Sunday, November 22, 2009

God, and Dragons, and Bugs, Oh My!

Zane, on dragons:

"Mom, can a dragon kill God?"

"Nope. IF indeed dragons existed, they were created by God, and God holds ultimate power over them."

"So, then, the dragon can not hurt God?"

"No, Zane. God could take a dragon out with a mere word. God would smite him - no doubt."

"Wow. Now that's a fight I'd like to see."

Zane, on bugs:

Upon entering his room the other day, George found that Zane had lined up every plastic and rubber bug that he could find and was busily arranging them into a semi-circle facing one bug which remained in the center.

"What'cha making there, buddy?"

"This is a communion service."

"Oh. Why is that one bug in the center?"

"He is their god. See, to bugs, God is a bug. Just like to us, God became a man."

Oh my.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Stay alive! I will find you!"

Okay, I've been putting this off, posting pieces about my new exercise challenge, and the inspiration I received for writing a book, and, well, anything else but this topic.

If you know me well, then you already know my opinion on this.

Ok, here goes.

I am completely not down with Black Friday.

And, to go a step further, I don't think you should be either.

Yes, I am an American.

Just stop reading right here if you can't handle the heat.

You say you want to save money and get the best deals for Christmas?

You say it's fun?

You say, "Hey, you're just a kill-joy. Black Friday is an American Tradition. Like Flag Day."

To you I say:
I understand deals. I'm a complete deal seeker. I just don't feel like waking up at 3 AM and fighting traffic and circling a parking lot to find a space only to stand in line with like a trillion other people, who, let's be honest, could care less about my well being and more about whether they'll get to the electronics/toy/whatever department before me (even if they have to trip me), just to save money.

Here's an idea: How about simplifying Christmas by buying less - maybe one or two really nice gifts for your children, the total of which equals the amount you wind up spending on a mountain of meaningless toys, for which you had to risk life and limb and valuable time. Precious time which could have been shared with your kids and your family, and friends, by, say, playing games or watching a movie, or baking, or decorating for Christmas, rather than entering into a full on sprint against total strangers in order to reach the toy department first to grab a toy that will end up irritating you within 5 minutes of the batteries being installed. Can you say Tickle Me Elmo?

No, you be quiet! I told you up front that I am not down with Black Friday, so what did you expect to read here?

You say Black Friday is fun? Yeah, it sounds like a blast.

I'm a negative Nelly? Well, Sherlock, I'll have you know that the original term Black Friday was never a particularly positive title, but, in fact, made reference to some pretty darn tootin' icky days in history. Google it. And the phrase as we know it today, was actually used by newspapers back in the '70's, to describe the extreme hecticness that stores experienced the day after Thanksgiving.

So let me get this straight. Historically, Black Friday was never a good thing. And when newspapers began deeming the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday, it wasn't initially a compliment, but rather, a phrase used to describe a commonality between the the crowds and the traffic and the sheer craziness of the beginning of the holiday shopping season, with, well, dark historical events.

However, since being in the "black" is a necessity for retailers, they have now hijacked the term, and thus, Black Friday now pays homage to the buying frenzy that will drive retailer's books into the "black".

Well, I'm not bowing to Black Friday.

In fact, and this will make you sick, the "big" presents that my children receive for Christmas (they get a main, or "big" gift from both sets of grandparents and then we supplement with a few other items) have already been purchased, at full price, from a local independently owned toy store, and are resting peacefully in my attic. The owner even helped me carry my bags to the car.

And no one tripped me or slipped a mickey in my coffee, so they could beat me to the Playmobile Egyptian Pyramid. Nope. I pre-ordered it. Months ago.

I realize I'm a bit over the top, but so is Black Friday.

If you are going to participate, let me share with you these words from Sergeant Phil Esterhaus of Hill Street Blues: Hey, let's be careful out there.

And when you come to your senses and realize that I am using this statement in reference to SHOPPING, perhaps you'll join me in on my soapbox.

I'll make room for you.

While pondering your plans for November 27th, check this out.

Give Me 20!

Day 9 of the "Twenty Minute Challenge".

One hour of tennis.

Coach Ron kept us moving constantly this morning, lobbing balls at us at an alarming rate so that he could really up our cardio workout.

I was breathing pretty hard.

My legs were aching from Jillian's workout the day before.

I was sweating pretty early into the start of the lesson.

And I loved every minute.

This is my fourth lesson. And let me tell you, there was a HUGE feeling of satisfaction when it came time to grab the hopper and pick up the balls, only to find that this week, the majority of the balls were actually on the other side of the court rather than behind me. For today, my partner and I barely missed any.

Yeah, there were the missed shots and the joking about a "hole in the racket", or the "oh, was that one for me", but that jesting was pretty minimal this week in between the sprinting, and the squeaking of rubber against court, and the grunting, and hearing the glorious sound that is made when the ball and strings make contact - correctly.

It is challenging. It's almost like dancing on point, or a gymnast on the bars - what looks so effortless, such as hitting a ball, is not as easy as it seems, at least not if you want to win.

It's back to Jillian tomorrow and an attempt at Level 2.

Not sure I'll be able to hit everything she hurls my way in Level 2, but I'm going to try.

However, someone may need to pick ME up after I'm done.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Restoration for the Body, Refreshment for the Soul, And A Lot of Snacks

The castle in Franklin, PA.

I never expected that a 24 hour retreat, (which we managed to stretch into a longer getaway by departing for it at the crack of nine), would have such an impact on my entire being.

Although, that being said, I knew that I needed it.

I'm not one to ask or expect miracles, although I experience them often. Truly. I have a keen ability to see God's hand in my life, and in the lives of other's, both in times of crisis, and times of beauty. If only I would actually anticipate them. The logical and rational side of me has a nasty habit of upstaging the divine and must be fired from the show.

So, void of anticipation, I never figured that this retreat would be a place where God would show up in a mighty way. Sure, He'd be there, but like, "miracle be there"? Nah.

The mini-weekend started with a pedicure, a gift from a new gal pal - one whom I envision growing old with - only, we will never look it 'cause we be doin' what we be doin' with our skin. Joining us in the party-calade was a friend whom I met a year ago in October, knowing instantly that we'd be tight should George be offered the position and we take it. And then, there was a new gal - well, new to me. Who I have come to simply adore. And her husband is mighty cute, too. And the two of them together? So cute that you just want lock them in a room together and then stand outside and serenade them with a little Marvin Gaye.

The conversation failed to cease for our 2 hour drive which also included a wonderful lunch. And we weren't just lingering at the surface. No time for that. It was all about how we met our spouses, and past boyfriends, and what we wanted to bring home from the retreat. Although I never once shared what I was hoping to receive, because, well, go back up to the 4th paragraph and reread it. I just couldn't come right out and share what I really wanted God to do in my life over that short period of time. How could He possibly reveal to me in a mere 24 hours what I have been yearning to figure out over these past few months, and yet have failed to actually ask Him to reveal? Despite my inner wrestling, there was a released laughter that one feels when they are anticipating a great trip and then, actually get to take it.

Seriously. It was darn near perfect.

And we weren't even there yet.

Upon arrival, we unloaded and then perused the town a bit, ate a not so highly acclaimed dinner, (where for the first time EVER, I could not finish an order of buffalo wings, not because of the serving size, but because they were just disgusting), and then settled in back at The Castle for Session One.

Session One was an indicator that the weekend was going to be powerful.

The speaker, the music, the people, the munchies, the location, the atmosphere - everything was aligned. My room-mate even had the wisdom to bring along her coffee-maker, as the princesses that we are couldn't risk having sub-par retreat coffee should God be planning to do a number on us. We had to be ready.

It was Saturday when it happened.

The speaker began her second address to us, and upon hearing one word, my pen starting flying. I was taking notes, yes, but not only notes on her sermon. No, God had other ideas and was letting me know them quickly. I soon realized as I scribbled, that He was showing me how all my years of posts, and stories, and ideas, and beliefs were truly linked together for the means of a larger piece of writing. Dare I utter . . . book. It was as if all the puzzle pieces, which I knew should be connected somehow, were finally coming together, only I wasn't the one moving and arranging the pieces. I seriously couldn't stop writing and wrote all through her sermon and our 45 minute reflection time that followed.

The release I felt was enormous. And the enormity of the project itself lost its ominous, overwhelming hold over my confidence. The chrysalis that was my brain-freeze was suddenly, without warning cracked open and new words, full of life, began to spill onto the pages of my journal.

God won. And my insecurity about tackling such a big project died that day, while sitting on the couch with my pen and my journal. It is fitting that God worked in me when I had no computer to aid me - just the journal and pen - as for years, THIS is how I communicated with God. It's funny how God went all old-school on me, taking me back to a former spiritual discipline in order to open my eyes to the truth He was now inspiring me to share.

I have several pages of scribbled notes to muddle through, and no, I won't be sharing the concept of my work on this blog. It's in the infancy stage - and I can't fully communicate it yet. But it has indeed been birthed. That is the miracle.

Riki, Marlene, Kerri: You were there. Your personal faith is so beautiful, and motivating and convicting. And your friendship? Life-changing for me.

Here's to more times of rich fellowship, the celebration of God's revelatory promptings, and growing together for many years to come.

Although my skin won't show it!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Virtual Accountability = The Need to Channel Jillian

Day four of my "20 Minutes a Day Workout Project" was the hardest yet.

I had an hour tennis lesson with Coach Ron and a friend with whom I've been sharing private lessons for 3 weeks now.

He literally ran us all over the court today.

I hit some great "it's crazy that I hit that" shots, and missed some "dork, how did you miss that" shots.

My friend and I are pretty evenly matched, so we make great lesson buddies. The pro is terrific - both with children, (he's Harper's coach), and with adults, who play like children.

So I finish up the lesson, feeling, well, I gotta say it, pretty darn good about the fact that I am learning a new sport, and realize I now have an odd insatiable desire to read Andre Agassi's new autobiography.

(Which I would totally purchase if Beaver had a bookstore . . . grr . . . ok, that's a future post. See, I don't, or rather, won't, shop at Walmart, and occasionally once in a New Moon (pant, pant) purchase off of Amazon. I am totally missing that independently owned bookstore - even if the prices are a bit higher. I particularly miss this one.)


Sooo got sidetracked there.

Tennis is over and I head to Cafe Kolache to work. Yes, actually work. Well, not as in, for money, work, but rather, for Mom To Mom. I grab some coffee, open the laptop, and begin working on finishing an Advent activity for families that I must have done by tomorrow. Eleven more days of family devotions to go.

Then, I get her email.

She needed a boost.

20 minutes. That's all it would take. I knew she could find the time. Doing my best cyber-Jillian impersonation, I emailed her back with an idea of how she could implement intervals between all the tasks she had to get done.

30 seconds of jumping jacks here.

30 seconds of "jumping rope" there.

Low plie squat in 2nd position with boxing punches.

Some ab work.

I told her that if she could incorporate 2 minutes of intervals into her mopping, and laundry, and scrubbing, she'd feel alot better - and I would know that I was truly holding someone accountable.

Sorry, babe. Just couldn't let you off the hook.

Surprisingly, er, not, she got in the intervals AND part of her personal exercise routine.

Game on, sista.

This pseudo tennis playin', half marathonin', thinkin' she's Miss all that 'cause she gave you some of Jillian's moves, is completely committed and isn't going anywhere.

Accountabilty is just that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jillian and Annie

What do these two girls have in common?

They are both hard.

Jillian Michaels isn't fooling around.

Annie's Organics cans are perfect for an 8 year old to lift upon deciding to join me in day two of the "20 Minutes A Day Workout Project".

I do wish you could have been peeking into my living room window tonight.

Well, maybe not. Come to think of it, that's creepy.

However, if you have a dark side and were indeed peeking in, you would have seen Harper, Zane, and myself, all huffing and puffing along with Jillian and her kick-butt looking assistants during 30 Day Shred.

We are still on Level One.

Does that tell you something?

The best part? Watching Zane do hip circles. That is something to behold. And Harper has a mean push up. But, really, the highly focused hip circles a la Zane were adorable. But had I stopped at that moment to grab and squeeze and hug on him as I was tempted to do, I'm certain Ms. Michaels would have leaped out of the screen and rung my neck.

There's no phoning it in.

Harper and Zane kept up with me for about 10 minutes of the 20 minute workout. I with my 3 lb weights, Harper with her Annie's Organics cans, and Zane, weightless.

It was actually motivating to be working out with my children.

Day one. Check.

Day two. Check.

A few of you emailed me expressing interest in joining our little party.

So how are you doing only two days in? Leave a comment to encourage those of us who are in this game with you. Or, leave a comment as to how you're already slackin' and I'll pull out my best Jillian impersonation to light a fire under ya.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Love This Site Awards :: Cuppajo - DivineCaroline

Hey, if it's not too forward, would you mind giving me a shout out by voting for my blog, thus giving me the opportunity to win some mula? Please? I'll buy you a cuppa? Or two. Follow the link and vote for me!
No pressure or anything, but I think this site deserves to win a Love! This Site Award from DivineCaroline, so please, vote soon! You can also still nominate your favorite sites.

Buddy System

The half-marathon is over.

There is Halloween candy in the house.

I'm a bit burned out on the idea of running.

I like to eat.

What's a girl to do?

Find a buddy. That's what.

When you read blogs written by friends, you get to see an honest glimpse into their lives (if they are indeed letting it all hang out for the masses to read). I tend to be very transparent in my posts - although, reader, you should be aware that while you may believe I'm documenting every detail of my life, causing you to wonder if I'm being a bit too out there with the world, you are mistaken. I filter. Sorry, but it's true. I may be a fan of transparency, but I'm not an idiot.

Recently I was reading on God and Everyday, (written by a very talented friend from my teenage years - props to Facebook for the reconnection), about a goal the author has to be fit by forty. Go on over and check it out.

It made me think about accountability and whether accountability can happen in the cyber world. So, I took a step of faith and responded to a need I felt she had expressed by agreeing to be her workout buddy from now until Thanksgiving . . . which I will then push to Christmas (just a warning, Debbie)! No, we don't live in the same state. No, I've not even seen her since were, what? 17? Even so, she got an email from me today simply stating, "Did it. 20 minutes of Jillian Michaels. Now, three Mary Kay appointments!"

In return, I got a super encouraging reply, a nice pat on the back, and the motivation I need to do the same tomorrow. Plus, my buddy detailed her exercise plan for the week so that I know what to expect out of her for Week One.

Funny what tight khakis (for her) and tight favorite jeans (for me) can do to spur on a couple of 40 year old mamas (me, already there, and her, almost).

Want to join us?

It's not P90X hard. We are simply going to be attempting 15-20 minutes a day of something physical at least 5 days a week. Here's my plan:

Monday: Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred
Tuesday: Same, or Pilates
Wednesday: Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred or Yoga class
Thursday: Tennis Lesson
Friday: Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred
Saturday: 30 minutes of running

I did indeed workout with Jillian this morning and it was hard. While I can run 13 miles over 2-plus hours, I found that 20 minutes of Jillian and her strength, cardio and ab intervals, while not as severe as on The Biggest Loser, is still intense.

It's Jillian Michaels. There is no cheating. Even when she's not physically in the room.

Want to join us?

Just leave a comment sharing your commitment to do 15-20 minutes, 5 days a week, until Thanksgiving. However, it is important to HAVE A PLAN, so outline what you will actually do each day or you'll just sabotage the effort.

And if you want to go even further, how about joining the Pittsburgh Moms challenge of dropping 10 pounds by Christmas? Just an idea.

It's just 20 minutes.

You spend more than that on Facebook everyday.

Come on, let's start with some transparency about how we waste our time everyday. I'll start.

"My name is Joline, and I waste time on the internet everyday. I'm going to give 20 minutes of that wasted time back to my body. And my favorite jeans."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chopped? Heh, heh. Not the Atkins!

Our family thoroughly enjoys watching Chopped on the Food Network.

Harper, especially, begs me every week to lift the "no TV during the school week" rule in order to watch Chopped on Tuesday nights.

I haven't caved.

Until today.

This morning, we set out to visit the Grand Opening of Giant Eagle's Market District in Robinson, not to shop, but to meet Ted Allen, the host of our favorite Food Network show. Harper was estatic to get the opportunity to meet him. Zane? Zane just wanted a bagel.

I asked George to navigate off of the tiny, and not most helpful, map that was included in the mailed announcement we had received, knowing full well that my GPS wouldn't register the street - for the entire complex is that new.

I think I probably asked him 3 times, "Is there any exit listed or cross street? Anything?"


So we got off in Robinson and tried to use our sense of smell to find the place.

Yeah, apparently we're not real talented in sniffing out locations, plus, this is Pittsburgh. No grid. Just hills and turns and Oh! A cool drive-in!

The drive-in was nowhere near the store. We were most definitely lost.

Realizing we'd gone too far south, I turned around to backtrack only to hear my very humbled husband remark, "Oh, um, sorry, the map says to take the Ridge road exit."

He apologized, and then realizing that it was now 11:00 and that Ted began his cooking demostration at 11:00, we prayed that God would redeem the fun that we had planned - that we'd still get to see Ted's demostration, and have the opportunity to meet him. I know, maybe it seems silly to pray about meeting a Food Network celebrity, and even I told the kids, "Hey guys, Ted isn't Jesus", but I also know that God listens to all our requests, and I believe He is a fan of family time, and this was definitely a family gig. I didn't want to have our plan thwarted due to a minor maptastrophe.

The parking lot was a zoo, (of course), so I had George let me and Harper out while he and Zane found parking.

The place is mammoth. Convention center huge. Once inside, we had absolutely no idea where to go. We were dodging carts, and shoppers, and resisting the urge to stop and sample, in order to get to the demonstration area. It pains me to think of all the cheese cubes we passed without indulging. Hey, when on a mission, one doesn't stop. Even for cheese.

After the confusion of asking an employee for directions and being led in the completely wrong direction, we finally found the demonstration area and took up camp stage left to watch Ted and a chef from Market District make shrimp scampi and some apple tarty thing for desert. George and Zane had met up with us by that point, and we all took a deep breath.

Saturday To Do List: Watch Ted Allen's cooking demonstration. Check.

Towards the end of the demo, Ted announced he'd be going upstairs to sign his new cookbook. Before he even uttered his last word, we were gone, darting to the stairs to get in line for autographs.

Outside the room where he'd be signing we were asked, "Do you have your ticket?"

Oh no.

What is this? Willy Wonka?

A most wonderfully kind and gracious employee of Market District explained that all those wanting to see Ted needed a numbered ticket and that she would be more than happy to get us one. However, at this stage in the game, our number would be in the hundreds.

I SWEAR I didn't put on an act. I was tempted. But in lieu of pure drama, I just opted for the truth. I just got close to the employee's ear and simply said, "We didn't know about the tickets. My daughter LOVES Chopped and we drove down from Beaver just to see Ted and get his autograph, and have to be back in Beaver by 1:00."

Her response?

"Wow. All the way from Beaver? Wait here. I'll get you in. Hang here a minute."

It was only a 15-20 minute drive. It's not like we took a complete day trip to meet Ted. But, ok.

She returned with paper for the kids and pens.

"This is for you to get autographs. You'll be first in line."

And we were.

Ted greeted us as he passed us to enter the room. And then, once situated, they waved us in.

He was sooooooooo amazing to the kids. Shook their hands. Asked their names. Really made it about them.

Yeah, I'm gay-crushing.

He LOVED both Harper and Zane's names, and we talked literature for a blip. Then he asked Harper what she liked to cook.

"Ritz Cracker Pizza's."

"Oh, I don't know that dish. Tell me the ingredients."

She did.

"It sounds great, Harper, like soft nacho's."

He then turned to Zane and asked what he liked to cook.

"Chocolate chip cookies."

"Me, too, Zane. Do you like chocolate cookies with nuts or without?"

"No nuts!!!!!!!!!"

"Yeah, most kids don't like nuts in their cookies."

He was incredibly engaging with the kids, all while I was feeling completey self-conscious about continuing the conversation in front of the long line of fans who were actually holding tickets, although I secretly harbored the desire to ask Ted to please go all Queer Eye for the Straight Guy over my husband whose wardrobe has often been referred to as "Urban Lumberjack".

He signed color photographs for the kids, and one for our neighbor, shook our hands, and thanked us for coming out.

We left the room and Harper erupted with, "THAT WAS SO AWESOME!" And then, as a family, we stopped a moment to lift up a prayer of thanks for this seemingly small favor.

I will be sending a thank you note to Ms. So and So, for she didn't have to usher us to the front of the line. No, she could have stuck to the "law "and sent us back to get a ticket and wait just like everybody else. But instead, she placed grace before the rule and gave our family a really cool morning.

If she can break the rule, so can I.

Harper may now watch Chopped on Tuesday nights.

Zane? He just wants a bagel, and chocolate chip cookies sans nuts, and will conk out by 9:00 anyway.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Are You There God? It's Me, And I'm FREAKING OUT!

It's a really cool feeling to enter your daughter's bedroom in the morning in order to wake her, only to find her already awake and reading in bed. Before school.

"It's time to get dressed, girl."

"No Mom! I just want to read!"

Music to my ears, and yet . . . there are THOSE books lurking on the shelves at the library. The same books I used to smuggle into the house under my mother's nose. My mother, who was incredibly keen, with a great sense of smell. She knew exactly what I was hiding, for she was always one step ahead of me, in terms of knowing what the "hot" books were for young adults.

As an adult, I now realize that adults actually talk to one another and thus, we are not as naive to trends and fads as our youngin's may think. And what we don't know firshand, we'll just learn about from another Mom. And the internet.

Like, which books are hot.

Like, which books you, the parent, should most definitely read first - before your child.

I am not one for censoring reading material. I would much rather read a controversial book myself so that I can actually hold a conversation on the content with my child. Take Twilight. While I don't feel the series is appropriate for anyone in elementary school, you better know that 5th graders are reading it - either with their parents knowledge, or in secret. And if they aren't reading it at home, just know that they are are sneaking peaks at it at school or the library, or a friend's house. And yes, she will read it Mom. Somewhere. Somehow.

So, why not read it first? What are we so scared of?

I did. The entire series. And my kid is barely 9, and not interested. But she knows about Twilight. Ok, not the details of it, but she's heard talk. I figure I might as well be prepared to talk about it, by actually reading the series, as I can't stand the "Well, I heard's" or "So and so said". Just read it, already, so you can have an actual personal opinion about it rather than relying solely on a critique from some internet site. Do your own homework.

Here, on this turf, we're not dealing with Twilight. Harper could care less, right now, with anything having to do with a boy and a girl liking each other in any way other than how well they can battle with light sabers. And honestly, we're not dealing with any other controversial novels at this point in time either.

However, we recently entered into Blume territory at the local library.

Harper has read "Freckle Juice" and the entire "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" series. "Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great" was checked out when it was time to read that one (for those of you who like order), but Harper enjoyed the series so much that she went back to read it even though she had already finished all the other books in the series.

So then what gave me a mini heart attack and the motivation for this post?

"Hey, Mom, here's one here about a girl named Margaret, and God."

Dry mouth. Flashbacks of "I must. I must. I must increase my bust." (It doesn't work).


(Insert Matrixy move to swipe the book out of her hands and then bury it somewhere in the adult non-fiction books about auto-repair or birds of prey - I don't know).

And then of course, there was the close neighbor of Margaret's book: "Forever". Ah, the young adult novel of my generation. The one I snuck into the house after a slumber party with my gymnastic team. The one my mother sweat out of me. I swear she saw me tucking that book into my jacket before I even left my friend's house. She was that good.

And then, I should add - she let me read it.

Thankfully, Harper didn't think that anything about Margaret and God was more interesting that Sheila the Great, so there was no need to get into it with her. And really, I just would have said, "Harps, that book is a little too old for you."

But just thinking about the discussions that are down the pike gave me hives. Once the coast was clear, and Harper had walked away from Blume territory with her Sheila book, I made a beeline to the librarians desk where I started pilfering leftover Halloween candy from her bowl.

I will be counting on the women who have gone before me to help walk me through the whole appropriate reading material discussion that I will one day have with my child.

And until that time, you'll find me hanging out in the children's section of the library reading junior and young adult novels.

Armed and ready.

Locked and loaded.

Reliving those fragile years of my life that I'd rather not relive - well, unless I could relive them with straight feathered hair and Jordache jeans.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Label Me

Dear Mr. Vernon: We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But, we think you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us: in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But, what we found out is that each one of us is:

a brain . . .
And an athlete . . .
And a basket case . . .
A princess . . .
And a criminal.
Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.

Label ME.

See, I've been blogging now since 2001. I blame it on the Bernstein's. I love them. But, I completely blame them for this addictive habit called blogging. I initially began blogging as a means of recording my walk through parenthood - first with posts about Harper, and then adding posts about Zane.

I've been "Harper's World", "In-Zane", "Team Atkins", and "Cuppa Jo".

But now?

While I still write about parenting and continue to record memories of my children that over time will begin to get fuzzy in this foggy brain of mine, I have definitely expanded my topics. I've become more opinionated about customer service, I've dabbled in posts designed to help one embrace the idea of being thrifty and less wasteful. I've added links to Giveaways I find on other sites.

My once upon a time family blog has morphed into several different blends of coffee. It has become (and I can joke about this, but you can't) Cuppa Jo: ADHD Blend.

There are all types of bloggers: mommy bloggers, political bloggers, sports bloggers, entertainment bloggers, health and wellness bloggers, home-schooling bloggers, etc. You name it, there's a blog. No topic is left untouched. No opinion left unturned. Blogging is a virus that has completely taken over the internet. Everyone seems to have a blog. Some, have actually figured out how to turn blogging into a paycheck. Some bloggers have corporate sponsors and advertisers. Some bloggers review products, and thus, are being sent freebies (which they must disclose or risk a fine) weekly.

As I register on sites where I can post pieces, such as Blissfully Domestic, Blogher, Divine Caroline, to name a few, I have discovered that I am having an identity crisis.

Blissfully Domestic has asked me to write on the topic of Family Issues. Cool. I can handle that. I have a family. I have issues. Check.

However, on Blogher and Divine Caroline, I've yet to list my blog, as upon doing so, one needs to choose a category which describes the blog.

And here is where I'm stumped.

I am not my friend Anitra, who offers product reviews, giveaways and "Tidbits" to make one's life easier. I am not Stephanie, who not only turned a successful blog about slow-cooking into a book deal, but also has one of the best "home" blogs in cyber-space. (Holla! Sorry if I just "labeled" you, Stephanie). I am not the folks at Problogger - who have so much great information to share about making one's blog more successful that my head gets overwhelmed with "I shoulds", and I wind up paralyzed.

No, no, no. This isn't a pity party. I'm not looking for a pick-me-up. I admire these bloggers, but I also know that I am not them - nor do I have to be. I am a creative writer. Of this I am quite sure. As a creative writer I am still feeling around as to where my keyboard should land in the world of blogging.

As funny as it sounds, I need a LABEL. I know. Seriously, who really likes being labeled? However, I am quite sure that I do need one so that I can begin to streamline and focus my direction.

I am on the cusp of something. Something new. Something that God has laid on my heart two weeks in a row now after Mom to Mom. It may include an entirely new Pot of Jo. Cuppa Jo will remain, as a place for personal reflection, but this new Pot of Jo will be more intentional. I'm working it out. I'm not ignoring God's nudges. I just don't know how to actually start the brewing process.

Until the new pot is ready, I'll continue to figure out who I am in cyber-world.

I need your help to figure it out.

How would you categorize Cuppa Jo? I won't be offended if you simplify me into a one word label: brain, athlete, basket case, princess, or criminal.

How about leaving me a comment with a short (emphasis on short) description of this blog and sharing why you even indulge in a Cuppa Jo. What makes this blog different from others?

If I don't like your label I will simply make fun of your Barry Manilow wardrobe.

"Don't mess with the bull, young man. You'll get the horns."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Jeff Galloway, my life would suck without you.

In the words of Kelly Clarkson, "My life would suck without you", Mr. Jeff Galloway. Why?

Because without your never ever ending belief that any individual can be a runner, and a method to make that belief a reality, I would have still been in bed at 7:30 this morning, rather than taking in the city of Pittsburgh on foot.

I've run two half-marathons in my life. One in 2002 where I attempted to run the entire race, only to be frustrated that I had to take a few walking breaks. And lost a toenail. The second was in 2005, where upon adopting a run/walk/run method, I took about 10 minutes off my 2002 time - but still lost a toenail.

This time? My personal goals of finishing in front of the 2:30 pace team, and keeping all my toenails became a reality.

It all began at 4:00 AM. Daylight savings time messed with us this year, and while I thought my poor man's iphone would adjust to reflect "falling back", it did not. Nor did George think to change the clock prior to setting the alarm. Thus, I was up at 4:00 AM, (thinking it was 5) and dressed and ready by 4:30 AM anxiously waiting for two friends to show up - one, who was running her first half-marathon, and the other who was supplying the sweet ride and the most enormous amount of encouragement a girl needs when it's 34 degrees at the start of a 13 mile adventure.

I realized quickly upon turning on my computer that it was not the time I thought it was . . . first glitch.

The second glitch had to do with girlie stuff . . . I won't go into that here.

And the third glitch, (although this didn't happen until mile 3) involved my interval timer. Yep, you guessed it. It failed me. Don't be surprised if you see me riding around town on a bike threatening, "I WANT MY TWENTY DOLLARS!"

At the Start, I decided to place myself between the 2:20 and 2:30 pace teams. For while my inner goal was 2:30, I was honestly thinking that I'd come in around 2:40, so I figured that pushing myself to stay between these two pacer groups would help me.

It was a good call. I think had I started with the 2:30's I may have fallen behind between miles 9 and 12 . . . better known as "the lonely miles".

All started well. Felt good. No shin splints. No side stitches. I was keeping pace with the 2:20's although I knew, and was ok with the fact, that I most likely would not be able to stick with them the entire race. And then, after what I thought was a particulaly long 3-minute interval, I checked my timer.

The screen had gone completely blank.

I switched to my watch and began counting in intervals of 3 minutes (run) and 1 minute (walk), and just tried not to let it bother me.

The view of the city from the West End Bridge was beautiful and I wish I had had a camera on me to snap a shot of the city in the morning.

I also wish I knew more about the engineering and architecture of bridges, for while they are certainly fun to run over, that run comes with an incline - and yes, a decline, but it's not the decline that sticks with you. Duh. I know. Duh.

I had my head about me enough to look at the city while running and even channelled Fernando at one point, cutting a walk break short so that a race photographer would snap me running while Heinz field loomed overhead behind me.

At the 10K point I was good. At the 8 mile point, I was good.

And then, the boredom set in.

It is lonely to be Gallowayer. My other friend who was running has a faster pace, so she was well ahead of me. There were a smattering of people surrounding me during miles 9-12, but truely, I was running by myself. The music helped. I opened my hands in praise for one song, but really, I was facing "the wall". It was big and nasty, and smelled a little like exhaust.

I spotted a woman whom I nicknamed Mullet Girl. Mullet Girl was pretty tall and stocky and there was no question that she could clock me good in a mano y mano match. She didn't stop for walk breaks and kept a steady pace. However, when I ran, I quickly overtook her. When I walked, she overtook me. I knew that I had found my rabbit. As long as I wasn't in the ring with her, I'd smoke her.

But thoughts plauged me throughout miles 9-12. "This isn't worth it", "I've made a mistake and the 2:30 pace team has already passed me - I just didn't see them", "My right quad and left glute are going to stop working at any moment", "I can't finish."

I found my mind cluttered with stinky negative thoughts. No self-help talk, or affimations, or even music, could clear the thought that I should just forget it and walk the rest of the way. Afterall, wasn't that a chest pain I was feeling?

And then, I remembered a verse we talked about in Mom To Mom and I began reciting it over and over, "And David found strenght in the Lord His God." Strength wasn't coming from my catchy tunes, or from reciting "You can do it" over and over and over. Ultimate strenght wasn't coming from the knowledge that I could overtake Mullet Girl. No, I had to rely upon God's strength, and enlisted the help of my girlfriend sitting in Caribou waiting for me, to help also.

"Lord, please tell her to pray for me. I'm so close. I don't want to stop now, but my body just can't do it."

It was not easy, but I made it to mile 12 and then decided to take one last walk break up the incline of Hot Metal Bridge.

And then Viva La Vida came on. I love that song.

Having just finished walking the incline to the bridge, I began running again, quickly passing Mullet Girl, and though I could see the vicinity of the finish, I still couldn't see the actual finish.

And then, behind me I began to hear loud cheering, "Come on 2:30's!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are almost there!!!!!!!!!!".

The 2:30 pace team was on my tail.

Not on my watch.

I would NOT let them overtake me. I took on Mullet Girl, I could take on the 2:30's.

Mile 13 came upon me quickly as I exited the bridge, and then, I was in the gate.

And while I couldn't press on any faster, I knew had beat my rabbit and the pace team and now only had .1 to go.

And then, just like that, it was done.

They announced "Joline Atkins from Beaver" at the finish, just as they had done for the 10K. That felt good.

Thoughts on this race:

  • I am a true Gallowayer. I am not very sore right now (although the Advil could be helping). I don't feel shin splints, joint pain, or pain in my feet (I wear a pretty heavy orthodic). I don't feel taxed.
  • I have zero interest in running a full marathon. Zip, nada, nope, not on your life, no way, don't go there, fugetaboutit.
  • I DO have interest in gathering some girls to run the Marathon Relay on May 2, 2010.
  • Bridges have inclines.
  • Mullets are not flattering.
  • Port-0-john's that flush are most desireable. Thank you.
  • "My Life Would Suck Without You" is a great song to run to.
  • Post-race snacks should not include bowls of pretzels in which people dump their sweaty, and possibly Swine-fluy hands. Come on! Have we not learned anything from bowls of mints? You don't touch those! Only pre-packaged goodies, please.
  • Knowing that you have friends to cheer you on at the finish greatly impact one's mental stability during a race.
  • Pittsburgh is pretty.
  • Gymboss will be hearing from me. They are in the doghouse.
  • It's yoga, tennis, and one day of running a week for me from now until Spring.
  • I did it. And have the magnet on my car to prove it.