Running Up That Hill

I registered for a half marathon that takes place in May. My intent was twofold: to eliminate some unhealthy habits and have some motivation to help in my efforts. I knew that if I formally registered (and roped a good friend into the process) I’d be committed to following through. I ran a half once before and while I would equate the experience with natural childbirth, the feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment that washed over me when I was finished made up for the pain during.

Cut to two months post-registration and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve run. Simply put, I have no desire at the moment. I could blame it on winter, lack of time or any number of things. But those are lame excuses. The fact of the matter is I have a gym membership, access to treadmills and plenty of time if I just made it a priority. In my defense, I’ve done some strength training and kickboxing workouts, and while they’re good for you, they’re not running, which is what you need to do to have the endurance to log 13.1 miles in (hopefully) 2 hours or less.

So yesterday in a panic I looked at the calendar to determine how many days until the race: 66. That’s a little more than 9 weeks to train. I perused some training plans and the consensus is that it’s totally doable. However, these training plans assume you’ve been running fairly regularly so that you’ve built up your endurance to help with longer runs. They should not assume that about me.

So today, as I write this, I’m turning over a new leaf. I’m admitting publicly that I have been lazy as all get out and it’s time to pay the piper. I brought my running gear with me to work so that I can go directly to the gym afterwards. Because if I go home first the couch will call and it’s all over from there. I also got a new pair of running shoes that I’m hoping will make me feel more like a gazelle than a penguin. Finally, I read this Runner’s World article, which lists 101 tips and inspirational quotes to motivate me to continue to put one foot in front of the other.

So what about you? Ever set lofty goals, only to be disappointed you don’t follow through? What’s your secret to staying motivated? Hit me up in the comments.


The Sledding Hill As a Metaphor For Life

While many people lament the arrival of snow, this intrepid gal welcomes it. After all, if it’s going to be cold, at least snow expands your recreation options. (And, frankly, there are only so many board games, cooking projects and G-rated movie watching I can do with my kids before I seriously lose my mind.)

One recent Saturday we were blessed with about 5 inches of precipitation. The girls greeted the falling flakes with exuberance. With Saturday ahead of us, and the promise of accumulation, there were heated discussions about which sledding hill to hit first and the merits of each. Feeling adventurous, I posited we try someplace new. We decided on a hill in north Appleton, about 20 miles from home.

After suiting up, we piled into the car and threw the sleds in the back. As we headed down the highway, we alternately talked about the upcoming fun and sung along with the radio, everyone feeling upbeat.

Upon arrival, however, it was obvious that we were not the only ones with the idea to hit the hill. At least 20 groups of people were already there, giving it a whirl. And while I couldn’t have expected to have the hill to ourselves, I was more than a little irritated by the lack of sledding etiquette being exhibited, specifically the tendency by too many to not exit the hill promptly after stopping at the bottom.

Lurkers and malingerers

Why is it that so many feel the need to linger after the ride? When that happens, those of us at the top have to wait an inordinately long time before launching, or we risk crashing into the lurkers.  I give very young children a pass on this as they simply don’t have the experience or the awareness of the larger world around them to realize that they are in the way. But middle- and high-school-age students, and even adults who clearly should know better? No thank you.

Because our girls are polite to a fault, they tend to wait for the “all clear” when it comes to many things in life. But after about three runs of this nonsense, we gave them the go-ahead to “man up,” as it were.

“Just go. If they don’t move out of the way and you crash into them, that’ll teach ‘em,” we said. They looked at us dubiously. “Girls, just go! You’ll be fine,” I said, gritting my teeth. (OK, probably not the best example to set, but the cold, wind and cardiac arrest-inducing ascent to the top of the hill following each run apparently were bringing out the worst. Also, I did not feel like spending the majority of my day on a sledding hill NOT sledding.)

And with that, they launched, our eldest twirling her plastic saucer in circles, while the youngest shot ahead on her purple missile, hell bent for destruction. Confident and fearless, they deftly avoided several collisions. And when they stopped moving, they jumped up laughing, quickly making their way to the side of the hill.

It was a proud parenting moment.

Sure, it may not have come about in the sweetest of ways, but our intentions were good. The overriding motivation in all my interactions with my kids is to raise independent, confident people who are prepared at 18 years old to enter a crazy and sometimes dangerous world — children who are aware of the bigger picture and consider the feelings of others, but not so much that it hinders them or causes them to doubt themselves.

The sledding hill is an apt metaphor for life: sure, it can be a scary ride at times, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The trials are the great teachers. How you land is irrelevant. How quickly you move onto the next adventure is what really matters.

Why the Slow Cooker Rocks My World

As a working Mom who is morally obligated to feed her family, I confess that I have a love/hate relationship with said obligation.

That said, the benefits of the family dinner have been well documented. One study shows that teens who don’t eat with their families for dinners on a regular basis are much more likely to use alcohol, marijuana, or tobacco compared to those who do eat meals with their parents.

Studies aside, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that eating together, sharing the day’s ups and downs with the people you love, and basically communing as a cohesive group is better than the alternative.

And that is why I love the slow cooker, the ultimate tool for “fix it and forget it” meal preparation. You can find a suitable recipe on any number of web sites or cookbooks. Just load it with ingredients in the morning, turn the dial to low and let the meal cook all day. Come home a few hours later, and voila! You’re greeted with an enticing aroma of a home cooked meal.

Here’s one of my favorite slow cooker recipes, courtesy of one of the teachers at my kids’ school. It makes a lot and freezes well. It also tastes even better the next day as leftovers:

Italian Chicken


3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 (8 oz.) cream cheese

1 pkg. Italian seasoning (in salad dressing aisle)


Lay chicken in bottom of slow cooker. Mix soup, cheese and seasoning. Pour over chicken. Cook 8-10 hours on low. Use spatula to break chicken apart. Serve on hard rolls or buns.

Are you enamored with the slow cooker? Let me know what you think, or even share a recipe.