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.


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.


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...


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.


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.

5 Things I Learned After 40

IMG_5121 Let's cut to the chase. Since turning 40 (or maybe even let's say 41) I've had a great number of "aha moments." Yeah, I'm pretty much Oprah level by now. Or at least Gayle. I even considered naming this post "What I Know For Sure." I don't know why self discovery comes more quickly at this stage in the game, but it's kind of cool.

Here are a few nuggets:

1. A great paycheck and rock star benefits do not feed your soul. Doing what you love and are good at, with people you like, feeds your soul. Flexibility helps too. Until pushed, I was accepting the status quo of a career I fell into. Don't wait for the ax to fall, honor your true gifts and passion and the rest will follow. I've read this a million times over, but it's really true. Woo woo!

2. Tequila, club soda and lime will not give you a hangover. But wine, too many IPA's, limoncello, or cocktails with sugar will definitely mess you up. QUICKLY.

3. Anyone can run a marathon. You just have to train for it. And long distance running is a sham. Okay, not really a sham but more like something-that-takes-a-lot-of-time-and-energy-and-doesn't-provide-the-amazing-physical-results-you-might-expect. I ran a marathon before my 40th birthday and sustained a regular schedule of half marathon distance runs for the following year and a half to "keep my momentum." I gained endurance and proved my perseverance, but I lost a total of 8 pounds in those two years and I was in a position to lose A LOT more. I still run, but not to an extreme. CrossFit and a paleo "inspired" menu have made a huge impact on my wellness (and weight).

4. Treat yo self. If you are not healthy and happy, your hubs, partner, colleagues, kids, won't be happy either. If you need to spend $200 on your haircuts and color, do it. Because trust me, I tried to do my hair myself and it was horrible. If you love CrossFit (or Pilates or Yoga) and it keeps you lean and off meds, then it's money well spent. If being happy means you demand an infinite supply of fresh ground coffee and dark chocolate, then so be it.

5. You be you. Other people don't think about you as much as you think they think about you. In other words, by focusing on what other people think, you're not focused on being you. So just be you. It's easier.

P.S. The image was created for a retreat I co-organized around The Desire Map, by Danielle LaPorte. The phrase "Decide to RISE"  came from her book...she's amazing.

A Clean Slate: New Year Resolutions

A Clean Slate: New Year Resolutions


I think the New Year can be a real mixed bag. On the one hand, as you near the end of the year you are celebrating and pushing every excess you might dare, knowing that January 1 offers you a clean slate. You feel invincible, and that anything you've done to yourself and others can be erased with a swish of a calendar page. On the other hand, you're coming down from extraordinary high times...time off work, time with loved ones, time alone, party time! Creating a balance, and a way to ease into the New Year is a challenge. I used to spend lots of time setting my "Goals" for each new January. Then I realized that I NEVER GO BACK AND REVIEW THEM. And they sit quietly, patiently waiting for me, in the lovely red journal I bought for myself more than five years ago. What's different this year? I'm limiting myself to this post, and 10 minutes to jot down a few manageables. We don't have time to belabor this, do we? I want to make shit happen.

Make Your Magic

I've broken it down to a few categories that provide plenty of room for multiple resolutions. Three's a crowd? Just pick one or two. Rules? Keep it simple and direct. Active not passive. "Oh, so I'm going to be more healthy."  "I'm packing healthy snacks to bring to work everyday."

1. Micro-Resolution: Pick something tiny! I strongly believe it's the little things that make a difference. My husband made a mid-year resolution to make the bed everyday. He's done it, kept to it, and receives uber satisfaction from the practice. Gretchen Rubin gives this little change A LOT of attention in The Happiness Project, which is essentially a year of resolutions. I consider her an expert on the subject.

2. Health Resolution: Who hasn't picked something health-related as a new year resolve? Go for it! If you have a list of desired changes, try setting and achieving them quarterly instead of tackling them all right out of the gate. Set the goal, establish the habit for three months, then hit up another. Bam!

3. Personal/Professional/Parental Resolution: Sure, you can establish one for each of your personas. OR  just focus on ONE area that needs extra attention: "I'm saying 'yes' to my kids as often as possible." or "I'm only going to swear at work if it's an actual emergency." or "I'm going to increase my sociability and engage with the other soccer moms instead of playing Words With Friends on my iPhone."

4. Maintenance Resolution: Say Yes to Success! What's one thing you have accomplished or felt great success from in 2013? Will you vow to keep it going? Maintaining is almost MORE critical than creating the habit. Plus, it's nice to have a leg up on one of your resolutions. Consider it an easy win.

Extra Credit

New Year's Magic: An article published yesterday in The Atlantic, sparked my curiosity about the parallels of religion and New Year's traditions (excess, celebration, coming clean).

Making New Year's Resolutions: 5 Key Questions to ask Yourself, at The Happiness Project

Let's Do This! Running to Race, Racing to Run

32170426_PeFmt7fb_c AS MUCH AS IT PAINS ME to expose my personal/physical goals, I know that making such public statements enhances their probability of success. I came close to calling this "A Quarterly Commitment to Mark Miles + Drop Pounds" but just couldn't do it. Yuck. Yawn. Bleh.

What I want to know do you prioritize exercise? We're all BUSY. Working Moms? MotherRunners? What INSPIRES you? What MOVES you? Also...What are your biggest challenges in fitness? in food?


Since training for a marathon (which I did to the letter, solo) I've kind of lost my discipline.  Mainly because I can "cheat". While the 26.2 had me scared serious, now I could run a 15k without much training. I'm getting lazy. But in 2013 I'm stepping it up (without the 26.2 sacrifices--friends, family, toenails). This year I'm committed to a program of four half marathons with a healthy sampling of 5, 10 and 15ks. I signed up for the La Jolla Half Marathon, April 28, #2 in the Triple Crown Series (Carlsbad Half Marathon, La Jolla Half Marathon, America's Finest City(AFC)). I've already completed Carlsbad, in August it's AFC, and in November it's Silver Strand.

I'm inspired by other athletes, and I like to be a role model for my kids. I'm at my best when I get up early to run, and I feel like a total badass when I swing a kettlebell and do box rock jumps in my backyard. I use Runkeeper to track my workouts, and honestly I love seeing the numbers add up. On the flip side, I'm using LoseIt! to track food. Yes, I like data. Numbers. Stats. And while I'm strong and athletic-ish, I can only imagine the impact when I focus on BOTH goals at the same time. Yes! Let's DO this!

A Vote of Confidence (Or Shut Up, I Think You Are Gorgeous)

ShutUp One of the things that makes us all human is the need for approval, reassurance, respect, perhaps even a little adoration. The craving for this can ebb and flow, dependent upon our own ego-boosting magic and our susceptibility to the critics (both real and imaginary).

HEY, YOU LOOK GREAT TODAY Today I ate lunch at my desk, plowed through some documents and took off for a run mid-work day to ease off leftover leg cramps from Sunday's half marathon. I only half baked this idea, since I was too lazy to get up at 6 and do it before work, which means I didn't really pack a full change of clothes (read: underwear) and there is NO way to shower. And I still had an important meeting to attend. Gross. I know. Anywhoooo...after a quick change and a perfume spritz I made a pit stop at the coffee cart to fuel up pre-summit. And guess how I was greeted? "Hey pretty lady! What would you like?" Okay, I do see these guys a few days a week. Do they always greet me like this? No. Actually, never. But today it came at the right time. Right place. I felt GOOD. It made me happy. It gave me a little boost. And who couldn't use a boost?

On the flip side, I've seen some slouching shoulders and heavy heads and grown ups alike. It can be a few missed goals on the soccer field, a condescending colleague, a warped work culture. I've seen some (sick) people thrive on tapping this vulnerability in others. Hell, we sometimes perpetuate it ourselves. Seeing this happen so close to home really touches a nerve, and I'm committed to being more conscious of it. Try these on...

CONFIDENCE BOOSTERS (ie. Be the change you want to see in the world.)

• Each day give out one to two (genuine) compliments. Make one be to a complete stranger (those really carry a heavy weight!).

• At the dinner table, instead of highs and lows take turns saying one thing you really admire about the person next to you.

• "Surprise text" a friend or loved one when you think of something special/cool/amazing that REMINDS you of them. Confidence by association!

• Let your kids wear clothes that make them feel good. Even if the combination horrifies you, and you are truly embarrassed by this expression of poor taste, they need to learn for themselves what is accepted or unaccepted by peers, then decide if they want to conform. I said, IF they want to conform.

• Being acknowledged for your appearance may feel FANtastic when you've just celebrated a post-40 birthday. But do young girls (or boys) need this kind of weary praise? Let's give kudos for kindness, or applause for acumen instead.

The other day I was in a building I rarely visit and in the ladies room there was a framed sign that read: "You look particularly great today." And damned if it didn't make me stand a little taller, and think to myself, 'Yes, yes you do.'

True Colors

I discovered The Color Run over a year ago, cruising the web for exciting events to fill my run card in 2011-2012. Low and behold, shortly thereafter a San Diego date was announced. Woohoo!!! If you know me at all, you know that I'm basically obsessed with COLOR. It's bursting out of the artwork on my walls, the patterns on my pillows, the curtains on my windows, and the clothes that I wear. LOVE it. SOoooo...what better running experience than to get with your girls and be sprayed, doused, sprinkled and dusted with a fine powdery rainbow? None. SOLD!

I sported a bright pink streak in my hair and one of the retro sweatbands (pictured on my gal pal above), along with a white longsleeve T, black shorts and tiedyed socks to prove my cool factor. Without the timing chips there were plenty of booty shakes and a host of high fives. I have to say, while my idyllic route fantasy of a lush green meadow and a rusty dirt trail did not materialize in the industrial grey parking lot of Qualcomm stadium, being color bombed in this urban setting sort of worked. I played a rockin' soundtrack in my head of Beastie Boys, Beyonce,. and Cyndi Lauper, so if there was an area for improvement it would be MUSIC. We needed it. It CALLED for it! Maybe next time. Until then, I'll be saving my whitest whites for next year's baptism of color.

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?

Meatless Monday: Gary's T-Night Tacos

We did it again! Continuing on the New Year track we vowed to stay meatless on Mondays--even the Mister, who planned his lunch around Fresh-n-Easy offerings, and snuck in a chicken thigh at 11-something last night.

Tonight's recipe was awesome, and direct from Laurie David's Family Dinner cookbook. We are a taco-lovin, bean eating bunch so Gary's T-Night Tacos seemed a perfect match. Using two onions (Shhh!), black beans and the secret ingredients of maple syrup and tamari, this hearty filling made fantastic tacos (and burritos for the boys).

For toppings we used thinly sliced cabbage, fresh avocado, chopped tomato and cucumber, Greek yogurt and shredded cheese. Instead of the dressing suggested for cucumber salsa, I used a lime cilantro dressing I had already made for another recipe. The boys ate theirs without the dressing, but with most of the other toppings.

Max ate about 2/3 of his, Beck finished his off, and, well, the pan is now empty. I consider it a success!

Oh, and after dinner we got all cuddly and weepy watching this awesome cover (from some locals) of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros "Home". Then, this great studio clip of the real deal...

Meatless Monday: Lettuce Wraps

I usually greet January with a long list of goals and measurable objectives--the same type of parameters that I resent being judged by in my 9-5. This year I've put nothing in writing...yet. That said, when creating this week's menu plan and grocery list, I decided to make my first 2011 resolution: Meatless Monday. Last fall I had the desire to cultivate our family dinner time, and perfectly coinciding with this was the release of The Family Dinner, by Laurie David and Time for Dinner, by former Cookie editors, Pilar Guzman, Jenny Rosenstrach and Alanna Stang. I've been exploring these two new fabulous cookbooks, and as a result I have embraced a new level of domestic enthusiasm and organization. While I can save my book reviews and lady adoration for another day, I will share that it was Laurie David's book that made me aware of the Meatless Monday movement. Seriously, it sounded familiar but I just wasn't tuned in.

Meatless Monday actually started in World War I and was incredibly effective at changing the nation's eating habits. Somewhere between June Cleaver and the Great Bacon Explosion we seem to have lost our way. While I'm a proud omnivore and my boys drool at the word STEAK, we love all kinds of food and don't feel it's necessary to include a meat/fish/poultry product at every meal. The Mister is on board with my meatlessness and the boys are pretty good sports too. Any random night we might have tofu stir fry or a veggie spaghetti. So why make a big deal about it? Well, I like the idea of a habit, a ritual, a conscious decision.  I like the challenge of trying new recipes, and the boys are at a great age to explore new foods and ideas.

For our first official Meatless Monday we used the recipe for Vegetarian Asian-Style Lettuce Wraps (without the dipping sauce) courtesy of Leslie's Home Gourmet. I doubled it and adapted it a bit, so maybe follow her link for the real deal! The leftovers are perfect with chopped Romaine for a salad, or over rice warmed up. We served it with steamed broccoli and couscous just in case it didn't go over as well as hoped. For the record, the Mister gave it a thumbs up, Max ate nearly both of his wraps before deciding he didn't like them, and Beck ate everything on his plate, plus applesauce, and a second meal of pears, rice crackers and dried apricots. Hungry much?

Lettuce Wraps

2 packages firm tofu crumbled 1/2 medium onion, diced 1 cup shredded cabbage 2 carrots, grated 2/3 cup (plus a little more to taste) of your favorite soy marinade (Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki) 1 tsp. fresh lemongrass, minced (Thanks KKJ!) 3 cloves garlic, chopped 2 tbs. sweet chili garlic sauce Sprinkle of salt to taste 4 tbs. canola oil 2 tsp. sesame oil 1 medium head of Boston/Butter lettuce, washed and leaves separated

In a skillet, heat canola oil over medium heat and saute onion and garlic until it begins to soften. Season with a touch of salt. Add cabbage and carrot. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Add tofu and lemongrass, marinade, sesame oil, and chili sauce. Cook another 5-10 minutes (until it thickens a bit), stirring often. Serve warm inside cool lettuce leaves.

Eat Local, Buy Local, Grow Local

After clearing off my whiteboard and having some fabulous women tour my humble little studio I was reminded of the WPA initiative inspired prints commissioned by ReadyMade. My favorite of this group was by artist Chris Silas Neal, "Eat Local, Buy Local, Grow Local" which  you can download and print via ReadyMade*. I love the colors, the layers, his beautiful typography. More! More! More!

This topic coincides with my current affection for Michael Pollan-- The Ominvore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and his newest publication Food Rules...he writes here on the Huffington Post about eating with common sense.


*download no longer available

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.


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.