Adventures Await… Part 2!

Wow, I can’t believe how time just flies. It’s been nothing short of an exciting and crazy start to summer for our family. Let’s just say we have lots of adventures packed in: camping trips, fishing, scouts, football, tennis, baseball, basketball, band, water parks, swimming, friends, fireworks and more!!!


Scout camping fun with my youngest!

In the meantime, I’ve been working on something really HUGE and SCARY but totally EXCITING at the same time. It’s actually completely unrelated to running and health, but I wanted to share my latest endeavors because it has to do in part with my last post about working with kids and finally figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. (and why I’ve been so absent).

Back in March, I had an experience that lit a fire under me (it actually made me so angry and sad at the same time, but I won’t get into it here). The experience opened up my eyes to the state of our current education and the quality of the people who teach our children.

I’m someone who wants to help everyone… I know that’s impossible… but, I know I can be part of the solution! If only I can make a difference for one… or two… maybe a handful of children and their families?!

And so I started talking to my teacher friends; mostly, my Paraprofessional friends.

What’s a Paraprofessional, you ask? It’s a very special someone for many students and parents and teachers.

They are the aides in the classrooms helping the teachers. They are the ones on the sidelines who actually do much of the loving and care-giving, documenting and one-on-one guiding. They reassure students, work with emotions and behaviors across the full spectrum, they monitor in the lunch-room and they teach solutions on the playground, they talk to teachers, parents, administrators and do a ton of work behind the scenes. In my opinion, they don’t get enough credit for the massive amount of work they do for our children who need the most help in the classroom!!!

And so, back in April, I initially applied for my Paraprofesional license! A few days later, I was encouraged to apply as a Substitute Teacher which means I can accept a much broader role as an educator and at the end of May, my request was approved! The last week of school gave me two opportunities to work and I enjoyed it immensely!


Like this just makes me even more of a Sucker!

In the meantime, I also thought about going back to school. It’s been in the back of my mind for a long time. I started working with a university whose program I really respected and one that would allow me to do a majority of my studies online during the day while kids are in school and be the soccer mom in the evenings and weekends. In the end, I’ll be able to get my teaching license and master’s degree in special education after 2 years!

There was just one problem!

My undgraduate grades were too low to waive taking the GRE and so I studied my well-rounded tushy off for 4 straight weeks into June!!! I carried this huge notebook and study guide from the library with me everywhere and was constantly quizzing myself on vocabulary, comprehension and math problems. I studied at baseball games, when I woke up, right after lunch, after dinner and into the late nights when I couldn’t sleep, on the airplane, on vacation, and in the car (my hubs was driving).


My family was awesome cheering me on every time I studied. Mr. Dino was there to help, too!

Let’s just say remembering how to do proportions and rate word problems after 20+ years of actually learning how to do them was a huge challenge along with re-learning quadratic equations and geometry even though math used to be my strongest subject! (There was actually a word problem involving and cyclist and runner on a track and I had to figure out how many times the runner would get passed in a certain amount of time… that NEVER happens in real life, does it?! PLEASE!).

Thankfully, my 7th grader and Kahn Academy helped me with most of it!!! #humbled

The first week of June, I drove to the test site and after 4 of the longest mentally challenging hours I’ve had in a very long time, I walked away with the scores I needed!!! HIP-HIP-HOORAY! (I’ve gotten better, but I’ve always strugged with test anxiety so, this felt so great because I was about ready to take the darn thing again 21 days later if I had to).

And, today I officially sent in my official application to start school in the fall (gulp, August). I hope to find out before the end of July, but I’m excited and hopeful right now, so please cross a few fingers and toes for me.


In the meantime, I’m now focusing on my first ‘race’ of the year this weekend. It’s a brand new 5K in my neck of the woods… which happens to conclude with a pancake breakfast! The next official race is in September – The Fox Valley Half-Marathon. I’ll start officially training in about 2 weeks, but for now, I’m kicking it off with new shoes 🙂


The biggest sadness for me this year, though, is missing the Christmas in July 12-hour event I was hoping to join in on. My plantar fasciitis was no joke and I still have to be careful. This was our crew last year and most of them will be back!  I’ll be there as part of the volunteer crew on the back half of their race so I can cheer for them and feed them… and maybe carry them as they limp to their cars, but it won’t be the same as toughing out a longer ultra race with my compadres.


My UBAGE gals! They are a special bunch. And yes, I mean that kind of special, too!!!

Anyway, that’s where I’ve been. And this is where I’m hoping to be headed. I plan to still blog and run, so I appreciate you all reading whenever I get a chance to digitally spill my guts to you all.

Here’s to new adventures!!!  Any new ones for you?

Love and xoxo,


The Holiday Training Game Plan

What’s your game plan for the upcoming holidays and the new year in terms of tackling your goals? If exercise is important to you, do you have a training game plan?

I am not a big fan of setting New Year’s Resolutions. I prefer to focus on working specific life goals or races I want to run throughout the year. Those milestones have their own timeline and often don’t fit neatly into the constrains of a particular calendar year.

And, as you may remember from my “Kick-Ass” post earlier this week

There's no better time than RIGHT NOW to just do it! #setgoals Click To Tweet

This is going to be short and sweet. I’m leaving a few things up to having you guess what I’m up to for several reasons and will share later in January (remember? I love games!).

But, I’m down to the wire and need to set up a very specific training plan of action, so I thought I’d share it here and then let you all guess what crazy idea has been concocted 🙂


It’s going to be tough for me to get this cranked out because of the holidays, weather and my own battle with the dark winter days (and loving my warm bed on the coldest), but I’m determined to be able to complete this… and I won’t be alone in this endeavor!

I know I won’t follow this perfectly. I never do.

There are a few training goals I want to accomplish within this game plan:

  • Run at least one 20-22 mile day (or 4.5 hours max)
  • Workout at least 6x a week
  • Core abdominal workouts include light weight-lifting 2x a week

Living an EPIC life starts with making the decision to try.

What’s on your list of EPIC living? Have you decided?!

You Deserve A Kick-Ass Day!

When was the last time you had a Kick-Ass day?!

Was it when you PR’d your last race? When you spent the day at the amusement park? When you received your diploma? When you earned a promotion? When you made someone smile?

I’m not really sorry that I used a little bitty swear word here because it hopefully got your attention!!!

Friends… Here’s where I get real with you!

Or maybe, this is me getting real with myself and giving myself a HUGE pep talk! Sometimes, I just need to look in the mirror and coach myself. And just maybe, someone out there might be reading this and needing the same reality check!

There are only 38 days left in 2015. I’m not going to be the person who asks you what you’re going to do with the rest of the year and then have you commit to some challenge for the next 5 weeks.

I’m just going to ask what you’re doing for the rest of today?!

I feel like if I don’t master today, then getting to my goals and dreams isn’t going to happen.

The date or specific point in time is arbitrary. What really matters is what you are doing with the time you have right now. You might not have tomorrow.


What is keeping you from starting right now towards what it is you want in your life?

Seriously. Are you going to wait to eat healthy (or start exercising, sign up for a class you’ve always wanted to take, pick up the phone to repair a relationship, etc) until after the holidays?!

That’s an excuse and you’re selling yourself short. Start now and do the best you can.

Never Sell Yourself Short

I’ve got several big goals for the next year and beyond. For some of my dreams, I have no earthly idea how I’m going to get there, or even how to begin. Just the other day, Bradley Will, founder of and the mastermind of the 30-Days of Content Challenge interviewed celebrity Chef Fabio Viviani and I loved what he said.

You don't have to be great to start... but you have to start to be great! Click To Tweet

Think about that.

The most important thing we can be doing to move ourselves closer to greatness is just to Decide and Take Action.

Don’t be afraid of what could go wrong… ask yourself what can go right?

Because if we just sit still and do nothing then we stay exactly where we are and never realize our dreams or discover that we were meant to be more.

small changes

Every day before my kids leave the house, I tell them, “I love you. Have an awesome day. Do your best. Go make a difference for someone.”

We may never know what our full impact is on someone else’s life. Don’t let your fears stop you from doing what you love and what you were meant to do or learn to do. We all have an amazing journey and story to tell so just keep living your life and improving every day.

Not every day can be on cloud-nine. But, when we consistently master our days and focus on those baby steps… we will move toward having some really amazing days. Those days will add up. And in the process, we’ve created a Kick-Ass life!

When was your last Kick-Ass day? What are you doing today to make it great?

How I Blog From A Samsung Galaxy Phone

This ‘30-Days of Content‘ challenge has me thinking A LOT lately.

In the shower, while I’m cooking, picking my nose (didn’t want my 30 days of content to be boring reading, common!) and in the nooks and crannies of living.

One of the benefits of blogging every day is that my learning curve has been enormous. Every day I learn how to tweak this, or SEO that, or improve my efficiency.


I actually start a lot of my ideas right from my phone. Like most moms, working or not, I’m not home a lot. In fact, it’s rare for us to have a single day to ourselves where we don’t have to leave the house (Mama-mia! My van is our second home – well actually, it’s like a frat house – gross).

This doesn’t leave me much time to sit at my computer and type out something thoughtful. Now that I think about it, I barely have time to clean the toilets…ok, maybe I blog so I don’t have to clean those nasty things!

I finally took the time to figure out how to blog right from my phone because I never had the energy to write at 10 pm once the kids went to bed. That’s MY bedtime, too!



I use WordPress to craft my posts. I also have a Samsung Galaxy 6 which is my second BFF. About 3 weeks ago, I discovered the WordPress application in the Play Store.

'Ooooh! Sha-Laa! Suddenly, my life has been transformed by this one little application.'… Click To Tweet

Anytime I’m waiting, I can now squeeze in a few thoughts via my phone.

It just occurred to me that I might actually use the talk-to-text feature for even faster blogging and less mental editing to capture more raw thoughts (you might actually see me curse a little bit more, so… maybe not! LOL)

The phone application is a simplified version of what I can do from my laptop, but it gets the job started. Here’s what the home page looks like:


Photographs & Screen Shots

Since I take almost all my photos from my phone, I can add them directly the the post instead of transfering them to my computer saving me from emailing the pictures to myself.

You know how you can share a photo in a text, or send it to your email, Instagram or Facebook page? You can also share a photo to your WordPress account. #magic

I also love my cell phone because I can take screen shots with a simple swipe of my hand! ( Here’s how to do it.)screen-shot-android-phone.png

I insert the screen shot straight into my text, or I can share a photograph I took directly to my WordPress Media Library and pull it into a post I want to write later. See how I used my phone for screen shots on my post about my favorite Instagram accounts.

I can then go back into the Media Library to crop out the top part of my phone image, such as the time and battery life.

Sometimes, I want to put more notes and captions into the photots, but I find it easier to do this from my computer.

Statistics & Comments

It’s also been fun to check out my website statistics when I’m on the go.


As you can see, my blog viewership increased dramatically compared to previous months (LESSON LEARNED: My blog doesn’t grow if I only post 4x a month!). I don’t really want to compare myself to other bloggers out there because we all have different journeys, but I like being able to analyze which of my posts are doing better than others.

I have yet to discover an easy way to track my replies to comments. I prefer to reply from my laptop at home. If you have a favorite way to do this, please let me know!

I can also see where my followers are coming from and shockingly, they are mostly coming from Twitter!

To be honest, the overall numbers aren’t as critical to me as they might in the future. Right now, I’m focused on creating and learning all I can about being a better writer while simultaneously creating relationships with all of you.

Without a doubt, this little application has been saving me a lot of time and energy. Most importantly, it’s allowing me to get some sleep every night. Who knows, maybe I’ll even find time to clean the toilets, too!

Transformation Tuesday – The 30-Day Challenge

What does it take to truly transform yourself?

We see people changing on the outside by losing significant weight or transforming their bodies into chisled Mr & Ms Olympians, but what we also know is that these same people truly change on the inside, too. Their outlook certainly becomes more positive. Their self-confidence and happiness just shines from them!  Sometimes these transformations change a person’s life forever!

I’m ready for my own transformation and so I’ve accepted a 30-day challenge where I expect to see change.

The Challenge


What this challenge is NOT:

  1. It’s not about food or weight-loss.
  2. It’s not about fitness.
  3. It’s not about running.

Suprising?! For quite some time now, I’ve been wanting to transform my blog and take it from writing when the urge strikes me just 3-4 times a month, to writing consistently and with an intense focus that will take it to the next level. To really hone in on an area where I want to become known as an expert where I can really help people… not just talk about myself all the time!

I’m talking about future transformation… reinvention. I hope to experience a blogging transformation in the next 30 days and beyond as I tackle a challenge that frankly, scares and intimidates me!

I’ve been challenged to blog for 30 straight days. It can be 100 words or it can be 1000. And, it can be on anything I want to blog about without focusing too much on editing, SEO optimization, and perfection (oooooh, that’s so tough for this self-proclaimed perfectionist who has barely scratched the surface of understanding what a great blog is all about, let alone SEO optimization.)

My Goals

I have a couple goals by participating in this challenge:

  1. Learn how to become more effective with my time while still producing quality content.
  2. Learn a few tricks and tips when it comes to blogging since I’ll be connected to a couple hundred other bloggers who’ve also accepted this challenge.
  3. Explore my voice. Find out what is fun for me to write about while still inspiring and creating a movement of people (YOU) who are ready for your own change.
  4. Let go of my fear of writing and putting myself out there. It’s hard knowing my thoughts, knowledge and feelings are being broadcast to the world and are being opened up to scrutiny. That’s a biggie!


So hang on to your hats as I stap on some courage! I’d sincerely appreciate you commenting when the topic really speaks to your heart and providing me with any constructive suggestions you might have for improvement! I’m excited to see where this goes!

Have you ever challenged yourself to a 30-day blogging streak?

A Monday Secret – Kickstarting Dreams

I have a secret.


I’ve only run 4 times and not in the same week… in the last 7 weeks. (It’s ok. You can be shaking your head at me).

So where does that put me? At ground zero. It’s a frustrating feeling and I know many people who have been there before. I take comfort knowing that this isn’t the first time this has happened to me and I was able to change.

How about the time I didn’t exercise regularily for 9 years? Yup. Before I started running 4 years ago, I put all exercising to the side for about 9 years. I was a Mom and ‘too busy’ and ‘too tired’. Pshhht. Whatever. That was then and this is now.

I’ve also fallen into some bad habits lately, too. (Not sure I can blame the steroids and hormones… ok, maybe just a little?!). But, the weight I lost a few weeks ago is all back from Hallow-takethecandyawayfromme-ween. Talk about a slip up and falling down the stairs. UGH.


Yes, that burger actually happened. I haven’t had a fast-food burger in ages. It was good… and then it was a gut-bomb.

I know better. I can do better.

I have this amazing friend who I’ve been confiding in lately and she’s got some amazing goals for herself next year. I’ve been incredibly inspired by her as she tackles some huge challenges despite her fears about being able to accomplish them. I know without a doubt she will!

It’s been making me think about what I want for myself and how I go about making my dreams happen when I really don’t know how to start, or how to seriously carve out the time (and sometimes the money) to take action.

It’s simple really, but sometimes I get so overwhelmed in my fears and worst imagination! Most times I over-think it and just need to get out of my own way!

So here’s what I need to just DO!

    • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!
    • What have I got to lose?
    • Brainstorm. Seems simple, right?
    • Where do I want to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years?
    • What are my deadlines?
    • Get it on the calendar
    • Make time, not excuses
    • It’s all about progress, not perfection!
    • If I don’t know how, find out who does it great!
    • Accountability. Find a trusted friend who isn’t afraid to hold my feet to the fire.
    • There will be bumps in the road. Just go over them the best you can, or go around them.
    • Enjoy the journey… savor it. There will always be something new to aim for once the goal is achieved, so celebrate every little success along the way!

Ironically, this is a lot like training for a marathon, so I KNOW I can do the things I have been wanting to accomplish. 🙂 Here’s the outcome of my 6 mile race this morning with my friend, Michelle! I haven’t run this far in 7 weeks… but we just decided to go this far. We went out and finished it at a pace where we could talk and feel energized after the hour-long gab-fest! BOOM!


I am ready to kickstart some dreams! How about you? What tip do you have for taking action and staying focused when the going gets tough?

Fox Valley Marathon Race Recap

Have you ever slept through an alarm for a race before?! EEEEEK!

Forever setting my alarm like this for all races!

Forever setting my alarm like this for all races!

The NON-Alarm PR

To start the day off right, I set a serious PR (personal record) for getting ready as my alarm never went off. Reality? Um, noooo, I never actually set it after I checked it, double checked and triple checked it before I went to bed. EPIC FAIL!

That is the first time I’ve ever done that and I’m pretty sure I will no longer sleep the night before a race ever again.

Thankfully, I set everything out the night before and somehow was ready in about 15 adrenaline-filled minutes. I’m so grateful Karen and Penny gave me a few extra minutes to run down the pitch black street with my coffee in one hand and oatmeal in the other. (so sorry I freaked you out with my “Holy Moley” text, Karen!)

The Fox Valley Marathon

The Fox Valley Marathon is one of my favorite races to run because it’s incredibly beautiful and in my own back yard. It’s my third year running in the race series. I honestly do it for the medals. They give out endurace medals for every year you run in the race!!!  At year 5, you get a really cool pullover!


I also appreciated the race goodie bags this year! I didn’t expect anything because they sent us an online goodie bag, which is popular these days. The last few races I’ve run this past year have had some really sparse goodies… how about none (with the exception of Christmas in July). FVM and their sponsors gave us awesome shirts, a super yum Cliff Bar (never made it home), a yummy lip balm and a SPF 30 spray pen!


Karen, Me, and Penny – ready to go!!!

When we arrived at the race, we met up with our running club for a group picture and then a training team picture, took care of porta potty business, and then lined up to race.

The temperature was brisk as my teeth chattered for the first mile, but I warmed up quickly enough. Suddenly, my bladder started yelling at me!!!  WHAT?! I had to go BAD! At 1.5 miles, I quickly spotted a few blue comfort houses and made a run for it. I think I lost about 2 minutes. Let me tell you, sweaty compression shorts are not easy to work around!

Fox Valley Marathon 2015 Start

(photo courtesy of Jenny Thorsen)

Here’s where I made an error in judgement. If there’s such a thing as a minor panic button, I hit it. Even in a four hour race, 2 minutes is a lot when you think you can go a specific time. (I would have loved to run sub 4 hours) and started running a little lot faster than I should have. Hindsight is 20/20.

At my favorite donut stop, I saw my friend Laura and her family who was screaming from the top of this bridge where she took my picture – it was awesome to see her! At mile 13, I knew I really should have run slower, so I eased up a little. This stretch of the course is an out and back for the marathoners and so you start seeing the leaders of the race and everyone in front of you heading home. At mile 15, I was clocked at 9:01 min/miles, well under pace even with the 2 minute loss and felt awesome! Much better than I did at Chicago and I started thinking, WOW, could this really happen?


Eleven miles… feeling great! (photo courtesy of Laura Parks)

Then, I saw Penny, who was looking fantastic about a mile and a half in front of me and it made my heart so happy for her! She was definitely on track for her goal time.

The course is pretty flat or downhill, but at the turn around, I realized I’d hit a few more hills than I thought. At mile 17, my wheels started wobbling off. I forgot to take a gel at some point. I know when I am really pushing myself, I get foggy brained and all the oxygen goes to the legs and lungs. (Don’t try having a decent conversation with me at this point because I don’t even make sense to myself!). Glob dis not leader steinen goof?!

65319161c3172a90c7c5c5bcddcd61cfAt that point, I thought about plan B to keep my pace at 9:30 and no more than 10:00 min miles so I could attempt a PR.

The ‘I love tackle walk hills’ part starts at mile 19 & 20. This far into the race, I can walk the last half of the hill faster than I run it.

It was after the 20-mile checkpoint where I caught up with Penny (big sad frowny face). Her tummy was giving her some troubles and she was off track. She was so strong though and kept going despite losing a couple cookies along the way. Penny urged me to go on ahead and while I didn’t want to, I know how it feels to be in her shoes. Friends don’t want to hold their friends back from attempting their own best race. And so, I left a little piece of my heart with her and kept plodding forward.

Almost There!

One new change the Fox Valley Marathon made this year was to add an aid station every mile for the last 6 miles. I appreciated every single one as I started walking through each one pounding Gatorade to replace the electrolytes. I felt my calves and inner thighs tightening up.

ImageProxy-1.mvcAt mile 23, I saw a bunch of happy faces! Our friend, Michelle, and her family were screaming my name and offering to run with me. It made me so happy to see her. Then, all the sudden, I saw the hubs and bubs and I was even more happy. I told them how much I loved them and it made my day to have them cheering for me. There’s nothing like knowing your family has your back!

Mile 25 was my happy little helper, Carrie. I was struggling to stay at 10 minute miles by then. Carrie and her hubs were right on the trail in their jeep ready to help me run it in and keep my mind off the pain. These two were also the ones to help me train for my very first marathon two years ago and as a couple, they would split their runs so I didn’t have to run alone as I didn’t have many running friends at the time. THANK YOU BOTH!!!

I will be honest and let you know I don’t remember about half of what Carrie told me to keep me going, so we’ll need to catch up again in about a week over a short run and coffee!


Almost there! (photo courtesy of Laura Parks)

I finally reached mile 26 and saw Karen in the middle of the road jumping up and down at me and encouraging me to finish hard (she had a great half-marathon race, too)!

The finish line is AWESOME! You turn the corner and run across this big wide open bridge with the finish banner at the end of the bridge. People are lined on both sides just screaming and cheering! My right calf all the sudden cramped up and I knew… this is it. I really gave it my all this day.

Unofficial Finish Time: 4:14.08 (3.5 minute best!)
Age-Group Place: 18th

ImageProxy.mvcWhen I finally stop after any long race, the hurt is amplified! It’s as if the intensity knob is suddently turned up and endorphins no longer exist. I can’t do much of anything by myself. I need help. I can’t put the medal on myself, I still can’t talk, I don’t think I can stand anymore and the thought of sitting down knowing I might not get back up is a deterrent to sitting. I shuffle through the end of the food line to find friends.

I had an incredible post-race bloody mary and half a patty melt with a few of my ultra-chica’s and I was really, really happy! My long-run season is over and I came away with a lot of great races this year. Now, my mind and body are ready for a break.


Thank you all for all the encouragement and support before, during, and after this race! I can’t tell you how much it means to me to have the best friends who believe in my ‘crazy’ and who believe in me, especially on the days I don’t.

What’s your next B-HAG (Big-Hairy Audacious Goal)? What challenge scares you but excites you at the same time?! Let us know so we can cheer you on!

I have a few ideas about what I want to do next… stay tuned!

Post race update: Turns out my pickle-loving Penny came down with the flu during the race!!! 26.Yikes! She’s recovering well and is undeterred from getting back out there and trying again! If you’ve ever wanted to meet a tough, gutsy woman… meet Penny! #sherocks