Sunday, November 18, 2018

My 168 Hours: How I Survive (and Thrive)




168 hours. The number of hours in each week. How do I know? Because I know exactly how I spend mine.

A little over a year ago, I was admittedly barely hanging on. I’d returned to work after my second child. I had two kids under two. My job responsibilities had grown and I was managing a team of six. It felt like everybody needed me all the time.

Then, thanks to a post on our Working Parents Group site, I found Laura Vanderkam’s book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

I certainly can’t do justice to Laura Vanderkam’s entire book, so I won’t try. But I’ll tell you this: Know how you want to spend your time. Then spend it that way.

Simple, right? Why is it then that there are so many things on our wish lists and to-do lists and bucket lists? 

At the beginning of this year, I set out to change that. I made a list of all the things that were part of the Whole Me – my family, my career, things I loved to do but somehow got lost in the shuffle of every day life.

There were things like date nights and quality time with my girls, aside from the cooking, cleaning and feeding that seemed to consume our routine. There were things like running, something I’d done a lot of before kids, but moved to the backburner in recent years. There were things like writing and growing my career.

Soon, a clearer picture formed of the things that are important to me.
Next, per Laura Vanderkam’s advice, I tracked my time. It was tedious – and ironically time-consuming. But it gave me another clear picture of how I spend my time. 

A few things jumped out immediately: My 70-mile roundtrip commute meant a lot of time in the car. I spent too much mindless scrolling through social media. I was not getting enough “fun” time with my kids. And,  “me” time was essentially non-existant.

That had to change. So I moved forward with a plan and with intention.
I scheduled in time to run, which meant some early mornings and partnership from my husband. I completed two half-marathons this year, and somehow made time for 190 runs so far this year.

I repurposed my commute time by downloading audiobooks for personal and professional development. 

I even joined Toastmasters, since being a confident speaker will only help in my growing career. Sometimes I practice my speeches alone in my car during my commute.

But my most favorite switch? The little ways I’ve found to infuse fun into my limited time with my young girls as a working mom.

We’ve done family walks at 6 a.m., which I suppose is an upside of having young kids who are early-risers. We’ve gone to breakfast before work and daycare drop-off.  We’ve delayed starting dinner for just 20 minutes to we can spend time doing chalk art in the driveway.

This isn’t about being a working mom or a runner. It’s about knowing what it important to you and finding ways to incorporate them into our crazy lives.

Yes, my weeks still have those same 168 hours. No one gave me extra time. I certainly did not feel like I had an extra minute when I started this life project. But adding in these things makes me feel like a weight is lifted.

Make no mistake, there are still days where I feel stretched or as if I’m trying to do too much. There are lots of days that don’t look perfect. I certainly don’t have it all figured out.

But I’ve somehow found what works for me, and if I leave you with anything today, I leave you with this: Know where your time goes and make the most of it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Whole Me: Midyear Check-Up



I really (like, really really) enjoy the opportunity, whether at work or in my personal life, to pause and reflect.  I do this weekly, reviewing highlights of the previous week and setting mini-goals and focus areas for the coming week. I mimic a similar process monthly.

It’s this pause-and-reflect approach that keeps me on track. I'm tuned into my goals and my priorities, and I can make adjustments and redirect attention along the way.

So it seems like the mid-point of the year is a good time to check in on my 2018 goals.  It’s also a good time to adjust the goals as necessary, even if it means moving the finish line when it’s in sight (or crossed).

There’s a good mix of hitting some out of the park, tracking right on pace for others, and missing the mark on some. 

Health

1. Run a Half Marathon.

  • Status: DONE! (read about it here)
  • New Goal: Run second half marathon in 2018 in less than 2:07 (my time from my May half marathon). Signed up for half marathon in Newburyport in October
2.  Log 500 running miles this year.

  • Status: 376 miles run to date. Hitting 500 is almost guaranteed.
  • New Goal: Log 800 running miles in 2018. (*gulp!*)

3. A not-to-be-revealed-online “weight goal” that lines up with my birthday in July.

  • Status: Nowhere near close to accomplishing this one, which is no real surprise because it’s one goal that I haven’t really focused on or approached with a plan. 
  • New Goal: Adjust timeframe to Oct. 5 (anniversary date). And come up with a plan.



Mind

1.  Read/listen to 30 books.

  • Status: 19 completed 

2. Disconnect from social media for at least two full weeks. 

  • Status: Currently on social media hiatus as part of vacation week (so this post will probably not get shared until I re-enter the social media world). Plan another disconnected week for our family vacation in August. I need to be better at disconnecting, overall.

3. Write 25 blog posts.

  • Status:  While I'm pleased that I've revived this old blog, I'm lagging behind here with only seven post completed (eight after I post this one). On the upside, I have a dozen potential post ideas documented in my journal.


Family & Love

1. 10 date-nights

  • Status: 5 done, 5 to go (not including our amazing weekend away to the Rocky Mountains!)

2. Complete family photo books

  • Status: DONE! I love documenting our family adventures and seeing the completed book from last year.
  • New Goal: Upload photos monthly to make putting together 2018’s photo book a breeze.


I had some other goals documented in my journal that didn’t make my original list at the beginning of the year. I thought it best to focus on a few in each category. I checked in on those this week, too. I’m trending pretty well on those, and added a couple of others since January.

Health

4. Log average of 10,000 steps/day each month.

  • Status: Achieved in both May and June, not in April (when I started tracking steps).

5. Run Feaster Five <45 minutes.="" span="">

  • Status: November race

6. Secure top female spot on Johnny Cake Strava segment.



Mind

4. Attend/participate in three development classes at work.

  • Status: Completed (mEQ Leadership Mindset, Agile Leadership, Business Brain)

5. Post three articles in new places (LinkedIn, etc.).

  • Status: Shared two blog posts on LinkedIn. I also joined the Working Parents Group to lead communication efforts for its Steering Committee. Have authored three articles for our internal online news site as part of this work.


Family & Love

3. One kid-free weekend away.

  • Status: DONE! (*heart* Denver…)

4. Implement “no phone hours” 8p-7a.

  • Status: Definitely a work in progress here… (this one could also fall under “Mind” but placing it here as a reminder of the importance of BEING PRESENT with my family).


These first six months have been a recipe of hard work, focus and intention that has resulted in some great things, like an uncluttered mind, a reduction in my stress level, continued success at work, improvement in fitness, and most importantly, so much love and laughter. Yes, you've been good to me so far, 2018.

Here’s to a great second half of the year, friends!



Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Finish What You Start




Four years ago, I had some lofty running goals. At least they were lofty for me. My running was strong – again, strong for me. I ran consistently and incorporated it into my life’s routine. I had completed two marathons and a few dozen half marathons. I completed my arbitrary mileage goals and consistently knocked out 100-mile months.  

So I wanted to focus on a new type of goal: time.  In my 2014 goals, I set out to run a sub-25 5K. Today, I can’t even recall how big of a stretch goal that was, although I’m still certain it was a big one since I remember reading articles and blog posts on how to break the sub-25 mark.

Runner’s World declared that “busting the 25-minute barrier marks you as a ‘serious’ runner. It requires commitment to more mileage and focused workouts, and can take years to achieve.”

As a middle-of-the-packer, I knew I’d have my work cut out for me.  

So I joined a local running club, and signed up for track. It was the early, cold months of 2014. Track was held at a nearby high school, where dozens of runners made their way in the dark evenings to do laps around the indoor track with support of a coach and workout plan.

Each Tuesday we were to meet at 6:30 p.m. for group drills. The first week, we did a timed mile.  On the second week, a wave of nausea came over me. It felt like extreme car sickness that just wouldn’t go away. A day or so later, I found out I was pregnant.

I knew women could run through pregnancy, and I had every intention of doing so. But I wondered if running hard – like I’d need to push myself in track – was wise for a newly forming baby.  Plus I just couldn’t shake that nausea. I skipped a week of track. Then another.

I decided to skip the rest of the session, in favor of reading everything I could about growing a healthy baby, and following most of it. The decision on whether to focus on a sub-5K or the baby was an easy one.
I jumped in fully to being a mom-to-be.

In October 2014, we welcomed a healthy baby girl, Lily, who forever changed our world for the better.  A little less than two years later, her sister, Sadie, joined the crew, showing us that our hearts’ capacity for love could grow when we didn’t think we could love any more than we already did.

In those early days and months, I dabbled in running but shelved the idea of “big” running goals while I muddled my way through new motherhood, then through the working mother world. My running goals became simpler: find ways to incorporate running into this new crazy life, run a Mother’s Day 3K on my first Mother’s Day, and enjoy the short window of life where I could push my new little ones in a jogging stroller while they slept.

As I set out my 2018, I knew I wanted to incorporate running into my life again in a more intentional and focused way. I bought a new Garmin, and set a goal to run a half-marathon and a longer-term goal to complete 500 miles this year. Both would require consistency and focus. Just what I needed.

I followed the local running club on Facebook to keep up with the local scene. A post about early-morning spring track caught my eye.

This could be my chance to finish what I started.

I’m a finisher by nature. If I do something, I do it fully. And on time.

So bailing on track four years ago has stuck in my mind. Not quite a failure, but definitely unfinished business. I knew evening track was out of the question. Adding anything into the intensity that is the after-work hours is unthinkable. But early mornings? Maybe.

Just how early are we talking? The coach’s instructions called for runners to arrive by 5 a.m. to warm up on their own. Group warm-up would start a 5:15 a.m., followed by the day’s track workout. I’d be home before 6:45 a.m., just in time to jump into the morning routine at home.

I set my alarm for 4:15 a.m. on a Tuesday in early May. 4:15 a.m.?? Who does this? A better question would be, why am I doing this? I wasn’t training for anything. I quickly learned that I was like most of the other 15 or so people who showed up at sunrise each week.

We were mostly women, none of us really training for anything in particular. Most were like me, just wanting to improve, to push ourselves, to run with others, and to learn.

Day 1 started with brief introductions, led by Coach Sharon, followed by a timed mile. My mile ended at 7:48, which I felt pleased with. We were grouped by like-abilities, and I ended up in the Purple Group. The workouts varied weekly, and we sometimes did laps focused on form and breathing. I felt myself improving and learning. I pushed myself to hit the time targets.

Most importantly, I felt AMAZING after they were done. I felt so energized and accomplished. I felt strong. My head was clear. My legs were just the right kind of tired. Between the warm-up and workout, I usually logged 4-5 miles, at paces above my average. All before 6:30 a.m.

The eight weeks passed quickly, in total and the minutes of each weekly session. I noted that it didn’t rain on a single Tuesday in May or June, except maybe the Tuesday track I missed in favor of a trip to Colorado.

My non-track runs were improving. My paces improved. I felt strong and steady.
On the final week, we ran another timed mile. I hoped for marked improvement, given how I’d been feeling and running. As I passed by the timer’s clock (yes, there is an actual clock), I noted my time: 7:47. I had improved by one second. One second?!

At first I started to question why I’d gotten up so early and put in the energy each week. The thoughts were fleeting, though, as I remembered how much my running had improved, overall.  I couldn’t let one day of testing reflect the effort and performance.

But it wasn’t just about improving. It was about finishing what I started, even if it took me four years.

I had barely started my internal celebration when I saw the announcement that summer early morning track would be starting in two weeks.

So I signed up, committing to a summer of weekly 4:15 a.m. wake-up calls. After all, I may have been checked the track program off my to-do list, but that sub-25 5K is still lingering out there…



Monday, June 18, 2018

Chasing Johnny Cake





Last week, I crossed an unexpected goal off my list: Getting the top female spot on the “Johnny Cake segment” in my neighborhood.

Just what is the Johnny Cake segment, and more importantly, why was I chasing it?

At the start of the year, I joined Strava, finally convinced by my cyclist husband to abandon my beloved and long-used RunKeeper. I was skeptical. What would Strava give me that RunKeeper didn’t? He tried to sell me on its tracking features, most of which RunKeeper already gave me. He tried to sell me on the “segments” feature, which ranks you against other Strava users on designated sections of roads.

I wasn’t convinced of the value of segments. “I only compete against myself,” I told him at the time.

But I signed up anyway. And,surprise, surprise, my competitive spirit was awoken soon after I discovered a designated segment – Johnny Cake – on my go-to running loop.

I didn’t set out for the top spot. When I first ran the segment on January 14, I logged a 5:56 for the half-mile section. It landed me firmly in the fifth (of five) spot for women on the segment.  I didn’t think much of the ranking – or even the segment itself – and instead focused on running consistently and just plain making time for it.

The top spot was 3:53. A full two minutes from my current time. Two minutes in a half-mile stretch is an eternity.

But soon, I somehow worked myself up to the third-place spot. I saw steady improvement in my running, and started working Johnny Cake into more runs. I chipped away at my time, even if it didn’t move me up the leaderboard. 

I moved into second.  First place still felt so far, far out of reach. I chipped away –
sometimes a second at a time – to bring me closer to the top spot. It still seemed so far away.

Then I got it. On a day that didn’t feel particularly fast or remarkable, I checked my segment on the Strava app as I cooled down on a cul-de-sac near my house. 3:52. I had gotten it. I had shaved five more seconds off my segment time. I DID IT!

Here are six things I learned while Chasing Johnny Cake:

Persistence pays off. 
Call it persistence or focus or relentlessness, dedication, consistency, or plain ol’ competitive stubbornness. I just kept trying. In fact, it took me 40 times to get the top spot. Yes, I ran that same ridiculous half-mile section of road 40 times since January 14. Quite literally, I had to show up on the segment. Over and over and over.

Use the right tools. 
I don’t actually know how to run “fast.”  I’ve always been told, to run fast, you need to train fast. But other than just move my feet faster, I wasn’t exactly sure how to do that. So  I signed up for a morning track program through a local running club. It’s organized by a certified coach who gives us time targets and makes us work – hard! – at the 5 a.m. track session. Run fast to run fast started to make sense. I found my non-track runs gradually becoming faster. I learned I could sprint Johnny Cake, just like I did when I needed to on 800s in track workouts. (Just imagine what I could do if I pulled other tools out of the toolbox - like nutrition, hydration, etc.!)

Success is not a linear process.  
Some days I could knock 10 or 15 second off my segment time. Other days, I ran slower than the previous run. Sometimes my slower days would last for two or three or four consecutive runs.  It would have been easy to be discouraged, especially for a person like me who likes to see continued improvement each time. I reminded myself of how far I had come since that first January 14 run, and found Strava’s trend line to be particularly motivating on those slower days.

Know the playing field, and take shortcuts when it makes sense. 
Over those 40 runs, and especially as the top spot became within reach, I studied the road. It had two curves and a couple of very small, rolling hills. I discovered, as I closed in on the top spot, that I could cut the corners close. It meant running on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, but if I ran early enough, traffic wasn’t an issue. I decided I’d go ‘all out’ on the downhill sections, and push hard for the final uphill that ended the segment.  Those small adjustments could have meant the seconds I needed to grab the top spot.

Shoot for targets you don’t think you can hit.  
Back in January, I didn’t even consider that the top spot could be within reach. Enough said.

Chasing Johnny Cake was a new kind of running for me, a new kind of goal. My running goals have always been tied to mileage. This one focused on time.

But it wasn’t just about the time. I mean, I’m still not a “fast” runner, and most of my running friends could easily knock me out of the top spot on their first try. (Please don’t try, friends.)

Having a time goal meant that I’d have to do more than just show up, to slog through the miles, to just go through the motions, one foot in front of the other. I’d need a plan. I’d need to run differently. To think differently.

Who knew a half-mile section of road in my neighborhood could teach me so much.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Taking Time To Celebrate




I ran a half marathon last weekend. It wasn’t my first. It wasn’t my fastest. But it was probably the one I’m the most proud of. 

It was the first half marathon I’ve done since becoming a mom.

It’s not the physical feat that I’m most proud of, but yes, I feel good about that, too. After all, having two kids in two years, at the age of 39 and 41, sure does take a toll on your body. 

Rather, it is the mental commitment, the time management and relentless prioritization and, most importantly, the supportive partnership from Jeff that it took to get me across the finish line that makes me most proud.

I signed up for a half marathon at the end of last year, when I was formulating this year’s “big things” I wanted to celebrate at the end of 2018. I chose a half marathon because you really can’t just fake it. There’s no showing up without putting in the time and training. 

It meant I would need a plan. It meant I would need to run when I didn’t want to – when it was raining, or cold. Or when I felt like I just didn’t have time.

Let’s be real, I don’t “have time” to add half marathon training into my crazy life. I have two kids under four, a full-time Career (yes, capital C – as Laura Vanderkam says), a 70-mile roundtrip daily commute, a husband I like talking to and spending time with, parents and in-laws to see, a commitment to healthy cooking… and …and …and…  There is always something to do.

Like everything, it’s about making time.  It’s about getting my butt out of bed to squeeze in miles before the kiddos got up. It’s about strategizing with Jeff about how and when to fit in the training miles with all of the other must-do’s in our limited weekend hours. It’s about Jeff taking the girls grocery shopping so Momma can run. (Marry someone who wants you to achieve your goals, my friends.)

I guess, reflecting back on it, I’m most proud of making time for this. For me.

Since January, when I officially started my return to running, I’ve somehow found 43+ hours for running. That’s just over three hours a week. I’ve somehow squeezed in 71 runs and am now approaching the 275-mile mark. I’ve averaged 19 miles per week over an average of four runs a week.

In January, I certainly didn’t feel like I had an extra 43 hours for anything. 

On race day, Jeff and the girls cheered from the finish line. Lily ran to me with a big sign she had made. (It was a dinosaur, if you were wondering.) She hugged me. Sadie clapped. Both girls chowed down on post-race food. (I never realized how kid-friendly the post-race buffet can be – fruit snacks, bananas, granola bars.) Lily wore my medal proudly.

It was the best finish I’d had yet. Not in terms of time or how I felt (boy, those last two miles were hard!), but in terms of almost everything else.

Full transparency: I almost didn’t write this post. I felt like it could come off to be bragging or boastful. That’s certainly not my intent. If anything, I hope that stories like these can be motivating or inspiring. I know reflecting like this gives me extra motivation and reminds me what it possible when I commit to something fully. 

It reminds me that you don’t need to lose yourself entirely after becoming a mom. It reminds me that it’s okay – and good, in fact – to prioritize my own health, time and goals. 

This post is only partially about running. For you, it could be art or knitting or rock-climbing. Whatever makes you feel happy, fulfilled and proud.

In the final minutes of the audiobook I just finished this week, Kick Ass With Mel Robbins, she gave me the final push I needed to write this. She says, paraphrased, celebration is essential to a happy life. 

Take time to celebrate your accomplishments, large or small, together or to yourself. Just be sure to celebrate.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Toastmaster Ice Breaker Speech: Where Are You From?




Earlier this year I joined Toastmasters. Public speaking is something I want to get better at - and what better way than joining an organization that gives me (okay, forces me) to practice and improve. 

Toastmasters is structured and organized - just the way I like things. I received new member materials shortly before my first speech was on the docket. The guide brings participants through a series of speeches with different goals, ranging from voice control to use of visual aids to research. Each speech is evaluated by a fellow participant, with additional input from all audience members.

In addition to the ones outlines for each speech, I have a couple of personal goals for my public speaking: get more comfortable with "the room" (don't hide behind a podium!), cut down on "crutch words" (like um and uh), work on my voice (volume, projection, etc.), and learn the value of practice, practice, practice.

A couple of weeks ago, I signed myself up for my first speech: The Ice Breaker. The speech goals were simple - provide a way to introduce yourself to the group, stay within the 4-6 minute timeframe (yes, you are timed) and get a baseline for your speaking abilities.

I drafted the speech below and filed it away on my computer for a couple of days. Speech Day was quickly approaching and I was having a hard time finding time to practice. So I got creative. Each day on my commute to and from work, I'd say the speech aloud 4-5 times per trip. As I did so, I became more comfortable with the way the words rolled off my tongue. I found places where I was likely to trip up - and reworded as necessary. 

At first, I felt ridiculous. I mean, I was giving a speech about myself, to myself - in my car, by myself. Then I started feeling better about the upcoming challenge. I'd found the balance between memorizing and being familiar enough with the content to deliver it without notes or stumbles.

Speech Day rolled around, and I was nervous. I barely heard a word that the speaker before me said. My stomach flip-flopped. I took deep breaths as I was introduced - and took my place in front of the podium.

Here is the speech I delivered (more or less - since I was familiar enough with the content I was able to improvise here and there).

ICEBREAKER SPEECH: Where Are You From? (4-6 minutes)

This speech is about ME. But I am going to start by asking a question about YOU. 

Where are you from??? 

See, you all answered this question so easily. I’m envious.

For me, this question is one of the hardest ones I get – and, unfortunately for me, one of the most frequent that’s asked when you meet someone new. 

So, where am I from?  Let’s see … I’m from Toronto, Canada. And New Brunswick. And Maine – three hours north of Bangor. And Chicago. And New Hampshire – Dover, Rochester, Barrington, Goffstown and Manchester. Now I live in Massachusetts.  

People often ask me whether I'm a military kid. I'm not. I’m what I consider a “corporate kid” – someone whose father worked hard and climbed the corporate ladder, moving his family to chase the next great opportunity.  

As a kid, I hated moving. I hated walking into a new classroom to a roomful of strangers. I hated starting over. I was confused, when as a 10-year-old, my teacher marked my spelling test wrong when I added “u’s” to words like neighbor … and color. 

But looking back, I’m grateful for my experiences. It taught me to adapt. It taught me to be curious about the people and community around me. It taught me to navigate “newness” in all ways. It taught me – in hindsight – to face things that scare you. (It also taught me to negotiate … I convinced my dad for a kitten, a puppy and even a horse as part of various childhood moves!) 

My parents moved to New Hampshire just as I was finishing my freshman year at the University of Illinois. I recall them asking me whether I was going to transfer to UNH. I recall saying – or maybe I just thought it – “No guys, it’s YOU that’s moving this time, not me.”

But when I graduated college … more years ago than I want to admit … I was drawn home. I settled in New Hampshire with my parents. I started my own life and career, moving around a bit, but always sticking close to home. 

Nine years ago, I met a guy with roots deeper than this Corporate Kid could ever understand – the kind who lived in the same house his entire life … the kind who used the same barber that he did in middle school … the kind who probably considered it a “big move” when his parents downsized from their house in Nashua to a neighborhood in Litchfield

Five years ago, we got married. Four years ago we bought a house. Three years ago we had our first daughter, Lily, followed by her younger sister, Sadie, a year and a half ago.

I find ourselves talking about the school down the street that our girls will attend. We talk about expensive home improvement projects we want to do. We find ourselves not pursuing job opportunities that would take us away from our aging parents. 

Somehow this Corporate Kid has found herself putting down roots. I know I’m not “from” here. (You native New Englanders are sure to remind me of that!) But it’s as close as I’m probably going to get.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Leaning In: Growing a Family and a Career


As someone who believes strongly in women’s rights, I’m embarrassingly late to the Lean In party.

But finally, and thankfully, I finished Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg’s sometimes polarizing personal perspective on women in the workplace.  It outlines what she sees as ways women are held back (oftentimes by ourselves), a personal call to change the conversation around equality, to stay in the workforce, and to “lean in” when we are tempted most to “lean back.”

I was struck by how connected I felt to Sandberg, sometimes laughing aloud at the similarities. Like her, I’ve been called Bossy.  Still today, my family’s nickname for me is Little Miss Bossy.

I love my career and the personal and professional satisfaction it brings me. I have a loving and supportive partner who encourages me in all ways possible. It was almost too coincidental that, like her, my favorite childhood book was Are You My Mother?

Of course, we have plenty of differences, too.  I’m not a high-level executive at Facebook or Google, after all.  But I am a working woman – one with a Career (with a capital C, as Laura Vanderkam described in 168 Hours). More importantly, I’m a mom.

For anyone who knows me, it’s probably not surprising to know that I take being a mom really seriously. I mean, let’s face it, I take everything really seriously. Anything I take on, I do fully. So when it comes to what I see as the most important thing I’ll ever do – being someone’s mother – don’t get in my way.

Perhaps that’s why, despite my pro-women, statement-making pink-hat tendencies, even I have internal debate on whether to lean in or lean back.

Thankfully, I’ve had a few people in my corner to give me the nudge I needed, just when I needed it most.

Two days after returning to work from my first maternity leave in 2015, I received an email from a senior vice president in our group. It was picking up on a conversation we had 12 weeks earlier, when he floated the idea of me joining his team – in a way that only a man would suggest a job change to a woman just days away from giving birth to her first child.  

I was interested, for sure, but in no way was ready to even think about a new job. I knew my whole life would be changing. And I didn’t want another thing to think about while I tried to navigate the challenging and exhausting days of new motherhood.  I answered with the non-committal, “I’d be interested in learning more.”

Honestly, I barely thought about that conversation in the 12 whirlwind weeks that was maternity leave. As I re-entered the working world – thankful to be using my brain for things other than baby feeding schedules – I was ready to dive back into my routine.

But he didn’t forget about following up. Yes, he wanted to touch base at the end of my first week to continue the conversation. The meeting invite popped up on my calendar for three days after my return, as he described, again in only a way a man would, “to give me time to settle back” into work. That comment still makes me laugh, since three years into working motherhood, I’m still not sure I’m “settled back in” … or ever will be.

Despite every fiber of my being telling me to lean back – why would I add another new and challenging thing to my already challenging life?? – I moved forward and accepted the new role, one that didn’t come with a set of instructions or a clearly outlined path to success.

But that’s what I loved about it. It was a blank slate. Something I could create and shape and grow.  And I grew along with it.

It took time. A lot of time. And so, so much mind-space. It took so much leaning in. At times, I wondered if it would have been better to have settled back into my old role, which was becoming increasingly comfortable and routine with time.  But I jumped in with both feet, not surprisingly both at work and at home. I worked hard to become the best mom I could be, and worked hard to bring value to my new role.

Less than two years later, a similar scene played out. I was just a few weeks from Baby #2’s birth, when a role on the team was opening, one that would mean expanded responsibility, managing a team and some regional travel.

Of course I was interested, but like last time my instinct was to lean back. I knew from experience how hard taking on something new at work would be while adding something (or someone!) new at home. And, this time I’d have two kids under two. I was downright scared about how I’d balance and manage (and maybe survive) it all.

Yet I forged ahead, leaning in and accepting the new challenge, working to fill three vacancies on my new team before the little one’s arrival. (Baby reminded me not to be lulled into believing I’m in control and can plan life out, making her surprise appearance five weeks early – leaving me scrambling to tie up loose ends at work  and relinquishing control of the hiring process from my hospital bed while my teeny baby was being cared for in the adjacent NICU.)

Once again, I returned to work. Once again, in a bit of a daze, facing new challenges, unchartered territory, and a road ahead that I knew would require a lot of thought and effort to navigate and pave effectively. (Effectively = the way I wanted it.)

I dug in. No, I leaned in – before I even knew what it meant to lean in. And again, I embraced and loved the challenge.

Last year, I joked with my manager that I wanted 2017 to be a Year of Nothing – no big life changes, no big work changes. I kind of meant it. In the past four years, I’ve gotten married, moved to a new state, bought a house, had two children. I am on my third role in five years at the firm, increasing responsibility and visibility (and, thankfully, job satisfaction and Engagement with a Capital E) with each step. 

As quickly as I joked with my manager about the Year of Nothing, I followed up with assurances that I’m open to new things and to doing whatever the team needs to move forward successfully. It probably didn’t need to be said, but I said it anyway. Lean in, explicitly, friends.

Six months ago, despite my best effort toward a Year of Nothing, responsibilities shifted yet again – and again I faced new responsibilities and new work challenges. At times it can seem overwhelming, and at times my mind wonders if it’s time to lean back.  Am I trying to do too much? Can I build a career and build a family at the same time? Should I?

But, I find myself continually energized by new and interesting work. I'm want to see and move toward the possibilities ahead - and to show my daughters what strong, independent women look like (even if it's not always pretty!). I know that I was right to lean in. Again and again.

Without mentors and my champions encouraging me, knowingly or not, to lean in – when all I wanted to do is lean back – I never would taken on these challenges, to push myself and to learn so much about myself. And I would have missed out on some of my best professional experiences … so far... 
 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Different Path





If there’s one thing that motherhood has shown me – especially working motherhood –  it is to protect and cherish time. Sure, I mean cherish the moments, like when Lily is making Sadie laugh like only she can. Or the quiet snuggles and hugs.


But mostly I mean, don’t waste a single minute. I’ve become fiercely protective (like, really stingy) with my time since the girls were born. I seriously weigh and analyze every invitation, meeting, get-together, and those rare (very rare!) moments of free time.


I recently found myself with a whole day of free time, on Martin Luther King Day, when Jeff’s office and the girls’ daycare were open but I had a work holiday. I weighed my options. Should I keep the girls home for quality time? Should I send them off to daycare and tackle some of the house projects that can only be done sans kids?  Should I treat myself to a massage or pedicure? Call a long-lost friend to meet for lunch?


How would I have used a day off in my pre-kids life? I meant that, what would I have done? Sadly and surprisingly, in just three short years I’ve completely forgotten what I would have done – although I’m confident it would have included a lot more leisurely time-wasting than my current life.
I thought hard about what is important to me – which was easy, since I mapped out the things most important to me at the beginning of the year as a way to keep me focused on the bigger “me” picture – and asked myself what I wished I could do more of in life.
Get outside.
There’s something about being outside that I love. Fresh air, quiet (or at least a different kind of noise), the beauty of nature.
I decided I would tackle a winter solo hike. It was both a combination of things I love (being outside, hiking) and things that scare me (hiking alone, winter hiking, going somewhere new solo).
Thanks to the suggestions of friends, I decided I would hike Wachusett Mountain, which is about an hour away. I didn’t know anything about the hike, other than the photos my friends had posted online from their hikes and that catchy jingle for the ski-side of the mountain.
I was excited about my adventure. And then I was scared. How prepared would I need to be? Flashlight? Poles? Crampons? The temperatures for forecasted for single-digits, and I’m definitely prone to a worst-case, what-if mindset.  Plus, I’d be alone.
Do things that scare you, I tried to convince myself. This is a safe hike, I told myself. I’ve never heard of anyone needing to be rescued from Wachusett Mountain. Had I?
Despite the back-and-forth in my head, I suited up in wicking layers and my hiking boots that frigid Monday morning and made my way to the mountain. I chose what looked like a moderate path to the summit, long enough to make it worth the trip, but short enough to give the trail enough steepness to challenge me. I consulted the trail map again and stepped into the trees.
It was icy and cold. Really icy and really, really cold. Just a few hundred yards in, the trail pitched and headed directly to the summit. A thick layer of frosty white ice coated the trail. There’s no way I’ll make this up without crampons or poles, I thought. I had neither. I debated turning around, disappointed that my solo adventure may be coming to a very quick end.
I checked the trail map on my phone, and saw a perpendicular path that would connect with a longer, less-steep way to the summit. I decided to give it a try.
Navigating patches of ice, I made my way to the upward trail and climbed up, stepping cautiously on ascending rocks and keeping a close eye on trail markers on the trees.  It was quiet. (And so, so cold. I’ve mentioned that, right?)
It took me a little less than an hour to get to the summit. It wasn’t a summit like the 4,000-footers Jeff and I had climbed in the New Hampshire White Mountains, where the payoff is big in terms of the view of the surrounding mountains and a silence only found atop those peaks.
Near the summit of Wachusett, hikers literally cross an auto-road (closed to traffic in the winter) and walk across a parking lot. The view is nice, not spectacular, looking down on the towns below. The whir of the nearby chairlift can be heard from the ski-side of the mountain.  I would have liked to plop down on a rock at the edge and spend a few quiet-ish moments at the top, but the wind whipped at my face and the single-digit temps cut the visit short.
The descent was quick, except for a short pause as I navigated a tricky and particularly ice-covered rocky section that was clearly harder on the way down than the way up.

A helicopter circled above. I looked up, trying to see if it was a recreational helicopter or one from law enforcement or a news station. Was someone actually being rescued from Wachusett? Or, were they looking for a deranged killer who was hiding in the woods? (Told you I have worst-case, what-if tendencies.)
I laughed my own wandering mind and refocused on the trail ahead of me. I made it back to the trail I originally planned to take to the top – the one caked in thick ice that had me contemplating scraping my winter hike adventure.
I’m sure glad I’d pushed on. It was great to get outside, to have some solo time and to be reminded of some of life's important lessons.
Sometimes there is a different way to the same destination. Sometimes it’s best to adjust your plans. And sometimes – most times – it’s good to do things that scare you a bit.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2018: The Whole Me



The more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Here I am, in January, setting my intentions and goals for the year  – a full three years since I last posted on my long-neglected blog. It’s funny to me that just two posts ago I was reflecting on all the big changes of 2013:

“I’ve never been happier – and had probably the biggest year of my life (so far). I became a wife, an auntie, debt-free, an American citizen and moved to a new state.”

When I added “(so far)” three years ago, I must have had an inkling, or hope, that the big and happy things would continue to fill my life.  

My life of three years ago is barely recognizable. I’ve been challenged to try new and exciting things in my corporate job, and have grown professionally in ways that I never expected. I’ve almost (almost!) fully adapted to living the corporate work-life. My marriage and partnership with Jeff is so perfectly perfect that it feels as if it’s always been part of who I am.  We bought a house in a great community north of Boston, and somehow we’ve transformed into poster-children for the suburban professional family. 

Together, we’re the parents two of the greatest little girls who keep us laughing (and, yes, sometimes crying) nearly every minute of our jam-packed lives.

I love being a mom in ways I never thought possible. It is both the most natural and the most difficult thing I have ever done.

Just a few weeks after I wrote the January 2014 post, we found out we were expecting our first baby. We were happy. We were scared. We had no idea how this would change our lives. 

Gone are the leisurely day-long bike rides, exploring the New Hampshire countryside, and the impromptu Vacations With No Destination adventures in the convertible. But they’ve been replaced by heart-bursting family dance parties, endless cups of pretend coffee, trips to the farm to look at animals, story-times, picking up toys, playgrounds, and the most genuine hugs you’ve ever gotten.

What hasn’t changed is my love of looking at January as a new beginning, a blank slate.  (I’m noticing a pattern in my January posts from years past.) What do I want my year to look like? What great, big, happy things do I want to be reflecting on next January? 

My goals used to revolve around mileage and pace, running and riding. As my life has expanded, so have my goals. I look at my life more wholeistically. I look at me more wholeistically. 

With that, here’s what I’m setting out to do in 2018:

Health
  • Run a Half Marathon
  • Log 500 running miles this year
  • A not-to-be-revealed-online “weight goal” that lines up with my birthday in July

Mind
  • Read/listen to 30 books
  • Disconnect from social media for at least two full weeks 
  • Write 25 blog posts


Family
  • 10 date-nights
  • Complete family photo books


That’s my checklist for the year – in addition to the less-checkable things like prioritizing hugs, family dinners, meditating, journaling, working hard, and being mindful of how I spend my time. Most importantly, just BEING PRESENT.

For what it’s worth, I totally missed the mark on my 2014 goals.

Nope, not even close to logging 2,000 running and cycling miles. Not a chance that I hit a sub-25 5K. No race-a-month-plan.  I did really, really hit one of them out of the park, though: One “big” adventure. 

At the time, I pondered that it might an overnight hike in the mountains or a multi-day cycling ride. I had no idea that life had a much, much bigger adventure in store for me that year. And, I’m forever thankful that it did.


Looking forward to connecting and sharing again, my friends. (At least 25 times this year, right?) Here’s to more big adventures (but no more kids!) in 2018…

Saturday, January 11, 2014

2013 Dailymile Summary



I love the day that the year-end dailymile summary lands in my inbox. Usually just a few days after the new year, it's almost like Christmas all over again. 

It gives a nice snapshot of my running and riding year - from miles to "streaks" to pounds burned. No surprise, I like looking back on the year and picking apart the numbers. And comparing it to the previous year. And now, with a few years on the site under my belt, the year before that.

Usually, there are fewer surprises than there are confirmations of what I already know. There's something comforting in that.

So, here we go. My thoughts on the 2013 summary. And, for reference, here's the 2012 summary and the 2011 summary.


  • I logged a total of 1,543 miles in 2013, up a bit (222 miles or 17 percent) from the previous year. I'm definitely happy with the upward trend, after having a complete free-fall (1,200+ fewer miles!) from 2011 to 2012.  But I'm still about 500 miles short of where I need to be to feel really accomplished... whatever that means. Since my goal is to log 2,000 run/ride miles this year, I'm aiming for that "accomplished" benchmark. That means adding more than 450 miles - almost 30 percent more miles! - during the next 12 months. An extra 37.5 miles per month. Or, if I'm on two wheels, an extra long(ish) ride per week. Seems do-able.


  • I logged 10 fewer workouts in 2013 compared to 2012, but increased my per-week miles by four to 29 miles per week. So, fewer workouts, more miles. I credit more bike miles.


  • Speaking of that, 2013 was the first year that cycling overtook running as my "most popular" activity. I spent only 43 percent of my workouts running. It's also the year that I finally decided to change my profile description to read "athlete" instead of "runner." Is is possible I'm just moving away from running?


  • My month-by-month graph is a little more consistent this year, with six months with 100+ miles (including two with 200+), and several in the 60-80 range. What's most noticeable is the glaring blank in September, reminding me that I let "life" get the better of me. Granted, I was putting the finishing touches on my October wedding and finding a new place to live, but I rarely let life push running and riding that much to the side. Plus, my 40-miles in October are a single ride on a tandem bike during my honeymoon. Essentially, that's two whole months (!?) off from running and riding.


  • Like the past three years, I seemed to fade a bit during the last few months of the year. I can't promise that won't happen again this year, but I'll give it a good shot to stay consistent throughout the entire year.


As always, big kudos to dailymile for compiling this report and feeding the insatiable need for stats, trends, facts and figures that us runner-types need. I'm already looking forward to seeing 2014's report.