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I once read a quote, girls with the most beautiful hearts seem to have the most insecurities. 

Everyone has insecurities though, no matter if they know it or not. No one is perfect. Everyone has parts of themselves they keep hidden or tucked beneath the surface.

The girls in the quote are the most beautiful girls. The one who knows her insecurities and embraces them. Those most beautiful girls aren't looking for someone to come along and tell her she's perfect, she knows that's not true. She wants to be loved, flaws and all. She wants to be seen in every intricate way. The most beautiful women are the ones who are slightly off center, who never really fit in. Those women are like a clock that never really syncs up, always a minute ahead or behind. Those women live chaotically and love insanely. They aren't supposed to be perfect, that's the appeal. Those beautiful girls are storms to be chased.

She may never make up her mind or know what she wants. She's the kind of woman who can be laughing and dancing all while wearing her easily broken heart on her sleeve. She may feel more than most and hurt worst of all. But those women are beautiful in every obscure way.  They don't fit in a box or do the thing you expect. They are outliers. Those beautiful girls have been in the darkest places of their soul and seen the worst of themselves but still embrace it. She knows what it feels like to hurt, to feel and to persevere.

That kind of girl, the best you can hope to do is love her. She isn't flawless, she has a past and she may not understand it, or know where her future leads but I can promise if you love her it will be a hell of a ride. So, let her sing, let her dance, watch her smile, wipe her tears and just love her.


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So, today's talk is going to be about the person usually left out of the happily ever afters.

The villain.

Not the typical, current day villain. The villain we remember from most fairy tales; the wicked step-parent. 

Clearly written by someone who was looking for someone to blame because, from my experience, the stepparent is rarely that. Instead, they are the person who is always there but rarely gets the credit. The person who makes the choice every day to show up. None of that, I remember, was in the story books.

But, I admit I had been guilty of painting the picture of the unscrupulous step-parent in the past. Making myself believe it was a relationship that was based on obligation rather than what it was, this patient and compassionate human that just shows up and becomes one of the leading roles in your childhood. I didn't know how incredibly errored my thinking had been. But it was based on years of being put in the middle of a fight that wasn't my own. I have learned a lot from growing up a child of divorce. Living it firsthand. Because, like my own children, I was a child from a "broken" home. That statement alone lends itself to the most negative and traumatic portrayal of an outcome that can actually be quite the opposite.  But, I have never dwelled or really cared to ask my parents what happened or why I figured it out for myself as I grew up. But, I have memories of the experience. The most vivid was meeting my step parents. Here are these previously unknown adults that came into my life during a time when so many changes were happening. Yet, there they were, offering something, what that was I don't think none of us knew... but they were there nonetheless.

Looking back, I can't imagine how hard it was for them. How difficult it must have been in a world based solely on this perfect picture of a nuclear family. Not to mention, I was a dramatic teenager that did not make it easy on them. Plus, the concept of co-parenting was non-existent. They did not have it easy and I have so much regret for all the years I spent keeping them at arm's length.

But, we grow and learn and years later and I find myself in a similar situation that has really provoked a feeling of awe for stepparents everywhere. I don't know how you do it. 

Fresh out of divorce and parenting plans and big changes, I met my wife. I was clear from the getgo, I would not enter into our relationship obligating her to parent my boys. She would be my wife and not some babysitter or co-parent that I was needing. I wanted her to be part of their lives, but only to the extent she was ready or she wanted. I had heard others say how it was a step parents job to be responsible, how they "knew what they were getting into" and a multiple other negligent and idiotic phrases. No, that is incorrect and insensitive. Another person in a relationship is just that, in a relationship with you. They were not looking for children, otherwise, they would have had their own or better yet, they may have their own. No, they are with you because they love you, and you just happen to have these little humans who are a huge part of your world.

The best part of a child and stepparent relationship is the flexibility it takes on, how they create their own relationship. I am in wonderment sometimes just watching the boys with my wife. To see their relationship grow and to see how significant she has become in their lives is the best part of it all. I know it can't be easy. Being a mom isn't easy and I gave birth to them, much less someone who chooses to love them. Someone who never asked for the mess and chaos and hectic life of a family of 4. Yet, she's still here baggage and all. Believe me, I have sooo much baggage. I know it has to be hard when the kids hear the negativity of bitter parents and bring that home each time. When the kids get put in the middle of problems that aren't theirs, it can add a layer to an already complicated situation. But, in the midst of it all, she is here. She is my hero, and so is every step parent who steps up to the plate. I see you and know how incredible you are even if you're made out to be the villain, you're my hero.






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Running ruined my life.

A time long ago, I used to be different.

I was a lazy mom going through drive-throughs daily, spending hours in front of the television and always having my house stocked with soda and junk food. I got so much done. I was home all the time, I never wanted to leave.

Then I started running.



Before running, I didn’t know what the world had to offer or what I was missing out on. I was just going to sit in my chair and scarf down all the junk food I could get and not think twice about it. Damn running.

But, because of running, I never sit still. I am always daydreaming of the next place I want to go, the next race I’m going to run and what adventure is on the horizon. 

Running has become a part of who I am.

Some of the views running has given me
What started out as a girl who could barely walk up stairs without being winded to a girl who signed up for every local 5K race now has evolved into looking for what country has the best race to run or trails to see. Running changed me. I don’t even recognize that old Heather. She’s gone. Now replaced with a woman who is perfectly content ruining brand new shoes running for hours in the woods. It’s hard to really explain to anyone the changes that happened internally and continue to unfold. I don’t even know if I completely understand it. But, I know no matter what’s going in my life or what madness ensues daily, all I have to do is lace up and get away from it all. I can find myself again in those miles and in that time I can decompress. Because running helped me figure out who I am.

I will admit, there are weeks where my runs are squeezed in between a million tasks and become more of a chore than not. There are times when I just don't have a training plan I'm following. I struggle and have struggled since my ultra, trying to figure out where running fits into my life. So many runs this past year have been me searching myself for why I run. Why I still lace up and why I still sign up for races. But, I figured it out. Running is a part of who I am. Running has given me purpose and focus. Running ruined the old Heather, the lazy, boring and mediocre Heather I was before. Running ruined my life. And there is no way I could ever go back.



Awesome experiences


Muddy feet are my favorite
I love new places
I have met some of the best people

New countries


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Everyone deserves to be loved for who they are, not what someone wants them to be.

One of the biggest problems in relationships exists when we lose sight of loving our significant other for themselves. When we stop seeing that person as the extraordinarily unique human they are and start seeing the negative, that’s when the relationship shifts. We begin expecting instead of accepting.

Let’s be real here, it’s easy to love someone when things are perfect. When everything is wonderful and you’re blind to flaws and you’re on that honeymoon high. That point when infatuation tangles up with love and it’s all-encompassing. But, infatuation is petty, self-seeking, and a fragile imitation of love. It can be exciting but superficial. Loving someone when things get tough, when you realize you’re both imperfect when you keep messing up and getting everything wrong, that’s when you see what love is made of. Anyone can love someone who’s doing everything right and being everything you want and need all the time. But the exquisite thing about love is, it’s in the times when you are at your lowest when you feel so broken when you’re lost, but you see them standing by you no matter the challenge ahead, that’s when you know how real it is. That’s when you feel it the most.

The magic is when you begin to see the flaws and loving that person despite it all. Letting go of who you think they should be or what they should do and instead, choosing who they are is the key to deep and profound love. Creating a safe space for vulnerability and intimacy and finding that sweet spot. Finding your bubble and getting back there as much as possible, that’s the key.

So, no matter how many things I get wrong, how much I mess up I always want you to know how entrenched inside of myself, my love is for you. How many times over I choose you and how you love me despite myself. I know I struggle to get it right sometimes, and I know there are times that I don’t show you the love you deserve but I promise it’s there. I could never love another soul the way I love you.

Thank you for loving me regardless of my flaws, for choosing me. And thank you for giving me another Christmas with you. You are everything I ever wanted, plus more.



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When you become a parent, I think it’s natural to have expectations and preconceived ideas of what the little person you have created, is going to be like. Imagining the future and what that could look like.

But, as they grow, you begin to see them become this little person who is unique and special. At that point, you should let go of the idea and expectations you had in your mind at the beginning. You should grow as a parent. Because, this child, this little human being you are raising, is their very own little person. They have ideas and personality and a spirit all their own.

Accepting that little human is your job as a parent.

Your job is not to mold them into who YOU want them to become. 

Your job is not to tear down their spirit and build it up to your expectations. 

Your child is not your blank slate to create on, nor are they your clay to mold, nor a miniature version of you. Your child is a person, growing and learning and figuring out their place in the world. We as parents should open that space for them. We should teach, celebrate, guide and love. Simple.

Who are we to judge?

We are people too, imperfect and learning for ourselves. We have no manual, no copy of what life and parenting are supposed to be. We are all on this journey.


We, as parents, need to learn our children are who they are supposed to be. They are different from us and that’s ok. They are supposed to be different from us. 

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There is no secret about the fact that I love traveling.

The world is so big and there is so much of it to see and I am determined to see as much of it as I can.

So, this year when planning our big trip for the year we knew we wanted to include the boys and maybe get them interested in travel. We looked and planned and budgeted and eventually decided on taking them to Cancun. I am so glad we did. The experience of traveling internationally and seeing a whole new culture is something, I hope, they will always remember.

I am not going to lie, I was so nervous about traveling with them to a foreign country because it can be so stressful and a bit complicated. But, lucky for us everything went so smoothly. Other than a little hiccup getting stuck in downtown Cancun on Saturday night, the whole trip was perfect. So let me give you the highlights!

First off, we booked our trip with Cheap Caribbean  and got a fantastic deal. We were able to score the boy's flights' free with ours and book at Crown Paradise that was an all-inclusive, family-friendly resort. If you are traveling with a family and want to go a resort that welcomes kids, this one is it. From the multiple pools to the slides, and kids club, there was so much to do the boys never even uttered the word "bored" the entire trip. 

Kids Club

The beach at the resort


Slides
Day 1: We spent traveling. Traveling with kids can be challenging but between extra chargers and some snacks we made it into Cancun without a hiccup. The biggest thing I read when researching was finding reliable hotel transport. I booked a month in advance with Olympus Tours so, when we arrived our driver was waiting with ice cold water and some info about the city. I highly recommend booking ahead of time to avoid going through the dozens of transport companies looking to sell you their services upon arrival. 

Once we were dropped off at the resort we checked in. Everyone at Crown was so nice, let me warn you though, they will try to set you up for a sales breakfast the next morning. If you aren't interested, don't do it. They may tell you it's for something else, but if they are asking for a reservation for breakfast, say no. 

Once we dropped off our bags, we admired the view and then set off to explore the resort. We ate at one of the snack bars and then hit the beach. 


Day 2: We spent the day on the resort. Between the beach, slides, pool and kids club we stopped only when we grabbed food at the buffet. By the end of the day, we were all exhausted and ready for the excursion the next day.



Day 3: We took an excursion to Tulum and a little dip in a Cenote. The Mayan ruins were amazing to see but my advice is, dress comfortably. There is a lot of walking and it is HOT. The excursion I booked with Get Your Guide , best place to read reviews and find a company that meets your needs. 

The perfect end to a hot tour was swimming in a cenote. Coolest experience of the trip. 




Day 4: Shopping in downtown Cancun. The best part of this is the negotiating prices. I love to haggle and find bargains and that's how the markets are. Plus, we found a Starbucks!



Day 5: Our big excursion for the week was Xcaret. The park was a mix of a natural water park and Mexican culture. My big advice on this one, make sure you book transport. I spent an hour on the phone the night before because I booked transport and they couldn't find the reservation, talk about frustrating. But, the park was a great experience. After leaving the resort super early, we arrived at the park and immediately hit the underground river. An hour swimming through a river is super exhausting so, we hit the gorgeous beach at the top of the park that was filled with hammocks. Gorgeous. Snorkeling, sightseeing and lunch later, we headed back to the resort. The park was a great experience.





 











Day 6: Cancun Marathon! So, I think it's best seeing a new place on foot. Plus, my wife is a BIG encourager so I found myself registered for a race. I'm glad I did though. What a cool experience! I had no clue what anyone was saying or if I was even in the right corral, but it is definetly one of those races I won't forget. After 13.1 miles of cancun heat, I felt accomplished and like I had a good ending to a fantastic week in Mexico.







Travel day: After dragging ourselves out of paradise we made it home. Due to some wintery weather, we had a few cancellations and delays but we made it home. I think my kiddos first international trip was a success and we are already planning our next adventure. 
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A little about my dad.

My dad is conservative by nature, republican through and through. He's a disabled coal miner who spent his life in the same town he was born in. He, up until recently, lived in the same house he built with his own hands when he was young. My dad worked hard every day of his life and sacrificed his time and body to provide. He is an example of hard work and persistence.

Now, by contrast, let me tell you about his daughter. She's a very liberal; activist and bleeding heart kind of girl who wears her emotions on her sleeve; can't sit still for very long;  had more jobs than possible to count and who just a few years ago, told her dad that she was in love with a woman. If I sat down and thought about, I would need fingers and toes to count the number of times I have moved, lived in another city or decided to change careers.

What do you do if you are like my dad and end up with a daughter who is about as opposite as it gets? Well, if you are anything half as amazing as my dad, you just love her. You don't try to change her, you don't try to understand her, you just love her. That's it.

Fathers, you should take a lesson from my dad. This is how you love your children and even though I am quickly approaching mid-30s, I will always be a daddy's girl. I will always need my dad. I always know no matter what I do, what happens in my life, or where I end up I am always his little girl. That kind of love, that unconditional kind is hard to find.

So, on your birthday, I wanted to say thank you, dad, for never needing me to be anything other than who I am. You taught me how to work hard, love the outdoors, how to be kind and how to love. You are exactly the man I want my boys to be.

I love you and so happy I get to tell you Happy Birthday another year. I hope it's the best one yet.
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Not everyone who knows me would know; I struggle with anxiety. I try to deal with it, but I will confess, I'm not good at handling my anxiety every second of every day. There are days I just can't, it consumes me. It drains me. Living with anxiety is hard. It's sneaky and hard to detect. You can have it for years and never realize what it is. The best way I can explain anxiety is sort of like this quiet voice in your head that is constantly whispering all of your insecurities and your deepest and most irrational fears. You may not hear where it's coming from or who is saying it, but you hear it constantly and you start to believe it. Anxiety may not always be there all the time, for everyone. For me, there are times it's worse than others. Then there are the times I feel the doubt creep in and the darkness all but swallows me up. I can barely breathe. The previous "what ifs" suddenly turn into "when".


 
"When will those I love realize how much of a mess I am, and stop loving me?"

"When I try, I'll just fail."

"When is she going to see how unlovable I really am?"

"When am I going to lose it all?"



Suddenly, I am my own worst enemy. I beat yourself up about everything and a simple criticism or someone pointing what I'm doing wrong turns into tears. Sometimes, I even hate myself but I don't tell anyone because they wouldn't understand. So, I just leave the overwhelming chaos and illogical fears and that whispering voice in my head and carry on. I keep the anxiety bottled up until the next time it overflows. But, despite how deep the darkness takes me, I always pull myself out.

I tell myself all situations are temporary. Nothing lasts forever, change is inevitable.

There is no wrong decision. There are a million different decisions that all have different outcomes. The best thing is just to choose one.

I think about all the difficult moments from my past, I survived them and I'll survive this too.

I seek stillness. Sometimes this is running miles, showing up for yoga or a lazy night in. But I have to choose to focus on one thing at a time.

I stop and think of what is going right in my life.






















If you think you are living with anxiety, seek out a therapist. There is nothing wrong with admitting you need help. Everyone needs help sometimes. Your mental health is just as, if not more, important than your physical health. 
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Time is so fleeting.

It's not always evident but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. During different stages in our lives, time seems to crawl. Through financially struggling as a young adult and through some of the harder times in your life; time is a turtle walking through peanut butter. Time can almost feel like it's at a standstill.

Then, there are the happier times in our lives, the times when we wish time would slow down the warp speed it travels at. The funny thing about motherhood is, I remember feeling a little of both. This may be one of those things you don't say out loud as a mom but, I remember telling myself as I was fumbling through the house for the 3rd time in the middle of a night that this part of life was temporary. That this time would pass. I knew I wouldn’t always be exhausted and sleep deprived. I knew there would come a time when I would feel human again, when time would pass. How much I would give to go back to those days; the days when I was consumed by the soothing baby smell and the cries that were meant just for me. I miss the days of the sweet sound of my boys calling for "momma". I miss the days of Backyardigans concerts and little toddler giggles. I miss the days of trying to carry a toddler and a baby around while doing the million other things I needed to get done. I miss the chaos and the rogue cheerios and the cries and the total exhaustion. At the time, I honestly didn't think I would ever make it through those days.   But, here I am, wondering where the hell time went.
 
Now, typically I am not super sentimental about parenthood. I am a rational, working mom who knows my time with my kids will not last forever. I'm rational a good majority of the time. I know I am raising them to be independent, free-thinking, compassionate men (I hope). I also know that my job is to guide, teach and lead them as long as I have them at home. Even when I dropped them off at school for their first day this year, I didn't cry. I smiled. I was strong and positive and encouraging.

But this morning, something happened. My oldest son got out of my car and walked with a friend up to his middle school. Now, that doesn't seem like something worth crying over but I did. I spent the car ride to work emotional, wiping tears and reminiscing on the little boy who has all of sudden grown up. My little boy who no longer needs to me to walk him into school, because he's got this, made me realize how much he's grown.

So, here I am wondering, where did time go?


I blinked and now my kids have lives of their own. They have friends and social lives and don't need me like they once did. They have video games to conquer, events to get to and games to be played. My role as the center of their universe has diminished to the person who finds their lost shit. Don't get me wrong, I know they still need me and mom will always be here but I feel the shift. As tiny and incremental as it's happened, I feel it. I feel the tug of the next phase of parenthood and I am trying to prepare myself. I have to prepare myself for what was once story time and cuddles, is now sleepovers and get-togethers. I can do this. So, I wipe my tears. I smile and remember the days of snuggles and kisses and know that no matter how many things I have gotten wrong in this life, loving those two boys is something I have done so right. And so, I will continue to be there. I will continue to adapt to each new phase of motherhood as it comes. I may shed a tear or two along the way but I will do that knowing I have loved my boys so fiercely and no matter how fast the next few years go or where they end up as adults, I will always be mom



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All those years ago you found a girl who was empathetic, gentle and kind. You knew she just wanted to make others happy and avoid conflict and you fed on that like the manipulative narcissist you are.

But, I have limits. You have seen those limits, the night I told you I was done. The night you probably remember often. The night I was done with the controlling, lies and manipulation. I was done with doing everything, all the time, always. You had compromised my peace for way too long. I was finally done. I dismissed you from my life. It was simple. The little girl who was scared to take the leap, jumped like a fucking gymnast and never looked back.

Now, even though time has passed, your lies and stories still rear their ugly head. But, you telling false truths and spreading lies and bending the story to benefit you means nothing to me. You mean nothing to me. The people who believe your shit, their prerogative. You are toxic and what toxic people do when they lose control is they try to control the way others see you. That's fine. They will see it, eventually. Or they won't. I don't care. Because I have given you a taste of your medicine and you tell everyone I poisoned you. Funny how that works. But, I give no fucks now. I will never give a fuck anymore. I will not react, because that's what you seek. You seek response and pain and in that gives you power. You have no power. You are insignificant in my life. I have grown, unlike you. I was broken for a long time, you did that. You did it every day, with every comment, every put-down, every manipulation, and every lie.  You made me believe for so long I was worthless and powerless and nothing but yours. Lies. It took me a long time to pull myself out of the fog, to figure out who I was. But, I did.

So,  I ask now, what have you accomplished?

The toxic lies you have spewed.

The hateful things you have puked out.

The disgusting and false stories you've told.

What did that get you? Not me. What did it help? You are just as wrong and bad and hateful as always. You have accomplished nothing. You continue to be nothing in my life. You have scurried for power. You have scraped at pieces of the past trying to grasp at something. But you are the past. And now you know, I am not on this earth to be your punching bag. I no longer have to walk on eggshells or say things to keep the peace. That's not my job any longer. You are not my concern any longer. You are a business transaction and a blip on my radar. I speak with you only when necessary because even on the best days when your words aren't venom, don't think for a second I will ever forget or see through you. I know you more than most, I know the narcissistic ass hole that is hidden beneath the surface. But, I have learned to let some people believe their own lies and stories they make up in their heads. I have also learned one of the best lessons in life, stay away from ass holes. You and the ones like you. 
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