Thursday, August 27, 2015

Yes, You Could

Lately I have been thinking a lot about limits, and noticing how people seem to put limits on themselves... limits on their happiness, limits on the blessings that life has to offer, and limits on their own potential and success.

Many people seem to put limits on their own happiness and potential. I hear all the time people say things along the lines of "I'll be happy when..." and then fill in the blank. I'll be happy when.... we have more money, I get a new job, I get pregnant, our adoption is finished, I have a new kitchen, I find a man, I finish school, I move, the kids are older, I lose 20lbs, I can retire, etc. etc. etc.

I am well aware that life is often stressful and that there are always challenges. And often it seems like "if only" we can get past a current challenge and reach a new milestone, goal, or success that life will be so much better and THEN we will be happy. Well, I think that line of thinking is flawed. I have found that often when we get past one challenge, life just tends to throw us a new one. If we are always putting off our happiness until things are easy or everything is perfect, we very well may never be happy. And I believe with all of my heart that our happiness should not and can not be conditional. We always have the choice to choose happiness, and while choosing to be happy may not eliminate our problems and life's challenges, it will certainly make our days more enjoyable (for ourselves and those around us) and our burdens easier to bare. I have never seen anyone be better off for being stressed out, frustrated, upset or depressed.

Look around you. Focus on the good in your life. Smile. Live in the moment. Choose to be happy today.

Another area I see people limiting themselves is in the blessings life has to offer. I hear people say SO often, "I could never" or "I would never...." With my family and my job, I hear it a lot in regards to adoption. "I could never adopt" or "I would never adopt an older child" or "I could never parent a special needs child". I am well, well aware that adopting an older child or a special needs child is not right for everyone. However, I believe strongly that many, many more people "could" than do, and that many are missing out.

Yes, adopting older kids, especially kids with difficult backgrounds, can be challenging. Being a parent is never easy and adopting older kids definitely brings along extra issues and challenges. And yes, parenting a special needs child can also certainly be challenging. There are many extra things to think about, extra responsibilities, extra demands on your time, extra worries and extra stress. BUT BUT BUT.... I cannot say enough that those "extra" challenges are so far, FAR outweighed by the extra blessings these kids bring with them. I know first hand that easier does not mean happier or better.

It is not hard to look at my life and imagine how it would be if Josh and I had chosen the "easy" route. We could have just had our three sons and stopped there. We would both be working full time so we'd have a much bigger income and we'd "only" have three (healthy) kids so our expenses would be a lot lower. We would have lots more free time, "spare" money, luxuries, and freedom overall. But you know what? It's horrible to me to even think about it for long. Our life is so rich and special and amazing and FULL of love and joy and blessings. If we had chosen a different path we would be missing out on so very much. All the extra money, freedom, luxuries, and time in the world could not even come close to replacing the blessings that each one of our kids has added to our life, the things they have taught us, and the love they have added to our hearts.

That is not to say that everyone should go out and adopt a whole bunch of kids (I am definitely not saying that), but so many people tell me they have always thought about adopting but never have. If it is something you have considered or have a heart for, I urge you to do it. The need is great. And the next time you are talking about your life and you catch yourself saying, "I could never...(whatever)" just stop and think for a moment that maybe you COULD, and maybe your life would be better for it.

And finally, since I have become a runner and especially a marathoner, I notice how frequently people limit their own potential and success. I would be rolling in cash if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, "I could never run a marathon" or "I could never run faster" or "I could never lose the weight". Guess what? YES YOU COULD. When I first started running I could not run two miles without walking. For the first year I was running I was thrilled with any pace under 11 minutes per mile and I got nervous just contemplating running anything further than three miles. I did not lose 80lbs and I am not able to run marathons and run at faster paces now because I am lucky or because I have any special abilities. I am able to do it because I have worked really freaking hard.

I fully and completely realize that not everyone WANTS to run a marathon or even run a mile, and that is fine (and not the point). But to all of those who say "I could never", I say "you sure as heck could". It wouldn't be easy, but if you waned to, and set your mind to it and put the work in, you could do it. And the important thing (and the point I am trying to make) is that that doesn't just apply towards running. It applies towards any goal or challenge in life. I think if more people starting saying "I can..." or "I am going to..." instead of "I could never..." that there would be a whole lot of people amazed at what they are able to achieve in all areas of their lives.

It's not easy to reach beyond what is comfortable and familiar. It is not easy to challenge ourselves or take on something we know is going to be difficult. It is not easy to look on the bright side, especially in the face of adversity. It is often scary to dream big. I am definitely still learning. But I have learned that often the things that challenge us the most (emotionally, spiritually, physically) have the greatest rewards.

Don't limit yourself. Don't limit your happiness, the blessings waiting to come to you, or your own potential. Choose to be happy today no matter what life throws at you, and quit saying, "I could never...." Life is meant to be enjoyed and lived to the fullest. 

“Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves.They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision.”
 - V.S. Naipaul

“If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” - Robert Fritz

"Life's journey is not traveled on a freeway devoid of obstacles, pitfalls, and snares. Rather, it is a pathway marked by forks and turnings. Decisions are constantly before us. To make them wisely, courage is needed: the courage to say, 'No,' the courage to say, 'Yes.' Decisions do determine destiny." - Thomas S. Monson

“Whatever you hold in your mind will tend to occur in your life. If you continue to believe as you have always believed, you will continue to act as you have always acted. If you continue to act as you have always acted, you will continue to get what you have always gotten. If you want different results in your life or your work, all you have to do is change your mind.” - unknown

“Limits exist only in the mind” - unknown

“There are no such things as limits to growth, because there are no limits to the human capacity for intelligence, imagination, and wonder” - Ronald Reagan

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Moving Fast

"Moving Fast" is appropriate in quite a few ways right now…

- The month of August has definitely moved fast! In fact, the whole summer moved way too fast. The kids went back to school yesterday and summer was certainly not long enough. This year I have two seniors and two sophomores in high school, two eighth graders in the middle school, two sixth graders and one fourth grader in one elementary school, and one first grader in the other elementary school. I miss them already! Noah only goes to school for a few hours so I don't have a whole lot of quiet time, but a few hours to focus (and shower in peace!) has been nice.

Four of the kids started soccer and four started cross country so sports are in full swing too. Never a dull moment. :)

- We had an answer to prayers yesterday when we heard that our adoption agency approved our request to have Lillian's adoption expedited!!! This means instead of bringing her home sometime next spring (March, April or even May) I should be on my way to China in late November/early December!! We will have a better idea of timeframes in the next month or so, but we are really relieved and grateful.

To get the medical expedite we had to get a doctor letter stating the urgency of her condition. I managed to get the director of the spina bifida clinic at our children's hospital to review Liliian's file and write a letter for us saying she needs to get home as fast as possible. She is at high risk for infections and complications because of the shunt in her brain (for hydrocephalus) and because of her paralysis (and incontinence). She has not had any vaccinations and already had meningitis once, and obviously life in an orphanage, even a good one, is not the best care. To say I am anxious to have her in my arms is a huge understatement. I feel like a chunk of my heart is just gone and that it won't be complete until she is here with us where she belongs.

The paperwork has been endless and we just keep jumping through the hoops as fast as we can. I am soooo grateful that we will get to bring her home sooner than later. This does add to the financial stress since we will need the travel money sooner than later (and won't get our tax return before travel to use), but that is a good problem. We are applying for grants and loans and still fundraising. (Here is our site and there are two super cute videos of her on here -  Love for Lillian )

- And… I have been moving fast! :) Training has been going really well. I wondered if it would suffer with the adoption, but somehow things are still balanced well and I am feeling super. I ran 90 and 97 mile weeks back to back with some really solid workouts. I did have one DISMAL 22 miler, but it seems like there is always at least one miserable run in a training cycle. I am happy to say I bounced back from that and had a KILLER 20 miler on Sunday morning. I did a 3 mile warm up, then 12 miles at a 6:46 average,  then one mile easy, then one mile "fast finish" (5:56 pace), then a 3 mile cool down. I felt strong the whole way and it was SUCH a confidence boost. Now I have less than 3 weeks to go until race day (September 13!)

- Finally - I need to give a shout out to one of my runners who moved FAST and got her BQ!!!! I am so very proud of Megan… she has worked very hard the last couple of years and did not give up when she hit setbacks and disappointments. She got her sub 3:35 on Sunday and is officially a Boston Qualifier!! It is so rewarding to help other people reach their goals and dreams. I am crazy excited for her and proud of her. :)

Now that I have some quiet time in the mornings I plan to be blogging more often again. More soon!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Getting Fit

Last week I ran 90 miles. The week started off with a great 24 miler (last 3.5 miles at 6:46 average pace) and in the middle of the week I had a 16 miler with 6x1 mile repeats in the middle. Mile repeats have been the workout I dread the most for a while and one that I really struggled with mentally and physically, but this workout was GREAT. I did a 3 mile warm up, drills and strides, and then 6x1 mile in 6:21, 6:17, 6:14, 6:13, 6:11 and 6:09 (then cool down to 16 miles). These are not the fastest miles I have ever run, but Ray wanted me to start off conservatively and this is the strongest I have felt in a mile repeats workout in a long time. I felt awesome the whole way and could have easily done another one or two, or done them a little faster.

I can feel myself getting fit. I am feeling stronger and faster. And my weight is coming down little. I have found that I train better with a few extra pounds on, and then I try to slim down to a "race weight" as I get closer to race day. For awhile I was trying to stay at my lower weight all the time and was really struggling with energy. My vanity side likes it better when I am as thin as possible but I train better with a few extra pounds. (There is about a five pound difference for my "high" and "low" weight).

I am working on sleep too. We have had a really busy summer, and with little kids waking up early and teenagers staying up late, my nights are short. Between the heavy training, 4am wake ups to run, and everything else I have going on, I have to be really good about finding rest whenever I can so I don't burn out. I have been overtrained before… too many miles, not enough food, not enough sleep… and it's not a fun place to be. So I am being really careful.

I am happy to say that I am enjoying the work right now! I am taking it one day at a time and being grateful for what my body can do. I saw this quote the other day and love it. YES!!!

And this one :)

One of the cool things about running is that it is "work" but it is also play. It is challenging but it is relaxing. It is tiring but invigorating. I love it.

***Here is the link to our adoption fundraiser. Please visit and share. :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I survived

I survived last week!

Now, I am no stranger to busy weeks, but let me tell you what I was up against last week.

Not one, but TWO teenagers getting their wisdom teeth out and then recovering, FOUR social worker visits for the adoption home study, cleaning the entire house from top to bottom like a literally crazy person (due to the aforementioned social worker visits), a kid's birthday, a kid to running camp, all the planning and set up for our big fundraiser, our big fundraiser event for the adoption (5k, pancake breakfast and silent auction), a kid in a parade, all the usual driving kids around to jobs, friends, etc. and then to cap it all off - a 24 mile "super long run" on Sunday morning.

Yeah - it was a busy week. Even by my standards. But I survived it all, and things went really well.

Both teens recovered quickly from the wisdom teeth removal.

The social worker was wonderful, all of our visits are done now, and we should have a final, completed home study in the very near future. This is an important piece of paperwork for the adoption.

The fundraiser was lots of work and lots of fun! We did not have as big of a turnout as we had hoped, but the people that did come were wonderful and we raised a nice chunk of money. We were able to make a dent in the $10,000+ we need for the trip to China and the fees we will have to pay there.  Our bracelet fundraiser from the Giving Bead has two weeks left! You can see the beautiful bracelets and our fundraiser here.

And for those we asked for a way you could donate to us directly, we set up a You Caring page here. Check it out. There is even an adorable video of our sweet Lillian on there. :)

And the super long run went REALLY well. I ran the first 13 miles with a friend at a nice and easy pace and that part of the run went super quickly. The second half it started to get really warm and of course I got tired, but the goal was to run the last 3 miles at about a 7:00 pace, and I was able to average 6:46 pace for the last 3.5 miles. Success!

I have about six weeks now until the Suffolk Marathon. There have been a few small bumps in the training road, but overall things are going pretty well. I had a calf cramp up at the end of a track workout two weeks ago and I had to take a couple of days off to let it resolve, but it has been fine again (even after a 24 miler!)  Today I slogged through a 10 miler because I was just super tired the whole way, but after last week it is understandable.

Next week we will focus on getting the kids ready for back to school (August 24) but this week we are enjoying doing as little as possible. :)

Here are a couple of pics from the fundraiser!

our friends bought us these aprons and made us wear them for the fundraiser :)
Noah having fun with my friends Dani and Jenny

Josh, the grillmaster. Bacon!!!!


A soccer game broke out after breakfast :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Saying Yes

The first time Josh and I adopted, it was all about what we wanted. We had three boys, and we wanted a girl. We had three kids and could not have anymore, and wanted another child in our family. We wanted a baby. We wanted a daughter. 

Then I stood in an orphanage in Vietnam. I saw cribs full of babies who weren't crying. I saw rooms full of older kids with disabilities, who seemed forgotten by the world. Something inside my heart and my soul shifted that day. It stopped being about me and my wants, and became about children… so VERY many children… who need love, stability, medical care, hope, and FAMILY. 

I have seen so many times in my own family and with the families I worked with the miracles that can happen in a child's life through adoption. And I have experienced the miracles, joy, and blessings that the rest of the family receives when adding a new child. 

A post I recently read on "No Hands But Ours" summed up perfectly how Josh and I feel. Here are a few parts that echo my thoughts and feelings -

"We say yes.  

We say yes to adoption.  
Not because we are

extra loving,
or financially capable.

We say yes to adopting medically complex children.
Not because we are
or energetic.

We say yes to adopting multiple children.
Not because we have

an extra bedroom,
a big house,
a jumbo van,
an unlimited bank account,
or parenting expertise.

We say yes because the call is whispered, or downright shouted, into our hearts.
We say yes because we want a child. 
We say yes because we have love to give. 
We say yes because we prefer front row seats to God’s miracle work.
We say yes because we walk by faith, even when the future makes us quiver.

We’ll never feel adequate for the call.  The circumstances will never be quite right or the timing ideal.  But with hands open and palms up, we say yes anyway.  And another crib is emptied and new chapter written."

We certainly could have moved on with our lives and decided not to adopt  Lillian. We could have easily justified the decision… we already have a pretty full house and van, a full and busy life, and a mostly empty bank account most of the time. 

But we said yes. She desperately needs a family. And she is no longer just one of millions of orphans with bleak futures - she is very much wanted and already loved and cherished by us.  

So now along with jumping through seemingly endless, paperwork-hoops and trying to not go crazy with the wait to go get her, we are fundraising. The cost of adoption is what gave us pause, but ultimately we knew we weren't going to let that stop us and would find a way to make it work. We've applied for grants and loans, and have some great fundraisers in the works!

For anyone close by or for anyone who wants a great reason to come and visit, we are holding the "Love for Lillian" event - a 5k, pancake breakfast and silent auction on the morning of August 1. Some dear friends of ours have done most of the planning for this and we are so grateful! We have some amazing prizes donated and a super fun event planned. 

If you don't live nearby and still want to participate, the Giving Bead is doing a fundraiser for us. We earn $20 towards the $10,000 we have to raise for every bracelet sold. There are two options - the birthstone bracelet (customizable for moms, grandmothers, etc.) and the 23rd Psalm bracelet. They are beautiful and come packaged in a nice box. Here is the Psalm 23 bracelet - 

Here is the link to our fundraiser page on Giving Bead. If you order PLEASE USE THE CODE LILLIAN at checkout. :) And if you could share the link to the fundraiser I would be most grateful!

Last week Josh and I celebrated our 19th anniversary, and that day we got an update and some new pics of Lillian. That was the best gift ever! The doctor confirmed that she has no independent movement of her legs and still needs a shunt for the hydrocephalus, but she is doing very well overall. I cannot wait to have her in my arms.

This is my most favorite :)

And yes, this is still a running blog. :) I am running lots (and it certainly helps me deal with all of the adoption emotions!) The foot feels good as long as I stay on smooth ground and avoid rocks. It's a little tender if I step on anything, but is tons improved and running in good shoes on smooth terrain doesn't bother it at all. In fact I rocked a pretty awesome 20 miler on Saturday with the first 10 miles easy and the second 10 miles at 6:47 average pace. 8 weeks until the Suffolk Marathon!

Thanks to everyone who has already supported us in any way in bringing home our sweet Lily. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Running vs. Racing

First, THANK YOU to everyone for the sweet messages of support and happiness for us regarding our adoption news. It truly means a lot to me! We are SO excited to bring Lillian home as soon as we can. I have spent hours upon hours the past few weeks doing mountains of paperwork (hence the lack of blog posts) and have officially completed everything I need to. Now we are waiting on other people to do their part (I hate waiting…). I will keep you posted on the adoption progress!!!

So… this morning I raced a half marathon. Sort of. I bailed at mile 6. It is hard not to question myself now, but I know "intellectually" that it was the right (albeit sucky) decision.

We heard on Thursday that the county had "chip sealed" four miles of the course. If you have never heard of chip seal (I hadn't until we moved here), it is a way that they "pave" back country roads, in a way that is as cheap and easy as possible. Basically, they throw down a thick layer of tar and then throw down a super thick layer of rocks and gravel. Then as cars drive over the rocks and gravel, the rocks and gravel get compressed down into the tar and eventually the road gets smooth. It takes time. Under 48 hours is not enough.

Thinking that only four miles of the 13.1 were going to have the fresh chip seal, I gambled and wore my racing flats. Well, it turned out that the first 8+ miles were rocky. Somewhere around 2.5 miles I stepped on a large, sharp rock right on the ball of my foot. It got embedded into my shoe and I had to hop and then stop and pull it out. The foot hurt but I thought it would be ok and I kept going.

The problem was, there were so many more rocks and so much gravel. And every time the ball of my foot came down on anything not smooth, pain shot through my foot. I tried to run in the tire marks where the gravel was the thinnest, but there was just no good place to run. I got to the point that it hurt with every step. I still felt like if I could just make it to blacktop or concrete or ANYTHING smooth and rock-free I would be ok, but the rocks were never ending and the foot felt worse and worse.

Finally I walked and it hurt to walk. I jogged and it hurt to jog. I tried to run and it hurt to run.

Up until mile 4-5 I had been running easily in second place and everything else felt good. My average pace was 6:45, which was right on target. But my foot was hurting worse with every step. If this had been my goal race I would have pushed on at least for a few more miles, but with my goal race being in September I was afraid of causing a real injury, so when I saw Josh at mile 6 (and I had been walking and limping for half of a mile or so) I fell into his arms, cried, and then took a "ride of shame" back to the start/finish.

My goal was 1:29:00 ish. Last year I ran 1:31. The girl who won this year ran 1:33. Second place was 1:37.  The guy college runner who won this year won with 1:17, but won last year with 1:14.  My friend Lauri ran behind a guy that wiped out completely in the rocks.

That's where the point of the big rock was embedded in my shoe and the hole it left. These racing flats looked great before this started and only had low miles on them (and all had been on the track).

Don't you use frozen veggies to ice your bruised foot?

This race is usually one of my favorites and I have always run well at it. There were tons of friends and neighbors there which was fun and nice, but also made it that much harder to drop out. I don't have a lot of races to choose from here so I try to run the few local ones and travel for ones that are worth it.

Maybe if I had worn my heavier, more cushioned shoes I would have been fine. Maybe I should have sucked it up and pushed on until the pavement at mile 8.5 ish. Like I said, it's hard not to question myself now. The foot still hurts. It feels ok in padded shoes, but walking barefoot it hurts on the floor. I am hopeful it is just a bruise and will heal up fine with a couple of days of rest and ice.

What I do know, is that while my love for running is as deep and passionate as it has ever been, my love for racing has taken a beating. In fact, not only do I not love racing as of right now, I barely even like it. I have had a lot of BAD, disappointing, frustrating races. Stomach issues, horrible weather, unmarked courses, injuries, freaking rocks…  Maybe I have just been super unlucky. Maybe I have not chosen races well. Maybe I try too hard. Maybe I don't try hard enough. I don't know.

What I do know is that it is really hard to train so hard, and to want it so much, and to believe in yourself and go into something ready and confident and to put it all out there…. and to fail miserably. Over and over. I put in the work. I don't shortcut anything. I train hard on my hard days. I run easy on my easy days. I do all my strength and core work. I use the foam roller and stick every day. I eat right. I drag my butt out of bed at 4am every day. And I love the work.

 I used to be super confident when I raced. REALLY and truly confident. I used to enjoy it. I used to look forward to it. Now I have equal parts of excitement and dread. I am equal parts confident and doubtful.

My brain says….I know I can do it. I want to do it. I believe I can do it. I will do it. I am ready to do it. BUT… remember all those other times I didn't do it?? And each time I have a day like today… the doubt side grows a little and the confidence parts shrinks a little.

Just keeping it real here.

I have nine weeks until my marathon, so I clearly need an attitude adjustment. I need to find my faith in myself, my REAL confidence, and my love of racing. And since I will be traveling to China sometime between November and January and then bonding with a new little one (YAY!!!!) this will most likely be my last marathon (and even race) until next spring. There aren't really any races in Wyoming in the winter.

Deep down I want it more than ever. I want it for me, and I want it for all the people who support me and believe in me. Deep down I am more determined than ever. Deep down I do KNOW I can do it, and I believe that one of these races it will really come together and it will be all the sweeter because I did not give up and kept fighting even when things felt tough. Get knocked down 7 times, get up 8. I know, I know.

And I couldn't be more grateful for the love and support I got today from Josh, Ray, and some sweet friends. My life is big and full and wonderful and blessed, and running is just a piece of it - but I am not going to downplay it. Yes, of course other things are more important, but running is a very important piece of my life  to me.

Today I said screw it to the universe and got myself some french fries and a milkshake (I don't eat dairy or fries). I am icing and resting for at least the weekend.  Then I will pick myself back up and get back to it. Because I want to. And because I don't give up. And because deep down I know that love for racing is still there.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Baker's Dozen (letting the cat out of the bag)

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that the biggest leaps in life bring the biggest blessings.

For the past couple of weeks I have been sitting on a pretty big secret… one that involved a lot of faith to "leap" and say yes, but one that has already filled our hearts with joy and excitement.


Lillian Pamela Xuan Henderson.

Lucky 13.

Lillian is in China and she is two years old. She was born with severe Spina Bifida so she is paralyzed from the waist down, but we think she is perfect. We hope to get to bring her home in December. Right now we are doing all of the paperwork as fast as we can and fundraising with faith that it will all come together.  I can't wait to have her in my arms!!!

We chose the name Lillian because we love it, and Pamela is for my mom. :)

We haven't added to our family for six years, and I really thought that we were "done". (I can hear my Dad laughing as I type that…) Although I haven't worked in adoption for a few years, I am still very much connected to many adoption groups, agencies, etc. and I literally see children EVERY single day that are in desperate need of homes and families. They all pull on my heartstrings. All of them. I know I could love and care for any one of them. But the moment I saw Lillian it was different. She didn't just pull on my heartstrings. I knew she was mine. We weren't even planning on adopting again, but her sweet little face changed everything. Josh said as soon as he saw her picture he felt like he recognized her and he knew she was ours. 

The thought of going through all of the paperwork and finding a way to come up with all of the money we need was overwhelming, but from the moment we said "yes" we have seen many blessings and confirmations. We know that we were lead to find her and that she is meant to be our baby.

When I told my Mom about Lillian the first thing she said was, "your arms were made for caring for babies." I love that.

This does NOT change my running goals, plans, or dreams. I am just as committed to them as ever. My kids and Josh are always my priority so that doesn't change. I kept up my running through Noah's adoption and his early months with our family (which were very challenging with his health) so I am not worried. My racing plans will change some for the next year… I was planning on going to the Disney Marathon in January and Boston in April (I even registered for Disney!) but I will defer Disney for a year and stick to local races until Lillian is home and settled. I am still going to the Suffolk Marathon on Long Island in September because I am registered, my ticket is bought, and I get to see my parents (and we definitely won't be traveling to China that soon). 

Josh says she is our bonus to make it a baker's dozen. :)

Thanks for letting me share.