Running the Race Marked Out For Me

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I ran my first 1/2 marathon on Sunday.
It was a long cherished dream, but one I never really believed I would accomplish.
Running the 1/2 was more than just a fitness goal for me.
It was going to be the fulfillment of 4 years of emotional healing.
It was a way to prove to myself that I was strong and beautiful, that I was worthy, and that I could do hard things.
It was a pretty big deal for me.

5 days before the race, I threw my back out.
It was sudden and intense.
When it happened, I just fell to the ground unable to stand.
I was frustrated, but certain I’d still run my race.
2 Chiropractic visits, and plenty of ice, foam rolling, and stretching found me able to walk again, relatively pain free, but not feeling at my best.
It was not how I wanted to run my first race, and I was disappointed.
But I vowed to do my best, and give it my all.
And I promised myself I’d enjoy it all–no matter what!

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Race day arrived.
I was excited and nervous, and really, really happy.
When we arrived at the starting line, I was blown away by the crowds.
There were thousands of people there.
15,000 runners for the 1/2 alone.
The energy was incredible.
I felt like I was on top of the world.
I saw friends, we took pictures, stood in the massive line for the porta potties, held our noses and laughed.
It was all part of the experience, and I was loving it.

The first wave of the race started and we watched the fastest runners head out.
Then it was our turn.
Our plan wasn’t to run the fastest, but to take it easy on my back, enjoy the race, and most of all to finish!
The first 6 miles were great.
The air was cool, we kept a good pace, I loved running in new places, and I couldn’t keep the smile from my face.

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Then I felt a twinge in my knee, then a shooting pain, and suddenly I couldn’t run anymore.
“Susan, I have to walk,” I almost cried.
My knee was totally locked up.
I limped.
I took advil, ate some pretzels, had water, and tried not to panic.
I didn’t know if I could finish.
I couldn’t run.
I could hardly walk.
The disappointment that washed over me was so great I thought I was going to throw up.
This was not how it was supposed to be.
As I fought for self control, I kept limping, and even tried running, keeping my leg stiff and not bending my knee.
I couldn’t run 7 more miles like that.
So we walked a mile.

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That’s when we saw our friends, holding signs and cheering us on.
You can’t imagine the encouragement it was to me.
To know someone is on your side, that they believe in you, is a priceless gift.
It buoyed my spirits and fueled my determination.
My friend Jen said she’d run with us.
So I ran.
It was more of a limping, stiff, hobble, but I was moving.
That’s when I saw Aaron and the kids.
They were all shouting and waving, and I was hard pressed to keep the tears back when saw them.
I ran up to kiss Aaron and whispered, “my knee is killing me. Pray for me!”
That probably wasn’t the best thing to say to a husband who was already worried I’d hurt myself.
But he just kissed me back, and smiled.
The kids gave me hugs and high fives.
“Be careful!” Aaron called to me as I took off.

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We kept going.
Susan was great.
I couldn’t have made it without her.
She encouraged me as we made it to every mile marker.
She ran at a snail’s pace with me, and didn’t care a bit about making good time.
She was running the race for me.
If you are a runner, you know what a sacrifice that is.

There was pain the whole time.
At times I had to walk for a bit to give my knee a break.
But I ran as much as I could.
Even when the other knee hurt because I was compensating so much.
Maybe it was foolish to run through that pain.
Maybe it was foolish to keep going when I could have just said, “this isn’t the race. I’ll try again.”
Maybe it was.
But it didn’t really matter.
Because I had to keep going for me.

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And as we ran, I still couldn’t keep the smile off my face.
Disappointment, pain, and frustration were all there, but there was still so much to enjoy.
I loved the signs, the people cheering us from the sidelines, the offers of sushi, donut holes, watermelon, and frozen grapes.
I took in the beautiful sky.
I rejoiced over the perfect weather.
I was grateful for every passing mile.

At mile 12 we saw my family again, and our friends with thier signs and cheers.
I needed it for that last mile.
That one felt really long.
I knew I could finish.
But I don’t know if any mile ever felt longer.

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As we rounded the bend to the finish line, there were big crowds to cheer us on.
I wiped tears from my eyes, but I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.
I crossed the finish line with my arms in the air.
I may have been screaming too.
But I can’t really remember.
All I know is that I was really, really happy.
I did it.
It didn’t go the way I planned.
But I rode the wave that I was given, and I made the best of it.

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As I have reflected on the race, and what it all meant to me, I have come away with some valuable lessons.
In many ways, that race was a metaphor for my life.
I’ve had to ride some pretty rough waves these past few years..
Things have not gone according to plan.
I have said more than once, “this is not how it was supposed to be.”
There are things I wish could have been different.
But I never gave up.
That wasn’t by my own strength.
I have clung to God when every once of my own strength was gone and I didn’t know if I could carry on another minute.
The same verse I said to myself as I ran the 1/2 marathon, I have said as I have run through those hard, hard days in life:
“but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will fly up on wings like eagles;
they will run and not be tired;
they will walk and not be weary.” (Isaiah 40:31)

Life doesn’t go according to plan.
Things happened that mess up your plans.
Sometimes that’s because of your own choices or foolish mistakes, and sometimes that’s because of other people’s choices or foolish mistakes.
And sometimes there seems to be no explanation at all.
All we can do in response is give up, or keep going.
I’ve found it’s better to keep going.
Sometimes it is minute by minute–just breathing seems like all we can do.
But with the help of God, loved ones, beautiful sunsets, and good talks, sweating it out, running it out, and choosing joy in the midst of heartache and hurting, we keep going.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

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I ran my first 1/2 marathon.
It was nothing like I expected it to be, but so much more.
I’m so grateful.
Greta

On Being a Better Me: Cultivating My Soul

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My mornings are a 1000 times better when they start with a workout.
When my alarm went off at 5 am today, I did not want to get up.
I’m so glad I did it anyway.
I came home feeling energized and looking forward to the day ahead.
I wanted oatmeal for breakfast, not a chocolate chip cookie.
I even had a few minutes to read in the quiet before all the kids were up.
Those few minutes with my coffee and something to read fills me up far more than sleeping in ever does.

In the past 2 years I’ve come to realize that having 2 hours of “me time” before I start on my 14 hour shift of “mom time”, really puts my head and heart in the right place.
In those 2 hours I don’t have to think about anyone but me.
Does that sound selfish?
For a long time I thought it did.
And I felt guilty that I wanted time to fill up my own cup.
What I didn’t even realize was that it was more than a want; it was a need.
Ultimately, I ended up burning out over and over again, and sometimes becoming bitter, as I filled everyone else’s cup while never bothering to fill my own.
I had less to offer everyone else, because I didn’t take care of myself.

Learn from my mistakes ladies, you can’t do it all!
To be a better you, you need to spend some time on yourself.
In my early morning me time, I sweat, I smile, I laugh, I pray, I sing, I run, I chat with friends, I admire the sunrise, and I thank God for a new day and His love for me in it.
It fills up so many different parts of me.
It makes me better physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

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Most of the time I’m on the clock as soon as I’m home from boot camp.
There are breakfasts to make and my husband’s lunch box to pack.
On the days that I get out of bed with the kids, my attitude is less than stellar.
I just want to wake up slowly, not plunge into the day.
But when I’ve already been up for a couple hours, cultivating my soul, I can plunge into the day with a smile on my face.

Maybe you’re thinking, “but doesn’t cultivating my soul mean sitting down and reading my Bible?
Yes, it does.
Sometimes.
But it also means working in your garden, reading a book while the baby naps, going for a run and moving that amazing body God created, walking on the beach and being soothed by the waves, or laughing with friends.
God ministers to us in so many different ways.
We don’t need to box Him in.
He’s much too big for that.

Thoughts of self care are filling my mind as I think about the upcoming school year.
There will be a lot of new: teaching all 3 big kids, having a non napping toddler underfoot, and a husband starting his MFA program.
It is a lot to take on, and I need to be up to the challenge.
In the past, I would have tried to do it all, until I finally just fell apart.
But I am learning every day, the value, the vital need in fact, for caring for myself.
In that way, I can better care for those nearest and dearest to my heart, my children and my husband.

Mamas, I encourage you to make some time for yourself this school year..
It might be a 10 minute walk around the block before your kids wake up, or a monthly night out with your friends.
It might be a daily, or weekly run, or reading in the bathtub with candles lit and the door locked.
Whatever it is, it doesn’t have to be a burden to your family.
It’s probably going to take some work, some adjustment, some sacrifice (i don’t always want to get up at 5).
But in the end, it will be worth it.
It will be good for you.
And for those you love.

All the best,
Greta

 

Easy and Delicious Tomatillo Salsa

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As promised, I have a fabulous salsa recipe for you.
It’s Tomatillo Salsa Verde from the July issue of Bon Appetit.
It’s quick, easy, and super fresh.
I’ve made it twice now with some variations and I’m sold.
It will be in my fridge from now on.

But is it really worth making your own?
Let me put it this way: making your own salad dressing will revolutionize your salad–it tastes so much better than anything you get in a jar.
The same goes for salsa.

There just isn’t any comparison between the fresh stuff and the jarred stuff.
And this took me less than 10 minutes to make, so it’s not like you are slaving away for hours when you could have just run to the store.
In fact, it will take you less time to make this salsa then it will to run to the store to buy salsa.
Its cheaper too.
Have I sold you yet?

The recipe calls for all the ingredients to be fresh.
But the first time I decided to try roasting everything just because I had never made oven roasted salsa before.
I roasted the tomatillos, onion, and the chili in the oven.
The salsa was delicious, rich, and flavorful.
And since it was my first time cooking with tomatillos, I was even more happy with how well it turned out.

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When I made it the second time, I followed the recipe, throwing all the ingredients into the food processor raw.
The only variation I made from the original recipe was to use a jalapeño instead of a serrano chili because that was all I had on hand.
I loved the raw version!
It tasted so fresh and tangy–absolutely perfect for summer.

In the end, I really loved both the roasted and raw version of this salsa, and I”ll continue to make them both.
But I’ll make the lighter, fresher, version for summer, and the roasted one in winter months when I want a richer flavor for chills, stews, and dishes like enchiladas.

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The salsa, of course, tastes delicious with tortilla chips, because, well, tortilla chips are delicious.
But I also loved it on top of my pinto beans, and on my eggs this morning.
And because we made it at home, and they helped, all my kids tried it.
(they are much more open to trying new things when its homemade because they think everything I make is good–so sweet– or if they help make it themselves)
Two of my kids loved it, one said it was too tangy for him, and the 3 year old said it was gross.
Around here, its pretty good when half the kids like something new.

So if you see some tomatillos at the farmers market, or if your kids ask you, “what are those?” when they see them at the grocery store, you now have a recipe to use them in.
Im so sold on tomatillos now that they’re going in our garden next year.
I can’t wait!

Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Ingredients:
1 lb husked, quartered, and rinsed tomatillos
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 smashed garlic clove
1 coarsely chopped serrano chili (seeds and veins removed to lessen heat if desired)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Salt to taste
To Make:
Place all ingredients in blender or food processor (I prefer a food processor)
and puree.
Check for desired constancy and if salsa is too thick, add a bit of water.
Salt to taste
That’s it!!

For the roasted version, simply roast the husked and rinsed whole tomatillos, the whole onion and the whole chili in a 350 degree oven until everything is soft.
Then follow the directions for making the salsa.
Easy as pie.
Mmmm now I want pie.  Without the salsa of course.
Happy making!
Greta

Here I Go! I’m Taking a Chance on Something New

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When Aaron and I got married, we both knew that we wanted kids, and that when we had them, one of us would be staying home to raise them.
As this was our plan, we knew we’d spend a significant portion of time being a single income family. And the way it worked out, we’ve ended up always being a single income family.
First he worked in construction, while I finished my teaching credential.
Then I taught high school for 4 years, while he finished his illustration degree and started grad school.
When we got pregnant with our first born, Aaron started freelancing as an illustrator, and I was still teaching.
But one of us was going to quit and stay home when the baby arrived.
It turned out Aaron was offered a full time position and at the end of the school year, I resigned.
I’ve been home with our kids ever since.

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Being a stay at home mom is something I always wanted to do–even though it is sometimes the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
In addition to staying home with my kids, I had long planned on home schooling them.
That means I can’t look forward to going back to the classroom when my youngest is school age.
It means I am home for the long haul.
And it means we will be a single income family for the long haul as well.

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Aaron works incredibly hard to support us.
And given that we live in Southern California, not known as a very affordable place to live, he does a great job.
But I think sometimes how nice it would be to relieve some of the pressure from his shoulders.
especially since he’ll be going back to grad school in the fall.
And both of us dream big dreams, like taking our kids to visit Washington DC, to see Italy, and to go hiking in the Swiss Alps.
However, since there are 6 of us to feed, shelter and clothe, there just isn’t extra money for those kind of luxuries.
Still, we dream.

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That’s why I am here today.
I’ve decided to become an Independent Consultant with Rodan and Fields, representing their fantastic skin care products.
I’m still unsure how I’ll fit this into my busy, busy life, but I am going to give it a try.
After all, if I’ve learned anything in the past couple of years, it’s that I’ll never make any changes in my life if I don’t take a chance!

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If you are interested in trying some new skin care products, you can visit my Rodan and Fields page here, to see all they have to offer.
I have personally used the Unblemished products to deal with my grown up breakouts.
It worked like magic.
And wasn’t harsh on my super sensitive skin.
I felt like my skin had never looked better.
My sister in law is a believer in the Reverse products she used to fight the sun damage she has gotten from a lot of tanning.
Her results have been incredible!
I’d be happy to help you out with any questions you have about these products and others.
All my contact info is on my business page.
And if you, like me, think you’d like to start a fund for your dreams, whatever they might be, please talk to me.
Maybe you can join my team!

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For the 10, or so, of you that read this blog, I want to assure you that I won’t now be just writing about my new business.
In the limited capacity that I’m currently blogging, I’ll still be writing about all the things I’m passionate about: cooking, home schooling, mid century modern design, and adventuring with my family, to name a few.
I will share stories about Rodan and Fields products too, because they are just another thing I’m excited to talk about.
In the end, I’m most excited about helping my family and seeing where this new venture takes me.
Thanks for coming along on my journey.
Greta
PS. Aren’t the photos great?!  They’re from the photo shoot Ashley from Lovelock and Co did with us a while back.  I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to share them. You can see more from this session on her blog, and I’ll soon be sharing more from the photos we took at our house and at the donut shop.  It was so much fun!

Being Better Than You Used to Be

Did you know I write a weekly blog for Long Beach Boot Camp called, Living Fit?
I have shared my own, unexpected, journey to fitness, shared the changes I made in my body with regular exercise, written about my, also unexpected, journey of becoming a runner, and many more things about fitness and healthy living.
I’d love it if you’d hop over there and take a look.
You might just find something that speaks to you and helps to get you started on your own road to Living Fit!
But first, check out my latest entry, reposted here to make it easy for you.
It’s about body image and the way we should be looking at our bodies as opposed to how many of us are looking at our bodies.
If this is an issue you struggle with, as so many of us do, I hope you’ll read this and know you are not alone.
I stand with you.
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Not too long ago I was out  running errands wearing one of my Long Beach Boot Camp tanks.
I had gone to the 5:30 am class and was still wearing the outfit I had worked out in hours before.
This is pretty typical for me, as I jump right into my day as soon as I get home from Boot Camp and don’t always have time to shower until late morning (or on bad days, afternoon).
One of my kids told someone recently that I wear my workout clothes all the time.
It’s true, I do.

On this occasion I had stopped at an estate sale near my house, and jumped out to see if there were any treasures to be had.
While looking for vintage tools or coolers in the garage, one of the men at the sale looked at my Boot Camp tank top and said, “so how’s that boot camp working out for you?”
I looked at him without the trace of a smile, flexed my bicep, and said, “I don’t know.  How do you think Boot Camp is working out for me?”
He got a big grin on his face, started laughing, and said, “I think it’s working out pretty good.”
“Yeah, me too,” I said as I walked away.

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It’s true, I do think that.
So good, in fact, that for the first time since I was 17 years old, I like my arms.
Like so many of us, I have parts of my body I wish were different.
I struggle with body image.
Don’t we all?
It might hit us at different times, and in different ways, but it hits us eventually.

I was fortunate enough to spend the majority of my childhood and teen years not struggling with body image.
I don’t think my parents set out to make sure I had a positive body image, but they gave me a life that fostered it anyway.
We ate good, nutritious, home made, food together nearly every night.
My Dad, brother and I were active, and played plenty of sports for fun.
And I can’t ever recall hearing my mom or dad tell me I needed to diet, or lose weight, or any other kind of heavy statement like that.
By the time I was a teenager and had friends struggling with weight and body image issues, I still felt good in my skin.

Then, when I was 17, I went to India for the summer.
It was a wonderful trip and I loved it.
One day I was getting fitted for a sari to take home as a souvenir.
The blouse worn under the sari is called a choli, and it often has a very fitted, tight, short sleeve that hits just at the wearer’s bicep.
As the tailor was measuring my arm for the choli, she pinched my arm and said, “too fat!”
“It was true!”I thought, as I tried on more ready-made choli blouses.
I could hardly get my arms in them and then they were so tight around my bicep they felt like they were cutting off my circulation.
“How had I never noticed my arms were fat?”
And for the first time, I looked at my arms and didn’t like what I saw.

I have looked at my arms in that same way ever since.
I admired other women’s thin arms.
I admired other women’s muscular arms.
And I looked askance at my own arms, which to my mind were neither thin, nor muscular.
Over the years, I would become motivated to do something about my arms and would tear pages out of magazines that boasted “tone your arms in 2 weeks!”
And I’d try.
And fail.
I never stuck with it.

Until Boot Camp.
For close to 2 years now I have been lifting weights.
Not huge weights–they’re 10 pounds.
But consistent bicep curls, shoulder presses, tricep dips, and heaps of pushups have shaped the muscles in my arms.
And now I can stand in front of the mirror, flex my muscles, and feel really good about what I see.
My arms still aren’t thin.
I don’t think they’ll ever be.
But they are muscular.
They are strong enough now to lift and carry heavy furniture, and big bags of mulch or compost for the garden.
They can do hard work.
I like that.
And though they still aren’t exactly where I want them to be, I have learned to be proud of, and happy with, where they are now.
Because I have worked hard to get them there.
And I know I’m going to keep working hard to make them even better.

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One of my favorite things about Boot Camp is seeing that mindset being acted out in every class.
There are men and women of every shape, size and fitness level working out together.
And with each workout, we see our bodies become stronger, more capable, and more fit.
We celebrate being able to do 5 burpees without stopping, and then 10, and then 50.
We up our weights, run half a lap instead of walking the whole thing, and hold a plank for longer than we ever thought possible.
Each of these feats make us see our bodies in a new light.
Rather than seeing all the things that it is not, we appreciate what it can do.
And we keep coming back to class and pushing it to do more.
It’s a pretty great thing to be a part of, I think.

It is easy to sit at home, hating our bodies, wishing we looked different, but never doing a thing to make those changes a reality.
It is much harder to pull on our workout clothes and show up for class day after day.
It is hard to make good food choices, to give up our favorite soft drink and have water instead, and to pack a lunch rather than go out for fast food.
But we’re doing it!
One day at a time, we are making the choice for health and that is something to be proud of.
In honor of that idea, next week I’ll be sharing my first Boot Camper story.
I’m excited to share your fitness journeys and celebrate the changes you have made in your life.
It’s going to be great!
Above all, I hope sharing the stories of your road to health and fitness will be a reminder to all of us of the truth in this statement:
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I do so hope you’ll remember that.
That you won’t compare yourself to anyone else, but that you will celebrate the progress you are making in your journey to better health and fitness.
Be better than you used to be!
And keep on Living FIt!
Greta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Contentment

“It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”
If you haven’t noticed, I’m a pretty upbeat person.
I usually look for the good, and try to find the sunshine.
I’m almost always an optimist.
But, there are times when my optimism fails me.
Sometimes I find it very hard to see anything but the negative.
It’s usually related to my hormones, and the focus of my negativity is always my house.
I guess I can be grateful that it isn’t directed at my life, my circumstances, or the people I love.
But still, it makes me sad that I can get so lost in negativity and focus only on the things I see as imperfections.

This past Sunday we spent time cleaning up our back yard.
We pulled weeds, raked leaves, put things away, did some cleaning in the garage, and just tidied it all up.
Everything looked so much better.
I knew it.
But inside I was struggling because all I could see was everything that was still undone.
It was hard for me to enjoy the good we’d done because I was choosing to see the bad.

photo-12 Last night I snapped this photo during our dinner time picnic.
It was a beautiful night and felt just like summer.
We were eating on a quilt on the patio because our turquoise picnic table finally rotted away after 12 years of service.
We also don’t have a stick of other patio furniture.
This was a point of frustration for me on Sunday.
Like to the point of spoiling everything else because I was so hung up on it.
I hate it when go there.

But last night when I looked at this scene before me, I didn’t care about our lack of patio furniture.
Or the list of other imperfections that were bugging me 2 days before.
All I saw was my sweet family, a cheery quilt to sit on for dinner, our happy, turquoise doors, twinkling lights, and a scene that brought joy to my heart.
Nothing was different from Sunday except the state of my heart.
But what a difference that can make.

Aaron and I dream of a vintage, cone shaped fire place for our back patio.
And vintage patio furniture to match it.
And our back yard would look like this!
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But in all seriousness, those items are spendy, and we’ve chosen to wait on them.
Or perhaps to get something with a lower price when we find that something.
But until then, we make do with what we have: a rickety picnic table , folding lawn chairs from Target, and an old wash tub as our fire pit.
It is not  a look worthy of Sunset magazine. (my favorite source of inspiration for backyard landscape and design)
But they have served us well and given us plenty of wonderful times in our back yard.
And most of the time I recognize that.
And am grateful.
But other times I complain.

This should not be.
I have so many things to be grateful for and it is wrong, yes wrong, for me to complain about my lack of anything.
Because really, I don’t lack for anything.
Not one single thing.
I am not minimizing the struggle and suggesting I just, “put on a happy face.”
Believe me, I know the depth and difficulty of this struggle.
At times I feel paralyzed under the weight of this negativity that comes over me.
I hate it.
But I can’t stay there.
It really is a battle, and it isn’t just in my head.
It’s in my heart too.

Because a big part of what I’m struggling with is contentment.
We live in a culture that is always telling us we deserve more, and then encourages us to buy more and have more.
We start to believe that we need more.
And if we can’t have what we want, we don’t wait and save for it, but just get something else in the meantime.
And then toss that when it breaks or we don’t like it anymore, or we can finally get the thing we wanted in the first place.
There aren’t a lot of messages that encourage contentment with what we have.
What if, instead of focusing on what I don’t have, I choose to praise God for what I do have?
What if I stop and do what that old hymn encourages me to do, “count my blessings name them one by one”?

It’s hard.
I know.
And sometimes I just don’t want to choose contentment.
I’d rather complain because, frankly, it’s easier.
But God always leads me back to this verse from Philippians 4 and I am convicted and encouraged at the same time,
For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

I’ll never be able to be content in all situations on my own strength.
I’ve got crazy pms hormones working against me, I’ve got 4 kids who can’t remember to keep their dirty hands off the walls, I’ve got…life!
I don’t live in a perfect world.
But oh how good it is to remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.
I don’t have to be perfect.
My house, my yard, my husband, my kids, my life, do not have to be perfect.
With God’s strength I can choose to see the beauty in all of it.
With God’s strength I can choose contentment, even when I don’t want to.
It’s hard.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
It just means it’s hard.
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

This may be the summer of patio furniture.
And I admit, I am really hoping it is.
I’ll be overjoyed to spruce up our space some more.
But it might not be.
And that will be OK too.
We’ll just keep spreading out cozy quilts and enjoying this beautiful life we live.
And hey, according to this vintage ad, our folding lawn chairs are the real deal anyway.
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So Maybe we’ll just get a few more of those and call it a day!
Cheers to vintage!
And to choosing contentment.
Greta

How We Home School: Poetry Lessons

A new, How We Home School, post for you today.
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“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I love poetry, and so do my kids.
We read poetry almost every day , and I’ve been reading it to them since they were babies.
We memorize poems and have favorites we like to read again and again.
Sometimes we read a poem that isn’t our favorite, and that’s OK too.

I find that a lot of adults don’t read poetry because they don’t “get” it, and therefore don’t find it enjoyable.
I think that happens because we stop reading poetry as young children, and most of us never really read it again.
As children, we can enjoy a poem and not worry whether it all makes sense.
We don’t search out the hidden meaning.
We just listen.
The whimsical, made up, or fantastic doesn’t bother us.
In fact, that often makes it more fun.
We can learn a lot from the way children interact with poetry.

When I taught high school, most of my students dreaded poetry lessons.
It made me sad that they were missing out on all the joy that comes from reading a beautiful, funny, or dramatic poem.
It’s true, poetry requires a bit more from the reader than prose.
As we read, or listen to it, we might have to fill in the gaps, and think in a non-linear way.
There is often an element of fantasy, or the fantastic, so we can’t be too literal either.

Poems ask us think harder–they don’t do all the work for us like stories do.
But if we just keep reading poetry, if we start by just letting the sound of the words wash over us, and don’t try so hard “get” it, we’ll find reading poetry can be really wonderful.

Because poetry is often seen as “artsy”, it is taught less often than traditional stories or non fiction.
It is even viewed by some as frivolous.
It’s just something we teachers often “can’t get to”, because we have more important subjects to cover.
But when I think of the critical thinking and comprehension skills my kids are using everyday when we read, discuss, and enjoy poetry, I know it’s actually very valuable, and totally worth the time it takes.

The irony of this, of course, is that our poetry lessons always take less than 10 minutes.
And besides just reading a poem, I use our poetry lessons to teach other things too, such as literary terms and vocabulary.
For example, today’s poem, “Growing in the Vale” used personification.
My kids know what that is already, but when we read, they know to always listen for it and point it out.
And there were two words I wasn’t sure they knew, so we talked about them and thought of synonyms.
There won’t be tests or vocab lists on those words.
But I will use them when I can, and when those words come up in our reading again, I’ll point them out.
We’ve never done a formal vocabulary lesson, but constant exposure to elevated language is giving them a fantastic vocabulary.
Even if I didn’t point out words they don’t know, my kids are learning the valuable skill of figuring out the meaning of a word by context clues.
We also did a little botany, looking up the subject of the poem, a daffodil, in one of our flower books.
All together this poetry lesson took about 5 minutes.
It is quick and enjoyable.
It didn’t require a lot of lesson planning, or any really, from me.
Sometimes we make things more complicated than they really need to be.

For teaching poetry, I really like vintage, illustrated poetry books. (no surprise, right?)
These books use real poems–not dumbed down kiddie poems.
And the illustrations always pull my kids into the poem farther.
One of my most favorite poetry books is from the Childcraft series from the 1940s and 1950s.
They are full of a variety of beautiful poems and illustrations.
The book in the photo above is a Childcraft book from 1949.
Other books of poetry that I like are the Golden Books Family Treasury of Poetry, and The Oxford Book of Children’s Verse.
I also love the poetry books by Robert Louis Stevenson, AA Milne, and Shel Silverstein.
I have also found a lot of wonderful poetry from the website I use for much of my home schooling curriculum, Ambleside Online.

I’d love to hear what poems and poets you and your children enjoy.
And how you incorporate it into your schooling.
Please share!

Cheers to poetry and vintage books!
Greta

Sometimes It Takes A Village

“You have to want it, you have to plan for it, you have to fit it into a busy day. You have to be mentally tough, you have to use others to help you. The hard part isn’t getting your body into shape. The hard part is getting your mind in shape.” Amby Burgoot

The very last thing I wanted to do tonight was go running.
Up big hills .
I mean the VERY last thing,
My legs were so sore from yesterday’s workout that it hurt to walk.
I couldn’t imagine running on them.

But I knew Aaron was going to ride his bike home from work, pedaling as fast as he could, so I could go.
And he was going to be supportive and for me, even though I was leaving him with 4 kids at dinner time.
Because that’s the kind of guy he is.
Still, I emailed him and said, “I’m not going tonight. I’m too sore. I’m in pain. I can’t do it.”
He didn’t say, ” yes you are.”
Or even, ” yes you should.”
He just said, ” your legs will feel better if you run. It will stretch them out.”
How could I get offended at that?
Or accuse him of implying I needed to go running and therefore implying I was fat? (because you know I’ve done that to him before)
I couldn’t.
Blerg!

So then I texted my friend Jocelyn, and said, “the thought of running makes me want to cry. You better tell me a good reason to come or I’m going to bail.”
Of course she texted right back and said,”you need to be there. Your legs will stretch out while you run. You are strong. You will feel so good when you are done!”
How could I argue with that?
I couldn’t!
Blerg!

So I went.
And when I pulled up, Jocelyn and my trainer Shannon cheered for me, and made me feel like a hero just for coming.
It’s good to have people on your team.

The first 10 or so steps were brutal.
Brutal.
But after that my legs started feeling better.
And then they felt good .
I couldn’t believe it.

So much of exercise is mental.
If you can push past the excuses, then the exercise is the easy part.
For me, having people to support me is key to getting past those excuses.
I know the sacrifices Aaron makes so that I can work out, and I don’t want to let him down.
His support motivates me.
Knowing I have friends waiting for me to show up at boot camp, or for a run, also motivates me.
And having a trainer who will ask where I’ve been is another great help for the times I don’t want to lace up my shoes.
There are times when I can get there myself.
And there there are days like today, when I need some extra help.

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We ran down the last hill watching the sun set.
I felt like a million bucks.
Everyone was right; I felt so great after it was done.
It’s like that every single time.
I know that.
But sometimes I still need the reminder.
You know the saying about it taking a village to raise children?
Well, sometimes it takes a village to get me to exercise.
And I’m so grateful for my village.
Aaron and Jocelyn, thank you for making me run tonight.
Shannon thanks for cheering me on when I wanted to walk.
I loved tonight’s run.
When it was done!
Cheers to fitness!
Greta

Living Fit–My New Blog

Hey guys!
I am so excited to tell you about a new blog I am writing for the boot camp I work out with, Long Beach Boot Camp.
The blog is called Living Fit and I’ll be writing there weekly.
Fitness has become such an important part of my life that I am thrilled to have the chance to write about it regularily.
I’m starting off by sharing my own journey to healthy and fit lifestyle.
I’d love for you to follow my blog on the Long Beach Boot Camp website.
I’ll be posting a link here every week when I do my write up over there.
Today my post will be here, too.
I hope my story can be an inspiration and encouragement to you, wherever you are at on your fitness journey.
Cheers to Living Fit!

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How My Journey Began
If you would have told me a year and a half ago that I would be writing a blog about fitness and fit living, I’d never have believed you.
Well, I might have believed the writing part, because it has always been a passion.
But fitness has not.
I’ve been active my whole life: swimming, hiking, and playing numerous sports while I was younger.
But dedicated, everyday, get sweaty and uncomfortable, kind of exercise was not my thing.
I didn’t want to do it, and was pretty resentful when anyone suggested I try it.
I wish now that I would have listened to that helpful advice earlier (sorry Mom!), but it wasn’t until I was really sitting in a hard place that I was ready to do what it took to change my life.

It was the summer of 2012 and my 5th baby had just turned 1.
I usually lose my baby weight within a year, but this time things were different.
I didn’t have a single pair of shorts that fit, I could hardly button my biggest pair of pants, and the only things left in my wardrobe that were any bigger were my maternity clothes.
I wasn’t going back there.
I was frustrated with myself, and uncomfortable in my own skin.
I had never before felt such a dislike for my body.
I wanted to keep up with my kids, to be active and healthy with them.
But instead I was mowing down the chocolate in an attempt to make myself feel better, and then ending up in tears because my clothes didn’t fit.
I was desperate.
And I was ready for a change.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to make the change, but I knew it was going to have to be drastic.
I wanted it to be a lasting change, so I knew I was going to have to do something I hadn’t done before.
I was going to have to push myself and step out of my comfort zone.
That was when I saw an email in my inbox for a 1 month membership to Long Beach Boot Camp.
Boot Camp?
I didn’t do boot camp.
I didn’t run, lift weights, or do push ups.
The thought of it terrified me.
But this was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for.

All the excuses I usually had didn’t work this time.
It was affordable.
I wouldn’t have to find childcare for my kids. (I’d just have to work out at 5:30 in the morning!)
There were no long term contracts, or pledging away 2 years of my life to a gym.
It was doable.
I signed up.

I waited a month to tell my husband because I was scared to get started.
I was scared to admit out loud what I already knew in my heart to be true.
And I was scared to be accountable for making changes in my life.
I was scared I might fail.
I’m not usually scared of much.
But we all have our something–and this was my something.

It might not seem like much, this signing up for a month of boot camp classes.
But to me it was a big thing.
And little or big, it was the thing that I was looking for.
It was the thing that changed my life.

There is so much more to tell, and I can’t wait to share more of my story with you.
Right now, wherever you’re at in your fitness journey, I’ll leave with this inspiring thought.
It’s been a help to me from the very beginning.
All the best,
Greta

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That Day We Almost Lost Davy

In almost 10 years of parenting, I can only think of 3 times when I have been truly terrified for my children’s safety.
Today makes it 4.

I was making lunch today and it was unusually quiet.
“Can someone find David?” I called.
Lilly and William went in search calling, “Davy! Daaaavvy!” as they walked around the house.
They went into the backyard and a minute later called, “he’s not out here Mom!”
Trying to quell the nervousness that was rising in my breast, James and I joined the search, calling Davy’s name.
I looked in every room, the closets, the bathtub, under the beds, and on the top bunks.
I looked in the garage, the playhouse and Aaron’s studio.
Nothing.
The kids were doing the same thing, all of us calling his name as our search grew more frantic.

I am a bit OCD about keeping our back gate closed.
I am always on the kids to make sure the gate is shut and check it multiple times a day.
None of my kids have ever wandered off.
But the gardeners were here today, and even though we all stay inside when they are here, and they are very careful to close the gate , I thought they must have left it open at some point, and Davy slipped out with no one knowing,
I don’t panic often, but I started to panic.

The big kids were still searching, yelling Davy’s name, and calling out to me, “I’m praying right now, Mommy!”
I could hear William crying
I ran across the street to my neighbor’s.
He was standing outside with his son and a Triple A mechanic.
“My 2 year old is gone ,” I almost sobbed,
All 3 Looked at me, utter expletives that were perfectly fitting for the situation, and started to run to their cars.
“What’s he wearing?” they asked as they were all climbing in.
A diaper. Just a diaper.

As I was calling 911, all I could think of was that I was a terrible mother.
How could I let this happen?
I hated myself.
Would the police declare me an unfit mother because I let my 2 year old wander away in a diaper?
Would I still be allowed to home school?
How would we live without Davy?
It is amazing how slow time moves in an emergency, even though everything is really happening at   the same pace as usual.
I felt like I was underwater, and drowning.

Before the 911 operator even picked up, my boys called from across the street, “we found him! We found him !”
“Thank God! Where is he?” I almost screamed back.
“In your bed, under the covers!”
“But I looked in there! I called his name !”
“He’s asleep Mommy! He’s ok!”
I waved my neighbors back and told them we found David.
And I walked back into my house, fell onto the floor, and just sobbed.
There are few things in this world more horrible than not knowing where your child is.

The big kids gathered around me and we prayed a prayer
of thankfulness to Jesus.
And then, through my tears, I praised them.
For not panicking.
For praying while they were scared.
For continuing to look for Davy even though we had looked everywhere.
And for finding him.

It shook us all up.
It was a good reminder to us all how precious we are to one another.
Sometimes we get frustrated and annoyed at each other, but how much more do we love each other!
I am not much of a drinker, but man oh man could I go for a stiff one right now!
And holy cow can David ever sleep!
Sheesh.
This parenting thing is not for wimps, is it?
I’ve never been so glad for happy endings.
Greta
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