Prayer & Parenting

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Prayer. Keeping up a consistent prayer life has always been a struggle. I’ve always found myself attempting different things – prayer journals, iPhone note prayers, prayer meetings, prayer requests written in a notebook. The Apostle Paul, in I Thessalonians 5:17, calls us to “pray without ceasing,” as if it’s supposed to be natural, like breathing.

Like breathing. 

Then there’s parenting, a struggle to say the least, but at the same time a natural instinct that has always existed in nature. Nurturing and protecting your own almost seems like a moral obligation and common sense, yet this is not what we always see, either, in both humans and animals.

Prayer and parenting – the former being something that sustains the life of a Christian and the latter an instinct that seemingly accompanies reproductive ability. 

What’s my point?

I have a family now, which has only been the case for the last 14 months. I have a husband and a 9-year-old daughter, who are on my mind daily and constantly creep into my thoughts when I’m grocery shopping or cooking food or cleaning the house or plotting out the next few weeks on the calendar. And with this new life, I am finding myself increasingly challenged to pray. To put it more directly, I find myself gasping for air – often. 

My lack of oxygen correlates conveniently with my need to pray – pray for my husband, pray for my daughter, pray for strength and wisdom and patience to care for them and, most importantly – point them to Jesus.

During the first half of this last year, I largely depended on knowledge and experience to deal with my daughter. When methodologies failed, I tweaked, revised, and changed them and tried again. I created order through structure, routine, and schedules. It was madness.

Then, like an unexpected whoosh of unpleasantly cold water dumped over my head, conviction took hold, and I realized I was doing too much. Too much everything – thinking, planning, strategizing, organizing, worrying. I simply needed to pray.

Commitment to prayer changes your life. It alters attitudes, perspectives and priorities. It brings you and those around you closer to Jesus. 

But I didn’t need to just to pray more by myself, proverbially kneeling by my bed before tucking in for the night. I needed to pray with my family, actively, intentionally, and consistently. I needed to pray with and for my daughter more than lecture her about the endless things parents feel like they need to lecture their children about. I needed to pray for and with my husband more than air out my complaints and frustrations to him.

I needed to stop cutting off the oxygen supply to my family and PRAY, not because the life of my family depends on it but because my own life as a Christian depends on it. 

So this is what I’ve started to do, and the pitfalls of self-righteousness are everywhere. It sounds simple enough to merely advise my daughter to say a prayer every time she has a problem and then walk away and continue loading the dishwasher. But am I saying a prayer every time I have a problem? I could check it off my list every time I prayed for my husband’s devotional life, but am I being faithful in studying the Word every day?

In closing, I am going to share with you all just a snapshot of what I’ve begun to experience as a parent.

Wednesdays are our home school day, since my daughter’s school is a home school extension academy that only has classes four days a week. Suffice it to say that I deal with a child who’s emotions and attention span are akin to a roller coaster or a bipolar mood storm. Things today were off to a rough start, so I decided that we were going to start with prayer before going over the plan for the day.

My daughter began to pray, adhering to my request. I bowed my head with her. She began thanking God for all the things that he’s given us, for her little sister, for her family, for dying for us – and that’s where her words became tears.

(I saw myself right then. Just another soul struggling to accept God’s love, a struggle I was personally familiar with. Another soul coming up against the difficulties we all face.)

I prayed for her silently. After a few minutes, she finished her prayer. We looked at each other, tears in both of our eyes. She came over to me and we hugged. When she finally pulled away, I sent her to clean out her nose and then got out the white board with the day’s agenda.

That was how our day began. No lectures or inspirational quotes or motivational speeches about being positive and confident in ourselves. Just prayer. And whatever happened in my girl’s heart that altered her mood was beyond any parenting trick I could ever invent.

It’s in these moments that I remember I do not have the power to give my children what they truly need. God does

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re-cap

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I like closure just as much as I like boundaries. I also enjoy order and organization and experience minor bouts of frustration and anxiety when my expectations aren’t met.  I hate not finishing anything, but it’s been a few weeks – months now? – since I’ve picked up Yell Less, Love More or How to Deal with Your Strong-Willed Child; and quite frankly, I haven’t felt like I needed to. So I’m not going to finish the parenting books I’ve started reading. WHAAAT!?!

You see, life never happens the way we expect it to. It took me 30 years to learn that, which, when you think about, makes sense. And the unexpected, non-sequential path of my life has me laying aside unfinished parenting books and picking up another topic with which to feed my mind: pregnancy.

PREGNANCY!!!!!

Before I go on, however, I must rewind and quickly catch you up on how non-sequential my life has been. (Now, if you have been reading my blog or have followed me on Facebook, you might already know that I spent six years of my life in Taiwan after college.)

It all began the summer of 2015. I was home for a visit from Taiwan. I was scheduled to fly back to my lovely overseas life in August and start down the path of pursuing my Master’s degree. I never flew back to Taiwan. I’m still here, in fact.

After that drastic change of plans, I sought out therapy, which many do these days in the midst of crisis or life trauma. I started job-hunting, which made me immediately miss the easy work situation in Taiwan for native English speakers. And I re-learned how to live under the same roof as my parents. (It had been ten years.)

I was pathetically dependent on my parents for finances at the very beginning, which I hated, but I kept track of every penny I borrowed and paid it all back by the end of the winter of 2017.

Meanwhile, I had graduated from my therapy sessions and was ready to step out on my own. I was in American now, not Taiwan. Things were different. Coping with homesickness and culture shock and lack of closure with my family in Taiwan made things difficult; but in true fashion, it wasn’t long before I had filled up my time.

I had landed a job as a teacher, which kept me immensely busy throughout the week. I enrolled in a mountaineering class, so I could learn to climb the mountains of beautiful Washington State and meet other people who loved the mountains, too. I pulled back from church involvement. (Again, in true fashion, I had jumped in head first to help out and fill holes; but I was in a unique time of life – after a life of chronic ministry involvement – where I realized I actually didn’t HAVE to do anything. It was freeing!) And, of course, I was running a race once a month with other running friends and training for a full marathon.

You could say I hit the ground running  (literally and metaphorically) once I committed to the idea of living in America.

But that’s just it. Living in America remained an idea until some rather permanent things began happening. 

At the very beginning of April, I got on TINDER. (For those of you who may not know what this is, there’s google. For the rest of you, I had my reasons!) I’ve always been a loyal tinder-hater due to the bad wrap society gives it as well as the horror stories I hear from people using it. Well, I was on spring break when April started, so I actually had time to flip through and read the articles my iPhone likes to suggest on a daily basis. One of them happened to be about Tinder success stories. It was a positive spin on this dating app that I’d been hating on for pretty legitimate reasons. Come on, it’s basically a hook-up app!

Well, Tinder is free, and I like that, and I had already done my free trial on match.com and was not interested in paying a dime – let alone a dollar – to meet a guy. I was interested in meeting people but didn’t believe in subscriptions. So I started swiping right if liked the guy and swiping left if I didn’t. All you see are pictures the person made available and whatever blurb he decided to write about himself. These blurb bios were anything from “Call me ;)” to paragraphs about interests, personalities and work lives. “Matches” occurred when two people mutually swiped right on the other’s profile. I made sure the age-range and distance radius in my settings were appropriate. If something did happen, I wanted the guy to be relatively close in distance and age.

Being on Tinder was kind of a joke, and after a day or two of swiping and exchanging pointless words with my matches, I deleted it. The positive part of the whole arrangement was that no one will get my phone number without my permission and I can delete someone forever if I want to. Or delete the app altogether.

Don’t ask me why, but I decided to give it another chance a mere day later.
“Hi, Victoria! I saw ultimate frisbee and couldn’t help but swipe right!”

I had decided to mention personal interests in my own blurb, so anyone passing by on the Tinder train would know I liked running, hiking, and playing ultimate frisbee. Apparently, it worked, because those words began a conversation that has yet to end. And I don’t ever intend on terminating the life-long conversation I have begun with this man, who became my husband on September 10, 2016. 

Only a year earlier,  I had been faced with the proverbial “road not taken” and, “sorry I could not travel both,” made a rather difficult and life-altering decision. The life-altering part of that decision had just begun. 

As you can imagine, my time was no longer filled with mountain-climbing and running and late nights of lesson planning and grading. I was marriedNot only was I married, i was also a brand new step mom to my husband’s (then) 8-year-old daughter. Single life had ended; family life had begun.

Halloween 2017 is almost upon us. I will be 29 weeks pregnant this Friday. It’s been 2 years, 2 months, and 4 days since I was supposed to board an airplane back to Taiwan and start on the path of pursuing my master’s degree.  A lot has changed.

I’m not in Taiwan anymore, and it’s actually rather painful to admit I don’t know when I will be again. I’m living in little 2-bedroom apartment in the town of Snohomish, Washington, with my husband and step-daughter, expecting a baby girl to join us in January of 2018. 

So much for closure and boundaries. 

There you have it: why I’m laying aside the unfinished parenting books in exchange for pregnancy ones. The adventures never stop, but it’s like what Robert Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

 

faith like a child

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I’ve been on vacation. Ok, that’s not entirely true, considering I’ve been back for a week now; but let’s be honest: family vacation recovery is real. And I’m not talking decompressing from all the insanity that may or may not have relapsed. I’m simply talking about the process of unpacking and resting – which, mind you, still isn’t finished yet! (Which reminds me, I need to go air out the tent fly before I forget; I’ll be right back.)

Anyway, I have understandably been taking a break from this blog due to vacation; and today I am picking up on Day 3 of the Yell Less, Love More challenge. 

FAITH LIKE A CHILD. That is what all my reading inspired this morning, this beautiful and biblical concept that Jesus himself taught and proclaimed during His ministry on earth. It’s incredible how clearly I notice separate pieces of my life come together in a thematic shape whenever I seek to be spiritually in tune with my Creator, and child-like faith has been the thread pulling it all together recently.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

………

“And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.”

………

“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such of these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Mark 9:35-37; 9:42; 10:13-16 (NIV)

Mark’s Gospel account of Jesus’ life makes it clear that our Savior did not view children as lesser, immature humans that needed to be constantly scolded and corralled to behave. Jesus loved children, and He even showed us what we can learn from them. Wow, there’s a biblical parenting tip: learn from your kids. 

Sheila McCraith explains how she created the “Orange Rhino Game” to incorporate her sons’ help in her journey to stop yelling. She realized her children could read her emotional cues and facial signals that led up to yelling better than she could brace herself for it. And it not only instilled a sense of empowerment and confidence in her kids but was also an example of asking for help that spoke louder than words. I’m realizing more and more lately that a relationship of accountability between parent and child is not only biblical but also beneficial to the whole family. 

What does this system of accountability look like? It’s simple, really. Both parent and child are accountable to God for our actions; and when I realize I have sinned against God in something I have done to my daughter, it’s my Christian responsibility to apologize for my behavior and ask my daughter to forgive me.

Ok, I fully realize that last paragraph is LOADED. When I was first introduced to this concept, I was moved by it. What a good idea! Then I listened to a sermon one Sunday morning that drove this concept home, and I found myself writhing in spiritual pain and conviction. And then when the moment came for me to apply this concept to my life, I didn’t want to. All my “parent pride” was getting in the way. (And I’m not talking about being proud of being my kid’s parent kind of pride.)

I overthink things. It’s one of the burdens of being an experienced adult. If I had lived while Jesus was on earth, I would have generated my own list of questions for Him and a bullet-pointed summary of why I should travel to wherever He might be to listen to the man. Children don’t overthink. That is what makes them such glorious and delicate people. This is why they can receive the kingdom of God while the twelve disciples, who bore firsthand witness to Jesus’ power, were still dumbfounded by His teachings and miracles. In fact, I find it rather ironic that the disciples felt like they should turn the children away after Jesus had told them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.”

Time to tie all of this together with a personal anecdote.

I stood up in front of about 20-30 people this past Saturday and shared how none of my knowledge and experience from all the years of teaching and children’s ministry has helped me over the past year of becoming a parent to a child I did not give birth to. Parenting books offer guidelines for ideal situations. My patience runs dry. I am at a loss at the end of the day. But God is not! He’s still going strong when I am ready to thrown in the towel avoid my daughter for the rest of the night. He can step into any situation and make it right – as long as I let Him.

So I’m learning to let Him. To bring my daughter to Jesus in all of our interactions and let Him comfort her, show her the way, convict her of own sin. And I need to do the same in my own life – turn to Him, be comforted by Him, and seek His love and forgiveness.

I apologized to my daughter last night for not treating her in a Christ-like manner. It was one of those nights when attitude was getting out of hand and I lost it. Then just a few moments later, I almost cried when she asked God to forgive her when she prayed for dinner.

The conclusion I’m drawing from all of this is two-fold: Jesus Himself pointed out that we can learn from little children. He also demonstrated that children can come directly to Him, just like us. So as a parent, I teach my kids, and I learn from my kids; but – most importantly – point my kids to Jesus. He will not cause any of these little ones to stumble.

menu of emotion: frustration for breakfast, anger for lunch, & guilt for dinner

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I was almost having a surreal experience this morning as all my reading from two different parenting books and the Gospel of Mark began honing in on one profound theme: self control

It was so clear, so cut and dry, yet so humbling and difficult to swallow. 

In her book, Yell Less Love More, where Sheila McCraith breaks her own life-altering parent journey, into a 30-day guide, day one is all about admitting the need to change. Her moment of admission came when she realized she was more interested in impressing the world outside her home than she was her own four boys. She went lengths in public to maintain composure and refrain from yelling at her children. But when she thought it was safe and no one was around to hear…the volcano erupted. Then one day the handyman, one of the many she would strive to impress, bore witness to the truth.

In the book When Your Child Has a Strong-Willed Personality by Carl Pickhardt, chapter 4 honed in on parenting methods. Both practical and psychological explanations were given as to why trying to maintain control of your child is the best way to LOSE control of your child. Case in point: yelling at your child to stop yelling. BEHAVIOR SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS. Control the child, parent cannot; influence the child, parent can – and must!

In the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, after Jesus gave His twelve apostles a botany lesson about the word, he throws some other tidbits their way such as “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more” (Mark 4:24a, NIV). I’m not pretending to be a theologian here, but when I read those words this morning, the picture of me yelling at my daughter to stop yelling popped into my head. And then she yells back at me. A yelling match from hell, as far as I’m concerned. And I’m not proud to say that this has happened.

Raising my voice.

Fighting for control.

I’m feeding myself frustration for breakfast, anger for lunch; and by the time dinner comes around, all there is left to eat is guilt. So upon this negativity I feast. I am being the person I do not want my children to be: prone to emotional outbursts and utterly out of control.

This brings me back to one of the fundamental lessons about communication back in college: the medium is the message.

The words I speak are not devoid of feeling. My kid doesn’t just hear my words, she hears my feelings; and those are what influence her the most. So how do I take this influence and turn it into a godly one? SELF-CONTROL.

I work on myself. I rein myself in when emotions get too hot. I calm myself down. I don’t depend on people around me to get their act together just so I can be normal again. I can’t wait for my kid to stop throwing her fit before I stop throwing my own.

Being a parent means my actions and attitudes are constantly influencing young and fragile minds. I want to feed those minds with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And the only way to do that is to change my own menu first. 

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23, NIV

Continue reading

volume control

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I have been working with kids since I was 12 years old. Different experiences throughout my life triggered my “inner teacher,” though I never did pursue a teaching degree. I chose a more exciting and unconventional and international path for myself, but it never stopped from teaching.

Having the heart of a teacher, however, doesn’t not naturally include characteristics such as patience, compassion, gentleness, discernment and self-control. Anyone who has spent any time in the classroom knows that these traits are vital to cultivating a healthy and safe classroom environment. Without them, your hair turns gray, dark circles from under your eyes, and your voice goes hoarse at an early and premature age.

So over the many years, I have learned as many (possibly more) lessons as I have taught about not only teaching, but actually becoming a teacher. It’s bee a personal transformation, and this transformation took a surprising turn within the last year.

On September 10, 2017, I became a parent. 

I was instantly thrown into limbo. I came home from the classroom where I competently and confidently deal with 15 variations of learning styles and levels and emotional needs on a daily basis to possibly one of the most difficult and needy kids I had ever met. But this was nothing new! I deal with difficulty and neediness of all kinds at all levels and ages all day! But what I faced at home was very, very different. 

I had to make the emotional and mental move from teacher to parent.

This is not easy for a number of reasons, namely:

  1. Teachers are experts at management, routine, and control. Should anything disrupt this flow, certain steps are carried out that over time keep all the students in line. Running a family requires a much more stretchy and flexible version of this, where unpredictability and change are always being accounted for. 
  2. Teachers carry out discipline with relatively non-emotional methods. Since the level of familiarity with each student varies, it is very important to keep things objective and fair, holding each child to the same standards in order to maintain order. Let’s be honest, this is not how order is maintained at home. Discipline can get emotional, messy, and feel extremely unfair. 
  3. The teacher’s priority is the learning objective, whether it’s something abstract such as kindness or factual like state capitals. Learning objectives are measured, documented, and tracked to record the student’s academic growth. Learning objectives at home are not this cut and dry. In fact, it sometimes hard to believe anyone is learning anything when there is food on the floor, the TV is blaring obnoxiously high-pitched noises, and there are un-flushed specimens in the toilet. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. 

I began reading blogs and researching articles, as I am accustomed to do, and struggled with the conflict between my own expectations and standards and the reality of my new and sprouting relationship with my step-daughter, who, though she shared so much in common with my students, was not my student.

And that was key. My daughter was not one of my students. Yes, I would teach her things and show her how the world works and help her when she was stuck; but I would do all of that as her parent, not her teacher. 

There was a common thread of personal struggle as I transitioned from teacher to parent, however, and that struggle has been volume control.

Twice I have been confronted by educators for whom I had the utmost respect about raising my voice in the classroom. Yes, I am talking about yelling. I am notorious for letting my emotions get the best of me, and any teacher knows that this is possibly one of the “Achilles heels” of teaching. As a teacher, you need to earn and maintain the respect of your students. Losing your shit in the classroom is not how you do this. It’s not how you earn the respect of your kids at home, either.

So I found myself at that familiar and humbling position on my knees again when it came to my own volume abuse. I needed to change.

 

Yell Less, Love More. This is the name of a book I recently grabbed off the library shelves in the parenting section. It’s a 30-day guide that includes

  • 100 Alternatives to yelling
  • simply, daily steps to follow
  • honest stories to inspire

written by Sheila McCraith, mother to four boys. I got those bullet points right off the cover the of book.

Starting tomorrow, I am going to blog through this book over the next 30 days as my start to a new blogging season, because I definitely need to yell less and love more as a parent. 

Just as having the heart of a teacher doesn’t automatically make you the kind of person your students will love, having a minor in your care doesn’t automatically make you a parent. I am still becoming, and there is so much to learn. And I’m starting with volume control.

The Promise of Easter Sunday

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With death comes the promise of new life. With sadness comes the promise of restored joy. With pain and sickness comes the promise of healing. 

That is the promise of Easter morning – the promise of hope despite the present difficulties and tribulations.

The apostles and the rest of Jesus’ followers and friends waited; they waited three long, depressing, agonizing days. In fact, they had locked themselves in a room out of fear after Jesus died. All was bleak. All was dark.

We live through many dark and bleak moments here on this earth. A lost loved one. A broken heart. A failed relationship. A lost job. A financial crisis. An addiction. Psychological trauma. Physical handicap. Depression. Anxiety.

The list goes one.

In our own lives, we experience death – a metaphorical three days before the resurrection, locked in our own room of fear and sorrow, not daring to hope for the impossible, doubt and unbelief at the helm. 

I was locked in my own room of fear and depression for the better part of 3 years. All was bleak; all was dark. I lived in a world of pain, sadness, and shame.

And then… JESUS.

Jesus walked through the walls of the room and back into my world, just as he walked through the walls of the room the disciples were hiding in, bringing them peace. He had come back into the world, three days later; Jesus was alive! He is alive; HE IS RISEN!

The impossible happened. Life conquered death. JESUS IS ALIVE.

Whatever your present difficulty is right now, whatever dark and bleak moment you may be walking through, Easter is your hope that is WILL end. There IS life. There IS healing. There IS hope.

Jesus DIED; three days later, he came back – he fought the battle that none of us could ever fathom winning AND WON.

And he gave us the power to defeat death in our own lives – the same power that raised him from the dead.  

He is risen. He is risen indeed.

HAPPY EASTER!

Blooms to Brews: 10 Reasons Why You Need to Sign up for This Race

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If you’re hailing from Washington or Oregon or need any reason to sign up for your first race, THIS IS FOR YOU.

As you may already know, I am a runner. I run in the rain, the heat, the freezing cold, the hellish humidity. I run uphill, downhill; and I use Nike Plus to track it all. I’m not a professional or anything, but I do know that signing up for my first race was key to getting me going; and the internet provided me with a ton of resources and training schedules and other running tips, so I never felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. I am now about to shamelessly promote a race that could very well be the first race you sign up for to get you going and possibly keep you going for the rest of your life! So let’s run!

Blooms to Brews

The Top 10 Reasons Why You Need to Sign up for This Race (SIGN UP NOW

REASON #10: It’s almost February. That means January is almost over (there’s only one more day left of January, to be exact), and if you haven’t started running yet or need motivation to get back on your feet, it’s time.

You have a little over 2 months to train (70 hours, 16 hours, 33 minutes, and 48 seconds according to the countdown as I type these words – countdown running on the race website) for race day, which is totally possible if you’re going for the 10k or 4-person marathon relay (which would be a little more than a 10k each). If you already have some miles under your belt and really feel like getting your run on, reaching 13.1 miles is not impossible in 2 months! And if you just need a marathon to run come April, sign up for this one. This is a Boston Qualifier, and there’s beer after the finish line. Need I say more!?

I trained for my first marathon in 13 weeks. If you’re already putting in the mileage, it might just be possible to jump into a marathon training schedule and make it to mile 26.2 on Race Day! And just to leave you with no excuse, here are some training plans that I have used in the past to get me to the finish line, along with a couple others to get you started: 

16weekmarathonschedule

This is the plan I used for my first marathon. (I jumped in at week 4.) I made Fridays my strength-training days and rested on Sundays. To visit this plan’s website, visit marathonrookie.com.

Half Marathon in 8 weeks

I used this for my last half marathon to increase speed. For more information about this schedule, check out this article.

Hal Higdon Half Marathon Training Schedule

Hal Higdon Half plan for your FIRST half!

Hal Higdon 10k Training Schedule

Hal Higdon plan for your FIRST 10k!

Hal Higdon has some great plans for all kinds of distances and levels. As you can see at the bottom of each plan, there are programs for intermediate, advanced, and even for walking! Check them all out halhigdon.com.

REASON #9: The cool gear and other awesome stuff. 

Let’s be honest, if you’re a runner, you have your collection of bibs and finisher medals going; and if you don’t have any of these yet, you need to experience how awesome it feels to have a medal around your neck BECAUSE YOU DID IT! Plus, there’s the dri-fit tech shirt and snacks and yummy food items and discount coupons and – for this race – BEER! Blooms to Brews even throws a post party with a DJ. These people (these people being Get Bold Events) know how to run. Seriously, having a cool race t-shirt to wear to the gym or any other recreational event or BBQ makes a statement. It’s impressive. I’m not telling you to run to impress other people, but when it comes to pounding the pavement for miles and miles and miles, every bit of motivation counts!

REASON #8: Compelling Scenery

Get out of the city and run. The fresh air and rural landscape does a ton of good for your soul. And your soles (forgive the pun).

I personally prefer rural marathons over urban ones. I have run half-marathons in cities, but for 26.2 miles, I prefer to to be surrounded by fresh air and beauty.

Whether you run the 10k, the half, or the full in the Blooms to Brews race, you will be surrounded by fresh air and beauty. The race event takes place in Woodland, Washington, at Horseshoe Lake Park (the lake really does look like a horseshoe, check out google maps) and the route take you through the Woodland Bottoms DURING TULIP AND LILAC SEASON. Talk about fresh air and beauty. And it’s a flat course, so no hills to take out your already hard-working legs.

Check out this video of last year’s race (from the race website):

REASON #7: It’s college campus-crowded, not big city-crowded. Do you know what I mean?

In some of the really popular races (i.e, The Color Run, The Hot Chocolate Run, any race with a big brand attached to it), you can feel jostled all the way to the finish line. A lot of people, but not a lot of space; and then it takes you forever to find your friends after the race. Yes, you get really cool gear and clothing from the popular races, but races like Blooms to Brews give you a better people experience.

That guy in the suit from the video, the race director, Elba? Don’t be surprised if you get a selfie taken with him or a hug or high-five or all three! You have FUN after the finish line with all the other people who crossed it, because that’s when the party starts! Which leads me to reason number six…

REASON #6: BEER!!!

The name of this race, in case you haven’t noticed, is BLOOMS TO BREWS. You are literally running through flowers to drink beer. Did someone say “hippie”?! Because I AM A HIPPIE and that idea sounds fabulous to me!

I KNOW I’m not the only runner out there who enjoys a cold one after a run. Go get your run on and drink beer! Sign up now!

REASON #5: The distance is NOT too far. 

I’ve already provided training schedules in my first reason, so you have no excuses there. But if you’re a beginner at this whole running thing and want to push yourself past the 5k mark, SIGN UP FOR THE 10K. 10 kilometers is 6.2 miles. That is a milestone distance anyone can be proud of, and this is your chance to make it happen. There are people who only dream of running 6 miles. You make dreams come true. Crossing the finish line WILL FEEL AWESOME, no matter what. 

If you’re already an active runner, you know if you’ll be able to handle the half or the full by April. And it’s too beautiful and unique a race to pass up. DO IT!

REASON #4: Your participation in this race supports a non-profit organization. 

Get Bold Events is based in Battle Ground, Washington; and this organization is dedicated to organizing professional races that leave all participants feeling counted, accomplished, and awesome. That guy in the suit who is the race director for these events really does get excited about every single person who turns out for these races. My friends and I got a picture with him at the Get Bold Events Resolution Run (a race you should probably sign up for in January 2017!) in January:

IMG_2767The proceeds from each race go back to the community and support local charities. The beneficiary of the 2016 Blooms to Brews Marathon is the Scott Hill Parks & Sports Complex in Woodland, Washington. You can read about this beneficiary, register for the race, and more on the race website.

 

 

REASON #3: Roadtrip/mini vacay! 

Washington is a beautiful state, and the Pacific Northwest is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PART OF THIS COUNTRY. (Can I get an “AMEN!”?) If you live in Washington or Oregon, this race is your excuse to get away, enjoy the scenery by yourself or with friends, and have an awesome race weekend. Woodland, Washington, is a beautiful place to be at the beginning of April. Just ask Google Images

REASON #2: Signing up for this race puts the pressure on. 

We all need some amount of healthy pressure to push us towards our goals. I alluded to this in reason #10, but registering for a race can be all it takes to get you on your feet, put in the miles, and accomplish your fitness goals for 2016.

And finally, you need to sign up for this race because…

REASON #1: You won’t regret it. 

Be honest with yourself. How many times have you looked at people’s race pictures, congratulating them with an encouraging comment or “like” while thinking to yourself that this might be something you could do… some day. Well, I’m here to tell that some day is coming up, and it’s Sunday, April 10; so get your running shoes on, run around the block (or around the town or on the trail or down the road or wherever there are sidewalks), and SIGN UP FOR THIS YEAR’S BLOOMS TO BREWS MARATHON.

You got this. Don’t forget: there’s the 10k, the half-marathon, the 4-person marathon relay, along with the full 26.2 monty. And also, you can walk the 10k or half marathon distances as well. LET’S GO! 

On Writing: Let’s Talk About Outlines, aka TIME FOR A SHOUT OUT

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On my post for writers to post their questions, Victoria Crowley of VictoriaScotiaCrowley.com asked:

“Outlines. Let’s talk about outlines. How can outlines can be a useful tool for writing a book? And what’s the best way to use them?”

Outlines.

Outlines are like a warm heater in a cold cabin after coming in from the snow. They take a while to thaw you out, but once you get the hang of them, they warm up your fingers and gear you up to type all the way to the last page.

I love outlines. They keep this undiagnosed-ADHD author focused and super excited to move the story along.

Source: On Writing: Let’s Talk About Outlines

This year I’ve made it a point to be much more intentional about the INTERACTION side of blogging, the side I’ve never really had time for/didn’t prioritize. (Let’s be honest; there is always time for the priority.) That’s one of the reason I’ve launched READER APPRECIATION MONTH on my website, which is an opportunity for you – my reader! – to get a free gift! Click here to read more!

Besides reaching out to readers, I’m also getting more active in reading other blogs, blogs written both by followers and other bloggers out there. This includes a lot of things I’m just beginning to learn about, including leaving comments, liking posts, and even taking the time to allow readers to have a voice as well as promoting the writing of other bloggers!

I enjoy following authors, as being an author is an unshakeable ambition, and there is just so much to learn, read, and write! One of these authors I follow is Andrew Toy, and you can read all about him and follow him yourself on his site, http://www.adoptingjames.wordpress.com/.

Andrew reached out to his readers one day, inviting them to post a question about the writing process in the comments, questions he committed to addressing in individual blog posts. I asked about outlines, and that was what he addressed today! If that excerpt above intrigued you, read the whole thing by clicking HERE.

I took furious notes and was encouraged all over again about the DOABLE feat of writing a book. Thank you, Andrew, for the post, and to all the other bloggers out there in this community I’ve begun to explore. I hope to interact with more of you in days and blogs to come.

DON’T FORGET: JANUARY IS READER APPRECIATION MONTH! IF YOU ARE READING/FOLLOWING/SUBSCRIBED TO THIS BLOG, I WANT TO GIVE YOU A THANK YOU GIFT. CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT HOW TO GET YOUR GIFT!

Personal Rewards System

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I have this huge jar of “Chocolates of the World.” It was one of my Christmas presents. The serving size is 3 pieces, at 210 calories per serving. That’s right, I count calories.

These last two weeks, I was on “cleanse” diet, complete with fiber pills, probiotics, vitamins and and dietary restrictions which prevented me from indulging in any of my international chocolates. Now that those two weeks are over and the restrictions have been lifted, I can have as many chocolates as I want!   

Actually, I can’t. No, it’s not because I count calories. In fact, let’s scrap the term “calorie-counting” all together and apply this rule: “Burn more than you consume.” (That’s the motto of OolaFitness. Read more of my Oola thoughts here.)

Also, I LOVE chocolate. I enjoy every bite I take of some chocolatey substance. And the number one way to kill enjoyment is over-indulgence. Over-indulgence leads the way to addiction and impulsive behavior, and soon the very thing we once enjoyed is making us hate ourselves. This applies to a lot more than just chocolate.

Sound extreme? Well, over-indulgence is an extreme thing.

So here’s what I’ve set up for myself: a personal rewards system. These types of systems are practiced in all kinds of organizations, classrooms, and bureaucracies, so why can’t it work in my personal life?

Here’s what is:

(These rewards are given on a daily basis. No rollover allowed.)

  1. To-do list completed – one piece of chocolate
  2. To-do list + blog post written and published – two pieces of chocolate
  3. To-do list + blog post written and published + at least 1,000 calories burned during my work out – three pieces of chocolate.

Rewarding ourselves is key to personal motivation. Everyone responds to incentives. How are you going to reward yourself for what you’ve accomplished?

DON’T FORGET: JANUARY IS READER APPRECIATION MONTH! IF YOU ARE READING/FOLLOWING/SUBSCRIBED TO THIS BLOG, I WANT TO GIVE YOU A THANK YOU GIFT. CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT HOW TO GET YOUR GIFT!

 

home sweet home

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It’s the age-old interrogative sentence that haunts all of at some point, no matter how physically far away we are from “home.” And where is home exactly?

Today in social studies, I warned my students that after the lesson they were going to want to leave America and travel the world for the rest of their lives. (Most of them are  more or less convinced I am from Taiwan (like literally of Taiwan blood), and they were rather shocked when I explained that I actually had roots right here in Washington and am, in fact, FROM America.) 

My lesson took them through a running tour of Taiwan, Mongolia, North Korea, & South Korea. I inspired them with time-lapse videos, geography videos, pictures, and horizon-broadening facts about each country. (I could tell the diversity of my presentation had everyone captivated; that’s a win in the teaching world!)

For me, this was actually the first time I had taught anyone about Taiwan. For years, I have been teaching people about America and the confusing and varying customs of the West and have even walked fellow-foreigners through the process of moving to Taiwan from their home country.

At first I was overwhelmed; where do I start, what do I say? But then the researcher mentality of an educator settled over me,  and the lesson I gave my students made me crazy homesick. And happy at the same time.

It felt like every part of me was glowing with unexplainable feeling as I showed them my home city of Taipei, the forever-long changing of the guard at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, and the video of my dragon boat team’s championship race. My students were immediately enraptured by the beauty and all the people, their fascination being expressed through words like, “It’s pretty!” “Coool!” “I wanna move there!” “I wanna go visit you!”

 

Mission accomplished. The seed of world travel and exploration and expat living PLANTED. 

I was simultaneously overjoyed to teach them about something so integral to my life and yet also so fiercely gripped with nostalgia. 

And the whole thing had me thinking…

6 years ago, I was torn to be so far away from all the marriage, birth, and even death that my friends in the States were experiencing. I wanted to be with them still, but I knew I could only be in one place at a time and was learning to accept that.

Over 6 years down the road, I’m undergoing the same extent of emotion; but now all the friends and loved ones I so dearly miss are in Taiwan. I want to be with them, but I know I can only be in one place at at time and I am learning that it’s not easy to know where you’re supposed to be in life.

I could simplify this issue and say I have two homes now, but I’m no longer sure that’s entirely true, either.

Home….. bittersweet home. 

DON’T FORGET: JANUARY IS READER APPRECIATION MONTH! IF YOU ARE READING/FOLLOWING/SUBSCRIBED TO THIS BLOG, I WANT TO GIVE YOU A THANK YOU GIFT. CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT HOW TO GET YOUR GIFT!