Saturday, April 22, 2017

Pat's Run Weekend

Finally, an Arizona adventure! Pat's Run is an annual event held in Tempe to honor the life of fallen soldier Pat Tillman. Tillman was a graduate of Arizona State University and a professional football player for the Arizona Cardinals. Tillman enlisted in the Army in 2002 and died April 22, 2004. Funds raised in the race go to members of the military and their spouses for education.

So how did I decide to run? I mentioned wanting to run another 5K after The Patriot Run last September, and my mom told me to research this race. It turned out to be 4.2 miles, to honor Tillman's football jersey number 42. But I signed up anyway. And I trained. I missed a week, but proved to myself that I could do it by running 4.5 miles a few weeks before the actual race.

Race weekend started with me leaving work at noon, filling up the car with gas, and then going home to pick up my mom. From there, we packed the car, and headed for Phoenix. Mom drove part way so that I could eat lunch/snack.

Mom and I switched drivers at the rest area and I drove into Tempe. Mom is a great navigator. Bib pick-up was at Sun Devil stadium, and it was so super quick. I gave the volunteers my bib number, they gave me the bib and a shirt and off I went. No swag bag this time, but that's okay. It's not like I need more stuff.
Mom wanted to find the light rail stop before going to the hotel, so we did that. We also purchased all day light rail passes for the next day.
I booked our motel, a Ramada Inn, online, but I wasn't super stoked when we got there. The motel looked like a remodeled apartment complex, and when we got to our room, it smelled. I turned on the two air conditioning units and thought it would help, but it didn't. I asked the front desk if we could change rooms, but both the rooms we visited smelled bad, or worse. So we opted for them to put an ozone machine in the room while we went out to dinner.

I searched and searched for a place to eat, and settled on The Perfect Pear Bistro. I had a little (okay, a lot!) trouble parking, but we found the place. (I can't parallel park to save my life.) Inside, it has a nice dark, but airy atmosphere with wood tables and chairs. There is also outdoor seating for patrons who prefer that.
Mom and I opted to split the roasted butternut squash tacos with sweet potato fries instead of black beans. This was a good choice! The tacos were double wrapped in corn tortillas (so they actually held together!) and were filled with roasted squash, quinoa, black beans, fresh arugula and feta cheese. There might have been a hint of cream sauce in there somewhere, but it wasn't overwhelming or heavy. The sweet potato fries appeared to be fresh cut and were crisp and tender, but not oily. They also didn't come covered in cinnamon sugar, which in my mind is unnecessary when they're already sweet potatoes.
Mom and I drove around a little after dinner, so as to give the ozone machine a little extra time to work. Praise the Lord, it did! The room wasn't pleasant smelling, but the smoke odor had lessened. So I kicked off my shoes and headed for the bed. I didn't want to sleep per se, but wanted to rest.
I looked at my phone for awhile and then did Saturday's Bible readings online using The One Year Bible. I read a few chapters of a book and then headed for the shower. Meanwhile, Mom read her Bible and watched some Family Feud with Steve Harvey.
(Notice how our shoes match? Like mother, like daughter, I guess.)

I wasn't super hungry for snack, but I had a headache and knew I'd better eat if I wanted to have energy for the race. So I chowed down on an apple, some Nature's Valley Oats 'N Honey crunchy granola bars, almonds and raisin trail mix, and a square of 90% dark chocolate from Lindt. I still didn't feel that great and was tired, so I hit the sack at 9 pm.

I slept fairly well (except for several trips to the bathroom from all that water) and woke up feeling pretty refreshed at 5 am. I quickly changed into my race shirt, pinned on my numbers, and we packed the car, checked out of the hotel, and booked it for the light rail station. Mom's timing is impeccable! We got to the station about 5:45 am, just in time to ride the next train, along with a lot of other racers. We weren't sure exactly how to get from the light rail station to the start of the race, so we just followed the crowds.
The race corrals (I was 13 out of 28) technically didn't open until 6:30 am, so we wondered around, picked up a few samples, and took some pictures.

Then I got into my corral and waited. Normally, I chit-chat with other racers, but this time I didn't. Everyone seemed to be with someone, and the music was loud. Shortly before 7 am, there was a moment of silence, and then the playing of the "National Anthem" by a trumpeter. 
David Johnson, a member of the Arizona Cardinals, started the racers. First, went the wheelchair racers, and then the corrals. I'd say that I started at 7:30 or 7:45 am. There were 28,000 racers, so corral 28 was just starting when I finished the race.

I don't have any pictures from the race itself (since I opted to leave my phone with Mom), but it was mobbed. Here a few photos she snapped:
Lots of people walked, which was fine, but they were hard to dodge. My goal was to finish the race sub-45 minutes. When I looked at my watch at the Mile 1 marker, I saw a time of 7:02, which I knew couldn't be right. At mile 2, though, I was running a little under a 10 minute mile, so I decided to just keep going. There were a few gradual hills, but overall, the course was flat and easy (which made me so glad I'd trained at altitude on hills). I grabbed a few sips of water at one stop, but even that was hard to elbow in for. I finished the race running up into Sun Devil Stadium and past the 42 yard line, but even that was a struggle, as quite a few people decided to walk. But according to my watch, I finished in 38 minutes, 51 seconds. Yeah!
Getting out of the stadium was pretty crazy, but I eventually did it, grabbing some water, a banana, and an orange on the way. The first thing they had out for runners was blue Powerade, though. No thank you. Give me God's natural rehydration instead.

The back of the stadium was almost at the light rail station, so it took me a while to get back to Reunion Square to find Mom. I panicked because I didn't see her at first, but then we found each other. We took a few pictures on the way out (one to post on Instagram to enter for a free race pass next year) and then headed for the light rail.

We had to wait about 15 minutes for the train to come, but I texted and looked at race Instagram photos while we waited.

The train was absolutely packed, and Mom and I thought we got off at the right station, but we didn't. So we had to walk a ways back to the parking garage. I was getting a headache from the sun, so Mom let me borrow her hat.
We got on the road again and headed to Panera for breakfast/brunch. We got there about 10 am. I opted for the steel cut oatmeal with almonds, quinoa, and honey. Mom got the steel cut oatmeal with blueberries and honey. (See like mother, like daughter?)
After that, we headed up the hill, arriving home about noon.

Would I do the race again? I don't know, but I'm definitely glad I did. It's an iconic race, and honors our service men and women. And it showed me that I can do 4.2 miles. I honestly don't feel that tired, so I'm wondering if I could train for a 10K (6.2 miles). Maybe if I did it in Phoenix, I'd be more fit and have more energy? (Training at altitude supposedly makes the red blood cells carry more oxygen.)

So there you have it: our Pat's Run Arizona Adventure weekend. Praise be to God for His provision, safety, and health-and a momma who's an awesome co-adventurer!




Friday, April 21, 2017

Imperfection


Remember that post I wrote on self-forgiveness? Yeah, I'm having to practice that a lot. I'm having to face my imperfections.

I've always been a perfectionist (like in high school I would rip pages out of my notebook and rewrite them if I made a mistake). I thought I was getting better, caring less about the perfect, and more about the pure, good, and lovely things of life (Phil 4:8). But God's been showing me lately that I still have a long way to go.

Like I've always been a regimented exerciser. I try to follow a pretty strict schedule, and most of the time, it's worked for me. But lately, I've been tired. My body has hurt. So I've been taking time off walking with mom (saving cardio for runs to train for Pat's Run) doing yoga instead of weights, etc. I've felt lazy sometimes, but my body has thanked me by holding up for my runs.

Then there's the whole matter of training for Pat's Run. When I run, I run 3 miles, and a "hard" race is 5K. Now I'm taking on 4.2 miles. It's not that much further...but it is. I was "on schedule" with training, and then suddenly realized I was a week off. And that upset me. It wasn't that I didn't think I could do the next, harder week, but that I'd missed a week. I wanted to follow the schedule.




My eating is still all over the place. Like Tuesday night, there wasn't dinner at Bible study (I thought there would be), so I had a package of Nature's Valley peanut butter chocolate granola cups to tide me over. When I got home, I had a bowl of chocolate applesauce almond butter oatmeal (based off this recipe) and a TON of cereal. And I felt kind of sick afterwards, but I was so hungry.



And then there's chores around the house. I usually help my mom clean the bathroom on Wednesdays, and this Wednesday, I totally forgot, which meant she did it all. She was gracious with me, but I felt terrible!

So yeah, I'm pretty much imperfect. I don't have my life together. I fail at lots of things. And I'm human. A human in need of a perfect Savior. A perfect Savior who paid the perfect price for all my sins so that I can forgive myself...and others...for being imperfect.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ten Ways to (Quickly) Get Yourself Out of a Funk


Ever have those days when you're on task and then suddenly like, "Oh crud! What have I been doing for the past [X] minutes?" Ever have those days when you can't find resolution to the problem you're trying to solve? Or you just generally feel crappy? Here are a few things I do to snap myself out of the funk and try to restart my day:

1) Sweep the floor*. It's quick, and it has tangible results (e.g. all that dirt I sweep into the dust pan).

2) Wash the car*. Again, I can see that I've made a difference.
3) Get out in the sunshine. It boosts vitamin D and my mood. (See this post for more on sunshine.)
4) Write a list of ten things I can thank God for. It changes my perspective.
5) Help someone else. This gets my focus off myself and onto the other humans around me.
6) Do jumping jacks. Run stairs. Or otherwise get active. Getting myself moving and some endorphins flowing is sometimes all I need.
7) Bake*! Working with my hands and seeing tangible results works wonders. Plus, research is showing that cooking has therapeutic benefits.
8) Sing a song of praise. It's hard to be frustrated, sad, or made when I'm praising God.
9) Read a blog post. This gives me something else to think about .
10) Purposely smile. Smiling activates the brain and releases chemicals that make me feel better.

Quick fixes? Yes. Permanent fixes for sustained depression? No. But by doing at least one of these things a day I train my brain to think more positively and hopefully avoid ruts of negative thinking that can lead to depression.

*Caveat: It is possible to base self-worth and happiness off what I do rather than who I am. When I'm in this frame of mind, it's better to pick something off this list that is internal, rather than external (e.g. 4, 8, 9, and 10).

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bread and Water: Reflections on Lent

To preface this blog post, I should explain about Lent. Growing up in nondenominational churches, I never practiced it. Then, in college, my resident director introduced me to this period of the church calendar. It is a time to deny oneself, a time to sacrifice in memory of Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross to save humankind from their sins. Sometimes people fast from food. Sometimes people fast from a habit. As the Director of Spiritual Formation at my alma mater used to say, it's a time to put things back in their proper perspective. I've fasted from many things since then: radio, Facebook, blogs, eating out, chocolate, gluten. And some years I've fasted from fasting, like during graduate school when I just did not need to add one one thing to my plate.

This year as I thought about Lent, I decided to fast from oatmeal, drinks other than water, and chocolate? Why? I like to find biblical support for my fasts, and since Jesus is the bread of life and living water, I thought making these foods my focus would help me focus on Jesus. I could wax eloquent about how I thought about Jesus when I ate whole wheat muffins for breakfast instead of oatmeal, or toast instead of granola for snack. I could tell you I thought of Jesus every time I drank hot water instead of coffee, hot chocolate, or tea. But that's not the truth.



The truth is that this fast was hard. It felt more like a diet than a spiritual discipline. I found myself thinking more about food because of the extra intentional effort I needed to put into meal prepping (making muffins ahead of time, asking Mom to make more bread, making peanut butter muffins instead of brownies for dessert, etc.). I constantly found things I couldn't eat without breaking my fast: Mom's pancakes, granola bars, Clif bars, coffee cake, etc. Mom went out of her way to accommodate my oatmeal fast particularly, but people at work still offered me chocolate. Bible study offered chocolate cake. The chocolate oatmeal Mom made for herself smelled so good. I often wanted coffee or tea as that final step of a meal. I frequently felt unsatisfied.

So did this fast do what it was supposed to? I believe God used it, but not maybe in the ways I expected. I realized how much I rely on oatmeal, chocolate, and hot drinks as staples of my diet. I recognize the satiation and even comfort they bring. I've gotten more conscious of my nighttime snacking. I've enjoyed trying some new recipes, I guess. Not consuming oatmeal, chocolate, and hot drinks has become habit, part of life. In some ways, though, this is not a positive thing. I find myself wanting 
to continue this fast, to continue to tell myself, "No." To prove my self control. To be ascetic. And that's not godly.

So what now? It's Easter, and He has risen! It's time to reintroduce these foods to my diet, to appreciate them as God-given gifts, to let my taste buds have a resurrection of the pleasure these foods bring. I'll be honest and say that I'll probably struggle with self-control, but I'll work at it. I'll practice self-forgiveness. I'll ask God for forgiveness. After all, that's what Easter is all about.

Friday, April 14, 2017

On Blogging and Self-Forgiveness

I've read a few posts lately about pursuing passions in the blogosphere. In It For the Long Run's post "On Growing and Letting Go" especially resonated with me. I enjoyed blogging about oatmeal for a month, but let me be honest and say it was a little stressful. Creating new bowls, writing up the recipes, photographing them, dealing with bad photos, etc. was stressful. I tried submitting some of my recipes to Food Gawker and they turned down the recipes. Healthy Aperture turned down quite a few, too. Most of my photos had "lighting issues." Guess what? I'm not a photographer. Maybe I could learn to take better photos, but that's not where my heart is at. My heart is to share my heart. Expect more of that here.


So in that vein, God's been teaching me a lot about self-forgiveness. I've always been a perfectionist, but lately that monster has been rearing its head in new places. Like I've been beating myself up for not figuring out AdSense for Blogger. (Tips anyone?) I spent several hours on it one Saturday and got so angry that I "wasted" my time. But you know what? I tried. I failed. And I had to learn to get up and go on and not let that ruin my day. (I went to the kitchen and cooked and baked a bunch and that made me feel more accomplished and satisfied. Cooking is therapeutic.)

The same goes with eating. I've tried to be a healthy eater, to listen to my body, to eat intuitively, for so many years. And lately, I've been eating so much at night. I was judging myself, being angry at myself, etc., but God's been softening that response in me. Intuitive eating isn't a perfect process. A lot of it is about letting go and stopping the good/bad labels.
And I've not been super efficient at work lately, but the goal is to have a track record of doing my job, and doing a good job. I can do that even if I have some inefficient days where I end up texting a friend for an hour or running around like a chicken and not accomplishing anything.

All this comes back to self-forgiveness: letting go, letting be, and choosing to be resilient. The ability to do these things is rooted in my identity as God's child. God created me. He loves me. He forgives me. He cleanses me. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). If God can forgive me and move on, I can certainly forgive myself.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bingeing?

(A "normal" nighttime snack of avocado pudding, almonds, leftover pancakes, and an apple)

I've been a night-eater since, I don't know, seventh or eight grade. And my mom always eats a bowl of cereal before she goes to bed. I've been reading a lot about bingeing at night, though. (See ImmaEatThat and In It For the Long Run.) And I started to get concerned. I even freaked myself out that I had Night Eating Syndrome. But that's not in the DSM, and I don't have all the symptoms, so I decided to give that idea a rest.

But I still eat a LOT at night. And lately, it's been even more. Not eating enough at lunch probably has something to do with it, but I always seem busy and preoccupied, so satisfying lunches don't really seem to happen. I don't feel super hungry during the day (even though I definitely eat three meals), and then I'm SUPER hungry at snack time. I've been fighting the hunger, trying to portion out my food, limiting myself, etc., but it never seems to work.

So you know what? I'm giving in. A few nights back, for example, I had quite a few tortilla chips with crunchy peanut butter after my initial snack of toast, apples, peanut butter, and a bowl cake (aka mug cake). I tried to hold back, but I was hungry, and if I'm hungry, I don't sleep. I wanted to sleep. And guess what? I woke up hungry after eating all that, so I guess my body needed the fuel.

I struggle mega-big-time with self acceptance, and for me, this night-eating seems to be part of life's journey. It's about accepting my body, honoring its needs, and being okay if I sometimes eat more than I probably "should." Maybe eventually my hunger and eating will even out, but for now, this is what it is (no labels), and I accept it.

Also, a big shout out to My Uncommon Everyday for her Day in the Life post about her nighttime snack. She's honoring her hunger and her body, too.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Self-Care vs. Selfishness


I found myself becoming increasingly and increasingly unhappy after writing my last post about self-care. I'd hiked. I'd cooked. I'd painted my toes. I'd crocheted. And I was still unhappy. Very unhappy. I cried the first day I came home from work after break. Then I came home and cried the second day. And I'm not talking about just a few tears. I'm talking about mascara running down my face, loud, ugly crying.

And then I went to Bible study where we talked about priorities. God, husband (if you have one), children, believers, and extended family/friends (in that order). God is always my first priority, and my family (parents and brother) are priority, too. But to be honest, I haven't had much time for my family lately. And I haven't had energy for service, emotional or otherwise. I've been trying to be happy, trying to be nice, and doing none of it.

My Bible study leader asked me if I'd been praying about my priorities, my work. Another lady told me that this "trial" is supposed to make me more Christlike. I told her I didn't see that happening yet. I just felt pain. 

I went home after Bible study and cried and cried some more. I realized that I'd been focusing on myself with a tunnel-like acuity, to the exclusion of everyone else. I was very convicted of my selfishness. But I didn't want to give up my things: running, blogging, self-care time. Those were mine, and all I could hold onto.

Then God convicted me that I hadn't been counting my blessings. I'd been so focused on making myself happy that I wasn't finding joy in little things like crossword puzzles, or Mom buying groceries for me, or Dad putting away dishes (typically my job at home). I took some time to write a list of gratitudes, and God used that to calm my mind. I enjoyed my nighttime snack more that evening and went to bed somber, but a little calmer.

I woke up the next morning and realized how I'd been cramming "self-care" into my mornings to the exclusion of greeting my family, helping around the house, etc. I cried again. With the Holy Spirit's help, I prayed my way through the work day, and I had a better day. God released me to go jogging after work, and I enjoyed it. I also completed my "to-dos," including blogging that evening, and felt okay about it. God ordered my priorities for the day.

What I'm realizing is that a lot of life is about perspective, doing all to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31), working as unto the Lord, not men (Col 3:23). Self-care is good, if I'm doing it to care for my body as God's temple (1 Cor 6:19-20). Self-care is good, but only if in the right order of priorities. Self-care is good, but only if done in appreciation of God's good and perfect gifts (James 1:17). Self care is good, but only if I do it so that I can deny myself, take up my cross (Luke 9:23), follow Jesus, and serve others. If I do self-care just for myself, it's selfish.