Feb 19, 2017

Celebrating my Mother's Memory


Today marks six years since my mother unexpectedly passed away. I’ve written a number of posts about grief and grieving, and I still find all of it true, even six years from that day. I still miss her just as much. Her absence still hurts just as acutely. I still think about her every day. And I still wish with all my heart that she was still with me today. With that being said, one thing that has changed is that I have been learning to live without her. 

There are still times when I reach for my phone to call her before remembering that that is no longer possible, and there are still times when I visit home and I expect her to just be in the other room. But, these times are becoming fewer and further between. I am learning, and I have been learning, to live my life differently without her.
I love my mother, with all my heart, forever. And I look forward to the day when we can be reunited again—the greatest blessing of the saving ordinances of the gospel. But for now, I want to carry on her legacy and ensure that my family and my children will know at least a piece of my mother. So with this post, I want to focus on one way I have been doing this very thing and that is in regards to celebrating holidays.

Aside from my mother’s great love for the gospel and for others, one of the things that I remember most about her was her love for the holidays. I’m not just talking about Christmas, but every holiday—even the more “minor” ones. Each holiday was an event in our household, from Halloween to Valentine’s Day to Independence Day all the way to Saint Patrick’s Day. My mother would hang decorations for each holiday at least a month in advance and do her best to play said holiday’s music and movie selections to get us—her kids—excited for the celebration awaiting us.

Family picture by the Christmas tree.
She taught me traditions for each holiday, and they are traditions I am determined to keep, along with some of the new ones we're making as a family now. For New Year’s Eve we always stay up until midnight, eating a feast of Hillshire Farms summer sausages, cheese, and crackers. For Valentine’s Day we always wear red or pink, and hand out or mail Valentine’s. For Saint Patrick’s Day, we get all decked out in green and eat Irish food! This was how I discovered my love for shepherd’s pie. Easter, of course, was celebrated with a visit from the Easter Bunny, who always hid our Easter baskets along with plastic eggs full of candy. My mom would also read us the story of Christ’s resurrection, the reason we celebrate Easter. For our birthdays, we would get to pick dinner that night, and we would get to have a birthday party with friends each year. I remember when I was eight, I wanted an Apollo 13 themed birthday, since I was so very into astronomy and that movie is awesome. And, my mom found a way to do just that and make it fun for everyone who came out. Independence Day we would either watch fireworks or shoot off our own while enjoying some good backyard barbecue. And then Halloween! Halloween is a big deal for our family with the whole house made up to be haunted, scary movies playing all the time, big Halloween parties, corn mazes, haunted houses, and we always dress up. Thanksgiving brings time with family, and lots of food, turkey, and pumpkin. We would always watch the Thanksgiving Day parade, and we would make paper hand turkeys. Christmastime was full of the wonderful holiday music playing clear until the new year, with a new Christmas movie and story every day, with re-tellings of Luke 2 and the story of Christ’s birth, and with so many more traditions! With each upcoming holiday, I tell my family the stories of Grandma Taylor and how she would make these days extra special. I tell my daughter how excited we would get for the holidays, and how they would break up the monotony of the regular days of the year. There was always something to look forward to, and even now as an adult, I remember how celebrating each holiday also taught me how to hope for good things to come. This was one way, one big way, that my mother showed her love for me.

My whole family decked out for our annual Halloween party. Mom was the Queen of Hearts.
I know that some people don’t like celebrating holidays, or even hearing about how others celebrate the “minor” holidays. But I don’t make a big deal about these days for anyone other than my family (and for the people I really love). This is how I am honoring my mother’s memory and this is how her memory will live on in the minds and hearts of my children who never really got the chance to know their amazing Grandma Taylor. These are the days I feel closest to my Mom, and I will continue to cherish the memories I have of her as I create new memories in her honor with each upcoming holiday.

Jan 29, 2017

Sometimes life is hard, but there is still so much joy to be found.

A train-of-thought update on me

I have a confession to make. For the past few months, I have been struggling.  It’s been hard, even though my life is pretty great. I am married to the love of my life—the most wonderful, incredible, kind, loving man I’ve ever known. We have such a great life together with our daughter, who is such a great kid. But, my health has been poor and it’s been affecting my life to a troubling degree.

We had high hopes for this move to Utah. We were thinking that since it’s a much bigger city with a lot more veterans, the endocrinologists at the VA hospital would provide me with a higher quality of care. That has not been the case. Quite the opposite in fact. I find myself with the worst doctors I’ve ever worked with—and I’ve worked with about 24 doctors for my condition.

I will say that I love my Primary Care Manager. The women’s clinic here in Salt Lake is amazing, and my nurse practitioner is one of the most caring physicians I’ve seen yet. She listens to my concerns, she looks at my health history, and she really cares. The endocrinologists though, whom I am forced to see for my chronic illnesses, are heavily lacking. Because of their inattentiveness and lack of communication, I have been in such pain due to my autoimmune disease. I’m so frustrated with dealing with these people that I’ve just about given up on receiving quality care. Just about.
And that was the point where I decided to shift my educational goals from fitness to health. I want to be a medical researcher in the field of immunology specializing in research on autoimmunity. I want to be part of the solution to these diseases and illnesses. I don’t want to just have my symptoms treated. I want to have the root cause of my condition addressed and reversed. And I want to help others receive the same quality of care. So off to school I go again, and I am looking forward to it.

With a goal in mind, I found my motivation in other areas of my life come together again. Although I’m still not well enough to return to endurance running, I am well enough to work on my strength through weight lifting, and to pursue lower impact activities like cycling (since my husband is a cyclist, he’s pretty happy about that). And I’ve been finding more and more motivation to change my diet to help heal my immune system by cutting out inflammatory foods and replacing them with foods of the more nutrient-rich variety.

Through all of this, I have really seen the tender mercies of the Lord in my life and my family’s life. As we strive to continue with regular family home evenings, scripture study, prayer, and church attendance—even during times that I frankly didn’t feel like it—I have seen such great blessings. The biggest of these has been the love and support of my husband and daughter. During the times of most pain, they have been there for me to take care of me and our home.

Teaching my daughter that #REALwomenmove as we hiked Y mountain
Not only that, but I have once again been selected to represent Skirt Sports as an Ambassador Captain. I was so surprised, and so happy, to have this honor for my third year. With how ill I have been lately, I wasn’t sure if they would still select me, so when I got that email to let me know I would be an ambassador for this year, I was ecstatic! This sisterhood has been such a blessing and light in my life. These strong women, all from different places and backgrounds, are some of the most encouraging women I have had the pleasure to know. And I look forward to another year representing this amazing company.

This post really doesn’t have a lot of direction, but that’s how my mind is working today through the treatments I’m receiving for my migraines. I feel like I’m all over the place, but I can also see how I’ve still been able to accomplish quite a bit between my family, my education, my fitness, and my service in the youth organization of my church. I’ve been learning to still be functional as I go through this health trial, and I’ve been learning to still find joy through my health struggles. I have hope that I will get better, and in the meantime, I'm going to try my best not to let these challenges get me down. My family, my faith, my fitness, and my friendships are that source of joy, and they are exactly what I need to not just get through this, but to become a better person because of this.

My husband is so amazing. I can't say enough good things about him.

Dec 12, 2016

Santa Run 5K (Race Report)

In following with my running holiday traditions, here is my last race report of the year--a Christmas themed race, the Utah Santa Run.

This race, put on by One Hill Events, was a 5K out-and-back run starting and ending in the Riverwoods Shopping Center in Provo. That was pretty convenient, allowing us to finish up on any lingering Christmas shopping we had left. But really the draw of this race is that, included with our registration, we got Santa suits. It. Was. Awesome.

This race came with SANTA SUITS!

I usually run a Christmas theme run each year in December. But this year, both my husband and my daughter joined me. I think that this has shifted from a Rachel-tradition to a family tradition, and I love that. Sure, for now at least, that means that we are walking a lot more and going at a much slower pace than we normally would since we're running with our daughter. But, we also got to enjoy this race together as a family, encouraging each other to keep moving and to stop whining.

We ran through the sea of Santa's, and added two more Santa's to the crowd. My daughter wore her elf outfit and hoped that all the Santa's would think that she was a real elf! As we got further into the course, we would happen upon rouge Santa hats, belts, coats, and even pants! I guess Santa Claus was getting warm on his run. The aid stations were stocked with the usual Gatorade and water, but also milk and cookies! My daughter stuffed her mouth full of cookies, but my stomach cannot handle that much sugar at once during a workout, so I kept with the water.

The view was amazing as we ran toward the mountains. And silly picture.

As we rounded the turn to head back into the shopping center from the running trail, we saw the inflatable finish arch with inflatable Santa, reindeer, snowmen, and penguins all around. And even more milk and cookies! And also the real Santa and Mrs. Claus! And our well-earned finisher medals.

We Santa's and our elf earned our finisher medals!
Although we didn't go super fast, we had a great time sticking together as a family. My daughter even passed quite a few people! She is such a little athlete. This was such a fun and festive race, and a great way to start off December.

I'm sporting Skirt Sports' Hot Legs Limited edition collection under this suit!

Dec 7, 2016

Thankful 13 (5K) Race Report

Something about this time of year makes it really hard for me to keep up with my posts! So I’m a little behind on my race reports—but not too much! My goal was to get this one, my race report on the Thankful Thirteen 5K, published before Christmas. And I’m glad I’m accomplishing that! 

Thankful 13!
My favorite Thanksgiving tradition, after spending time with family eating tons of food, is running a local turkey trot. And this year, my husband, my daughter, and my friend Tobi wanted to run a turkey trot as well. Utah has so many races going on all the time, and Thanksgiving offered many different turkey trots in so many different places. Since we loved the other Runtastic events we’ve participated in thus far, we registered for their turkey trot, the Thankful 13 (but the 5K). 

There’s something about waking up early on Thanksgiving morning just to get all bundled up for a race.  This was my coldest turkey trot yet, but I wore my Skirt Sports tough girl top with my toasty tights and I was plenty warm during the run. With it being a holiday, we dressed up! My daughter and I wore turkey tutus (hers was covered by her jacket), and all of us wore a turkey hat of some sort. These attracted quite a bit of attention to us as we all ran together, turkeys securely placed on our heads.

We had a great time at this race! We stuck together with our 5 year old, and she rocked this run. During registration, we were asked to share some things we’re thankful for. We were excited to see that all along the course were signs of displaying those very things we runners submitted. I even found a sign that displayed Alex’s thankful comment (he said he was thankful for me J).  These signs were a great reminder of what Thanksgiving is all about.

When we saw the finish line arch, June kicked it into gear and she ended up shaving off 30 seconds from her last 5K time! She did great, and we had so much fun running with her. We received turkey shaped finisher medals full of the things we are thankful for. We also scored some pumpkin pie and hot chocolate, which was really nice to enjoy while we waited at the finish corral to cheer on our cousin Tobi. She also did great, especially in the colder weather!

We are thankful for our family, for the gospel of Jesus Christ, for our nice home, to live by the beautiful mountains, to be from Texas, to be able to run and exercise, for delicious pie, for the saving ordinances of the temple, to live so close to so many temples, for good food, for good friends, for fun times, and for so many more things! I am thankful to have such a sweet daughter who is always striving to do her best, and to have the most incredible and kind and loving and sweet and smart and caring man as my husband forever.

Yet again, Runtastic put on a fun, memorable event. There was even a beard contest at the finish line party! The music was great, the photo opportunities were fun, and the after race treats were quite festive. We had a great time shopping at the expo too! There was everything from Damsel in Defense to running shops to KT Tape to Altra Shoes to LuLaRoe clothing represented. We are already looking at the 2017 Runtastic calendar to plan out our racing for next year. Well done Runtastic.
We're thankful we got to run this race.

Nov 25, 2016

Haunted Half Part 2: Provo (race report)

With all the rush of the holidays hitting full stride, I forgot to write about the Provo Haunted Half! Black Friday seemed to me to be a great time to write Part 2 of my Haunted Half race report (for part 1, click here).

Not gonna lie, I was nervous about this race. I was nervous that I was running the half marathon. If my friend Tobi hadn't signed up specifically to run this race with me, I may have backed out and done the 5K like I did the week before with the Salt Lake City Haunted Half. Part of me secretly hoped that Tobi would want to switch to the shorter distance anyway.

I was so nervous because of how sick I've been. Not only had I been battling a cold, but I also have been dealing with a flare up of my autoimmune disease which has made me all sorts of broken. I had a near-constant headache, I was incredibly tired to the point of exhaustion, I was nauseated, I have been struggling with insomnia, and I had lost a great deal of strength and endurance due to this disease. So, I was nervous. I worried that I wouldn't be able to finish the race in the time allocated.  But if I never did anything while I was sick, then I would never do anything! I don't want to live my life just waiting for days when I feel well. I'm going to live life now, no matter how bad I feel. I decided I would take this race nice and easy and run according to how my body felt. If I had to walk a lot, so be it. If I was running slowly, that's fine too. I knew I would finish, no matter what.

So I showed up to the starting area because I knew Tobi would be there, and when we met up I felt so much better about the race. It's really incredible how much running buddies can lift one's spirits and motivation. The excitement I initially had at running this fun, Halloween-themed race started to come back as we filed into the buses that would take us to the starting line and I saw all sorts of awesome costumes. Tobi was dressed as a Conehead, which was amazing!

I was dressed in my Star Trek dress with my Skirt Sports Free Flow long sleeve shirt and Toasty Tights on underneath. It was chilly and I wanted to not get hypothermia during a race again (see my experience with this on my Race Report for the Armed Forced Day half marathon). I loved running in these tights. They kept my legs and rear end warm, and the pockets were exactly what I needed to hold my phone, keys, and energy gels. But really, the best part is that they matched my Star Trek costume without covering it up and kept me warm.

Since it was so cold in the morning and the half marathon started up in the mountains of Provo Canyon, they had fire pits going and passed out emergency blankets, so we kept warm waiting for the start of the race. The DJ was great, and there was even a costume contest for all the runners which was fun to watch.

The race started as dawn was breaking over Mount Timpanogos and the sight was amazing. Most of the run was downhill, which really felt awesome. During this part, I could hold a decent-enough pace for how I was feeling. Each mile was marked with a flag and a skeleton holding a silly sign. I tried to take pictures of them all. What can I say, I love passing mile markers. (And here are a few of them!)



Tobi is seriously awesome, and ran with me the whole way--even though she is far faster than I am! Up until mile 7, I was maintaining a decent 12 minutes per mile pace. But then I started to falter and ended up having to walk just about the rest of the 6.1 miles of the race. And Tobi stayed by me the entire time. She made the time pass by pleasantly, and was so encouraging of me. She really is a true friend.

My amazing husband and my sweet daughter were at all of the six spectator stops, cheering us on with signs also dressed in Star Trek outfits.  It was one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me. They even had new signs for each point. I love how much Alex supports me. He is truly incredible. Even the runners around us soon came to expect them, and commented on how he should be named husband of the year. I agree with that completely.

My family was at every single spectator point with new signs each time.
My daughter wanted to run a mile with us, and we were glad to have her join. She ended up run/walking the nearly two miles to the next spectator point where Alex was waiting with another awesome sign. She did such a good job, and got a lot of race kudos from passing runners. From there, we were in the final stretch of the race.

I was exhausted, but once I saw that finish line, I was able to run the last bit. I gave it my all without pushing myself to the point of injury or further illness. It was great to be able to even complete this race, even though it was my slowest-ever half marathon. Although I was disappointed in my time, I was also grateful that I could even do it at all. I'm thankful that my body can still do hard things, even when I'm fighting off a hard disease. However, I think this will be my last race of this distance until I overcome this autoimmune flare-up.

Runtastic events are such fun races! They are well organized, as I've said in previous race reports, and the swag is great! The medals were a coffin that actually opens and has a skeleton inside it! The shirts are super-soft long sleeve shirts with thumb holes (my favorite type of long sleeve!). They had all sorts of photo opportunities consisting of back drops and photo booths. And the final mile had a black light tunnel we got to run through, and a whole Halloween inflatable display we ran by. It was such a festive event! I hope to be able to do this one again.

Haunted row

The best part of this race was the outpouring of love and support I received from my friend Tobi, my daughter, and my husband. It meant the world to me that they all were there to encourage me and help me to reach my goal of finishing.

Finishers! No matter what obstacles we came across.