What I Want for My 33rd Birthday

My husband has been pestering the ever-living daylights out of me. “What do you want for your birthday? What do you want for your birthday? What do you want for your birthday now? And then? And then?” No, really. He actually texted me a series of “and thens” like we were in an updated version of Dude, Where’s My Car? I laughed, but I still didn’t really have an answer.

You see, I don’t really want for anything. If I ever want something, I kind of save my money and buy it myself. I also, most certainly, don’t need anything. In fact, I probably need to get rid of lots of things, but that’s a different post for a different decade.

I finally came up with a list to share with my husband. I will be getting one of these things for my birthday which falls on April 25th.



I actually blame this recent and deep Baby Fever on the final episode of How I Met Your Mother. Barney? With that baby? My heart and ovaries exploded. Oh, and all of the pregnant people in my life. Thanks, pregnant friends. Nevermind the fact that I can’t actually have any more babies. Details. Gimme all the babies.


How cute would Callie be with a wittle-bitty puppy-wuppy?

No babies, you say? Fine! ALL THE PUPPIES! More specifically, a whole flipping gaggle of German Shepherd puppies, please. I want eleventy Callies running all over the place and jumping at the ceiling fan and breaking the windows and barking at everything so they can each have their own hashtag. #thingseverydogjennahasbarksat or something.


Fine. No babies. No puppies. I WANT A BABY GOAT. So bouncy! Like me! Let’s jump on the dog! And the trampoline! And fall over! And be entirely too freaking cute! (Found via The Mary Sue and sent to me by My Karen.)


What my husband thinks of a Keurig.

My husband has been adamant that we would not do well with a Keurig in this house. “We drink too much coffee for it to be cost effective.” And for a really long time, he was right. But I recently cut back severely on my coffee intake due to a change in medication. I now have one mug (or less) in the morning and sometimes, but not everyday, a mid-day or post-dinner half-mug. He’s still not sold on the Keurig itself and instead has been looking at this Hamilton Beach version that still offers a full pot of coffee as his argument is that he drinks enough coffee when he’s home to warrant a real coffee pot. And holidays and parties and get togethers and when I fall off the coffee-reduction-horse because it’s bound to happen. Whatever, I just want fancy coffee, okay?


Chandler Is My Favorite

And some diamond shoes.


At the Columbus Marathon, 2013
Us in 2013 after I finished the Columbus Half Marathon. In 2014, he’ll look just as sweaty! YAY!

Lesson: When you’ve been pestering your wife for weeks about what she wants about her birthday, and she says, “Hey, I just booked our hotel for the Columbus Half Marathon in October. I got a two room suite with a pull out couch for the boys in case we take them, weather permitting,” your reply shouldn’t be, “But what if I want to run it with you?” Because she will flip out and bounce all over the kitchen and exclaim, “THIS! THIS IS WHAT I WANT FOR MY BIRTHDAY! THIS RIGHT HERE! IT’S GOING TO BE SO FUN! IT’S GOING TO BE EPIC! BEST BIRTHDAY EVER! I ALREADY LOVE BEING THIRTY-THREE!” And you’ll sigh, and tweet about running your flappity-flap, and start looking up training plans because you’ve met your wife and you know that once you say something, you have to follow through and, OMG! BEST BIRTHDAY EVER!

So. I’ll be getting one of the things on this list. Can you guess which one it will be? Because I already took him shopping and helped him pick out running shoes. Oh yes I did.


52 Weeks of Brotherhood: The One with My Brother

52 Weeks of Brotherhood

My baby brother turned 25 this week. We went to his birthday party on Saturday to celebrate with my family. At some point during the festivities, the boys and I took a walk around the back of my brother’s property, walking up the road to the top of the hill.

With the snow melted and spring trying to make its way into the land, the fallen branches from a long, hard winter littered the trail. The boys decided to work together and clear the large branches out of the way for their uncle, happily lugging and tugging and tossing sticks and limbs and even small logs off the trail and into the woods.

52 Weeks of Brotherhood

My brother and I don’t really have any memories of traipsing about the woods together. I have very specific memories of hanging out in the woods by myself and later with teenage friends, but none really with my brother. I do remember the time we took a walk down by the creek with my mom when my brother was around two-years-old. He went to throw a big rock in the creek. It hit me in the temple instead; I still swear he did it on purpose.

We weren’t always close. Eight years quantifies and qualifies as a pretty decent age gap. By the time he was old enough to play, I was slamming into preteendom and wanted nothing more than to be alone with my music and my notebooks. He just wanted to be with me, standing outside my bedroom with his toe crossing the line into my room to torment me. I would scream, “MOOOOOOOM! HE’S BOTHERING ME!” And he was, of course, but I see it for what it was now—hindsight being what it is. He just wanted to spend time with me. And then I left when he was ten, for college and the path toward the life that I now live.

Sometimes he’s still a ten-year-old gangly looking boy in my head instead of a tall, broad-shouldered working man, husband, and father. It blows my mind sometimes, when I watch him holding his baby boy as he flips hamburgers on the grill.

52 Weeks of Brotherhood

The boys cleared sticks all the way to the top of the hill before racing back down the other side. I know that their close-in-age proximity isn’t a guarantee they’ll be friends when they grow up, but I enjoy watching them now as they work and play and laugh and argue and do everything together. I also like getting to know my brother as an adult and as a friend.

Me and My Baby Brother


Training for the Pittsburgh Marathon: Just One Marathon

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Hi. My name is Jenna. It has been twenty-three hours since my last Pittsburgh Marathon training run.

Hi, Jenna.

Only One Marathon

I’m exhausted.

I mentioned it in my last training post, but I need to flesh it out more fully in a post this week. I need to make sense of what I’m feeling in my head, in my heart, and in my aching, tired hips.

Pittsburgh will be on my only full marathon.

I know, I know. I’ve said that before, and people always counter with, “You say that now! But they’re addicting! Wait until your after-marathon high!” And then there’s that thing where I say I’m not going to do something and then I do it anyway. First I said I’d never run a half marathon. Then I said I’d never run a full marathon. Watch me sign up for an Ultra next year or some such nonsense. But really, I don’t see myself running another full marathon. At least not while I am working full time with two children living under my roof. I may revisit this post when my children reach that point in adulthood in which my presence isn’t always needed (which, you know, isn’t always the moment that they turn 18).

I know there are other mothers who work and have partners and hobbies and friendships and go to church and volunteer at school and do all the things and still manage to train for multiple marathons each year.

I am not that mother.

I am not that partner.

I am not that daughter, friend, blogger, employee, volunteer, sister.

I am not that woman.

Marathon training has been really hard for me, much more than training for my first half marathon this time last year. Finding the balance between running and wearing all the hats I am supposed to wear has been stressful. And then there’s the realities of living with anxiety and depression. Also, the whole endless winter and the germs that come with an endless winter leading into a spring marathon didn’t quite help. I’m not sure a fall marathon would do me any better as I tend to hate running in the heat, which I remembered the hard way during yesterday’s seven miler on some of my area’s biggest hills.

Where Did Spring Go?
During my run yesterday, thinking: “I mean, honestly! Where did spring go? I don’t want to complain about non-winter weather, especially since we’re getting snow tomorrow, but really? 80 degrees?”

I don’t like feeling out of balance, like I don’t have some semblance of control over the state of the clutter in my home or my work inbox or how often I can find or make time to blog or read or simply sit on the front porch while the boys play in the front yard. Maybe other runners are more capable of handling it all, but I’m 100% fine admitting that I am not capable of managing all of the stress that comes with my normal life and a 36 mile week. I’m fine running my own race, which may not look like another runner’s race. It doesn’t have to; it’s my race.

After my run yesterday when I noticed, “Oh my, I really need to clean the bathroom. Like whoa.

That said, I am still enjoying myself. I mean, I beat the wall and I do still have one crazy long run left. But honestly? I’m having fun. I love the challenge. But I also love knowing that on May 4th, the challenge will be complete. I’ll cross the finish line, accept my medal, and collapse in the arms of my husband. And I can take a shower, eat a giant meal at my parents’ house, drink the biggest glass of wine ever, and sleep all day Monday. (I’m taking the day off, because duh.)

I’m excited to become a marathoner, but I’m also excited to go back to being a half-marathoner. Or even just Jenna who likes to run, be a mom, read books, write, take photographs, be in love, sleep, and walk without wincing when she encounters a set of stairs.

Now, if you could wish this not-yet-a-marathoner some luck on the big 20 miler coming up this weekend, I’d be really grateful.

52 Weeks of Brotherhood: The One Where We Went Back Outside

52 Weeks of Brotherhood: The One Where We Went Back Outside

Spring arrived.

Now I find myself saying my very favorite sentence of the year, in any number of variations: “GO OUTSIDE!” “GO PLAY OUTSIDE!” “GET THEE OUTSIDE, MY YOUNG LADS!” No, really, I’ve said that to the boys.

The best outside time has always been and will always be our after dinner playtime in the fresh air. Right now, the fresh air is tinged with the cool sweetness of early spring. We find ourselves popping back inside for jackets as the sun dips lower on the horizon; we find ourselves seeking out the spots that the sunlight still touches, still warms, and avoiding the fast-cooling shadows.

BB Catching a Pop Fly

Baseball season also began at the end of March, and the slowly warming temperatures mean that we’re spending some time in the front yard—as the backyard is still super mushy—throwing the ball around from glove to glove. The sound of the ball hitting the glove is now our soundtrack, a new sound this year as the boys have stopped running away from the ball and have found comfort placing themselves directly in the ball’s path.

FireDad Throwing to the Boys

The love of my life tosses the baseball high, high, higher still into the air while the intended recipient of the ball giggles, neck craned and eyes strained to keep it in sight. Too far forward one time, too far back another. And then, smack, into the glove it falls. With BigBrother, we begin to expect the smack, the catch, the happy giggles. LittleBrother, two years younger, still rocking the t-ball pace—slower, happier—isn’t always quite there, isn’t always under the ball in the right place.

And then, it happens. As it does. Smack.


I actually had to ask him to stop and smile at me again, because I missed the first excited look on his face when he caught the pop fly that evening, in the hour after dinner, the golden sun setting all around us. I missed capturing it with my camera because the joy I felt by witnessing the joy he felt meant I forgot to press the button. Instead, I yelped and cheered and smiled the smile of a mother whose child is happy and proud.

I sat and watched as they happily caught ball after ball, pop fly after pop fly, grounder after grounder. They threw the ball back, sometimes right on target and sometimes off in a random direction. I smiled at the joy, at the sunset, at the cool, crisp feeling in the air, at the lack of arguing, at the time spent together, at the joy of baseball, at the innocence of it all.

And then LittleBrother took a baseball to the face and the moment ended. But still, it happened.


Training for the Pittsburgh Marathon: Beating The Wall

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16. Sixteen. SIXTEEN MILES.

Yesterday I ran 16 miles. Getting there has taken me awhile, a lot longer than just those 16 miles.

I’m multiple weeks behind my training schedule due to a series of viruses that entered our family in late February and spent four whole weeks making their way through the entirety of each member. First the stomach virus, then a cold which I didn’t actually get but had to tend to in other people, and then I got to be the lucky one and end up with strep throat. I ran when I could and even had some lengthy runs, but to say that I was weak was an understatement of epic proportions.

Training for the Pittsburgh Marathon

I was supposed to run 16 miles last Sunday. I attempted the run despite having come down with a fever that knocked me out for 24 hours, a diagnosis of strep throat, and a week of antibiotics. Antibiotics and I are not best friends. But I was feeling physically fine by Sunday, so I decided to give it my best.

At 11 miles, I slammed into The Wall.

I’m sure you’ve heard of it if you’ve researched marathon training. Some people say it isn’t real, that it’s all in your head. And part of slamming into The Wall was in my head, which I’ll get to in a minute. But parts of The Wall were really, really real for me. I slammed hard. I knew I should have quit prior to 11 miles, but I was determined not to cave into the mental aspect of marathon training. I know I’m strong. I know I can do this. So I kept pushing and pushing, taking some walk breaks here and there, but pushing long after I should have stopped. I should have listened to my body even sooner than I did. As I struggled to walk back up the hill to my house after giving in to the fact that I had physically hit the wall, I struggled not to pass out.

I was too weak from being too sick for too long to attempt a 16 mile run. Add in that everyone else had been sick and I had been in mothering overdrive for a month, taking care of others while not taking care of myself, and well, it was a recipe for disaster.

I got inside, got some water, and proceeded to sob-text my husband and my other biggest supporter. The physical aspects of The Wall continued to wash over me as my legs cramped in ways they have never before cramped. Then waves of nausea washed over me. I felt worse than I have ever felt after any run ever.

Which brings us to the mental part of The Wall. As my legs cramped and I tried not to vomit, I fell captive to the voices that accompany The Wall. I can’t do this. Why did I think I could do this? 26.2 miles is beyond my ability. I should pull myself from the full marathon. 13.1 is more my style. I’m not fit enough. I’m not fast enough. I’m stupid and fat and unathletic and not a real runner and omg someone please make my legs stop cramping. My husband talked me off the mental aspect of The Wall, told me to drink water, eat a banana, take my shower, and rest. I listened.

For two days I rested and let my body and mind recuperate. In that time, I reevaluated the negative thoughts I went through after I bonked on my 16 mile run. I can do this. I thought I could do this because I can do this. 26.2 miles is a long, long distance, but it is not beyond my ability. I should not pull myself from the full marathon, though I do acknowledge that 13.1 is a much easier distance for me and maybe fits more with my lifestyle. I am fit enough. Fast enough is relative. I am not stupid nor fat nor unathletic. I am a real runner. And, dear Lord, I need to add smoothies with bananas back into my daily diet so I never experience leg cramps like that ever, ever again. Ouch.

I ran light this past week, worked on hydration and getting my eating (read: fueling) back up to a normal level as being sick made me not eat and you can’t run a marathon without eating real food. You can’t. You can’t do it. I also avoided reading other runners’ blogs this past week as I didn’t want to allow any of their amazing successes to make me feel “less than.” It’s not true that I’m less than because I’m not as fast or hit The Wall while training for my first marathon. I needed to feel secure in the race I am running with myself. I allowed myself some space this week to focus on my own race. It was a good choice.

Which brings us to yesterday. I was nervous, having hit The Wall so hard just one week ago. I mapped out a new route that took me eight miles from my house, thus not allowing me to just chuck it all and walk back in my own front door. I made sure I was hydrated, properly fueled, and rested up. I put on sun block, charged up my phone, strapped on my FuelBelt with water and beans, and walked out my front door.

Things were downright perfect for the first five miles. Sunny, light breeze, hit the hills (and there were many) with relative ease, remembered to take in water after every two miles. At mile 6, I took a minute pause to chew up some beans because I can’t chew those things and run; I’ll choke and die. I swigged some water, took a deep breath, and began running up a very long (so long, so very long) hill. Not steep, just forever long. I knew somewhere midway that I wasn’t going to make it to the top running as I kept being forced off the pavement and into the soft mud alongside the road; it was like a trail run! I made a deal with myself that if I got to one sign, just past about 3/4 of the way up, I could walk to the top. I did so. And then ran to eight miles which was mostly downhill, turned around, and fought back up to the top of that hill.

Then I ran out of water. Oops?

I made an emergency call to my husband who was back at home with the boys. I requested water. (This stretch of rural road has no stores to stop at and buy some water.) I could see an easy meeting point about 1.5 miles ahead and figured he could get there in the time it would take me to run the distance. I had just passed it when he showed up, telling the boys they had a Super Secret Mission. I guzzled some water, filled my bottles back up, kissed him, thanked the boys, and headed back off toward home.

At 13.1 miles, I allowed myself a long walk break. The sun was really starting to beat down on me, and I was overheating. As I’ve written about before, that’s my downfall: the ease with which I overheat. I could hear my heartbeat, loudly, in my ears, and that’s my first warning sign. So I pulled out my earbuds, drank water, and walked for a half mile. I don’t regret that at all; I cooled down, walked up a hill that might have broken me had I run it while overheating, and then began running on the first stretch of shade I had encountered in at least four miles.

I misjudged distance a bit somewhere and still had one mile left to run when I got back to my own house. I kept running, even though it was really, really hard. I eventually finished, much slower than ever intended, but I finished.

I have beaten The Wall.

While I still had some leg cramps after my run yesterday (more! bananas!) and I feel sore and stiff today (more! foam rolling!), I am confident that in 26 days, I will run 26.2 miles. It will hurt. It will be slow. I will fight with myself out on that course, but I will finish. I will accept my medal and my banana. I will give my husband the sweatiest hug he has ever received. I will accept the title of marathoner. I will be proof that you can hit The Wall and still succeed.

Until then, I have one really long run left. It’s The Run in the marathon training plan. You know. 20 miles. This week is a recovery week, so the 20 miler hits in two weeks. I am considering a new hydration belt that holds more water, because I keep running out on these long runs. (Though it matters less on race day because Pittsburgh has the water stations in perfect places!) I think I’m going to work out a different route for some different challenges. It will likely be another long, slow struggle, but I will finish.

I have come so far in the past year and a half. While last week I was ready to quit it all, I can’t wait for May 4th. I am so very excited. (Of note, I will be writing on Mondays weekly through this last month of training as I always do leading up to a race.)


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