Today I ran Wildwood Park’s inaugural RunWild 5K.  It was a great point to point course with some small rolling hills that somehow managed to end with almost a half mile of downhill.  It got me thinking about my high school cross country coach, Loyal Kaeding, who taught me how to run hills.  At the time, the lesson was strictly about running, but I’ve heard the words of his lessons play through my head many times over the past 18 years.

Coach Kaeding’s methods for running uphill were simple:  Pump your arms, bend your knees, dig in with your toes. If you are running on a trail and the hill is steep enough, use your hands to pull yourself up the hill. Living in Central Arkansas, I still run up literal hills quite often, but I also have faced many a figurative hill in my life.  Even for the figurative kind of hill, Coach’s advice still rings true.

As a freshman, I remember hating to run/crawl up and down the hills through the woods behind our high school, or slip-sliding up the gravel on Woolsey Road during practice.  But, as the racing season started and I heard runners from other schools curse and whine about the hills on our cross-country course, I became proud of my ability to dash up those hills.  Running up hills is hard work, and sometimes it’s an unwelcome challenge, but like many things in life, it’s 50% mental.  And just as I was proud that I knew how to run those hills, I’m proud that my life experiences have left me well equipped to face challenges, both good and bad.

Coach K’s method for running downhill made pretty good sense too:  Drop your arms, relax, and let gravity and momentum help you.  Today in the 5K, when we got to that huge last downhill stretch, I did exactly that.  I was half way down and had already passed three people when I realized that no one else was using this downhill attack method.  The runners around me still held their arms tight, kept their gait the same, and some of them were even leaning back to prevent themselves from going faster down the hill.  The only other person who was making the same progress as me was a dad running behind a double jog stroller.  He had a little extra weight and momentum to help his downhill speed!

The figurative downhill lesson that I’ve learned from Coach Kaeding’s advice is to use the tools you have available to you.  When the situation changes, whether it gets easier or harder, don’t just keep doing the same thing you’ve been doing.  You’ve gotta look around, take stock, and use your resources.  When you’re in a race, don’t be afraid to let gravity and momentum help you.  You might end up with results that are your personal best, like I did today.

Post Note:  I can’t write a “life lessons” post with Coach Kaeding in it without mentioning the Six P’s: “Proper Prior Preparedness Prevents Poor Performance.”  Start with the small hills (literal and figurative) and work your way up.

Thanks Coach.


These MOMs did:

Valerie Nguyen, Nicole Walberg, Liz Bram, and Me

And this one too:

Ashlee Bechdolt . . . . photo credit: Greg Benenati

I’ve said it over and over, and just in case you didn’t hear, MOMcation 2010 could not have happened without the planning committee.  These moms put in countless hours with no compensation, except for the rather pitiful snacks I supplied at our meetings.  They each applied their own special talents to MOMcation to make it special.

Valerie was the chief “getter of prizes”.  She wrangled more cool prizes and swag than any one person on any project I’ve ever seen. She also organized the jewelry making, deal finding, and cooking I workshops. V is for Versatility and V is for Valerie!

Nicole championed the t-shirts and the wine, showed off her charm at an early morning television promotion, and was “the woman behind the curtain” during the actual event, where she helped with anything I needed, and then some. And let’s not forget the book discussion.

Liz rounded up the yoga instructor, scored us some awesome spa gift certificates, and always, always gave me her open, honest opinion when I sent out frantic emails about some minor detail I was stressing over.

And Ashlee, who couldn’t join us the night of our group picture, was the logistical guru.  She asked the questions that needed asking (How far to the nearest hospital?  Don’t you think we should keep track of the potential sponsors we contact?) and she often found the solutions to those questions.  She set up our document-share site for us, and created the spreadsheets we needed to track everything.  She also created our flyer, and was brave enough to lead those 6:30am trail runs that most of us never even knew happened.

My “fun” in planning MOMcation was getting to work with these great women.  At some point, our committee meetings became a great excuse for us all to get together every few weeks.  Thank you, Valerie, Nicole, Liz, and Ashlee, for putting up with me, and for putting together a great event.  I hope these quotes from the MOMcation feedback forms let you know how appreciated you are.

“I cannot begin to express how recharged I feel after this weekend. … I am a better mother when I have more to give and in order to do that, I need time to recharge.  I could not have asked for a better experience to do just that.  Thank you a million times over for this weekend.”

“Thanks to all of you for your hard work and dedication.  I had a blast and got to meet and get to know better so many great moms – I can’t say enough!”

“I am so glad I came.  Thank you all for all your hard work to put this together for us.”

MOMcation 2010 wrapped a week ago.  So, I’ve had a whole week to ruminate and reflect.  If you want it in a nutshell, MOMcation turned out as close to how I had imagined it as possible.  Minus the tornadoes.  But then, it’s really fitting that Mother Nature would come and show off her skills, talent, and personality at MOMcation too.  It was, after all, a retreat for every MOM.

The longer version, for those of you who like details and pictures, starts with the fact that 18 wonderful women showed up to Heifer Ranch, near Perryville Arkansas.  Some of them had friends in tow, and some of them didn’t know a soul.  We had young mothers and grandmothers, working moms and stay at homes, single, married, and things in between.  The only thing, really, that we all had in common is that we are mothers.  And that’s all we needed.  You can say in spite of, but maybe we should say because of our diversity, we meshed wonderfully.  No cliques or hurt feelings, no alienation or obnoxious-ness.  And when it was all done, the MOMcationers were feeling renewed and headed home with at least a handful of new friends.  Some moms came with trepidation, with a self-consciousness, or a pre-determined idea of who wouldn’t like them.  It was amazing to see that all fall away through the weekend, with this being the end result:

MOMcation 2010 attendees

MOMcation 2010 Attendees

As one of the event planners, I had a different perspective on the weekend.  At the outset, I was nervous too.  I wanted everyone to be comfortable and have fun, but more than that, I wanted these MOMs to learn from each other, and to see that sometimes taking time away for yourself has benefits that reach far beyond just a couple days of goofing off out in the boonies with some other women.  But as things got rolling, I quickly saw that all was well and good in the land of MOMcation.

We had tons of activities; some group oriented and some self-starting.  One of the more popular group activities was yoga.  Some of the moms were experienced in yoga, and some had never done it before, but everyone who tried it seemed to like it.

Yoga and Nap time combined - MOMs are always multitasking!

Photo Credit: Greg Benenati

There was also jewelry making, deal finding, and two great cooking sessions.

Tammy Felder teaching Bruschetta and Shrimp Bisque

Christie Ison, The Fancy Pants Foodie

We had nightly get-togethers.  One of my favorite things was getting the camp fire started with Stephanie (aka The Park Wife) sans lighter fluid…Ok, maybe she mostly started the fire, but I threw a few kindling sticks on.  We made s’mores and huddled around to tell tales of mommy life.

Photo Credit: Christie Ison

We also took a tour of Heifer Ranch and learned more about what Heifer International and the ranch itself does.  The covered hayride was both relaxing and educational. I was really impressed by the fact that many of the MOMcationers took time to explore the ranch on their own and to really think about Heifer’s mission of ending world hunger and building peace.

On the Hayride

The icing on the cake is that thanks to the four awesome members of the planning committee* and some really awesome sponsors, we were able to give away some really great stuff, including spa services, gift baskets, books, locally grown food, gym memberships, and even a couple weekend get-aways.  Overall, MOMcation 2010 was  a huge success, and there is already high demand for a MOMcation 2011.  So stay tuned for a date announcement.  If you’re on Facebook, you can “like” the MOMcation page to stay up to date.

*The four awesome members of the planning committee will be showing up in a later post, after I force them to take a group photo. But truly, I cannot say it enough times, MOMcation 2010 would not have happened without them. Thank you Valerie, Nicole, Liz, and Ashlee!

“‘Well,’ said the tree,
straightening herself up
as much as she could,
‘well, an old stump is good
for sitting and resting.
Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.’

And the boy did.

And the tree was happy.”

~ Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree

I’m a big fan of words in general, but some of my favorite words are nonsense.  Nonsense words just seem more fun to say.  I think, ultimately, I have two women and one man to thank for this.  The man is Dr. Seuss (aka Theo LeSeig, aka Theodore Geisel), who recently celebrated his 106th birthday.  The man himself is no longer with us, but he has left a lasting legacy of wonderful books, many of which are filled to the brim with nonsense words and rhymes.

The two women are my mother and my grandmother.  My grandmother, who is now 91, handed down a collection of nonsense rhymes and lyric that I don’t even know the depths of.  Moments ago, I called my mom to inquire about one of the rhymes, and she spouted off several others that I have never even heard. Mom pledged to teach me these newly rediscovered nonsense rhymes the next time we share a long car ride.

Grandma (aka Doris Claire Burns Perkins) taught elementary school for 30+ years.  She is very proud of her Scottish lineage, which someone in her “clan” has traced all the way back to Robert Burns, the 18th century “national poet of Scotland”.  Grandma is the harbinger of all kinds of wonderful verses, songs, and sayings.  Two of my favorite are below.  I don’t know who wrote them.  To me, it might as well have been grandma.

What a Wonderful Bird the Frog Are
What a wonderful bird the frog are.
When him stands, him sits almost.
When him sits, him stands almost.
Him aint got not tail hardly almost.
When him sits, him sits on what he aint got hardly almost.
Thoor Ping!

Bittle Lum
Was a little Malice Pan, saw a bittle lum
Sittin’ on the sturb cone, chewin’ gubble bum.
MMMM!!! Said the Malice Pan, sibby gum!
Tot in yer cin tan! Said the bittle lum.

I may not have the words to these exactly right, but this is how they are in my head.  I love that they’ve been handed down and that nearly all of my 60+ cousins can recite these.

Heifer Ranch

As I mentioned in my last post, there have been a few things preventing me from keeping up with my blog ramblings.  One of those items is something that I am quite proud to announce here – MOMcation 2010!  MOMcation 2010 is a retreat for moms – a chance to get away from the daily grind, connect with other moms, learn a few new things, and most importantly, relax. Heifer Ranch, located near Perryville AR (about 45 min. NW of Little Rock), will be the location of the retreat. You can visit the website to learn more:

The idea started with my own MOMcations (MOM vacations).  On a MOMcation with my friend Kristen, I hatched the idea of creating a series of retreats for women and families.  Several of my friends have asked me to include them in my next MOMcation. So, MOMcation 2010 was born.  Luckily, I have a great group of moms who have volunteered to be the planning committee, and hubby has put in tons of hours to make the website functional.

I’m very excited about this new project, and hope all you mommies within traveling distance will come out and join us for a weekend of fun and relaxation.

The first day of the new year is coming to a close.  We’ve already said goodbye to 2009.  I hope that you are as excited as I am about the promise of this new year. As that Semisonic song goes, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Normally I am not one to put big stock in New Year’s Resolutions.  However, this year I have some very real goals that I plan to make good on.  I think having this blog to write these goals in actually helped me to think harder about what my goals should be.  Plus, I recently learned that you are 10% more likely to reach a goal if you share that goal with someone else.  So, now you can all hold me accountable.

Buy More Local Food – This year I will make it a priority to utilize local resources for my family’s nutrients.  In addition to providing fresher food with fewer preservatives and other ingredients that I can’t pronounce, locally grown food is better for the environment because fewer resources are used for transportation and processing.  After watching Food, Inc. and listening to Joel Salatin talk, I also feel it is my duty as a consumer to put my “vote” behind real food instead of mass-produced, chemical laden junk.

In addition to the local Farmer’s Markets, Central Arkansas has a great resource for accessing the local food market:  This website offers two wonderful programs.  First, the basket a month program is a subscription program that provides members with a basket full of locally grown food such as produce, meat, eggs, cheese, milk, and rice. The cost is $180 per three months.  The second program is the Online Market, where you can choose which products you would like to receive and order them online each week.  Two amazing services, really.  Before we moved here, I had never heard of such a thing.

Basket a Month Baskets

Spend More One-on-One Time with My Kids – This is the “gimmie” of the bunch.  Carina will be starting official preschool this week. Her hours will be different than Callen’s Parent’s Day Out, so it will give me an opportunity to spend time with each of them separately each week.  The important part will be making sure I fill this one-on-one time with activities that are important to each child. For Carina: arts and crafts, cooking and baking, and playing with puzzles and blocks (Callen eats her crayons and markers, is very dangerous in the kitchen, and is all about scattering puzzle pieces and toppling block towers). For Callen, basically, anything where he doesn’t have to share or take turns, since that is so hard for a person his age to have to do all the time.

Submit My Writing Once a Month – For over 6 months now, I’ve been saying that I’m working on “getting my freelancing career started.”  The problem is I’ve spent a huge amount of time researching freelance writing and very little time actually writing.  I’m sort of famous for that.  So, this year, I will submit my writing for publication or competition at least once per month.  My research tells me that actual publication will be few and far between, but it will be a huge learning process and a step in the right direction.

Back in the Day

Compete in a Triathlon – You can’t have a New Year’s Resolution list without a nod to fitness, right?  Callen is coming up on two years old, and while I feel pretty happy with the way my body has recovered from childbearing, I still have about 5 pounds of flab flabbing around my mid section.  For those of you who didn’t know me pre-kids, I used to compete in sprint distance triathlons. This is a hobby I miss greatly.  So, two negatives are coming together to make a positive goal here.  Fitting in the necessary training will be a challenge, but I know I can do it.  Anyone want to join me?

Happy New Year to all of you!  Do you have any resolutions?

Next Page »