Kristen R: The End of a Running Streak

Since I have one more post after this that will serve as me wrapping up this crazy year, I’ve decided that, for this post, I’ll try to put into words how it feels to end a year-long running streak. Frankly, I’m not sure I can do it justice.

Here's where much of the magic happened, AKA A Room of One's Own. Yep, it's small. It's bleak. But it works just fine. Here's a more mid-week miles on this machine in 2014!

Here’s where much of the magic happened. Yep, it’s small. It’s bleak. The lighting is hideous. But it works just fine. Here’s to more mid-week miles on this machine in 2014!

Running for an entire year has been, well, interesting. I’m a working mom. I have a supportive husband, two great kids and the luxury of having a treadmill in my basement.

Many a mile was spent on that treadmill squeezing in my daily minimum late at night after a long day at work. Before getting on that treadmill there was dinner to cook for my family, kids to shuttle to after-school activities or school functions, then those same little girls needed to be bathed and put to bed. And after all that was when I would get on that treadmill and slog through one mile. It never failed that on those days, I would come up from the basement after running, sigh, and sit down at the computer to write and calculate my distances because I needed to schedule a blog post for the next morning.

Much like what I’m doing now. The daily running and blogging every third day has felt like a chore from time to time.

But the weekends have been a different story. My Saturday alarm is always set early. I don my running clothes, give myself enough time for a cup of coffee, before slapping on my Garmin and heading outside for a long run. I tackle a paved trail in my neighborhood that takes me through woods, tunnels and along the water’s edge.

Those weekend long runs feel like little gifts. I love running early in the morning. It’s quiet and it’s when I decompress from my work week. I shake off any work-related stresses and fall into a rhythm that is my own. It’s a tough, hilly route, but I lose myself out there every time. I absolutely love it.

Those long weekend runs aren’t going anywhere. It’s the mid-week one-milers that need to go. I’ve struggled with the quality vs. quantity aspect of daily running since July, I guess. Those shorties that I feel like I’m slogging through during the week were just happening so I could check the box. They weren’t joyful. They were’t exciting. They weren’t much fun at all.

What’s so fascinating is that today of all days — with two days left — I stumbled upon this article from Runner’s World that ran in July that says as much about run streaking. It’s a brief interview with runner Mark Covert, who owns the world’s second-longest daily running streak. His 45-year running streak came to an end on July 23, 2013. He ran for 16,436 days in a row, running at least 1 mile per day and logged nearly 150,000 miles. His streak ended due to injury — a non-running related injury, I should add.

Here’s the last question they asked him:

What do you say when someone asks if they should start a running streak?

MC: Don’t do it. I get asked quite often, mostly by new runners and by runners on my college teams. Listen, I realize there are better ways to deal with sickness and injury than running every day. I know there were times in my career when I would have bounced back faster if I had taken several days off, probably even a week. As a coach, I understand the benefits of days off, and that’s what I encourage my kids to do when they need it, to take a day off every once in a while.

That said, there are some individuals for whom a daily running streak has an important impact on them every day. They feel better, they’re more productive, they have a better outlook on life. If it works for you, why not?

I love that he flat out says “Don’t do it” in regards to taking on the burden of a running streak. I get it. I would probably say the same thing if asked. It hasn’t been hard on my body — although, I admit, one of my knees now clicks when I go up the stairs. It’s hardest when you’re dog tired. When you have a cold. When you are truly sick and your back’s been strained and it hurts to move anything. Or when you have to wake up at 3:45 a.m. to grab a quick run because there is no other time in your day to get it in, otherwise.

But the second half of his answer is where I fit. It did have an important impact on me. Not really the physical one, but the mental one. It made me feel more productive. It made me carve out time to do something good for myself, even it was only for 10 or 12 minutes.  And it definitely gave me a more positive outlook on life. And these are the themes I’ll try to wrap up in my final post…

Until then, in case you’re wondering: Will I run on Jan. 1, 2014? Yes. I think an annual New Year’s Day run is a great ritual that I hope to carry out for many years to come — and one that I hope my family will want to be a part of, as well.

Will I run on Jan. 2? Not a chance in hell.

Gotta run — again!
Kristen R.

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KHP Art Below

KHP - Super quick food photography!

KHP – Super quick food photography!

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KHP – Reflection 7 – Photography Favorites and Random Thoughts

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Random Thought One

Above I have created another slider of some of my work created during this blog. I chose to pick some of my photography favorites from this past year. Most of the photographs are landscapes or nature studies. I have a solid collection of images that are investigating the process of time on manmade creations. An interesting juxtaposition to the ebb and flow of nature growing up around it, dying off and having a rebirth in spring. All the while in the cycle of nature our objects we create slowly but surely fall off to waste. In those wasted spots, holds the keys to stories of someones lives. What happened in this house? Who owned that cart and why was it left pushed up on this particularly tree in the middle of the woods? All of these objects and structures were special to someone or were used by a person or family at one time. It is beautiful to feel their presence. It is a strange connection to an unknown past. Peering into a bit of their spirit filling the void as the grass grows up and the branches wrap around. The snow, the rain and the wind tear it down. The decomposition process never relenting and force of nature slow and constant but as destructive as a tornado. We just are not around to see the whole process. We are as fragile as the structures and objects we create. I find beauty in the ominous rust covered coffee can as it reminds me of my own mortality, my own fragility compared to the forces of nature and time. One day what I have created will be a remanent and a clue to a past, my past, my family. Will these pieces of the puzzle be interpreted correctly? We will never know.

Random Thought Two

If you know me, you know I am not much for spending time putting on make-up and fussing with my hair. I believe in the 10 minute rule: if it takes more than 10 minutes it is not worth my time on the beautification front. I believe in a being clean, fresh, neat, professional and fit. That is my beautification regime. Lately my youngest PP, is going through the make-up and dress up PHASE. This phase I never went through but LP my oldest went through and has made it out on the other end. LP is now drawing, writing, reading, playing games and is still in love with her dollies. Every once in a while she likes to paint her nails or put on a fancy dress but you can see the interest falling off. My husband is having a fit with PP’s newest obsession. He hates the idea of our girls wearing lots of make-up and wasting their time on “silly things”.

I hate this idea too, not in a judgey way but in a life quality and confidence way. I am from a large family with 6 siblings 4 of which are women. I am the the youngest of the girls and I spent a lot of time watching my older sisters and thinking about the things they did. I love my sisters with all of my heart and respect each of them for their individual special gifts they bring to the world. I think each of them are unbelievably beautiful and always have.

I remember watching my gorgeous sister step out the shower wrapped in a towel with her ivory skin slightly pink from the warm shower. Her hair wound in a towel up on her head so you could see all the lovely curves of her face. She sat herself down in front of the mirror in her room to let my other sister into the shower to get ready for school. In this spot she would sit for hours every morning covering up, re-working, and painting a new face. All the time I was watching this transformation thinking she looked more beautiful an hour or so a go. It did not take me long to get frustrated and bored with this process. So while we were all up at 5 am getting ready for school; I used the time differently. I would go out for a short run, do extra homework or studying, make breakfast, try to get my younger brother out of bed, walk the dog, make my bed, read some of the paper, pace around annoyed that I was going to be late because 2.5 hours was not enough time to get ready.

Now as adults my sisters have all changed these habits. It is really tough being a teenager and to to deal with all the pressures of being that age. I know from watching my high school students do the same thing. Hiding themselves under a 2 cm deep layer of base and powder. Why is it the young men (or men at any age) feel no need to cover up their face. Men spend more time doing as youngsters. How do I translate that to my girls?

What made the difference for me? I don’t think it was watching my sisters. For a different girl it might have been watching their older siblings and picking up beauty tips rather than calculating time and effort vs final product. I think it was my Dad. He always asked me to help him do things. That is how we bounded. I liked these doing things and it helped me understand I could do anything. I enjoyed helping him change the oil in the car, hold the wood for a cut, move a couch, hold the wrench or flip breakers. It was my mom’s love of learning and constant search for knowledge that formed my own academic interest. It was my mother reminding me to be beautiful inside and love people even the ones that are the most difficult to love. It was finding beauty in everyone, looking for their special gifts. We were always taught to be well groomed, dressed appropriately for the occasion, well spoken and professional but that does not take 2 hours and $300.00 of product to accomplish.

So am I freaking out about PP’s new obsession over nail polish and lip gloss? Absolutely not! I think she is having fun and it is all part of her pretend play. It is more about playing with a substance like paint than feeling beautiful. I also feel the more we resist the more she will rebel and pull away. She is four and is experimenting. This is not all she is interested in. She is playing with blocks, puzzles, dolls, books and games. She loves music and dance. My girls love going to the theater, the ballet and have even watched their Uncle Kenny’s perform 45 minutes of Bach for a piano recital at the college where he teaches. As they grow they will help Matt and I with home improvement projects, they will go to art openings, rock climb, mountain bike and ski. Will all of this avoid the low self esteem issues that so many young women end up with? I don’t know. Much of this will come from within and we as parents can only give them the tools to build their lives we cannot build it for them. PP, play away and create your imaginary character with crazy makeup and lots of nail polish but please stop painting your dolls:)

Random Thought 3

So much is going on and I have not been able to fill you in. I am starting to do some contract work for my friends company. One of my classes has filled. I don’t know what I should be doing now. Matt and I were feeling frustrated on Friday night. We are ready for that security of my full time employment but not sure what path I should take. What I really want to do is teach preferably high school. In the middle of this conversation. Matt had to leave to pick up Friday night dinner (no one felt like cooking). My phone began to vibrate. I could not find it. I was searching around for it and when I finally located it, the number was unknown to me. Who was calling me on a Friday night that I did not know? I listened to the voice message and it was Mercersburg Academy!! I immediately called back. The Academic Dean went through a 25 minute impromptu phone interview and called me in for a formal interview on January 8-9. It will be a 24 hour interview where I eat dinner with faculty, spend the night at the Head of School’s house, have breakfast with more faculty and then go through more formal interviews and meetings. I am so excited and nervous!! If I could make a job for myself it would be this job. If I could work with a faculty and staff of my choice it would be this group. So keep your fingers crossed, send me all your strength and confidence because I will need it. I am sure they are interviewing other applicants who have amazing resumes and have done amazing things. I know I am competitive for this position. This is what I have been training my whole life for. I am sure the Academy will find their best fit. The students and this community deserve only the best. I just hope it is me:)

Random thoughts complete! Sorry

KHP Art Below

More design fun.

More design fun.

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Claire: Practicing a Positive Perspective

I just finished reading The Four Agreements, by Miguel Angel Ruiz, which I would recommend to anyone who, like me, is working on being more mindful.

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Kristen’s post yesterday reminded me of the positive power of the first agreement. I think the four agreements overlap and feed each other, and working to create good habits in one area will aid in strengthening all four. The agreements are a useful framework in general.

There are lots of different ways to practice mindfulness, and I want to remain open to whatever strategies will work. In my journey this year of actively working to create happiness in my life, I’ve found that both perspective and practice are crucial. I must change my way of thinking in a particular moment to gear my outlook toward the positive, and I must practice this response again and again until it feels natural and automatic.

As a parent, it’s easy for me to observe and understand the power of these approaches. This morning, for example, after participating in her second gymnastics competition, Free was entirely focused on the fact that she forgot a piece of her beam and floor routines, lowering her scores for those events. She was so upset that she was entirely unable to enjoy her FIRST PLACE medal for vaulting and her trophy for 10th place overall! It was so obvious to me that she needed to practice shifting her perspective, and I was able to help her do that, but it was also a reminder for me to practice it more myself.

The four agreements were at the back of my mind last night when Newman and I drove to see an old student of his, who was in town visiting. She is a 32 year old mother of 19 month old twins, and she teaches at a tiny private school in Sedona. She is way in it with work and family and living an active life in the mountains with her husband, who also works at the same school and with whom she is clearly madly in love. She was thrilled to catch up with Newman (who taught her as a sixth grader!) and fill him in on her life, and as I listened to her talk, her joie de vivre was striking. I commented on it to Newman after we left, and because Newman was trying to figure out how I felt about her, he asked if I resented her for it. Not at all, I said; she seemed entirely lovely and somebody I could be good friends with. In fact, I thought, she reminded me of some of my better female friends in that her spirit exuded a genuine caring but also entirely self-possessed quality.

I found myself mulling over the impression the woman had made. The quality she has is one that is quite foreign to how I see myself, but it is a quality I admire in others, and it is one that I know serves them well. It is an energy and a confidence that some people have that allows them to be resilient, to shake off other people’s negativity, to decide what is important and where they will put their energy. They are in control and comfortable most of the time, and if they are not, they find a way to restore order or make changes relatively quickly, and without revising their essential notions about themselves as powerful and deserving and worthy individuals.

I don’t know where this quality, which is elusive to me, comes from. I don’t know if someone is born with it, if it’s a product of privilege, or if it is a state of mind (perspective) that one can practice and adopt. Maybe it could originate in any of those sources, but in reflecting on the four agreements and other strategies for finding mindfulness and happiness, I am betting on the last one right now. Essentially, I’d like to believe I have the option of embracing and chasing that quality not just in the friends I choose, but in myself as well.

Sometimes I think I do resent this quality in others, and I think I’m struggling with whether I really want it for myself. What am I afraid of? I think many of us, especially women, are brought up to make sure that our own happiness doesn’t come at the expense of others. Guilt and shame can be maddeningly powerful, and we get used to riding the line between taking care of ourselves and taking care of others.

I’ll speak for myself; I generally want to adopt a “do no harm” approach to life. The problem is that in my life experience, especially when resources are limited, I have had to make choices about how much I can do or take for myself when it affects others. I also really don’t want others to think badly of me.

What’s interesting is that when I am at my ugliest, I can be really judgy of others, and this probably reinforces my own beliefs about how important other people’s opinions are. When I get judgiest about others, especially women, it is because they seem to be getting off too easy. I consider myself mostly kind and pretty forgiving, but I reserve a lot of negative feelings for those who seem to be doing a poor job–on purpose–in some area of their life, and the more closely that area of life aligns with one that I work hard on, the judgier I get.

The problem with that way of thinking is that it breaks the agreements. All of them. I make assumptions about others (3); I speak poorly of them (1); I take it as a personal affront that I feel I am working harder than they are and therefore the world is inherently unfair (2); and I spend my precious energy on a negative perspective and path, thereby lessening my own ability to take action and do my best (4).

Wow. Now that I’ve written it out, it seems pretty clear and pretty awful. My therapist would be proud. The good part, of course, is that it’s also within my power to change it all. Look at that; facing my fear actually does create a window to release myself from it.

Here’s what I know. When I have found happiness in my life, it’s because I have claimed it for myself or believed myself worthy of having it, worthy enough to accept it when offered. Moving forward, I want to put more of my energy into changing myself for the better and less energy into worrying about what others are doing or thinking.

This is my second to last post of the year, and I want my final post to include a specific plan for making progress on the goals I set here in an earlier post. I am so excited at what I’ve been able to accomplish this year that I’m eager to get going on the next round.

KHP Art Below

KHP - A little Bauhaus influenced design from pieces from some freelance work I am working on.

KHP – A little Bauhaus influenced design from pieces from some freelance work I am working on.

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Kristen R: December Reflections No. 8 – (Un)Friendly Faults

“Real change will come when powerful women are less of an exception. It is easy to dislike senior women because there are so few.” ― Sheryl Sandberg

eleanor-rooseveltThe other night someone told me I was too nice — and it was meant as anything but nice.  This person said it with no real context, other than the fact that the conversation we (a group of four or five women) were having was a negative one.

Negative and judgmental to be exact.

What frustrated me about this conversation is that they were criticizing other women — women in leadership. One even went so far as to criticize someone’s weight. This from someone who struggles with her own weight constantly, so it seemed like a particularly low blow to me. So what happened when I pointed that out? I was told that since I had never been in these women’s lines of fire, I couldn’t understand — and, besides, I was just “too nice” when it came to confronting anybody, anyway.

Honestly, I find that ironic since this back-handed compliment was paid to me because I was confronting their women-in-power-bashing conversation. Everyone’s words were negative, and negativity is where many of these conversations have been anchored as of late. And I’m at fault, too. I’ve taken part in the idle, judgey gossip.

If you know me, then you know I’m not particularly negative. And, yes, I am nice — and it’s quite genuine. My glass if half full. I’m optimistic. I’m upbeat. And I like to laugh. A lot. So the negativity can get to me — and it did just that the other night.

But it’s the criticism of other women that’s been bugging me — and, yes, if I’m being totally honest, the back-handed compliment that I’m too nice. Since reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In and writing about it in relation to raising girls (and raising them to be leaders), I’m sensitive to the fact that women don’t have each other’s backs. One thing I noted in that post — which was more than obvious in this conversation — is that male co-workers lead and they are seen as excellent leaders. A female does the same thing and she’s criticized for being too aggressive, too inexperienced, too nice — or worse, FAT? Really? Is this our new low?

Apparently so.

If by not taking part in this conversation, by pointing out the obvious irony in having it, or just by choosing to deal with people in a friendly way makes me “too nice,” well, I’m good with that. You see, if I’ve learned anything this year, I’ve learned to respect action. Because you won’t evoke change without it.

That’s why I think it’s time I move on from these types of conversations.

Bottom line? You can either be the change or talk about it.

Gotta run!

Kristen R.

Today, day 160, I'll head out for 6-8 miles and after that we've only got FIVE days left! Unbelievable.

Today, day 160, I’ll head out for 6-8 miles and after that we’ve only got FIVE days left! Unbelievable.

KHP Art Below

KHP - I am having fun finding new ways to make snowflakes in Illustrator.

KHP – I am having fun finding new ways to make snowflakes in Illustrator.

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KHP-The Christmas

Merry Christmas! We have baked, wrapped, cooked, marinated, cleaned, organized, purged toys and cloths to get the big man to come. Tonight after many nights with very little sleep, I am hitting the hay. I am sure each of you are feeling the same and doing the same. Good job mamas. I know each of you made it magical.

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Claire: Happy Christmas

On Christmas, if we’re lucky, we can take a little time to just be with our loved ones. We run around like crazy leading up to the event to make it perfect, but really, it just takes some time off and a place to gather, some food to share, and good cheer. It doesn’t mean all the challenges of life disappear, but there is an opportunity to enjoy the fact of your loved ones and to be grateful for the things in your life that make you want to have a life.

What traditions do you have to celebrate the holidays?

If you’re like me and living the life of blended families, you may celebrate Christmas several times over. On Christmas Eve, I visit my brother’s home to share a meal and exchange gifts with his teenaged children. My sister in law is a great cook, and she makes some delicious food and homemade cookies, and this event is the first time I really get a feel for Christmas.

On Christmas Eve night, after bringing Free to her dad’s, I return home to the smell of turkey cooking with all the fixins. Newman’s kids come over to open presents with us and have a lovely evening of laughter, good food, and a movie.

I will spend Christmas morning snuggling with my guy, feeling grateful to share my life with him (our second Christmas in our own home!) and knowing that our children are happy and healthy. In the early afternoon, I pick up Free from her dad and head to my sister L’s house for a Christmas feast with my relatives and her husband’s family. My sister and her husband hold off on opening their Christmas gifts until the 26th to wait for his daughter from a previous marriage who, like Free, spends it with her other parent. That works out perfectly for me and Free (and my other sister and Grandma and Free’s other cousins and Newman) to converge on the morning of the 26th to open presents.

To tide the children over on the evening of the 25th when Santa hasn’t yet delivered to this particular home, Free and I have a tradition of making Christmas crackers ahead of time for the kids to open.

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These treats are readily available in the U.S. now at stores like Marshall’s and Christmas Tree Shops. Usually, the prizes are geared toward adults.

Christmas crackers are a UK tradition we grew up with in Ireland.

Two people pull at either end, and with a loud “snap,” the cracker breaks, leaving one person with the prize!

I buy some of the new and polished variety each year for the grownups as there are cute little gifts inside (like Christmas paper crowns!) that are always a lovely surprise and remind us of Ireland.

With the children’s version, however, I make my own. I’ve been doing it for years, and now Free has also been doing it for years! It’s easy for kids to help make them, and it gets them into the spirit of giving.

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I will always prefer the homemade version! These are some of the ones Free made for her cousins this year.

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Some of the supplies you will need: toilet paper rolls, light tissue paper, wrapping paper, prizes, and yarn/string.

To make these, you need to gather the supplies ahead of time. I usually buy small treats and candy at Target or Christmas Tree Shops; make sure they’re small enough to fit inside!

You must save toilet paper rolls for a few weeks prior to Christmas to make the crackers. I don’t try to recreate the “snap” as it always scares Free.

Place a couple of small prizes in the toilet paper roll; there’s no need to wrap them separately.

Take the lighter tissue paper and wrap it around the toilet paper roll, making sure to cover one end and then twisting the other end to keep the prizes in.

20131224-091216.jpgIn this picture, I’ve used more tissue paper than I normally would to emphasize how one end only is covered. I tied the other end here, but I would usually just twist it.

After you have the one-sided cracker, wrap the whole thing in wrapping paper, making sure to hide the tissue paper (which older children can use to figure out who will win the prize!) by wrapping the outer paper a little longer.

Tie both ends tight with yarn; this is the part that children will need your help with. You can trim and make it pretty if you want, but I like letting the kids own the project, which means they will come out all different but lovely and colorful in the end. Make enough so that everyone has a chance to win. The kids are usually great about sharing their extras, especially if they have doubled up on prizes, so everyone’s a winner.

If you’re making crackers for the adults, chocolates and nips of liquor make perfect stuffers! My sister J. usually makes some for us to share. Last year, I even made a bigger version of the crackers to give out Twinkies, which were on their way out of stores.

This year, we are starting a new tradition. Late on the night of the 25th, when other guests have left, when my sister’s husband has retired upstairs to watch TV, when Newman is at home for some quality time with his children, and when the four littlest cousins have all gone to bed, the women in the family (my mom, my two sisters, me, and my sister’s stepdaughter, who was newly initiated last year) will stay up to help Santa deliver gifts and to have a homemade gift Yankee swap.

It scared me when my sister suggested this new tradition, but now I’m so excited to share my gift and see what everyone else came up with. I think this may be the part of the holidays I’m most excited for, other than seeing the little kids open up their gifts. I love having the chance to sit around and catch up with the women in my family, to hear stories and tell some, to laugh and listen and love.

Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you enjoy your old traditions or start some new ones!

KHP Art Below

KHP - Santa nailed it with the Karaoke machine this year.  Merry Christmas!!!

KHP – Santa nailed it with the Karaoke machine this year. Merry Christmas!!!

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Kristen R: Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Have a wonderful holiday full of love,
laughter and happiness!

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And on a totally unrelated note: 1,000 miles! Whew! Thought I’d never get there. More to come on that.

Gotta run!
Kristen R.

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KHP Art Below

KHP - Have a Merry Christmas

KHP – Have a Merry Christmas

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