Tuesdays with Meri: Summer Family Bucket List

familybucketlist

Ah, summertime.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m mostly at “SAHM” – stay at home mom. I say mostly because I have a couple of freelance jobs that I’m lucky enough to really enjoy from my own home/on my own time schedule.

As a stay at home mom, I get to do a lot of what I want during school days while my kids are off learning and preparing to take over the world with brilliant ideas fostered by their teachers. But during the summer, they are mine all mine!

Quite frankly, I don’t want their brains to rot over the summer. It would be oh-so-easy to let them fall into video games, tv shows, and the like. They are at the age where they would quietly do so and I’d be happy because hey, it’s quiet.

BUT NO! We need activities! We need thinking! We need creativity!

The last day of school was last Wednesday.

finishline

After racing across the school to summer finish line, they came into the house to find our summer bucket list waiting. And what does every bucket list need? A bucket, of course.

I brainstormed with retired Chick, Bec, about what should be on our list to guide them in their picks. I wanted them to be fun but also achievable and not too far out in left field.

bucketlistbrainstorm

Their picks were creative and thankfully, every single one is something that we can do sometimes over this summer. No saying no!

Of course, now that we’ve written them down, they want to do all of them. Immediately. But that’s not what the summer bucket list is about. It’s about spreading the ideas out over the summer and being engaged throughout the long hot months.

gardenharris

But some are meant to happen right away!

My older son requested for his project that we make a garden (which also fits in nicely with a Boy Scout requirement) and my younger son requested to see his 1st grade teachers, Mrs. Tees and Ms. Harris over the summer. They are two of his our most favorite human beings.

Now, if you aren’t from my immediate circle of friends, you probably don’t know this; These two requests actually go hand in hand.

msharris

Ms. Sonya Harris was a driving force behind the Bullock Children’s Garden and we’ve spent a good majority in the garden at my son’s school since its inception. She is our garden guru and also an amazing friend to our family. Two days after the end of school, she was at our doorstep, ready to visit with us and discuss our home garden!

(Never fret, Mrs. Tees will be making her appearance later on this summer!)

After Gabe got over the fact that HIS TEACHER WAS STANDING IN HIS HOUSE, he gave her the grand tour. We’ve only been in our new house a little over a month but we’ve discovered the new yard has a welcome surprise!

An added bonus - we already have a mint patch in our yard from the previous owners!

We have a mint patch in our yard from the previous owners!

Our flower beds are perfect for planting and we have a lot of yard space for our garden. One of the things that Sonya was quick to point out is that while gardens need tending they are also a lot easier than many people imagine.

fronthouse1

Since she IS a our teacher/friend, it only made sense that she assign us homework. There was no groaning after she said the word, either! She asked each of them to make a list of what they would like to plant in our garden.

This summer is going to be absolutely awesome and I know that the home garden will play a large part in our planning and activities! As we go along, I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on our plans as well as other events that come to fruition thanks to our bucket list.

Check out this awesome video from last summer in our community garden and you’ll see a couple of familiar faces!

What do you have on your summer bucket list? Have you planted a garden? What do you think we should we plant in our garden?

A Non-Runner’s First Mudderella

Friday night, I went to bed so nervous I thought I was going to be sick. Saturday morning, I got in my car and drove to Englishtown Mudderella 2016 praying to baby Jesus the entire drive. I was finally going to participate in my first Mudderella and I was petrified!

muderellaana

My name is Ana and here is my story.

Last October, I signed up for my first Mudderella with my best friend and big sister. Two weeks later we had a team of 22 women! O.M.G. It just got real. I was no longer participating in an event with my two besties, now there were other people! I felt pressured!

muderellabefore

So I did what every logical human being would do. I trained for the event. I started going to the gym to run. Except there’s one problem… I HATE RUNNING! I mean, I seriously hate running. I have always hated running. Let me put this in perspective for you. In the twelve years that I played softball, my goal was to either walk or hit a home run because neither of these would require me to run hard. I quit the basketball team because there was too much running. It was that drastic…. and it still is.

But, I signed up for a Mudderella and now I had to train.

I spent many days in the gym running and trying to do pull-ups, push-ups, core strengthening exercises, and anything else my former Marine of a husband suggested. This lasted 3 weeks.

Then a kidney stone decided to take it’s sweet time and kept me out of the gym for about 6 weeks. But determined, I went back to the gym.

Then I sprained a rib from a nasty cough…a few more weeks out of the gym.

All of a sudden it’s April and being an entrepreneur, bouncing two kids to track (they don’t take after me) and band is kicking my butt!

Then May… at this point why even bother training.

Look! It’s June! This is when I renew my faith and start praying. No wonder I felt sick to my stomach last night. I am totally unprepared for my first Mudderella.

mudderellasisters

Muddy sisters!

My sister and I decide to walk it. Our goal for the day was to complete the entire event without having to use our medical insurance benefits. And we succeeded! Yes, we walked the ENTIRE event! We also completed EVERY obstacle! I even got over the difficult wall without any help. But that was not a shocker to me. You see, I can do the obstacles. It’s the running that I cannot do.

So, as we walked through the entire event, I felt a little “pang” in my gut. I felt as if I was cutting myself short by not running the event. I watched women and men of all ages and sizes run past me, covered in mud and feeling empowered.

As we completed one obstacle at a time, I realized something. I realized that I still hate running and the only reason I wanted to run is because everyone else was running. In reality, who cares? So what if I can’t run, some of the runners couldn’t pull their own weight. That doesn’t make them any less competitive. That doesn’t make them less worthy of feeling empowered.

mudderellasistersbefore
Once again, my big sister taught me a lesson by smiling and being herself. One’s empowerment does not come from Mudderella. One’s empowerment comes from inside! It comes from being able to handle a wacky 11 year old, curious 15 year old, stepchildren, former Marine husband, being an entrepreneur, and let’s not forget the trying relationship between the dogs and cat.

Honestly, we should already feel empowered with our daily accomplishments. I doubt anyone could handle my life without crying, and I doubt that I could handle yours. We all have different emotional, psychological, and physical strengths.

Retired in style!

Retired in style!

Mudderella was a BLAST and I would totally do it again! I will try to train and probably fail again, but I will be OK with that. I love working out and being outdoors but running isn’t that important to me. Simply put, I don’t like how it makes me my body feel. One twelve minute treadmill mile is my personal best, and that’s OK. So, for all you runners: GO GET IT GIRLS! YOU ROCK! For all of you who like to read about running in hopes that you’ll be inspired enough to complete your first 5K or Mudderella: I’LL TOTALLY WALK IT WITH YOU WITHOUT SHAME!

Who cares how you finish the race? Whether you walk or run, the distance and obstacles are all the same. Besides, you still get the Mudderella Finisher t-shirt at the end.

I deem my first Mudderella a success! Next will be the Inflatable 5K… now that looks like a fun time!

Ana Soley is an entrepreneur who opened her own business with her husband, Fast Response Plumbing, LLC She’s having a great time raising 2 kids and 2 stepkids while trying to keep her humble abode from imploding. Loves the outdoors, kayaking, archery, walking the dogs, and hiking. She’s a big fan of a good sweat but hates running, as can be determined by this blog post.

My First Coach: A Father’s Day Post

I’ve written before about how a big part of my running inspiration is my mom. She was the marathoner, the mountain climber, the skier and the outdoors woman who brought me along on her adventures so that I would learn an appreciation for the things she loved. She taught me a lot about endurance and finding that  little bit extra deep down to keep going.

My mom played a big role in my development as an athlete, but I didn’t realize most of it until I was an adult.
Dad 1But this post is actually about my dad. Father’s Day is this weekend, and it seemed like a perfect time to reflect on everything he has taught me.

He was my first coach – putting  a basketball in my hands for the first time. Buying me a hoop so I could practice lay-ups and free throws in my driveway. Volunteering to coach every team I played on until I was 12.
FullSizeRender (1)Each high school game I played, I knew where I could find him: sitting in the top row of the bleachers, watching, taking it all in. After the game, he’d have feedback – and even when I was upset with myself or didn’t want to hear his critique, he was patient with me. I always knew he was right, I just didn’t always like admitting it.
dad 3
Before every game, he would give me a tip of the day. Anything from “block out” to “drive the lane” – his one tip was always something I did well to remember as I took the court. For an away tournament, he gave me a note card with tips of the day on it so that I could have his advice with me even when he couldn’t be there to watch.

When I went to play basketball in college, that notecard came with me, and lived in my gym bag. It traveled to every game even though my dad couldn’t. My dad would call or text those tips of the day before each game, too, so that I was never without my first coach.

I still have this notecard... it lives in my desk at work and it's still useful. "Head up" is just good life advice.

I still have this notecard… it lives in my desk at work and it’s still useful. “Head up” is just good life advice.

Playing basketball taught me more lessons than I could enumerate. About leadership, about working as a team, about repetition and working hard and not giving in. All practical on the court, but even more applicable to life. Lessons I wouldn’t have learned as well if my dad hadn’t fostered my growth as an athlete for all those years.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

His guiding hand has always been there for me, helping me navigate sticky situations, like teaching me how to deal with my 401K. My dad is the king of planning and lists and I absolutely picked that trait up from him, too. He’s goofy (see Exhibit A), he’s funny, he knows more sports trivia than anyone I know. But more importantly, my dad CARES. He cares for his family and for his friends. His heart is big and he goes miles beyond for someone in need. Literal miles. He has traveled halfway across the country on multiple occasions to help family through heavy and trying times. My dad has taught me more about what it means to be a good and kind human being than anyone else, because he lives it. Every day.

I know many people for whom Father’s Day is not a day of celebration – their fathers have been lost to them for some reason or another. On this day, I wish them peace and send them love – I can’t take away the pain or sadness they feel.
image1 (3)
But I’m extraordinarily grateful to be able to celebrate my dad, because I’m extraordinarily grateful that my life has him in it. He is one of the best things about who I am. And he’s still giving me tips of the day.

Tuesdays With Meri

Originally this post was going to be about the #communitybuild I participated in on Saturday, June 11th. It was a heart swelling in the chest moment when I saw everyone coming together for the greater good of our community and our children.

fiberart

And then Sunday morning happened. 

There is a lot of absolutely horrifying, crazy acts of violence and scariness in the world. While I cannot and do not turn a blind eye to it, I also wonder how I’m supposed to approach it. As a mother. As a person putting words on a screen. As a human being living on this planet.

I wonder how to present things to my children in a way that they will both understand and also not fear living and going about their day-to-day activities. Because, quite honestly, I’m scared of the next. And the next. And the next.

When my 11 year old asks me “But we’re safe, right?” how can I respond truthfully without scaring the ever-loving daylights out of him? It’s a very helpless feeling when you don’t know the answers to the questions that your children are asking and when you’re asking yourself the very same questions.

I’m sad. I’m tired. I don’t know how many different ways I can say the same thoughts for similar situations without it sounding formulaic. It’s no less heartfelt but how can the repetitiveness sound anything but that?

With that in mind, I choose to focus on love. And I realize that might sound a bit hippie-ish but it’s what I can do right in this moment to feel like I’m doing something.

Originally this post was going to be about the #communitybuild I participated in. It still is.

It's about the whoopsies that turned into my favorite heart, a watermelon.

It’s about the whoopsies that turned into my favorite heart, a watermelon. Because we are #fiberartists.

It's about spending the majority of a Saturday with a few people who mean the world to me and new people who also mean the world to me.

It’s about spending the majority of a Saturday with a few people who mean the world to me and new people who now also mean the world to me, because we shared this together.

It's about the kids in my community having a brand new playground that has age appropriate equipment.

It’s about the kids in my community having a brand new playground that has age appropriate equipment.

It's about the kids in my community having a playground that isn't vandalized.

It’s about the kids in my community having a playground that isn’t vandalized and the amazing volunteers that made it happen.

This post is about making a community feel safe and having children know that they are loved, cherished, and appreciated for the amazing little people they are.

It’s also about my kiddos. Because when they feel that way both outside and inside the home, it helps them make good choices, now and later on.

When they ask hard questions that I might not know the answer to, they still feel assured and confident that we are doing everything we possibly can to make their lives filled with love.

chalk

It’s about starting each day with a dance party, because despite the scariness and uncertainty in the world, there’s still a lot to dance about.

bethegood-believe

Hug your family and friends and know that I’m hugging you, too.

Recipe Box: Healthy Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

The past month and a half has consisted of takeout food for me and mine. Sad, but true. With moving house and getting settled, it’s been less about being healthy and more about just getting things done.

However, now that we are finally getting things in order, it’s back to cooking nightly. Which is great because it makes our house feel more like home.

I found this Healthy Sesame Chicken with Broccoli recipe on Feed Me Phoebe last year while doing the Advocare 24 day Challenge. It’s become a standby for our family and it’s pretty awesome because it’s fake-out food. Meaning it tastes like take-out but it’s not!

Huzzah! Cheaper, healthier, and absolutely delicious.

sesamechickenbroccoli

You ready for this?

Grab your ingredients!

Ones I usually have to buy at the store each time are:

  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and dice
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts separated, thinly sliced (I don’t usually use the green parts, tbh, but you can do as you wish)

Things I usually have on hand in the house unless I’ve run out:

  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or coconut oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (I always “cheat” with a jar of minced garlic in the fridge)
  • 3 tablespoons gluten-free tamari
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (black or regular)
  • rice

Okay, so I always, without fail forget to get the rice going before the food and then about 2/3rds of the way through I’m throwing out curse words (quietly, because children) and rushing around to get the rice on the stove. So I’m going to put it right up here on the top. If you want to serve this WITH RICE, go on and get that going.

pepperandscallions

I always also forget to read ahead with recipes. My bad! Therefore, my suggestion to you is this: cut up your ingredients beforehand. That means cube the chicken. Clean and chop your pepper. Take care of the scallions. Get all the little things out of the way ahead of time so you can just toss things into your skillet and cook when the time comes.

In a large skillet, cover the broccoli florets with 2 cups of water. Simmer over high heat. Cover and then cook for a few minutes. Drain in a colander. Rinse and dry skillet.

Whisk the egg white, cornstarch, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the chicken and coat.

This was around the time that I realized I had forgotten the rice.

This was around the time that I realized I had forgotten the rice.

Heat a splash of the vegetable or coconut oil in the same skillet and cook the chicken, about 2-4 minutes on both sides. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.

Add another splash of the vegetable or coconut oil in the skillet and stir fry your peppers and white scallions until lightly charred. Stir in the garlic and mix until fragrant. Add the chicken back into the skillet along with the tamari, sesame oil, honey, and sesame seeds. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes.

Add in the broccoli and green scallions (if you’re going that route) and mix.

Serve over rice and chow down!

finishedproductchickenandbrocc

It is amazing! Tonight I’m making another favorite here in my house, Skinnytaste Mongolian beef and broccoli, which is similarly amazing and has the same fake-out effect. Yes, please.

What’s on the menu at your house? Got a link? Share it with me, I’d love to check it out!

Finding Motivation in Unexpected PRs

I’d be lying if I said that the last couple of weeks in the gym have been stellar. In fact, the last couple of weeks have been anything but stellar, from both a gym and nutrition perspective. Have I been working out? Yes. Have I been eating healthy? For the most part. Have I also been totally exhausted and consequently lacking motivation? Oh yes.

It’s been really difficult to push myself on days that I have to work out by myself and even more difficult to convince myself to go run or do any kind of heavy cardio workout. I couldn’t even.

So, it was a really pleasant surprise that after my weekend away (hiking and camping and watching baseball), getting back in the gym this week felt good. It probably helped a lot that we mixed up our workout routine again – instead of lifting heavy, we’ve transitioned into more HIIT-inspired workouts with elements of CrossFit (kind of). The boyfriend is currently training for his next Physical Fitness Test, so we’ve put more emphasis on those elements: running, pull-ups, crunches, and supplemented with other conditioning and weight training.

These workouts remind me a lot of what I used to do in high school and college basketball practices. Lots of conditioning and strength training that kicks my butt and simultaneously humbles me and reminds me how strong I am. That’s an awesome feeling.

Never was this more evident than earlier this week: I hit a massive PR on my bench press and then cranked out more pull-ups than I ever have.

image1It was really the pull-ups that got me though, because we did them at the very end of our workout and I was totally gassed. We pyramid them, starting at 6 and going down to 1, before working our way back up to 6. That ends up being 41 pull-ups.

As a kid, I used to do gymnastics and could do pull-ups and chin-ups no problem. I would actually do them all the time in my backyard. But, add about 20 years and 100 pounds and pull-ups got really, really difficult. Last summer, I could barely do one. But, this winter and spring I worked hard on the skill and now I can string them together much better. So, it was a huge win for me the other day when I did our 6-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-6 pyramid without failure.

They might not be the prettiest, but I’m proud of them and the hard work that I’ve put in to be able to even do this many. Seeing how far I’ve come in less than a year gives me the motivation I’ve been lacking to keep pushing myself, to keep programming workouts that challenge me and force me to work on my weak skills. To turn those weaknesses into strengths.

Moral of this story: sometimes we have down weeks. Sometimes we struggle to find our stride, literally and figuratively. Sometimes, we just want to eat ice cream and cake and sit on the couch and watch the NBA playoffs. But, sometimes, looking back at where you were and the progress you’ve made can be just the kick in the pants that you need to get your head and your heart back in it. Our bodies are capable of really amazing things – I’m excited to see what the next amazing thing is.

 

Summer Races…and Beyond – The 2017 Caldera Triple

A few weeks ago, I turned forty. Surprisingly, it wasn’t horrible. In fact, it was pretty flippin rad. First, my Subaru that served me well for 11 years decided it didn’t feel like driving anymore. Goodbye, rD magnets.

I loved this car so much.

I loved this car so much.

So I was forced to get a new car.

Hellllooooo, Lover.

Hellllooooo, Lover.

This really was a coincidence. Promise. No for real, though. But in a way, you could say I got a pony for my birthday. (I’ve always wanted to say that!) Since before I had a license, I’ve wanted a classic Mustang. I can’t afford a classic, but my husband agreed to this new one. Because he is the best. (And he liked it a lot, too, truth be told.)

THEN, as if that weren’t enough, my husband (being the absolute best husband on the planet (see above new car)), had arranged a gift for me long before my Subaru died. This was my face when I opened my itinerary to SPACECAMP, something I’ve wanted to do since I was eight.

spacecamp

They do have an adult program and I will have to get in the Multi-Axis Trainer. They claim it doesn’t make you sick. Ummmm-hmmmmm. Anyway, I work for an aerospace company and I’m a space/sci-fi fanatic, so yeah. I’m SO STOKED I CANNOT EVEN.

But birthdays tend to make me reflect on what I’ve accomplished and what I still want to achieve. My birthday did remind me that at 40, I need to focus on fitness. My biggest fitness goal is to not be frail in advanced age. To keep running, I need races to stay motivated. I’m registered for 3 races this summer that I’m excited for: The Skirt Sports 13er, and the Elk Double Challenge hosted by Vacation Races.

Last year I ran the Skirt Sports 10k at the 13er, but this year I wanted to represent with my fellow skirt sisters and do the half. It will be a whole weekend of strong women supporting each other, and that’s pretty hard to beat.

PR of 1:23:42 and I'm thrilled!

PR of 1:23:42 and I’m thrilled!

I loved the Rocky Mountain Half in Estes Park so much last year that I registered for their inaugural Elk Challenge this year. It’s a 5k on Friday afternoon and a half on Saturday morning. My oldest friend lives in Estes Park, so I’m staying with her that Friday night. SLEEPOVER! Seriously, though, last year’s half was my favorite race to date. Yes, even more than runDisney. I know, but it’s true! It’s still my favorite medal.

Poking around the Vacation Races website,  I made a discovery that will likely be the death of me and my pocket book. It’s called the Caldera Triple  because who wouldn’t want to run in view of the Grand Tetons one week, followed by Yellowstone the next? And a 5k in between?? I SAY BRING IT, NATIONAL PARKS.

caldera

Image Credit: Vacation Races

2 National Parks, 3 races, 4 UH-MAZING medals, and some of the prettiest land in the nation. Who’s with me?

Have you ever done a Vacation Races race? What races do you have planned for the summer, or beyond?