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.

 

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.

9 MONTHS LATER

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!

10 Days Later

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Sean and I just completed a 10 Green Smoothie Cleanse. This isn’t the first time we’ve embarked on this exercise of self-control, but it proved to be the most meaningful. The holidays are a time of joy, merriment, and indulging. Great wine, amazing cheeses, authentic tamales, and delectable desserts definitely put the merry in Christmas.

With the new year, new beginnings and resolutions motivate us to reevaluate areas of our life that require personal growth and self-regulation. The intention of our cleanse was to flush out toxins, recalibrate our food cravings, and kick off the new year by putting our healthiest foot forward.

In preparing for this cleanse, it is easy to see why so many people gravitate towards pre-made, processed food. Aside from it tasting delicious, it’s easy to plate dinner for the entire family in no time flat when Domino’s or Chinese take-out can be delivered to your door in a matter of minutes.

Having all of the ingredients on hand and making sure healthy snacks were always within reach proved key to making it through the ten day cleanse without losing stamina or breaking the cleanse rules. We completed the modified cleanse that included two green smoothies a day along with one clean meal. We opted for a breakfast and dinner smoothie and had soup or fresh fish or poultry for lunch. Healthy snacking helped curb cravings and helped keep our metabolism working overtime. Approved snacks included crunchy vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers, apples, hard boiled eggs, a scoop of unsweetened peanut butter, and a handful of nuts. Drinking water and abstaining from alcohol were two important aspects of the cleanse. All of these components together proved to be integral to the cleanse’s success.

Meal planning was a critical part of our 10 day cleanse too. I found a great recipe for Detox Chicken Soup from A Spicy Perspective (www.aspicyperspective.com/chicken-detox-soup/). I adapted the recipe to better suit our likes including subbing cilantro for parsley and adding fresh jalapenos to add an extra layer of heat. We also enjoyed delicious lemon rosemary salmon and lemon pepper chicken. Both of these dishes packed a high dose of protein and flavor for a satisfying and savory clean meal.

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CHICKEN DETOX SOUP

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 natural rotisserie chicken, skin removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped and seeded if you like a little less heat
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger until soft. Add the chicken, broth, carrots, apple cider vinegar, and spices and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and add the broccoli, peas, and cilantro. Simmer until the broccoli softens and is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm and enjoy!

Ten days later, I feel energized, healthy, and proud of myself for the exercise in self-control. I failed to recognize how much sugar I consumed prior to this cleanse. I found myself craving whole foods like fresh salmon, produce, and poultry. Going forward I want to continue having a green smoothie daily for breakfast to jumpstart my morning with a healthy dose of greens, fruit, and fiber. If you’re interested, I highly recommend J.J. Smith’s 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse. Her book offers step by step recipes, the science behind the cleanse, and a wealth of other information about its health benefits.

I won’t lie, there were times I wanted to cheat. Who wouldn’t when the scent of fresh baked chocolate chip cookies fills your office? At my lowest points, I felt ready to chew my own arm off. But anyone can do this for ten days if you set your mind to it. I promise you’ll feel amazing after you get past the first two to three day hump. This is when your energy level skyrockets and you really start to feel better than ever. I strongly recommend having a cheerleader to encourage and motivate you to stay on track. Knowing Sean was encountering some of the same challenges made it easier to keep on trucking. The end results are truly worth the sacrifice that comes from doing it. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger!

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Choose Kindness

Why do some women thrive on breaking other women down? It’s a question I’ve reflected on for most of my life, and nearly 35 years later I still feel quite perplexed by all of it.

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I can think of a handful of mean girls who thrived on unkindness in middle school and high school. I remember on more than one occasion pouring my heart out to my mother as tears rolled down my face about how unbearable it felt to face the cruelty of these mean spirited girls. I know I certainly hoped that after high school, girls would outgrow this phase and I wouldn’t have to lose sleep over their antics.

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Even into adulthood, I’ve faced my fair share of mean girls. They thrive on the drama of bringing others down. Oftentimes fueled by jealousy, they bring their toxicity, mean spiritedness, and general crappy disposition into the workplace and it lingers like a bad cold that just won’t go away.

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As a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend, and a professional, I’m always taken aback by these types of women. Are they really so unhappy that they need to rain our parade of happiness? Why do they feel like they have a right to act this way and treat others so poorly?

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Even as a counselor, I don’t have all of the answers. There is undoubtedly a significant amount of insecurity, unhappiness, and anger they are enmeshed in. I work with high school girls who struggle with mean girls just like I did when I was in their shoes. It’s significantly worse now as a result of social media. So few people today filter their comments, think twice about how their words can cut someone else, or even seem to bat an eye when they take it too far.

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I write this piece today for two separate but also distinctly important reasons. First and foremost, all women deserve to be respected and appreciated for who they are. Each of us has unique talents and gifts that we share with the world and someone else shouldn’t think it’s okay to step in and try to break someone down for being true to themselves. Most of my readers are women doing their very best every day to put their best foot forward and make a positive difference in the world. The last thing we should be trying to do is break down one of our own.

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Secondly, encouraging and propagating negative behavior only stirs the pot more and makes mean girls and mean women for that matter continue to behave in this manner. It starts with each and every one of us. Stop giving them a platform. Stop giving them an audience. Stop letting them think it’s okay to break down other women in any other capacity. Our lives as women, wives, mothers, and friends should be about bringing out the best in ourselves and others. We don’t know what kinds of struggles and hardships another individual is carrying with them into work, Wal-Mart, or Wendy’s. It is not our place to judge, mistreat, or berate someone else.

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You might be wondering what prompted me to address this topic today? In truth, I’m quite frustrated by a mean spirited coworker who has been trying to break my own spirits. Her underhanded behavior has definitely gotten under my skin. However I refuse to let her ruffle my feathers enough to stoop down to her level. I will hold my head high, continue to pour myself passionately into my work as a counselor, and kill her with kindness. On my best days, I walk away from work completely unaffected by her behavior. On my worst days, I have a few choice words I use as I vent to my mom on the drive home.

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Even in darkness, kindness makes the world a better place. Today, tomorrow, and the day after that, start throwing kindness around like it’s confetti. Put an end to encouraging the drama queens and mean girls of the world. Squelch out their voice with your kind words, explosive optimism, and beautiful smile.

here's to