Follow your Heart

Blogging serves as a creative outlet for me. A way for me to touch people’s lives with my words and time stamp important memories in my life. For those of you who have followed me faithfully since A Mama Bear & Her Cubs was first created in late July 2017 , you’ve likely noticed an ebb and flow in the frequency of my posts.

To create a quality blog, it takes great dedication, meaningful content, and powerful images. Because of my Type A personality and perfectionist tendencies, I toil over the words until they are perfect. Mind you this is typically happening at the end of a long work day or while my two boys take their midday break for a nap or quiet time. I am often my toughest critic and therefore do not always feel like my words are ready for publication. In my busiest of times, I don’t always find the inspiration needed to create quality pieces. These are the moments that lead to a dip in my blog content.

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I find my family life and the little things that I encounter on a daily basis to be the best resource for content. Despite the fact that I faithfully maintain a blog, I rarely make time to discover new blogs. Mostly because I worry that the content I happen upon on other blogs may detract from my own creative process. This year to help me channel my thoughts and keep content fresh, I started keeping a notebook on hand to jot down ideas and things that inspire me along the way. This springboard for ideas has allowed me to easily put pen to paper (or more accurately clinking keys on my keyboard to piece together a blog post).

A Mama Bear & Her Cubs has slowly built a following, mostly from likeminded Mama Bears in my collective circles of friends and family. Because of social media, some of my posts have been shared and reposted on other pages and have reached record breaking views for me. I am sure that I could work harder to build my readership and even consider partnering with advertisers like so many other bloggers do. I choose, however, to focus on this blog for my own personal well-being and for the well-being of other women who read and find inspiration in my words.

Unfortunately we live in a culture where so often women are breaking other women down. I have focused my content on positivity because quite frankly we need more of that in our world and a whole lot less mean girl drama.

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Today’s post is probably the most basic and least powerful I’ve written since the inception of A Mama Bear & Her Cubs. But as always, there is a purpose and intention in the content I choose. My hope is that in reading today’s blog post, you will recognize the importance of pursuing your own passions in life. Do more of what makes you happy whether that’s through cooking, yoga, crafting, trail running, salsa dancing, yodeling…

Carve out time for the things that matter most to you. Don’t let your dreams and life pursuits be stifled because of a full-time job, responsibilities as a wife and mother, or anything else that might stand in your way. Take time to share, learn, and grow every day because your best self will allow you to be your best for the ones you love and care for every day. Be bold and follow your heart!

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New Year’s Revolutions

Today marks the midway point of January. Although we’re already fifteen days into 2019, it’s never to late to reflect on last year and look forward to what lies ahead. This year as Liam and I discussed the notion of resolutions going into the new year, in true Liam fashion he forgot the actual word and instead dubbed it a new year’s revolution. Now granted we haven’t started a war with the new year but perhaps we should consider that our resolutions if orchestrated properly can have a truly revolutionary impact on our lives.

Traditionally new year’s resolutions revolve around improved health, fitness, and integrating new habits in our lives that will make life simpler and less stressful. I compiled a list of few I have already integrated into my life or are striving towards accomplishing in the new year.

1. Smile More

Research shows that smiling boosts your immune system because your whole body relaxes when you offer up a grin. When you have two incredibly adorable baby bears like these, it’s kind of hard not to smile. Think about how impactful a smile can be to someone who might be having a rough day. Spread a little joy in one of its simplest and purest forms by passing along a smile to someone you see today.

2. Soak it In 

Find moments to pause and soak it all in. Think how quickly 2018 flew by and how we’re already halfway through January. Life is always full of busy moments and to do’s. Allow yourself the opportunity to stop and soak in the little moments. Before you know it, your newborn is a toddler, then a kindergartener, then a tween… time just continues to inch forward whether we want it to or not. So pause to savor those little moments before they are gone in an instant. If you’re too busy trying to accomplish the laundry list of chores piling up or scrolling through your social media feed though, you’ll miss these little glimpses of childlike innocence. Take time to be present and enjoy the company you are keeping.

3. Sip & Savor

So often we are guzzling our morning coffee or inhaling lunch as we multi-task at work. In this new year, make time to sip and savor the food you have in front of you. Indulge in the flavors and aromas that accompany a great meal or an incredible glass of wine. Build community and relish in the food and company at your table.

This year for New Year’s, Sean and I spent a quiet evening after the boys went to bed making pasta from scratch. The homemade noodles tossed in garlic lemon butter sauce paired perfectly with our wine and cheese plate. Taking a step back to appreciate the food and refreshments we put in our bodies and truly marinating in the flavors allows us to savor our food without overindulging.

4. Slow Down 

No one needs to meditate on this phrase more than me. It’s been something I’ve struggled with for years because I’m such a do’er. This, however, has been at the forefront of my intentions for how my 2019 needs to look and feel differently than last year and all of the years before that.

Slowing down starts with recognizing and valuing the importance of self-care. Make time for you every single day so that you have more positive parts of yourself to offer to others. For me, this comes in many forms: bubble baths, hot tea, getting lost in a good book, and soaking in all of the hugs and cuddles I can coax out of a too cool 1st grader and a topsy turvy toddler.

5. Celebrate Accomplishments

Setting goals and celebrating accomplishments is a critical part of achieving success. Striving to be our best comes from hard work, determination, and a desire to be our best. My favorite way to celebrate a podium finish is with high fives, French fries, and champagne. Taking time to celebrate these things allows us to recognize our strengths and appreciate our gifts.

For our little ones, it is also a critical way to build self-esteem and instill a sense of pride in our children. Celebrate your little victories and share these successes with those you are closest too. After all, their support likely contributed in some way to your success!

6. G.O.A.T. 

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2019 is ripe for the taking. Embrace this new year with childlike abandon. Offer gratitude for your blessings. Make time for the people you love and the pursuits that are most important to you. Smile through the good and the bad. Carve out time every day for a little rest and relaxation. Implementing healthy habits and slowing down to soak in the little things will set you up for the Greatest (Year) Of All Time. So go out there and be revolutionary!

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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A Tough Act to Follow

God blesses us with infinite opportunities in life to selflessly give our time to others. My high school cross-country and track coach modeled this selflessness with the grace of an angel. She dedicated countless hours away from her husband and family to lead workouts, call splits, and encourage her athletes to reach their full potential. When I reflect back on this time, my heart swells with joy as I think of how incredibly blessed I was to have her in my life as a coach, teacher, and mentor.

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This year marked my first year as a high school track coach. Armed with a stopwatch, a composition notebook full of workouts, and the wisdom of many years of running, I stepped into Coach Torres’s shoes to impart a love of running and the importance of sportsmanship, hard work, and dedication. My field of runners brought so much light to my afternoons as together we ticked away lap after lap around the track pushing each other along to greatness.

All season long one of my freshman boys continued to impress me with his raw talent and competitive spirit. Every week he shaved seconds off of his mile time and ended his final lap with the speed and tenacity of a runner far beyond his years. Last week at the district meet, he went into the meet seeded 5th place overall. In the final lap, he executed a flawless kick that allowed him to surpass enough runners in the field to garner a 3rd place finish. I welled with pride as he crossed the finish line and beamed from ear-to-ear knowing we had another week and a half of practice to prepare for regionals.

On Thursday afternoon, under a cloudless, bright blue sky, he toed the line with eight other competitors. Going in to the race, he was ranked fourth. We’d spent all week strategizing how this race needed to play out with him finishing in the top three to secure his spot to compete at state. In the final moments before the gun went off, I did the sign of the cross and offered the race up to the Lord. My prayer was simple, “Lord please bless Harrison today. We’ve done everything possible to get him ready for today. Let your will be done. Amen.”

With my stomach in knots, the gun went off and the runners set out on a mission. The race played out like a movie in slow motion. He led for most of the first lap, rounded out the second lap in last place, and then in typical Harrison fashion, he put it all on the line in the final lap and put every last ounce of his energy into the last 150 meters of the race. With his head tucked down, his arms pumping with determination, and his crimson red singlet swaying in the wind, he was poetry in motion in the final straightaway of the 1600. Cheering him on at the top of my lungs, my heart swelled with pride as he sprinted past two runners to secure his place as the 3rd place finisher. His finish earns him the opportunity to compete next week at the TAPPS 6A State Track Meet in Waco next Saturday.

In that moment when he crossed the finish line, I wished with all of my heart that I could pick up the phone and share my victory with you, Coach Torres. In that moment, it all came full circle for me. I remembered how overjoyed I was the first time I qualified to the state track meet. I vividly remember the joy I saw in Coach Torres’s eyes as she recognized what my second place regional finish meant for both of us.

Coach Torres, you are an incredibly tough act to follow, but I have tried my absolute best to lead by example just like you did at every single practice and meet. Next week at the state track meet, I know you’ll be watching us from your front row bleacher seat in Heaven. A great coach motivates, inspires, and brings out the best in their athletes. Thank you, Coach Torres, for bringing out the best in me. Your leadership and selflessness are a shining example of the kind of high school track coach I aspire to be!

Quiet Moments for Introspection

Sometimes in our incredibly busy lives we must find ways to carve out time for introspection. Without these quiet moments to reflect and assess, how can we expect to achieve personal growth. While many will argue about how life changing technology has been for us as a society, it has also made it more difficult for us to feel comfortable with solitude.

Being more mindful, acknowledging our weaknesses, and giving ourselves permission to learn from our missteps, starts with a willingness to love ourselves. Most of us, as women, are incredibly hard on ourselves. We scrutinize, nit pick, and harp on ourselves, when we really should appreciate, own, and celebrate our strengths. Love yourself for who you are.

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When you look in the mirror, be proud of the woman staring back at you. Smile, pat yourself on the back, and remind yourself that, “you’ve got this!” Too often we undervalue our talents, strengths, and abilities. Embrace them wholeheartedly! I’ll borrow powerful words from a powerful woman who has inspired many with her beautiful prose. As per Maya Angelou, “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”

Fixating on our flaws, dwelling on the negative, and wallowing in self-pity rarely propels us forward. Our happiness comes from our own desire to persevere through the difficult times, high five ourselves when we overcome adversity, and offer gratitude for the beautiful moments that touch our lives. We are the author’s of our own story. Appreciate the importance of the pencil as you write, it allows you the opportunity to revise, edit, erase, and rewrite the negative parts of your story; infusing your rewrite with radiance, light, and positivity.

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We only have one chance at this life we live. Dream big, love fiercely, sprinkle in spontaneity, and celebrate your accomplishments. Don’t be afraid to let your hair down, ruffle some feathers every now and then, and give yourself permission to go off script from time to time. While structure and regimentation often play a critical role in overall success, we have to appreciate and even laugh at the flawed parts of ourselves that make us who we are. Find time to let go sometimes and take life as it comes!

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When we allow ourselves quiet moments in our busy lives to pause even for the briefest moments, we open our hearts and minds to personal insight, reflection, and honesty. There are countless ways to find solace in our solitude whether through prayer, mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, or quiet contemplation. Slow down and hit the pause button from time to time. You just might surprise yourself with what you discover!

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Be your best self and know that every day is a new opportunity for self-improvement, self-love, and self-acceptance.

 

“Break” is a Relative Term

For those of you who know me well, I very rarely slow down. Whether I’m running, working, or being a Mama Bear, I am a busy bee buzzing from one flower to the next. So naturally when Spring Break rolled around, the word “break” proved to be a relative term. Yes, I did enjoy a much needed break from work however I found many other projects, activities, and outings to keep me busy from the very beginning of the break to the very end.

The break kicked into gear on Monday morning with Liam and I hustling around the greater Houston area for plants. With our multiple freezes and snow days this winter, my potted plants bit the dust despite repeated efforts to cover them from the cold temperatures. We perused Target, Wal-Mart, H-E-B, Lowe’s, and Ikea for a multitude of different plants. Later in the week, I planted and rearranged our outdoor living space. My favorite takeaway from this project was repurposing Liam’s sandbox into an herb and vegetable garden.

My mom drove in midday on Monday, so the two of us enjoyed some much needed mother- daughter time shopping, eating out, and catching up. Liam and Sean ventured out on Tuesday afternoon for a father-son snowboarding trip in Colorado. Between the shopping and late night conversations with my mom, Atticus enjoyed quality time with his DeeDee (my mom’s grandma name) and also enjoyed walking just about everywhere his little legs would take him.

After my mom headed back to the Valley on Thursday morning, I enjoyed some extremely long lunches catching up with good friends. The food was great but naturally the quality time in good company was even better. In the afternoons, Atticus and I enjoyed some quality time exploring the neighborhood playgrounds, and I also mixed in a little work by reorganizing my closet. Purging and donating several bags worth of clothing to Goodwill proved to be cathartic. With some of my new finds from my shopping excursions with my mom, it also felt good to make room for the new and pass on some of my clothes for someone else to enjoy.

While at lunch on Friday with my friend Anna, she convinced me to run the 5K at the Bayou City Classic if I could find a babysitter. Thankfully, one of my go-to babysitters who works at Atticus’s daycare was willing to babysit starting at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Exactly a month out from my Steps for Students win, I toed the line again with a goal of improving my 18:40 time. I was incredibly happy to better my time by 20 seconds and cinch the overall female win. The icing on the cake was catching up with my favorite Bayou City Road Runners and savoring my victory with an amazing iced coffee compliments of Katz coffee. I rounded out a wonderful day catching up with a dear friend of mine and enjoying a glass of wine and a charcuterie plate of amazing olives, cheeses, and prosciutto.

As if I didn’t squeeze enough into my “break”, I also devoured another great psychological thriller (Trespassing by Brandi Reeds). An absolute page turner I stayed up way past my bedtime reading on multiple occasions because I was desperate to see how the book ended.  I also made time to cook because it always brings me so much joy. One of my favorite dishes from the week included a savory white chicken chili with white beans, white corn, and fire roasted tomatoes and a fresh batch of homemade cornbread.

All in all, my Spring Break was anything but a break but proved to offer bountiful opportunities to enjoy some of my favorite past times, catch up with some of my favorite people, organize and declutter, and feel productive and proud of my accomplishments. With a few hours remaining of break, I plan to enjoy a glass of wine with my husband, try a new creamy chicken soup recipe for dinner, bond with my boys, and sneak in a little quiet time reading a new book. For me, the word “break” truly is a relative term!

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!