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AUTHENTICALLY BOLD: REBECCA

BETTER, NOT BITTER

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Healthy

Never Say Never

Another weekend has come and gone, much like the fleeing of those two days of rest often seems to disappear like the fog in the early morning.  Typically, my weekends are filled with the activities of your run-of-the-mill parents:  sports activities of the children, errands necessary to maintain a household, and some type of relaxation activities if there are not upteen birthday parties or family parties to tend to.

This past weekend, I chose to spend the bulk of my “down” time with eleven other adults, five of which were crammed in the same tight quarters of a twelve-passenger Ford Transit van for over 36 hours.  Trust me when I say I’m not quite sure how TWELVE passengers would fit in this vehicle as it was just barely doable with five other adults and our belongings for the 36 hours.

What were we doing that required the rental of a large van and our belongings for 36 hours?  Oh, right.  I signed up for another Ragnar Relay race.  What….on….earth…is…wrong…with…me?

A couple of years ago, I was conned persuaded to join a 12-person relay team to run a 200 mile road race in 24 hours.  I enjoyed the experience tremendously; it was unlike any other race experience and I knew I would do another one someday.  Twelve people sign up to run three times in 24 hours; six people in van 1 and six people in van two covering 36 legs of the relay route by foot passing a wrist bracelet “baton” to one another at pre-arranged transition areas continuously until the entire team crosses the finish line.

Flash forward to May 2016, I completed the Ragnar Relay Cape Cod with some Crossfit and running friends of mine.  As hard as it is to run multiple miles in 24 hours, the adventure afforded by the Ragnar event leaves you feeling an enormous sense of accomplishment, but also, the memories of doing something outside of your comfort zone and an escape from your everyday burdens life.

At the time, I recall saying repeatedly that I would *never* do Ragnar-Reach the Beach New Hampshire.  No way.  No how.  That race is full of MOUNTAINS.   You know…never ending inclines, hills, and did I say MOUNTAINS – as in the WHITE FREAKING MOUNTAINS?   Yes.  No way am I ever doing that!  NEVER.

Oy vey.

In the immediate after-glow of Ragnar Cape Cod, in my delirious and over-tired endorphin laced stupor…..I somehow agreed (it still makes me wince) to do Ragnar-Reach The Beach New Hampshire.  Yes.  Remember I said never?

I was duped. 

I was conned. 

Two of my Ragnar Cape Cod teammates/friends must have batted their eyelashes at me and wooed me while I was inebriated on serotonin.  What kind of friends ARE those; I ask?

Fast forward again to this past weekend, somehow, suddenly a mere four months had vaporized into the time machine and here I was again, sitting in a large white passenger van en route to the deep, dark woods of New Hampshire’s lake region on a Thursday after work.

Why a Thursday you ask?  Because the team I was on was assigned a race start time of 6:45 am on Friday.  We decided it would not be in our best interest to leave at 2 am on Friday to make a three-plus hour trek up to the starting line located at Bretton Woods when we would then have to be awake for however many hours it took us to complete 200 miles to Hampton Beach at the finish.  Fortunately, one teammate in van one and one teammate in van two had homes in the lakes region so we could stay and sleep for a little while before continuing onward North and to higher altitude (aka MOUNTAINS).

Instead of that dreaded 2 am wake-up call from home, we woke at 4:40 am to get the final hour drive up to our race starting point for the safety meeting and check-in of our team.  My nerves began to intensify and my belly reminded me multiple times over that my brain was indeed on crack, or something far crazier than serotonin.  My Gremlin came out and started with her negative banter:

“You are too old for this!” 

“You are not in shape for this!” 

“What WERE you thinking?”

“You are way too fat for this!” 

“You are so slow, you will hold the entire team back!”

“What on EARTH (or any other planet) were you thinking?”

“You are going to fail.” 

“You won’t be able to complete your legs, someone else will have to pick up YOUR slack.” 

On and on and on this terrible self-torture went on.  ENOUGH!  I would shout to myself once in a while.  That sneaky slimeball Gremlin would weasel back in:

“You think Crossfit training is enough for you to run all these miles? HA!”

“Maybe you should have focused on more training runs and not lifting weights!”

“Seriously?  400 meter runs at Crossfit, a few longer runs around town and you think you can do this?”

It was too little, too late; I was committed to a team and fidgeting nervously, anxiously, at the base of Bretton Woods waiting for Runner #1 to go off and wonder if I could start my race with a decent enough run to shake off the demoralizing Gremlin.

I started to look around me and I shivered; but it was only 39 degrees at the base of this particular mountain.  Thank goodness it’s not hot and humid, I gently reminded myself.  Look at that sky!  Look….at….that…sky!  The crisp sky was such a brilliant shade of blue contrasted by the dark green of the mountains around me.  There were hardly any clouds except for a wisp here or there.  As I took in a deep, cleansing and calming breath, I knew it would be okay.

Once the baton was handed to me, I reminded myself to start off comfortably as I tend to want to bolt out – partially in anxiety and anticipation, but partially because the old running star still thinks it resides in my brain and has yet to meet this 42 year old body.

Brain, meet body (again, for the thousandth time).

Body, meet brain (again, also for the thousandth time).

Not only am I 42 years of age now, but my body still suffers from the collateral damage of breast cancer treatment and the never-ending gifts that delivers.  Three different types of chemotherapy have left life-long residual effects such as neuropathy and a post-cancer diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.  Have you ever tried to run several miles on numb feet and with massive joint pain?  For some reason, I do – and for fun!

My first leg of the Ragnar was simply a four and a half mile excursion from Bretton Woods to the Grand Washington Hotel and back to the base of Bretton Woods.  As I took off from the base of the ski lift and the grassy knoll it calls home, I headed into a trail that consisted of a sandy, uneven and rocky bed.  Deep cleansing breaths ensued as I kept my feet steady on the shifting and moving foundation underfoot and I chuckled as I read the “Beware of bears” sign I wobbled past.  Because it was cold, my muscles started to threaten to cramp (damn, why didn’t I warm up more?) and I shook off the pending fear that tried to take over.  Before I knew it, I was out on pavement on Route 302 distracted by the glorious peak of Mount Washington before me.   I continued on and met the Nordic cross country ski trails to run on; again, somewhat of a nightmare for feet impacted by the nerve damage of Taxol.  I found myself chuckling again as I remember what a disaster my one and only cross-country skiing excursion went two years ago at my work retreat on these very same trails.  Why would someone try cross-country skiing when they have severe neuropathy?  Oh, why the heck not?

Distracted by my own laughter, I suddenly found myself at the base of the rear of the Grand Washington Hotel.  It was majestic in its white and red glory against that radiant blue sky. img_5711

The trail evened out and was sure-footed as I wrapped around to the other side of the hotel and around the Nordic Ski Center itself where the front of the Grand Washington caught my breath again.

img_5712

Knowing my teammates were waiting, I scaled the uphill driveway to find myself following several other runners scattered along the exit and back out onto Route 302.  As I blasted into the transition area, my team was eagerly and happily waiting for me and I was so pleased to learn I had finished that leg of my race a little faster than I had anticipated.  *THIS* is why I do this, I said to myself.  I *CAN* do this.

My teammates in Van 1 plowed along through majestic mountains and scenery until about 11:30 am where we handed off to the rest of our teammates in Van 2 for them to start their adventures.  We had a few hours to eat, rest and regroup before starting up again for leg two later that afternoon.

By 5 pm or so, the temperature had soared to around 73 degrees and sweat was coming off everybody coming into the transition area for runner #12 to pass off again to runner #1.  My Gremlin started to undermine me and cause me uncertainty for my next leg; the same of which was 6.8 miles.  While runner #1 was out completing his mileage, I worried about what I had gotten into once again.  The pesky questions of self-doubt started to rise and my stomach flip-flopped making me question my lunch choices.  The angel on one shoulder was reminding me of my efforts ten hours earlier and giving me words of confidence.  The devil on the other shoulder was chastising me, berating me, and trying to convince me that I would be unable to do it for a myriad of reasons.

A little after 6 pm approximately, I trotted out of a sandy pit and onto a winding, country road to start my longest leg of the race.  The sun was starting to set with brilliant pinks, reds, and oranges disbursing through the green leaves of the trees.  The farm animals lent their smells to the warm mountain air.  I practiced breathing as I found myself withholding from the anxiety that still remained in the early mile and I tried to shake out the stiffness from sitting in the van for so long coupled with the remnants of rheumatoid flare the week before.

The rolling hills started to turn into much larger rolling hills; with me trying to make up time on the downhill with my friend gravity as I slowly and steadily plowed my way up, up, up the seemingly never-ending and growing hills.  Panic set in as I realized I was only about three miles in; I questioned how I would get through more.  Slow and steady.  Slow and steady.  I recited this to the different beats and tunes surging through my earbuds.

The hills got longer, steeper, and much harder.  I wanted to cry.  I wanted to call my van and plead mercy.  I give up.

No.

Keep going.  You have more.  Slow and steady.  Slow and steady.

I can’t do this.  I can’t.  My feet hurt.  My joints scream.

You have beaten cancer.  You have more.  Keep going.  Slow and steady.

The conflicting dialog continued on in my brain as my body detested the motions I pushed it through.  Suddenly, I hit town and more vans were approaching.  I must be near the transition area.  I can do this.  As I turned the last incline, I saw the crowd of people waiting for their teammates to approach and I knew my very own team would be there waiting.  I did it.

img_5725

My van-mates were done around 12:15 am before passing the baton off to van two again.  We had the luxury of getting a shower, a meal, and about two and a half hours of sleep at a family member’s house nearby.  Another 4:40 am wake-up call and we were en route to the final and third-leg runs for our van.

The long and short of it is my body was by now, very sore and achy from the 11.3 miles it completed in the hours before.  Getting in and out of the van was now a challenge, my knees and hips telling me they were not a fan of my activity and my muscles stiffening.  I modified by getting out of the van backwards each time.  Thanks to a wildcard leg for runner #1 and runner #2 in these legs, the mileage was to be determined by both of us.  Runner #1 felt good enough and was a trooper enough to accomplish over 6.4 miles, leaving me with the remaining 4.5 miles to track down for the transition to runner #3.  My van-mates reminded me it looked to be mostly downhill, as words of reassurance and confidence.  Early on, I knew my final leg was going to be a challenge simply because we had lack of sleep, we had too many miles thus far, and my stomach would not tolerate enough fuel for these last miles.

As I tried to maneuver the downhill grades with a faster clip, my quads started screaming at me.  I may have told them to “STFU” and used that momentum for the continuing hills I ensued on this last leg.  Are we not getting closer to the freaking ocean?  Why are there still so many hills I pondered?  My piriformis muscle really let me know it was angry; angrier than my nerve-damaged feet and with more intensity that my quads tried to bail out with.  I walked.  “Just to that telephone pole and then you get your ass moving again, Rebecca!” I said.  I would run until near tears.  I walked.  “Just to that telephone pole and then you get your ass moving again, Rebecca!” I said yet again.  Over and over and over until the final hill of the leg was standing before me.  At this point in time, it looked as if it were Mount Everest before me and I nearly burst into a full on girl cry.  One more massive hill.  I had no choice.  Quitting was not an option.  I walked the entire last hill.  I felt shame.  I felt guilt.  It took me a long time.  I apologized to my teammates who were just so glad I was there.  I started to chide myself again for my lack of performance as I nauseously stepped my sweaty mess of a body into the van.

As we drove to the next transition area, I made a decision.  I had completed 15.8 miles over three legs in 24 hours.  Does it *really * matter how fast or slow I went?  Does it *really* matter if my legs were hilly or not?  Does it *really* matter that I walked some of those big hills?  Really?  No.  It does not.

I said I would never do Ragnar-Reach The Beach New Hampshire.  Yet, here I sat……sore, broken, exhausted, but yet, done.  My never had turned into a reality.  My never had delivered forty-eight hours of memories and adventures with good friends and new friends.

My never had once again reaffirmed that despite the negative Gremlin that lives in my head, I have the power to overrule the nasty words she spews.  My never had also reinforced the belief that despite my sadness that I will never have a “normal” like I had before cancer, my current state of “normal” is okay.  My never allows me to be alive and live…truly live by doing things that are not only a test of my physical body, but my mental ability to overcome.

Putting myself aside, I saw friends of mine take on this endeavor and crush every mile  Friends of mine who are not “runners” as they label themselves, are now the owners of bragging rights for completing distances equal tonor greater than a half-marathon!  What a sight to see!  What pleasure I gained from seeing their smiles and sense of accomplishment!

Life is always full of challenges for all of us, that will not change.  Instead of saying never in the future, I will look at challenges with an open-mind and I will know that I am responsible for whether I choose to accomplish or overcome those challenges as I see fit.  Instead of saying I will *never* do an ultra Ragnar (only six runners for 200 miles, instead of twelve); I now firmly, confidently, and emphatically say, “I choose NOT to do an ultra.  I have zero desire to consider that challenge.  I will look elsewhere for a different challenge.”

Anyone in for Ragnar Cape Cod 2017?

 

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Accountability – Do We Owe It?

Personal accountability seems to be at an all- time low. Do you agree? Owning our actions, our words and every aspect of our daily lives seems to be tantamount. For everything that goes wrong in our lives, we seem pretty quick as a society to cast blame outwardly. Perhaps, it is time we start to reflect inwardly and own up to our personal responsibility for holding ourselves accountable.

accountability

My intention is for this to be a several part series as accountability applies to many components of our lives: from work, to health, to our children, and to each other as a society.  My first post hits a sensitive nerve on a topic way too close to home:  our health and cancer.

Nod your head in agreement as I casually comment on how the cancer diagnoses seem to be rising; or rather, how you know of this one and that one who has battled or is currently battling some form of cancer. Yes? Of course! Even though I am a cancer advocate, I am meeting someone new each week – EVERY @#$&%@ SINGLE WEEK – to whom I am introduced to by someone who wishes for me to offer the “been there, done that” spiel to their friend, their neighbor, their colleague, their aunt, or even themselves.

Personally, I am beyond frustrated as each year BILLIONS of dollars are poured into the various cancer fundraising vehicles….and yet, every week as I mentioned above, I am talking to *new* people with cancer regularly. The so-called quest for a “cure” makes me even more nuts as I do not believe the solution is on the horizon. I wish for the scientists to continue looking for the elusive piece of the puzzle, but in the meantime, what do we do *NOW*?

Why are we not talking about the responsibility we owe ourselves in ensuring our good health?

acccountability sign

What is *CAUSING* these seemingly higher incidents of cancer? Why are we not looking for the root cause just as much, if not more than, the cure?

Cancer is normal. Yes, cancer is very normal. Cancer happens to our cells as part of basic biology; always has and always will. What appears to be different is that our immune systems have become somewhat compromised and our ability to fight off various cancers has diminished. What on earth is compromising our immune systems? Where do we begin………

Whereas I do not wish to get into a scientific debate here, I simply want people to recognize the power of accountability. If we know something carries a higher risk of causing cancer, why do we do it?  Why do we not take a more preventative approach to better health?  Why do we take our bodies for granted?

Prior to 2007, I was one of those people who took my health for granted. I most certainly did. I was barely into my thirties at the time, why would my health even be on my radar aside from regular physicals?

Did I ever stop and think about what I put into my mouth? Sure, when I felt my love handles being more than a handful or when my folds of my stomach climbed upward into flabalanche status. I thought more about eating healthier for a few weeks at a time, but purely for the sake of losing weight for vanity sake. I never once thought about extra weight putting me at a higher risk for breast cancer.  Wasn’t I too young?

Did I worry about microwaving plastic, melamine, or using other modern day items of convenience, including Styrofoam? Why would I? I was much too busy and chaotic to worry about things that made my life faster, quicker, more convenient, more on the go and just *easier*.  Why would these things possibly impact my health?

Did I think about the lotion I rubbed vigorously into every inch of my skin post-shower? No. Why would I? I smelled good and my skin was soft. Did I think more about the different face cream I smoothed into the creases around my eyes or my smile lines? No. What about the cleanser I used at the end of the day to remove my make up?  Who cares what ingredients were in all of these different products?

Did I worry about the stress in my life? Sure, sometimes I did but not as a Mack Truck about to steamroll my very core being into a fight for its life. When I thought about the often times incapacitating stress in my life; I did not picture being able to make choices to *fix* my chaos, I only daydreamed about an escape…..or more so, a *time-out* so that I could focus on just me for a moment.

Oh, I got that so-called time-out alright.  What went wrong in me that I was just shy of a Stage three breast cancer diagnosis at age 33?  I have had plenty of time to consider all the potential *causes* of my cancer.  For a while, I racked my brain thinking of what *it* was that directly caused my disease:

  • Was it all the McDonald’s, Bagel Dogs and ramen noodles I ate in college?
  • Was it the chemicals I was exposed to all the times I spent hanging out with dad at his construction sites?
  • Was it the mercury I used to roll around in my hands after breaking an old-fashioned thermometer?
  • Was it all the body care products I used that were chock full of parabens?
  • Was it the insane amount of stress I was under from a ridiculously demanding job coupled with being a care-taker to my aging and high-maintenance parents while managing my own young family?

Who knows?  The list could go on and on and on…………

I will never know the precise *trigger* of my cancer and I am okay with that. However, I now know my health really begins with ME. I have to be accountable and held responsible for ME.

My children have a much higher rate of disease now, thanks to my diagnosis. I want to enable all three of my kids to be pro-active and make better choices than I was ever equipped to make. I want my friends to be pro-active instead of reactive. Why go through the horrors that I did?  Having watched my best friend go through a much different cancer battle in the past year makes me want to SCREAM this at all of you!

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

Do we not owe ourselves some level of accountability? If we knew a battle lies ahead, wouldn’t we run out and get whatever weapons we could in our arsenal, to help us protect and defend our home lines; the very place where our most beloved reside? Of course we would! Why are we not using the same concept with our bodies and our health?

We *KNOW* that eating a palate of fresh vegetables, clean meats and plentiful amounts of water are ideal.

We *KNOW* that regular exercise is good for us.

We *KNOW* that exposure to certain chemicals increases a multitude of health concerns and issues.

We *KNOW* that stress wears us down, makes us sick and causes friction in our daily lives.

Where’s the accountability? What can we do to effectuate change *BEFORE* it is too late?

For me, I do not want to get cancer again so my changes have been pretty dramatic. I want my children to learn from me now, post 2007-2008 and post-cancer. I want my babies to be equipped to make better life choices than I ever did. Will they? I do not know but I want them to have a balance. Yes, Slim Jims are disgusting and totally unhealthy for you. However, having an occasional Slim Jim through-out the year will not cause extensive damage because you are eating your healthy nutrition all the other times, coupled with regular exercise, stress maintenance and using the lowest possible chemical exposure on top of it.

For you, promise me that you will *think* about your accountability here and there. Give yourself a handful of reasons why you should be pro-active when it comes to YOU! We live in a fast-paced, uber-convenient society that takes nearly every luxury for granted. Find five…….. (5)……only five (!) ways you can be more aware in your life. What matters most to you or what is easiest for you to own accountability for in your life?

Here are some easy examples:

Check your grocery cart before checking out. Are there any products that you can find a better version of that has less processed or chemical ingredients? Maybe you do not need that product at all.  Read your labels.

Check your personal care products. Find safe products or perhaps find ones that will work for you with less toxic chemicals. What are your children using? You will find them safer products, right?  Read your labels.

Check your exercise routine. You do not have to be all insane and crazy like some people we know. (Ahem, are you looking at me?) Even if you *despise* exercise, there are so many ways to incorporate a little more in your daily life: park further away, take the stairs, or find a friend to take a walk with before you share that bottle of wine.  What works for you that you will create a habit of?

Check your daily stress. Many of us feel trapped and unable to make a change. Sometimes, a lower paying job or reducing the household bills will make all the difference in the amount of stress taxing you on a regular basis.  Change begins with YOU.

Find a buddy to help keep you accountable. Write your five goals down and share it with your spouse or your friend. When you hit those five goals, aim for five more and before you know it – you have made massive lifestyle changes and you are paving the way for your children, our future generations, to live in a *hopefully* healthier, less cancer filled world.

Are you in?

steer yourself

Word Of The Year: Refine (A Report Card)

Back during the New Year and with the ever present resolutions circling rampant, my friend Candace of Lucky Scarf and I were talking about what word we needed to focus on for the year ahead. Candace blogged about it here: Refine.

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From the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means “to improve something by small changes”.

Easy peasy, right?

Not so fast cowboy.

cowboy

I had great intentions of starting off strong and using the word refine in all aspects of my life: personal relationships, in my career, at home, in my health, and more. Recently, as I began to feel a bit bogged down again, I chose to reflect and circle back to the beginning of the year and my ideas of filtering my life. Two-thirds of the year 2014 is now in the past, how did I fare?
Hmph. Depends on who you ask; I, for one, am not impressed with my level of cleansing my life. However, I am also that person who has sky-high expectations for myself so how do I calibrate a reasonable refinement?

My home is Clutter-City, USA. I have great intentions of clearing the Great Wall of Clothes in my bedroom. I do! Not a day goes by that I do not wish for a peaceful bedroom without mounds of clean laundry strewn about. I wash. I dry. I try to fold. I try to re-fold. I try to put away. Time is of the essence, people. Yes! I had grandiose plans of purchasing more plastic tubs to put LAST winter’s clothes away for good. No! I never got it done. (But we live in New England where summer was barely an eight week reprieve and lookie here: the cooler 50 degree mornings of late require some of those clothes that never got put the eff away. I saved myself of that time! <insert my typical eyeball roll here>.

Source: Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Source: Tina Fey, 30 Rock

Let’s not talk about my basement. Please. What you do not see will not hurt you! (Right?)
My career has been a bit better. Sure, I have refined my ways to provide more efficient work and I have zero clutter on my desk. My mind remains cluttered as I still navigate a post-cancer career path. I over-analyze each day: WHAT am I doing with my professional life? WHAT path should I be on? WHAT career move is best suited for my uber-Type A personality but extremely important life-balance needs (aka checking out of work at 3 pm to head to job number two as Momma).
Should I be engrossed in a life of charity and advocating for those that struggle; particularly in the world of cancer? Absolutely, but then how do my bills get paid? Should I abandon the charity route as maybe, just maybe, my time is “up” riding this path?

Should I make the sacrifices necessary to pursue a life of health and fitness by working out and possibly coaching others to do the same, all while spending hours in my kitchen cooking wheelbarrows of delicious and healthy food? You know, does it *really* matter if MY kids eat?
Should I be focusing on writing that book I dream about? Am I living a pipe dream? Who would be interested in reading about how many times I have fallen and yet, somehow managed to get back up and persevere? I am not the only one who was abused as a child. I am not the only one who has a profound hearing loss. I am not the only one who was pregnant while battling breast cancer. I am not the only one who has had ups and downs in marriage. I am not the only one who finds the parenting thing to be supremely challenging. I am not the only one to have lost her parents young. Who would read that? <insert another typical eyeball roll>.

Source: Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Source: Tina Fey, 30 Rock

My personal relationships have felt a little bit cluttered. I promised myself in January to refine those relationships that are bogging me down. If someone is not allowing me to be the best version of me, I challenged myself to make better choices about that person’s spot in my life. How did I do? Eh. I removed two half-siblings from my life as they were toxic. Simply put. Maintaining some type of relationship with these two seemed the *right* thing to do, but *right* by whom? The value add of their presence in my life was nil, zero, nada and once our shared mother passed away last year, I determined there was no positive contribution to my life, or my family’s life, by having them in it. As I learned with my relationship with my mother, simply sharing a bloodline (albeit a partial bloodline in this regard) does not mandate a forced relationship.

REFINED.

Friends. I have whittled away at some of the relationships that were one-sided or simply non-existent. I made it a directive of mine to purge of the relationships that were not worthy of my time investment. Does that sound harsh? Selfish? Perhaps, yes, however, justification ran rampant in my mind as I used the time otherwise in helping support the weekly conversations I engage in with breast cancer survivors.
As I struggled greatly this summer with some very deep personal problems that are inappropriate to be shared here, I isolated a bit and found that some friends were none the wiser. In fact, some friends seemed somewhat disappointed or angry with me that I did not find the time to engage with them. Ah, had they only checked in on a more personal level versus just assuming I had no time for them. Alas. Do I just do a good enough job of keeping my personal life private and putting on the smiley face that I fool the outside world? Perhaps certain people are not in-tune enough or made the choice to assume that my pulling back was just me being me, too busy for them instead? Food for thought on what further refinement is necessary or not. <Sigh, eyeball roll.>

Source: Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Source: Tina Fey, 30 Rock

One area that I made refining strides in is my health. Yes! Post-marathon injury and recovery set me back to June; however, as an outlet to my personal life, I continued to focus on ensuring I found time for me at the gym. Burpee after burpee I sweated out the tears. Deadlift after deadlift, I dropped the monstrous weight. WOD after WOD, I challenged myself to push the limits and let go: see how far I could push myself to new heights. I refined myself from wanting to do it all (i.e. run races, seek PRs at Crossfit, hike, bike, and more). My body, the one vehicle that houses my very being – the body that I sometimes feel betrayed me by having cancer is really pretty amazing. Once I refined my goals, my body has been rewarding me ever since and I am confident I have much more in the tank.
My nutrition continues to be an area of tweaking and modification. In addition to my workout modification, I recently challenged myself for twenty-four days: I came out bearing less weight and several inches smaller. The particular challenge I did has been life changing and stay tuned as I blog about that in the very near future. Next week brings yet another new challenge for optimal health for this gal, more refinement and I am super excited to share that along the way. I am nervous, but refine has been a pretty good word for me this year.
Perhaps the lesson is right here in front of my too-busy rolling eyeballs! Is it a monumental effort to hone all areas of my life in one year? Sure, there are 365 days to allocate to the mission! Should I have further over-analyzed and set mini-goals for each quarter of the year to accomplish? Should I take that forsaken chill pill and *feel* accomplished with the strides that I have made?
My thoughts have runneth over.
About face and recall the definition of refine itself: to improve something by small changes. Literally, I have made small changes in all aspects – so yes, yes, I have had success in improving my life this year. Perhaps, for 2015 the word of the year shall be persistence or perseverance, so that I can continue to chip away and chisel out the very best version of me in all aspects.
What about you? Have you chosen to enhance yourself in some way (i.e. career, personal relationships, health, or other)? Where are you in your refinement? Do you over-analyze or get bogged down my high expectations? What should you do to de-clutter your life?

tell me

Fatty McFatty Pants (The Gremlin)

You may recall in Right On Hereford, Left on Boylston, I completed the 2014 Boston Marathon; a lifetime dream of mine came true on April 21st.  Despite my months of training, particularly through New England’s Artic Vortex and miles upon miles logged; I somehow experienced a hip labral tear just past mile seven.  Because I am incredibly stubborn and ­­­_______________ (reader’s choice, you pick: crazy, tough as nails, resilient, stupid, mental, stubborn again…..), I did finish; albeit nearly an hour and a half after I expected to.

After a very painful (mental, not physical) six week, doctor-ordered mandated break from working out, I returned to Crossfit.  For those of you who have deemed Crossfit a cult, that “cult” welcomed me with open arms and had me feeling as if I were not only genuinely missed but everyone was proud of me for coming back in.  My workout “family” was non-judgmental and gently nursed my bruised ego as I crossed the gym floor to resume my vacant spot.

A gentle manner and easing into something is not a regular habit of mine; so I was even a bit worried about how my still healing hip would feel as I resumed throwing weight around – both that on my body and that on my barbell.  The pain was virtually non-existent in my hip, but there was a good instability and a random clicking to remind me to be safe.  My coach was excellent about providing modifications to me that did not further add insult to injury.  On top of that, my “box-mates” were constantly asking me if I felt good, if I was okay, and so forth on making sure I respected my bodily boundaries as I regained my pre-marathon weights and workouts.

Surrounding yourself with caring people in an environment where each person is out for his or her own, but he or she pushes you to hit new personal bests or simply get through a bad day is most rewarding.  I know I can rely upon myself to push myself harder than most, which is a hard-wired trait of mine. However, I cannot always stop the Gremlin – the voice that enters my head and tells me that I should have pushed harder, faster, stronger or better.

gremlin

Last week was a perfect example of how my Gremlin started to take over when she had NO business being anywhere near my sweatiness.  Our strength portion of our workout was a 1RM (one round max) of a bench press; or in other words, the heaviest we could go for one rep.  I had not done a bench press for a max in a very long time, so I had no recollection of what weight I should be at.  Instantly, I asked a strong Crossfitter friend of mine to work with her, as I am typically 10-20 lbs behind her and she’s an inspiration for me to work with.  This fellow Crossfitter is always encouraging me in the kindest of ways and making me strive to find my peak strength without losing my femininity (yes, I joke about my growing man-muscles).

We added weights and benched pressed our way up and down the rack.  Once I hit 125 pounds, I lost my mojo and simply could not get the bar up over a certain sticking point.  My box-mate rallied and pushed her way through to 137.5 pounds.  As we put the weights away to prepare for the next phase of our workout, I started to allow myself some disappointment that I did not hit the 130 pounds I deemed as the appropriate number for myself.  The funny thing is I have no manual on what numbers I should be hitting.  Crossfit, itself, has no manuals on what numbers I should be racking up.  My body told me last week that 125 pounds was the max it was going to afford that day.  Enough said.

We finished the rest of the workout, which included things such as toes-to-bar, handstand holds and double unders.  Yes, toes-to-bar. Anyone who is overweight and has had 3 kids has something of a pooch (not a dog, but a hanging flabalanche that starts just below the boobs and ends somewhere in the southern nethers) that is a clear obstacle to your toes meeting the bar.  Ah, yes, there’s a thing called a modification: knees to chest. Let us just say that my knees get parallel and I have to be happy with that (for now).  However, I swing and I sway so that my movements sort of blend in with the rest of the monkeys who make getting their toes to a bar over their head second nature; as if they have been practicing since they were in utero.  Maybe I should stick to running…….Fatty McFatty Pants can cover the distance.

Handstands. Publicly, I will admit it: I am TERRIFIED to try a real handstand in the vicinity of other people, regardless of how much they love me and how they would NEVER <ahem, publicly> judge me or laugh at me. I reluctantly did the modified version and I felt strong despite leaning the opposite way of my box-mates.  Take your weight and invert it upside down using the strength of your upper-body to hold it versus your legs?!?!  Who ARE these people?

Photo: crossfitannarbor
Photo: crossfitannarbor

Recently, another WOD (workout of the day) had me doing thrusters and pull-ups.  Thrusters are a barbell exercise that require you to clean the bar to your collarbone from the ground, squat and then press the weight up over your head.  While I manage to be fairly strong in any barbell required exercises like thrusters, I still carry a tremendous amount of extra weight for body weight movements – making things like pull-ups all but nearly impossible (did I not just outline the pretty picture with toes-to-bar above?!).  However, instead of just jumping up trying to reach the bar as I have for months on end, I am noticing lately that I can actually get my chinny chin-chin up there to the bar.  With more work and practice, I know someday I will be able to do a pull-up without using the force of my jumping legs up to get there.  I may actually complete a handstand as well.  (Insert eyeball roll as I wonder if I will EVERRRRRR get a toes-to-bar).

Every single day has become a routine:   I look at the posted workout on my CrossFit page and a part of me gets giddy. I anxiously await the time of day later that belongs to ME.  I *strut* into my box knowing full well I am about to get my big ass handed to me in some terrible manner, courtesy of no one but myself and my enormous girth.

During the workout, I will curse myself a million times over, and then a few times over again – for being crazy and out of my mind. I will actually question my sanity. I will tear myself down for being so overweight and for allowing myself to get there (chemo weight or not…it still feels like an excuse).

I will complete the workout to the best of my ability on that given day. Most days are given a good effort, but there is a random day where the energy cannot be mustered from any source. However, nine times out of ten, I will walk out of the vast gym feeling like a million dollars and high on an ever-growing addiction to endorphins.

hardest

CrossFit is hard; that is why it is not for everyone. CrossFit is not the latest fitness craze that anyone can just jump into. The workouts take hours practice for proper form, the weights take time to build up to, the endurance adds with each push or pull given by you.  CrossFit is commitment.  CrossFit is determination.  CrossFit is a lifestyle change.

One would not expect their life savings to grow overnight, much as one should not expect their health to grow overnight as well.  With each deposit into my health bank (i.e. a completed WOD), my health is vastly expanding.  I am chipping away at my future health by giving my body the strength it needs to be strong, whether it is in my muscles, my cardiac system or my mental health (including kicking that ugly Gremlin to the corner once and for all).  Each day I complete a workout, I am one day closer to changing my name from Fatty McFattyPants to something more appealing…….(i.e. The Beccinator; Beastly Rebec; Sweaty Bec; Bodacious Becca…….) but until then……..

strong

Yes, I am stronger, I am leaner, and I am a better person than I was the day before.

Should that not be the goal for each of us?

yestrday

P.S.  What do you do with YOUR Gremlin?

Channeling My Inner-Laura Ingalls Wilder

One of the more positive stories my parents would always offer me as a child is “what goes around comes around”, namely as it pertains to fashion styles, societal practices, trends and more.  When you are young, you do not necessarily take the words of your experienced parents with more than a grain of salt; after all they are “old” people who are a little out of touch (or are they really?).

I am a by-product of the 80s (even though I was born in the mid-70s).  I find it highly amusing, and oddly comforting, that a brief walk through Target to get prescriptions is enhanced by vibrant neon colored clothing everywhere.  I see lace popping up again on anything from shoes, to shirts, to shorts and I am instantly twelve years old again.  I love it.  Let’s start pegging our pants again and layering our socks, baby (or maybe not).

Recently, I ran the 2014 Boston Marathon in a day-glow neon yellow running shirt (underneath my fundraising shirt) and I revel in the memories of when I ran for an All American Cross Country team in Munich Stadium in 1989, in yes, you may have guessed it:  day-glow neon yellow running tights that would have matched the aforementioned shirt to a thread.  Twenty-four years and the cycle of fashion trends is coming full circle.  FUN!  (Although, I secretly hope mesh shirts do not find their way back, along with the Moms jeans! Eek!)

Recently, the trends with food also seem to be shifting, perhaps circling back to a prior era.  More and more of my friends, as well as the public in general, are making empowered decisions for better choices on what to feed their families.  Fast food has become a once in a while “treat” – because come on, sometimes one just needs a dose of salty French fries.  However, every day meals are being crafted at home, from scratch and using better ingredients that come from local sources versus the pre-packaged and processed variety in the inner aisles of our box grocery stores.

Even in households where both parents work, the act of preparing foods like Easy Mac or Hamburger Helper seems less likely.  The ingestion of the unpronounceable ingredients of so many “quick & easy” dinners is apt to leave mothers shuddering across the nation, and they take a few more minutes to create healthier plates of nutrition for their families.

As a child living in Oklahoma, we had a small farm for a while.  We raised pigs, goats, chickens, rabbits and the occasional wild animal that showed up in our lives, including a baby skunk.  Part of the intent of raising these animals, unbeknownst to me as a young child, was to utilize the meat to feed our family.  Needless to say, I was rather traumatized when my father announced it was time for the slaughterhouse for our four pigs that I had lovingly cared for and named:  Miss Piggy, Bacon, Porkchop, and Ham.  My father promised that Miss Piggy would not be sent for slaughter during all the days that she would come to me for back scratches and hugs, or when she would run to the fence to greet me after I came off the school bus.  My father broke my heart for the first time by breaking this promise and I vowed to not eat one ounce of the hundreds of pounds of meat that soon filled our freezers.

It was here, in Fairland, Oklahoma, where I first learned the phrase, “Did you ever see a chicken with its head cut off?”  Science demonstrated itself as my father slaughtered one hundred chickens himself; we had to do the cleaning and prepping process ourselves. Chicken after chicken lost its head and then ran around the yard for what seemed to be hours.  Fortunately for me, the process of raising and prepping chickens for food was a way of life back then.  We raised the animals from young, tender ages to being full grown – we fed them, we nurtured them and we knew all about them.

Fast forward many years to present day and thoughts about where our food comes from resurfaces.  Living in suburbia, growing and raising your own food sources are not likely. Our food can only come from the stores that provide it, right?  Yes and no.

After a hard cancer battle, I began to really evaluate our food sources.  Having no explanation for my cancer diagnosis, I began to suspect that environmental factors may have been at play.  Worried for our children, we began to make different choices to enable and empower us for good health.

Five years ago, we joined a local CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) for a share of the crops produced.  By signing up in the winter months, you provide the local farmer with the cash up front to purchase the seeds and supplies necessary for the crops ahead. In return, you get a weekly share that lasts anywhere from sixteen to twenty weeks of the abundance of the farmer’s land grown in June to October.  One benefit to joining a CSA is knowing where your food is grown; how the farmer treats the crops with pesticides, if at all; and eating the nutrients your body needs with the changing seasons.

Early June provides fresh berries and leafy greens:

ImageFollowed by tomatoes and summer squashes in July:

ImageAmple amounts of fresh corn, more tomatoes, summer squashes and greens through all of August:

ImageSeptember and October bring in more of the harvest and root vegetables including butternut and acorn squashes, potatoes, and so much more:

Image

Our current and by far, most favorite CSA is with Harper’s Farm & Garden. A few shares *may* remain, so do not hesitate and contact them to sign up today. Trust me, you will not regret it.

While vegetables and fruits certainly make up a large portion of our nutrition, we started looking for better meat sources.  Time after time again, we were disappointed in the disgusting taste and quality of many supermarket meats.  After spending much money on store-bought chicken breasts, only to have them be rubbery, taste poor and throwing the uneaten meat out; I decided there has to be a better option.  We were purchasing much of our meat at Central Street Meat & Deli, however, I knew there had to be a local farm that allowed us to feel confident about the source of our meat, as well as allowing us to support another farmer and his family.

Our current favorite meat farm is Kalon Farms.  Owned by Keith and Ashley Kopley, the quaint farm in Ashburnham offers such a wide variety of meats that we have yet to try all their offerings.  A twenty minute drive from where we live in Leominster is quick and easy.  We have fine-tuned our purchases so we go once every three weeks approximately and fill our freezer with a multitude of goods.

ImageThe meats at Kalon Farm are prepackaged in vacuum sealed pouches and frozen.  From fresh bacon, to ham steaks, to sirloin tips, to beef stew meat, to hamburg, and to roaster chickens; our dinners have never been better.  Preparing has never been easier, as the packages are easy to defrost and the meat remains as fresh as the day it was sealed.  My children even ask now, “Is this the farm meat? It’s so delicious, I can taste the difference!”

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Chili Lime Roasted Chicken infused with Clementines

My oldest, once a true vegetarian because she disliked the taste of meat and how the animals are treated is now eating small amounts of meat again – because the meats from Kalon Farm are tasty and she knows the animals are being treated humanely.

Now to find a local baker and I will feed my family much like people did in the “old days”; by shopping at each respective market for our food.  With the recent news of the latest carcinogen in our breads, (who wants to eat the chemical in yoga mats and sneakers a.k.a.  Azodicarbonamide), my focus is on finding suitable bread choices for my children and their beloved sandwiches.  The current favorite in the household is products by “When Pigs Fly” – namely their sourdough and rye varieties.  When Pigs Fly is based in Maine, but fortunately, their fresh, artisan style breads are available at many local markets.  The company uses only organic and fresh ingredients, and despite the higher cost,  we rest assured that our six year old can read the ingredient label with no hesitation.

Image

While I am unable to channel my inner Laura Ingalls Wilder and live on the prairie supplying my own food sources for our family; I am able to keep the local farmers in business by purchasing their quality goods and we are confident that the majority of our food is not likely to kill us. Although, we do enjoy Cheetos once in a very blue moon (translate: once or twice a year), have you ever stopped to ponder what exactly IS a Cheeto?

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What are some of your favorite local food sources? Share them with us!

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