Chasing a Dream

Since middle school, there are very few proud moments in my life that are not directly tied to running. In high school under the direction of Coach Silvia Torres, I chased personal bests across rugged terrain and all weather-tracks for four solid years straight. Sometimes injuries and losses hampered my dreams of making it to state or cinching the win, but my losses always taught me invaluable lessons about humility, commitment, and sportsmanship.

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In college, my running aspirations continued as a Division I athlete at Texas A&M. Joining the ranks of other runners with similar if not more accomplished running resumés, I quickly learned that running at the collegiate level would take even more grit, dedication, and tenacity than any other running venture I’d toed the line for before.

Over the years running has continued to be a constant source of inspiration for me. It has been a faithful friend I can always count on to pull me up by the bootstraps after one of life’s moments knocked me flat on my rear. Accomplishing new running milestones offers such a sense of pride and accomplishment for me. I run because it is something that brings me so much joy. This year coaching at the high school level offered me the opportunity to share my love of running with others and inspire greatness in them.

 

Yesterday at the age of 35, I ran the fastest mile of my life (5:17); even bettering my high school state track meet personal best of 5:19. I bravely toed the line with a group of open males as the only open female competitor entered in the mile race. Training all season with a group of strong and speedy high school boys, I knew I was in the best shape of my adult life. With high aspirations of running a sub 5:20, the gun went off and I sprinted out with the field of runners. From the very beginning, I fell into second place and maintained that position for the remainder of the race. As I circled the track, I found myself overjoyed by the opportunity to chase down another dream. My heart swelled with pride as I crossed the line with my fastest time to date.

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In life, we are never too old to chase down a dream. It might require more effort and more strategic planning than it did when we were teenagers but nothing is impossible. I say strategic because while I can still run incredibly fast, I need more recovery days than I used to. We can’t be spring chickens forever! Even with all of that said, a “can do” spirit, faith in our abilities, and a heart of gold are the key ingredients for a recipe for success.

After last night’s race, I’ve set my sights on a loftier goal- racing the 1500m this July at the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships in Spokane, Washington. The next two months of training will be difficult as is to be expected in Texas heat, but armed with a positive attitude and a solid training plan I’m ready to reach for the stars.

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The Appreciation Room

Lent offers many opportunities for introspection and self-reflection. Through the practice of fasting, prayer, or abstinence, one can certainly learn a lot about self-control, sacrifice, and personal growth. Every year, I find myself reflecting on an area of my life that needs the most growth. This year I decided to improve my role as a wife, partner, and friend to my husband. In the hustle and bustle of life as a working mother, I often have little time to cultivate and improve in my role as a spouse. To help me in this spiritual journey, I’ve implored the help of a book that integrates scripture and a daily reading that focuses in on a specific character trait to contemplate and practice.

I found today’s reading to be particularly insightful. It discussed how each of us has an Appreciation Room and a Depreciation Room for our spouse. The Appreciation Room holds all of the positive memories and qualities that make our spouse stand out. Contrarily, the Depreciation Room possesses all of the negative qualities that tarnish our view of our spouse. Naturally we benefit most from our time in the Appreciation Room- a place we feel loved, content, and happy. Allowing ourselves time in the Depreciation Room, on the other hand, can be hazardous to our marriage. If we allow ourselves to dwell, revisit, or marinate in this negative place, it becomes very difficult to see our spouse in a positive light.

Sometimes it’s a bad moment, a bad day, or a bad week with our spouse that draws us towards the Depreciation Room. We’ve all been here at one time or another. It’s easy to allow our anger to fester and grow into resentment if we let it. After all, negativity only creates more negativity. Today’s reading opened a floodgate of thoughts and emotions for me and really forced me to come to terms with my own thoughts and actions. Do I allow myself enough time in the Appreciation Room to recognize and appreciate the amazing man who picked me to be his partner in life? Have I taken him for granted more times than I’d like to admit?

In life there’s no time like the present, to reflect on the little things our spouses bring to the table every day to make us feel special and loved. In a two parent home, it works better when you have a partner who works with you and helps you find balance and demonstrates appreciation for your efforts. It is so very easy to get caught up in the petty things that can cause us to lose focus on who and what is most important in life.

We would all profoundly benefit from revisiting the Appreciation Room of our spouse with more frequency. Pausing in the doorway to reflect on their kind heart, genuine smile, and the amazing gift of having their hand to hold in this crazy, infinitely beautiful journey called life. Treasuring this goodness will pay you back in dividends over the long haul. We all know there will be days when marriage feels like a challenge, but putting our trust in the good will lead us away from the negative thoughts attached to these more trying times.

Ladies, we’re human. We misstep. We make mistakes. We don’t always let our best selves shine through. But every day offers us the unique opportunity to start each day with a grateful heart. Living it fully, loving the ones most precious in our lives with our whole hearts, and extending gratitude to our husbands for their support, friendship, and love. Make time to visit your Appreciation Room and let is help you guide your heart to a more positive place with your spouse. #thelovedare

One Track Mind

My mother jokingly says that from the moment I could walk, I chose to run instead. In elementary school my grandfather gifted me my very own starting blocks that he purchased at the flea market. Most evenings, I laced up my shoes and sprinted around the front yard letting the imaginary gun in my head send me on my way. By middle school, I ate, slept, and breathed cross-country and track. And so began the miles upon miles of strength and speed workouts that helped me develop into a distance athlete with a one track mind.

My life on the run shaped me into the woman I am today. A life of high mileage required stamina, strength, speed, skill, and spirit. In shaking the hands of my competitors, demonstrating sportsmanship through winning and losing, and forging friendships with my teammates, I developed a level of character carved out of perseverance, faith, and heart.

This year I have the privilege of sharing these life lessons with a group of high school distance runners at my school coaching the middle and long distance athletes. I hope to impart some of the wisdom I learned along the way both on and off the track from influential coaching mentors like Sylvia Torres, Melba Barreiro, Meme Garza, and Gary Staley.

STAMINA

Effective distance running requires stamina. This can only be achieved through a well-established base of mileage that allows you to find that third and fourth wind when you need it most. Success in life also requires stamina; the ability to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort. True to the adage, “life is a marathon; not a sprint.”

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STRENGTH

It takes great physical and mental strength to be a successful distance runner. Sometimes a distance race will try to break you if you let it. There are moments in life that will try to do the same. It takes great strength to overcome adversity. The challenges we face in competition force us to push through the pain, refuse to accept failure, and chase our dreams until we cross the finish line. True to the saying, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

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SPEED

Although speed in the 1600 meters looks a little different than the speed demonstrated in the 200 meters, don’t discount the level of effort it requires. In life and on the track, it often comes down to the last stretch of the race. Stamina and strength will only carry you so far. You have to find that last gear and sprint with every ounce of speed you can reign in to chase down your opponents.

In life, there will always be a winner, and the winner is always the person who trained the hardest and refused to settle for anything but a first place finish. In life, there will always be a loser too. The positive side of losing, however, is the takeaway. What did you learn from your failure that will make you better?

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SKILL

Success on the track and in life requires a high level of skill. Developing and honing these skills takes time, effort, dedication, sweat, and grit. You can’t be afraid to fail, to fall, to hurt, and to face disappointment.

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SPIRIT

All of the stamina, strength, speed, and skill in the world are not enough to break a world record or shatter a glass ceiling. The most important part of pursuing a dream is the human spirit. Believing in yourself and putting your whole heart into your work, truly are the foundation for achieving great success in life. Humility, grace, and faith together with spirit will light the fire in your heart that propels you forward.

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Oftentimes, the phrase, “a one track mind” carries a negative connotation. But in the pursuit of a first place win, you will need to pull from all of your resources and chase down the gold with blinders that block out anything that might stand in your way and prevent you from cinching the win.

Off the track, the same mindset dictates success. Harness your spirit, muscle up, find the speed and stamina to persevere, and hone your skills so that even in the face of adversity, your one track mind refuses to back down until you successfully summit your mountain. Carpe diem!

An Open Letter to Myself

Allowing ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable isn’t always easy. Tonight’s open letter to myself offers a candid and heartfelt message of self love and working through challenging moments in our life. It’s addressed to me, but I sincerely believe many of the women who read this post may see themselves in parts of this letter. Writing this for me proved to be incredibly cathartic. My hope is that in reading this letter, you too walk away recognizing how beautiful, accomplished, and amazing you are.

Dearest Heidi,

I know you set out every single day to be your very best self. There are times when you fall short of your expectations and no one is harder on you then when you let the thoughts in your head marinate. You often stew in those thoughts for far too long and carry them around until they feel burdensome and heavy.

Cut yourself some slack. You do so many wonderful things for your family, friends, colleagues, and students. You’re going to slip up sometimes. You’re going to walk into a bad day and it might take an extra glass of wine, an extra mile, or a long, hot bath to walk out of that bad day. But like every challenge you’ve ever met, you will get through it.

Like so many women who have come before you and like so many who will come after you, sometimes you just need to get out of your own head. Walk away from the challenge to regain your composure and work up the courage to start tackling it again. Don’t forget to lean on the people who love you and care about you. You look out for those you love and care about, and those beautiful people who you call friends are there to do the same when you need a little push, some extra reassurance, or a shoulder to cry on. At its core, that’s what friendship is for- lean into it, take the support when you need it, and return the favor when it’s your turn to catch them when they’re down!

You are an amazing woman, but you still need to remember that you are not a superhuman. Some days you will misstep. In your frustration, you might raise your voice when your children test your patience. Don’t lose heart. This doesn’t make you a bad mother. Motherhood will test you in ways you never knew imaginable. There will be days you want to pull your hair out, and there will be days where you wish the beautiful moments with your family didn’t ever have to end. Take it one day at a time. Soak it all up; the good, the bad, and everything in between.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.  As much as you want to do it all. Sometimes something has to give. If it means the dirty dishes stay in the sink overnight or the laundry stays in the dryer for a few extra days until you find the time to fold it, so be it. There will always be tomorrow until there isn’t. Fixating over every little to do is only going to weigh you down.

Love yourself inside and out. Do more of what makes you happy. Surround yourself with positive people. Dream big and work hard. Love fiercely and tell the people in your life who matter the most how much you love them. Give thanks and offer gratitude for your blessings. Respect others even when you may not see eye-to-eye with them. Be proud of who you are. Shower your loved ones with smiles, love, and simple acts of kindness. Cook often. Enjoy good wine with even better company! Kiss your children and your husband every single day.

Remember that every day is a blank slate. The opportunity to hit restart and do it all over again. Slow down enough to savor the little things before you blink and they’re gone. Do one thing for yourself every day- even if it’s just appreciating a sunset in solitude or savoring a cup of coffee before everyone else in the house is awake. Put your best foot forward every day, and get out there and do you!

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With love,

Mama Bear

Five More Minutes

On my favorite local country radio station, a song by Scotty McCreery has been getting a lot of air time. The song evokes strong emotions and often brings me to tears as I sing along to Five More Minutes. 

“Time rolls by the clock don’t stop
I wish I had a few more drops
Of the good stuff, the good times
Oh but they just keep on flying
Right on by like it ain’t nothing
Wish I had me a pause button
Moments like those Lord knows I’d hit it
And give myself five more minutes.”

Holding Atticus tonight before bed as he fell asleep in my arms, I found myself silently singing the chorus to myself. Thinking about how quickly time passes and how before we know it these moments become nothing more than a distant memory.

A loved one we lost before we had a chance to say goodbye. A baby now going off to college before we’re ready to be emptynesters. An embrace with a loved one as you say goodbye and part ways until the next time. In our life, if we were only so lucky to have the opportunity to slow time, hit a pause button, and give ourselves five more minutes with the people we love and care about.

You know as well as I do we would all be so lucky if we truly could afford ourselves more time. But time marches on at the same rate every single day. It is up to us to soak up the beautiful moments, grow from the moments that challenge and test us, and give thanks for all of the little things that make our lives special and rich.

Slow down enough to savor a cup of coffee with your husband or girlfriend and get lost in the small talk that comes from two people sharing time together. Take the long route home when you push your children home in their red wagon after an afternoon at the playground and soak in the smiles and laughter. Give yourself five more minutes on the phone with your mom or best friend even if you have a mountain of to do’s piling up and savor the beauty of your relationship.

One moment at at time. One day at a time. Live it as though it could be your last. We never know when that day will come but allowing ourselves to marinate in these enriching moments will carry us along through the more difficult challenges life throws in our path. It will propel us forward and give us the grace, appreciation, and love to keep these beautiful memories close to our heart. Give yourself permission to give yourself five more minutes…

Carrying the Christmas Spirit All Year Long

The magic of Christmas is magnified when you look at the beauty and mystery of the holiday through the eyes of a child. Their excitement, joy, and wonder is wildly infectious and can help even the grumpiest Grinch find the spirit of Christmas in their heart.

This Christmas brought unique opportunities to bond as a family and share in the merriment of the season. Beautiful weather allowed for outdoor adventures at the local zoo. Liam almost lost his head in the mouth of a sharp toothed crocodile, and he walked into an incredibly cool opportunity when a zookeeper allowed him the chance to feed a giraffe.

An afternoon relaxing in the backyard with my parents and brother brought a low key vibe to Christmas Eve. Watching Liam race across the lawn with Atticus tracking his every move further solidified the adoration our baby bear had for his big brother.

Sharing glasses of wine with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, godparents, and family friends brought the magic of Christmas to life time and time again. Creating special memories for Liam by laying out the cookies and milk for Santa  and sending his elf off with a proper goodbye stand out vividly in my mind.

Constructing and decorating gingerbread houses brought great pride for Liam and a giant mess of frosting, gum drops, and hard candy. I’d gladly clean it all up again to see his eyes light up with pride at his unique creations.

Dressing up for Christmas Eve at my grandparents, toting the boys there in their red wagon, and exchanging gifts with loved ones were just some of the memorable moments that peppered our Christmas. Simple, child-centered, and at its core all about family coming together to offer gratitude and share in fellowship.

This Saturday, January 6th marks el dia de los reyes magos. This holiday commemorates the Epiphany of our Lord when the Three Magi found the truth upon meeting Jesus. In Mexico, this holiday holds more significance than Christmas Day. This is the day they exchange gifts and celebrate with food and family. A traditional rosca, one of my favorite sweet breads, is served with a tiny plastic baby Jesus tucked somewhere inside the bread. Tradition states that the person who finds the baby in their slice of bread must host a party within the month for everyone. What better way to continue spreading the Christmas joy than with a party on February 6th!

This simple tradition offers us a unique opportunity to reconsider how we approach Christmas. It truly doesn’t have to end on the 25th. The spirit of Christmas can live in our hearts for the remainder of the year. Through charity, acts of service, and random acts of kindness we can continue to share the meaning of Christmas with those around us. For children, this magic rarely loses its luster. They carry the excitement of the holiday well into mid February when their sights change from presents, lights, and trees to hearts and Valentine’s.

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Now just a few days into the new year, we have a distinct opportunity to reframe our pattern of thinking and approach this season of Advent through the rose colored glasses of our children. We are their models, their heroes, and the keepers of their hearts. Let us open our own hearts and minds to the endless possibilities carrying the season of Christmas into the new year could bring for us. What will you do to spread Christmas joy?

The Best Laid Plans…

One of the perks of working in an educational setting are the extended holiday breaks that come at Christmas, Spring Break, and Easter. After a brunch last Friday at work with my colleagues, my principal wished us a Merry Christmas and sent us on our way. I jetted off to Trader Joe’s to start knocking out holiday shopping and closed out the afternoon with a long run soaking in the perfect outdoor conditions- sunny skies, cool temperatures, and the taste of freedom on my tongue.

As I ran, I envisioned how I would spend the first few days of my break. Liam would be in school through Thursday and Atticus would go to daycare so that I could finish Christmas shopping, wrapping, packing, and carve out a little time for me. I decided that if I could have everything complete by Wednesday morning then I could enjoy some quiet time getting a massage, a pedicure, and maybe even have time for lunch with a few girlfriends I rarely have time to see. Because quiet moments are few and far between these days, I was very much looking forward to taking a brief pause from motherhood and gifting myself with some quality time for self-reflection, relaxation, and personal growth.

Sunday morning, however, when my sweet little Atticus woke up, I realized rather quickly that “mommy time” was going to be a thing of the past. His sweet little face was bright red and he had bumps all over his face and body. A mother’s intuition and a quick Google search confirmed that he most likely had hand, foot, and mouth disease. Ahh, yes one of the many downsides of daycare- a breeding ground for all things germ related to pass freely from one child to the other. I faced the music that my pedicure, massage, and social plans were undoubtedly on the back burner at least for the next few days.

Although nothing can be done to treat hand, foot, and mouth, I knew a trip to the doctor’s office was necessary to at least confirm my rising suspicions. So after Atticus woke up from his afternoon nap on Sunday, the two of us set out for the Texas Children’s Urgent Care Clinic. I wasn’t prepared for the number of other sick children in the greater Cypress area waiting to be seen. With the patience of Job, I waited it out for 2 1/2 hours until finally by the grace of God we were seen by the doctor. “Wham, bam, thank you, m’am” she confirmed he did indeed have hand, foot, and mouth disease.

So for the next three days, Atticus and I mostly stayed home. Rather than wallow in self-pity, I took my lemons and made some damn good lemonade. When Atticus was awake, we played, read books, laughed, and enjoyed some quality time together. When nap time hit, I wrapped presents as I enjoyed Christmas movies and coffee as I worked like a little elf in Santa’s workshop. Because he still naps twice a day, I capitalized on this time to wrap all of my gifts and those from Santa for the boys, bake two batches of cookies (almond chocolate chip and gingersnaps) for Liam and Atticus’s teachers, prep for two great dinners (chicken noodle casserole and red beans and rice with sausage and cornbread), and knock out laundry list of to do’s including laundry and general house tidying.

Now granted this isn’t how I’d envisioned my first few days of my break, but oftentimes “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. After all, life cannot be scripted no matter how hard we try. Atticus is undoubtedly on the mend, which is more important to me than “me” time will ever be. My Christmas break, while different from how I imagined it would start, still is off to a beautiful beginning. I’m enjoying the merriment of hot cocoa, Hallmark Christmas movies, and quality time with the boys.

Liam will be on break starting tomorrow and the four of us will drive down to South Texas to celebrate Christmas with my extended family. I’m looking forward to all that comes in this holiday season- the parts that are planned and the ones that accidentally fall in my lap.

This will likely be my last post until after Christmas. I want to relish in every little part of it and look forward to sharing more with you after the 26th. It has been a wonderful 6 months of blogging and sharing my life with you since this idea to start a blog first originated in July. I look forward to putting pen to paper with new ideas and blog posts in 2018.

Wishing each of you a blessed Christmas, peace on earth, and joy to the world,

A Mama Bear