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!

Off the Radar

Since my last post, life has been a whirlwind of beautiful moments and amazing milestones. To catch everyone up to speed, I’d like to showcase some of the highlights that have had me flying high for the last two weeks.

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After nine long months of waiting, the State Board of Texas finally granted me licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern. I can now start seeing clients under the supervision of Tiffany Priska, LPC-S. I am eager to expand my experience in private practice and look forward to learning the business side of private practice at Serenity Counseling of Cypress. As I continue my work as a school counselor at St. John XXIII College Preparatory, I will slowly start to build a list of clients until I’ve earned the 3,000 hours required by the state to drop the “I” and be fully licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor. I know I have my work cut out for me, but I look forward to the opportunity to grow professionally.

STEPPING OUT FOR A GREAT CAUSE

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Training alongside the high school boys I’ve been coaching for track has clearly paid off. I was grateful for an incredibly strong showing at the Steps for Students 5K, an annual race and fundraiser for Catholic schools in the Houston area. Race day conditions were humid and drizzly, but these conditions didn’t slow me down. I finished the race in 18:40, placing 5th overall and crossing the finish line as the first overall female. The silver lining to an already great morning was discovering a stack of 50 Chick-Fil-A gift cards in my swag bag for being the overall female. It looks like I’ll be enjoying a sandwich or 8 count nuggets on them for the next year!

100 DAYS OF AWESOME

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Last Friday, Liam celebrated the 100th day of school with a number themed party in his classroom. All kindergarteners made their own shirts beforehand to showcase their creativity. Using his index finger and an assortment of acrylic paints, he created a colorful rainbow and his name with 100 personalized finger prints. He beamed with pride about getting to wear his shirt to school. The day included games, activities, and arts and crafts that all centered around the number 100.

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Tomorrow he has his first field trip to the Oil Ranch. Tucking him in tonight, he told me how he wished it was already morning so that he could go on his trip. Clearly our little kindergartener is an eager beaver. This year it has been such a joy watching him grow academically and socially. I look forward to hearing all about his field trip adventure tomorrow after school.

VIVA LAS VEGAS

Last weekend, my parents drove up to watch the boys, so Sean and I could enjoy a long weekend in Las Vegas. Between the amazing food, shows, and people watching, there was never a dull moment.

The highlights of the trip include a relaxing stay at the Bellagio, an impromptu dinner at Hell’s Kitchen (a cancellation opened the door unexpectedly for us to get a table as walk ins), and amazing entertainment (Cirque de Soleil’s O, Aces of Comedy featuring Ray Romano & David Spade, and The Million Dollar Piano Man: Elton John).

A getaway with your spouse is always a wonderful way to reconnect. Vegas proved to be the perfect opportunity for just that!

ON THE MOVE

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Today our Baby Bear celebrated his 16 months of life with a new milestone- walking. This sweet boy has been trying to embrace this feat for a few weeks now, but I can say with confidence and certainty that he is officially on the move now. This Mama Bear couldn’t be more proud seeing him walk across the floor towards me beaming with pride. He’ll be running alongside me before I know it!

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I appreciate your patience and understanding about my temporary hiatus from blogging. I’m eager to share some new recipes and blog about other new adventures very soon. Until next time…

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!

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…

Revisiting 2017

With 2017 in the books, I thought my first post for the new year warranted a walk down memory lane. A way to reflect on the more poignant parts of last year that shaped how I grew as a wife, mother, and woman. Life truly is full of beautiful moments that challenge us, inspire us, and remind us how infinitely blessed we are. Below are 12 pictures, one for each month of 2017. While there were so many special moments I shared with my family all year long, these commemorated an event or captured a moment that resonated something profound within me.

This picture was taken last January in Austin. We were enjoying an outdoor lunch on the deck at Central Market. Liam jumped, climbed, and ran around at the playground just feet away, and I enjoyed a beautiful moment cuddling with Atticus. I didn’t realize my mother was snapping pictures, but Atticus seemed to know as he smiled directly into the camera. I loved the photo so much that I framed it and hung it on our wall. Looking at it every time I walk down the stairs, still warms my heart.

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In just a few short months, the brotherly bond between Liam and Atticus could not be denied. This picture, taken last February on Go Texan Day illuminates their bond. Liam protectively hugging his brother close to his heart, and Atticus taking comfort in the strength and support of his big brother.

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Nothing warms my heart more than seeing my own Mama Bear falling in love with her grandchildren. This photo was candidly taken at a reception at our house following Atticus’s baptism. I love how fondly and affectionately my mother looks down at Atticus. She continues to be an inspiration of the kind of mother I aspire to be most like in life. She embodies the type of kindness, patience, and love I can only hope to exemplify in my own daily life.

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This photo exemplifies the beautiful people who I had the privilege of celebrating my 34th birthday with last April. Each of the people seated at this table have pulled me up through some of my more difficult points in life or showered me with love and kindness at higher points in my life. Each and every one of them holds an incredibly dear place in my heart. Thank you immensely for the gift of your friendship. I look forward to many more amazing years of miles, laughs, celebrations, and joyous moments together.

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May symbolizes the many milestones this last year brought. The birth of my first child. This little person who developed his own personality, learned how to roll over, crawl, babble, laugh, pull up, and walk with help from supportive hands.

Liam ended primary school with a graduation and started kindergarten. He is now actively reading and truly soaking up knowledge like a little sponge. My heart swells with pride at the accomplishments both boys have achieved this year. Big and small, these milestones have monumental meaning for this Mama Bear.

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This photo encapsulates everything I absolutely love- my boys, summer fun, and beach adventures. I fondly look back at the summers I spent with my mom, brother, and childhood friends building sandcastles, combing the shore for shells, and frolicking in the surf. There is nothing I like sharing more than my love of the ocean with Liam and Atticus. I look forward to a lifetime of summer memories built around our time on South Padre Island.

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July is all about stars and stripes as we celebrate our nation’s independence every July 4th. Piggybacking on the stripes theme, this was a simple selfie taken as I was getting dressed in July. I love how incredibly happy Atticus is. His joy illustrates how beneficial it would be for us as adults to take a step back from our busy lives to look at life through the eyes of a child. Innocence, beauty, and joy in its purest sense!

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Hurricane Harvey brought tragedy, humility, and community to the greater Houston area. People came together to help those in need in so many different ways. Our family and friends fared incredibly well while others were far less fortunate. The devastation and loss brought meaningful opportunities to teach the importance of helping our neighbors in times of need and doing our part to make Houston strong.

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September brought the first day of kindergarten. Liam beamed with pride as he posed that morning. He was so excited to make new friends and go to a “big boy school”. In the semester since school started, he’s mastering sight words, can count to 100 like it’s a cake walk, completes mental math in his head like a little mathematician, and asks at least 50 questions a day as all curious children should.

This picture embodies pride all around. A Mama Bear proud of her eldest heading off to grade school. A kindergartner beaming with joy about the prospect of all his first year of grade school will hold. A baby bear who can only dream about grade school but thinks it’s so incredibly cool that his big brother is off to do great things!

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October memories are full and plentiful, but nothing more accurately rounds out milestones for the year of 2017 than the loss of your first tooth. The anticipation of the Tooth Fairy’s visit and the feeling of empty space illuminate all that encompassed Liam’s feelings about losing a tooth. Like any badge of honor, he wears it proudly as he eagerly awaits the next one. With no wiggly prospective teeth in the line up though, it could be awhile until the next one makes its exit!

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November commemorated remembrance and unexpected loss. The tragic loss of a dear friend brought a group of close friends and family together to celebrate the beautiful life Meg led serving others, kicking asphalt, and being one hell of a Mama Bear, wife, and friend. Your radiant light will continue to shine and inspire others even in your absence!

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December marks the importance of family. The holidays offer the opportunity for renewal, togetherness, and the merriment and joy of Christmas. From last year to now, some of the changes in my life have been profoundly significant. In reflecting on this last year, I recognize how infinitely blessed I am in so many ways. I have a beautiful family who I love with every ounce of my being. As a wife, mother, and woman, I had beautiful moments and other times I didn’t let my best self shine through.

Christmas is a time for forgiveness. Recognizing the relationship is more important than our individual egos. In this new year, I will make a more concerted effort to give myself more credit for the good I attempt to do each and every day, and I will forgive myself for the times I feel like I’m falling short. Each day is a new opportunity to start over and try to be more patient first with myself and then with others. In 2018, I will try to cut myself some slack if I deviate from “the plan”. The laundry can wait or we can eat grilled cheese again for dinner if it means more quality time with my husband and children.

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I will close with a quote fondly used by my late friend, Meg. “Life is precious… let us try not to waste it!” Wishing you a precious 2018. Bask in all that this year brings. Every day won’t always be beautiful but if you can find one beautiful moment in those more difficult days, you’ve successfully found your silver lining. Thank you for supporting my blog and giving my words meaning. I look forward to the next year of sharing my stories with you.

A 6th Birthday of Liamisms

Today marked Liam’s 6th birthday. While driving to Shipley’s this morning for birthday donuts. I started singing happy birthday with an assortment of different nicknames for Liam just for grins. Each time it went a little something like:

  • “Happy birthday dear, Liamnardo da Vinci. Happy birthday to you!”
  • “Happy birthday dear, Liamnardo James Macaroni . Happy birthday to you!”
  • “Happy birthday dear, Liam Sweet Pea Mogwai. Happy birthday to you!”

Every time he chimed in with, “Mom, that’s not my real name.” I preceded to follow up with his full name. At which point he contested yet again that this wasn’t his real name either. He matter of factly followed up with, “No mom. My real name is just Liam.”

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In honor of Liam and his special day on this 5th of November, it seemed only fitting to compile some of his most recent Liamisms to commemorate his sixth birthday.

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“Mom, you want to hear something hilarasing? It’s so funny it will make you laugh.” “Liam, sweetie, I think the word you mean is hilarious. Hilarious is another word for funny.” “Oh yeah, that’s what I meant to say!”

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“Liam, I really need you to be a first time listener, please.” “Mom, I think I’m having a hard time hearing because I have too much ear wax in my ears. Maybe you should clean them out with a Q Tip, so I can hear better.”

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“Mom, why don’t we use mattresses at the dinner table anymore?” “What mattresses are you talking about Liam?” “You know the ones we used to put under our plate to catch the food.” “Oh, you mean place mats.” “Oh right, that’s what they’re called.”

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“Mom, wouldn’t it be funny if I was only one like Atticus. Then we’d be twins. We could play together all the time.” “Liam, I’m sure that would be a lot of fun for you two but it would be a lot of work for me.” “You’re right, Mom. Think of how many poopy diapers two babies would make. That would be disgusting!”

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Liam, your wit and humor bring light to our days. You are an incredibly intelligent young man with a world full of possibilities in front of you. Keep working hard, making us proud, and bringing a smile to our face with your perfectly imperfect Liamisms. May this year bring you happiness, adventures, and so much more! Happiest of birthday wishes to you, Golden Bear.

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