Finally on Facebook!

I’m so excited – I finally have an official Frozen Coke Fridays Facebook page!

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 4.37.00 PMTechnically I’ve had the page for probably about as many years as I’ve been blogging, as I’ve learned that you need to claim your “name” as quickly as possible on these sites before someone else comes along and takes it first. But I was always afraid to just go for it… I’m already on Facebook more than I should be (I really like knowing what’s going on with everyone, and I love looking for ways to encourage others), and I was worried that it would only suck up more of my time. (I had the same issues when I decided to create an Instagram account for my blog).

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Blogging started as a way to help myself find joy in a really disappointing time in my life, then became a way to thought-dump and empty my head from time to time. At one point I overdid it and burned out, then struggled to get back on track. I never quite regained the momentum I had before that, and I’ve trailed off a bit again lately as I’ve tried to re-prioritize (more on that in a later post, but it involves shutting off the computer at night). Emily’s home for the summer though, and being able to spend more time with her during the day makes me feel less guilty about blogging in the afternoons while the girls play together, and Julia starts preschool in the fall – both of which mean I can hopefully start writing more again!

But… now it’s time for a shameless beg for support. (Come on, you knew this was coming.) ;) If you enjoy this blog I’d love it if you would send a little Facebook love my way by visiting my page and giving it a “like.” Just click on the green heart at the top of this page, then click on the Facebook icon. Feel free to share it and spread the word too, because now this little image on the page won’t stop teasing me…

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Thank you for all the love and encouragement you’ve shown me through my blogging adventure, it’s already been more than I ever hoped for and I feel very blessed! <3

Running Bucket List

Runner’s Envy.

Oh, it’s real, and I’ve got it BAD.

It doesn’t help that I was born with a green streak running through me – jealousy is a nasty beast that I find myself beating into submission on a regular basis. And when I started running there were lots of things other runners had that I could be jealous of. Speed, distance, cute running clothes, tight tushies, fun sneaks, racks full of medals… other runners seem to have it all figured out. But to be honest, I’ve never been jealous of any of that. In fact, for the longest time the only thing I wanted was to be able to breathe without sounding like a freight train.

Then I ran my first 5K, became a medal junkie, and found that easy breathing wasn’t the only thing other runners had that I wanted.

I wanted events. Experiences. Medals. I wanted to be able to say, “I did such-and-such event!” when it came up in conversation. Or even if I just wanted to casually bring it up in conversation. Or if I was talking to myself and wanted to mention it out of sheer lunacy. I wanted to see a brochure or an ad on Facebook for an upcoming run and already have an opinion on it because I’d already added the event to my list of completed runs. I wanted to do it ALL.

Running events aren’t cheap though, so a girl’s gotta be selective. I’ve also got two sweet girls that need caring for while I’m off at these events. Not to mention I’m not exactly the most devoted runner, and while one month I may be able to run 8 miles at a time, the next month I might barely be able to finish two. All in all, it’s not easy to plan out which events I want to participate in the most. I’ve got a few events that I’m determined to do though, and jump on any chance I have to make these happen!

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I almost signed up for the St. Augustine Half Marathon last year, but the dates just weren’t working out for our family. It usually falls right around my birthday though, so I can definitely see this – or even the 10K – in my future! :)

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 9.45.34 PMI’ve never dreamed of being a princess, but I have definitely dreamed of completing the Glass Slipper Challenge during Disney’s Princess Half Marathon weekend! First, you complete the 10K on Saturday, then you complete the half marathon on Sunday for a total of 19.3 miles. You end up with a finisher’s medal for the 10K, the half, AND a third medal for completing both. How ridiculously awesome is THAT?

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After my first half marathon I felt invincible. Seriously, I was ready to enter the IronMan competition. Thankfully, I didn’t, and instead set my sights a bit lower – now I’m dying to complete an obstacle run of some sort. If there’s mud involved, all the better!

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I grew up watching Nick at Nite (back when they aired Petticoat Junction and Taxi), and I loved I Dream of Jeannie. So I was kinda giddy when I heard that there was a half marathon in Cocoa Beach with a medal shaped like Jeannie’s genie bottle. Plus I’ve heard there’s a division for folks who want to run dressed like Jeannie or Major Nelson, so that definitely makes it more entertaining!

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 9.02.01 PMThe last run on my bucket list is perhaps the hands-down winner… medal-wise, anyway. Completing the Run Nike Women’s 15K or half marathon earns you an exclusive necklace designed in part by Tiffany & Co. Yup. Finish the race, get a Tiffany’s necklace. Because of its popularity, the event allows entrants in via a lottery system. The next event is a half marathon scheduled for this fall in San Francisco, but I think I’d actually prefer to do the 15K if they hold it again in Toronto next year.

I’m sure once I’ve completed a couple of these I’ll have a few more ready to take their place on my bucket list, but for now I think I’ve got enough to tackle! :D

What WE See

Dear Daddy,

You work a lot. For us. You travel a lot, again, for us. You are tired a lot, but it’s because of all the work and travel you do for us. And amidst all this tiring work and travel, guilt can sneak in. Guilt for not being home more, guilt for missing out on things, guilt for sleeping in whenever you can. That’s what you might see – all the ways you aren’t there for us. But it’s not what we see.

PENTAX Image Since the moment you became a daddy, you have been incredibly hands-on. You’ve only grown more gentle, kind, and loving, and for a guy who admits to being uncomfortable around children you are more relaxed and have adapted to any situation better than even you expected. DSC_0899 You set a wonderful example of patience, always explaining things carefully and allowing us to experience things for ourselves. We know that we can make mistakes and you’ll still love us, we never have to fear that a lack of perfection will disappoint you. IMG_1513 You’re protective, which means that you are also aware. You know where we are, and you never let us stray too far. We know your strong arms will always be ready to catch us when we fall, and hold us when we need comforting. We feel safe with you, and in this big scary world that’s a gift we will cherish our entire lives. P1010897 You invite us into your life. We know that we are always welcome, always allowed to share in the things that bring you joy. And you don’t just let us join in, you teach us as we go so that we can continue to enjoy them together as we grow. IMG_1472 You never tire of our company. You want us around every chance you can, never asking us to give you space or time to yourself. You may be traveling or working a lot, but when you are home you can’t get enough of us. And we can’t get enough of you either. IMAG2638You are so helpful to Mommy. She does need a break from us sometimes, and you are always ready to step in and take over so that she can have her hands to herself for a while. We know that if Mommy can’t be with us (she likes a night off from time to time) then you’re ready to jump in and make our time together as special as possible. You’re setting an incredible example of what kind of support we should be looking for in our future husbands. IMG_0866 You aren’t afraid to be silly. To make us laugh. To be weird and goofy and wonderfully strange… because you know that’s what we are and you want to connect with us at our level. You take the time we have together and use it to build bonds that will last us the rest of our lives. You’re giving us memories – magical moments that make us love you even more because they show us a side of you that only a special few get to see. And that makes us feel extra special. :)DSC_1244 We know that what matters to us matters to you, and you do everything you can to take our interests and find ways for us to experience them at new levels. You enter our world and find ways to make it come alive, taking us places and giving us experiences beyond our wildest imaginations. We feel important because you constantly show us that even though we are kids and you and Mommy are not, we can all still have fun together.

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Daddy, we love you. We don’t see that you aren’t here, we see that you ARE here. Never for one second doubt that you are anything less than phenomenal at this daddy thing.

Daddy1

Welcome, Summer!

How do I know that summer has begun?
IMG_8706Why, when we get to start checking things off on our Summer Fun Checklist, of course! We had so much fun with last year’s checklist that the girls were really eager to create a new one to help us set some goals for the next few months. :)

IMG_8700Much of the list is the same as last year, but isn’t the very definition of summer getting wet with friends, then finishing every day with an ice cream? For us it’s also a really great time to get in a visit to Nana’s and Granddad’s house, which is when we make sure to take our annual swim in a natural spring. And of course, a hot summer means lots and lots of frozen cokes! ;)

IMG_8701Our checklist might be full of classic summer fun activities, but there are quite a few new ones, too! Emily is really into chess right now, so she’s excited to participate in Chess Club at the local library this summer. And Julia is learning to swim, which means that gets a nod on the poster as well. This is one of my favorite things about this project – seeing the girls’ current interests and goals written and put on display. <3

IMG_8698Here are some of the other new ideas we added to this year’s list:

  • The Minion Movie
  • 7-Eleven Day! :) (find some tips for a great trip here)
  • Electronics Camp (Emily)
  • VPK Open House
  • Legoland
  • Game Night
  • bake cupcakes
  • bowling
  • Inside Out
  • STEM Camp
  • Sister Sleepover
  • McDonald’s
  • Harry Potter movie night
  • Julia’s birthday
  • Emily’s birthday
  • trampoline park

This year there are even more activities for us to check off – and I love that there’s still a little more room to add things as we think of them! :)

A checklist can be a great way to beat boredom during the summer, and you don’t even have to make it poster-style like I did. A good friend of mine liked the idea but doesn’t consider herself to be artsy enough to draw out her list, so she came up with another way to display her goals – a Summer Bucket List! Super cute, right? Check out the how-to on her blog here.

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Hope you all have a fabulous and fun-filled summer! <3

Fresh Flowers

I have a sweet friend who is also an amazingly talented hairdresser.  She works out of her home, and whenever I head over there for a visit or to update my hair, she’s sure to have an amazing bouquet of flowers on her table.  I’ve always looked forward to seeing what her current arrangement looks like, and after seeing her fresh blossoms on the table for the past few years, I decided that I needed to give it a try myself.

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I love my teal blue entry table, and it seemed like the perfect place to put a vase of fresh flowers! <3 My local grocery store sells mini-bouquets for only $4 each, and you can buy them individually or choose a few and have one of their florists arrange them into a larger bouquet for you, complete with a beautiful ribbon. I grabbed a $4 arrangement the next time I was at the store, put them in a milk glass vase when I got home, plopped it on the table, and was immediately hooked. Now I always have a bunch of fresh flowers waiting for me when I step in the door!

This is one of my favorite arrangements – I bought a special bouquet for Memorial Day and the girls would stop and look at it and talk about our nation’s flag and colors every time they walked by it. It’s a bit more full than I usually put on the table, but I just loved all the red, white, and blue.

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I’ve experimented with different flower varieties, and some definitely hold up better than others… I think these sunflowers only managed to stay upright for as long as it took for me to capture this photo. They are so top-heavy that they always want to slide around in the vase and show us their backsides. Cheeky little flowers. ;)

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Yellow roses are one of my all-time favorite flowers, but our grocery store almost never has them. So when I’m fortunate enough to spot a bunch, I grab them quick and evict whatever flowers were holding residence in the vase so that I can enjoy my sun-shiney blooms. (Don’t worry, the evicted bouquet gets a new home elsewhere in the house. :) )

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I usually try to stick to one type of flower, or at least one color, but sometimes Jay brings home a small bouquet and I’ll stick the new flowers in the vase with whatever I’ve already for in there. This was one of my favorite results:

IMG_7425I’ve tried all kinds of different blossoms, and I’ve yet to find a bunch that doesn’t add immense beauty to our home, even if it’s only for a day or two. My go-to flowers are usually the simplest – even a tiny filler blossom packs a big punch when displayed alone. Some flowers I’ve learned to avoid… hydrangeas don’t stand up as well as I’d like, and tend to wilt after a day or two, and lillies make me sneeze.

Here are some of my favorite inexpensive flowers:

  • Baby’s Breath
  • Blue Limonium
  • Yellow Limonium
  • Daisies
  • Roses (mini)
  • Carnations (mini)
  • Tulips
  • Chrysanthemums

I usually pull off all the leaves so that the blossoms get all the attention and the arrangement doesn’t look too crowded. Plus I just love the way the stems look all spaced out with the wall showing through behind them. Most of the arrangements last at least 5 days, but the filler flowers (baby’s breath; limonium) can last up to two weeks before they look like they need to be changed out.

Last week I bought a bouquet of pale purple daisies for my entry table, a flower I don’t usually see at our grocery store. Then our babysitter drops off a small bouquet of cheery sunflowers, which I put in a vase in the kitchen. Then Jay shows up with this bouquet of pale yellow carnations and I didn’t know where to put them, so I stuck them in a yellow vase I found under the kitchen sink and placed them on my bedside table.

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The problem is, now I think I’m hooked on seeing fresh flowers when I wake up! :o <3

Friday, I’m in Love

You know that song, “Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure? Just in case you don’t….

You’ll probably be singing it for the rest of the day now (sorry!), but I’m not even kidding when I say that it is eternally running through my head… especially on Fridays. That song perfectly describes how I feel about my house – specifically the state of my house as the week progresses.

I don’t care if Monday’s blue
Tuesday’s grey and Wednesday too
Thursday I don’t care about you
It’s Friday, I’m in love

I take being a stay-at-home mom very seriously, and I consider keeping my home clean and orderly a large part of my job. And, like most job-holders, I love having my weekends “off.” Of course, I realize that the “mom” part of the job title means that I really never have a day off, but as far as household chores and errands go, I do my best to keep those strictly Monday-Friday. When I was teaching, I had almost no time to get the day-to-day stuff done during the week, and it would always eat into our weekend family time. So now I do whatever I can to make sure weekends are as sacred and chore-free as possible, which means that come Monday, my house is pretty trashed. Dirty clothes on the floor in bedrooms, dishes piled all over the kitchen, toothpaste around the sinks. Not to mention whatever we brought into the house over the weekend that we never bothered to put away – food items from a last-minute run to the store, the milkshake cup from Satruday’s run to Chick-Fil-A, or the goody bags from a birthday party. If Jay was out of town and returns home on a Friday you can guarantee that his suitcase will still be unpacked and on the floor come Monday. And that’s when the song begins playing in my head…

Monday, you could fall apart
Tuesday, Wednesday, break my heart
Thursday doesn’t even start
It’s Friday, I’m in love

Once we decided that I’d be staying home, I divided the major household chores up over the week so that I wouldn’t be driving myself crazy with too much in one day. Here’s what my schedule looks like:

Monday – Grocery shop, put groceries away, laundry (Emily & Julia)
Tuesday – laundry (Jay & me), clean out fridge, trash & recycling
Wednesday – Bathrooms, laundry (towels), dust
Thursday – ironing (every other week), vacuum upstairs
Friday – laundry (bedsheets), trash

Things like wiping down countertops, sweeping floors, and making the bed are daily chores, but none of those take more than 5 minutes so it’s not too hard to get those done (even if I end up doing them multiple times a day). Other chores, like cleaning out a closet, take longer but don’t need to occur as frequently, so on days when the regular chores don’t take too long I try to tackle the heavier stuff.

Basically, the way this schedule works out, I spend all day Monday cleaning the massive weekend mess and the regular need-to-be-done jobs, and as the week goes on my chores get lighter and lighter. Then on Friday all I do is toss some sheets in the wash (which stay in the dryer until I need to use it again on Monday :’D ), remake the beds, and empty the trash cans. In 30 minutes my chores are done, and after a week of maintenance there’s really nothing else that needs to be done. Friday, I’m in love. <3

I don’t care if Monday’s black.
Tuesday, Wednesday, heart attack.
Thursday never looking back
It’s Friday, I’m in love. 

I’ve been using this schedule for the past few years, and it’s really helped me to stay on top of things. Don’t misunderstand – I still have plants dying everywhere, overstuffed closets, and a half-garage that’s been affectionately dubbed the “scary room.” But on the whole, my house is clean and orderly.

At least, on Fridays it is. <3 <3 <3

10 Years in the Making

Timehop has a way of reminding you that things you feel like you did recently actually, in fact, occurred much further back than you realized. Case in point: the cross-stitch project I completed and proudly posted a year ago. Which I also meant to write about here and never did. Which I also meant to mat and frame and never did. Which took an insane amount of time and effort and thus was to be displayed on a wall in my home and is still sitting in a drawer somewhere, rolled up tight. Boo.

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I’ve been stitching for a long time, and a few years ago I learned about a computer program that allowed you to stitch images scanned into your computer. The program (I can’t remember the name of it) would create a “map” of colored squares with symbols that corresponded to DMC floss colors.

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Because there are far more color options available through the company than you’d ever find in a kit, the image appears more true-to-life. And the smaller your stitches, the crisper the image. I’ve done a few different projects with this method – a wedding photo for a friend, a baby picture of Emily, the Marine Corps emblem for my Papa Bear. But for me, I had my eye on my favorite painting: Bedroom in Arles by Vincent Van Gogh.

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I started stitching the image around 10 years ago, and put it aside every time I needed to work on something else. The image printed on 15 sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ paper, with each sheet of paper holding about 3,200 stitches. I stitched on 28-count Aida cloth (the count refers to the number of stitches in each inch of fabric). This was partly to get the crisper image, but also partly to prevent my finished product from becoming too large. 

I started with the bottom left corner and worked my way to the right, then continued on counter-clockwise until I reached the top left corner. Here is the progression of one of the sections:

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It took forever, but I finally finished it. The completed image had a total of 46,636 stitches, and I kissed every one of them as I stitched it. Just kidding. :P But seriously, that’s a lot of love and time given to a project that’s been sitting rolled up in a drawer for the past year.

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I promise it won’t end up another unfinished task like some of the other things I still need to get to around the house… my goal is to have it framed and hung by the end of 2015… even if it’s only because I don’t want it to show up like this on Timehop again next year!

Wear Blue

Monday is Memorial Day. It’s a day when we remember those who have died while serving in our country’s armed forces. Traditionally, the flag is raised to the top of the pole and then immediately lowered to half staff to honor the fallen, then at noon is raised to full staff again, symbolizing how those of us still living will continue to rise to fight for liberty and justice.

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My family doesn’t have a flagpole to honor those who sacrificed their lives for us, but there is another way that we can show our gratitude, and all it requires is committing to dedicate a few miles to a fallen soldier.

It’s called Wear Blue: Run to Remember, and it’s probably the easiest way that you could make your Memorial Day a little more meaningful, even if you don’t know anyone who’s lost their life for our nation.

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Here’s what you do: First, decide how many miles you want to dedicate to honor our fallen servicemen. Then, go to www.wearblueruntoremember.org and click the link to commit your miles. You can complete the miles however you choose – run, walk, bike, it doesn’t matter – you can even get them done on a treadmill! If you know someone who has lost their life in the line of duty you can enter their name as the person you’re completing your miles for, but if not they will email you the name of a fallen soldier. You can also explain why you chose to commit the number of miles you did – I chose to complete 4 miles because it’s going to force me to push myself harder than I normally do, which is what I know our military men and women do on a daily basis.

I received my email with the name of the serviceman I’m running for yesterday. His name is Riley Gallinger-Long, and he was a Navy Hospitalman assigned to work with the Marines as a medic in Afghanistan. He was killed on August 11, 2011 while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom. He was 19 years old. The most amazing thing about this is that he was assigned to the exact same military base that I was born at.

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I’m also going to be running in honor of my Great Uncle, Albert Stuart Simpson. He was serving in the Army when he died in Europe during World War II. I only just learned of my Great Uncle’s sacrifice, and I’m glad that I can add his name to my miles as well.

Wear Blue is hoping to reach 10,000 participants willing to commit any number of miles this Memorial Day. I hope that you’ll sign up, put on something blue, and join me in remembering our military men and women who have died serving us and our country.

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PS A huge thanks to my friend Carolyn, who told me about this event and also invited me to join in. She faithfully wears blue for every run she participates in, and inspires me to run for something more than myself. <3

PSS – The results are in! Wear Blue: Run to Remember had over 11,000 participants, logging in 54,180 miles! Thanks to everyone who participated! :)

My Favorite Part of the Day

When I started this blog, my tagline was “Finding Smiles in Everyday Life”. I wanted to write a blog about finding those sliver linings, those beautiful and joyful moments that occur if we just take the time to look for them, acknowledge them, and allow them to be absorbed.

In the end though, it just didn’t seem like me. It was a little too perky, a little too chipper. I definitely make it a daily practice to look for those sunshine-y moments, but I didn’t want anyone to think I walk around with a permagrin. I’ve also got a cynical, sarcastic, realistic side that refuses to shut down no matter how huge my smile. As Jay says, I’ve got a sassy side. Fortunately for me, he likes it. :D

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t see life’s highlights when they occur. Despite all those lovely qualities I mentioned above, there are still a number of daily occurrences that are sure to cause me to smile: getting the kitchen cleaned before taking Emily to school in the morning… Julia’s spontaneous kisses… Jay walking in the door at the end of the day… finishing a running event… scheduling a night out with a friend.

But if there’s one thing I had to pin down, one thing that earns the trophy for being my absolute favorite thing in my day, it’s picking Emily up from school. I’ve mentioned before that I love sitting in the car line, and that a big part of the enjoyment I get from it is that I’m able to utilize that time to get things done. But to be honest, getting to the school early means that I’m already parked at the dismissal gate… which means I get to see Emily even sooner.

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Now, I am NOT that mushy momma. I like my “me-time,” I hated baby-wearing, and I’m not offended if my girls would rather play on their own or with a friend than be with me. It doesn’t bother me if we don’t snuggle during movie time, and when they get hurt I have no sympathy if it happened after I warned them a million times to be careful before that exact thing happened. I don’t even think about Emily all that much during the day (or Julia if I’m not with her), because I know that she’s safe and having fun.

But when the end of the school day rolls around, something lights up inside of me. Knowing that she’s about to get in the car and that I’m about to be reunited with part of my heart just makes me so incredibly happy. I’m sure it helps that she ‘s a good student and genuinely loves school, but to be honest I think even if I knew she wasn’t a big fan of it I’d still be just as excited to see her.

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Next year Julia starts Pre-K, which means I get to do a second pick-up everyday. The following year she’ll be in Kindergarten, and the girls will be at the same school and I’ll be back to just one pickup again. But to know that I’ll be getting both girls back with me every day, well, I think my heart might just bust with joy. <3

The Green Miles

I think I’m becoming a running-event snob. Last year I participated in a St. Patrick’s Day 10K, and although I really enjoyed it, it was a pretty small and low-key event. There weren’t a ton of people, and even though everyone was dressed in green it just wasn’t buzzing with the race-day energy I’ve grown to love at larger events. It was my first 10K and I’d gone by myself, so I’m sure I would have had more fun if it had been a shorter race and I’d had a friend with me (or even someone at the finish line), but in the end I showed up in my green, ran my race, and left – as did everyone else who participated.

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This year my friends Jen and Carolyn wanted to sign up for a different St. Patrick’s Day run, one that was being held downtown. Since every participant over 21 would receive a free beer it was sure to draw a larger crowd. It was also a 4-Miler (an uncommon race milage), offered a finisher’s medal, and was the kick-off event to a huge St. Patrick’s Day festival being held downtown that day. It was definitely looking to be the energized event I’d grown to love.

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Jen and I found some fun St. Patrick’s Day shirts at Old Navy for about $5 and bought them just in case we decided we didn’t like the event shirts (which actually turned out to be pretty cute). Our event packets also came with long green bead necklaces, and we wrapped them around our wrists like bracelets so they wouldn’t smack us in the face as we ran.

This race was way crazier than what I’d experienced the year before at the 10K. Everyone was dressed to participate – Carolyn even wore a giant beer mug hat – and there was green everywhere you looked. (Yes, I know my shirt is glaringly white, but I swear there’s a shamrock on it. :) )

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We saw some pretty goofy getups – I think my favorite was this guy and his enormous fuzzy green mustache:

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The course took us down one of the main downtown roads and then doubled back, as opposed to weaving through the city blocks like other runs that I’ve been to in the same area. It was my first 4-Miler, and I really loved it. I try to make sure I’m always able to run 3 miles, so a 4-mile run pushes me a little harder than normal without being quite as strenuous as a 6.2-mile 10K run would be. Plus it was nice to be able to add a new distance to my list of completed runs!

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After the run we received our medals, which featured a funny little leprechaun, the same image the event shirts had on the front.

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Then Jen, Carolyn, and I went to the beer tent with our free beer tickets, and while they enjoyed their drinks I traded mine to a guy in exchange for taking this photo. I hate beer.

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This run sealed the deal – I absolutely love and prefer these big running events. There’s definitely something to be said for the less chaotic runs – the Ocala Half Marathon is still one of my favorites and I still plan to squeeze in a small event or two a year. But there’s just no comparison to the mass craziness of hundreds of people and the insane amount of energy in the air that goes along with all that craziness! :)

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