Thursday, December 18, 2014

I learn from the best

If I had to describe the perfect scene for Hanukkah, it would be a house full of light, love and laughter. It would be a warm home, lit from the inside out, full of children running around, food cooking on the stove and people in every crevice and corner.

It would be our house last night.

There is no other way to describe our 2014 Hanukkah party, other than it was the perfect Hanukkah scene. If our house were made of cloth, it would have been bursting at the seams.

What a beautiful way to welcome Adele into the world. What a beautiful way to show her the love we have in our lives. What a beautiful way to show her that when you put love out there, it will be returned to you.

I may have been running around like a mad woman last night, but I loved it. And trust me, I don’t always love it. Most of the time I do, but not always. I’ve hosted many a party in my day, and yes, it is stressful. I often feel that most of my joy comes from the planning, preparation and anticipation, and when the party arrives, I miss out on a lot of the fun because I am holding down the fort. However, it didn’t feel that way last night, even though we had some 40 people in our home, including children of all ages. Each guest or family brought food and our friends Sarah and Rob were in the kitchen all night turning over falafel, knishes, semolina muffins and doughnuts. Food and people were arriving in droves. We were emptying wine bottles faster than I could bring coats upstairs. Between keeping track of who was holding Adele and which baby’s cry was hers, I was dodging children left and right, and traveling from room to room to make sure people were eating and happy and eating.

 I loved it because this is what I want for Adele. I want her to see what happens when you open your home to friends. When you share your holiday traditions with people of all ages and faiths and backgrounds.

Needless to say, this will be our tradition. Yes, we skipped a few years between 2011 and now, but I think it’s safe to say the Millers throw a kickass Hanukkah party.

And where did I learn it from?

My grandmother, who has been throwing a family Hanukkah party for as long as I can remember. What started out as a few-family affair in her apartment has since turned into a 30-50 people event, complete with singing and the present game. My grandma spends the entire year preparing the Hanukkah party, including buying each and every gift for the game. Is it stressful for her? Yes. But she does it and she loves it. Why? Because it’s what she wants for her family.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My favorite holiday begins tonight! Happy Hanukkah 2014

Hanukkah 2011

Hanukkah 2011

Happy Hanukkah!

In 2011 we hosted our first Hanukkah party at our old house, before Campbell and before Adele. Now, three years later we are doing it again!

We are expecting nearly 40 people on Wednesday at our home. I am so excited to share my favorite holiday with Adele. It's amazing how much has changed since 2011: now we are married, in a home we built, with a dog and a baby. We couldn't be more blessed. 

And that guy on the right in the top picture? That's Mike, and he just got engaged!!!!! MAZEL MAZEL! We love you, buddy! And we miss that crazy Hanukkah vest of yours.

And the second picture: me with Lauren, who will be celebrating with us on Wednesday. We have the best friends in the world, and again, we couldn't be more blessed as this holiday approaches.

From our family to yours, happy holidays!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I ran 13.1 miles and I didn't even chip my pedi

My first half marathon - Dec. 7, 2014

Written Tuesday, Dec. 9:

It’s taken me the past two days to become a person again, or at least enough of a person again to write a blog post about Sunday, the day I absolutely did run the hell out of my first half-marathon!

My goal was just to finish. My other goal was to maintain a 9-10 minute mile, taking into account hills, cold and wind. My other goal was to finish between 2 hours and 15 minutes and 2 hours and 30 minutes.

I finished in 2:02:40!

Race day breakfast: blueberries, a whole banana, coconut, walnuts, dried dates and raisins, and almond butter atop a bowl of oatmeal.

I feel so relieved. So happy. And yet I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet that I ran 13.1 miles just two days ago. Because I continue to be surprised at how my body is SO OUT OF WHACK RIGHT NOW. Like, why do I feel this way? Oh yeah, because I pushed myself and I pushed myself hard.

My lungs and stomach were (and still are) most bothersome, starting right after the race. Both an upset stomach and sore lungs following a race are normal.

Sore lungs: I pushed myself HARD up hills and breathed in cold air for more than two hours. Lungs feel a little better today, but boy did they hurt on Monday.

Upset stomach: again, completely normal. For me, anyway. I get an upset stomach after a long run but it usually goes away that night. Well this has lasted until this morning (Tuesday). All the nerves plus the anxiety plus the running and everything sloshing around plus the gross 5-hour energy I took plus my not-so-normal diet the day before.

My legs were sore Sunday and Monday; today they feel a lot better.

Other things I expected (and have experienced during 6-10 mile runs) were blisters between my toes and a sore upper back and neck. I didn’t have any of those.

I was surprised by the lack of foot pain, and also by the amount of lung and stomach pain.

But AH yes, it was so worth it!

So race day was gorgeous. It was in the mid-30s and sunny. The ground was dry, the sky was clear. It was cold but I didn’t feel it. My cousin Ethan ran it with me and kept me on pace, on target and motivated the whole way through. After mile 3 I started to have some fun and enjoy myself, especially running by open fields and cows. At about mile 6 I started to feel like I wanted to be done. But I quickly changed my thoughts to something else and just kept running. Just running, running, running. Enjoy the people, enjoy the scenery.

Ahhhhh... so addicted to that finish line!

The last few miles were hilly, followed by the hell hill at mile 11: a hill so steep I couldn’t tell if my legs were moving (they were). I had been warned about this hill. Everybody talks about this hill. It’s a constant steep, curvy hill that continues to curve up and up and up. I knew it was coming so I just pumped as hard as I could. And I think I only said “holy shit” once.

Then I saw the top of the hill and I knew at that point the finish line was close. Once I caught my breath after the hill and got reoriented in the world, my RunKeeper read 12.8 miles. I had always envisioned a strong finish, especially for this. I tried, I really did, to pick up my pace for a strong finish. And I ran as hard as I could. I couldn’t run any faster. In all of my previous runs, from 5Ks to 10Ks to Tour de Pink to the 10 miler, the finish line is what does it for me. Seeing the flags and the people line the road: that gets me PUMPED to the max. And I was this time. But I honestly couldn’t push any more. But I crossed the finish line with my legs high in the air and a smile on my face.

I don’t remember much else DURING the race: just that I kept focusing on running and kept telling myself it’s OK if it hurts because THIS is the day it’s supposed to hurt, THIS is the day I put everything into. THIS is the day where it all comes together – all the training I’ve done plus all the running I’ve done since my first 5K in 2011. It was all for that day. So I focused on that. I said to myself THIS is the day I can let myself hurt and be exhausted and push so hard. THIS is the day to run the hell out of the half marathon.

Ethan kept me notified of our pace, when we needed to speed up, and tips for form, as well as things to keep me motivated. “Only a 10K left.” I told him I would be happy when we were at the part where he said “only a 5K left.” When that time actually happened I was NOT impressed. 3.1 more miles?! SERIOUSLY?!!!!! Because it wasn’t just that hill that was rough at mile 11; in general the whole course was pretty hilly, especially towards the end with rolling hills. So I had already done a lot of hard pushing even before I approached the hill. I had already done a lot of hard pushing when I got to the 10 mile mark.

So after 10 miles I don't know what was going through my head. Just that I needed to keep going because I wanted to be done! The energy was fantastic, though, and I made some friends during the race.

Sean and Adele at the finish line! They both cheered me on the entire way!

Written Wedneday, Dec. 10:

Where am I today? Trying REALLY hard NOT to sign up for another race. Yes, I’m serious. I told myself once I finished my half marathon I was going to RELAX and not train for a while. Why? Because with Adele and our schedule I don’t have time right now to adequately train for anything, and trying to squeeze in training makes me more stressed and upset. I KNOW this. So I am actually crossing OFF my list the Rodney Myers 10 miler in March and not signing up for any race until July: the Firecracker 4K I run every 4th of July. I know I need this break; I just have to remind myself I do.

When Adele is older and I have more adequate time to train, I will consider another 10K, 10 or 11 miler or half-marathon. YES, I will. But not now. Now I take a break from training. I’ve been training for something, whether it was Tour de Pink (my first 10K right before that) or my 10 miler last March or my half marathon, or random 5Ks, for the past two years. I’ve literally been in training for the past two years. IN ALL CAPS: TIME FOR A BREAK. I want to focus on Adele and not squeeze in runs Saturday and Sunday mornings (Adele time) or weekday evenings (Adele time). My training is done. My race is over. Time to relax.

In the meantime I will run leisurely just for fun and fitness because I love running. But I won’t be training for anything. And I won’t be signing up for anything. I am going to run for the fun of it. Whenever I can. Which actually might not be until spring. And it might be only one run a month. And I am SO OK with that.

So today, Wednesday, I feel pretty much back to normal; 99 percent. Sunday it was my legs and tummy. Monday it was my lungs and tummy. Tuesday it was my lungs and tummy (such an upset stomach I had to skip coffee – entirely – on Tuesday. Yes, that happened.) Today my tummy is back to normal. Legs don’t hurt. Lungs are back to normal.

The excitement is still there. I am completely aware of how hard I pushed myself and that if and when I do another half, I won’t be as sick afterwards because I will have had adequate time to train.

Or maybe all people who run halfs need three days to recuperate?

I feel good. I feel accomplished. After all, this was my ONE LAST THING. And now I can focus on other things. I wanted to run 13.1 before my 30th birthday. I did that. I wanted to finish a half marathon. I did that. I wanted to run for myself. I did that.

I’ve proven to myself that breast cancer didn’t put a dent in my step. I proved that when I continued to run 5Ks after my diagnosis, moving up to a 10K, a 10-miler and then a half-marathon. I proved that when I rode 213 miles on my bike, from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.

There have been lots of ways I heal from the breast cancer, and running is only one part of it. Running is the physical part, the control part, the my-body-my-rules part.

Other healing comes from this blog, from speaking at events, from sharing my story, from volunteering, from taking on new jobs and experiences, from making new friends, from going after what I want in life, for aiming high, for loving fully and from embracing imperfection.

Post-race: what's the best way to recover after a half marathon? Cuddle with your baby!

And running, in itself, is just a part of my life now. Like shopping or coffee, running makes me happy. Running feels good. I’ll always run. And now I need to say thank you to my body for getting me through 13.1 fast and windy and hilly miles. And give it a rest.

There’s a reason I feel the urge to keep signing up for races. Clearly. And I don’t know why, nor do I care. The important thing is I know when to give it a rest. When to say no. No thank you. No, sir.

I know when to scale back. And I know now is the time to do so. My body and mind tell me that training for another race won’t benefit me now. I get that.

In my heart of hearts I trust running will always be there. I don’t need to make it a priority. I don’t need to lasso it in.

It will be there when I’m ready for it. When the time is right.

Like a good cup of coffee. Like a nice pair of shoes. It has to feel right. It has to fit. It has to go down smoothly. I’ll know when it’s time.

Until then I bask in the glory. I ran 13.1 miles and I didn’t even chip my pedi.

Friday, December 5, 2014

half crazy, full throttle

Since my last post, the following things have happened:
-my surprise 30th birthday brunch
-NIH clinic (all scans, including full body and brain MRI are clean; bloodwork was fine!)

Thanksgiving 2014!

It’s been crazy (again) since Adele’s adoption. Right after her adoption finalization on Nov. 25 we delved right into Thanksgiving followed by my surprise birthday party followed by a day-long trip to the NIH in Bethesda, MD, and back, for my NIH clinic, followed by Adele getting pneumonia (she is OK: on antibiotics and a nebulizer, and back at school after being home for two days – still eating, sleeping and playing like a champ!) PLUS I’ve been trying to prepare for my half marathon which is, all of a sudden, two days away.

But Adele’s illness plus terrible weather has prevented me from pretty much any real training.

And now my throat hurts which has me nervous.

But, here’s what’s going to go down on Sunday.

I am going to run the hell out of my first half marathon. Sore throat and all. 30-degree temps and all.

I have been doing everything I can to kill this (cold?) as it starts: lots of hot tea including organic chamomile and Tulsi; eating raw garlic; getting lots of sleep; Airborne, Sambuccol/elderberry; eating fruit; and taking my multivites. So, I THINK it’s just a throat thing and I’m HOPING it doesn’t develop into a full-blown cold.

I can run on a sore throat. It wont be pleasant but I’ll do it. I’ve put way too much into Sunday’s race.

Adele reading her first Highlights magazine after her dinner of kale, apple and Greek yogurt :)

On Sunday I will run because:
I got a clean brain MRI
I got a clean full body MRI
My bloodwork is clean
I am turning 30
I want to end 2014 with a BANG
We finalized Adele’s adoption

I can. I will. You’ve heard that before.

This time this particular race has even more meaning. A 30th birthday is kind of a big deal. Another year of clean MRIs when you have LFS is kind of a big deal. Adopting a child is kind of a big deal. Running a half marathon in December in Pennsylvania is kind of a big deal.

Being a Mama with a full time job is kind of a big deal.

I am kind of a big deal and I’m celebrating being kind of a big deal.

And ya know what? I don’t care how or when, just that I finish. Slow? Fine? Terrible pace? Fine? I just want to finish. Any way that I finish will be MY running-the-hell-out-of-it. Because who does their first half marathon in December? This girl.

This year was phenomenal. 2015 will bring even more excitement and blessings and journeys.

"Oh, Mama, you are so hilarious!"

When you turn 30 you want to celebrate. Thank you to my amazing husband Sean, and my family and friends, who surprised me with my favorite brunch in honor of that.

Clearly, I was very surprised

Life is so, so short. I am reminded of that every day.

On Sunday I will run because life is short. I will run for Kara and Kayla, two Tour de Pink sisters who died from breast cancer in the past two years. When I run I think of them.

Life is so, so short. If we can run the hell out of a half marathon we absolutely should. Just because. Because I promised myself I would.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Adele's adoption!

It's official! Thank you all for your love and blessings, and to all of our family and friends who shared in our special day yesterday, whether in the courtroom, at the luncheon celebration or with their spirit from afar! Yesterday was a beautiful day and we are truly thankful. Thank you all, again, for your tremendous love! Courtesy of Christian M M. Brady, a full album can be seen here. Thank you, Dean Brady, for capturing such beautiful, heartfelt memories and emotions!

With Judge Grine!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Trying not to burst

I literally feel like my heart is going to explode. FIVE days until we finalize Adele's adoption! I don't have any more words other than I CAN'T EVEN.

This is one of those few times in my life I am at a loss for words.

There is nothing to describe this. Nothing to describe the journey we've been on since April 26, when we first met little Adele the day she was born, all wrapped up like a burrito.

There is nothing more to say other than my heart doesn't recognize this feeling.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Running on hummus and chocolate

Just as I set out to do, I conquered my first 10 mile run since March this past Sunday! I actually ran 10.25 miles in 1:32:51, making this my longest run in terms of both time and distance. Saturday I ran 7.5 miles, bringing my total mileage this past weekend to more than 17 miles. And it was cold this past weekend (in the 30s). And windy. And I trained with a lot of hills. And there were sometimes snow flurries. But I made it through and I feel even more ready for Dec. 7!

My appetite is SO weird while I'm training. Sometimes after a long run (6+ miles) I'll be really hungry the day after. And I crave the weirdest things. Usually hummus (since I started training) or chocolate. And I know I'm getting enough protein and iron because I eat fish and nuts and I put organic almond butter in my oatmeal every morning. The past few days the only food that's appealed to me is chocolate. Obviously I've been eating other things, but my usual cravings of fruit, and even fresh dates (gasp!) are kind of absent. I'm not really craving carbs, either, but have been kind of forcing myself to eat pasta, especially after yesterday's 10 miler. I wasn't hungry AT ALL (I was nauseous, really), but I had some leftover gnocchi in the fridge so I had that for lunch. Then I went to the winery with my girlfriends and had some pomegranate seeds and almonds and some fruit (and wine, duh), but nothing too heavy. Then for dinner we had some friends and their kids over so we ordered pizza. I need the energy for Adele, so even if I'm not hungry I eat. And this week, especially, with Sean in Texas until Thursday, it's just me and the baby and the dog, so working full time plus taking care of the baby all night and in the mornings I need to have my energy.

So my eating is weird. I am sure it will be back to normal after the race is over, but right now I want very, very specific things. Almond butter, chocolate and hummus are pretty much the only things that appeal to me right now. Usually I crave a lot of fruit (I normally eat 4-6 servings a day), but I feel now like I'm forcing myself to eat fruit. Also forcing salads.

I know my body and I am giving it what it wants. I am giving it almond butter and chocolate and hummus. And that's just how it is. I have to remind myself that while I've been a runner on and off since 2011, this training is all new to me, and the runs I've been doing since October are longer than any runs I used to do. Even when I was training for my 10 miler last March, the longest run I did up to that moment was about 8-9 miles. And prior to that, my "long" runs were 4-5 miles. Now, my "short" runs are 5-6 miles and my long runs are 10+ miles. So I have to remember this is all new to my body and my body has to adjust.

So I feel really good after this past weekend, and am planning hopefully two more 10+ mile runs before race day. I can definitely count on Thanksgiving morning being a good run day. That and 11/30. Everything in between, with football and holiday travel, will have to be shorter, 5-7 mile runs.

I love it. It's addicting. I will, though, WILL be happy when it's over. It's not that I'm nervous, I'm just a little tired so it will be nice to again fill my free time with sleeping instead of running.

A week from tomorrow is a big day for our family! I feel so incredibly blessed that so many friends and family are planning to join us for Adele's adoption. There will SO much to celebrate next week, starting on Tuesday and going into Thanksgiving.

Yesterday's run was a huge accomplishment for me. A huge milestone. There are lots of those coming up, too. Next Tuesday for Adele's adoption ceremony. My first half-marathon Dec. 7. My 30th birthday on Dec. 22. Adele's first Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

Every day is a milestone, too. Each day is a blessing, a gift. As the days get darker and colder and waking up gets harder and walking outside gets more chilling, I have to remember the winter, too, is a beautiful blessing. I always rush winter and I want it to go away. I hate the dark and the cold. I shrivel in the winter. I blossom in the warmth and the sun. But I guess this year I decided to embrace the winter by running 13.1 miles in the middle of it.

So here's to you, winter. I guess I'm not mad at you this year. I can't make you go away or keep you from arriving. So maybe I'll just run alongside you and show you who's boss.

Photos by me

Still Being Molly


Photo by Marjie

Photo by Marjie

Photo by Marjie

Photo by Marjie