I love celebrating my birthday which will be of no surprise to the people that know me best. What might be a surprise is the reason I enjoy celebrating my birthday so much. A long time ago 15-year-old me sat in the dark on the verge of making a decision that I would not be able to come back from. The despair I was feeling at that moment was so great that I could think of only one way to find peace. I had a plan in place and was very close to following through with it, but somehow a glimmer of hope shone through and I decided to push forward.
Most years on my birthday I spend some time reflecting on all that I would’ve missed if I had made a different decision on that night so long ago. I would’ve missed out on meeting a man who loves me, baggage and all. I would’ve missed out on being the mother of two amazing kids who make me proud every day. I would’ve missed out on crossing the finish line of my first marathon as well as pushing an amazing young man in his first marathon. I would’ve missed out on teaching hundreds of children in my years as an early childhood educator. I would’ve missed out on more wonderful friendships than I can count, people who enrich my life in so many ways. There are many simpler things that I would’ve missed out on too-sunrises and sunsets, puppy kisses, the sound of waves lapping on the shore, mountain vistas, warm bread with butter, getting on a good sweat after a challenging workout, and so much more.
Life is worth celebrating, not just today, but every day!
Our 15 year old dog Molly passed away back in April of 2013. She was a faithful companion who adored our kids. We got her when they were small and they grew up together. When Courtney, our youngest, left for college in the fall of 2012 I think Molly felt just as lost as I did. Our house was suddenly very quiet after years of being the gathering place for our kids and their friends.
Molly was a good companion for me after Courtney headed to Charlottesville. She greeted me at the door each day when I came home and followed me around the house, grateful when I settled somewhere so that she could lay down at my feet and rest her achy joints. It was no surprise when she passed away in her sleep and I found her that April morning. I definitely felt sad, but she had lived a good life and I knew she was running like the wind in heaven on her greyhound legs (she was half collie and half greyhound). The house was lonely without her and about a week after she passed, during my spring break, I told Rich I was ready for another dog. He didn’t seem surprised and his only request was that we get a puppy and that we name it Scooter. You’ll have to ask him why he chose Scooter. Within a week of this conversation I had done some research, found a reputable breeder and put a deposit down on a Pembroke welsh corgi puppy.
About six weeks later Courtney and I drove to Midlothian to pick up our little bundle who I had picked out a few weeks prior. “Blue Ribbon Boy” became Skooter Lawson. Not sure why I changed that c to a k, but it seemed appropriate. He settled into our family easily and Courtney cared for him in those first few weeks until I got out of school for the summer. He bonded with her during that time and whenever we mentioned her name from then on, his ears would perk up and he would run to the door to see if she was coming.
The thing that was different about Skooter was that he was our dog, meaning Rich and I. Joshua and Courtney would come home and comment on how much we spoiled him compared to Molly. I would remind them that when Molly was with us most of my time and and energy was spent caring for them and their dad was active duty Army and gone quite a bit!
Skooter’s arrival in my life came at the perfect time. I was beginning to form some ideas about what I wanted to do with my new found free time and I was also feeling a strong need to live a more authentic life. As I was getting older I felt that I had spent too much time feeling less than because of circumstance I could not control and I knew it was time to be comfortable in my own skin everywhere and not just with those closest to me.
At this point you may be wondering what all this has to do with Skooter, but the thing is that Skooter was such a happy, silly dog. He made me laugh every day and I stopped taking myself too seriously. I am pretty sure that the very first selfie I ever took was with Skooter. He and I used to go for a walk every morning when I knew the neighborhood kids would be at the bus stop and I stopped worrying about my hair and whether or not I had makeup on before leaving the house. He didn’t care and no one else seemed to care either. He gave me the confidence to approach people that I did not know. Everyone was drawn to Skooter and I met many of my neighbors because of him. If I was sad he would lay by me with his head on my lap, looking at me with his big brown eyes until I gave in and threw his ball or frisbee a few times. Before I knew it I was smiling and probably getting my camera to take a selfie!
My life has changed so much since the day we brought Skooter home. I have become a dedicated runner and coach. I quit a job that was no longer a good fit for me. My circle of friends has expanded in a way that I never could have imagined and they are people who love me in spite of my flaws, just like Skooter did. I’ve come a long way and I am grateful for the sweet little dog that helped me get there.
So, this morning was my third CrossFit workout. Before I left the house I looked on the calendar to see what the workout was going to be. One of the things we were going to be doing was box jumps and I felt like I could handle that, but the other thing, something called a hang power clean made me a little nervous. I didn’t even know what it was but I had a bad feeling. Like we do with anything we don’t know about nowadays I googled it. I watched a couple of videos and it was confirmed to me that this was going to be a difficult move for me to get right. Fortunately, I had confidence in the patience and knowledge of the coach that would be overseeing the class and I headed out the door. I made sure to arrive a few minutes early so that I could watch folks in the earlier class in the hopes that maybe I could grasp at least part of the move. Sadly, this did not work in my favor and I headed into the class with a lump in my stomach, feeling very nervous. I wish I could tell you that some miracle happened and it suddenly became perfectly clear and my body did exactly what I needed it to do, but that was definitely not the case. I ended up having to do a modified version with just the training bar. This was OK with me though, because it’s more important for me to use proper form and learn how to do the moves correctly then it is for me to lift a lot of weight or do a lot of reps. Anyway, I was moving through the work out at my own speed when suddenly a voice from behind me said, “At least I’m not using the training bar!” Immediately, I turned to this person and said “Hey! I’m using a training bar!” I got no response and tried to go on with my workout. Unfortunately I let this person’s words get in my head, which surprised me because I am usually a bit thicker skinned. They probably weren’t even referring to me and just weren’t thinking about what they were saying, but the words cut just the same. I struggled even harder with the rest of the work out and found myself close to tears by the time it was over. When I walked out of the CrossFit area I had almost convinced myself that CrossFit wasn’t for me. ALMOST. You see, when I signed up at Halo I made a commitment to myself. I committed to doing CrossFit three days a week for a month before I even thought about trying something different. I have tried a lot of things to help improve my running and some of them have worked, but I knew I needed something more to help me achieve the goals I have set for myself and I believe CrossFit could be just what I have been looking for. So, for now, I may be the only one in the class doing the modified version of an exercise and possibly the only one using the training bar without weight, but that’s okay, as long as I keep coming back.
2018 got off to a great start when I was chosen as a Skirt Sports Ambassador. When I first started running I wasn’t comfortable in the traditional running shorts that I was seeing in most stores. I had a pooch after two C-Sections and I had “tiger stripes” on my thighs. Honestly, I cannot remember how I discovered Skirt Sports, but after purchasing my first one and taking it for a spin, I was hooked! I have worn small, medium and large and felt great in every skirt I’ve worn. As my running progressed, I almost always turned to one of my skirts for my races. I wore my favorite gray jaguar skirt for my very first marathon and it was perfect. I felt fit and confident and ready to take on a challenging new distance.
In 2018 I ran 29 races and I work Skirt Sports for just about every one of them. The Jaguar skirt is my absolute favorite and I want it in all the colors! When the temps are cooler I tend to turn to one of my Tough Girls. Becoming a Skirt Sports Ambassador has been such a privilege! This past year as I have learned more about the products I have even branched out and purchased tights, capris and shorts (though the Jaguar skirt is always going to be my favorite!). I have also introduced a number of women in my running group to all that is SKIRT!
2018 was a year of confidence building for me, and Skirt Sports played a big part of that for me. I am excited to see what Skirt Sports and I will achieve in 2019!
If you want to see if Skirt Sports is just what you need to gain the confidence you’re looking for to achieve your fitness goals, check them out at http://www.skirtsports.com! Use code 504LAWS to save 15% on any regularly priced merchandise.
Some time around mid-July I realized that something was not quite right. I found myself struggling to sleep at night, I was skipping workouts and I was eating a ridiculous amount of food, sometimes to the point of feeling sick. My weight was creeping up and my energy level was lagging. I often found myself in tears, sometimes for no apparent reason. With my 50th birthday just around the corner I convinced myself that all these symptoms were just a part of getting older and that I would have to adjust to the “new me.”
Preparing for the big 5-0 and the celebrations surrounding the big day helped me rally for a bit, but by the end of August, I knew something wasn’t right. I finally decided to listen to that little voice in my head that was getting louder by the day and was trying very hard to tell me that I knew exactly what was going on and it had nothing to do with turning 50. I was not yet in a full blown depression, but the symptoms were there and I needed to do something quick or I was going to be in trouble. You see, I had had a very serious depression about 20 years ago and it was brutal. It impacted not only me, but my husband and two young children.
I have to say that the last twenty years have not always been easy, but I have been able to cope with whatever came my way. Unfortunately circumstances beyond my control began to infringe on the peace of mind I had worked so hard for twenty years ago-the death of a friend, the serious illness of another, seeing another friend grieve over the loss of her beloved husband, the suicide of an amazing young man, etc. I could go on, but you get the idea-lots of heavy stuff weighing on my mind.
Luckily I got the help I needed 20 years ago and came away with some strategies to use when I felt the darkness creeping in. I am not back to 100%, but I have spent some time writing about my feelings and giving myself permission to cry. I talk to my husband…a lot! Most importantly though, I decided to share my struggle with people outside of my family. Allowing others to see me at my most vulnerable is terrifying, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and believe in the goodness of others. You see, the biggest difference between 20 year old Kareen and 50 year old Kareen is the people I have surrounding me. I have a truly amazing tribe and I am grateful for every one of you. Thank you for helping me keep the darkness at bay.
I started running about 17 years ago to help with weight loss. Most of those runs were solitary runs. At the time, none of my friends ran and I was not aware of any groups to join. For the next 10 years, I ran off and on. Sometimes I would stop for a few weeks and other times I would stop for a few years. I never even considered a race until January of 2012 when I was inspired by my daughter who ran XC and track for Lake Braddock. After surviving my first race I was hooked and decided to do one race a month. For most of these early races, my husband ran with me, but after urging from a friend, in September of that year I decided to join the 101 program at Potomac River Running in Burke. I was terrified to get started, but my daughter had just left for college and I was ready to branch out and meet some new people. Little did I know what a life altering decision signing up for that program would be!
I was immediately hooked on the people and the different workouts which helped improve my running immensely. Over time, many of these people have become a second family to me. They are the people I go to when I want to celebrate and they are the people I go to when I need a shoulder to cry on or words of encouragement. They have supported me through the first years of being an empty nester and gave me encouragement to make a job change that I had been contemplating for years. Two of these amazing people sat by my side at the funeral of a dear friend who they didn’t really know, but they came anyway because they knew I needed them. Most importantly, my =PR=running family gave me the confidence to get certified and start coaching others.
Other than taking the plunge and marrying my husband, no other decision I have made has had a greater impact on me. I’m fitter and healthier than I ever was when I was younger. I am happier and more confident and I have an extended family that I would not give up for anything! My “Best Running Family” is always expanding and for that I am grateful. You can never have too much family, right?
I have recently found myself watching someone I care about make what I believe to be, a terrible mistake. After many sleepless nights and probably too many glasses of wine I have come up with more questions than answers.
First, who am I to decide that this person is making a mistake? Is it fair that I make the assumption that my friend’s personal judgement is flawed and that he or she is not capable of making appropriate decisions for their life?
What will be the impact on our relationship if I do not speak up? Is it better to keep my mouth shut and be ready to offer support when things go horribly wrong, as I believe they will, or is it better to speak up now and risk alienating someone who is very important to me?
What will the consequences be if I stand by and watch my friend make this mistake? Is it a mistake they can easily come back from or is it something that may alter their life in a negative way for the long term?
These are the big questions I have come up with, but there are many smaller, less impactful ones as well. The bottom line is that people in our lives often make questionable decisions that are painful to watch for those who love them. Sometimes if it becomes too painful for you personally, you have to make the decision to step away, but if the relationship is truly important to you, leave the door open.