Monday, March 26, 2012

Half Crazy

I ran a half marathon yesterday. It was sort of a last minute decision, but one that I felt completely prepared to tackle.

This isn't my first rodeo--it was my fourth half marathon. I would say, however, that I was more prepared yesterday than I have ever been in my life. While it's safe to say I did not train for this race per say, I never doubted for a second that it was within reach.

I beat my personal best by 20 minutes and finished in 1:57.

When you run a half marathon through the woods with approximately 1,000 of your closest friends there isn't much occupy your time. Obviously there's the running. But otherwise, there's plenty of time to think, to make fun of your husband and to stare at other people's outfits. Let's be honest: I was staring at their bodies, too.

But, I thought a lot about what it means to have the ability to run--and to run such a long distance. It's not for everyone, clearly, but just how many people are willing to push themselves (and their bodies) that far?

Being an avid runner, I think I have forgotten about the meaning behind running 13.1 miles (or 26.2, for that matter) and the accomplishment that resides behind those numbers. It's so easy to stop getting excited about running when it's such a regular, normal part of your life.

I remember how incredibly nervous I was to run my first half marathon. I'm pretty sure I was scared you-know-what-less to run the second one, too. It was thrilling, but it was also enough to twist my stomach into very large knots.

I wasn't nervous yesterday. Not once. I enjoyed every second of that race and I still had a big smile on my face when I was handed that medal at the finish line. It means something, you know? I think it's important not to lose sight of what it means to have the will, the drive and the ability to do something that you love. To put another check mark next to an accomplishment. Not everyone is crazy enough to run 13.1 miles in order to chase that feeling.

It's safe to say I am, though.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Old Made New

Over the weekend, I went digging through an old barn.

I know.

Despite the fact that it was quite dirty and I had to step over both a dead cat and a dead raccoon while in said barn, I found some treasures that had been long since forgotten.

Dusty gold, I think they're called.

Covered in dust and racoon paw prints, I pulled these beauties from the musty, dark barn and out into the light again. With a little elbow grease and some TLC, I know it's possible for them to shine again.

You see, my father has always had a passion for antiques. My parent's house is full of furniture and items (my mother has quite a different, non family friendly name for them) that my dad has found at estate sales and antique stores. He's even found items that were set out for the trash collection and refurbished them so they can shine again.

It's clear to me that I inheirited his love for old things that can be made new again. Really, it's a love for the history and story behind something old. I always wonder: Where was this? Who loved it? Why was it forgotten?

I found some rough items that I'm just itching to make beautiful again. So much so, that I find myself standing in the garage each night, looking them over and running my fingers over the wood and admiring them. It really is true: things just aren't made like that anymore.

My favorite find? This beautiful solid oak telephone case. The parts are long gone, but it's still beautiful in all its I-was-just-pulled-from-an-old-barn glory.

Like everything else, it's thrilling to bring something that was once forgotten back to life again.

Monday, March 19, 2012

We are "those" neighbors & other life lessons

It has been unseasonably warm in Ohio (it's 78 today, for your reference) and over the weekend, we took advantage of the amazing temperatures and started a renovation project. We rented a sod cutter and pulled up grass to make room for a cement patio. This back corner of our house is simply an odd space that we have never been able to do anything with, so instead of pulling weeds and cursing this area every year, we're just going to cover it with a patio instead.

It's safe to say that everyone is enjoying this amazing weather.

Although our house could have been considered 'move-in ready' five years ago, it really hasn't stopped us from completely overhauling the space, inside and out, to make it our own. I am fortunate to be married to someone with construction skills, so we typically do it all ourselves--or if we can't, we are related to someone who can. Despite the fact that I typically look like someone who never gets dirty or sweats, there is nothing I love more than manual labor. In case you have never had the pleasure to pull up rows of sod from your yard, load them into a wheelbarrel and dump them across the yard, let me tell you: it's hard work. It was painful to lift my arms to put my make-up on this morning. But it's also incredibly gratifying to see a space take shape after dreaming about it for years.

The funny thing about being a DIY-er is that whenever we start a project our neighbor always comes over, hands on his hips, and says:

"What the hell are you two doing now?"

He took one look at the yard yesterday and decided aloud that we were probably putting an addition on the house. I decided in that moment we are 'those' neighbors--the ones everyone else thinks is crazy because they are constantly doing some half-cocked renovation to their house. Overachievers, I think they are called.

We are, however, going to build an awesome backyard space for BBQ's and summer gatherings. We also took the railings off the deck and will be building a step around the outside and also putting a sidewalk around the outside. It's amazing what a big difference it has made in our view already.

Can you spot the dirt bike course in our neighbor's yard? It's my favorite thing the bane of my existence a great spectator sport.

While we were using the sod cutter, a few bolts came loose and we were not able to completely finish the project just yet. So, it was my job to return said machine to our local rental place this morning for repair. In my husband's truck. Wearing a purple sheath dress and royal blue stilettos. I was completely cognisant of my own ridiculousness when I pulled up to the dirty shop full of men drinking coffee as I tried to find a way to gracefully exit a pickup truck wearing a dress.

It was not graceful, to say the least.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Review: Venus & Olay Razor

As a member of the Influenster team, I recently received the Love VoxBox with several complimentary samples and full-sized products. One of the items I received was the Gillette Venus & Olay razor, a product that is set to hit the shelves tomorrow (March 15th).

I have personally been a Gillette Venus user for several years and was excited to try out this new twist on  an 'old classic.' In fact, I am fairly certain I've been using the same original Venus razor handle since college. {I graduated from college a mere 7 years ago, for reference.}

I had the opportunity to use this razor over the last few weeks and overall, I'm happy with the results. The razor blades are really the biggest difference in this product, as they have larger moisture bars (made with Olay moisturizers) that are on the top and bottom of the razor head itself. As someone who typically shaves their legs in the shower, this product performed quite well with nothing but the water from the showerhead.

It did take some time to get used to the best way to shave my legs with this product, as the razor does not sit directly onto the skin like my old razor. I think it's just been ground into my head that I need to press the razor onto my legs--which is not necessary with this razor.

The results were smooth legs and I did notice a difference in the moisture on my usually dry skin. I was excited that this product came with a small hook (with a suction cup on the back) to hang in the shower.

From Venus & Olay:

"Venus & Olay Razor

For the first time ever, Gillette Venus, a global leader in female shaving, and Olay, a global leader in skincare, are coming together to deliver a gold standard in shaving with the new Gillette Venus & Olay razor. Venus’ best shaving technology works with Olay Moisture Bars, offering women best-of-both-worlds shaving and skin expertise. Olay Moisture Bars help lock-in moisture to your skin for less dryness, and with every smoothing stroke, Venus’ five blades shave you close.
Product Details
•Venus’ five-bladed razors shave you close and adjust to women’s curves for a smooth and comfortable shave, even over tricky shaving areas like knees and ankles.

•Olay Moisture Bars contain skin-enhancing elements found in Olay products: Petrolatum helps lock in skin’s moisture for less dryness and Glycerin helps offer that goddess glow! Just wet the razor to release a light lather – no separate shave cream required.

•As with most Venus razors, new Venus & Olay also features a rounded, pivoting head designed for women’s curves, and a soft-grip ergonomic handle for confident control, even in wet and soapy environment
Where to Buy
A refillable Venus & Olay with one replacement cartridge sells for approximately $8.99-$10.99. Packages of three replacement cartridges are available for about $14.99 - $19.49.
Venus & Olay will be available starting March 15, 2012 at food, drug, convenience and mass merchandise stores throughout the United States. "

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary Venus & Olay razor to test & review through the Influenster VoxBox program. All opinions are mine.

The Chase

After a bit of a hiatus, I recently brought one of my greatest loves back into my life: running. For me, nothing else holds a candle to how it makes me feel. My body, my mind, and my outlook on life are always right on point after I run: it's like hitting the refresh button on my entire existence.

Running began as exercise, but quickly evolved into my own personal form of therapy. Even more so, it became an addiction--albeit a healthy one. I sincerely believe it would be incredibly difficult for me to be happy if I could no longer run. It's really that important in my life.

I think a lot about why running makes me feel that way---and why so many people don't understand it. {I know this because of the looks I receive when I say things like, "I just ran an easy 5-miler."} I realize running isn't for everyone, but my deep-seeded love for it makes me realize that we all have something in common:

We are all chasing something.

I constantly chase the feeling I have both during and after a run: the intense clarity, the feeling of bliss and understanding that comes with pushing myself mile after mile. My life is not perfect, but I feel closer to that feeling when I run. I have yet to find it anywhere else; but that doesn't mean that you have to run in order to be happy. Instead, I believe you need to find something positive in your own life that produces the same results.

When I really think about it, I can't allow myself to believe that running is the only place where those feelings exist---because I'm not the only one who knows how those things feel. We all love the thrill of chasing something: a dream, a goal, some level of personal achievement that seems virtually impossible. As humans, we need to be constantly striving, reaching--and chasing--something for ourselves.

It's entirely possible that I rely too much on running for my own personal chase. It is also very possible that the day will come when I can't run anymore and I'll have to find another way to be happy. I'll tackle that problem when it arrives. For now, I'll keep up the chase.

What are you chasing?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Influenster: A Love VoxBox Review

As a member of the Influenster community, I recently received the Love VoxBox full of complimentary items. I received my box last week and here's what was inside & my thoughts on each of the products I had the opportunity to try:

Kiss Nail Dress nail stickers: I have used this type of product before, but this is my first time using nail stickers from the Kiss brand. Overall, they were very easy to put on my nails and made for a very unique look. I received the "Shrug" style. As someone who is very hard on both my hands and nails, most nail products typically don't last very long for me. However, I would say I was able to get up to 5 days out of this product quite easily. I liked the style (a black & silver crackled finish) and would try these again. They were easy to put on--just stick them on, buff off the excess and you're ready to go. Great Style!

Ghirardelli Gourmet Milk Chocolate Creamy Devotion Bar (& a $2 off coupon): Between my husband and I, this chocolate bar was gone in less than two days. It was amazing it lasted that long, really. The bar had eight large squares and was absolutely delicious. It really was a creamy texture and had an amazing flavor--a great take on milk chocolate. I have never been disappointed by an Ghirardelli product, and this one was no exception to that rule. Amazing!

Gillette Venus & Olay razor: I already own a "traditional" Venus razor (I'm fairly certain I have had the handle since college) and was excited to try out this new take on an old classic. This product is coming soon to stores. While it looks similar to other versions of the Venus line, the razor cartridge/head is completely new. It has larger moisturizing strips on both the top and bottom of the blades that are very moisturizing and made for a very smooth shave. In fact, I didn't even need to use shaving cream; I just used it in the shower and had plenty of foam from these strips. The razor has five blades just like other versions of the product. I liked the way the razor performed, but it took some getting used to the strips, as they made the razor higher up off my skin. The razor still worked very well and left my legs smooth and moisturized. As someone who has dry skin, I appreciated that! Great new take on a beloved classic!

STASH Herbal Tea Sampler: I was so excited to get this product in my Love VoxBox, as I am an avid tea drinker. I mostly drink tea in the afternoon at work as well as after dinner at home. For this reason, I was thrilled to see the tea was all caffeine-free. There were a total of nine flavors in the sampler with two bags of each flavor, and they were all delicious. My husband always drinks a glass of chamomile tea after dinner to help with digestion and he said the apple cinnamon chamomile flavor was delicious. I tried the other varieties and also enjoyed each of them--I love that there are such unique flavor combinations in each variety. The quality was great and it made for a delicious mug of tea each time. Great job, STASH!

Truvia natural sweetener (made from Stevia): I have tried the Truvia product before and have always loved it. I try to avoid artificial sweeteners as much as possible, which is why I have enjoyed Truvia in the past. The primary uses I have for this product are in my morning coffee and for baking. I just love a packet of Truvia and a splash of almond milk in my morning coffee for a great flavor. While I don't do a lot of baking, I do enjoy making homemade protein bars and using Truvia as a sweetener in place of sugar. It tastes great and I feel good about avoiding sugar or artificial sweeteners. Delicious!

I became an Influenster just by visiting the company's website, signing up and answering questionnaires about myself and my habits and earning badges based upon my interests.

Disclaimer: I am a member of Influenster and received the Love VoxBox with these complimentary products  through the VoxBox product testing program. All opinions are mine.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thoughts on Birth Control

It seems most media outlets have been blowing up with discussion and debates about birth control lately. Ignorant people in influential positions have resorted to name calling. Still others have voiced their very strong opinions on the matter. It is undoubtedly a hot issue; however it is one that I didn't realize I felt strongly about---until last week. I am both Catholic and a registered Republican, but my personal beliefs really are not that cut and dry.

Last week, it came up in a conversation with someone that I was Catholic. Then, this happened:

"How can you call yourself Catholic? You don't have any children, so obviously you are using birth control."

I instantly became very angry. I explained that not only was my choice or lack of choice regarding birth control none of his business, but that if he had even taken just a few minutes of time to get to know me he would know that I cannot have children. He might know that I have finally come to terms with the fact that maybe--just maybe--God made me this way for a reason. Or, that there is nothing more painful or more taxing on my heart that my inability to have children.

What hurts the most is that no one ever considers childlessness to be a lack of choice rather than an actual choice. I cannot tell you how many people hear me say I have been married for (almost) five years and have no children and give me a look of pure disgust and shock. As though I'm a terrible person for choosing this life for myself.

But, that conversation feels like it has been sticking to my ribs all week long, like a heavy, filling meal that my body is trying to digest. I realized that I do have an opinion on birth control, afterall.

I am not so nieve to believe that infertility does not skew my view of the world. Most days, it is a heavy pair of glasses that shapes how I feel and think about a lot of things. In particular, it makes me think about the things in life we can choose---and the ones in which we have no choice whatsoever.

Most people can choose to have a child, or choose to add more children into their family. They sit down, make a decision and follow through with their choice. But, what if you had no choice? What if your inability to choose felt like you were drinking poison every day?

The thing that weighs heavily upon me today is not that I cannot have a child--that I have accepted--it's the fact that I have no control over anything when it comes to my body. I have no choice in the matter; I have no say in what I can or cannot do with my body.

So, what does this have to do with birth control? A lot, actually. I was on birth control for several years due to my major hormonal imbalance and medical issues, and birth control was the only thing that gave me relief from excrutiating pain and issues that incapacitated me for days every single month of my life. It was my savior from my own body.

It's none of your business, but I'm not on birth control. And, I'm still in pain every single month of every single year. Still. Even after two surgeries meant to fix whatever problems my body has created.

To imply that a woman who takes birth control does so because she's slutty is successfully slapping every woman in the face. It's not one size fits all. It's not always about making exceptions to your religious beliefs. It's not just for prostitutes and easy women, either.


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