Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Spirit

Hey guys long time no blog! Actually I wasn't even planning on posting tonight, I still have laundry to fold and presents to wrap, but there is something weighing on me that I feel as though I have to write about, so where else but here? First, the news:  I've enrolled in college again and just finished my first semester! I'm still teaching Zumba, but probably not for much longer, I just can't dedicate the kind of time necessary to be a good instructor and I'm not willing to do a mediocre job of it. This is pretty much the reason I've been MIA, what time I haven't spent on studying and school work, I've spent on my family and friends - trying to make up for the time I've been missing. Since this time last year, I've gained 12 pounds, but have lost 3 of them in the past month. I finally got out of my running rut and have gotten my eating under control and am back on track. Boy, that sure is a good feeling! Due to my knees, I've kept my running distances under 10 miles and have been just running for the sake of running and my mental health and knees have been in a much better state due to this.

I hope everyone is enjoying the season, it's flown by for me, I've been so busy!  The season is what I really want to write about. I really need to start with the fact that I've been a real bitch the past few days. I have made it my mission to organize the Christmas Charity project at my agency and it has consumed me for the past week. Doing this project every year is near and dear to my heart and I get extremely passionate about it and if you get in my way... watch out! People may try to talk to me or engage with me, but here's a tip, do not bother until I am finished, it will not be fulfilling on either side and I guarantee you that my mind is probably elsewhere. The reason I had to start with me being a bitch, is because I by no means am attempting to prove anything to anyone, I am a normal human being and can be just as awful as the next person so this is my disclaimer before I start on my rant. I get passionate about something and when it doesn't go smoothly I can tend to unleash my passionate disgruntlement on others who shalt bravely cross my path.

I did not know how much I would learn when embarking on this seemingly insurmountable task. Last year we sponsored 11 children and we pulled it off wonderfully, it was super successful! This year we had 23 children and approximately a week to pull it off. Um <insert Lealah freaking out here>. I was super stressed about making ends meet and fulfilling even some of the children's needs and requests on our list until we had a very generous donation that made it possible to give these children everything on their Christmas list and then some (the kids were very modest in their requests - ie: socks, snow gloves, and a candy cane full of kisses for one child). The letters just about broke my heart, so it meant the world to me that we would be able to do this for them. I set out early Friday morning (after a 7 miler - don't forget to get your run in!) with a pocket full of cash gathered from my coworkers and our benefactor and dove in headfirst. I managed to come across a candy store that donated 23 chocolate covered marshmallow trees without a blink, people that at least gave me a form to fill out because they would try to help us out, and then I got to the Ross in Edmond. This was one of the most eye-opening experiences I've ever had. I asked the store manager if he would like to help out our cause by giving me a discount on the clothes I was preparing to purchase for our Christmas Charity project. He proceeded to very kindly tell me that it had to go through corporate and he had no control over that as his security check guy looked on. I said thank you and continued to check out. Once at the counter, I noticed him engaged in a very apparently humorous conversation with said security check guy and overheard him crow while cackling that "Not everyone can be a hero!". The security check guy was laughing along until he noticed me watching and he quickly wiped the smile off of his face and stared at the ground. I can connect the dots. That self-serving disgusting son of a bitch. I very nearly threw down the clothes I had and walked out until I considered that I would be throwing away over an hour of work and that for the kids sake, I really did not have that time to spare, I had to shop for 18 kids before the end of the weekend and time was of essence. So I bit my tongue, burned red and saw fire until I could extract myself from the contemptuous situation. I could handle that the manager was cheap; I suspected that he lied about the corporate thing because most retail managers can give discounts and budget for such at their discretion; it was the fact that he was belittling me and what I was doing. It was the fact that he was making light the suffering of innocent children who went to school with duct taped flip flops and wanted nothing more than to have a better life or to see her daddy again, but if that wasn't possible then she would take a Jack in the Box. Really? Enough said.

I continued on and hit up Payless Shoes in Yukon. Here I was given a 30% discount with no questions asked, a little bit of salve to ease my scorched soul. Then I went to the Kohls in Yukon and received the same benefit, I started feeling good again. Saturday I did not receive any discounts, but that's okay because I succeeded in doing a LOT of bargain shopping and ended up pretty much wrapping everything up. Both nights I did not finish shopping until 9:00 pm. Saturday we drove over to our generous donors house to wrap everything at 10:00 pm (they are night owls) and wrapped everything by 4:30 Sunday morning.
Santa's workshop.
Throughout this whole thing I have been nothing if not single-minded. Sunday I got a 5 miler in, did some laundry, grocery shopping and picked up a couple more items for our project. This morning, I woke up in a grumpy fog of deliriousness and went to work to organize what all I had acquired with what others had brought in. It was beautiful.

What have I learned?

Despite how hard I try to make these things perfect, I am not going to fix the world on my own. Although I at no point will attempt to force or guilt people into participating, there will still be the Scrooges who will help to satisfy some social standard and will do so begrudgingly, or the ones that will look down on me because I believe I can make a difference. I knew this before, but what I learned was that I cannot change them, I cannot change their mind or make a difference in how they perceive the world. And to let them infuriate me only kills my own Christmas spirit.

I've learned that I'm blessed to know some people - a boyfriend that endures my stress mood swings, a friend that recognizes that I have my hands full and will do whatever I need her to help fulfill a cause (whilst dealing with my bitchiness), whom doesn't care about stirring the pot and will voice something that needs to be said. A man that doesn't celebrate Christmas, but whom will not blink at dropping cash on kids in need. A man that recognizes that children need coats and ensures that they get them. People that have worked hard to do well for themselves financially and will give back to society by donating to a cause. People that contribute what they can afford to. A woman who just endured a terrible tragedy, but still thinks of others and will do what she can to help. People that go above and beyond the call of duty because they care about those children, too, and will do what they can to spoil their "adopted" children. True friends whom will listen to me gripe and do what they can to make me laugh and smile when I've been disillusioned, that will put me in check when I need it, but still care about me despite my craziness. Those who dedicate time, emotional support, effort, money, love. Women who live off of low income, but still are desperate to help these little ones out in any way they can. I really had an eye-opener about Christmas spirit. I think Christmas spirit is the goodness that you carry around with you all year long, that when someone in need, friend or not, crosses your path, prompts you to come through for them - I think that is Christmas spirit. It's been harder for me this year, to get into the Christmas spirit, because while organizing our project, the thought that won't leave the back of my mind is "this won't fix their lives, this won't make their lives better". What I have to hang on to though, is that it will. For one day of one year, of 23 children's lives, that one day will be better - at least somewhat. And maybe I cannot go and rescue them all and bring them over for Christmas dinner and hot baths and warms beds, but I can give them clothes to warm themselves in, books to read, toys to play and candy to eat and that's only because a group of us got together and decided to make a difference. If every person in the world tried to give back just a tiny bit of what they've taken, whether it be money, food, time, effort or love - the world would be a better place. Perhaps to get myself into the Christmas spirit, the trick is to let go of the resentment to those that do not think like me or agree with me, and to just push forward with my own beliefs. It is not my duty to be angry and judgmental of people that do not share my values, but to exert my own beliefs and values, because honestly the only way for me personally to make a difference is to continue on my own and just hope that others come to the same realizations that I have. The real trick? To follow-through with these realizations, to keep my mind centered around positive thoughts and to not linger on negativity. It's nine days before Christmas and I think I am finally feeling it, perhaps this is an indication that 2014 will be the year that I exert my Christmas spirit! I hope you all enjoy the next couple of weeks with your loved ones, if you really want to enjoy it and feel warmed to your soul, take the time to do something nice for someone.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Guest Blog - Kathleen Speaks!

Tonight I have a treat for you all. Kathleen (the subject of my last two posts), has put together a guest blog for you all. I have a couple of interjections where you can tell I'm talking by <seeing my words like this>. Enjoy!!

So, I'm going to be a guest blogger to help liven up Lealah's blog.  Nice to meet you!  I hope I can be beneficial to you in ways of laughter, joy and helpfulness. 
Lealah and I have been friends for over 15 years... I can't believe I said that out loud.  Sadly by now we should have cultivated a secret language by now; however we are too busy laughing at each other to be intelligent enough to make a language.  We started being friends during a crazy and eventful social studies project that we were paired up on.  

I never said anything to Lealah about her weight EVER over our life time of friendship. (As far as I remember) <As far as I remember, too!> And maybe that was bad on me, but I believed in her strong self.  I knew she could lose the weight, there was never a doubt in my mind about that.  She has a real strong personality.  And I believed that when she was ready for a change that she would do it on her own.  If I thought that she couldn't do it by herself I would have said something and been her crutch until she was strong enough to stand. 
Looking back, I don't regret not saying anything because I think it would have really hurt her and I think she would have said something back to me about something I didn't want to hear either and we would have gotten into a massive fight.  I think I did right by my friend, and hopefully she feels the same.  <I do feel the same, one thing about our friendship that made it true was that we have always accepted each other – all flaws included.>

My friend is amazing, as you probably know from following her blog.
I am so proud of her accomplishments and never doubt that she could do it.
She is not one to be put down, she always gets up from her fights.  She has no ego that I know of, but more of a brook versus a rock process.  Confident in her abilities, and leads not by demanding to be leader but by continuous proof of strength and abilities making those around her follow her.  I think because of these traits that she can always succeed in her goals.

Lealah versus Lealah on a Mission

Lealah on a Mission reminds me of that really annoyingly happy cheerleader type person that cheers regardless of what struggle you are going through.  She is a little too much for me, I don't think I would be friends with Lealah on a Mission in real life.

My dear friend while she does motivate me and cheer, it is not a perky cheer, it is more of a somewhat skewed cheer.  Making you laugh or get motivated by some weird or quirky comment.
Lealah has a picture on her blog of a before picture.  Every time I see that picture, I see the full picture, not just the crop, and the hollowness in our eyes.  How unhappy all of us were, how unhappy I was with life and my weight.  I've stayed at my biggest weight for 3 years now.  Even with effort and diet change, I still remained in the same 5lbs range.  So I just gave up and lived unhealthy because if I'm not gaining weight why not enjoy it all. I think the biggest problem is that I'm good at hiding trouble areas, and that I gain weight all over versus in one area.  Therefore, it is about 15lbs gone before I start noticing "oh, that's not fitting right anymore". Right after that picture was taken Lealah started on her weight loss, and I returned home doing my normal things.  I got updates every once in a while – “oh I lost 30 pounds”, “oh I lost 50”, the next time we talked it was up to 90.  I was happy for her, especially since she decided to do it the healthy way, I was really insanely scared for her to try and do a weight loss surgery, and seriously would have put her in a headlock to veto that crap.  Thankfully it didn’t come to that and she decided against it.   

Since Christmas, I've been busting my butt with all my effort to heal and improve my health. I haven't lost that many pounds, but there is definite difference in my shape/form and my skin. 
I am not a gym person at all.  A gym is my own personal hell for various reasons.  I work out primarily inside my house or outside.  For the last 3 weeks, every Tuesday and Thursday I've been doing P90x, just to vary my routine. And no I don't do P90x like I'm supposed to, but I'm moving and sweating, and when I feel 100%, I'll start doing it the correct way.  I really just like going outside and speed walking/jogging with my music.  

I wouldn't say Lealah motivates me.  For the most part it is just the white noise in the background, her cheering me on has the same feeling as mom saying your beautiful; it just a natural occurring thing that is said. <gee, thanks…. :-P> I would say it is more like I work hard so that she can be proud of me.  She came and ran my first 10k with me and the month before I was running as much and as far as I could just because I would be ashamed to have her be disappointed in me.  <Never!> And I guess that's really not the right words to use in the English language, but they seem to fit.  Cause for being my friend this long it would probably take quite a bit for her to be actually disappointed in me.  <That’s right beyotch!>

Things that motivate me to work out:

music( lol,I think you get the idea)
some phrases I found online like train insane or remain the same (because if you are doing the same stuff you are always going to get the same results)
to look like a beauty you have to work out like a beast. 
which in my head I change to like a beauty you have to work out like a b2st  because I like a music group called b2st (beast) and their fan club is called beauty, so I try to work out with the dedication that beast would- which typing this sounds weird.  

For clarification they are made up of members who were found unworthy by the South Korean entertainment industry to make it in show business. They worked hard for their dreams individually and eventually all meet up and were signed by an agency. I really respect their back stories, and acknowledge that if had been me I would have probably let my dreams die. Therefore, that saying motivates me to push a bit more because "hard work will never betray you". Regardless, somehow my effort will come back to me, just maybe not the way I would like.  So for now I will work hard at becoming a fit me and try to become a better person.  

I made Lealah laugh through my story of breaking my back because if I had made it serious I would have started crying and probably wouldn't have been able to stop.  Also, crying wouldn't have changed anything; my back would have still been broken.  Plus, she is right, when we are together we have a sort of weird humor. And it was emotionally healing for me to just act like everything was normal, and laugh and goof about like normal. 

She's also right that I am thankful it happened to me and not my aunt.  If it had happened to my aunt she would probably be paralyzed or worse, which would have haunted me for the rest of my life. 
My 10k was very important to me.  I broke my back the day I registered for my first 10k, about 5 hours after registering.  So while I was lying in the hospital bed, I was so POed and sad that I wouldn't be able to do the race.  The day of the race was really hard to handle and frustrating because I wanted to participate.  And somehow over the recovery period it became a symbol for being well again/ 100% pain free life.  
Walking was a part of my rehab, to strengthen the muscles in my back. When I do 5ks, I always just speed walk; I am not a runner of any sort.   So slowly, it just started, to the living room and back – around the house once – around the yard.  Eventually, to one mile – which hurt like hell and I took like two weeks to try and be that stupid again.  

The race was in February, and in Jan. Lealah started to check up on progress for the race.  And she's all like it's okay if we jog half of it. REALLY, ONLY HALF!!!???  At this point in time, I'm still doing 5ks in about 30min longer than my pre injury time and having to rest 3 plus days after before I try again.  So there I am on the phone with my friend who apparently forgot who she was talking to and telling me all kinds of stuff and she sounded so sincere and full of belief that I can accomplish this major task.  I always just had the plan of walking it, I would have been happy with just walking and getting across the finish line, but somehow during the talk and her earnestness, I decide that for Lealah I will try and live up to her dream.  <For the record, I had no particular dream but for her to be happy with how the 10k went, I had no idea I put her under so much pressure!!!>
And so for the next month and a half, I worked out longer and harder than I ever had. Ate clean, did body cleanses, and read all kinds of health magazines and blogs.  Started jogging, which was by sheer grit and masochistic tendencies. I never told Lealah this, probably best if I kept if from her, but I can't tell you without telling her.  The only way I keep jogging, is to say oh the pain from jogging hurt doesn't hurt as bad as having my back broken. Which looking back is really sick and probably wasn't the best decision in my life. But I became somewhat obsessed not only by the fact that this 10k meant a lot of me, but that my friend was counting on the fact that I would be able to jog.  

Lealah on a Mission showed up at about mile 4 of the 10k; I was a little annoyed that she was there (Lealah on a Mission not Lealah).  There I am putting 150% effort into my race, back hurts, no energy left in the tank and she is telling me "come on it's only a little bit further" 2 miles is not a little bit in that state of mind. I forget what else she was telling me, but I was like you have got to be kidding me.  

It really meant a lot to me for Lealah to take time and money out to come and see me and participate in the race with me.  Without Lealah there, I wouldn't have had anyone cheering for me. And with Lealah not only did I finish the race, I did a personal best time.   About a month out, I started timing myself, originally my plan was just not to get disqualified from being too slow.  I mean we are talking about not only my first 10k, but one after spending almost a whole year in bed.  But like I said somehow Lealah got involved with this and had such great plans for me.  The week before the race on a practice run I accomplished it in 1hr 50min. So, my goal for the race was 1hr 40 figuring the competitiveness would add to my time.  My pipe dream time was 1hr 30.  Through pushing myself and having my cheering section, I managed 1hr 36min.  I am very proud of that time <I’m super duper proud of that time!!>, and eventually I will try another 10k and try to improve on my time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kathleen the Conqueror! - Part 2

Read part 1 here

After finding out about Kathleen's accident, I really wanted to visit with her to give her some support and I realized how much I missed all our good times together, so I proposed that we have a girls' weekend. Sometime in October, I made a trip down to visit Kat and we had a wonderful weekend. It was exactly like old times: we went shopping, ate yummy food, visited the Botanical Gardens, etc. Whilst she refuses to enter two story malls, I find it amazing that Kat was down for hitting the mall. Kat had been holding up well all day with her back after doing quite a bit of walking, but I could tell that her back had started to really bother her at the mall. We had a great time that weekend and really got to be girls together again, I was sad to leave and head back to Oklahoma.

After I returned to Oklahoma, Kathleen and I continued to stay in touch, we began starting to plan Kathleen's comeback - her first 10k! Kathleen wanted to do the Cowtown 10k because it was right around the anniversary for a year from her accident and she had been planning on doing the 10k before her accident. It was going to be a big day! Over the next few months Kathleen and I kept in touch until we drew near to the time for our 10k. The run was on February 23rd and I don't believe I realized until late January or early February that Kathleen was not planning on running the entire 10k. I remember feeling like an idiot and just awful for assuming that she was going to run the whole thing. I get so obsessed over running sometimes that I get tunnel vision, it's ridiculous! But for someone that had issues and pain from our girls' day back in October, I was damn proud that Kat was going to tackle a 10k no matter how she got there! Run, walk, crawl! 

The night before the 10k, Kat and I went over our game plan for the race. When we first got to talking about the run way back in the fall, I was planning on running it the fastest I could and meeting Kat at the finish line. I had run the 10k distance many times before but this would be my first official 10k and I really wanted to try and get it in under an hour. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that as much as that seemed important to me, it was not nearly as important as being there for Kat on her big day; so I decided I would stick with Kat for the entire race and try to be for her what Rik was for me on my Marathon Day. So, the night before Kat's big day, we went over her game plan and over her goals. I promised her I would do my best to get her to the finish line in at the very least her minimum time goal. Kathleen also told me a few sayings that motivated her when she was training.

The next morning we got up bright and early and froze our behinds off and we stood in line at the start line. We took pictures, pumped ourselves up and got ready to tackle the beast!
Friggin chilly!!!

Let me just say that I was soooooooo proud of Kathleen that day. We kept going and going and I know that Kathleen was wearing out, but I just kept chanting various things that I hoped encouraged her - ie: the sayings she had told me motivated her and telling her she could do it and that she would make it and that she was doing awesome! . For awhile the only saying I could remember was "Train insane or remain the same." and I just kept repeating it when I could tell Kat was wearing out. It was an incredible experience for me to be there for someone else's triumph. I kept an eye on the clock for Kat and let her know when she needed to make up time to make her goal and to just generally let her know where we were at as far as her time goals went and which one she was closest to, etc. I would tell her that if she wanted to make it in x amount of minutes that we had to pick up our pace but that we could go to the next goal if she wasn't comfortable with that. It felt good to be able to do that for someone else like Rik did for me at my marathon, and it made me all the more appreciative to him for it. I even did a countdown for Kat at the end. I started counting down a little less than a mile from the finish line and once Kat made the decision to run her way in I counted by minutes, it was exhilarating and I just about burst at the finish line. Kathleen finished and she had put her all into it, oh how proud I was of her!

Done and done!

In my head, Kathleen represented true determination and success by accomplishing her 10k goal. I'm so very grateful to have been a part of such an awesome experience. Thanks to my dear friend, Kat. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Bit of Honesty

I know I still have Part 2 for Kathleen's blog waiting to be published, but I have something that's been weighing on me for awhile now. The Boston Marathon bombing has prompted me to write about not only what's been weighing on me, but a new weight I suddenly felt after hearing about the bombing.

People that read my blog and don't know me may think that I'm always perky and positive; well I'm here to say that this is not the case. Sure, I most definitely am when I'm trying to encourage and motivate people, but I am human! The past few months have been tough, this is the reason I've been quiet for such a long time, I tend to close in on myself when I'm down. I think I've finally been feeling normal for the past few weeks/month. For the first time since starting my weight loss journey on February 15th of 2010, I found myself battling depression again. Don't get me wrong, I would get down here and there (who doesn't), but I am talking about a full on out battle against depression consuming me. I have not felt like doing anything, especially working out, I've felt only like sleeping and eating. And it shows, well it showed... I feel like I have begun to slim up some in the past couple of weeks. What started as a 3 pound gain after the holidays has turned into 7 pounds and I've felt every one of them. And I know what you're thinking, for a girl that's lost 130 pounds I sound awfully ungrateful to fuss over 7 pounds, but on a 5'2 frame girl, that's quite a bit! I have tried to pin down exactly when this all started and the best estimation I can say is somewhere between my Marathon at the end of November and the Ragnar Relay at the beginning of January. It's hard to put into words exactly how I've felt... except that for the most part I just did not care so much about everything I had cared very much about just a short time before. I also struggled to figure out WHY I was suddenly thrust into this emotional turmoil and I've come up with a few theories:

1.) I've read about people that have lost weight or reached massive goals that felt at a loss or without a purpose after reaching success. I think this was part of it for me, but not only that then I had to deal with 2.) The fact that two of the things I had been working towards for almost a year were not only complete, but in my mind they represented failure. My marathon was an excruciating experience for me and I was nowhere near my time goal (I know that's why you don't set time goals for your first marathon!) and I did not match my projected pace for the Ragnar either, especially after that glorious 9.7 miles in the blazing Florida heat. I felt like two of the biggest things I'd been working so hard to prepare for were almost a waste because I failed myself. It's impossible to describe to you all how incredibly hard I am on myself. I blame myself for everything, even things that are so far outside of my realm of control that I can not even see the full picture of the situation at hand - I just know it's my fault. Logically I know that I did the best I could, and I should be proud of where I've come from and everything I've achieved, but there will always be a small part of me that fights against logic to try to self-sabotage. (How many times have I preached that you are your OWN worst enemy???) Which brings me to 3.) I'm not accustomed to things working out so well for me. Perhaps a small part of me fears happiness and what comes with it; I've hit a few bumps in the road of life and just maybe I've always thought that I was destined to struggle. 4.) I was unhappy in my work (until I received a promotion at the beginning of February), need I say more here? 5.) Weight gain. On top of all the other things that were going through my mind, I felt  like I was digressing due to the three pounds I'd gained over the holidays, which in turn led to me gaining more thus deepening my sense of having failed.  

These ideas are all just musings that I've come up with, possibly it has nothing to do with any of that, maybe it was just that the holiday blues decided to hang around a little longer than normal or perhaps a case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. But that does not really matter now, what matters is that I've found my way back and how I found my way back. I've still struggled with my eating some, but not because of depression, because I like to eat and I haven't had to restrict calories in over a year now! So I've been adjusting to counting calories again and keeping a closer eye on what and how much I've been eating. I have to say it kinda sucks after being in maintenance so long, but I'll be much more content with myself to get back to my "happy size". One of the main keys to finding my way back was something I constantly am telling people, (including my Zumba ladies when they ask me how I have the energy I portray!) "fake it till you make it!"  This is vital! Not just for my circumstances, but think about all the times you've gone to the gym even when you did not feel like it and you forced yourself to do it. How many of those times did you make it and feel good about doing so? And I can't count how many times I've made myself go to social events and parties and later be glad that I did because I ended up having a good time. While I'm thinking about my Zumba peeps, I need to give them the credit they deserve, my classes are a huge part of how I kept my head above water. I had to make my Zumba class and that was at least two workouts a week I was guaranteed, and I think those classes, or more importantly those people, were a huge factor in keeping me at it at all. No matter what kind of mood I'm in, by the time I have my time with my class, I feel good afterwards and I'm so grateful that those people keep coming back and are such an awesome bunch. They are almost like a support system for me, and they did not even know it! I think another part of what's helped me come around is that I've set a few new goals. Having something to work on is always good for the soul! 1.) To get to my happy size. 2.) Work on strengthening and toning my body - this means that I will not set a happy weight, for honestly I'd be perfectly happy with weighing 150 lbs and being in a size two. Muscle weighs more than fat and the more you weigh the higher your metabolism is, so bring on the muscle!!! 3.) Get to a point where 13 miles is a baseline for running for me. That way anytime someone proposes a race up to a half marathon, that I'll be ready. I've managed to keep my long runs around 8-10 miles so I'm not just completely out of shape, but I do have some work to do. 

This brings me to the second reason I felt so strongly about putting this blog up tonight. I have a friend who has been training for her first half-marathon and is going to run the OKC Memorial Half-Marathon this coming Sunday. I had talked about maybe running with her (not physically with her because she's way faster than me!), but I haven't been training the way I should have been and I do not feel at all prepared. I ran 10 miles on Friday at an extremely slow pace and experienced a massive amount of soreness for the rest of the day. This was a tad discouraging but I just thought to myself, yeah I need to get back into good running shape! I started to tell my friend that I was not going to run the half when I saw her on Saturday, but she expressed concern and nervousness after the Boston Marathon bombing. She asked my opinion and I told her that if it were me, that I would not let someone else's actions dictate how I lived my life, and that I wouldn't let them instill fear in me to stop me from doing the things I enjoyed and keep me from my goals. The way I left it with my dear friend is that if she would run, I would run. Well this weighed heavily on my mind for the rest of the afternoon until I came to this conclusion. If I left the decision up to my friend then I was copping out. For someone that believes so strongly in something, I would be nothing but a hypocrite and a coward if I put whether or not I ran the half in my friend's hands. I knew from experience that if I could run 10 miles (albeit slow and slightly out of shape), that I could run 13.1 miles, too. I made the decision and then got online and registered for the race. Later that evening I texted my friend and told her I registered for the race and would be running come Sunday. I think we're both really excited for both of us to be running! There is a small part of me that imagines how terrible it must have been at the Boston Marathon and how horrifying it would be to see that kind of explosion up close and personal, but I smother the fear. I'm more concerned with following through on something to be proud of, to take a stand for something I believe in. So.  Here's to Boston! Here's to OKC! Here's to runners running because they can, because they love to, because they didn't know they could. Here's to people fulfilling dreams, accomplishing goals and here's to people doing things to take a stand, to make a stake in what's important to them. And thank you to my dear friend for reminding me of all that in just a brief conversation. I can't wait until Sunday and to celebrate our run afterwards. It's going to be a glorious day of triumph.

And next time, more on Kathleen and her inspirational story! 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Kathleen - A True Inspiration - Broken - Part 1

When I moved to Texas from Saudi Arabia, I had a difficult time adjusting. I had many things going on in my life and no friends. The only friends I had were left in California from before our stay overseas. 6th grade could have been a lot worse than it ended up being, however. I made a couple "friends" that I hung out with a bit, but what really changed my life was when I got assigned to work on a class project with Kathleen. Somehow Kathleen and I just clicked, and through Kathleen, I met some other kids our age and slowly I made friends and life got better. From the beginning, Kathleen and I started up with our shenanigans. Between the two of us we covered the entire spectrum of various personality qualities. From crazy and reckless to motherly and responsible - we had it covered.

Sometimes Kat and I were so much alike that we were like sisters; and acted as such. Other times we were polar opposites, but this is how we balanced each other out. Most importantly though, is how throughout the years and throughout change, we're still there for each other. It wouldn't be adequate to say that we're best friends or any of the conventional labels to describe our friendship; we're Kat and Lealah, plain and simple. After high school, our relationship changed and we grew apart some, we talked less. She went to school in the UK and I went to school in South Texas. We each made new friends and got occupied with college life. We still talked online and kept in touch, it was just far less frequent.

Last year Kat and I talked after not talking for some time, and I found out that Kathleen had broken her back. Or more accurately she had her back broken for her. Something about Kat and I is that we can laugh about anything. Shamefully the method in which she told me her story had us both laughing - luckily we are the kind of people that can find humor in our misfortune or perhaps in this situation find humor in the ridiculousness of which her incident occurred. This is how awesome Kat is. Sadly I cannot do her story that kind of justice, but here it is nonetheless:

Kathleen and her aunt were walking circles around the mall to get a little bit of exercise in. Her aunt had made a joke about how Kathleen was cheating because she was walking on the inside of the circle and therefore had a shorter distance, so they switched spots and Kathleen started walking on the outside of the circle. They were walking on the lower level of the mall and were passing underneath the Sears when out of nowhere a man came flying over the ledge and landed smack on top of Kathleen. The guy took off running and fled the premises. Come to find out, the man had robbed Sears and used Kat as a cushion (intentionally) for his landing on his escape route. Kathleen lay in excruciating pain, broken on the ground as some jackass succeeded in evading security. Kathleen told  me that she was just glad that she had switched spots with her aunt and that the man had landed on her and not her aunt. Coincidence? The paramedics made it to the mall and started caring for her when a woman came running to one of the paramedics with a small child in a panic because the child was choking. Coincidence? When it was all said and done, Kathleen was left suffering and broken, but what did she have to say about it? She was glad that it was not her aunt and that the paramedics were already onsite when the child started choking. It's a good thing Kathleen is such a positive person because she had a tough year ahead of her.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Key West - The Conclusion

I know it's been forever, the past couple of weeks have been incredibly stressful and busy, but I have a feeling that at least the stressful part will cease soon. Maybe I'll get better at consistency soon! 
So I left off with having drinks on Sunset Pier our second day in Key West. We headed out in search of dinner. You can read about the first half of our vacation here. And if you want to read about the Ragnar Relay, the first post for that is here.
We checked out Kelly McGinnis' restaurant, but nothing on the menu struck our fancy.

After meandering around for awhile, we settled on Fogarty's, the food was great!

We decided to meander towards the hotel where Katie, Jerry, Andrea and Andy were after dinner. We ran into a fellow with some very well trained birds.

I was a little nervous with birds in my possession, more so after the big white one started nibbling
at my cleavage when the man asked him "who's a dirty bird".
But after that I figured he already got to second base, why not give him a lil pucker. :P

We continued on for a bit when Mark and I decided there was one place we just had to make sure and visit before leaving Key West. So we told the group we would meet them at the hotel after a quick detour.

You know we had to!

You can't see the picture behind us, but that was a picture of Jimmy Buffet in the background.
 After we had our obligatory margarita, Mark and I headed to meet everyone at Katie and Jerry's hotel room. We enjoyed conversation, laughs and beer with the group for awhile before we decided to retire for the night. Mark, Rik, Cynthia and I had signed up for para-sailing the next morning and I was beat! Here it was time to say most of our good byes, everyone except for the four of us were leaving early the next morning so we wouldn't have a chance in the morning. I made it a really quick good bye because I'm just no darned good at saying good byes without tearing up so we quickly said farewell and headed back to our room to hit the sack.

First thing in the morning we headed to the docks to get ready for our adventure.

Getting ready!

I really enjoyed para sailing!!

After our fun-filled adventure, we had brunch at a nice open air restaurant (I can't remember the name!)We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around, picking up souvenirs, taking pictures and savoring our last day in Key West.
Cynthia and I took a couple of cutesy pics as we moseyed around Key West.
We decided to check out a bar that Linda had recommended going to see called Captain Tony's, the walls were decorated with business cards and the ceiling hung with other decorations:
Mark had to leave his business card mark.

Interesting choice of interior design.


We decided to end the afternoon on the beach.

That was the most delicious drink I had in Key West! Strawberry daiquiri, mango daiquiri and pina colada! Yum!

A one legged sea gull!

It was quite lovely.

Our last sunset in Key West on the beach!

Love this pic!

Our last sunset in Key West!

Mark found a pretty flower.
We decided to end our night at a little pizza shop on Duval Street, this is our
"We are sad because our adventure together is coming to a close" faces.

After seeing Linda and Katie's massive cookies, I just had to get one! I had to get a pic before we shared  half of it after our pizza dinner. The rest I packed to take home to the kiddo in Oklahoma.

The notorious (?) traveling night club! A man on a cart with his boombox blaring.

After dinner, we all walked to where Mark and I had left our rental car and said our goodbyes. The rounds of goodbyes had been sad throughout the trip as different couples left at different times, but this was our last goodbye and therefore particularly more difficult. I even started to tear up some this time around. We made it quick though, no point in dragging out the inevitable and Mark and I started our drive to Fort Lauderdale. The drive back was so odd, seeing it backwards was cool after our relay down, I kept recognizing little landmarks and telling Mark "Oh this is where ____". We got to our hotel in Fort Lauderdale late night, probably close to midnight and checked in and cleaned up and got ready for our flight the next morning. Our flight was leaving at 6:00 so we needed to leave the room by 4:30 and did not want to have to rush around and get ready. We had everything prepared so that when we got up all we would have to do is put on our shoes and head out the door.

I was a bit sad to be leaving Florida, it had been an all around wonderful experience, but at the same time I was kind of ready to be home and get back to my routine. I was running on pure adrenaline all the way until we landed in Dallas. Even on only a few hours of sleep I was so wired I could not sleep on the flight. It turned out okay because Mark did sleep on the flight and drove home so I could sleep on the drive. That worked out quite nicely for me! When I got home I quickly got started on laundry and such tedious tasks that brought me back to reality... Vacation was over. :(

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Summary in Pictures...

I started to write a post about my vacation in Key West, but then I thought that another long, detailed post may get kinda tedious, so I decided to try and summarize the first couple of days with very little words and lots of pictures. A change in pace is always nice!

Our first morning in Key West, we met up with the rest of the group for brunch at the Six Toed Cat, named for Ernest Hemingway's cat. 
Immediately following breakfast, both Jens, Carly and Ada left Key West, this part was a little sad. :( We all split off for a bit after this. Mark and I headed back to our hotel and set about seeing if we could check out early without getting charged and finding a new hotel. I was completely unsatisfied with our hotel and it was way too far from everything. Luckily we got settled into a really cute and cozy hotel called the Key Lime Inn. It was not fancy, but it was set up cottage style, clean, everything was nice and well taken care of, and the continental breakfast was accommodating  The best part was that it was within walking distance of anything we wanted to do in Key West, we did not use the rental car again until our last day! I then changed into a sundress because Key West is just too dang hot for jeans! Then we set out to meet with the rest of the group. We decided to meet up at the Ragnar Award Ceremony. 
Of course, as celebrities we had to get some more pictures taken! :P This is with the team that won, you can't really tell here, but they were all dressed as super heroes.
There were feral chickens ALL over the place!
And feral roosters.
It seemed like the lives of feral chickens and roosters in Key West consists primarily of the chickens hiding from the roosters.

After that we strolled up and down Duval Street, seeing the sights. I just HAD to buy a mango margarita from one of the street vendors. Key West was SO awesome, all the restaurants, shops and bars open up to the street so you just kinda wander in and out as you please.
We met up with the rest of the group for dinner at the Southernmost on the beach restaurant. 
When we were leaving the restaurant, another Ragnar group recognized us as the From Fat to Finish Line team and came running up to talk to us and ask to get their picture taken with us. That was pretty cool!

The food was horrible in Key West... That's why I devoured just about everything I ordered. My drink? Why a mango margarita of course! (Mango drinks are hard to come by in Oklahoma dammit!)

Before dinner, Allison, Jason, Mark and I all went out to the dock and took a couple pictures. 
After dinner, we all wandered back down Duval street and had a couple drinks at a couple different bars. I, of course, indulged in plenty fold of drinking. I later found out that my stomach was not completely back from the escapades of the past couple of days and the seafood/alcohol combination was not too friendly to my poor tummy, but meh, I had a wonderful time!
We ended the night at this cute little wine bar. Jerry, as you see is being goofy, and Mark is probably talking tech talk, you can just barely see Jason on the left and Andy got cut out (sorry Andrea and Andy!) I had a beer... I think. Whoops! This was the only night that I really felt out and out tipsy. We were all winding down at this point, a day in Key West is like five everywhere else, so we were beat! 
We all dispersed and Mark and I walked back to the hotel. The fresh air was wonderful (both for the belly and my tipsiness). When we got back to our inn, we met another couple, of which the woman had done the Ragnar, too. We got to talking and she asked about my team, when I told her, she got excited and exclaimed over how I was on that team and how cool it was to meet me. Wow! If my head wasn't big yet, she certainly helped blow it up then! We then got to talking about our problems and how the heat sucked, etc., when she informed me (from what source I'm not sure, so I don't know how accurate this is) that many of the teams had been hit by the stomach bug. I had to wonder if that wasn't part of my issue! We then said our good nights and Mark and I retired to our room. I was out within minutes of hitting my pillow.

The next morning we opted out of breakfast with the rest of the group to a.) save money, b.) sleep in, and c.) save calories, for tropical beverages of course! We hit up the continental breakfast, got ready and hit the streets again. I dressed in the sun dress I had worn the day before, because I did not have the proper wardrobe for Key West, and our first stop was a little shop that had cute sundresses for a minimal price. I went in, tried on a dress, clipped the tag and walked out. (Oh, I guess I paid for it sometime during the process :P). Much better!

The rest of the group was getting ready for a trolley tour, so that's where we headed next! We saw all sorts of neat stuff.

The first Cuban consulate. 

Supposed to be amazing! We never did stop in, though.
They had statues like this all around Key West, they were really neat and I thought realistic looking!
The houses in Key West were made of ship wrecked boats. I loved the architecture. The dolphin trim seen here is called gingerbreading, many of the homes had this with various designs. 
We stopped at Garbo's Grill for a snack later on. Some cool peeps here. The man saw Mark's Social Distortion shirt and immediately started playing Social D on his radio. Tell me that isn't impeccable customer service!
The owner's badass van. A woman eating a taco while riding a burrito.

I ordered the most amazing fish taco!
Later on, half the group had drinks on Sunset Pier while the other half went on a sunset cruise.

Rik is missing from this picture because he's the one taking it.
After drinks we set out to find ourselves some dinner, the other half of the group wanted to get sushi and take it back to one of the rooms, but we were not really in the mood for sushi. I especially was excited to try another local good eats hot spot, so we opted to meet up after dinner. However, looking at this post, it seems like it is plenty long enough for now, so I shall save the rest of the vacation recap for the next post!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

From Fat to Finish Line!

Catch up!

Read about our day in Miami, my first leg, leg 2 and leg 3.

Angela is working on the documentary and sent me a clip from my last leg. If anyone is interested in how hot that leg was, here is a very short clip to illustrate just a percentage of how hot it actually was.


We just arrived at the finish line and congregated there with our significant others where we got to meet Kerry Sanders from the Today Show.

We hung around the finish area for a little bit, there was a little confusion as to who was getting interviewed by the Today Show, so I don't think anyone really knew what to do for a short time. So we mostly just hung around and drank beer. I was a little scared to drink because: a.) I did not want to get totally hammered before van 2 got there, and b.) I had no idea how my stomach would react. Mark drank beer and I took a few sips off of his until I finally decided it was safe and claimed it as my own. ;)

For some reason I really like this picture, maybe it's because I look like a huge dork . ;)

There was still some confusion as to what was going on... I went to ask someone, and when I turned around everyone was gone! I had no idea where they went, but I figured that the couples must have decided to branch off and do their own thing until it was time to meet up with van 2, so I wandered off with Mark and Charlie to drink more beer and to let the guys snack. (Charlie is Linda's husband who rode down to Key West with Mark. By the way, for complete strangers, these two got along great and I was oh-so-relieved  to hear this upon arriving in Key West! I think Linda was, too! :P) I was still worried about my stomach, so I ate a bite of Mark's hot dog and called it good for the time being, although I will say I started catching a buzz around this time. ;) One and a half beers is a lot when you have absolutely no water left in your body!

We met up at the finish line with the rest of the group and all of van 2 except for John, who was close to running it in! We all visited with each other and chatted and got ready to do our grand finale together; of course we had to cross the finish line together!! We started moving closer to where John would be coming in, so we could meet up with him behind the finish line. We soon saw an orange cape. An orange cape that represented victory and AWESOME! We joined hands and ran up to John and then pivoted and started running towards the finish line together. 

I like this picture because I look much thinner from behind . :P Most of the other shots were hard to see anyway. ;) 
 When we got across the finish line, it was emotional for everyone, we all hugged and congratulated each other. To be honest though, I felt pretty awkward. I've spent so much of my life trying to stay in the background, I didn't know what to do with myself when I was (along with the rest of the team) supposed to be the center of attention! I kept wanting to back away from the group and "get out of the way", not to mention I was still rather dazed from the whole experience. The story of my life: keep your mouth shut and stay out of the way! I couldn't miss out on all the hugging and such, though, so I got over my shyness and got in there for some loving. 
I love this picture of our group hug, this is a moment I'd like to remember forever.
I have to say, Jerry got some great shots of the finish line, I stole most of my finish line pics from Katie. ;) She gave us permission though, don't judge!!!!
Our mini award ceremony, Rik gave each of us our medals, another emotional moment.
LOVE this pic of John giving Rik his medal.
Then we got our final pictures taken in front of the finish line.
I like this one because we are all cheering and I look like I'm about to go into war.

Here we are all together, team From Fat to Finish Line, and we've made it to the finish line.
We all milled about for a few minutes when the Today Show notified us that they wanted to take Rik, Katie, Ada and Carly to get some more shots for the clip they were going to air on the show. This turned into a little emotional mess because the members that were chosen did not want to leave the rest of us since we were all a team and in this thing together. I felt bad for them, because it wasn't a nice position to be in and you could tell they felt terrible, but we assured them it was completely okay and to go do their thing. I, personally, don't do well with emotional upheaval under already intense circumstances, so I had to take a few steps back from the situation. All I wanted was for our teammates to go do their thing and come back and party with us! After some persuasion, our teammates went on to do their shoot and make us all look good for the piece they did on the Today Show the following Thursday, and the rest of us were left to fend for ourselves. And what else to do at this point except..... ? Drink beer, of course!!!!  I got to chat with fellow members on the team during this time and also with Jerry some. I have to say, Jerry is a pretty cool dude. We were all walking to the beach together when after telling Mark that I needed to find beer because I had a long couple of days under my belt, Jerry handed me his, just like that! I have to say he has good taste in beer, too! And I also need to say here that Katie is not lying when she talks about Jerry being hilarious, he had me rolling in fits of laughter just moments into my first conversation with him. When the beach had almost cleared out, we headed back to the van that remained and started cleaning it out.We took the opportunity to take a couple more pics. ;)
Claiming our van magnets.
Shortly after, the rest of our team rejoined us and we finished cleaning out the vans and started making plans for the rest of the evening. Some of the group were going to a bar kinda place and some were going for sushi. We decided to try to get with the sushi group at first, when Mark realized he left our camera in Linda and Charlie's room, so we headed there first to pick that up. By the time we got to the car and started heading in the direction of sushi, we got on the phone with the group and found out there was only 10 minutes left to order food. We didn't have time for that and by this time I was ravished after having not eaten anything of substance in quite over 24 hours. I did not care if my stomach revolted, I needed FOOD!! So then I remembered that Katie and John were going somewhere else and I thought I would check and see if Katie had eaten yet and if there was food at the place she was at. I told her that we would check in to our room and shower and then see about maybe joining them. Well this part of the night was a bit of a blur, but let me put a disclaimer in here: I was hyper emotional, had been drinking, was exhausted, dehydrated and feeling kinda shitty. So we are driving to the motel, when apparently I snapped at Mark about something, I don't even remember doing this, but Mark says it happened *eye roll*. Naturally, he snapped back at me and then I promptly burst into tears. And then of course Mark tried to calm me down, but I proceeded to cry harder like my pet hamster died or something (I do remember this part) and started incoherently blubbering about being tired and hungry and about how sick I'd been the past two days and about why couldn't he just give me a break. It was rather pitiful and around this time I decided I was in no condition to be around others so I told Mark to just get me to the hotel so I could shower. After I showered, (the BEST damn shower I have ever had!) Mark apologized (even though it was very likely my fault), comforted me and we set out to find some food to take back to the room. Surprisingly, Key West has very little options for places to eat at 10:00 at night! We did, however, find a sub sandwich drive-thru place that had really awesome turkey subs, one of which I devoured in probably all of 5 seconds as soon as we got back to the room. The time between brushing my teeth and my head hitting the pillow is all so blurry, I just very vaguely remember the feeling of a pillow underneath my head before I was suddenly opening my eyes to a text message from Rik, announcing the time and place for team brunch that very morning. 

However, that my friends, is a post for another day. Good night!