DIY Craft | Let’s Get Cozy

** This post also contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.** It’s official. I am back in a mood to craft! This is a really good sign, considering how the last few months have been for me. Last weekend I did some crafting with my best friend and her family/friends and was inspired by a big box print that said “Let’s Get Cozy”, but I didn’t want to spend the $$ on it and decided to make one of my own from DOLLAR TREE items!

Let’s Get Cozy

Isn’t it just adorable? Bonus, it is THREE DIMENSIONAL! Here’s what you’ll need to grab from your local Dollar Tree (or use their free ship to store option) to make your own version.

The Supplies

  • 2 6×6 photo frames
  • 1 pack of Christmas trees
  • 1 wooden pain project – I love this little car, so on the “red truck” theme!
  • 1 roll of wrapping paper (you’ll have a TON left)
  • Modge Podge (YES, they sell mini bottles!)

I did use some craft supplies I had on hand that I don’t think you can get at Dollar Tree, so you might want to check out the best places to get them (though mine is Amazon if it isn’t at DT!):

The Steps

  1. Cut the wrapping paper to the size of the glass in your frames.
  2. Adhere wrapping paper to the glass using modge podge.
  3. While you’re waiting for that to dry, paint your wooden craft.
  4. When the paint dries, hot glue or E-6000 to adhere the tree to the top of the wooden craft and then adhere craft to one frame and tree to the other (you might need to do some squishing of the trees’ backs).
  5. Paint “Let’s Get Cozy” or another themed phrase on the other frame.

Are you inspired by this craft? Go ahead down the rabbit hole that I found last weekend and ask to join the Facebook Group “Dollar Tree DIY Projects” and share your favorite crafting from DT!

What I’m Reading: October 2

Disclaimer: I received a copy of one of the books in this post from HarperCollins Leadership. All other books shown here were bought or gifted by me. When you shop through links on this page, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you – thank you for shopping things I heart!

What I’m Reading: October 2

Maybe you found this “What I’m Reading” post on Instagram today – welcome to my blog! This will be a little repeat of what you read over on my profile, but this version includes links to add the books shown to your own library. Enjoy!

What I’m Reading…If you know me, you know I like words and that I have a goal to publish a book. But you also know I have A L O T on my plate, so inspiro thru reading is not easy to put into my day. I currently have all of these books in progress:

  1. The Bible – I LOVE this journaling Bible (currently only in LARGE PRINT on Amazon)
  2. If It Makes You Happy” – Claire Kann – This was my #bookishintheburgh Blind Date with a Book so I’m diving into it. Trying to keep up with what the kids will be reading!
  3. It Wasn’t Supposed to be This Way” – Lysa TerKeurst – She and I just might be connected, just sayin’ (have you read my post about finding therapists?!?) AND BY THE WAY — who would be interested in doing a STUDY of this with me?
  4. Praying Circles Around Your Marriage” @prayingmarriage (because see 3)
  5. Dare to Lead” – Brene Brown – yes.
  6. Stories That Stick” – Kindra Hall is AMAZING yinz. I’ve met her and am so inspired. She’s changing how I’m using my words here, on the blog, in work, and with the family.

So share! What are YOU reading this week?

The Struggle: Finding Therapists

Disclaimer: Portions of this post, “The Struggle: Finding Therapists” originally were featured on my family blog, ‘lil Burghers. Many of you are following my wellness journey here so I wanted to be sure to share with you as well. (TW: Suicide / Mental Health) To read the full original post, check out ‘lil Burghers

Remember how 2019 is my year of courage. This one is really playing out as I eluded to when I told you that I was having some physical struggles back in June.  In that post, I also shared that there was a mental/emotional side to it, too. Boy, at that time I had no clue how much more was coming my way, but I’m happy to say that the tides that were rising are starting to recede and I’m working on getting the help I need.


Needing help? That’s not what a strong person does, is it? To be honest, admitting help is needed is exactly what I didn’t want to do. It made me feel so weak and vulnerable, but this summer it became so clear that getting help was what was necessary.

So yes, you heard me right. I’ve been hiding that all is okay and it’s not really okay around here but I am working on that, we are working on that to be fair (it’s not just my battle).

Those of you close to me know that on June 7, 2019, my 17-year-old cousin Emily died by suicide. Emily’s struggle is not something unfamiliar to our family – my side and Greg’s – or to me. She was struggling with mental health, something I did not realize was so hard to get help for. Even though I majored in Psychology as an undergrad, I had no clue that there weren’t enough people in the profession able to fill all of the needs…until I found myself desperately needing it.

Getting Help/Finding a Therapist

Later in June, the need for a therapist for myself and Greg became a “this is something we should do because we know it is good” to a must do (unrelated to losing Emily, but all still so raw and real).

My world crashed greater than I thought it could (please respect that I’m going to keep details private for now – it is not for secrecy but for healing). With what I feel is really good insurance (and an out of pocket max met thanks to my health issues), we tried for ten weeks to get a counselor and finally last week were able to make it happen.

TEN weeks. Ten weeks is a lifetime when you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, when you feel alone and ugly, when you feel desperate for the pain to just go away. This part of my story is that ten week is far too freaking long for someone to get licensed help and it is no surprise to me that our mental health issues are climbing, suicide is far too familiar, and the divorce rate is so high.

But ten weeks is what it took us to find a therapist and even then actually going to my first appointment took all I had. This shakes me and breaks me and makes me so sad for my young cousin (who I know was trying to get help), her family, our extended family, myself, and our world as a whole. Mental health help should not be so hard to come by!

How Do I Find the Help I Need?

My original post on this topic has a resource to a company that can help, or you can do like we did and reach out to your Insurance, family counseling or Christian counseling in your area, or asks friends who’ve opened up for their suggestions. Bottom line, you need to find the therapist who is right for you.

Crisis Resources

  • If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.
  • If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)
  • If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.

Torn Down

I took this picture yesterday with a totally different idea in mind, definitely not a blog post, maybe a little something on my Instagram but not a full out post. The plan was to promote my Thirty-One business because all the fall is here and it is so pretty and goes great with the sugar free cinnamon Dunkin I was sipping while starting my VIP group post.

But then I looked closer and I could see the sadness I am carrying in those eyes hidden behind those sunglasses that were totally not needed because the skies are gray. Those glasses were holding the tears that were in my eyes and the redness around my eyebrows back from the view of the people who support my business. The people who support my family by buying bags and people who have become part of something more for me. I was trying to hide and just push another product.

Instead, I’ve decided that photo needs to go beyond my group or my Instagram followers. The chapter of my story right now needs to be shared.

Torn Down

On a Sunday filled with the goodness of hearing a sweet friend sing my favorite song while birds chirped and clouds passed overhead as my church family worshipped in the park, I was facing so much doubt. No. Struggling with so much doubt.

On a Sunday when I should feel built up, I was torn down three times. The battle with my spirit is so real right now. I’m ready to give up my fight and come off my wall. But when I’m told how I should be, it is tough. Whether it is the clothes I wear, the choices I make, or the hair over my lip, I shouldn’t feel like I have to answer to anyone.

After two incidents happened to tear me down, my husband gave me a break and we canceled plans so I could get some alone time…and that is when I let a third person tell me who I should be – a woman without hair on her face. I had no idea my eyebrows, lips, or chin needed the attention they got and while I am thankful that I got cleaned up, it also hurt and I’m not talking about the pain of wax peeling 10+ tears of light blonde hairs off the tenderest parts of my skin.

I’m talking about a deep pain where you try to be the right person for everyone over and over. Where you try to conform to some mold of what your society or religion thinks you should be when in the end what matters is having things right with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and Holy Spirit. Nothing else matters, but oh can it hurt.

In the midst of this, I found myself listening to “Good and Loved” over and over, trying to remind myself that I am loved but goodness is it hard right now. And this is just one day in almost a year of painful attacks – some I haven’t talked about but maybe need to so people can understand how much their opinions hurt.

As much as I want to be a good role model to my children and the people around me, the truth is that I can’t. I am an imperfect person who makes mistakes. And right now, I’m learning that sometimes I have to dig deep in these moments to find God’s grace and goodness…but it is there.

If you’re in the depths of something, just remember that God set the stars and planets exactly where they are and He loves you. It is not easy (my hands are raised high in agreement), but lean into God’s love and know He cares for you deeply. That is what I am doing, even in these hard moments. So Will I.

Disney’s THE LION KING: PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh

Disclaimer: In exchange for sharing details about theupcoming Disney’s THE LION KING Performance coming to Pittsburgh through Disney Theatrical Productions and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, I received tickets to attend and review the show. All opinions are 100% my own.

“It means no worries…” – a song I so needed to hear on Thursday night. The past few months have not been normal and to be honest, taking time out of a busy week to go to a show was a little crippling for me. But hearing that song during Disney’s THE LION KING musical in Pittsburgh was absolute perfect timing.

Disney’s THE LION KING: PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh

For all the details on how you can attend a performance of Disney’s THE LION KING, head over to my Pittsburgh family-focused blog, ‘lil Burghers

Let me just throw this out here right away.

Every single detail covered – even the STEPS to the stage!

When the cast opened the evening with “Circle of Life”, I cried. Like big drippy tears. Yinz, it took until the last season of “The Parenthood” and “The Office” and “How I Met Your Mother” to cry. Although I do bawl every single episode of “This is Us”. But I cried big ugly tears in my symphony level seat at Benedum Center listening to “Circle of Life”. There, I said it!

But for real, who wouldn’t? This opening number was pure magic. The sounds, the lighting, the costumes. I really can’t explain it other than I felt right there at Pride Rock and was on the edge of my seat for the rest of the night hoping I’d again get to feel the whisk of the elephant costume brushing past us or see the puppeter who brought Zazu into the theater or feel the breath of the singers (yes, four seats in I could feel their powerful voices on me). And I cried.

If you were alive in the 90s, you know the story so I’m not going into details on it, but what you do need to know is that if you know the story, the songs are in your heart and will be so loud in your head – try not to find yourself singing along if you don’t want the others in your row to hear you singing. No shame here, I definitely sang “Hakuna Matata” and even “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King” along with the cast. But what you will find is that you lean in close to hear the voices of Mufasa, Scar, Nala, and Simba as they have solos that are not part of my memory of the movie I loved as a child. This is part of the magic – I promise! 

Greg went with me and experienced his first Broadway show. He also had all the feels about the cast, dynamics, and orchestra. It was really a wonderful production and the perfect way to have a date night with my husband (though I’d totally go back with the older kids – the show is recommended for ages 8 and up).

Thank you for bringing this beloved tale to Pittsburgh, Cultural Trust!


As the world’s #1 musical, Disney’s THE LION KING comes to Pittsburgh as a presentation by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Broadway Across America as part of the 2019-2020 PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh Series. The production will be at the Benedum Center from September 4-29, 2019. For tickets and more information, visit



After 21 landmark years on Broadway, The Lion King continues ascendant as one of the most popular stage musicals in the world.  Since its premiere on November 13, 1997, 25 global productions have been seen by more than 100 million people.  Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions (under the direction of Thomas Schumacher), The Lion King has made theatrical history with six productions worldwide running 15 or more years.  Performed in nine different languages (English, Japanese, German, Korean, French, Dutch, Spanish, Mandarin and Portuguese), productions of The Lion King can currently be seen on Broadway; London’s West End; Hamburg; Tokyo; Madrid; Scheveningen, Holland; on tour across Japan and North America, with a separate production touring internationally, for a total of nine productions running concurrently across the globe.

Having played over 100 cities in 20 countries on every continent except Antarctica, The Lion King’s worldwide gross exceeds that of any film, Broadway show or other entertainment title in box office history.

The Lion King won six 1998 Tony Awards®:  Best Musical, Best Scenic Design (Richard Hudson), Best Costume Design (Julie Taymor), Best Lighting Design (Donald Holder), Best Choreography (Garth Fagan) and Best Direction of a Musical.  The Lion King has also earned more than 70 major arts awards including the 1998 NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, the 1999 Grammy® for Best Musical Show Album, the 1999 Evening Standard Award for Theatrical Event of the Year and the 1999 Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Choreography and Best Costume Design.

Source: Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Chorizo Bacon Waffle with Chili Butter

This post contains affiliate links. This recipe was brought to us by Huron House Bed and Breakfast. 

I know, earlier this week I was telling you about being good and going back to Keto, but this recipe has been in my inbox and I just can’t help but to share it. Besides, maybe you can use a recipe from Keto Bread to make that waffle keto friendly or substitute in some almond flour for regular flour? I mean, c’mon with this one!

Chorizo Bacon Waffle
source: Huron House

Chorizo Bacon Waffle with Chili Butter


  • Waffle
  • 1 package of chorizo
  • 1 ¾ cup of AP flour (looking to sub in almond flour? This is my favorite!)
  • 1 tbsp of baking powder
  • ¼ tsp of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¼ cup of milk
  • 1 full bunch of green onions, diced
  • 1 cup sharp shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 pieces of bacon
  • Chili Butter
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 can of diced green chilies


  1. First, plug in your waffle iron (this one is a little pricy but so good for families that make waffles on the regular!) and let it heat up.
  2. In a medium skillet over medium heat, cook the chorizo for about 2-minutes or until it starts to releaseits juices. Set aside on a plate.

    Chorizo Bacon Waffle with Chili Butter
    Source: Huron House
  3. Next, fry up the bacon slices, let cool and chop into crumbles.
  4. Assemble your waffle batter. In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, salt and egg. Mix slowly and gradually add in the milk. Be careful not to overmix, batter should be thick and slightly lumpy. Once mixed, fold in the chorizo, bacon crumbles, green onions and cheddar cheese.
  5. To make the chili butter, place the slightly softened butter in a bowl and add the diced green chilis. (green chilies are spicy so you can add as much or as little as you would like). With a mixer beat the butter for about 2 minutes.
  6. To make the waffle, place a half a cup of batter into the center of the waffle iron, close the lid and cook according to your iron directions or until waffle is golden brown.
  7. Top the waffles with chili butter, cheddar cheese, bacon crumbles and green onions.

*Also great with slightly warmed maple syrup


About Huron House

Located on the beach of Lake Huron between Tawas and Oscoda, the Huron House is an award-winning 14 room luxury Bed and Breakfast lakefront destination with stunning Lake Huron views and direct beach access. Huron House features King beds, private decks, fireplaces, personal hot tubs and Jacuzzi tubs, and daily breakfast delivered to guestrooms. Privacy and individual attention define the Huron House experience.

The Huron House Bed and Breakfast is located at 3124 North US-23, Oscoda, Michigan 48750. To make a reservation call (989) 739-9255 or visit

Keto Bread: Eating Your Favorite Foods on Keto

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of Keto Bread in exchange for sharing this post with you. This post also contains affiliate links – when you shop through them I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions are 100% my own.

Hey there, I’m a carb addict and I know it…how about you?

What I also know (thanks to several cycles of Whole30 that ending up pointing me to give Keto a try) but that I kept feeling like something was missing even though I knew I had gluten issues. Every time I’ve cycled out of Keto (uh, mistake) I would turn to my old favorites, pizza and pretzels, and be so very sick.

Before our vacation, I went back to Keto to jump start my feeling better and now I’m back at it again with a new resource in hand – the “Keto Bread” book!

Keto Bread

This book was written by Faith Gorsky and Lara Clevenger — the Keto Queens ( — and gives us 100 delicious options to enjoy some of our old favorites while sticking to the Keto plan. Think bagels, pizza crusts, and some fall breads like pumpkin and apple and zucchini (YESSSSS)! Clearly, I am really excited about the Pretzel Bites and Spiced Beef Empanadas found in the snacks section.

I don’t love making things with a lot of ingredients, but this collection of recipes is easy enough to follow and uses the basic staples of keto (also explained in the introductory chapter which gave me some great new tips).

In my Keto cycles over the past two years, I’ve not been used to substituting bread other than my pizza crust; however, it’s clear that I’ve been missing it. The substitutes in this book will help aid in what I hope will be an even more successful keto journey this time around!

Want a copy yourself? You will be able to pick up a copy of Keto Bread on Amazon starting September 10 – pre-order it here

Like this post? Pin it!


About the Authors of Keto Bread


What a Month

Let’s start with a caution warning. It is going to get a little real around here today.  I’ll also be talking about my current physical health and it could be a bit TMI for you guys – be warned. This post contains affiliate links. 


The month of June 2019 just might go down as the month that really resonated with my word of the year, COURAGE. At first, I thought it was going to be rough because of some physical stuff I was going through, but oh I had no idea what was to come in that first week.

Let’s start with the physical – I might circle back to the mental/emotional struggle this month has been soon, but it’s not exactly my story to tell. No, it is not my knee. On May 28, I found out I just have a big wad of arthritis in it. Surprise, it hasn’t really been bugging me now that this has happened…

I have an ovarian cyst.

Okay, so ovarian cysts are actually very common in women – most women won’t even know that they have them and they usually cause no harm. In my case, I have one that started to cause some issues on May 29.

It began as a cramp in my right side about 30-40 minutes after eating, so I started to think that it was something with my gallbladder. I stopped eating the Keto diet and the pain didn’t go away – it just got worse. On June 3, I started spotting (3 days after my last cycle had ended) and by Tuesday was having one of my heaviest periods ever (hello, KotexU AllNighter Ultra Thin Pads in bulk) that lasted for eleven days. And by Tuesday night,  I was in so much pain that I could barely walk or talk – so we headed to the ER and waited for some tests.

Although a CT Scan showed the important results, the ER couldn’t find the source of my pain and sent me home with a diagnosis for an enlarged spleen. I was back the next day – so cold, the pain had moved to a focused area on my left side of my lower back, and I could barely breathe. This time I was told that my CT Scan showed a 5.7 cm ovarian cyst and that I needed to talk to gynecology – discharged again.

By Friday, I was done and needed to get more attention so we went to West Penn’s ER where they told me I was constipated (duh, I’d been on percocet for four days) and oh BTW have endometrial polyps. This was said oh so casually on my discharge that I lost my cool and begged to see someone from gynecology to tell me what that meant.

When you go back to my original report, you would see that I have an 11.5mm endometrial lining and polyps + an ovarian cyst that was measuring between 5.7 and 6.7 cm on the two different hospital machines. The next a gyno could see me was July through AHN or late June with ABC Women’s. Through prayer, I got in last Friday (6/13) and was told we need to get surgery scheduled + a D&C (that procedure was recommended at the West Penn ER but they wanted to wait for the cyst to grow or burst).

At this point, the soonest I can be seen in the OR is July 18. That’s another 29 days of pain. And when I tell you pain, I mean this 10,500+ steps a day mama is struggling to get 3,000 steps a day. I have to hold back tears on hour long conference calls. I can’t pick up the twins without feeling strained. And did I mention that I am tired. Super tired. Sigh.

I know that God is in control and is fighting for me – would you have a prayer or two for me throughout the next few weeks for healing?

Training Tuesday: The Half-termath

Three weeks have flown by in the time since the 2019 DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events and although my duties as an official blogger for them are over, I’m still singing the praises of the event and the time my family had there. Does that mean I’ve been running? Well, that’s why you’re reading, right? This post contains affiliate links – if you click through to Amazon and shop there, as an Amazon Associate I earn a commisison at no extra charge to you. 

Missed my wrap-up? It’s in a three-part series starting here

Training Tuesday: The Half-termath

After we completed all the fun of ‘marathon weekend’, the family and I packed up the van in front of the Omni William Penn (which BTW – thanks to all of you readers and runners, I got to stay in as a prize, THANK YOU!) and hit 279 headed for I-80 and Wisconsin Dells (one of our top vacation spots). We didn’t make it far.

I was wrapped in ice and trying to enjoy my Starbucks when I sniffed the air and smelled something burning. We thought that our oil change on Wednesday had taken care of this issue (oil built up on a gasket), but nope. I asked Greg if he could confirm my thoughts and he said yes…so I brought up a battery light issue Arianna had mentioned over the weekend. Basically, our alternator was shot and we needed to get off the road ASAP or it could have ended badly.

But we had worked so hard to get to this vacation – we both have been working basically non-stop without a real “no stress” vacation – you know, one where both adults love what they do and aren’t job hunting/studying for exams/having to be on call just in case something goes wrong at work. There was NOTHING we had to do but relax and enjoy family time. Nothing.

So I quickly searched for the lowest priced rental vehicle I could find at the Pittsburgh Airport and we turned Waze’s route from Christmas Mountain Village to the Enterprise Rental desk. Our van would sit at the airport until we got back with a tow truck a week later and we loaded all of our luggage (way too much, we pack the kitchen sink) into a rental Suburban (aka my dream vehicle) and finally hit the road.

I wasn’t feeling getting any workouts in over vacation. My knee hurt from the running and travel and I just wanted to relax, so I did. Once we got home and had to deal with getting back to work, I decided to do some old Bob Harper DVD‘s and walk from the parking garage to work (1 mile) on the nice mornings. I just wasn’t ready to run again.

Then last Tuesday I visited the orthopedic surgeon praying with everything I had in me that they’d approve an MRI. Nope. This girl has arthritis. That’s what held me back! But friends – I won’t sugar coat it. It’s A LOT of arthritis and it is painful – I’m not being a wuss or trying to say that being cautious wasn’t smart. I just have had a lot of trauma to my right knee (four skin-breaking falls that I can remember) and am getting older. It’s my new reality!

So, I basked in that and finally cleaned up my Altras and headed out to the trail on Thursday evening. It was HOT, I’d worked and had a long week (windows replaced in the whole house, Marathon Volunteer Appreciation event/Pirate game, worship practice) BUT I FELT SO GOOD. I even pulled off a 30 second negative split from mile 1 to mile 2. I’m totally going the Galloway method for awhile! 

This new reality is paying off. Being back to working out for two weeks and solid keto eating (though I did NOT restrict myself on Sunday) and I see and feel a difference.

What’s Next?

You didn’t think I was giving up, did you? HA! No way. I was waiting to hear the results from my appointment last week, but I think that my summer/fall will include:

What are you looking for as your next (or maybe even first!!!) running event?

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon: Part 3 of 3

The post below is part of a series of posts about the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events for which I have been selected to be a 2019 Pittsburgh Marathon official blogger. I’ve received my race registration fee in exchange for promotion of the event. All opinions are 100% my own.  This post also contains affiliate links. 

There is NO WAY that the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend was over a week ago, is there? As I walked through the city on my Monday morning commute (a week AFTER the Monday after the Marathon) it still felt like black and gold yinzers should be running those streets. Not sure how I’m going to survive until the next big race, anyone else? (Psst, if this is you, check out the official blog for tips from Karl Gruber on how to survive the post-race blues.)

So I left the city and headed out on vacation, stringing you all along with some teasers about the big official wrap up post. Finally, I’m ready to share my thoughts on the big day, race day! Let’s start with the VIP Experience because a little bit of it will be sprinkled in my recollection. (This is part three of three in my weekend wrap-up. You probably want to start with part one then two if this is the first post you’re reading!)

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: The VIP Experience (part three of three)

The day started with me and my VIP’s getting breakfast at the Wyndham Grand, right beside the Gear Check trucks (which BTW you don’t need if you’re VIP because they check gear from you at the breakfast). I’d been doing keto off and on but let my eating slide, so I was okay that our breakfast was primarily carbs – bagels, croissants, butters and jellies, yogurt – but I was cautious to not eat anything too heavy. I’ve had gluten issues, so I did my best with some cream cheese and peanut butter and a big bottle of NUUN Hydration’s Ginger Lemonade (which I have become “addicted” to and you can get at your local running store or on Amazon as I’ve linked above).

But the best part of this experience for me? The indoor bathrooms. Guys, I drink so much water then you add in race day nerves and I visit the porta-potties pre-race many times (5, maybe?). This year, I didn’t have to because I was using the indoor bathroom at the VIP experience (okay, I did use one once I got to corral C just to be sure) and I was able to make it all the back after the race to use it, too! Wins. And just in case you didn’t grab enough safety pins? They had you covered, too.

The morning was rainy, so Greg decided to keep the kids in the VIP room instead of watching me at the starting line. Soon he’d head over to the North Shore and Station Square, but this was a good place to camp out and wait. He snapped a quick picture of me before I headed out, dry and warm (and covered in prayer)!

Now this part is for the VIP Fans – the spectator tent at the Finish Line was full of food (I’m told bacon and breakfast burritos) and a covered area to watch the racers finish. Unfortunately, Greg didn’t snap a selfie of him and the kids, but they LOVED this part and he said it made the cost worth it for future events.

After the race, we all got to come back and be spoiled with a hotel catered lunch (pasta with chicken, sandwiches, cookies) and have a gathering spot that was warm and dry.

We’re so grateful for this part of our experience because it made the day smooth for my biggest fans and made me comfortable all race weekend knowing we had a place to meetup and relax.

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: Leg 1 of the Relay

After I left the VIP experience, it was time to head to Corral C to do my duty as Leg 1 (and Captain) of my work’s relay team.

Firstly, let’s address how cool my tank is (scroll up if you missed it). Logistically, I was a bit cranky about having to wear two bibs + the tracker + the bib on the back (this comes into play later in the race) but I figured I’d stick with one shirt because who wants to wear two wet shirts and/or risk not having your half marathon timer track your start?

It seemed like this year was the fastest start of the four years I’ve done the Half, maybe that’s because I was in Corral C? And speaking of fast, I started out a bit fast with the energy of walking past my client to the starting line and then being in a corral of mixed pace runners who were doing the relay (more on that in my “half” section of this post).

This was the first time I was on the “handoff” side of the relay – when I neared Exchange 1 on the North Shore, it felt like FOREVER until I got to the co-worker running the next leg. He was waiting very patiently (bless him!) for me (again, see below) with Greg and the kids. Since I was continuing on, it was a little awkward to get back into the sea of runners, but I managed.

All in all, my relay team did amazing. They took what they were handed from my slow leg 1 and ran with it, bringing our overall pace to 11:05/mile overall. Now bring us the tacos!!!

After I was done with my lunch, our final runner crossed the finish line and we met in the hotel lobby for some conversation and photos. After seeing it, I’ll admit that I have some work to do before our next race together!

2019 Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: The Half Marathon (Mile by Mile)

If you’ve been following along on my blog(s) for the last few years, you know that I like to try to recall the races by the miles. Let’s see how I do this year! (Note, I am wearing a FitBit Versa which is fine enough, but I didn’t use the running feature – it died by the end of the race with just the timer running sooo – OR my Nike+ to get my laps, but just know they were slow. Maybe next race I’ll have a Garmin Forerunner like this?)

Mile 0-1: This one was fast at first. I’d set out to do a 5-minute run followed by a 3-minute walk which went well in this mile; however, my first run was fast and I got some rocks in my shoes (Altra Escalante Racers in Tokyo, if you’re wondering) and had to work that out. My feet were soaked just a tenth of a mile in, too. I set my eyes on some other run/walkers just in case I needed to find some buddies.

Mile 1-2: This one was a little tough, emotionally. It might have been one of my faster miles because I had the folks from Corral D bearing down on my back (and they start like 8 minutes after C – sigh) and because I just wanted it to be done with. The first water station is right near my previous workplace and I thought I’d lose it, so I wanted to just run and run I did.

Mile 2-3: This was my old running path – Penn Avenue to the 16th Street Bridge. I love to hate this section of town. At one point someone from the 11-ish minute mile pace group yelled to me, “keep it up RELAY, just 2 miles to go”. Heh. What he didn’t know was that I had to keep on keeping on.

Mile 3-4: As I crested the hill from 16th Street Bridge, my knee gave out. It was slipping and popping and I slowed that 5/3 to a 4/2 and walked up the hill to East Ohio Street. There’s this energy on that section of the race (and a few downhills) that helps move things along and I tried desperately to feed off of that; however, I decided I was going to quit once I got to the exchange. Running with an injury isn’t worth it and I was hurting.

Mile 4-5: This mile starts out with the run up the hill to Urban Impact cheering us on. As “Old Church Choir” played from their station, I got the strength to run that hill and high five everyone I could along the way. I don’t honestly remember running past the Children’s Museum (did we?) because there was a section here where we cheered on one of the hand cart racers (and I stopped feeling sorry for myself).

Mile 5-…: I was quitting, don’t you remember? At 5.4 miles, you hit the relay exchange. As I said above, it felt like forever until Rick gave me my medal and I had Greg help me with my bib and tracker. I decided to stay on the course but told Greg it was going to be a LONG TIME until I could get back to him downtown. I ran away and then realized that I still had “RELAY” on my back so I had to turn back and ask Greg to rip that off. I didn’t want to be yelled at for not going through Exchange 2 or having my relay bib on the front! Logistics, you see.

Right after this exchange, medics were waiting with vaseline – the only such station I saw on the course – and I needed it. I was drenched and wearing a new shirt and slightly tighter than usual Fusion C3 Running Shorts. I’ve had three c-sections and a belly that was large > pregnant > larger > even more pregnant > flubby > flat as a board > pregnant with twins > torn open ten days after surgery > flubby fit > swollen (in the past 10 years). It rubs and hurts, so I was grateful.

After that, I heard “MRSGREGWILLIS!!!” yelled out – and it was my favorite pacer (Carla) and Adrian and Abbie. I’d never met Adrian and Abbie in real life, but we all are running fam on Instagram. It was great to see them and run with them for a little bit while they helped Carla tackle (CRUSH!) her first full. Unfortunately, I knew what my knee needed and I had to hang back and go back to my 5/3 run walk pace, letting them go on without me.

Mile 6-7: West End Bridge – you were so nice to me this year. I even took a moment to snap a selfie because why not? Not too much to say about this part of the course but I got ‘er done.

Mile 7-8: West End has always been a favorite of mine and this year is no different. As I coasted down the hill, I noticed incredible back muscles on another runner and told her that she was looking strong as I passed – hopefully it gave her encouragement!

Three years ago, I found out that one of my college friends, “Grab”, was in the crowd there. I’d said “HEY” in the past and kept running, but this year I stopped to grab a drink from her and another college friend (also a Jen) and a selfie. We chatter for a minute or two then on I went – this race was about having FUN!

Mile 8-9: This is the mile with the JROTC lining the hill the goes under the incline. I’ve always made it a point to high-five as many of them as I could going up this hill and this year I decided to live stream it – I think on Instagram stories. After that, everything was oddly quiet and I started to worry about my sugar levels so I popped in my first Cherry Blossom Honey Stinger chew.

Mile 9-10: I had some PTSD on this mile. It’s where in 2017 I had an asthma attack (so I took my inhaler) and in 2018 watched someone fall. This year, for the first time, Greg didn’t make it over the bridge in time to see me (so maybe I was faster than I thought?). We texted a bit in this mile because I was saving energy for the next one.

Mile 10-11: This is the fastest and flatest mile, through the South Side. The gummy worms from UPMC were gone, but there was still a decent amount of Honey Stinger Energy Gel (thank you to the race partners for planning for us back-of-the-pack’ers!) and I drank it up while still running most of this mile. The thing is that the Mile 11 marker on the Birmingham Bridge was way too far away and my knee needed me to walk that bridge. You win some, you lose some.

Mile 11-12: This bridge is tough. Is there really anything else to say? It’s tough then followed by an uphill battle. I walked a bit of this because the knee was painful.

Mile 12-13: Thanks for the bubbles, spectators! This mile seems like the longest until you get to that 20K sign. I ran most of this one but struggled with wet bricks just before mile 13 and had to walk for safety. You can hear the roar of the crowd and this mile is just incredible.

Mile 13.1: The best part of the race – the finish! The crowd was still cheering, my VIP family was screaming their hearts out from the tent. It is just an incredible feeling to know that I’ve done this FIVE times now!

As I went through the Finish Line chute, I heard an ex-Giant Eagle co-worker behind me and we snapped photos, grabbed our goodies, and parted ways when I headed to find my family at the VIP lunch. We didn’t even realize it was pouring rain on us until we had our heat sheets (much needed) wrapped around us.

Although I didn’t need a medic on course, I decided before going to VIP to get ice for my knee. Thank you, medics!

That’s that! I am a FIVE TIME Half Marathoner with goals to 1) get my knee fixed and 2) not stop running. You’re going to have to stick around here to see what I’m up to next. Thank you God for this experience!

2019 Pittsburgh Half Marathon Results: 13.1 Miles, 14:40/mile

(Medals shown above – 5k, Relay, Half, and Steel Challenge)