6 Books for your Summer Reading List

As a kid, I loved the thrill of the last week of school. It wasn’t just the excitement of standing at the precipice of a new grade, an entire summer of freedom, and long, lazy days. There was something else I longed for…

The summer reading list.

I was curious to know what the required reading was but it was the optional list that really grabbed me. There’d be a list of anywhere from 12 to 20 books, of which we were supposed to pick just a handful. It was like choosing an ice cream flavor. There were always a few I could eliminate right away; anything that fell into the science fiction or fantasy genre was the book equivalent of sorbet (why bother). But the others… it was so. hard. to. choose.

If you’re having a hard time choosing a book to throw in your beach bag this summer (or if, like me, living in a land-locked state has you looking at your pool bag), here are some of my favorite summer picks.

They’re not so heavy you’ll forget what’s going on if you have to pause to re-sunblock your little people or fish around for the grapes at the bottom of the cooler, but substantial enough hold your interest.

6 books for your summer reading list

1| Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Sittenfeld’s modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is genius. It’s wickedly funny and totally un-put-down-able.

2| Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
It’s about feminism, politics, and identity, but it’s also fast-paced, scandalous, and surprisingly light considering the heavy-ish themes.

3| An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
You might want to read this one with your sunnies on. (I prefer not openly cry in public, personally). It’s a tear-jerker and poignant commentary on race in America but it’s also compelling and juicy. You’ll wish you had time to read it in one sitting.

4| Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Your body may be on a chaise by the pool but your mind will be in New York circa 1960. If Mad Men and The Bachelor had a baby it would be this book.

5| You by Caroline Kepnes
If you’re into creepy page turners with nuanced characters and pitch perfect dialogue, this is your book. Read this by the pool, not right before bed, and you (probably) won’t have to worry about nightmares. But the nightmares are worth it. Kepnes is a master. (I’m currently reading her latest, Providence, which was just released in June.)

6| All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Okay this one is not light at all but it’s so damn good I can’t keep it off this list. I read it over a year ago and I still feel so connected to the characters. It’s a story of love and redemption and it makes you question your ideas of right versus wrong. This is another one you’ll want to devour all at once.

BONUS: Shameless plug: Have you read There’s No Room for Fear in a Burley Trailer yet? Get your copy here.

What books would you add to the list?

Race Report: 2018 Urban 10 Miler

Planning
Remember that time I signed up for a race, trained for the race, and then failed to read my emails (yes I am one of those people who has thousands of unread messages and no this does not keep me awake at night), which caused me to be unaware I could not pick up my race packet on race morning until 12 hours before the race and I didn’t get to pick up the packet? And then I raced anyway and I had a PR for the ten-mile distance but it wasn’t official?  I sure do.

And remember how I love to run and I run for running’s sake but I’m also extremely competitive and no matter what kind of shape I’m in or how my training is going I’m always hoping to run faster than I did before? Well, that’s me in a nutshell, running-wise.

Training (a.k.a. Keep reading to find out if CrossFit helped my running)
I signed up for the Urban 10 Miler, same as I did back in 2013, but things were a little different this time. For one thing, I made it my business to read every single email from the race directors and I picked up my packet, as instructed, the day before.

I also trained a lot differently. In 2013, Sweet Pea was just over a year old and I’d had a fabulous post-baby comeback, ran the Santa Barbara half marathon that fall and had a major PR there. I was in some kind of post-baby/breastfeeding calorie burning bonanza, the likes of which I’ve (sadly) never seen before or since. I also wasn’t plagued with the issues I’ve been managing ever since Ladybug was born. Whether or not my 5’0″ body was meant to birth a 9 lb 6 oz baby is debatable but it seems clear that after nearly four years of attempts at physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, and strengthening, nature is telling me I was never meant to carry her, deliver her, and return to running any more than 15-20 miles per week.

My baby (a.k.a. Ladybug) just turned four and I’ve decided to listen to my body’s cues and stop trying to force it to run more than it can handle. That began with a big break from running, beginning last April. With the exception of a summer 5k and any running I did as part of my CrossFit workouts, I did not run at all until January. I just wasn’t in the mood.

Since I started running again, the overwhelming majority of my runs have been easy (e.g. very few tempo runs, track sessions, or hill repeats). I’ve done a few workouts when my body felt good, but I haven’t tried to schedule track workouts, tempo runs, or hill repeats with a real strategy because I’m so burnt out having to change plans to accommodate some new (or old) ache, pain, or strain. Since last summer, I’ve been consistently CrossFitting about twice a week, teaching spin class once a week,  running anywhere from zero to 3 times per week, and maybe biking, swimming, or hiking occasionally. In a typical week, I’d work out five to six times a week. I’ve also been doing core strength work regularly.

In comparison, in 2013 I was running 4-5 times a week, biking once or twice a week, doing some form of strength training approximately never, and working on my core when I felt like it, e.g. rarely.

I wasn’t sure if I had any business trying to run as fast as I did in 2013. On one hand, I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I might be the weakest person at my gym but I can help Dan move the chicken coop, which is not something I could say a year ago. I can now do 5 pull-ups (in a row); a year ago I couldn’t even do one. On the other hand, I’ve never heard of a runner who uses pull-ups and deadlifts to gauge her running fitness. I had two data points:
-After three months of doing nothing but biking riding and CrossFit, my 5k speed had declined.
-During a recent track workout, my 800 speed was 10 seconds per 800 slower compared to last year.

Clearly, CrossFit and running are two very different sports… or are they?

In the ways that matter, they are exactly the same. They’re both about showing up and doing the work. They’re both about trying your best. They’re both about being the best version of you that you can be. They’re both about finding your limits and tolerating discomfort.

Would my determination to do pull-ups and pushups and lift heavy things translate into seeing an hour and twenty minutes on the clock at the finish line of a 10-mile road race? There was only one way to find out.

Racing
I slept horribly the night before the race but I took solace in the fact that the night before the night before is the most important night of sleep and I’d slept like a rock the previous night. As usual, I ate my pre-race breakfast of instant oatmeal and instant coffee. I added a scoop of whey protein powder to my oatmeal, which was unusual as a pre-race breakfast, but something I’ve been doing before workouts for a few months. You can read a little more about my nutrition strategy and the reasons behind it here.

I left the house and realized it was not just gray and cloudy, but it was actually raining. Like I could have used a hat with a bill, I was going to be freezing in my shorts, tank, top, and arm warmers, how did I not realize it was raining till now, raining. I was picking up friends on the way and I didn’t have time to go back in the house and get my accouterment so I told myself I can be uncomfortable for ten short miles, just make the best of it.

Because the ten milers were starting the race at the 16-mile mark of the full marathon happening that day, they had us start in waves, three people at a time. After a short warm-up (during which I was pleased to find my legs felt snappy despite), I lined up with my wave. When I registered, I said I thought I’d finish in 1:25. Though I hoped to do 1:20, I said 1:25 because I knew that was achievable and because I much preferred the idea of starting out with people whom I’d eventually pass, rather than get passed when I was already physically spent.

I love the ten-mile distance because it’s so straightforward, and this race was no different; I had a plan and I followed it and it worked. The plan was super simple. I’d go purely by feel (not pace). The last thing I wanted to do was commit to an 8:00/mile pace for the first couple of miles, blow up and hate life for the next eight miles, not to mention having to pay $100 to do it. I wanted the first three miles to feel comfortably hard, the miles three to six or seven to feel pretty hard, and miles seven-ish to nine to feel horrible, and the final mile to feel like death and destruction, and I am proud to say I nailed it. I didn’t let myself look at my watch until exactly six minutes in, at which point my watch read .75 miles and I thought, “If I can just stay right here, I’m good.” And that’s what I did.

I made sure to let my watch display the elapsed time and the mileage, but not the current pace because that’s too distracting for me. I encouraged every single runner I saw, whether we were running opposite directions or if we were passing each other. Because I seeded myself at a slower pace than what I actually ran, the only people I remember passing me were doing the marathon relay. (It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out why some people were running really fast and holding sticks.) At every mile marker, I’d look at my watch, and though my math skills could use some work, it was clear, even to me, that I was killing it as far as pacing.

At the ninth mile marker my watch read 1:11 and change and as miserable as I felt—my legs were like two sticks of lead and my breath was coming out in gasps—I knew that I only had to run a nine-minute mile to make it to the finish line in time to meet my goal of 1:20. As I put one foot in front of the other I thought to myself, “This is what I came for.”

I came to feel this pain, to keep pushing when my body was begging me to stop, to see where the edge of my ability lies, and I was lucky and grateful to do it. Even on this gray miserable day, as my left arm warmer left rubbed against my side, creating a burning red crater where a layer or two of skin was supposed to be, even though I’m supposedly “middle-aged”, there was nowhere I would rather have been, nothing I’d rather have been feeling during that final mile.

I crossed the line in 1:19:01, a 7:54 pace, which was a 34 second PR, earning me fifth in my age group (women 30-39), and 15th woman overall. I was spent and I was happy.

Side note: I am now convinced that, as I wrote about for Colorado Runner Magazine, there’s something to be said for lifting heavy things as a time-efficient way to train to endurance sports when you have experience as an endurance athlete.

 

My Article on Social and Emotional Learning in The Washington Post

Last week I was thrilled to see my article on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) on The Washington Post’s On Parenting Section. I knew I wanted to write about this topic ever since Sweet Pea came home from school practicing (and teaching us) her “soup breathing,” “birthday cake breathing,” and “pretzel breathing.” Her teacher doesn’t just talk the talk when it comes to asking the kids to focus on their breathing as a means of mindfulness and stress-reduction throughout the day—she walks the walk.

I have volunteered in the kindergarten classroom and seen the way the teacher takes her own brief pauses to collect herself, to breathe, and to show the kids how you can use the power of your own breath to be a calmer, kinder person. To read the full article (and find out why schools nationwide are increasingly adopting SEL curricula, and how you can incorporate the concept into your own home) click here.

The best thing that ever happened to my writing life

I’m not great with metrics but I think it’s fair to say that I wrote more this year than I’ve ever written in my life put together, except maybe the year I did NaNoWriMo. I wrote at least once a week for Parent Co., which was my main gig, plus I wrote regularly for a couple of other clients, I took a couple of writing classes, and there were, of course, my irregular blog posts here. Writing frequently with deadlines constantly looming was (not surprisingly) the best thing that has ever happened to me as a writer. Here is what I learned this year…

 

the best thing that ever happened to my writing life

1| There will always be something to write about
It’s true. Yes, there were moments I thought I had nothing interesting to say or that everything worth saying had been said before and with more wit, humor, and clarity than I ever could manage. But then the time would invariably come for me to give my editors a slew of pitches from which to choose my next assignments. When the choice was a) mope around feeling bad for myself and my poor little uncreative brain or b) think of some goddamned ideas already, b always won.

2| You have to believe 
I believe in manifesting. In other words when we look for something we’re going to find it. Is this new age bullshit? Maybe yes, maybe no but it works. Do you think all the bad stuff always happens to you? Do you think you will fail in the face of a challenge? You’re probably right. Are you convinced that life is amazing and beautiful? You will find joy in the most unexpected places. (True story: Dan often turns to me in the car and says “Aren’t fossil fuels amazing!? We are so lucky.” with this huge grin on his face.) Even when I wasn’t sure if I believed it, I forced myself to say these words in my mind: There is an abundance of ideas. Is it magic? I don’t know, maybe. I believe in that, too. (You guys, I AM THE ACTUAL TOOTH FAIRY. BELIEVING IN MAGIC IS ONE OF MY ESSENTIAL JOB FUNCTIONS.) What I know is that once I started telling myself the ideas would come, they did. And the more I came up with ideas, the more confident I felt that there would always be more. Other things I believe: There will always be a way to get paid for my work, my work matters to more than just me, my mom, and Dan, and I can resist the pull of Facebook, email, and Instagram while trying to work.

3| The voices get quieter
If you’re a writer (or a runner, or anyone who has ever done something hard), you know the voices I’m talking about. When you sit down at a blank screen (or show up at a race or do anything hard), they say you’re not good enough. They ask you who you think you are. They want to tear you down. But when you have a deadline you don’t have time for that. The more I practiced ignoring the voices the quieter and quieter they became until I finally got to a point where they got out of the way and just let me write.

4| Its okay not to be perfect
The more I wrote, the more comfortable I got with letting things be imperfect. That’s not to say I was okay with putting my name on shoddy work. I always submit work I’m proud of. But if you don’t set some kind of limit, you could be tweaking your work forever. That’s not hyperbole. I literally mean forever. You have to accept that there will be aspects of your work that you will wish you could edit after publication, and that is okay.

5| Embrace the cringe
I cringe when I read my early blog posts. It was 2007. I was 28 and dipping my toes into creative non-fiction (that’s fancy for blogging) for the first time. Some of those early posts are okay, some are mediocre, and some are awful. It was a few years after I wrote them when I started to realize that. And there are articles I’ve written less than a year ago that I’d like to edit the crap out of now. I’d delete whole paragraphs, save certain ideas for a whole new article, trim all the fat. But I consider this a good thing. It’s not just a sign that my work could have been better, though it is that, too. That I can recognize the flaws in my writing is also a sign I have grown as a writer.

6| Do what works
I have wasted untold hours on the internet searching for the secrets to productivity, creativity, and how to win at life. Wading through all the pretty infographics and Facebook discussion threads only made me feel inadequate. Successfully managing my deadlines made me feel like a rockstar. Working backwards, I ask myself, what “methods” worked for me? The same methods that have always worked for me; having an external deadline, breaking my tasks into smaller chunks, slotting those sub-tasks into my available free time, using low-tech methods such as a bullet journal (e.g. glorified spiral notebook) and an Excel sheet. I’ve also found—and this is a new one for me— that forcing myself out of bed at stupidly early times to write when the house is quiet and my mind is fresh works for me. I just don’t think well after the kids go to bed and staring at a screen before bedtime sometimes messes with my sleep. Also, it is a luxury to feel there is nothing I “have to” do after I put the kids down, as far as work. I’ll take the little luxuries where I can get them.

 

 

 

How I made 10k this year as a freelancer (and a stay at home mom)

Guys, I made ten thousand dollars as a freelance writer, running coach, and (primarily) stay at home mom with limited childcare this year… and I’m going to tell you how.

I’m not saying my magic formula is going to work for you. I’m just saying it worked for me. Are you ready?

I worked really hard.

It would have been so cool if I told you it was all about the Bulletproof coffee I’m addicted to. (I’m actually just starting to get used to it.) Maybe you’d be inspired if I told you I always did my writing from 5 to 7 am before the kids got up and did all my editing between 1 and 2pm while my big girl is at school and  my little one is (supposedly) resting. That’s hilarious because my kids have slept until seven one time each. I could have uploaded photos of pages of my bullet journal, but sadly, no productivity or creativity secrets can be found there, either. Mostly it’s just tasks I need to complete slotted into any available windows of time and reminders about school pajama days, credit card payments, and dentist appointments.

I know my “method” is not cool or sexy or what you wanted to hear but it’s the truth. I also know I’m probably not supposed to talk about money and I’m definitely not supposed to publicly announce how much I’ve earned. And women are never supposed to think (or at least admit) that anything they do is a big deal.

But this is a big deal to me. When I was tallying my earnings to pay my quarterly taxes this morning and I saw how much I’d earned on my un-fancy excel spreadsheet I thought “HELL YEAH.”

Hell yeah because I was it was with no small amount of “who the hell do I think I am?” that I announced to the universe that I wanted to get paid to write five years ago. In 2013 I was an occupational therapist with a blog and a baby and I loved to write but I didn’t imagine that after my second kid was born my scrubs would stay in a storage box and that I’d someday be able to say I was a writer and a run coach without feeling like a complete and total fraud.

Hell yeah because last year I had one kid in preschool four days a week from 7:55 to 10:40 (yes you read that right; not even a full three hours) and one kid in no school at all. Four days a week, I dropped Sweet Pea off at preschool, then schlepped Lady Bug across town to the only gym where I was pretty sure the childcare wouldn’t accidentally send my food-allergic child into anaphylaxis. There, I’d wait ten minutes for childcare to open at 8:30, drop her off, then hide in the cafe with my laptop and a travel mug of coffee until 10:15.

Hell yeah because I this year I have one kid in preschool and one kid in all-day kindergarten, and even though most of the other moms complain about the bullshit 7:55-10:40 am schedule (You can’t get anything done! By the time you drop them off, you’re turning around to pick them up again!), I (usually) don’t. You can actually get a lot done in that short window of quiet, child-free time when you focus.

Hell yeah because my only regular childcare beside the precious hours when kindergarten and preschool overlap is a sitter who comes three hours a week. I struggle with whether I can really afford this, whether I should really afford this, whether a good writer/coach/mom/human being would forgo this luxury in favor of staying up late to work or declaring Thursdays Netflix Day. Dan is adamant that I deserve a sitter one afternoon a week. He says you have to spend money to make money and we both know that I’m a total nightmare when I get less than eight hours of sleep.

Hell yeah because I know I am so lucky to have Dan as my partner. He has always supported my writing and he continues to be my champion. Every time he shares my work on Facebook (even if it is because I expressly ask him to), every time he takes the kids to the gym or the library or to the park on a Saturday so I can be alone with my computer is him saying “I love you and I believe in you” and I am so very grateful for that. I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to dare call myself a writer without his support.

Hell yeah because I’ve read a million and one blog posts and heard dozens of podcasts on how to be successful, how to get published, how to make money, how to do a lot with a little, and I’m sure a lot of that works for a lot of people but the only thing I’ve done that works for me is to just keep working, even if it’s at a snail’s pace. What has worked for me is forcing myself to do things that are scary and then keep doing them until they are not scary, and then find a new scary thing to try.

This is an incomplete list of what has worked for me: Start a blog, start a writing group, co-produce the Listen To Your Mother Show, start a book, submit my work, attend a blogging conference, keep submitting my work, quit writing a book, submit my work to new outlets, start another book, get rejected, create a writing retreat, quit writing another book, be an author, ask stores to carry my book, speak in public, keep submitting my work, ask my editor if there’s room for me to write on a weekly basis, sign up for a writing retreat, sign up for a writing class, create another writing group, keep submitting, get rejected, keep submitting.

I’m not saying you should start a blog, start your own writing group, co-produce a show of your own, or do anything I did. Maybe you should look at my list and do the opposite of everything I’ve done. I don’t know what will work for you. I just know what’s working for me. It’s not magic and it hasn’t been quick and it hasn’t been easy but it’s been slow, steady, and extremely gratifying.

 

how i made 10k in one year as a freelancer