The Big Leap

Bungy-JumpingIt’s been quite a while since anything has been written here.  Long story… fought with an unnamed webhost…site was down for months… I won & we’re back!  I haven’t been just sitting around eating doughnuts in the meantime.  Well, maybe a few doughnuts, BUT things have been moving right along.  My last post, Rainy Day Boat Parade, left me with a dilemma.  I had a huge decision to make.  Do I continue on in my full-time job on the opposite schedule of my family to make ends meet, or do I take the leap?  The leap refers to quitting or going part-time to start Junie Balloonie as a full-fledged business.

Well…

I leapt, just like I did at Tough Mudder off that terribly high cliff into the ice cold quarry water.  I completed the Business Launcher Workshop.  I took a few other classes offered by my local SBDC.  I got myself an attorney, an accountant, and a banker.  I joined the Mentor, OH Chamber of Commerce.  My first book, Junie Balloonie & The Perfect Cheer was published in hardcover by Mascot Books (release date of Feb. 4).  I started changing my Junie Balloonie website to add new products and party options, and I am making connections all over town.  There just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in my day to accomplish everything.  I’m loving EVERY SECOND!  I’m still very nervous that I will be cutting my wages in approximately 2 months.  I do have a safety net as I took an opportunity to switch to part-time status in my dispatch career.  My hours are not guaranteed.  Some months I may only work one or two shifts.  I’m fully aware that new businesses tend to not make any money in the first years because of all that goes into it.  This will be a journey for sure, but I’m excited, and hopeful.  I plan to take you along with me.  Struggles and triumphs will arise and I’ll let you know about them all.  I’ll post more Tasty Lives and together we can find further motivation to keep our EYE ON THE PRIZE (as one wise dude has told me… more on that later).

I’ve been approached by friends that want help in weight loss or physical fitness.  Once again, I’m not an expert, or even a semi-certified anything.  I do know some awesome, smart gurus that ARE experts and have taught me a thing or twenty.  They will also be here, right on this little page, teaching and motivating you too.

Let’s continue to learn together, find new friendships, and live our 1 Tasty Life.

Here’s to the big début of Junie Balloonie, LLC!  Come check us out at www.junieballoonie.com.  New things are blooming everyday.

UNE VIE

Rainy Day Boat Parade

200236712-001It’s a rainy day.  As I listened to the drops hitting my window I recall a wonderful day.  It was a simple rainy day.  I was home with my dad when I was about 6 years old.  I wanted to play outside, but it was raining terribly.  I sat by the window waiting for the storm to pass.  My dad, always a kid at heart, gathered up 2 plastic toy boats and said, “Let’s not wait for the rain to stop anymore.”  We played with those boats for what seemed like hours, sending them down the gutter, under cars, into mud puddles, and happily soaked to the bone.  When the outdoor fun was over, my dad made me a giant bubble bath.  My face was the only thing that could be seen amongst the fluffy bubbles.  What a wonderful memory.

Tears pour down my face now.  Even though my dad is gone, nobody can take away that memory from me.  My tears start as sadness, but in an instant I smile and they turn to happy tears.  Call me crazy, but I heard that whisper from my dad in my head again… “You get one life.”

My oldest son, Trenton, and some Junie Balloonies I've been working on.
My oldest son, Trenton, and some Junie Balloonies I’ve been working on.

I will be honest and say that I have been struggling with a decision I must make.  I’m trying to live my ONE LIFE and make it exactly what I dream of.  My Junie Balloonie adventure has just begun.  I’ve been making slow steps towards my goal because I’ve been trying to be very cautious.  I don’t want to make a mistake.  I have a family that I’m responsible for.  I’m thinking of college, bills, medical insurance, pensions, etc.  I’m thinking of everything except my LITTLE kids.  When do I take a leap of faith and try to make dreams fully come true so that I have more time for my kids…so that I see my family…so that I am home at the same time as them?  Kids are only little for a short period of time and these are the most important years.  These are years that can never come back.  I want their memories to have Mom in them, not Mom at work all night.

My middle man, Tank, making a paper Air Force base.
My middle man, Tank, making a paper Air Force base.

Those days of boat parades are gone for me, but I have many more doughnut dates and tea parties to attend.  For now, I’ll squeeze them into every single moment I can.  I hope that my answer will come soon, and I hope it’s in the form of a familiar whisper.

Take an opportunity today to reflect on what’s important to you, what you’re missing out on, and how to make a positive step in the right direction.

My youngest, Taylor, the one & only Junie Balloonie.
My youngest, Taylor, the one & only Junie Balloonie.

Une Vie.

Strawberry Banana Bread

I’m sure we’re all thinking the same thing lately… CAN IT BE SPRING YET?!?!

Each morning I look out my window and see either bare trees and grey skies or freshly fallen snow I have to give myself a little extra motivation to get out there and run.  Don’t get me wrong, I love running in winter, but when winter seems to be 6 months long I get a little impatient to see the sunshine.  So, here’s my motivation…Strawberry Banana Bread 1

The strawberries make me think of south Georgia’s bright blue summer skies and the sweetest, most luscious berries on the planet.  If the view out my window still reminds me I’m in Ohio, at least the smell in my kitchen takes me back to Georgia.Strawberry Banana Bread 2

Ingredients

  • 1 c. unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 3 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. apple juice
  • 1/2 c. chopped strawberries, patted dryStrawberry Banana Bread 5

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl and set aside (reserve 1/4 cup of mixture in small bowl for the strawberries).  In large bowl combine brown sugar, mashed bananas, vanilla, Greek yogurt, eggs, and apple juice. Add flour mixture and continue combining until smooth.

Pat the chopped strawberries carefully between paper towels to get out the extra moisture.  Gently combine the strawberries with reserved flour mixture.  Fold into batter just until combined (no over mixing here).  Coating the chopped strawberries with the flour will help the berries to scatter throughout the bread rather than sinking to the bottom.  Thinly slice 1 strawberry and pat between paper towels, place on top of each loaf before baking to make it extra pretty!Strawberry Banana Bread 3

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

I used the Pampered Chef stoneware mini loaf pan to make individual loaves for each of my 4 loves.  This would make 1 or 2 large loaves depending on the size of your pan.  You would have to adjust the bake time to approximately 1 hour.Strawberry Banana Bread 8

My teenager can be a picky eater.  He was skeptical about the baked strawberries.  I buttered and grilled a few slices, drizzled it with maple syrup, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and got the reaction that makes a mom’s heart sing.  “Holy crap that was good!”

I would have much preferred, “Mom, that was an amazing dish and you have wonderful cooking skills,” but I’ll take the “Holy crap”.

Happy spring.  Enjoy!

 

 

PUBLISHED!

Junie BalloonieIT’S HERE!  IT’S HERE!

You can purchase autographed copies of Junie Balloonie & The Perfect Cheer and get FREE SHIPPING in March only on this page.  Just follow the BUY NOW link and remember to tell me who to address the autograph to.

You can also purchase the book on Amazon HERE.  Unfortunately, I won’t be able to autograph copies purchased directly from Amazon.

 

Coconut Cheesecake with Fresh Lime Glaze

coconut cheesecakeCrust

  • 50 vanilla wafers
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1/3 c. shredded sweentened coconut

Cheesecake

  • 4-8oz. packages of Greek yogurt cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar (or coconut sugar if you want to get fancy & healthier)
  • 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 t. coconut flavoring
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c. shredded sweetened coconut

Lime Glaze

  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 lime (zest the lime, then juice…otherwise it’s terribly messy)
  • 1 c. powdered sugar

Crumb vanilla wafers in a food processor.  Add the coconut in the end for a few pulses to break it up slightly.  Mix crumb/coconut mixture with 4 T. melted butter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

Mix cream cheese, sugar, and flour until creamy.  Add vanilla, coconut flavoring and eggs.  Mix until smooth then stir in coconut.  Pour cream cheese mixture into crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN.  Turn down the over to 250 degrees and continue baking for 1 hour.  AGAIN, DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN.  Turn the oven off and let the cheesecake rest INSIDE THE OVEN for an additional 30 minutes.  Then cool in the refridgerator for several hours.

Prepare the glaze and spread over top of cheesecake after it’s cooled.  Making a glaze isn’t really an exact science in this instance.  Depending on the size and tartness of the lime you might want to add a little more powdered sugar to thicken, or water to thin.  DO not try to get creative and add coconut milk beverage (the stuff by the milk, not the stuff in the can).  It doesn’t play well with the lime juice.  If you want more coconut flavoring here just add a smidge of the coconut flavoring you used in the cheesecake. For an additional garnish, top with toasted coconut.

Enjoy!

***A note about the Greek yogurt cream cheese-  This is a new product I’ve found.  Sometimes I make my own cream cheese out of Greek yogurt as I did in the Caramel Cheesecake.  Once I discovered this lovely product I was thrilled that I could skip a step.  If you cannot find this product in your area, you can always just use regular cream cheese, 1/3 less fat cream cheese, or make your own from Greek yogurt or plain yogurt (as I did by straining it throught cheesecloth overnight).  If you opt to use plain yogurt, make certain you yogurt DOES NOT contain gelatin.  That will prevent the yogurt from separating and it will never form into a cream cheese consistency.  Just trust me.  Been there, done that.

 

 

Jim Swislocki – Lamuth Middle School Band Teacher

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending my oldest son’s 6th grade band concert.  I’ll admit that although I was happy to see my trumpet player, I wasn’t doing cartwheels at the thought of spending my entire evening listening to middle schoolers attempt to play The Star Spangled Banner.  I was completely wrong.  I was thoroughly entertained by these young musicians.  They sounded great.  They were having fun.  They were thrilled with themselves because they could see that the audience was enjoying the show and rewarding them with thunderous applause.  At the helm of it all is a man who I (and many, many others) believe to be THE GREATEST MIDDLE SCHOOL BAND TEACHER OF ALL TIME!

My first interviewee for 1tastylife, Kelly Hulderman, was one of Jim Swislocki’s students.  Kelly suggested I interview Mr. Swis.  After the concert, I decided she was right.  Mr. Swis is a man who is living his ONE LIFE.  It is evident that he enjoys what he does.  Each kid that passes though his band doors comes out with a love for music and the knowledge and tools to move onward and upward in life.

Mr. Swis, How do you live your 1 tasty life?  What’s your passion?
I have been teaching middle school band for the past twelve years.
How/when did your passion begin?
I started playing saxophone in fifth grade. You might say music is in my blood. My great uncle led a huge concert band that toured the Great Lakes region and played at amusement parks like Euclid Beach and Cedar Point. I decided I wanted to teach band during my junior year of high school.
What is your motivating force?
I promote music literacy. In other words, my students learn how to read, compose, perform, and write about music. A small percentage of my students will follow a professional career in music. However, all of my students learn how to decipher code (read music notation and rhythm), identify & solve problems, and work together. All of these skills are applicable to any career path they choose after they graduate high school and college.
I spoke with some of Mr. Swis’ students.  Each one of them said they wanted to continue band in high school.  They all agreed that the pieces of music Mr. Swis decides on for them to learn is what they enjoy most.
“We’ll recognize some songs and he introduces us to other types of music,” said student Mariah Powall.
Some of their favorite pieces were Marches of the Armed Forces, The Tempest, Mission Impossible, and Ironman.  “My favorite was Push It by Salt-n-Pepa,” said my kid, of course.

That's my kiddo, on the far right.

What is the best motivational advice you’ve ever received?

Early on during fifth grade band I decided I was bored and wanted to quit. My mother left the choice up to me. She did not force me to stay in or make me feel bad about my decision. She understood that in order for a child to have success in something they have to want it themselves. Obviously, I decided to stay in band. During my freshman year at the Conservatory of Music I was struggling to keep up with my work. Band went from something fun in high school to “work” in college. I contemplated switching my major so I could be a math teacher instead. Several people including my parents, future wife, and professor helped me work my way through all of my concerns. I came out of that situation stronger and with a renewed outlook on my music education career.

Mr. Swis shows the kids that band is fun.  Each year some of his 7th grade students have an opportunity to play at a Cleveland Monsters game and a Lake County Captains game.  Mr. Swis is a fantastic role model for his students.  I’m very fortunate that my son has had the opportunity to be in his class.  Mr. Swis has helped Trenton grow his musical passion.  Not only has he learned to play the trumpet pretty well, but his guitar playing has improved quite a bit.  I hear Trenton in his room frequently teaching himself a new song on the guitar that he plays on the trumpet in band class.

Sweet or savory, and why?
I love my mom’s homemade spaghetti & meatballs and my dad’s beef paprikash. I suppose that makes me a savory. Also means I have to run a whole lot to stay in shape.
It looks like he is going to have to be a “sweet” today because I helped a student decorate some music note brownies for a last day of school gift for him.  Enjoy the whole plate of brownies with your family, Mr. Swis, then go run a few miles.  I see a half-marathon in your near future.  Trenton will be happy to help you train.

The Idiot Project

Today is May 28, Memorial Day.  8 years ago today after and 8 year battle with cancer, my dad died at the age of 48.  Instead of tearfully spending this solemn holiday remembering him and honoring the sacrifices of our nation’s military, I choose to celebrate their lives.

My dad would be so proud of me today because I can call myself an Idiot.  I am a proud member of the Idiots Running Club.  We are a wacky group spread far and wide.  Some of us are ultra-marathoners, some are training for their first 5k.  Whatever the distance, the only qualification to become an Idiot is to do dumb things and have fun while running.  I felt that the best way to honor my dad was to enlist the help of the Idiots.  Below is the post (that will soon be) on the Idiots Running Club website.  If you’re not a member of the best club in the world, but want to submit a story for the book, not to worry… just click on the link to the Idiots website, take the oath, and start running.  If you’re not a runner, we’re here to help you get started.  I use our club’s Facebook page to connect and share wacky adventures.  We even have professionals that give real, solid, free advice and stuff, yo.Idiots, I need your help.

Today is Memorial Day and it happens to be the 8th anniversary of my dad’s death. I am in the process of writing a book to honor him. He fought an 8 year battle with colorectal cancer. He truly hung the moon for me. He was the type of man that lit up the room. He was hilarious and always had a story and a smile for everyone he met.

After he passed away, I traveled to my hometown of Kansas City to help my mom with funeral arrangements. I stayed in his room and unearthed a treasure. While going through his closet, I found a box of his artwork. He loved to doodle, but I never realized how talented he was. I want the world to see his art, and read stories that offer encouragement and motivation to all who pick up the book.  I wrote about this last year. If you would like to read it, and see some of the artwork please click here.

The last time I saw my dad, he told me to remember we each get one life. That has stuck with me. I think of his words every day, and I even have it tattooed on me (in French) along with his art. Those words have helped me to accomplish more than I ever dreamed…like running a marathon. Of course, I wrote about this too. If you would like to read more, click here or here.

So, here is what I need from you. I am looking for stories to fill the pages next to the artwork. Specifically, the types of stories I would like are:

  • Your personal triumph over cancer
  • The diagnosis of a loved one with cancer, that pushed you to make a difference (such as David’s story)
  • I am also looking for inspirational quotes, such as my “Une Vie”, that have helped you to overcome challenges. These do not have to refer to cancer, but rather something inspirational that has helped you along the way. I am not looking for quotes by motivational speakers or celebrities, but rather personal words of encouragement from Idiots like us.

Because we are the Idiots Running Club, I would prefer that the stories have a running aspect to them, like mine (never running 1 mile, getting pissed at cancer, then running a marathon within 18 months just because my dad put those little words in my head). You don’t have to be an ultra or a marathoner to share your story. You just have to be an Idiot.

I hope to receive many submissions. I anticipate that I won’t be able to use them all, but I look forward to reading every one. My goal is to continue to work on this throughout the summer and have a complete package by my dad’s birthday (October 24). Yes, that’s a lofty goal, but I have learned I can do anything I put my mind to and I will accomplish this with your help.

I’ll admit, I have never published a book before. However, I have written and illustrated several children’s stories, and hope to self-publish my first one this summer. My life-long dream is to be an author. My dad’s words helped me learn just how strong I can be and I owe it to him to make my dream come true and honor his loving spirit. Proceeds from the book will go to the American Cancer Society from the Idiots Running Club.

**There will soon be a link on the Idiots Running Club to directly submit stories to.  Until then, RUN.

Race Recap – Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 5k

 

I am an extremely proud mama today!  My 12 year old son, Trenton, brought home 3rd place in his age division for the Hermes Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 5k.  He ran with a good friend of mine that I knew would be able to keep up with my fast guy.

This was the first time I had run this particular race.  My friend, Heather, invited me to do it with her.  This was her second race ever.  She did a fantastic job, but she was nervous to start.  Last Thanksgiving, I ran her first race with her.  I think her nerves got to her because she didn’t feel too great during the run.  I knew I needed to make this race more comfortable for her.  I’ve said before, I don’t take myself too seriously when it comes to my races.  I like to hang out in the back, be goofy, and cheer everyone on.

To help Heather, I made her a playlist of fun running songs, with the slower ones in the right places to give her a little break.  The morning of the race, I picked her up, handed her some temporary Rock & Roll tattoos, and we made our way to downtown Cleveland.  We were rock stars for the day.

Kyle, me (& my temp tats), Trenton, Heather

My friend, Kyle, arrived in the nick of time to run with Trenton.  I gave Trenton a little pep talk (and apparently embarrassed him with kisses), and we were off running.  We all started together and about 5 seconds later, Heather and I were eating Trenton and Kyle’s dust.  I cheered as I saw them passing people left and right.  Soon, they were out of sight.  It was such an amazing feeling to let my boy go.  I knew he was safe, in good hands, and in the zone while listening to Beastie Boys to honor MCA (seriously, this is MY boy.)

I turned my concentration to Heather.  We had a few hills to conquer.  I told her a trick that Kyle had taught me when I started running hills…don’t look up at the top of the hill, just look ahead at what’s in front of your feet.  I don’t even notice the hills now.

Heather and I were listening to the same playlist in our iPods.  I wobbled to Wobble Baby.  I shook my tush to Runaway Baby.  I pumped my fists to the Black Keys.  I belted out a little Fitz & The Tantrums and did a Whoop Whoop holler under the bridge.  I’m sure Heather, and some others, were entertained.

We finished strong.  We conquered the hills.  We gave high fives to the cheerers.  We had a blast!  Heather earned her Rock Star medal that I had waiting for her.  I hope she’s wearing it to work today because she totally earned it.

I’m diligently looking today for Heather’s next race, and Trenton’s next medal.  I wish I could make a career of being the goofy race runner.  I would do it everyday, all day long if I could.  Hmm…maybe I need to contact Hermes.  That guy that pumps everyone up before Tough Mudder could be me, only I’ll get everyone started, cheer them as I run with them, and be the MC at the after party.  I think I do have a good platform.  ONE LIFE, everyone.  Remember that…YOU GET ONE LIFE!

For your listening pleasure, here is one of Trenton’s favorites, and a new one Heather was running to.  Trenton & I agree, these guys are going to be in the Rock Hall someday.  Enjoy!

Race Recap – Hermes 10 Miler

This past Saturday I ran the Cleveland Hermes 10 Miler with my FANTABULOUS friend, Emily.  Emily recently had a baby (on my birthday by the way) and she’s trying to get back into pre-baby form.  She is an experienced runner and has been an inspiration to me.  I felt I needed to do this race to support her.  I was willing to slow my pace in order to assist Emily and cheer her on as she tackled each mile.  I should have known… Emily is spunky.  I don’t know if I was pushing her, or vice versa, but we smashed our goal pace.

See us? I’m in pink and Emily is in blue near the middle of the picture.

We did not set out to PR this race or be a front runner.  We like our own pace, near the middle of the pack, being goofy together.  2 years ago I would not have thought of running 10 miles on a very cold Cleveland morning by the lake as a good time.  Today, I’m actively searching for my next race to conquer with Emily.  It can’t come soon enough.

We became inspired by many people at the race.  We don’t know them, or their stories, but just from what we observed we were proud to be there amongst these tasty lives.

I liked the route of this race because it loops back around at one point so that every runner can cheer on the leaders.  It’s incredible to see someone running past, heading towards the finish line, while I’m not even halfway done.  I enjoy cheering for them. They are in their zone zooming past, but when they give a little smile at the loud, obnoxious cheerer, I know my hollering is appreciated.  Also zooming past me, I saw a couple people wearing their Tough Mudder finisher shirts.  Why didn’t I think of that?!?!  I let out my rally cry for each of them, “Mudder!!!” followed by a high five as they pass me.  Emily said as I saw each Mudder, I ran a little faster.

Soon, we came across Emily’s dad.  He was there to cheer her on, wearing his purple Go Emily Go shirt.  We saw him at 2 points in the race.  He gave hugs to both of us and I decided I was adopting him.  My dad would be there to cheer me on if he was alive.  I don’t think Emily’s dad will mind taking my dad’s place.

After the 4 mile mark, after somehow stripping off my bottom layer without giving the crowd a show and still running, we looped around and could see the runners behind us.  We noticed a new mom (like Emily) running with her baby in a stroller.  I noticed a soon-to-be mom running with tape on her back that read, “38 weeks.”  We also passed a young man wearing a green track suit.  He was huffing and puffing.  As we passed, I told Emily that I was worried about him.  He sounded like he was dying.  We could hear his loud, pounding footsteps behind us.  I liked that sound because I knew he was still alive.  Pretty soon though, the footsteps faded off.

After a speedy water station, I saw that we were being passed by that new mom with her stroller.  “Go Mama,” I yelled.  She looked back, smiled, and said thanks.  I began to realize there were people hanging out in our running pace.  I like to think they were entertained by our goofiness and may have enjoyed me singing ‘Wobble Baby’ to Emily as it played on my ipod.  There’s just something about Emily that helps me to remember to have fun and always yell, “Whoop Whoop” in an echo-inducing tunnel.  Every moment we breathe is precious.

Speaking of breathing…that guy in the green track suit was coming up behind us again, breathing heavier than before.  He passed us and we got a better glimpse at this wonderful young man.  He has some cognitive disabilities, but they were not stopping him from reaching his goal.  The heavy breathing I had heard, was actually his way of cheering himself on.  You could see he was so proud of himself at each mile, with each step, fist pumping in the air.  He just kept going and finished the 10 miles around the same time we did.

The fuzzy cellphone picture of our bling.

I get so much more out of these races than the medal, the t-shirt, and the accomplishment.  I have fun, meet people, learn their stories, and find inspiration and motivation.  This is my runner’s high.  Anyone can get it.  I encourage you to walk, run, or volunteer for an event.  You will see, the high is contagious and you will inspire others, whether you know them or not.

Imagine Dragons – Radioactive

O.K… it’s not Tuesday, but I’m giving you some tunes.

I have preregistered for Tough Mudder Ohio 2013.  I intend to make the Muddy Nuts grow.  Many friends are contemplating.  One has taken a leap and registered for the Missouri Mudder this year.  Fantastic!

Mudders Unite.  Let this be your anthem today as you train.  If you want to be a Nut, light the fire and preregister too.

I’m waking up
I feel it in my bones
Enough to make my systems grow

Welcome to the new age

 

Mudder On

I come to you today as a new me.

It’s been a struggle lately to write, to create recipes, to run, to find motivation, and to keep up with the website.  Why is that?  These things are all very important to me.  They should be on the top of my list of things to do.

The reality is, motivation needs to be fed.  I was falling down on my dream to help others.  I felt the need to help myself.  I took a nice, relaxing trip home to Kansas City.  I reconnected with some old friends and ran a Ruckus.  I met my 2 great-nephews for the first time.  I shopped with my mom.  I stayed in a fancy hotel and drove a supped-up rental car.  I ate myself silly.  I even cheered on the KU Jayhawks (omg, I can’t believe I’m admitting that).  I recharged.

Upon returning to Cleveland I felt better, but something was still amiss.  There was something on my mind that no amount of Kansas City BBQ could relieve.  I had another challenge coming my way.  I tried to have a hard exterior and give off the impression that it would be no sweat to me.

I was scared to death.

The day of Tough Mudder came.  I was part of a team of 10.  We called ourselves the Muddy Nuts.  I was the only female on the team.  Obviously, I didn’t pick the name, however amongst Crushed Nut, Cracked Nut, Big Nut, Salty Nut, Hairy Nut, etc, there was No Nut.

This is just another run, right?  I’ve done these muddy, adventure races before.  No big deal…except for the water.  Tough Mudder Ohio was in Amherst Quarry.  There’s lots of water there…lots of cold, deep water there.  And, I’m on a team…of men…men I work with…men that know me as a runner.  Many of them knew about my distaste for water, but did they REALLY know?

It was a cold, rainy day this past Saturday.  When we arrived on site, I was the experienced one.  I explained how this was all going to go down.  We got suited up, took our team photo, and everyone headed to check their bags.  I snuck off to gather myself and text my children that I love them.

After climbing the pre-race obstacle 8-foot wall, we reached the starting line.  The atmosphere was great.  The guy pumping us up before the race was awesome.  He gave us the low-down on how to stay safe, work as a team, and leave no Mudder behind.  I was now ready!  I can do this!  The obstacle I feared the most wasn’t until the last mile (according to the online map).  I CAN DO THIS…until I freak out in a few hours.

We started off slow because of the bottleneck of people trying to get though the narrow course.  We laughed at how easy it was.  We were at a nice walking pace for awhile.  The guys joked at how great it was that we were “running at their training pace”.  We went up some hills, swam though an ice bath called the Arctic Enema, and drudged through some thick mud.

At one point, I was feeling extra confident.  I was running though that obstacle they called the “Mile of Mud”…and yes, it was a MILE of mud.  I ran from the middle of the pack to the front.  I was whizzing by all those Nuts, not paying any attention to what was going on in front of me.  I was watching my feet so that I didn’t plummet face first and embarrass myself.  I vaguely remember a Nut saying, “I wonder how deep that is.”  Still running like I’m the shiz-nit, I answered that question for them.  I’m 5’4″ and the hole I ran into was up to my nose.  Graceful.  Just a beautiful sight.  The next thing I heard was another saying, “Where did she go?”  Oh, that was fun.  There were, I think, 5 of those mud pits that we had to jump into.  On the last one, the Muddy Nuts took it hand-in-hand.  Great times!

We continued on.  Up more hills, through more mud, and off to my right I spot it…that damn water.  Surely, we must be passing this and coming back to it at the end.  We go through a very steep collection of sandy, rocky hills.  Up…down…through a cold stream, happy to wash off the mud from my shoes…back up…down again…WAIT… Why did we end up at that water?  Walk The Plank was next.  We weren’t even at the halfway point.  Son of a…..!!!!!  By now, these guys REALLY realized No Nut has a little issue with water.  Luckily, they were all very kind and reassuring.

The obstacle was supposed to be a 15 foot drop into water.  That’s what the website said.  That’s what I saw on all the YouTube videos.  Ohhh, but we’re at a quarry.  We have the 15 foot Tough Mudder man-made structure that is now sitting on top of a ledge that just happens to be about another 10 feet above the 30 feet of ice-freaking-cold water.

Petrified, I start climbing the structure.  There’s no ladder.  Oh no…Tough Mudders happily climb 15 feet to leap to their deaths.  2 fellow Nuts were ahead of me on my plank.  One just smiled at me and said, “It’s ok.  I’ll jump first.”

He leaped.  He landed.  He survived.  The next Nut was ready to go.  The guy yelled, “GO!”  People on the other planks jumped.  My fellow Nut turned around and looked at me.  “You going,” he asked.  “What?  It’s your turn.  Not mine,” I screeched.  “Yeah, I can’t do this,” he said and traded places with me.

The man working my plank looked at me and said, “When that guy says GO, you have to GO!  You can’t wait.  You GO Mudder!”

I looked down.  It was far.  I heard a Nut say, “You can do it, No Nut.”  I turned to my right and looked at the guy screaming GO.  As I continued to glare at the guy screaming GO, I took 1 step.  I fell.

I kept falling.

Still falling.

Hit water butt first…still falling.

To my amazement, I was alive when I reached the surface.  A Nut had been waiting just in case he needed to dive down and pull me up.  “You did it,” he said.

I started to swim (remembering all I could from my classes at the YMCA), but I was frozen.  I heard my Nuts cheering me on and found some foam float-thingy in my face from a lifeguard that was standing on the side.  I grabbed ahold and expected to feel the lifeguard pulling me in.  That foam thingy just sat there in my face!  I started to get a little pissy.  We’ll spare the details, but I was shooting out nastiness at that poor female lifeguard.

I was soon on shore, fist-bumping the Nuts.  I got a few hugs.  All of them told me they were proud of me.  The Nut that was supposed to leap before me, ran up behind me, soaking wet, and said, “Thank you.”  He was scared of heights and conquered that fear when he saw me defeat mine.  This was teamwork at it’s best.  We were all there for each other.  No Mudder left behind!

Everest

Ahhhh, done with that one…6 or 7 more miles to go.  We continued on through numerous shocks of electricity at the Electric Eel.  We carried logs up slippery, steep slopes.  One of us fell face first, slid back down on the belly, only to be stopped by a tree between the legs.  Thank goodness it was No Nut.  We leaped across too many mud pits to count.  I decided to just leap into the pits and get pulled out.  I was at a little bit of a height disadvantage.  We climbed over 12 foot walls,  helped each other climb Everest, slipped off crazy huge monkey bars, didn’t see the rings coming, and shared muddy heat sheets we found laying on the side of the course.  It was brutal at times.  The cold weather was the worst obstacle of all, I think.  We are stronger for it though.

Today, I can say I’m proud of myself.  I dug deep down inside and found either bravery or stupidity.  Whatever it is, I’m glad I have it.  I’m also very happy to have my Nuts.  I knew that each and every one of them would have risked their lives to save mine if needed.  This is what they do everyday.

Thanks Nuts!  I am extremely proud to be the No Nut.  I will go anywhere, and do any crazy thing (no matter how much water, or how high the leap) with the Muddy Nuts.  My fear is still in there, but each time I challenge my fear, it dies a little.  I will crush it.

MUDDY NUTS!!!

 

 

Muddy Nuts made the Official Video very quickly at the end!  Watch for the bright blue shirts.

***Most pictures courtesy of Tough Mudder’s Facebook page.  I anxiously await my share.

 

Ben Rossi – Personal Trainer & Owner of ATP Evolution

He is a Nexus, a connection.  He empathizes with people.  “I audaciously go through life throwing my soul through every open door with the goal in mind of changing people’s lives.”

Ben Rossi has made a difference in many lives.  Mine is one.  When I needed advice about a nagging calf injury, he was there.  Then, just 2 months before my marathon, I went to him again with a new injury that I was afraid would sideline me for good.  I had pulled my IT band.  Ben knew the magic cure.  He had suggested I try a very simple foam roller with specific exercises.  I followed his plan and within days I was back on track.  I owe Ben quite a bit, but the best way I knew to show my appreciation was to dedicate a marathon mile to him (mile 21).

The training room at ATP Evolution

Ben is also one I look up to because he followed his dream.  He has been in the fitness business for over 14 years, and has just opened his own gym.  He is now the proud owner of ATP Evolution in Warrensville Heights, OH.

ATP stands for Attitude, Tenacity, and Progression.  “We feel you have to have a powerful attitude, you need to be tenacious when you work out, and you need a progression when you’re performing in order to achieve results,” explains Ben.

 

The Ball Bike

TRX

 

 

 

 

 

 

So Ben, how do you live your 1 tasty life?  What is your passion?

“My passion is inspiring the world to fitness by delivering a clear and concise system which defines how effort based training and performance DNA can enhance and change your life.”

When talking with Ben, it is abundantly clear that he lives and breathes fitness and wants share what he’s learned with everyone who asks for his help.  Ben also instructs a “Delay the Disease” class for people living with Parkinson’s.  His class revolves around exercise in order to ease the symptoms of the disease.  The idea is to help people to become more mobile and feel better.

How/when did your passion begin?

“My passion for helping people goes back to my senior year in high school.  I met a young lady who was disabled in my chemistry class.  Everyone avoided her.  I made her my partner. “

Ben and his chemistry partner formed a bond.  He helped her in the class, and she helped him learn more about compassion.  Fitness was a way for him to help others feel better.  He strives to help the ones that need it the most.

Nobody is watching. Time to check out the dance floor...I mean yoga studio.

What is your motivating force?

“There are a few things I live by.  Number 1 is my son, Owen.   He’s following in my footsteps.  I want to make sure I pave the way correctly for him.  Number 2 is that I always tell myself someone is trying to do better than me.  Someone is on my heels trying to catch me.  That makes me push hard every day.  Third, is knowing I have the power in my hands to change people’s lives.”

By sharing his knowledge with those he meets, he has changed lives.  His example helps people make healthier choices.  You get ONE LIFE.  Ben is helping me, and many others, to live as healthy as possible.

What is the best motivational advice you’ve ever received?

“My grandfather told me the quote, ‘I complained about my shoes until I met a man who had no feet.’  That strikes hard.  That, to me, says compassion and speaks volumes about not being selfish, and about taking care of other people.”

Sweet or savory…and why?

“I am a savory because I deliver innovative material to people by pleasing their craving to enhance their lives by reason of authentic effort based 3 dimensional programming.”

Very true Ben, but let’s get down to the juicy stuff.  I want to know what you eat.

“I prefer to eat savory.  I’m a salsa and chips guy.  I like snacks, proteins, and greens.”

Savory, huh?  I don’t think so.  I happen to know this guy is a softie and has a sweet tooth for chocolate milkshakes shared with little league football players (my Tank), and he also has a fantastic recipe for a rather sweet breakfast.

Ben shared his recipe with me when I was beginning my journey to a healthier lifestyle.  It is only fitting that I share this recipe with you.  If you’d like to start your day off the Rossi way, click here.

If you’d like to connect with Ben yourself you can find him at ATP Evolution, 4829 Galaxy Pkwy, suite K, Warrensville Heights, OH 44128.  Their business phone number is 216-342-4413.  You can also find his business on Facebook or on their website.  I would suggest you go visit in person.  ATP Evolution has 6 personal trainers, 2 nutritionalists, a yoga instructor, and a martial arts/self-defense instructor.  This is a very nice facility.  I think all women can agree…one can tell a lot about a gym from the condition of the ladies restroom.  I checked it out for ya.  BEAUTIFUL BATHROOM!  Great job, Ben!  Thanks for the workout.

Creamy Asparagus & Leek Soup

It’s spring!  I cannot wait until the trees start sprouting their leaves.  I’m tired of seeing the dreary brown, bare tree limbs that tend to hang around too long here in northeast Ohio.  St. Patrick’s Day had me craving the beautiful, lush color even more.  In fact, my need for green inspired today’s recipe.

Voila!  Creamy Asparagus & Leek Soup.

  • 1 large leek, sliced thin
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 lb. asparagus
  • 32 oz. vegetable stock
  • salt/pepper

Saute the sliced leek and garlic in olive oil until tender.  Steam asparagus until crisp tender.  Place leek/garlic mixture and asparagus into large stockpot.  Add vegetable stock.  Cook over medium heat 15-20 minutes until asparagus is soft.  Using hand/immersion blender, puree until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

I enjoyed my soup for lunch with a little nonfat plain yogurt swirled on top and rustic Guinness bread on the side.  This would have been a perfect meal for St. Patrick’s Day had I thought of it in time.

Enjoy!

Blackout – Breathe Carolina

I’m sorry friends, I’ve been so neglectful.  I’ve been training and experimenting in the kitchen and time has gotten away from me. I’m on the run again so I’ll make this quick…

What am I running to?  One of my Tough Mudder training tunes is quite fitting for my quest.  I’m hoping not to blackout.

“Cut up and I can’t feel my hands”  (how I expect to feel about 3 miles into the race)