Namaste, Bunnies.

Hey friend, first of all I want to offer my apologies for abandoning you all of 2016, what a year to peace out, yikes.

This year, I’ve started a podcast, which is where a lot of my creative energy has gone. Check us out here if you’d like to tune in, it’s called The Mom Life Crisis and you can listen on iTunes and Sticher and you know… podcasty places.

We talk about living well at the intersection of womanhood and motherhood, which is a tricky address to call home.

But today, I think I want to talk about bunnies and people who are hard to love. Obviously these two things go together, I mean clearly.

So, on election day, because stress, I adopted a baby bunny for my kids as an early Christmas present. We named him Alexander Bunnington, because 2016 has ALSO been the year of the musical Hamilton.

So, for the last 2 months-ish we have been caring for Alex as we call him and I have to admit I’m smitten. He’s playful and sweet and gives copious kisses. He’s easy to love because he just quietly loves me and follows me around the house, he doesn’t for much and he goes nuts when I walk into the room.

So, Alex is a winner, a star, a prince of a bunny, he’s the homecoming king of rabbits.

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Lap snuggle bunny.

Last week we ended up with bunny number 2, a rabbit whom we are choosing to call Brimley, after Walter Brimley, the mustachioed king of diabetes commercials. Brimley is a rescue bunny who came to us with severely overgrown bunny nails and a coat in deep need of a brushing.

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Brimley during his first minute in our house.

Brimley is crabby and he’s tired and even though he’s only one year old, he moves like an old man bunny, again hence the name, Brimley.

We were told that he was a doll, an easy to love adoptee with a heart of gold but in the end he behaves exactly like one would expect given his neglect. He keeps it real as well he should.

Last night my son Caedmon, nearly 6, behaved badly and I, at my wits end, yelled at him.

Then I felt bad and crawled into bed with him, talking about why parents have to discipline and give kids consequences… so they don’t turn into bad adults.

He asked why certain people did turn into bad grown ups and what we were supposed to do about that… I said that God called us to love those that aren’t nice to us and pray for those who do mean things to us, that so often it’s because they are hurt, or no one showed them how to love.

We don’t let them hurt us again and again but we show them love in real ways. I told him that I think words like “love” and “pray” really mean action, showing that person love when it’s hard… like Brimley. You see Alex is the easy to love bunny, he never nips or snorts or gets crabby, he just wants your attention every hour of the day and he loves you with all his bunny DNA.

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Bunny zoo – I have 2 bunnies… what? 

He’s easy to love… really easy but Brimley gives us a chance to practice our love, it’s not THAT hard to love a crabby bunny but it’s really hard to love a crabby human person… so bunnies are good practice.

So even though it would be easier to give him back to the bunny rescue lady and say… well THAT was no fun! That’s not what it means to change the world, changing the world means taking care of the Brimleys… in school and at work and at the store and at church and wherever people are to be found.

At the end of the day, on Christmas eve, eve, eve… I think that’s the best way I can tell the world about the birth of Jesus, to show love to the Brimleys, even if they  nip and snort and shed and don’t make it easy.

So tonight, I sipped gin and tonic, again because Christmas and I pet Brimley on his back and whispered “Hey you bunny, Namaste, God made me and God made you too, so I’ll care for you like you’re one of his creations, because you are, and together we will see the God in each other, okay? I’ve got you.”

This is the most Christmas-ey thing I can do or tell my kids about. People have God in them, and so do you, respect that.

Merry Christmas, from all 5 Pennys and also bunny Alex and bunny Brimley and our loud cat Alfred. img_3138

8 Prayers I Can Actually Pray

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It is a really good idea to do a “more like me series”… unless you’ve lost the point of it. Unless your compass feels like it is spinning with no clear, due North.

And so it is with a heavy sigh that I publicly admit that I need the freedom to write in another direction, into the unknown somewhere in which I will actually become more like me in ways that I can’t plot out at the beginning.

To those of you on Facebook group, I eagerly encourage you to join us over at Leannepenny.com where I will be writing again to whatever end the Spirit leads.

Last month I was supposed to center my writing and reflection around the practice of prayer. That didn’t happen. In fact I didn’t pen a single blog post last month, let alone one that inspired or led people into a deeper understanding of prayer.

So in all irony, in April, after I have cancelled the series I feel the ability to say this:

I am not convinced that prayer changes God’s plans. I do believe it centers me around God but I don’t understand why I should pray for healing, for God to intervene, to show up. If he loves and heals, why not show up and heal? If he intervenes, why not do so? Why does my asking him to do so over a mug of cheap coffee have the power to change his mind?

So I struggle and I float around prayer, circling it like a boxer, like a confused cat or a drunken black fly.

I do not know what to make of it.

So as I went through March, not really praying or writing about prayer I noticed a few small points of light surrounding the topic. A few prayers I can actually, in good faith, pray.

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They are as follows:

Prayer of the Fireplace

When fall began to take things seriously, Kel went out and bought a box containing several dozen Duraflame fire starters. I used them up, never quite understanding or trusting their magic. The ran out in late February, but I had grown so accustomed to the company of a warm fire that I began to improvise, using dried twigs and scraps of newspaper to start a fire as God intended. I gathered, knelt, fanned flame with forceful breath, and saw God, my soul murmured something akin to: Thank you God for warmth in the midst of snow, for the creativity displayed in the glow of those unearthly embers. Continue reading

Bodily Consent and the Image of God (And A Free Book Giveaway)

My friend Abby is bright, intelligent and amazing, I secretly think there may be two of her… She’s a High School English teacher and mother of two who has in dominating online media with her TedX Talk and articles for Huffington Post.

Her passion for healthy sexuality and consent based parenting is contagious. Today she is not only sharing a piece of that but giving away three copies of her book, Consent Based Parenting (which is on .99, come on!)

When it comes to bodies, and what we teach about them, our house has one rule that trumps everything else. Everyone is in charge of their own bodies. The exceptions are few and far between. If someone is making choices that will cause them harm, then we intervene. Otherwise the rule stands.

Everyone is in charge of their own bodies.

This is not always the easiest way to parent. Because everyone is in charge of their own body, I do not always get to choose what my kids wear, even to church. I sometimes cringe when my wild girls in their rain boots and rainbow tights sit next to their perfectly coiffed peers. Would it kill them to want to wear shoes and hair bows that coordinate with tasteful dresses? It has been difficult to explain to long-distance relatives why my girls are not necessarily going to “Come give aunt-Pheobe a HUG!!” But the rule stands. Everyone is in charge of their own body. If my kid doesn’t want to hug you, I am not going to make her. Period.

We have this rule, that everyone is in charge of their own body, because we want to be as clear as possible with our four and five year old girls about their own bodies and what is and is not expected from them.

The unspoken expectations on women’s bodies can be overwhelming and confusing. Look good, not too good. Be assertive, but not bitchy. Don’t be a prude, but never put yourself in a compromising position. Do flirt, but not too much. There is no way to win. This game is set up for my girls to lose.

The game is set up, really for everyone to lose. If our bodies are seen as pieces in some kind of power game where the object is for each person is only playing for themselves, then someone is going to get hurt. It is guaranteed. I don’t think that is what God intended. In fact, I am sure of it.

God calls us to mutual submission, and you can’t have mutual submission if someone isn’t in charge of themselves. Submission is something you choose. Not because you owe it to someone else, and certainly not because someone is forcing something on you.

In order for us to interact with each other as sexual, bodily beings, we must recognize the image of God in each person, and respect them accordingly. This starts from the beginning. It starts with our kids first interactions with their bodies and the world. It starts with teaching our kids that they are in the image of God in word and deed. I show my kids that they are made in the image of God by allowing them as much autonomy as I can. And, I want to teach them that everyone else is made in the image of God as well. If mommy is made in the image of God, then that means you can’t hit her just because you are mad, or hang on her when she is tired and hurting. If your sister is made in the image of God, you can’t force her to play with you just because you are bored. You can’t hit your friends, and if they don’t want a hug you need to respect them.

My kids are far from dating age, but as a high school teacher, it is very clear to me that those days are coming. Before we start talking about sexual feelings, and restraint, and making responsible decisions in very heated situations, I want them to have a strong sense of respect and autonomy. I want them to be comfortable and in control of their own bodies. I want them to be able to recognize their feelings and decide whether or not to act on those feelings. I want their choices to be THEIR choices.
I hope that my girls are comfortable in their bodies. And I hope that comfort comes from respecting the image of God in themselves. I can model this for them by respecting the image of God in them. For my house, that means everyone is in charge of their own body.


Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 1.43.11 PMAbby lives in the city of Atlanta with her husband and two feisty girls. She has been teaching English for the last ten years and blogging for the last five. She swears a lot for a teacher and mother, but she just likes all the words. She is currently working on a manuscript about her first year of teaching in an inner-city school. She is also working on teaching her four-year-old how to feed herself. She blogs about education, mothering and spirituality at Accidental Devotional.

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I Took the Meyer’s Briggs Test- Now What?

Hey guys, going strong in week 1 of the More Like Me, month by month challenge. I guess we will call it a challenge?

We do have a Facebook group now and we are currently 23 members strong!

If you want to join click here and I will approve you. Easy Peasy.

Monday’s assignment and post (go here if you need to catch up) was about getting to know yourself better by taking the Meyer’s Briggs personality type test at 16 personalities. If you still need to take the test, go. do it.

I want to say again that I am not an expert on Meyers Briggs or anything that we are focusing on this year, I am doing this with you and trying to stay just a few steps ahead so I can bring valuable information to the table.

I Took The Meyer's Briggs Continue reading

Pages, Pictures And The Telling Of The Story.

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For each of my kid’s birthdays and at the end of every year, I sit with my laptop and comb through photos. For every birthday, I make a slideshow to play in the background of their party and for every Christmas I make a year in review photo book.

This is my favorite part of each celebration, because it ground me like no other tradition can. When I sit with these books or drag and drop the photos into a cohesive slideshow it reminds me of the story we are telling with our lives.

At the end of every December, in the midst of each page, stories are ending and stories are beginning. The year is coming to a close and this practice forces me to sit and reflect.

For my children, their stories are new and uncertain, who knows where they will go? Their gap-toothed, awkward smiles are full of possibility and they beg to be reflected upon years from now after many more chapters have been written.

We are living out a story, for better or for worse, and our story is a small portion of the larger story that is being told throughout the world. The plot line that we play a part in moving forward.

And what was the story this year for our world? For your family? For your soul?

Some days it feels like one of hate and we wonder what sort of world we are leaving behind for our children.

Other mornings dawn bright and hopeful and our souls wake buoyant and light.

These days, these years, these pages are all part of a bigger story. It is easy, painfully easy, to get completely immersed in the mess of the here and now to believe that surely, truly this is all there is.

But when we scale back or look to the sky, we are reminded of the size of the universe and the sheer volume of the story.

So whatever blend of stories and emotions 2015 is leaving you with, remember that these are but pages in a book that is yet unwritten. Feel hopeful as you cling to the real truth that God is in the business of redemption and restoration and the telling of a good story.

The book is a beautiful mess that is moving toward something and we all influence the plot line and play a role in the character development of our friends and neighbors.

So, from me to you: Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Thank you for being a part of my story and allowing me, in a small way, to be a part of yours. May we continue to write and grow together as we welcome a sparkly new year.

~Leanne.

Photo Source

 

Would You Take This Survey?

“No matter where you go in life, always keep an eye out for Johnny the Tackling Alzheimer’s patient.” Click here if this opening line leaves you confused.

Did you watch Scrubs?
I did, almost like a religion. But not in a way that would cause Kel to lose his job. We don’t want that.

I took myself out on a coffee date yesterday, sat down with actual paper and tried to make a list, a really Meta type list.

I wrote headers like: “What was I put here to do?” “What energizes me/What am I drawn to?” And “What trips me up / what do I struggle with?”

I’m 33 now, and I’ve learned a lot of things, here are 32 of them.

Yet sometimes, once in a while I feel as though I’m back at square one, like I know nothing about myself at all.

Usually I look outside myself for answers, I check out what other people are doing and try to mirror them or wait on them to tell me what they see. I love collaboration, and so even in my healthiest rhythms I’m going to run my ideas and thoughts past my people.

But I can’t tackle my identity out of my friends over text messages, voxer or a cup of coffee. They know things, but it’s not on them to figure it out.

I’m learning that in these moments, I’m not actually starting from scratch, but actually honing in, getting specific and digging deeper.

For instance, I blog, I’m a blogger, I don’t think I want to walk away from that but so often I feel like I don’t know what THE BEST thing to post on my blog is, so I post nothing at all.

I’ve been blogging for years, it’s honestly hard for me to know how long. I started to write about grief after my Mom died, I’ve written about ministry, family, faith, church planting, food, parenting struggles, love and beautiful scars.

I want to keep going but I am going to ask for you help. I’d like to know what you love to read about, how often you come to this site, what you think of when you reflect on this space.

Basically, I love to write and I am going to share what I’m passionate about, but I’d love to know what’s the most helpful to you and hone in on that.

So here’s a survey, if 10 of you took it I’d be thrilled, if 25 people take it I’ll do a happy dance…If we break 100 I’ll post a video of me happy dancing to the song of your choice.

And I’m an embarrassingly bad dancer.

Create your own user feedback survey

*** If you cannot get the embedded survey in the blog post, sometimes it has mobile device issues, use the link below. *****

ANOTHER PATH TO THE SURVEY

Also, if you have thoughts or comments that go above the FREE 10 question survey, would you leave them below in the comments section?

Alright, thanks for reading. More to come. MWAH.

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New Bookshelves, Literary Poser Syndrome and The Therapy Of Unpacking

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Who’s excited about IKEA? Just ME!

I found myself at IKEA this weekend with one of my very best friends in the entire world, Joely. It was a whirlwind trip to Chicago, complete with a trip to Millennium Park and Wrigley Field. One of the things I was after at IKEA was a set of Billy bookcases to flank either side of the picture window in the parsonage. They would fit perfectly in the space and I was so beyond thrilled to get them home and play around with them. Continue reading

For those of us feeling confused on the Fourth

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image credit to allfreedesktopthemes.com

I’m leading worship in church this weekend, for better or for worse. I did take seven years of voice lessons and have been singing in choirs since I was in third grade so, I’m qualified ….I suppose, but still. I’m nervous.

I was given close to free reign on song selection, but keep in mind our church is fairly traditional and mostly sticks to hymns. We also don’t have a praise team and are only newly starting to have someone lead singing from the stage. So I don’t want to mix things up too much or get too complicated, it’s no fun leading worship when no one can sing along.

So, after some googling and reflection I picked out some familiar hymns that I hope will draw all ages into worship and decided to be brave and teach the congregation a new song that we can hopefully come back to in the coming weeks, “All the poor and powerless.” Total favorite of mine.

When I sent off my list of ideas, Kel wrote me back and said “Looks great, but hey don’t forget, it’s Fourth of July weekend. We need some of worship to be Patriotic.”

That’s when things got confusing for me, because it’s not always easy for me to jive with how the church talks about patriotism and politics.

It tends to make me really uncomfortable and I don’t think I’m the only one, right? Continue reading

Love the kid you’re with (The mantra every parent needs)

We kept exchanging glances across the windowless children’s hospital waiting room as we held our baby girls in our arms. I was there with Clara to have a swallow study done to get some answers on some suspicious gagging and vomiting.

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Sucking on a pickle with NO puking! Fancy.

I have no idea what brought her to the waiting room that day with her precious girl.

But, finally we exchanged words, over baby-gear schlepping.

“You were genius to bring your stroller. I carried all our stuff from the parking garage and my arms are aching….  how old is your baby girl?” I asked… because it’s what you ask.

“She’s eight weeks, how old is yours?” She replied.

“Oh she’s nearly 7 months, is your daughter long for eight weeks?”

“Seven months! Wow she’s so petite. I wish mine was little like yours, and your daughter has such olive skin, mine is so pale.”

Then Clara’s name was called and the speech therapist whisked us back to a room.

I smiled before walking away and said only this

“I think she’s beautiful! Absolutely perfect.”

As I walked through the hospital corridors I couldn’t stop reflecting on our conversation.

“I wish mine was like yours.”

At first I threw her under the bus, mentally that is. But then I thought about it more as I drove home from the hospital.

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Cheating at Bible Memory Match Game. #raisingemright

 

How many of us think and say things like this as we move throughout our weeks?

“I wish my child sat still as well as yours.”

“Your three year old is so great with crayons! Mine mostly chews on them still.”

And our environment does nothing but throw fuel on the fire of these thoughts by saying things like:

“Wow your kids are busy.”

“My she’s a big girl isn’t she?”

“Looks like you have your hands full.”

I have heard all these things. Recently even.

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Princess Anna steals the frosting off the party cake. It’s her cake after all.

I fully believe so many of these things are said with kind intent or at least as a gateway to friendly conversation but they are easy fertilizer for the seeds of doubt, aren’t they?

What if we’re doing it wrong?

Daily. Genetically. In every way wrong?

I am with you sister, brother, friend. This parenting gig is hard enough without the commentary that causes us to wonder if our kids are messed up and it’s all our fault.

Either by nature or nurture we worry we are contributing to society in all the wrong ways.

Here’s my crazy:

I have a gorgeous baby that doesn’t sleep
I have an extremely type-A, 4 year old who I constantly go head to head with.
I have a perpetual motion machine of a 6 year old who hugs everyone and touches everything.

I’m dealing with reflux, tantrums, manipulation, screaming and sensory processing disorder. We have bed wetting, we are terrible at picking up our toys and sometimes we skip bedtime story time… and even prayer time.

Don’t get me started on showering and tooth brushing.

They’re a hot mess.

And they’re all mine. Thank God.

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16 seconds before those new fishing poles were hopelessly tangled.

I love these kids with an ache that I may never find the bottom of, crazy and all.

Don’t get me wrong, clothes fit them weird and they are always getting dirty. I worry about taking them in to anywhere containing breakable items and we still use the nursery at church because I worry they would stop the service with their protests over the idea of sitting still for a whole hour… and their Dad’s the pastor… even.

AND It’s summer and they are home all the time and they are so so loud and messy and crazy and non stop from 6:45 AM – 8:45 PM.

But they’re my little people, and it’s my job to guide them in to adulthood. I can’t get away from that.

Could we do better with our parenting? Of course. But remember… better is a constant tyrant, we could always do better.

But you know what? I love them. And I wouldn’t change a thing, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

The point is that we all have to stop this sort of talk. Completely.  Or at least in front of our kids.

We can’t keep wishing for other or different little people… Smaller, bigger, quieter, stiller, smarter, more coordinated neater little people.

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This is how we Lowes.

We have to love the ones we’re with. Because those are the ones we’ve been given. And I have to believe that this cosmic parent-kid matchup didn’t happen by accident.

We have things to teach each other, to give and take away from each other, we will move into each other’s lives permanently and there will be no way to measure the impact we have on each other at a soul level.

We are intertwined. Beyond death this thing, these bonds are forever, for generations of world impacting-life we are in this together. 

We all have issues, I know I do.

But, to be honest, we adults are so often given more grace with ours.

We can assert our personality type, look for coping skills, check out a book on tape at the library, schedule counseling, advocate for ourselves.

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In a photo booth. But not paying for pics when we have a charged iPhone. Also he demanded that hat in H&M and I caved.

But these littles? They have only us, for the most part, to see them for who they are and love them no matter what.

Special needs, quirks, health issues, allergies, obsessions, interests. Our kids have stumbling blocks, special needs… It’s who they are… it’s who we have.

Because

1) We can’t swap.
2) We’d find something else to complain about if we could.
3) Wishing for different kids, speaking those words out loud, does permanent damage to because we lessen our precious children in these moments and if our children hear it…they hear “you’re not good enough” and that’s the last thing any soul needs to hear.

The world will tell them they’re not enough a thousand times a day in a hundred different ways.

Let’s find a way to make sure that our voice? Their home voice is a voice of love and as much unconditional acceptance as a flawed human can manage.

That’s my mission.

To love the ones I’m with, crazy and all, and every night as they bed for more snuggles, more stories and more time with me… to be thankful that I get to be their mom. Because even though none of us are really perfect.

To me they absolutely are.

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My first 5k. The gateway race.

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This past Saturday I ran my first official race, the Fifth Third Riverbank 5k Run.

The night before I was a nervous wreck, which is embarrassing since I had multiple friends who ran the 25k, five times the miles I was going to run.

Just as I suspected, it was an uphill climb getting out the door on Saturday morning. I made a quick cup of coffee and nibbled piece of peanut butter toast while pumping a bottle for Clara before rousing the kiddos. A good call as I needed that “sort of” quiet moment to psych myself up. Coffee, peanut butter and the whirr of the breast-pump- the pre-race routine of champions people.

While Kel loaded the kids in the car I pinned my bib to my new (aqua of course) running shirt and felt like a huge poser.

I actually texted my friend Jenni to make sure I had it on correctly.

I kept half-joking that they were going to kick me out when I got there, because I’m really good at quitting physical endeavors before things get too… hard.

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Kel hit every red light imaginable on our way downtown as I jammered on about… “you know that episode of Seinfeld where the runner stays with Jerry and oversleeps for the race after oversleeping for the Olympics”

Kel didn’t remember it. He is terrible at Seinfeld Trivia.

Anyway, in true Seinfeld fashion, I arrived late and by the time I jumped out of the car and made for the staring line the gun was going off and I had to sprint my way across four blocks to get down there in time.

A nice guard saw my bib and let me into the pack and a few minutes, and a lot of fiddling with my fancy new iPhone arm band later, they released my group, I was off!

It was a sticky, damp morning but as I jogged along in the pack of 5k runners the rain held off for the most part.

I just kept going, listening to my “Leanne burns it” Spotify playlist and people watching. I’m obsessed with scanning people’s tshirts, seeing if they have a cause or memory that keeps their feet moving.

Mile one seemed to fly by and as I finished up mile two, I crossed the Grand River and caught sight of my lovely little family, huddled under a blue golf umbrella. Noelle eagerly gave me a high five while Caedmon stood back shyly, as he does when faced with new and public things.

I jogged in place and waited for him, knowing that if I ran off without waiting for him to feel comfortable enough to step forward, he would cry.

Then I tickled Clara, thanked Kel for being there, got another hug from Noelle and kept on running.

Of course all this took less than 5 seconds.

No sooner had I yelled “bye guys!” over my shoulder than the rain got serious. I can’t tell you how glad I was that it held off until I got to see my family and they could get back to the van un-drenched. So glad. Their misery was one of my biggest anxieties that morning.

At that point I was starting to lose a little steam. I was getting pretty soggy and the last mile had a fair few hills and inclines.

Luckily the Spotify gods were kind and played a quick succession of “shut up and dance” by Walk the Moon followed by “Send me on my Way” by Rusted Good to see me through.

Music is energy sometimes.

As I ran on I thought of all the reasons I was running this race in the first place.

I was running to show my kids that we can do hard things
To rage, RAGE against the depression and heart disease that killed my parents
To prove to myself that I am strong and that the junior high girl who was too scared to try crosses the finish line in the end.
And sure, also to get moving and get into those pre-baby, polka dot shorts.

As the home stretch approached, my ears became too wet to hold in the ear buds, they kept slipping out.

So I gave up and stuffed them down the front of my shirt and instead tuned in to the noise of the crowd cheering us on as we approached the finish line.

Then I remembered that you’re supposed to sprint to the finish line if you can, and I could, so I did.

Not the sprint of Kenyan Olympian, but a sprint nonetheless.

And then it was over, I did it! #boom #irock

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Terrible selfie at the finisher’s tent.

If there weren’t thousands of people in front and behind me I would have laid on the ground and cried.

Because I did it!

I wanted to scream the lyrics from the Kimmy Schmidt theme song.

“Unbreakable! They laugh dammit but females are strong as hell!”
(blame Netflix for the language, not me. Or just watch the show and laugh, laughter ranks just below running for general endorphin-getting.)

Strong. Me! I did this.

After a baby, in the midst of a move, in spite of depression and being a self-proclaimed “non athlete” I had done all the things that led up to this day and THEN I showed up and ran.

All week I had been telling people that I was doing the Riverbank Run but just the 5k.

Just the 5k. No big deal.

But you know what? No.

I ran a 5k.

Life is hard but Females are strong as Hell.

And you know what? Now for a 10k. Dangit.

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