Today is the first day of 2021 and I’m already tired of people saying they are so glad 2020 is over and there is no way 2021 can be worse than 2020. First I want to state a reality, bad luck knows no time. It is impossible to state definitively that 2021 has to be a better year than 2020. The only way that even has a remote chance of being possible is if you do something to make it so. I do believe you have it in yourself to make 2021 a great year, but before you head out on this journey I challenge you to be real.
The question you need to understand is really how terrible was 2020? I understand 2020 was a unique year for all, but was it bad? Please answer these questions: Do you have your job? Do you have your health? Do you have your family? Do you have your friends? To understand the magnitude of 2020’s uniqueness and how it effected you ask yourself what is different today, January 1st 2021 verse January 1st 2020? Once you truly reflect on this, I would venture to guess that your retrospective of 2020 will prove it was a strange year to be sure, but nothing terrible!
This morning I revealed the first day of January on my daily desk calendar. The quote supports my thoughts on 2020 and I wish people would get real and start to see the truth or their lives. Change and growth has no way of taking root until a true introspective has taken place. The quote states, “What is new in the world? Nothing. What is old in the world? Nothing. Everything has always been and will always be.” Shirbi Sai Baba.
I’ve been thinking about how really great 2020 was for me and my family. I understand many saw sadness last year, but I do believe this sadness would have occurred regardless of a pandemic. It probably would have shown itself differently, but it most likely would have been there. What I also know is others sadness, grief, frustrations, heartache, and more don’t have to be mine. When I’ve listened to the Venerable Bhante Sujatha teach he speaks often about listening and being kind to others but never taking on what is theirs. He always says you must take care of yourself first and you can not do this when taking on others pain. I want to be a role model to my children that despite all the changes and fear in the world, we as a family are happy and well. We don’t have to see what is in the news and be sad, there is always happiness and kindness everywhere and that can be theirs instead.
My children have proven over the last years they are full of resilience and this would have shined in them with or without a pandemic. Personally I don’t put up with pity parties of any kind. I know this can come across as unsympathetic and in some cases cruel, but I truly believe we personally have control over how we react and can control how outside and uncontrollable events effect us, our moods, and attitudes. I’ve said many times that my cup is always two-thirds full and I expect those around me to live in those types of cups. Of course, we all have our ups and downs, but we are learning how to take control and set the mindsets that we’ll be through this and be better for it.
I truly hope the world didn’t wake up today, January 1st 2021 and believe anything changed from 11:59 on December 31st 2020. You and I are all the same. If you think you need to change, take time to conduct a true look at yourself and evaluate what should change and make a plan with goals to make these changes. Write it down and make it so. I also challenge you, especially if you believed 2020 sucked, to conduct a retrospective on the year and truly understand the REAL suck level of 2020.
I want to end with some highlights of a great year!
I’ve been working from home since March, and the time home is amazing!
My runs with the kids and especially seeing Timyra excel on the track!
Moving in to a house that fits us!
All the great camping trips (we camped before it was cool)!
Remote drill weekends (again meaning more time at home)!
Receiving, learning and practicing Reiki, this also brought amazing energy into my life and house!
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Writing for me has taken a back seat, but every time I walk away from this blog I never forget it’s here. I do miss the therapy this blog gives me. Although unlike when I was in Afghanistan, many times the topics I want to write about are too often too close to the people closest to me. When I was publishing while in Afghanistan I wasn’t writing about people who I cherish and love and it was highly unlikely they would ever read what I was writing. Now I know the people I’m writing about will read and I don’t usually want to go there in such a public forum.
My 2020 goal was to be more open minded and expand my ability to have empathy. I did this by reading many, many books well outside my comfort zone to help me see things from a different perspective. It has helped me humanize people I otherwise would have had no sympathy for. I have grown a lot this year during that and want to write all about it.
Right now I’m feeling the need to wage a protest. When you are not in an organization, if you are infiltrated into an establishment you can not affect or influence change from within. My protest is against party politics. I am OVER being told you have to choose. I don’t want to choose. I don’t want to be told I have to choose and I’m starting a protest. Like organizations of the past and present who wage protest for change, they did it because they had to. Like women’s right to vote, right for gay marriage. When women wanted to vote they couldn’t vote for or create a law that would allow them to vote because they were not in the organization they wanted to influence. The only way to have their voices heard was through protest. I want my voice heard, so her I am protesting.
I friend of mine who I truly respect and who has been able to affect and influence change recently stated on a podcast she was interviewed for that she loves her country but she doesn’t like or agree with everything. She can still have pride in her country despite the state of the nation. Over the summer, I started to feel true sadness and have been carrying a heavy heart regarding humanity in general. Terrible things have been happening and in my mind, in regards to the police shootings and the violence against blacks, no side can be “right”. No one has all the answers. The police brutality, is wrong. The rioting and looting, is wrong. The civilians shooting and taking the law into their hands, are wrong. So until we can stop dividing and stop blaming and pointing fingers and start uniting no change can occur. Solutions don’t come from finger pointing. This has been weighing on me heavy. Yet, despite it all I do truly love my country.
The divisiveness is what is weighing on me the most strongly. I struggle intensely with party politics. I believe our elected officials have a duty and obligation to inform their constituents regarding the true impact of what they vote into law. This is not happening. One reason this doesn’t happen is because then they would have to speak out against their party lines. Once someone speaks out against their party they lose their funding to run for office and lose their job. This boils my blood. The party politics we are forced into are meant to divide us and not unit us. Without unity we are not going to see the change we need.
My protest is on my ballet in November. I am tired of being told there are only two choices for President and you have to choose one or the other. I am tired of saying I’m not voting for one and then people assuming I’m voting for the other. It’s so engrained in to our culture that you are either one or the other. There is no middle and I’m tired of this.
I want to encourage people to vote! I want people to vote for the candidates on the ballet who they truly believe will do the job required and represent you! But my challenge is for you to stop voting for a candidate when you are choosing the better of two evils. Stop voting for one side because you don’t like the other. Stop voting for your party because that is just what you always do. Why do we have to accept this? We don’t have to. What I am proposing is vote and leave the parts of your ballot blank where there is no qualified candidate. If you were hiring someone for a job you would not just hire the best of the worst in the candidate pool. You would broaden the candidate pool and find the right person for the job. It’s time for us to do the same for our country. The country we love but don’t like right now.
My challenge to you, is if you feel like it’s time for change. If you feel you’ve had enough of party politics and subpar candidates who divide the country rather than unite it. Then join me in my voting protest! VOTE!
Here I am at a drill weekend again and as promised, I’m writing. Last drill I thought I would be writing about how I’ve been reading (actually listening) to all these books and they are changing my overall perspective on life. And for the most part, they are and I’ve come to some real thought changing conclusions. I am finding that in the end we are all human and I’m feeling a lot of sympathy for people who a few years ago I would have dismissed. However, I’m sure I will come back to this topic another time. I really want to answer this questions. How do you do it all? I am asked this question at least on a weekly basis and I don’t have a good answer. The answer I usually give is if you were in my same situation you would do it too.
When I was pregnant with Eugene I kept seeing articles and research about how moms of three are the most stressed and moms of four are the least stressed. The reason for this, as the articles stated, was when you get to four you stop caring. I take that, as you get to four you start to understand what is really important and worth your time and what’s not. You learn how to divide and conquer, which means you know you can’t be at everything for every one of them. You know you are not going to make every after school activity and not only do you know you can’t, you don’t feel bad when you don’t. When you get to this point the stress because less and you start to understand what’s really important and take a few minutes to relax.
I realized I had gotten to this point of four children bliss a few weeks ago when I was picking up my oldest from her Saturday morning swim practice. As a fourth grader swimming for a swim team, I dropped her and her friend off for practice at 7:15 am and met my friends in the parking lot of the school. We went for a nine mile run while they swam. I didn’t feel any guilt about not watching her hour and half swim practice. Had I watched I could never have given her any valuable feedback on how to improve. I know enough about swimming to get through the swims in my triathlons with some efficiency, and that’s about it. She has coaches and I trust they are giving her the attention she needs to grow. I’ve spoken with the coaches and I know she’s well behaved and works hard at practice. I don’t need to know more than that, so instead of watching her I use these precious moments to go for a run and spend time with my friends. I don’t need to watch my daughter workout at the sacrifice of my own workout.
After the run I walk into the high school, where they swim, to pick up my daughter and her friend. There are multiple parents already in there waiting (because they stayed and watched practice) and we started talking about what we have planned for the rest of the day. One mother mentions they have a birthday party. Then she went on to say she feels like she’s going to be spending all her children’s childhood going to birthday parties. I state, I’ve stopped bringing the kids to the numerous birthday parties we are invited to. If we attended every birthday party they were invited to, we would be at multiple birthday parties nearly every weekend. For my four year old, she’s in a class with kids who all have birthdays within four months of each other. There really is at least one party every weekend, as they are all turning five in the next few months.
I told these mother’s when we receive an invitation for a birthday party, the first thing I do is check the calendar to see if it’s even possible for them to go to the party. Then I ask my child who so and so is. If they don’t really know, I leave it at that and throw the invitation in to the recycling. If they know the child, I proceed to ask do you play with so and so at school. If they say no, I throw the invitation in to the recycling. If they say yes, then I ask if they want to go to the birthday party. Then after passing through all these questions I will most likely take them to the birthday party.
When I told these mother’s my process for deciding if we’re going to a birthday party you would have thought I was depriving my children of basic childhood rights. One mother told me she makes an extra point of taking her children to a birthday party when her child doesn’t really know the child who is having the birthday. She wants to make sure her child is making as many new friends as possible. And a mother of four sees this as, why do I have to spend $20 for a birthday present and take my time (which is precious) to take my child to a birthday party for someone they don’t even know.
There are more examples of this throughout my everyday. I let my kids play outside unsupervised. All (except Eugene), get themselves ready for school including getting their breakfast and all without being asked. I don’t say these things to shame other parents. But, just because you have less than four kids doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the four kid bliss. Everyone’s child can be more independent, when allowed. Your children won’t be shunned if they skip a birthday party or six. There is really no shame in taking time for yourself when your child is otherwise occupied with activities (you can do this when they are not occupied with activities as well). As a matter of fact you really should. I promise you they will be fine when coaches are left to coach. Leave all the guilt and just care less. I mean isn’t the point of raising your children to one day send them out into the world to be self-sufficient and independent adults. These are all skills we as parents can start instilling from the beginning. I really do encourage all parents, weather you have one or ten children to take advantage of the four kid bliss.
So how do I do it? I have FOUR KID BLISS! or I’ve stopped caring (one or the other)!
Even with all my good intentions, I did not manage to write as much as I thought I would. To maintain this commitment to myself I’ve decided to write each month during my Navy Drill Weekends. During those weekends I am almost always guaranteed some time to myself to write. Then I can think throughout the month about what I want to write. So January is month one of 2020 and month one of me writing during my drill weekends. I miss this outlet.
I want to quickly reflect on 2019. 2019 was a year of a lot of change for us and successes. 2019 was the year we welcomed Eugene and became a family of 6. I got my project management certification, was selected for Commander in the Navy, and in October I left a job I loved at Life Fitness for a better job at Trustmark which gives me the flexibility to be home more. I raced my first marathon since 2016 and qualified for the Boston Marathon by nine minutes (remember Eugene was only six months old). I also ran my first Ultra Marathon in December, a 50 kilometer race and took 3rd place female over all and finished in 4 hours and 34 minutes.
As I go into 2020 I really feel like I need to redirect and focus. I want to be more deliberate in everything I do. I needed to take a moment to pivot and do it with mindfulness. I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I believe you should always be making an effort and thinking about what you can do to improve. Change doesn’t need to be tied to a certain day or time of year. This year however, I’ve really decided to commit to some New Year’s Resolutions. I started the process of vetting out my commitments for the new year in October. I was in pursuit of activities that didn’t involve eating and drinking. Think about how everything you do includes eating and drinking. I don’t think it’s a huge surprise to those close to me, but since I’ve been back from Afghanistan I have not had more than a handful of alcoholic beverages. And since Eugene was born I have had even less. I feel better, I sleep better, I weigh what I weighed in high school, and without alcohol I have to be more mindful. There is no going home after a long day and numbing yourself with a drink. You are required to really face life and you can’t live it numbed or replace what you need to be feeling with something else.
Mindfulness is my overall resolution for 2020. It is my word for the year. This started when TJ and I joined a good friend of mine and his wife at a Buddhist workshop about love and kindness meditation. This was something we could do that didn’t revolve around food and drinking. Now we did go out for an early dinner afterwards, but it wasn’t the focus of the event and I really enjoyed the food and company afterwards sharing our experience from the workshop.
My same friend also recommended we watch the NetFlix documentary The Game Changers about eating plant based. The documentary had a strong impact on us and how we want to eat at home. Since watching we transitioned to a primarily plant based diet. So far I love it and the kids have no problem eating lentils and lots of vegetables. I would cook this way anyway and now that everyone is eating it, dinner is much easier. We also gave up coffee and switched to matcha in the mornings. I’ve noticed a huge difference in how I feel without the coffee. A another friend of my mine stopped drinking coffee and she said now when she’s tired she knows it and takes the time to rest where as when she was drinking coffee she could hide being tired behind the coffee. This makes sense to me and supports why I don’t drink alcohol. This is just just another way to be more mindful in everything I do.
Following the workshop I started thinking more about how I could incorporate mindfulness into my daily life. For 2020 I used Tom Zigler’s Wheel of Life to make goals that focus on seven core areas of life (thank you Katie Vervoren for mentioning this to me). They are mental, spiritual, physical, family, financial, personal, and career. I listed out a few key things to focus on in each of those areas all with mindfulness as a focus. I also asked the kids and TJ to do the same. Taylyn, even though the youngest, was the most enthusiastic to write out her goals. She was so cute and drew little pictures about things she wants to focus on.
I’ve read and heard so often that sharing your goals makes you more likely to achieve them so here is what I’m focusing on in 2020. All of these were written through the lens of mindfulness.
Let go of making my goals other people’s goals
Give up being right
Make a strong effort to listen – especially to the kids
Do love and kindness meditation daily
Go to Yoga once a month
Attend a Reiki workshop or class
Schedule rest days
Bike the 28 weeks to the 70.3 in June (follow the plan)
Understand if Ironman can be a 2021 goal
Have everyone sett goals in the family and check in with them
Go to Church every Sunday where it works
Leave my cell phone at the door when I get home
Create a zero based budget
Pay off my car
Make every purchase mindful
Read / Listen to a book once a month outside my comfort zone and shows a difference perspective
Eat vegetarian at home
Be a “Go To” person at Trustmark,
Research Agile Certification
Thank you for letting me share where I am planning to do in 2020. I’m hoping to be able to check in throughout the year give progress updates. I already feel strongly about writing about my goal where I am listening to / reading books outside my comfort zone. I really think this has already changed me and I will write more about it next time. I feel as if I’ve gone on long enough and I have a solid thousand more words to write on the subject.
I am committing to writing again in a few weeks. Until then I sincerely hope you take a minute to breath. Think about what you want, write it down, and get started. Always remember to say this to yourself (and I’m stealing this from my favorite yoga instructor, who I think stole it from Bhanti Sujatha the monk) I am happy. I am healthy. I am loved. BE KIND!
One of the most rewarding parts of my time in Afghanistan was when we were able to invite the the young ladies from Free to Run onto the base to run. These young women show strength and determination in a setting I could never imagine. These women want change. They need change. The are looking for something that is their own in a country that doesn’t want to let them and in a world that wishes they could.
I came home from Afghanistan with dreams and those dreams altered and shifted course, but never at any point did I ever believe they were not possible. I am a mother of four incredible humans, two of which are perfectly strong girls. I will nurture and care for all of them as long as they will let me. I pray daily to be the role model they deserve and when I do misstep they have the grace and patience to forgive and learn from me.
As part of my journey home, and hopefully someday in conjunction with an Ironman (I just can’t let it go. Dreams and goals are what keep us going and give us a reason to get up! I’m not giving up on mine), I committed to race for the charity She Can Tri. This charity was founded by a friend, Jackie Faye, who I served with in Afghanistan. She is an amazing women who is doing great things for women who really need it. The current focus of her charity is to train Afghanistan’s first women triathletes in partnership with Free to Run. They have their sights set on competing in the 2020 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Taupo, New Zealand. I want to be part of their journey and help get them the funds they need to reach their dreams.
While I am racing and wearing my She Can Tri suit there are always people cheering me on screaming, SHE CAN TRI. The support I receive from strangers is inspiring. This triathlon season has been a season of rebuilding my base. I was talking to a friend of mine who is struggling with injury and can’t train like he would like. We talked about having to train for where we are today. I thought I would have Eugene and be back in half Ironman shape this fall. The reality is, I’m not there. I’m not even sure I will be there next year. My life is full of conflicting priorities and this one needs to fall to the bottom. I am thankful to be able to run hard and the rest will come. I will continue to tri, but I need to be realistic about where I am at today. I need to embrace my current situation and nurture what works today and tomorrow will come.
I am blessed to live in a country which allows me to raise my girls to believe they can do anything. The opportunities for them are basically endless. They will never have to wonder if they have the support to do what they dream. Timyra has already started her triathlon career. She always knew she could tri and is out there TRIng her little heart out. I want to ensure she will always be able to pursue her heart without adversity. She may never know the hardships of the Afghan women, but I will do whatever I can to teach her so she can appreciate her fortune. She knows the stories of these women and will race to raise money for their dreams.
My girls are also fortunate enough to have an amazing male role model in their life who supports them in everything they do. TJ is always there for all his girls. He takes amazing care of the three of us. He is always cheering for us even when he’s not standing right there at the finish. Sometimes he can’t be there because he’s home taking care of the little ones, but he’s always thinking of us and cheering for us from afar. The majority of women in Afghanistan are not supported by the men in their life. They TRI, but they do not have the support to lift them up and keep them TRI-ing.
All of us have a try in us and we need to embrace it. The effort of trying has the ability to get us far. If you don’t even start and try you’ll never know what you can do. For these Afghan women they tried and look what they are working to accomplish. Please look into your heart and consider giving to a cause I truly believe in. These girls need us to make their dreams come true. Follow this link to She Can Tri to contribute. Timyra and I are out there TRI-ing for them and hope you will TRI too!
A year ago today I returned home after being gone for over thirteen months. My sister and I were able to pull off a super surprise. My family thought I was coming home the following week, so when I walked down the stairs at my sister’s house everyone was shocked.
I’ve been back a year, but I still say I just returned. What I’m learning talking to my friends who served there with me is, you can take us out of Afghanistan, but you will never fully take the Afghanistan out of us. Afghanistan certainly left a tattoo on my heart and as I age it will sag and fade, but it will always be there. From my last post, I’m still wearing my bracelet with no intention of taking it off.
On July 4th 2018 I had the next year planned. We had multiple camping trips booked. I was racing with the pinnacle to be the Ironman in October. In the middle of all that I would return to my civilian job. In the spring, TJ and I were going to take a trip to Spain and Italy just the two of us. And I’m sure we would end the year taking some great camping trips with our family of five!
I also said when I came back I would keep writing and I did write a few times over the last year, but not as often as I thought I would. I’ve missed this blog and I am making a commitment right now to write more often. I am not making any promises of what more often is, but more than eight times in a year. I do want to write about the day Eugene was born, but I’ll get there another day. However, Eugene Daniel was born fast and furious at 1:39 am on April 2nd. He was born only a few hours after I posted my last blog post. He’s happy healthy and the perfect addition to our crazy family.
There is certainly still a pull on my heart to become an Ironman, but I’m letting that wait for another day. The reality is, it’s just not in the cards this year and probably not next year either. But what I need to remind myself is that Ironman will always be there and despite not achieving that particular goal I had a really amazing year. I may not have heard the words “Darchelle You Are an Ironman,” but I should still be proud of what this year morphed into.
I am extremely proud to be the mother of four. Our life has turned super crazy, but I love every minute. I can’t get enough of their smiles and laughter. I am proud watching Timyra as she turns nine next week, becoming a strong independent young woman who will conquer the world as an amazing adult. She makes solid well informed decisions and works hard at everything she does. Her courage and work ethic would make most adults look bad.
I am proud watching Timothy at the age of six. He is the sweetest boy, who always takes others feelings into consideration. He broke his arm over Labor Day weekend while we were camping. All he was concerned about was making sure his brother and sisters never broke their arms. He apologized because we had to come home from camping early. He works harder than anyone on the soccer field, playing with the eight year old boys and often practicing so hard he makes himself sick.
I am proud to watch Taylyn at the age of four out wit and outlast just about everyone. Her confidence and independence is unmatched. She is a handful, but I will never be afraid sending her out into the world. She will take any bull by the horns and tell it who is boss!
I am proud watching Eugene as he grows and changes everyday. He completes our family and makes all of us better. He teaches us patience and I believe he will keep me young. At only three months old, we are still getting to know each other, but I can’t wait to truly meet the sweet boy we created.
I spent this 4th of July running fourteen miles on the 4th. I enjoyed the time to reflect on this last year and let go of what I missed and truly love what I have. Not only did we add to our family, but I passed my Project Management certification exam and I was selected for promotion in the Navy. Not a bad year at all!
What I want to remind you today is we all have our Ironmans. Replace Ironman with the thing you want to accomplish, yet continually seems to be just out of reach. You should always be proud of the effort you put towards each and every goal you set. You also need to remember you may not have heard you are an Ironman, but you heard something else just as great and don’t let that be overshadowed. I can’t say I’m an Ironman, but I can say this….
Darchelle You are a Project Management Professional!
Darchelle You Are a Commander in the United States Navy!
Darchelle You Are a Mom of Four!
Darchelle You Are a Wife!
Darchelle You Are Loved, Respected, and Awesome and don’t forget that!
And I’m all these amazing things even without my Ironman, and you are too!
Today is a day full of jokes and crazy antics and from the beginning of this pregnancy I’ve felt like April First would be the day he was born. I’m not sure he will come today, however I really hope he does. With the other three I never made it to thirty-nine weeks, and today I’m thirty-nine week and one day. This baby boy has been doing things his own way from the beginning and he continues to do things his way.
Last week my oldest two were on spring break. Obviously, we were not able to take them anywhere for spring break because I needed to be close to home just in case. We are fortunate enough to have amazing family who made their spring break great. They spent the first part of the week in Lake Geneva with my Aunt Ann and Uncle Kevin and then the second part of the week in Milwaukee with my Aunt Tammy and Uncle Jeff. I am so thankful they were able to take the kids for the week and give them a really great spring break, because I couldn’t.
As a side effect of the kids being gone for the week, I was able to get some rest. I took a minute to breath and take care of myself. Although the week was very strange and I had no idea what to do with myself most of the time, I certainly prefer to be busy all the time rather than have nothing to do. I am so used to taking care of someone else all the time and I went from that to no one. I really was lonely and missed the kids like crazy. I know things are about to get even crazier, yet this week gave me a moment to reset and make sure we are ready for our next addition.
In the hopes of giving this baby an eviction notice I went for a “walk” every morning. By walk, I really mean, I ran a half mile and then walked until the song I was listening to ended and then ran again. For the most part this last week the weather has been amazing and it was nice to be outside and still running. As a side effect of my daily run / walks my March overall mileage was higher than it had been since December. I can’t tell you how much being able to run has helped me with this pregnancy. I struggled accepting what pregnancy was doing to my body, but I was still able to keep part of myself by running all the way until the end.
Since baby is still cooking on April 1st, I started the month with my run / walk combo. Two years ago on April 1st I ran a marathon. Last year I ran with my friends in Afghanistan for our weekly themed run and this year I made it through four miles running trying to get this baby out of me.
This last year has been full of huge life changes. Our lives have moved in many directions and we’ve pivoted in ways we never thought we would. The thing is I wouldn’t change any of it and I am so thankful for everything we have. As a small side note, and probably why I’m writing this blog post in the first place is, I still feel like I just came back from Afghanistan and I’m not sure when I won’t. Nine months is certainly not enough time and I don’t know how much time will. I thought when I finished the Ironman that would be the moment, the pinnacle, the time when I could say I’m back and not “just back”. As a matter of fact, I have a bracelet a boy scout gave me as I was leaving North Carolina to go to Afghanistan that I’m still wearing. I said I would take it off once I finished the Ironman. When I crossed that finish line I could leave Afghanistan behind and remove the bracelet. I’ve said it so many times, Timyra and Timothy even talk about it. The thing is I don’t know when I’ll be ready to take off the bracelet and be able to say I didn’t just leave Afghanistan. I certainly don’t know when the Ironman will part of my life again, so that is probably not the time. But when you see the bracelet, don’t ask, I tell the kids not to. Just let me have it there and I promise I’ll take it off when I’m ready. Maybe I’ll be ready when little man number four arrives and maybe not. What I do know is I’m super excited to meet him. I would be even happier if he showed his face today. Come out little man, I think April Fool’s Day would be the perfect birthday for you, I hope you agree! I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
All holiday season I was asked a similar question over and over, all having the same meaning. “Are you happy to be home?” “Doesn’t it feel good to be home this year?” “You have to be happy that you are home this year.” Of course, my answer to all of these questions was a very strong and resounding, YES!
But here is the thing, I am happy to be home. I wouldn’t trade one moment at home with my family for anything else. Yet, this holiday season brought about a sadness and strangeness I had never known before. I was truly sad for my fellow service men and women deployed over the holidays. I know the feeling of just getting through the day, knowing that when you wake up the following morning there will be nothing special about that day and you are happy the holiday has passed. Knowing you are one day closer to going home and knowing there is one less day you’ll miss the memories everyone is making without you. My heart hurt for them.
There was extra pain and sadness because the weeks leading up to and after Christmas were especially violent in Afghanistan. Every time I read an article stating we had lost another service member to an Insider Attack or another improvised explosive device detonating killing more innocent victims, I cried a little more inside. Before my deployment, I never bothered to watch the news or read about a country on the other side of the world. Now I can’t help but be interested.
As a matter of fact, as I wrote this, I read an article about the Taliban’s negotiations this week in Qatar with the U.S. News stories like this give me hope, but I am hesitant to be too hopeful. I have seen what it’s like there and the fact that the Taliban are talking to the U.S.A, but the President of Afghanistan was not there, makes a strong statement on how this will go. The Taliban has also stated they want the U.S out of Afghanistan and there is a six-month flexible timeline to determine the U.S. exit plan. All of this could lead to progress, BUT…. I feel like BUT has been Afghanistan’s history and I’m hoping this will have a happy ending! Although I am not convinced it will. To help with happy endings, in early December TJ and I took a trip to Louisville for a long weekend. It happened to be around our wedding Anniversary, so it was extra nice to get away and spend time together. We had a great time just being together without the kids and being able to simply be alone together. Prior to that trip, our last night alone was when I came back in February of 2018 and we spent the night downtown Chicago when we went to see Hamilton.
An extreme added bonus to our trip was a good friend of mine who I served with in Afghanistan was also there for the weekend. Chris was there with his brother and father-in-law. Being able to see him was important to me for two reasons. One, and probably most importantly, was that I needed to see a friend of mine from Afghanistan not in The Stan. It was important to spend time together outside of a war zone and just be in the normal world together. The other important element of this trip was I wanted TJ to meet someone I spent my time with over the year we were apart. I wanted to bring him into a small part of that world. It was important for me to have him meet a friend from the year in my life he missed to help make it more real. The old saying, put a name with a face!
What else I know has a happy ending was how we spent our holidays. I was able to stay home for almost two weeks with my babies and I went for runs with my friends. The very best part was that I was home with my loved ones. We spent our Christmas Eve in our traditional way. A few years ago, we started ordering Chinese Food, Christmas Story style, for dinner. This year the kids all participated in the Christmas pageant at the Christmas Eve Mass. Then we went home and had a movie night where we watched Home Alone. Home Alone is a classic I remember watching often when I was Timyra’s age. All the time we were making memories together instead of half a world apart.
The memory making hit me the hardest last week Sunday. We were stuck inside all weekend due to extreme cold temperatures. To help burn off excess energy we had a family evening dance party. Some how I was able to embarrass TJ while dancing the Macarena in our own home, that speaks wonders to my dancing skills. Despite the questionable dancing, we were all laughing, being loud and just making memories. As I sat down to watch the chaos, which is my life, I started to cry. I was overjoyed just BEING HOME!
This blog post has been on my mind for weeks now, and I think it’s time to write. With each pregnancy I’ve struggled with what it does to my body. When I gain weight I struggle a lot and not only that, I am really uncomfortable for the majority of the pregnancy. I start out by feeling sick and then my back and finally my whole body hurts most of the time. I’ve never enjoyed being pregnant and pregnancy number four is no exception.
I have spent the majority of the last nine years giving my body over to another human being. I spent almost ten months pregnant and then another year nursing for each baby. I go through ten months of gaining weight while pregnant, to a year of losing it again while feeding another human from my own body. Between each baby I tried to race when I could at whatever I could fit in.
Following Taylyn, for the first time in what felt like forever, I was back. I had officially recovered from a five year injury. I was able to run more miles than I ever had and faster than I ever could. I was biking and swimming again. I was trained and ready to finish an Ironman, the race of my dreams. Most importantly for me, I loved my body again and it was just mine. I was running without a shirt and I felt comfortable. I was at my high school weight, only as an adult I had real muscles and true endurance.
When surprise baby number four came, I certainly felt blessed that I will be mother again, but I still struggle with what pregnancy does to me physically. I look at pictures from the summer and pictures from today and feel disgusted. I dream of what I looked like in July and what my body could do.
I was talking a friend of my mine from work, Beth, and she said you need to own this. You need to know how amazing pregnancy is and how well you pull it off. My logical self knows that today I am in better shape than the majority. I can run faster and farther. I’m swimming more and biking some (I could bike more, but I could always bike more). I just know what I could do six months ago and I could do it not looking like a sausage squeezed into a casing. To prove this point, I did a five mile turkey trot on Thanksgiving. The race ended up a hill and then a mile to the finish. As I was running up the hill at mile four, a younger girl passed me and said, “Good Job, you can do this!” All I could think was I used to be the one passing. I used to be the one saying good job to everyone. Now I’m the old, large lady getting passed while the more fit pass me with words of encouragement.
And again, I know I’m pregnant and I’m supposed to be slower. I know in three months I will be able to work my way back to Ironman shape. I’ve already put together my training plan for 2019, which already includes at least three half marathons, a sprint triathlon, an Olympic distance triathlon, a 70.3 Ironman, and a marathon. My training starts the first week of May, which gives me twenty weeks to the 70.3 Ironman. Of course all of this depends on delivery and recovery going well, but I can only plan to that. My glass is always three-quarters full, so I’m planning for the best.
My logical self truly believes I’m beautiful and in shape. My logical self knows this is temporary and amazing. My logical self loves what I see in the mirror. The unfortunate part and the I’m sure the part that makes most roll their eyes, is my everyday self does not. I hate getting dressed each morning, I have nothing that fits. I REALLY hate putting on my swimming suit to swim. I walk as quickly as I can from locker room to pool and back. Stepping on the scale ruins my week.
What I can say is everyday I make a true effort to love the body I have today. I am thankful and love what my body can do. I try to remember when I’m not racing I am creating or feeding another human. I should be proud and I try very hard to be. Beth’s words go through my mind often reminding me to OWN IT! And she is right, I do need to OWN THIS! I need to enjoy these months more than I’m letting myself. Actually as I write this number four just kicked me and I smiled knowing how wonderful this time is. I may struggle everyday to appreciate my body, but I am trying. I truly believe you should all embrace yourself, wherever you are at, and OWN IT!!
For Veteran’s Day I was asked by American Legion Post 771-Gurnee to be their guest speaker. When I was asked everything in me wanted to say no. Since I’ve been back and probably always, I really don’t like being recognized as being in the Navy. I am proud of my service, but I don’t need others to know or recognize me. I’ve never been one to enjoy wearing my uniform places other than to work. I was telling Timyra the other day, I would prefer being recognized for the races I’ve run than my time in the Navy. When I give my elevator speech I talk about the work I do at Life Fitness, my role as a mother, the time I spend training, and then if there is time I will give a brief summary of the Navy. I just prefer it that way.
Although what I learned before and after my speech was this was not about me. My service today and the recognition I receive is for those who served after me. It is to ensure they are not forgotten and has nothing to do with me. Before I spoke a Vietnam Era Navy Veteran, Bob, came up to me and introduce himself. He mentioned he served in Vietnam as a Cryptologic Technician. My dad happened to also serve during a similar time period also as a Cryptologic Technician. My dad happens to be VERY proud of his two years of service, I would say much prouder than I’ll ever be of myself, yet after talking to Bod I started to understand why. These men and women feel forgotten and identify strongly with the Navy. My identity does not revolve around the Navy, but for them it changed them in away they can never let go of.
As I was speaking some of these men and women were crying. They stood for me when I was finished. I had so many come up to me afterwards and thank me for giving a new perspective to an old subject. One of the little boys came to me and said, “that man didn’t do a very good job, but you did great!” I may not have the same pride these Veterans have in their service, but I was proud of the message I was able to share with them. I always will put on my uniform, even if I complain a little, for people like Bob and anyone who is willing to listen to me!
Below is the speech I gave that day!
Alan thank you for the kind introduction. Happy Veteran’s Day to all the Veteran’s especially those who are actively serving in a combat zone. And a special thanks to those Veteran’s in our audience.
It truly is my honor to be here today speaking to all of you and to know you are here willing to listen.
I am sure many of you sitting out there believe, that since I am a woman, you will hear what it is like to serve in the military as a woman. Even I, as the woman, I feel I am obligated to speak about what it has been like serving in a male dominated field. I’m supposed to speak about my challenges and how I overcame them. To say look how strong and successful I am today, despite adversity. Then I am obligated to talk about how this changed me, and I am so thankful for the experience. And lastly, about how I want to inspire all the women after me to pursue their dreams and never let their gender get in their way!
I do believe women should pursue their dreams, but I don’t believe they should because they are woman. I really don’t believe their gender gets in their way. I believe our genders, male and female, can be an asset we leverage to make ourselves great. I know my time in the Navy working with men has changed me and made be stronger, but I don’t believe gender has to be the factor that sets my success apart. Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to follow their dreams. At no point in my military career did I feel my gender kept me from pursuing mine. I’ve thought about this a lot and I wondered why this is. When I hear other woman speak of discrimination, I don’t see my experience the same way. My memories of my time in the service are not littered with moments of when I had to overcome serious moments of discrimination. Of course, there were times when men acted inappropriate, but it was so few and far between it never tainted my perspective or discouraged me from continuing to be me. The name I give this is authentic confidence.
A mentor of mine, from early on in my career, who also happened to be male, told me to never stop being a woman. Men and woman are different, and they are supposed to be. It is ok and completely natural. By nature, I am not a man, and this means there are things I am not as good at as a man, but there are so many things I can do better. When we work together we bring the best of ourselves to the table working towards the best results. I have tried throughout my professional career to embrace my femininity and stay true to myself. I was confident in who I am and through my authenticity and confidence I was able to thrive in a situation where historically I wasn’t supposed to.
Compared to many, I have a different perspective on the topic of women doing what is typically considered “a man’s job.” Although I believe since I am a woman who has spent her entire professional career in male dominated careers I have a good perspective of what it takes. To illustrate my perspective, I want to share a story of a conversation I had with a fellow Sailor while I was in Afghanistan.
Most Sundays we didn’t have to report to work until after lunch, so to break up the monotony, a group of us would get together and run. To mix things up, many of the runs were themed and we would dress up and there were always Oreos to snack on afterwards. These runs were away for us to spend time outside of work with our fellow service members and forget about where we were, even if for just a few minutes.
While we were running I was chatting with a few of our fellow runners. One of the runners was a submariner. We were talking about women on subs. When I commissioned, in 2005, women were not allowed on subs. This did not upset me in any way. I had no desire to serve on a submarine. As a matter of fact, during the summer following my freshman year of college, the Navy sent me to Norfolk, VA to spend one week with each of the potential communities we could commission into. All of us went to a sub and spent one week underway on the boat. As I entered the hatch to board the submarine I wanted to turn right around and leave. There was nothing in the community that appealed to me.
While we were running we were also talking about National Women’s Day and women doing jobs traditionally held by men. I do believe women should be able to do whatever job they want to and have a passion for. What irritates me about women’s rights events and things like National Women’s Day is the motivation behind what these activists are doing. The question I always ask is, what are we really celebrating on days like National Women’s Day? Do we need to draw attention to these differences, or could we embrace them instead? If you are becoming a submariner (or insert any career) because all your life all you wanted to do was become a submariner, I am very happy for you and I wish you the best of luck on your pursuit to break down barriers. If you are becoming a submariner because you want to prove to someone else that you are capable of doing something, then don’t. Your heart is not in it and you are doing it for all the wrong reasons. To be successful you must stay true to yourself and maintain your authentic confidence. If you are not being true to yourself, you will never be confident in your abilities and what you are pursuing. Just because I didn’t want to be a submarine officer didn’t mean I couldn’t, I didn’t have the passion. I simple had the motivation to pursue another career. As a submariner I would not have been able to be authentic to myself. Therefore, I wouldn’t have the confidence to break down the barriers required. I wanted to apply my skills and passion somewhere else. I didn’t have the drive or desire to make that my career. I have nothing to prove, I know if I wanted to I could have, there was just something I wanted to do more.
During my seven years on active duty I found a lot of success. I left my first ship as the number one Surface Warfare Officer and stood toe to toe if not half a toe ahead of my male counterparts. Along with my success as a Surface Warfare officer and obtaining my necessary qualification I was also there to support the Sailors who worked for me. By nature, women tend to be more compassionate and patient than men. When situations would arise in my division, my Chief Petty Officer often would lean on me to deal with these delicate scenarios. These were situations involving families, suicide, and other more personal matters. I was an asset to the team outside of just my day to day job. If I had left my famine nature at the door when I went to work, I never would have been able to contribute in the way they needed me too.
I want to challenge all of you to look inside and really think about what it is that is motivating you. Are you too motivated by outside influences that you have lost your true motivation? Is it time to stop pursuing something because you are only on that path to prove something to someone else? Have you lost your own motivation and is it time to find that internal spark again? Lastly and I think most importantly, remember, just because you don’t have the desire to change the world doesn’t mean you don’t have the internal passion to do something great. You don’t have to want to be the next FIRST to do something. You just need to find your IT, the thing that makes you, YOU. The thing that allows you to be true to yourself and I promise the motivation to succeed will come naturally. Your confidence will be there to break any and all barriers that stand in your way. Be great at what you love and not what you should love or what someone else thinks you should love. BE YOU, AND BE MOTIVATED, BY YOU!! Be authentic and confident in all your endeavors and you will never fail or at least you will never fail in being you!