Running on Grief 6

Running on Grief

I’d like to try and start sharing a few other thoughts here about running and exercise and faith and grief that I’ve “kept in my heart” and pondered over, even though it’s almost impossible to try and put these feelings into the right words.

Sometimes while I’m running, I suddenly feel a little self-conscious as I think about what I’m doing and how silly it must look. Not just because of how I run (which I’m sure looks silly enough by itself), but I think about the why? Why would I run unless I was late (which happens often) or unless a hungry tiger was chasing me? (That happens less frequently.)

I’ve been a runner – meaning I’ve freely chosen to go out and run for “fun” – off and on for many years since about the time I was in 5th grade and track season was starting up. To many people, and even to me at times in the middle of a hard race or practice, I’ve wondered –

Why? Why in the world am I doing this?!

Over the years, I’ve learned that there’s always a deeper meaning and reason to running beyond pumping your legs as fast as you can and trying not to die in the process. 

For me, that reason has varied during different seasons of my life but it’s always provided a great space and time to process my thoughts and pray.

Around this time last year, I decided I wanted to make exercise a daily habit instead of something I did every now and then when I felt like it. A friend invited me to join her in an online “Challenge Group” – basically an online fitness accountability group.

Together with that and another friend’s advice to try the Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred programs and the BeFit videos and acquiring a treadmill from another friend (I have great friends!), I was doing very well with developing a good routine and starting to feel pretty good too.

Then mid-November came, when my Dad’s doctors found cancer on his lungs, and then early December, when they confirmed it was non-smoker’s stage IV lung cancer (but with a very positive “years not months” prognosis”), and then, just a few weeks later, his incredibly unexpected and shocking death right before Christmas.


Needless to really have to say, I had a hard time exercising during that time – it’s hard to run or do much of anything when you have a big huge emotional knot in your stomach.

In the weeks and months after that, it was still too hard to think about exercising – it was hard enough just getting out of bed and trying to continue life “as normal” since it was anything but normal anymore.

By March, I decided I needed to do something to get myself moving again but knew it would be too hard to do it on my own at home. I needed a place to plug in until I could get moving on my own again. So I joined the Y, knowing that by paying money per month I’d have to go and make the money well spent.  I made a daily schedule for myself based on the group exercise schedule and asked a few friends to help me stay committed by inviting me to come with them when they went.  I thank God for the many good friends he has blessed me with.

Most people say exercising helps them feel better when dealing with anxieties. At first, for me, it made me feel worse.

I honestly didn’t really feel like doing it and I mostly hated it while I was there. I struggled a lot with thoughts and questions like, “if we’re all going to die one day and the eternal life is all that really matters why waste my time on the things of this world by exercising?” I didn’t feel like dying (though I wished I could at least take a peek and see where my dad was), yet I didn’t know how to continue living, I honestly didn’t really know what I was supposed to do.  I was stuck in a room with no obvious way out.

I wanted a place to escape my grief and instead found myself confronted with it – it followed me and even intensified the harder I worked out. 

The faster I ran or the harder I pushed, I’d get flashbacks of our 24-hour ordeal in the hospital, re-living the trauma of those moments.  Images of my Dad in the hospital and weeks preceding it flashed in my mind with every surge of adrenaline. I missed him so, so, so much. I couldn’t get away from it.

I was lifting weights with my arms while hauling around the deadweight of grief in my heart. 

Yet, since I didn’t know what else to do, I just shrugged my shoulders and forced myself to keep going.

I remember one evening – or maybe it was morning, I can’t remember that time very well – I couldn’t stand it anymore. My spirit was drowning in grief and I could hardly breathe anymore, frustrated, annoyed, desperate and confused about life, death, God, everything. 

I angrily went downstairs, grabbed the treadmill key, turned it on and, like Forest, I just started running, and I ran, and ran, and ran. (Though I didn’t run till I grew a beard or reached every ocean in the US.)

I ran and it felt as if my heart opened while I ran and all the waves of emotions of sadness and confusion flowed out of me and pumped through my veins, powering me along. My legs and arms pumped and my heart sobbed and sobbed and prayed and cursed and grunted and screamed.

When I finally stopped – I have no idea how long I ran and didn’t care – a strange feeling came over me. Peace, maybe? Relief? Whatever it was, I knew it was good.

My body ran and my soul began thawing – healing.

Ten months later, I’m still running, still exercising regularly, and even ran my first 5K in my life! Slowly, I’ve started enjoying running and exercising again instead of just forcing myself to do it without any satisfaction.

I used to see people’s pictures they’d post of themselves captioning their exercise or running accomplishments and feel almost jealous of their outward “perfection” and happiness. Now I wonder if that’s what others think when they see me at the gym or hear about my running/exercise accomplishments. Maybe others think “she’s got it all together”. But really I’m still healing.

I think everyone finds different ways to process grief or anxiety or other challenges in life. For me, running and exercise (and writing about it) have become an important tool and aid in my own healing process.

Running and exercise have always provided an analogous way for me to better understand life and my faith. I’m still pondering how the finite and temporal act of exercising fits in with the whole eternal life thing. More on that to come…

Remembering the Homebirth of our Son Seven Years Later #WorthRevisit


Today, on the seventh year after our third child’s birth, I’m joining Allison Gingras’s Reconciled to You #WorthRevisit link-up to re-share his birth story. In the months and even first couple years after birth, it seemed impossible I’d ever forget the details from such an amazing, surprising, and life-changing experience. Yet, seven years later, I actually had to re-read the story myself to remember some of the details.

His was our first homebirth in our home, and also the first time my husband got to catch the baby, and the first (and probably only time) we birthed a baby all by ourselves, though that part wasn’t planned.

In the post I shared a year after his birth, Remembering the…homebirth…of my son, I reflected on my son’s personality as a one-year-old.

I love my sweet little baby so very much. He drives me crazy and stretches my soul but he fills me with enough joy to make up for it. In this year, I have watched him grow and develop. He’s doing this quickly so he can catch up with his older brother and sister. In the blink of an eye, he’ll be running laps around our house and jumping off the swings in the backyard right along with them. He has no fear and determination runs wildly through the blood in his veins.

Oh yes, seven years later and he’s still driving me crazy, runs more than a few laps around the house and jumps off more than just the swings and climbs trees and all sorts of other fun adventures that test the strength of my heart. His fearless determination is stronger than ever. Just like his birth, he continues to surprise us and challenge us. He’s quite the fireball but, for all his crazy wildness, he’s got a whole lot of love and sweetness about him too.

The birth story itself is pretty long, there were a lot of fun and hard moments but I think this part was my favorite that I can still remember and laugh about.

Each contraction was getting stronger and I felt like they were speeding up too. As I was swinging my butt around in front of the bed during another one, my husband [who had been downstairs watching a football game thinking I was asleep] suddenly came into the [dark] room and, thinking I was in the bed, ran right into me, knocking me onto the bed and causing me to cry out and laugh at the same time until that one passed. We both laughed and I also wondered if he’d knocked the labor out of me…

If you like a good birth story and have nothing better to do, you can read the rest here – Remembering the pregnancy, homebirth, and first year of my son.

Thoughts After My First 5K 1

Me 5K cropped

I did it! I really did it!

ran my first 5K – ever! 

My goal was to run the whole way through and I did! No walking, not once. And I had fun too.

Here are a few thoughts to share from my first 5K experience:

~ It was a very enjoyable run, the weather was beautiful, mid-60’s, no wind (for once in Kansas!), not too sunny, muggy, or foggy. Just right.

~ The course goes through a quaint older neighborhood with beautiful houses and giant Oaks and Maples all the way through. Residents sat on their front porches or came down to the street corners to cheer us all on, it felt like a real community.

~ I’ve been running for a while but it’s been a long time since I’ve run more than a mile or maybe two if I’m not feeling too lazy. I’ve been content with running a nice and easy mile and calling it good. In the past, I’ve participated in a few other shorter (2 mile) road races and ran in my high school two-mile cross-country races but haven’t had a desire to try for more. Then, a few months ago, the idea of running a 5K started simmering around in my head.

~ I have to admit, whenever I’ve seen others post their 5K selfies on social media I’ve thought, “Oh that’s nice, good for them,” but I held myself back from even thinking about trying it myself. I didn’t want to let myself think about trying something I didn’t think I could do. Protect yourself from disappointment by keeping your bar real, real low.

Then I realized that by not setting higher goals, I wasn’t really protecting myself from disappointment – I was blocking myself from growth. 

~ I made the decision to see if I could run 3 miles straight through – and I could. That day, a week before the race, I signed myself up for my first 5K race!

~ Obviously, I didn’t spend a whole lot of dedicated training time before the race so my goal was very simple: Run the whole thing without walking. Endurance first, speed second.

~ I put my endurance goal above my speed goal so I feel like I probably could have gone faster but I didn’t want to go too fast and end up tiring out and walking. I was hoping to finish in 35 minutes (based on my usual comfortable 11- 12 minute mile pace) but guessed I would probably come in closer to 38 since it would be a new course to me with some hills – different than my usual flat track or treadmill running. I crossed the finish line right at 38:04!

~ At the last minute, my phone didn’t work so I ran “unplugged” and even my stopwatch failed me and reset after 28 minutes, leaving me completely clueless to what my pace was. Though I did get to enjoy hearing the sounds and taking in the scene and the atmosphere of the course better because I was unplugged, the course was poorly marked and no one was there to tell me if I was at the 1 or .5 mile left-to-go point so I didn’t know when I should start picking the pace up.

~ Now I know I’ll definitely make sure my phone is set up ahead of time or see if I can find an affordable gps watch that I can easily look down and see my pace as I go along. Any tips?

~ A friend of mine warned me 5Ks are addictive and now I see why! Once I finished my first I couldn’t wait to try it again! Just not on the same day. 😉

I have so much more I’d like to write about running, exercise and how it relates to deeper things like life and faith and God. Until another time…


The Memory Keeper’s Daughter #BookReview

Simplemama Book Review Video

Time to catch up on some book reviews. First up,

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter: A Novel

I read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter this summer while on our summer vacation. 

I liked it well enough, it was a good fiction fix and light vacation reading companion. I think it could have been MUCH better, it started out with great potential but it didn’t quite live up to my hopes I had when I picked it up and started reading. Then again, I may be a little spoiled after reading novels like Hannah Coulter and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

That said, despite how much it lacked (and it was a lot!) there are three main themes in the novel that deserve closer reflection and helped me appreciate the book more:

Grief (especially unresolved).

The destructive effect of unreconciled guilt.

The subject of our society’s history with people with Disabilities and Differences.

First, the various experiences with the trauma of grief woven through each character was something I could definitely relate to. I’m not sure if I would have liked this book, or at least understood it, as well if I hadn’t recently experienced a close personal grief of my own.

I think the author really did a good job demonstrating how powerful grief is and how, when it goes unresolved, it can cause so much more pain. Characteristic to that time period, each character held their grief in instead of talking about it together or seeking outside help and, instead, they looked for “escape” from their grief instead of mutual consolation with those closest to them. This of course led each character on a path of destruction and pain and not healing and joy.

Then there’s the Guilt. This is a somewhat taboo word in this current time as the popular trend is to “do what makes you happy” and not feel bad about it. But, with Dr. Henry’s one pivotal choice, we see how much one choice, kept a secret, can affect one’s life and the relationships so irreversibly. Guilt, gone unreconciled, can grow like a thorny bush, blocking out all the joy and good of life from yourself and those around you.

Lastly, I was intrigued with how the author demonstrated how people’s perspective of those with unique needs and disabilities has evolved over the years starting with the idea in the 1900’s into the later 60’s and even 70’s that “people like that” had to be “institutionalized” or even gotten rid of altogether – an idea that still lingers even into our own modern culture.

So, while the book didn’t live up to my hopes and maybe could have been developed differently I still enjoyed it for the important thought-provoking themes that will probably mill about in my mind for a while.

Have you read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter?

What did you think and why?

Running Achievements, What Ifs, Books & Movies, Space Room, and other Fun Updates {7QT} 8

It’s been too long since I’ve blogged again, time for a 7 Quick Takes for a fun little update on fun and exciting things.


Let’s see, I’ll start with talking about my kids – since that’s what moms do when their kids aren’t around.

This is our daughter’s second year of running middle school cross-country and she has PRed (set a new personal record) twice and been awarded two medals this year! She has been happily surprised by this and it’s been fun as a parent to see her challenging herself to try just a little harder each time.

I really love the Cross Country sport. It’s about self-accomplishment and teamwork. It’s so great seeing all the kids trying their own best while also cheering on their teammates to also set personal goals and work hard to do just a little better each time. Her school doesn’t have its own team so all the area Catholic schools got together to create a full team, it’s been a great way for them to get to know other kids from other schools that they might eventually meet in high school…in just a couple years. (gulp!)


I’ve really enjoyed getting back into a good exercise routine and running again. There are many mental challenges to overcome but there are also so many benefits for my physical and my mental health.  I’m still working on uniting my fitness life with my spiritual health too. A friend recommended this book I’m hoping will help: Fit for Eternal Life. Any other good resources out there?

I’ve been picking at the idea of running in a 5K race and that idea has migrated from the back of my head slowly up to the front. So, there’s one going on next Saturday. I’ve been running 1 to 2 miles when I do and did run a cumulative 3 mile run with my husband a few weeks ago (which was so awesome to do together btw!).

So today I made a decision. I’d get out and see if I could run 3 miles straight through. If I could, I’d register for the 5K next Saturday. In order to help me stick to this plan, I had to gather up the courage to tell a few other friends and my husband that I was going to do it this morning. I asked them to ask me how it went when they saw me later – because I knew I’d hate to admit I wussed out.

So guess what?

I did it! I ran 3 miles straight through and even kept up my regular 12 mpm pace!

So, 5K, here I come!


We like to play different table games at dinner – like “I Spy” or “Guess Who I am”.  Last week, I started a new one by asking the kids What If questions like,

What if…there was a Tiger in our backyard, what would you do?  

It’s been fun to hear the responses that vary from logical to just outright ridiculous. It’s also been a good way to talk about personal safety and what to do in emergency situations.

The four-year-old likes the game so much that he asks me What If questions almost all day. Even as I’m trying to put him to bed.  I cracked up at a silly one he asked me a couple days ago:

What if there was a giant cookie monster in our backyard?

Me – I’d give it cookies.

He pauses and thinks about that then asks while giggling,

What if the cookie monster was a COOKIE?!

Me while chuckling – Well, then I guess I’d go eat it! What you would do?

I’d eat it’s tongue!

Me – Ummm….ok….

Not sure why he picked the tongue? Should I be concerned?


It’s almost the end of the month and I have to say that so far the school year has been going pretty well! For which I am incredibly thankful. I’ve done a few different things this year to try and make things go smoother before and after school especially – because those are our most challenging times of the day ever!!!!

Anyway, I wanted to share one thing that’s been made a big difference:

15 Minutes of After-School Quiet Time

It’s funny how such a small thing can make such a big difference but, like I shared in the article about it on this week, it really has changed our family’s life!


I’ve read a few books and seen a few other good movies the past few months that I really want to share about.  For now, I’ll just share the list and hope to get a chance to come back and share more about soon.

Books I’ve read:

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

Out of My Mind

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter: A Novel

Currently reading:
Man’s Search for Meaning by Vicktor Frankl

Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love From His Extraordinary Son

And of course the Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion with daily reflections!



Of Gods and Men

The Fundamentals of Caring


I’ve started my next room renovation project – Operation Space Room!

Our nine-year-old (almost 10!) has been sleeping in a room with cute puppy wallpaper for too long and it’s time. Time to get the scraper out and get rid of those cute little puppies.  Our son – like his daddy – is fascinated with space, especially black holes! He said he wants his whole room to be space. Well, I can’t make it be real space in the room, I can at least try and make it look kind of like space.

The challenge will be how to make a room look like space without making it too dark….hmm, not sure if that’s possible?

For now, I’m working on getting the wallpaper off first before going beyond to where no Mom has gone before.


Another exciting thing – I got a gig creating social media images for EpicPew! It’s a cool site that offers interesting and relevant Catholic-related topics with a great sense of humor to go along. I’ll be working up images for Saint feast days each week, it’ll be good way to learn more about awesome Saints while using my Canva-designing addiction for some good too. I’ll even have a good excuse to have a little “gif” fun too.

Today ,we remember St. (Padre) Pio of Pietrelcina. Check out EpicPew’s social media sites and follow along – you might learn something new and have some fun while you’re at it.


That’s all for now folks. I hope to come back again soon! Be sure to check out other 7 Quick Takes on this fine Friday.

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