Monday, July 6, 2015

Xero Shoes

I was fortunate enough recently to be chosen as a product tester for Xero Shoes, a new shoe company that was featured on the television show, Shark Tank. Being an avid runner and fitness enthusiast, I was excited to be able to give these new sandals a try, as they boasted about being a cross between barefoot, lightweight and also giving needed support to the feet.
  As soon as my shoes, the Z-Trek and Cloud sandals arrived in the mail I was in love.
  The Cloud version is super squishy and I immediately loved the color. They had a padded footbed and were extremely comfortable on my feet. I wore these constantly when going out and also while working around the house.
  My favorite of the two though were the Z-Trek Sandals. These shoes feel like you have nothing on. I wore them while doing all chores and activities including hiking, canoeing and gardening. Even after wearing them for over a month, they continue to look brand new. I noticed that after power washing my pool furniture in them, they dried immediately, as they did while canoeing, leaving my feet feeling dry and comfortable.
  I highly recommend these shoes for anyone, not just runners. They are comfortable and seem to really last. The company is small and very personable, offing tips and will communicate with you regarding their products.
  If you would like to look at the shoes, or even purchase a pair for yourself, visit their website at They are promising to be working on new and exciting things in the future too, so when you fall in love with one of the pair that I have tried, next summer there may be new shoes available as well.
  Enjoy summer this year in comfort. Try Xero Shoes. Relive the days of childhood when barefoot living was as much a part of summer as running through the sprinkler. You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Confessions of a (retired) 5k Champion

Confessions of a (retired) 5k Champion

There is no runner that will ever forget crossing the finish line of their first 5 or 10k race. It is the great accomplishment that they had spent weeks or even months training and working for. It is the dream that they thought they might not even accomplish back when they first laced up their shoes and began that difficult task called running.
For me, that feat was no different than it was for anyone else. I decided to run at the very end of my 20s. I had never participated in any form of sporting event. I was the one in school that lacked the confidence to try their hand on the court during a basketball or volleyball game. So when I decided one afternoon that I would try running, it was a completely new and unchartered territory for me. I decided that since my sister was a personal trainer and had completed several races, that it couldn’t be too hard. I was 5’ 8” tall and only weighed 120 pounds, so I could master the art of running. I figured that if so many people participated in this activity on a daily basis, it could not be so bad, right? Wrong!
I will never forget my first run. I clocked out a ½ mile distance from my house, deciding that my first attempt would be a short distance where I would just complete a there and back course, not straying too far from home. I was pretty excited. I fired up my iPod and started down the driveway.
Almost instantly my legs began to feel strange. They had never been asked to do something like this before and it was almost like they were questioning this feat. By the time I reached my turn-around point, I was full- fledged panting, completely red faced and was sweating more than I had ever before in my life. By the time I finally reached my driveway I had decided that I was going to parish.
The next morning was extremely unpleasant as any sort of activity using my leg muscles was completely out of the question. Even lowering myself to use the toilet was a full body adventure. But, alas, I had decided to begin this quest for better physical condition, so I once again went out for my mile long run. I have to say that it was not any easier the second time around. In fact, with my soreness, it seemed even harder to complete the journey that it had been the first day.
I continued to run on a daily basis. Over time the one thing that seemed like a torturous act in the beginning now became second nature. My legs began to understand and my body responded. Before long this girl that had never been able to complete any physical activity now seemed like she was born to run. My mile jaunts, overtime, turned into two and eventually four and five mile excursions, which I participated in every morning.
Eventually summer came and so did community racing season. Although I was completely nervous about doing so, I signed myself up for my first 5k race. Immediately after receiving conformation and my race number, the anxiety set it. I didn’t sleep for at least two nights before the race. I will never forget how it felt on that brisk morning, standing next to hundreds of other runners wearing race bibs, just waiting for the gun to signal the beginning of our race. It was terrifying. Everyone there seemed to be a seasoned runner and here I was, a girl who just decided one day to try something new. I felt like I didn’t fit in as I stood amongst the crowd in my mis-matching attire and cheap running shoes. What was I doing here?
I remember my time for that race was not very good. I finished fourth in my age group and just under 29 minutes. Still the pride that I carried for the remainder of the day was amazing. I had actually started something new and completed it. My reward for finishing the race was a new running outfit, which I wore to my next 5k race.
In face the remainder of that summer I participated in dozens of 5ks and even one 10k race. My times began to improve as the season went on and I also started to be recognized by the other runners and started winning medals in my age group.
By the next summer I was a seasoned veteran. I had spent the winter months cross training, running in the frigid Michigan winter weather and even purchased a treadmill for the bitter cold days. I participated in every 5k in my area that summer. I had more race shirts and bibs than I knew what to do with. The thing that seemed to scare me the most now had become my new obsession and regular weekend routine.
By fall, when the race season for the community was coming to a close, they posted in the local paper the standings for all of the age groups for the year. I was shocked and almost in tears to read that I was going to finish in first place in the 30-35 age group for the year. This meant that I was invited to the awards run and breakfast ceremony in September and I would be taking home a trophy for my accomplishments. How would I even top this feeling? What would be my next step?
After bringing home my trophy, which sat on the fireplace mantel for the next several months, I decided to retire from the 5k racing scene. There was no way that I would better my time and I wanted to go out on top. I decided from that moment on I would move on to the art of distance running, which was something that I had never attempted before. I knew that this would bring on a whole new list of questions and anxieties, but it was time to hang up my 5k race shoes non the less.
I’m so glad that I started running the way I did. All of those individuals out there that think that they do not have the physical or mental ability to give running the chance, take my story to heart. I had never even considered physical activity before and was horrible at it in the beginning. But I never gave up and now, over 10 years later have found a new outlet for my anxiety, frustration and energy. I have participated in dozens of half marathons now and even have a full marathon under my belt. It is an amazing feeling to cross that finish line after 26.2 miles of pure and utter torture. A feeling that you will never forget and a memory that no one can take away.
Whether you are a person looking to start a new physical activity or a beginning runner, looking for words of wisdom to continue on your quest. There are a ton of us out here willing to be mentors, give words of encouragement or simply just to cheer you on. You can do this. And, you are not alone.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Changing of the Seasons

  Spring has finally arrived in Michigan. For those people that live in southern states, you have no idea how much of a needed necessity this is for us Michiganders. In fact by mid April, when there is still snow on the ground, many of us can be found searching for the one patch of grass that has started to poke it's weary head out of the soil, or the small tops of the spring flowers that are beginning to make their appearance among the brown leaves on the ground. We live for this time of year when we can once again venture outside. It's the time of year when we finally see our neighbors again after hibernating for several months in our homes.
  Well for me this also brings the new task of trying to locate my spring and summer wardrobe, from shoes to shorts and T-shirts. The items that have been in hiding for so long that when you pull them out they are a wrinkled mess, not anything like you remember them resembling when you stuffed them into the drawers and closets last fall.
  This morning I was in search for my pair of slides, the kind of sandals that I love to wear everyday around the house. I was delighted to be able to slip my feet into these shoes without having to worry about socks for the day. As I opened my closet I was horrified at how it had taken a turn for the worse during the winter months.
  Since I share a small closet with my husband, things are not organized like I would like them to be. In fact it is so ugly in there that it took me over 20 minutes just to locate this one pair of shoes. Because I hate to get rid of any of my footwear, I had to sift through the dozens of pairs of running shoes, my winter boots and everything else that had made their way to the top of the stack. I finally located one of my slides, which was a personal victory, but the other was still in hiding.
  At this point I gave up the standing position and got serious. I sat on the floor and just began piling shoes out onto my bedroom floor, insisting that I would find this shoe. It had to be in there. I gave up looking on my side of the closet and began looking on Doug's side. This is when I came across his giant winter coat that he had obviously flung onto the closet floor. (Perfect place for that!) Fortunately for me, my missing shoe was hidden under his coat.
  Now, you would think that I would have taken this opportunity and time to organize my shoes and put them all back with the summer footwear at the top of the piles for the season. But instead, because I was in a hurry, I threw everything back into the closet, including the giant black coat, and closed the doors quickly before it could all fall back out on top of me.
  I will regret that decision next week when I'm desperately looking for my sandals to wear for Mother's Day, but for now, door closed and problem solved. Got to love living in a small house in Michigan!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Things that go slither in the light

  Growing up on a 300-acre farm had it's advantages. With both farm fields and woods on the property, we got to experience all types of wildlife up close and personal from the cows and sheep that my Dad raised, to the fox, opossum, turtles, deer, snakes and other creatures that made their appearance either in the yard or from a distance in one of the many outlying areas. You never knew just what you would run into while outside in the country.
  One thing was for certain though, my mother was scared to death of snakes. I'm not talking your normal fear, where you let out a shriek at the sight of one slithering past in the lawn, I mean a full fledged paranoia, where she would shove children to the ground to flee from the area before anyone else.
  My dad used to tell my mom not to worry about encountering snakes in our yard because they did not travel across the highway. Although we lived in such a rural setting, which would be a prime place for snakes to enjoy life sunning themselves in the many fields or barnyards, my mom somehow believed this horrendous tale and was never in fear of meeting up with a snake, even though she filled all of her spare time working in her many gardens that surrounded the house. So, we were told as kids that if we were outside and saw a snake to keep it under wraps from my mom, who would probably never go in that yard again, if she knew. With that said, the entire 18 years that I lived in that house, I think that between my sister and I, we only saw a snake a couple of times. Honestly there was just not a lot of them around, lucky for my mother.
  Now I hate to say that my dad was right with his obnoxious tale, but I now live on the other side of the highway and have a huge snake population in every portion of my yard. It is horrible. As a kid I was never afraid of them, like my mom, but they just startled me, never knowing that they were there until you are right on top of one.
  Just last week I was out working in my flower bed, trying to clean all of the perennials out for the spring, and suddenly with no warning, all of the leaves around my feet started moving and out shot a snake, making it's way into my tall ornamental grass clump, right next to where I was working. It scared me so badly that I started screaming 'snake' on the top of my lungs. Now, although all five members of my family were watching television in the living room, located directly next to my garden that I was working in at the time, none of them came to my rescue. Lucky for me it was just a Gardner snake and not a rattler or something because I could have perished and probably no one would have even noticed until dinner time when they got hungry! I instantly deemed this garden as Doug's responsibility from this moment forward and moved to a different location to work, keeping my eye out for more slithering friends.
  A few years ago I will never forget my snake experience in my garage. In the back of the garage, where the pool pump tubing comes in through the ground, we had two snakes living. I had no idea that they were even there and one day I innocently came into the garage to turn the pool pump on for the day. I think that I was wearing my bathing suit and was barefoot at the time, so I was perfectly ready for a snake encounter. NOT! I remember turning the knob on the pump and looking down to see two of the biggest snakes that I have ever laid my eyes on. They were brown and all coiled up together in a ball. It brought the term terror to a whole new level for me, who instantly shot out of the garage, screaming for my life.
  Come to find out later that the snakes were milk snakes and everyone told me that they are perfectly harmless and are good for the environment because they take care of the mouse population. Personally I am  not a huge fan of mice either, but I would much rather that they took up residency in my garage than this slithering duo. In fact I was so horrified by this revelation that I made Doug move my car out of the garage and I parked in the driveway, at a safe distance from their snake home, for the remainder of the summer months.
  Since that time I have had countless interactions with snakes. I'm not sure why but it seems like I see more and more of them each spring and summer. One year when we were having a pool party, Doug went outside right before everyone was to arrive, and was sweeping the cement area around the pool. I was out there watering my flowers and making sure that everything looked good for our guests, and suddenly a snake shot out from under the pool fence and started slithering across the cement. I was once again horrified because I thought that this was my one safe zone. The funny part was that Doug was trying not to panic and was leading it out of the pool area and as soon as it was fully in the grass, we heard my mom's voice calling out that they had arrived. We both laughed knowing that if she had only been there two minutes earlier, she would never have come outside for the party that day.
  I'm not sure if the snake population is growing yearly, or if they have just taken a liking to my property, but I'm ready for them to move on. Suddenly it does not seem so funny about how we laughed at my mom's fear so much as kids. But then again you know what they say, eventually we all turn into our mothers, so I guess it was just in the cards for me.

Thursday, April 30, 2015


For my faithful newspaper readers, this is an article and subject that I wrote about a few months ago, but is an ongoing issue at my house and I wanted to share with the rest of the world.
  While most homes are quiet during the night time hours, my house seems to come alive with sounds. Not the kind of sounds that go bump in the night, but instead the kind that keep me up and annoyed at night. While I share my bed with two dogs that are curled up at my feet, they are all silent sleepers. My husband on the other hand is a completely different story.
  I am a very light sleeper. It seems like these days even the slightest sound or movement can wake me out of a sound sleep and I have the hardest time falling back into slumber. My husband chooses to play off of this downfall of mine by filling my nights with the gift of snoring. I'm not talking a slight snore either, this is full fledged chainsaw snoring.
  Usually I try to calmly ask him to roll over the first several attempts, but then I get angry. The worst part is this is a man that is happy watching television for the remainder of the evening, after getting home from work, but for some reason when he is sleeping, he is busier than a bee hive.
  A couple of weeks ago when I asked him to stop snoring and to roll over, he told me that he would, but first he had to finishing turning his sockets. I laughed and told him to put the sockets away because it was the middle of the night and roll the heck over.
  Some nights I physically have to get out of bed and go over and roll him myself. One night while he was snoring like a maniac, I got up tried to move his 220 pound self, and then proceeded to go down the hall to the bathroom. As I was gone, I could still hear his chainsaw fired up all the way across the house. When I returned to the bedroom and once again asked him to roll over, he informed me that while I was gone, 16 people came into our room and told him what a quiet sleeper he was being that night! Seriously, how on earth does he come up with this stuff? It seems to me that it would just be so much easier for him to move over than try to come up with these outrageous stories to tell me. Our bedroom is so small that I laughed trying to picture how 16 people would fit in there to give him that information and I was only gone for a total of about four minutes, so they must have been quick during their visit.
  I have gotten so used to the snoring that one night while my granddaughter was visiting, she fell asleep in my bed with my oldest daughter, Tessa, while we were watching a Disney movie. Doug told me that he didn't want to wake them, so he just gathered up blankets and slept on the couch for the night. That night I woke up so many times and reached over, completely wondering why my room was so quiet. It would take me a minute to remember that Doug wasn't in there. The total silence that I had been craving for so long actually drove me crazy because I wasn't used to it and I would wake in a panic, thinking that something had happened to Doug.
  Last week he came up with a really good story, while once again snoring. I asked and asked him to roll over and once again he mumbles something that is totally outrageous. Finally I once again turned on my light and attempted to move him on his side. It was at this moment that he shared with me that he was going to move but had to finish moving the cow over first. What? We don't even have any cows! The things that go on in his brain during the night are outstanding and probably the reason that he is exhausted during the daylight hours.
  I would like to say that our snoring situation is over, but I'm afraid that it will continue to be a battle that I lose on a nightly basis. We have tried nose strips, extra pillows and even death threats, but nothing seems to help. I figure, although I'm tired most mornings, it does give me something good to write about and also something to laugh about the next day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

  Growing up in a very small town has both it's advantages and disadvantages. It is the type of place where everyone in town knows your news, even sometimes before you do! For me it even posed a more difficult situation have my dad teach at the high school that I attended. And whats even better still is that not only was he a teacher there, but because of alphabetical order and just pure luck, my locker was located just outside of his classroom door. My sophomore year I was also fortunate enough to have him as a teacher. Most people would think of this as a horrible situation, but my father and I did a pretty good job that year of ignoring each other in class and even if I was exhausted at night and didn't complete my homework in every class, you better believe that my assignments in American History were the first ones done each night.
  Just having my dad at the school was a challenge. One night my parents allowed me to attend a concert and I remember the following day I was exhausted at school and decided not to participate in my physical education class that day. I remember thinking this was an ok idea because we all had three days per semester where we could opt out of participation, so since I hadn't used any of those days up so far, I chose this opportunity to use one. Of course as soon as that class ended and I walked to my locker to retrieve my books for the next class, my dad was standing at my locker, arms crossed, with that 'look' that we all know and love. How on earth had he found out about my lack of participation so quickly. That was the last time I opted out of gym class that year, I can assure you of that! I swore to myself that when I grew up that I would move out of this tiny town where I couldn't do a single thing without the whole family knowing.
  Now that I am a grown woman and have raised three daughters, I am happy to report that we still live in the small town of Parma. Those giant tractors that take over the roadways and make you drive slowly, that I used to hate as a teenager, I now look at proudly because this is my roots and where not only I was raised by my grandparents, their parents and also my children. This is where we learn the efforts of hard work and the benefits of helping out your fellow neighbors in need. This is the place where you never need to worry about finding someone to help because neighbors are more like friends and family and there is always someone that is just a phone call or shout away with assistance.
    On the flip side of that I now live right off of the highway on a main road in town, which is nothing like the 300 acre farm that I grew up on. As a kid I used to be able to ride my bicycle down our road and maybe be lucky if I had one or two passing cars during my ride. I was lucky to be able to live and renovate my grandparents old house, after their passing, but to me, this is now city living.
  The funny part is that no matter what I do, someone I know just happens to drive by my house during the process. One afternoon I had a run in with a underground bee hive, to which I did not win. After shooting the hive with spray and then having the whole swarm of bees chase me through the front lawn, while I was screaming, running and flaring my arms through the air, barely making it out with my life, of course one of my friends happened to drive by and enjoyed that display. A few days later while standing in the line at the bank, that afternoon was brought up by someone in line that had watched the whole scenario unfold as they drove by. They all got a good laugh at my expense.
  Another favorite thing that they like to bring up is the fact that I now own a male horse and have to clean his 'boy parts'. This is something that I never thought of when I purchased the animal, as we had only had mares in the past. One afternoon I was in the lawn letting my horse eat grass so that he was more relaxed and I could clean him thoroughly, apparently several people drove by my house and wondered what on earth I was doing to that 'poor' animal, when actually I was making him feel better.
  Like I said, some things you will only see in Parma and apparently if you want a good laugh, just drive down Michigan Avenue in the summer and see what is unfolding in my front lawn. Since I was a kid my life has been on display so why stop the madness now. I have grown to laugh with them and now enjoy being the center of their jokes. Just can't wait to see what I can provide them with next!!

Monday, April 27, 2015

my obsession

It has officially been about 11 years now since I laced up my first pair of running shoes and hit the pavement for the very first time. Although that experience was one of the worst times that I can remember in all of my 40 years, what I didn't know at the time was that it was going to turn into my life, the very air I breathe and some days, my reason for going on.
  I will never forget the reason that I got started with running. My older sister, who had always been active in some sort of sporting event, extending way back from elementary school, gave me a tip one day that instead of not allowing myself to eat the things that I wanted, that I should try running.
  The very idea of working out scared me to death. I had never tried anything like it before. I mean I was almost five foot, eight inches tall and weighed less than 120, but in order to keep that figure, I had to monitor every single thing that passed through my lips. I would be the one at the family partys that would sit in the corner and think horrible thoughts as my entire family stood around the snack table filling their mouths with delicious bites of cheese and crackers and dip. I wanted so desperately to be able to snack like they did instead of living the skinny life and only allowing myself a certain amount of calories per day.
  Well one afternoon I decided to take my sister's advice and I got out an old pair of sneakers, put on a T-shirt and shorts, grabbed my little iPod and headed to the street. I was pretty pumped to try this activity that so many people talked about. My visions of my long legs extending out in front of me with each step were quickly subsided with me stumbling and panting and twisting my ankles in the dozens of spring pot holes that I had not noticed in my vehicle and were suddenly everywhere I looked. In fact my run got so hard and ugly at one point that I had to stop because my legs were beginning to go numb from the knee area down.
  By the time I had my driveway in sight, I was completely convinced that I was going to expire as soon as I entered my property. My face was beat red, I was sweating something fierce and now my legs were numb all the way down. Why on earth would I EVER want to do this again?
  The next morning was even worse. I was the most sore then I have ever been in my life including the two times that my body had endured major surgery. I called my sister and asked why on earth she would suggest such a horrible activity for me to try, and she said, just wait. She informed me that running was addicting and I just needed to slowly get into shape and would soon love it.
  Now here I am, thousands of miles and worn out shoes later, and I am the biggest running addict that I know. If this proves anything to you, last summer when we had a power outage, most families were worried about hooking up generaters to their refrigerators, while I was in tears over the fact that I was not going to be able to hop on my treadmill for my daily fix. I have participated in countless 5 and 10k's, several 1/2 marathons and even a full marathon.
  Although my relationship with running is still a love/hate encounter, I do have to say that I now enjoy the fact that I can eat pretty much whatever I want and running has become my stress reliever. I know that this type of working out is not for everyone, but I have found my niche. I have come a long way from that horrible day where my first mile-long jaunt almost killed me. I now average over 100 miles a week.
  I think that everyone that is searching for their little niche to help make them feel stronger to try running. Even if you can only begin with 1/2 mile of running and then 1/2 mile of walking, anything is a start. Every step makes you stronger and NO one can take that feeling away from you.
  My other piece of advice is that you may not want to run quite as much as me. I have opted to only using a treadmill now, to help my joints. I have killed two of them so far and by the sounds of it, my third treadmill is not far behind. I will probably end up in a wheel chair before too long, but for now I am a lot happier, healthier and stronger woman because of it. I can out eat most men and although I'm not skinny like I used to be, I'm still lean looking and feel great!
  Run on my friends!