13.1 To Remember

This year’s DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon / UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon was going to be 13.1 to remember. When I applied to serve as a P3Runner, I told the team this was going to be a year of comeback for me (following a 2019 back half filled with physical and mental pain). I’d see a victory. It would be a half marathon to remember. This post contains affiliate links.

Psst: Even though the 2020 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon has gone virtual, keep your eye on my blog for news about other events put on by P3REvents this year, including some exclusive deals, too!

I’m talking all in past tense here and some of you are probably wondering why that is. You’ve checked out my Facebook and Instagram and saw not a thing about the fact that my 13.1 has been run. You read my last training update (which was too long ago, back when the COVID-19 pandemic had just started to sink in) and it said I planned to run the 13.1 to remember, my first virtual race, on May 3 (the original race day).

Well, I’ve Ran My Race

One of the things I’ve learned in the past year is that I MUST pay attention to my mental health. To be honest, having the physical strength to run 13.1 miles (especially when you are an overweight runner) is one thing. To have the mental strength to do it is a whole different level. And part of my “see a victory” mindset right now is listening to my mental health. With that said, I’ve ran my race.

I was REALLY looking forward to May 3, I’d still take the day off from church, I’d still run my race just in Kittanning/Ford City instead of in Pittsburgh. Training continued, even after some long days at work, like when I ran 10 miles on a Monday night or 12 miles on a Friday after logging 46 hours of work that week (to avoid running on a weekend that was full of storms). Mentally, I was prepared.

And then came FOURTEEN

I remember seeing the 14 mile April 11 long run on my SCRR Galloway group training plan and thinking that it was going to SUCK (putting it NICELY) even with my group. Then COVID-19 sidelined our group runs and I’d have to run FOURTEEN MILES alone. Heh.

My decision to run the 14 miles on Easter Sunday, since we weren’t having church, might have been what shifted my thinking. I was actually LOOKING FORWARD to running 14 by the time that week came around. Nerves weren’t a thing…I was excited, looking forward to logging these miles starting at sunrise of the day of the GREATEST VICTORY (Resurrection Sunday), running the longest run of my life in preparation for my first virtual half marathon! The longest my watches have booked me running is 13.4 miles (the 2018 Myrtle Beach Mini).

In the days leading up to this training run, I set out my clothes (even got a new pair of my favorite running shorts that week), decided that running the trail in three different parts (with the option to stop at my house twice + have my family drive to meet me with water later) was the right thing to do. Everything seemed in line for what I was planning.

Even the morning of, it was beautiful. I wore shorts and a tank with my 2019 UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon long sleeve, filled up my Nathan running vest with plenty of water and Honey Stinger chews and gels. There was a forecast of rain, and even with some gray clouds, the rain never did break through.

It was time to run fourteen.

As the sun rose, I hit the trail for a 1-mile out and back just to be sure my body and mind were good. Those first miles were done at a 20/30 run/walk split and were 15:14 and 14:54. Pulling a negative split of that nature had me a little nervous – would I run out of steam?

I passed my house and ran my “little more than a 5K” loop that I discovered a few weeks back. All of my family was asleep but just seeing the house motivated me. I did those next 3.2ish miles over just about 45 minutes and even though (TMI ALERT) I’ve NEVER used a porta potty on course (I’m slow enough as it is, I don’t need to add the bathroom to my net time), I decided it was a good idea to run in the house “and go”.

Greg was just waking up, and I remember telling him I was feeling amazing with over 5 miles in and “just an out and back” left (9 miles). They’d meet me in a little over an hour at my final turnaround spot, give me some Nuun, and the kids would do some socially distant running with me for a few miles.

Back to the trail I went and it really did feel good. I was still SOLO on the trail, just me, God, and my thoughts. See, that’s when the wheels usually fall off. I’m running alone and can think.

And man, I’ve got a lot to think about.

I’m coming off a rough 2019. Physically. There was my surgery to remove an ovarian cyst, sidelining me for the majority of the year from May to December. Mentally. Adapting to 100% working from home as a consultant with several clients who have different work/life balance goals than I do. Losing my cousin Emily in June. Going through some pretty heavy stuff in my own home. It was a rough year.

And to be honest? The last five weeks haven’t been easy with crisis school, some heavy stuff in our church, and just not being able to live our normal lives. My mind got sidetracked on those 4.5 miles “out” by all these thoughts.

Strava was logging me in the mid 15-minute miles which is fine, I needed to save the energy for being with the kids, for runing my 13.1 to remember. But I won’t lie, I’ve always been a slow runner but not “this slow”. It was getting to me mentally.

And I was solo. There was no support, no looking forward to fans or being surprised by friends along the way. I mean, this was a training run, but even at that the original plan was to be with my group and we’d struggle through it together.

By the time Greg met me with the kids, I realized I was overheating and out of water. That 1.5L went fast. I took off my long sleeve and realized it was still REALLY COLD out and that the kids running with me was probably not the best thing. They still wanted to try.

0.3 miles in, the three youngest were clearly DONE. Cannot blame them. It was cold. Greg loaded the van back up, but Arianna wanted to stick with me. We were headed back toward home and I kept telling her she could get in the van at any time. Greg could tell I was struggling a bit and he stayed close by on the road.

After what should have been one mile based on my mapping, the trail markers, and past runs, my app never said we’d hit it. I was frustrated. It kept happening, miles getting longer by almost a minute each mile and we were way closer to home than the 2.5 miles the app was showing me we had left (where it usually says 2)…the wheels were falling off.

Arianna could tell and she vowed to stay with me, encouraging me throughout. She saved this run, that’s 100% sure.

Post-run. She lasted 4.5 miles with me!

The Final Straw

Greg met us one final time and fully expected Arianna to get in the van. She’d just ran three miles with me and I still had 1.5 miles to go (regardless of what Strava said at that moment). Leaning into the drivers window, I told him that I had decided mentally and physically I just couldn’t do it.

It being run my 13.1 to remember on May 3 on this trail alone. I was hurting and was just 1.5 miles way from running my longest run ever. There’d be time to sleep on it, to change my mind, but at that very moment, this was going to be where my 13.1 journey to May 3 would end…with a 14-mile training run. Back to the trail Arianna and I went.

That last 1.5 miles was tough. I looked down where Strava said I was at 13.1 (right or not) and it was 3 hours, 23 minutes, 50 seconds. My longest 13.1 ever, but I knew this was going to be the case this year.

When we finished fourteen, there was no finish line. There were no fans (they had just got home and were getting warm, didn’t really believe me I was actually logging this as my official virtual half because at the time I didn’t really believe me). There was just me and my oldest girl.

I ran fourteen miles, you guys. FOURTEEN.

And within that, there was most defintely a 13.1 to remember. After many nights sleeping on it, icing an ankle that’s felt tweaked ever since, and getting other things piled on my brain, I’ve decided that April 19 was definitely my 2020 UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon.

And that, that’s OKAY.

I guess this is my “official finish line photo”?!?!

What’s Next?

This girl has some big plans. I have to get my nutrition and fitness back to 2018 levels. There are some goals I have for our house and our finances that I need to focus on.

And most of all, I want to be able to…even when the wheels fall off and I don’t meet those goals…look at a picture of myself like you see above and love it just as much as I loved the picture of me on a sail boat in Aruba. I want to see the girl who has the endurance to run fourteen miles in 3 hours 37 minutes and be so dang proud of her.

That’s totally possible. 2020 might not be delivering me that victory that I thought I’d see, but God is working on getting my head and heart right. And that is indeed a victory.

BUT WAIT! I signed up for the Steel Challenge and will run my 5K with one of the big kids next Saturday and cheer on Greg and the other big kid + we’ll all run the Kids Marathon, too. We’re so excited to do this as a family!

Stay tuned – I’m still going to be run/walking and am looking forward to races once we are able to return to our new normal!

PSST! I ran these miles (and will keep running) in memory of Emily as part of the AFSP Western PA Team. Consider donating to AFSP as we remember her and to help other families impacted by suicide. Remember that you are loved.

2020 Miles to Date

April: 25.22 miles, 15:24 per mile average

March: 41.86 miles, 15:27 per mile average

February: 45.96 miles, 14:51 per mile average

January: 25.16 miles, 14:47 per mile average

Training Tuesday | March 17

Friends. It is with a heavy heart that I share with you that the 2020 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon has been canceled due to COVID-19 and the precautions being taken. I stand with this decision, but I won’t lie that I am sad. I totally bawled while listening to this announcement earlier today. That being said, I am still serving as a P3Runner and will be bringing you news about future events that P3R puts on (hopefully) in 2020.

And as for training…I plan to stick with it. Solo miles have been my thing for years, no reason to not run 13.1 on my own on May 3, right? And Evan and I will do a 5k on May 2 so he gets his first 5K checked off his running list, too. Pittsburgh is offering a virtual option so I’ll still be getting that medal!

March Training

This month has been tough, and not just COVID-19 related. This is my space, so I am going to take a moment and do some venting about life in general because it has impacted my training both positively and negatively.

As of last week, I had ONE March run. Then last week I had time for a whole 4 miles. Last week brought some tough church business on top of a heavy workload at work. Then COVID-19 hit and it meant trying to keep up with changes to websites & groups I manage and social media that I had scheduled. I didn’t do my best at it and it showed. I was tired. I didn’t run after Wednesday. I feel it. My family feels it. And I promise I am going to do better, friends.

With COVID-19, so many people are stocking up on groceries in case we are on mandatory lockdown. Greg and I both are Instacart shoppers as a side gig. He has been working really hard on our parking spot (which is DONE!) and an issue with our gas meter, so since we didn’t know if we’d have the side income from Instacart in the coming weeks, I spent most of Saturday and Sunday shopping out in the craziness of COVID-19 prep. He kept the fort down and worked more on the gas meter issue (which involved digging a 30-foot long hole in our front yard). That meant I skipped my weekend long run of ten miles.

So after working all day Monday + being homeschool teacher + getting told by Isla that I was a slow runner (GIRL), I hit the trail and logged my ten at 4:00 in the afternoon. Slow and solo. I did it. I fought serious mental battles – I forgot why I didn’t run EQT in November and it all came flooding back. All of it. The things you know and the things you don’t know. And it hurt. When I was done, my feet hurt and I just wanted dinner and bed. But I did it and smiled at the end.

I’ll keep running. I’ll keep smiling. And I hope that you will, too. Let’s keep moving, Pittsburgh!

Follow me on Instagram, sharing my selfies and glimpses into what life as a #fitmomintheremaking #strongnotskinny runner is like.

To Date Mileage

So far, here is how the miles training for 2o20 Pittsburgh look:

February: 45.96 miles, 14:51 per mile average

March: 19 miles, 15:16 per mile average

Training Tuesday | March 10

Join me as I chronicle my training for my sixth half marathon on May 3, 2020 through “Training Tuesday” posts. This year I am serving as a P3Runner and will be bringing you all the news about the 2020 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and other events put on by P3REvents this year. Watch my blog and Instagram for exclusive deals, too!

March Training

Have I told you that switching from “full out running” to running the Gallloway Method (30 seconds run, 30 seconds walk) has been tough? Physically, it is amazing but mentally I am breaking down. I feel so slow. I feel like I am not a runner. And then I go through this cycle of man do I have a crazy amount of endurance!

All that I have conquered this month is one run. We are ten days in and I’ve ran once. When I ran my eight miles on February 29, it was frigid – 18 degrees – and my lungs were not happy. I still don’t feel amazing, but I got out in the nearly 60 degree weather on Sunday and ran five (or a wee bit less if Strava is right).

I gave running with a hydration vest a try and I have decided I absolutely LOVE it! This is the one I found for myself on Amazon. Do you run with a hydration vest?

I have goals to run today, but life is kind of muddy right now. Okay, more than muddy. Let’s hope I get out there and run because I have really big goals for my running in the next year. I’m not ready to share because I’m waiting for a date for a certain goal race of mine but I have spoken it to a friend and Greg. Stay tuned!

Follow me on Instagram, sharing my selfies and glimpses into what life as a #fitmomintheremaking #strongnotskinny runner is like.

To Date Mileage

So far, here is how the miles training for 2o20 Pittsburgh look:

February: 45.96 miles, 14:51 per mile average

March: 4.99 miles, 15:15 per mile average

Keep following to see how things improve for me as I work toward May 3! Are you signed up to race? What race(s) and how is training going for you?

Did you hear? Save 15% on your race registrations for ANY P3R Pittsburgh running event during Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events…you race it, you save it…just use WILLIS15 when you check out. Registration for the Pet Walk, Toddler Trot, 5K, Relay, Half, and Full Marathon is open now here.

Training Tuesday | February

Join me as I chronicle my training for my sixth half marathon on May 3, 2020. This year I am serving as a P3Runner and will be bringing you all the news about the 2020 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and other events put on by P3REvents this year. Watch my blog and Instagram for exclusive deals, too!

February Training

In what was probably the warmest February I can remember, I am happy to say that I have (so far) logged every mile I was supposed to. This year I am following the Galloway Training Program which has me running 30 seconds and then walking 30 seconds. I have not logged every cross-training “officially” because life has been incredibly busy and if I need to skip something, it’s going to be cross-training, sadly.

I’m still over on Instagram, sharing my selfies and glimpses into what life as a #fitmomintheremaking #strongnotskinny runner is like. Reviewing my feed, there are lots of two mile runs that I’d love to get increased to three miles but I just need the time in my life. Don’t we all need that?

What’s this about not having time? My work client has increased demand to 50-55 hours a week which paired with family, my small businesses and church volunteer work leaves little time to get my exercise in. If I’ve learned anything in the past year, it is that I need to make my health and exercise a priority!

February Mileage Update

In addition to changing up my running strategy, I also changed where I am logging my miles. Because Strava links with my FitBit Versa 2, I’ve switched. I want to know – those of you who have Strava, are you using Summit and what do you think about it? I’m tempted to add this to my metrics because I’m a total metrics girl and want to know all the ways I can improve.

So far, here is how the miles training for 2o20 Pittsburgh look:

February: 35.8 miles, 14:55 per mile average

Keep following to see how things improve for me as I work toward May 3! Are you signed up to race? What race(s) and how is training going for you?

Did you hear? Save 15% on your race registrations for ANY P3R Pittsburgh running event during Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events…you race it, you save it…just use WILLIS15 when you check out. Registration for the Pet Walk, Toddler Trot, 5K, Relay, Half, and Full Marathon is open now here.

January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box

Do you remember when I first announced my excitement over the Ready.Set.MOVE. Box last January? Well, my subscription is BACK and this time I’ll be getting all four boxes in 2020 and sharing the details with you…starting with the fresh off the USPS van January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box!

The post below is part of my experience as a P3Runner – an ambassador for P3REvents.

January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE Box

January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box | The Goods

What I love about the Ready. Set. MOVE. subscription box is that it is affordable, gets me a sampling of some of that awesome expo gear, and surprises me four times a year. At $49.99 a quarter, you get gear from the P3R Gear store and a sampling of some of the products offered by official Pittsburgh Marathon race partners. I cannot guarantee that you won’t get even further addicted to the fun gear and not buy more, but isn’t this a great option?!?! 

SAVE $10 off your first subscription when you use code WILLIS10 at checkout!

Included in the January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box:

  • Brooks Lunch Tote – to store your healthy foods – key if you’re working outside the home while training!
  • Run Fast. Eat Slow. A Runner’s Meal Planner. Written by Elyse Kopecky + Shalene Flanagan, this food journal gives recipe ideas and a place to track food for 52 weeks (starting when you’re ready, not when the calendar says it is time).
  • KT Tape – a whole variety pack with samples to support muscles, ligaments, and tendons
  • NuGo’s Perfect Cookie – as a Keto Runner I’m so excited to try this protein cookie with <1-2g of sugar!
  • Nuun Hydration Rest for Recovery – this is a new to me flavor with lemon chamomile and will help the body relax after those long training days. I have yet to find one of their hydration tabs that I don’t like!
  • 4Run2 Exclusive Beanie
  • Honey Stinger Protein & Gel – I’m not a big carb fan these days but I can’t deny the power I get from Honey Stinger Gel on long run days.
  • NATHAN LightBender LED Armband – excited to try this out on my next early morning or late evening run!
  • Ready.Set.MOVE. Resistance Bands
  • Vaseline – I’ll be fighting my kids to keep this cute little tub of our favorite way to moisturize lips in winter.
  • Goal Card – I’m still trying to figure out what I’m putting on mine!
  • $$ off the P3RStore – I’ve had my eyes on some of the cute 2020 shirts like “Run All the Miles. Eat all the Pierogies” – even if I rarely eat those amazing ‘Burgh bites.

What am I most excited about in the January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box? “Run Fast. Eat Slow.”, NuGo’s keto cookie, and the 4Run2 Beanie!

If you’re ready to buy, head on over to the P3R Gear store and start subscribing…and make sure you use code WILLIS10 to save $10 off your first box! Note – you’ll be getting the April 2020 box, arriving around April 25, 2020.

How will this help my training?

Speaking of “Run Fast. Eat Slow.”, I’m working on figuring out my nutrition this training round. Keto (low carb, I have to lower my cheese intake) running has helped the past few years, but I’m not sure it is 100% what my body needs this year. Writing my food intake and pairing it with my training might just help with figuring out the right things to eat to fuel my body.

Did you pick up the January 2020 Ready.Set.MOVE. Box and are ready to start using your planner but don’t know what to cook? Pick up the cookbook that the planner is a companion to here with free shipping.

As an arthritic runner, I rely on tape to hold my knee in a place it feels just right. The sample pack of KT Tape is going to come in handy! The resistance bands will be so easy to use to help stretch and strengthen in my home or anywhere that my training months take me.

Everything in this box has me excited – what do you think your favorite item is/would be?

Ready. Set. MOVE. Box – the Details

You can find the following information about the Ready. Set. MOVE. Subscription Box on the P3R Gear website, too:

Ready.Set.MOVE. is a quarterly subscription box filled with health and fitness goodies that you can use throughout the year as you workout and train. Boxes are distributed on the 30th of January, April, July and October and are charged automatically on the 25th of each of these months.

Subscribe to Ready.Set.MOVE for just $49.99 a quarter! You will be charged on the 25th of each month the box is distributed (January, April, July, October), and it will be shipped out on the 25th of that month.

Each box will contain various products and merchandise from P3R gear and our official race partners valued at $100. Plus, select boxes will feature a golden ticket and include a premium surprise item.

Exciting, right? There is still time to get registered for the April box (arriving in time for the Pittsburgh Marathon weekend!), so what are you waiting for? Did you get the January box? What did you think?


Thinking about signing up for any of the 2020 Pittsburgh Marathon events? Make sure you do and let them know I sent you by using WILLIS15 as your code when you sign up. You’ll save 15% when you do! Register now here!

Jaybird Vista

VISTA earbuds from Jaybird Sport – Vista is Jaybird’s first true wireless headphone that meets IPX7 and MIL-STD 810G standards. In other words, Vista is waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, sweatproof—#EARTHPROOF.


one-eight. 18. eighteen. Today, January 23, is my cousin Emily’s 18th birthday. She should be here, but she is not and our world is missing her.

My heart breaks for her parents (my cousins) and her siblings and her grandparents and all of our family. It has broken every day since we lost her on June 7, but oh does it hurt today.

I’d give so much to take you to Glen’s again with my girls!

No matter how many times I look back at the photos or watch videos of her singing, no matter how many times I remember saying goodbye at the funeral home, I just can’t fathom this is reality.

Today, on what is her 18th birthday, I refuse to forget her laugh, her songs, her eye rolls, her sass.

Today, I’m struggling with words so I went for a run and wore yellow – the color of the Suicide Prevention program which aims to “reduce stigma and help save lives”.

Today I want to remember the love she brought to our lives. Tonight we will be taking the kids to breakfast for dinner, wearing pajamas, in her memory. If you knew Emily or want to support her family, please consider doing the same. If we’re Facebook friends, please let me know and I’ll add you to a group where you can share photos and stories of the way you remembered her today. If you leave a comment on this post, I’ll be sure to share it with her family, too.

let’s break stigmas together

Today I am going to share another 2020 goal with you – a goal to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention of Western PA. As part of my goal to run the 2020 Pittsburgh Half Marathon, I’m also running in memory of Emily (+ my Uncle Jim) with this team to raise funds to help fight their goal to reduce the suicide rate 20% by 2025.

If you are able, please consider donating to help provide funding for research, education, advocacy, and support for those affected by suicide. Click this link here: DONATE.

2020 P3Runner

The post below is part of a series of posts about the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events. I will be serving as a 2020 P3Runner in 2020 and bringing you exclusive information and discounts about 2020 P3R races. All opinions are 100% my own.

The Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and P3R Events have introduced a new program to their “official blogger” ambassador role and I am so excited to announce that I will be serving as a 2020 P3Runner! That means I’ll be an ambassador here on the blog + social media + at P3R runs all of 2020. What’s in it for you, readers? Follow along with my stories of training and “racing” and use my exclusive cannot get this deal anywhere else 15% off race registrations all year long.

I’ll get right to the point – save 15% on your race registrations for ANY P3R Pittsburgh running event – Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon weekend of events, FlyBy5k, GAP Relay, Liberty Mile, Great Race, EQT 10-Miler…you race it, you save it…just use WILLIS15 when you check out. Registration for the Pet Walk, Toddler Trot, 5K, Relay, Half, and Full Marathon is open now here.

Runners gonna Run

Even though I’m what most would consider a “back of the packer”, I have a history with running and a huge love for running in Pittsburgh. After six months off (see my post about 2019 taking C O U R A G E to get through), I have been back to the trail and dreadmill running for four weeks. In that time, I’ve already shaved 2 minutes / mile off my time and I’m quite happy with progress. Runners gonna run!

All runners of all body types have a place in Pittsburgh’s running events and I’m here not only to tell you about the options in 2020 but to cheer you on and encourage you that if this girl can do it, you can too.

2019 UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon + FedEx Relay + 5k = Steel Challenge

That was me in 2019. I ran that half marathon with a knee so full of arthritis and on a rainy day. I crossed that finish line with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face even though my fifth half marathon was my slowest yet.

What you probably don’t know from that photo:

  • 2019 was only my 8th year running and I didn’t run all eight of those years. I took time off to have babies and to get back to a healthier weight.
  • I used to weigh about 90 pounds more than I weighed that day. Thanks to running + a healthy relationship with food I lost that weight (plus some) while being a mom of two and working full time. After hitting 130 pounds lost, I had twins + went through two job changes. This mom of four had to work hard to get back to the girl you see there.

As a 2020 P3Runner, I’m looking forward to sharing more of my story with all of you. Be following my blog, Twitter, Facebook, and especially Instagram to keep up with my training and more news about the 2020 P3Runner Ambassador Program and running events in Pittsburgh.

And remember, save 15% with code WILLIS15 for ANY Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon 2020 weekend of events races!

20 New Things to Do This Year

This list of 20 New Things to Do This Year will hopefully give you some ideas to bring a bit of health and happiness to your 2020 and beyond.

Hello, 2020! This is not just a new year but also a new decade. What better time than now to add a few things to your life instead of the typcial resolutions to remove things! Such a positive way to look at your goals, isn’t it? This list of 20 New Things to Do This Year will hopefully give you some ideas to bring a bit of health and happiness to your 2020 and beyond.

New Things to Do This Year

New Things to do This Year

1 – Take an art class.

In 2019, I rediscovered my love for crafting (of course after I basically got rid of all my supplies at a yard sale). But with art classes popping up all over there is definitely something in your area to attend, not need a ton of supplies and a place to store them, and you don’t have to come up with the idea. Canvas painting parties are big (I happened to have one for my thirtieth birthday, a few years ahead of trend). Pinterest isn’t going anywhere but up. And new concepts like “board and brush”, planting parties, and more are all over your Facebook feed. Give one of them a try!

2 – Travel somewhere you’ve never been.

Google Maps just emailed me my annual summary of my travel and I went to 22 new cities last year. Among those were Raleigh, Nashville, and Waikoloa Village. But when I look at my 2020 calendar, the only place I am scheduled to go is my go-to Myrtle Beach. There are so many more places to discover and I’m thinking Minneapolis just might need to be added this year.

3 – Sit by a campfire.

There is something soothing about sitting outside on a cool evening with friends and family around a campfire. I grew up camping and would spend hours around a fire telling stories, starting silently at the stars, and just enjoying life.

S’mores shown are optional but oh so good for a treat! The s’mores makers are a great gift for the campers in your life!

4 – Enjoy Nature

Similar to sitting around a campfire, just being in nature has a great calming effect. Even though I seem to attract all the mosquitoes, I won’t deny the fact that a sunny afternoon in the forest is actually pretty relaxing. Better yet if you combine 2 + 3 + 4 and enjoy a day in nature somewhere you’ve never been then end the night by a campfire.

5 – Check out a live production

Where I was emotionally in September might have had something to do with it, but when Greg and I got to attend The Lion King in Pittsburgh last fall, I was all the tears. The production was that good and is something I want to be sure all of my kids get to experience some day. Any live production will do – if you’re in Pittsburgh, Cultural Trust always has amazing offerings that will pull you away from your cell phones and into real life through a play, musical, or comedy act.

6 – Tour Your Hometown Like a Tourist

There are so many things to do in my hometown of Pittsburgh that I always feel like I am taking it in like a tourist. Last May, we actually stayed downtown for a weekend. I ubered places, we took the T. We slowed down and enjoyed the architecture around us and tried a few new places to eat. It was really enjoyable to appreciate what the city had to offer even though I was working right in the heart of it every day.

7 – Play in a Sprinkler

Yes, you. Adult you. There is something fun about running through a sprinkler and remembering the carefree childhood that really wasn’t all that long ago. Bonus points if your love or bestie join you.

8 – Start the Day with Gratitude

When you start the day with even three things you are grateful for, it makes the tough moments just a little easier. There are plenty of gratitude journals set up and ready for your thoughts, but any notebook would do.

I find that I am more apt to journal if I have some fun pens to do it with! These are my favorites because you can erase and start over if you don’t like the way you wrote something!

9 – Have a “no spend” day or weekend or month

My blogging pal Skye recently took on a “no spend month” and had some positive impacts to her family’s financial life. I wish I could have that patience and determination, but with four kids and work that sometimes needs me to travel and all the other excuses, I just just haven’t tried it. Maybe a day or a weekend could help just by cutting back for a few days.

10 – Make an Emergency Kit

My aunt and uncle gift a car emergency kit like the one shown here for weddings and let me tell you it is something you’ll wish you had when you didn’t. It is super simple to grab at a big-box store or on Amazon, but you can also add to it with things like heated blankets, snacks, and a gallon of water. Throw it all in a large utility tote and tuck it away in your trunk. You never know!

11 – Turn Your Phone Off for a Day

Do I need to say more?

12 – Volunteer for a NEW Charity

I get in the “mode” where I just keep giving my time and talents to the same places and then it starts to feel like work. If you don’t volunteer already, find a place to serve. If you do volunteer, find a new one to give your time to. Your eyes will be opened to new challenges, you’ll meet new people, and you’ll step away from your comfort zone. These are good things!

13 – Go Bowling

It’s probably been awhile, but there are still some really amazing bowling alleys around. Pittsburgh, we’ve got Zone28 which is the top of my list! \

14 – Cook Dinner for a Friend

Ok, so this was a dinner I bought at Party Fowl in Nashville, but it is dinner nonetheless!

When I was recovering from surgery, two friends made sure that we had dinner. Another time, I was alone on a holiday and a friend ran a plate over from her family gathering. Each of these times were super special and meant a lot. It was great to taste another cook’s creations and to get a little spoiled. But your friend doesn’t have to be going through something for you to do something nice. Just a random “hey, I’ve got your dinner tonight” will definitely make their day.

15 – Buy a Plant or Bring Fresh Flowers Inside

Don’t they just brighten your mood?

16 – Try a New Workout

If you’re new to working out, anything new is going to be easy. If you’re already on a path of wellness, then try something new. When I started crossfit in 2016, I was scared scared scared. But it turned out I really liked it! I’ve also given spinning and yoga a try, both are on my list to get certified to teach when I’m back to my healthy-selfie.

17 – Play a Board Game

Again, I’m sure you’ve played a board game before, but try a new one. I have a few that we got for Christmas that need to be played. We’re even thinking about having some game nights because we miss nights spent as kids playing Phase 10 a whole bunch (no sarcasm)!

18 – Have Ice Cream for Dinner

Even if you’re like me and have an eating plan, you probably have some space or alternative to ice cream. Have it for dinner…or even breakfast!

19 – Go Somewhere Dressed Up

Even if it’s to a local coffeeshop or fast food place. Mama just recently got herself some heels that aren’t being worn sitting around working from home, so you best believe I’m going to just get dressed up fancy one day and go out wearing them!

20 – Start a new gig

Maybe completely starting a new job is out of the question (it would be for me unless I got news like I did in 2018), but consider starting something new on the side that will bring you joy and a little extra money this year. Blogging is obviously a suggestion from me, but I also can’t tell you enough good about having a Thirty-One business. Greg has done Uber and most recently will be giving Instacart a try. There are so many things you can do that bring in a little extra that you’re probably already doing.

What Will YOU Do This Year?

So now that you’ve read through my list of new things to do this year, which ones will make your list? What would you add to it? What goals do you have for 2020 that these support?

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Finding My Identity: The Road Back to You

As laid back as I was the last six months, you’d think that I’d have a whole pile of books to share thoughts about. One of those books, “The Road Back to You” had been on my radar since when things started to tumble back in June.

I truthfully just sunk back, watched way too much TV, played way too much “Township”, and spent time in the comparison trap reading other blogs and wishing mine could be at that level. Instead, I should have been reading and growing and not worrying about what others are doing and being the person God intended me to be.

I was stuck trying to find my identity! I know that sounds totally crazy, I should know at 36 years old who I am, especially as a Christian woman. Bottom line, I am a child of God, but I forgot that being that is enough. Instead, I was trying to figure out what I can bring readers of my websites, what tactics I could use in my Thirty-One business to grow it, and what God had in store for me with life in general…and I was doing it by just scrolling through pages and pages of what others had been blessed with.

Taking the Test

Not long after my life sort of came to a crashing halt physically and mentally, a friend suggested I take the Enneagram test. I searched online and found a free one (which if you haven’t done, I’ll let you do for yourself – I’m no expert and am not sure which site to suggest + you can pay for some if you want more detailed info). My results are pretty much right in line with who I *think* I am and weren’t really surprising.

…but I’m also not letting a number on the scale (whether it is a personality test or my weight) tell me who I am. John 1:12 and Jeremiah 1:5 tell me that. So the number tells me things I know, how I work with people, what stresses me, etc. And that is okay! Understanding yourself if perfectly fine (we’re actually charged to in I Corinthians 11:28-31). Changing yourself to align with a “number” you’d rather be? Not so much.

A Number…Now What?

Once I had my Enneagram number, I took my friend’s advice a little further and read a book she reccommended. There are a ton out there, but I opted to go with her reco because one of the authors is a pastor. In reading The Road Back to You, I dove into chapters on each of the nine personality types. As I read the words of each type, people close to me came to mind. Each chapter gave me gems on how to work alongside them and a little better understanding of how they’re “wired”.

Road Back to You

Did you know I have my degree in Psychology? Yup. So you’d think that I’d probably read this book and just be like “yeah, yeah, we know this”. The thing was, The Road Back to You brought me a fresh perspective with each word.

Interested in having a read yourself? Pick up a copy here and get it by the weekend.

And the hardest chapter to read? The chapter about me. I had been reading this book while on vacation in October (and even shared it in my “what I’m reading” post), but I just couldn’t get past the words about me. I didn’t feel convicted or lost or angry. I just didn’t feel and that didn’t sit well with me. It might have been my sign that it was time to get up and own the life that people with my number strive for because I simply wasn’t being that person and I knew it.

Crazy? Maybe a little, but so true. The words in “The Road Back to You” resonated with me from start to finish and helped me pull myself up off the couch away from the “at my worst” side and back into the “at my best” side of my number.

So What is Next?

I’m planning on checking out the associated Study Guide and possibly the companion book about relationships, “The Path Between Us”. And, as others in my personality type do, I’ve got goals set for the year (I’ve met some already) and will be working toward that more normal version of me. God’s loved me through the good days and the bad, but I wasn’t living up to what he designed me to be for the past few months. With a new year and a new decade just days old, I’m excited to dive headfirst into His plan (and share it with you, of course).

Have you read this book or taken the Enneagram? What are your thoughts?

2020 Word of the Year: Strength

This year, my word of the year is going to be STRENGTH. Did you hear about the year I had in 2019? It is time to get spiritually, physically, and mentally strong. I thirst for it, and God has it for me. I’m open and ready for what He has in store for this year!

My 2020 Word of the Year

Strength. I’ve used this word for a few years now in my Instagram posts – #strongnotskinny especially. I want to be have strength in so many ways though, not just when it comes to the endurance of my running (cause that’s making a comeback), but in who I am as a whole. And when I don’t hit those running goals or have setbacks like in 2019, I want to remember who is my strength, God.

Through your story
Is My fingerprint
In the valley, there is confidence
In the shadow,
I will be your strength
One things for sure,
I am your Lord

Good and Loved – by Travis Greene (ft. Steffany Gretzinger)

2020 Strength Goals

So here is what Strength as a word of the year is going to look like for me:

  1. Be strong, happy + healthy. I know that not working out and eating junk leads me down a bad path. Showing up for myself in my workout plans and sticking to eating plans that work for my body will allow me to give back to my kids and husband in ways they deserve.
  2. Stop comparing. I didn’t really think I did this, but I recently put a 30-minute time limit to my Facebook use and I’d find I was hitting it pretty early in the day. I was too busy scrolling and comparing my life to others’ lives to enjoy my own. Right now I run a 16-minute mile. WHO CARES. If I am busy scrolling Facebook for thirty minutes and seeing what other people are running today, that’s time I could’ve been out at the trail running two miles. Humph.
  3. Be comfortable financially. I want to dream big and pay off our debt, get a Suburban and put in a new bathroom, but those are all things that can take time. I want to not be so driven by money that I can’t enjoy the amazing things we already have. Financially strong.
  4. Get over my fears. Okay, not every single fear like my fear of spiders and snakes but the fears that keep me awake at night. I’m going to surrender them to God and let him take care of them.
  5. Say NO more often. I am a YES person and I need to be brave about saying no to the things that I don’t really want me (or my family) to do.
  6. Love my body regardless of a number. I stopped weighing myself. The last time I did was my post-op appointment in August and I could care less what I weigh. I want to look at this body and see it as strong. It’s birthed four amazing kiddos, ran five half marathons, and is something worth loving.
  7. Make my brain stronger. Getting three new certs in 2019 was great for work, and I’d like to get two more in 2020. I’d also like to read a book a month (thanks, Alexa for that challenge) and learn some new things.
  8. Be in the Word. I have been a daily Bible reader for a few years now, but I want to really be in it. The past six months have been such a spiritual battle, I know there is more for me if I am just open to what God has planned but I can’t get there if I don’t listen to what He has to say.

So that’s what I have set out as my STRENGTH for 2020. What have you set as your word this year?