Running With Gratitude

Or, How to Organize Your Own Turkey Trot

Our Turkey Trot, the Mahalo 5k

Over the years, the boys and I have run a few Turkey Trots together... up at the crack of dawn, well over $100 later and sporting ill-fitting, ugly t-shirts we launch ourselves into a crowded sea of strangers for a 3.1 mile run for the homeless/hungry/you-name-the-cause. And we love it. But this year, it just seemed a bit excessive. We can't justify the expense regardless how worthy the cause, and the logistics also seemed less desirable when I factored in Thanksgiving prep and party time.

So we went rogue.

To replace the traditional "Thank You" run, we came up with the Mahalo 5k, a 3.1 mile run loosely organized for our friends and family. It was aptly named by one of my twins, as mahalo means "thank you" in Hawaiian. More than that, it's a sacred word that conveys the essence of gratitude, respect, and esteem. The island spirit has definitely influenced our family-- Kauai is like kin to us and long ago we adopted "mahalo" as our simple mealtime blessing.

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1. The Concept: Invite friends and family of all ages to join us for a 5k run/walk. The course would begin and end at our house, and avoid major intersections. Everyone brings their own water to drink, as well as canned goods for the San Diego Food Bank.

2.The Identity: Because I treat every event I host as an opportunity to play with my graphic design hackery, I had to create an identity for the race. Even if we didn't get t-shirts, I wanted to convey the cheerful spirit of our race, our community and our geography. On request though, I gave the local shirt shop our design and invited participants to print shirts on their own.

3. The Course(s): Since a number of my friends rock the road with their kids in tow I created an alternate Stroller Course that sticks to the sidewalks. For the rest of us, I mapped a mixed terrain course with a tough climb near the end. I printed a copy of each course and slipped them into plastic sleeves for day-of viewing.

3. The Invites: I really dislike Evite and think that emails with PDFs don't get opened as quickly, so I caved in and used Facebook events and invited only a smallish number of close friends. I wanted to keep it manageable, and it worked like a charm.

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4. The Logistics: The race was free, and we just asked that everyone bring donations for the food bank. An RSVP was requested, but I didn't turn down any last minute joiners. We identified key points along the route that may need signage to keep everyone on track and the night before the race I took the boys on a stealth mission with headlamps, flashlights, tape, signage, a bucket of a chalk and a deadblow hammer. We graffitied the sidewalks with arrows and messages like ""Let's Do This" or "I'm thankful for__________" and "Don't Give Up!". That morning we did a quick tour of the course to make sure the signs were still up and visible. My man had the role of race official and gave us the offical countdown to start, followed by some race recon via mountain bike.

BONUS?  Local runners got to see our handiwork and maybe, just maybe, felt an extra spring in their step that morning.

5. The Refreshments: At the last minute I decided to offer some post race fare, so that morning I cut up a bag of oranges into wedges and bananas into halves, and brewed a couple pots of coffee into thermos carafes. We had one big water jug on hand, and our friends ended up bringing bagels, lox, cream cheese and donuts. There was much debate on Facebook as to whether this would defeat the purpose of the run, but I didn't hear anyone complaining...

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6. The Impact: We took a baby step into social activism. I was able to rope my kids into the organizing and planning of the event, and in the process they learned about community, connection, event logistics, and hunger relief. 10 familes with 20 kids and two canines gathered to run/walk 3.1 miles for a healthy, fun start to Thanksgiving weekend. On the run we actually took our own cue and shared a few things we were grateful for--humor, chocolate, stargazing, a sense of smell, ocean views, friends and each other. We gathered bags of groceries for the local food bank and cheered each other on during what turned out to be a scorching, hot day in San Diego. After the race, the boys and I dropped off the donations and discussed all the good things that came from our little 5k.

BIG MAHALO.

Lust for Life: All In

image (1) Earlier this year I went to the funeral of a 71-year old man who was tragically killed in a car crash. He was an iconic figure in the creative community, ebullient and spirited with a cult-like following of both socialites and artists, chefs and gardeners. Though I was just one of his many admirers, I felt the heartbreak of his passing deeply. After the service, in the thick of their lush and wondrous garden, his children shared stories of his passionate approach to life. He was unabashedly charming, witty, bright, always late, creative, generous, adventurous. He loved good food and beauty and music and travel and family. His passion for living practically burst from him, you could FEEL it. It was infectious and lovely. Essentially, he was all in.

Yes! All in. I took on that mantra and it's been with me ever since. So why bring it up now? I read an op/ed piece from the NYT yesterday titled "Our 'Mommy' Problem" that used "all in", as the aggregate term for the turgid phrases smattered throughout every other Op/Ed piece related to a woman's quest for happiness and fulfillment (Lean In/Have it All/Do it All/Be it All). Aaaack! No! That's not what I'm talking about. This is distinctly not THAT conversation.

All in is about having a lust for life. The insistent chorus of Iggy Pop and David Bowie's ecstatic heroin induced anthem sums it up. I got a lust for life. BEING in the moment, fully. It's about vulnerability, and risk. It's about celebrating the small stuff and embracing the shit that life deals you head on. FEEL the pain of a friend's betrayal. PLAY with your kids, instead of instructing them how to play. LOVE your partner for all of his kinks and quirks. Love YOURSELF for all of your kinks and quirks. Say yes to family time and dirty floors and mismatched stemware. I'm not promoting hedonism or stupidity, I'm talking about really, profoundly experiencing your life.

Being all in touches on mindfulness, too. Eckhart Tolle speaks of it in "How to 'Be' While Doing" and Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh expressed it perfectly in an essay on "washing the dishes, to wash the dishes". I have progressed in my experiences of Being, but I realized that I can be so caught up in these moments that I've forgetten to look at the big picture as well. Does my work make me happy? Does it sustain my family or serve our greater goals? Have we even thought about our greater goals? What are we gaining from living in this particular house, with all of these lovely things, if we're working too hard to enjoy it? Let's ask these questions. Let's dive deep! I got a lust for life and I'm ALL IN.

Into the Wild + Quinoa Johnny Cakes

IMG_5213 We returned yesterday from a sweet weekend getaway to the mountain town of Julian, CA. Lucky to have acres to roam and a Quonset hut to nest, these family escapes are more rare now as we are scheduled to the stars with sports and other commitments. The property is not ours per se, but belongs to my family, and we have been adventuring there for nearly 10 years now.

I'll be honest. We're not exactly roughing it. I packed our SUV to the gills with the following... paint, glue, yarn, scissors, markers, paper, leather Motorola radios ("walkie talkies") pink ski vest + Uggs books + magazines my camera big straw hat scooters + helmuts cooler, dry goods, sparkling water, spices Bose sound dock a bottle of pinot plastic eggs + chocolate + goofy glasses

As I closed the back of the truck, I thought it might be possible that I've simply outgrown camping.

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I let go of email and running, and turned instead to hiking, cooking, reading, gathering, making. We crafted swords and slingshots, I collected feathers and daffodils. We ate True Food Kitchen's quinoa Johnny Cakes and I baked Spanish chicken with onion, potatoes and spicy sausage. We dyed eggs with beets, red onions and turmeric, and huddled together on a loveseat in front of the tiniest TV screen for a Friday night movie. I was up at daybreak each morning, and heard the call of the turkeys as I hid eggs on Easter Sunday. Later that day we packed up the truck and gave a heavy sigh, with the promise to return soon.

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Quinoa Johnny Cakes

My go-to dessert dish when I brunch at True Food Kitchen with my lady gals. Barely adapted from Dr. Andrew Weil's True Food Cookbook

Recipe:

2 cups cooked quinoa

2 cups whole wheat pasty flour

1/4 cup sugar (evaporated cane or white)

2 tbs plus 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of sea salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups whole milk

4 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

orange zest

1/2 tsp olive oil

pat of butter

Toppings:

ripe banana, apples, or blueberries

Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)

maple syrup

Method:

1. Make quinoa. (HOT TIP: If like me, you normally add some savory "better than bouillon" flavor to your quinoa, skip it if you plan to use leftovers for these Johnny Cakes).

2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk well to combine. In another large bowl, combine the milk, eggs, vanilla, orange zest, and oil and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend until just combined. Fold in the cooked quinoa taking care not to overmix. Let the batter rest for at least 1 hour.

3. Lightly brush the cooking surface of a nonstick pan or griddle with butter. Ladle about 1/3 cup of the batter onto the hot pan. Drop banana slices, thin apple slices, or 8 to 10 blueberries on top of each pancake. When bubbles form in the batter, flip and cook on the other side until

lightly browned. Continue with the remaining batter and choice of fruit.

Serve topped with a dollop of yogurt and maple syrup on the side.

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Forever Young: The Queen Bee Turns 90

Marcy90_0005The MatriarchLovin’ on my gram isn’t always easy. She’s a feisty red head, at heart, in her youth and now via bottle. Still, Marcella is the Matriarch of our tight knit family and we love her Madly. She has a brood of 4, plus 5 grands and 4 greats. Married to the “Chief” for more than 50 years, our family has a strong foundation and sticks together through it all. The in-laws are IN, and they accept our eccentricities. Through marriage and divorce, sickness and health, we all come together. While the Chief left us a few years back, Marcella Jean (or “Maxy”) turned 90 today, and this is how we celebrated.

Home Movie I know there must be some 8mm clips, recorded somewhere. But I don’t have them, so I created a simple scrapbook-style movie of fave family moments and images from Grandma Marcy’s life. While In the Mood by Glenn Miller nearly me drove me out of my gourd (longest 3:26 of my life), I had some fun with Herb Albert’s Tijuana Taxi, the bubble gum popper I’m into Something Good by The Bird and the Bee, and finally, the heartfelt yet peppy version of Bob Dylan’s Forever Young. It came in under 15 minutes, which seemed to be the perfect amount of time for everyone to giggle, sigh, and regret some awesome haircuts (did someone say perm? or um, mullet?).

Storytelling I am big on thought here, short on action. I think it’s fantastic to have recorded stories of our family’s history.  Have I done anything to make this happen? No. StoryCorps does this all over the country, and I love to hear the vignettes on NPR. In the spirit of StoryCorps we had everyone share a memory of the Birthday Girl. I video-recorded each one with my iPhone. It’s a start. My M opened the series with a reading of Invitation, by Shel Silverstein, and B drew her a picture of a bird. Which he promptly left at home. My nieces sang “You Are My Sunshine” with a little help from their Oma. The stories were funny, soulful, and grateful. Meticulously planned and lovingly spontaneous. I saw the origin of (many of) my beliefs and quirks through the eyes of my dad, my aunts, uncles and cousins.

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Ohana Family. It’s in the way we lead that children are cultivated and grown. Relationships nurtured. Parenting is not so much about following rules. The rules are inherent in the WAY we are raised and HOW we guide and inspire our own children. Not in a list of do's and don'ts.  I know not everyone is as lucky to have family near by, or willing to travel the distance for these milestone moments. But making the effort means so much--and teaches the next generation that connecting really does MATTER. Family first.

Mahalo Mondays: Grateful for a Holiday

ImageI'm not going to lie and tell you I watched the President's second inauguration this morning. Or that I took time to educate my boys on the historical impact of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (though the day is not over, and I still have an opportunity during tonight's "Table Topics"). Let me tell you that I spent a portion of this day being totally self indulgent. Yes, today was a FREE DAY as we call it in our house, and Free Days are golden. Now Saturday and Sunday are Free Days, of course, but these bonus weekday holidays are more like platinum. Usually we don't have sports scheduled at this time. No doctor or dentist appointments, no mandatory family gatherings, and in theory, we've already done our chores. In theory. Last night the boys slept over at my parents, giving me a head start on this freebie by going to a movie with my girlfriend (Silver Linings Playbook). This morning, the Mister took off for work, and left me in bed, dozey and crampy. I laid around a bit, made coffee, got a bowl of dried cereal and hopped back into bed with both to promptly watch three episodes of The Mindy Project on my iPad. SIDE NOTE: Do you not LOVE Mindy Kaling? This show is like Sex and the City meets Mary Tyler Moore meets The Office with a hint of Grey's Anatomy. Just enough clever, quirky, smart, sexy, charming. FUNNY.

Got out of bed after 9AM (SHOCK! AWE!) and got my running duds on just in time for the boys to come home. Off to basketball (them) and a run (me). Later we went the thrift store, grocery shopping and treated ourselves to frozen yogurt and coffee (me, not them). I ignored a bunch of could do, should do, need to do chores, and sat down to write this up. Me blogging, them iTouching.

Indulgent yes, irresponsible, not really. The joy of being lazy is so rich, and so worth it.

The Impact of Parenthood

IMG_2752 All week I've been in a funk. Blame it on the full moon, lunar eclipse, post-holiday blues, WHATever. It's a funk, and I don't mean in a good 70's James Brown sort of way. When asked by the hubs what my problem was, I listed the following: I'm working just to get a paycheck, I haven't exercised all week, I'm not doing anything creative, and I'm tired. His reply? "That's called Parenthood."

The whole reason I re-started my blog was to be explore and appreciate life's daily drill, and to remind myself that really, THIS is enough. But is it? I got teary at Thanksgiving when the Mister gave thanks for our two boys. Yeah, humble brag, I think they are awesome, and smart, and athletic and (mostly polite) if not a little quirky. I actually LOVE being a parent. I feel totally devoted to being a parent to these two little charmers, and together we have made this our top priority. But with some sacrifices too. We both work 9-5s (with flexibility) and we carefully juggle all of the school and sport responsibilities like so many other families out there. But are all you parents fulfilled by this? If you work outside the home, do you LOVE your job as much as you LOVE being a parent? If not, then what? How do you MAKE the time for the other parts of your life that need to be nourished? It's hella hard, and I'm taking it one day at a time.

Mahalo Mondays: Kauai

I missed the boat on the whole daily gratitude phenomenon that often happens in the month of November. It's a great idea, sure. But I'm not that disciplined. That's why I'm launching Mahalo Mondays-- a weekly post to chronicle my thankfulness. Mahalo means more than just 'thank you'. At its core Mahalo is a divine blessing of gratitude and thanksgiving. When used, it calls for authenticity and thoughtfulness. I'm grateful to have experienced Mahalo, thanks to a family member who provides us a place to stay on the island of Kauai.

This tropical isle has given us sunwashed salty memories--fresh fish, warm sand, easyrelaxation. After our first trip we adopted a simple "Mahalo" as our family dinner blessing. It's heartfelt simplicity suits us, and even if we've hollered our way to the table, serves as a gentle reminder of our best times together.

This Thanksgiving we'll add our island toast to the family blessing, and maybe sneak in Somewhere Over the Rainbow, by IZ.

Running Club

Image I missed this morning's run due to the Mister being on travel and the twins having a soccer game. I like these to be the rare exceptions to what I hope becomes a long tradition. Last year I was running at this time by myself, training for my first marathon. While I stuck to the schedule and completed my goal last January, I'm not nearly as motivated on my own now. This spring I was invited to join some other moms on a Saturday morning run, and I gladly accepted. Anything to make me accountable! I look forward to it now, and rarely find an excuse not to meet up for these weekly runs which end in a sweaty koffeeklatch at Starbucks.

There are no 26.2s in my near future, but I'm keeping on task by calendaring in a handful of half marathons over the course of the year. And this time, I'm running with friends. What motivates you?

Milestones

WooHoo! Not since the twins' first birthday have I had such a true sense of relief, accomplishment and happiness. WE MADE IT NINE YEARS! We've been celebrating for about five solid days now, and I can honestly say I've probably had more joy and thrill for this one, than my new nine-year olds have.It's been our tradition to throw theme bashes each year, excepting one in which we hit up Legoland to fulfill the fantasy of two six-year old boys. From Hoe Downs to Luaus, Fiestas to  Pirate Parties, we have enjoyed sharing this celebration with more than the half pints.

After all, it really DOES take a village to raise these knuckleheads and other parents I know have surely helped us along the way. Not to mention, it slyly increases the ratio of parents to kids in a way that makes everything a bit smoother. To lure them in, I always make sure to have plenty of cold beer, delicious nosh, and a signature cocktail to lure in the grown ups. I don't have any shame in sharing the glory. And don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to steal the show. I just love marking the milestones with a handful of friends, and a nice cold beverage. I've been on a run of experiments with beer cocktails, and this is the latest crowd pleaser, The Shandy. Cheers!

Sarah's Summer Shandy

one part sparkling lemonade one part low brow lager (PBR me ASAP) one glass of ice

<<< Entertaining a smaller crowd? Up the ante with one part homemade lemonade, one part seltzer, two parts micro brew pale ale, and a skinny slice of lemon over ice >>>

It's a New Year

With a January birthday I'm blessed with an alternate new year. After losing my way on resolution road, I really embrace this opportunity for a new direction. I know it's only 3 weeks later, and really I do begin with the best intentions. But then I get a little lazy. And distracted. Then I turn another year older. Yikes! Focus. Here goes...

My life is not perfect, but it's perfect for me. We laugh and we yell. We kiss and we fight. This house of testosterone is a total blast and I'm so glad that I can be their queen bee. Even though I'm awkward and accident prone, I try to juggle about a million balls at a time. Do I need to tell you that it doesn't always work? Oh well. I gave up on perfection a while ago. I prefer eccentricity.

For this year...(in a nutshell): keep up the exercise. drop the diet coke. write. a lot. set aside time for truly fine. write some more. make some new money. nest. love. box. smile. drink damn fine coffee.

Merry Inspiration

I'm pleased to share a coffee table book I received for Christmas...30,000 years of art...which is quite beautiful. I find myself drawn to the usual suspects like Rothko, Klee, Matisse, as well as ancient, primitive works. So modern! It's especially nice to see one of my favorite works from SDMA, by Juan Sanchez Cotan, it's called Still-life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber. I'm particularly drawn to a good still life and THIS is perfection.

Gratitude

In this stressful time (globally) I'm making an effort to be more grateful. I've always been driven by the "little things" and feel it might provide me a better perspective if I make these acknowledgements known.

I'm thankful for the beautiful view from my backyard, classic fragrances by Jo Malone, great children's books like The Big Orange Splot, by D. Manus Pinkwater, and man-size safety glasses that turn boys into super-heroes.