de ja vu. I felt like it was my first triathlon all over again. She mentioned how amateur we looked in our non-sponsored tri gear. She on a hybrid bike and in a bathing suit, looked out of place compared to the professionals with their $10,000 bikes. But we settled into our bike rack with other slow pokes and I immediately met Alice. She told me she wasn’t sure if she was ready to give up her last-place spot after I told her I’d probably come in last. I immediately liked her.

Steph (my sister) and I checked out the transition area (what was up with the hike down the hill from the pool to the bike!) and made mental notes of what all to do when. I giggled a little when she realized that you don’t really dry off after the bike, but rather just get on and go. Yep, wet, and gross! But I was so glad to have her with me and to know we were doing this together.

We waited for our swim time to start and made friends with Alice and some other ladies. But finally it was our time and we took off. I was thrilled with my swim (it’s the only thing I’m really decent at) and felt strong the whole way through. Gearing up for the bike, I knew it was “go” time. See, the bike was the hardest part for me. I’d trained and each time it had gotten easier, but it was still a beast of a ride. I only felt validated with an acquaintance of mine who does the real IRONMAN distance told me how much she hated this bike route as well.

Steph and I were neck and neck during the bike and passed one another a few times. I mainly just wanted to check in with her and make sure she was having fun or okay. She had a sweet friend who came to cheer us on at every turn. One of my favorite things about triathlons is the comraderie (after you move through the elite people) that you feel. As people pass you, they say “great job,” or “keep going.” Even as people passed me, I felt a need to tell them great job. Because I knew they were working extra hard to peddle or run faster to pass me. It’s not a competitive feeling but rather one where we’re all out there celebrating the fact that we’re completely insane to be doing this. One time during the bike I heard from behind “passing on the left Jennifer!” I looked and it was Alice passing me. I felt so happy for her, even though it meant I was probably coming in last. But for her, knowing she was trying to beat her goal of being last, last year, I was excited for her.

I finally made it through the bike in about 45 minutes, which was 15 minutes under my envisioned time and figured I’d be great on the run. I got off and started jogging when I immediately had a paralyzing cramp. My left calf collapsed and shot pain up my leg leaving me to limp. A man next to me had the same thing and we talked each other through it. For 5 minutes it felt as though I’d been shot in the leg. Finally, it passed, and I was able to start jogging. Once again, everyone that passed me had a big smile and congratulated me. And I tried to do the same for them.

About half way into my run, a friend of mine who wasn’t doing the race popped up to say hi and bring me water. It was so sweet. She, being an avid biker and runner, was there to help me break or meet my goal time, and kept me moving quickly. We checked my pace against the clock and she encouraged me to push a little harder. I’d lost my sister because she kept going ahead of me when I had to stop for the cramp (she didn’t know I was having one, in her defense).

Finally, I came into the home stretch of the run and could see the finish line. Most people had packed up their transition area. Some had showered and gone home and come back for the awards, and others were celebrating with their families. I had hoped my boys would all be there but I found out afterward my oldest son was sick. Thankfully my sister and friends were cheering for me and I ran the last quarter mile or so as fast as I could at that point. I ran through the finish line and a sense of pride shot over me like that cramp had gone through my leg. It was over. I was once again a triathlete.

Alice came in a little after me and once we compared times, it turns out she had shaved 8 minutes off her time last year and had in fact beaten me. I did not; however, come in last and I had more than 15 minutes to spare before the cutoff. Mission accomplished. One New Years Resolution I had stuck with and met! And I’d be lying if I haven’t already looked at a few others in the coming months! J

I hope anyone reading this will take away that setting a goal that seems and feels completely outlandish or unattainable is doable with the right mindset. It’s really mind over matter and about 60% physical and 40% mental. I would love to encourage my mother or father even to try a tri! Anything is possible!

Tri-ing hard

It’s funny when I talk to people about doing this triathlon in a couple of weeks and the reactions I get. Most seem to say things like “oh better you than me,” or “good luck with that,” but the ones who are already athletic and in shape, seem to “baby” me or try to give me some kind of confidence boost as though I’m probably going to fail. They don’t do it intentionally, I don’t think, but it drives me crazy. In short, because I am overweight, they think I am taking on more than I can probably do, and therefore, need some confidence. What they don’t know is that fat or skinny, I am not someone who gives up and is not afraid to come in last. I am, however, afraid to never try.

Recently, I’ve upped my workouts to 5-6 per week. That’s an achievement for anyone, in my opinion, much less someone who holds down a 40-hour a week job, has two small children, commutes 45 mins each way and still gets meals on the table at night for their family and tucks the kids into bed. Most days, my hair does not look as pretty as some of the other girls in the office (does wetàdry-on-the-way-to-work count as a hairdo?), but I am at least dressed in my business attire. I’ve been skipping lunches with friends to do Zumba or the treadmill. I’ve given up watching my child at gymnastics in order to take long bike rides. I’ve done two 5k events in less than a month. So needless to say, I am really taking this thing seriously.

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Up the swamp rabbit race!

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Trying to enjoy biking. My least favorite part of the race.

5k Swamp Rabbit Race with my sister, triathlon-partner-in-crime

5k Swamp Rabbit Race with my sister, triathlon-partner-in-crime

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My third triathlon in 2007.

But it annoys me when people look at me, and judge me by my size, so as to say and think, “well, do you really think you can do a triathlon?” Sure, I may not look like a svelte athlete, but the whole point of this is to get healthier and have a goal so that maybe one day I will! Because not having something to work toward is much harder for me to stay on track. Most people I know would probably never even sign up! This way, I have an end in sight, until the next goal.

I’d be lying if I wasn’t nervous. The bike portion alone keeps me up at night because the course must be done in 2 hours or less. And adding up my 5k time and bike time (not counting if I have to get off the bike and push it uphill), I am going to be quite close to the 2hr mark.

Last Friday night after work, I wanted to go home and eat pizza and hang out with my kids and supportive, awesome hubby. But I biked a hill workout and then went to swim. The man I shared the pool lane with was very nice and encouraging (we chatted about swimming a little bit and what not) but he kept condescendingly saying things like “well, I’m glad you’re getting back out there and trying. Even if you don’t finish, at least it was a start.” Which yes it’s true but who says I won’t finish? I can see it in people’s eyes and hear it in their voice, that they think I am less of a competitor. It really is annoying. I know they are trying to be encouraging and helpful, but really, I just feel sorry for people who think that because I am fat I will fail and give up. They didn’t know me as an 8 year old swimmer who swam the longest and hardest events in swim team every meet. They didn’t know me as the girl who was so aggressive in basketball I had to wear knee pads and fouled out many a game. They don’t know that this is in fact my fifth triathlon, and I sucked at the previous four, but I still did them. I am a hardworking, athletic person, no matter my size, and do not ever give up. As I say all the time, “you never know unless you tri.”

#WorkitOut100 100 Days to a Healthier Me!

Ive recently taken on a bold goal of training for another triathlon. It is 3.5 weeks away and i’m as nervous as i was the first time i did one back in 2006. I’ll be the first to admit my training has only been ramped up the last two months from 2-3 days a week to 4-5, and even more, this last month (5-6 days a week). So it may be a long shot that i even cross the finish line in 2 hours (the given time limit).

But the triathlon is more about an overall goal to be healthier than it is to do a fitness race, because let’s face it, i’m only shooting to cross the finish line. The competitor in me realizes i will be the fattest girl out there so i’m not trying to beat anyone. But oh well, you never know unless you Tri!

But because i know after the triathlon I will be very reluctant to want to work out (hence having the goal),  I’ve decided to simultaneously start another challenge as well, the #WorkitOut100 challenge. This is a challenge to work out 100 days in a row. It’s a pretty well-known initiative that I encourage people to look into. Obviously some days can be easier than others, so I’ll need those “rest” days to be a little easier (ab workout versus a 15-mile bike ride) But i’m thankful that my work makes it really easy to work out and I’ve met lots of people who enjoy working out so that i can have different people to join me on my journey.

Today’s workout was Zumba! Here’s to day 1 of 100!