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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Run Your Race

18/52 (Yeah, yeah, I know I'm behind)

For any of you who know me or knew me back in high school, you know I'm not a stellar athlete. While I'm reasonably coordinated and generally athletic, I was never scouted by coaches like my siblings. And I was ok with that. 5 years on JV gymnastics and a injury shortened stint on the pole vault team were enough for me and so my physical activity dwindled after high school. I became a sedentary couch potato. However, when the summer of 2008 came around I was determined to get my self back in shape. The first week Jeff was on summer vacation I began a "Couch to 5K" (C25K) program. Its a running podcast that takes ordinary couch potatoes, like myself, and gradually turns them into 5K runners. I have never run longer than 1 mile at a time, and that was 10 years ago! I've got to get to 3? What the heck am I doing? But as most of you know, what I lack in ability, I make up for in determination. So, as my 9 week podcast wore on, I began to feel like I was eventually going to be able to do it. I might drop dead at the end of the run, but I would finish. And then there was trouble. Two of my friends who began running with me decided they were going to run an half marathon. Crap. 13.1 miles? That's psycho. They are out of their freakin' minds? Who in their right minds CHOOSES to run 13.1 miles? No one! They are nuts! But of course, being the competitive being that I am, I was not about to let them do it with out me. I'd never hear the end of it, all from that annoying little voice in my head of course, my friends wouldn't ever rub it in.

So there I was, waking up at the butt crack of dawn and running. And every time I would drag myself out of bed to run, I whined. I'm sooooo not a morning person. I want to go back to bed! But week after week I did it and amazingly I began to love it. I loved the feeling of sweat running in my eyes, my skin itching as the blood pumped through its surface. The feeling of my body kicking into auto pilot as I ran 6,8,10 miles. The feeling of my body kicking into overdrive as I sprinted the last of each run. I loved the camaraderie of running with my girls. I was slowly going insane. I was becoming one of those crazy people who runs for fun.

By the time the race arrived, I had done all I could to prepare my body and mind. It was, after all, more mental than physical. When I learned to turn my brain off and let my body do what I had trained for I amazed even myself. I finished my first half marathon in 2:28, averaging just under 11 minute and 30 seconds per mile. Each of us girls had our own goals for the race; finish, finish under 2:30, not stop at all. I accomplished my goal of not stopping the whole way. Crossing that finish line, knowing I had made it, was surreal. I couldn't pretend I wasn't a runner anymore.

After being side-lined in 2009 with my pregnancy I was a little worried about getting back into it. I was out of shape all over again. But I was in good company. I roped Jeff into joining me this year, and he is doing great. It's those long legs of his! And our team of 4 from year one had grown. We were now a full fledged running team. The Run Your Race team is 21 strong and counting as we move towards our November 7 race day. And we aren't just running for fun, we are running for a cause too. We are running for an organization called African Moons, which is helping to provide educational opportunities for children in Tanzania. Check out our great promo video to see photos of me and my team mates training, racing and finishing, as well as pictures of the kids we are running for.

Of our $140 registration fee, $45 will go towards allowing the children in this video to attend school for one month in the city of Arusha. Jeff and I have paid our first installment of $70 each but would like to offer you the opportunity to join with us in this great adventure. We are asking that if you donate, that it NOT be more than $10.

If you would like to donate, you can send funds through PayPal to the team email address: . You can send money via a credit card or directly from your checking account (it’s a secure transaction). Please make a note in the transaction that the donation is for me or Jeff. Or you can send a check to:

Run Your Race Team

c/o Northeast Assembly

4386 N. Chestnut Ave.

Fresno, CA 93726

Please write the check out to Northeast Assembly, but make sure to write “RYR Team” and my or Jeff's name in the memo portion of your check.

You can also check us out and learn more at

So, if you see anyone around Fresno wearing the yellow, green and blue wristbands, give them a pat on the back and tell them to keep up the good work. If you want to buy a wristband ($3) to show your support of our team, I'll be glad to get one to you! And if you wake up on a Saturday morning around 8:00, remember I've been up and running for the last 1-2 hours. Let that either make you wrap your covers around you tightly or give you a swift kick in the hiney to get out there and Run Your Race. If I can do it, so can you!

Monday, July 5, 2010

I Think Someone is Trying to Tell Me Something


Cake decorating has always been a hobby for me and in the last 10 years I have grown quite a bit in my skill. From the plain white cake with stencil letters and the olympic rings piped on it to the towering inferno, castle cake has been quite a journey.

When Jeff and I first got married I used some wedding money to buy a few decorating necessities. After all, if I was going to follow in my mother's footsteps and make my future children's birthday cakes, I was going to need a few bags, tips and colors. Over the years I have bought a few additional tools now and then, but have mostly waited for birthdays and Christmases to bring me new toys. A few years ago I coordinated a wedding for a woman who used to decorate cakes as a hobby. As we went through her storage unit looking for wedding decorations we found a few boxes of her cake stuff and since she was moving after the wedding and didn't want to take it with her she gave them to me. I had more tips, pans, and rose nails than I knew what to do with. And having never actually taken a class, I stared at the tools slightly intimidated by the thought of using them, but I was so grateful and excited to expand my collection. Since then I have just kept plugging away, birthday cake after birthday cake, baby shower after baby shower, never giving a thought to making cakes for money.

That all started to change recently though. After my last cake adventure my friends really started to hound me about marketing my cakes. I groaned at the thought. I'd had a bad experience when I donated gift certificate for a custom cake to a silent auction. There was a miscommunication with the the person who won it, and she wasn't happy with what I had done. Even though it was one of my better cakes and I had painstakingly cut out hundreds of tiny polka dots to embellish the fondant ribbon. My friends insisted that I shouldn't let that one incident keep me from pursuing this. We just kind of left it at that and while I thought more about it, I didn't DO much of anything. And it's not so much because of the thought of making cakes, its more the business aspect of it; license, contracts, what to charge, commercial grade kitchen. My throat is closing just thinking about that stuff.

One thing I did do though was to teach my very first class, which is slightly ironic since I've never taken a single class myself. Our church's women's ministry began offering workshops on anything and everything from house cleaning tips and container gardening, to eye brow grooming and 30 minute meals. So, I offered to teach a class on making novelty cupcakes without any special tips, just zipper lock bags and candy to decorate them. As my class chatted, giggled and licked the frosting off our fingers (shame on us!) A few people asked me about cakes for their kid's birthdays. And I, ashamedly, waffled. I didn't know what to say. I don't know what to charge people! What if that week is crazy and I have to stay up till 2 in the morning to finish because its a harder cake than I thought? What will my dishwasher have to say about this? I make more than enough dishes to keep him busy just cooking dinner! I managed to get out of there that night with out committing to anything. And while I felt a little guilty, my mind was preoccupied with my next big cake.

Decorating often does that to me. The class just whet my appetite for another project. The next afternoon I found myself taking my decorating books with me in the van so I could brainstorm. I'm surprised there wasn't thunder and lightning following us around town that day; ideas were swirling around like an F5 inside my head. By the time I was done I sat there and thought there is no way I could do something this big without help. Well, at least I had a group of eager students the night before, some of them might be willing to help. But still, I would have my work cut out for me. The next night at church the women's bible study that a friend and I had volunteered to babysit for called us in to thank us for the past couple months of serving. Little did I know I was being set up. Heather and I sat down for a few minutes and waited while they did announcements. Then they said Heather had a story to share with everyone. I gave her a look that earned the response, " Oh yeah, I'm here for this too. " Odd. She began talking about times in our lives when God "winks" at us. He does something special for us, winking his approval and that someone in our church had called her and said God was asking her to bless to someone else. God wanted her to be his hands and feet (or eyes in this case) and deliver a "wink" to one of His children. I still had no idea what she was talking about. Then she called me up and I noticed a large box covered by a table cloth. She said the person who wanted to bless me was doing it anonymously but wanted to give me something. I looked at the hidden box. I recognized the shape and thought... it can't be, there is no way. And there it was. Heather threw back the cloth to reveal my very own Cricut Cake. I fell backwards into the wall and began to cry. "This person wants you to know that God sees you and sees what you do and wants you to have this." Heather's words were mind numbing. Another woman chimed in and said "God sees the desires of your heart". It was the truth. Someone once asked me if I had ever seen the Cri-cut Cake and I jokingly said lusted when I saw it. Ok, so maybe it wasn't a joke. The first time I saw this beautiful machine I thought of all the things I could do with it and how much time it would save me. For Levi's Robin Hood cake I hand cut over 300 1"x1" squares to make the castle stones, just imagine a machine that would cut them all for me! It took my breath away. All the women clapped honestly and politely, although I doubt any of them knew what it was, how much it was worth and why I wanted it so badly. Only Heather and the woman who generously gave it knew what it meant to me. It would have taken me a long time to save for this machine and no doubt it was not high on our family budget's priority list. I can never thank my anonymous donor enough for this amazing gift.

After Heather and I went back to nursery duty I sat and stared in shock at the lavish gift before me and we talked about that this meant to me. My benevolent benefactor hoped this would encourage me to use my God-given talent and take a step of faith and see what I could to with it. Moment by moment I felt my confidence growing. I COULD tackle my next big creation, although extra hands would still be nice. I COULD, someday, make my sisters' wedding cakes. I COULD have my own business. Maybe. No, I could. I don't know exactly what it will look like yet, but I'm working on it. It's almost like being pregnant. It's like i just found out that I have a baby on the way and I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea. But I'm sure over the next season of my life the idea will take root and begin to grow. And just like having a baby there will be a gestation period, growing pains, thankfully no heartburn, labor and delivery. And, I hope, on the other side, there will be great pride and joy in using my talents to His glory. Until this "baby" comes I'll be busy thinking of names, marketing strategies and how big or little this adventure will be. While I have no desire to have a storefront or be on the Food Network (although a Betty Crocker baking contest sounds fun) I'll leave that up to Him. I'm just going to be obedient, step forward and enjoy the confirmations along the way, like when we got home Wednesday night. Jeff called his mom to tell her what had happened at church and she told him she had just been talking with a retired woman who used to have her own cake shop. This woman asked my mother-in-law if she knew anyone who might want the boxes of her equipment. My mother-in-law showed her my cake album on Facebook and the woman decided she wants me to have every box. Yeah, I think someone is trying to tell me something and I am listening.