Happy Mother’s Day to the Other Mother

It’s Mother’s Day, and I feel so honored and grateful for having the privilege of being a Mom, especially since I get to be Dr. Smooth’s mom.  He really is an incredible kid, and I thank God for such an awesome gift.  But I also thank God for another really cool gift, and that is Dr. Smooth’s OTHER MOM.  His dad and I really hit the jackpot with that one.

It has been said that being a mother is the hardest job in the world.  I definitely do not want to dispute that, but there is one job that is quite possibly a tad bit harder than being a mom, and that is being a stepmom.   And unless you have been a stepmom, you have no idea.  I could try to explain why, but if you’re not a stepmom, you won’t get it, and if you are a stepmom, I don’t need to explain.

So I want to very publicly acknowledge and thank my kid’s stepmom for being one of the biggest blessings in his life.  And mine.

From the very beginning, she has had his best interests at heart.  She cut right through the tension between his father and me to put my son at the forefront and create a family unit for him that bridged both households to provide him with stability, love, and consistency.   Her viewpoint was that Dr. Smooth didn’t ask for his family to be split into two homes, and we owed it to him to work together and be one family.  His family.

She and I threw ourselves into that goal, and I am so proud and happy to say that we have accomplished it.  Althoughstepmom, Mother's Day all four of his parents are very much on board, it is largely because of her willingness and her efforts that my child grew up in such a stable environment.  We have always held his birthday parties together so he doesn’t have to choose or be torn.  We trick or treat together so he doesn’t have to choose or be away from the people he loves.  We make every effort to ensure if family members are in town, he sees them and spends time with them — no matter whose “day” it is.  We work with each other on booking vacations, concerts, parties, recitals–whatever it takes to make sure he doesn’t miss out in either home and can fully take part in whatever his family is doing — no matter which house it’s at.

When his dad comes to pick up, he comes in and visits.  When I pick up, Dr. Smooth usually has to usher me out of the house because she and I are talking so long.  If he is “in trouble” at one house, he is “in trouble” at the other house.

mother's dayWhen she and Dr. Smooth’s dad welcomed their first child, I gave her a card expressing from my heart that she and I are forever joined.  Our children share blood; they are brother and sister.  We are forever connected.  And as their family has increased and multiplied, so has mine.  My heart has been expanded and blessed by her children being in my life and in my son’s life.  My Knight and I cherish and love those kids as our own, and we strive to be a part of their lives and support them in their endeavors.  They are our family.  And we are theirs.

It is not unusual in our family for us to pick up Dr. Smooth’s brother or sisters from school or dance lessons, or delight in having them stay with us overnight. It is not unusual for Dr. Smooth to go to a concert with both of his moms, or a BMX bike show with both of his dads.  It is not unusual for My Knight to help out painting a home for the other mom’s parents, or for Dr. Smooth’s dad to come and help My Knight with a project.  It is not unusual for the two moms to take off together for a girls’ night out, or to help each other out with a task.  It is not unusual in our family to go to church together, sit together, serve together.

I do realize this is unusual for most people.  People ask us all the time,  “How do you do it?”  And I understand that everyone does not have what we have.  For some people, there is to0 much pain, too much bitterness or anger or fear or wounds that haven’t healed.  I get that.  In fact, I appreciate what we have been able to accomplish all the more because I truly do get that.

A friend told me once there is no way she would be able to handle some other woman trying to be her kid’s mom.  But I don’t see it like that.  She is not trying to be his mom; she is being his stepmom.  His other mom.  I am Dr. Smooth’s mother, and nothing will ever change that.  I know that his love for me and my relationship with  him is not changed by his love for any other. He is lucky enough to have another mom, a bonus mom, and I thank God that she loves him too, and that he loves her.  I am forever grateful for that.

For me, it has been a huge comfort as a mom to know that when he is away from me, someone is watching over him who loves him very much.  Someone who is looking out for his best interests and working hard to give him what he needs to be a successful human being.  Someone who works with me to teach him manners and morals and ethics.  Someone who helps to provide experiences to enrich his life, whether it be guitar lessons or concerts or scuba training.

And there is actually a really cool upside to having another mom.  We all call our friends to bounce ideas off them when making decisions or facing challenges with our kids, but I am lucky enough to have a friend who actually parents the same exact kid, so I always have someone to talk to who really understands what I am going through! When she makes decisions for him in her household, I know she respects and weighs my opinions along with hers, and I appreciate that.  And even when we might disagree or don’t feel the same way about things, we respect each other and love each other and him enough to work through it and move beyond it.

I really believe that because of her and the person she is, we have been able to create the best possible situation for my kid under the circumstances.

He has parents in both homes who love him and want what’s best for him.  He does not have the tension that so many children of divorce have to suffer through.  He does not know or understand that.  He is completely comfortable being with any of us or all of us at the same time.  For him, we are all his family, and we all love him.  And that is all he needs to know.

So today I just want to say Happy Mother’s Day to a woman whom I am honored to call my friend and my co-mom.  Thank you, MaryJane.  I love you.  

stepmother, mother's day



Categories: Random Rain | 5 Comments

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm: Saturday Through My Lens

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Today is a rainy, dreary Saturday, so I’m going to turn the clock back to last weekend for this week’s Saturday Through My Lens at the Sweetwater Organic Community Farm in Tampa.  

I learned about the farm from a flyer I got at the Cuban Sandwich Festival in Ybor City.  The olive lady gave it to me while she was convincing me to try her black olive salad, even though I detest black olives.  (She challenged me to try it, and I must admit it was delish!)

The Sweetwater Organic Community Farm’s Sunday Farmer’s Market sounded like the perfect weekend outing for My Knight and me. They feature several area vendors with handmade crafts and yummy things like fresh baked bread and smoothies.  And of course there is lots of fresh organic produce.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm fresh organic produce

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm organic green beans

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm fresh squash

 I’ve been making a lot of smoothies at home, incorporating different fruits and veggies.  I really like adding kale to my smoothies, so we picked up a bunch at the market.  One of the market vendors had a smoothie with kale, celery, cucumber, pineapple, honey and ginger.  It was so refreshing!  I never thought of adding celery before, but I will now.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm fresh kale

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Kale

In addition to the smoothies, we also tried a salt caramel popsicle (heavenly!).  We got all adventurous and tried our first nut burger, which was actually very tasty.  I’ve been looking for recipes to recreate one at home.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm nut burger

The farm has members who pay an annual fee in exchange for a weekly share of fresh produce and herbs.  They also agree to volunteer a minimum number of hours on the farm so that the work is shared among the community.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm fresh organic produce

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

The weather was perfect for a farmer’s market day.  It was bright and cheerfully sunny with a bit of a breeze.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

It got quite warm as the day wore on, but the majestic oak trees gave us plenty of cool shade for relaxing and listening to the live music from local bands and singers.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Oaks

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Even the sunflowers seemed to be seeking out shade to get a little break from the spring sun.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm sunflowers

While other plants seem to be stretching with all their might to soak up as much sun as possible.

Sweetwater Organic Community Farm

Sweetwater Organic Community FarmI am so thankful for the farmers who put in all the hard work so we can have fresh healthy food.  Because Lord knows I do not have a green thumb on either hand!

Sweetwater Organic Community FarmBut all these goodies make me want to try my hand at it myself!  You should visit Sweetwater Organic Community Farm’s Sunday Market before they’re closed for the summer.  The Farmer’s Market is open on Sundays from 12-4pm from November to May.  Maybe I’ll see you there!

Categories: Journeys and Travels, Through My Lens | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s Easter. Choose Love.

It’s Easter y’all.  And that means Choose Love.

Every day we are faced with hundreds and hundreds of choices.  Some choices are trivial, seemingly meaningless, and others are life-changing.  In all of these, no matter how mundane or significant, we ultimately make a choice based in love or fear.

Think about it.

Fear of failing.  Fear of losing. Fear of being last.  Fear of being alone.  Fear of being less than.  Fear of not being enough.  We make choices based on our fears of what other people will think, or how they will treat us, or what they will do.  We choose things based on our fears of the unknown, the uncertain, the unpleasant, the unwanted.

Choices that we make in fear manifest in anger, manipulation, discrimination, neglect, gossip, envy, hurt, lies, revenge, back-stabbing, meanness, and self-centeredness.  All of these take us away from God.  Away from our Higher Power.  Away from our Highest Self.

Choices made in love manifest in kindness, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, patience, empathy, tenderness, respect, gentleness, and concern for others.  Love is always the choice that takes us closer to God.  Closer to Godliness.  Love is always the Higher Choice.  Love is always the God-choice.

In the Christian faith, we celebrate Easter to commemorate and remember the death and resurrection of Jesus.  He chose love.  Without fail.  Without exception.  Above the law, he chose love.  Above society’s norms, he chose love.  Above his own safety and suffering, he chose love.  Above the loss of friends and family, he chose love.  Above his own will and his own fears, he chose love.  Even above death.  He chose love in the ultimate sacrifice any human being can offer, giving his life for others.

He was our example, our teacher, our way-shower.  And he taught us to choose love.  In fact, it was his greatest commandment for us to fulfill.

“Love one another.  In the same way I loved you, you love one another.  This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples–when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35 MSG

So on Easter, I am reminded to Choose Love.

When I am in heavy traffic, or the lines at Publix are unbelievably long, I am to choose love.  When I am at work, and others annoy the crap out of me or take credit for something they didn’t do, I am to choose love.  When I disagree with someone–their decisions, their actions, their life–I am still to choose love.  When I have been hurt, when I have been wronged, I am to choose love.  When I am tired, or hungry, or short on funds or time, I am still to choose love.

In all things, choose love.

In the way you treat family and friends, choose love.  In the way you treat strangers, choose love.  In the way you treat those different from you, choose love.

If you need to have a difficult conversation with someone, choose love in your words and approach.  If you need to set boundaries or distance yourself from someone, choose love in your method and your actions.

In each decision you make throughout your day, ask yourself: Which is the love choice?  Which is the higher choice?  Which is the God-choice?  And choose love.  Whether that is as small as letting in the idiot driver that waited til the very last minute to cut in, or not groaning when the British family doesn’t see the “10 items or less” sign at Publix, or whether it is as big as offering forgiveness for a blatant wrong or extending kindness to someone who  may not deserve it in your eyes.  In all things, Choose Love.

It may be hard to fathom, but we must also choose love for ourselves.  When we pick what foods to eat, how much sleep to get, or whether or not we have time to exercise.  Choose love when it comes to learning when to say no, or protecting yourself from people who suck the life out of you.  Choose love when it comes to relationships and people who make it hard for you to be healthy.  You have to choose love in how you treat them, but you also have to choose it for yourself.  You are best able to help others when you are healthy first.

I cannot really fathom how difficult it must have been to live His life.  I have no way to measure the pain of being whipped, crowned with thorns, beaten, and crucified.  I really have nothing in my life, even at my worst of times, to relate to what all Jesus encountered, endured, and witnessed.  And there is definitely nothing I have ever had to sacrifice or give up that would come anywhere close to what He willingly did.  After all, He was the Son of God.  The most powerful human being to ever walk the Earth.  Angels and heavens and universe at His command.  And yet, He chose love.

Others around us will recognize Him when they see the love. So it must be my daily mantra, my inner dialogue, my driving motivation, and my ever-renewing goal.


Categories: Random Rain | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Food Quirks: What Weirds You Out?

Okay, I know you’ve got one—what’s your weirdest food quirk?  Like something you can’t eat or won’t eat for some freaky reason?

I have several, and last week I found out that a long-time friend whom I respect and admire greatly shares one of my food quirks, which made me feel strangely validated and understood!  Our little secret–We cannot eat meat on the bone!

Deep-Fried Turkey Thanksgiving DayNo gnawing on a chicken leg for me! Totally disgusting, and I just can’t do it.  I am all about the boneless, skinless breast, and even then if one of those awful little veins pops or protrudes from the meat, I am D-O-N-E eating.

I love the nice, white slices of turkey on Thanksgiving, but please don’t ever ask me to help or watch while you’re carving the meat away from the big ole carcass.  Blech.

Going to the Magic Kingdom and watching people walking around gnashing their teeth on a huge turkey leg is barbaric!  And to see a huge leg of beef sticking up in the air on a carving board at a restaurant or catered event grosses me out completely.

Once we went to a dinner show where they served Cornish hens.  Oh My Lord.  It looked like a dead baby chicken laid out on its back in the middle of my plate.  I panicked for a moment, but luckily I am married to a bonafide Knight in Shining Armor, so that wonderful man quickly took the plate, turned his back to me, and picked off the best meat and gave it back to me.  (I never asked where he hid the bones, but I’m pretty sure they were on a bread and butter plate under the table.)

I’m actual pretty freaky about meat all the way around, which probably explains why I lean more and more toward Honey-Baked HamThanksgiving Daypescatarian the older I get.  Quite often I cannot eat meat if I have handled it raw and watched (and smelled) it cooking. The smell is a big thing.  If meat has a certain pungent smell or taste that is really, well, MEATY, I can’t eat it.  Especially pork.  Sometimes it has what I call a “pigginess”.  And I can’t eat “piggy” meat.

I hated fish when I was younger, but as I get older, I find more and more ways that fish is prepared that I really like.  However, if it smells “fishy” or tastes “fishy”, I lose my appetite.  (I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do tuna in a can.) So when I start to eat a fish dish, I am very careful and tentative at first, waiting apprehensively for any hint of overbearing fish odor or taste.

I’m also freaky about eggs.  I don’t particularly care for the taste of eggs.  So I’ll eat eggs that are scrambled in cheese or wrapped around plenty of omelet ingredients, but if I can TASTE the actual eggs involved, I’m out.  My poor Knight makes French toast for breakfast, but if there’s too much egg on the bread, he has to eat my slices because I’m done once I taste the egg.

Milk has to be consumed before the date on the jug.  Not a day after.  And if milk “crusties” have dried up around the rim or outside of the jug, count me out.   No “crusties” in my milk.  And the milk has to be really, really cold. Lukewarm or room temperature milk reminds me too much of drinking fresh cow’s milk that got brought in the house straight from the animal’s belly when I was a kid.  Gag.

Sometimes it’s something that I actually like the taste of, but I can’t get past a mental quirk.  For instance, I tried frog legs once, and they’re right–it tastes like chicken!  But no matter how much I liked the taste of it, with every bite my mind was picturing a frog and seeing a humongous frog jumping through the air, legs extended all muscular and chewy and yep! Right there, I was done.

It can even be a food I really like.  I love shrimp! Shrimp po’boys, shrimp creole, shrimp alfredo, fried shrimp, broiled shrimp, garlic shrimp, coconut shrimp, shrimp etoufee  (sorry–was channeling Bubba for a moment).  But sometimes the act of peeling the shell of the shrimp and deveining it reminds me that I am basically eating a bug, and suddenly it’s much less appetizing.  And if you bring me the big king prawns with the eyeballs still on their little antennae, it’s all-she-wrote and I’m through with dinner.

Sometimes our food quirks are more rituals or habits.  Many people, including Dr. Smooth, do not allow their foods to mix or touch on the plate.  And I tend to taste everything on the plate, but then eat my least favorite item first, saving my favorite to savor last.

My Knight does not sprinkle the salt directly on his food but instead sprinkles it in and around the general vicinity of his hand (mostly on the table) and then tosses a portion of what made it in his hand in the general direction of his food, almost like he’s casting a spell or incantation with it.

What about portions?  If you have milk left over after the cereal, do you pour more cereal to make it even out?  If you run out of bread and there’s pasta left, do you have to just leave it on the plate?  Or are you like My Knight who has to carefully ration out his fries so that every bite of burger has an adequate fry-count to accompany it?

Textures anyone?  I have friends who can’t do pudding or yogurt because it’s too slimy. Some say no coconut because it’s too grainy or they forego grits and oatmeal– too lumpy.  People who like raw vegetables may hate the changes veggies undergo when cooked.  Limp spinach?  Droopy asparagus? Some say no.

I generally love mushrooms in all shapes, sizes, and forms.  But a truffle dish in Italy with ‘shrooms the consistency of thick snot almost signed me off these mellow fellows for life.  I love coconut, but tried coconut water and couldn’t stomach the “chunks” in it.

I’m very thankful to have plenty to eat and beyond that plenty of choices, really I am.  I am extremely thankful to live in a country where my daily meal plan doesn’t consist of bugs or intestines or monkey brains.  But I do have my quirks.  And I know I am not alone…..so come on.  Cough it up—what’s your food quirk?  (Speaking of which, does anyone feel a little nauseous when someone vigorously coughs at the table while you’re trying to eat?)  Spill the beans, folks. What freaks you out and ruins your appetite?

Categories: Random Rain | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

Harvey at the Beach and My Butt on a Bike

SSShhhhhhh! Don’t tell My Knight, but I actually had a great time camping in Harvey this weekend! No, really, I did!

flying a kite, Jetty Park Campground, Cocoa Beach

Flying a kite with Harvey

We went over to Cocoa Beach to camp at Jetty Park for My Knight’s birthday weekend.  I am always a bit apprehensive about a Harvey weekend and the amount of work that entails.  I still (even after this weekend) maintain that camping is too much work to be called a vacation, but it is getting a bit easier the more we do it.

One of my beefs with camping is that you have to pack up everything you will possibly need, load it into the camper, take it to the campground, unpack it and organize it for access, and then at the end of the trip, you get to pack it all back up again, and bring it home to unpack it.

I prefer a hotel or a cruise, where I just pack my suitcase and someone else worries about all the other details.

Luckily, we are getting to a point with Harvey where the packing is not as much of a hassle as before.  We have a “camper set” of towels, sheets, dishes, silverware, pots, skillets, etc., that lives in the camper so it doesn’t have to be packed every time.

The meal planning and food packing stresses me to the hilt.  I mean, if I can’t stand to figure out what’s for dinner in my own kitchen with a full pantry, how am I supposed to figure it out ahead of time and bring every single thing needed to prepare it?

But my incredible Knight offered for us to walk to a nearby restaurant for dinner Friday night and then bike to a pizza place for lunch on Saturday.  Can this man get any more wonderful?  So I only had to come up with breakfast (cereal anyone?) and dinner for Saturday night (how about leftover pizza?) and I was all set.

Jetty Park campground was really nice–horseshoe pits, shuffleboard courts, a concession stand, and clean bathhouses (always a plus!).  My Knight had booked a site that was right by the bathhouse since he knows I am not a fan of walking over the river and through the woods to take a shower at night! Love that man!

Jetty Park Beach and Campground

Jetty Park Beach

The best part about Jetty Park is the beach.  A quick walk across the campground or a quick bike ride down a meandering path leads straight to the Atlantic Ocean.  Can I just tell you how awesome it is to head out to the beach in the morning, lounge around in the sand soaking up rays for a couple of hours, and then just leave the towels and blankie to save your spot and head back to the camper for some A/C, lunch, and a nap?  Late afternoon/early evening, it’s back out to the beach for relaxing as the sun goes down and the breeze grows cooler.

The weather this weekend was incredible.  Beautiful blue skies, highs in the 70s/low 80s, and a constant tropical breeze!  It was the kind of weekend that gives you August amnesia and makes you think it’s always this nice to live in Florida.

We took a long walk along the edge of the surf and saw a crowd gathered around an immobile sea turtle.  His huge black eyes looked so sad, and my heart hurt to think of how confused and scared he must be, stranded on the beach with some unknown ailment, surrounded by strange-looking humans and uncertain of their intent.  A few kind strangers kept drizzling water on him to keep him hydrated, and a sheriff’s deputy stood guard over him until an animal rescue team could get there to help.

Sea Turtle at Jetty Park Beach

Poor Sea Turtle

With the A/C and nap calling our name in the early afternoon, we made the BRILLIANT decision to have a sandwich in the camper for lunch and then take a bike ride for pizza later for dinner.  Oh Boy.

I have to make an embarrassing confession here.  I hate riding a bicycle.  It’s not that I don’t know how.  It’s not that I’ve never done it.  It’s not that it’s hard to do, or particularly taxing.  I don’t know how to explain it, but I just do not feel comfortable and confident on a bike.  I’m always a little unsure of what it’s doing, or what I’m doing, or what’s going to happen next.

I’m fine if we are on an open trail, or the campground loops, or one of those paved-over railroad track projects.  But to ride on city streets or on sidewalks with traffic and pedestrians and such FREAKS ME OUT.  My Knight had conveyed to me when he was selling, um, planning, the weekend that the pizza place was just a few blocks away and we could easily ride there by bicycle.  So, okay, I’m game.  After all, there’s pizza involved.

Bikes at Cocoa Beach in Jetty Park

Bikes at the Beach

But once we arrived at Jetty Park, he further explained that we would be riding DOWN THE BEACH to get to the pizza place.  Like, in the sand.  And remember that due to our itinerary alteration, we’d be riding back DOWN THE BEACH after DARK!

Um, no.  I have trouble maintaining a bicycle in an upright position on hard pavement.  And this man thinks I can balance riding in the sand?  Really?  It’s not even a beach cruiser.  It’s just a plain old bike.  I protested mucheth.

Surely there was a way to get there on solid ground.  And without being in heavy traffic.  Surely there were residential streets or back roads.   There had to be.  So I snagged a “tourist map” from the gift shop at the campground.  You know, the ones that show all the fun places to eat and shop and play, but aren’t really drawn to scale or physically accurate?  The ones that don’t show ALL the streets in the town?  Only the ones with businesses who paid to advertise around the edges of this silly map?

Well, according to my handy-dandy tourist map, there was indeed a series of back roads that would take us to the pizza place with only a few blocks minimum on the busy main thoroughfare.  In fact, it showed this route as a path for those renting scooters, and the little cartoon scooter riders drawn on the map looked like they were really enjoying the ride.  I wasn’t thrilled with the part of the journey that would include crowded sidewalks and traffic lights, but it beat falling on my face in the sand.

We set out for pizza around dusk, and I was reminded after a few blocks that I have not been on a bicycle at all since December, and that was only from the camper to the bath house and a few trips around the camping loop at Alafia State Park.  No heavy riding and no long rides.

One would think that the combination of a soft bike seat and the ample padding of my derriere would be sufficient cushion for road riding, but after several city blocks, I had started noticing some pain in my rear-end-region.  It was nothing unbearable, but it was a bit foreboding considering we were not even to the “residential” portion of our trip, and we still had the whole ride back to sit through.

So I kept adjusting my rumpus on the seat, putting the left cheek more on, then the right cheek.  Leaning forward, leaning back.  Standing a little when we came off and on the ramps for side streets so the bumps on the pavement didn’t jar too much.

I had started to question my love of pizza and my need for dinner in general when we finally reached “Ridgewood”, the side street that was to lead us out of city traffic and into residential bliss.  After a brief discussion between me and My Knight regarding the proper observation of traffic intersection laws for bicycles on sidewalks (I’d just like to point out that the cop agreed with me!), we turned out of the nerve-wracking main street and off into beautifully manicured lawns and gorgeous pastel houses of the beach-livers.

The pizza place was clearly marked on my tourist map between Harding Street and McKinley Street.  So once we passed McKinley, we would simply go to Harding and take it back to the main thoroughfare and come back along the right side of the road ready to dine!

It seemed to be only a couple of blocks away based on the cheerful scooter riders on my tourist map, but we were already nearing twenty minutes of biking and McKinley  wasn’t anywhere in sight.  My butt was burning, and there seemed to be bones in my butt that I never knew I had now protruding through the skin at the bottom and rubbing against the bike seat in an incredibly uncomfortable dance.

Where was Harding? Where was McKinley?  Maybe one of the beach residents would just let us come in their house and eat to get me off this damned bike?

It was then that it dawned on me that we had passed Washington Street, Adams Street, Jefferson and then Madison.  I realized with great disappointment that the street names were our country’s leaders in chronological order.  My tourist map only showed a couple of names before Harding and McKinley.  It definitely was not accurate and to scale, and it mentioned nothing about a full-on Tour of Presidents.

I scrambled to remember how many presidents I had before McKinley, but the pain in my butt must have overridden the US History files in my brain.  Where was Patti Frier when I needed her?  I began to say the full names of each president out loud as we crossed their street, trying to jar my memory…Jackson Street—Andrew Jackson, Old Hickory.  Oh, Martin Van Buren.  Harrison–William Henry Harrison.

My Knight in the WaterMy Knight seemed without a care. He of the triathlons and daily/weekly cycling jaunts of miles upon miles cruised along effortlessly behind me, unaware of my aching buns and building annoyance.  Well, not exactly UNAWARE, since I was pretty vocal in my complaining, but still.

By the time Lincoln was shot, I had become convinced that maybe we would be in Jacksonville before we found Harding or McKinley.

But then, on the horizon, in the dim light of the setting sun, I thought I saw a capital M with a little c on the street sign.  I got so excited that I forgot to stand up over the raised bumps to cross his street. Ow.

The tourist map showed Harding as the next street!  Pizza was close and I could get off this torturous method of transportation!

My excitement faded when Cocoa Beach’s city planners reminded me that Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson all served after McKinley.  Isn’t there some stupid little song you can learn to remember the names of the presidents?   Or is that just state names?

Finally, out of the darkness, in the pale orange glow of a street light, I saw the name of what will now be my favorite president for all time.  Warren G. Harding.

We turned and pedaled with feverish efforts back toward the main road. Only to find that the pizza place had been back at the intersection of McKinley, three presidents ago.  I will definitely buy an accurate street map the next time we are at Jetty Park.

I wish I could tell you the pizza was worth every rotation of the tires and every term served by the leaders of our country on the grid of Cocoa Beach’s map.  It wasn’t.  It was really crappy pizza.

It poured rain for a bit while we ate, but it had cleared by the time we left, leaving behind a beautiful moon.

My Knight tried to convince me to try the beach.  It will be much quicker, he said.  It’s a straight shot down the beachCocoa Beach to Jetty, he said.  It won’t be crowded at night, he said.

And who can resist the siren call of a handsome man asking you to cruise along a moonlit beach in the mist of the crashing surf?

Evidently, I can when my butt cheeks have bones protruding through them and I can barely walk.  Okay, so maybe barely walk is a bit dramatic, but it did hurt.  And as much as I dreaded traveling back through history in the dark with no light on my bike, I was a little more apprehensive of trying to balance in the sand in the dark with unknown critters crawling into our path (either from the sea, the sand, or the two-legged upright variety).  I protested again.  Mucheth.

But he’s a pretty persuasive guy, and it was his birthday weekend, and I hate saying no to a challenge.  So we walked our bikes through the sand and out to the surf to reach the wet, hard-packed sand.  (Let me interrupt my bitching and complaining long enough to say that the moon on the water was absolutely breathtaking, and the eerie calm of the beach deserted at night was entrancing.)

I have to admit that being able to see the lights of Jetty Park on the horizon at the end of the beach was a powerful motivator, and it did seem for a moment that this would be much quicker and easier.  However, not even my well-seasoned cyclist Knight could pedal in the wet sand at high tide, so he admitted we needed to go back to the Presidents.

It was a long, hard, dark ride back.  I have never been so glad to see Harvey as I was that night.  My butt ached, and I laughed in pain as I tried to lift it in all its glory off the bike seat and up into the camper as My Knight laughed with (at) me.

Needless to say, we didn’t bike anywhere Sunday.  But we had a splendid day.  We played shuffleboard, flew a kite in the breeze, and reclined in our camping chairs underneath Harvey’s awning, relishing in the wonder of a gorgeous spring day.  It was very relaxing, and I enjoyed having our little camper and our own little spot in paradise.

We took the dogs for a walk, and then we took a stroll to the campground office to book another weekend at Jetty Park in June.  And I am actually looking forward to it!

But does anyone know of any butt-cheek exercises I could do to toughen up before then?

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Heee’s Baaaaackkkkk!!!!

So it’s been a couple of months since we came home to find a Boston terrier on our back porch.  We hadn’t seen around again.  Well, until yesterday, that is.

I was trying to get out the door to go and pick up Dr. Smooth from school.  And as always, I was running a tad bit late.  I was juggling my phone and his tennis racket and tennis shoes with one hand, and my purse and his lunch bag and a water bottle with the other.  I managed to push the alarm set button on the keyfob with my thumb, and I opened the door with a couple of fingers of my left hand while juggling the stuff I was holding.

Suddenly a blur of black and white blew past me and inside the house.  I recognized him immediately as he headed for the kitchen.  I dropped everything, running after him yelling, “No, Paul! No! Outside! Outside, Paul!”

He completely ignored me, and I realize that could be because the dog’s name is not actually Paul. He's Back!

I clapped my hands; I stomped my feet; I yelled “Outside!”.  But Paul was not having it.  He was running around the kitchen with his tongue and tail both wagging.  In the pantry – “Got any treats?” To the water bowl – “Woo, I’m thirsty!”  To all three dog bowls – “Wow! I’m like Goldilocks with the three bears.  But why is there no food in these bowls?”  And to the sliding glass door – “I remember that pool!  I hung out there one night!”

Round and round and round the island we went, and Paul was always just a couple of steps ahead of me.  I finally caught him and ran my finger through his collar to pull him to the door.  He flopped over on his back and became absolute dead weight.  He would not budge.  I pulled him gently and he slid across the tiles on his back for a couple of seconds before the entire collar just slipped over his head, and then up and off he ran.  Round and round and round the kitchen again.

It was about that time that the alarm went off.  I hadn’t thought to turn off the countdown when my departure got delayed.

My dogs were already going nuts, freaked out by my yelling and the presence of another dog in their house.  But when the alarm sounded, they really hyped up.  Dexter howled louder than a wolfman on a clear full-moon night.

If Paul was freaked out in the least by the alarm or the howling, he didn’t show it.  He was back in the pantry, scouting for a treat.  I caught him there, and got his collar back on, but then I had to sprint to the alarm panel to cancel the alarm before the security system called.

When I came back, he was exploring the living room, and as he paused to sniff a pair of shoes by the door, I scooped him up and put him outside.  Somehow as soon as his feet touched the ground, he was immediately headed back in.  We wrestled over the threshold for a few seconds as he tried desperately to get his head in the door and I tried desperately to keep him outside.  I finally got the door closed and stood inside staring through the glass at him.

I wondered briefly if I was going to be able to leave the house, but in a move that reminded me of “Squirrel!” in the movie UP, he suddenly forgot he wanted in and took off running down the sidewalk.


I really need to figure out which house Paul lives in (and his real name) so I could talk with his owners about keeping their dog safe.  On a leash.  Or in their yard.  Or in their house.  Or out of my house.  Maybe we could arrange play dates and Paul could come visit, since he obviously enjoys it here!


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A while back, Dr. Smooth and I arrived home to find My Knight doing a weird dance outside the front door motioning for us to get out of the car and come inside.

“Where’s your phone?  Where’s his phone?  Where’ve you been?  I’ve been trying to call both of you.  Why aren’t you answering your phones?”

Although there was some volume, frustration, and urgency in his voice, I didn’t get the feeling anything tragic had happened.  So I was curious but not overly concerned.

“We didn’t hear the phone.  We were singing and had the radio turned up,” I said nonchalantly as I gathered things from the car.  “And we stopped to get gas.”

“HURRY UP!  Come on!  I’ve been trying to call you!”  He was waving his arm like the boat was going to leave and we were going to need to jump from the shore to make it.

“What’s the matter?  What’s going on?” I asked, starting to get concerned.

“Just come here.  You have to see this.  I’ve been trying to call you,” he repeated.

“You said that.  We couldn’t hear the phones,” I explained again, wondering what on earth could be so exciting and urgent INSIDE our house.  What was up with this man?

“Come on,” he said, waving his arms again.  We were clearly NOT moving fast enough.  He led us through the living room and kitchen and out onto the pool patio, not even giving me time to put down the shopping bags.

As soon as I stepped onto the patio, I was greeted by a bouncy, happy, exuberant Boston terrier.



“What the hell?” I asked.  My mind zoomed to furious like a rocket.  I thought My Knight had brought home ANOTHER dog.  Considering that we are maxed out at four dogs already, I was none too pleased.

“I came home and he was here, inside the screen room,” he said.

“Awesome!” shouted Dr. Smooth. “Can we name him Paul?”

“We’re not naming him anything!” I shouted back.

“Where did he come from?  You don’t know anything about this?” asked My Knight.

“No! What do you mean he was inside the screen room?  How’d he get in here?” I asked.

“Come, Paul.  Come, Paul,” Dr. Smooth said, patting his thighs and beckoning to the hyper dog.

“Stop calling him that!  We are not naming him Paul and we are not keeping him,” I said.  “He looks really clean and well-fed.  He has to be someone’s pet.”

MK:  “But how did he get in here?”

Me:  “I don’t know.  Maybe someone found him loose and figured he must be ours since we have more dogs than anyone else in the neighborhood.  But he can’t stay here!”

DrS:  “Why?  He’s great, Mom!  Sit, Paul! Sit!”

Me: “His name is not Paul.  And we’re not keeping him.”  I turned to My Knight, who looked just as excited as Dr. Smooth.  I was very worried as to what that meant for my household.  “This is someone’s pet.  You know we can’t keep him, right?”

MK:  “But someone put him in here.”



DrS: “Look, mom.  Paul knows Sit!  I wonder what other commands he knows.”

Oh no.  Oh no.  Oh no.

Me:  “We are not keeping Paul.  Uh, whatever his name is.  We are not keeping him.  We have FOUR dogs already.  We are bursting at the seams with dogs.  No.  We have to find his owners.  I am sure they are missing him.”

MK: “Well, you aren’t going to be able to find them tonight.”

DrS: “Yeah, Mom.  Can’t we just keep Paul tonight?”

No. No. No. No. No.

Me:  “We really need to find his owners.”

MK:  “How you gonna do that?”

I had no idea.  But I was certain that we could not take another dog.  We are animal lovers.  And if I had more room and more money, I’d take ten more.  But I don’t.  So I can’t.

Me:  “I’m going to walk around the neighborhood and knock on doors and ask if this is their dog.”

I got a leash and set out with Paul and Dr. Smooth.  I quickly realized it was after 9pm, and there are over 70 houses in our neighborhood, so this may not have been a great plan.  But I was determined Paul was not staying at our house.

I walked to the other end of our cul-de-sac, hoping that Paul would pick up a familiar scent and magically lead me to his owner.  But he picked up every single scent on every single blade of grass in our neighborhood.  I don’t think this crazy dog had any idea where home was, or even cared to find it.  He was the happiest, most excited little being on the planet just to be alive and sniffing.

I went to my neighbor a few houses down who is a close friend.  I thought perhaps she might know Paul’s owners.  She suggested a house between mine and hers because she had heard barking there and knew they had dogs.

I watched for any sign of recognition as we approached the front door, but Paul was clueless.  I rang the bell and was immediately greeted with extremely loud and deep gruff barks that would have never come from a Boston terrier.  I quickly passed Paul’s leash to Dr. Smooth and told him to get Paul out of sight.  I didn’t want to keep him, but I didn’t want him eaten alive either.

A young lady opened the door with her two very large dogs, and I explained about Paul.  Her parents both came to the door then, and her mother said she had owned a Boston terrier for years.  She got teary-eyed as she talked about the dog passing away years earlier.

I thanked them and apologized for the inconvenience and started walking again to catch up to Dr. Smooth and crazy-happy-bouncy Paul.Paul's Road Trip  My Knight was standing in the street by our house, so we stopped to update him.  While we were standing there, the young girl from the house with the big dogs came walking up.

“My mom really wants the dog,” she said.  “We’ll take him if you want.”

As much as I wanted to be rid of Paul, I also wanted to make sure he made it back home to his owners.

“I really think he lives somewhere in the neighborhood.  I want to try to find his home,” I replied.

“Well, we can take him tonight, and then my mom will put up posters and call the shelters tomorrow. And if we don’t find his owners, we’ll keep him,” she said.

So I let Paul go with her.  And then I worried the rest of the night whether or not I had done the right thing, and whether or not Paul was okay with them, and whether or not Paul’s owners were worried sick.  Fate had trusted Paul to us by mysteriously dumping him inside our screened room, and I had just passed him off.  I felt horrible.

But Paul has a happy ending!  The next day, the young lady’s father called to say they had located Paul’s owner in the neighborhood and Paul was back home safe and sound.

I still have no idea how Paul ended up in our screen room, but I think I’ll put a “No Vacancy” sign in our yard just in case.

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Living Blurry

I swear that if my head was not firmly attached to my shoulders with ligaments, tendons, and bones, I dancing skeleton, organized livingwould lose it or leave it behind somewhere.

It’s not that I am not capable of organizing.  For fifteen years, I was involved in organizing events for other people. But my own life…..well, not so organized.

I’ve tried calendars and planners and online time management systems.  I’ve tried notebooks and file systems and reminder apps.  I’ve tried lists and post-its and memory association tricks.  But my brain always ends up a bit more scattered than aligned.

Somehow no matter what system I use, I end up with piles of paperwork that end up in boxes when I get overwhelmed by the sight of them.  I end up with unfinished lists and uncompleted reminders and unused calendars.  I lose things, misplace things, and forget things on an almost daily basis.

organized living in disorganized disarrayToday, I ran out of saline solution for my contacts.  And yes, it was on a list somewhere that I needed to buy more.  So I battled the people of Walmart just to grab one bottle of saline solution on the way to pick up Dr. Smooth.  I actually found a short checkout line and was out in record time.  But then I got almost all the way to the high school and realized I didn’t grab the bag before leaving the store.

I went into Walmart for one freakin’ item and left it behind.

Over the holidays, we went out to a movie and then to dinner.  When I reached in my purse to pay for dinner, no wallet was found.  The last place I had seen it was the movie theater. Luckily, someone had turned it in, and after a detour back to the theater to retrieve it, we made our way home.

And yes, that could happen to anyone.  But that is the THIRD time I  have left a wallet or purse at that same theater.  One time it happened at a midnight movie the night before we were to set sail on a cruise….which requires photo ID.  Imagine getting security to open a theater at 4am to search for a  purse under a seat.  Fun, fun.

I have lost my keys so many times that I have threatened for years to have a bolt installed into my hip bone with a retractable key ring attached to it.  That way as soon as I let go of my keys, they pop right back to my hip and stay there until I need them again.  (I haven’t gone through with that procedure because I am a little nervous about the pain involved and I’m not sure what kind of fashion statement I’d be making with a bolt protruding through whatever I’m wearing.)

Then there was the time we drove to Georgia to see our friends get married.  We went up a day ahead of time and got a hotel room so we wouldn’t risk getting caught in traffic and being late.  We slept in, had brunch, shopped a bit, and napped.  Then we leisurely got dressed and showed up for the 5:30 ceremony.   Only to find that everyone was standing around taking pictures because the ceremony was over….it had started at 5:00pm. Which was clearly stated on the invitation I brought with me on the trip.

I don’t get it.  I’m not stupid.  I’m not a complete ditz.  I’m not careless.  I’m actually fairly intelligent and very analytical.  But on any given day, I juggle quite a bit of information, issues, duties, and thoughts.  I think that my brain just gets so full and so crowded that it ceases to focus.  So I’m going through life a bit blurry, I suppose.

I wish I knew how to slow down.  To breathe more and stress less.  To remain calm and focused and in control of my day.  I’ve tried yoga and meditation, but I usually spend the entire time I’m doing that thinking about what I have to get done next.

A dear friend that I love and respect told me once that I would be more organized if I had a purse.  Well, organized living with disorganized pursesI’ve bought big purses and little purses and purses with pockets and all sorts of wallets.  Didn’t do the trick.

I don’t think it’s the purse.  Or the calendar.  Or the app.  Or the filing system.  I think it may be just be my brain.  And the amount of life I cram into each day.

I know I’m not the only one that struggles with this.  I’m not the only one that washes the same load of clothes more than once because I forgot to put it in the dryer.  I’m not the only one that throws away fresh produce because I didn’t get around to making the recipe I bought it for.  I’m not the only one that has to dig through piles of papers to find the form that has to be signed for school today or the doctor bill that was supposed to be paid last week.

So to those of you who have it all together and always know where you left it, I applaud you.  I admire you.  I respect you.  I’m not like you.

To those of you who are like me, cramming it in, swimming in a sea of papers and lists, and occasionally forgetting your own name, I’m sending you a big shout-out.  I hear you my sisters.  I feel you.  I know where you’re coming from.  (And I know that somewhere at home there’s a list of what you were supposed to bring and where you’re supposed to be.)

Here’s to living blurry.  Here’s to firmly attached heads.  And here’s to a life brimming over.  Maybe this is the year that we will simplify and declutter and have it all run smoothly.

Yeah.  Probably not.  Happy New Year anyway.  (Oh wait…New Year’s was two weeks ago.  Oh well.)

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New Year’s Resolutions for 2014

So it’s the end of another year.  And along with looking back on the accomplishments, lessons, and blessings of the past year, we’re all supposed to come up with “resolutions” for the new year.  Changes we’d like to make.  Things we’d like to start doing. Or stop doing.  Or learn how to do.

I don’t really do too well with keeping resolutions.  Like most people, I start off January 1st with a huge amount of gusto, certain that just changing the last couple of digits in the date field will suddenly bring about huge changes in my world.

With the stroke of midnight and the drop of a big glittery ball in Times Square, suddenly I will have the capability of being healthy, wealthy, and wise.  I will be better organized and manage my time better.  I will work out like a fiend and make healthy choices with my menu.  Heck, I’ll even start planning out my menus ahead of time, and maybe even cook them up on the weekends to save time during the week.

In the new year, I will suddenly find time to read all the books on my list, complete all those DIY projects I’ve been salivating over, and my house will never be dirty or dusty.

I’ll volunteer more and donate money to all those miniscule charities I’ve seen throughout the previous year and meant to contribute to.

This will be the year I finally take piano lessons, use the Learn to Play the Guitar DVD series we bought years ago, and I’ll be fluent in French by summer.

Wow!  I can hardly wait to go to sleep tonight just to wake up and be the new me.

Except when I wake up tomorrow, the only thing different will be the year.  I will still be me.  With my same old stresses, same old time constraints, and same old bad habits.

So maybe instead of setting lofty and ambitious resolutions and then being disappointed or feeling like a failure, I will be a tad bit more realistic in my goals.

Maybe I will make resolutions that I might actually be able to keep.  Then I am starting the new year off with hope for success rather than being almost certain of failure.

So this year, I will read three books on my list.  That should be doable, right?

And I will cook a meal for my family once a week.  From a recipe.  With fresh ingredients.

I will do some form of exercise three times a week.  And I’ll be okay if that doesn’t include running.

I will clean out my closet.  Or at least clear a path through it.

I will watch the first guitar DVD and actually take the guitar out of its case.

I will complete an entire Rosetta Stone lesson in French.  Maybe even two lessons since I’ve got a whole year.

I will clean out the box of paperwork that has been sitting in the garage since we moved into this house in 2002.

I will be more patient with people who do stupid things.  (Okay…realistically, I will TRY to be more patient with people who do stupid things.)

I will spend time with family and friends and tell them that I love them.

I will eat pizza and chocolate.  In moderation and with much enjoyment.

I will be thankful for each day and what it brings and I will find joy in living and loving.

I will be the best me that I can be, which may vary from day-to-day depending on the circumstances.

And I will allow myself to alter this list as needed.

Now those are resolutions I think I can probably work with.  Bring on the new year!

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope that 2014 brings you health, happiness, peace, and love!  And resolutions you can keep!

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Runner Girl

I am not a runner.  But I want to be.

One of my best friends and suite-mates in college was a runner, and that girl had the most beautiful legs God has ever gifted a woman.  There are just something about a runner’s legs.  They’re always pretty.

So I want to be a runner and have pretty legs too.  But it turns out it ain’t that easy.

runner, 5K, charity event, Sunshine Foundation, Sunshine Foundation Dream VillageI have tried running before.  I have even finished a couple of 5Ks. (by a combo of walking and running, but still.)

I hear so many people talk about the runner’s high.  The buzz they get from running.

The only buzz I have ever gotten from running was the loud buzzing sound of my blood pounding in my ears as I gasped for breath and tried to avoid death.

But I decided to try again.  So I bought some snazzy new running shoes and downloaded an app called “Couch Potato to 5K”.  And let me tell you all something.  They have a different definition of “couch potato” than I do.

I never even really considered myself a couch potato, really.  I think I’m fairly active.   I wouldn’t go so far as to label myself as “athletic” or any absurd exaggerations like that, but I’m active.

So I figured I could do this “little potato to 5K” program, and in no time at all, I would be a runner.  Then I could put one of those cute “runner girl” stickers on the back of my car.

Well, evidently, the couch potato they designed this program for is a lean, little plain ol’ potato.  And evidently I am more of a fully-loaded bring-on-the-bacon-and-sour-cream kind of potato.

It started out just fine.  Warm-up walk for 5 minutes, run for 90 seconds, walk for 90 seconds, alternate for 20 minutes, and Flo Jo, Florence Griffith Joyner, runnerthen a cool-down walk. I was strutting around the neighborhood that first week like I was Florence Griffith-Joyner.  (At least, that’s how I saw myself in my mind.  I am sure my neighbors might disagree, so we won’t ask them.)

The running time increased every few days, and by Week 3, I had already remembered why I hate running.  That breezy little 90 second-90 second had amped up to a 3 minute-3 minute that nearly did me in.  I know it doesn’t sound like much, but running 3 minutes was an eternity for me.

When I saw Day One of Week 4, I damned near quit.  I was positive there was a glitch in the program. A 3-minute run, a measly little 90-second walk, and then somehow it jumped to RUN 5 MINUTES and then repeat.

runner, 5K programHello??????  I actually checked the app to make sure I didn’t somehow skip a week somewhere that would have eased me into this new routine.

I made it to the end of the first 3 minutes, but my lungs were already heaving like usual, my heart was pounding, and my shins were certain that shin splints are a lethal condition.

The 90-second walk was a mere tease that came nowhere near allowing me time to recover normal breathing and heartbeat.  I swear I actually flinched when it beeped to start running again.  My lungs burned and ached and I think they actually stopped processing oxygen for a few breaths.

But I made it through.  I survived.  I ran.  (Okay, for full disclosure purposes, we could probably substitute “jog” for “run” throughout this post for those of you who are sticklers for accuracy.)

This morning, I got up and clicked on the app and became convinced that the programmers for this thing must be smoking a crack pipe.  I think I should probably delete the app entirely to make a strong statement about not supporting crack smokers.

5 minute walk warm-up.  8 MINUTE RUN.  5 minute walk.  8 MINUTE RUN.  5 minute walk. Nightmare on Elm Street, Freddie Krueger

I didn’t think I could run 8 minutes if Freddie Krueger was chasing me.

But I read a passage in a book last night that said to let every action you make be a statement about WHO YOU WANT TO BE.  Not to continue being and affirming who you are, but to continually work toward and take action toward WHO YOU WANT TO BE.

And I want to be fit.  I want to be healthy.  I want to have better discipline.  I want to be skinnier than I am now.  And I want to have nice legs.  A runner’s legs.  Or as close to that as my little stout legs can be.

So I set out this morning full of determination and motivation and all kinds of hope.

By minute 3, I was still breezing along like Flo-Jo, feeling the sun on my face and the wind at my back.  By minute 5, I was starting to question my sanity and my need for any legs other than those I already have.  And by minute 8, I was rethinking my life goals and who I want to be and why on earth that ever included a runner.

That 5-minute walk in the middle was a blessing though, and my heart, my lungs, and my overactive brain calmed down and rejuvenated enough to make me think I could finish the next 8 minutes.

By the fifth minute of the second 8, I was convinced that I was going to die.  And I was more than a little panicked that I didn’t tell my husband which neighborhood I was running in and I had no ID on me and my phone was almost dead.  No one would know who the dead woman was in the middle of the road with the largest thighs they had ever seen on a runner.

I started picking visual markers ahead of me, and I would tell myself that if I reached THAT mailbox, or THAT red truck, or THAT bush on the side of the road that I could quit.  But every time I reached the marker I set, I would pick another marker and keep going.

I think part of it was I am a girl who loves a story with a happy ending, and I had already decided this morning to blog about running today.  I definitely didn’t want to have to tell all of you that I quit.

So I started praying.  With every breath in and every breath out, I repeated the mantra “God is in me, God is with me, God is my strength.”

And as He always does, He came through, and together we finished!  I completed today’s run, and I didn’t die.  And I didn’t even have Freddie Krueger chasing me.

Now, I didn’t get any buzz, and I didn’t love it, but I am so glad that I didn’t quit.  I am so proud that I held in there and took those steps toward who I want to be.

I don’t know what this whacked-out program will ask me to do tomorrow, and I’m not going to run out and buy the bumper sticker yet, but for today, I am a runner.

runner girl 2

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